This is the zero-effort guide to creating a Tolkein-ish fantasy world over the course of a day or so. Really, though, I recommend some looking-over, some writing, editing... The way we're gonna go about this (through software) results in some unique idiosyncracies that only software could create. Step 1: Download the software. Link is, of course, here. Pick the operating system, extract it using your favorite unzipper-thingie (I use 7zip). Scroll through until you find the application title (appropriately, called 'Dwarf Fortress') file. Watch the cute little opening animation. Step 2: Press some buttons. Now you're on a fairly unsexy opening menu. Dwarf Fortress is two things. One, it's a notoriously advanced strategy game that has an almost absurd level of detail despite its symbolic approach to graphics (veins and muscles are mapped and kept track of on each living creature), two, it's a notoriously advanced world generator. You'd think it was designed by the gods of cartography. Everything from aquifers to rain shadows are kept track of, resulting in a fairly detailed world that has civilizations that rise and fall as time goes on, heroes and legendary creatures, blah blah blah. Long story short, it's detailed. Press enter on 'Create New World!', 'Design' and 'Object testing Arena' are for people with a specific seed they want to use, or for testing out interactions with in-game objects (if you ever want to see an undead elephant fight ten naked dwarvish wrestlers, Object Testing is for you!). Step 3: Press even moar buttons. Another unsexy screen, yay! The options here are fairly simple. World Size: Determines how big your world is. Trust me, a little goes a long way. I'm going with 'pocket' for the sake of time, which I believe would create a landmass about the size of England. History: Determines how old your world is. The longer a world has lived, the closer it gets to eventual death (no civilizations or beasts around), the bigger cities get, the more wars, heroes, and legendary figures have been through the land, and the more civilizations have died over the course of its history. I'm going with the highest option here, because it's a clown fiesta that way. Number of Civilizations: The number of civilizations that have appeared on your turf. Remember the golden rule: Diversity + Proximity = Conflict. More civilizations = more war. Going with a small number here, so I don't end up trudging through a graveyard of dead civilizations later. Maximum number of sites: The amount of established places like towns, hamlets, cities, can exist in the world. Turning this one to low. Number of Beasts: Titans, dragons, giants, forgotten creatures that lurk deep within the ground... The kind of stuff that takes damsels, and what brave knights fight. I'm turning this one all the way up to high. I wanna recreate Australia. Natural Savagery: How nasty the world can get. More savagery = more aggressive creatures/less settled lands. Like I said, Australia. This one is to the max. Mineral Occurrence: How many shiny and useful rocks are under the ground. This ultimately affects the metals the civilizations have access to, which is a pretty subtle effect for worldbuilding. I think it's pretty interesting, and will probably lower the 'tech level' of the setting the lower you put it. When you're done setting the parameters, press 'y' for 'yes, I want to see what this bizarre piece of software comes up with'. Part 4: What the hell did this thing make? A small world, that's what! Now, you're going to want to save it when it's done, press 'start playing', and go to 'legends'. From there, you'll be able to play voyeur extraordinaire, and dig deep into your world. Every civilization, every artifact, every historical map, every region above-ground and underground is available to you. My little version of Australia, Urkar (which I have renamed), was populated solely by Goblins, Kobolds, and Beastmen. Dwarven civilizations found themselves routed and removed from their homes via the terrible wildlife (a Roc was the cause of one of the longest lived forts eventually collapsing), and in general anything but the fastest breeding creatures had trouble surviving (the humans struggled for a while but collapsed, and the long-lived but relatively chaste Elves had no chance). Goblins and Kobolds thrived, constantly stealing from each other and bickering, before being eaten and routed by creatures much more dangerous than them. Life is nasty, brutish, and short in Urkar. With every civilization, every ruler has a spot in history, every little thing that was stolen from them was recorded, every monster that claimed one of their peoples lives is documented (the worst of the maneaters are given their own names and are recorded under 'historical figures'.), every book ever written, every fortress ever created, every legendary work of art created by craftsmen... Some of it is a little wonky, a little corny, and sometimes the name are a little overblown (especially the Kobolds, sheesh...), but in general, you can get some interesting characters and get a rough world map, political conflicts, maybe a few abandoned forts and ideas for monsters that roam the world. If you want to look for something specific (by name, not by category!), press 'f', and in general, absorb the history of the world you created. Legendary thieves, petty dragons, governments that make the Congo look stable, it's all there. Plus, the forums of DF have some very, very, cool stories to tell featuring all sorts of bizarre structures and monsters. The saga of Boatmurdered is a wonderful fantasy adventure in its own right, and the Hamlet of Tyranny is one of my favorites. Next guide will probably involve actually being creative and moving away from the software. I dunno. I hope you enjoyed what I put out so far. This is what I usually do to build up a world from scratch or if I need new ideas and I'm feeling braindead. I hope you enjoyed reading this~!