Author Archives: okcstephens

Why Trauma Doesn’t Just End

This post is heavy, not gaming-related (at least mostly), personal, and from my perspective. I’m not claiming this is a scientific or universal explanation. Just my experience.

When you experience trauma, everyone seems to understand why it affects you immediately. You witnessed blood spraying from your mother’s face as a child. You got beating bloody by a random drunk you had never met before. You saw a naked woman clinging to the railing of a motel, screaming for help while a man tried to drag her inside. You were lured into the woods by someone you thought was a friend, so a group could jump you, force you into a ditch, and threaten to bury you alive.  You were in a car wreck. An earthquake. A wild fire.

In the hours and days after that, everyone gets it. It was traumatic. You were rattled. It sucked.

Years later, if something sets off those memories so you begin shaking, crying, screaming, some people don’t understand why you haven’t “gotten over it.” Why is it throttling back your productivity, or driving you to seek self-medication, or suddenly making you have nightmares. After all you were fine yesterday, right?

Well first, most likely not. But, second, life is a building, and it’s always growing. Every year is a new floor, every event and responsibility a new tenant you have to keep happy.

The foundation is SUPPOSED to be strong and reinforced enough to handle every floor you build. But some of us built our foundations under poor circumstances. The concrete was smashed, or the ground was swampy. When we put the first few floors on it, we are okay, but every floor is new weight. More and more strain on that foundation.

And not every floor gets built strong, or even correctly. Trauma is a fire on the 5th floor. A wrecking ball coming in through a corner office. Flooding in the basement.

So, we do what we can to shore it up. Self medication is trying to fix the problems of all that structural damage… but it’s not always good as a long-term fix. You’re not doing the work to code, because your problems are ones that sticking to code won’t fix. The tenants are complaining about the heat, because you never got the HVAC fixed after basement flooded. So you set about renovations in their apartments and offices. More windows, more doors, spruce the place up. Sure, you are cutting holes in retaining walls on the 27th floor to do it, but the building is only 28 floors tall, so who cares?

But then you build the 29th floor. The 30th. Ten more on top of that. The external braces you bolted on to make up for the weak walls can’t handle that strain. The cracks in the foundation split their patches under years of use and tons of weight.

You seem fine… but there are problems.

Then one day, winds are just a tiny bit stronger than usual. The buildings around you are fine. They can take it. But you? Your trauma-ridden structure, patches and braces and ad-hoc fixes can’t take it. Your whole frame bends. Windows pop out. Girders on the 5th floor buckle.

People look at you wand wonder what the big deal is. The fire that weakened those girders was 40 years ago. Why are you making a big deal about them now?

We can’t tear ourselves down and start over. And while major renovations sometimes can help bring us up to code, it can be extremely difficult to use a building while it’s being renovated. Do I kick out functions like going to work, paying the bills, helping people out, so I can get the work of replacing major columns done? Especially since the workmen can’t promise the columns will ever hold the same weight, and don’t know what they’ll find in the walls when we start tearing into things?

Or do I throw up some more supports, just give up on ever using the 5th floor for anything, promise we’ll add high-speed wifi to the whole building, and hope I don’t drill through a sewage pipe as I install the fiberoptic?

Trauma doesn’t go away. It leaves scars, and you often don’t know where they are, what they look like, or what will set them off.

I spent way too long trying to decide if I even wanted to link to my Patreon in this post. It seemed cheap, somehow, to talk about my pain and then ask for money.

But I know some very brave, smart, struggling people who do it, and I never look down at them for doing so. So maybe we normalize that emotional work is work, and it’s okay to suggest people be paid for it.

If you want to contribute to my writing and videos, check out my Patreon.

EDIT: A post-script.

Since people have asked, yes, all the traumas I list in the second paragraph are specific examples from my life. I left out the sexual abuse as a child, mockery for fat shaming, bullying as a nerd, and probably dozens of others that felt less relatable to the general public.

That’s not the point of this piece but yeah, for those of whom it seems to matter, those ARE all examples of trauma in one person’s life. Mine.

 

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Ten Unlikely FOX/Disney Mash-Ups, Ranked!

