Category Archives: Musings

#OwenOnTheCouch, Part 4: Michael Sayre and Carlos Cabrera

Continuing with the #OwenOnTheCouch theme, let’s talk to Senior Designer at Paizo Michael Sayre (@MichaelJSayre1 on Twitter), and freelance Game Designer and Voice Actor Carlos Cabrera (https://carloscabrera.carrd.co/).

(#OwenontheCouch 2015)

Owen: Hey Michael Sayre, if someone wanted to write for the Pathfinder Rules Team, what’s their best bet for getting started? By the time they dare to reach out to you, want do you want to see them have done already?

Michael: So, the things I look for are-

A) An established portfolio of published work. Show me you’ve done the thing you’re looking to do for me at a professional level.

B) A professional online presence. Big rulebooks are a collaborative effort and I need people who can be respectful and work well with others.

C) Passion for and experience playing the game you’re looking to write for. I can almost always tell the difference between someone who’s just churning the formula and templates and someone who’s really finding under-supported pieces of the game that can be embellished to enhance the play experience.

D) Some evidence that you know how to read and follow an outline or similar kind of professional collaborative project instructions. With the kind of publishing we do, I already know what kinds of pieces I need and where I need them to make my book happen, so it’s critical that freelancers read and follow their assignment e-mail, outline, and milestone feedback.

Owen: Thanks, that’s a great response!

Would you recommend people doing their own projects, or working for other publishers, before they approach you? Is having a lot of smaller Paizo credits good? A few bigger 3pp or self-published projects? Both?

Michael: A diverse portfolio with a broader array of experiences is probably more appealing to me, personally, than having your entire portfolio exist within a single bucket (whether that be self-publishing, writing for a specific 3pp, etc.)

I think the broader your perspective is coming in the quicker you’ll be able to master “entry level” tasks and get entrusted with some larger or weightier pieces of content. Learning the industry through a few different vectors can help you avoid some of the more common stumbling blocks I see, especially when it comes to learning the best habits for good contract work and avoiding inheriting someone else’s bad habits.

That being said, everyone’s paths to improvement are different, and there’s nothing wrong with essentially “apprenticing” yourself to e.g. a 3pp while you learn the ropes, and as long as you’re still coming in with an open mind and a willingness to broaden your perspective and learn, having experience with one publisher instead of five or the like isn’t a deal-breaker and can have its own advantages.

Owen: Thanks, Mike! And here comes Carlos Cabrera! Heya Carlos. Lemme ask since you are here: I know you do freelance game writing and vice work. What published credits do you have, and for what game systems?

Carlos: I have worked on Pathfinder for both 1st and 2nd editions. My 1st edition work with 3PP is in Pathways #78, the Aethera Field Guide, the Mythic Character Codex, and the upcoming Kingmaker Anniversary Edition. For both systems and with Paizo directly I have worked on Borne by the Sun’s Grace, Lost Omens: Legends, the 2nd edition Advanced Player’s Guide, Pathfinder Society Quest #11: A Parchment Tree, and Ruins of the Radiant Siege. I have also done voicework in Starr Mazer DSP on Steam, Ashasar in the Pathfinder Society Special #3-99: Fate of the Future, and my likeness was used as a playable zombie survivor in State of Decay 2.

Owen: Neat! I’ve never gotten to be a zombie! What other systems are you comfortable writing for?

Carlos: If you’re listening @FFGames I would love to write something for your Star Wars RPG or Imperial Assault! I have already designed content for a home game of IA so I’m familiar with your incredible new dice system. I also have two different board game projects in development and one of them has been picked up by a publisher!

Owen: When you have your druthers, what kind of game content do you prefer to create?

Carlos: I like designing rules that can really expand the worldbuilding of a setting. Adventures or scenarios in new locations, NPCs and player options that can interact with the world in new and interesting ways, deities and the planes… really lore-defining things. In board games you generally have to keep it brief, but all of that is really up to you.

Owen: So, how did you get into games? And then into game writing?

My father got my two closest brothers and I into games at an early age with video games. I had an Intellivision system, one of my brothers a Colecovision, the other a Vectrex. After I had graduated to the NES and then the Sega Genesis, the game that made me want to be a designer at the impressionable age of 10 was Flashback: The Quest for Identity (womp womp). It was a birthday gift from my mother, so both my parents really had a hand in my chosen career.

