Writing a novel, you’re telling your story. Writing an RPG adventure, you’re telling a thousand stories, none of which are yours. They’re both fantastic mediums, but they’re nothing alike.
I’ve been writing stories for roleplaying games like the Pathfinder RPG and Dungeons & Dragons for more than fifteen years, and as the editor-in-chief at Paizo Inc., my team and I create the former. While RPG players always love new options for their games, published adventures stand at a pinnacle of tabletop RPG design. These adventures look something like a giant outline, detailing monsters, settings, and the behavior of a story’s minor players. But main characters, those run by the game’s players, are complete mysteries. As the writer of an RPG adventure, you’re telling a story without knowing the main characters and have to predict various outcomes for every scenario. It sounds crazy — and it sort of is — but these stories are designed to allow players to create any characters they want and send them in to experience the adventure. Adding to the challenge, the adventure’s author isn’t the one telling players the story, that’s the Game Master’s responsibility. So, on top of these stories’ complexity, the author ultimately hands the story off to someone else to tell. It’s a challenging way to tell a story — and that’s before you even factor in that you have to include game rules. Continue reading