🔮 Worldbuilding with Obsidian

Here are my top tips on how to use Obsidian for worldbuilding, including an overview of which are the best features for organising your lore.

🔮 Worldbuilding with Obsidian

I've been using Obsidian for a while now and I wanted to show you how to make use of its features for worldbuilding.

This isn't a sponsored post, I just really like the tool! 😅
As always I've got some extra links at the end for more resources to check out.

Table of Contents

🤔 What's Obsidian?

Simply put, Obsidian is a no-nonsense writing app (desktop & mobile) with a lot of flexibility for writing and organising your worldbuilding notes.

Benefits of using Obsidian for worldbuilding:

  • It's completely free for personal use.
    (If you're using it commercially it's only $50 USD/year)
  • It runs offline and is private by default.
  • You can download it on Desktop (Windows, Mac, Linux) and Mobile (iOS, Android).
  • You're not restricted on the number of worlds, vaults, notes, or features you can use.
  • The interface is clean, distraction-free, and really easy to use and the formatting is done with markdown (the same as what Discord uses).
  • The core features are fantastic and you can enable/disable each of them to suit your worldbuilding needs, I've gone into more detail on some of them below!
    • There's also lots of community plugins and themes for more worldbuilding specific features like maps, timelines, dice rollers, and TTRPG tools. You can browse and install them from within the app.
  • It's future-proof because you're basically using files inside of folders on your device, meaning your worldbuilding notes are easy to access, backup, and restore.
  • There are only two paid services which are optional:
    • You can synchronise your worldbuilding across devices using the official Obsidian Sync add-on for $4 USD/month.
    • You can also host your worldbuilding online using Obsidian Publish for $8 USD/month. It comes with a default domain name like: https://publish.obsidian.md/tjtrewin and you can easily set it up to point to your own custom domain or subdomain that you own like I did: https://vault.tjtrewin.com/
If you're looking for alternatives to Obsidian Sync, you can check out other services like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, GitHub, or Syncthing.

For Obsidian Publish alternatives, check out GitHub Pages, Quartz, or MindStone.


  • It can be easy to get carried away with over-customising everything by adding lots of community plugins, so try using just the core features first for a while and only install extras if you really need them! 😜
  • Another thing to bear in mind is that community plugins and themes might not be maintained by their original creators for future versions of Obsidian.
  • At the time of writing, Publish sites have slightly limited support for some plugins and embedded files displaying online (Canvas support is currently planned in their roadmap). This means that if you're using something like the Dataview community plugin, the results will only show in your offline vault and won't show on your site.
  • Folders in your vault are listed alphabetically (just like folders are in your dekstop/mobile). If you want folders in a certain order you may need to find a community plugin that does this, or just start your folder names with a number.

🌎 Features overview

The feature I use the most is just linking notes together, and because I have the backlinks core plugin enabled it means that when I view a note I can see a list of all the other notes that mention it. This comes in really handy for exploring your notes and remembering what you've already written about and what you can write about next.

I use placeholder links to link to notes I haven't created yet! When I click on a placeholder link then it creates it for me, and all of the connections are already there. It saves me a lot of time because I don't have to stop and make a temporary note while I'm writing! 😅

There's also tags and properties that you can add if you find it useful to search through and filter your notes.

🎇 Using the Graph View to watch your world expand

Graph view in Obsidian showing clusters of dots with lines connecting them
The graph view for my dark fantasy world, Melior

Graph View is amaaaziiiing! 🤩 When you link notes together you can click on the graph view and it displays notes as nodes with lines between them to represent the connections. The bigger the node, the more links it has pointing to it. Outliers on the edge that have no lines are orphan notes that don't have any links connecting them.

You can also filter the nodes and colour them by groups (defined by search terms). Here's how I've grouped mine based on clusters of tags that I use:

  • 🏰 Orange: tag:#template/building OR tag:#template/settlement OR tag:#template/organization
  • 👪 Pink: tag:#template/character OR tag:#template/ethnicity OR tag:#template/language OR tag:#template/profession
  • 🛡️ Red: tag:#template/conflict OR tag:#template/military-unit OR tag:#template/rank-title
  • 🏞️ Green: tag:#template/natural-law OR tag:#template/geography OR tag:#template/material OR tag:#template/species OR tag:#template/condition
  • 📜 Blue: tag:#template/myth-legend OR tag:#template/tradition OR tag:#template/document OR tag:#template/plot OR tag:#template/prose
  • ⚙️ Yellow: tag:#template/spell OR tag:#template/technology OR tag:#template/item OR tag:#template/vehicle
I recommend using a limited amount of colours so that it's easier to distinguish them! Consider grouping search terms together and use colour associations that make sense to you.

