March 28, 2022

How You See Your Story World (In Your Mind’s Eye)

As intuitive or not as it may seem, there is tremendous synergy between meditating and tabletop role-playing game worldbuilding. When you’re able to clear the palate of your mind’s eye, it opens you up to explore your story world in ways you may never have thought possible.

So today’s Worldbuilding Monday post is all about how taking that type of “tour” of your story world in your mind’s eye is both an excellent form of mediation as well as tabletop RPG worldbuilding exercise.

Meditation and Creativity’s Flow

Meditation is a concept that means different things to different people. In this case, meditation is the practice of clearing one’s mind to be a platform for creative thought, i.e. building your story world.

As any worldbuilder knows, there are ebbs and flows to inspiration and new ideas, concepts, and characters. A common frustration for worldbuilders is that there seemingly isn’t a consistent method for controlling the volume and timing of these creative forces.

Meditation, while not a “cure-all” for this issue, is a wonderful avenue for allowing inspiration to seek you out rather than the other way around. Instead of consciously planning each aspect of the story, you’re experiencing it piece by piece instead.

For the tabletop RPG worldbuilder, and also for people new to meditating in general, I’ve found there’s a straightforward way for folks to get started and get that inspiration flowing: taking a tour of your story world in your mind’s eye.

Taking a Tour of Your Story World

Sit or lie down someplace comfortable. Somewhere free from distraction and temptation. For a few minutes, just sit/lie there and breathe, doing “nothing.” Our day to day lives are so hectic that it’s perfectly alright to be somewhat uncomfortable being at peace with the stillness.

Do what you can to clear your mind of its many thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs. There is no “perfect” here, just a good faith effort no matter what the result. I personally like to listen to playlists I curate for these times. But regardless whether you prefer silence to music – or vice versa – it’s the conscious effort to be still and clear that counts.

Then, think of a place in your story world that’s special to you. Allow that setting to completely occupy your mind’s eye. Stand in it; look around. What do you see? Hear? Feel? Are there others there with you? As you exist in the space, what happens?

Do not block the flow – be entirely open to how it proceeds. As the story you’re witnessing unfolds, begin to try to interject yourself back into what’s happening. Speak. Run, jump, fight, sing…be an active participant. And for as long as you feel comfortable, let the scene(s) play out.

And over time, your worldbuilding has, in essence, built itself. It’s then up to your conscious mind to stitch these scenes, pieces, and clues back together for the players to experience. But the more you practice the meditative art, the more potent, valuable, and insightful these journeys into your mind’s eye will become!

An Example From My Worldbuilding

I sit in my special meditation seat. I take a few deep breaths and mindlessly look at my phone for a few minutes. Eventually, I put in my headphones, start my playlist, and put down my phone. I close my eyes and let the music help finishing clearing my mind.

I find myself standing on the aft deck of the Hawk, a magnificent ship sailing the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. It’s a bright, sunny, cloudless day. I’m near the helm; the magnificent breeze swirls all around me. The flapping of the sails in the wind a pleasant white noise in the background.

I look around and spot my friends’ various player characters. Legends in their own right, seeing their faces make me smile. I walk down to the main deck where I see the crew living out their daily chores and routine. Maintaining the sails, washing the deck, barking out orders.

I make my way to the bowsprit and look out over the vast, open ocean. What was once a lovely day has become dark and overcast. Thunder and lightning yonder give way to a sinister, impenetrable wall of fog. Our lookout in the crow’s nest yells a warning to the crew. An uneasy silence follows.

But then, a voice on the wind. At first, it’s a pleasant but all-encompassing humming. But as the moments pass, the humming morphs into an aggressive, rhymical chanting. As the Hawk enters the fog, a dire warning bounces off its walls. “You’re dead, John Richards.”

In real life, I open my eyes. I’ve been meditating, allowing myself to walk free in my story world. At first, relatively benign and pleasant imagery, followed by ones that are serious and threatening. But either way, I received inspiration. And I was able to expand upon my story world by living in it for myself.

So next time you’re looking for some inspiration and/or perhaps to see where your story is headed next, try and take a tour of your world and seeing where it goes. You won’t regret it!