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"It is necessary to create constraints, in order to invent freely. In poetry the constraint can be imposed by meter, foot, rhyme, by what has been called the "verse according to the ear."... In fiction, the surrounding world provides the constraint. This has nothing to do with realism... A completely unreal world can be constructed, in which asses fly and princesses are restored to life by a kiss; but that world, purely possible and unrealistic, must exist according to structures defined at the outset (we have to know whether it is a world where a princess can be restored to life only by the kiss of a prince, or also by that of a witch, and whether the princess's kiss transforms only frogs into princes or also, for example, armadillos)."
Umberto Eco, postscript to The Name of the Rose.

Worldbuilding is the process of constructing a fictional universe. It is an important task for storytellers and creators in science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction (e.g., alternate history, utopian and dystopian fiction). The world that the author builds could be as small as an isolated village or as vast as a fictional galaxy. Strictly speaking, anything that happens in that universe "builds" it, so "worldbuilding" is only used to describe the invention of fictional details for some reason other than the convenience of a currently ongoing story, up to and including simply engaging in worldbuilding for its own sake.

A common form of worldbuilding is the creation of a history for the world, particularly notable events that have a major impact like wars. This could just be a Framing Device for a story told by a historian, but fantasy worlds regularly include historical notes for centuries of warfare and political intrigue. Stories can then be written at various points along that timeline, and each of those stories will have a clear relationship to all the others. Once an author has developed a world, they may set a number of books, films or other works in this world (which reduces the challenge of creating a new work). It also makes the writing of serial fiction much easier, especially if the series has multiple authors. If so, the fictional universe is a Shared Universe.

The result may sometimes be called a Constructed World, conworld or (Tolkien's word) sub-creation. The term world-building was popularized at science fiction writers' workshops during the 1970s. It connotes a focus on detail and consistency. Many post-The Lord of the Rings Fantasy and post-Dune Science Fiction writers use world-building in an attempt to give their stories weight and meaning that they would not have without a well-defined, coherent setting.

Constructed worlds frequently have their own aesthetics (art and music), above and beyond the aesthetics of the stories taking place in those worlds. Some artists and hobbyists build fictional worlds with no intention of writing any stories in them—at least, none more detailed than historical documents.

Worldbuilding has two separate meanings:

  • The creation of a Fantasy World Map, history, geography, ecology, mythology, Technology Levels, several different cultures in detail, and usually a set of "ground rules", metaphysical or otherwise. Sometimes, such worlds will have a Creation Myth that's either hinted at or told in more detailed fashion. This kind of worldbuilding can go to the extreme of working out entire constructed languages. Authors typically revise constructed worlds to complete a single work in a series.
  • The work that goes into deciding the details of a setting. It's very difficult to write a story that contains absolutely no imaginary elements beyond what's described to the reader, so nearly every author worldbuilds a little bit. Some, however, go above and beyond the call of duty in that regard, in which case the sheer amount of detail not immediately relevant to the story at hand often serves as a major distinguishing point of their work.

Extra worldbuilding that is only referred to obliquely is a Cryptic Background Reference. Over the course of a long running series or large persistent universe such as an MMORPG, these add up to form what is sometimes known as the "invisible book"- the portion of a story which becomes known over time without ever actually being directly described.

See also Adventure-Friendly World, a common constraint on Worldbuilding, and The Trope History of the Universe, a sub-trope of Worldbuilding that describes an element of it that serves no narrative function and exists only for its own sake. Any instance of this is lore porn, but you’ll find the most abundant examples in works of Speculative Fiction.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • After a few story arcs and a ton of conflicts, Hajime Isayama's Attack on Titan finally explores life outside the walls and the secret of the titans. And even before then, the ins and outs of the bleak, apocalyptic world the protagonists live in get detailed explanations through flashbacks and exposition, as well as diagrams and blurbs of information displayed during the eye catches.
  • Cowboy Bebop is an interesting case. While you do see bits and pieces of what is clearly a very rich and detailed world over the course of the series, they never quite reveal enough detail to show the whole picture about anything.
  • Henkyou no Roukishi Bard Loen: While it's almost close to standard medieval setting, the world has own language, religion and proverbs, as well as many named plants and animals, some additionally explained in volume bonuses.
  • Hunter × Hunter is absolutely brimming with exposition regarding the rules and conventions of its world, to the point of filling whole panels with walls of text.

    Card Games 
  • Over the years, this has explicitly become the goal of the creative team for Magic: The Gathering. Instead of being used to tell the story, each expansion block is now used to flesh out a different world to a remarkable degree.

    Comic Books 
  • Albedo: Erma Felna EDF has this and also basically Universe Building as well, as the culture of each planet, language and many other details are painfully explained in many interesting ways.
  • Astro City is built on this trope; Kurt Busiek has mapped out the entire timeline of the 'verse and will not hesitate to include throwaway references to unexplained people, places, and events in its own history. These often appear to the reader as Call Backs, Cryptic Background References, and Continuity Nods, creating a very strong sense of a fully interconnected and consistent narrative universe.
  • Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars: Each book in the series contains, at the end, a fake Wiki page detailing the history of humanity on Mars. It alludes to other events, such as one known as "the Meltdown" on Earth, and the resulting emigration of people to Mars.

