Crafting Your Fantasy Realm: Deciding the Scale of Your World

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Embarking on the journey of world-building for a fantasy realm is an exhilarating endeavor, akin to painting a canvas with boundless possibilities. One of the fundamental decisions that will shape your creation is determining the scale of your world. Will it span an entire planet, a single continent, perhaps a small island, or a hamlet? In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of this crucial decision and explore how the scale of your world can influence the narrative, characters, and overall depth of your fantastical realm.

I. Choosing the Scale:

The first step in world-building is deciding the physical scope of your creation. Each scale presents unique challenges and opportunities, so it’s essential to consider the implications of your choice.

1.1. **Entire Planet:**

If you opt for a world that encompasses an entire planet, you open the door to a vast array of environments, cultures, and civilizations. This scale allows for epic adventures spanning continents and diverse ecosystems. However, it also demands careful consideration of global dynamics, such as climate, geography, and the interplay between different societies.

1.2. **Single Continent:**

Focusing on a single continent provides a balance between global and localized storytelling. Limitations include intra-continental conflicts, resource distribution challenges, and exploration constraints. On the flip side, this scale allows for regional biodiversity, intricate geopolitical dynamics, cultural exchange, and varied landscapes, providing a captivating backdrop for epic adventures.

1.3. **Nation**

Choosing a nation as the scale brings the complexities of governance, cultural heterogeneity, and economic disparities to the forefront. The limitations involve political fragmentation and resource dependence. Yet, within the confines of a nation, creators find expanses of diverse landscapes, a rich cultural tapestry, economic hubs, political alliances, and a formidable military presence, setting the stage for intricate stories of power and diplomacy.

1.4. **Small Island:**

Opting for a small island as the backdrop for your fantasy world creates a more intimate and focused setting. Islands can be rich in mythology, mysterious ruins, and isolated communities. However, the challenge lies in avoiding a sense of confinement and ensuring that the island feels like a complete and believable world in itself.

1.5. **City.**

Choosing a city as the scale for your fantasy realm opens the door to a myriad of possibilities. Unlike sprawling continents or isolated islands, a city provides a concentrated and bustling backdrop for your narrative. Discussions around this choice may involve determining the city’s size, its architectural style, and the overall vibe it exudes. Is it a sprawling metropolis with towering spires and diverse districts, or a quaint town with cobbled streets and close-knit communities? Consider the implications of the city’s scale on the characters’ daily lives, interactions, and the opportunities for exploration within its confines.

1.6 **Small Locale**

Opting for a small locale, whether it’s a village, hamlet, or a tightly-knit community, offers a sense of intimacy and familiarity. Discussions revolving around this choice may focus on how the small locale fosters close relationships among its inhabitants. What are the shared traditions, local customs, and the sense of community that defines this small setting? The size of the locale allows for a more nuanced exploration of interpersonal dynamics and can serve as a canvas for character-driven narratives.

II. Defining Boundaries:

Once you’ve chosen the scale of your world, it’s time to consider the boundaries that will shape the narrative and add depth to your creation.

2.1. **Unexplored Territories:**

Are there uncharted lands beyond the known regions of your fantasy realm? Introducing unexplored territories adds an element of mystery and adventure, enticing both characters and readers to venture into the unknown. Consider the reasons behind these unexplored lands — perhaps they are shrouded in magic, teeming with mythical creatures, or hold ancient secrets.

2.2. **Magical Barriers:**

The presence of a magical barrier can serve as a captivating plot device. It might separate distinct realms, each with its own set of rules and magic. Exploring the nature and origins of these barriers can unveil a rich tapestry of lore and history, providing a backdrop for conflicts and alliances.

2.3. **Restricted Zones:**

Is there a forbidden area in your fantasy realm, off-limits to all but the bravest or most foolhardy? Whether it’s a cursed forest, a haunted mountain range, or an ancient temple guarded by mystical forces, a restricted zone adds intrigue and danger to your world. Consider the consequences for characters who dare to breach these boundaries. (For more on Boundaries and different types check out – Boundaries in Fantasy Realms: Shaping Worlds, Cultures, and Narratives )

III. Understanding Limitations and Expanses:

With the scale and boundaries defined, it’s crucial to understand the limitations and expanses of your world, providing a solid framework for your creative endeavors.

3.1. **Cultural Diversity:**

The scale of your world will influence the cultural diversity within it. A planetary setting might harbor civilizations with vastly different customs, languages, and traditions, while a small island could lead to more homogeneous societies. Consider how these cultural dynamics shape interactions and conflicts in your narrative.