So, as of today, Disney owns the FOX catalog of movies and television fiction.

Sure, that means LOTS more characters enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars: A New Hope distribution rights now go back to Lucasfilm. Those are the “mainstream” stories about this merger.

But Disney had made TONS of money building linked cinematic universes and rebooting properties in the past 15 years.

So, what are some unlikely but now technically possible combinations of new FOX acquisitions and old Disney properties they could try?

Here are Ten, ranked from worst to best.

10. Program of the APES (Planet of the Apes/TRON)

When an uplifted chimpanzee finds an old, independent research facility…. Nope. I can’t do it. Some great tastes just do NOT taste great together!

9. DIE HARD Wore TENNIS SHOES (Die Hard/The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes)


The only reason this isn’t the worst idea on this list is that I COULD see a way to do this as a parody… and Program of the APES really is a worse idea.

8. Serenity Witches (Firefly/Witch Mountain)

I mean, it might be fun just to see Browncoats’ heads explode. Mal and the Serenity must help a couple of psychic kids escape their government pursuers and return to the frontier planet Witch Mountain.

7. Swiss Family Robinson ALIEN

Yes, it’s a reach, but hear me out. In the future a family of explorers, with one famous example of being stranded, get stuck when their colony ship crashes on a deserted planet. They set about trying to survive already harsh conditions, when one of the animals finds this leathery egg…

Alien is at its best as either full-on military action, or small, isolated horror. Why not try that second one again?

(But if you do… yeah let’s NOT actually mention Swiss Family Robinson)\

6. Flight of the AVATAR

Do a straight-up remake of Flight of the Navigator, but with a Na’vi kid.

This is a heartless cash grab idea. Those always do well, right?

5. My X-FILES Project (X-Files, My Science Project)

A group of teens find the junkyard where the government sticks all the alien gadgets and gizmos that were stolen away to make sure the FBI team known as the X-Files can’t prove they exist. Now the X-Files are closed down, and it’s up to the kids to use the alien tech they have recovered to investigate other strange phenomenon.

Okay… I’d at least give this one a try.

4. Predator: Black Hole

I’m not saying there’s any tonal or aesthetic justification to linking these properties. I’m just saying if I get a movie post with Maximilian facing off against a Predator, and the tagline “The Most Dangerous Hunter Needs the Most Dangerous Hunting Grounds,” with the Cygnus and a black hole in the background?

I’m in!

And no one knows what to do with either franchise, so why not give it a shot?

3. Muppet Night at the Museum

Hear me out!

All you need is for the Museum where exhibits come to life to have a travelling Muppet display be installed, and hilarity ensues! Let’s face it, Night at the Museum could use a threequel, and Disney doesn’t know what to do with the Muppets anyway. And Miss Piggy karate chopping soldiers of all eras has some promise for comedy.

2. Kingsman/Pirates of the Caribbean

Look, Disney is GOING to make more PotC movies. If one of the new characters is a tailor, who gets a huge pirate treasure an uses it to begin training other tailors as super-spies? That’s a win.

1. The Orville/The Cat From Outer Space

This one is a no-brainer, but it should also be more an Easter Egg in an Orville two-parter, or MAYBE for “The Orville The Movie.”

But you can’t convince me a race of psychic cats isn’t perfect for The Orville.

BONUS MASH-UP

Ice Age “Live Action” Remake

Ice Age lost some steam, but still has lots of fans and great actors in its key roles. Just give us photo-real CGI prehistoric beasts, and people will pack the theaters.

This is the ONE idea on this page I think has any chance whatsoever of actually happening.

(Though if Disney wants to pay me to explain how ANY of these ideas could work, I’m available!)

PATREON
If you get use out of or enjoy any of the content on this blog, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!

StarBarians: The Saturday Morning Campaign Hack

Welcome StarBarians! You are the heroic defenders of the world of Barbarth, the most important Science-Fantasy world in the universe! You must oppose Lichlor, the undead technomancer tyrant, and his hoard of villainous themed villains.

StarBarians is a silly, high-action campaign hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

Male Alien Thug-color

(All art by the spectacular Jacob Blackmon!)

