Aesthetics for Worldbuilding

Aesthetics for Worldbuilding

Reflections on Caldonyx

Our most recent interview with RPG For You And Me has got my juices flowing about aesthetics and tone in worldbuilding.

During the podcast I kept making reference to a painting ‘The Nighthawks’ because the city of Caldonyx, the primary city and key setting in their world, just kept drawing me back to it. The painting draws you to the quiet interior of a diner with folks walking in smelling of cold and chatting about their evening quietly over coffee, light streaming out into a sleeping city beyond. The world that Alli and Doug are creating both through deliberate preemptive worldcrafting and on the spot, as characters in their game, is rich in part because they built it off the back of a feeling, a tone and vision.

Their love of food, for example turns up throughout. The culinary world of Caldonyx is rich and vibrant in part because food is so central to their own lives and the human experience in general. It’s comforting, warm and inviting. That’s the goal of creating a world built on the back of a feeling or a tone. It makes for a great piece of fairycake that can be applied very broadly while still feeling very coherent to your audience. It means the smell test is usually an easy pass provided you made something that feels right.

I know there are some of us for whom this doesn’t work. Where the expectation of their constructed world is far more concrete. They want deep intricate worlds, established rules and very bright lines. This, however, can be genre and medium specific. TTRPG requires some flexibility so players can help you make your world, beyond that RPG For You and Me are not making a hard science fiction world where they’re using spreadsheets to determine relativity (as IE Horton does), they’re making something deliberately light (though they are far from avoiding deep content) that also radiates warmth. 

There’s a comedian Bill Bailey who hilariously said he creates his jokes backwards. He titters to himself and asks ‘what would it take to generate that much mirth?’ He’s obviously being a little silly but for the purposes of worldbuilding I think it’s pretty valid. When you’re stepping out to a cool night in the city, there’s a sense of quiet and stillness for a moment, even with the press of a crowd and for a minute the neon lights seem inviting. You smell the rich spicy aroma of a street vendor selling lamb gyros nearby. You can look at that moment and ask the question ‘how do I make more of that?’.


Stay tuned for more writing from the WorldCraft Club as we explore worldbuilding and the crafting of fictional settings to inspire your creativity.

We’re happy to host guest blogs on here whenever we can, it gives James a break and let’s other people contribute their ideas. Let us know if you have a worldbuilding concept or strategy to get off your chest, we’d love to hear it.

About the Author
James lives somewhere in Pennsylvania with his wife and baby boy. He is an avid distance runner who really gets a kick out of talking to folks. His biggest asset might be his thorough enjoyment of people.

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