Pillars of Your World | Defining a Pillar
Revised from the original post from May 10, 2016.
The series will focus on building Pillars. These pieces of your setting are the foundation for the greatest story you are about to tell. Each article will help you understand the types of Pillars and how they interact to build your world.
Let’s take our first steps in defining what we’re going to be working with.
Worldbuilding Pillar - noun
* A singular, critical piece that exists in a setting and helps to construct the world around it.
Pretty boring, right? Let’s define it further to make it useful.
Pillars Have Traits
All types of Pillars share a few, key traits. Future articles will cover the types of Pillars in detail so let’s focus on the traits that they all share.
- All Pillars are familiar. They resonate with the players and gamemaster because they are familiar. This makes them exciting yet recognizable enough to get a grasp on how to use them. We’ll spice them up in a bit.
- All Pillars are flexible. They have fleshed-out details yet most areas remain undefined. This allows them to be flexible throughout the worldbuilding and gaming process.
- All Pillars are fantastic. While familiar, they also have an air of fantasy about them. Apply a detail or two that take them from reality and make them work only in a fantasy setting. Think of this as the spice.
- All Pillars are functional. You can use them during the game. They’re not meant to sit on the shelf and rot away.
- All Pillars are fun. Have fun with them! If its boring to you, it will be boring your players!
Remember these traits when building your Pillars. After designing one, ask yourself:
“Is this Pillar familiar? Is it flexible? Is it fantastic? How about functional? Is it fun?” — Yourself
If your answer to any of these questions is no, then you don’t have a Pillar.
Pillars Live Somewhere
Pillars live somewhere other than your mind. For these to be useful worldbuilding tools, you need to write them down. The key here is to find the most inspiring method to do this. Working with Pillars should be fun and exciting. Don’t use a plain college-ruled notebook if that isn’t fun and exciting for you! The following article has some ideas:
The Best Campaign Management Software for Tabletop RPGs
Pen and paper is not for me. Well, it’s not the only thing I can rely on. I don’t mind hand-drawing maps or keeping a…
Pillars Are Simple
In the end, Pillars are simple. It’s hard to conceptualize this without knowing the types of Pillars. But if you are struggling during the process, you are approaching it all wrong. Pillars start with a simple idea and you add simple details from there. Their flexible nature means that they can change and adapt so don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
To tease you, here’s a look at a very simple Pillar:
The Glass of Eliah — a small monocle, framed in silver and connected to a silver chain. This artifact rests in the pocket of the famed dwarven adventurer and fighter, Baurus. He lives out his retirement in the Halls of Battleguard. This item is often called a “trinket of the Age of Giants”, a time when they forged magical items. This small glass will show you the true form of anything you look at.
This is a specific type of Pillar. I will cover types in the coming articles but they reach far beyond magical items.
To the Skeptical Worldbuilder
“This sounds great but I have all these books filled with other methods that I’ve invested in!” — Skeptical Worldbuilder
Fear not. I have the same books and they will be as useful with Pillars as they were before, if not more so. Those books contain fantastic information. You can focus it into creating even better Pillars.
“I enjoy worldbuilding and worldbuilder’s disease doesn’t bother me. I want to spend that time fleshing out my world.”
Far be it from me to take away something you like. I would still encourage you to follow this series. You can change Pillars and access a much deeper level of worldbuilding. I can equip you with tools to make settings as detailed as you do now with more bang for your buck.
Now that you know how to define a Pillar, try creating one. Show me what you have in the comments. In the next article, we’ll take a look at the different types of Pillars.
Other articles in this series: