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How RGG and I are Impacted by the Global Pandemic

We are at a point where I am asked this enough, and need to refer to it often enough, that having a statement about how the Covid-19 pandemic is impacting both me personally and Rogue Genius Games, the company i am publisher for, seems warranted.

Put simply, while we are not shutting down and still plan to produce all the same content, the schedule is going to be less assured.

Some of this is a matter of expected resources being well below our normal projections. Sales of content are down in numerous venues, in some cases down by 80% or more. Numerous freelancers find themselves unable to spare time to take on projects they once would have happily accepted. Less money coming in and fewer people able to take on the work in any area of my mix of personal and professional ventures impact other areas.

Some is a matter of time requirements. There are new business concerns that require extensive research and paperwork. For example: can Rogue Genius Games benefit from the Payroll Protection Program, and/or Economic Injury Disaster Loan emergency advance? Can any of our staff or freelancers gain relief through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?  Getting answers to these questions is not easy, and often requires going through a lengthy and tiring process.

And some is a matter of personal availability. As a high-risk individual in a household with other high-risk concerns, I have to spend more time and mental effort ensuring that daily activities don’t introduce unacceptable health risks. That has so far eaten at least a little into free time nearly every day.

So, here’s how those challenges are currently impacting my ongoing projects.

RGG Crowdfunding Projects: At least at the moment, we don’t expect any significant delays to any open campaigns. There are potential problems we need to keep an eye on (if our chosen print On Demand printers stopped operations, for example, we’d have to consider how to pivot).

RGG Products: There are a lot of exciting things RGG has been working on, from the Talented Class line of products to more solo adventures. Anything that we haven’t already promised by a given date is going to be at the back of the line for our time and attention. We are still putting things out regularly, but some bigger projects we had hoped to launch are just going to have to wait.

52-in-52: When I put together the schedule for this ambitious subscription, I just didn’t allow for the impact of something like a global pandemic. While it’s ongoing and has produced a ton of content, we’ve already slipped by a week, had to push one project back, and it looks like we may slip by another week.
Rest assured, every subscriber will receive every one of the 52 pdfs promised, each presented in 4 versions for the 4 supported game systems. But it’s possible it’ll take us a bit longer than 52 weeks to get all 52 projects out.
That said we are looking at ways to get caught up, and I’ll update folks here if we have any news on that front. Otherwise, we’ll just keep producing products and sending them out to subscribers regularly.

Patreon/Blog: So far whenever I fall behind on the 5 days/week posts my Patrons are making possible, I add the missing content within a week. That remains the plan.

Grimmerspace: I’m still going to be doing a lot of design work and running a playtest for Grimmerspace. They have made their own statement about how the pandemic is affecting them.

Conventions: Right now, with regret, I am not planning on attending any cons this year.

Other Projects: I still have outstanding freelance to fulfill, and work to do as a developer for Green Ronin. That work is being impacted, obviously, but not in a way that should delay or cancel anything announced by those companies.

For those who want to know how they can help, the easiest way to assist me directly is by backing my Patreon. Even just a few dollars a month of reliable, regular income is a huge boon. Also I depend on companies like Green Ronin to make ends meet, and they are currently being hammered by things like printers shutting down, game store closings, and distributors opting to not pay for products shipped for weeks or months at a time. Buy anything from Green Ronin’s own online store or DriveThruRPG store is a big help for them, and therefore to me.

Thanks for your understanding.
Stay safe out there.

Owen K.C. Stephens



Gamifying Friday the 13th in 4 Game Systems

It’s Friday the 13th, a day long associated with misfortune and evil spirits… and urban legends.

So, what would such a day look like in an RPG? Let’s examine 4 different ideas, in 4 different game systems–Pathfinder 1st and 2nd edition, Starfinder, and 5e.


Blood Night

On blood night, the moon takes on a dull reddish hue that lasts through the night. Blood night is always in autumn, but exactly what night it occurs is based on a complex set of rules only heirophants really seem to understand. What is known is that when a blood night occurs on the night of a full moon, the bad luck is far worse.

From sundown to sunup, any attack that normally only threatens a critical hit on a natural 20, or 19-20, instead threatens one on an 18-20. Additionally, attack rolls made to confirm critical hits gain a +8 circumstance bonus


Minotaur’s Moon

When the ancient Cyclops Calendar begins the month of Maze on the week of a new moon, that is the day of the Minotaur’s Moon, when the Bull Man works to kill the small and weak. Goblins, in particular, greatly fear this.

On the Minotaur’s Moon, everyone has Doomed 2.


Which Weird

The kasatha and shobad calendars do not normally line up, being from different worlds with different year durations. But both have a “wyrd” day that is observed in grim reserve, and every few years those days happen to overlap by a period of 11 to 17.5 hours.

During that “which weird,” all Reflex saving throws take a -4 penalty.



When the Imperial Calendar gets a full day off from the Seasonal Calendar, a day must be added to adjust the beginning of Spring. This day is seen as a gate through which evil dead spirits can speak into the world to so discord for one say, and weaken the resolve of heroes, and is known as Lichgate.

On Lichgate, when making a Wisdom saving throw, you roll twice and use the lower result as if you had disadvantage. However, if your unused result is enough to resist the effect, you only suffer the consequences of the failed saving throw for 1 round. After that you shake off the evil spirits that weakened you, and are no longer effected. But if both die rolls are failures, the effect’s duration upon you is doubled.

Want More in Four?

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Here’s a teaser of content yet to come this year in the 52-in-52 subscription!

Animated branded with an Unholy Sign cover 1

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d20 Design Diary (Part 6)

This is the sixth in my series of class-focused d20 Design Diaries. I suspect I only have a couple more posts to go on this topic, but we’ll see how the topics actually shake out (and what kind of feedback I get).

If you followed class design steps in the order I have written about them, we’ve settled on an appropriate and interesting class concept, set up the right class progression tools, made sure we are following (or at least only breaking by intent rather than by accident) the game’s style and etiquette, looked at how many options you want for each level of your class and how that impacts complexity, and discussed spell access and progression.

But we still need to talk about spell lists. Specifically, do you give your new class access to one (or more) existing spell lists, or make a brand-new spell list? And, it turns out, that.s a pretty complex question that depends very much on the game system you are using.

So, you know, let’s start by saying studying what that system does and how it handles those questions.

Also, it’s very important to know if you are building expansions classes that are in addition to a *core* set of pre-existing classes or are building a whole set of classes from scratch. Most of the advice here is directed at the former case. If you are in the latter situation, there may not even be pre-existing spell lists for you to borrow from. In that case you’ll need to make decisions about how many class lists to build from scratch, and the following advice may still be applicable to that decision.

Certainly the more you want a spell list to have a very strong theme tied to the class’s concept, the more you should consider a unique class spell list. The more you want the spell list to interact and grow well with other publisher’s content, the more you should consider using an existing class list.