3.2. **Economic Systems:**

Explore how the scale of your world affects economic systems. A vast planetary realm might have complex trade networks, while a smaller setting may rely on localized resources. Consider the impact of geography and natural resources on the prosperity and struggles of different regions.

3.3. **Travel and Communication:**

The size of your world will dictate the modes of travel and communication available to its inhabitants. A massive planet may involve magical portals or advanced transportation systems, while a confined island might limit travel to boats and simple technologies. Think about how these factors shape the pace and possibilities of your story.

Here’s a list of limitations and expanses of a fantasy realm based on different scales:

**Entire Planet:**


1. **Limited Environmental Control:** Managing and describing the entire planet’s diverse ecosystems can be overwhelming.

2. **Global Political Unrest:** Achieving global political stability may be challenging due to diverse cultures and competing interests.

3. **Resource Inequality:** Some regions may suffer from resource scarcity, while others thrive, leading to economic disparities.

4. **Cultural Homogenization:** Globalization might result in the loss of unique cultural identities as they blend into a more universal culture.

5. **Inaccessible Regions:** Remote and unexplored areas may be challenging to reach, limiting exploration.


1. **Diverse Landscapes:** From vast oceans to towering mountains, the world can feature a rich variety of landscapes.

2. **Global Events:** Epic events or cataclysms may impact the entire planet, influencing the course of history.

3. **Intercontinental Trade:** Extensive trade routes and interactions between diverse cultures can enrich the economic landscape.

4. **Multinational Alliances:** Global conflicts or alliances may bring together nations from different continents.

**Single Continent:**


1. **Limited Cultural Diversity:** While diverse, a single continent may have cultural limitations compared to a global scale.

2. **Intra-continental Conflicts:** Political struggles may be intense within the continent, leading to regional disputes.

3. **Resource Distribution Challenges:** Certain areas may lack essential resources, leading to economic imbalances.

4. **Exploration Constraints:** Though manageable, exploring the entire continent might still pose logistical challenges.


1. **Regional Biodiversity:** Each region may harbor unique flora and fauna, contributing to a diverse ecosystem.

2. **Geopolitical Dynamics:** Political interactions and power struggles can create a complex and engaging narrative.

3. **Cultural Exchange:** Various cultures may interact, leading to a tapestry of shared traditions and influences.

4. **Varied Landscapes:** From dense forests to arid deserts, the continent can showcase a wide array of landscapes.



1. **Geographic Constraints:** The nation’s borders may be limited by natural features, potentially impacting resource availability.

2. **Cultural Heterogeneity:** Maintaining cultural unity can be challenging, leading to potential internal conflicts or divisions.

3. **Political Fragmentation:** Internal governance challenges may arise, leading to political instability or separatist movements.

4. **Economic Disparities:** Certain regions within the nation may face economic challenges, affecting overall prosperity.

5. **Resource Dependence:** The nation may heavily rely on specific resources, making it vulnerable to disruptions.


1. **Diverse Landscapes:** From fertile plains to majestic mountains, the nation can feature diverse geographical elements.

2. **Cultural Tapestry:** Different regions may contribute to a rich cultural tapestry, showcasing unique traditions and customs.

3. **Economic Hubs:** Certain cities or regions may serve as economic hubs, driving trade, commerce, and innovation.

4. **Political Alliances:** The nation can engage in diplomatic relations and alliances with neighboring nations.

5. **Military Strength:** The nation can field a diverse and potent military force, influencing regional power dynamics.

**Island Realm:**


1. **Limited Resources:** Islands may have constrained access to resources, leading to potential scarcity.

2. **Isolation Challenges:** Islands may face difficulties in maintaining connections with the outside world, impacting trade and communication.

3. **Limited Landmass:** Limited space may restrict the population size and economic activities of the island.

4. **Environmental Vulnerability:** Islands may be more susceptible to natural disasters, such as hurricanes or tsunamis.


1. **Unique Ecosystems:** Islands can harbor distinct flora and fauna, creating a unique ecological landscape.

2. **Cultural Homogeneity:** Islands may foster a close-knit community with a shared culture, traditions, and identity.

3. **Island Hopping:** Smaller neighboring islands can serve as opportunities for exploration and expansion.

4. **Maritime Economy:** The sea surrounding the island can provide opportunities for fishing, maritime trade, and exploration.



1. **Limited Environmental Control:** Cities may struggle to maintain a harmonious natural environment within their confines.

2. **Urban Overcrowding:** Population density can lead to congestion, limited space, and potential social issues.

3. **Resource Dependence:** Cities heavily rely on external sources for resources, making them vulnerable to disruptions.

