How to write an RPG campaign

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Abstract Engineer

Alien RPG Articles


How to write an RPG campaign

You are here because you are looking at how to write an RPG campaign. The good news is that you have found a great place to start. I’ve got the experience with quite a bit of content to back it all up.

This is a simple, unbloated, and to-the-point guide. Expect to find a guide on how to write an RPG campaign and not an article meant to confuse you with filler content.

MY BACKGROUND

I have played several tabletop RPG games. Some of the games I have played include Rifts, Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon Age, Gloomhaven, and Alien RPG.

I played Rifts back in the late 1990s and then in the early 2000’s I played my first D&D campaign. I played another campaign shortly after the first campaign wrapped up. Several years later, I played another D&D campaign with Dragon Age following behind. In 2021, I started playing Alien RPG and have been since.

I played several other tabletop RPG games, too. I also play a lot of video games with deep storylines. I’ve been doing all this for so long. While I have played many tabletop RPG games, Alien RPG is the first tabletop RPG I have run as the DM (Dungeon Master) or GM (Game Mother) as Alien RPG calls it.

HOW TO WRITE AN RPG CAMPAIGN

I could go on and on about my background but you’re not here for that. You want to know how to write an RPG campaign. Let’s get started.

THE SYNOPSIS

I use Halifax, my homebrew Alien RPG campaign, as a reference on how to write an RPG campaign. The reason is that the campaign is currently running, I write a lot of homebrew content for the campaign, and I have the most experience as the GM for a tabletop RPG with Alien RPG and the Halifax campaign.

There is no wrong way to write an RPG campaign and you will always choose what works best for you. However, I hope you will take my approach as an inspiration. The approach I took is what worked best for me. After two years and counting, I have no regrets about my approach.

FRAMEWORK

The books for the tabletop RPG you want to run are a framework that helps you write an RPG campaign. They give you the layout of how to run the game. You’ll find information about lore, building characters, equipment, combat, and more. You’ll want to keep these materials nearby while you run your campaign for reference purposes. It’s impossible to remember everything.

You’ll also need a framework for your campaign story. Come up with a backbone to your story. What is the story that you want to tell throughout your entire campaign? This will be the beginning and end of your campaign. You can either keep it as the main focus or you can pepper in details as you go. That all depends on how long you want your campaign to last.

LORE

To write an RPG campaign, you must become familiar with the lore. Tabletop RPG books tend to be bulky and loaded with lots of information. However, if you do not have a decent handle on the lore associated with the tabletop RPG, your story may not make sense within the world you are writing for. This may not sound important on the surface, but then what is the point of picking any tabletop RPG if you completely derail and do your own thing?

If you have no experience with the lore of a specific tabletop RPG, you have quite a bit of work ahead of you. You’ll need to read the manual to get familiar with the tabletop RPG lore. You won’t remember everything and that’s okay. Keep the books nearby so you can reference them while you run the campaign. If you have a PDF version, you can easily look up keywords.

WRITE THE END FIRST

Writing the end of the campaign from the start sets the foundation for the rest of the campaign. I figure that if I know the end game, I can write backward and break down how the campaign reaches the end. Here is how I break down the process.

STAKEHOLDERS

Your players are stakeholders but you also need NPC stakeholders. The stakeholders are a very important building block when you write an RPG campaign. There must be reasons why stakeholders are motivated to do anything. Motivation can be as simple as a job or as large as ruling the galaxy. Without stakeholders, your players wouldn’t have much to do.

PLANT SOME SEEDS

I started Halifax with a mystery. Something caused an explosion on their ship. When they were able to examine the damage, they found that the explosion left behind signs of alien tech. My players don’t know it’s alien tech.

Throughout the campaign, I have given them clues but they are subtle. I don’t want to make it easy for them but that is because I have a lot of story to tell so my subtlety is on purpose. I will make sure all is revealed when the time is right.

With all that said, this is how you plant seeds. Start at the beginning and let the seed grow as fast or as slow as you want it to. Give your players hints and make sure those seeds are never forgotten.

QUESTIONS

You can find me on Discord if you would like to ask me any questions. I’d be happy to offer advice or help you iron out some details while you write an RPG campaign.

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