World Anvil Review: Lighting up the Forge

Writing tools is a term often applied to the intangibles of our craft; our knowledge, skills, and techniques which are applied in the process of developing outlines, hammering out plots, and spinning prose to amaze our readers. I want to talk today about the more tangible writing tools at our disposal: Pens, notebooks, laptops, and software. Most notably, I want to discuss one particular piece of online software that has revolutionized how I approach an important part of writing science fiction and fantasy: Worldbuilding. Today, I want to talk about World Anvil.

A quick disclaimer: Although my publishing company (Kyanite Publishing, LLC) interacts with World Anvil on occasion, I am in no way being reimbursed by World Anvil, its owners, or its associates in return for writing this article. I am doing so of my own accord in hopes of sharing useful information with the writing community.

What is World Anvil?

World Anvil is a website (www.worldanvil.com) founded in October of 2017 by Janet Forbes and Dimitris Havlidis. It is a place where authors, table-top RPG (role playing game) dungeonmasters, and hobbyists can develop, maintain, and display fictional worlds in a wiki-style system. Work produced on the website remains the sole property and copyright of the author, and it may be publicly displayed or kept private depending upon that author’s preferences. The end-results can vary greatly depending upon how many of the myriad of features each individual chooses to employ, ranging from simple text documents to fully customized and formatted articles with images, links, and interactive maps.

The Kingdom of Brisland, from my own World Anvil project: Istaria.

From the Notebook to the Forge

I started my own journey down the rabbit hole of worldbuilding some time in the early 1990s, in what some may consider through the lens of nostalgia the heyday of Dungeons & Dragons. The second edition AD&D rule set had just been released in 1989, and new settings such as Dragonlance and Dark Sun were inspiring many of us young would-be authors to craft our own unique settings to explore within the game.

Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The resulting world may be called a constructed world. … Constructed worlds can be created for personal amusement and mental exercise, or for specific creative endeavors such as novels, video games, or role-playing games.
— Definitions.net

And thus did the spiral notebooks, three-ring binders, and hand-scrawled maps on graph paper begin to pile up. What began as a hobby became an obsession, and soon there were boxes of notes detailing everything from geopolitical turmoil to the mating habits of certain local waterfowl. As time passed and I adapted to our new digital age, I was certain that there would soon be a better way to accomplish these tasks. Thirty years passed, and despite options such as meticulously organized directories of documents, programs like OneNote, and even Scriviner (and anybody who knows me knows that I swear by Scriviner for writing my manuscripts!); I had yet to find a system that surpassed the utility of the good old spiral notebook and three-ring binder. Then I discovered this website called World Anvil, created by worldbuilders for worldbuilders with one thing in mind: Worldbuilding.

Stoking the Fires of Creativity

I was intrigued, to say the least. I had recently taken the deep dive into serious professional writing of fiction and I had several settings that I was maintaining simultaneously. Moreso than these, I had an epic fantasy project outlined that I knew would require a massive amount of worldbuilding, and I was prepared to fill another cardboard box with notebooks to achieve this goal. That was right about when I discovered World Anvil in October of 2018.

The site was a year old, and it was growing. I found it through a YouTube channel called Tale Foundry that had partnered with them for a writing competition.

The competition was to develop a world and set up the basics behind a story, and then Tale Foundry would write the story and read it on their channel. I was hooked!

Badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”
Yes…yes, we do.

No, I didn’t win. I did get a shiny participation badge though; the first of many. I realized at this point that this site was much more than a tool for worldbuilding: It was a home for it. There was interaction, scheduled events, rewards, and a growing community of like-minded individuals all rallying around the World Anvil website and team. And as I explored other authors’ works on the site, I discovered that they were producing some amazing content! I was inspired to do the same, and I was pushed to do so with more quality than I had ever considered putting into my worldbuilding before.

“That’s all great,” you say, “but what about the website itself? Is it a useful tool?”

It is indeed! In addition to everything mentioned above, the actual layout and system of the World Anvil website is not only a useful way to produce, organize, and display information; but the templates built into it offer built-in prompts that made me think of things about my worlds that I had never considered before!

Should I have considered the major exports of the Principality of Remaria for my epic fantasy project? Yes.

