Worldbuilding is an essential step for speculative fiction writers, but also for a lot of other genre writers as well.
But it’s easy to get extremely overwhelmed by the sheer number of items to keep track of when creating a world.
For that reason, it’s important to keep a worldbuilding template that guides you through the world creation process, and helps you keep track of all the details after you’ve done so.
Which is why I’ve created what I believe to be the most thorough worldbuilding template (that I’ve found at least) on the web.
- Why you should use a worldbuilding template
- Ways to use our template
- My complete worldbuilding template with a TON of areas to consider
Table of contents
Why Use a Template?
Often, it’s hard to think of all of the different parts of a world to consider when world building. That’s why I like to have a world building template to draw from when creating my fantasy world.
But worldbuilding isn’t just for fantasy worlds. You could use it for any type of speculative fiction, including sci-fi and horror, a dystopian world, etc.
In fact, worldbuilding isn’t limited to a fiction world either. Even real life settings require some world building, even if it’s just assembling research for your book. This was a lesson I learned later in my writing process. Every author needs some worldbuilding, even if it’s just little details like the layout of a building my characters are interacting in.
By the way, if you need a good tool to keep track of your world, the one I recommend the most is Campfire, which is a software built specifically to document and display your worldbuilding to the masses. Check them out if you haven't already.
How to Use This Worldbuilding Template
This worldbuilding template is designed to be as thorough as possible, and to give you as many thought-provoking prompts as possible when creating your imaginary world.
We’ve already put together an extensive guide for how to use worldbuilding in your book. In addition to all of those tips, here’s what I recommend for using this template:
- Focus on just a few areas: It is easy to get overwhelmed with how much information there is here. But the best worldbuilding process is to select a few important points, really expand on those and explore their implications, while leaving all other less-important details to be closer to what we might expect from the genre, or from the real world. Focus on the plot-relevant details first, then expand from there.
- Use AI to Help: If you really want to flesh out your template more, you could use this template as part of a prompt, either in ChatGPT or Claude to fully flesh out your world. AI is a great tool for worldbuilding brainstorming, so definitely make use of it if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck.
- Try some basic illustrations: Just putting the words on the page isn’t always enough. Some writers find it useful to sketch out drawings of certain elements. Maps, in particular, can be incredibly useful to spark your imagination and expand your world building.
The Complete Worldbuilding Template
For starters, I recommend jotting down two things:
- Name of Your World: If you don’t know this, you can feel free to leave it blank for now, or brainstorm with a worldbuilding tool or an AI tool like ChatGPT.
- Brief Description: I usually like to have a brief description of the fictional world to start. This helps you find clarity on the most important attributes of the world, the ones that affect your novel the most.
Once you have those, it’s time to dig into the nitty-gritty. Note that you don’t necessarily have to have all of these for your entire world. Pick the ones that are most relevant or unique and build your story from there.
- Astronomy and planets: How many planets are in this world? What are they called? What is unique about each planet's orbit or composition? Is there life on other planets, and if so, what does it look like?
- Moons: How many moons orbit each planet? Do they have names? What are their physical characteristics? Do any moons have atmospheres, water, or geological activity?
- Continents: How many continents are there? What are they called? What shapes are the continents and how big are they relative to each other? Where are they positioned on the planet?
- Countries: How many countries are on each continent? What forms of government do they have (monarchy, democracy, etc.)? What are relationships like between neighboring countries?
- Cities: What are the major cities in each country? What purposes do the cities serve (capital, trade hub, etc.)? What are the populations and general layouts of the cities?
- Architecture: What are the common building materials and architectural styles? How does architecture reflect culture, values, climate, or geography? Are there differences between urban and rural architecture?
- Countryside: What biomes and terrain make up the rural areas? How do people live in non-urban environments? What major geographical features shape the countryside?
- Flora: What types of plantlife dominate each biome or region? Are any plants unique to this world? What purposes do they serve? How do inhabitants use local flora for food, medicine, or other needs?
- Fauna: What types of animals inhabit each biome or region? Are there any unique, fantastical, or mythical creatures? How do people interact with or use local fauna?
- Oceans: How many oceans are there and what are they called? What ecosystems and resources can be found in each ocean? What civilizations or settlements exist in ocean environments?
