Worldbuilding: World Anvil is a Haven for Writers and Homebrew Content

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Kickstarter Korner for March 2018, Week 1

Last month I looked at three realm worldbuilding and homebrew programs and websites and among those was World Anvil. In the article I had looked briefly on the site and looked at it impressed with what was there but said it need a few other options. After the article was posted Dimitris from World Anvil reached out to me and said that those features where there and I had missed them. The reality of it is, that from the time I had sent the article Nerditor Doug to when it was posted the site had doubled in content and functionality. Doubled in less than 2 weeks. I have dealt with campaign software and programs and sites for at least 5 years now in creating homebrew adventures and world settings and never has one expanded this rapidly. Having spoken with Janet and Dimitris from World Anvil and given that they are celebrating World Anvil’s  four month anniversary, I thought it more than fitting we revisit this fantastic site and give the proper attention it deserves. So, sit back, relax, and let’s look at the gasworks that is World Anvil.

World Anvil features and overlay

When you sign up to World Anvil, you get greeted by a rather warm looking dashboard. When I first looked at the site several of the icons now there didn’t exist but almost every week I find something new. At the current time I’m writing this, which is about 1 a.m. on a Wednesday night (no I don’t know why I’m still up), there are currently 19 category options for creation. Building, Character, Ethnicity, Generic, Geography, Item, Natural Law, Language, Organization, Settlement, Species, Technology, Traditions, Vehicle, RPG Report, Category, Image, Map, and Timeline. Now don’t panic, there are a lot of options here, but each category explains itself as you go into each option.

Every category lets you do a wiki-style article for your worldbuilding. As your write more of your homebrew content you can start linking items you’ve previously written in to it creating a small mapped network of articles. So, as you say write the information about Castle Foot-in-mouth, you can link it to Ruler King Frank the Inattentive, who was part of the Order of Shenanigans. This allows you to learn about the castle, switch over to your NPC stats for King Frank and learn about the order he was part of. As a longtime Game Master this is great because you always get that one player who wants to know everything. As far as the categories go, you don’t have to use all of them to build a realm, but you should. It will make your worldbuilding and homebrew creations more fluid.

I’ve worked on three campaign settings for my own writings and stories and the layout of these items has let me develop regions farther than I would have on my own. There are configuration settings you can set up to say what’s available in your realm and let you link you Discord, Twitch, and Twitter feeds to your realm so people can follow your work or stalk you with player requests.

Also, for those running campaigns, there is the RPG Report section that lets you make campaign notes, know what quests they finished, who the party talked with and side notes for everything. Then for those much like myself, who are trying to figure out what order lore happened for dates and events there is the timeline option. I know I personally plan to put this to heavy use after I finish designing all my continental maps. I have barely scratched the features here, and to do so I would have to host a full BBC documentary on it. I strongly recommend you explore this for your world building.

World Anvil worldbuilding

World Anvil Patreon rewards and unlocking features

To begin with I’m going to apologise to the good people of World Anvil and to the readers of the previous article. In the previous article I had spoken with some disdain on the thought of subscriptions and that for your money you didn’t get enough value. I was terribly mistaken, so much so that I have actual joined their Patreon group. I have spent a lot of time testing programs and for the amount they have cost me, and several of them sit gathering dust. Looking at the rewards and features from World Anvil and the amount I keep using it in conjunction with my preferred programs the value is there. For the price of a coffee, you go from 10MB of storage to 10GB. You can upload up to 10MB graphics and you can bring in co-authors.

As a Patreon supporter, you also get the right to vote in new and upcoming features, unique themes, ingots, access to more world slots, co-authors, special Discord rewards and early update info. For those who are confused like I was, ingots are a way to give kudos to other realm builders for a job well done. Eventually they hope to be able to make these parts of a reward program where you can gift other subscriptions and rewards. Oh, and don’t worry. If you fear your players have been snooping for a leg up in your campaign world you can set your realm to private and they can’t find it.

Upcoming features from World Anvil

At four months old the amount of content here is staggering. The fact of the matter is this is the tip of the iceberg. Dimitris and Janet work around the clock to develop new features on a regular basis. By the time this article is out there will most likely be features I haven’t mentioned. I was fortunate enough to have a nice Q&A with Dimitris and Janet and here are the answers they sent me with some of the things I was curious about and subjects brought up when they sat down with our own Nerdarchist Dave.

