“Want to write a tabletop RPG, but aren’t sure where to start?” This headline stared back at me like it knew my soul. “Yes, yes I do!” I thought as I paid my $29 for access to a class that I hoped would change my life. Perhaps I shouldn’t put so much pressure on one month-long class, but the RPG Writer Workshop did change my perspective on writing and developing homebrew games.
According to the website, “The RPG Writer Workshop is an online learning community dedicated to helping tabletop RPG creators write, publish, and create new adventures and campaigns! The Workshop offers courses, forums, and resources for creators in the tabletop roleplaying industry.” It’s run by Ashley Warren, the “Chief Warlock” of the RPG Writer Workshop, former college English teacher, researcher, and literacy academic and now a writer, narrative designer, and communications specialist in the RPG industry for publishers including Wizards of the Coast, D&D Beyond, Hit Point Press, Onyx Path Publishing, Kobold Press, Astral TableTop, and more.
I asked Ashley about why she started the workshop:
“I had been producing ttRPG content for a few months by the time I decided to start the Workshop. I really wanted a hands-on community that was focused on learning more about our craft. I pulled on my prior experience as an educator to formulate the initial curriculum. I’ve always loved teaching and this was my way of giving back to the community.”
About the RPG Writer Workshop
What Worked For Me
The workshop only dropped a module per day. This helped me in two ways. First, as an overachiever, I could not go in early and do a ton of modules, then quickly burn out. Second, I was motivated to start writing daily and keep up that habit.
In addition to a fully written module with information, resources, and links, the workshop provided worksheets to help you think about your project on your own time. The questions in each worksheet helped you to further develop each of the pieces of your project. The first worksheet was a full outline to set up your working document for the entire project. Other worksheets included tools for developing story hooks and creating memorable NPCs.
Every module was full of links to a variety of related resources, but the most robust list was in the first section, which provided a plethora of resources for time management and getting organized. No matter your preference – computer or notebook, pen or typewriter – this section had it all.
Another impressive section full of resources was the Accessibility section. I was so glad to see this emphasized as not just something nice to do, but important to include in your planning from the beginning. Talk about best practices for inclusion!
Just when you weren’t sure if you could really get this project done, the workshop came through with pep talks from published authors. These were sprinkled throughout the workshop and often related to a topic we were currently working on. I think the one that really inspired me was You Can Make Things Better. “With each thing that we create, we have the opportunity to create a better hobby,” wrote Joshua Mendenhall as he talked about the challenges in the tabletop RPG industry. This resonated with me because I believe the work I’m doing with SHE is also trying to make our hobbies and fandoms beter.
What Didn’t Work For Me
Overall the workshop was great, and I highly recommend it. I only had a few nitpicky things that were more about my own preferences than about the workshop design.
Huge Discord Channel
Like many folks (including SHE), the RPG Writer Workshop has an active Discord. The workshop and courses have had over 7,000 people participate This ended up being a huge issue for me. As an introvert, I am already overstimulated by the general back and forth on big platforms like Facebook or Instagram. When you add in a ton of very enthusiastic people who want to encourage you and engage you in conversation, it’s easy to get immediately overwhelmed. I think I made one or two posts, and when my post about accessibility turned into a long conversation with many, many folks who weren’t all keeping up with the conversation, I was exhausted by the notifications and repeated information. I didn’t post again after that and my workshop experience was much pleasanter.
Writing on My Own Time
Despite the excellent pacing of the workshop, I had a hard time buckling down and writing the in between parts. I was great at following instructions and creating the pieces already assigned in the workshop, but when it came to adding the real meat of the project, I definitely let myself down. This is more of a me thing, but it’s possible including some mini modules to just remind folks of things to work on in-between would have helped.
Focus on Dungeons & Dragons
As with so much in the RPG industry, this workshop had a big focus on D&D and fantasy RPGs. They even offered an add-on workshop for anyone wanting to publish in the DMs Guild. My personal preferences lean toward systems like Powered by the Apocalypse and other more narrative based games. The Discord did have channels specifically for different systems, though, and that support was great.
Advice for Success
Super Heroines, Etc. offers a great program called Adventure Goddesses – this is where women and non-binary folks get an opportunity to GM for each other in round robin style. I asked Ashley about what advice she has for our participants: “Use your community to be inspired! It can feel scary to embark on a new creative endeavor, but know that people are rooting for you to succeed. Remember that it’s supposed to be fun and that the people you’re GMing want you to have fun.”
I think this is also great advice for succeeding in the workshop and courses. Remember it should be fun!
Again, overall, this workshop was amazing and I definitely got my $29 out of it. I have a halfway done piece that I feel confident I can finish. Plus I learned a lot about my own GM style and the stories I want to see told.
The workshop starts up again on November 1, just in time for NaNoWriMo.