Some Worldbuilding Prompts
1. Biggest and most important exports?
2. Who transports and distributes the food? What happens with out of season foods? How is food kept fresh?
3. What are standards for cleanliness? How do people get clean? Soap and water? Oil and a scraper? Sonic showers? Is bathing private or communal in nature?
4. Literacy rate? Who can read—everyone? Gentry? Religious persons?
5. What are some common musical instruments?
6. Are there calendars? Are they based on agriculture? Astronomy? Religion? Elections? Generations? Migrations?
7. What are some taboos? Are they cultural? Religious? Food-related? Unspoken ones?
8. Names? How and by whom are they chosen? Parents? Village elders? Is there a naming scheme? Bynames or surnames? Inherited titles, or only earned ones? Are names gendered or neutral? What age do people receive their name and do people’s names change as they age?
9. What are the attitudes towards casual sex? What laws might there be controlling casual sex? Are they enforced? Strictly?
10. Who builds new buildings? Skilled laborers or private individuals? Is construction a gendered skill set?
11. Are there non-human races present? How are they viewed/treated?
12. What happens with people’s trash? Where does it go, who removes it?
13. How are large objects moved/transported?
14. What do people do when they get sick? Healer? Home remedy? A doctor?
15. Mythical creatures? Real or fictional? How do people interact with them?
16. What, if any exist, are inheritance laws like? Who can inherit? Do things get passed down? Do titles?
17. Recreational drugs and other intoxicants? What are they, where do they come from, what are the attitudes surrounding their usage?
18. Is there a scholar vs warrior divide? A homemaker/career divide? Are they enforced? How are they valued?
19. Who makes the food? In what fashion is it served, and by whom? Are meals casual or formal? Does one pray before eating?
20. Are there any secret societies/organizations? What purpose do they serve?
21. Is there slavery? Indentured servitude? How does one distinguish between a slave and a freeman?
22. If your world has modern utilities are they widespread? Wealthy only? Do utilities have to be modified to work (electric lines coated with anti-magic coating, etc)
23. Exploration history? Colonialism or simply trade? Closed borders or open? Stagnant boarders, or is there a wish for expansion?
24. Are there guilds, corporations, unions? What laws govern them?
25. Are there gender roles? What are they? Are there even genders? How many? What are they? Are they lifelong? Who designates them?
26. Are there taxes? What kinds of things get taxed?
27. What does the oldest generation complain about most in the younger generations? Vice versa?
28. What goods/activities are considered luxury/upper class?
29. What are the most prestigious professions? The most reviled? The most misunderstood? Are there even professions as we know them?
30. How are children viewed? What roles do they play in society?
31. What are some great works of fiction? Why are they considered great? Does your culture even have fiction?
32. Most places have more than one religion being practiced—how do different faiths interact? Are all faiths in harmony or is there conflict? What are the specific points of contention? Must anyone practice their faith in secret?
33. What are some physical standards of beauty? What lengths do people go to to achieve these standards? (corsets, foot binding, etc)
34. Towns? Is the design planned or organic growth? Is there a center of the city/town? Is it a marketplace? Church? Park? Communal food hall? Are there multiple “center” nodes?
35. What technologies are known and widely available?
36. How do the various classes spend their leisure time?
37. Are there any religious orders? Temples? Nunneries? Monasteries?
38. Careers and Vocations? Soldier, farmer, apothecary? Is there any sort of marked economic bracket? Associated prestige?
39. Who founded the civilization/country/culture/mainstream religion? How are they remembered by their people? By outsiders?
40. Are there sumptuary laws? What are some examples?
41. Do people keep pets, or just working animals? Do they even have domesticated animals? Which ones might be common?
42. How do they get their news? Who writes/releases it? Word of mouth, or is their a newspaper? A town crier?
43. How are artists valued? What are the most common forms of artistic expression? What is the most uncommon?
44. What are the countries/planets/geographical features that form the borders around your culture/country?
45. Landownership—who, how much? Are there any limitations?
46. How do people wear their hair? Do they cover it or leave it uncovered?
47. How are buildings lit at night? Lamps? Candles? Electricity? Maybe they’re not lit at all, and the day ends with the sunlight?
48. How (if at all) are deities depicted in art?
49. Colors: What are the basic colors? Are any significant culturally? Religiously? Royally? Regionally? Clan or class or caste specific?
50. Common family size? Rate of reproduction? How is reproduction viewed or valued?
51. Who are cultural/historical heroes? What are they famous for? How are their stories told? How are they remembered?
52. What is the currency? Is there deviations in legal vs culture-wide currency exchange? Is there bartering or trade at a local or culture-wide level?
53. What kinds of building materials are available? Would the wealthy be able to send away for rarer building materials?
54. Education—are there school systems or are children taught via their parents, private tutors, apprenticeships?
55. Fashion—is there any concept of it? Is there an industry? How is it valued? How quickly does it change? Are there class implications in styles? Class restrictions on fashion?
