Immersive Worldbuilding Part 1: for writers and DMs, novels or RPG campaigns

hi guys I'm Janet from World Anthem so for those of you who don't know well Danville is an online world building platform that allows you to write organize and share your work but today we're going to talk about immersive world building that's about how you can get your audience absorbed in your world building whether it's for your novel or short story or for your RPG campaign immersing your audience in your well building and in the mood of your scenes is a great way to keep them engaged with the plot and it's a really important keystone of any successful world building for novels or RPG campaigns so if you want to find out more about immersive world building just keep watching it's time to light up the forge why does Hogwarts rustle with moving portraits whilst elantris is just really stinky and why the mines of moria darker than satan's left armpit it's because there really are only nine or seven or three basic plots depending on who you ask which means that immersive well building isn't vital it keeps your audience engaged and it adds color and mood to the your locations and the scenes set within them get it right and your audience will remember your world long after they leave the table or close your book so in this primer on immersive world building we're going to focus on the senses now that's for several reasons senses give us information about the world your characters understand the world by seeing hearing smelling and touching and it's also how your audience can imagine your world building more vividly using the senses for immersive well building is also a perfect way to show don't tell bob was scared is a lot less effective than Bob felt the hairs on her back of his neck stand up with both of them we know that bob is scared but by showing his feelings instead of telling them our readers actually feel what bob feels and empathize alongside him we can also use the senses as symbolic cues to signal the kind of mood that we want to convey in a scene or location but more about that later we're gonna start with the most commonly written about sense can you guess what it is its sight humans are very visual we tend to navigate the world by sight pretty much predominantly provided that we can see and if it gets dark well we just turn on the light sight is so valuable because it gives us a clear overview of what's around us without interacting with every single object as I'm recording this I can see the sofa and the curtains and the ceiling I can't hear them I can't smell them and I can't feel them but I still know they're there by sight alone hey loss offer I can't see you so for our characters sight is usually the first impression they get of a new space or location and it's a great way to give an overview of the things around them how we dress our scenes and locations the items that we put in them will already have a huge impact on the mood of a scene if you're in a room with a torture rack even for for instance it creates a different mood in the p-trap or a suit of armour some of the seam dressing will come from the genre of your world but most items like a teapot could be found in any setting both jean-luc Picard and our torturer need their morning pick-me-up just like the rest of us seam dressing with items explaining what your protagonist sees is pretty self-explanatory but we're going to go one further site reveals a huge number of qualities about the world around us for example illumination level color pattern texture shape distance size and reflectiveness that is if something's shiny or matte you can use all of these qualities to manipulate the mood in your scene we're going to try a little writing exercise now so go grab yourself a piece of paper or you can write your answers in the comments below let's start with a room a picture gallery here's a simple explanation of the objects you see around you you enter a long gallery it's dark at one end there are oil paintings on the wall there's some furniture at the edge of the room and there's a carpet on the floor it's pretty boring right but we can completely transform that room by using color and texture and size and all those other descriptors if I want to introduce a darker mood something a bit more sinister I can play with those descriptors to completely change the mood of the scene if you're playing along at home then it's time to write your own version start with you enter a gallery and the rest is up to you alright alright are you ready here's what I came up with you enter a long gallery flaking oil paintings hang in large gilt frames and a few pieces of grimy dark wood furniture squat beneath them the dust lies thick on the carpet which disappears into darkness a few steps in front of you alright I'm not saying this is the best writing in the world okay it's got a lot of adjectives in because I'm trying to prove a point here but it certainly got a lot more mood than our first excerpt so let's see how I use the descriptors to create the mood that I managed to create the darkness was taken from the original prompt but by moving it to the end I make it more prominent the Darkwood the gilt frames are all dark colors they set this color scheme of the room and they get a dark and ominous place with texture we used flaking oil paintings to give a sense of decay like the space has been forgotten and that makes it seem more gloomy