You find yourself in a state of confusion: Alone, shivering, you open your eyes and gaze across an unfathomably large field that stretches to the horizon in every direction. You only remember that you arrived here as the result of a web search, but now that you’ve arrived, you are overwhelmed with options to the point of near paralysis. Where should you start? Which direction should you choose? What is your desired outcome? With only the smallest trace of a conscious decision, you put one foot in front of the other and begin your journey into the unknown.
World Anvil is kind of like that.
Although I said in my earlier post that I didn’t want a service that offered more bells and whistles than I needed, I couldn’t find one that only offered those which I did need, so rather than hobble myself for the future I opted for the service that just went all out in dedication to the mission at hand.
In the next several posts, I’m going to attempt to give an overview of what World Anvil can do. I am by no means an expert but experts are often not up to the task to provide a newbie’s guide anyway, since they tend to skip info that has become second nature or rely heavily on jargon. Instead, a new user’s eyes are exactly what’s needed when faced with a complex system: I make the mistakes and do the testing so you don’t have to.
I’ll focus each post on a system that I’m working with at the time. I haven’t yet touched all of them, and of those that I have used, I haven’t used to the fullest. Some things will get glossed over either because I don’t have a need for them, or because you can get the drift based on similar illuminations.
So let’s put our feet on the path and set out to look at World Anvil. And one last thing: I’m not affiliated with World Anvil in any way except as a paying customer. Considering how much of a pain in the ass finding a decent tool is for me, I’m ecstatic that I’ve found one that meets my needs and then some.
World Anvil operates as software as a service, or SASS. This generally means that you’re going to be asked to pay for your access, so know that up front. There are four tiers with the first being “free as in beer”, and with the other three offering billing in monthly, 3, 6, or 12 month increments.
The good news is that the free tier is suitable for kicking the tires so long as you don’t expect to be able to start your own RPG publishing company with this tool. You’re limited to the amount of content you can enter, how many “worlds” you can create, and can only work alone, among other restrictions. You’ll be missing out on advanced features like being able to make your world private (for friends or while building), the ability to add advanced content like secret text for the GM, the option to export content, and custom CSS abilities. Probably the biggest get when you subscribe is that ads go away.
Where applicable (and if I remember), I’ll note which tier of service has access to a feature I mention so you can get an idea if it’s worth paying for or not. Being up-front, I subbed to the “Grandmaster” tier which opens the floodgates, so I can hopefully touch on as much as the service offers.
Creator or Player?
After registering, you’ll get the option to create a world or create a character. Note that these are not mutually exclusive. By registering, you get the option to do both; this is only a starting point so players with no interest in world building don’t have to wade through the world stuff just to make a character and play in someone else’s game.
For these posts, I’ll be focusing on the “create my world” process, as this is why I signed up.
Your starting point is this nice “news” dashboard. Here you can create a new world, and can also see what’s going on in the world of World Anvil. This can be a really good barometer for how the service is doing: they have frequent dev updates and articles on service and general RPG stuff for your edification. There’s a ribbon nav at the top of this stack which allows you to approach your personal content: worlds, characters, and campaigns.
Wait! I Don’t Want to Be Here!
Let’s say you got ambitious and clicked the “create my world” button, but then decided that you really don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. Technically you can ignore it, but if you want to turn world building off so as not be distracted, you can.
Selecting your profile icon in the upper right corner of the app and selecting Account Details, you can scroll down to the Features section.
To turn off the world building system, click the first button. When you return to the homepage, you’ll be kicked straight into your character creation or character management dashboard. And of course the reverse is true: once you’ve created and used a character, and want to get into the world building aspect, you can come to this screen and enable the world building options.
This is enough content for the first post. In the next article, we’ll look at getting started with a new world.