Writing Style In RPGs, In Tokyo Heroes

Lately I’ve been pondering the craft of writing — putting together words with skill — as it applies to RPGs. And not having much luck. One of my other hobbies is writing fiction and poetry, and I like to think I’m at least not completely horrible at it. However I find I have a hell of a time fully applying what writing ability I have to roleplaying game texts. I’m sure the differing writing genre makes a difference (I have a harder time with creative nonfiction too by the way), especially when it comes to writing game rules.

The RPG books that I can remember liking the writing style have mostly been either crisp and clear (Primetime Adventures) or sort of like a really excited yet coherent friend telling you about cool stuff (octaNe). Exalted books always develop a really awesome setting and have sentences here and there where the wording seems awkward to me. Part of that, I’m sure, is that I’ve found that as I work on longer pieces of fiction, the revision process lengthens exponentially rather than in a linear fashion (I don’t want to talk about how long this novella is taking me, and I’m afraid of what’ll happen when I try for a full-length novel). Another part of it is simply differing priorities; I’m not just writing, I’m putting together a game that needs a coherently interlocking array of rules and concepts. Just typing up the rules as I have them in my head is a challenge sometimes. I’m wondering if I should’ve tried taking a technical writing class alongside all those creative writing classes… And I may have to finally break down and get Dogs In The Vineyard (even though it’s not something I’d run with my group), since its writing style is yet another of the things people keep praising it for.

The thing about Tokyo Heroes is that it deals with a genres that have only a cult following in the English-speaking world, so there are a lot of non-rule concepts I want to convey in the text, but I keep finding myself using “noodly” language with lots of conditional phrases (“Often the Sixth Ranger is…”). That’s partly just a fault of how I think and write; another reason I like writing fiction is it’s easier for me to get away from that. One idea I’m contemplating is using vingettes to convey certain concepts. Granted, RPG-related fiction is notoriously bad, outdoing even novelizations of movies at times, but I like to think I could do a bit better. ^_^;

Anyway, for that (and other purposes) I want to put together sets of original characters — a sentai team and a magical girl team. For the magical girls I’m just taking the protagonists of a story that never quite came together, Magical Girl Rose, which takes some cues from Abaranger for how the five heroes are organized (three main heroes, one mentor, one who starts off evil and comes around at the end, and a dangerous/defective transformation item thrown into the mix). For the sentai I originally at least had the name (Dynaranger), except that then I’d wind up having heroes with the same names (Dyna+color) as Kagaku Sentai Dynaman. Besides, I want to come up with a more detailed and somewhat less generic sentai team concept. In the “wish I’d thought of it” category is one of the PBP RPGs in the Japan Hero forums, “Kensei Sentai Slashman.” One of my favorite things about OVA is that it has a set of sample characters and uses them for every illustration and example.

And in other news, I ordered the aforementioned TRPG Super Session Daikyouen book with the Eiyuu Sentai Seigiranger game in it, though it’ll take around 3 weeks to arrive. I don’t feel so bad for not knowing 饗宴 (kyouen; “feast”), since apparently the clerk at Kinokuniya (a native speaker) didn’t either. A friend of mine is moving to Japan next month and I’m going to be sorely tempted to bug him to buy TRPGs for me… But it’d be much better to wait for my other friends to take their 2-week trip to Japan instead.

I’ve been trying to watch more source material for Tokyo Heroes, starting with Tokyo Mew Mew. I don’t know that I’d call the series good, but it’s definitely fun, and as usual in spite of the fact that between sentai and magical girls the number of hours of programming I’ve watched is now in the triple digits (holy crap, I never realized that before!) I find I need to watch it with a notebook in arm’s reach, should I suddenly gain new insights into the genre.

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