March 26, 2019 | Written by Marco Pennekamp

Worldbuilding Questions: Countries and Cultures

A digital painting of a city with purple roofs hugging a cliff against a backdrop of river and steppe with plateau pillars.

An inspiring world just makes you want to travel to the farthest mountains, doesn’t it? (Thank you, Marfether)

Welcome to our list of questions and prompts for worldbuilding (fantasy) countries and cultures. You’ll find a lot of different categories that will help you flesh out your world and dive into the details. Most questions are relatively specific, but not too specific to force you down one path.

When magic is referenced, it refers to your specific magic system, which can be literally anything (i.e. it doesn’t have to be old men throwing around fireballs). It’s important that you think about how your specific magic system shapes the world.

I recommend creating a separate document for every category. For example, you could make one document for Environment, one document for Government, and so on. This will help you keep your document length in check and also facilitate working with documents side-by-side.

I hope these prompts and questions will help you flesh out your countries and cultures even further!

Table of Contents

Environment

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Geography & Climate
  • Sketch a map of or describe your country’s natural landscape. Consider the shape of your country, its topography, rivers, lakes, islands, and forests. Identify the areas of your country and name them (plains, lowlands, uplands, hills, mountain ranges, plateaus, valleys, forests, swamps, tundra, deserts, islands, lakes, seas, and rivers). Identify natural landmarks (mountains, craters, cliffs, canyons and gorges, rock formations, coastline shapes, caves, springs, waterfalls). Exclude any man-made structures such as roads and cities.
    • The map doesn’t have to look good, you don’t have to show it to your mother, it’s just so you know what your country looks like in its natural form.
    • Note that freshwater lakes should be open, i.e. they should drain into the ocean ultimately, because closed lakes are usually saline.
  • Describe the different biomes the country is situated in. Describe the climate, different seasons and notable weather phenomena.
  • Describe the kinds of natural disasters that occur. How frequently are they? How do people manage them?
Flora & Fauna
  • Describe wild animals native to or living in (introduced species) each biome. Think about mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans). Which animals are most dangerous?
  • Describe the plants native to each biome. Think about trees, shrubbery, grass, flowers, mosses, algae. Which plants are poisonous or otherwise dangerous when eaten or handled?
  • Describe the fungi native to each biome.
Dangers
  • Describe dangers innate to the environment (animals, monsters, plants, diseases, weather, terrain, rivers). How do natives and non-natives cope with these threats? Are they recurring or did they/will they happen only a few times? What’s their epidemiological impact?
    • You may want to answer this question after answering questions of culture, economy and technology, since you’ll need to have a good idea of your country before you decide on the human impact.

Races

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Skip this if your country is populated by regular humans. With your race(s), you just want to get a general feel of its/their (mostly biological) characteristics. You can absolutely create multiple races, but please note that the rest of the document is not built to directly address this use-case.

  • Describe the natural environment of your race.
  • Describe its evolutionary or magical origin.
  • Describe its physical characteristics.
  • Describe any notable biological features that will have a large impact on culture, technology and infrastructure.
  • For a sci-fi approach, check out this guide on StackExchange (especially regarding the biological design).
    • Remember that the guide presents a hard sci-fi approach and you don’t have to follow such a logical and thorough methodology if you don’t want to write hard sci-fi. Especially in Fantasy, we don’t need to prove that anything is feasible in its environment, we just have to create the illusion. That’s magnitudes easier than the “real” thing. If Tolkien had tried to write hard sci-fi, he wouldn’t have gotten out of the Shire.

Language

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This section is bare-bones, so don’t treat it as a complete conlanging prompt. Its purpose is to get the language to a state where it can be used to derive names and informs a few social norms.

  • Describe the orthography and phonology of the language.
  • Is the language based on real world languages?
  • List common words.
    • If the language is constructed, it is important to list all words to keep track of them, so that no two words fulfill the exact same function. It also helps keep the orthography/phonology in line (it can get out of hand quickly and destroy the feel of the language).
  • Describe the writing system.
  • Is there a distinction between formal and informal language?
  • How does the language relate to other languages?
  • How useful is the language in international contexts?
  • If you want to go into more depth with your language, check out The Art of Language Invention.
  • Stuck with naming? Check out this name generator.

