A Worldbuilding Technique
We have all started some way or another. Some might have become interested in worldbuilding because of a fantasy movie they liked, while others with their head up in the skies. One thing is certain, wordbuilding can get overwhelmingly complex and unorganized if not taken enough time to arrange everything as you work. And so today, I will show you a new template to help you out: HERMETICS.
Before we start, a tiny disclaimer: this resource is a foundation for expanding and organizing any world. For the future, or maybe for what you already have, but overall, it’s a tool to help you assemble your work, not a must-do list to fulﬁl item by item. Don’t have a magic system? No special races? That’s ok, the template will still work for you, and you might need the items for future work. So keeping that in mind, let’s start this time for real!
A base for all civilizations, needed to understand the present and the precedents of your story. You might want to have some thoughts about it, maybe one or two crucial events happened in ancient times? It deﬁnitely is useful for expanding your world and even creating a major plot or conﬂict.
What has preceded the current state of your world? (Periods of time)
Expand it as much as you want! More details and well-thought events and progression come in handy if you ever want a more immersive world. It brings the idea you are in a real world that has seen real events.
Any historical events? Any major conﬂicts? How inﬂuential were these events? In what way?
Let your imagination go free, anything that comes to your mind is worth writing it down. A revolution? An economic boom? A natural disaster? The Great Digital Era?
How is stability and balance of power maintained? Current status?
Crucial in any point of history, the power vacuum has to be always fulﬁlled, who has been the rascal to take it? What puts in its place the major powers of your world? Is it even regulated?
How does time work in this world? What does this imply? (Daytime, Years, Months, etc.)
More of a personal preference. If we are not on earth, how does this new planet and the solar system it is in, work? (Revolution & rotation period, climate, etc.)
The factor that moves the world, often overlooked in tribal eras, but if you are dealing with a stable society, and you want your story/ world to have an additional character attached to it, why not give it some thought?
How does the economic system work? (Currency? Inﬂation? Banks? Barter System? etc.)
First of all, you will need the basics. Maybe you don’t even have to dive too deep into it though, think of a solid currency or barter system and, as far as inﬂation or economic speculation works with it, you should be good to go.
How does the chain of production work? Who controls it? With what purpose?
Pretty self-explanatory: the artisans, mechanics, farmers, etc. of your world, how do you imagine their work? And who controls how everything works and moves as it should? The last question is spicier though, do they accomplish a speciﬁc mission in your world? Bring any kind of conﬂict or convey indirectly any kind of problem/ concept of the situation?
What are the most valuable resources of this world? How are these resources bought and sold? (Regulation? Landowners? etc.)
Think wisely, it could be a huge point in your story if you have any: the one ring to rule them all, the sacred sceptre to rule all nations, control the resource of gold, conﬂicts with the bourgeois, etc.
How can one society be considered “wealthier” compared to others?
As long as you have all the previous points fulﬁled, this one should be easy. Not only as an economic factor but also as social and military wealth. What are the economic powerhouses of your world?
Always present in some way or another in a culture. Maybe as spiritualism, maybe in the form of divinities that you pick to worship, a supreme faith to follow, etc. But if I have to recommend something, is to not only build faiths with diﬀerent systems, but also with diﬀerent currents within those faiths.
How does each civilization perceive reality and the beginning of it? How did it actually start?
What a philosophical question right? It might look dumb, but it can explain how people think in your world. Is there a Creation? Any sort of spiritual energy? Afterlife? Nothing? And now for the best part, what really exists and how was it created?
Holy entities of those religions? Are actual entities present in the world?
Also, you might want to give these entities a story, a background,traits, and given abilities/properties if any. Not only the lore that people attribute them but also, if they actually do exist in reality, the actual lore and the story of their life.
Main myths, legends, tenets, ideals? How are they documented and aﬀect society?
Maybe by oral tradition or ancient scripts and stories, but religion and spiritualism has to be taught between generations. How has it evolved with time? And of course, go crazy with the legends and myths part!
How do religions clash? Do they clash?
It’s logical as most religions will clash as they challenge the existence of others, but how? Maybe some are more prone to expansion whilst others want to keep balance and peace between all beings, even accepting other religions fully.
Obviously needed if you have any kind of fantasy, sci-ﬁ, futuristic world. You have an inﬁnite amount of possibilities to explore. Keep in mind that for serious well-done worldbuilding, you will need clear constraints, anything you create on this topic will need them, otherwise, it might become nonsense.
