By: Taylor Turner
Are you thinking about writing up your first homebrew game for your friends and aren't sure if you can? You can. You should do it.
If you have an idea for a game that you think will be fun. You should write that idea down. You should then take the idea you have written down and you should flesh it out. Write up a summary, an outline, and then a first draft. After you've done that, you should take that first draft, review it, and then run it for your friends.
Are you worried that your friends won't like it? They'll love it. Unless your friends are just bad people. If this is the case, you should get new gaming friends. If you're in my area, I can point you in the direction of people that would love to play your homebrew game. I can tell you that in the years I have been playing role-playing games, I have never played a game where the writing ruined my fun; only bad players and bad DMs.
I get the nervousness though. I get nervous when I go to run something I've written. Even stuff I haven't written, but just put a lot of time into preparing. It's natural. You've poured your heart and soul into something to show your friends and you want to make sure it's perfect. Your friends are for sure to notice all the work you put into it and appreciate what you made for them to enjoy. I can assure you that it likely won't go according to plan, but that's ok. It's what I love about role-playing games. You can play the same game seven times and it'll probably turn out seven different ways, but they'll likely be fun and worth telling great stories about. Writing a game is trying to prepare for the unexpected.
Who is going to be your antagonist? A good story can be made better with an interesting villain. The villain doesn't have to be just one person. It can be a whole organization or even a rival adventuring party. However, even those things tend to have a leader. The main antagonist might not even be someone the PCs directly interact with. It could be some off-screen villain that reoccurs in multiple adventures. It might be someone they never find out about until the end, like in the case of a massive dungeon crawl or a story of betrayal.
Where does this adventure take place? Is it on some snow-capped mountains or lost desert? Perhaps in another plane or a post-apocalyptic city. Maybe in the past? A cool setting can really make a fun game even more exciting. Maybe it's in a standard temperate Europe-like location. That's fine too. There's nothing wrong with this kind of location. People are pretty familiar with it and it doesn't add on extra work for you. Even a standard location allows you to introduce fun and interesting NPCs and monsters or tell epic tales.
What makes this game different? This is a question I like to ask myself about every game I write. What makes this game stand out from the others? It doesn't have to be anything incredibly in-depth. Maybe in your adventure the PCs are seen as the villains and have to clear their name. Maybe they just are the villains and get to run around doing evil stuff. What if it was a train robbery, but with aliens? You could even do a train robbery game where halfway through the xenomorph from the movie series Alien shows up. Or maybe there's nothing different about your game. That's cool too. Who doesn't love a dungeon crawl or rescuing someone from the clutches of an evil wizard. These kinds of games are a ton of fun.
Perhaps you don't think you'll know what to do. The only way to find out for sure is to give it a try. I like to start with a summary of how I want the story to go and a loose outline. These are just a suggestion of how the story is going to go. Don't try and force it to go this direction. Many of the games I've written in my lifetime changed drastically from where I thought they'd go.
If you're really stuck, sometimes it can be nice to pick up some premade games and see what those writers do. This can be a really great way to access the knowledge of generations of writers and stand on the shoulders of giants. You can see how they handled high intensity situations or perhaps role playing sections. I love to read and play other writer's work. It really gets the creative juices flowing.
Don't think you'll have the time to write something? I get it. Writing a game can be time-consuming. I wish I had more time to devote to writing, but life gets in the way. That's why if I have an idea, I try and write it down to come back to later. Sometimes the idea might not be enough at first, but I can combine a few ideas to come up with something really good. Even if I'm in the car or out on a run I try and jot it down as soon as I'm at my destination. Sometimes the ideas upon further thought aren't good, but that's ok. Scrap them and go on to the next thing.
It can be hard to carve out time to sit down and write something, but it's ok if it takes you a while to get it finished. Don't let anyone rush you. It's done when you say it's done. Some people do well with timelines set in stone, but you don't have to be one of those people to enjoy writing. If it takes you a year or two to complete, that's all cool. Maybe you never finish it. That's a shame, because I bet it was really good, but at least you get an appreciation for the people who have written games for you to enjoy.
Keep in mind that every idea you have and game you write might not work how you intended, but that's alright. If you're new to writing, you are likely to make mistakes. I do. Don't let it get to you. A lot of times, these mistakes won't derail your game as long as you keep rolling with it. Did they uncover that the mayor is really the secret main villain? Well they still have to catch them and convince the town that their leader is really a criminal. This could spiral your gameplan into something just as fun. You can take what didn't work and rewrite it for a second or third draft or even just take notes for anything you write in the future. Always try and learn from what doesn't work.
Is what I’m saying is, if you have interest in writing a game, you should do it. Writing a game can be a real rewarding experience and really help you as a player. It can be a lot of work, but if there is a kind of game that you want to exist, who is going to write it if not you? Even if you don’t complete it, the first-hand knowledge you get from it can help you appreciate the games you play and pen-and-paper rpgs as a whole.
But what if you have no interest in writing? No problem with that. You don't have to write to enjoy gaming. I know plenty of people that have no interest in writing. I play in way more games than I've written and run plenty games I didn't write. Don't let anyone make you feel bad for not wanting to. If your enjoyment comes from just playing or running premade games, then don't let anyone convince you to change. You be you you beautiful person you.