Tuesday, June 20, 2006

RPG Geekdom

I released a new game book in electronic format via RPGNow and ENWorld today.

I had entertained the notion of going into RPG publishing full-time, but that's an even more brutal business than screenwriting. Not only are pay scales low, but the frequency of doing work--under contract!--and not getting paid for it is stunningly high. And, since nobody has any money, there's typically little point in calling out the lawyers.

One of the saddest parts, is the churn rate in great game designers. The Steve Peterson responsible in part for Champions (and why I go by Steven Palmer Peterson in all my writing) is working in computers somewhere now, despite helping design the equivalent of the calculus for roleplaying games.* Aaron Allston writes novels now. The folks at Pagan Publishing are now all mainly doing video or computer games.

But terrific new designers keep popping up -- and I'm adding a few more of them to the link list at the right.

Adrian Bott -- He's been doing some work for Mongoose, and I mainly got interested in the excellent, and very non-railroady, Drow War series. If you trawl the better game shops you might also find a delicious bit of nastiness titled, The Book of Unremitting Horror, to which he contributed.

Monte Cook -- One of the few designers who I suspect could actually write RPGs for a living for the rest of his life. My current players are suffering through multiple of his books at the moment.

Bruce Cordell -- The squamous illithid overmind of psionics. Check out Hyperconsciousness for psionics pushed to where it really ought to go -- and for an example of why it's worthwhile to think more seriously about one book -- one author for RPG books. The unity of vision allows for something very interesting.

Charles Rice -- We started the RPG writing at the same time. He's written buckets of material, and his books for d20 Modern are one of the best reasons to play the game.

* While some might take this as a mere joke about the complexity of Champions, or the fact that I used to write up stuff for my Champions game during our high school calculus class -- I also mean it because such a vast number of very influential ideas came out of that system. You can see analogs for multi-powers, elemental controls, and variable power pools in many modern games. Effect-based design was something Champions pioneered, and is now practically a cliche. Even genre emulation, Champions via its wahoo knockback rules and friendly way of keeping people from getting killed too easily, can be traced back to it.


ScriptWeaver said...

I have no idea what you just said.

Steve Peterson said...

You failed the geek test!

That means you dated in high school.

Prest0 said...

I recently heard Mike Stackpole (another RPG luminary who has since moved on) say that RPG writers make 1/10 of what their counterparts in traditional publishing make. They in turn earn 1/10 of what electronic game developers make. Who in turn make 1/10th of what the movie business makes.

The best way to make a small fortune in RPGs is to start with a large one.

Steve Peterson said...

I hear that electronic game developers don't have it that easy either -- long hours at any rate.

Steve Peterson said...

For some evidence of the wonder of working for the rpg biz you can check this message board thread: