“I don’t believe in writers block. Do plumbers get plumbers block?”
— Django Wexler
So writing has been my new big hobby. I am now running two campaigns and write in one of two blogs each week. I am slowly drafting a real book or novella. I am in the middle of Story by Robert McKee, a book about crafting story and making the most of your words.
I was bound to encounter this writers block I kept hearing about. And its proving a difficult thing to overcome! Specifically I’m encountering this with the Rogue Trader campaign. I have a ton of content written up already and is just waiting for me to flesh out, but the last story arc of the campaign is eluding me. I’ve work-shopped it a couple times, and the ideas are pretty alright, but I’m having quite a time trying to fill out interesting and unique quests.
Past posts I’ve made have put forward the strong ideas I have about narrative and goals in story writing. My goals for the Rogue Trader campaign are to have a campaign that my players have a vested interest in, and I always want it to be actionable by the players. The moment that I run a campaign and I’ve talked for more than five minutes I feel like I’ve failed. Its a role playing game, and I never want to have my players become bored listening to me talk.
I want to keep my players engaged, and much like a video game, I keep trying to play to their innate desires as characters and players. Players want to have fun and do things while their characters can have fun, emotional arcs through the story. My players with few exceptions give me very little to work on that front. I’ve asked them for more to work with and I’ve begun role-playing exercises meant to try and make them think about their characters in complex ways. However, this has availed me very little.
I press on though, and that’s suitable. I feel like I’ve blown through all of my unique ideas though. The remaining ideas I have for quests don’t align or link up to form grand, overarching ideas. It feels mishmashed and I hate it. The quests I want to write have interconnecting threads, themes, and motivations that make sense and are possible.
I don’t want to fill in the blanks with meaningless filler just to navigate towards something I want to do. Tools like that cheapen the effect I’m going for.
I hate NPC’s that have emotions or motivations that translate to “convenient for the GM.” Having combat encounters for the sake of keeping the players entertained is almost always a poor idea, at least in Rogue Trader. If I have a hive gang attack because they are looking to score some cash, the players will assume that they must’ve been sent by somebody.
I can’t really elaborate on the questline I need to flesh out because one to two of my players read this and it would be wiiiiiiiiild spoilers. I have some cool moments I want to navigate through and I don’t want to rob them of the experience.
There are a number of things I’ve read about doing to try and clear my problem but it doesn’t feel like it works.
- Keep writing anyway. Stuck on one part? Write another until the problem clears itself up!
My issue is that my next big hurdle is campaign order and structure. Which quests happen in which order. Since I don’t even know what the individual quests hold, I can’t even do placeholders! Maybe I’m over thinking it?
- Back up and try something else. Write a bunch of scenarios and see which one is the best!
This has failed me. All the scenarios I write feel like they lose something personal and begin to feel like filler. If a scene or an act doesn’t have a premise and a meaningful conclusion I feel like its pointless. Now I get as a role-playing game these things can be fun because the players make it their own but all I keep coming up with is “Go to location. Do the thing. Return.”
But its Rogue Trader so I need to try and write things in such a way that the players don’t fly away out of boredom or blow it all to hell. This is why Dark Heresy is the #1 Warhammer 40k system: there are no fucking spaceships.
- Don’t try and jump in and write. Make the outline, then the draft, then write it.
I love this one, and its how I actually usually write my quests. This is what I’ve been currently trying but since I’m stuck with even the core idea of the quest line I still feel stuck, even when I begin to list out segments and settings.
On top of all of this: the campaign is continually marching on. I can’t take a month to work on it since my players expect to play every other Saturday. And if I take a month off to work on it, something else will fill that RPG void and I’ll lose my platform to run my campaign.
I acknowledge that I’m probably wildly overthinking this. My difficult has always been brainstorming and coming up with ideas. I’ve never felt deeply creative. Many of my friends are an endless font of inspiration and ideas, but I feel like I struggle to even come up with set pieces.
My players are finally on the trail of the story at large. I’m hoping this is the event that kicks my brain into gear. I usually produce good work at the eleventh hour. I learned this in college- all nighters were my bread and butter. I don’t want to work that way, but we will certainly see what happens.