Even though I wanted to get into video games, I broke into the industry first with writing for tabletop RPGs. I loved playing them and my imagination just didn’t stop after making characters. It took me a good 5 years of networking before my first freelance assignment. I filed Something Clever Games an LLC in 2015 and started work in 2017, so I was trying to break into the industry even before then. I haven’t given up on video games though. When I’m between assignments, I pivot back to a turn-based mobile RPG that I’ve been working on for a while.

Owen: You’ve obviously put a lot of thought and effort into your career. What expertise and study have you undertaken as part of that? 

Carlos: I made the decision to get a degree in multimedia/graphic design instead of using my mechanical drawing and architecture skills to go that route (there were also no video game schools until about halfway through). This has served me well in making maps for encounters and running campaigns, and I still enjoy making art and accessories like custom card sleeves for my games.

Owen: So, if someone is wanting to look at your work, what’s the most recent project people can check out?

Carlos: You still have a reliable couple of months to hear my voice in Pathfinder Society Special #3-99 before season 4 launches at GenCon this year. I will also be a recurring cast member for a Pathfinder 2e podcast this summer, so for that and any future announcements be sure to check out my website! (http://somethingclevergames.com)

Want to Support the Couch?!
A great way to help me be able to make connections, post advice, and make #OwenOnTheCouch useful is to send me your thoughts, questions, contact info to be publicly shared, and anything else you think might advance the conversation or help people connect. I’m happy to host publisher throughs on what they are looking for, veteran’s advice, and even post common questions people have about how to break in, move up, and manage common issues.

Or, you can just throw money at me! Easiest done through Patron, and Ko-Fi.

“Questioning,” A Pride Poem by Alexander Augunas

Pride Month is not for me. I’m an ally, and my job this month is to boost and support the voices of others that Pride *is* for.

So, here is a poem offered up by my dear friend, Alexander Augunas.

#OwenOnTheCouch, Part 3: Jason Keeley and Mark Seifter

Continuing this week’s #OwenOnTheCouchTheme, let’s talk to Development Manager of Starfinder at Paizo Jason Keeley (@herzwesten on Twitter), and BattleZoo Director of Games Mark Seifter (@MarkSeifter on Twitter). This is a great chance to listen and learn from industry pros!

(#OwenontheCouch, 2013)

Jason Keeley

Owen: So, Jason, if someone wants to write Starfinder content for you at @Paizo, how do they get your attention? What are you looking for in a freelancer?

Jason: *is walking by* Oh hi there! Well, for adventures, I’m generally looking for someone who has proven they can handle larger assignments (ie, being timely and the ability to inject a bit of their own ideas into a sometimes rigid outline) or has done something equally impressive.

I’m willing to try out newer freelancers for smaller assignments, though! It all depends on what the particular project needs.

Mark Seifter

Owen: Hey Mark, if someone wanted to get your attention as Director of Game Design, and maybe get work from you, what’s their best option?

Mark: So, find the Arcane Mark Discord server, join, then you can PM me on discord and I’ll add you to the list. We’re small so I don’t have a lot of opportunities at any given time, but I love to hear from freelancers.

Plus, now we have this!

Want to Support the Couch?!
A great way to help me be able to make connections, post advice, and make #OwenOnTheCouch useful is to send me your thoughts, questions, contact info to be publicly shared, and anything else you think might advance the conversation or help people connect. I’m happy to host publisher throughs on what they are looking for, veteran’s advice, and even post common questions people have about how to break in, move up, and manage common issues.

Or, you can just throw money at me! Easiest done through Patron, and Ko-Fi.

#OwenOnTheCouch, Part 2: Andrew Geels

Continuing this week’s #OwenOnTheCouchTheme, let’s talk to a freelancer, Andrew Geels (@PinBarbarian on twitter). Pretend I’m on the Couch, introducing Andrew to you, and suggesting you give him/them work. Come say hi. Ask him questions.

(Insert picture of me here)

Owen: So, @PinBarbarian, what kinds of things do you like working on the most?

