🌍 The Worldbuilding Issue
God games, Border Riding with Jo Reid, 5 new solo & co-op RPGs, the Inquiracle, and more
1. God games
I’m a sucker for games that let you create and run little worlds. That love led me to the video game studio Maxis to work on the city building game SimCity and the people simulator The Sims. In video gaming these are called “god games.”
If you enjoy the omnipotent thrill of creating a world, interacting with the inhabitants, and making cataclysmic choices, there are many solo and co-op tabletop games for you.
The Quiet Year is a map-drawing game that builds the story of a post-apocalyptic community through a year of tranquility.
Microscope allows players to craft an epic history by taking turns creating and exploring different eras, events, and scenes.
Journey has you play an explorer documenting a world of your own creation.
How to Host a Dungeon lets you create a fantasy dungeon through its history, building lairs and spawning monsters.
I’m Sorry, Did You Say Street Magic is a co-op city-building game where players take turns establishing neighborhoods, landmarks, and residents, and holding events that describe how the city changes.
Prep is Play
Creating campaign worlds for tabletop RPGs is my favorite form of solo worldbuilding. GMs are often cautioned against "over-prepping,” but it’s OK to indulge in it, as the preparation is a form of play itself.
Agnostic by Kenny Webb and Kyle Latino is a crazy method for preparing one-shot games using your gaming zines, trading cards, comic books, etc. I’m eager to give it a shot at creating a wacky world.
Online Worldbuilding Tools
Watabou’s Procgen Arcana are a set of amazing map and 3D scene generators for fantasy dungeons, cities, and regions.
Here be Taverns provides random taverns, characters, items, spells, monsters, landmarks, and more created talented tabletop RPG creators.
Game Master's Apprentice is an elegant one-page generator that provides inspiration for everything from NPC reactions to location descriptions.
Donjon is a comprehensive suite of high-quality generators.
Hex Describe generates fantasy wilderness hex maps and Traveller sector maps with pages of setting and character descriptions.
2. Border Riding with Jo Reid
Border Riding looks at the way humans use ritual to shape communities. It’s a GM-less map making game where 3+ players invent a community by establishing its landmarks, boundaries, and rituals and face challenges across multiple generations.
Jo Reid wrote the worldbuilding game as a love letter to the Scottish Borders in southeastern Scotland where she was born.
“I wanted to create a game that would recreate the mechanics of a folk ritual and as I was most familiar with common ridings (my local folk festival) it seemed like the best ritual to explore.”
Common riding is a traditional Border festival commemorating the historical practice of riding horses along the boundaries of a town to protect it from raids.
“Common ridings and tabletop roleplaying games actually fit quite naturally together — in a way a lot of folk festivals like this are a big community LARP, with players/community members taking on specific roles, following specific rules, and coming together to perform a heavily symbolic ceremony.”
✅ Lingo check: "LARP" stands for Live Action Role Playing, a game where participants physically act out their characters' actions in the real world.
Jo said that discussions of Scottish folklore predominantly focus on the Highlands, but she wanted to cast an eye on Scottish Borders traditions.
“I feel they are less discussed but equally interesting and equally informed by a complex (and often bloody) history. Common ridings and celebrations of borders can often feel quite regressive, and many festivals have had their fair share of controversy as a result of these conservative views.
“With this game I wanted to show why these communities hold onto what feels familiar, ancient and unchanging, even if it is a fantasy. I didn’t want to create an outright celebration of these traditions but I also don’t want to dismiss them. To many they are powerful and important and I believe worth noticing.”
Jo hopes players will find Border Riding a fun way to develop a world — not just through geography and historical events, but through the way a community interprets their world.
“I really wanted to play with the ideas of reality and how a community perceives themselves and how that changes over a very long period of time.
“During playtesting I’ve always been surprised with how quickly players get drawn into the internal politics and drama of small communities. Factions develop and clash with each other, each with their own agendas and ways of viewing the community. It's really fun to play that internal division, and see whose vision of the future wins out!”
“ A lot of the borders and boundaries within our own lives are kinda arbitrary — as random as a squiggle on a map. Our borders didn’t come out of nowhere, but which ones are worth keeping?”
Border Riding is crowdfunding on Kickstarter until July 21. The preview copy I received from Stout Stoat is gorgeous, with beautiful illustrations by Eli Spencer printed on an Ordnance Survey style map.
3. Five crowdfunding campaigns & new releases
🏺 Swords of Meropis
Gallant Knight Games, creators of the TinyD6 series, is Kickstarting a solo-friendly, Clash of the Titans-inspired RPG. It features 3 books: Swords, the rulebook; Odyssey, a hexcrawl system for ocean voyages; and Katabasis, rules for journeys into the underworld.
Swords of Meropis | Kickstarter ends July 9 | $10 pledge
👨🚀 Station Xeno
In this 80+ page solo module for the sci-fi horror RPG Mothership, you explore a long-forgotten science station holding deadly secrets. Station Xeno features 30+ random locations, station crew members, and an original alien menace. It was originally written for the Death In Space RPG, and has been completely re-worked for the 1st edition of Mothership.
Station Xeno | Kickstarter ends July 13 | $7
👩🎤 Eco Mofos!!
You’re a misfit punk searching for a safe homestead in the ruins of a psychedelic future Earth. Eco Mofos!! offers no-prep adventures with randomised maps with over 8,000 possible outcomes per terrain type, a life path system to create a character backstory, and a massive loot table. This is a rules-lite, solo-friendly RPG with Miyazaki meets Mad Max vibes.
Eco Mofos!! | Kickstarter ends July 27 | $19
The latest solo RPG from Jack Harrison, creator of Artefact and Bucket of Bolts, puts you is inspired by Kiki’s Delivery Service. Begin by creating your character, a teenage witch, and their home village, then set off to the mystical city of Koriko. Through simple rules, tarot cards, and dice, you'll breathe life into the city and encounter its eccentric inhabitants.
Koriko | Available now on Itchio | $18
This historical solo or co-op game is set during the 1631 attack on the city of Magdeburg during the Thirty Years War. You are a resident of the city trying to save others by guiding them past barricades and mercenary soldiers to the safety of the cathedral. Magdebörg puts you in the middle of this historical calamity, providing context to war that shaped European history.
Magdebörg | Available now on Itchio | Pay what you want
4. 🔮 The Inquiracle
The Inquiracle is The Soloist’s self-interview microgame for creators. The creator rolls a 20-sided die to determine a “theme” and a “subject” to make a question that they answer.
René-Pier Deshaies-Gélinas: game designer
Theme: (1) Unexpected | Subject: (20) Media
Q: What media coverage did you get on a project that was totally unexpected?
“When I was working on Stoneburner, my sci-fantasy TTRPG of demon hunting and community building in a dwarven asteroid mine, I reached out to many actual play channels in the hope that some would be interested in covering the game before our Kickstarter launched. Galen Pejeau, Stoneburner's co-creator, reached out to the One Shot Network and asked if they would be interested. To our total surprise, not only did they want to play the game in their podcast, but they also wanted it to be the game they would play for a four-part special series to celebrate their 500th episode milestone.”
Elliot Davis: game designer, artist, & podcast producer
Theme: (17) Philosophical | Subject: (10) Reaction
Q: What philosophical reaction do you hope to create with your work?
“I hope that my work inspires the desire to create in those who view and engage with it, encouraging them to see the value, possibility, and joy that comes from making something.”
Chacolypse: game designer, artist, & YouTuber
Theme: (11) Experimental | Subject: (17) Artwork
Q: Why do you enjoy constant experimentation with your art?
“This feels like one of those perfect rolls for me! I do a lot of commissioned artwork for TTRPG zines, and I don't just have one style. I think it's important both as a designer and as an artist to be constantly pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone, and try new techniques and mediums. I enjoy the learning and experimentation, plus I like pushing myself to find the most suitable style for whatever TTRPG project I'm working on. And sometimes, it's fun to just try crazy, impractical things, like when I did a painting entirely with a keyboard. Just having fun with the process itself is very important for me!”
5. 🎲 Last roll
The Map Crow YouTube channel has four excellent worldbuilding videos.
This twitter thread on vernacular architecture — a building practice rooted in local culture and environment — has me thinking about how to create imaginary cities.
If you like random tables, but are looking for a system that provides more consistent and logical results, then you might like the Hex Flower Game Engine from Goblin's Henchman.