You become better at what you continually do. Anyone who starts programming, is bad at programming, then they do it a lot until, as if by magic, one day they're competent. This is true not only of applied skills like programming but more abstract practices like finishing things. Computer role-playing games are large complicated projects made from a lot of different parts; story, graphics, quests, combat systems etc. Story is one of the things RPGs excel at and I want to help you come up with and write better stories.
How do you come up with good stories? Write a lot of them.
Thus was born the Thirty Stories a Month Challenge.
You can read more about the challenge here. But, succinctly, I challenge you to come up with around thirty stories in a single month! Of course before issuing such a challenge I did it myself and in this post I share my results.
Thirty stories is a quite a lot so this post is broken in two. You're reading the first part, the second part is here (there's also a link at the bottom).
If you complete the challenge you'll have a good pool of stories and you can pick the most intriguing for your projects.
If you repeat the challenge multiple times; you'll get better at creating interesting short stories and your treasure trove of stories will increase!
After doing the thirty stories a month challenge, it'd be quite rewarding to do another month challenge to refine the ideas:
- Expand the outline
- Add an important dramatic scene
- Broad strokes of one character
- Mysteries and weirdness for reader/player to ponder
Here are my stories.
Day 1 - Pod
- A boy, unconscious in an escape pod, hurtling through space. The computer trying to wake him. They crash-land on an isolated planet. The plant is in technological decline.
- Through round-about means, he and his computer companion, end up in the ancient capital in the hands of the ruling party. They want the computer. Boy discovers why the plant is dying. They're getting ready to kill the boy when rebels attack. The boy escapes but without his computer companion.
- With help tracks down the computer to an underground mine. There's an ancient seed ship the antagonists are trying to wake with the computer, they succeed and release a plague of monstrous creatures. Boy rescues the computer and survives several near misses to escape the planet using another ancient ship buried beneath the capital.
Day 2 - Pod II
I quite liked the idea of an opening scene with an escape pod, so I gave it another go!
- An ejection capsule hurtling through space, a computer trying to wake the sole passenger. Crash landing.
- The survivor finds a small town, settles down, helps solve their problems. Twenty years later he leaves for the big city on business and on returning, hears someone has been looking for him. Not only that, they've stolen his dog!
- A galactic bounty hunter, who's already killed the rest of the survivor's family, has spent the last twenty years tracking the survivor down. The survivor lures the hunter out of town and wounds him. A final show down occurs in the hunters ship and the dog is rescued.
Day 3 - Cyperpunk
Setting is a mildly dystopian cyberpunk future.
- You're an office-worker, who's an orphan and has submitted a DNA test. You get a message revealing your parents, they're dead but have left an estate. After meeting a lawyer you're given keys to a house.
- Exploring the house you discover your parents were part of a shadowy group. There are hints they had secret powers. You also discover your grandfather appears to still be alive and involved.
- Discover true ambitions of the shadowy group (world wide purge and control of procreation w/ a utopian goal), end up in a isolated bunker, with help from a hacking group to bring it down from the inside.
Day 4 - Serial Killer
On rereading this one, it's pretty morbid!
- While you're sleeping, someone breaks into your house and kills your sister. The FBI agent who comes to follow up is a mess and so you decide it's best to try and discover the murderer yourself.
- You and the agent arrive at the next murder scene (because of clues) to find an entire family killed. You team up due to both having complementary skills, info and approaches - reluctantly on both sides. The next scene an entire town has been murdered. Press is going crazy. Military also involved.
- Together you find the killer's home, discover the next target is a large government office. You both head there at full speed, he has helpers. It ends with show down on the roof and killer is thrown from the roof to his death.
Day 5 - Bard's Tale
A fantasy-ish world.
- Learn that by singing certain songs you're able to change the world.
- If revenants hear the songs they'll come for you. Hardly any singers remain.
- You sing the songs, turn the tables and hunt down the revenants.
Day 6 - Parasite Invasion
Another inherited house! I wonder if there's something subconscious going on there! This one is also far more vague and less story-like.
Backstory: Ten years ago, the bugs came. They attach themselves to the brain stem. 99.7% population have one. The ones who didn't get one died. Some animals got them too. Animals that didn't died. No one knows why, life basically continues as normal.
- Your estranged father dies. He leaves more money than you thought he had. Enough to quit your job for a few years and find something better, retrain etc but first you need to sort out his estate.
- He's one of the many crack-pots with some pet theory about the bugs. As you explore the house you find he was more serious than you thought. Eventually you see he's right about the bugs
- Can you convince enough people in time?
Day 7 - Reporter
- You're a reporter for a tabloid. Assigned to investigate a spate of deaths in hospitals reported by nurses.
- Through interviews and research you discover several commonalities between the patients. All the clues point to a location.