In Pathfinder 1st edition, classes have access to a hodgepodge of class-specific lists, sharing class lists, and mixing class lists. The bard has its own spell list for example (though the skald later gains access to it as well), while the warpriest just has access to the cleric list (though it gets most spell levels later in its own level progression, when they are less powerful compared to the challenges being faced). Both sorcerers and wizards use the sorcerer/wizard spell list, though it has specific spells only one of the classes can take. Hunters get both druid and ranger spells (and gain access to ranger spells much earlier than rangers do, potentially making them more powerful compared to the challenges faced when you first access them), but inquisitors have a unique spell list.

Counting only official classes, no alternate classes, and only actual spell lists (as opposed to formula lists for alchemists and investigators), by the end of its run Pathfinder 1st d had 16 separate spell classes. On top of that, all of the class spell lists are defined as being arcane, divine, or occult.

In that environment, it seems insane to create a brand new unique class list. First, there are tons of lists with different themes already. Second, each of those lists has been expanded by so many supplements (official and otherwise) that any new lists is either going to fill a small book on its own, or have many fewer options than the 16 existing lists. Further, if someone is adding content from other publishers, those 3pp spells won’t even know to suggest what new spells should be on your unique class spell list.

By the same token, by the time a game has 16 unique spell lists, it’s hard to claim a 17th will be the bridge too far for design weight.

Pathfinder 2nd edition, as a counterexample, has only 4 spell lists. Absolutely every class has access to the arcane, divine, occult, or primal spell list. Some classes can pick what spell list they access based on other class features (such as the sorcerer), and many classes have access to a very small number of “focus spells” unique to their class. This includes both classes with access to a traditional spell list (such as the bards and their occult spells), and classes with no other spell access (such as champions). While it would be possible to build a whole 5th spell list (akashic magic, perhaps, or runic magic), this would likely only make sense if designing multiple classes that accessed it, or perhaps writing class variants of existing classes that accessed your new magic type. However, adding a small number of focus spells to any new spellcasting class, but otherwise tying them to one or more of the 4 existing lists, seems an excellent way to both benefit from that class having unique and flavorful spells of its own (new focus spells) and benefiting from ties to a growing standard spell list that other books and companies can expand. Pathfinfer 2nd ed also has things such as spell rarity which could be used to create “new” spell list options (such as creating a magister class that has access to common spells for multiple lists, but can never gain uncommon or rare spells).

By contrast Starfinder goes the opposite route, and give every spellcaster their own unique spell list.

Starfinder only has 3 official spellcasting classes so far of course, and each also has the same level of spell access and spells/day. That certainly sets an expectation for players that a class focused on spellcasting would likely follow the same path. There are many potential reasons to not go that route (if creating a mechanic/technomancer hybrid class, the Dronemancer, that only had access up to 3rd level spells, it might well make sense for it to have the technomancer spell list), but again the key point is to know what tools are at your disposal, and study how the core game (or similar games, if you are starting from scratch) use them.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th ed also gives each class its own spell list (at least in the Player’s handbook), including the sorcerer and wizard, who shared a spell list when the sorcerer was first introduced in 3rd edition. There is greater variety in both spell access (paladins and rangers only get up to 5th level spells), and how the class uses spells (warlocks and wizards have very different game mechanics dictation how they interact with and use their spells). The larger number of lists makes it more likely that you can match a specific class’s theme with an existing class list or combination of lists, but it also drives home player expectation in much the same way Starfinder does.

As a final note, it’s worth mentioning that whether a game has dozens of class spell lists or just three, d20 games almost always have some basic spells that appear on multiple (or even all) spell lists. the most flavorless and utilitarian spells are often there, from detect magic to light. By the same token, most such games have at least a few types of spells that are kept off specific spell lists, in the tradition of “clerics don’t cast magic missile, wizards don’t heal.”

But honestly, that’s another whole blog post worth of commentary.


These Design Diaries are among the most popular of the things I wrote, but they are also the biggest, hardest, and most time-consuming to create. If you want to keep seeing them, I encourage you to join my Patreon. Just a few dollars a month can make the difference between me having the time to tackle these larger, in-depth design articles, and sticking to shorter, simpler topics.

d20 Design Diary (Part 5)

This is the fifth in my series of class-focused d20 Design Diaries. I suspect I only have a couple more posts to go on this topic, but we’ll see how the topics actually shake out (and what kind of feedback I get).

If you followed class design steps in the order I have written about them, there’s one big step left to actually creating your class, even after you settle on an appropriate and interesting concept, set up the right class progression tools, made sure you are following (or at least only breaking by intent rather than by accident) the game’s style and etiquette, and looked at how many options you want for each level of your class and how that impacts complexity.

You still need to design the actual class features, the special abilities you class gets that (at least mostly) others don’t.

I mean, technically you don’t HAVE to give a class features beyond it’s progressions. If you gave a Starfinder class 10 SP and HP/level, all good saving throws, 12 skill points + Int/level, any key ability score, all class skills and weapon and armor proficiencies (and Weapon Specialization as appropriate), and a full attack bonus, it would honestly probably be pretty balanced with no other class features at all.

It would also be boring and flavorless as heck. And I have no idea what concept you’d start with that would lead you to that design. but yes, it COULD be done.

And that does touch on an important element of designing interesting and balanced classes — the more useful things the class gets outside its class features, the less room you have to make its class features useful without making the class overpowered. A 5e barbarian has d12 hit dice, and 2 skill proficiencies (selecting from 6 options) and 5 weapon and armor proficiencies. A fighter has d10 hit dice, and 2 skill proficiencies (selecting from 8 options) and 6 weapon and armor proficiencies. A rogue has d8 hit dice, and 4 skill proficiencies (selecting from 11 options), one tool proficiency, and 2.5 weapon and armor proficiencies. It’s not hard to see that while their proficinecy starting points are different, when combined with their hit dice they all come out on a fairly even playing field, allowing their classes to have equally-useful class features.

One of the biggest and most impactful potential class features is spellcasting. Assuming you are building classes for a game that already has a full set of classes you can use as examples, it’s normally best to stick to the spell progression and acquisition schemes that already exist, unless you feel it’s a severely underdeveloped design space. (Classes with some number of spell-like abilities are a different matter than the spellcasting class feature we are discussing in this article.)

For example, first edition Pathfinder has both spontaneous and prepared spellcasting acquisition, as well as spell lists that go from 1st-4th level, 0-4th level, 0-6th level, and 0-9th level. However, every spontaneous class in Pathfinder with access to a 0-6th level spell list has the same base access to spells known and spell slots per day (though OTHER class features, such as domains or archetypes, can vary their total beyond the simple base). Starfinder, on the other hand, *only* has spontaneous spellcasters with access to 0-6th level spells. While adding a whole new spell progression or access to Pathfinder would likely muddle a crowded field, there’s easily room in Starfinder for class with reduced spell access (perhaps level 0-3 spells).

Wizard with Green Disk Spell

The more spell power a class has, the less room it has for any other options. For example, in all the most popular d20 games classes with the greatest spell access never have the highest Hit Point/health value of classes, or beginning proficiency with all types of armor. This has two significant impacts on their design. First, it means that they generally need to use some of their spell power to bring their defenses up to their best level and, even at that level, it’s generally not as good as the best defenses of the most defense-focused class. Secondly, it means they aren’t as durable without depending on their spells (and even then some classes with major spell access have very little in the way of healing or damage mitigation spells — a 1st edition Pathfinder cleric can heal themselves much more easily than a wizard).

