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Getting Your Foot In The Door For RPG Writing

by Otto Cargill
otto05@hotmail.com



This is from my own personal experience, falling somewhere between freelancer and someone who just wants to write games. However, the following are tips, tricks and advice that I have found useful while attempting to gain the attentions of Role Playing companies, writing for them and gaining new assignments afterwards.

The Basics

First of all and most importantly, Know How To Write. Know the basics of grammar, your chosen language and how to avoid blatant and obvious grammar errors. Know how to spell. If you do not know how to spell, keep a dictionary nearby or make sure you use a program with a spell checker. If you cannot put together a sentance clearly, concisely and with clarity then you are going to have trouble getting the editors and other writers to pay any attention to you. Inside this article you will probably find several mis-spellings, which proves why it is almost vital to have a spell checker or dictionary.

Enthusiasm and Drive

Second, have enthusiasm for the task and the drive to see it through until the end. Many companies are very leery of working with first timers as they have done it before and frequently someone will show up, flash around an idea or two and get an assignment only to drop it halfway through or disappear completely. If you are a fan of their game, then you already have the enthusiasm or else you would not be contacting them and trying to write for them, but just as important to them is the knowledge that you will oversee a project from start to finish.

Be Involved

Does your favorite game have a mailing list? An IRC chat room? An online forum? Any of these are usually easy ways to get in contact with the company directly but also allow you the opportunity to contribute your own ideas to other people who love the game as well. By participating in the discussions in a useful manner, suggesting house rules, new character archetypes, new skills and adventure seeds you may be able to get the attention of the company quickly. Even if they don't address you directly, when you approach them later you will have something that they have already seen to reference and sometimes references are the differance between a yes and a no.

Start Small

If you have never written a published piece before, you will probably have trouble catching the eye of your favorite big name game company. Before sending your ideas and a complete resume off to Wizards of the Coast or Pinnacle, try looking for smaller, first or second time publishers putting out a brand new product. RPG.net features an entire forum dedicated to new companies looking for beta testers and writers for their brand new games. These smaller games are usually easier to work with as their writers want the feedback and help enough to openly advertise for it. By becoming a beta tester or writer for a first time game, you gain access to the whole process that a game goes through from idea to published product. Beta Testers are frequently allowed to submit their own modifications, wordings, ideas and thoughts to make up smaller pieces of the whole. By providing thoughtful and useful feedback and items such as fiction or section re-wording you can grow in your abilities and knowledge of how to create your own works.

Look for the Opportunities

Investigate the game company you want to work with. Are they getting ready to publish a new game? A new setting? A new supplement based on one of their archetypes or backgrounds? If so, send them a message and let them know that you want to contribute. Be sure to include a couple of ideas, skeletons really to be fleshed out later but ideas nonetheless. This is a simple foot in the door type of approach as if you are accepted you will be known to them, they'll have worked with you on a smaller portion of a larger project and they will probably be more inclined to giving you more work.

Earn your BS

Just like what it says, if you are approaching a large company about writing for them, have something to back up your approach. For example, you have the perfect idea for an adventure so you send an e-mail off to Favorite Game Company saying "Hey, I've got an idea for an adventure. I'll write it, you pay me and we'll call it good." A few days later you might get a response saying Thanks but No Thanks. In all likelihood you will not receive anything back. Game companies get messages like this all the time and while they love that fans enjoy their material enough to want to contribute, they cannot just arbitrarily take every person off the street with a proposed nifty idea.

Lets try this approach again, but this time you have done some time as a beta tester for Nifty New Game, written an adventure for Nifty New Game and want to take your next idea to Favorite Game Company. Your e-mail would go a little something like this:
"Hi,

My name is Game Writer and I've been a fan of Favorite Game from Favorite Game Company for a long time. I have recently finished service as a beta tester for Nifty New Game and even wrote Nifty New Game Adventure and I would like to discuss writing for your company.

I have Idea X, an adventure for your Favorite Game System and would like to write and submit it to you for publication."

While it's not guaranteed that this will get you the opportunity to write, it will get their attention more readily. If they like your idea, they'll say so. If they really like it they might ask you to do some small contributions or beta testing so that they can work with you a little before committing to giving you a project. This is another foot in the door approach.

Start your Own

The final method is to simply start your own Game Company. You have your ideas, now you just need to put them together, create a system for them and get to work. With the D20 system, this has become even easier to do as there is a ready made set of rules available, all you do is add background and story.

The End

While nothing here is guaranteed to get you writing for whatever your favorite system is, they are part of what I have learned on the matter. So far it's worked well enough to get me a couple of assignments.