    Fan Works 
  • The crossover fic Child of the Storm goes in for this in a big way as part of a slow buildup, with quiet emphasis on the Butterfly Effect caused by the story's premise and events thereafter, integrating a number of fictional universes and remixing them to create a unique world, going into detail about how this affected the history of the world and various characters' pasts and personalities. This has developed into an extended timeline (now a subpage on the story's tropes page), some original characters, and original additions to the work, discussing everything from Asgardian social dynamics to the potential of reverse-engineered Bifrost technology for weaponisation and colonisation of space - after all, many of the limitations on space-travel hinge on transport times and limitations. Make it nigh instantaneous, and, well...
  • The various fans of the animated show Daria have created the Daria Multiverse, with various worlds, Original Characters, groups... there's a hell of a lot of fanon world-building for a show about a Deadpan Snarker in high school with an ongoing taste for obscure literature and pizza.
  • The authors of Game Theory have done a lot of world building for their version of the Lyrical Nanoha universe. They've expanded on the history and culture of the setting, the magic, the nature of alternate dimensions, and much, much more.
  • Hivefled has quite a bit of it for Alternia, most notably the subjugglator religion, Dyelus, which the author has written quite a lot of very detailed meta about on their blog, as well as the trolls' language.
  • One of the biggest draws of Honor Trip is that it takes the world-building of Dragon Ball Z up a notch with its details and plausibility.
  • Lost Tales of Fantasia takes all Disney stories and links together various elements and events to form a detailed, cohesive world that is currently being ravaged and changed by an altered World War II. Its companion story, It's a Small World University, takes place much later, adding to the world's timeline and history.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanworks:
    • The aptly-named Codex Equus is a Fix Fic that either expands on existing canon, creates new concepts, or both, turning a Sugar Bowl into a realistic world where each sapiant race has its own governing pantheon and is constantly rife with new dangers not seen in the show. It also covers each Generation, referred to as "Ages", such as G1 being referred to as the "First Age", G2 being the "Second Age", and so on, technically making it one giant crossover.
    • The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum went from a simple TCB Deconstruction Fic to a truly massive group project thanks to its massive Myth Arc, occasional uses of Lower Deck Episodes and Ascended Fridge Horror, co-authors wishing to avert Creator Provincialism by exploring the war effort as it happens across the globe, and exploring the inner workings of the numerous factions and groups operating in the war and their moral standings.
    • The reboot of the aforementioned story, Spectrum, takes it in a different direction, placing more focus on both Equestria and the Solar Empire's world-building as well.
    • The Elements of Friendship has plenty, moreso than the television series. References are made to creatures and nations that simply do not exist in the show's canon, as well as a Cold War between Equestria and the Griffon nation of Orlalvov.
    • The Weedverse has a lot of worldbuilding, though information is spread out through each story and may be earned by doing extensive reading in order to learn what's going on. What is known is that Equestria and the world at large is preparing for a war against Grogar the Necromancer.
  • Pokémon: Nova and Antica: The story takes place in the brand new, original Region of Tenla. It will inevitably showcase its own mythology, history, and culture that the story will slowly unveil to the readers.
  • A lot of the interest in Renegade comes from how the Mass Effect and Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series universes interact.
  • Shinji And Warhammer 40 K goes into extensive detail regarding the effects of Third Impact on the world's people and politics, and then on how the characters' actions have effects that ripple throughout all levels of human society.
  • The universe of Sonic the Hedgehog: Heroes of Mobius takes cues from all over the Sonic franchise, containing material from the games, the Archie comic, and Sonic X.
  • Soul Eater: Troubled Souls worldbuilds the Soul Eater universe as much as it can. Its prequel, Soul Eater Zeta, is just icing on the cake.
  • Sugar Plums is a Naruto fan fiction set in Kirigakure which spends a LOT of time explaining and fleshing out the culture, history, political and economical system of an otherwise unknown setting in that world. It also spends a lot of time explaining the build up and actions that caused Kirigakure to become so bad that so many powerful shinobi defected from it as well as the events that led up to the civil war that eventually resulted in Mei taking up the mantle of Mizukage.
  • The Puella Magi Madoka Magica fic To the Stars has a lot of worldbuilding about the Magical Girls and their effect on the human society in 25th century.
  • The Undertale fanfic Visiontale has world-building regarding the Underground, fleshing out the slang and customs alluded to in the story, as well as adding new terms and customs. The author explores the implications of monsterkind's altered societal development as opposed to postindustrial nations on the surface, as well as the structures in place which would allow for the mix of magic and technology present in the game.
  • The world of C'hou in With Strings Attached, a completely original world (which is a MAJOR rarity in Fan Fiction), fully realized, with two vastly different cultures and mindsets, several sets of slang, and hints of a much more ordered past.
    • And to a lesser extent, the Hunter's world, which the four visit in the Third Movement.
  • Wreckstuck: The central premise of the four fics is to develop the world of Homestuck.
  • A Champion in Earth-Bet: This is one of this Quest's major strengths; with the Avatar easily capable of solving many of the major problems in Brockton Bay, he joins the Guild and starts improving the lot of the rest of Earth-Bet. Through this lens, the quest explores how the rest of the world has fared from the advent of parahumans, and from a Japan ravaged by the Sundering of Kyushu, to the parahuman warlord-laden Nigeria, to the cartel-controlled Mexico and Argentina, the answer is "badly".
  • Traveler:An in-depth Reconstruction of Pokémon which manages to combine epic battles with an incredible amounts of World building and history seamlessly blended into the story.
  • Friends of a Solar Empire, being (partly) a Sins of a Solar Empire fanfic, has very little Canon backstory for any of the Sins factions. So the author made one.