What are the limits of your magic? Hard system? Soft system? Forbidden practices?
Let’s start with the magic ﬁeld. The system will depend on your taste, intention for the world or ideas you come up with. Regardless, some sort of limitation will always have to be there: physical exhaustion, mental dizziness, being able to only cast a spell under certain conditions. Think big and interesting.
What has magical abilities? How can one get access to it? What can be achieved with magic?
Maybe magic is not inherent to the population and can only be found in rocks, animals, etc. Again, this will depend on how far and complex you want to go, maybe you can only have access to magic if you kill a wizard? It’s ok if you want a simpler magic system, but it’s always good to add details for a more fulﬁlling one.
Any new technology? How does it work? Futuristic ways of transport/communication?
Now for the technology, if the world takes place in the near future, search for information, we already have predictions on the technology of many years to come. If you have an alien civilization or sci-ﬁ/ magic ones, you will have to think of limitations for it, just as with humans. For the last question, it might be the most crucial concept of the future, so again, have interesting possibilities, but add key boundaries.
How does magic-tech aﬀect and interact with your society? What pros and cons do they have?
Really interesting if you have both topics in your world. Depending on how far it goes, remember that it will have great repercussions in all other topics, such as culture, economy or even religion. And don’t forget that in whatever kind of world, magic/ new fantasy technology (or ways of science evolution), will always have huge consequences in all moments of history since its creation. Imagine medieval times where the sewer system was accessible to all, or if fast-growing crop magic was available!
Right now, you have looked up the 4 core topics of your world and this template. This will serve as a foundation for the next topics to be developed. Regardless, if you already have a core concept in mind for your world outside those four, go on and develop it ﬁrst, but keep in mind that it is more likely going to be aﬀected by these basics, not the other way around. So make sure that this foundation is built well with a thorough idea and intuition of the core concepts.
Heavily inﬂuenced by all previous topics! There are many factors aﬀecting the chain of command, and having a clear background for your society will be important. It might be overlooked by the public, but it’s a pillar for any logical world, as well as another bit of charisma to add if you ﬁnd an interesting formula!
Systems of government (Tribal, Democratic, Dynasties, Special system, etc.)
Pretty self-explanatory, the real importance of this question resides on the “special system”, always nice to see a fresh idea on worldbuilding! An age/ IQ based regency? Speciﬁc kind of theocracy/ technocracy/ meritocratic oppositions? Don’t doubt to check past systems of the earth for inspiration!
Who has the power? How is it exchanged?
Clearly related to the previous question. Again, you can always try looking up information on past systems in order to get any sort of inspiration. This can obviously be a common system, but you can also get amazing ones with some imagination!
How are the laws created? How are the new amendments decided?
I can only recommend that, if you decide on a special, out of the line, system, propose a well-thought one that doesn’t have any gaps. Maybe only the supreme leader can create new laws? The theocratic council? But does this have regulations? Did it at some point in history go too crazy?
Law enforcement systems. (Military? Police? Administration? Penitentiary?)
It will depend on all previous questions from the Executive topic. I will recommend picking a system designed around each state you have created, of course, it’s not mandatory, though. For example, if a really democratic state has a huge militarized system, that will imply grave consequences, either the people will be in complete support of the army while remaining democratic or, in opposition, they might be in complete disagreement, creating a conﬂict.
How inﬂuential are the regions and the climate in your story? As a personal opinion, it always helps to have a map of your world! The process of developing a map of a region or world, can also aid the general worldbuilding as you might get good ideas while visualising the lay of the land!
How does your world map look? Remarkable landscapes? What natural resources are available?
As I just said, having a world map always helps when developing ideas. Placing biomes, tectonic plates, winds, etc. correctly will tell you a lot! The arid nations, potential places for natural resources, major archipelagos or dominant marine nations, all can work once your eyes get used to it!
How is the weather and climate? How do they change?
The climate could be the default weather and climate you ﬁnd on earth, but it could also be a huge point if you ﬁgure out something special. A never-ending storm, not having a day/night time cycle, the death of soil because of the Chaos rising, important and frequent natural disasters, just to name a few!
How does the location of society aﬀect its chances of survival/culture?
This could be signiﬁcant if there are, in fact, conditions. Maybe your societies can only live near mountains/ sources of water, a speciﬁc metal or animal? Avoiding threats? Think of it like, for example, in Fallout, where radiation levels aﬀect completely the life of the inhabitants.
How diﬀerent is the urban world from the rural world?
