So you love writing RPG material, building worlds, and designing adventures for you and your players to explore. You may have even considered taking up the daunting task of writing at a professional level. This can seem very overwhelming to the uninitiated. It’s hard to know where to start and what resources to depend on.
When I began my journey as an independent game designer, I searched high and low for books that would help improve my writing and broaden my design philosophies. I was surprised at the kind of books that were readily available, as I greedily dove in head first. There is a lot of material to be covered, but the following list contains books that I have found useful, and should help get any beginning designer’s feet wet.
1) Design Patterns of Successful Roleplaying Games
A great way to design your own setting/game is to study others and see what makes them tick, and what makes them successful. Author Whitson John Kirk III takes this concept and runs with it, for 272 awesome pages. This ebook provides an in-depth analysis of what makes popular RPGs so great. Whitson is incredibly technical with his analysis, offering a lot of good information to those considering game design. The best part about this book is that it is free, and in the creative commons so it may freely be distributed.
2) The Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design
The folks at Kobold Press are constantly churning out useful guides for GMs and designers alike. Their game design guide covers a variety of topics, from core rules design to writing adventures. These essays are written by RPG veterans like Monte Cook, Wolfgang Baur, Ed Greenwood, and many others. Because this book has articles from so many authors, there is a wide variety of opinions and insight, giving the reader an array of perspectives.
3) The Kobold Guide to World Building
Now I know what you’re thinking, I have a book from the same company on this list. In my defense there’s a reason for that: both books are just that good. This guide contains essays that cover important concepts of setting design, such as what the players will be doing in the world, and what historical facts are necessary to flesh the setting out. This book is chock full of important concepts for world building, particularly if you want to sell that world to others for use.
4) Writing With Style: An Editor's Advice for RPG Writers
While you may be spending your time trying to figure out how to build a game, it’s also important to make sure you’re communicating with your readers properly. Ray Vallese has been editing RPG material for quite some time and was kind enough to put this experience to use for others. This book has tips on how to write for RPGs while making your writing style stand out. It also knows its readership well, it’s not simply writing style tips for just anyone. Mr. Vallese has been in the business long enough to see writing pitfalls common to RPG designers and how to avoid them.
Nathan Carmen is the founder and head writer of the Indie RPG company Tricky Troll Games. Nathan loves building worlds and improving his craft when he’s not busy parenting. Reach Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the TTG website at https://nathanccarmen.wixsite.com/trickytrollgames
Image Source: Cover for Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.