Again, using other classes as benchmarks can be extremely useful for making your first stab at granting spellcasting to a class. In 5th edition D&D, paladins and rangers gain up to 5th level spells, clerics and wizards gain up to 10th level spells, and specific specializations of fighters and rogues get up to 4th level spells. Those benchmarks make it pretty easy to see what kinds of class features, both in terms of scope and utility, a class with each of those options can gain. For example, a great deal of the class features of sorcerers and wizards are focused on their spells–allowing them to be more flexible, used more often, or even just boosted in power. Paladins and rangers however, have very few spell-focused class features, with their class features more likely to actually give them entirely new abilities.

Even once you know how your spellcasting class is going to acquire spells and to what degree, there still another crucial question–what spell list do they use?

We’ll tackle that one next week.


These Design Diaries are among the most popular of the things I wrote, but they are also the biggest, hardest, and most time-consuming to create. If you want to keep seeing them, I encourage you to join my Patreon. Just a few dollars a month can make the difference between me having the time to tackle these larger, in-depth design articles, and sticking to shorter, simpler topics.

Design Diary: Creating d20 Classes (Part 4)

Last month we began a line of Design Diary entries discussing how to create a character class from scratch for a d20 class/level based game. We’ve gone over concept, and discussed the class progression tools various games give you to fill out the mechanical roles your class might fill, and begun discussing the etiquette of the presentation of special abilities (the heart of any d20 class).

So, we need to dig into Class Features… and that’s a big topic. So this week we get a big post, that tackles some of the context and frameworks you can use when designing how a class and a character interface with class feature choices.

When looking at what special abilities to give a class, you should consider the category of each ability. Some abilities are access abilities, such as a spellcaster’s access to a spell list (and we’ll talk more about spells and spell lists in a later post) or access to a list of feats. Some are unique powers available only to that class. Some classes (and some game systems) blur that line — Pathfinder 1st edition has fighter-only feat, which some later classes can can access as their own class features. Pathfinder 2nd edition has feats for every class that are unique to that class, except that any other character can pick many of them up by taking a mutliclass dedication feat.

In addition to the access-unique spectrum, class abilities can be divided into static abilities, group abilities, and selectable abilities. Static abilities are things the class gets with no variation or choice (and least without accessing optional or advanced rules). In Starfinder, every operative gets trick attack. Group abilities are things where a player makes a choice between one group of abilities and another, but once that choice is made the abilities it grants are set. Looking at the Starfinder operative again, each operative select one specialization. That specialization has a few abilities it grants over the course of the operative’s career, but once the choice of which specialization to take is made the abilities within that choice are set. Selectable abilities are individual things that can be chosen from a list (though they might have prerequisites). The operatives exploits are a good example of this.

Some of the access choices are things every character class can take some portion of, so when designing a class you need to consider not just what access options help their role within the game and a party, but how that interacts with other classes in the game. Skills are a perfect example of this. Most classes have access to more skills than they can take (whether through a skill-point system, scaling proficiencies, or just what ability score they focus on, depending on how the game system handles classes). If you give a class access to all a game’s skill options, the chances they’ll overlap with some other class that needs a skill more for its core function increases. Even if no one character can take all the skills, adding some limits to what subset they have to choose from can help give a class focus and clarity of purpose.

There are some pseudo-choices a character can offer as well, where every member of the class has the same ability, but characters may be differentiated by which choice they make. For example, all fighters in most d20 game systems have access to all martial weapons, armors, and shields. However, most fighters select a small set of weapons to use most often. Even though two different fighters can both use a greatsword or a longsword and shield, most characters go with one or the other. While that’s a minor difference at first, as the character evolves the other choices they make are likely to reinforce one equipment selection over another.

One of the less-obvious consequences of how you allow ca class to access its abilities is complexity. A character that has access to a wide range of spell choices, for example, is less likely to have lots of selectable abilities. The need to read through and pick spells is already a lot of footwork to ask of a player. (Even if a character ends up with only a small number of spells, the need to pick them from a large list slows and complicates character creation). If you are designing a class to add to an existing game you likely can afford to make the design more complex overall–players who don’t like more work to make their character can stick to existing class options. But if you are designing all the classes designed to be used in a campaign (such as if you are creating new classes that are all that is expected to be available for a campaign setting), you should consider having at least one class that is simpler and has fewer choices, to allow players who prefer simple design an easy entry point.

That’s not universal, of course. Many players prefer highly customizable characters with lots of options. Many just enjoy being able to build a character closer to their pre-existing concept, while others want to have enough flexibility that if another player chooses the same class their two characters act and play differently from one another.

However that plays off another important fact, which we need to discuss before we move on to ability balance–the more selectable options a character class has at a given level, the more potential for min/maxing exists. Even if the options are tied to a set of options that are (theoretically) all at the same power level, the wider the set of options you give access to the more powerful a character can become. For example, if you give a class access to a single specific feat at 5th level, that’s a typical and easily balanced level of power. If you give the character their choice of one of 6 feats, that is slightly more powerful, even if all those feats are perfectly balanced against one another. If you allow a character to take any feat they meet the prerequisites for that is much more powerful, even if you assume every feat in the game is perfectly balanced.

This is because players who achieve a high-degree of system mastery can use synergy between options to make a character that can do more than an off-the-rack build. Especially in games with growing rules additions (which are most games that are seen as “well-supported”), every adjustable class feature is a chance to find some combination that works better than a typical combo. Even if none of the new options are built into you class’s features (a character who has a set of 7 specific feats they can choose from doesn’t have that list automatically expand just because new feats are added to the game, unlike a character with access to all of a type of feat–or one with access to all of one set of spells), a synergy could develop between an old choice and new options any character can access.

There’s no right or wrong choices with these elements, to be clear. They are just things to consider when looking at the ways you can organize and hand out class features.

With all that in mind, we can look at power level of class features and appropriate choices by character level… next time! (Maybe in a week… maybe in 2-3… )


These Design Diaries are among the most popular of the things I wrote, but they are also the biggest, hardest, and most time-consuming to create. I was thrilled to be able to really take some time to write and develop this particular entry over a few weeks, thanks to your kind support! If you want to help me keep producing these Design Diaries, I encourage you to join my Patreon. Just a few dollars a month can make the difference between me having the time to tackle these larger, in-depth design articles, and sticking to shorter, simpler topics.

Developing to Spec: Part 16a — More Two-Weapon Fighting

This is the first section of Part Sixteen of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read along as we convert every feat in the PF core rulebook to Starfinder (and  share my thoughts on that process, as a developer and writer)— or you can just look at the finished feats (as they are written, and I have time over the holidays to update the list) here.

We ran into Greater Two-Weapon Fighting last week, which meant we also need to tackle its prerequisites of Two-Weapon Fighting and Improved Two-Weapon Fighting. We got the first one of those in place, and now we need to build off of it… and that leads to a discussion about specialization.