more lonely and then for distance the darkness is a few steps in front of you now that's quite imminent that's quite close we want the darkness to seem almost oppressive for size we used a large gilt frame again we're going for an oppressive and grand feeling and for reflectiveness the grimy furniture would be matte that's how we can tell it's grimy from a distance this is a scene that doesn't reflect light it sucks it in what I did with the darkness there mentioning the edge of the vision is a great way to create suspense we can see it that Tolkien uses it as well in the mines of Moria he describes interests of walking Spurs with prostitutes and every stairwell or passage that they don't follow is another area they can't see it could house danger and it's ominous it's scary but let's go back to our gallery again because I want to make it into a totally different kind of space we're doing a verbal overhaul all right guys we're gonna use those same items for pictures the carpet the furniture and the darkness but I want to create the space there's a lot lighter and brighter so guys again if you're playing online at home this is the time to pause that video and write out your excerpt start with you walk into a gallery and the rest is up to you all right are you ready this is what I came up with you enter a gallery oil paintings shine in golden frames and elegantly curved chestnut chairs reflects the fruiting vines in the wallpaper behind a champagne carpet stretches beyond to the pool of sunlight at your feet phew all right so that's a pretty different room already let's take a closer look at how I use those sight descriptors to really change the mood of the room we still have darkness at one end but we focused on the illumination itself the sunlight the colors are chestnut gold and green from the vines and then there's the champagne color of the carpet these are all much lighter and brighter and their symbolism is luxurious and life enhancing notice it was champagne rather than yellow or beige we now have a cheery life-affirming pattern and that's the fruiting vines on the wallpaper patterns give a sense of movement and life to a room in general the elegant curve of the chairs seems refined and although we haven't defined distance specifically we've said that the carpet stretches beyond the pool of sunlight so we've implicitly placed the darkness further away from our protagonist by changing the frames from guilt which are usually very heavy to golden we've altered the implied size we've also achieved a change in size by changing the furniture which in my mind's eye was this very big heavy trunk into curved chairs now they seemed much more delicate they're also going to let light pass through them now that's gonna be important for the next one which is reflectiveness this is a big one in this scene we have shiny paintings reflective furniture light colored furnishings and sunlight bouncing off everything the gallery seems like a much lighter brighter space and that gives a totally different mood to the scene in general was it different from what you wrote please do put your writing in the comments below I think everyone's going to get a lot from seeing how different writers approach this task one small caveat on colors though watch out for colour symbolism in different cultures white in some cultures means innocence and in other cultures it implies death red might be lucky or it might be dangerous and the culture that you're creating might have their own colour symbolism just something to keep in mind as you're world building and of course we've just been doing a small area a room but you can use this technique for a whole geographical area if you ought to as well say you have a grass plane is the grass green that gives a totally different mood to brown or yellow grass if your mountains are red stone they'll set a different mood to yellow sandstone or black basalt or even obsidian so you can see that once you finish world building a location whether that's a forest a city or a mine you can enhance the mood by defining the colors textures illumination and these other site facets the moment you put your characters in those locations they and the audience are instantly going to pick up on the mood that you're trying to convey and are instantly going to have a much more immersive experience and that's really one of the keys to immersive world creating a sense rich world and then curating your description of it to bring you on world building to life in the most engaging and emotional way if this video has helped you at all with a massive well building if it's helped you create mood in your scenes or if it's inspired you at all please give us a thumbs up if you're ready for some serious world building then head over to world anvil comm to get started and if you guys want to know more about the building worlds with tales foundry competition that's having the pro writers behind tail foundry write a short story in your world then head over to the building worlds with tell foundry competition page and we'll link that in the doobly-doo as well alright guys there's only one thing left to say so that's grab your hammer and go world built just think they're something just something to keep in mind while you're well building just ah it she knows oh Jesus I hate makeup it's the worst thing in the entire world okay that's that exaggeration but still um oh this is hard this morning