Given that the articles can be exported manually, is there a backup of some sort if the main server has issues?

Exporting was always part of the intended remit and is currently in the product road map. We want to allow for export of articles using HTML and JSON formats, with the possibility of PDF in the future. This is definitely one of our goals for this year, so it should be possible by 2019.

Is there going to be a way to link WA into virtual table tops like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds?

We’re exploring options to connect World Anvil with both Fantasy Grounds and Roll20. We’re in discussions with Fantasy Grounds College and a lot of the plug-in makers of their community. In addition to this, we are working closely with Power VTT and we expect a much closer integration within the next months. We’re very young still, and it’s important for us to get our own application really solid and doing the community needs it to before we explore these options in too much detail. Our Patrons and community offer us a huge amount of trust and support, and we owe them that.

You had mentioned the possibility of built-ins for Alexa, is this still on the drawing boards and will this be for all virtual assistants?

Originally we were thinking of using Alexa because one of our friends was working on building plug-ins for it. However, the current plan is to work with Google assistant to begin with. It’s not the first thing in the list, but it’s something we’re going to have a lot of fun with at some point in the future. The idea is to allow our worldbuilders and DMs to have a very quick way to keep notes when inspiration strikes.

Does the site support dictation programs like dragon speak?

We are using the latest HTML technology and we do have partially implemented ARIA definitions on the website. That means there is a good chance that that Dragonspeak or similar programmes would work. We aren’t familiar with the software and haven’t tried it. Yet.

Given that several programs create graphic files in large formats from time to time, aside from Patreon rewards will it be possible in the future to buy more storage space for your realms?

Simply, yes. Storage will definitely be something that people can upgrade in the future, but we’ll also be raising the limits on the individual file size for non-guild members very soon.  To be fair, with only $3 a month for the lowest Patreon tier (which gives you 10GB of space) it shouldn’t be a problem.

You had eluded to World Anvil becoming a full fledged campaign manager, could you elaborate on that statement please?

We are currently working on a major update which will add a large amount of RPG functionality to World Anvil. The system will allow you to create campaigns, invite your players into them, and even additional DMs if you are a member of the Guild. We’re still developing the update so some of the following details might be subject to change. We’re dividing the campaign manager into three stages, which will broadly speaking be 1) Planning, 2) Play (in-session) and 3) Aftermath.

 

In the Planning stages, the DM will be able to prepare his campaign and sessions by writing hooks, plots and subplots, keeping planning notes about his sessions, managing handouts and maps, creating a cast of both NPCs and PCs, and defining the relationships between them. He will be able to track information about all facets of his campaign – players, plots, NPCs, locations, etc. The players of the campaign will have access to the public parts of DMs world (a DM can always have secrets on his articles which he can choose to reveal to his players). Player will also be able to edit their character sheet and part of their character’s article. 

 

In the Play section, the storytellers will have access to what we call a Digital Storyteller Screen. This screen will allow them to have quick and easy access to every single piece of content they’ve ever written on World Anvil, to character sheets of their players, monsters, NPCs, items, locations, maps, images, timelines etc.! In addition, it will include a system that will allow them to very quickly keep notes about what is happening in the current session, keep track of combat, character conditions, equipment, loot and even the current time and date in-game. And of course, to be able to keep track of the XP awarded to the players during the session. This feature specifically is still under discussion so many other things might be added in the future. Most importantly on this subject, WA is built by the community, so any suggestions are always welcome and considered, and we’re always open to feedback from our awesome people.

 

In the Aftermath (Janet calls this the write-up, but aftermath is more epic), storytellers are already able to write session reports to summarise what happened. But players will also be able to write journals for the characters, to serve as a record and narrative of the session in their own character’s voice. We are planning for each of the characters to have a social media-like profile to summarise their escapades during the campaigns – they’ll have a photo, a character sheet, the XP, and their journals. It’s worth nothing here that characters can jump from campaign to campaign – they’re not locked in one.

You had mentioned a discovery option on the site back in the Nerdarchy live chat with Nerdarchist Dave, does this allow discover of public and private realms or just public?

Most definitely only public. Not even our development team has access to the contents of private worlds. We have very strict privacy ethics, and we’re doing our best to protect our users’ Intellectual property. That said, the community page already allows people to discover the public works of other worldbuilders on WA. As a community we’re doing our best to promote each others work with user spotlights and competitions (we’ll tell you more about those in a minute!) In the future we also want to implement an “I’m Feeling Lucky” feature that will spit out random public articles – because a bit of extra random inspiration never hurt anyone!

