Nine Steps to RPG Creation 101

Discussion in 'RPG' started by Saravelda, Feb 12, 2011.

  1. Saravelda Kingdom Key Wielder

    So you’re an RPer, but you’re browsing the current going-ons in our very own RPG section and stand disappointed. “Well, crap.” You say. “There is absolutely nothing that interests me.” You say. Well that is a deterrent, isn’t it? Unless, of course, you want to create your own RP.

    “But Sara! What if we don’t know how to create our own RPs?” You might ask. This is a valid point and a bit of a problem, I suppose. However, fortunately for you, this is also a problem that is easily remedied. Have a basic idea of how to create RPs, but aren’t too terribly confident in your abilities? We can help you fix that too.

    Obviously nobody can magically make you a master RP creator overnight. Things, unfortunately for all of us, (because if I were that awesome of a teacher, I wouldn’t be doing odd jobs just to make rent) just don’t work that way. This is where I get all cliché and tell you that your best tutors will be those obnoxious and shady characters in that corner over there named “practice” and “experience”. However, I can (and will) give you ten fairly simple steps to put you on that elusive track called “the right direction”.
    Step into my office.

    Mistress Sara V's
    -Nine Steps to RPG Creation 101-


    Step One: You need a basic idea.

    Go ahead. Groan at me if you will. But the truth is, if you don’t have a basic idea, you’re not going to get very far. At all. And by basic idea, I mean really basic. What type of RP are you looking for? Do you just really want to be part of an RP where you and your friends run around and shoot lasers at each other? Do you want to run around with a magical staff? Do you want to do something as simple as “save the princess?”

    Got your idea? Perfect. So do I. For the sake of example, I’m totally running with the “Saving the space-princess by firing lasers” idea.

    Step Two: Why you’ll wish you paid attention in Geography/Social Studies.

    The second thing you have to decide is your setting. A lot of people overlook this one too, but it’s also really important. Your world- your setting- is the backdrop to everything and real rulemaker. For example, if you’re doing an RP in Victorian England (I’m not sure why you would, but just go with me on this), you’re probably not going to be having magic users (unless this is an alternate Victorian England) and you’re most likely not going to have people running around with flamethrowers or chainsaws (unless you’re going steampunk. Are you seeing where I’m going with this?) At this point, you have two options:
    1. You can use a pre-existing world. That includes the one we live in, or pre-created worlds. If you want to do a fan-based game, obviously you would be using a world that is pre-made. You need to know the rules of this world and how things work. It probably helps to do your research.
    2. You can create your own setting from scratch. This is both really fun (as you kind of get to play God, here), but also more work. Think of your favorite anime or video game. How much though goes into the little details of those worlds and settings? You need to put serious thought into these things. Dieties, countries, cultures, customs, ect. Remember, you also need to be able to explain this well enough to your players so they feel comfortable playing around in your world. I’m not saying to skimp on details, but I’m also saying be prepared to explain the details.

    Sticking with my example, I’m going to say that my space princess is being held on an alien planet with technology way below my own. Set 2000 years in the future. Now that I’ve made this decision, I have to fill in the details- like the planet’s name, the alien race(s) that populate said planet, climate, whether or not the aliens can use magic, ect. It’s 2000 years in the future, so I can probably use all sorts of cool technical gadgets by now, but I’m going to choose not to let my humans use magic.

    Step Three: Otherwise known as “What the Hell are we doing here?”

    Ah yes, we’ve arrived at the dreaded point. Rather, the dreaded plot point. I know the issue of plot in an RP is hotly debated. There are some GMs that like to plot out every little thing their party will undergo throughout the entire course of forever. On the other hand, there are also GMs that provide very little plot at all and let the characters themselves drive the story. The truth is- neither one of these methods is technically right or wrong. They’re all a matter of preference. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest a happy medium between the two approaches.

    If you’re going to get in a car with someone, you usually want to know that they know where they’re going. Your players, for the most part, are going to want to know this too. They’re going to want to know that you know where you’re headed with this. I’m not saying you must have everything scripted out down to the letter, but it does help to at least have some vague plot outlines. Keep a vague outline. Yes, even if you’re the type of person to make things up on the fly.

    Think of your whole RP as a car. You, the GM, are the driver and your players are the engine. If your engine is running just fine, all you need to do is steer it in the right direction. However, if your engine stalls or you start to slow down, you need to be the one to step on the gas or look under the hood and see what the problem is. Now, if you didn’t think ahead to at least a basic plot, then not only is your engine stopped, but so are you- which means the car is really not going anywhere.

    That being said, keep your plot points vague and flexible. You need to be adaptable. You only control the setting, not the players themselves. One of them might do something way out in left field that never occurred to you that throws something off. Then you need to adjust. You need a map, but you also need to be prepared (and willing) to take detours.

    Back to my example: Who kidnapped the space princess in the first place? Where is she being held? Why? Why is it important that we rescue her? What obstacles will we face along the way? Who are our allies? Who are our enemies? Basic stuff like that.

    Right. Let’s move on.

    Step Four: Know Thyself.

    Or rather, know your GM character. Your GM character, in case the title isn’t self-explanatory enough for you, is the character you will be guiding everyone though your game with. It’s through the eyes of the GM character that you get to tell your story and lead the party. It may have never occurred to you before, but this is actually pretty important. How many times have you dropped an anime/TV series or, stopped playing a video game, or stopped reading a book because you just wanted to bash the main character in the face with the nearest solid object handy? I can think of a few off the top of my head. You want your players to like the GM character- or if not like him, then at least think s/he’s interesting. And you really don’t want him or her to rub them the wrong way.

