How To Build Your World: Habitat

In case you missed last Friday’s post, I confirmed I was resurrecting my World Builder Series.  So for (most of) the next several Fridays, the topics I write about will all be on World Building.

I personally like going deep into World Building for my fantasy stories so these posts may cover a lot of concepts and questions that aren’t always thought about.  

All my earlier articles in this series are located in World Builder.

Title Image - World Builder: How to build your world: Habitat.

Last week’s post was about creating a race, focusing on appearance, type and genders.  Now we’re going to look at the habitat of the race.

Just to clarify, when I say habitat it is referring to more than just the terrain and will encompass a number of factors.

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Image: Terrain covered in scrub brush and a single tree

Terrain is an area of land.  Say you have vast desert, your race might live in small huts on a flat piece of terrain away from the shifting dunes.

So consider the sort of terrain your race have set up their homes.  This area of land is important as it may affect things.

Is it a barren, rocky terrain that makes travel difficult?  What sort of plants would grow there?  What sort of animals would make their home there?

What are the natural landmarks?  Are there rivers or streams or lakes?  Dust storms?  Mist patches?  Strange wandering rocks?  Standing stones?  Sinkholes?  Quicksand?

How does this terrain affect your race?  What are the benefits and issues of living in this place?  Are they protected?  Isolated?  Is it near a food or water source?

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Image: Simple wooden house in snowy field

What are their homes like?

Once you know the sort of landscape and terrain for your race, you can start to consider the types of homes/structures they will reside in.

Are they simple structures for eating and sleeping in? Are they vast with many rooms?  Are they hidden underground?  Are they domed or triangular?  Are they built up like apartment blocks?

What are they made from?

Taking into account the terrain, what materials are the structures made from?  What would be available in that area?

How is the material extracted/sourced?  Is it painstakingly made like hand sculpted bricks that are heated in a kiln?  Or maybe timber traded from another race.

Are different structures made from different materials?  Does this denote something, like wealth or statue?  Could the wealthy among your race afford to build floating homes on the lake that offer better protection against predators on land?

Think about a castle on a hill, made from stone, with its many rooms, bailey, moat compared to the basic, open-plan, wooden shacks that the poor may live within.  Unprotected and barely big enough for a family.

Is your race a group of travelling nomads who carry all their possessions on bags and carts?  Do they live in oil-skin tents or painted caravans?  Or on boats?  Are they living in villages high up in the tall trees or built into the side of a mountain?

How are they made?

Does each person/family have to make their own?  Are their builders and labours who create them?  Maybe slaves who toil beneath a whip.

Are they made for quick dismantling so that the race can move on in case of danger or find better, more fertile lands?

Are they a travelling army-city that moves throughout other lands, conquering, setting up structures of power to rule then moving on to do it all again?

Does your terrain suffer hurricanes or tidal waves?  Are the structures designed to withstand them?  Are they made of stone to protect against fires?  Are they simple structures with no walls and just reeds for rooves to keep them cool in the tropics?

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Image: Lightbulb lying on wooden floor, lit.

These are such things are electricity, gas, water systems etc.  Does your race have modern utilities?


Does your race have electricity?  Is it at the flick of a switch from a power station or is it generated via an effluence digester or personal windmills?

If there is no electricity do they use candlelight?  Oil lamps?  Does the world have long days of light so they don’t need to create their own?

Maybe your world has strange glowing stones that are used to illuminate a house.  Perhaps burning torches or even Fire-Fae trapped in cages and forced to use their body’s luminescence to light the home.

Heat and cold

How are the buildings heated?  Simple fires in a hearth?  Modern heating systems that can be switched on and off and controlled to exact temperatures?

Maybe there is no heating.  Maybe your race prefers the cold.  Maybe only the rich are permitted warmth.

Depending on your landscape may be cold is a luxury.  If your race is from a land of high temperature, then cooling the home may be the sign of wealth.


Regarding water for cleaning, bathing or cooking (drinking is discussed below), how is it sourced?  Are there wells?  A single pump in the centre of a village?

Is there a reservoir where the city’s water is stored?  Is the water treated?   Can it be contaminated?  Is it shared with others?

Are clothes washed in a local river?  Or in a bucket in the kitchen or via a more modern system?  Are the garments made so they have no need for water to clean them?

Can only the wealthy be allowed to bathe?  Is heated water a luxury?  Is water stored to be used to irrigate the fields?

Do houses have water wheels?  Is water rationed or charged for?

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Image: Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables

Now obviously I’m not saying there should be one thing your race eats (or maybe you are okay with that).  But think about their different types of food.

