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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Chimera

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    Default A career in RPG development

    So I enjoy D&D. I've been playing TTRPGs for over 12 years and have played multiple versions, editions, games, and styles. Now I find myself in need of a career, and would love to turn my favorite hobby into a job. My real problem is that I have no idea where to start. Do I need a degree to make myself a more appealing candidate? What kind? Should I reach out to WotC or another major RPG publisher, or try to go it alone? Are there any skills I should be developing?

    So if you are in the industry yourself or know someone who is, any and all advice you could give to a potential game developer would be a great help. :)

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Start writing and publishing for various community content programs and if you can find them, magazines or group blogs. Places like the DMsGuild.com do result in people getting recognized. Specifically the Guild Adept program.

    Reaching out directly to any of the publishers without a a public portfolio of work is probably useless, though you can certainly try. It would probably be better to look when they (rarely) post job openings.

    Write, develop, publish. And do it publicly. If you need writing classes, take them. There are a few books published about writing for RPGs, can't find the links atm.

    Get involved in writing circles or groups like; https://www.facebook.com/groups/1977612149124315

    Can't say it enough; write (anything, adventures, resources, blogs, reviews, etc), develop (everything), publish (everywhere).

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Here's one of the books. I've never read this one, but it was recommended to me by others in the industry.
    http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/...or-RPG-Writers

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Be aware that this is not comparable to other industries. RPG is a hobby, and even what we call "the industry" is mostly handled on that level. There are very, very few people who can turn making RPGs into a steady job, and most of those people end up working mostly on the "business" side of things. People who manage to make a career out of writing RPG books are even rarer.

    So my advice is to approach it like you want to turn your hobby into a more professional hobby, because that's what you're doing. Write stuff, write adventures, write reviews of RPG products, get your stuff out there so other people can view and read it and give you feedback, if you can, visit conventions to get in contact with people in the industry (it's a very small field, there's no true replacement for simply knowing people), if you can't, well that's what the Gods invented the internet for, get on the forums or other social media channels of your game, follow what's going on there, there's almost always fan projects and stuff like that and if there isn't, try to start one.

    Unfortunately, you won't find any RPG company offering a "trainee game developer" position where you can just send in your CV and apply, it usually starts out small. If you do get to know the people actually working on things, ask what the current projects are, find out what's needed, maybe you can help out on something (simple example: when the german version of the Sundered Skies core book was being layouted, the editor realized they had around half a page of empty space, since I was in his Tuesday night game at the time he asked me to write up a short "adventure summary" to fill up that page)

    If you have an idea for something that you (and ideally, some other people you've asked for feedback for first) think would make a great RPG product, pitch an essay to those people and if they see you a) have a good idea and b) know you can write well enough (that's where the whole first part of writing fan stuff and getting it out there comes in), you may have a shot at writing an adventure or whatever and getting it published.

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    There's not many people able to do RPG work professionally, and most of them are poorly paid freelancers who have been outright stiffed on pay at least once. Meanwhile a lot of the people in the industry got there by making a product, publishing it, and selling it - starting with basically any minor publisher.

    As for skills, the vast majority of these people also have a college education, and usually in something that involves a fair amount of writing (there's a lot of RPG writers with degrees in history). That's not to say that getting a degree for the purpose of trying to break into the industry is a good idea, but it is to say that putting some time into getting better at writing in general and technical writing, document design, etc. in particular. There are non-college ways to do this.

    In short - the best way in is to make a game, don't use this in lieu of a job.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Writing RPGs isn't a career, it's a hobby you might occasionally be able to make a little money to recoup the time you've sunk into it. Find a real job that allows you enough free time to spend doing a bit of writing.
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Extremely few people manage to make a living writing RPGs. Even the "big names" don't. Much of the big publisher stuff is outsourced to people with.... da dum dum! DAY JOBS!
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Everyone has already gotten their words in, but as someone who's written professionally for a handful of projects, I can give you some more advice. There are a lot of steps to getting quote/unquote success in RPGs.

    First off, really doubling down on the following - writing for RPGs is a writing career for a pretty low paying industry. It's very rare to write for anyone who pays more than 1-3 cents per word, simply because the margins are so small on publishing and there are so many interested writers. This means that if, say, you actually land a contract to write an entire 80,000 word sourcebook, you're liable to get paid about $2,400 for work that is going to include a couple of months of writing, then a whole mess of editing, making changes as requested by your editor, talking with other writers, and submitted your revised copy. A lot of the things you write will get junked.

    Now, with that out of the way, there are three big routes you can take.

