What is worldbuilding? What does it entail? How might you go about it? What should you know before getting started? These are the sorts of questions the articles below help to answer.
- 30 Days of Worldbuilding - The worldbuilding process broken down into thirty 15-minute exercises. This is a great tool if you are new to worldbuilding, especially if you're feeling a little lost or overwhelmed.
- A Way With Worlds - Fantastic series of short articles for beginners and veterans alike. They cover a wide variety of subjects, and are both thought provoking and easy to read—highly recommended.
- Creating a Realistic Fantasy World - Nice one page article on how to create a believable fantasy world, includes a section on magic. It doesn't go into great detail, but is well worth a read.
- How to Start a Novel - This brief article is intended for novelists, however, the section under the heading "Know your world." offers a different—and I think valuable—perspective on worldbuilding.
- Magical World Builder's Guide - Fairly extensive article on worldbuilding in the fantasy genre with a strong focus on magic: magic level, magic systems, magic characters, magical events and so on.
- World Builders - Excellent comprehensive resource covering a wide variety of topics as they relate to worldbuilding. You'll find most of the content tucked away under the various lesson units.
- World Creation - Twelve page pdf that provides a very thorough outline of the worldbuilding process sprinkled with great GMing advice. It describes in detail both the bottom-up and top-down approaches.
Creating a setting and running a campaign are ambitious tasks that involve a lot of information; having a solid method for organizing all that information will make your job much easier. Here are some methods you might consider.
- Old School - Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned, but traditional methods of organization are still my favorite: hanging file folders, spiral bound notebooks, index cards, and 3-ring binders can all do the job. From my experience, 3-ring binders are the best an most versatile choice, YMMV. (Here are some tips regarding the GM Binder.)
- Evernote - "Capture anything. Access anywhere. Find things fast." Evernote allows you to store your information in a variety of formats, organize it into notebooks, and tag it with keywords. As if that wasn't enough, Evernote can be accessed from a PC, tablet, or smartphone and keeps your data synced across all devices. Notebooks are available offline on PCs, but not mobile devices (unless you have a premium subscription). The free version of Evernote should be more than enough to meet most GMs' needs. (Comparison of Evernote and OneNote)
- Mind Map - I've never had much success using mind maps, but some folks swear by them. If they interest you, here are a couple solid freeware programs you can try: Edraw MindMap, Freeplane, yEd Graph Editor.
- MyInfo - A very impressive information management program—which it should be for $49.95. Here's what they say on their website "MyInfo is a software that helps you create, organize and maintain your roleplaying campaign. It offers you a wide range of tools and its clean and easy-to-use interface will free your creativity." For a great write-up on how MyInfo can be used to manage your campaign, check out Dungeon Master Tools – MyInfo Software.
- OneNote - A member of the Microsoft office family, OneNote functions like a digital three-ring binder. Pages can be arranged into different notebooks and different sections within a notebook. Files and pictures can be easily attached, and pages support drawing, free-form doodling, and a unique text-anywhere feature. OneNote also supports synchronization with mobile devices. All in all, a very powerful program with a lot of similarities to Evernote. If you already have Microsoft Office, you should certainly give this program a try; the standalone version of OneNote is $80. (Comparison of Evernote and OneNote)
- Scrivener - I've never used Scrivener, but it sure looks interesting. It's available in both Windows and Mac versions for $40 and $45 respectively. Writing a novel, research paper, script or any long-form text involves more than hammering away at the keys until you’re done. Collecting research, ordering fragmented ideas, shuffling index cards in search of that elusive structure—most writing software is fired up only after much of the hard work is over. Enter Scrivener: a word processor and project management tool that stays with you from that first, unformed idea all the way through to the final draft. Outline and structure your ideas, take notes, view research alongside your writing and compose the constituent pieces of your text in isolation or in context. Scrivener won't tell you how to write—it just makes all the tools you have scattered around your desk available in one application.
- Wiki - Using a wiki is a great way to organize, archive, and access your campaign information. The main benefit (aside from a wiki's collaborative nature) is the ease with which the individual pages can be linked together—all the elements of your world interconnected and fully cross-referenced. Each person, place, thing, event, adventure, etc. can have its own page, allowing for a very clean and structured environment in which to work. If you're having trouble deciding which wiki service to use, check out the Wiki Choice Wizard. (Based on my personal experience, I can recommend Wikispaces, but there are many outstanding options available.)
- yWriter5 - If your mind thinks in terms of story arc, then perhaps this fine piece of freeware is what you need. There's a good review of it on CNET, but really you should just try it for yourself. The only downside is that you're limited to working with text, although it can incorporate images to a very modest extent.