worldbuilding cards

Worldbuilding Cards

I recently got my hands on some worldbuilding cards from Trent Hergenrader and have been using them this week to build a solid foundation for my world.

I think these cards are flippin’ amazing, this is not a sponsored blog post but I am going to spam links to buy these beauties all over the place – so check out the printable .PDF cards, physical cards and accompanying book all from the amazing Trent Hergenrader!

Right, now let’s crack on with some worldbuilding!

In this post I’ll be covering the following points:

  • What’s in the box?
  • How to use the cards
  • How to understand the cards
  • My outcomes

As always there will be a nifty TL;DR at the end as a quick summary.

What’s in the box?

worldbuilding cards

In the box there are two sizes of cards, some tarot sized and some normal playing card sized. There’s a card that explains the values, the grey cards have numbers from 1-5 and there are coloured category cards for governance, economy, social relations and cultural influences (each with a varying amount of cards). There are black “stable” cards and a few white “trending” cards.

How to use the cards

worldbuilding cards
I like to spread the cards out on a table, but if you’re short on space you can do things bit by bit instead.

You can choose to do things at random, or if you already have an idea in mind you can manually assign the cards. For this post I’ll be doing them as I choose because I have the initial ideas of a world in my head already that I want to develop.

worldbuilding cards
Layer the cards so the numbers are visible

I start by laying the category cards on the table and assigning the lowest and highest values to things I had already established first. For my world I knew that there was a heavy religious influence and rule of law, so I gave those a 5.

worldbuilding cards
The 0 and 6 values come in to play with the trending cards later

After I had filled in all of the values for the categories, I moved on to the stable and trending cards. Stable cards indicate that there is little to no change in this category (things have been this way for a while), but trending cards indicate that something has changed in this area (it could be for the better or for the worst). Furthermore, a trending card can raise or lower a value number by 1.

worldbuilding cards
they look neater if you put the trending or stable cards underneath

How to understand the cards

Ok, so that was pretty fun to do (this is also a fantastic group activity by the way), but what does it meeeeean?

Trent Hergenrader’s book, Collaborative Worldbuilding, explains things in much greater detail – but I’ll share what’s written on the back of the values card:

  • Governance (green cards): relates to the rules, practises, and processes by which a society runs
  • Economy (blue cards): relates to the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services
  • Social Relations (yellow cards): relates to the treatment and equal rights of groups within a society
  • Cultural Influences (red cards): relates to a society’s values, beliefs, customs, and traditions.

So for example, if my Religious Influence card has 5, that means that in this land there is a very strong religious presence. The majority of people would follow a religion and it would seem outlandish (or maybe illegal) not to be. I also have a trending card on this, so that could go either way. Perhaps something affected people’s views on this religion that caused it to become less popular, (in which case I could lower the number to a 4), or maybe a recent event such as times of hardship has caused more people than ever to flock to this religion and I could raise the number.

My outcomes

worldbuilding cards
click for a larger view

Here’s a writeup of my outcomes and how I interpreted them for my setting:

Agriculture & Trade (stable): fairly steady, nothing out of the ordinary.

Wealth Distribution (stable): weak, causing a contrast of upper & lower classes.

Economic Strength (trending): trade and production are on the rise as the industrial revolution sweeps the nation

Rule of Law (trending): laws are STRICT and they tie in heavily with the religion of this land. Severe punishments await those who break the rules.

Foreign Relations (stable): I’m working with an island setting, these folks haven’t explored a great deal and their closest neighbours are wary of their strict religious ways

Social Services (stable): I figured for this one, if you respect the law and put in hard work then the country will support you in return

Government Presence (stable): this one is fairly high as the law and religion are very close knit in my setting, but otherwise no change in this area

Non Humans (stable): this is one of the lowest scores because this particular area of my world doesn’t have any other sentient races (unless they’re in myths or legends)

Race Relations (stable): these island folk have only encountered their own kind, so I’d imagine if they were introduced to vastly different races or cultures they would not handle it very well to start with

Age & Albeism (stable): about average for this setting’s era. Older folk are less able to work and get pushed aside, and are mostly looked after by younger family members

Sexual Orientation Relations (stable): I scored this one fairly high as I wanted my setting to be more open about the types of relationships in contrast to the strictness of the rest of their lives

Gender Relations (stable): due to some of the society’s values, I wanted to make gender relations a high value. I want to write about more female guards and blacksmiths, more male househusbands and dressmakers and the adventures of gender neutral sailors

Class Relations (stable): in contrast, the class relations aren’t great. I mentioned earlier that there is a divide of upper and lower classes – yeahhhh they don’t get on incredibly well

Religious Influence (trending): one of the highest values here, this place is seriously controlled by a religion who preaches order and banishes chaos in all forms of daily life

Military Influence (stable): at this particular time, there seems to be no immediate conflict looming on the horizon

Natural World (stable): this isn’t a huge focus for my setting, so I’ve left these values fairly standard

Arts & Culture Influence (trending): chaotic art practises have been stamped down by the religion, but things are on the rise as cults of artists gather in private to paint the world how it really is

Drug Culture (trending): alongside the arts, drug culture is also on the rise, contesting the values of the pure and orderly religion

Technology Influence (trending): new inventions and breakthroughs are on the rise as the industrial revolution sweeps the nation

Magic (trending): cults of rogue artists are experimenting with chaotic art to rebel against the religion, and in doing so are discovering a raw form of chaotic magic

What I’m going to do next

Now I have my rough ideas about what life is like in this setting, I’m going to hop back onto my world in World Anvil and start using the article templates to fill these out in a bit more detail!

The TL;DR Summary

  • these cards are super cool and kind of addictive to play with
  • worldbuild solo, or in a group
  • use it for worldbuilding, writing, rpg campaign settings, and more
  • assign values from 1-5 for various categories, and note if these are static or changing
  • note down what these mean for your world as a solid structure to expand upon further

Want more worldbuilding tips? Of course you do. Well it just so happens that Trent Hergenrader recently had a talk on World Anvil’s podcast stream, check it out here:

grab a coffee and absorb allll the worldbuilding

Thanks for checking out my post! If you found it useful please leave a comment below or, if you’re feeling super generous, buy me a coffee on Ko-fi!

Still hungry for more worldbuilding? Check out my latest post on mapmaking and toponymy!

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