Category Archives: Con Season
Next month, Rogue Genius Games is going to be leaping into the Starfinder-compatible market, with what we hope are the first of a long line of exciting quality products. More details will be available as we get closer to release, but I did want to show off what we are planning, and how they are looking.
The Starfarer’s Companion has tons of material for players and GMs, including computers, starships, feats, races (Aasimar, Catfolk, Deoxyians, Dhampirs, Grippli, Ifrit, Kitsune, Kobolds, Mechanoi, Nagaji, Oreads, Samsarans, Suli, Sylphs, Tengu, Tieflings, Undine, Vanaras, Vishkanya, and Wayangs) and classes (Bard, Cleric, Magus, Paladin, Ranger, and Wizard).
We’re also releasing a 1st-level introductory adventure for 4-6 players, Blood Space & Moon Dust!
And of course it seems likely that once the game is out, some Starfinder material will find it’s way onto this blog, and into my Patreon. 😀
It’s exciting times!
I’m surprised how often this comes up, but there is often a sad lack of professionalism in the game industry. It’s not all one-way, and it’s not all intentional, and it’s not all unique to this industry… but some of it is, and that causes issues throughout the hobby. Especially as some big conventions are coming up, and those often mean new contacts and new work deals, I wanted to talk about it a bit.
I’m certainly not the gatekeeper of gaming professionalism, but there are some things that seem to be common among the industry folks I look up to who are better-known, smarter, and more graceful than I am, and I do my best to emulate the. This list isn’t comprehensive or absolute – there are important things I and missing and side cases that might be rare exceptions to these principals. But in general, this is a fair baseline for what I see as the start of game industry professionalism.
Oh, and I want it to be fun to read, so it’s broken into movie quote section.
Break a Deal, Face the Wheel
No, no one will actually put a fiberglass mask on your head and send you off to die in the desert… but if you get a reputation for not doing what you have contracted and agreed to, you may end up in an allegorical desert when all the available work dries up.
Look, the industry is often brutal. Pay is too low, deadlines too short, respect too uncommon (especially among some segments of fans). Some years not only would I have made more money spending the same amount of time doing minimum wage fast food jobs, but my main reward was to be called out and attacked by people with less experience and understanding of games than I have. It can suck.
But leaving people in a lurch makes it suck more.
If you agree to do a job, and the other side holds up their end, you need to do your best to hold up your end. I have had people I thought were promising freelancers, who I took a risk on, mentored, said nice things about and introduced to other publishers, take a contract, ask me to push back the deadline by months, then stop communicating at all, then tell me they can no longer do the project at all and give me some half-assed outline in way of recompense. All while continuing to do work for other companies.
If mental health issues has you down? Yes, that’s no different that backing out of a running job because you broke a leg. You need to be up-front and honest, and tell me as soon as possible, but I get it. But do it early, be frank, and don’t immediately prove it’s not about that by taking even more work from other people. If you need a break, take a break.
But if the job you are doing for me just got pushed back to the back of your queue so often because of better work coming along that you’ve decided it’s not fun anymore, or no longer a good use of your time? Tough. You agreed to do this project. We have a contract. Do it.
You’re not just making a publishers life more difficult when you just throw a project aside. You are boosting their missed opportunity cost, adding stress, and preventing them from paying everyone else who would be involved. It’s unprofessional, and it’s way too common among way too many freelancers.
The reverse of this is ALSO true. If you tell someone you’ll publish their work, and there’s no formal timeline, and five years alter you still haven’t? You are screwing with them. And, obviously, pay what you say you will pay, when you say you will or before. Giving feedback is optional, but smart to improve the whole industry. Bad-mouthing a freelancer to other publishers for some behavior you never told THEM was an issue/ Unprofessional. Cancelling a project and just never telling people working on turnovers? Unprofessional. Sitting on a manuscript for years? Unprofessional… and I’ve been guilty of that one.
Keep it Secret. Keep it Safe.
We rarely have information as crucial as the location of the One Ring, but there certainly are things you shouldn’t let the (various) Dark Lords know.