4. **Intra-urban Inequality:** Social and economic disparities may exist, with certain districts facing neglect.


1. **Cultural Diversity:** Diverse communities within the city contribute to a rich cultural tapestry.

2. **Technological Innovation:** Cities can be hubs of technological advancement and magical innovation.

3. **Economic Opportunities:** Varied economic activities, from bustling markets to thriving industries, can define the cityscape.

4. **Architectural Variety:** Different districts may showcase distinct architectural styles, reflecting their history and culture.

**Small Locale (Village/Hamlet):**


1. **Limited Resources:** Small locales may rely on local resources, facing challenges in acquiring diverse materials.

2. **Social Insularity:** Close-knit communities may resist external influences, limiting cultural diversity.

3. **Limited Economic Opportunities:** Economic activities may be confined, with limited industries and trade options.

4. **Geographic Constraints:** Physical limitations may restrict the growth and expansion of the small locale.


1. **Intimate Community Dynamics:** Small locales allow for detailed exploration of interpersonal relationships and community dynamics.

2. **Local Traditions:** The locale may uphold unique traditions and customs that define its cultural identity.

3. **Proximity to Nature:** Small locales often coexist harmoniously with nature, offering opportunities for a simpler way of life.

4. **Close-knit Economy:** The local economy can be based on communal activities such as farming, craftsmanship, or localized trade.

These limitations and expanses provide a framework for world-building, guiding the creator in shaping a fantasy realm that is both realistic and immersive based on the chosen scale.

Crafting the scale of your fantasy realm is a multifaceted task that requires careful consideration. Here’s a checklist of things to think about when deciding the scale of your fantasy realm:

**1. Determine the Physical Scale:**

– [] Entire planet

– [] Single continent

– [] Nation

– [] Small island

– [] City

-[] Small locale

**2. Consider Story Implications:**

– [] How will the scale impact the scope of the narrative?

– [] What kind of adventures are made possible by the chosen scale?

**3. Evaluate Environmental Diversity:**

– [] How diverse are the landscapes within your chosen scale?

– [] What role will geography play in shaping different regions?

**4. Explore Cultural Diversity:**

– [] How does the scale influence the variety of cultures present?

– [] Are there distinct languages, traditions, and customs in different regions?

**5. Assess Political Landscape:**

– [] How does the scale impact political structures and power dynamics?

– [] Are there competing nations, factions, or ruling bodies?

**6. Examine Economic Systems:**

– [] How do trade and resources vary across the chosen scale?

– [] What economic challenges and opportunities arise from the scale?

**7. Consider Population Density:**

– [] Is the population concentrated in specific areas or evenly distributed?

– [] How does population density impact urbanization and rural life?

**8. Evaluate Technological Advancement:**

– [] What level of technology exists within the chosen scale?

– [] How does technological advancement differ among regions?

**9. Define Transportation Modes:**

– [] How do characters travel within and between regions?

– [] Are there magical means of transportation or advanced technologies?

**10. Examine Communication Methods:**

– [] How do inhabitants communicate over long distances?

– [] Is there a universal language or multiple languages in use?

**11. Determine Climate Patterns:**

– [] How does the scale impact climate variations across the fantasy realm?

– [] Are there distinct seasons or climate zones?

**12. Explore Magical Elements:**

– [] Is magic distributed uniformly or concentrated in specific areas?

– [] How do magical forces interact with the chosen scale?

**13. Define Flora and Fauna:**

– [] How does the scale affect the diversity of plant and animal life?

– [] Are there mythical creatures or magical beasts unique to certain regions?

**14. Determine Size of Bodies of Water:**

– [] Are there vast oceans, expansive seas, or only small bodies of water?

– [] How do bodies of water impact trade, travel, and cultural interactions?

**15. Examine Boundaries and Borders:**

– [] Are there natural borders like mountains, rivers, or forests?

– [] How are political boundaries defined within the chosen scale?

**16. Investigate Unexplored Territories:**

– [] What lies beyond the known regions, and why haven’t they been explored?

– [] How do uncharted lands contribute to the sense of adventure?

**17. Consider the Impact of Magical Barriers:**

– [] How do magical barriers affect travel and communication?

– [] What is the origin and nature of these magical barriers?

**18. Define Restricted Zones:**

– [] Are there forbidden areas with dangerous creatures or curses?

– [] What consequences await those who dare to enter restricted zones?

**19. Think About Accessibility:**

– [] How accessible are different regions within the chosen scale?

– [] Are there barriers or obstacles that impede movement?

**20. Evaluate Scale’s Impact on Resource Distribution:**

– [] How are resources distributed across the fantasy realm?