There will always have to be some sort of diﬀerence, even in megacities, there is the centre and the suburbs. It could give you hints for diﬀerent disagreements, social scale problems and, of course, cultures.
The biodiversity of your world, going from intelligent species to animals or plants. On regular earth, little to no work can be done here, but for fantasy worlds? You can go to inﬁnity and beyond!
How many intelligent species live in the world? How do they interact with each other?
Think of it like in LOTR, where multiple, clearly diﬀerent species, interact with one another with their varied cultures and manners. Also, remember that not only does the intelligent species have to be proper for the world, but they have also had to pass through an evolution system that proclaimed them superior. Just as with wildlife, it has to ﬁt and adapt to its environment.
How do these species live? Do these species have subgroups? Any special traits?
Another way could be to have diﬀerent races in the same species (independent of the multiple species topic). It has been clearly important in our world history, so how couldn’t it apply to fantasy worlds too? Not only superﬁcial traits could make them apart, but even deeper concepts could be added.
Any new animals or plants? What interactions do they create?
A good bestiary and ﬂora is always welcomed. Could be a well-thought list adapting to the Topography topics, where you can see clearly the implications of climate on the wildlife, but it can also be lighter. Think of it like in Avatar, both of them: in Pandora, you can clearly see a relation with all species, animals and ﬂora; Meanwhile, in The Last Airbender, all the fauna is basically a silly combination of 2 simple animals present in the earth.
What new materials/resources/food does your world have?
You could pick the items from this list to see possible interactions in the economy! It also adds ﬂavour to cultures to have a brand new gastronomy and farming techniques with the food!
The cornerstone of your story and the personality of your characters. With all previous topics, you will probably have more than enough to fulﬁl this, don’t hesitate to check for inspiration and go all in!
What are the most important features/ﬂaws/diﬀerences of your culture? Any new language?
Since nothing is perfect, not only will you have to make sure your cultures diﬀerentiated, but you will also have to make them real. Maybe they are too superstitious? Too sycophant? Too conformist? You could make a good critique reflecting on your societies!
The main works of art/literature/construction? Their inﬂuence?
The Mona Lisa, the Great Wall of China, the Renaissance. Signiﬁcant pieces of work or craft, important cultural periods, they inevitably transpire a revolution or leave an important mark for future generations.
What conﬂicts do your societies have? Big conﬂicts? Current?
It’s wonderful to give dimension to your story via diﬀerent problems of your world and society, but once a certain point is reached, a conﬂict is inevitable. It doesn’t even have to have a real justiﬁcation: pride, greed, supremacy, as far as the people have a will to ﬁght, the origin can be as simple as that.
What does this culture prioritize? What does it try to develop the most?
Each culture gave a priority to speciﬁc things, maybe because of religion, economy, etc. So now that you have already seen those topics, it’s time to decide the hierarchy. People’s wealth? National power? Clerical ambitions? Societies have priorities, priorities have consequences: the sanitation system of medieval Europe was a cause for the black plague.
The hierarchy your society is based on. A free for all topic, get all the information you can in search of inspiration, from previous systems or hypothetical ones. In what way does the social scale aﬀect the population of your societies?
Who are the most important people? Who is the least important?
Instead of just focusing on the extremes of the class order, centre more on the subclasses. Who is the lower of your nobles, who is the most important of your farmers? That could help to create newer facets of your society, more interactions, more perspective.
How do they diﬀer/makes them diﬀerent? How do these classes coexist?
Okay, so now that you have, for example, nobles and farmers, what is diﬀerent about their life outside their jobs? How do they think and see other classes? How is their actual interaction despite the perception they have of each other?
Any particular class or a fraction of class with a special status? What’s important about them and what do they do? (Church? Military? Merchants?)
Now that you have your basic groups of society, it is time to add the unconventional ones, maybe you already have something in mind? A speciﬁc group of artisans? The magical society of your world? Intellectuals?
Yes, it might look overwhelming to think deep in all of those concepts, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take your time, pick the questions/ topics that truly matter to you, and most importantly, enjoy worldbuilding! However, even though I tell you this, you could also take it as a challenge! This is a template at the end, right? Then you can expand it far more beyond!
Keep in mind that the more worldbuilding you create, it might become more complicated to anyone getting introduced to it. Worldbuilders, while knowing all of the moving parts of their world, should choose to reveal only the speciﬁc details to their audience, so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Keep the curve of learning relatively balanced!