It’s obvious that the more character choices a player puts into one thing, the better the player wants their character to be at that one thing. It’s equally obvious that the more a character focuses on being good at one thing, the less benefit they’ll have to everything else. Therefore, the less effective they will be when their specialization doesn’t apply to a given situation or is at a severe penalty. What’s less obvious is why allowing someone to make this tradeoff endlessly is a problem.

For example, in Starfinder Weapon Focus gives you +1 to attacks with one class of weapons (+2 if your attack bonus is far enough behind). Imagine if you could gain another +1 by taking two more feats, and another by taking three feats, and so on. That would mean if you invested 10 feats into one class of weapons, you’d be at +4 to attack rolls. That’s a HUGE investment, so that has to be balanced, right?

But actually, that cause TWO imbalances. If you are in an encounter where that class of weapon is a fair or better choice, you’ll perform much better than the encounter is designed to account for, and you’ll be much more effective than other characters (often reducing their fun, and yours too if nothing is a challenge for you). But when you can’t use your specialized tactics, you are going to perform worse than the encounter is designed for, which is less fun for you (and for everyone else, if they have trouble taking up your slack). Instead of being more fun for being super-good at one thing, you risk being so specialized you create problems in any encounter.

Now there’s a big difference between investing 10 feats in something and investing three, so our Two-Weapon Fighting feat chain may well be fine. But anytime we’re giving options to focus lots of resources into specialization, it’s important to make sure you aren’t encouraging that kind of double-imbalance. It’s one reason we’re avoiding doing anything that increases a character’s max bonuses and instead trying to give new options. Increased flexibility is less likely to lead to the double-imbalance issue (though as with any design concept, there are exceptions to look out for, like spell choice for spellcasters).

So, that in mind, what can we do that makes sense with a character using two weapons without breaking the game’s math? We could keep the track we created for Two-Weappon Fighting and give greater and greater reroll options for damage. But while increasing average damage isn’t the same as increasing total bonus to damage (which affects minimum and average and max), it does still boost a character’s total damage-per-round. If possible, we need to find new options.

You can maximize the benefit of fighting with two or more weapons.
Prerequisites: Dexterity 19+, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Two-Weapon Fighting, base attack bonus +9.
Benefit: When you are wielding two or more weapons, and you use one to take an attack of opportunity (AoO), before the beginning of your next turn you can use the other weapon to make an attack of opportunity if a different AoO against a different target presents itself and the second weapon could be used to make the AoO if you had a reaction left to do so. This second AoO does not take an action.

You gain additional benefits from fighting with two or more weapons.
Prerequisites: Dexterity 17+, Two-Weapon Fighting, base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: When you are wielding two or more weapons, and you attack a target that could be attacked with either of them, you may choose to attack the target with two of the weapons (expending charges or ammunition normally) as part of the same attack. If the two weapons are different, select one weapon as your primary, and the other as your secondary.

If your primary weapon’s attack is successful you do damage wit that weapons. However, if the secondary weapon has the aurora, block, breach, bright, deconstruct, deflect, disarm, drain charge, entangle, extinguish, feint, first arc, grapple, harrying, ignite, injection, lockdown, penetrating, sunder, or trip weapon special property, you may treat the attack as having that property.

If the two weapons are identical, you instead ignore any additional bonus to AC the target gains from aligning a shield it is wielding.

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Writing Basics: Revisions

So, you have a finished draft of a game project. You’ve checked that it meets your wordcount requirements (neither too much nor too little off the mark – I try to hit within 5% of the exact wordcount total, and I consider being off by 10%–whether over or under—to be a failure to hit wordcount), the formatting is what your publisher has asked for (so if you used ANY table function of your program, you have replaced it with what the publisher’s style guide calls for), and you’ve hit all the required topics.

Now what? Now, you get ready for revision.

Revisions can have a number of steps for game writing, depending on the project, time, and circumstance, but here are some common types. A project may have all of these, just a few, or none… though try to avoid not even having time for a reread.

The Re-Read

The best way to get a good revision on your own is to put your writing down for a couple of weeks, work on other projects and then, when it’s no longer fresh in your mind, reread it from the beginning. You are likely to catch a few places where the wording got muddled, or you didn’t type exactly what you were thinking. But you may also find some more systemic problems, such as discussing concepts in length before introducing them in brief, or contradicting yourself because ideas evolved as you wrote them (or you wrote two parts of the same section days apart, and misremembered what you said the first time).

This is also a good time to play developer with your own material. Do you see a simpler way to express the same idea? Is a rule system too complex for the value it gives the game? Is an option obviously overpowered, or under-powered, and you can see a way to fix it? Does something you thought was awesome now seem dull? This is a good chance to fix all those issues.

And if you aren’t sure about something? Just flag it for your developer/editor/producer. Leave a comment explaining your thought process and concern, and that you weren’t sure one way or another. Having comments and thoughts from the author can be a huge help when a developer is first tackling a project, and it shows you’re cognizant of potential issues in your work, but trust the people you are working with. While you are at it, put notes in about anything else that might be useful for your developer. A list of resources that need to be mentioned in a OGL section 15. Which bits of continuity are canon (and where you found them), and which are new elements you made up yourself. Anything that’s an Easter Egg (or even clearly inspired by existing IP—homage CAN be fine, but let your publisher know what you are riffing off of, so they can make that decision for themselves).


If at all possible get at least SOME playtest in of any gameable elements. An adventure can be easy to do a quick playtest of—grab some friends (with your publisher’s permission to have people you are sharing the unpublished material with, if under NDA or similar restriction) and run through it once. Single stand-alone elements such as spells or feats can be trickier, but having people other than you use them in character builds can show if they are unexpected synergies, or are valued much more or less highly than similar options. Larger elements, such as entire character classes, can take months to properly playtest, but at minimum it can be useful to run a Rules Rumble playtest – have one set of players make characters without access to the new rules, and a second group make characters required to use the new rules, and pit them against each other.

If you find any glaring issues, fix them. If you find potential issues, leave comments for your developer/editor/producer.

Beta Readers

It can be useful to have people you trust take a look at your work to highlight any potential problems they see. Again, if you are under NDA or similar constraint, get your publisher’s permission for this. Sometimes projects with multiple freelancers working on it provide a way for those freelancers to go over each other’s work as it is created, which can be a great resource (but be sure you give back – if someone gives you useful feedback in that kind of environment, read through their stuff too). You don’t have to take a Beta Reader’s opinion over your own of course, but do consider their point of view. If a Beta Reader says something is unclear, for example, then no matter how obvious it is to you, you know it’s unclear to at least SOME other people.

Publisher Feedback

Publisher feedback is extremely important on any project they have the time and energy to give it to you, which is my experience isn’t that often. Ultimately if you don’t work with your publisher on their feedback, you may not get published. But the degree of how important this is varies from ‘crucial” to only “very important.”

Most freelance work written for the tabletop game industry is done Work for Hire, which means once you are paid you have no further rights to the work. You aren’t even considered the creator, for copyright purposes. When I am working on that kind of project, if the publisher gives me feedback, I consider it part of my job to incorporate that feedback, even if I disagree with it.

