The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch by Rebekah Loper

Though I usually don’t confess what I am about to tell you in polite circles, I imagine it will be a badge of honor on Fantasy-Faction: Once upon a time, when Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was still in its first edition, I was a Dungeon Master.

One of the greatest joys of being Dungeon Master, besides the megalomaniac validation I got, was creating my own world. Unfortunately, at fourteen, I didn’t have a unique thought in my head. When I built my world, I modeled it after things I’d read or seen, except that rivers and female anatomy violated the laws of gravity, and empires must have printed money faster than the Federal Reserve in order to support their war machines.

If only there had been something like Rebekah Loper’s The A-Zs of Worldbuilding back then. With literally one topic for each letter of the alphabet, her book can help an aspiring author or game master create a fleshed out world. As a reader of fantasy, I find that it takes a textured world that feels real in order for me to enjoy the larger story.

In The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, Loper structures each entry in two parts: a two to five page discussion, followed by worksheets with several questions to help flesh out the subject. For example, starting with A for Architecture, she discusses the impact of terrain, climate, and culture on how to design buildings in your world. I cannot tell you how often I have read a book, and was turned off by architecture that did not mesh with the natural resources (for example, wood buildings in a desert). The worksheets bring up all kinds of helpful tidbits about each topic, and allows you to flesh out your own world.

The A-Zs of Worldbuilding (clothing)

The subjects I found most insightful were Economy, Food, and Religion. Even some of my favorite spec fiction stories make me raise an eyebrow at how an economy could work (how much would it cost to build a Death Star, let alone maintain it?), and Loper breaks it down in an easy-to-follow manner. The Food section takes into account how involved or removed a population is in the production of food, and how that can impact culture.

The Religion section is exceptionally lush, and takes into consideration the fictional possibility of gods interacting with mortals, as opposed to unprovable faith. What I particularly found helpful was the intersection of religion with her topics of Death and Youth.

While such a format could be considered encyclopedic or formulaic, Loper’s fun, personable writing style makes it feel more like a dialog with the reader, and less like the cookbook I thought it would be.

The A-Zs of Worldbuilding (queens)

What I would have liked to see more of would be the interconnections between each topic. Loper does do this for some of the categories; but I felt she could have perhaps tied Military and Economy; History and many of the other subjects; and Geography and Resources together.

I also feel some of the topics could have been combined to allow for the reassignment of other letters, specifically, Weapons and Warfare and Military, leaving M open for Magic, which was bundled in with Science. Given how important and complex magic systems can be, I imagine the author could give us plenty of ideas to think about in their design.

Given the unique insights and the engaging writing style for what could potentially be a dry subject, I rate The A-Zs of Worldbuilding an 8.5.


By JC Kang

JC Kang’s unhealthy obsession with fantasy and sci-fi began at an early age when his brother introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Star Trek and Star Wars. As an adult, he combines his geek roots with his professional experiences as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor, and technical writer to pen epic fantasy stories. He’s recently gotten into audiobooks to listen to while burning off his middle-aged mid-section. JC now runs the TikTok-famous sword store RVA Katana, which has cut deeply into his writing endeavors. You can follow him on Twitter @JCKang804 and TikTok @authorjckang.

One thought on “The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch by Rebekah Loper”
  1. “Even some of my favorite spec fiction stories make me raise an eyebrow at how an economy could work (how much would it cost to build a Death Star, let alone maintain it?)”

    You do know tho that there’s a lot in newer (canon) novels and backstories given in all mediums that addresses literally this? Star Wars Rebels even made it a plot point that Thrawn had to go argue for one of his projects to be funded b/c even with all the outright theft of resources committed by the Empire, there STILL wasn’t going to be enough cash for his project AND the Death Star.
    (Also that article that came out a few years ago that tried to state how much such a project would cost is highly contested, and likely way way overblows the figures.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.