Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wargaming Wednesday: Nine Novels, Zero RPGs

Old Cover Draft from Wayyyy Back When
Going to cut and paste in a series of posts from Twitter that I wrote this weekend. Every year or so, I get this notion of "finally" finishing a small role-playing game product that I can let out into the wild. I don't think I'd sell it, just create a PDF that's available for download, perhaps put a print-on-demand version on Amazon for as cheaply as they'll let me. But year after year, it doesn't happen, and I got thinking about why recently:
I've blogged about it in the past, but it is very strange for me to face that I have written nine novels and many shorter works of fiction, but the thought of putting out a short role-playing game product is vastly more nerve-wracking. 

I've been gaming since '93 and writing for profit since 2011. I ran campaigns with several homebrew RPG systems over the years, and tinkered with probably a dozen more system ideas. Yet, I have never had the nerve to finish a gaming product, package it, and put it out there.

At first I thought it was fear of criticism, but being a novelist beats that out of you pretty quickly. Maybe it's knowing that most readers just consume your product and move on, but so many gamers I know are system-tinkerers. It's like running a restaurant where half your customers are also running their own restaurants. Every single person who buys it is going to be deciding whether they could have done this better than you, and how.

Because that's the nature of RPGs. And that's fine, except that means not just criticism, but active, in-depth critique. No 4* reviews on Amazon "Fun read but the action was a little confusing". You have to defend every rule and every wording against everyone who reads it.

And to have that level of exhausting engagement, and so much of my time dedicated to a project that'd probably earn me 1% of what a novel would (if I even put it out at a price, which I probably wouldn't) just seems...not worth it.

Which kind if sucks, because I love role-playing games, and I have been a tinkering game designer for 25+ years. But the meat grinder which is that middle-aged person's algorithm of time, money, and energy vs reward is difficult to overcome.
I wrote a post about this back in 2015 on my Tankards and Broadswords blog (click to go there and read it, it's still relevant). It's funny that in the last four years, despite continued tinkering, I still don't have any kind of RPG product to share. I'm fully aware that the skill set of "Game Designer" and "Novelist" only partially overlap, but I think that is only a small portion of the problem. So, we shall see. I've got a few ideas, and I feel like if I can start small enough, I can build on a little idea incrementally. Only time will tell.

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