I ALSO consider it part of my job to point out why I think bad feedback is bad, but in the end if this is something for which I am providing content using someone else’s sandbox, and I have been hired to fill a certain amount of it with the kind of sand they want, I consider my job to be to give the publisher what they want. I often call this kind of work “content provider” rather than “author,” to remind myself of what my end goal is.

Things are slightly different if a publisher is partnering with you to publish something you retain the copyright to. It’s still crucial to consider the publisher’s feedback—one presumes you picked this publisher to be the venue for your work for a reason, but if it’s ultimately your project any feedback should ultimately be your call. (Though, you know, check your contract. Preferably before signing it.)

In Summation

The point of a First Draft is to get it done. The point of a Revision is to get it right. This can vary from tweaking a few things to realizing you have to tear out the heart of what you have written and start over (which can feel a lot like tearing out your own heart). In tabletop RPG design you often don’t have time for more than one revisions (though a developer may be coming along behind you to make another, out of your sight), so try to get as much feedback as you can, then apply what you have learned, make notes…

And move on to the next project. Never finishing revisions is a form of never finishing, and it’s often said “Game designs are never finished, they just escape their designers.”

Don’t be afraid to change things in revision, but also don’t be afraid to leave them alone if you think they’re good.

Heya folks–I am back to being a full-time freelancer. Which means, every word I write has to justify itself in time taken vs. benefit to my freelance career and/or money made.
So if you found any of this useful and you’d like to support the creation of more such content, check out my Patreon!

Just a couple of dollars a month from each of you will make a huge difference.

Titles of the 500+ pdf Bonus MegaBundle

“Are there REALLY more than 500 pdfs in the Bonus MegaBundle, for just $30?
513, in fact.

Bundle Contents:

  1. 3 Things Made From Crabmen.pdf
  2. 4HP Alien Races Sokura.pdf
  3. 4HP CCBase Class Engineer.pdf
  4. 4HP CC Abstraction Golems Expanded.pdf
  5. 4HP CC Animated Traps Expanded.pdf
  6. 4HP CC Pakuvresh.pdf
  7. 4HP Celestial Character Options.pdf
  8. 4HP Character Options – Gods in the Void.pdf
  9. 4HP Comedic Character Options.pdf
  10. 4HP Even More Horrifically Overpowered Feats.pdf
  11. 4HP Gruesome Aberrations.pdf
  12. 4HP Gruesome Constructs.pdf
  13. 4HP Gruesome Fey.pdf
  14. 4HP Gruesome Oozes.pdf
  15. 4HP Hybrid Base Class – Renegade.pdf
  16. 4HP Hybrid Class – Blasphemer.pdf
  17. 4HP Hybrid Class – Fury.pdf
  18. 4HP Hybrid Class – Shifu.pdf
  19. 4HP Hybrid Class – The Psychemist.pdf
  20. 4HP Hybrid Class Possesed.pdf
  21. 4HP Hybrid Class The Montebank.pdf
  22. 4HP Living Items.pdf
  23. 4HP Mature Character Options.pdf
  24. 4HP Minmaxed Monsters.pdf
  25. 4HP Monsters Under the Bed.pdf
  26. 4HP More Comedic Character Options.pdf
  27. 4HP Mythic Archetypes.pdf
  28. 4HP Mythic Kingdoms.pdf
  29. 4HP Mythic Magic Expanded.pdf
  30. 4HP Mythic Magic Items.pdf
  31. 4HP Mythic Path Transcendentalist.pdf
  32. 4HP Technomagic – Hybrid Magic Items.pdf
  33. 4HP Venerable Character Options.pdf
  34. 4HP Vule the Living Planet.pdf
  35. 4HP Yet More Horrifically Overpowered Feats.pdf
  36. 4HP Young Character Options.pdf
  37. 5 Hellfire Feats.pdf
  38. 55 Minor Armor Upgrades.pdf
  39. 55 Minor Spell Variations.pdf
  40. 55 Minor Weapon Modifications.pdf
  41. 5e Classes The Godling.pdf
  42. 5e Menagerie Griffmeras.pdf
  43. 5e Menagerie Horrors of the Aboleth.pdf
  44. 5e Menagerie Howl at the Moon.pdf
  45. 5e Menagerie Oceans of Blood.pdf
  46. 5e Options Rogue Archetypes Shadow Warrior.pdf
  47. 5e Trash Gryphon.pdf
  48. Advanced Options – Alchemists Discoveries.pdf
  49. Advanced Options – Cavaliers’ Orders.pdf
  50. Advanced Options – Cavaliers.pdf
  51. Advanced Options – Extra Evolutions.pdf
  52. Advanced Options – Inquisitors Judgments.pdf
  53. Advanced Options – Slayer Talents & Lethalities.pdf
  54. Advanced Options – Warpriest Blessings.pdf
  55. Advanced Options – Witchs’ Hexes-Revised.pdf
  56. Advanced Options-Fight Like A Pirate.pdf
  57. AdvancedOptions-OraclesCurses.pdf
  58. Adventurers Handbook.pdf
  59. Annals of the Archfiends – Phosonith – The Cruel Charmer.pdf
  60. AO Patron Hexes.pdf
  61. AO_Slayer_Talents___Lethalities.pdf
  62. Bullet Point #1 Five Dragonscale.pdf
  63. Bullet Point #19 Death Mage Feats.pdf
  64. Bullet Point 10 Feats of Fear and Fearlessness.pdf
  65. Bullet Point 10 Feats of Hammer and Thunder.pdf
  66. Bullet Point 10 Mage Armor Feats.pdf
  67. Bullet Point 10 Monster Feats.pdf
  68. Bullet Point 10_Subschool_Augmentation_Feats.pdf
  69. Bullet Point 12 Fighter Bravery Alts.pdf
  70. Bullet Point 12_Rogue_Trapfinding_Alts.pdf
  71. Bullet Point 13 Witch Hexes.pdf
  72. Bullet Point 13-Dwarven-Questing-Feats.pdf
  73. Bullet Point 14 Halfling Burglar Feats.pdf
  74. Bullet Point 15 Fantasy Taxes.pdf
  75. Bullet Point 2 Alt Leadership Feats.pdf
  76. Bullet Point 3 Simian Races.pdf
  77. Bullet Point 3 Stone Golem Templates.pdf
  78. Bullet Point 3 Supernatural Abilities.pdf
  79. Bullet Point 3_Simian_Races.pdf
  80. Bullet Point 4 Ghostbusting Items.pdf
  81. Bullet Point 4 Invisibility Feats.pdf
  82. Bullet Point 4 Raise Dead Feats.pdf
  83. Bullet Point 4_Death_Mage_Feats.pdf
  84. Bullet Point 5 Dragonscale.pdf
  85. Bullet Point 5 Fireball Feats.pdf
  86. Bullet Point 5 Handy Haversacks.pdf
  87. Bullet Point 5 Haste-Slow Feats.pdf
  88. Bullet Point 5 Machinesmith Feats.pdf
  89. Bullet Point 5 Meta-Combat Feats.pdf
  90. Bullet Point 5 Mount Steed Spell Feats.pdf
  91. Bullet Point 5 Silver Weapon Magic Properties.pdf
  92. Bullet Point 5 Unseen Servant Feats.pdf
  93. Bullet Point 5 Witch’s Daggers.pdf
  94. Bullet Point 5_Control_Water_Feats.pdf
  95. Bullet Point 6 Anachronistic Armors.pdf
  96. Bullet Point 6 Antimagic Field Feats.pdf
  97. Bullet Point 6 Archon Feats.pdf
  98. Bullet Point 6 Feats for Summon Spells.pdf
  99. Bullet Point 6 Godling Feats.pdf
  100. Bullet Point 6 Jester Feats.pdf
  101. Bullet Point 6 New Exotic and Martial Swords.pdf
  102. Bullet Point 6 Nonmagic Weapon Qualities.pdf
  103. Bullet Point 6 Spell-Less Ranger Feats.pdf
  104. Bullet Point 6 Teleportation Spell Feats.pdf
  105. Bullet Point 6-Mythic-Feats.pdf
  106. Bullet Point 7 Bard Feats.pdf
  107. Bullet Point 7 Cure Light Wounds Feats.pdf
  108. Bullet Point 7 Feats For Flying Foes.pdf
  109. Bullet Point 7 Feats for Sword and Board.pdf
  110. Bullet Point 7 Feats for the Undead.pdf
  111. Bullet Point 7 Magic Firearm Properties.pdf
  112. Bullet Point 7 Magic Missile Feats.pdf
  113. Bullet Point 7 Shadow Assassin Feats.pdf
  114. Bullet Point 7 Shield Feats.pdf
  115. Bullet Point 7 Sinful Feats of Gluttony.pdf
  116. Bullet Point 7 Sinful Feats of Lust.pdf
  117. Bullet Point 7 Spiritual Weapon Feats.pdf
  118. Bullet Point 7 Stupid Weapons April Fools.pdf
  119. Bullet Point 7 Tendril Tentacle Spell Feats.pdf
  120. Bullet Point 7 Time Feats.pdf
  121. Bullet Point 7 War Master Feats.pdf
  122. Bullet Point 7 War_Master_Feats.pdf
  123. Bullet Point 7-Sinful-Feats-of-Pride.pdf
  124. Bullet Point 8 Animal Feats.pdf
  125. Bullet Point 8 Barbarian Feats.pdf
  126. Bullet Point 8 Dragonrider Feats.pdf
  127. Bullet Point 8 Lightning Bolt Feats.pdf
  128. Bullet Point 8_Barbarian_Feats.pdf
  129. Bullet Point 9 Armiger Feats.pdf
  130. Bullet Point 9 Witch Hunter Feats.pdf
  131. Bullet Point 9-Alchemical Bomb Discoveries.pdf
  132. Bullet Point Cold Iron Magic Weapons.pdf
  133. Bullet Point Legendary-Weapons.pdf
  134. Bullet Point Magic_Diseases.pdf
  135. Childhood Adventures.pdf
  136. CO The Feat Reference Document.pdf
  137. Codex Draconis – Black Lords of the Marsh.pdf
  138. Codex Draconis – Green Menace of the Woodlands.pdf
  139. Codex Draconis – Red Tyants of the Mountains.pdf
  140. Codex Draconis – Satraps of the Deserts.pdf
  141. Codex Draconis – White Terrors of the North.pdf
  142. Corruption Codex.pdf
  143. CSP TA The Witch ML.pdf
  144. CSP Waysides Rock Bottom.pdf
  145. CSP-RR-Aardvolk.pdf
  146. CSP-RR-Gnolls.pdf
  147. Dragon Companion Handbook.pdf
  148. Dynastic Races Compendium.pdf
  149. EMI Kyr’shin Unchained.pdf
  150. EMI Taka’shi.pdf
  151. EMM 1 Interval Spellcasting.pdf
  152. EMM 10 Brawler Archetypes.pdf
