Worldbuilding tip: Museums

Trix the T-Rex in Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, Leiden

When building your worlds, don’t forget about museums! A fun and easy way to get your players involved and more immersed into the world you have built.

In bigger cities and towns they can be an amazing alternative way to get information. Your players could go to the library and study to find out more about a subject, or they could visit the exhibit at the local museum. Think about museums of history, natural history, science, botanical gardens, zoos, or the fine arts.
In the zoo they could learn about weaknesses of monsters roaming the countryside (and perhaps help round up an escaped giant chicken without hurting it for a fun side quest).
In the botanical gardens they could learn about which plants they could forage for their alchemy or herbalism kit.
In the history museum they can learn about a specific historical event or -figure that ties into their current quest. (For the Critical Role fans, how amazing would an Aeorian history museum be?)

Then, think smaller. Often small, more quirky or specialized museums can be found in smaller towns and villages. These can often be broken up into different categories:

Niche collection, a collection that got so out of hand that it now turned into a museum. Think teapots, chicken figurines, papercutting art, miniatures. A great way to add some whimsy to your setting and to ground it a bit more. And of course, these would have great NPCs attached to them, perhaps with a quest for that one teapot that they has been eluding their grasp.

Historic events and -figures, usually specific landmarks or homes. With famous writers or artists for example their houses often get turned into museums. Think Casa Azul, where Frida Kahlo used to live or the Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden.
Here in the Netherlands we of course have many museums dedicated to the second world war, including specific buildings that were used as hiding places or for the resistance. We also have a museum dedicated to the witch hunts, because Oudewater was known far and wide as the place to get weighed, because they were fair. So don’t be afraid to get specific, and let your players learn about the history of your world.

Crafts, things that this area is known for. Oudewater was not only known for weighing witches, but also for making rope, so there is a rope museum. Schoonhoven is known for producing the best silver, so they have a silver museum. Including crafts museums is a simple and great way to show more about the region your players are in. And with regional pride comes the opportunity to add things like local festivals or heroes, all tied to these crafts. (annual rope pulling contest, with all sorts of food made into ropes, anyone?)

So when building your world, don’t neglect the museums. They are a great and easy way to show your players things about your world and the people living in it. And they can be great hooks for new sidequests, or provide information needed in bigger story arcs.

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