25 thoughts on “Immersive Worldbuilding Part 1: for writers and DMs, novels or RPG campaigns

  1. You enter a long gallery. Paintings on the wall provide some comfort as you walk down the hallway. A thick layer of dust coats the hallway, paintings, and the carpet. The paintings themselves vary, some being beautiful depictions of wildlife, others showing the horrors of war. Every step you take disturbers the dust on the Oriental carpet. You finally reach the end, where after you open a frail door, a circular room with murals on the domed ceiling showcasing fantastic adventures. But the thing that attracts your eye is the circular pool in the middle of the room, instead of water, their's a strange pulsating blue light.

  2. Dark Theme: You enter a gallery. The walls are papered with dated wallpaper, on which frescoes are hung up, lathered with dust, only hints of dull colour flickered through. . Opulent furniture sat in the corner, gathering grime. A carpet lay under your feet, it stretched long into the thin corridor, obscured by darkness, the blinking lamps were not much use.
    Bright Theme: You enter a gallery. High windows light up the room. Extravagant paintings line the flowered walls, in gilded frames. Velvet furniture sits upon the marble floor, so clear, your reflection stares back up at you. Your boots sink into the plush carpet as you walk on, glancing up at the ornate chandeliers, giving the room a golden hue.

  3. You enter a long gallery. The walls are covered by oil paintings, portraits of people dressed in old clothes and looking at you with sour expressions. The place is illuminated by oil lamps placed at regular intervals, and the shadows make it seem as if the portraits are moving—No, wait. There are no shadows.

    The paintings look at you for a moment longer, and then turn back around, talking soundlessly with one another. The exit is at the other end of the gallery, flanked by to giant portraits, a giant door of bronze decorated with depictions of screaming faces and flowers.

    You take a deep breath and begin walking.

  4. You enter a long gallery. Along the wall are several lit red candles, burnt almost to their ends. They sit in tarnished golden bowls screwed to the wall. The hot wax drips onto the thick burgundy rug beneath your feet.The small flames dimly light the path ahead of you, and you can see that the ornate rug seems to stretch the entire length of the hallway. The gallery seems to go on past your line of sight, and further down the candles become dimmer and fewer, causing you to wonder when this gallery hall comes to an end, if at all.

  5. Lol, The main character of my first book has Synesthesia, she can feel, smell and taste whatever she may be looking at, even from hundreds of yards. So, "When she enters the long gallery she can tell you that the third painting on the left, with it's bright colors has been freshly painted, has two brush hairs in it and is made of all natural materials, but the eggs used were getting rather old and she does not care for the taste. Lounging within the shadows at the far end is a rather large, but freshly bathed dog is curled up in a corner softly snoring away. Steph can smell the fresh earth on it's paws as it slowly dries, as the dog has recently come in from running through a patch of fresh turned ground where it picked up a solitary dill seed. The room is well kept and smells clean with a hint of the orange oil used clinging to her tongue and pleasing her nose". I rarely mention most of the details she notices unless it's something important.
    "Stephanie walked into the well lit gallery and paused to take in the scene of the many bright paintings on the walls to either side of her. The deep brown carpeting smelled freshly cleaned for the upcoming event planned for the evening with the hint of dog feet. The few chairs maple wood chairs were upholstered with a neutral beige color, offsetting carpeting and helping to blend with the white of the walls. The cherry wood tables were freshly waxed and polished, ready to receive the trays of hors d'oeuvres for the guests. She breathed deeply of the orange scented air, letting the taste linger a moment as she spotted the furthest unlit corner were a light had gone out. The dog had found a quiet place to rest from the bustling activity out on the grounds under one of the potted ferns which were placed in each corner of the gallery. His feet smelled of fresh turned soil, although he was just bathed not two hours previously. She could feel and smell the dill seed stuck between the toes of one of his front paws. She must remember to tell the gardener to recheck the newly seeded dill". Personally, I will usually go over a particular paragraph at least three times to make sure I get the mood and the scene properly set. Peace,Love and Light!!!

  6. You enter a gallery. Long have been the days that you toiled outside this art gallery. They don't tolerate people of lesser class within these halls. Nevertheless you intend to make your mark on it.

    When you enter you are beset by a rush smells from old oil paintings as well as something of a smell of mildew from one of the nearby visitors of this gallery perhaps. The halls even from the entrance seem to bend and twist into oblivion ending to where you do not know. The gray stone marking the inner hall of this gallery seem worn with age and the walls near the base seem worn smooth from the caress of a million hands over the year. Even as you enter the bustle of tens to hundreds of people reach your ears. Their chorus of conversations seem to blend in a white noise that add to the ambiance of the grand hall. A man wearing a black uniform almost like a bell hop approaches you.

    I thought that authors frowned on overly flowery language. I keep getting different advice from people. Like for example people seem to keep saying that LOTR was too descriptive. Nevertheless this was a fun exercise.