  • Part of the appeal of Star Warsnote  was that it created a feel of an entire galaxy, with its own histories and customs, while only focusing on a handful of sparsely populated planets. The Star Wars Expanded Universe capitalised on this immensely, with hundreds of worlds, species and societies and histories stretching back tens of thousands of years.
  • Avatar had an extensive work of world building concerning the creation of the flora, fauna and culture from Pandora. The Na'vi lexicon was created by a real linguist. There is a whole Universe Bible concerning the alien language (Speak Na'vi), plants and wildlife taxonomy, a scale structure for the alien music, Pandora's physical properties etc. etc.
  • Brian Froud and Jim Henson did a long work of Worldbuilding before making the movie The Dark Crystal, which takes place in "another world" inhabitated by many different kind of creatures, none of them based on humans or any other specific creature from Earth. Henson originally wanted the Skeksis to speak their own fictional language, with the dialogue subtitled in English.
  • Every Mad Max film has been consistent (even if there are Continuity Snarls that George Miller doesn't really care about), and each film has contributed to the post-apocalyptic world Miller has built, both being similar and yet giving a completely different view each time. This was one of the biggest points of acclaim that Fury Road received, with its now well-known Show, Don't Tell approach building everything with virtually no exposition.
    • Miller's films in general usually exceed in worldbuilding.
  • John Wick depicts a society of hitmen that functions almost entirely separately from the rest of the world. They even have their own currency in the form of gold coins (one of which is worth thousands of dollars), which are used to show that they have the skill, wealth, and reputation to belong in that society.