- Climate: What climates and weather patterns occur in different regions? How much seasonal variation is there? How do climate and weather impact inhabitants' lives?
- Seasons: How many seasons are there and how long do they last? What weather is typical for each season in different areas? How do annual seasonal changes impact plants, animals, and people?
- Maps: What projection and scale maps are commonly used? What features are typically marked on maps (terrain, cities, borders etc.)? Who makes the maps and are there accuracies or biases?
- Natural resources: What resources are abundant or scarce in different regions? How are resources distributed, traded and managed? What conflicts exist over resources?
- Biomes: What major biomes exist (desert, tundra, jungle, etc.)? Where are each located and why? What is the climate, terrain, flora and fauna like in each?
- People, Races, and Species: What sentient species inhabit this world? What are their physical traits and capabilities? How did they evolve or come into being? What are relationships like between species? How are races defined within species?
- Morals: What moral codes or value systems guide this world's cultures? Are certain virtues prized over others? How strictly are moral rules followed? What acts are considered right or wrong? How does morality differ between groups?
- Class or caste systems: Are inhabitants divided into social classes or castes? How rigid are the divisions between classes? How does one move between classes? What expectations or restrictions apply to each class? How does class impact daily life?
- Historical background of cultures: What major events shaped each culture's history? How far back does recorded history go? Which historical figures are still revered or reviled? How does history influence modern traditions and attitudes?
- Hierarchy: How is leadership and authority structured? Is there a single ruler or council? How much power and responsibility does each level have? On what principles is the hierarchy based – inherited title, merit, election?
- Calendar: How is time measured and divided in this world? What events or cycles determine the calendar? How many days in a week? Months or seasons in a year? How are years numbered or named? What events have shaped the calendar over time?
- Macro economy of all cultures: What are the main economic systems and activities for each culture? What resources or industries drive the economy? How self-sufficient or globally connected are the economies? What economic policies or constraints are in place? How equitable is the distribution of wealth?
- Currency: What forms of currency are used (coins, paper, shells)? Are currencies standardized across cultures or unique? How stable is the value of money? Who controls currency production and policy? How is counterfeiting prevented?
- Trade: What goods or services are commonly traded locally or internationally? What are the major trade routes by land or sea? How is trade regulated? Which groups act as merchants or facilitators of trade? What cultural exchanges occur through trade?
- Differences between economies: What causes divergences between the economies of different cultures or regions? Do some have more advanced technology, resources, or education affecting productivity? Are some more insular vs outward-facing? What inequalities exist and what tensions do economic differences cause?
- Healthcare: What medical knowledge exists? Who provides care – doctors, shamans, priests? What remedies and technologies are used? How available is care to different classes or regions? What is the quality of care and approach to ethics? How are diseases and disabilities viewed and treated?
- Transportation: What modes of transport exist for travel and shipping (land, sea, air)? What technologies enable transportation? How developed are transportation infrastructure and links between places? How accessible and affordable is transportation for the average person?
- Is there slavery?: Is slavery allowed, restricted, or forbidden? Under what conditions can someone be enslaved? What rights or protections do slaves have? What occupations do slaves perform? What attitudes uphold slavery and what groups oppose it?
- Employment levels: What portion of the population is employed? What is considered full employment? How does employment access differ by region, gender, race, or class? What effects result from periods of high or low employment? What policies or institutions influence employment?
- Agriculture: What crops, livestock, and techniques are used for food production? Is agriculture sufficient to feed the population? What farming methods and tools are employed? Who owns and works the land? What environmental factors influence agriculture?
- Format of government: What form does the government take – democracy, monarchy, totalitarian? What political bodies legislate and lead? How centralized is power versus local governance? How were government systems established and structured?
- Laws and justice system: How are laws created and by whom? What codes, rights, or behaviors are legally regulated? How is law enforcement carried out and by what means are crimes investigated? How are trials and judgments conducted? What punishments exist for different crimes?
- History of the government: How long has the current system been in place? What former governments or rulers shaped the current regime? What major events, conflicts, reforms, or revolutions impacted its evolution? How has governance changed over time?
- International relations: What alliances, treaties, and diplomatic ties exist between different nations? Who are seen as allies or enemies? What international conflicts, borders disputes, or trade relations shape foreign policy? How much interaction or isolation is there between populations?
