Players of Heroes of Rokugan are encouraged to add their own touch to the campaign by writing their own modules! Here's the procedure you should follow in order to participate. First, think of an idea! Once you have that, you can either flesh it out in an outline, or just send the idea to the Campaign Admin. If it is approved, write up a full draft and send it in! The Campaign Admin will edit the module as need be to fit HoR more fully, as need be. Then, when the timing is right, it will be publish for all players to enjoy, with your name on the cover!
Writing a module automatically prohibits your character from playing it. Consequently, players who write modules are awarded the same Experience Points as the module awards, on the date of its premier. Note that it is the final Experience Point award chosen by the Campaign Administrator which counts – so no writing 10 XP mods just to try to boost your character! :)
So, you want to write a module for Heroes of Rokugan, but you aren’t really sure where to begin. Somehow, this is both a very easy and very complicated process. Easy, because all you need to do are follow the steps. Hard, because filling in the gaps can be a difficult if not impossible task. This is intended to help. That’s it. I’m not proclaiming to be a master, an English major, or anything else that makes me an authority on the topic. I’m an apprentice just like you. For the sake of having an example, I’ll borrow one from Secrets of the Crane, page 16. So, without further ado:
Obviously, the first and most important step is an idea. What qualifies as a module idea? Well, mostly anything that makes you say “Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if...”. Now you have an idea. Its possible that you may have the itch to write, but can’t come up with anything. In literature, there are three basic plots:
Man vs Self
Man vs Man
Man vs Nature
Any and all stories can be broken down into one of these three categories.
Sometimes HoR modules can fit into more than one. For instance, most Shadowlands
modules are a combination of all three because you’re fighting the Shadowlands
(nature), the intelligence leading the current hoard (man), and have the
possibility of gaining Taint yourself (self).
My idea: “Wouldn’t it be neat if there was this crane artisan trying to make a statue, but it was ugly because he’s cursed.”
So, you have your idea. Sadly, right now that’s all it is. But its enough to start. Your next task is to flesh it out a bit in order to give it some context. I like to do this by borrowing the same setup as the L5R writers; Challenge - Focus - Strike. The Challenge is the introduction - what gets the characters involved. The Focus is your idea. The Strike is the kicker, the punch line, and the conclusion all in one. You hardly have to do it this way though, anything that gets the basics down will work.
The characters get a message from the crane artisan guy requesting help.
Crane guy is trying to impress the Emperor with a statue of Tsudao. His curse is that he can only sculpt when the moon is up. At night the statue is a perfect replica, but during the day it looks like a mockery of Lady Sun. Because he can only sculpt at night, he thinks the curse is what’s affecting it. He needs help.
It isn’t the curse, it’s a spell from a rival that’s messing up the statue.
Right - that about does it. Send this off for approval to the campaign administrator. There are several reasons for this. One - if someone has/is currently working on this idea already, there’s no sense in putting more effort into it. Two - your idea may or may not fit into the campaign, or would conflict with other going-ons. Three - the campaign administrator has a lot of module writing experience. He might have suggestions, or warn you that by itself your idea won’t make a whole module. Remember that a module has to entertain a group of players for three and a half to four hours.
Once you get the O.K. from the campaign admin, its time to start fleshing it out. In a lot of ways, its like writing an essay. Start with the outline and work in details as you go.
characters are SOMEWHERE for X reason
characters are approached by Y person who gives them a message.
Message reads (Note, actually write the message, put in handouts)
Meeting Crane Guy
description of place where crane guy is
description of crane guy
crane guy requesting help and showing PCs statue
help means delivering a letter asking elemental council for advice
description of statue
party travels (3 weeks)
Rival knows council will see through the spell and who cast it
rival tries to slow down group/destroy message but will NOT instigate violence.
If rival is discovered will surrender or run - won’t risk life over it.