  • Shannon Hale's novels all are very lovingly crafted. However, this often results in a slow beginning.
  • William Morris's The Wood Beyond the World, a major influence on Tolkien's own worldbuilding.
  • Impractical Magic: The world is built out very rationally and expands slowly from the central school setting outwards. Authors have created maps, economic systems, population dynamic calculations, partial languages, and even run the numbers behind the physics/chemistry of different magical interventions. Though much of this is done off-camera and only hinted at in-story.
  • M.A.R. Barker's Tékumel created by him beginning at age ten, for much the same reasons J. R. R. Tolkien created Middle-Earth.
  • Frank Herbert's Dune series.
  • Louis Bulaong's Escapist Dream has a unique setting. The story takes place in a virtual reality world inhabited by comic nerds, anime otakus, gamers, and all sorts of geeks; all of whom created their own districts and societies inside.
  • Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, perhaps the most famous (and complete) constructed worlds in recent works of literature.
  • Velgarth, where Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar takes place. The second and third books of the original "Arrows" trilogy open with a prologue that in part lays out the history of the setting, including the ancient Mage Wars that ended in a Cataclysm that drove humanity to the eastern end of the continent, and how they spread back westward over the course of centuries, eventually founding the kingdom of Valdemar in the northwest corner of civilization. The prequel "Mage Wars" trilogy depicts the Cataclysm itself and its aftermath, around 3,000 years prior to the rest of the series.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin:
    • Earthsea. Word of God says that, at least when working on the original trilogy, she literally made up background information as she went along, depending on what felt right. Two of the islands are named for her children's nicknames.
    • Always Coming Home is a very thorough example. There are maps of both the Na Valley towns and a good portion of the rest of the postapocalyptic America, a vocabulary of the language, there are songs (a few were on a cassette attached to the original edition, now buyable separately), poetry, folklore. Even food recipes.
  • C. S. Lewis's Narnia: he indulged in worldbuilding much less than most of the examples here; he preferred to write quickly and without bothering to establish much background information beyond what was necessary for the story. His friend J. R. R. Tolkien even criticized him for making Narnia a Fantasy Kitchen Sink world, and for not taking the craft of worldbuilding seriously enough.
  • George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • Saga of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
  • The Known Space and The Magic Goes Away settings of Larry Niven.
  • The CoDominium.
  • All of Brandon Sanderson's works, in fact, they actually all share a cosmology except for his young adult Alcatraz books, and of course the Wheel of Time books he's written in Posthumous Collaboration with Robert Jordan, Word of God says there's even a defined logic that underlies all the different magic systems of all Sanderson's works.
  • The Instrumentality of Mankind cycle of Cordwainer Smith.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings - The original, at least in the modern sense of the detail involved. Tolkien stated that the creation of Middle-earth was the result of giving his created languages a place to live in. He has written a lots of notes on the direction of that the history of Middle-Earth should go. Much of his notes have been organized and published as The History of Middle-earth.
  • Austin Tappan Wright's Islandia
  • Jorge Luis Borges's "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" is something of a meta-example, being a fantasy about world-builders... who want the world they're building to replace ours.
  • L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz (begun in 1900) is perhaps one of the earliest modern attempts at world building. Maps by Baum depict Oz's four regions and its neighboring kingdoms. The worldbuilding came about because of fans clamoring for more stories and places to explore. (Continuity Snarl ensued)
  • R. Scott Bakker's Eärwa (though not the entire planet), of the Second Apocalypse series, has four thousand years of human history, three huge religions, several different species, and his very own magic. Also, a completely incomprehensible Eldritch Abomination Big Bad.
  • Harry Potter indulges in quite a lot of this, the world growing more detailed and complex as the books go on, though for the most part it's Like Reality, Unless Noted.
  • Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery universe, which encompasses both the Hyborian Age of Conan the Barbarian and the age of Kull's Atlantis.
  • Michael Moorcock's multiverse, encompassing the worlds of Elric, Corum, and various other heroes who take on the role of the Eternal Champion.
  • Garth Nix's Old Kingdom books have a rich background.
  • Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza books are set in an Alternate Universe and Alternate History version of Renaissance Italy.
  • David Weber's Honor Harrington started off less built, but after 17 doorstoppers plus 5 short story collections with several of the short stories designed to fill the history and technology roles have built up a fairly consistent world whose technology is plausible and has rather large and detailed conflicts.
    • Safehold exploits David Weber being a more experienced author and has very large global conflict with dozens of different political groups involved in a religious conflict.
  • Terry Pratchett wrote 38 novels along with several background information books for his Discworld series, with several recurring characters and places.
  • The Vorkosigan Saga, most notably in its description of Barrayaran history and culture.
  • Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy is a vast 'verse with over 30 novels, novellas, and short stories (and counting). The order of writing does not always match up with the universe timeline (although, currently, he seems to be primarily adding to the end). Most novels have unique characters, although there are story arcs that include several of the books. There's a reason the series includes the word "history", especially since many novels deal with alien races, most of which predate humanity by millions of years and some have stopped counting at billions. One novel even goes into the origin of life itself, and another off-handedly reveals that "true" origin of Christianity. Several fan-based web MMORPGs have been created based in the 'verse, especially set during the First Galactic War, a 30-year period of constant technological warfare between two human powers, a period so devastating that its effects are still felt 1000 years later. And now one universe isn't enough for the author, since he's expanding it to The Multiverse with several parallel realities with completely different histories and races intersecting.
  • Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite has a huge amount of world-building, not just in the planet Geta itself, but in the society of the Lost Colony, which has been there for so many centuries that Earth isn't even a legend any more.
  • Charlotte Brontë and her sisters and brother were masters of this at a very young age. Taking off in 1826 from a set of toy soldiers, they colonized the west coast of Africa and called it the Glasstown Confederacy, later Angria. The adventures of the "Young Men" and later The Duke of Wellington's son Arthur, whom they elevated into a veritable demigod, were set down in a set of handmade books about the size of a large postage stamp. Later, Emily and Anne split off and discovered Gondal, a huge continent in the Northern Pacific. These narratives were lost but for a few dozen poems. It's easy to see the origins of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in these narratives, which went on for their entire lives.
  • Henry Darger, author of The Story of the Vivian Girls in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal devoted years, beginning in about 1919, to detailing the gigantic world where most of the story takes place.
  • Barbara Newhall Follett (born March 4, 1914), Child Prodigy author of The House Without Windows, created Farksolia as an idealistic expression of her experiences in the natural world. It had maps, culture, history and a Conlang. One of the authors on the Perilous Adventures blog presented a scholarly paper about Barbara and has this entry about paracosms and the children and adults who create them.