- Political ideologies: What philosophical beliefs shape attitudes toward governance (eg socialism vs capitalism, libertarianism, etc)? How much ideological variety is tolerated? Which ideologies hold power or influence? How are positions challenged, propagated, or suppressed?
- Propaganda: How does the government or other groups use media, messaging, and censorship to influence public opinion? What narratives and ideas are promoted? How is access to information controlled? To what extent can citizens recognize and resist propaganda?
- Secret societies or anti-government factions: What underground groups seek to challenge, influence, or overthrow the government? What covert cells, spies, or informants operate? What subversive activities do they carry out? How much support or penetration do they have? How does the government respond?
- Perception by the people: How is public trust and approval of government leadership? What opinions or grievances do citizens voice? How much dissent, activism, or protest action occurs? How freely can people criticize their rulers or system? How responsive is government to public demands?
- Capitalist, Communist, Feudal, etc: What core economic principles guide the society – free markets, central planning, worker ownership of production, hereditary nobility? Who controls property, industry, and access to resources? How does this shape social relations and opportunity?
- Taxes: What forms of tax exist – income, property, trade? What entities and activities are taxed? How are tax rates determined? How does tax revenue fund government operations? How equitably and effectively is taxation managed? Is tax policy a source of controversy?
- Army/Police: Who enforces laws and protects the nation? How are security forces recruited, trained, and organized? What is the extent of their authority, oversight, and discipline? What access to resources and technology do they have? Under what conditions are they deployed?
- Incarceration: What facilities and methods are used to detain lawbreakers? What rights or treatments do prisoners have? What forced labor roles exist? What rehabilitation or release programs are there, if any? What ethnic, political, or socioeconomic groups are disproportionately incarcerated?
- Different languages used by listed cultures: What languages are spoken by each culture or nation? How closely are languages related – are they completely unique or share roots and words? How many speakers exist of each language? Where did each language originate and evolve?
- Pronunciation and tone: What sounds and phonemes (units of sound) make up each language? Are there clicks, tones, gutturals? What combinations are easy or difficult to pronounce? How is emphasis, pitch, rhythm used in speaking?
- Example phrases: What are some short illustrative sentences that convey the basics of pronunciation and grammar? How are concepts like greetings, introductions, gratitude expressed? Provide example words and phrases in the constructed languages.
- Curse Words: What words or phrases are considered vulgar, obscene or insulting? Do certain types of words – religious, family, bodily functions – have power as curses? What do common curse words literally translate to? How taboo is it to use curses?
- Place names: What principles are used to name places and landmarks – descriptive terms, founders, events? What place name conventions apply for cities, rivers, mountains, etc? Provide example place names that fit the languages.
- Typical character names: What popular name formats and sounds exist in each culture – length, syllable patterns, letter combinations? What do personal names mean when translated? Provide sample character names fitting different languages.
- Art: What artforms and styles are practiced (painting, sculpture, music, etc)? What materials and techniques are used? How is art linked to spiritual/cultural beliefs? How is artistry viewed as a profession?
- Clothing/fashion: What materials and methods are used for clothing production? What styles of dress signify different genders, professions, social classes? How does fashion change with the seasons or special occasions? What cultural values or taboos are reflected in clothing?
- Communication methods: How is information transmitted – written word, printed press, telegraph, internet? What communication networks exist across regions? How available and regulated is access to communications technology?
- Education: Is education formalized or informal? At what ages do most start and end schooling? Are certain social classes educated differently? What major subjects and skills are taught? Who oversees curriculum and policy?
- Schools: What institutions provide education? Are there public schools, private academies, apprenticeships? What roles do religion or politics play in schooling? What social experiences accompany formal education?
- Entertainment: What forms of entertainment exist – sports, gambling, dancing, storytelling? How is leisure time spent? Who participates in different entertainments across social strata? Where are large entertainment events held?
- Celebrations/Holidays: What occasions are celebrated culturally or religiously? How are these holidays marked – with feasts, services, performances? When do they occur annually? What do the celebrations symbolize and teach socially?
- Fame or infamy: What achievements bring renown? How do figures become household names – as artists, leaders, outlaws? What deeds or qualities inspire admiration or disgust? How enduring is fame? How does publicity affect the famous?
