So you and a friend have this idea, you keep geeking about it, and finally want to turn it into a project! Great! You’ve got someone who ideally has a similar vision as you, how’s hopefully as jazzed about it as you are. Unfortunately, this seemingly fun idea has a number of pitfalls, and more often than not, coauthor projects die on the vine.
The first time I dealt with all this was working on a game about “secret Catholic special ops monster hunters.” It was a cool idea, but we got caught up in asking each other for permission to write about ideas. We had different levels of commitment. And we let the project petter away.
Here’s how I’ve seen it done personally and by observing others:
Responsibility & Commitment
Unless you turn this into a serious project with a schedule (with the requisite sense of discipline that involves), there’s no sense of responsibility to the project. You might say “I’ll write something on this every week” but either life keeps you from doing so (as other responsibilities trump it) or it’s otherwise just not on your mind (because it’s not a responsibility).
Now, maybe you can turn it into a responsibility for yourself, but will your coauthor? That’s where things get tricky, because unless you guys are committed equally, this will become a problem.
It can become easy to stall on a project you’ve talked about, because you’re nervous about working on some part of the project before talking it through. Like designing some mechanics or writing about some part of the world that just popped into your head. This gets into permissions and expectations.
You totally have permission to write stuff without asking your partner. In fact, you need to. You should write when ideas come to might, whether they’ve been previously agreed upon or not. Waiting can mean you’ll lose elements of the idea. Writing the idea out is the best way to explore if it’s worth bringing up to your partner or a dead end. And in writing, you’ll find out more about the idea than you would not writing it.
Nothing says that everything you write for a project will make it into a project. In fact, you’ll often have stuff on the cutting room floor. But that cannot stop you from writing. Even if you’re writing notes about something the other person said she wants to write, write those bits down anyway — she might see those notes as useful.
Sometimes you’ll have ideas that are wholly grating to the other person. Those moments are useful for determining whether you’re actually a partnership, or if one person sees himself in charge and sees the other person as writing the stuff he doesn’t want to.
Talk those moments out. Communicate why you do like something, why you don’t like something, and the implications of having or not having that element is in the rest of the game. (That last part is key, because you can’t win an argument by just saying “it’s cool” or “it sucks.”)
Most of the time, partnerships that begin with two people loving an idea don’t form in a way that lets them continue to fruition. You have to know when that is, and talk with your partner about it. If either of you want to continue the project on your own in a commercial way, that’ll get thorny, so be upfront about that.
Do you have any stories of co-author perils (that don’t involve mudslinging)? Any advice for people who decide to go this route?
It’s Father’s Day this weekend in the US, and as I don’t have a father, it’s a weekend that I reflect on something that almost happened: a few years ago, I tried to be a father.
Now, I’m glad it didn’t happen, because the would-be mother and I…well, it wouldn’t have been good for either of us. But I still this about this child, and count how old she’d be. (I always imagine her as a girl, and we would talk about girl names.) This kid would be five years old now.
I think about this “quantum daughter” when I’m working on books. And I think about my nieces (actual, real nieces) when I’m working on books. So as I’m working on books in the gaming hobby, I keep in mind that my nieces (eldest is 8, youngest is 2) might pick up books off my shelf while visiting, or ask to see books I’ve made when I come into town. And I think about that with other folks’ kids, boys and girls. Hell, it’s even possible that I’ll have kids in the future.
I want to make books that don’t reinforce hateful bullshit when they look at the art. Further, I want books that make them want to engage in the hobby, not turn them away.
And yet, there are so many damned sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, etc. artists and writers in this community.
They are what’s wrong with our hobby. And that’s what I think about every year when Father’s Day rolls around: how people who hate not-white-dudes keep getting work and polluting books that my nieces might open up.
(Since far too many people love to hate on anyone who values women as equals — especially on the Internet where they can do so without fear of physical repercussions — I’ll preemptively turn the comments off this post.)
 Yes, biologically I do. But societally, I don’t.
 One of my nieces is half-Mexican. Not that that specifically matters in the overall, but that’s what made me realize I really do have a personal stake here.
It’s getting to be that time of year, again! I’m sad to say I won’t be at Origins next week–I really do miss that show–but I’ll be elsewhere this summer.
Go Play NW
June 28-30 | goplaynw.org
It’s a little late to tell you about GPNW unless you’re a local, but this remains one of my favorite events of the year. I’ll be there Saturday and Sunday, and will more or less freewheel it. There’s only one plan I have for sure right now:
The Upgrade! on Saturday afternoon (link to forum thread to sign up)
It’s time again for the hit reality show, The Upgrade! Three or four couples enter a contest of hearts on an exotic island adventure, where they will engage in challenges and test their love. Will they stay with their partners, or will they upgrade?
This is a jeepform larp, meaning that you can show up in regular clothes and play normal, everyday characters. This game engages themes of sex (meaning 18 and over, please), romance, wacky reality show challenges, awkward confessional moments, and the vast possibilities in the future. (But we won’t bring people to uncomfortable places. You’re always free to speak up.) The Upgrade! plays out half like a farce and half like an emo play.
