Image Rights: WorldAnvil

Strike While the Iron Is Hot

How I Learned to Love WorldAnvil

Years ago, I ranted about the state of technology in tabletop RPGs. Then I ranted some more.

I barely remember these rants but I do remember the emotions and reasoning behind them. I’m a Dungeon Master passionate about worldbuilding and the organization of my game and world. No good software existed to help me in that quest.

Nearly a decade ago, I backed the Obsidian Portal Reforged Kickstarter. Obsidian Portal was the web standard back then. The Kickstarter took it up a notch. But in the years that followed, the team and product fell apart and it was sold off. The new company didn’t do anything with it for years. After these rants, I found City of Brass. It was new and shiny but was also abandoned and put into maintenance mode. A handful of others cropped up over the years, all disappointing to me.

First Encounters

WorldAnvil excited me when I first saw it, months after its release. The passion of its founders is intoxicating. But from the start, it wasn’t a product I enjoyed using. My first review was along the lines of:

World Anvil has grown so quickly that the platform feels a bit disjointed. The feature set, while initially attractive, is overwhelming…

There are 5+ fields for determining layout and design. Character portraits also tend to get cut off. After all the work, the presentation pages are a bit lackluster.

It does take time to discover all the features, how they interact, and where all they’re used.

Now, I’m only sharing the negative here. The review included many positives, since it was a great product from the beginning. Just not my cup of tea. But I kept tabs on it. Probably annoying to the founders but I subscribed and unsubscribed 3–4 times, at least. An update to my previous review article (which I never finished) had the following regarding WA’s downfalls:

It’s overwhelming. The design is lacking. There are dozens of buttons all around the page doing different things. It’s all very busy-looking. The learning curve isn’t terrible. But it takes some experimentation to understand how it all works together.

Another Direction

Eventually, I started to build my own campaign manager. Because of that learning process and the hours put into it, I learned enough to land my dream job of software engineer. I had a handful of beta products that were fun to play around with but ultimately never finished that project. The reason? I fell in love with Google Drive as a campaign and world manager.

Google Drive Fell Flat

Google Drive was PERFECT for what I wanted. Everything was coming together. Until game time. It became clear that sharing some documents and not others created problems. Players couldn’t easily get a glance at the world. Also, tracking secrets wasn’t ideal.

Coming Back Around

I don’t recall what led me to check out World Anvil again. Perhaps a post of theirs. But I nuked my account’s articles to start fresh. A few new features looked appealing so I wanted to give it another try. I also opened a notepad and recorded every time that a Guild feature would have come in handy — to help justify a paid tier.

New Text Editor

The new text editor was game-changing. I was not a fan of using BB Code to format my articles. At some point, the site also received a redesign and navigation became much simpler. The combination of these two made it really easy and fun to get to work on my world.

Explorer Mode

With how big of a product this is, one of my common complaints was finding what I wanted, quickly. The relatively new Explorer Mode is incredible at this. A game changer for WA.

Subscribed and Downtime

The above features and some time spent worldbuilding and I was ready to subscribe again. The product reached a level for me that I’d been wanting. The list of useful Guild features on my notepad was enough to justify subscribing so I joined at the Master tier. I was enjoying worldbuilding again.

Then one night, just as I logged on to build, the site went down. Judging by the downtime, it went down hard. I’m not going into this to caution anyone or harp on the WA team. On the contrary, I was satisfied and impressed with how it was handled. I’ve been on call for my company and dealt directly with software downtime. It’s stressful and customers (rightfully so) get frustrated by it.

But the WorldAnvil team was quick to announce it on Twitter. Not only that, they were responding to replies. No radio silence. Some responses were honest information about “no ETA for coming back up” or similar. Others were playful banter with followers. When one customer lamented not being able to worldbuild, they invited the person to join their Discord and collaborate until the site came back up.

Over in the Discord (which I rejoined at this time), a welcoming family of worldbuilders said hello. They reminded everyone that the entire team was working on bringing the site back. And of course, it came back.

The grace displayed during the downtime was wonderful to see. It just reenforced that a passionate team of individuals is behind this site and its supported by a huge community of wonderful worldbuilders.

In summary, I’m 100% on team WorldAnvil now, despite it taking a few years. The people have always impressed me. The product has grown in the right direction. It’s a phenomenal set of tools and I’d encourage EVERYONE to check it out. If it’s not your cup of tea, let the team know why. Who knows, maybe your frustrations will become the next features.

Build on, worldbuilders.




👋 My name is Kirk. I’m an adventure designer and map maker. Most of my maps are available for commercial use. Check them out at

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👋 My name is Kirk. I’m an adventure designer and map maker. Most of my maps are available for commercial use. Check them out at

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