- Family life: What family structures predominate – extended, nuclear, chosen kin? How are household duties divided by gender or age? How are children reared, disciplined, and taught? What role do elders play? What shapes conceptions of family honor?
- Social etiquette: What customs show respect, welcome guests, cement deals? What are faux pas to avoid? How do etiquette rules vary between social classes? What hospitality is shown toward strangers? How is etiquette enforced?
- Food: What staple foods and dishes define each culture's cuisine? What crops, livestock, wild foods are used? What cooking methods predominate? What meals structure the day or week? How is food integrated into social rituals?
- Food culture: What food beliefs and customs are followed – religious diets, order of dishes, table manners? Who prepares and serves meals? Where is food consumed? What specialty regional foods exist? How does access to food reflect power and status?
- Intoxicants: What intoxicating substances are used recreationally or ritually? What social connotations do different drugs carry? How freely or restrictively are they accessed? How are their production and trade regulated? How do cultures differ regarding substance use?
- Immigration/emigration: What motivates people to leave or enter new lands – economics, safety, exile? What barriers or policies restrict human movement? What cultural tensions arise from migration? How are immigrant groups perceived and treated?
- Literature: What literary forms exist – epics, poetry, novels? What subjects, styles and publication formats predominate? Who has the opportunity to become literate? How is authorship regarded? What works endure as classics?
- Marriage: What formalities and customs recognize marital unions? How are spouses chosen or paired? What rights accompany marriage? What taboos govern sexual behavior outside marriage? What marital problems are grounds for divorce?
- Music: What musical instruments and vocal styles are used? What forms does music take – songs, symphonies, chanting? What occasions call for music? Who composes, performs and listens? How does music evolve through cultural diffusion?
- Sex: What norms guide sexuality – heterosexuality, polygamy? What premarital and extramarital behaviors are permitted or forbidden? How are issues of consent, privacy, reproduction handled? What sexual variations or identities exist?
- Travel: How extensive is domestic and international travel? What are the most common modes and routes taken? Who has freedom or means to travel widely? What motivations or barriers shape travel? What cultural exchanges result from intermingling?
- Diseases: What endemic or epidemic illnesses affect quality of life? What understanding exists of disease causes and spreading? What medical treatments are available? What cultural beliefs attach stigma or shame to certain conditions?
- Types of magic: What forms of magic exist – spells, potions, enchantments, divination, etc? What different powers or schools of magic are there? Is magic tied to specific objects or rituals? Is it inborn or learned?
- Rules of magic: What laws govern how magic works? Does it require incantations, ingredients, or somatic components? How frequently can it be used? Does it drain users physically or mentally? Can magic be countered or resisted?
- Who has magic?: Is magic rare or common? Are some races naturally magical? Does its use correlate to gender, class, or vocation? How much study and training does mastery require? What regulates its responsible use?
- How is the world affected by magic?: How does the presence of magic impact medicine, transportation, communication, defense, labor, etc? What conveniences or power imbalances does it create? What risks exist if it is misused?
- Limitations of magic: What can magic not achieve? Are resurrection, time travel, or cosmic creation beyond its scope? Does distance weaken its potency for remote effects? Can overuse strain its fabric and unpredictability?
- Magic perception in society: Are magic users praised or feared? Does prejudice exist toward magical races? Is its practice encouraged or regulated? How does its prevalence shape cultural development and conflicts?
- Inventions: What noteworthy innovations or inventions impact society – the printing press, electricity, vaccines? Who controls creating and distributing new technologies? How rapidly does research and invention progress?
- Science: How advanced is theoretical and applied understanding in fields like physics, chemistry, biology, etc? On what principles and methods is knowledge gained? To what purposes is it put – improving lives, profit, weapons?
- Space travel: Have populations gained the ability to travel into orbit or beyond their planet? Through what technologies and infrastructure? For what motivations – exploration, colonization, extraction of resources?
- Unique technology: What specialized technologies exist here that distinguish this world – portals for fast travel, machines powered by magic, domed habitats? What capabilities do these innovations enable?
- Attitudes of people toward technology: Do cultures generally embrace innovations or are some resistant? What ethical concerns or movements arise over new technologies? How equitable is access to technology divided by class, region, etc?
Cosmology and Religion
- Shape and scope of the universe: Does this world share a cosmos with other planes or is it a self-contained separate reality? How large is the known universe – single solar system or sprawling galaxies? What boundaries, if any, contain it?
