All posts by The Worldsmith

I am a young writer, creator, thinker and devoted fan of the fantasy genre. Over the years I have spent my time initially reading fantasy books but looked to further explore this genre by delving into pen and paper role playing games (RPG) in which I have spent many years yelling and screaming with my friends. As time passed my interests expanded into computer game RPG’s and MMO’s, films and even the odd fantasy theatre show in an attempt to satiate my interest in fantasy works. As my enthusiasm for RPG’s expanded I looked to develop a world in conjunction with some friends in which we based our adventures, wrote computer game mods for and wrote novels and short stories about. It is that setting that I have constructed The Worldsmith concept around and wish to share it with other likeminded fantasy fans.

Tips to Break Writers Block

Recently Youseph has started to write a Dungeons and Dragons adventure and is looking to post about the experience, so kudos to him for doing so.  When he initially said that he was going to write the adventure he mentioned the flurry of ideas he has and his excitement for what he was doing, a feeling I’m sure many of us are familiar with.

This got me thinking, what happens when those ideas dry up? Even the best of us go through patches where we are sitting in front of the screen or holding a pen poised above our note pads and you get nothing but net. As you try harder to think of things it seems to become more difficult to draw out any ideas and your mind runs a blank.  So where do you go from here how do you get into the grove and make the flow of creativity happen again, the pressure is on as your scheduled weekly or monthly game session is looming and you know as a GM that you need to produce something for the players to do, go or see.

So what I’ve listed below are a few ideas that have helped me to find my way out of limbo and back onto the path of creation.

  • This is the one I use the most as often writers block is generated through a lack of knowledge of the setting or the situation, this in turn brings on a bit of anxiety or frustration which compounds the problem. My advice first up is to take a deep breath or two and stretch your fingers, particularly if you are typing as opposed to writing. Then look to describe the broader setting of the situation do not focus exactly on what the players will be confronted with instead look at the surroundings or a much broader landscape. This will let you fill in gaps as you gradually narrow your focus, for example instead of cutting right to trying to work on a tense exchange of magical items that the players are negotiating with local underworld figures, start to describe in your mind or note down why they are looking to exchange the magical items. Was it an earlier quest line, was it through the request of one of the players or maybe you read about the concept in a magazine and thought it may be a good encounter for your players to experience.  Then look to think about the setting, will it be in a warehouse, in a sewer lair or through a magical portal? When you’ve got that ask why is it located there and so on.  I’m sure by now you get the idea but take the focus back as far as you need to start asking some questions of the situation you eventually want to get to and then drill down.  You’ll find this will not only get you out of writers block but also a more in-depth encounter for your players to experience.
  • This next one I love. Find things that remind you of what you are wanting to write about, for example to me when Dwarves aren’t drinking ale or whiskey they are drinking hot teas as their environments tend to be cooler climate mountainous regions so whenever I’m needing to write about Dwarves there is always a hot cup of tea beside me to sip away at. If you’re really keen then different clans might prefer different flavours but that’s a personal choice to go with.
  • Roleplay.  This is almost a strange thing to say as this concept should really come naturally to us all, but get into the spirit of the situation.  So if all you know is that the players meet a character who wears a cowled cloak, then go grab a cowled cloak from the cupboard and put it on.  For those who do not own a cloak then a throw rug does the job just fine. This type of improvisation and character affiliation works wonders to get into the persona of the NPC that your players will interact with and in a few minutes of putting on a voice and wearing your cloak/rug your mind will start to unlock and your back into the rhythm.
  • Go with your flow and your feel. A number of times I know I should really be working on a particular part of my project and products but my heart isn’t into that section and when I try to force myself to do that part I come up struggling. In these cases I simply go with what I feel like doing not what I really have to be doing and that way I circumvent the block after half an hour or so my mind has warmed up to what I need to be focusing on and I change to do that.

I hope you guys find some of these techniques useful; they are all things that I use whenever I get stuck with that most dreaded of enemies, writers block.

Market Research for RPG Product Development

The Bloodsoaked Lands Stemming from my last post on fantasy product design a reader asked me to go into a little more depth with regards to market research for fantasy products.  As they put it there is a great deal of difference between providing a game world for your mates and providing a game world for the larger fantasy community. So if you are just jumping into this conversation and wanting to catch up on part one or part two then check out those links, otherwise let’s get down to business …

To me there are two angles of research that you need to invest time in, firstly is what type of product do people want, this includes aspects such as content, format, accessibility, look & feel, design and after sales service. Secondly are aspects such as how will you look to distribute your product, how will people find you, what brand image you are looking to provide to the community, what position your product will have and who your competition is. Now both points one and two aren’t comprehensive they are just a small list of aspects that you can look at if you are interested in conducting some market research for producing a product.

