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Archetypes in World Building

This post is about possible archetypes in world building, which may help us when we've to create a new world/universe for our games. This is not a complete list. It's more a start and hopefully we'll come up with more great archetypes in the comments.

Today's post is more brainstorming than anything else, because I thought it may be good to talk about archetypes in world building. With archetypes I mean types that are pretty general, just like the seven plot archetypes defined by Aristotle or the character archetypes from the Heroes Journey.

One thing that stood out to me while thinking about this topic was, that most of the time when we create a new world we will mix the different types. But in general even then we tend to have always one dominant type which is just enriched by blending in some elements from other types. Also all the worlds we built need at least some potential for conflict, because otherwise it will be impossible to tell interesting and enthralling stories within these worlds. Stories need conflict and so do our worlds.

Here are the archetypes I could come up with so far:

War-torn World
This describes a world that is formed by an almost constant conflict between two or more factions, who are formed by creatures of this particular world. The conflict is caused by internal conflicts and not by any out-of-the-world factions.

Besieged World
This describes a world that is attacked by an outside force or beings from another world or dimension (or whatever external source you want to come up with).

Fallen (Dystopia) World
This describes a world, where all hope is lost. Everything has turned out to its worst. Suffering and war are more or less usual in such worlds.

Perfect (Utopia) World
This is the opposite of the fallen world and in a perfect world everything has turned out to its best. Everyone is happy and everything is perfect. Attention: For good storytelling something in these perfect worlds must create a conflict, because otherwise there won’t be any story.

Awakening (New Born) World
This is a world, which has just seen its creation. It is young and has almost no history. It still has to show what kind of world it will become. Everything is possible.

Changing World
This is a world awaiting a major change. Forces within or from outside the world had created a conflict so strong that the world will never be the same again. Right in this moment where it is decided which way it’ll go we enter the scene.

Ending (Dying) World
This may sound similar to the fallen world, but it isn’t. A dying world is simply a world which is very old, has a lot of history and will cease to exist in the near future. No matter what a hero is doing, he may not be able to delay the end or to even rescue the world, but maybe its inhabitants.


Okay, that's it from me. Please let us use the comments to collect more archetypes and help each other growing in the area of storytelling and world building.

Have a great day and God bless you.

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