- You go to the heart of the place but will you be able to get back with the story and your life?
Day 8 - Vampires!
- Opening scene: You're chasing a vampire through deep dark dungeons. It's killed people you love. (You don't know but it's feral, vampires shouldn't kill so brazenly)
- It's leading you to a forbidden place. Over a few days, deeper and deeper into the earth. There are worse things than vampires in the depths.
- You discover the vampire origin story, they were a cure to something much worse; the bright men. The last brightman is still alive down here and you've brought him a chance to retake his power.
Day 9 - Scooby Doo
- Four tomb robbers rob an ancient tomb and steal priceless artifacts. You become aware of the case when the first robber is murdered in a ritualistic way.
- Discover it's a friend of one of the thieves, framing it as supernatural. You manage to catch him.
Day 10 - Noosphere
In 21XX the internet is ambient and has a direct feed into each human. Anyone can bring up directions, search a face they see in a group, identify a plant, ask the approximate nutritional information of some food in their hand, the artifice of user interface has fallen away. They can also push out to the web. If you look at someone in a crowd you can see the data they share.
- There's an exploit in the wild, rumors at first but it's true. There's a method to access anyone's most deep private sphere from the ambient web. (This is everything the last 24 hours of your vision, your movements, your notes, calls etc etc.). Even the corps and state cannot access this - it's supposed to be impossible.
- Politicians are being blackmailed. One is even killed using the exploit. Their information is splashed across public feeds; hypocrisies, secret shames, deviance. You're there to help try and resolve it.
- Through hard work and near misses you track down the hacker. It's a lone person. He's a unabomber type with a plan. A plan you're too late to stop and you're the first witness to the global quickening.
Day 11 - Ancient Secrets
This story hints at paranormal but never confirms anything supernatural is actually occurring.
- A cryptic email from the your Archeology Professor asking you to meet him in Cyprus. The day after tomorrow. It includes a money order to buy flights.
- Calling him and replying to the email results in nothing. A little concerned you book the flight. In Cyprus, he's gone. Some clues lead you to his assistant. She tries to kill you. You win her over. They've found something that someone powerful wants. Someone is after her. She doesn't know what happened to the professor.
- Hounded by a powerful pair of brothers, you manage to find the professors location, stop the brothers abusing the secret and disband an ancient cult.
Day 12 - Hamster-Dragon
Modern day. A man has a hamster/dragon/dog monster. If the monster doesn't eat every few days the man dies. The man has a morally dubious "code". Normal people - try not to eat. People who are assholes - ok to eat. Evil people - no problem, but it's actually rare to meet truly evil people in day to day life and he needs to feed regularly.
- Goes about his life, having his hamster dragon eat people.
- Discovers he's not the only hamster-dragon guy in the world. He searches and finds a society, there's a feud. A request is made of him.
- He complies with the request. He's captured by the enemy, with help from friends he escapes.
Day 13 - Superhero
An orphan. You can double your speed and strength for about an hour. After you must eat a lot.
- Discovery ability during home intrusion when you're a teenager and your adopted parent is killed.
- Feel guilt. Experiment with power. Hunt down the intruders who escaped. Then decide to try and clear up the slum you live in.
- You destroy and scatter the main criminal organization but the victory feels hollow. The slum isn't any better, you're just one in millions. You need to go bigger.
Day 14 - World War AI
Three AI's came about unexpectedly. The first anyone knew was a nuke over the US, then mainland China was flushed with neurotoxin (as well as much of the surrounding area).
Another AI dehumanised Moscow with drones, as well as major military bases. The area is a no-go zone.
- You're given a shot to resist the Chinese-poison and set in on a fact finding mission. On your own, all comms are blocked. The non-Chinese AIs are providing help and intel in an uneasy alliance.
- Through various adventures you discover the Chinese-AI is antihuman, he's going wipe clean the earth's surface and other AIs. Escape.
- Your original team has been destroyed (who?). The AIs have another plan for you to go back in. Through various adventures you cripple the Chinese AI and it blasts off into space, heading for mars.
Day 15 - Terraform
A comet crashes into a 1900s era Earth. A comet full of aggressive aliens. After months of initial panic and confusion there's a draft to go and fight.
- A young boy's older brother and father are drafted. Then early next year he too is drafted. He starts the month long journey to the comet site. Information is confused as is the resistance effort.
- Travels across the sea on an ocean liner full of fresh recruits. Then he meets up with his father and together they wear protective clothing and head into the comet area as part of a squad. While there, part of the comet ruptures and wasp-like aliens pour out attacking cities across the globe. The boy makes it out but everything is in chaos. He loses touch with his father and decides he needs to get back ensure his mother and girlfriend are safe.
- His home town is destroyed by the time he gets back, he manages to find and save his girlfriend (for now) but his mother is dead.