Would I have thought of this if I was detailing it in a notebook? Probably not, but World Anvil reminded me to do it!

Breathing Life Into Your Setting

“But, B.K.,” you say. “I don’t do a lot of worldbuilding for my books. My stories are all character-driven, so I don’t have to keep extensive notes or detail minutiae that I will later need to reference and use in my writing. This sounds great, but it’s not something every writer can use. Why should I be interested in what World Anvil has to offer if I’m not a worldbuilder?”

What was the name of that gas station Jodie stopped by on the way to the lakeside cabin, where he had that conversation with whatshisname about that party down at whosiswhat’s house?

So, every writer has had that moment where they’ve had to scroll back three chapters in a manuscript to remember the name of some minor character or detail of a location. At the very least, World Anvil can be a place to keep notes like this. Admittedly, there are other options, but it’s worth a look.

If you’re not a worldbuilder or considering writing epic fantasy or hard science fiction, and you’re still reading this: Thank you for hanging in there! Don’t worry, this next part is for you!

Okay, so you don’t write science fiction or fantasy. Or, maybe you do, but you don’t develop sweeping and expansive settings for your books. Honestly, I’ve written several pieces that have bare-bones worldbuilding and focus more on character and plot, so I totally admit there’s some projects that simply do not need something like this. But, just because you don’t create entire civilizations down to what color is socially acceptable to wear after the annual harvest festival doesn’t mean that you won’t potentially get some use out of this.

And this is where I’m going to veer off the superhighway of worldbuilding and get down to what any fiction writer can relate to regardless of genre: Characters.

Liam Cobb, protagonist of The Eternity War, my upcoming epic fantasy project.

It has been said time and time again that there are three main facets of any story: setting, plot, and character. And, it is well known that character is the most important part of this equation. One need only do a cursory search online for writing tools (the tangible sort), and they will find a plethora of character sketch worksheets, questionnaires, and guides for developing rich and believable characters.

I argue that World Anvil has built into its framework everything you need.

The character template on the website has spaces for the usual questions, from physical characteristics to personal history. But it delves deeper and has fields that beg to be filled in; asking about personal taboos, mental quirks, physical mannerisms, life goals, and pretty much everything else you will find on the best character sketch worksheet, and then some.

In addition to this, World Anvil just launched a new aspect of the website called “Heroes“. I’ve played around with the new features briefly, but I’ve found so far that this is the most involved character creation utility I’ve ever seen. Moreso than this, it’s also a social network for characters! While you need not interact with others, or even make what you develop visible to the public, the potential of being put on the spot by other author’s characters talking to your own might make you dive deeper into the mind of that oh so important aspect of your story.

Brego, protagonist of Blood of the Desert, now has his own social media profile?
And he’s emo?

The number of fields to fill in on the advanced profile in Heroes outweighs even those in the character template in the main World Anvil structure. It’s definitely geared more towards short-form profiles rather than long biographies, but for many that’s as far as we ever get anyway. In addition, you can post thoughts from your character’s point of view, out of character posts such as the quote from Blood of the Desert shown above, and even journal entries. Want to have your character keep a journal of everything that happens while writing the book — either for later release, promotional purposes, or just to keep track? Here you go…thank me later.


World Anvil membership is free, and one can access the majority of the features offered without any monetary commitment. There are also several levels of “Guild Membership” that unlock different tiers of features, such as removing ads from the site or enabling a larger number of worlds that you can develop. I have been a guild member since November of 2018, and I plan to continue to be a member indefinitely. I am nothing but overjoyed by the services offered, the community, and the staff of World Anvil. Speaking of community, I should not neglect to mention that there is a very active Discord server with thousands of active users, weekly Twitch streams, a YouTube channel, monthly contests, and two large annual events all hosted by World Anvil. I digress to my point above: More than being a writing tool, World Anvil is a community.

I hope you have found this interesting, enlightening, and perhaps even a bit entertaining. I invite you to check out World Anvil and Light Up the Forge!


A Family Affair (World Anvil)

The wonderful folks over at World Anvil hosted a new competition in the month of January titled “A Family Affair.” The goal of this challenge was to write an article focusing on an important family for our worldbuilding projects.