56. What are some rude hand gestures? Rude words and slurs?
57. Do people make holy pilgrimages? To where? Why? What god/dess?
58. How are items that take skilled labor to make crated and distributed?
59. What is considered the highest form of art? Music? Dance? Painting? Sculpture? Martial arts?
60. What is a typical home meal like? Does everyone eat together, or are there separate eating spaces for women/children/servants/etc.
61. What are some beliefs/understanding about the nature and structure of the universe? What do they know about the stars and astronomy?
62. Linguistics! Is it a gendered language or no? Do people have different pronouns depending on things such as gender, class, caste, etc.?
63. Hospitality—how does one treat a stranger and how does this differ from how one might treat a friend?
64. What are some minority groups? How are they treated by mainstream culture?
65. Does your mode of address change if someone is your superior or inferior? How? How rude is it if you don’t follow the usual rules of protocol?
66. What is the currency called? What increments does it come in (¼, ½, 1, 5, etc.)? What shape is it? What is it made from (paper, wood, metal, glass, plastic)? What are the exchange rates and processes with changing money to another currency?
67. What kinds of marriage practices are celebrated? Are couples matri- or patrilocal? Is there a bride price? Dowry? How many spouses? What does a marriage ceremony usually include?
68. What are funerals like? How is death dealt with? Is it considered unclean, or is it celebrated? Who takes care of the body? Burial or cremation or something else? Do people tend to believe in an afterlife?
69. What is considered a crime vs simply something uncouth? Who are these punished?
70. Romantic ideals? Taboos? Sexual ideals and taboos? Familial ideals and taboos? Platonic ideals and taboos?
71. What role does fantasy/imagination play? Is it significant? Is it valued? Restricted to art? Unacknowledged?
72. Where does the water come from? How is it distributed?
73. Are there any tourist destinations? Are they religious in significance or just scenic? Historic sites? Monuments? Man-made or natural?
74. What are the commonly accepted laws of public decency? Are there any unspoken rules on rudeness, courtesy, or lawfulness?
75. What is an average lifespan? How is becoming elderly viewed?
76. Sacred symbols? Plants, trees, animals, colors, shapes, icons, etc? Sacred to whom? How are these venerated? Protected or just observed?
77. Who does the majority of the child rearing in a family? The mother? The father? The older siblings? A grandparent? A nanny? Someone else?
78. Personal adornment! Jewelry, hairstyles, tattoos? Who wears such things, if anyone? Why? What could the lack of such adornment signify? Class restrictions?
79. Government system? Who is in charge, and what’s the chain of command like from them on down? What are some restrictions that might be in place regarding who is fit to rule?
80. Are books rare, common, or obsolete? How are they made, who writes them? Is there another way of record keeping?
81. What inspires the architecture? Function? A specific aspect of nature? Abstract art?
82. What are the attitudes of the majority culture towards LGBTQA peoples? Ahat terms do such people use to describe themselves?
83. Travel—are there maintained roads/routes or no? Preferred mode of transportation? What sorts of dangers might one encounter while traveling?
84. What sort of weather is typical? Extreme seasons, or mild ones? What sort of climate is it? What adaptations has the culture developed in response to their environment?
85. What sort of foods are parents forever urging their kids to eat “because it’s good for you!”?
86. What kinds of underclothes are typical? Are underwear the same for both genders? Does underwear change depending on your age?
87. Armaments? Pacifism? Armed citizens? Dueling? Violence restrictions?
88. Does your culture believe in the supernatural? Ghosts, spirits of nature? Of the deceased? Extra-planar? Are they revered, feared, both, neither?
89. Linguistics—what is their writing system like? Vertical or horizontal? Alphabet, syllabic, pictographic?
90. Magic? Real or just folklore? What is the basis upon which the system works? How is magic viewed by the masses? Who uses magic?
91. What is the basic family unit? Nuclear, extended, kids leave at 11, boys and uncles vs mother, sister, aunts, etc.?
92. Are meals communal to family, neighborhood, community? Completely private? Are the dishes in a meal communal or individual?
93. Are typical dwellings single-family, extended family, communal, apartment structure, etc.?
94. What are some notable historical periods? What are they called/named after? Why are they historically important?
95. What is the #1 political issue at the time of your story? How does it effect daily life of the common people vs the gentry?
96. Us vs them? Where does the line fall denoting foreigners? Outside of family? Culture? Language? Religion? Geography?
97. Hospitality—do you afford it even to your enemies? Is it valued?
98. Is the main religion polytheistic or monotheistic? Neither?
99. Standard medical practices? Nothing? Leeches? Antibiotics? Magic?
100. How is sewage dealt with?
101. What do people do in the case of natural disaster? Fire?
102. Is there a symbol of the ruling body? An icon? A royal seal or coat of arms? Does this symbol appear regularly, or is it only brought out on special occasions?
103. What is the age of adolescence? What is the age of adulthood? When does childhood end? Are there coming of age ceremonies? What are the benefits of adulthood?