    EDIT: I used other senses please forgive me. I need to work on my length.

  7. The curator welcomes you to the Museum of Enphirtomphis. Grotesque paintings hang off the wall, you then realize that the pictures are made of souls and magic. The sofa in the middle is a sculpture of bizarre skeletons that would not exist naturally without magic. But most strikingly the carpet that lines the white-blue floor is alive and in pain with a blood curdling scream every time you step on it.

  8. You enter a long gallery. The oil paintings on the walls have this calming feeling to them, you feel the cool summer breeze through the window as you open the next door to…

    a long gallery, this one in fact, a bit peculiar, as if the oil painting have a strange odor, a musk, to them. The cool summer breeze as disappeared into a horrendous smell of onions. The paintings seem, different. They appear more macabre in image, almost as if the paintings are watching you.
    Your heartbeat races as you run for the set of doors as you enter….Another long, endless gallery, of madness

  9. A creaky sofa at the other end on which it caved from the endless nights she fell asleep reading a book, a rugged carpet still holding its shape, and there she was on a chair talking to a camera.. the directional light on top of the camera shows its harshness, it glares as if the matte paper of the map hanged on the wall behind her is a mirror.. Her brown hair threads shined as copper wires, and her skin seem so pale, the man watching the video almost mistook her for an elf!

  10. i know this is old but i wanna try my hand
    You enter a long gallery. On the right there hangs oil paintings of every size imaginable, from tiny figures smaller than your hand to sweeping landscapes that reach from floor to vaulted ceiling. The frames are packed so tightly together that it is impossible to see the wall beneath. At the far side of the hall you see a young woman flitting to and fro, dusting the paintings and clearing dirt from the large bay windows overlooking the forest outside, a faint light emitting from her hands as she works. As you approach, shoes clicking on the polished hardwood flooring, you can't help but notice that the girl looks strikingly similar to the woman featured in every painting.

  11. The Gallery was stale.
    A frayed rust red carpet crawled it's way over blood splattered stones dried and cracked.
    Light which once bathed the hall in a soft blue hue now illuminated crumbling picture frames in a sickly green.

  12. You enter a long gallery, the room has floor to ceiling window on one side that let light in but there is very little since the street light outside farther down the block. Lucky for you the wooden floors are stained in a light brown witch spread the light around a bit more, you notice the outline of what looks like woman at the end of the room but its hard to tell since the figure is wearing dark colors.

  13. You enter a log gallery. On the walls, ominous shadows dance in flickering torchlight. The tables are stewn with roughly cut pieces of wood – grim reminders of your first sentence's typo..

  14. You enter a gallery. Bright, yellow walls running along what easily could have been a corridor directs your attention to the end. There is no light there, only darkness. Something runs down your spine, for it makes you remember the darkness in the end of the tunnel. A story, you have heard a million times. If there is light, you are save. If there is darkness, you are doomed.
    Hesitantly you walk down between paintings in varying sizes, shapes and colours. They are portraits of people, faces never seen before. Faces you never will see again. As you move closer to the end, it seems as though all light, all colour and all happiness fades. You slowly start to hear a loud heart beat, at a rate far wuicker than it should be possible. You want to walk away, but you keep going.
    You are now consumed by darkness. It fills your sight, thoughts and feelings. You are clouded by the feeling of killing. You only hear your heart beat, as you begin to want to stop it. Completely.
    You suddenly find knife in your hand, wondering how it got there. You move it close to your throat, your grip getting tighter for every second. A voice in you begs for you to stop, but you don't listen. The knife is now directly at your throat, ready to end your suffering. You discover that you are crying. Your body is shaking and your lips are trembling. The ligt in you screams 'stop', but the darkness whispers you to continue. And in a moment of silence, darkness consumes you…
    A clap on your shoulder wakes you up. You blink confused and find no knife in your hand. You are where you started, at the beginning of the corridor. People have by now filled the room. Beside you is Sarah, the girl you love so dearly.
    'Sorry… Was daydreaming' I answered to her silent question.
    'Find me, brother' a voice whispered for afar.