What information is exchanged between company and employee or freelancer as part of a work arrangement should be kept between those two, unless there’s a crime involved or an agreement that says otherwise or it’s become common knowledge. If you get to work on Ultimate Sentient Weapons, a major book that hasn’t been announced yet, you SHOULD NOT then use that information to write a book that does the same thing but better, and sell it before USW comes out. That’s screwing over your partner who got you that info, and it’s not cool. Similarly if a freelancer tells a publisher the freelancer is already working on something similar, the publisher should not take steps to trademark names involved, or change publishing dates, or badmouth them to damage their reputation, or change the project to cover the idea the freelance admitted to having.
Even without an NDA, don’t do this.
Once things are all out in the open, normal intellectual property rights can apply. And if the publisher is giving the info to lots of folks to do associated projects, there’s no reason not to ask if you can be included in that set of folks. But you can’t use info you were given to do a job for A Corp, then leverage it to sell a tie-in to B Corp before anyone even knows it has happened. Similarly, don’t leak files, even just to your friend Josh. Because you may trust Josh… but Josh may trust Wilhelm, and Wilhelm may trust Jerry, and Jerry may be an asshole. Don’t take the risk.
It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
What you do and say as a representative of yourself is your business. But if you wrote for a company’s new book, and you go to that company’s forum, and you take sole credit for things that were developed, edited, and worked on by 7 folks? Not cool. And if you badmouth it as crap the developers ruined? Not professional. And if you attack and insult customers who are annoyed? Way unprofessional.
If you can at all help it, don’t escalate conversations people who work with you are going to have to deal with. It’s like leaving a dead fish on the counter. If it’s your counter that’s gross, but you have to deal with it. If you leave it on my counter, you are making my life harder as the reward for me working with you.
Also, you will build a reputation. It will get around. Consider what you want it to be.
Be Kind. Rewind.
This industry is a meat grinder all too often. People with great talent and love of games leave both for more money, and for less stress and grief from fans.
So, try to be nice.
Yes, this is a vague hand-wave at professionalism, but give it some thought. If it takes only a tiny bit more effort to be nice to folks, why not do that? Yes, sometimes people are attacking you, or actively damaging your company or your reputation, and “nice” may not be a reasonable reply.
But if we were all nice whenever we could be? That would fix a lot of issues too.
Give more credit that you take.
Tell people when they make a positive impact on your life. Thank them.
Consider if you are being needlessly cruel in feedback. Saying you hate a game mechanic is very different from saying it’s idiotic and you don’t understand how anyone could ever think it was a good idea, and even THAT is different from saying a game’s writers are idiots who clearly only have their jobs because they are friends with the developer and the boss is so checked out he doesn’t care what gets published.
We HAVE lost people from the industry from such behavior. We’ll never stop it all, but if I can have one rock thrown at me each day or twelve, I’ll pick just one.
Self-Promotion Done Right
You can build up yourself without tearing anyone down. For example, I have a Patreon, and I’d love if you backed it.
Clinton Boomer has a Patreon. It’s awesome. You should back it too.
So does Jacob Blackmon!
I’d rather talk about how awesome these all are, and let you decide where to spend your money.
This entire post was sponsored by the Open Gaming Store. It’s awesome, too.
I have, far too often and far too seriously, failed to use my position of privilege, protection, and visibility to improve the hobby I love so much. These are completely true examples where the fault is entirely mine. The list began here, but it’s not like I magically stopped failing people in this industry when I listed just the examples that leaped readily to mind.
It’s 2015. I am asked to suggest some freelancers who have done good work for me. Instead of going through actual notes or records, to create a list from complete and factual information, I rattle it off from my impressions, allowing all my biases and failings to color that list, instead of being diligent about at minimum making sure it’s robustly considered.
It’s 2016. A woman asks if she can get my opinion on the behavior of her superior in another company. I happily agree. She is being emotionally abused. I point this out, and act as a shoulder to cry on as she realized how terrible her situation is. I knock ideas around on how she can maybe eventually escape or at least mitigate her situation, since financially she can’t immediately leave it.
I do nothing to warn the next woman he might hire. I do not follow up with her. The abuse–which I entirely accept as real and serious–is out of my sight, and falls out of my mind.
It’s 2017. An industry professional at a casual gathering dismisses a broad category of claims of unsafe, biased geek behavior. I am too tired to argue, or even mention I disagree. I leave, with no suggestion I took issue with the statement.
