(Side Note: My hosting site was down for a bit, but is back up! Yay for more blogs!)

No author writes an RPG adventure or supplement in a vacuum. Resources are key to creating good, compelling adventures, and here are some of the most important on-line resources I use.

On-Line Rules. It’s nice to have the physical copy of the rules you’re writing for at hand, but nothing beats a searchable version of the rules—something like Archives of Nethys, or even .pdfs of the rulebooks. This is exceptionally helpful to quickly find corner-case rules you need (hey, this new magic item is going to help with escaping grapples—what are the rules for escaping grapples again?). But the most valuable use is to incorporate rules consistency.

New classes, feats, subsystems, and so on can bend or break the rules of the game. Sure. Go nuts. But adventure writers should strive to keep any new rule or effect similar to rules that already exist, to ensure that the GM and the players absorb them easily without bogging down play. Finding existing rules can sometimes be a challenge, though. Let me give a specific example.

Let’s say you have a trap that turns a cavern ceiling to mush and drops it on people. How might you work the rules for that? Well, there are spells that make rocks all melty, but what if you don’t remember what they are called? A rules search for “mud” finds transmute rock to mud, which might be a good starting point to build your effect. Say you don’t like that, though, and you want your mush to be particularly sticky if it coats people--what rules are there? A search for “sticky,” “adhesive,” or similar finds the mimic monster. Its rules might work instead (or in addition), and you might have been hard-pressed to keep both a rarely-used spell and a rarely-used monster in mind when doing your design work. Rules searchability helps!

Thesauruses. I’m a big fan of www.thesaurus.com (its dictionary side is sometimes useful, too). Just recently, I was writing about a mad scientist working on his scheme, and I wanted to say he was making “progress on his process.” That looked weird to me, even though the words were right, so I hit the thesaurus to find better words for both "progress" and "process." 

Microsoft Word has a bare-bones synonym-finding function, but I usually want something more robust than that. When thesaurus.com doesn’t have what I need, I turn to  a few books I have on hand: Peter Meltzer’s The Thinker’s Thesaurus and Ward and Brown’s The Storyteller’s Thesaurus.

Google! I use Google daily—and sometimes hourly—in my writing. I want to be sure to add verisimilitude to my stories, and that means a trip to Wikipedia, an image search for something I want to visualize, or some general Google knowledge. I had a fishing village in a recent adventure, but I didn’t know how best to populate it. So I did a Google search for “buildings in a fishing village” and similar. I also searched "fishing village images." I soon learned that real fishing villages are nothing like the one in my head! For a different project, I became far too knowledgeable about how cooking oil is combustible but not flammable (and I’ll spare you the spirited back-and-forth with my editor on that point). Do you know what an active granite quarry looks like? I only knew crumbling old quarries that are often used as sets in movies—an image search shows that active stone quarries look oddly squared-off, and that’s ripe for dangerous pits, exciting combats, and harrowing falls. It was very useful to look!

Spellcheck (and More Google). Most writers will tell you that spellchecking is one of your last steps before turning over a project, and that’s true. At the same time, though, while you're performing your spellcheck you should keep Google open and search any unusual word before you hit “Ignore All.” If it’s an in-game word (like Ustalav or Volo), your Google search will confirm you’ve spelled it correctly. If it’s a word you just made up, your Google search will show whether it already exists as, say, an English village, an Indian pop star, or a Christian metal band (to take three examples I stumbled into myself). If something's already in use, change it to make it your own. Then, Google what you changed it to so you can confirm.

Email. Some of my friends know when I'm deep into writing because I pester them with oddball questions via email. I try to avoid context with these questions, as I usually just want bare opinions without leading them one way or another. So they get out-of-the-blue questions like "which seems higher ranking: a 'scout,' a 'trooper,' or a 'soldier'?" I have a good friend who is particularly knowledgeable about underground culture, and I sometimes run new NPC names past him: if one of them is drug slang or such, I want to know about it. Your friends can sometimes be your best resources.