What food do they eat?

Are they vegetarians?  Full carnivores?  Do they live in a fishing village so mainly have a diet of seafood?  Are they foragers living off nuts and berries and grubs?

If they live up the mountains, what food source do you think they would have?  Do they trade for food from a neighbouring village rather than catch or breed their own?

Imagine the effects such a thing would have.  If your race doesn’t produce its own food and relies on others, what sort of issues would come with that?

If that’s the case, remember to consider what foods it could be – can it survive a journey back to their homeland without rotting?

If your world is more modern or futuristic, is the food supplied pre-made from a replicator or in pill form?

How do they eat?

Is the food raw?  Is it poisonous and must be ingested with something else to make it safe?  Do they cook the food in a home-made oven or kiln?  Over a large fire?  In a microwave or similar for more modern and futuristic races?

Does your race glide around constantly grazing?  Do they only eat at night?  Do they need very little sustenance?

Do they eat large amounts to assist in hibernation or for incubation or metamorphosis?

Do they store food or eat all that is available?  How do they store it?  Is it frozen?  Buried in the ground?  Pickled in jars?

Do they follow migrating herds and simply hunt and eat when hungry?

Who eats first?

Is there a feeding structure such as the offspring eat first?  Or is it the strongest?  Or maybe the weakest, helping to make sure there is a larger number of surviving members?

Are there slaves who are only fed once a day, at night while their masters eat all day long?

Are there foods only the wealthy can eat?  Foods that are delicacies or rare due to difficulty in obtaining?

Are there those who eat poisonous foods as a show of strength, or to build up an immunity or for spirituality? (spirituality and religion will be covered in another post.)

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Image: Glasses of wine, bunches of grapes & a barrel

What does your race drink?

Like food, you don’t have to define your race with one form of beverage.  But it pays to consider what things your race drinks.

What is the main source?

For humans, our main defining drink as a species is water.  So what is your race’s main source?

Is it freshwater?  Maybe saltwater?  Maybe some strange dark liquid that comes from tubers in the ground.

Are there different drinks

Does your race have different beverages?  Do they make mead or ale?  Do they drink the blood of animals?  Do they mix special plants in to add flavour?  Do they consider drinking anything other than the main source ‘wrong’?

Are there special types of drinks for specific occasions?  To celebrate a milestone, a victory, a wedding?  Or as an aphrodisiac?

Are there drinks that are designed to placate others to allow the ruling class to stay in power?

How are they made and stored?

How are the drinks made and stored?  Are they exported from another area in your world?  Are they illegal and made in secret?  Do they require special skill?

Are they scarce? (such as water in the desert)

Are they at risk of being undrinkable? (polluted?)

Is there a fight over these resources? (such as another race laying claim to a river)

This shows how something as simple as a “water” source can have a ripple effect throughout your race.

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Image: Landfill full of waste and garbage

What happens to the bodily waste?

How is the natural bodily waste disposed of?  Does your race have indoor plumbing?  Do they use chamber pots emptied daily?  Outhouses?  Is waste used to generate energy?

Is it stored as some sacred humour?  Used as a medicine?  Buried in the ground?  Do they burn it?

Does your race have different forms of bodily waste?  Do they shed their skins in one large piece and that has to be disposed of?  To they have horns or antlers that they lose seasonally?

Are there those who work in sewage, like gong farmers?

What happens to other waste?

If your race has any form of industry such as metal-workers, fisheries, miners etc then they may produce waste.

What happens to that?  Does it have to be dealt with safely?  Is it a dangerous job?  Can it contaminate areas?  Is it hazardous?

Waste may seem like a strange thing to consider when World Building but remember many plagues and pestilences were either started or exacerbated by poorly managed sewage/waste.

For example,  if the waste is just dumped in a single location, it can pollute water sources, attract vermin, spread disease.

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More to come

This article was designed just to cover concepts and ideas pertaining to the habitat and living arrangement of your races.

There will be a break from World Building next Friday, but the series will be back the following Friday.  🙂

~ ☆ ~ ☆ ~ ☆ ~

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked this post.  Do share it if you think someone else may find it helpful. 

As always, leave me your thoughts in the comments below and if you want to see something specific on this blog, drop me a message.

I’ll be back on Monday.  Have a great weekend.

Happy writing

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12 thoughts on “How To Build Your World: Habitat

  1. Glad To Create

    Reblogged this on Glad To Create and commented:
    I recently came across Ari on Twitter through her hashtag game #TheMerryWriter and eventually found her blog too! She has a blog series on world building that’s definitely worth having a look at! It’s detailed, insightful and helpful.

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