  • Elizabeth Knox, one of New Zealand's most famous authors, began elaborate worldbuilding as a child and on into adulthood with her sisters Mary and Sarah. Several of Elizabeth's novels are based on events in their imaginary worlds. They discuss the intersection of their real lives with their fantasy creations in a series of literary journal articles.
  • The Nelson Boys, three brothers who lived in late-19th-century rural New Hampshire, enacted and chronicled their adventures in the Big, Long and Round Continents, also in tiny handmade books. Instead of becoming writers, they started a creamery business.
  • Children and adults have been worldbuilding and inventing paracosms for a long time. Here's an 1866 article by Francis Jacox about creative people and their imaginary lands: "About Ejuxria and Gombroon, Glimpses of Daydream-Land." You'll find some very familiar names in there.note 
  • Brian Jacques' Redwall books have a world that not only seems to span quite a lot of territory and varied geography, but also has a history going back many generations, including books set both before and after the original.
  • Tamora Pierce creates a very vivid realm in her novels about the Tortall Universe.
  • The Railway Series: The Reverend W. Awdry and his brother gave the Island of Sodor not only a thoroughly detailed map but a complete history going back centuries.
    • Raised to absurdly detailed levels in 1987's The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways. As one of the last books written by Rev. Awdry and aimed at the adult fans of his series; the book breaks down the history of Sodor going back to the Norman invasions to the present day, explains linguistics for location names, discusses local politics, businesses and geology while introducing a slew of one-off figures who never show up in the main books. The book abounds with fictional interviews and letters from Sudrian citizens. Even the names of individual pubs and hotels throughout the island are given, while some real life photos of Rev. Awdry and his family are purposefully mis-attributed to place them on locations on vacation to "Sodor." Expect the most die-hard fans of Thomas & Friends to whip out the "deep lore" from Island of Sodor to impress each other and confuse those outside the fandom anytime.
  • The Deverry series has a good bit of this over its 15 books, and it's quite necessary, as the story is told by moving to different points in the history. The author has stated that the first bit of the world that came to her mind was what ended up being expanded to be the last part of the sixth book.
  • Take Back the Skies is set in the fictional world of Tellus, notable for the thick, tumultuous storms that surround its islands.
  • Murderess, the first installment in The Exiles of Greywall’d Saga, has some world-building included, but only moderately; the following books in the series will develop this aspect some more.
  • In the Star Darlings franchise, each book has a detailed glossary to explain terms, and goes into detail about the Starling life cycle.
  • For a relatively short novel, Alien in a Small Town does a lot of this, with at least two huge wars that each had lasting consequences on the history of the setting, the "Cybertopias" full of failed transhumans, a huge orbiting "port city," human colonies throughout the solar system, and alien outposts on Mars, Callisto, Pluto, and Kuiper Belt objects.
  • J. Zachary Pike does this in The Dark Profit Saga, with the series consisting of two books and a short story at the moment. The books feature a Fantasy World Map at the end, as well as a glossary of terms. The second book has an expanded version of the map, including the previously-unmentioned country of Ruskan. The author's website has a blog with detailed information on the various races, clans, and organizations in the world of Arth. There's a pantheon of gods, the origins of humankind, an ancient war between good and evil, and even the beginnings of a Conlang.
  • The Neverending Story: One of the most prominent deconstructions. Many chapters end by tailing off abruptly, excusing itself by saying that it's another story for another time. It gets through illustrating people, places and things and then stops because the story recognises that a world should be far greater than the narrative it serves. Fully fleshing it all out would bog the story down in endless description of yet more people, places and things in order to explain where these people, places and things came from. In doing so it posits that, in order to fully realise a fictional setting, you'd have to literally write a neverending story.
  • Shiden Kanzaki's light novel series Black Bullet has this with prologues, epilogues, and exposition. Unfortunately most of the world building was cut out in the anime.
  • Kazuma Kamachi's Light Novel series A Certain Magical Index has a lot of worldbuilding.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Firefly has not only a map of the solar system the show takes place in as a buyable poster, but the Tabletop RPG gives us much worldbuilding.
  • J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5, which has a setting with five major galactic powers and several smaller governments.
  • The Twelve Colonies of Battlestar Galactica, which were fully fleshed out by the writers for the start of Caprica.
  • Star Trek, notably in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Harfoot’s nomadic culture is incredibly richly realised, from costuming to customs, and represents something new, built from the ground up, with only minimal influences taken from previous Tolkien adaptations.
  • Lost built up the history of the island.
  • The world of Fraggle Rock may be Lighter and Softer than most other entries on this page, but is no less complex and fascinating.
  • The Man in the High Castle: There are a lot of references made about the overall state of the hellish world that the Axis Powers created in their victory, for instance Nazi Germany taking over the European colonies in Africa and replacing them with even more brutal regimes resembling the Congo Free State.
  • Parks and Recreation certainly qualifies, even if the "world" is just one town. Pawnee, Indiana is a fully fleshed-out place, complete with its institutions, its history, and even its website.
  • The setting of Ohsama Sentai King-Ohger takes place completely in the world of Tikyū instead of Earth like the usual Sentai season does, with the history of its five - later six - kingdoms being fleshed out throughout the story.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Worldbooks, a type of sourcebook, are tabletop RPG supplements that exist entirely to give Game Masters detailed settings to run their games in. While it's possible to buy worldbooks based on the real world—essentially, history books targeted at roleplayers—most worldbooks are about fictional worlds, and so the process of writing the book consisted entirely of worldbuilding.
  • Many Dungeon Masters create their own fantasy worlds for their campaigns. Some of the more famous examples of these worlds are Eberron by Keith Baker and Forgotten Realms by Ed Greenwood.
    • There is even a "World Builder's Guidebook" giving a set of auxiliary rules for building one's own world in accordance with AD&D's mechanics. (A dice roll can result in the world being shaped as a twenty-sided polyhedron.)
  • There's an offshoot of roleplaying games developing that might be called "world-building games", in which the players collaborate to tell the history of a world that develops in-play.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has an extremely well crafted setting with a complex history going back tens of thousands of years.
  • Warhammer doesn't have such an extensive time period to work with, but a higher number of factions and being limited to one planet means a lot more attention to small details.
  • Traveller deserves special mention as one of the best sci fi verses ever built.
  • BattleTech features a 31st century with dozens of detailed worlds and cultures, developed over the course of about three decades.
  • Legend of the Five Rings has been developed over about two decades, with a history stretching back a thousand years and a continuing storyline that has spanned generations.
  • This is what Microscope is all about! Players collaboratively build a world as they play in it. If a group plays long enough they can end up with a very detailed world—and maybe play more traditional RPG's set there.