    The first is to get heavily involved in the communities of the RPGs you like the most, produce some good fan work, and then submit it to the publisher you like. Be advised that you will be submitting this work entirely as a writing sample. Don't say, "I have a campaign that I think you might like to publish", say, "I have been involved in Game X for Y years, and would like to produce work for it. Here is an example of my ideas." Then expect that you aren't likely to get quick replies, because chances are they've already got all the writers that they need. If they like your portfolio, they'll shelve it until one of their regular writers isn't available or retires, and then give you a shot, probably on a part of a book. Then you deliver quality work ahead of the deadline, and respectfully make any requested changes, and do no argue with the editors, and then probably you have to remind the accounting department that you exist once or twice.

    The second route is to get heavily involved in the community of an RPG with an active SRD, and once you have a bit of a fanbase you self-publish a small work. And I mean small - something you can toss on DrivethruRPG for $5, with some simple but nice black and white art. Pay for a layout editor if you can't do layout yourself. This work will almost certainly cost you more money than you make, but if you've gotten enough fans, it's a great signal booster. The next work will do a bit better. And after you have a few of these, one of them might actually take off! Then you start a Kickstarter for your own game, and the other developers who like your work talk about it with their fanbases, and then you're raking in the barely a living wage!

    The third route is to get heavily involved in the community of an RPG with a small enough development staff that you can just chat with them directly, and to impress them with your work personally. Then you can mention that you're interested in writing for RPGs, and check in with them about whether they're interested in working with you. Even if they are, there are liable to be some pretty heavy delays, and the project may fall through entirely - I wrote up a whole sourcebook once that I don't think will ever be published, simply because the game involved is moving in a different direction than it was several years ago when I was chatting with the developer and they mentioned being interested in it.

    No matter what route you take, it's going to be a hilarious amount of work, and the chance that you'll be able to quit your day job are even more minuscule than for writing as a whole. But it can be pretty rewarding.

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Writing is (or can be) a career. RPGs are a single market, and rather a small one. If you want to be a writer, part of your writing might be for RPGs, but I wouldn't expect it to be the major part.

    You need to develop writing skills. Star with the basics - spelling, grammar, sentence construction, paragraph construction, rhetoric, logic, etc.

    That won't make you eligible to become a writer. But without it, you can't.

    Next, start writing. Not for publication at this time. Find some section of a rulebook that people have trouble understanding, and, without looking at the book, try to re-write it to make sense. Attacks of opportunity would make a great test subject. Then ask people to try to play based on that write-up.

    Write up a description of how to build a character in your favorite game. See if somebody else who isn't really familiar with the game can do it from your description.

    Writing is a craft like any other. Think about somebody who loves football. That person will have to practice it on the amateur level for a long time to get good enough to do it professionally. So will you.

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    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    I know couple of people in my RPG community that have published their own RPG's and some more that have adventures on the DM's Guild and run their own web page

    https://yawningportal.org/


    The only guys I know that have made any money on the industry is those who ran the local gaming store. One group of people had their store shut down twice until they managed to take off with their third one that is fairly successful.

    A friend of mine ran a store for a while before he quit and he just got by with other imports on the side.


    So this is a tough industry. For example a award winning game designer like John Wick (Legend of the five rings, 7th Sea, Houses of the Blooded, Orkwordl) has often struggled and thought of leaving the industry because he had no prospects and wasn't making any money.

    So be prepared to work hard and follow your dream
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    I know a bunch of people in the RPG industry. The most famous ones, the ones that have worked on the most famous products? Yeah, they're not in the industry as a full time job. They're either doing it part time, or have left the industry to work in video games.

    So, yeah.
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Apply for a job at your nearest wizards of the coast or similar company. If there isn't one then you're going to have to move or start your own. Make your own RPG books and sell them to whatever store in town sells RPGs. If that also doesn't exist... move?
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    Apply for a job at your nearest wizards of the coast or similar company. If there isn't one then you're going to have to move or start your own. Make your own RPG books and sell them to whatever store in town sells RPGs. If that also doesn't exist... move?
    To be honest, this is pretty bad advice in my opinion.

    First of all, there isn't a lot of "similar companies" to Wizards, most rpg companies are really, really small outfits run out of a garage or living room (or nowadays, the internet, obviously). One example: until not too long ago, Rich Thomas was the only full-time paid employee of Onyx Path (the guys making nWoD/CofD and the oWoD 20th anniversary stuff, Exalted and Scion), you can't just ring up those companies and apply for a job, because there are none. RPG writers don't get full-time jobs, you "apply" by either being asked to write on a project or pitch an idea and then getting a shot at writing it, but you will be a freelancer, you will be paid by what you write (if that, money is tight enough in the industry you won't find any writer who was worked there for a while who didn't get stiffed on pay at least once, or had to settle for much less than what as originally promised)

    And starting up your own gaming company without any hands-on experience in the industry seems like a perfect recipe for going out of business after your first book, if you make it that far.