Traits & Values

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Now we get started with the core traits and values of your culture. Try to answer each prompt/question succinctly and fittingly, don’t shy away from detail. These values give your culture’s actors goals and motivations, describe their general approach to life and give them tendencies on how to act. Throughout the course of your worldbuilding efforts, you should go back to this category and re-examine the core values of your society.

  • Describe your culture using high-level traits.
    • Example 1: Druidic, nature-loving, clean, peaceful, diplomatic.
    • Example 2: Fanatically religious, fascist, industrious, polluting, militaristic, isolationist.
    • Example 3: Scientific, technocratic, machinist, reckless, xenophobic.
    • Example 4: Barbaric, expansionist, militaristic, equestrian, greedy.
  • Describe the core values the members of your culture aspire to. Each of these values should inform a member of your culture how to act in daily life and in difficult situations.
    • Example 1: Harmony, balance with nature, peace.
    • Example 2: Spiritual ascendance, productivity, contributing to society.
    • Example 3: Curiosity, high technical expertise, a scientific mindset.
    • Example 4: Honor, glory in battle, wealth (especially land).

History

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  • Create a historical timeline.
  • Describe the major historical periods the country has gone through so far.
  • Describe major events and changes affecting the whole country (especially those that led to a new period).
  • Describe far-reaching wars, natural disasters (e.g. weather or epidemics) and man-made crises (e.g. economic crises or civil wars).
  • Describe important leaders that had an impact on the country.
  • Describe how the country affected other countries, good or bad.
  • Describe how the people are proud of or embarrassed about certain events or historical periods.

Technology

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  • Describe the general technology level. Compare to a specific Earthly history period, if you can, or pick and choose from multiple periods and describe how different aspects of technology come together in your civilisation.
    • This one is hard to answer and will take a little time. Check out all the other questions and prompts contained in this document (but especially Infrastructure and Economy) to get inspired. The other questions in this Technology category will also help you get closer to a satisfying answer.
    • The Traveller RPG defines a cool breakdown of tech levels.
    • Remember that you don’t have to define everything, just the parts that are important to your country and stories.
  • Describe all available kinds of vehicles. Consider animal-powered, magically powered and mechanically engineered vehicles.
  • Describe available means of long-distance communication. Consider technologies and magic, such as devices or magic amplifying the voice, messengers or letters and their means of transportation (horse, land vehicle, ship, bird, teleportation), telepathy, electronic communication, light-based devices or magic, vision-based devices or magic (e.g. crystal balls), and dream-based communication. Consider the time and costs of these methods.
    • The way your citizens and military communicate over a long range has huge impacts on governance, personal relationships and military strategy.
    • While it’s useful to answer this question, you may not need to deal with long-distance communication in the context of your stories. In such cases, it’s probably best to answer this question very briefly without going into too much detail.
  • Are books expensive?
    • The question has a direct impact on many aspects of daily life, such as education and literature. Consider studying how books were produced and used in human history. If books are expensive, teachers will be much more important in your society.
  • Describe household appliances and tools. Consider items that help with cooking, baking, grilling, brewing, juicing, blending, cutting, cooling, freezing, preserving, lighting, cleaning, washing, drying, dyeing, heating, repairing, butchering, sewing, woodworking, masonry, glueing, painting, trapping, and firefighting. Holy shit, that’s a lot of stuff you can do at home.
    • The question might sound super mundane, but it directly defines how much people can do themselves at home, and how much they have to outsource. It also defines what’s possible at all. For example, if you don’t have an appliance for cooling (like a refrigerator) or freezing, food either spoils quickly or you need to find other ways to preserve it. This has a direct impact on the foods your people eat, the amount of easily spoilable food that is produced and consumed, the times it is eaten, etc.
  • Describe weapons and armor. What’s expensive, what’s common? Consider advantages and disadvantages of different weapons and armor.
    • Go nuts! Weapons can be really cool with some “applied thought grease.” I mean, what’s not to love about some creative chop-your-head-offery?
  • Describe the study of medicine. What is it based on? Consider traditional medicine, healing powers in the context of magic, science-based medicine, or any other basis.
  • Describe common treatments.
    • This question is supposed to make you think about the technological and scientific sophistication of your country’s or world’s medicine. Gruesome and barbaric treatments hide a lot of potential for horror and story conflicts.