@PinBarbarian: Hey Owen, thanks for asking! I love working in all sorts of gaming spaces, but I think my favorite is designing character options like feats, spells, etc. Monsters and items are fun to make, but it feels amazing when someone chooses your work to use for their whole career.

Owen: I very much made a career of doing those kinds of things from about 2001 to 2012. 🙂 What game systems are you published in? Which ones would you like to work on?

@PinBarbarian: I have published work in Pathfinder first and second edition, and there’s some Starfinder stuff that hasn’t been announced yet (though it might be this weekend!) I’ve written for. I also have lots of d&d stuff from all the way back in college, but that’s not published.

I personally really like anything fantasy, sci-fi, and steampunk/cyberpunk related. Pathfinder 2e is definitely my current favorite system, but I enjoy thinking up stuff for all sorts of games, from 5e to Iron Kingdoms to Savage Worlds!

I’m very much a crunchy-gamer, so systems with deep rulesets (e.g. Pathfinder) fit my brainspace best.

Owen

If anyone wants to get in touch with Andrew Geels, or ask him more questions, you can get hold of him on Twitter, or drop me a line (owen.stephens@gmail.com), and I’ll put you in contact.

Want to Support the Couch?!
A great way to help me be able to make connections, post advice, and make #OwenOnTheCouch useful is to send me your thoughts, questions, contact info to be publicly shared, and anything else you think might advance the conversation or help people connect. I’m happy to host publisher throughs on what they are looking for, veteran’s advice, and even post common questions people have about how to break in, move up, and manage common issues.

Or, you can just throw money at me! Easiest done through Patron, and Ko-Fi.

#OwenOnTheCouch, Part 1: J Gray

This past weekend was PaizoCon, an event I attended in person from 2014-2019, and would very much like to go to again someday in the future. For a long time it was the kickoff of Convention Season for me, and missing one held in-person whole hearing how much fun other folks were having was bittersweet.

One of the things I commonly did at conventions was sit on a couch in a hotel lobby and talk to folks. A lot of these were fans, friends, co-workers, and colleagues, of course… but a big chunk were less-experienced or just-breaking-in freelancers, and (though they were often also friends or co-workers) work-giving publishers, editors, and developers.

A lot of people told me this year both that they miss that opportunity in general, and the chance to network in particular. So, I’m going to see if I can create a virtual version of #OwenontheCouch in social media, posting results on my blog and perhaps even holding a virtual event sometime during Origins and/or Gen Con. This week will mostly be Couch content, as I am still recovering from the flu.

The lobby couch I traditionally used during PaizoCon has apparently been removed during the pandemic, and my pals at Legendary Games were kind enough to create this memorial at the site of the original couch.

So please welcome J Gray to the couch! He wrote these observations back in 2016, and since has gone on to work for R. Talsorian Games. A number of industry professionals have noted how accurate these observations are, and I consider them well worth reading.

Five Things I’ve Learned As a 3pp Freelancer
I’ve been a freelance RPG professional, almost entirely for 3pp Pathfinder products, for over a year now. I’ve had the chance to work with several different companies and have written, developed, edited, beta read, or done layout on several books (some out for sale, some not yet out). While I haven’t been at this gig for as long as most of the folk I admire in the field, I think I’ve got enough experience under my belt to have learned a thing or five.