Character creation:

You are 2nd level. You’re never going to gain any levels until the very last adventure (whenever the GM says that is), when you pop up to 4th and get a new costume! This is a fast and silly game, there’s no need to worry about things like experience points. Or continuity. Or whether your feet are in sync with the rate the ground is going by.

Before racial modifiers, your ability scores are one 18, one 16, one 14, one 12, one 10, and one 8. Alternatively you can have one 20, four 10s, and one 8, or three 14s and three 12s. Assign as desired, but if you have an 18 or 20 in any ability score, no one else should. Be adults, work it out.

You get all the benefits of any one suit of armor of your choice that is 3rd level or less. You aren’t WEARING that armor, of course. You’re a StarBarian! You run around in a fur loincloth or (for some reason) skintight Victorian suit. But you get the benefits. If you want an armor upgrade, pick it as an item below, and just strap it on. It’s fine. Jump jets over fur boots is perfect for StarBarians.

You get ONE item of your choice of 5th level or less. this is your THEMED ITEM. You can never lose it for longer than the duration of 1 fight. It should have a name. Lichlor and his minions will try to steal it periodically, They never succeed. This item can be a suit of armor if you like, in which case you get its benefits instead of your baseline 3rd level armor when you wear it.

You get THREE other items of your choice of 3rd level or less.

You get 9 other items of your choice of 1st level.

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If you selected a ranged weapon, its item level is 2 lower. All weapons with usage above 1 never run out of ammo or batteries. All weapons and items with a usage of 1 or that are 1-shot count as 3 items, but are fully restored at the beginning of each game session.

Each game session you can use the StarBarian Power to do two spectacular things (two different things, one each). This is because you have a StarBarian Stone. Lichlor is always trying to steal StarBarian stones. He never succeeds, and you can’t lose yours. Ever.

Starbarian Powers are based on class, can be performed whenever an appropriate roll or even occurs, and take no time.

Envoy

Treat a failed Int/Wis/Cha skill or ability check as if you had rolled a 20 on your d20.

Allow an ally who failed any d20 roll or check to treat it as if they had rolled a 15 on their d20.

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Mechanic

Succeed at any one Engineering check

Drone: Allow your drone who failed any d20 roll or check to treat it as if they had rolled a 15 on their d20.

Exocortex: Treat any failed attack roll as if you had rolled a 15 on your d20.

Mystic

Treat any failed saving throw of yours as if you had rolled a 20 on your d20.

Restore yourself or one ally to full health, ending all conditions.

Operative

Treat a failed Str/Dec/Con skill or ability check as if you had rolled a 20 on your d20.

Force a foe who succeeded on any d20 roll or check to treat it as if they had rolled a 5 on their d20.

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Solarian

Take an extra round of action.

Solar Weapon: Treat any one solar weapon attack that failed as if it had automatically hit and done maximum damage. Apply any critical effect, though don’t double your damage.

Solar Armor: Negate all effects of any one successful attack against you.

Soldier

Treat any failed attack roll as if you had rolled a natural 20 on your d20.

Replace any one damage roll you make, or that is made against you, with either maximum or minimum damage (your choice)

Technomancer

Force a foe to treat any successful saving throw against an effect of yours as if they had rolled a 5 on their d20.

End any one magic or technological effect with a duration.

Villains

Lichlor is a 4th level Technomancer with a +2 bonus to every roll he makes. But he always does minimum damage, and the duration of all his effects is a maximum of 1d4 rounds. No matter how often you defeat him, he always escapes.

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His Themed Minions are CR 2 NPCs. They always escape between adventures.

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Special Rules

No one ever dies. If you should have died, you are just unconscious.

PATREON
If you get use out of or enjoy any of the content on this blog, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!

Cheap Cool Common Minis: Sword and Shield

I could see this becoming a weekly thing… or not, depending on how popular it is.

The idea is to look at  a specific miniature for gaming I think is cheap ($1 or less, plus shipping), cool (well, I like it), and common (at time of writing, no promises you you come here 6 months later).