Government

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Government

General questions of government inform infrastructure, so answer these question before you work on infrastructure.

  • Describe the power structure, power source and ideology of the national government. See also this list of government forms ordered by the three properties.
    • Consider answering this prompt for all the countries you build. These three properties directly affect daily life and infrastructure to such an extent that you can’t get away without it.
  • Describe or sketch the organisation of the national government.
  • Describe any political subdivisions of the country (like states).
  • Describe how public officials are selected or elected (depending on the power source).
  • Describe important public officials. Create some characters!
  • Is there a capital city? What makes it special?
  • Are religions integrated into the government?
Politics
  • Describe the biggest factors of controversy and division.
  • Name enemies and allies. This can include individuals, other states, organisations or secret societies.
  • Describe the perceived biggest threat to peace and order? Is this an actual threat or just a story perpetuated by propaganda?
  • Describe the level of corruption in the government.
  • Describe the level of censorship.
  • Describe the country’s immigration policy. Are immigrants treated as second-class people (by law, government officials, companies and citizens)? For how long or what must the immigrant accomplish to be treated as a proper citizen?
Law

For laws pertaining to criminal activities, cross-check with the Crime section below.

  • Describe how laws are formed and codified. Read up on the real world concepts of Common Law and Civil Law.
  • Describe how laws are categorised. There is potential for cool worldbuilding here, if we stray away from the usual civil/criminal/religious distinction.
  • Describe notable laws. These should be laws that have a high potential to affect your characters.
  • Describe unusually legal and unusually illegal acts. Think about the things that could easily trip up a foreigner.
  • Describe the judicial system on a local and on a national level.
  • Describe the limit of the powers to interpret the law. Think about the various roles within your justice system. What is within whose discretion?
  • Consider the limits of legal jurisdiction in your country. Can one subdivision apply its local laws within another subdivision? Within other countries?

Infrastructure

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Urban Planning
  • Describe important buildings located in villages and cities. Think about city halls, courts of law, churches or temples, banks, power plants, schools and universities, libraries, arenas/stadiums, embassies/consulates, bathhouses, and gyms. Which of these buildings are only found in cities?
  • Describe the streets of villages and cities. Consider traffic density/importance of the road, wealth, terrain, etc.
  • Describe the organisation of water supply. Even if water isn’t supplied via pipes and pumps, it has to be transported somehow.
  • Describe the organisation of waste disposal. This could be as simple as throwing everything on roads and beaches. Is waste disposal a problem in your country?
  • Describe the organisation of the fire department.
  • Describe defensive structures commonly found in a village or city.
  • Describe the implementation of the means of communication you defined in the Technology category. Consider the buildings, vehicles and personnel needed for continued operation.
Education
  • Describe the organisation of education. Consider elementary, secondary, vocational and academic education.
  • Describe the cost/price structure of education. Is sending your child to school free? What about universities and vocations?
  • How important is education?
  • Describe adult education, beyond universitary/vocational education.
Healthcare

Cross-reference the Technology category.