Will there be any game management mechanics added into the site, for example able to mail players/followers for upcoming games in the world?

Yes. The system we’re currently building will allow you to schedule sessions, and email users when the session is announced.

With your current twitch and YouTube channels, are there plans to do tutorials via live streams or a video archive?

Yes! In fact our next development cycle will be dedicated to the creation of a comprehensive series of 3-minute long tutorial videos covering most (if not all) of the features of the website. It is just a matter of time – we’re not a big corporation, just a couple of nerds with a passion for worldbuilding and roleplaying.

You have mentioned contests in the interview, are there any upcoming contests and do the realms involved have to be public realms?

We are running two big competitions every month, so there’s always something running! One of those is a community competition, which means that any user can take part. This is hosted by the community moderators (we call them Enchanters of the Forge), and judged by the community. Our competitions are trying to inspire and help our community build up their worlds and consider facets of worldbuilding they had not previously thought of or expanded on. Our second big competition is part of the Master’s Monthly (essentially part of our Patreon rewards package which includes original articles and interviews). This competition is open to Master Guildmembers ($5) and above. Mainly its judged by Janet, but we’ve already scheduled famous guest judges for some of our future planned competitions. As we’ve mentioned before, nobody apart from the author (and possibly their coauthors and subscribers) have access to private worlds. That said, Private worlds have the option to publish articles as ‘open’ which allows only that article to be accessed publicly. This is how users with private worlds take part in competitions. If they like, they can reset the article to private again after the adjudication (or at any other time).

What are some future updates you’re hoping to roll out in the next 6 months?

We’re currently working on the RPG update and its the first thing in our mind! The next priority is definitely the tutorials, which will be a big project. For more information on our future updates you can check our ever-changing (and dauntingly growing) progress roadmap. This road map changes because, every month, there are two votes within the guild which prioritise community-requested features. We select a feature for development as well, and those three selections form each development cycle.

Final thoughts on World Anvil

Dmitris and Janet visiting Edinburgh. World Anvil began as a gift to Janet and now helps Game Masters across the world with their own worldbuilding.

I don’t know what more to say and I know there’s stuff I missed. There is so much already up in four months and so much more coming. They have a stellar Discord group that is aggressively helpful, plans beyond any gamers wildest dreams, and it costs you a coffee a month.

The best part is he built this to help Janet with her own worldbuilding. You want to win someone’s heart, folks, build them a legacy.

I enjoy using this site, and in a year’s time I look forward to doing an update on the site. Who knows, in a year’s time it might come with your own personal goblin secretary with a Patreon upgrade to a halfling. I know there’s more to talk about, but I’ve worn the letters off my keyboard.

Please go check this site out and explore and make sure to check out the video below of Janet and Dimitris live chat with Nerdarchist Dave. If you would like to contact these fine folks, all their Discord, Twitter, Email and Facebook contact info can be found here.

From the Nerditor’s desk

The Tome of Adventure Design from Frog God Games is available in their online store right now. Click the image. Go on. Click it.

If you enjoy deep dives into worldbuilding and adventure creation, check out the Tome of Adventure Design from Frog God Games.

Useful for a multitude of game systems, this book contains tried-and-true random tables to spark your imagination, help Game Masters prepare and gives creative resources to make your adventures come alive. It also comes with a clever on-brand acronym totally free! If you enjoy deep dives into worldbuilding and adventure creation, check out the Tome of Adventure Design from Frog God Games.If you enjoy deep dives into worldbuilding and adventure creation, check out the Tome of Adventure Design from Frog God Games.

And how about those acronym skills, huh?

Nerdarchy has an exclusive promo code for the Frog God Games store, available twice per user. STAY-NERDY-30 gives you a 30 percent discount on anything in the store.

What worldbuilding resources do you use? Do you have a method to your homebrew madness? Let us know in the comments below.

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Thank you for your consideration and as always, until next time stay nerdy!

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Follow James Leslie:

Tech Support at Sobeys Inc.

Long time RPG enthusiast, I first started with D&D back when I was 7, then jumped back into it again at 14 when I could understand what I was reading. I've tinkered as a story teller in many different game systems from Gurps, to Vampire, to most recently in Savage Worlds: Rippers Ressurected, though I've never forgotten my love for D&D.

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