RPG Blogging 101: Let’s start at the beginning

So you want to start blogging about tabletop RPGs? Alas that’s easier said than done. Especially in the beginning you have to make a lot of decisions that will shape the future of your blogging career. Luckily blogs are not set into stone, so you can change quite a few things later if you are later unhappy with your initial decisions.

The first thing you should think about is the “why”. Why do you want to blog about roleplaying games? Are you an avid gamer who wants to share the love for the hobby with the world? Are you working on your own game/campaign/etc. and you’re interested in getting feedback from people on the ‘net? Or are you just enjoying writing down your thoughts on the hobby and share them with the world?

Whatever your reasons are think about why you want to blog for a while. Ponder whether this really is what you want to do. This advice might sound silly, but this actually might help you a lot in the long run. Especially when you start blogging out of the wrong reasons. If you are in for the big money you probably should think about a different topic. While I am sure there are guys out there who make some money with their RPG blogs most of us probably put more bucks into it than we get back. But if you’re happy with doing it just for the fun of it, welcome to the club!

The next step is deciding what you want to write about. Do you want to cover just one game system or all of them. Are you focusing on GM advice, play reports, reviews, your own designs or all of the above? This decision is a fairly important one.

Imagine you start out with a blog focused on GM advice for D&D 4th Edition and after a while you decide that D&D 4th Edition is not for you anymore and you run out of ideas for advice posts. In this situation the “why” becomes important again. If the blog is mainly a place where you can collect your thought even such a change is fine. After all your main audience is yourself. But if you want to reach others with your blog you have to move more carefully. Sudden changes in your blog’s direction might alienate your readers. On the other hand you might reach new ones. Whatever happens, you have to be ready to face the consequences.

The next steps
So, you’ve thought about why you want to blog, have decided on a fancy blog title and you are now sure what you want to blog about. Now we have to get a little bit technical and choose the right blogging platform for the job!

There are a lot of different blogging platforms out there. Covering all of them would be beyond the scope of this blog post. When it comes to free blog hosting services I can recommend both Blogger and WordPress. But if you are at least a bit tech-savvy I would recommend a self-hosted solution. Again, there are various pieces of software you can use. Again WordPress comes to mind (which is what I use for Stargazer’s World). Alternatives are Drupal, Serendipity, Moveable Type and many others. Heck, you can even write your blog just using a text editor and your mad HTML skills. Whatever suits your fancy.

Self-hosting usually allows you to more easily install plugins, customize themes and even tweak the software itself if you have the need for it (and the skills to pull it off). On the other hand if you’re mainly interested in writing, a hosted service might be better for you.

The alternative to starting your own blog
Of course not everyone wants to start his own blog. Some people are just interested in writing and don’t want to have all that hassle with managing a blog of their own. In that case, why not join an existing blog as a guest blogger? Working in a team also might take a lot of pressure off your shoulders. And even if you started your own blog, you still should be open to the idea of opening your blog to other writers as well as a later date. There might be a point in your life when you don’t want to run a one-man-show anymore.

That concludes this part of my “RPG Blogging 101” series. Stay tuned for the next part when I give you some advice on how to write a RPG-related blog post.

By the way, if you have any further questions post them below. I will try to answer all your questions directly or if more appropriate cover them in one of the upcoming posts of the series. As always I am also interested in your thought on the subject. So feel free to post your RPG blogging experiences below. Any comment is highly appreciated.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

11 thoughts on “RPG Blogging 101: Let’s start at the beginning”

  1. Good post–our own blog, intwischa.com, just launched in February. The "why" question was very important to us–and for me, the answer is the same as gaming: fun.

    As I've mentioned here before, I tend to overthink things, and the idea of blogging is no exception. I try to come up with the perfect concept before I do anything, and then the specter of perfection shuts the whole thing down before the project gets off the ground. Once I realized that "fun" could be my chief motivator (and that I could do this with friends), the project became more tangible and more enjoyable.

    I'm looking forward to the rest of your series! Thanks!
    My recent post Horsing Around or Not in Fourth Edition

  2. Very interesting post. I don't remember fully why I got into RPG blogging, aside from wanting a place to post my thoughts on gaming. Somewhere along the way I became committed to it, and Reality Refracted has been going strong for a bit over a year now with constant and consistent updates.

    One of the things you want to point out though is that the field is fairly saturated right now. There are a LOT of RPG blogs out there. I don't say this ti discourage anyone, but it does mean that at the beginning you're going to have to really go out and search for readers. Things like the RPG Bloggers Network can help, but the best thing is just patience and consistent material. If you are consistently posting, people will consistently come back to read, and are more likely to tell others.

    So, again, make sure you're doing this for the right reasons, and that you're prepared to keep slogging through the mire until you start building that community.
    My recent post Acting the Hero

  3. As a new RPG blogger myself, I'm looking forward to the rest of this series, especially if you get around to covering publicity/how to attract readers! I get that it's content, content, content, but is it forums, twitter, other blogs, or something else that gets your blog out there to be read in the first place?

    Maybe Anthony is right in that it's the capacity to distinguish yourself from the countless other RPG blogs already out there.

  4. Regarding distinguishing ourselves: We discussed that when creating Intwischa, but I maintain that my primary purpose is fun, and that trumps the desire to build an audience. That's not saying that we don't want a following (after all, getting a following is fun), but I'm not primarily doing this for numbers. I think this gets to the "know your intent" concept discussed in the post.
    My recent post Play by the Rules- Random Character Flaw Generator

  5. To be honest, I think it is easier done than said. It's a joke to START blogging about RPGs. I just created a blog using wordpress and posted a few things now and then. The "why" was the least important decision, and was one that I shouldn't have made at all. I decided to do it as apart of a project, and instead should have just started without a why and not be saddled with an inane and long blog name. If I hadn't have done the "why" part, I think I would have hit my stride a little quicker.

    The hard part is keeping it going.

  6. I'd love to see more resources about the self-hosted option. I tried doing that with my blog (I don't mind paying the few bucks a year that it costs), but I really didn't know what I was doing. I still use a free WordPress blog for now, but I'd enjoy having a real domain name and more flexibility in the look of my blog. Do share your tips!
    My recent post Review- Reavers of Harkenwold

    1. I might write a post on how to set up a self-hosted WordPress blog when I am done with the main part of the series. Perhaps you might also do a search on Google on that subject. I am sure there are more than enough articles on that on the net.

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