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Cultures and Beyond (The Art of World Building, #3)

Cultures and Beyond (The Art of World Building, #3)

4.6 Stars, 145 Amazon Ratings (as of 1/2024)

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Creating a unique, immersive setting one culture at a time

A guide for authors, gamers, and hobbyists

CULTURES AND BEYOND (THE ART OF WORLD BUILDING, #3) is a how-to guide for filling an imaginary world with fascinating societies. It includes chapters on creating culture, organizations, armed forces, religions, the supernatural, magic systems, technological and supernatural items, languages, names, and various systems our world will have, from health, educational, legal, and commerce, to information systems. You’ll learn how to leverage real world cultures while making them seem original. Even those who’ve never invented a world will soon be masters as the author’s decades of experience walk readers through using pre-made templates that make world building faster, better, and easier to complete.

Invent interesting laws, crimes, and punishments that involve imaginary creatures or technologies, and learn how to leverage trial by ordeal and other judicial acts from Earth’s past. Determine how much education is available and what form it takes. Create currencies for different places while keeping them easy for your audience to fathom, plus learn how to determine the value to assign labor, materials, products, time, and more. Master the art of creating naming styles for different societies. Fashion new military groups in gritty detail. Dream up sensible rules for magic, its practitioners, the supernatural and what happens when things go wrong. Learn what kind of files you’ll need to create, how to organize them, and get jump started with a dozen free templates you’ll use again and again.

CULTURES AND BEYOND is the third volume in THE ART OF WORLD BUILDING, the most in-depth, multi-volume series of its kind.

Build better, faster.

Audio Book Sample

Narrated by Randy Ellefson.

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Editorial Reviews

Endorsement from Ed Greenwood, inventor of The Forgotten Realms and dozens of imaginary worlds

In Cultures and Beyond, Randy Ellefson continues his masterful overview of worldbuilding, carefully and coherently dealing with every last detail of creating and tending imaginary settings that his previous worldbuilding books, Creating Life and Creating Places, haven’t covered. All three are essential reference works for storytellers working in all fields; more than any other approach to these topics, Cultures and Beyond and its prequels ensure that nothing is overlooked or missed. Ellefson is a master of this craft, and it shows. Highly recommended!

Endorsement from Piers Anthony, NY Times Bestselling Author

I read Cultures and Beyond, The Art of World Building 3, by Randy Ellefson. I reviewed the prior two volumes, Creating Life and Creating Places, when they were published. Each volume is a comprehensive discussion of its subject, useful for new writers and surely for established ones too. I have been writing and selling novels for more than half a century, and I have been learning things here. I recommend all three for background reading for those who are serious about the worlds they create. The present volume is amazingly informative about the several aspects of culture, covering armed forces, religions, supernatural aspects, languages, and everything in between. It even lists all the American military ranks. Take a supposedly minor aspect, creating names. I have a small collection of books of names, which I use for my characters, trying not to duplicate myself too often, but I see I am an amateur in this respect. Naming names can be a science! Every section of this volume is similarly detailed. I am not sure whether reading it would cure the dread Writer's Block for those who suffer it, but if a writer runs out of inspiration, reading this book well might restore it. Certainly it should be on the shelf, as it were, ready to check when uncertainty threatens.

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Table of Contents


  1. Introduction
  2. Where to Start
  3. About Me
  4. Free Book
  5. Disclaimers
  6. The Chapters
  7. Templates and Newsletter


  1. What is Culture?
  2. Culture Depictions
  3. Creating Culture
  4. Where to Start


  1. Group Types
  2. Common Traits
  3. History
  4. In and Out
  5. Where to Start

Armed Forces

  1. Locations
  2. Their Weapons
  3. Their Defenses
  4. The Road to Becoming One
  5. Identifiers
  6. Those Who Serve
  7. History
  8. World View
  9. Where to Start


  1. Overview
  2. History
  3. Beliefs
  4. Names
  6. Worship
  7. Locations
  8. Identifies
  9. Clergy
  10. World View
  11. Combat
  12. Afterlife
  13. Where to Start

The Supernatural

  1. Supernatural Energy
  2. Magic Paths
  3. Alternate Realities
  4. Supernatural Beings
  5. Prevalence
  6. The Impact
  7. Where to Start

Systems of Magic

  1. Principle of Good Magic Systems
  2. Do We Need a Magic System?
  3. Types of Magic
  4. Magic Prevalence
  5. Where Does Magic Come From?
  6. Social Aspects
  7. What's in a Name?
  8. Are Spells Needed?
  9. The Life of Wizards
  10. Creating Limits
  11. How to Invent Spells
  12. Where to Start


  1. All Items
  2. Regular Items
  3. Magic Items
  4. Technological Items
  5. Where to Start


  1. Should We Create One?
  2. The Medium
  3. Our Options
  4. How to Hire Someone
  5. Where to Start


  1. People Names
  2. Place Names
  3. Uniqueness
  4. Leveraging Existing Names
  5. General Tips
  6. Techniques for Inventing Names
  7. Name Generators
  8. Where to Start

Other Systems

  1. Education Systems
  2. Health Systems
  3. Legal Systems
  4. Commerce
  5. Information Systems


  1. Goals
  2. Abide By Rules
  3. Tying It All Together
  4. Approaches
  5. Top Down
  6. Bottom Up
  7. Random
  8. What to Do?
  9. File Storage
  10. Get Organized
  11. World Building Coalitions
  12. Last Words


  1. Culture
  2. Organizations
  3. Armed Forces
  4. Religions
  5. Supernatural Energy
  6. Supernatural
  7. Magic Systems
  8. Spells
  9. Legal
  10. Monetary
  11. Education