Here are some ways you could group your worldbuilding notes in the graph view:
- by article template
- by region (or by world, if you have a galaxy/universe-scale project)
- by faction or alliance
- by completion or status using tags (stub, draft, WIP, etc)
- by year, so you can see which are the oldest and newest parts

Hovering over any of the nodes will give you a clearer view of how many connections they have, which is a great way of seeing focus areas of your world or to see how impactful certain elements are (like wars, technology, or characters).

A large, highlighted node showing connections to many other nodes.
In my vault, The Rupture event had a huge impact on many aspects of the world.

ALSO you if you click the timelapse animation you can watch your world grow as each node pops into existence based on its creation date!


(woops I left my cursor on the recording sorryyyyy 😂)

📌 Planning out broad worldbuilding ideas and concepts using Obsidian Canvas

If you prefer a more free-flowing approach to worldbuilding instead of structured folders/categories, the Canvas can be used like a digital corkboard to put snippets, existing and temporary notes. You can drag lines smoothly to connect different things and plan out your worldbuilding this way, or even use it to make charts, plan TTRPG campaigns or book plots, make family trees for your characters, or even textual maps.

Screenshot of planning worldbuilding for a region using Canvas to link images and notes
How I used canvas to plan out details for a region in Melior

📝 Using Obsidian templates for worldbuilding

If you're used to other worldbuilding apps that use templates for making certain elements, you can set up your own predefined headings, properties, and tags for what you want to make!
This can help speed up your worldbuilding workflow or help to remind you of what things to cover when writing your lore.

Consider making templates for the things you write most frequently, or that you don't want to have to type out manually each time!

🧩 Obsidian plugins for worldbuilding

With the note composer core plugin enabled you can merge two notes together or split larger ones in two, so no matter if you prefer the top-down or bottom-up worldbuilding approach (or even a mix of both!), you can manage your lore as you go.

I really enjoy using the random note core plugin, it adds a little button that when clicked opens up (you guessed it) a random note. It's great for reviewing your old worldbuilding and brushing up on any new details you've come up with.

There's also a wordcount core plugin, I don't think I need to explain how useful that is! 😂

As for community plugins, there are too many amazing ones to list. I personally prefer to keep it clean and simple and not use many extras. Nicole van der Hoeven has two great videos going over the core plugins and her most used community plugins. There's a site called obsidianttrpgtutorials.com which has some great suggestions for worldbuilders, too.

Remember to be mindful of overwhelm when adding lots of new shiny things to play with! Try one or two and use them actively for a few weeks (or month) before deciding if you want to add more.
Screenshot of the plugins page, showing a few community plugins I have installed.
Screenshot of the plugins page, showing a few community plugins I have installed.

🔮 How I'm using Obsidian for worldbuilding

I'm actually using Obsidian in combination with World Anvil! I use Obsidian for all of my offline, distraction-free writing/planning and then I manually copy things over into World Anvil to host my worlds online.

I'm currently working on two worlds right now: the dark fantasy world of Melior, and my new brighter fantasy setting Journals of Yesteryear (aka JOY).

When I'm planning out what to write (especially for community challenges) I'll make a fresh canvas and jot down ideas. I check to see if I have any unwritten ideas or unconnected/orphan notes in my graph view and think about how to include those in my lore.

If your worldbuilding project is massive and spans multiple worlds, galaxies, or universes then think about whether or not you need to set up a separate vault for each. Bear in mind that (by default) you can't link between different vaults!

I've set up my Obsidian templates to match the ones on World Anvil (though I've decluttered a lot of the fields and headings I don't use) but the main reason that I host my worlds through there is that World Anvil has a great community with fun events to participate in, and it also has a lot more features dedicated to worldbuilding (like interactive maps and timelines).

An example of split view notes showing two documents open at the same time
A preview of my notes following Artifexian & WorldbuildingPasta's guides on GPlates

I do have an Obsidian Publish site which you can check out here: https://vault.tjtrewin.com/ but I currently use it as a vault of knowledge instead of actual worldbuilding - it's where I'm learning in public and sharing my unpolished thinking process as I learn new things! 😄

This is definitely the tool I'd use to host my worldbuilding wikis if I wasn't using World Anvil.

📚 Further reading

Looking for how to organise your worldbuilding? Check out my previous post here for a deep dive:

How to organise your worldbuilding
A deep dive on methods to organise your worldbuilding so that your lore is sorted, searchable, and easy to explore!