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Quote Originally Posted by Delta View Post
    First of all, there isn't a lot of "similar companies" to Wizards, most rpg companies are really, really small outfits run out of a garage or living room (or nowadays, the internet, obviously).
    There's no similar companies to WotC - unless the various other national main brands (e.g. DSE in Germany) also have massively successful CCGs propping up their RPG business.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Well, I mean, Fantasy Flight is at least trying to be that. I doubt they have a lot of of full-time writers or designers either, though.
    And if you gaze long into an abyss, sometimes the abyss blushes and looks away.

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    There's no similar companies to WotC - unless the various other national main brands (e.g. DSE in Germany) also have massively successful CCGs propping up their RPG business.
    Nope. Ulisses (the guys making TDE/DSA, also the german version of D&D) are probably the biggest pure RPG company in Germany and... yeah, it's not a huge one. Pegasus (they're doing the german version of Shadowrun) is probably the closest comparison in the sense that they are a pretty huge board game business first and foremost, and since board games are a much bigger business than RPGs they use that to help out the RPG side of things in ways that other companies couldn't afford. When SR5 came out, Pegasus basically dumped the prices for the german books so hard just to get the game back in business after the german Shadowrun scene imploded during the 4th edition years. Those books are so dirt cheap I once bought a second SR5 core book on a convention just because I left my first one at home (the softcover versions of the books cost 10 euros a piece).

    But yeah, there's no comparison to Wizards, that's what I was getting at. You can't go into writing RPG games like any other career, expecting to find job listings, apply, get a job and a monthly paycheck afterwards, that's just not how this business works.

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Well, I mean, Fantasy Flight is at least trying to be that. I doubt they have a lot of of full-time writers or designers either, though.
    I'm not sure even Wizard has a lot of full-time writers, but I have no clue about the structure of Wizards so that's all just speculating on my part.

    But to put it like this: I've had several RPG writers tell me straight up, you don't write RPG books to earn money, you write them because you want to. There's just not enough money in that, if you want to write to make money, you write novels. Even a moderately selling fantasy novel will make you way more money as a writer than writing an RPG book ever will, at a fraction of the work involved, it's really that simple (you still most likely won't be able to live off that money unless you're good and lucky)

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Interestingly, there's a few fantasy writers on Quora. When asked what one does to become a fantasy writer, they all said something along the lines of "Get a day job you can stand doing for ten years and write in your time off." Most novel writers also never make enough money to live off it.
    And if you gaze long into an abyss, sometimes the abyss blushes and looks away.

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Interestingly, there's a few fantasy writers on Quora. When asked what one does to become a fantasy writer, they all said something along the lines of "Get a day job you can stand doing for ten years and write in your time off." Most novel writers also never make enough money to live off it.
    That's what I meant. Chances you'll be able to make a living out of writing novels are slim, and it's still a lot more than what you will make as an RPG writer...

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Actually, Wizards of the Coast does have job openings, among which is one as an attorney.

    Most of the jobs are in Renton, Washington, but there's one based in the United Kingdom.

    Before you move anywhere to take a job, thoroughly learn what living expenses are there, as the salary may not go as far as it looks.
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Yeah, you have a much better chance of getting a full-time paid job at an RPG company as anything but an actual writer. Layouters, editors, people who know how to actually run a business, those people have a much better chance of landing a regular full-time job there than writers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delta View Post
    To be honest, this is pretty bad advice in my opinion.

    First of all, there isn't a lot of "similar companies" to Wizards, most rpg companies are really, really small outfits run out of a garage or living room (or nowadays, the internet, obviously). One example: until not too long ago, Rich Thomas was the only full-time paid employee of Onyx Path (the guys making nWoD/CofD and the oWoD 20th anniversary stuff, Exalted and Scion), you can't just ring up those companies and apply for a job, because there are none. RPG writers don't get full-time jobs, you "apply" by either being asked to write on a project or pitch an idea and then getting a shot at writing it, but you will be a freelancer, you will be paid by what you write (if that, money is tight enough in the industry you won't find any writer who was worked there for a while who didn't get stiffed on pay at least once, or had to settle for much less than what as originally promised)

