Monday, November 29, 2010

Writing an RPG product

Due to a stringent non-disclosure agreement I'm not exactly allowed to state outright the project I'm working on, but it's a small freelance writing project for a major RPG company. And oh yeah - it's a paying gig! How crazy is that! Unlike something vague and ambiguous ("Write a book on faction A or race B or optional rules C, and do whatever), this project actually has rather specific guidelines, goals, and deadline. Deadline I'm mostly OK with (actually I hit all the deadlines on this project - I'm rather proud of myself, as I took extra four months past the deadline to hand in my M.A. thesis.) I was, however, surprised by the challenge that even a project of this relatively small size became. What I initially thought would take a couple of evenings, and a couple of hours to clean up, actually took almost a whole week (well, evenings thereof anyway) and several drafts before I felt confident that it would be up to par. Even if it doesn't end up being published or ends up getting disassembled in the editing process I'm still proud of having worked on it and grateful for learning a new thing or two about writing an RPG product.

I think it's a truism that nearly every somewhat serious RPG player or Game Master will at some point or another attempt to write an RPG product, whether for personal enjoyment (or enjoyment with friends and fellow players) or in an attempt to break into the industry. There is a writer's streak in all of us RPG geeks, and it is a streak that is rarely fully quenched (see what I did there? I didn't just mix my metaphors, I forced them to copulate against the laws of nature to produce an altogether unwholesome and blasphemous offspring). Many of RPG players I know write 'into the table' to borrow a Russian expression. They write backgrounds for characters that they will only play for a session, or never at all. They write campaign and adventure ideas that they will never run. (Hands up those of you guilty of this? I recently checked my RPG document folders, including my backup disks from as far away as 1998-00, and I have well over 300 individual files directly pertaining to RPGs). They write up characters, complex plots, cosmologies, religions, most of which will never see the light of day (in an active playing session that is), confined to their head. However, even having indulged in all of the above for more than 12 years now, it is still different writing something that is meant to actually see the light of day, to be read and used by complete strangers, to be stamped with a publishing company's seal of approval. As I've said - it was quite a challenge and a learning experience. I look forward to when I can talk more openly about the product and the creative process behind it.

P.S. As an aside on the malady of "Writing way too much stuff for a silly game", the total word count of the material I've written for my Rogue Trader game and the wiki (oh yes, there is a wiki I've created for my campaign, it's a labour of perverse love as I happen to know that most of the players in the goddamn campaign don't even read the wiki - is now bigger than the final draft of my M.A. thesis. It's well over 25000 words now, and over 90 pages single spaced. As I've posted on Facebook previously, I don't know whether to be proud or sad...