  1. THE WORK WON’T COME TO YOU
    While there are exceptions, if you’ve got few credits to your name and no real relationships with publishers no one is going to come to you and ask you to write Ultimate Splatfinder Adventures 5. You need to go out there and find the work. Enter the Paizo Superstar Contest for practice. Send articles to Wayfinder to build up a resume. Pay attention to the forums where publishers advertise for writers (such as the Paizo 3pp forum). And don’t be afraid to send in a query or a pitch to a publisher if you think you’ve got an idea that will work for them. You need to find your work. The work won’t find you.
  2. PUBLISHERS ARE BUSY PEOPLE
    Most 3pp publishers run their company as a hobby or a second job. They’ve already got a 9-5 of some kind. Those who are doing the gaming gig full time are probably running herd on a dozen projects (if not more!) at once for their own company AND working on something for other companies as well. Add to that family, friends, and the occasional social activity and they are probably sleep-deprived and busy as hell. If a publisher isn’t getting back to you right away, chances are it is because that person is busy not because they are rude. Have patience. If you haven’t gotten a response, wait a week or maybe even two and then send a polite follow-up email asking if they got your previous email. Don’t spam the hell out of them.
  3. YOU AREN’T THAT SPECIAL
    Or, put another way, use your freaking manners people! Here’s the truth. There are many, many 3pp writers out there and unless your name is Monte Cooke or Owen KC Stephens, chances are your desire to make RPG material is greater than a publisher’s need to have YOU, in specific, make RPG material. Confidence is awesome! You should totally have it but the best way to approach any publisher is to mind your Ps and Qs, say please and thank you, and follow any confidence cocktail with a nice chaser of humility. Go in thinking you’re the cat’s meow or believing that you can follow your rules instead of the publisher’s rules and chances are all you’ll get is a “No, thank you, we’re not interested in working with you.”
  4. KNOW THE RULES
    I don’t mean the game rules here. Obviously, any RPG writer should know the rules for the system being written for. Instead, I mean know the rules for writing for a publisher or system. Many publishers have guidelines that they will happily share with their writers. Read them. Follow them. Many publishers have specific workflow procedures. Ask about them. Follow them. I CANNOT STRESS HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS! If the publisher uses Google Docs on projects YOU use Google Docs on projects. You conform to the publisher’s guidelines and workflow and not the other way around. Respect their process. Also, know “system standard”. Fans of an RPG system get used to things being written in a certain way and when those things aren’t written in a certain way, it breaks their flow of reading and devalues their appreciation of a book. For example, if a system’s standard format is “Each character should make a Difficulty 20 Bagpipe skill check.” don’t write “Each character should make a bagpipe skill roll, DC 20.” Capitalize the terms that should be capitalized and use the right terms.
  5. WHAT YOU WRITE ISN’T WHAT WILL BE PUBLISHED
    Based on my experience, here’s how workflow tends to go in RPG writing. First, you brainstorm the idea. Second, you write what you’re going to write using whatever process you use until it is done and submitted to the publisher. Third, the editor (or editors) edits and might ask you to make changes or just might make the changes themselves based on their experience, knowledge, and preference. Fourth, your work will be beta/playtested and further changes might be suggested. Fifth, the editor (or editors) might make further changes based on feedback from the previous stage. Sixth, there’s layout and production and all that jazz. So, let me reiterate here. WHAT YOU WRITE ISN’T WHAT WILL BE PUBLISHED. This means fluff will be changed. This means crunch will be changed. It might only be a few words that change or it might seem like the item was entirely rewritten. Why? Because no one’s work is perfect. Because the editor’s job is to see the big picture and make sure your work fits into that big picture. Because the beta readers found a flaw or a loophole that needs to be closed. Because your cool magic doodad is too close to someone else’s magic doodad. Because they freaking felt like it and that’s their job and you need to live with it. If your first instinct upon finding out someone edited your precious baby is a burning sensation in your gut and the desire to post on Facebook about how much it sucks? Learn to check your damn ego or consider getting out of the business. Because that’s how it works.

Want to Support the Couch?!
A great way to help me be able to make connections, post advice, and make #OwenOnTheCouch useful is to send me your thoughts, questions, contact info to be publicly shared, and anything else you think might advance the conversation or help people connect. I’m happy to host publisher throughs on what they are looking for, veteran’s advice, and even post common questions people have about how to break in, move up, and manage common issues.

Or, you can just throw money at me! Easiest done through Patron, and Ko-Fi.

Creative Resources Online

Today, I’m just listing some online resources I find useful, and other gamers. GMs, and creators might as well. I may expand this list as time goes on, in which case I’ll link back to it when it gets updates.

As always, I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Read terms and conditions of any resource you sue for commercial products.

Gold Standard
These are the very best of their kind. The gold standard of usefulness, in my opinion.

Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources (https://dmnes.org/names) – This is just what is says on the tin. The list is long, and hyperlinked to definitions, origins, and atributions.

Dyson Logos’ Commercial Maps (https://dysonlogos.blog/maps/commercial-maps/) – A huge, amazing repository of excellent maps by Dyson Logos that have free, commercial licenses attached to them. Read the license and understand it before use (i am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice), but if you need a city, tavern, dungeon, castle, and much, much more either for your game tomorrow night, or your product you want to sell without incurring cartography costs, this is an amazing place to start.

