Saturday, November 10, 2012

November RPG Blog Carnival: Writing

Okay, so the November RPG Blog Carnival topic is writing.  As a GM you have to do a certain amount of writing (or "meta-writing", if you will), which includes concocting plots, making up character relationship diagrams, throwing down some notes which will be your "bullet points" to keep you on track during play, etc.  But I'd like to make this carnival post about the more traditional types of writing and where they come into my GMing.

I use proper, full-on writing for three main applications in gaming:
  • campaign introductions
  • player game handouts
  • next session teasers
  • campaign wiki
Campaign Introductions
One idea I've picked up from reading lots of blogs (see my blog list) is the idea of doing cool fiction write-ups as a way of introducing a new campaign.  This is when you are all trying to decide what everyone wants to do for the next game.  The GM comes up with a couple concepts for the next campaign and presents them to the players for discussion.  To present the concepts, the GM writes up either a pithy "elevator pitch" paragraph intro or maybe a longer, more in-depth multi-paragraph intro, perhaps with some fiction to transmit the atmosphere in the game.  An example of the shorter presentation is the outline I did at the end of last month for melding the film Underworld: Rise of the Lycans with D&D.  An example of the longer intro is the first example mecha campaign intro I posted last month. or even the first chapter of Ice Road Convoy.

Game Handouts
Players love handouts.  It's like giving candy to trick-or-treaters at Halloween. A letter, a page or two ripped from a journal, a map with notations, pretty much anything to keep them amused.  Letters and journal pages require infusing the writing with the personality of the NPC who wrote them. So there is actually a bit of literary role-play involved.  The DM may have to roleplay that NPC later and thus the personality in the writing will have to relate to the in-person personality.  These sorts of handouts are best when also hand written in a style appropriate to the NPC writer.  A wizard might have interesting runes around the margin, a cleric will include references to her deity, a noble will have better handwriting than a bandit, etc.

Next Session Teasers
In between gaming sessions I like to send out a "teaser" email with cryptic hints about what is coming in the next session.  I do this primarily because the large number of players we have in the group makes it difficult to find a date that works for everyone's schedule.  The teaser emails help keep up interest (and morale) in between the widely spaced play sessions.  They also give me a chance to do some fun writing.  Here's a recent example:

- Wait, so only Jax has a date for the ball?!  Jax has a date?!  What's wrong with this picure?  No, seriously, what is wrong with this picture!  [Jax is the player with the worst charisma in the group and yet he's the only one with a date for the ball.  The super-charismatic paladin is going stag.]

- But at least everyone finally has their costume for the ball now--and thank goodness they all come with a mask, if you catch my drift.  [The players all got invited to the socially important annual ball which is a costume ball to which the must wear a high-quality costume.]

- They took a trip to the beach, and nobody brought any sunblock--absolutely typical for this crew.  But what's with that weird glowing algae-laden water?  Never mind, I'm sure it doesn't conceal anything...unnatural.  [They'd descended to a deep cavern with a lake of weird glowing green algae covering the surface and a beach on the far side with a creepy temple.]

- So which door into the creepy-looking underground structure should they pick?  The one leading to certain death or the one leading to certain, yet suprisingly slow and humiliating death?  Gosh, it's so hard to decide sometimes.  Too bad they didn't think to ask that sketchy informant type dude if he had any maps for sale before they headed out.

- And they'll never expect the huge dinosaur skeleton. [I love to kid with my players about absurd monsters they're going to encounter so I was sure they'd assume this was a joke too.  However, they did actually run into a huge dinosaur skeleton.  And no, they totally didn't expect it. MWAHAHAHAH!]

Campaign Wiki
Another area where I do some proper formal writing is the campaign wiki.  I love wikis and when I found I could make one for my campaign I was stoked.  I use it to present campaign background information for easy access, lists of NPCs encountered so far, treasure acquired, and experience points so far.  The creative writing is mostly in the campaign background information and that's fairly static once posted.  I think campaign wikis are preferable to handing the players a massive tome full of background info at the start of a campaign.  Once a campaign is decided upon, the GM can post the campaign introduction, as noted above, then have links to more in-depth articles for the players to explore when want.

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