  • Describe the level and organisation of healthcare. Are there doctors, specialists, hospitals?
    • Healthcare is an enormously important aspect of society. You have a lot of potential for worldbuilding and (story) conflict here.
  • Is there recognition of and treatment for mental illnesses?
  • How are the disabled supported?
Welfare
  • Describe how the poor are supported.
  • Describe how unlucky people are supported or insured (health problems, sick relative, birth defect, disability, etc.).
  • What other groups are eligible for welfare? For example, you could consider damaged minorities or privileged races/social classes.
  • Is there a basic income?
Law Enforcement
  • Describe the police. How effective and reliable is it? Is it harsh, corrupt, by the book, or relaxed/humane?
  • If there is no police, how do the people deal with the lack of law enforcement? Think about real world institutions such as the Yakuza or civil militias, which are two different ways to enforce local law.
  • Describe the penal system. Consider private vs. public prisons. Are prisoners forced to do labor?
Military
  • Describe the organisation of the military. Consider rank structure, branches (land, sea, air, etc. or maybe some completely other distinction, such as magic vs. non-magic), military bases, materiel, etc.
  • Think about important figures of the military. Create some characters!
  • Describe the strength of the different branches. Also compare to other countries.

Economy

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Resources
  • List the country’s available resources. The following resources could be considered:
    • Mineral: Iron, copper, silver, gold, tin, coal, salt, stone, clay, marble, flint, sulfur, lime, gemstones
    • Livestock/animals: Cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, bees, game (hunting)
    • Textile: Wool, silk, cotton, linen (flax), hemp, jute
    • Bio: Wood, plant fiber, plant oils, pitch, resin, tobacco
    • Food: Fruit/vegetables/grains (naturally occuring and exotic), fish and seafood, herbs, spices
    • Which of these resources are being harvested? Which resource deposits are neglected or unknown?
    • Which resources are abundant, which are scarce?
    • Which resources are used sustainably and which are exploited?
  • List the country’s imported resources. Refer to the list of resources above.
Production
  • Does the country have a pre-industrial, industrial or post-industrial economy? In your industrial or post-industrial economy, do small or large businesses dominate?
  • List the most important goods produced in the country. Are all resources able to be sourced in the country or do some need to be imported? Are goods produced by untrained workers/at home, by skilled craftspeople, industrially, or even by semi- or fully automated systems?
  • What’s the state of the service and information industry? List the most important services offered commercially.
  • Describe important craft skills. Consider smithing, woodworking, tailoring, pottery, shoemaking, masonry, carving, glass blowing, papermaking, bookbinding, and many others.
  • Cross-reference with Education: How are crafters trained? Consider in-school education vs. apprenticeships, or a combination.
  • Describe how production and magic intertwine. Is magic used to support aspects of production? Are some crafts specifically dedicated to producing magical items?
Trade
  • Describe imports and exports (resources and goods). List the major trade partners (other countries, organisations, companies, etc.) of your country. Cross-reference with the list of imported resources above.
  • Which embargos are placed on specific goods or even on all goods? Which trade partners are affected?
  • Describe general tariffs or tariffs for specific countries.
  • Describe strictly illegal goods. What does the black market for these goods look like? Are some of these goods contraband, and if so, where are they imported from?
  • Which goods are legal in the country, but illegal outside and exported to other countries as contraband? To which countries are these goods exported?
Transportation

Cross-reference with the vehicle question in the Technology category.

  • How are people transported? Consider social classes as well as private and commercial transportation.
  • How are goods transported?
  • What kind of transports are used for national and international trade?
  • Consider whether transport is private or public. For example, a shipping company could be privately owned, while buses and trains are publicly owned and run. How is public transport financed?
Currency & Banking
  • Describe the currency. Consider its denominations, materials (metal, paper, etc.) and issuer.
  • Where does the currency stand in relation to other currencies? Is it powerful/highly regarded? Is it valuable?
  • Inspiration: In antique Rome, coins were used to spread messages to the common populace, since coins were one of the fastest items to be distributed. Higher-value coins contained messages targeted at wealthier people, so this system even supported a crude form of recipient selection.
  • Is the currency magically protected against counterfeits?
  • If banks exist, describe their services (deposits, loans, currency exchange, interests).
  • How do banks relate to magic? Are they protected by magic or do they have to protect against magic?
Wealth
  • Describe the distribution of wealth. How well are poor, middle class and wealthy people off?
  • Is there any political dialogue about this distribution? Do any groups experience this distribution as particularly fair or unfair?
  • What areas of society are controlled by the wealthy?
  • List places that are wealthy and places that are poor.
Hospitality
  • Describe lodging in villages and cities. Think about inns, hotels, motels, caravanserai, hostels, monasteries, and private accomodations. Maybe consider differences in social classes.
  • Describe foodservice types and locations (restaurants, inns/taverns, monasteries, cafeterias, catering).
Crime
  • Describe common crimes on the streets and underground.
  • Describe the general impact of crime on your country. List places that are particularly affected or unaffected by crime.
  • Describe forbidden magic and their users.
  • Consider organised criminality. What are these organisations called and how are they structured? Who are notable leaders? (Also see Societies/Organisations.)

