As I am working on a homebrew setting* for my home campaign with my kids, I am brought to think what it is that I am doing to make this world unique. This is my first serious attempt at a setting that comes from me, rather than being some commissioned work or contributing my talent towards building another person’s setting. My intent is to create something that I can share from the heart with my children/players.
In reflecting on the first 8 or so sessions, and thinking of the tiny segment of my setting that the player’s have traversed, I find it important to evoke the details. They are currently in a forest that is ruled at large by mythical forces. Fey creatures vie for supremacy with other strange beings as they all try to live in civilized throngs that dot the forest.
The fey are the most prominent force within the forest. They have organized under various factions that comprise an entity called the Court of Seasons. While other fey affiliations exist, the pull of the seasonal courts is very likely the most noticeable. Whenever a seasonal faction gains control of the court, that seasonal weather takes hold of the entire forest. Regions that are far from the forest have weather that largely lasts year round**.
But back to the point… though my players have yet to deeply involve themselves in fey politics, they are already starting to see the signs of it evident in the world. Right now, they are chasing a bad guy across the forest for crimes against nature, but in time they will realize what this bad guy’s past has to do with them and the story of the forest. But for now, they are enjoying the snow… except when a mysterious Rime Knight appears to chase them to their next destination.
Although I may just be nebulously teasing the details of my campaign, that is exactly the point that I am trying to make. You readers may already know more than my players do about these aspects of my game, but to them and you the details are the trees that make up the forest. I could tell my players the sweeping history of the Two Oaks that rise above the clouds, or what the courts themselves mean, but then I would simply be narrating my story. The story is about them, and the discovery is what makes it special. They define the experience just as much as it defines them.
So how does that help you to world build? Consider that you can simply pepper details about your setting into your games (or fiction, or what have you) and evoke a larger sense of wonder and curiosity than if you were simply to read a page out of a history book***.
* Not Diem Mundi.
** As is the case in the real world.
***We can’t all be history buffs.