The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: The Online Edition, by Jess Nevins (http://jessnevins.com/pulp/introduction.html) – Jess Nevins is a true scholar of entire forms of fiction I adore, including Victoriana, Pulp Stories, and more. This is an amazing list of pulp fiction characters, as well as important introductions, descriptions of archetypes, cross-referencing, and so on. For inspiration or a better understanding of the genre, this is an invaluable resource. (His Encyclopedia of Golden Age Heroes is nearly as good, and a valuable companion piece, but is not as finished as the pulp encyclopedia. And , of course, he has numerous published books as well, and a range of similar subjects, most of which are in my cloud reader and a few of which are on my physical bookshelves.

OneLook Dictionary Search (https://www.onelook.com/) – I don’t care about the definitions section of this. What’s amazing is the ability to enter a word and click the “related” button. That provides a list of words that are, somehow, related to the search term. Not synonyms (necessarily), but words that share some kind of link to your search word. Searching for words related to “death” gets you executioner, tomb, slaughterhouse, and so on. The utility for when I want words tied to a theme for spells, hero names, groups, magic items, archetypes, and so on is huge.

Almost as useful is the * before or after searches (such as death*), which give you words and phrases that start with or end with your search term. death*, for example gets you death’s head, death throes, and more. And, you can click through the examples to find out what they mean and/or where they come from.

There are tons of search options and ways to organize and sort the results, so spend some time reading the site and trying out options.

My Patreon and Ko-Fi

Speaking of resources, the tons of material I have on this site is supported by the members of my Patreon, and cups of donation to my Ko-Fi. So, if any of the links above open a new world of options for you, please consider supporting my current and future efforts to bring you more!

Retrospective, The Past (Nearly) Decade

Roughly nine years ago, I began working with Green Ronin on-staff rather than as a freelancer. They very quickly became some of the people I trust most and love most fiercely in this industry. I’ve been a Ronin, on and off, ever since. I have learned more from them than I can ever explain, and if you enjoy anything I’ve made since 2013, no matter who published it, the Ronins get some of the credit.

Exactly eight years ago (to the hour), Lj and I packed up our household and moved to the Pacific Northwest, so I could work at Paizo Inc. I wanted to spend time with yet more of the greatest creatives in the world, and I have no regrets in that department. I wish I had handled some things differently, and that housing costs hadn’t grown at a rate I didn’t conceive of, but the people I got to know, friends and family-of-choice I made, and the projects I got to be part of are among my greatest joys even today.

Roughly three years ago, we left for Indiana, for a lower-stress, lower-cost-of-living career move. That didn’t go as planned, but given the friends I made, I can’t find it in me to regret it.

Roughly two years ago, during the pandemic, we moved back home to Oklahoma. That was never the plan, and in many ways it felt like total failure on my part. But it’s also where my family and the friends I’ve known for 40 years and more live, and being home as the world churns has helped keep me sane.

I don’t know what the next chapters will be. They won’t be anything I imagined 8 years ago. I’d love to find a full-time steady remote game industry job with benefits… but I’m not counting on unicorns.

If you’d like to help me make ends meet as I try to keep making games and helping people, you can join my Patreon, drop a cup of support in my Ko-Fi, or both. 🙂

On Education, Experience, and Crowdfunding in the Game Industry

So, let me start with this: My industry opinions are based purely on my experience. I don’t have a writing degree, business degree, or any college degree. I barely passed High School. I lack any certifications or formal training. My only claim to knowing what I am doing is that I keep getting paid to do it. What I do know, I learned over 25+ years being in the industry, doing dumb stuff that taught me not to, and listening to people who were smarter, better educated, and more experienced than I am.

That’s often meant watching changes impact the tabletop game industry, and trying to figure out what they mean as they happen. A great example of that is crowdfunding. While there were forms of crowdfunding when I first got into the industry in the 1990s, it was far less common, successful, or sophisticated than it is today. This often leads people to wonder, why do companies insist on crowdfunding games now, when they didn’t used to have to? In my experience, the biggest reasons for the change toward using crowdfunding are threefold.