Social Structure

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Relationships & Reputation
  • Describe different social classes. What separates them? Consider wealth, spirituality/religious rank, proficiency at magic, intelligence, education, political power, creativity, or other factors.
    • Basically, what does the society value most? It is often related to wealth (especially in our modern society), but it does not have to be.
  • Sketch a person from each class. Create some characters.
  • Describe prestigious and lowly jobs, skills and traits.
  • Describe honorable and dishonorable goals, acts and achievements. For example, how does the public react to someone attaining a high level of wealth through unscrupulous (yet still legal) means? How is someone who displays a high level of wealth but destroys the environment or harms other people viewed?
    • This, again, depends on the values of the society and directly informs one’s reputation in it.
    • It is useful to think about specific situations and how they are viewed in public. When building a society with exotic values (for example one, off the top of my head, that views infant cannibalism as a necessary means for spiritual ascension), it’s important to detach from your own values and beliefs. Writing about concrete situations might help with it.
  • Are certain types of goods a sign of prestige or status? Consider vehicles (horses, cars, boats), houses, expensive art, fashion, and so on.
  • Describe common kinds of relationships. Consider familial relationships, friendships, dating & marriage, co-worker and work relationships, teacher/student relationships, relationships tied to organisations/religions/the government, and so on.
  • How do people feel about foreigners and outsiders?
  • How are business relations conducted? Strict or relaxed, formal or informal, personal or impersonal? Also consider different social classes.
Family & Home
  • Describe the typical family unit. Do families consist of immediate relatives only or do they live in extended household clans? Consider social classes.
  • Describe when and/or how children become adults.
  • How long do young adults stay with their family? Until starting their own families, once they can support themselves financially, or do they leave out of spiritual reasons? Consider genders and social classes.
  • Describe how children are raised. Are they raised by their own parents?
  • Do men and women live segregated (sometimes)?
  • Describe taboo living arrangements.
  • What animals do people keep as pets?
Holidays & Celebrations
  • Describe notable holidays. What is celebrated (and why)? Who celebrates? How, where and when is the holiday celebrated? Consider holidays based in magic or folklore.
  • Are there politically motivated holidays? Has a holiday been hijacked by politics or propaganda?
  • Describe how births and birthdays are celebrated.
Etiquette
  • Describe how people (of different classes) behave at common social events. Consider dinners, parties, festivals, weddings, casual group gatherings, concerts, theater, and so on.
  • Describe social taboos. Are these taboos justified (i.e. morally or legally denounced) or just social anomalies?
  • Describe manners special to the culture. Do they conflict with other cultures? Are they posing difficulties to a subset of the population?
Romance
  • Describe how people usually approach dating or courtship.
  • Is casual sex allowed?
  • What is considered attractive in different sexes?
  • Does magic play a role?
Fashion
  • Describe what people wear. Consider gender and social classes, different climates and seasons, spiritual and cultural values, and social taboos.
  • Are there clothes for special occasions? What do they look like?
  • Are there any dress codes in public, in workplaces, restaurants or theaters? Are they enforced by law or building policy?