Continue reading Market Research for RPG Product Development

Designs from the Mind – product development part 2

Welcome back for part 2 of my blog posts on RPG product development, for those who may have missed part 1 and would like to catch up with the conversation so far click here. For everyone who is keen to carry on, here we go…

So we’ve got our idea, done some market research, and worked out who we are looking to target with our product and now in steps the search for format. In my case it wasn’t viable to look at hard copy products at this stage as being an indie author I believe I can get more bang for my indie budget buck by producing electronic products and in this instance a pdf was my preferred option. This not only gave me a realistic product type but a product that will be able to be viewed pretty ubiquitously and across different formats from computers to phones. So a big win there. As a side note my yearn for accessibility was driven by feedback from a survey I took about e-products, the results of which can be found here.

Next was the hurdle of making my game world actually attractive to people to purchase as there are some big issues with this type of product due to a large aversion for change. Realistically my total market will be small in comparison to other segments such as adventures however I see it as also being the most rewarding. So in my mind some of the greatest hurdles come from loss of knowledge, the GM now has to pretty much throw away everything that they knew about their current or previous world and learn mine, players on the other hand don’t have this as much of an issue as part of being a player is discovering the lands and surroundings so if it’s all new then there is more opportunity, scope and excitement. So with much of my work I’ve tried to provide player opportunities associated with societies, classes and areas as well as adventure hooks to help highlight possible ways in which players can interact with aspects of the world or how those aspects and organisations would influence the player’s progress. I think that this is important as it helps to bring about some engagement for GM’s and players alike as they read through my products.

So who is my game world aimed at, essentially people who are just starting up with fantasy role playing or coming from a different genre into fantasy, GM’s tired of their old world and looking for something new to challenge their players with and GM’s who are looking to switch campaigns and looking for a new setting.

With all of these aspects understood and worked out I set to writing and after a metric ton of writing and typing I had a proof of my product, then set about doing three things simultaneously. Firstly was to organise and send my product to three separate editors. As an impoverished indie writer I had to rely upon friends and family as opposed to a professional editor so I had to choose who edited my work very carefully and found a group of people who would look at the work from different angles and who actually knew how to edit properly. Secondly was to organise artwork. For this I decided that I would put all my cash into the cover art for the initial release and use the funds generated from ‘early adopter’ sales to build in artwork throughout it at a later stage, and as a reward for those who did purchase early in the piece I do thank you and when The Blood Soaked Lands is updated I will be sending you a free upgrade for your support. Thirdly was to learn some software that would allow me to design my product, in the end I went with Scribus and am very happy with how it turned out, its relatively easy to use and gave me the functionality such as embedded hyperlinks and display options that suited the look and feel that I was going for.

So several weeks later when all the editing was collated, the cover art and map work done, I put it all together and produced The Bloodsoaked Lands. A piece that I am proud of and a work that I hope you will consider if you are looking at a new world setting or just a new setting to be placed within your current world.

As a sneak preview of my second work I have provided below an excerpt, this is a small section that details the mindset of one of the people within it, a nation of tribes known as Gracia.

“I place the soles of my warm deer skin boot softly upon the ground; their supple hide base makes little noise upon the ground cover.  My shins part the leaves of the ferns that make a green blanket for the forest, covering it a foot and a half above the soil. The air is still damp from the night time rains and all around me I can hear the dripping of water from the leaves as the last of the rain drains from the canopy above to the forest floor.  There is little breeze this morning and my warm breath clouds in the chill air as I exhale. The forest is clear now, the fog of the morning has lifted and it has been cleaned from the previous rain. I have marked my body with woad to signify my intent to others, now it is time to hunt.

Looking to my left I can see my uncle, he is crouched against the trunk of a large tree, his bear skin cloak wrapped around him as he waits patiently, in his hands is a fine bow and although I cannot see it I know that he has an arrow knocked ready to release at a moment’s notice, he is a skilled hunter and in the absence of my father he has taught me all that I know.

I take a few steps forward and like my Uncle I rest my back against a nearby tree and search for my brother.

It is not long before he reveals himself and with a hand motion he signals for us to move. He has spotted our game and now it is time to make a kill and then it will be time to feast.

This is our world and this is my part in it.”