Write the RPG You’ve Always Wanted During GamoWriMo — the NaoNoWriMo Spinoff for TTRPG Nerds
It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month — also lovingly referred to as NaNoWriMo. Last year, Dael Kingsmill proposed a twist on our classic NaNoWriMo called GamoWriMo. The premise of NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write at least 50,000 words of a novel in a single month. GamoWriMo’s challenge was similar: take the niggling idea for an RPG campaign that just won’t leave you alone and get it to a playtest worthy state before the end of the month. Both challenges emphasize getting words on a page as opposed to immaculate quality.
A campaign for your campaign
While Dael herself isn’t spearheading things as a proper event this year her innovation and inspiration have got many still attempting the challenge once more this year. Though the pandemic looms, threatening to bear down on those who might dare to dream this year, let’s band together to make this effort a reality!
Regardless of your previous familiarity or participation in NaNoWriMo this challenge is a great way to prep the campaign you’ve been dragging your feet with. Who cares if we’re halfway through the month? Just work to get words on the page now.
Let’s start walking through the steps of how to get this done and earn a sense of accomplishment before the month is out, and hey! Maybe this is exactly the kick in the pants you need to monetize your work a bit, stepping into something like DriveThruRPG or Dungeon Masters Guild?
I recently posted a video on my YouTube channel with ideas to help people succeed at NaNoWriMo and many of the tips apply to GamoWriMo as well.
Where do I start?
Chances are you already know the answer to this question. Usually it’s an overarching concept — a Big Idea. It might be an elevator pitch for a campaign you’ve been mulling over for weeks or even months! Since GamoWriMo is all about actually producing the thing you’ve had on the brain for a while you’ve probably got this first step of the journey down. If anything it’s probably the most maddening of them all because you’ve been here for so long.
If you’re at a place where you have a very specific idea but don’t know how to frame it I like to visit SpringHole.net. It’s a generator with random campaign prompts and idea fodder galore. Mix and match to your heart’s content! Just make sure not to sink all your time there, wasting precious hours of work on your actual campaign project.
What if it all seems too big?
Every campaign is made up of encounters. Sometimes these encounters focus on roleplaying and interacting. Others, you’re exploring the world or some other environment, solving puzzles or overcoming obstacles. There are times downtime is the name of the game and players have to decide how to spend extended amounts of time. And of course there’s the quintessential combat encounters to keep things exciting and suspenseful.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of your project try breaking things down into individual encounters. Just as every television show and movie is broken into individual scenes the same is true of RPG campaigns. Each encounter is like its own scene. If you can finish just one scene in a setting, congratulations! Not only have you gotten something done but you’ve also got probably half a night or more of game prep completed.
Breaking projects into smaller chunks is not only a great way to make a big job more manageable but it’s generally applicable to many facets of life.
What if I get stuck?
This isn’t so much of a “what if” as a “when this happens” scenario. It’s going to happen. Very rarely will you sit down to complete a project like this and the whole thing just writes itself. The key is knowing when to power through your inspiration block and when to move onto a different aspect of the campaign. Sometimes you just need a break to experience a story instead of writing one — refilling the well, as author Alexa Donne puts it.
The key to getting stuck is to keep moving. The longer you stare blankly at the screen or page the harder it is to move past it and continue making headway. Return to the confounding bit once you’ve finished something else. This helps keep your sense of accomplishment and productivity up.
What should I look out for?
Beware rabbit holes! I cannot say this enough. If you love worldbuilding as much as I do it’s easy to spiral down the rabbit hole of worldbuilding. If you’re making a sandbox style RPG then good for you! You’re exactly where you want to be. For anyone else trying to tell a story with their campaign with a beginning, middle and end, rabbit holes are your enemy.
As you’re building your world make sure to occasionally check in with yourself and ask, “How likely is it the players will come across this information?” If your answer is “Not very,” you need to consider if you’re okay with this. When a Game Master makes tiny details obscure and players stumble on them this can be a really cool discovery emphasizing just how much work the GM put into their preparation but for every tidbit the players encounter there’s likely to be a handful that never come into play. While worldbuilding is all well and good make sure you know your own limitations and perspectives on it and don’t get too hung up on aspects that don’t pertain directly to the game you’re trying to write.
What do you think?
Overall, GamoWriMo can be a fun and rewarding experience and Dael Kingsmill is an absolute genius for figuring out this creative way to retool NaNoWriMo to be more inclusive. Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Are you doing GamoWriMo this year? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments — and feel free to share about your own work there! You can also explore Nerdarchy the Discord and connect with other writers and creators here.