    Video Games 
  • The World of Battle for Wesnoth, although it is unique as it is a open source project.
  • Akira Tsuchiya's EXA_PICO universe. To summarize, he created a universe grounded on waves and sounds, where music and feelings all have quantifiable power and serve as the basis for the physical laws in it. This complete with two planets that have extensive timelines, no less than six functional Conlangs, and even living cultures, myths and legends for the regions that exist in them.
  • Ivalice Alliance and Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has an extensive mythos that is explored not only in-game, but in supplemental books titled "Encyclopaedia Eorzea", which go into great detail about the history of the world of Hydaelyn, the workings of magic, the origins of the various playable jobs, the cultures of Eorzea's people, and so much more.
  • The first six Dragon Quest games are meant to be broken up into trilogies (1-3 and 4-6, with the last game in each trilogy being a prequel to the first two). However, the second trilogy bar only has a tenuous connection with the games they frame.
  • Oddworld is a giant fictional universe presented as a video game series.
  • The Warcraft series has grown from a fairly standard setting to this, including lore elements dating back ten thousand years or more. It has four worlds (Azeroth, Draenor, and to a lesser extent, Argus and Xoroth) which are explored in depth.
  • Blizzard's other big settings, Sanctuary and the Koprulu Sector, which are both getting pretty extensive supplements.
  • Mitsumete Knight thrives on this, having a rich world and mythos described in-game and in Word of God notes, and this is one of the main aspects (along with the Anyone Can Die factor) that makes it stand out in the crowd of Dating Sims. Yep, you read that right, a Dating Sim which has rich and deep Worldbuilding.
  • Dwarf Fortress is something of a meta-example, as it does this the first time you play, and can be done as many times as desired. While the set of creatures, plants, and sapient races are well-defined in the game files, the mythology, history between the races, geography, and geology are procedurally generated, according to modifiable parameters. This is a huge part of the game's charm.
    • This, of course, leads to events where a dwarf will erect a statue of some guy you never heard of in the middle of your fortress. Until you check the legends, you'll never know about him. When you do, you'll probably find out that he was a peasant who managed to singlehandedly defend a castle from a horde of cyclopes with his left boot.
  • BioWare's original properties tend to be quite extensively worldbuilt. Jade Empire is a minor example, while in Mass Effect they went into greater detail. Much greater detail. And even ME is eclipsed by the Dragon Age franchise.
  • Brütal Legend has the Age of Metal, complete with a Fantasy World Map, Functional Magic based on Heavy Metal, and a Creation Myth reflecting the history of the genre.
  • And of course, there are some games where you can build a world, or at least greatly influence one. Sim games are an obvious example. And the Fable games, amongst others, allow you to shape the future of the world they're set in.
  • Jak and Daxter takes place in a world that has its own alphabet, mythology, history, and wildlife. Each game reveals new information on the world of the precursors.
  • The Nasuverse often makes side-references to expand its magic system without it having any relevance for the actual story. The most prominent example would be the constant mention of dragons being the most powerful of all magical creatures, though nobody ever fought a pure-blooded dragon onscreen until really late into Fate/Grand Order, whole 17 years after the mentions started.
  • Marathon gets special credit for doing extensive world-building in a time when most FPS game stories consisted of "monsters teleport in, you kill them"
  • Halo does this with its extensive Expanded Universe, building an entire mythology around the series. Starting with Halo 3, each game also had several hidden terminals/data-pads/etc. that dramatically expanded on the backstory, and later entries in the series became more heavily integrated with the expanded universe; several important plot points in Halo 4 were explained primarily in the novels.
  • For The Elder Scrolls series, this is one of the more widely celebrated aspects of the series. There are several divergent mythologies, creation stories, and conflicting historical accounts of events, and of course All Myths Are True to at least some degree. Unlike many instances of the trope, this is presented as an actual in-universe force as well. The fabric of reality in the Elder Scrolls universe is malleable through various means of Reality Warping. Mortals can ascend to godhood and often perform Cosmic Retcons of their own pasts, which can bring together multiple timelines, regardless of conflicts. These and other divine events also tend to have Time Crashes as side-effects, which can further tamper with reality in various ways.
  • Solatorobo: Red the Hunter purportedly spent seven of its ten-year development cycle on world building, creating the tons of characters and the various looks and cultures of the Floating Continents.
  • Touhou Project owes its gargantuan fanbase to this trope. ZUN includes a surprising amount of information surrounding the characters, events and setting of the games, enough to fill several Universe Compendiums, but it is almost always bare-bones details, prompting the fans to create their own world building in any way they can, filling whatever gaps they see.
  • Most of the updates for Command & Conquer: Generals Game Mod Rise of the Reds are this, showing the evolution of the setting post-ZH, leading to the Russian invasion of Europe.
  • The Nippon Ichi multiverse started out pretty simple, but gets a bit more complicated as more games come out. This is usually played for laughs. In particular, Celestia and the various Netherworlds recieve a growing amount of detail as the games go on.
  • The solar system of Zoincailla wherein Copy Kitty takes place. For a game about a cat girl shooting up penguins, cyborgs, robots, and demons with rainbow-colored lasers in virtual reality, there's a surprising amount of detailed world building relating to the various species, culture, and environments that make up its eight planets. For instance, did you know the protagonist, Boki is from a cave-dwelling species called Kitera from a desert planet that eat gems? Or that thanks to their birthplace, her random meows peppering her dialogue are remnants of a tradition where they would use echo location? Or that thanks to being constantly attacked by creatures called Cybers from another dimension, her virtual training is to be prepared in case they come to convert her? Bet you didn't
  • The creators of the Ravenmark series did that with their first game, which was largely story-driven with a map of the world, a different calendar, backstories of the different factions, the pantheon, etc. Unfortunately, the sequel is largely multiplayer-oriented, so not much is added in terms of background material.
  • The Trails Series is, in a few words, a really big world where every character from the main characters all the way down to NPCs that players can interact have an ongoing story that's happening while the plot is moving forward. From the Liberl arc, the Crossbell arc, the Erebonia arc, The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie and the Calvard arc, there's hundreds of hours of plot content plus side quests that help build up the lore of the franchise. And they're all interconnected as well.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses extensively develops its setting, the continent of Fódlan. During the first part of the game, each story chapter opens with narration that details the events of each month, plus the changes that the world and its inhabitants go through during the month, like the aerial migration of wyverns during the month of Wyvern Moon. All of these details are irrelevant to the gameplay. During the free-roaming segments at Garreg Mach Monastery, various NPCs will talk about important people, places and happenings in the world.
    • The setting of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, the continent of Jugdral, has a ton of supplementary worldbuilding material, from the centuries of history of the continent and its individual countries to nonexistent in game, solely backstory relevant NPCs and even information on the unseen gods the population of Jugdral worship. Due to space limitations of the Super Nintendo game, most of the detail is All There in the Manual.
    • The remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, introduces a lot of supplementary setting detail about the Valentian continent otherwise irrelevant to the game, from the backstory origins of its free-roam dungeons to its seasons-based Alternative Calendar and its unseen creator.
  • Carrion: There is no narration. No dialog. The entire story is told through the Creature interacting with the environment, flashbacks and atmosphere.
  • Ace Combat started off as ace pilots fighting rebels in a Fictional Country. However the setting kept expanding with each new title until it eventually encompassed an entire Fictional Earth called Strangereal. Strangereal has over 30 named nations, several major wars, it's own technological progression, and a detailed timeline. While the games themselves have a lot of interconnecting lore, the supplementary material for each game contains even more. For example a magazine seen for a few seconds during a cutscene in Ace Combat 7 is readable and it's far from the only one.
  • "Centaura" has quite a huge amount of lore and background to show off, even giving brief backstories for how the Southern Corvus War (the war that started Centaura) began. While most of the lore is not entirely in game, the rest in Centaura and Dead Ahead's Discord server, wiki, and lore document, it is much more than what other Roblox games provide.