First, pre-orders basically do not exist anymore. In the 80s and 90s, you could solicit a game product through the three-tiered distribution channel, and get pre-orders that both paid you for a chunk of your total print run months before you had to make them (especially before you had to pay the printer’s bill), and gave you some idea what the total demand for that product might be. If you were thinking of printing 10,000 copies, and pre-orders were 500, you knew you had way overshot the level of interest. If orders were 9,5000, you knew you should print more.

This allowed you to make s big a print run as you could, driving down per-unit costs, without a serious risk of overprinting. This made products overall more profitable. The profit on selling 100,000 units is very different between one 100k print run, and five 20k print runs.

(As an important aside: Knowing how many copies of a gamebook sold doesn’t tell you how profitable it was. How many copies were in pdf or some other electronic format? How many were direct sales? How many foreign sales? How many print runs did it take to produce the volume sold, and at what economy of scale? Was it priced right to begin with? This, by the way, is one reason some things that were popular and sold out don’t get reprinted. If you needed a print run of 20k to make a reasonable profit, and it took 3 years to sell through, and 90% of your sales were in the first 90 days, you likely don’t want to reprint. Because if you print less than 20k more units, you won’t make enough profit, and if it takes 6 years to sell through another 20k at the post-first-release sale rate, your money is tied up in the print run (and warehousing costs), instead of new things that sell faster. Of course, this can be another place where crowdfunding can be helpful. I suspect it won’t be long before it’s typical for game companies to crowdfund reprints. They can set a minimum level to make a profit, and only reprint if they hit that. That’s win-win for consumers and biz.)

Second, crowdfunding a project creates an opportunity for a major marketing push. There used to be multiple tabletop game magazines. You could buy an ad in Dragon, Dungeon, White Dwarf, Pyramid, (or any of a dozen other options depending on timeframe and market) and put your product in front of tens of thousands of eyeballs. There’s no one great place, or half-dozen good places, to do that anymore. And even if there were, without strong preoders, it’s hard to create a useful call to action for a product that brings in a lot of money for the creator when they need it.

But crowdfunding sites allow you to use mailing lists from old projects to contact new people, and multiple different game sites report on new crowdfunding projects getting you much more attention at no cost. (And if you use Backerkit and similar crowdfunding support sites, you can pay for ads to be put in front of large groups of market-appropriate consumers.)

Third, there’s not much widespread evidence to suggest sales during a crowdfunding campaign reduce sales made later through normal venues. Selling 2k extra copies during a crowdfunding campaign doesn’t seem to mean fewer sales over the life of the product in stores. (There are people who disagree with this claim, and that’s fair. And for a specific store, region, or market, it might not be accurate. But my experience from publisher-side observations is enough to convince me that, as a broad trend, this is true.) And crowdfunding sometimes sells 20k copies (or even 200k rarely) of products that similar ones without crowdfunding sell 2,000.

And, of course, game prices have not kept up with inflation. The vast majority of game companies are strapped for cash. This was true even before the pandemic, and the “Extinction-Level Events” that have come with it. So, maximizing the potential for income while minimizing the risks is not just attractive or an effort to money-grab, in many cases it’s an effort to avoid bankruptcy and having games disappear off the shelves entirely.

Supporting This Blog
I’m absolutely not immune to the money crunch in the game industry, so if you want to help ensure blog posts like this keep getting produced, please consider supporting my efforts through my Patreon campaign, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

A Sucking Maw of Pain and Anxiety (A WFH/Recent Game Industry Trends Retrspective)

Working from home isn’t for everyone, but prior to the pandemic, it was great for me. The problem now is that *everything* is remote. No conventions or casual get-togethers. By the time I do every meeting I *have* to have on zoom, I am too burned out to do remote brainstorming.

There are also problems some people attribute to wfh that, at least for me, aren’t about that. Before when I would do wfh, no one expected me to reply to chats and emails in a quick timeframe. Now, if 15 minutes go past, they wonder where I am. If 7 people ping me at once They aren’t all 7 going to get me attention in 15 minutes. If one of those things is an emergency, the others have to wait. But no one is putting reply expectations in writing. They appear to just seethe, wondering if I am *really* working.

(Note that most of my wfh is contract and freelance, but I have heard it’s even worse for people doing wfh for a single company, most of which seem to have 3 to 4 different ways to communicate remotely, and no system for keeping the volume managable.)

