Blog Carnival – Writing the Game

Triple Crit is doing a blog carnival, Writing the Game, this month about writing in/and RPGs.

I don’t consider myself a particularly great writer. I’ve written a lot of stuff, and even write professionally, but sometimes it’s a struggle. Still, it’s a struggle I’m committed to.

In the times I’ve DMed, I’ve always had reams of paper, scribbled maps, stacks of stat sheets, pages of short speeches, responses and other canned dialogue, even things that looked like a cross between “Choose your own adventure” and a one act play. Cirsova (and every post marked “Encyclopedia Entry”) was partially born from such a stack of notes.

One thing I’ve always liked has been tangibles in gaming. They can add a lot to the feel you’re trying to establish. Something simple that the player can hold onto and maybe stuff in their character folder (or wad up in their pocket).

1. Letters

Your party’s characters don’t live in a vacuum (unless you’re running a space campaign). They might have friends, loved ones, acquantances, important contacts, bosses, etc., all of whom might want to try to get in touch with them from time to time. How touching, it would be, to receive a letter from a friend, family member or lover, wanting to hear from them. Or maybe it could be warning of trouble and pleaing for help. Maybe a benefactor has sent a parcel with a note. This gives you a great opportunity to add flavor to your world and give the players a bit more of an emotional stake in the game. Write the letter & give it sealed to the player who receives it. They can keep it to themself or share it with the party. It will make your players feel special that they got letters. Just be sure not to play favorites & spread the love.

2. Missives & Pamphlets
Maybe a local fellow has gotten ahold of a printing press and fancies himself Thomas Paine, writing political diatribes, and the lord wants you to see if rebellion is on the horizon. Or maybe your players are riding throughout the land, distributing the missives to rally the peasants to revolt against a cruel lord? In either case, how neat would it be for players to have the chance to take a peek?

3. Wanted posters.
Make up & print out wanted posters using original or stock art.

4. Books.
This can be a tougher one. Books are a part of any game world, and none has incorporated them better than the Elder Scrolls. You don’t need to write huge novels or anything, but if there are books that contain important information that is relevant to the story and the game world, it wouldn’t to write up a few paragraphs of actual text as well as a brief summary of what information is actually gleaned from it (unless it’s self evident).



9 responses to “Blog Carnival – Writing the Game

  1. I really like the book idea! I imagine there are a number of internet sources where spells, histories, and guidebooks could be adapted, be it from song lyrics, project Gutenberg, or Old English manuscripts… not to mention those fantasy language generators/translators.

  2. I love the idea of sending letters! I bothers me a lot that my friends’ characters either don’t have a detailed family, or they do and then it never, ever matters to them once they have decided on things

    • Thanks!

      It can really make players more attached to their characters and the world.

      Syflanis, the Hub city for the Cirsova campaign I was writing many years ago, had a book store that characters could visit. I had a list of titles of various books, a few short lines on what they were about and what in-game knowledge characters would gain from it. A lot of this blog is simply my fleshing those books out, particularly “A Brief Guide to the Imperial Provinces”, “The Long Road: Trade in Gatlia”, “Chronicles of the Dreaming City” and “The Icy Death of Elefloe”.

      Another thing I had meant to include but didn’t was Shop-keeper menus. Sort of like chinese take-out menus, but for your blacksmiths & outfitters. In bigger cities, these people are definitely going to want everyone to know that their goods and prices are the best. It justifies multiple shops of the same type in town and gives you possible story hooks (competing stores seeking to best each, if not in the open market, then maybe in more underhanded fashion). Plus, it eliminates the godawful “I go to the store & look around, what do I find? Anything cool?” “I dunno, what do you want?”

  3. I’ve had the odd Shop-Keeper menus for Augustana in Andoran including one for a tavern. I don’t do it for every city they go to but for the base cities. I did a newspaper at one stage although none of my players read more than the titles and a few pieces of the 8 page spread so I stopped doing that. My players aren’t big readers.

  4. Pingback: November RPG Blog Carnival: Writing the Game (Roundup)

  5. Pingback: The Gassy Gnoll: Why Write About Games? (November RPG Blog Carnival) | Gamerati

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