Similarities and Differences Between Writing for RPGs and Prose

Years ago I had someone that I know slight my writing for RPGs versus other kinds of writing.

I’ve often thought that there isn’t a difference between the two kinds of writing. Is there, however? Is it the same?

Yes and no.

The Yes

Thanks to independent publishing, there's no difference between the two mediums (pun unintentional). You still need a good editor, good cover and interior art, and good revisions. Formatting for Kindle or EPUB can be done with Scrivener, and there are many free PDF creators. Even the Scribus DTP

Scrivener logo

program (open source and free) can export projects as PDF.

Scribus logo

If you go through another company there is a contract, art is commissioned, there is a publishing schedule and advertising — although with small presses (most of my projects have been small press work) they appreciate you doing your own promotion.

Some of the rules for writing fiction are valid here too: secondary characters Should be written to be memorable, locations for scenes should be vivid, and a game referee should describe everything well.

The No

Where games are different is plot. You can plan a story, but there’s a saying:

”No matter how much planning, no story holds up to the players.”

This was driven home to me in 1994. I had come home in the summer of ’03 from GenCon (the annual mecca of gaming, then in Milwaukee. I was one of several prize-winning gamers from Montreal), and had a great experience there live action gaming… so I helped to plot a similar game for a local convention.

The result was a disaster. The players didn’t follow the plot written, and we 3 refs couldn’t pull it together. It was a game we mercifully forgot about.

Since then I’ve only written characters and locations for games, and left plotting to betters. I also stopped seeing writing for games fully as similar to fiction-writing.