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AI-Assisted Worldbuilding: Strategies for Keeping Your Universe in Order

January 9, 2024

Magik Chance

AI-Assisted Worldbuilding: Strategies for Keeping Your Universe in Order

Worldbuilding can quickly get expansive, especially when you’re using an LLM like ChatGPT or Claude to help you. How can you keep the information organized so you can find it later?


Use a Master Document


You might be tempted to create different documents for your worldbuilding, character profiles, story, etc., but if you’re working with an LLM it’s a good idea to keep everything in one document so you can feed that document back to the LLM whenever you start a new chat or make significant updates.


I personally recommend using Google Docs for these reasons:


  • Ease of Navigation. Using titles and headings will allow you to create a table of contents which will help you navigate to the section you wish to work on.

  • Pageless Section Toggling. By going File > Page Setup, you can turn your document from “Pages” to “Pageless.” On pageless documents, every title and heading is toggleable. This allows you to keep your document clean with information you’re not currently using being tucked safely away.

  • Multiple Download Formats. You can download your Google Doc into multiple formats, including PDF, which allows you to easily hand the document over to an LLM.


When your master document becomes large and unwieldy, I recommend creating a new version and having your LLM assistant help you summarize and condense the sections. This allows it to stay compact and easy for your LLM to digest while saving new versions ensures you do not lose any material.


Use Bullet Points


Follow the example of LLMs and make use of bullet points. Bullet points, especially those with in-line titles, makes it easier to keep things organized and scannable.


In fact, I would call this so important that if you choose not to use Google Doc as your Master Document, I would recommend looking into Dynalist. Dynalist offers togglable, nested lists and can be downloaded in HTML for ease of giving to an LLM. You can also make use of its tagging features to make your document easier to search.


Don’t Forget Images


Visuals bring worldbuilding to life, so don’t skip out on them! Depending on what program you use for your master document, however, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind.


  • Downloaded Copies. Many world and note programs make it easy to bring images in, but you can’t easily take them out again, at least not at the same quality. Because of this you’ll want to keep a downloaded version, or if your image is inspiration off the web, make a note of the URL.

  • Size Limitations. Some programs limit the amount you can upload into a document or an account. Keep an eye on this. Also keep in mind that there are image compressors that can greatly reduce the size of your images.


Tackle One Subject and Section at a Time


If you let an LLM take off, it will create general information over a broad area. To keep it more focused, and to help you keep better notes, I recommend a Subject x Section approach. 


Subjects are items of worldbuilding that make your world unique such as elements of their magic system, geography, government, etc, that make them stand out from other settings. For example, a moon that rains down magic crystals, a chasm that cuts the world in half, or a nation that turns its kings into liches.


Sections are areas such as economy or religion. One worldbuilding heuristic is “H.E.R.M.E.T.I.C.S.” Here's the link to the full explanation, but it stands for History, Economy, Religion, Magic System, Executive, Topography, Inhabitant, Culture, Society.


For Subject x Section, you examine how that subject affects that section. How would a moon that rains down magic crystals influence religions? How would a chasm that cuts the world in half alter the economy? What would the society of a nation that turns its kings into liches look like? 


Focusing on one subject and section at a time narrows the LLM’s view and helps you achieve more interesting answers. More than likely you will discover new possible subjects to further explore under different sections.


Personally I organize the document by section, then subject with the main explanation for the subject being under the most relevant section.


Conclusion


There will soon be GPTs and other tools out there to allow the LLM to keep an updated document – if there aren’t already! I would still seriously consider making your own notes until you know you can trust an LLM not to erase something important.


What are your techniques for drilling into worldbuilding with AI-assistance? Head over to this X thread to comment!

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