Tabletop RPG Adventure Writing Dice and Paper

Tabletop RPG Writing – Part 2 – by Joe DeMarco

Tabletop RPG Adventure Writing Dice and Paper

I stumbled into doing freelance writing from meeting some of the Harsh Realities guys at a gaming convention. I had an interest in doing freelance work and getting published. After a few emails, I was able to start generating content, and now I am one of the lead writers for Elfwood.

The following guest post has been submitted by Joe DeMarco of Word Art Online

For many years, I was fascinated by the depth of stories and making up adventures in my head. But something was missing: how could I share these adventures with others?

I started writing adventures, while experiencing different genres of tabletop RPG games in college. Some were inspired by video games, others by going for a walk in downtown Lincoln. Character backgrounds I wrote for a modern campaign setting were often inspired by people I met and saw at renaissance faires.

The ability to create a world, filled with characters and adventures, gave me a great sense of purpose and belonging. I now share that world with others, allowing them to explore what I created. This is the fun part of what I do.


Suggestions for Writing Role Playing Games

Writing a Role Playing Game (RPG) has a lot in common with writing in other media. Both start with a common idea or theme and are fleshed out as the story develops. One of the major differences is in presentation of the material. In a novel, the writer writes from the point of view of the story presented to the readers. The story is revealed to the reader to guide the imagination forward. In RPGs, the writer has fleshed out a story and provided a framework for players to explore the world. He has given the Game Master (GM) resources to help tell the story. Being a GM is a difficult task with a lot of rules to remember, a story plot to follow, and characters to present. But ultimately the story can take many different turns; even some that the writer, or the GM never planned on.

  • Outline

    Develop an adventure outline to follow when coming up with a story. My own mixes combat encounters, story encounters, and fluff events. I have developed this through experiencing different world adventures and through writing my own.

  • Practice

    Practice your craft. As a writer should read and a game developer should play games, so too should an RPG writer play the games that he wishes to write. If you have an inclination to write for a cyberpunk setting, you should find a cyberpunk adventure to experience that world. Same for fantasy, steampunk, sci fi, super heroes, etc.

  • Familiars

    Write what you know and you don’t have to change things up. If you are already familiar with a game system like Sixcess Core, Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Star Wars, or any other rule system; I suggest writing for that system first.
    Caution is warned if you try to publish using the game mechanics already established. There are methods of getting published that you can explore through these companies. When in doubt, do some research into publishing first.

  • Compatibility

    Make the game easy to follow and let the GM add the rules set to it. If you have a general idea of an adventure that you’d like to write but don’t have a rule system in mind, this is okay. Make the game system agnostic by adding any system to the story so the game can be played.

Caution should be stressed if you choose to play an adventure you wrote. This is a fun element to writing tabletop RPG adventures but you should be respectful of the GM if it is not you. They may put their own spin on the story, which may be different than what you had planned out. Don’t worry. It is a natural occurrence as a GM. They want to make it just as much part of their own world and have fun with it as you do.

Writing for tabletop Role Playing Games can be an exciting and challenging endeavor. Don’t try to plan for everything, but make sure to have enough information down so that the GM can run with what you have written.

Joe DeMarco on Tabletop Role Playing Game WritingJoe DeMarco, single father, aspiring writer and game designer, software tester.

I am a writer on Elfwood, a seafaring campaign setting from Harsh Realities. I enjoy all aspects of writing and storytelling. I get my inspiration at renaissance faires, conventions, playing games with friends, and even from the adventures of watching my son play and craft his own stories through his imagination.


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