Forging New Worlds With World Anvil
As I sat down to work on the public worldbook for Let the World Burn Away, I once again began remembering just how useful it is to have tools that do the job you want them to well. In this case, I’m talking about World Anvil, an amazing set of worldbuilding and writing tools that do… well, pretty much anything you need them to do to aid you in putting your world down into a form others can peruse.
Before I start: no – this is not sponsored in anyway by the kind folks at World Anvil. I just love using this set of tools enough in my worldbuilding that I just need to write about it. I don’t even use all the features – yet – and I don’t think I could manage without it at this point. There is just so much cool stuff here and it’s pretty much in constant development at the moment, bringing new features regularly. I have been using it for about a year and a half at this point and have actually paid for guild status at the Master Worldsmith level to gain access to a few additional and cool features.
The primary tool most people come to World Anvil for is the amazing codex. Acting like a heavily customized wiki, the codex for a world allows you to create articles for your characters, your campaigns, your locations, your peoples, your myths – yes, even for that random cat that your players stop to pet every single time they head to the inn to get drunk (we see you over there, Fluffy).
In the process of creating these articles, you can weave them together in intricate webs of connections, designating links between articles, assigning artifacts to the characters that wield them, linking ownership of entire regions to the nations that hold them in their iron gauntlets, and creating an unbroken chain of parents to children for many generations (and, after you’ve done that, you can then attach an absolutely amazing visual family tree showing how characters are related). All of this can be easily organized with a robust category and tagging system and made to look absolutely amazing with a wide variety of themes and formatting BBCode available to users (with the higher levels of guild status granting access to even more customization tools).
If you’re coming to World Anvil because you run a game (or ten) in a world and need a place to collate and collect the overwhelming amount of information you have, you can even create campaigns within the world and have your players attach characters to them, providing the ability to do just as in-depth write ups on their characters and to pen journal entries like a social media feed for the character. Afterwards, the campaigns and characters both can be displayed on your world’s front page, offering easy access for everyone. On top of that, you can use the campaign functionality as a game master screen, completely with a handout page to give information to your players during live play – with all the functionality built into the site, it is entirely possible to run an entire session from World Anvil without any additional tools (though I would recommend some sort of voice app to cut out a lot of back and forth).
Now – you’ve got your world in text: lots and lots of text. But now you say you want to flex your artistic muscles and properly show your world and where everything is located in it? Have no fear – World Anvil has a solution for you as well.
Enter maps. And not just any simple maps, either; with a few clicks, you can turn any large image you might have into a map within the system, allowing you to place markers for features of various import and provide information directly from the map – including linking to the articles you just wrote. Need to mark where a city is? No problem! With a couple clicks, you can mark it nicely. Want to highlight the location of an important battle in your history? With no additional hassle, you can easily create a location marker for it and have the entire story of that battle available for everyone to read. You can even link maps from within a map, allowing those browsing the map to effortlessly jump from your world map to your country map to your city map to your castle floorplans.
Speaking of history, World Anvil also features an extremely robust calendar and timeline system (which, from my understanding, is currently in the process of being updated as part of Project Chronos). The platform allows you to customize and detail your world’s calendar, including days of the week and even the phases of your moon(s). On top of that, it features an in-depth timeline system allowing you to show off the flow of events through the history of your world, your campaign, or anything else you want (I personally maintain a world timeline for every world I have plus a separate timeline for each campaign currently running in the world).
Last but most certainly not least is a feature I’ve yet to delve heavily into – manuscripts. You see, World Anvil is not just for game masters. Writers of all sorts use the site – some just to store their information on for their own private use and some to share a worldbook to fans of their work – and so the amazing team at World Anvil have developed a tool that lets you scribe and edit your masterpiece while easily being able to access all the information you’ve already entered into your world’s codex. While I may not be the individual best suited to comment on just how full featured the manuscript system is, from playing around with it late last year, I found it to be feature rich with easy and powerful organization tools attached to it.
Note: Manuscripts are currently only available to members of the guild at Master or higher level.
So, there you have it – a look at the amazing tool that is World Anvil. Even with everything I went into, I’m absolutely sure I likely missed a number of features and cool little things you can do with it. With nearly a year and a half of use under my belt, there are still things I’m learning every time I use it. While some of the features are hidden away behind a premium membership, even the basic free level provides a robust system – and almost everyone I’ve introduced to it has quickly upgraded to paid status because of just how powerful a tool the application is.
Why not take a look for yourself?
Oh – and while I have you here, I would be remiss not to share my own two worlds that’re currently public on World Anvil:
- Remember me mentioning Nareah in a recent article? Well, there’s the beginnings of a world codex of it on World Anvil! I started it to transfer information about the world to a more easily accessible source during last year’s WorldEmber competition and plan to continue on it once things calm down a bit.
- You can also read the world codex for Let the World Burn Away! Containing information on the Okuda Cluster, it’s still in development and will receive dumps of information as we delve into some sweet, sweet mecha action in the far future.