Top Down Approach

May 20, 2020

In our next couple of posts we will be talking about the two most common ways to design worlds for your games. This time we will be talking about the pros and cons of them and how I see the different ways working. 

The top down approach to worldbuilding is what it feels like the gaming industry uses to present the worlds for their games. This way of designing is very engrossing. It comes with its own set of limits and pitfalls and its pros. So when you say Top down it is referring to starting with the biggest area and ideas to design. Now most people that use this form of design will start with a planet. As well as the major cosmology of said planet. 

Once you have the planet then you start dialing down into the continents and keep going till you are working on the hamlets and single locations. See top down. Now the questions that you had in the last post talked about design concepts. This is where those questions that you answered will generate all new questions. And these will be based on the type of game and the technology level that is present. 

So what should you be asking yourself about the world? We think if this is alien or earth like because that will give you some ideas of where to go. If you are not sure how something works make a note of it. As the worldbuilder you will be doing lots of research into things that you never thought you would. While you are designing things make short notes that you feel are important because they could be big elements of the world later. From the way a mountain range lies to the idea you had about the meteor that struck and created a lake. 

So there are many pros and cons to this style of worldbuilding. So let’s lay a few of what I feel are the biggest ones out.


  • You will know or have noted all the information that folks are likely to ask.
  • You will have a good grasp on the big picture of things.
  • Get to design all the cool things you can think of.
  • Once it is finished you can have a story in all the locations to run your game. 


  • It will take time. I mean lots of time. 
  • While you get to create everything that means you might miss out on a cool idea a player has.
  • You will never be able to make the whole world alone unless you are willing to have help. 
  • Remember these games are supposed to be collaborative so this is a great place to start from. 

Now I have tried to do this style and I have found it doesn’t work well with how I like to run games. Not that there’s anything wrong with this style. I do something that we will be talking about later. 

So until next time think about how you would do something like this. What are the things you would create for a world. Make notes and keep that note book on hand.

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