Continuing with Kira Magrann’s cool challenge for April, the 30-day tabletop role-playing game maker or #AprilTTRPGMaker challenge.
Day 7: Your workspace.
Also includes: an antique mahogany roll-top desk, bookcases mostly filled with RPGs (but only a fraction of the ones we own!), a worktable opposite the desk, and my computer (running on Ubuntu 16.04, with Wacom Intuos 5×9 tablet.)
Day 8: Describe your routine.
It’s not a good routine right now. I’m dealing with depression, so I go to bed too late, waiting to be so tired that I will fall asleep without contemplating my failures for too long. I wake up later than I should. I take my various medications for ailments both physical and mental, go to my computer, check out the morning’s mail and social media. Play puzzle games (when I’m depressed, I become addicted to logic puzzles and sudoku), trying to get my brain in gear. It feels good to write or accomplish my project management tasks when I’m able to, but some days I just can’t.
I typically knock off (or give up) between seven and nine in the evening, move to the living room and eat dinner in front of the television (Netflix, etc.—no broadcast or cable.) My cat Valentine promptly hops in my lap and falls asleep, an excellent excuse to stay up too late again.
Day 9: Describe your process.
First, I nail down the vision and scope with the publisher, and agree on a rate and schedule. We sign or amend the contract to include the scope.
Next, I draft an outline; for a book this may be 3k- to 5k-long, while the outline for an adventure may be just a few hundred words. While the publisher reviews the proposed outline, I start gathering resources: basic rules, relevant published supplements in the same line, real-life reference materials, lists of names, and inspirations in fiction—movies, books, comics, and music. I usually make or pick a playlist on Spotify.
Once the outline is approved, I start writing. I write short documents—scopes, outlines, small assignments—on Google Docs, but the larger ones are created on Scrivener. I organize the project to match the approved outline, and add my key resources to the Research folder of my Scrivener project. I add all the notes, ideas, references, glossary entries, etc. to appropriate sections as I think of them, so that when I get around to writing that section I have a good basis.
I usually start writing with what seems like the easiest part, then move on to the next easiest, and so forth, nibbling at the gaps until what’s left doesn’t look so daunting. As soon as I have a significant chunk to look at, especially for key sections, I run it past the publisher to make sure this is going where they thought. I collect and address the early feedback as I go.
I have Scrivener set up to make automatic local backups every ten minutes, and I make additional backups on Dropbox at key points or when I pause writing for more than a few minutes. At the end of the day I export the entire draft as a numbered .docx file and post it on Google Drive or Dropbox for the publisher to access if they want to check progress. I also provide the publisher with access to my cloud backup of the Scrivener files, and express permission to use the materials if I become unable to continue for some reason. I do this because my health has been troublesome these past two years, and because the publishers I work with are great, honest, loyal, generous people who I trust.
When we get to editing , it’s extra important to have good version control. Once a draft has gone to the editor, I don’t touch it anymore although I may create a list of small edits I would like to make, usually insertion of examples of play. The editor and I usually work on .docx excerpt files in Review mode, and I no longer use Scrivener for these edited sections.
When the publisher has accepted a completed section, I invoice for it. Because I only work with awesome people, they usually pay me within the week.
At the end of the writing there are usually follow-up tasks such as reviewing the laid out document to hunt for typos and format errors; resolving the “page XX” cross-references; compiling appendices such as system cheat sheets and sample characters; writing art notes for the art director; etc.
On the other hand, if I have my project manager (Evil) Hat on rather than my writing cap, I create project folders on Google Drive, Dropbox, on my hard drive, and on Streak for Gmail; I set up project dates on Asana and add a Gantt project chart using Instagantt.
I follow the Evil Hat process flow chart including creating the project vision document and the credits superset, making sure everyone on the team has the Evil Hat writing & editing guidelines, etc. I set up team meetings (usually via VoIP) when needed, and I send project check-in emails to each active team member on every project team to check on progress, using the Gantt chart as our projected delivery dates.
At milestones in the project, I make sure that people’s contributions are reviewed, contributors are paid, and the next person in the schedule gets the inputs they need (e.g., editors, layout artists, art director, etc.). Throughout the project I keep the higher-ups informed of general progress.
At the end of the project I collect feedback from team members on what went well and what can use improvement, and I share our “lessons learned” with the EHP team.
Day 10: Favourite game to relax with.
I enjoy a lot of suspenseful games but when I want to relax, decompress, I like:
- Tabletop roleplaying games: Golden Sky Stories (Starline Publishing.)
- Board games: Tokaido (FunForge)
- Phone or tablet apps: Zen Koi (Landshark Games), mahjongg, sudoku.
- On Steam: The Journey Down (Skygoblin), Chapters 1-3.
Day 11: What’s yer brand?
Oh dear, hell if I know. Maybe… creative problem-solving? Offering practical suggestions to implement my sage advice to players and game-masters? Writing lots of examples? I guess these all boil down to implementability. Yes, it’s a perfectly cromulent word.
Day 12: How do you get your work out there?
With publishers: I send pitches and proposals to publishers I know less, and I keep in touch with the ones who already know me and are happy with the work relationship. After years of tinkering and blogging, I have examples of writing and designing I can point to in order to show a publisher what I could do with a given project.
With gamers: When the contract permits it, I talk about design and and writing on my blog and on social media. I also run playtests and demos at West Coast conventions or online.
Because I don’t self-publish right now, most of the buzz comes from publishers’ marketing efforts.