World Anvil is a worldbuilding tool for Authors, 
Storytellers and worldbuilding lovers.

worldanvil.com

My entry into the contest was “The House of Leopold“, detailing the ruling family of the Kingdom of Brisland. This is part of the world of Istaria, which I am developing for a future epic fantasy series tentatively called The Eternity War. I’m proud to announce that this article was chosen as the winner of the Premier League of the competition!

(All past competition winners during the year compete in a separate league so that more writers have an opportunity to win.)

There were a lot of wonderful entries, and in reviewing the other competitors during the month I honestly did not think I was going to win this one. I’d like to give everybody who entered the contest a hearty congratulations for all of the fine work that was done. I read about many amazing families throughout the month and was amazed at the quality of the articles produced.

So as to not hog the spotlight, I’d also like to help spread the word about all of the other awards and accolades announced for A Family Affair.

Most Likes:The Gershorio Family
Best Layout:The Aslann Family
Technical Achievement:House Pentiwichen
Regular League Winner:The Gershorio Family
Premier League Winner:The House of Leopold
Regular League Runner-up:The Aslann Family
Premier League Runner-up:Jo’oo Clan

Again, congratulations to everyone who won one of the above awards, made the short-lists for consideration, and to the writers of every entry for putting the work into creating something new and amazing to share with the world. As far as I’m concerned, you are all winners too because you’ve made progress on your projects.

World Ember Results!

Today was the official awards ceremony from World Anvil for their annual World Ember event (see my article on this here.) My own work in the challenge was in the short-lists for seven different categories, and I placed in four of them! I’d like to share the results here, along with links to the articles so you can head over and take a look.

(You do not have to be a member of World Anvil to view the content, but membership is free if you think you’d be interested in using the service! Affordable Guild Memberships provide additional benefits, as well! I’m a proud Guild Member!)

Settlement

The settlement template on World Anvil is used for creating anything from a small village to a bustling city, or even a planetary colony!

Northampton

Northhampton Streets

My article about the city of Northampton won first place in the Settlement category! This is part of my Istaria setting – being developed for an upcoming epic fantasy series called The Faewylde War.

The city of Northampton is the capitol of the Duchy of Northampton and one of four major cities in the Kingdom of Brisland. Of the four, Northampton is the youngest. At the time of the Unification, it was actually the smallest as well. Currently, the city stands with a population of around 15,000 – made up mostly of peasant craftsmen – above average for a city of its stature.

You can find the article HERE!


Organization

The Organization template on World Anvil can be used for anything from a family to a governmental structure. I have used this quite a bit for kingdoms and religious organizations.

The Kingdom of Brisland

My article describing the Kingdom of Brisland was awarded second place in the Organization category. This is also part of Istaria, and a key part of The Faewylde War.

Brisland is a mostly agrarian kingdom that lies on the southern coast in the east of Istaria. It is bordered by Remaria to the West, Teugoras to the East, and Argastilan to the North. Protected to the north and west by mountain ranges and thick forests, Brisland enjoys a geographic isolation despite sharing its borders with three other nations.

You can find the article HERE!


Vehicle

The vehicle template on World Anvil might seem self-explanatory, but I’ve seen everything from wagons to spaceships, and even living creatures!

K.O.B.O.L.D. Personal Powered Armor

KOBOLD and transport

My K.O.B.O.L.D. article took second place in the Vehicle category. This is part of a DieselPunk project that I am co-authoring with Enkelli Arn Robertson, and will soon be presented in an anthology of short stories and novelettes called Tales From the Breach.

The Ko.B.O.L.D. (Korvonium-powered Battle Ordinance Load Distribution) series of Powered Armour was developed at the Peren City Institute of technology in response to the creation of the Operator Guided Robotic Engine (O.G.R.E.) by the Tannenholtz Empire. The KOBOLD armor consists of a core exoskeleton powered by a Sky Crystal-enhanced diesel engine.

You can find the article HERE!


Technology

World Anvil’s Technology template allows one to explore any sort of artifice from smelting iron to faster than light travel.

Sleeper Ships

Early Cargo Ship

This article detailing sleeper ships – or interstellar ships where the crew and passengers are put into hibernation during a long journey – took second place in the Technology category.