  15. You enter a long gallary. On the walls hang several paintings of torture and anguish, the mouths of the victims open so wide you can almost hear their wails. Two dark ebony chairs sit in the corner on either side of a gaunt round table of the same make. A blood red rug leads your gaze to the thick darkness that hides the exit. It seems to claw and churn, almost tangible with malice.

    You enter a long gallary. Though portraits in the gilded frames are old, they still radiate with a sense of nobility. Once fine chairs that have long lost their plush cushions sit around a small table with golden inlay, upon which sits a long forgotten teapot. You can just barely make out the flower design that it once proudly boasted. A rich maroon carpet, now faded with age stretches the length of the hall, pinned in place by a small amount of rubble. A songbirds whistle brings your eyes up to the small hole in the roof which lets not quite enough sunlight in to illuminate the end of this hall.

  16. You enter a gallery dimly lit by rays of light creeping through broken slates of the boarded-up windows. Crumbled painting hang crooked along the wall although some have crashed into the broken furniture and rotten carpet below.

    You walk into a gallery taking a second for you eyes to readjust to the gleaming beams of sunlight reflecting from the polished gilded benches. A deep purple carpet has been laid to the far end of the hall flanked by various portraits of the royal family.

  17. Is the story and worlds I create in your web page going to belong to the general public, to you guys or to me? I ask cause I write a lot but I like the idea of to maps and tags for the stories

  18. You enter an abandoned gallery. The walls and floor are almost entirely enveloped in worn murals, all of obscured legends of forgotten ages. At the end, a desk waits in the shadows, surrounded by a half completed work depicting warriors in pursuit. In its chair sits the skeletal artist, waiting for someone to help finish his magnum opus.

  19. 1. You enter a gallery. The end of the gallery is invisible in the encroaching gloom. As your make your way along the dusty, musty smelling carpet, the eyes of painting’s subjects seem like black holes. Then you notice they are, someone has punched all of the eyes out. The paint is crumbling and flaking from the portrait on your left and there are flecks lying on the dark wooden bench beneath it. It seems as though the man in the portrait is disintegrating.

    2. You walk into a gallery. Small, brightly coloured paintings adorn the walls, illuminated at the near end by a large window. You can see dust motes drifting lazily through the air down towards the cream-coloured carpet as you walk towards the cool, shaded end of the gallery. Laughing children and playful dogs wink out at you from the paintings, their varnish bright and whole. One of the paintings catches your eye and a pillowed bench against the opposite wall seems to invite you to sit down and take a good look.

    Apparently we had the same idea about the state of the paint in the first scene!

  20. You enter a long gallery; flaking oil paintings line the wall in stained wooden frames with the wall behind them bleeding a black, odorous sludge. The walls, while decorated with a beautiful red and gold pattern over a wooden panel, are tarnished with a deep water line. The wood is splintering, rough and fetid, with large cracks where the foundation has given its way. The floor is a decorated mosaic with a layer of moss and fungus, and is warped badly along with sections sunk deep and filled with atrament.

  21. The ornate, clockwork door opens into a large room, about 40ft deep and 25dt wide from where you entered. As the door closes behind you, an audible click is heard, as the tapestries adorning the walls are rolled up on their own. The grinding of gears can be heard as these terra cotta statues rise from the ground, all armed to the teeth as they stand and watch. The statues remain motionless, until a crumbling noise betrays their true nature…


  22. You enter a long gallery illuminated by a torch set low in an inset to the left of the entrance. Two child-sized chairs and a squat ottoman, made from polished dark wood with green velvet cushions, are arranged along the left wall, throwing dancing shadows against the far wall. The wall to the right is hung with a dense arrangement of oil paintings, depicting posh-looking goblins in suits and dresses. A rug runs the entire length of the gallery, with a geometric red and gold pattern and a recurring motif reminiscent of the holy symbol of Harth.

    You enter a long gallery illuminated by skylights that run the length of the room. Daylight washes down onto a green carpet below with a pattern that falls somewhat short of a convincing depiction of grass underfoot. To your left and right, stiff white folding chairs are set at intervals along the gray stone walls, each chair facing and contemplating its own tiny oil painting. The paintings are yearning, barely representational things; those few whose meaning seems plain enough to understand are depicting seemingly arbitrary scenes from everyday life. At the far end of the room, a tarp has been laid onto the skylights from above, casting the last few paintings in shadow.

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