I won’t tell you specifically where to get it, though I’ll link to a Google page for options to get it . But check out your local friendly gaming store first! Especially if I am suggesting a randomized miniature you might find as a single… which today I am!

Need a male human or half-elf adventurer in a chain shirt with longsword and shield? Want something to turn into a pulp-era adventurer with some modifications?

Behold, from the HeroClix “The Mighty Thor” set, Captain America (#104)

Marvel-Heroclix-The-Mighty-Thor-Captain-America-006

Yes, like a lot of HeroClix, the sword can bend a bit. I find a dip in boiling water (CAREFULLY) followed by placing it in an ice bath held in the correct position usually fixes this. If not, i have TONS of spare swords I can glue in from metal equipment sprues.

Here’s a better shot, though this is obviously a CG render, rather than a live shot.

It is, of course, on a clicky-base, which is too big for a lot of games. But it’s easily enough to get a straightedge (don’t use a knife without being careful and experienced) under the lip of the figure base, and working it around to pry a tiny bit at a time, until it pops off.
Or, just cut it free at the feet. (With proper precautions and supervision, as appropriate).

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Works well as a dashing advanced-fantasy figure, but also a science-fantasy, modern fantasy, or (weirdly with a little work) a supers figure.

I found LOTS for sale under $1, though no promises you can.

But to me, this looks cheap, cool, and common!

PATREON
If you get use out of or enjoy any of the content on this blog, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!

Short Fiction: Weftwork

Vanre felt consciousness creep into her body like an unwelcome guest. She resisted the lure to open her eyes, or stretch her muscles, focusing instead on the warm, soft quilts piled above and below her… but to no avail. The very act of trying to find a way to stay asleep sent her mind racing through options, which inevitably meant she was awake now. Keeping her eyes closed was an act of rebellion rather than a viable tactic.

A soft scraping above her did cause her eyes to flutter open of their own volition, and her brain was immediately fully alert. Dim light leaked in through the shuttered window, casting dusky shadows across the wooden beams of her bedroom ceiling. The poor visibility was not, however, nearly enough to conceal the enormous arachnid clinging to the wooden boards above her.

Its body was more than a yard long, from it’s eight glossy black eyes and furred mandibles to the rainbow-striped abdomen. It’s eight legs spanned nearly the whole room, the longest set of fore-mid arms just inches from touching the ceiling’s corners ten feet apart. Most of the body was thickly furred, with only the orblike eyes, sharp fangs, and the leg’s numerous small claws at the tips and joints not covered in the bright pelt.

As Vanre’s eyes opened, the huge spider tilted, so it’s inhuman face lowered suddenly to be right over her head.

“Floor too cold again, Senneh?” Vanre asked with concern.

The spider’s shorter aft-mid legs dropped from the ceiling and waved meaningfully, the many clawtips forming precise, complex shapes.

Can you see me? The hand-sigils were fast and smooth, better than most webfolk Senneh’s age managed.

Vanre smiled. “I can hardly miss you, darling. You take up the whole ceiling. Just because my eyes can only look at one thing at a time doesn’t mean I’m blind to obvious things.”

I am never sure. There was none of the little wiggling clawtips that would suggest Senneh was joking. The floor was much too cold. Even with the old weavings you convinced the steward to give me, my joints ached. Water is becoming solid outside. Why do your kind live here? I liked our previous school much more.

Vanre sat up in bed, reaching up to rub Senneh’s face, enjoying how thick and soft the webfolk’s fur was.

“It’s a major port, nine months out of the year. And this is about as far south as the uriphants are willing to come. They don’t understand why we are willing to live places where water ever isn’t solid. Finding one place for all five civilized peoples to come together isn’t easy. Eleanear is about as good as it gets. And the Empire only allows one school for advanced magic.”

But it is COLD. Senneh used one of her fore-mid legs to repeat the last sigil, to give her complaint more emphasis.

Vanre stood, feeling the very chill air on her skin. She dared a very minor spell to freshen her skin, then began pulling on her uniform, hung neatly on a rack next to her bed.

“It is cold, sweetling. I’m sorry. If you want, you can just sleep in here until summer. We can even burn some charcoal in the brazier at night.”