To avoid the problems of having a crew spending fifteen years or more on a ship – which include psychological repercussions, needs for habitation space, and systems for renewable supplies of food and water – systems of chemically induced hibernation were developed. With these methods, the crew might pass the years as if one were passing an afternoon with a short nap. Naturally, the process and physical results were much more dramatic than this entails; but the passage of felt as instantaneous as this analogy implies.

You can find the article HERE!


Ethnicity

The Ethnicity template on world anvil provides the opportunity to define groups of people from all sorts of origins.

Bravani

Bravani Camp 2

My article about the Bravani placed third in the Ethnicity category. This is another part of the Istaria project, to be featured in The Faewylde War series.

The Bravani are a nomadic people who live deep in the forests of Remaria. Their history is older than the Principality itself, and they lay claim to being the original inhabitants of the region. They live a simple life, travelling the forests and occassionally trading with those who live in the Remarian coastal plains. 

You can find the article HERE!


Again, I would like to thank the team over at World Anvil for creating an amazing platform for the community to develop and share their worldbuilding. There is also a thriving Discord community, a YouTube channel, and weekly Twitch streams in addition to the website itself. World Anvil really is an amazing community on top of being an amazing creative platform. I highly recommend it to any worldbuilder, and even those who are just organizing thoughts for an upcoming RPG campaign or writing project. You may be surprised how much your imagination is sparked just by dipping your foot into the waters.

A Month of Worldbuilding

As December rolls up on us, I have a very exciting project that I am about to embark upon. World Anvil has a huge event this month called WorldEmber, and I’m setting a goal for myself of writing 50,000 words.

For those who don’t know, World Anvil is a worldbuilding site that provides a place to organize and display worldbuilding projects. It is geared towards both tabletop RPG gamers and authors. More than this, it is home to an amazingly welcoming and cooperative community.


Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe.

Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldbuilding

WorldEmber is the big worldbuilding event of the year, and can be compared to NaNoWriMo. It is a challenge to the entire community for each writer to produce 10,000 words in their worlds. In addition, there are stretch goals at 25K, 50K, 100K, 150K, and a whopping 200K! 

There are also a number of prizes involved, totaling over $1,000 in value. I am proud to say that Kyanite Publishing and I are sponsors of the event; with two copies of The Ravencrest Chronicles: Omnibus One – Premium Hardcover Edition being offered as raffle prizes for those who meet the 10,000 word minimum.

Again, I will be participating in the challenge with a personal goal of 50,000 words, which meets the “Novel Achievement” goal for the event. I will be working on one world as a focus for the event, and am using this opportunity as motivation to work on a project i have had simmering in the idea fire for quite a while now.


The Eldaran and the Drakhari have been at war for eons. In a desperate gamble to turn the tide, a powerful Drakhari wizard develops a spell that can tear apart the very fabric of reality. In doing so – he also discovers a way to create passages from the Faewylde to the mortal realms.

Caught between these two armies of immortals is Liam, a simple city guardsman just hoping to make it through his mandatory years of service peacefully. When an Eldaran named Sira comes to him for help, he discovers how little he actually knew about not only his own world, but also himself!

This is just part of the world of Istaria, the setting for a project tentatively titled The Faewylde War. I am planning – at a minimum – a trilogy of full-length novels in this setting. This will be an epic medieval fantasy series with magical forces, political intrigue, personal moral dilemmas, and a number of other themes explored. This is my most ambitious project to date; and I am very happy to have World Anvil as a platform to not only assist me in organizing the development of this project, but to also share with you everything about the world as it grows! If you click on the map above or here, you will be taken to the home of this world and be able to watch it develop over the coming month.


Please be aware that while I will still be working full-time on my duties at Kyanite Publishing during this month with the usual level of maximum effort, I will be devoting more time to this project. Response times to messages, emails, or other requests may vary as I commit to blocks of writing time. I will still have regular dedicated office hours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from  8am – 12pm CST, in addition to being available at many other times that will vary as the workflow demands. 

I hope to see many new faces join us over at World Anvil. Don’t forget that the challenges are all based on page likes on that site, so be sure to sign up for a free account and hit the like and follow buttons if you think I’m doing a good job with Istaria!