This morning two things stuck out as interesting. The first was a discord conversation with a person who was being put off from writing for RPGs because they thought that you needed to adhere to style guides, you need to have inDesign to lay stuff out, editors and commission art. Pretty much all the baggage that the established publishers can do inhouse but if you are one person sat at home could be a bit harder.
The second thing was that I kind of wasted three hours trying to find an artist. I had found his art. On the pages it said that commercial terms were available. It all went down hill from there.
Anyone Can Write
So the first thing was getting started in writing. If you want to write fan based stuff, no selling or sharing beyond your own group, there is very little to stop you. As your circle gets larger, so the complications can get bigger.
Let us assume you are not going to break anyone’s copyright or use their intellectual property. What do you need to do to get going in writing and selling?
The answer is just about any word processor and an idea. Beyond that, a PayPal account is helpful to receive the funds.
That is all it takes. You can write out your adventure, you can even build maps out of clip art or shapes available in your wordprocessor. There is no need for fancy graphics or even art. Sure those things may be nice, but they are not necessary.
There is no substitute for a good idea. I have been playing with Knave and Maze Rats all week. Take a look a this document (taken from the preview on DTRPG).
Two fonts, three columns and one table, a bit of bold and a bit of italic.
Knave is a phenomenal game and its popularity is well deserved. It has sold well over 2000 copies. If you look at Maze Rats it is equally simple.
Anyone could have produced that, and Ben Milton did.
If you want to get your content out there for people to play, you can use both DriveThruRPG [DTRPG] and Itch.io. Neither of them cost you anything to set up shop. DTRPG will take a commission (30%-35%) whereas itch.io uses revenue sharing where you decide how much to contribute to the site. Of course DTRPG has the much bigger audience at the moment, while itchio is the challenger in the market place.
Most games and adventures are saved as PDF files, as these are easily used on just about any platform. That is as simple as Save as… and change the type to PDF. Nothing more complicated than that. If you have used any art/maps etc. it is possible that saving as PDF may turn any transparent areas black. That is normally fixed by saving the image with a white background and saving it again.
So that is basically the minimum entry requirements to become a publisher/writer/game designer.
This is going to be the first of an occasional series where I will look at all the individual bits that go into self publishing game books.
The Missing Artist
The start of this story is a plan I have to write some more sci-fi adventures. You can get commercially licensed fantasy maps all over the place, for free or very little money. Sci-fi maps are, by contrast, extremely rare. Maps you can get permission to use commercially are even rarer. And then there is the consideration of price. Sci-fi does not sell as well as fantasy. If you are looking to buy in art you will have a smaller budget for sci-fi.
I started the day by trying to create a map for myself in a particular style. I then decided that this was very hard work and that someone must have already done this. A bit of searching later and I found an artist that had done exactly what I was after. Furthermore they talked about commercial terms. When I went looking for the commercial terms, that is when it all fell to pieces. The first website had not been updated since Jan 2017, that lead me to their website (Blogger) that had not been updated since march 2017, that lead me to Patreon, and that was equally out of date.
Where ever I looked all I got was dead websites, broken contact forms, an inactive twitter account. and so on.
Three hours later I was no closer to making contact than I had been at the beginning. I have left messages on every form I could find but as of yet had no responses.
Where does that leave my adventures?
In all that searching it turned out that I could see some basic things that the professionals were doing that I could easily emulate. Having applied those techniques to me rubbish attempts this morning and I am quite pleased with the results.
I am not thinking that I don’t need that other artists work after all.
We will see how optimistic I am when I really try and write and adventure using my home made art.