East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A new gaming project


I started working on a new roleplaying project – at the moment it is still very hush-hush, but it’s certainly the largest, most complicated RPG project I ever had to face: I’m designing a whole world, and I have to write about it in a way that will make it accessible to players.
The estimated word count comes close to 80.000/100.000 words.
That’s huge.


Writing for gaming is very different from writing fiction, it requires a much more delicate balance between invention and organization.
They don’t call it “game design” for nothing.

In a story I have a lot of maneuvering space – I can keep details off-screen, so to speak, and i do not need to have the world, the universe, fully formed in my mind.
I can play fast and loose.
Not so in a game book – all the details must be on the page, and they must be both written in a style that entertains the reader, and in a format that makes then logically organized and easily accessible.
I can’t leave anything out or “for later”, I can’t improvise.
And yet, at the same time, I must provide some maneuvering space for the player – because in the end, at the gaming table, this is not my world, it’s the gamers’.
Therefore I need to be complete but not exhaustive, I need to leave some stuff out – I must leave some blank spaces on the map, some barely sketched traits in the societies I describe, for the game master to add his own.
And, of course, for further sourcebooks to expand and fill-in – because yes, I already envision a line of sourcebooks, but no more than half a dozen.

Strange and different, as a way of writing.

2013-May-Worldbuilding-Magic-Scrolls-by-Tsabo6-300x300I’m doing the first draft in Scrivener – this one will be a first for me, as I’ve been using Scrivener for fiction only, so far. But the Scrivener software is perfect for collecting all the bits and pieces and managing all my notes and stuff, and will be able to handle a 100.000 words monster.
Cross-referencing and keeping track of things will be easier than by using a collection of txt files in a folder on my desktop.
Also, there’s an interesting piece on Campaign management with Scrivener, published on the Gnome Stew blog, and it is a good starting point to learn the ropes.

The going will be tough, but I have time, the basic concepts are solid, and I have a simple, sketchy index of the book.
I know what I want to do, and I have some basic references.
I’m collecting more.

So, I’m reading a lot, and writing a lot – balancing this writing with my other writing.
But here the different approach helps – when I get stuck writing fiction, I can “shift gears” and put some time into my RPG handbook, and vice-versa.

Reading of course is the fun part – fiction and non fiction, short stories, novels, memoirs, tourist guides and essays.
Checking facts.
Stealing good ideas – or comparing other people’s ideas with my own.

OPDKGWBE_500This was also a good opportunity to get me a copy of The Kobold’s Guide to Worldbuilding, a collection of essays by highly respected game designers and authors, published in 2012 by Paizo Publishing.
And yes, I know it’s a bit late, when you’re twenty pages in your own worldbuilding project, to start checking out expert advice, but hey, that’s my way of doing it.

And I’m collecting a lot of visual references – photographs, sketches, maps.
Graphics play an important part in gaming – and the more my ideas are grounded in solid images, the easier will be the job for the illustrator of the finished book.
In this, Pinterest is turning out to be a pretty handy tool – I can create a pinboard with all my visual references, and then share it with the rest of the design team.

Yes, ok, you say, but what’s it all about?
Will I provide more details?
That’s not for me to decide – publishing has its rules, and secrecy is sometimes required.
I can drop hints, but for a full disclosure, I’ll have to wait for orders from above.

In the meantime, I’m writing.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

7 thoughts on “A new gaming project

  1. I’m assuming it will be a new background book for SW, and in english only.

    Am i right ? πŸ™‚


  2. Glad to be wrong ! Something new is always refreshing πŸ™‚


  3. When you need beta players call my nuber πŸ˜‰


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