A long time ago, in a conference room filled with whiteboards, a group of writers came together to perform an experiment. They sat around a long, smudgy table – sundry treats, wrappers, and half-drunk beverages scattered across its length. Numerous stacks of neon sticky notes lay about like cairns marking the first waypoints in the journey to discovering an amazing collaborative world-building tool. At first, it was called Lean Worldbuilding. Then, StickyNote RPG. Now, we lovingly call it Arium.
With Arium’s Kickstarter on the horizon, and its focus as a roleplaying game, I wanted to take a minute to write about the core of the game, the seed in which this phenomenal game germinated. At first, it was a collaborative world-building exercise for writers. As a speculative fiction and gaming writer, my lens is predominantly focused on science-fiction and fantasy genres. I’d wager that most authors writing in these realms have either played an RPG or actively play RPGs. If this is you, then Arium should be a no-brainer. Bring it to your gaming group or, better yet, bring it to your writing group and play through Arium: Create. I promise you’ll love it. If you don’t write in one of the spec-fic realms, Arium still offers a ton of potential.
Arium: Create is a multifunctional tool for world-building, group collaboration, creative inspiration, and myriad other awesome things. It is its very own RPG system as well, but that’s for a different article. However, it started as an exercise for our writing group to create a unique, shared world in which we could tell stories. There was no intent to write these stories for publication. Rather, it was a way to practice creating a vibrant, fleshed-out world complete with histories, mythologies, places, events, characters, and whatever else tickled our fancy. It was a wonderful time.
Typically, our writing groups focus solely on critiquing and pushing through chapter after chapter (or story after story) to the detriment of creativity. Output is a wonderful thing, creation is how we writers make our way after all, but every writer needs a reliable way to refill the well. We have to step away from the work and allow new thoughts, characters, and story arcs to percolate. Arium has consistently proven to be an incredible exercise for doing just that. Collaboration, bouncing ideas off one another, and engaging in the creation of a whole new world are all acts that inspire. Inspiration leads to production.
Sometimes, as Stephen King says in On Writing, the best ideas come from two apparently disparate thoughts colliding together. During every stage of Arium: Create the group must make choices and vote on the content produced during ideating. This is your collaboration. Do we choose a predominantly underwater technological civilization or a subterranean world of mole people? Did the world die due to the nuclear holocaust, or did Mother Nature finally get fed up with our mistreatment of her domain and enact revenge? Is Uncle Istvan a crazy old hermit living in a remote hut, or is he a seer of The Lost Goddess? The possibilities are infinite, and every Arium you create will truly be a unique world filled with inspiration.
Drew Gerken is one of the writers of Arium, the forthcoming worldbuilding toolkit and roleplaying game by Adept Icarus.
Check out Arium on Kickstarter!