My Writing Business (Part 1)
If you’re reading this, you probably know I’ve written a few published RPG products- it’s not something I’m particularly shy of mentioning. If you didn’t know that, you do now. The plan in this post is to talk about my various writing projects, and how they came to be.
I think one key reason I broke into writing things professionally (by professionally, I mean being paid, rather than it being my job) is that I’ve always written a lot when running RPGs, filling folders and folders with material. If someone else could read my handwriting, they could run one of “my” games. It was in some ways a short step from that to typing things up, polishing and sending to a publisher. In other ways it was a giant leap, but the things I write for my own use are already part way to something I write for publication. Of course, one of these is a subset of the other- I’m not going to seek to publish anything I don’t like and use myself.
Another consequence of this start is that I’m generally happy writing setting and adventure material for games, and playing with the mechanics, for example adapting mechanics to a particular setting or coming up with subsystems or lists of funky powers. I’ve not got so much interest in coming up with mechanics from scratch. That’s not the sort of designer I am.
One piece of dabbling I did a few years before my first published work was a column for RPG.net. Some of what I wrote there seems quite painfully naive to me now, but some bits I still stand by. I think having the column to point out stood me in good stead when I made my first pitch to a publisher.
That publisher was Arc Dream. The pitch was for Blood of the Gods. The start of it was me deciding to run a Wild Talents game involving demigods and mythological monsters in ancient Greece. Kind of sending superheroes back to one of their original roots. There was nothing like that in print, so I wrote stuff over a couple of weekends, and it felt rather complete to me and possibly useful to others. I then mentioned on the Gaming Tavern (the actual discussion is now lost to the mists of time, otherwise I’d link to it) that I thought I’d written a game supplement. The response there was overwhelmingly positive, and I was then encouraged to do to something with it.
So I did, pitching the a game supplement to Arc Dream, the publishers of Wild Talents. I didn’t remotely expect them to say yes, but they did after asking to see what I’d written so far. There followed feedback, a couple more weekends of work, and I had a draft to e-mail. In the mean-time I’d run my game with my gaming buddies, and made a couple of changes of things that didn’t work.
The document was tweaked in response to the editor, James Knevitt, though I don’t recall any massive changes. It then went out to external playtesters for play and criticism. It got criticism in spades, chiefly for there not being enough information on the Greek gods or Greek culture, and for one particular demigod power being “broken”. The last bit of feedback came from more than one playtester, so the power was fixed, and I spend a couple of weekends writing more on the background in Greek mythology and history.
Then, some more editing and it was ready for the artist, Todd Shearer. The supplement’s 36 pages long, and it took quite a long time to get out (surprisingly long to me at the time, though I now fully understand why) and it took me about six weekends of work. I like the people at Arc Dream, and I like their games. Since Blood of the Gods, I’ve pitched another couple of book length things for them- Ninth Legion, which is written, but waiting those later stages, and another project I’m keeping under my hat until it’s further developed. I’m mysterious that way.
Besides Arc Dream, I’ve written and cowritten things for D101 games and self-published Age of Arthur jointly with Graham Spearing. Having a coauthor is a different dynamic, though one I quite like. But talking about coauthors, D101 and self-publishing can wait for another blog post.