There remains terrible, focused, often premeditated prejudice, bias, and actual abuse in my hobby. Not seeing it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Not creating it yourself does not protect those who are vulnerable.
- The players all suggest maybe they can add just a few very modest adjustments to the current Pathfinder game. Like allowing androids, lashunta, and ratfolk PCs. And playing Iron Gods. And adding psychic powers. And lasers. And a spaceship.
- Mondays and Fridays now include a “blog break” to look for more previews on paizo.com. And to debate what alignment each of the newly-revealed gods is most likely to e, since THAT is a great use of everyone’s time!
- The Star Wars vs Star Trek debate has morphed into which one has MORE fantasy elements, since Star Wars has laser swords and space wizards, but Star Trek has multiple pantheons of actual gods, half-elves, and bat’leths.
- The wizard tapes his wand of lightning bolt to the top of a flintlock, and insists on calling it a “blaster.”
- Any NPC that threatens a PC is told he can’t take the sky from them. No further explanation is forthcoming.
- The miniature-focused members of the group are gluing plasma cannons onto lizardfolk, Hellknights, and dragons. … Especially dragon.
- There’s a lot of talk of running. In shadows. And the Emperor. Or Heresy. Or both.
- Everyone picks up a repeating crossbow, and the ranger and magus work together to invent “hollow point” quarrels.
- Your friends are part of why the first offerings of Starfinder games at Gen Con sold out in 30 minutes.
- The inquisitor wants to know if studying mass combat in the Dragon Empires allows him to add “Han” as a descriptor for a class features, and then begins referring to “Han Solo Tactics.”
I’m not saying funding my patreon will get you more Starfinder previews… because it won’t, it totally won’t.
One of my many coping mechanisms for my various mental issues is my Sap Scale. The more exhausted, emotionally drained, and prone to panic attacks I am, the more likely I am to cry at things that don’t really deserve it. Thus I have “The Sap Scale,” which helps determine how big a sap I am being, and what the appropriate steps to take care of myself are. Obviously, this scale is personalized for just me, and this level of detail is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I do use this kind of detail to keep an eye on things.
The Sap Scale
- Cry at the end of “Old Yeller.” This is normal. Not crying here actually indicates a different problem (see “Landmarks of Emotional Numbness” chart)
- Cry at the end of Iron Giant. Still normal, and only noteworthy because I have done it up to 10 times in a single day, and still seem fully affected.
- Cry at the end of a CW superhero show’s season finale episode. Normal level of Sappiness. Take two deep breaths and check again in 4-6 hours. Consider the potential benefit for catharsis.
- Cry during a particularly intense RPG encounter involving debate, philosophy, morality, and characters you care about. Enhanced Sappiness detected. Engage and maintain internal monitoring of mental well-being, but do not stress over it. Really, don’t. It’s okay. You are allowed to have emotions.
- Cry at unexpected insults or disappointment. Despite feeling otherwise, this is normal and a reasonable baseline. Engage reality-checks, and be prepared to escalate self-care if Sap Scale number rises. Avoid beginning arguments and hard conversations until Sap Scale number declines. Check for self-care levels (Are you short on sleep? Short on food? Facing long-term stress of discomfort? If so, try to address these issues quickly.)
- Cry at the memory of tragedies and losses from 3 or more years ago. Check mental processes for signs of a death-spiral, and examine if this is really what you are crying about. As able, use stress release and/or low-impact support network contacts to ensure if things get worse, you have the needed mental assistance.
- Cry during a typical RPG encounter. Emotional alert. Alter or delay any stressful plans, and proceed as for scale level 6.
- Cry at a McDonald’s commercial. Emotional high alert. Take self-café steps immediately.
- Cry at the trailer for a Michael Bay movie. Active emotional emergency. Move to safe space asap.
- Crying. No apparent reason. Tears won’t stop, may drown in own phlegm. If this happens just because you woke up and have to face the day, call support network for help without delay. Yes, even though you don’t want to be a bother. Do it. Right now.
As much as I dislike talking about money on posts discussing mental health… my coping mechanisms are good enough to generally let me realize it’s reasonable to add a small note about the way people who enjoy reading what I write can help me afford the time it takes to write it.
So, if you like, check out my Patreon here. 🙂