- Philosophical ideas inspired by the world: What schools of thought arise from observing the nature of this reality? What theorists study metaphysics, ethics, epistemology? What perspectives predominate – idealism, realism, skepticism?
- Constellations: What patterns in the night sky are identified as constellations? What forms are connected into constellations – stars, planets, nebulae? What stories explain their shape and significance? Do they aid navigation?
- Gods/deities: What god or gods do inhabitants worship? What are their attributes and spheres of influence? How involved are deities in mortal affairs? Where and how does each deity manifest? How literally or allegorically are they viewed?
- Religions: What belief systems structure people's spirituality? How formalized are their teachings, clergy, and institutions? What creation myths and ethical codes bind followers together? What diversity of faiths coexist?
- Religious holidays: What days hold spiritual significance as times of celebration, ceremony, or mourning? On what events, prophecies, returning seasons are these holidays based? How strictly are they observed by the devout and secular?
- Mythology and legends: What folklore explains cosmic mysteries, remarkable people and events, supernatural occurrences? Who shares and propagates these stories? How much literal belief do they evoke versus symbolic meaning?
- Creation myths: What narratives describe the genesis of the universe, gods, and mortal life? How metaphorical or factual are these accounts considered? What deeper truths or values are conveyed through creation stories?
- Spirituality: How connected to the metaphysical or divine are people beyond institutional faiths? What personal experiences or practices nurture spiritual beliefs – meditation, pilgrimage, prayer?
- Worship: What forms do reverence and veneration toward the divine take – offerings, song, dance, rituals, recitations? What sites, clergy, and liturgy facilitate worship? How communal or solitary are practices?
- Places of worship: What sacred spaces serve spiritual practice – temples, shrines, monasteries, groves? What architecture and designs typify holy sites? What activities occur there beyond prayer and ritual?
- Religion's societal perception: Is piety viewed positively or with skepticism in different cultures? Do public leaders embrace faith openly or keep it private? What social power and influence do clergy wield?
- Government's perception of religion: Does the state embrace specific faiths or allow religious freedom? What political purposes influence treatment of religion – social order, nationalism? What tensions exist between secular and religious authority?
War and Rumors of War
- Attitudes to Violence: Is violence condemned or accepted? What acts are seen as violent vs justified force? How do cultural values shape attitudes on war, policing, punishment, self-defense? What nonviolent beliefs or movements exist?
- Causes of wars: What issues frequently lead to war – territory, resources, injustice, revenge? What political, economic, or social factors make conflict more likely? How are wars formally declared and justified? How long do hostilities typically last?
- Military logistics: How are armed forces supplied, mobilized, and strategically maneuvered? What technologies assist coordination and communication? What resources are required to sustain wartime operations? How do terrain, weather, and distance impact plans?
- Military ranks: What hierarchy determines roles, command structure, and decision-making authority? How are ranks designated and recognized? How are senior officers chosen and promoted? What power distance separates soldiers from commanders?
- Rebel groups & revolutionaries: What rebel cells or revolutionary movements actively oppose the status quo? What grievances and ideals fuel dissent? How much support from the populace do rebels have? What subversive strategies and tactics do they employ?
- Troop types: What specialized fighting forces exist – infantry, marines, scouts, mages? What training and equipment is provided based on their combat role? How coordinated are efforts between different troop types?
- Weapons: What arms, armor, and combat technologies are employed? Are weapons standardized or unique by culture? How sophisticated are firearm or artillery capabilities? What impact have weapons innovations made on warfare?
What Will Your World Look Like?
Hopefully everything you’ve read here gives you some good ideas on what you should do to build your world.
Because even non-Fantasy or Sci-fi genres need some kind of worldbuilding, even if it’s just the layout of a certain building or the timeline of all your character’s backstories.
And it can be difficult to keep all of those things straight.
And that’s not to mention all of the actual writing you will have to do, and the formatting of your book when you’re finished. It’s easy to lose sight of the initial vision, or to lose spare chapters here and there from so much copy/pasting (I know from experience).
Thankfully, Atticus has your back as the ultimate all-in-one writing program designed specifically with authors in mind.
It’s not only the best formatting tool around (check out why in this article), but it’s also really great for writing in the first place.
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