  153. EMM 11 Mysteries of Spring.pdf
  154. EMM 12 Malborgoroth.pdf
  155. EMM 13 Unchained Kangaroos.pdf
  156. EMM 14 Spells of Comedy.pdf
  157. EMM 15 Way of the Eight.pdf
  158. EMM 16 Mystic Scrivener.pdf
  159. EMM 17 Microsized Templates .pdf
  160. EMM 18 Motherly Options.pdf
  161. EMM 19 Gloom Discoveries.pdf
  162. EMM 2 The Skinsuit Ritual.pdf
  163. EMM 20 Esoteric Implements.pdf
  164. EMM 21 Unchained Fighter Options.pdf
  165. EMM 22 Mysteries of Summer.pdf
  166. EMM 23 Mesmerist Feats.pdf
  167. EMM 24 Patriotic Options.pdf
  168. EMM 25 Yroometji.pdf
  169. EMM 26 Black Blade Options.pdf
  170. EMM 27 Spells of Childhood.pdf
  171. EMM 28 Cleric Options.pdf
  172. EMM 29 Favored Enemy Focuses.pdf
  173. EMM 3 Childhood Feats.pdf
  174. EMM 30 Haunt Invocations.pdf
  175. EMM 31 Injuries and Scars.pdf
  176. EMM 32 School Day Options.pdf
  177. EMM 33 Mysteries of Autumn.pdf
  178. EMM 33 Unchained Monk Options.pdf
  179. EMM 34 Mysteries of Autumn.pdf
  180. EMM 35 Investigator Options.pdf
  181. EMM 36 Ghost Hunting Options.pdf
  182. EMM 37 Occultic Singularity Ritual.pdf
  183. EMM 38 More Unchained Fighter Options.pdf
  184. EMM 39 Pumpkin Kami.pdf
  185. EMM 4 Ley Line Qualities.pdf
  186. EMM 40 The Tall One.pdf
  187. EMM 41 Cult Classic Heroes.pdf
  188. EMM 42 Shapeshifter Options.pdf
  189. EMM 43 Bountiful Harvest Ritual.pdf
  190. EMM 44 Family Options.pdf
  191. EMM 45 Festive Armory.pdf
  192. EMM 46 Festive Options.pdf
  193. EMM 47 Yearbound Phoenix Ritual.pdf
  194. EMM 48 Unchained Favored Classes.pdf
  195. EMM 49 Far-Flung Races.pdf
  196. EMM 5 Kumiho.pdf
  197. EMM 50 Haunted Archetypes.pdf
  198. EMM 51 Arcane Discoveries.pdf
  199. EMM 52 Paladin Mercies.pdf
  200. EMM 53 Rage Options.pdf
  201. EMM 54 Alchemical Power Components.pdf
  202. EMM 55 Front Liner’s Options.pdf
  203. EMM 56 Mystery of Riddles.pdf
  204. EMM 57 Magus Arcana.pdf
  205. EMM 58 Bloodline Mutations.pdf
  206. EMM 59 Unchained Kangaroos, Dire Edition.pdf
  207. EMM 6 Mysteries of Passion.pdf
  208. EMM 60 Kitsune Kineticist Options.pdf
  209. EMM 61 Animal Teamwork Feats.pdf
  210. EMM 62 Mystery of Music.pdf
  211. EMM 63 Dynastic Armory.pdf
  212. EMM 64 Hecaviogos Levialogi.pdf
  213. EMM 65 Catfolk Options.pdf
  214. EMM 66 Eidolon Knight.pdf
  215. EMM 67 Animal Companion Archetypes.pdf
  216. EMM 68 Superior Alchemical Items.pdf
  217. EMM 69 Fey Shaman Spirit.pdf
  218. EMM 7 Deific Passengers.pdf
  219. EMM 70 Unchained Fighter Archetypes.pdf
  220. EMM 71 Wild Shape Variants.pdf
  221. EMM 72 Vessel Passengers.pdf
  222. EMM 73 Microsized Monsters.pdf
  223. EMM 74 Centaur Options.pdf
  224. EMM 75 Gculcilite.pdf
  225. EMM 76 Lost Children.pdf
  226. EMM 77 Unchained Ninja Options.pdf
  227. EMM 78 Allakhadae.pdf
  228. EMM 79 Unchained Bard Masterpieces.pdf
  229. EMM 8 Gnoll Options.pdf
  230. EMM 80 Arcanist Exploits.pdf
  231. EMM 81 Mutative Muck.pdf
  232. EMM 82 Age Shifting Options.pdf
  233. EMM 83 Dynastic Spells.pdf
  234. EMM 84 Kineticist Archetypes.pdf
  235. EMM 85 Transpositional Creatures.pdf
  236. EMM 86 More Unchained Bardic Masterpieces.pdf
  237. EMM 88 Creepy Creatures.pdf
  238. EMM 89 Everyman Races.pdf
  239. EMM 9 Sleeping Rules.pdf
  240. EMM 90 Occultist Panoplies.pdf
  241. EMM 91 Bloodrager Bloodlines.pdf
  242. EMM 92 Squishikin Options.pdf
  243. EMM 93 Soulless.pdf
  244. EMM 94 Familiar Archetypes.pdf
  245. EMO Kineticist.pdf
  246. EMO Paranormal Classes.pdf
  247. EMO Shaman Spirits.pdf
  248. EMO Unchained Fighters.pdf
  249. EMU Bards.pdf
  250. EMU Eidolons.pdf
  251. EMU Fighter.pdf
  252. EMU Teamwork Feats.pdf
  253. EMU Unchained Cunning.pdf
  254. Engines of Destructions.pdf
  255. Everyman Archetypes, Skald.pdf
  256. Everyman Archetypes, Swashbuckler.pdf
  257. Everyman Iconics Drake.pdf
  258. Everyman Iconics Kyrshin.pdf
  259. Everyman Iconics Shira.pdf
  260. Everyman Unchained – Eidolons.pdf
  261. Everyman Unchained Monk Archetypes II.pdf
  262. Everyman Unchained Monk Archetypes.pdf
  263. Everyman Unchained, Unchained Cunning.pdf
  264. Everyman Unchained-Skills and Options.pdf
  265. Everyman Unchained-Unchained Rage.pdf
  266. Everyman_Unchained__Unchained_Cunning.pdf
  267. Faeries of the Fringe.pdf
  268. FTF 13 Evil Spells.pdf
  269. Genius Adventures – Spring of Disorder.pdf
  270. Genius Adventures – The Black Skull Laughs.pdf
  271. Genius Adventures – There’s Yer Problem.pdf
  272. Genius Guide to 110 Spell Variants Vol. 01.pdf
  273. Genius Guide to 110 Spell Variants Vol. 03.pdf
  274. Genius Guide to 110 Spell Variants Vol. 04.pdf
  275. Genius Guide to Air Magic.pdf
  276. Genius Guide to Another 110 Spell Variants Vol. 02.pdf
  277. Genius Guide to Apeiron Staves.pdf
  278. Genius Guide to Apprentice-Level Characters.pdf
  279. Genius Guide to Arcane Archetypes.pdf
  280. Genius Guide to Archer Archtypes.pdf
  281. Genius Guide to Chaos Magic.pdf
  282. Genius Guide to Crystal Magic.pdf
  283. Genius Guide to Divination Magic.pdf
  284. Genius Guide to Divine Archetypes.pdf
  285. Genius Guide to Dream Magic.pdf
  286. Genius Guide to Earth Magic.pdf
  287. Genius Guide to Exalted Domains of Light and Lore beta.pdf
  288. Genius Guide to Exalted Domains of Storms and Savagery.pdf
  289. Genius Guide to Exalted Domains of War and Ruin.pdf
  290. Genius Guide to Favored Class Options.pdf
  291. Genius Guide to Feats of Battle.pdf
  292. Genius Guide to Feats of Critical Combat.pdf
  293. Genius Guide to Feats of Divine Might.pdf
  294. Genius Guide to Feats of Immediate Action.pdf
  295. Genius Guide to Feats of Metamagic.pdf
  296. Genius Guide to Feats of Multiclassing.pdf
  297. Genius Guide to Feats of Psionic Might.pdf
  298. Genius Guide to Feats of Runic Might 2.pdf
  299. Genius Guide to Feats of Runic Might.pdf
  300. Genius Guide to Feats of Spellcasting.pdf
  301. Genius Guide to Feats of Subterfuge.pdf
  302. Genius Guide to Fire Magic.pdf
  303. Genius Guide to Gruesome Undead Templates.pdf
  304. Genius Guide to Hellfire Magic.pdf
  305. Genius Guide to Hoof and Horn Racial Options.pdf
  306. Genius Guide to Horrific Haunts.pdf
  307. Genius Guide to Horrifically Overpowered Feats.pdf
  308. Genius Guide to Ice Magic.pdf
  309. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 1 – Armor and Weapons.pdf
  310. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 10 – Fezzes Are Cool.pdf