If you want to know more, check out the game at: http://jeepen.org/games/upgrade/. (That said, don’t read too far into the characters. Some hold amusing surprises, and you don’t want those spoiled for you!)
July 5-7 | paizo.com/paizocon
As you might expect, I’ll be at PaizoCon. Like everyone else at Paizo, I’ll be around playing games, talking at panels, and generally floating around being useful. I’m running two games there:
Mythender (“Stab Odin in the Face”)
Looking to stab a god in the face? How about Odin? He’s a jerk who’s got it coming! In Mythender, you play awesome beings who go around ending the gods of Scandinavia, but all that power comes with a price: you might become a god, and then your friends will have to stab you in the face!
Fiasco: Dragon Slayers (“The Guy Ritchie Movie”)
Sat 8a-1p (though will certainly end earlier than that)
“The bumpkins in this lame mountain town could never have taken down that dragon. So yeah, we rode into town, a bunch of outsiders ready to solve that problem. That’s our dragon, and its gold is our gold, so keep your paws off!” This GM-less game plays out like a wacky Coen Brothers or Guy Ritchie movie, where you play adventurers with powerful ambition, poor impulse control, and a good chance that everything will go down in ruin!
And I’ll be doing some panels:
- Behind the Scenes at Paizo Publishing (Fri 4p-5p)
- Ask the GMs (Fri 5p-6p)
- Editing in the RPG Industry (Fri 6p-7p)
- Horror in RPGs (Fri 9p-10p)
- Writing and Editing Workshop (Sat 1p-2p)
August 15-18 | gencon.com
I don’t know what my schedule will be like yet, but I do know that I’ll be working at the Paizo booth or around Pathfinder event areas throughout the show. I should be easy to spot: just look for the guy with the pink hair in the blue Paizo shirt (I’ll update this as I find out anything further regarding my Gen Con schedule.)
I hope to see you this summer!
For a long time, I’ve talked about how I’d like to make an Unknown Armies-inspired Fiasco playset. A few months back, I got started on one I didn’t finish. Leonard Balsera gave me some good notes on it, and a couple friends have contributed elements to it, but I stalled out in March and haven’t look at this since.
I figure that means I should crowdsource elements from you fine folks.
Occult Strangeness (the working title) is a mix of Unknown Armies, Hellblazer, and similar inspirations. It’ll have two modes: street-level and cosmic-level, which will mean two different Needs tables and two different Aftermath tables (and likely nothing else, other than a paragraph or two of text about that).
You can see the work-in-progress document by clicking on this Google Drive link.
(Because Google Drive was being crappy this morning, I couldn’t edit the file to say that the Needs list is currently a mix of street and cosmic, as I haven’t added to that part since Lenny told me to separate the two scales.)
Put your ideas in this post’s comments. If I get enough to roll on (including ideas that y’all spark from me as I read your comments), I’ll put up a playtest file.
- If you aren’t conversant in the source material listed above, but have a sense of “spooky occult folks,” drop ideas down. It’s on my to curate the playset, not on you to tell yourself no.
- If you have an idea but I don’t have a category for it, don’t stop yourself from suggesting it. Maybe as the categories shift around, that idea suddenly fits into a hole.
- Did you read this far? Can you contribute even one idea? If not, why do you hate freedom?
In yesterday’s #RPGChat Twitter conversation, someone brought up the idea that novice players can’t handle certain things. I see this time and time again, and it pisses me off.
Some of the best games I’ve played have been with people who were new to the hobby.
When I see toxic pseudo-advice about how to treat new players, about how new players can’t handle certain topics — including heavy mechanics (which many can), playing our narrative arc (which many can), portraying a strong sense of character (which many can), fostering interesting interactions and relationships with other PCs (which many can), etc. — I want to throttle those people and expel them from my hobby so they may not ruin it further.
And yes, such people ruin it. They treat new people entering our hobby as lesser beings, to be coddled and to be underestimated. (And fuck-forbid that new person be a woman — I have heard more than a few stories about a woman’s first time playing being entirely undermined.) They tell people to go away from our hobby, not to embrace it.
So if I hear you talking about such bullshit “new players aren’t good with X,” I will call you on the carpet. And I will view you as nothing more than someone who hates my hobby.
Now, maybe you mean “shy players,” which there’s some overlap between shy and new. Some advice that people spout for new players is actually about shyness — smoothly bringing in engagement and characterization. Some of the pseudoadvice is about players who don’t care about mechanics, and showed up for the story (or vice versa). And yes, mastery of a game is also an issue — but there are plenty of people who have played games for months who still lack mastery of it. (That’s the case for me & the Burning Wheel system.)
Finally, new players come with something really fucking amazing: a lack of baggage around this hobby. I cherish that. I loathe to sunder it early.
Next time you pop off the mouth about “new players” or “novice players,” stop, consider what sort of person you’re actually talking about, and say that. And if you can’t come up with anything better, then I hope I won’t hear it lest I consider you a “novice” at being a decent and thoughtful human.
 Granted, in 140-character land, that’s what was said. I’m sure it would have more nuance and context if it was a real conversation, so to whoever said that if you’re reading this, I’m casting on aspersions on you.