You do not mind?

Vanre smiled. “Not at all. I don’t use the ceiling for anything.”

Vanre’s eyes drifted to her tiny desk, in the room’s corner, where an open book was covered in her own handwriting. The tight runs were interspersed with illustrations of webs, spinnerets, and weaving patterns.

Vanre’s smile grew. “Not yet, anyway.”

PATREON
If you get use out of or enjoy any of the content on this blog, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!

 

 

Creating SuperMemes

Superhero/comic book worlds often build off their pasts with legacies and spin-offs. A good example of this are the X-Men, who have an X-Gene that gives them mutant powers, are trained by professor X, and have had groups such as X-Factor and eXcalibre.

It may all seem a bit eXcessive, but it also greats a throughline readers can use to quickly understand how these individuals and groups are related.

So if you are going to build something for a superhero setting, why not put in the thought on how to turn a single idea into a whole meme? A set of related concepts you, and readers and players, can expand on over time.

Here’s a particularly obvious example you can build an entire set of superhero groups and concepts around: AB-Humans

The rise of “Advanced Biology” Humans, or AB Humans, was troubling and unexpected. It lead to the rise of mega-geniuses, extreme mutations, and people with true superpowers.

And, of course, costumed heroes and villains.

Doctor Amanda Bryant, a powerful telepath sometimes called “Doctor AB” tried to train some of the most powerful ABs to control their abilities and use them for the benefit of mankind. In an effort to show that this could be the standard, she called them the Normal AB Example.

The press quickly dubbed them the AB-Normals, and bigotry and fear dogged them constantly.

Doctor AB’s old colleague, Erica Magus, saw that society would never trust ABs, and knew that only armed resistance could protect this minority. She took in ABs no one else would give a chance, even those who had turned to crime and rage to survive, and made them her Knight Errants.

The AB-Errants.

Since then both groups have spun off side teams, the AB-Solvers and AB-Stainers, and AB-used being the best known.

PATREON
If you get use out of or enjoy any of the content on this blog, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!

The Secret to Being a Good GM

First, note that I am a HUGE believer in playstyle being variable. I don’t think there is one BEST way to do almost anything in gaming. I often get annoyed if people are being too silly when I want a serious story… but that doesn’t mean I am right and they are wrong. Similarly if a group wants to focus on tactical miniatures combat using RPG rules, that’s fine, as long as they are all having a good time.

But for me, and the styles I engage in the most, this is the thing that I have done as a GM, and that GMs of mine have done, that has generated the most total fun.

Ready for the secret?

“Create the environment to tell the PCs’ stories.”

That’s it. … And that is a lot.

Anything I do — building memorable NPCs, adding GMPCs, worldbuilding, props, funny voices, creating a meta-plot, creating random encounters–it’s all designed to create an environment where players can build the story of their characters.

Yes, I want to have fun doing that. But I am specifically trying to tell HALF a story. I don’t want to write how the villain falls. I want to write how he rises, grows, becomes a threat… the players will write his downfall.

To me, this idea has two main corollaries.

First: Build the details in the places the players show interest.

Yes, it can be annoying if I mention there are two people in a bar (a mysterious cloaked figure with a circle of runes floating around her head, and a dirty pig-farmer), and the players only show interest in the boring one I *didn’t* build an adventure around.

But that’s okay. All my ideas connected to the circle or runes are still available. I just get there a different way, or table them until later. If the players want to know what’s up with the pig farmer, then THAT is the story they want, and I’ll give it to them.

What IS a pig farmer doing in the same bar as women with magic halo crowns? How can he afford a drink? Why isn’t he tending his pigs?

The answers to those questions can form the same story, or a new one. I’m even okay railroading PCs… as long as I build the track through the scenery they want to see.

Second: Give PCs opportunities to change, and be changed.

Gaining a flaming sword? Kinda cool, especially for some players. Gaining the ability to make any sword you use flaming because you saved a fire elemental envoy from being killed by evil water wizards and were named a Knight of Emblazoned Honor, a peer fo the Plane of Fire?

Awesome.

