Tuesday 8 November 2011

How to write a free RPG - Prologue

In this series of posts, you will learn how to create free pencil and a paper RPG from scratch. It covers Inspiration, Research, Writing, System, Setting, Organisation, Testing and Publication. This guide might be useful for commercial games but it is really intended for the hobbyist who has an idea in their heads and needs to flush it out before the therapy bill sky-rockets. The guide is arranged in steps, each step split into instructions and example. In the example, I will be building an RPG as I go. Each step has work for you to join in to.

Please do not be upset by the authoritarian language I use. At no point in the future will masked FRPGB Police smash down your door with a printed copy of the monolithic Fear RPG if you fail to comply. I use curt language so that skim-readers can get benefit too.

What you need

To design a free roleplaying game, you will need the following tools.
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Computer
  • An install of a free document creator with PDF output such as Scribus
  • An idea


Have you ever played a roleplaying game? Then you possess ample qualifications for writing one. There is a roleplaying game in each and every person who has played one. If you have the will and an idea then this guide will show you how.

Creating an RPG demands perspiration and perseverance. It is daunting to think about the end result: a book packed full of rules and ideas that can be used by a group of roleplayers to entertain themselves for many sessions of play. Scared? That's OK. Being terrified is normal. Instead of worrying about the end result, expect the anxiety and lunch on the fear. You're not the first to feel this way, you won't be the last.

Do not give up. Not unless I say so. When you feel yourself flagging, go to your favourite community and post up your entry. If you're not in a community, get into one. Try 1000 Monkeys, 1000 Typewriters (1KM1KT), it is a community for writers of free RPGs, just like you.

Do not plan to wait for the finished game but release often and in small increments. It is much easier to keep up motivation if others are following your progress and giving you support.

Using a notebook

The common tool for all writers is a notebook. Keep one with you at all times. Although I have a powerful smartphone/laptop/desktop/digital device, it is much easier to scribble down an idea - perhaps with a picture - on paper. Moleskines are globally recognised as the standard but a notebook is a personal item and should be easy to carry everywhere. Find one that fits your pocket. Have a pen handy too.


The Chgowiz RPG

I am creating a game as an example of the techniques I've described in this series. It will only be a simple affair for the purpose of demonstration. I've decide to create The Chgowiz RPG that I suggested in my previous guide. Chgowiz is sadly no longer blogging but as a gesture of thanks, I'm going to write the game anyway. Where you see the little icon on the left, it's an example from the game.

The Chgowiz RPG is not finished yet - hopefully it will be by the time this blog series completes.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I literally just started working on a free rpg. Can't wait for the next installment.

Emmett said...

Nice work Rob! Are you planning on having the book out on the blog by the end of the month or is it going to be longer than that? I know you've been working on this but didn't know if you were already done and just releasing or it's still a WIP (work in progress).

Rob Lang said...

@wegetgeek. The next instalment is there!

@Emmett. Thanks! The chapters should go up on the blog in weekly bouts. I have done large parts of the game, so hope to get it finished by the end of the series. So, that's January time.

Oniwolf said...

I have decided to follow these steps to try and design something fun for me and my friends. Wish me luck.

JJ Rangel said...

Hi, Rob. Can I translate this guide to the guys of Brazil (giving you the credits and links)?

Rob Lang said...

Please do and good luck with the translation!

JJ Rangel said...

Thank you!