– [] Does the scale influence scarcity or abundance of certain resources?

**21. Consider Social Hierarchies:**

– [] How do social structures differ based on the chosen scale?

– [] Are there class divisions, castes, or social hierarchies unique to regions?

**22. Determine the Existence of Mythical Creatures:**

– [] Are mythical creatures dispersed evenly or concentrated in specific areas?

– [] How do these creatures impact daily life and cultural beliefs?

**23. Explore the Impact of Celestial Bodies:**

– [] How do moons, suns, or other celestial bodies influence the world?

– [] Are there unique celestial events tied to the chosen scale?

**24. Evaluate the Role of Religion:**

– [] How does religion vary across different regions?

– [] Are there shared or conflicting belief systems based on the scale?

**25. Consider Temporal and Spatial Distortions:**

– [] Does the scale introduce temporal or spatial anomalies?

– [] How do these distortions impact the passage of time or physical space?

**26. Determine the Prevalence of Magic:**

– [] Is magic pervasive throughout the world, or is it concentrated in specific areas?

– [] How does the level of magical influence vary based on the scale?

**27. Consider Social Isolation:**

– [] How does the scale impact social isolation in remote areas?

– [] Are there communities that rarely interact with the outside world?

**28. Consider Scale’s Influence on Architectural Styles:**

– [] How does the scale influence the architecture of cities and settlements?

– [] Are there regional variations in building styles?

**29. Explore the Role of Education:**

– [] How is knowledge disseminated across the chosen scale?

– [] Are there renowned centers of learning or isolated communities?

**30. Consider Time Zones:**

– [] Does the chosen scale involve distinct time zones?

– [] How do time differences affect communication and coordination?

**31. Evaluate the Role of Factions and Guilds:**

– [] How are factions and guilds distributed across the chosen scale?

– [] Do different regions have unique organizations with specific purposes?

**32. Consider Scale’s Impact on Trade Routes:**

– [] How does the scale influence the establishment of trade routes?

– [] Are there strategic locations for trade hubs or marketplaces?

**33. Determine Cultural Interactions:**

– [] How do different cultures interact and influence each other?

– [] Are there cultural exchanges, conflicts, or alliances based on the scale?

**34. Examine the Role of Inaccessible Areas:**

– [] Are there areas that are completely inaccessible to certain inhabitants?

– [] How do these inaccessible areas contribute to the realm’s mystery?

**35. Evaluate Scale’s Impact on Migration Patterns:**

– [] How do migration patterns vary within the chosen scale?

– [] Are there factors that influence or restrict the movement of populations?

**36. Consider Scale’s Influence on Agriculture:**

– [] How does the scale impact agricultural practices and food production?

– [] Are there regions known for specific crops or farming techniques?

**37. Determine Technological Accessibility:**

– [] How accessible is technology across the chosen scale?

– [] Are there regions with advanced technologies and others with a more primitive lifestyle?

**38. Examine the Impact of Natural Disasters:**

– [] How do natural disasters vary based on the chosen scale?

– [] Are there regions prone to specific calamities?

**39. Consider Scale’s Influence on Exploration:**

– [] How does the scale impact the motivation for exploration?

– [] Are there uncharted territories that entice adventurers?

**40. Determine the Scale’s Influence on Cultural Attitudes:**

– [] How do different regions view outsiders and foreign cultures?

– [] Are there cultural prejudices or open-minded attitudes based on the scale?

**41. Consider Scale’s Impact on Resource Scarcity:**

– [] How does the scale influence the scarcity or abundance of resources?

– [] Are there regions facing resource shortages or economic prosperity based on scale?

This checklist can serve as a valuable guide as you navigate the intricacies of deciding the scale of your fantasy realm. Each consideration will contribute to the richness and coherence of your world, providing a solid foundation for an immersive and captivating storytelling experience.


In the grand tapestry of fantasy world-building, the decision regarding the scale of your realm is a pivotal moment. Whether your characters traverse vast continents, explore the mysteries of a single landmass, or navigate the challenges of a small city, the scale sets the stage for the epic tale you’re about to unfold. By understanding the boundaries, limitations, and expanses of your world, you lay the foundation for a rich and immersive storytelling experience that will captivate readers and transport them to a realm where anything is possible. So, pick up your virtual pen, let your imagination soar, and craft a fantasy realm that will stand the test of time.

This post’s parent article – The Ultimate Guide to World Building: Crafting Your Own Fantasy Realm

This post’s companion article – Boundaries in Fantasy Realms: Shaping Worlds, Cultures, and Narratives


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