    And starting up your own gaming company without any hands-on experience in the industry seems like a perfect recipe for going out of business after your first book, if you make it that far.
    What are the alternatives? Do it as a hobby for free? You can write modules and give them away or you can try to sell them to a relevant store. No matter how you slice it you need a day job first and this can either be a hobby or a second job.
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    What are the alternatives? Do it as a hobby for free? You can write modules and give them away or you can try to sell them to a relevant store. No matter how you slice it you need a day job first and this can either be a hobby or a second job.
    Online publication, to start with - DriveThruRPG is one of the biggest usable institutions here, more than any actual individual publisher, and it's relatively easy to release .pdf files and the like on it. That at least lets you build up a corpus of work. Beyond that there's small presses, which can be used in conjunction with making a tiny little company for making, printing, and distributing RPGs. This is basically where every RPG company came from, starting with TSR itself.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    What are the alternatives? Do it as a hobby for free? You can write modules and give them away or you can try to sell them to a relevant store. No matter how you slice it you need a day job first and this can either be a hobby or a second job.
    The alternatives have already been mentioned, several times.

    The thing is "applying for a job" won't get you anywhere. First of all, there are no "similar companies" to Wizards, and even they don't have any job openings for what OP is looking for, ever. That's just not how the business works, if there is a job opening for an RPG developer, it will be a senior position where most of your duties will be overseeing a team working on different products, and you can be sure they will not want someone without prior experience on a job like that.

    The things you need are experience, reputation and contacts, and yes, as long as your building that up, you'll be doing it as a hobby for free. Thanks to the internet, once you get the hang of it, self-publishing is an option, but someone without any prior experience opening up his own RPG company and trying to publish games on their own is just a recipe for disaster. This is a tough business where even the guys selling lots of books and with decades of experience aren't exactly making big bucks, someone without that experience is just gonna go bust.

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Online publication is a good idea that I didn't even think of. If you can build up a bit of a reputation, you could probably, say, sell adventure PDFs. Not for much, though, there's a lot of that online.
    And if you gaze long into an abyss, sometimes the abyss blushes and looks away.

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    At least one person at this Forum managed to get some money out of writing for RPG's:

    Quote Originally Posted by JakOfAllTirades View Post
    My folks hated RPG's, right up until the first royalty check came in....

    And I know others who've published through the DM's Guild, but the thing is that the "actor who's a waiter"/"mooching rock musician"/"starving artist" cliches exist for a reason, and even most American airplane pilots are really low paid.

    I make my living as a plumber, and it would be difficult for me to do so if a large group of people did the work as a hobby (yes there are DIY'ers, but that's their own homes they're working on), the only volunteer plumbers that I know of don't do the trade as a hobby.

    There's very good reasons that most don't follow the "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life" advice.
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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Quote Originally Posted by 2D8HP View Post
    There's very good reasons that most don't follow the "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life" advice.
    This can work for an RPG developer - if what you love is writing, and figuring out how a system can work, and rules formulation, and imaginative world building, and you're better at all of them than virtually everybody else.

    Emmett Smith loved football, and got rich doing it. But only because he was one of the best in the world at it. He loved it so much that he loved the years of workouts and training and body-building.

    Lots and lots of people who love it play it as a hobby and can never make money at it.

    Similarly, to make money at writing RPGs, you'll need to love the years of learning to write, to analyze rules, to practice writing rules, etc. Learn the craft first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    This can work for an RPG developer - if what you love is writing, and figuring out how a system can work, and rules formulation, and imaginative world building, and you're better at all of them than virtually everybody else.

    Emmett Smith loved football, and got rich doing it. But only because he was one of the best in the world at it. He loved it so much that he loved the years of workouts and training and body-building.

    Lots and lots of people who love it play it as a hobby and can never make money at it.

    Similarly, to make money at writing RPGs, you'll need to love the years of learning to write, to analyze rules, to practice writing rules, etc. Learn the craft first.
    It's certainly possible - but unlike Emmett Smith, you WILL NOT get rich doing it no matter how good you are. You could potentially earn a decent living, but the only way to make really good money would be to be a success and then use that as leverage to shift into writing/design in video games.

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Even then, I've never heard of a rich video game writer. A few famous ones, but no rich ones.
    And if you gaze long into an abyss, sometimes the abyss blushes and looks away.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Delta's Avatar

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    Default Re: A career in RPG development

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Even then, I've never heard of a rich video game writer. A few famous ones, but no rich ones.
    This. The only rich writers are either novelists who hit the jackpot (King, Rowling, GRRM in recent years) or maybe screenwriters who manage to get their scripts sold in Hollywood.

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