    Character types that I’d shy away from for a GM character:
    • Dark and brooding. Aside from being cliché (although, I suppose your mileage may vary), these character types are usually not terribly sociable. And in order to actually lead, you kind of need to talk to the other characters. Trust me, there will be plenty of this type of character in your cast list to make up for it (see my comment above about this type being cliché. (Note: I’m not saying s/he can’t have a troubled past and have secret angst or anything. They just need to be halfway sociable.)
    • Painfully shy. Now I’m not saying they can’t be a LITTLE shy. I’m also not saying they can’t play the part of the newly appointed leader that’s unsure of his or her abilities to lead. But again, you need to be able to talk to people.
    • The Jerkass. This character always has smart-alek comments for everything and is an all around jerk to just about everyone. A tip? Nobody’s going to follow you if they don’t LIKE you.

    You also need to know your character’s motives. Take my example. We’ll say my character is the Princess’ younger brother and his name Vladimir. Why does he want to save the princess? Well, because she’s his beloved little sister Sasha. Easy. Obviously you want to flesh out more of the character than just “Hi, my name is Vladimir and I love my sister”, but this is just a bare-bones example. This whole thing is long enough as it is.

    Step Five: Dazzle me

    (First person to make a Twilight reference here will be ceremoniously staked.) Now you have your ideas, your setting, your plot, and your own GM character. Congratulations! NOW, you get to start doing that writing step that I’m sure many of you just jump immediately to. Your written RP premise usually goes at the beginning of your RP thread or in the designated OOC/signup thread. Personally, I’m going to recommend that separate OOC/signup thread because I like things to be clean and organized. But obviously this isn’t required. This premise is what draws people into your game. See, they’re not privy to all that cool stuff that just went on in your head. This right here that you’re about to write is all they know about this awesome game that you’re about to start.

    This is usually split up into a minimum of three parts.

    1. The background/summary. This is where you answer the good ol’ question of “What’s going on and why the Hell should I care?” This is where you’re either going to hook your potential players or lose them. It usually helps to phrase everything in a more entertaining way than “This is what we’re doing. Kay?” Think of this as the back of a video game or book. That summary on the back? It helps to aim a bit more for that type of “OMG WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT?!?!” sort of style. (Without the chatspeak or capslock. These are the fastest ways to incur the wrath of your friendly neighborhood RPG section mods. At least this one.)
    2. The character sheet. This is usually customized to the GM’s preference, but usually include the basics like: Name, Age, Sex, Appearance, Weapons, Abilities, ect. Some GMs choose to include Backgrounds and Personality, but this is really just a matter of personal preference.
    3. Rules. These are usually the same for every RP with a few variations here and there. If you need help, check out the official RPG section rules that Spade was nice (and by nice, we mean awesome) enough to type out for you in plain and fully comprehensible English. If you want your bios PM’d to you rather than posted in the thread first, here might be a good place to mention that.

    In the interest of space (because this thing is already TL;DR wall of text already), I’m not going to type out a sample RP premise with Vladimir and his quest to save the virtue of his beloved older sister. What you CAN do, however, is go to the OOC threads section and look at a few examples. Some notable examples include this right here, something a little more intricate, and something pretty detailed.

    Step Six: Open the floodgates.

    Okay, so maybe floodgates is pushing it. You’re most likely not going to get 220342.5 applicants to your RP in a day- or ever. But you’re not going to get any if you don’t finally post that premise from step six in a thread and open things for business. If you want a separate sign up/OOC thread from in-game (which, again, I highly recommend), then make sure you’re putting it in the right section. Make sure you post your bio for your GM character too! (But it’s also a good idea to wait until someone else posts first. Double posting rules and all.)

    Step Seven: And now, we wait.

    And wait. And wait. Actually, you probably shouldn’t wait too long, but you should give people enough time to figure out a character and apply. I say anywhere from 3-5 days is a good period to wait. If you want to pimp your RP to your other RP friends, that’s cool. Just don’t freak out when you don’t get like…seven applicants the very first day you post it. Give people time.

    Step Eight: Get the party started

    It, ladies and gentlemen, is showtime. You know what to do. If you don’t know what to do- that’s a lesson for a different time. Kick off the RP with a bang- action sequences usually work much better than “let’s all stand around and get to know each other.” It sets a quicker and more exciting pace. But, of course, it’s up to you.

    Step Nine: If at first you don’t succeed-

    -don’t get discouraged, crawl into a hole, and vow to never write another RP again. Remember those shady characters named “Practice” and “Experience” that I mentioned earlier? This is where you meet them. There is no guarantee that your first RP will be awesome. If it’s not? It’s not the end of the world. If it’s horrible? You’re in good company- most of us that write RPs all the time wrote some really (and I do mean REALLY) bad ones. Just write another one. Chances are, you’re going to get better with each one you write.

    Questions? Comments? Concerns? We can totally address those below.
  2. Hellis Wyvern

    I approve this so much. Also, you might wanna add that A GMPC doesnt HAVE to be the lead. It all depends on story telling style. Obviously however, as you stated, they are a tool which the GM can use to move plot forward.

    Again, great initiative.

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