  • Dominic Deegan has a story arc that was partly so the characters could unwind, and partly so Mookie could do some world building.
  • The "space opera" story arc in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! seems to be largely intended to pull the many disparate threads of the comic together into a coherent larger setting.
  • Several of the alternate dimensions of Pete Abrams's Sluggy Freelance.
  • Snow By Night takes a Colonial-like setting with roughly equivalent places and starts its world-building by taking some clever divergences from real life. The Almanac shows it off the most.
  • The Mansion of E has this going on in the background as the action wanders around the eponymous structure.
  • Erfworld doesn't just take place a world with its own cultures, and an unfamiliar set of fundamental universal laws. It features a protagonist from outside of that world learning about the world alongside the reader... who then hunts down and exploits loopholes within the world's established construction in ways that rock the world to its foundations and destabilize whole civilizations with long and (internally) storied histories.
  • Serix: The comic shows glimpses of fairly societal and technological workings, and occasionally pauses to show In-Universe ads that give context to the setting.
  • Unsounded is built on this, with an entire continent of multiple nations with their own religions, languages, governments, even various taboos, whole industries built on Functional Magic, various political complexities, and intimate views into crime and the slave trade.

    Web Original 
  • In each compilation book of Monster Girl Encyclopedia, large amount of background info were given about its world, covering how things were before, and how much it changed after the reign of Succubus Overlord. Quite impressive one for fetish works.
  • Blackburn is heavily based on worldbuilding. Much of the story is dedicated to the lore of the city, and introducing tons of characters who will be more important later.
  • The Otherworld Project, formerly Eshraval, is a long-running online collaborative modern worldbuilding project founded in 2004, which also encourages Play-by-Post Games in the context of the world (though not at the moment since it's rebuilding). It's recently undergone a reset, and is in redevelopment mode. Strong hints of Crapsack World in its current incarnation.
  • The Deviant Art Extended Universe was basically founded as an experiment in world building. Author Doctor-of-W envisioned a fantasy setting with his followers as characters, and created a planet with various locations and a sub continent within that planet as a microcosm of that world! As the story is still new, not much actual setting development has happened yet. But give it time!
  • The reason that the Smegolia universe was created for. Just a dump for science fantasy world building ideas and concepts...and to give the the Smegolian species their own world.

