June 15, 2021

Breaking Out Of Tabletop RPG “Writer’s Block”

We’ve all been there: you’re rolling right along with your tabletop RPG worldbuilding and you just hit a brick wall. Nothing is coming; the steady tide of inspiration seems to have totally dried up and you aren’t sure where – or even how – to move forward.

So today’s Worldbuilding Monday post contains some tips and tricks to help break you out of that cycle – and get you enjoying & loving the process of creating playable stories again!

The Root of “Writer’s Block”

When we hear things like “writer’s block,” it conjures images of an immovable object separating us from our source(s) of inspiration. If only that block would just move a bit out of the way, we could continue on working on our journey. But that mentality becomes a self-defeating cycle as the block only seems to increase in size and intensity, right?

Instead, focusing on examining the root of writer’s blocks helps shed light on a solution. Similar to how muscles build up lactic acid when you exercise, when your brain is consistently pressed creatively, it can become less and less effective over time. Like energy in your body, creativity in your brain can be thought of as a finite resource.

And when you’re trying to design a session, campaign, or any other aspect(s) of your story-world, you’re eventually going to run out of creative fuel and will hit that dead end. Not only is that normal – it should be expected! There’s nothing wrong with you – there’s nothing wrong with your story – you just need to acknowledge that, for the time being, you’ve hit your limit.

A New Step in the Cycle

Replenishing that well of creative energy is absolutely paramount to getting rid of writer’s block. Worldbuilders should strongly consider adding an incredibly underrated – and underappreciated! – regular step into their story-creation process: replenishment.

At various intervals, milestones, or discretionary moments in your worldbuilding process, try and take a step back from your story. Relax your mind and let it wander. Listen to music, go for a walk, hang out with friends. Taking your mind off your story for a reasonable period of time is critical once you’ve hit that brick wall.

Then, before jumping back in whole-cloth, ease yourself back into it by exposing yourself to the sources of inspiration you know work. For me, it’s certain types of music. For others, it’s art or books, or movies & videos games. Whatever it is, don’t just immediately jump back into creating your story – get a head-start by getting the creative juices flowing in a pressure-free environment.

Similar to a Chinese Finger Puzzle, the irony here is that the more you try and push through the writer’s block, the stronger it becomes. But when you take your self away and ease yourself back in, you’ll be right as rain.

The Happiness of Tabletop

When you add creative replenishment as a step in your tabletop RPG worldbuilding process, you’re greasing the wheels of the process as a whole. Instead of grinding to a halt, you’re strategically allocating your mental resources.

When that’s a process you can expect – and look forward to! – and you’re removing numerous sources of frustration and anxiety from your work, I can promise you that you’ll be a lot happier. Your focus can get back to the super fun part of worldbuilding: being able to live and breathe in your story-world and thinking about ways to bring that to life for people to play.

So try it out – you won’t regret it! And please let me know if I can shed any additional insight on adding creative replenishment to your worldbuilding process.