It happens to every GM, you’re playing a campaign, everything is setup for the huge encounter, your players vanquish their evil foe and get those really cool upgrades/level up to level 8 and then you’re just sitting there thinking to yourself “What next?” Writer’s block happens to all GMs at one point or another. Either you get so caught up on planning the current mission that you forget to look ahead, or maybe you’ve been GMing for the same group for multiple years with the same system and your idea well has just dried up. Don’t sweat it too much though because it happens to literally every content creator ever, including myself.
As a GM you have tools and resources at your disposal that can help you with this writer’s block and transition you into a new adventure plot. In this article I’m going to bring up a few tried and true methods that you can use for keeping your campaign alive without your players even knowing.
Luckily there’s a few things that GMs can do to beat writer’s block.
- Use a mission supplement to buy time. Mission supplements are quick, easy, and all planned out for any GM looking for an instant solution. I personally don’t like premade adventures for my campaigns when I can avoid them so I can keep my narrative autonomy, but sometimes finals week just keeps you from thinking about a campaign.
- Draw from your PC’s backgrounds. Players are the GMs greatest resource. They probably have backgrounds and some players will leave pieces of their lives unanswered. Use the PCs personal ties to come up with new storylines. This method of clearing up writer’s block will also be good for players because incorporating their characters like this will really engage them.
- Try freewriting. This is a general tip for any kind of writer’s block. The idea is to just write things down until you come up with an Idea. I have an ongoing thirty page google doc for exactly this. You can write about anything you want as long as pen is going to paper. Once you write long enough generally an idea will come to mind
- Talk to your players and ask them what they want to do next. This is probably the easiest approach when you run out of ideas. Just ask everyone for their character goals and more often than not you will find a good idea amongst the table.
- Put in some filler missions. Not every one of your missions needs to be an interconnected epic mission. Spend a couple of sessions aimed at balancing players power and letting your players digest the consequences of what happened to them. This is also a good time to reward players with any items that they were supposed to pick up earlier but managed to not explore the correct room.
- Read non-RPG material.If you are a GM then I have a feeling that you have a favourite author of some type. Use these authors stories as inspiration for missions, plot, and goals. I would suggest Terry Goodkind, or maybe John Scalzi (for sci-fi). We also have a post from Hunter about using books for setting and character inspiration.
- Stay calm and adventure on! It’s hard getting over writer’s block, but being frustrated and getting over writer’s block is nearly impossible. It happens all the time too because of how frustrating writer’s block is. It might not be a bad idea to just relax for a couple of minutes, then sit down with a beer and start a free write. If you’re over 21 that is!
There are of course other ways to beat writer’s block too. I have had to tell my party that I can’t play this week because I need more time to give them a quality adventure. Whenever I did that the party has always seemed more excited for next week and what the adventure has for them. You can always look at our article on starting up your game to look at some inspiration from a new ark as well.
If you’re looking for some good ideas from me to you of course I have a couple.
- Consider how long your players have been gone. If you’re players went to the other end of a country or another dimension for 6 months then the things in their hometown will not be the same. Maybe something like a new mayor who is a vampire, or their house was robbed. Using this for a small plot hook will bring a hometown to life instead of it just being a dumping ground for the players old cool stuff.
- Use your loose ends. In the end of the Lord of the Rings book series it ended with Wormtongue and Sarumon taking over the Shire. Frodo,Sam, and those foolish Tooks had to go back and clean house like the badasses they had become! The reason why they had to in the first place though was because of the loose ends they left while questing. Make sure you don’t leave unintentional loose ends. Not only can that be frustrating for players and makes your narrative messy, you can lose some very cool adventure ideas.
- Give them a classic dungeon crawl. I am always a fan of the classic crawl and this kind of adventure is a great way for players to get used to their new powers and abilities. It wouldn’t be crazy even for a beholder to have gotten into an old dungeon players have already cleared out. Of course if a beholder did that he would build all new traps and populate it with his own new monsters. Revitalising an old dungeon like this can buy you a whole new week to make an adventure and you would only need to change a couple of little things in the dungeon to make it happen.
As a GM it’s your job to make sure that you have written the best narrative possible but holding yourself to a non-stop, unique, David Moffat level narrative 24/7 is unfair to you. Think about the pacing of your game and find out when it’s best to add some filler then center it around your epic ideas.
Most of all remember games are made for fun. If quest planning is making you angry then be sure to take a break.
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