    Western Animation 
  • The Land of Ooo from Adventure Time is a mild example. Ooo is meant to be After the End, arising from the remains of human civilization as we understand it, and there are hints towards this in almost every episode, including the opening sequence. Examples include mispronunciations of names like "Mozart" and "Groucho," and there's also a Nursery Rhyme that seems to be about mushroom clouds.
  • The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic slowly but surely embraces this trope as it progresses, whether it be key moments in the history of Equestria (its founding, Discord's rule, Nightmare Moon), the methods used to alter and control nature (Winter Wrap-up, weather generation), the interactions between ponies and other creatures (or non-interaction, as is the case with dragons), and many other subtle details. There's even a map thrown in the mix.
  • In the early seasons of The Simpsons, Springfield semi-qualified, as its events were contained enough to function as a separate world, even if it was never defined as such. This was abandoned later on.
  • Thunder Cats 2011 implied a lot about not just Third Earth, but the entire universe, but never got around to revealing much. The animal races that were brought there after the Black Pyramid crashed have been there for about 5000 years, and have had conflicts between themselves before the start of the series. Other inhabited planets are also mentioned, but we only see one during a flashback.
  • The Art Of Kung Fu Panda goes into some of the history of the world, such as how Master Oogway came to the Valley Of Peace and why most of its residents are pigs, geese, and rabbits. Both this and the animated shorts also show off a few important locations that never appeared in the films, as well as revealing the backstories of some of the major characters.
    • Speaking of Kung Fu Panda, the [[Kung Fu Panda 4 especially excels in worldbuilding with the creation of Juniper City which is filled with Scenery Porn, detail, and characters with unique personalities.
  • Trollz has a detailed system of magic, several historical events are mentioned, and in one episode the wheres and whys of how girl trolls get their magic is explained. They even have a different calendar system.
  • Steven Universe has a very detailed and complex history regarding Gems. The specifics are mainly done for the sake of Character Development, to give the Crystal Gems an intricate past and make it clear they weren't idle before the start of the series. As the Crystal Gems are forced to confront more of their race from their homeworld, many details relating to the mechanics of Gem powers, society, and the ancient civil war fought for the sake of the Earth are revealed. More subtly, background shots establish shades of Alternate History for the Earth itself.
  • Futurama includes a lot of worldbuilding in the form of jokes, and characters making offhand references to events and people in the year 3000. There's a variety of planets and species with highly-detailed cultures, and plenty of visual gags adding to the futuristic setting, like messages in a fictional alien language that are seen in various locations throughout the series (which fans have actually decoded). Robots also have a very fleshed out culture, which is best seen in Bender-centric episodes.
  • Lady Lovely Locks had several details given about the Land of Lovelylocks, including how Lady's Looking Room worked, how dragons were born, where Lady and Ravenwaves lived, areas outside their kingdoms like the Lake of Reflections, the Frosted Mountains, the Parched Desert, Mirror Lake, and cryptic references to the Sea of Far Beyond and lands beyond it. A tie-in board game showed even more locations, some of which were used in year 2 of the toyline and in books.
  • The early parts of The Dreamstone did this in a gradual manner, explaining the layout of the Sleeping World the series takes place on, and some key backstories and mythos. This was generally subtle originally due to the Villain Protagonist approach, though by the later points of the series, the heroes play a more active role and development of their world becomes more frequent, with more detail into the entire fictional galaxy that surrounds them as well as clearer establishment of the show's mythos such as how the heroes' make dreams.
  • Slowly over the course of Ready Jet Go!, Boxwood Terrace begins to encompass more than just a small science-based town. Also, we get to learn a lot more about the lore of Bortron 7 in "Back to Bortron 7".

  • It's rather easy to do this yourself, just open up a word processor document and let your imagination take off.
  • The setting of the forum role-play Open Blue has, over its extensive history, grown quite large.
  • Santharia is a world-building project for the world of Caelereth, which has been going since 1998. Everything from flora and fauna to cosmology is described in loving detail, and pictures added created by Dreamers themselves. The world of Caelereth is developed on the Development board, while on a separate Roleplaying board stories are told set within this world, most of them within the continent of Sarvonia. Recently an interactive game has been developed.
  • Tiandi is a collaborative world building project that originated on NationStates. It is based on the idea that East Asian societies came to be globally dominant instead of European ones, and prioritizes realism.
  • Valucre, another forum role-play, takes place on a planet twice as large as Earth, and over its twelve years of existence has amassed a huge collection of extremely detailed user-created lore. More specifically, each of the three continentsnote , territory, kingdom, city, town, and major location has a detailed article about its geography, culture, technology, government/politics, economy, transportation, and history.
  • Renaldo Kuhler spent more than 60 years secretly developing and illustrating an imaginary country called Rocaterrania, complete with its own history, culture, fashion (which he created and cosplayed himself), language, and religion.


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