Food

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Agriculture & Food Production
  • List farmed products, livestock and game.
  • Which farming techniques are used?
  • Describe the craft, structure and logistics of food production. How (the craft) and where (the structure) is food processed from grains and raw meat to the final product on the plate? (Also cross-reference with the hospitality prompts.) How do raw and intermediate food products get from A to B (the logistics)?
    • Make this as detailed as you feel the need to. If food is obviously not a problem in your society, don’t go into too much detail. But if it is, you’ll have a major source of conflict. Understanding this source of conflict is important for crafting a believable world and history.
Cuisine
  • Describe common or notable foods and beverages. Consider times of day (breakfast, lunch, snack, teatime, dinner). Consider social classes.
  • Describe iconic dishes.
  • Describe any dietary restrictions.
  • Describe notable or popular tools and preparation techniques in cooking.
Social Aspects
  • How do people eat? What tools do they use? Do they eat together or alone?
  • When do people eat? Are there and when are breakfast, lunch, dinner? Do people eat snacks in-between?
  • Describe the kind of food typically eaten at social gatherings. You can differentiate between types of social gatherings (parties, weddings, birthday celebrations, funerals, and so on).
  • Describe food involved in any ritualistic traditions.
  • Do some people practice (intermittent) fasting? When do they fast?
  • Are people proud of their food heritage?
  • Who are famous cooks? Create some characters!

Folklore

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General

Take care to tie these stories and characters into the central traits and values of your society.

  • Create some well-known and perennial folk stories.
  • Describe the important characters/archetypes contained in these stories (perhaps they are even recurring).
  • Describe how these folk stories connect to the prevalent magic(s).
  • Describe how these folk stories might connect to real historical events.
  • Describe how these folk stories might be related to the prevalent mythology/religion.
  • Do any plants, animals or landmarks have symbolic or spiritual significance?
Occult & Paranormal
  • Describe occult and paranormal beliefs. Also cross-reference with folklore stories.
    • Supplying specific stories and characters helps build a “paranormal backstory” for the country.
  • Describe occult artifacts and tools.
  • Are people superstitious? Consider social classes or other distinctions (magic vs non-magic users, religion or spirituality, and so on).
  • Are the stories and beliefs true in your world? Do people believe in them (regardless of whether they are actually true or not)?

Art

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General

Make sure that your society’s central traits and values are at least sometimes reflected in their art.

  • Describe the role of art in society. Does everyone practice some kind of art or only a subset of the population? Which kinds of art are more important in the whole or parts of the society?
  • How well does art pay? Are artists financially supported, for example by a patron?
  • Describe famous artists from any art form. Create some characters!
Visual Art
  • Describe common visual art styles.
  • What materials and tools are used? Is magic used to create visual art?
Performing Arts
  • Describe common kinds of performing art. Consider music, dance, theater, and street performance. Does magic play a role?
  • Describe musical instruments commonly played by professional performers and/or everyday people.
  • Describe notable styles of music.
Literature
  • Describe types and styles of literature.
  • Describe the importance of literature in society.
  • How is literature distributed? With books, orally or elsewise? Cross-reference the Technology question about the cost of books.
Architecture
  • Describe the general architecture. What materials are used to build? Differentiate between sturdy and weaker buildings, large and small buildings, fortifications, and so on. What style is used with the buildings? Are there any remarkable aspects?
  • Describe important architects. Create some characters!
  • Describe notable man-made landmarks.
Games
  • Are there games that are not only considered entertainment, but an art form?
    • Compare to Go in the real world. It was an integral part of the four arts of the Chinese scholar.

Activities

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Sports
  • Describe common sports. Are some or even all sports aided by magic?
  • How important is deliberate physical activity for the general population? Is your society largely sedentary or do most citizens get enough physical activity from their work and daily life?
  • Which sports have strong (financial and institutional) support for professional athletes?
  • Which sports are popular among spectators?
  • Describe famous athletes. Create some characters!
Entertainment
  • Describe notable kinds of entertainment. Consider games, festivals, arts, sports, bars and restaurants, casinos, sex industry, and other forms of leisure.
  • What is the availability of entertainment? Consider social classes.
  • How does entertainment tie in to the magic system?

