World Anvil: A New Home

Through the decades, I have hosted my campaign world on various sites. Usually, they were installations of wiki software on some self-hosted website, but sometimes they were online notebooks, forums or something else entirely. I think I had the world up on Google Wave, once.

All of these solutions kind of worked, but none was dedicated to world building and sometimes setting up, improving and maintaining the medium would eat up way too much precious game-labeled life time. In the end, I settled for Dokuwiki on this very site and never put much time or energy into tweaking that into a worldbuilding shape.

And then I stumbled upon some neat tools that promised to assist in worldbuilding: World Anvil and Legendkeeper. Both are dedicated tools to organize campaign world information, and both are attractive in their own way, so I decided to just subscribe to both and see what it’s like to (slowly) migrate my campaign world.

The first product I have been diving into is World Anvil. This site allows you to set up a campaign information that is distinct from your worldbuilding and also has some features to host mechanics like character sheets and items, but I won’t be using those as D&D Beyond has been serving me and my players very well to organize and share mechanical information. Instead, I have been moving lore to World Anvil.

Such migration might not sound very interesting, but what is nice about World Anvil is that if offers you a lot of prompts to make you reflect on any bit of information you enter into the system. Sure, I could copy over my old entry on the Kingdom of Laeryll, but once World Anvil asked me what its motto was, or what the public face of the kingdom looked like, I dove into wholly new details. Of course, such a system cannot exist without making certain assumptions about how worlds work, and I did find it to clash with the theology of my homebrew world Khandar, but the good of the prompting system certainly outweighs the bad.

Another thing I really enjoyed is the way World Anvil deals with maps. They are not just static images, but files you can add labels to that then link towards articles again, leading to a very smooth integration of lore and locations. It’s the kind of thing I always missed in non-dedicated solutions.

That being said, I am used to systems where I can type as fast as I can think, by simply jotting things down in Markdown or some wiki-like syntax. In World Anvil, however, I find myself jumping from dialog to dialog and using brackets-and-slashes BBCode, of which I am not a big fan. This makes the system relatively time-intensive.

However, the result looks really nice. At the time of this writing, I have an embarrassingly ugly map up (I couldn’t delete this map, only overwrite it with something else?), but also a rough timeline of the Northern Arm, which I really love. My players, as players are wont to do, do not read the lore I write, but having an easily editable timeline gives me something they can easily digest.

That does bring me to what I find the most disappointing part of World Anvil, however. Ideally, I’d use it to present my world to my players, too, but the business model of World Anvil is such that it is ad-supported, unless you pay for a non-free subscription tier. If my players visit a timeline I made using a paid-for tool, they will still see ads displayed in the header, unless they subscribe, too – but they shouldn’t, because they aren’t worldbuilders.

Perhaps there are ways around this, for example by exporting the generated pages. I am not sure yet, but in any case I would have preferred a setup that allowed ad-free sharing, even if would only be with maximally 5 people.

Still, I am looking forward to migrating and developing my world on World Anvil!

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