'To the north, a solid stone door. It appears heavy, but with some effort it can be unsealed.
To the east, a long and winding labyrinth of corridors. One wrong turn could spell doom.
To the west, a dank earthen tunnel, leading down into the abyss. What dangers lurk below?
To the south, your exit. Do you return from whence you came and abandon this venture?'
I've been playing tabletop RPG's for six years of my life now. Dungeons and Dragons, Shadowrun, Edge of the Empire, even entirely homebrewed systems, and as my immediate friends' and families' almost exclusive game master, I have oft posed the question to myself, 'What on Earth am I even doing?' I had come to the realization that there had been many times that I had only been progressing the story of the game for the sole purpose of getting my players to move forward and level up.
Now don't get me wrong, progressing in the game is exciting, and I love seeing my players giddily scouring the source material for new options to expand on their character, but is that the purpose of the game? Well, when it all comes down to it, the game has whatever purpose you choose to give it, but I realized that I didn't have purpose in my game. Each session felt disconnected and inconsequential, and my players could see that. I had to sit down and do some heavy thinking.
What do I want my game to be about? Personally? I want to tell a story. Not just a story, but a good story. One that's memorable, exciting, dramatic, terrifying, death-defying! Where good triumphs over evil and the light of heroes casts out the darkness of a corrupt and dangerous world. I have a penchant for the theatrical, I know, but that's who I am!
And so, I got to work. I set aside a good 5 or 6 hours of my day for a couple days and I built a world. Not just a world of dragons and dungeons, but a world with life and culture; a world with a purpose. What drove C.S. Lewis to write the Narnia books, with such vivacity and imagination? It meant something to him. He wanted to show the world his love and his faith, and he did it by enchanting us with a story of magic and a hidden world of adorable talking animals and terrifying monsters.
He wrote it so well, so earnestly, and so enthusiastically, that when we read The Magician's Nephew, we care about what happens to the young Digory Kirke and Polly Plumber. We feel betrayed and used when Digory's uncle tricks them into being guinea pigs in his experiment, and we're brought to heart-fluttering joy when, well, I won't spoil anything. But he brought meaning and life to a silly story. He took something purely intangible and made it matter in the hearts and minds of people.
So my question for you is this: What do you want your game to be about?