Of course, the player can turn that down. Or then seek out other elemental titles. Or embrace the idea of fire being their birthright.

On a smaller (lower-level) scale, let players save the owner of a tavern, and get free drinks. Be befriended by an entirely mundane mockingbird. Have one horse hate them. As with all elements of telling their story put out feelers, and build on what the players enjoy.

Look at their character histories for hints on this. A summoner who doesn’t know why they can summon a chickenlike outsider? Give hints to multiple potential answers, and see which ones they build on. A fighter who carried their grandfathers sword from the Otyugh Wars? Leave hints their grandfather did more than they ever let on… and the sword may have a destiny as well.

While non-item rewards are part of this, so it just giving the players a sense that their characters impact the world in ways large and small, and the world can impact them as they interact with it.

Don’t force change. But make it available.

While, of course, trying to give players more of the things they seem to enjoy, and less of the things they don’t.

It’s the most complex simple thing in the world. 🙂

PATREON
If you get use out of or enjoy any of the content on this blog, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!

Writing Basics: Tell Publishers Why They Should Care

I did a two part article on RPG pitches, but there is always going to be associated information I think of later.

Like this.

If you are trying to get a publisher (or developer, editor, producer–anyone who could pay you for words) to accept a pitch of yours, tell them why they should care about it.

Compare the following pitches for “State of the Union,” a hypothetical Starfinder adventure.

Pitch One

I’d love working with you, and would like to discuss with you the possibility of having you publish a Starfinder adventure I am working on called “State of the Union.” It is for 1st-level characters, and is set in the multi-species Student Union of a space-stations major university. What appears at first to just be normal academic pranks turns out to be  the cover for a major organized crime operation, and only the PCs can stop it!

The adventure would be 32 pages long, and I could have it completed in 3 months.

Pitch Two

I’d love working with you, and would like to discuss with you the possibility of having you publish a Starfinder adventure (designed to be released under the OGL and Starfinder Compatibility License) I am working on called “State of the Union.” It is a lighthearted adventure for 1st-level characters, and is set in the multi-species Student Union of a space-stations major university. The PCs uncover what what appears at first to just be normal academic pranks, but turns out to be  the cover for a major organized crime operation! No one else takes the threat seriously, lives are at stake, and only the PCs can stop it!

The adventure would be 32 pages long, have 2 pages worth of maps, and I could have it completed in 3 months. A full outline is available.

Pitch Three

Among the projects I think might be a good match for your company is a Starfinder adventure (designed to be released under the OGL and Starfinder Compatibility License) titled “State of the Union.” It is a lighthearted adventure for 1st-level characters, and is set in the multi-species Student Union of a space-stations major university. The PCs uncover what what appears at first to just be normal academic pranks, but turns out to be  the cover for a major organized crime operation! No one else takes the threat seriously, lives are at stake, and only the PCs can stop it!

I envision this as 32 pages long and needing 2 pages worth of maps, and I could have it completed in 3 months. A full outline is available. It could also be adjusted to be longer or shorter, to fit your production needs. The core of this adventure comes from my experiences as the manager for the parking garage of the University of Oklahoma Student Union in the 1990s. During my 20-years as an RPG designer I have considered designing it for d20 Modern and Star Wars Saga Edition, but what has always been missing before are elements now available with the Starfinder RPG.

Pitch Four

So, this one is special. It was written in response to this article by Steven Marsh.

If you want to learn about RPGs and how they work, you should already know who Steven Marsh is. If you don’t, go look him up. But the main thing is that he was editor of Pyramid Magazine for 18 YEARS!

Steven has seen more RPG pitches than I will in a lifetime. If you ignore everything I wrote here, PAY ATTENTION to his much-better version (reprinted with his kind permission).

.

Dear Editor,

I’ve reviewed your submission guidelines and hope you’ll consider a new entry for your line of adventures under the Starfinder Compatibility License.

THE PITCH: Intrigued by seemingly mundane academic pranks, the heroes soon discover these deeds are cover for a major organized crime operation. With no one else taking this life-and-death threat seriously and the clock ticking down, only the spacefarers can infiltrate the multi-species student union and save the day . . . hopefully before the evening’s Zero-G-Pong Charity Fundraiser!