Organisations

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General
  • Tell the society’s origin story. Who founded it? What were its original goals? Describe notable successes and failures in its history.
    • This prompt is a good starting point to explore the feel and purpose of your society. Its history will inform the society’s future decisions, so you will have an easier time making a believable organisation. You also get a chance to get a grip on the atmosphere, how it should feel, how its members think, act and feel, and so on.
  • Describe its tenets.
    • Tenets are axiomatic principles or beliefs which encode the purpose and goals of the society. For example, a vampire hunting society would have explicit or implicit tenets stating why vampires are to be hunted, what can kill a vampire, how members are to act, why the society is secret, etc.
  • Is the society secret?
  • Does it practice a unique magic?
    • Unique in the sense of keeping knowledge and skills well-guarded or hidden, so that the society has a “monopoly” on usage and distribution of the magic.
  • Describe the society’s uniform or dress code. Consider genders and ranks.
Structure
  • Describe the society’s ranks. How do members ascend? Are ranks indicated? Do ranks come with some kind of compensation?
  • Describe its leader rank(s).
  • Are ranks indicated visually?
  • Describe how recruitment is handled. Can members apply or are they scouted?
  • Describe the funding of the society. Do members pay a monthly fee, does the society provide paid services, does it have a wealthy donor?
  • Who are current leaders and members? Create some characters!

Religion

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Doctrine
  • Describe central beliefs and deities? Consider the history and mythology of the religion. Are there deities that have become more popular or have fallen out of favor?
  • Are these beliefs and deities real or does the religion have a symbolic character?
  • Describe forms of regular worshipping. Consider prayer, meditation, sacrifices, and so on.
  • Describe rites of passage (e.g. baptisms) for initiates or for attaining a higher rank. Can members be born into the religion?
  • Describe places of worship.
  • Describe the honoring of new births.
  • Describe burial and honoring the dead.
  • Is marriage tied to the religion?
  • Does the religion impose any food restrictions?
  • Describe the religion’s relationship to plants and animals. Do any plants or animals have a spiritual significance?
Organisation
  • Describe the ranks that a member of the religion can attain. How do members ascend? How are ranks indicated? Do these ranks give a member increased spiritual significance or are they organisational/worldly? Are members at higher ranks compensated financially?
  • How are members recruited? Consider passive recruitment through public image (i.e. the recruits approach the organisation themselves) and active recruitment by members of the religion. Can anyone join or is there a selection/scouting process?
  • Who are the founders of the religion? Create some characters!
  • Who are important leaders in higher positions? Create some characters!
Influence
  • Consider your religion’s impact on the country or world. Does the religion grant hard power (military, economic power) and/or soft power (persuasion, cultural influence)?
  • Describe the religion’s relationship to visual and performing arts.
  • Are there any rival religions?
  • Describe social conflicts that arise from differing theologies.

Minorities

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Any cultural questions are also pertinent to this category. Feel free to build your minority culture(s) as detailed as the dominant culture of the country, especially if it’s important for the plot of your story.

  • Describe the minority groups living in your country.
  • How are the minority cultures different from the dominant culture? How have they influenced it?
  • How does the dominant culture react to these minority groups?
  • How do minority groups react to each other?
  • Who are notable minority leaders? Create some characters!

In Closing

Thank you for reading! I hope this list can help you with your worldbuilding. Please share it with anyone who might benefit from it!

I have put a lot of work into this article, but I had some help from outside. I can name two initial sources of inspiration:

Much thanks to these two bloggers! I’m also eternally in debt to a few members of my Discord writing group, in alphabetical order: Alejo, Kevrothert, Kio, Marfether, and SPnomi. They provided additional questions, prompts and detail in some categories. Thank you!

Do you have a suggestion? Just leave a comment below! I will add fitting suggestions to the list. Let’s make it even better together!

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