The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding

The essential elements for building a world?

I hesitated in using a $12 credit to buy this one. It’s short. Really short. Audible says, 4 hours and 42 minutes, and I tend to not spend my audible credits on anything less than 10-hours long. But I fell for their marketing and took the creative leap towards creating dazzling worlds of my own. I shouldn’t have used my audible credit for this book.

maybe the PDF is a better choice

First, let’s talk positives. Everyone contributing to this book has serious RPG cred. There are essays by Keith Baker, Wolfgang Baur, David “Zeb” Cook, Monte Cook, Jeff Grubb, Scott Hungerford, Chris Pramas, Jonathan Roberts, Janna Silverstein, Michael A. Stackpole, and Steve Winter. The essays are good and offer solid, but rather vague advice. I think beginners will get more out of this than experienced world builders and game masters. Ray Greenley does a good job with the narration, but still comes off sounding like the friend with the pleasant voice who was convinced to narrate the book. He doesn’t add anything to the articles, but I wouldn’t say he detracts anything either. The introduction is by Ken Scholes, an author who I’ve never heard of with a series of books I’ve never heard of, so that’s a thing.

I’m apparently in the minority on this one, because this book was nominated for two Ennie Awards: Best Writing and Best RPG-Related Book. An Ennie is an award given by the RPG website ENWorld.

Why do I say I shouldn’t have used a credit on this book? It’s short and that makes for poor value. Also, as an experienced gamer and writer, I didn’t get much out of this. Each of these essays felt more like an article in a RPG magazine, only less focused. I was annoyed by the repeated product placement of the writers for their various game products, I get it, but it felt very intentional. Mostly, I was looking for insight and inspiration from these game designers. A peek behind the curtain, if you will. And that is not  what I got. Instead I was given a bunch of over generalized tips that I’ve read a hundred times in a hundred other places. The only things that I actually thought would be useful were the ideas on building and maintaining a ‘world bible’ and the organization of ‘world folders’, both of which will come in handy, but both of which all of the decision making, organization, and ideas behind are still left up to me.

It’s a decent book and one I would have happily paid $5 for and felt like it was a good value. But as with so much of the writing and gaming advice I read, I’ve seen it all before.  The reviews on both audible and amazon are more positive than what I’m saying here, so there is the possibility that I’m talking out my ass. I think I’ll stick to pdf’s for my gaming related stuff.