And current work conditions are hampered by things well beyond wfh. For example, more of my friends and colleagues are depressed and in real, dangerous pain than ever before. (So am I.) That mostly isn’t about lack of socialization or in-person meetings. Instead, it’s a response to grief, loss of both actual beloved people and lifestyle options that have ended. It’s a side-effect of loss of faith in humanity overall. And it’s stress dealing with endless uncertainty.

In the tabletop RPG industry in the US, no one feels particularly secure. Small and mid-tier companies could go under with one more shipment being delayed, even when shipping within the US. At bigger companies, layoffs are an ever-present specter.

I’ve had people say “Look, I understand *some* delay, but why is project XX two years late?! Does working from home not work?”

Well, no. It’s because being creative has been a sucking maw of pain and anxiety for more than two years.

“Can’t you just ignore other people’s pain and suffering and calls for help to spend more time working on the game product I want?”

No. I can’t.

And I don’t think I want to work with anyone who can.

And even if I could bring myself to try, the resulting depression that would hit me for abandoning people who crush any protectivity the extra hours were supposed to produce.

No writer, no editor, no publisher, no customer service representative in gaming (or any creative endeavor) is at full capacity atm. I presume the same is true of lots of other fields, but this is the one where people come to me for help and advice.

And the reduced ability in quantity, quality, and responsiveness has fuck-all to do with if they are in an office or not. And if the pandemic totally ended today, it’d be a year or more before they all recovered. And most of them can’t say this, for fear of losing customers.

From Publishers to Assistant Word Miners, from ttRPGs to novels, retail, delivery, medicine — people need to be cut some slack. It sucks, and it cannot and will not be fixed quickly, and it’s not because anyone is malingering.

Thanks for reading to the bottom of my long-ass post.

Support Some Folks!

Normally, this is where I post links to my Ko-Fi and Patreon, and talk about how helpful it is to back them.

But not today.
Today, I am highlighting other people and groups. Because if you want gaming to survive, you need to give what support you can. That might be financial. Or it might be boosting the reach of these means of supporting others.

Mutants & Masterminds Patreon
“Every week, you’ll receive an updated Hero Lab and PDF of a fan-favorite M&M character!” You can also support Green Ronin by buying things at the Green Ronin Store.

Know Direction Patreon
“The award-winning Know Direction Network has news, reviews, and interviews. We have provided over 500 hours of original podcast content, over 300 hours of convention coverage, and over 800 articles from a decorated team of bloggers, including prolific Pathfinder freelancers, a hugely successful third party publisher, and an RPG Superstar winner.

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Steve Kenson is creating Icons Superpowered Roleplaying Content.

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Game writer Ruvaid Virk’s heater went out. In Michigan. In the winter.

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Everybody Games is creating the Eversaga Roleplaying Game… but it’s slow, tough work that takes money.

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Allie Bustion is creating tabletop games, supplements, and hacks!
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Shay is an Indigenous tabletop writer, editor, and playtester. They have a Ko-fi.

Minty Belmont has a Ko-fi.

Luis Loza is creating Pathfinder 2E and other RPG content on Patreon.

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Liz Courts has an online Portfolio, and a Patreon.

Jacob Blackmon has a Patreon for his art, and another for his Masters of the Universe Action Figure Webcomic.

Sasha Laranoa Harving is a veteran freelancer. She has works for sale on Pathfinder Infinite, and has a Ko-Fi.

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The amazing, talented, veteran creator Stan! has a patreon (www.patreon.com/stannex) and an ongoing Kickstarter right now (www.NewStanProject.com)

Mike Bramnik is a Gamer, geologist, geek, and relatively new TTRPG freelance author writing for established settings and crafting soundtracks for RPG sessions. He has a Ko-Fi.



Top Ten Star Trek Spinoff Ideas

There’s more Trek on the air at once than ever before, with Discovery, Lower Decks, and Picard all current shows, Brave New Worlds coming soon, and some kind of Starfleet Academy show in the works. But if Paramount Network wants all-Trek, all the time, they need more shows! So, here are the best ideas for things no one has suggested is in the works, to create enough different Trek to not overload, while maintaining weekly new episodes year-round. (Mild spoilers for existing shows, so if you aren’t up-to-date on a show and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read this!)

