RPGs are driven by story and setting. The world you explore, the people you meet and the way the world changes are the big appeal of RPG games. But how do you get a good idea for a story? The same way you get good at anything; practice. It's impractical to try and make one-hundred RPGs with intricate stories.
Luckily there's a more efficient way!
Partially inspired by #1GAM; the one game a month challenge, I propose a story base challenge #30SAM 30 stories in a month! For a single month I challenge you to come-up with a brief story outline each day.
The reward? Having your own treasure trove of story ideas to use in your projects.
This might sound like a ton of work but when I say outline I mean something very high-level and simple. Consider the story for Jurassic park; here's an outline in three beats;
- Dinosaurs are recreated and you're invited to the grand opening of new dinosaur park!
- The dinosaurs escape, daringly you avoid being eaten, outwit and contain the dinosaurs.
- Solving a number of problems you get to a helicopter and leave the island, vowing never to go to a dinosaur theme park opening again.
Is that how Jurassic park ends? I can't quite remember!
But hopefully this illustrates the high level nature of the story I propose. At this level any story you care to break down becomes quite basic and approachable. From the breakdown above could we even judge if Jurassic Park would make a good story? Probably not! But it's interesting and that's enough.
Three lines a day. You can do that.
The 30 stories in a month challenge is a device to get you writing every day, stop procrastinating and at the end of the month you'll have an wealth of stories ideas to use for future projects.
The amount of work is so little you should be able to do it every day, even in the downtime while in you're in a queue, or on the train.
What is a Story?
A story is whatever you want it to be. It's something you can use in a future project.
When I write a story I want it to have some progression, something happens, there's some conflict and I like stories that have giant robots and sci-fi of course!
Games and Story
Yes, games are interactive and each session is an unique experience that arises from interplay between player's actions and the designer's world. But all games have some story even if it's just set-dressing. Especially role-playing games.
Even if your game is quite actiony it's nice to have a story that explains the game world and gives it consistency and grounding.
Doing the work
When I did this challenge I started with a folder and a load of text files but then migrated to a single google doc. Sometimes I skipped days but because the work load was light I generally caught up. Sometimes I wrote a lot more, added scenes, background or character sketches but generally I just wrote a simple plot.
Totally stuck where to start? How about you trying an online tarot reading and creating a story based on the interpretation of the cards. (or go the Philip K. Dick route and use I-Ching.)
Not feeling that? Consider a story you love or one you hate. What would be awesome if it changed?
What are the stories you played out when you were a kid?
Have a read of the Hero's Journey, Save the Cat! or a blue print like this from Chuck Wendig.
- Yes tap in to your child-like imagination. Cat-robot that's also a spaceship that has adventures. That's great!
- No don't force yourself to write exposition and world building. The key is short and sweet.
- Yes just free flow, get it out and tell yourself you can always come back to tweak and develop it later.
- No you don't have to catch up if you miss a day.
- Yes you can write more than three lines.
- No it's doesn't have to be about characters, you want to tell the general story of a country or world, that works!
- Yes invite other people to join in!
- No don't worry about formatting, grammar or anything like that.
- Yes it's ok if it's silly, if you personally don't think it's all that great, if it's dark or personal, if it's based on existing IP.
- No you don't have to share, it can be our dark little secret.
But there aren't 30 days in most months!? It's more of an aspirational number than a precise target ;)
The end goal is stories!
If you decide to do this tweet about it with the #30SAM hash tag and let me know how it goes!