If rival is caught
will admit to spell casting and be made ronin
If rival is not caught, but makes it to council with letter
council consults for several days while PCs cool heels
council discovers rivals spell
rival runs away
Caught: admits and is made ronin
Gets away: bounty put on head, made ronin
Describe scene when statue (pretty!) Is presented
PCs gain rival as enemy
PCs gain crane guy as ally
Again, this should be presented to the Campaign admin. This is to keep him apprised of where you are in the process of writing, to let him know that you ARE still working on it, and to allow him to offer ideas (such as one of the attempts).
From this point its all about the details. Keep filling them in, and expanding on ideas. Eventually you’ll be forced to write a real sentence in order to fully detail it. Keep going!
Once you have the module completely written out, transfer it to the official template (if you haven’t been working in it all along), save it as a .DOC file (MS Word) and send it to the campaign admin one last time. If you don’t have MS Word, save it as an .RTF (Rich Text File) and send that instead.
What happens now?
Well, the CA will edit it, making any changes he feels are needed to work it into the campaign smoothly. This process can take a long time -- if you want your module to have a shot at premiering at a specific convention or other event, you'll need to start the approval process at least six months in advance, and have the final version at least one month ahead.
Once the module premiers, you can collect the experience the CA gave it for your character. Congratulations, you’ve written your first module!
From the CA: Newbie Mistakes
Don’t take no for an answer:
So you send the CA your idea, and you get back ‘This won’t work for X reason.’ Now is not the time to give up! If its something crippling such as ‘I already have plans for that’ then it may be best to let that particular idea go by the wayside. That doesn’t mean that all your ideas will be rejected. Come up with something new and give it a second shot. Or find a way to fix the problem. ‘I already have plans for that family’ can be fixed by changing the family or even the entire clan to something else. It doesn’t mean the CA doesn’t like the idea, just that it won’t work for the campaign as it is now.
These are one of the hardest things to write, for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s a time consuming process, and the other is that its just plain hard to write stats so that they balance with the party/level the module is aimed at. So don’t! Save it until the very last. And if you get stuck - leave it alone and send it as is!
This happens more often than not, especially to newbie writers. You get so far into the module and then the ideas just stop coming. You can’t get past this, and you don’t know how to write that, and everything else in the module is based around what happens in those two events. A lot of new writers give up at this point, and the CA never hears about that module again. Breathe! Writers block happens. Send in what you have written and let the CA know. ‘I was writing but I got stuck. Sorry! Here’s what I have though.’
One Track Mind:
A lot of submissions that the CA gets are very linear. The party goes here to get this clue which leads them here, and so on. But parties very often aren’t linear. The party never manages to go here to get that clue. As written they’d be circling for days trying to get it. Find more than one way of presenting information. Offer more than one solution to any problem.
Over-Ambitious Plot Lines:
Many times, the first idea is a great epic, a tournament, or a multi-module story. Great! But if its only your first or second time writing a module write it down and store it until you get a bit more experience under your belt. Its hard enough trying to find material that lasts for four real-time hours, must less writing something that lasts eight or sixteen! The CA isn’t saying that it won’t work. It might! But writing them is difficult, so gain some experience on writing shorter, one-shot modules first.
You saw a great movie or read a great book, and thought to yourself ‘Wouldn’t that be cool if it were set in Rokugan?!’. Yeah, it probably would. But the likely-hood that someone (or several someones!) have seen or read it as well is pretty high, and once they catch on to the story they’ll know just what to do, and lose the enjoyment of playing the module that you worked so hard on. That being said, its perfectly okay to take inspiration from a great movie or book. Take, for example, Peasant Defense from HORI: Champions of the Emerald Empire. It took its inspiration from the classic, Seven Samurai. It is not, however, an exact copy.
A lot of the module submissions the CA gets are good, but require some work. Why? Because the authors have left out small but important details such as what the village looks like, who the headman of the village is (as well as other important NPCs), et cetera. Sometimes you’ll miss something the CA wants detailed, and sometimes you’ll over-detail non-important things that the CA will have to fix, but its always better to make an effort at it, and its probably the single most overlooked item in writing a module.
The ultimate message from the CA? Don’t get discouraged!