SPECIFICS: This is a lighthearted scenario close in tone to your adventures “Toastmaster Emperor” and “Pair of Dice Lost.” Designed as a combat-light standalone adventure for 4-6 low-level heroes, it can also serve as a followup to “Toastmaster Emperor.” It’s outlined at 31 non-title pages: 6 pages of background, 20 pages of encounters centered around two locales, and 5 pages of new gear and adversaries. It requires 2 maps; I could provide basic InDesign or JPG files, which can either be used as is or form the basis for more “professional” efforts.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your thoughts!

The Takeaway

You CAN put in too much information, and Pitch Three is pushing what i consider to be the upper bounds. But letting a potential publisher know you have done your homework,  you have relevant real-world experience, and this isn’t your first rodeo are all useful additions to what you are pitching and why.

Waste Nothing

Also, as much as possible, reuse any work you have already done and still have the rights to (though clear that with your publisher, if it’s ever been seen by the public before) and write things you can use multiple ways.

For example, I WAS the manager of the OU Student Union parking garage in the 1990s, and I DO have an idea for an adventure called “State of the Union.” So, if a publisher asked me about this article, I could confirm those details.

(Though I DON’T have an outline. Yet…)

PATREON
If you get use out of or enjoy any of the content on this blog, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!

Writing Basics: Learn from Your Mistakes. Or Else.

I love my editors.

I kinda have to. I need to treat them the way fighter pilots need to treat their ground crews. without them, I can’t do my job.

They are the only people in the world companies will pay to make me look smarter.

So, when they savagely rake me over the coals on something, I try to pay attention. To be a better writer, of course. And to show them I respect the effort I put into sending me feedback.

But, also, because I never want to know the savagery of a twice-spurned editor who finds the same mistake in a turnover of mine after pointing it out for me all special.

So that you can perhaps learn from my mistakes as well, here are the three two most savage pieces of editorial feedback I have ever received on my writing. I’m naming names.

One. Stilted Dialog.

Lj Stephens was editing a short piece of intro fiction I wrote for a game product. She asked for a revision noting:
“It’s great, except for when people are talking. That is all bad. Can you rewrite this so no one speaks?”

Yes. Yes I can.

Two. Passive Voice.

Louis Agresta sent me feedback on an adventure I wrote for him that said “Too much passive voice has been put in this adventure.”

Wow, that sentence is So awkward I wonder why…

Oh.

Three. American Spelling.

I turned over a manuscript to Wes Schneider which, to be clear, was for an American publisher.

I spelled the word gray as “grey” throughout the text.

He gave the manuscript back to me with editorial comments. The first time that appeared, there was a correction.

The second? A bigger correction, with a star by it.

The third? The page bled red ink.

Wes said we fought a war for that ‘A.’ He mentioned I was making baby George Washington cry. He drew a sketch of a field of cut-up and dying E’s in red ink on the manuscript, and told me I had to enter all the corrections myself.

I did.

With apologies to baby George Washington.

Good luck out there. Be kind to your editors.

PATREON
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Writing Basics: File Formatting

This is a very small thing… and yet an important one.

When, as a freelancer, you turn your project over to the contact with the client (be that editor/developer/manager/producer/publisher), make sure you are giving it to them in the format they want.

If they have a style guide, READ AND FOLLOW IT.

If they DON’T have a style guide, ASK how they want it.

For many years, I VERY much preferred writing in WordPerfect, then exporting files as rtf or text, depending on what my client would take.

But over the years, more and more of them specifically wanted .doc, or .docx, or even styled Word documents using specific fonts and styles.

So, I had to give up my Beloved WordPerfect, more than a decade ago.

The vast majority of freelance work I do now is turned over in styled Word docs, as requested by the publisher.

BUT

Some publishers HATE styled Word docs. Some need things in google docs. I literally had one ask me to send the material in the body of an email… which would be anathema for everyone else I work for.

So the takeaway here is that it’s very little effort to ask, and it wins you a lot of goodwill to give publishers materials the way they want them.