10. Deep Space K-7

Tribbles. Klingons. Organians. There’s a lot here that would be fascinating to look at, perhaps in the Picard or even Discovery Season 3 eras.

9. Embers

Episode 1 begins in the middle of a multi-sided starship skirmish in an inhabited system. Then, the Burn hits, and all the active ships detonate. Only the ships that were disabled in the fight survive, and now none of them can manage on their own. The system is cut off from the galaxy, and will be for a century. The fate of one system may not matter to the long-term fate of the galaxy, but for the ships’ crews and billions of lives on inhabited systems that can no longer benefit from stellar trade, there’s a real question to whether or not they can survive in the embers.

8.Starfleet JAG

Yes, a scifi show about legal issues is a tough sell. But Star Trek has had several interesting legal drama episodes (on more than one of its series), and a think, for example, a Federal Mobile Circuit Court Ship, going from place to place to sort out complex legal issues (and get into trouble now and then, like all legal procedurals seem to nowadays) could be very different, but also very fun.

7. Mudd and Jones

Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd And Cyrano Jones aren’t friends. They aren’t allies. They definitely aren’t champions of justice or peace. But they ARE resourceful, and after they booth end up in the same Orion prison they are given an opportunity for full pardons, and a considerable payday, if they work together to solve a major issue. Which turns out to be more complex, and go deeper, than anyone expected. Smuggling, piracy, illegal goods, the fringes of society, shadow ports, all places we know Star Trek has, but have rarely seen, become the backdrop of these two’s reluctant adventures and, despite themselves, occasional heroics.

6. Phase II: The Animated Adventures

Yep, do Phase II of the original Starship Enterprise as a serious animated show, with visuals matching the original cast and voice actors doing their best representations of their voices. And maybe include a horta navigator, and a Gorn attaché, and other weirdness that’s cheaper to draw than do live.

5. sQuires

Ten thousand “lower-cases,” young Qs (written as ‘q’s” and ‘queues’) have been unleashed from the Continuum Nursery into the Lower Planes… and while they lack the cosmic power they’ll eventually grow into, and are often influenced by cultural beliefs and legends on the worlds and ships they find themselves (often limiting their potential to become full Qs as they become sidelined into acting as Greek Gods, for example), these q’s can still disrupt the entire galaxy. Most will eventually fade back into the Continuum, a few will evolve into full Qs, but the Continuum is not willing to allow them to be destroyed, or let them run rampant. Trelane, just recently evolved to full Q status, is assigned to wrangle them, and he adopts a merchant ship, the Free Trader Squire, to act as his primary agents in finding, talking down, and if need be quarantining the queues. Whether the crew of the Squire like that, or not. With as many guest appearances by John De Lancie as he feels like sparing.   

4. Assignment: Earth

Set in the modern day, with Gary 7, Carl (Gateway of Forever), and touching on the ongoing repercussions of various Time Wars (and how they created alternate timelines), without being *about* a time war. A hopeful show about how well humanity can do with a little help.

3. Real McCoys

The USS McCoy is a Medical Frigate with a reputation for solving the most perplexing and dangerous galactic medical issues. Totally unarmed, trust deflectors and diplomacy to keep it safe, it often enters hostile territory and missions of mercy, and is so well-respected that even active foes of the Federation over escort it safely through their space.

2. Honor of the Empire

A Klingon-focused show, possibly with a Federation officer assigned to Qo’noS as the fish-out-of-water POV character. Could be set anytime, with characters in a Qo’nos-orbit starbase if it’s after the planet has been evacuated.

1. These Are the Voyages

An anthology series focusing on a different starship, captain, and crew for every episode. These Are the Voyages isn’t tied to one specific time period, timeline, crew, or culture; the episodes are only united by the fact they are all in A Star Trek universe, and they all focus on a ship and its crew. Some could be showing us the later adventures of characters we know (Captain Sulu! Captain Worf!), others could be non-Federation ships, historic events we know must have happened (the Romulan/Vulcan split, the first Gorn ftl flight, Mirror Universe Spock’s fall, since we have a new Spock actor or two), and even Anaxar.

PATREON
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