  311. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 2 – Pretty, Pretty Rings.pdf
  312. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 3 – Hot Rods.pdf
  313. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 4 – Fantastic Footwear.pdf
  314. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 5 – All You Need Is Gloves.pdf
  315. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 6 – Cloaks and Daggers.pdf
  316. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 7 – Krazy Kragnar.pdf
  317. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 8 – Belt One On.pdf
  318. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less 9 – Bell, Book, and Candle.pdf
  319. Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Things that Make You Go Boom.pdf
  320. Genius Guide to Martial Archetypes.pdf
  321. Genius Guide to Mystic Godlings.pdf
  322. Genius Guide to Name Traits.pdf
  323. Genius Guide to Races of Fire and Fury.pdf
  324. Genius Guide to Races of Hoof and Horn.pdf
  325. Genius Guide to Races of Wind and Wing.pdf
  326. Genius Guide to Rune Staves and Wyrd Wands.pdf
  327. Genius Guide to Simple Monster Templates.pdf
  328. Genius Guide to the Archon.pdf
  329. Genius Guide to the Armiger.pdf
  330. Genius Guide to the Death Mage.pdf
  331. Genius Guide to the Dragonrider Revised.pdf
  332. Genius Guide to the Godling Ascendant.pdf
  333. Genius Guide to the Godling.pdf
  334. Genius Guide to the Magus.pdf
  335. Genius Guide to the Mosaic Mage.pdf
  336. Genius Guide to the Order of Vigilance.pdf
  337. Genius Guide to the Shadow Assassin.pdf
  338. Genius Guide to the Talented Cavalier.pdf
  339. Genius Guide to the Templar.pdf
  340. Genius Guide to the Time Thief.pdf
  341. Genius Guide to the Time Warden.pdf
  342. Genius Guide to the Vanguard Revised.pdf
  343. Genius Guide to the War Master.pdf
  344. Genius Guide to the Witch Hunter.pdf
  345. Genius Guide to What’s in my Pocket – Part Deux.pdf
  346. Genius Guide to What_s in my Pocket – Part Deux.pdf
  347. GG to Bravery Feats.pdf
  348. GG to Feats of Spellcasting II.pdf
  349. GG to Gruesome Dragons.pdf
  350. GG to More Horrifically Overpowered Feats.pdf
  351. GG to More Ranger Talents.pdf
  352. GG to the Dracomancer.pdf
  353. GG to the Hellion.pdf
  354. GG to the Magister.pdf
  355. GG to the Riven Mage.pdf
  356. GG to the Shadow Warrior.pdf
  357. GG to the Talented Ranger.pdf
  358. GG-to-More-Horrifically-Overpowered-Feats.pdf
  359. GG-to-the-Hellion.pdf
  360. GG-to-the-Magister.pdf
  361. GG-to-the-Riven-Mage.pdf
  362. GGT Domain Channeling II.pdf
  363. GGT Domain Channeling.pdf
  364. GGT Expanded Class Options.pdf
  365. GGT Gruesome Giants.pdf
  366. GGT HOMFeats.pdf
  367. GGT Homophone Spells.pdf
  368. GGT More Barbarian Talents.pdf
  369. GGT More Bard Talents.pdf
  370. GGT More Cleric Talents.pdf
  371. GGT More Simple Class Templates for Monsters.pdf
  372. GGT More Witch Talents.pdf
  373. GGT Mythic Subpaths.pdf
  374. GGT Simple Class Templates for Monsters.pdf
  375. GGT the Cruorchemist.pdf
  376. GGT The Opportunist.pdf
  377. GGT The Talented Barbarian.pdf
  378. GGT the Talented Bard.pdf
  379. GGT the Talented Bestiary PDF Webview.pdf
  380. 2GGT the Talented Bestiary PDF.pdf
  381. GGT the Talented Cleric.pdf
  382. GGT the Talented Druid.pdf
  383. GGT the Talented Otter Dragon.pdf
  384. GGT the Talented Witch.pdf
  385. GGT Variant Multiclass Rules.pdf
  386. GGT-Expanded-Class-Options.pdf
  387. GGT-More-Barbarian-Talents.pdf
  388. GGT-The-Talented-Barbarian.pdf
  389. GGtoHOMFeats.pdf
  390. GG_to_Feats_of_Spellcasting_II.pdf
  391. GG_to_More_Ranger_Talents.pdf
  392. GG_to_the_Dracomancer.pdf
  393. GG_to_the_Shadow_Warrior.pdf
  394. GG_to_the_Talented_Ranger.pdf
  395. GO Masters of Time.pdf
  396. GO-Masters-of-Time.pdf
  397. Green-Menace-of-the-Woodlands.pdf
  398. Halfling-Burglar-Feats.pdf
  399. Heralds of the Apocalypse.pdf
  400. HFNotes-001-Spellpoint-Feats.pdf
  401. HFNotes-002-Stocking-Stuffers.pdf
  402. HH 002 Spellpoints Expansion.pdf
  403. Houserule Footnotes Spell Point Feats.pdf
  404. Houserule Handbooks Spell Points.pdf
  405. Houserule Handbooks Spellpoints Compilation.pdf
  406. Into The Veil.pdf
  407. Kitsune Compendium.pdf
  408. Krazy Kragnar Magic Staff Emporium.pdf
  409. Krazy Kragnar’s Black Market Magic Items.pdf
  410. Krazy Kragnars Alchemical Surplus Shop.pdf
  411. Krazy_Kragnars_Alchemical_Surplus_Shop.pdf
  412. Krazy_Kragnar_Magic_Staff_Emporium.pdf
  413. Leadership Handbook.pdf
  414. Lunar Knights.pdf
  415. Microsized Adventures.pdf
  416. MM A Council of Genies.pdf
  417. MM Bulette Points.pdf
  418. MM Draconis Arcanus.pdf
  419. MM SS Giraffenomicon.pdf
  420. MM SS Pumpkin Stalker.pdf
  421. MM The Swarminomicon.pdf
  422. MM Troops.pdf
  423. MM_Winter_Ravagers.pdf
  424. MO Core Mythic Class Features.pdf
  425. MO Mythic Base Class Features.pdf
  426. MO Mythic Dragonrider Class Features.pdf
  427. MO-Mythic-Rogue-Class-Features.pdf
  428. Monster Menagerie – Construct Companion.pdf
  429. Monster Menagerie – Covens of Chaos.pdf
  430. Monster Menagerie – Demonic Harlots.pdf
  431. Monster Menagerie – Horrors of the Aboleth.pdf
  432. Monster Menagerie – Howl at the Moon.pdf
  433. Monster Menagerie – Kingdom of Graves.pdf
  434. Monster Menagerie – Kith of the Harpy Queen.pdf
  435. Monster Menagerie – Lurkers in the Dark.pdf
  436. Monster Menagerie – Threats from Beyond.pdf
  437. Monster Menagerie – Winter Ravagers.pdf
  438. Monster Menagerie Griffmeras.pdf
  439. Mythic Fighter Class Features.pdf
  440. Mythic Menagerie – Rise of the Goblinoids.pdf
  441. Mythic Options The Missing Core Feats.pdf
  442. Night of the Starbird.pdf
  443. Occult Options 1.pdf
  444. Oceans of Blood.pdf
  445. Paranormal Adventures.pdf
  446. Paranormal Classes.pdf
  447. PF Trash Gryphon.pdf
  448. Psychological Combat.pdf
  449. Races Revised – the Kitsune Clans.pdf
  450. Ranger Options – Knacks of Nature.pdf
  451. Ravagers of Time.pdf
  452. Relic Files – From Beyond the Stars I.pdf
  453. Relic Files – From Beyond the Stars II.pdf
  454. Relic Files – Treasures of Camelot I.pdf
  455. Relic Files – Treasures of Camelot II.pdf
  456. Relic Files – Treasures of Camelot III.pdf
  457. RF Manticore Power Armor.pdf
  458. RF Treasures of the Earth – Svarduun.pdf
  459. RP Kyubi Paragon.pdf
  460. RP Noble Aspirant.pdf
  461. SA Laser Grenades.pdf
  462. SA Shotguns.pdf
  463. Samsaran Compendium.pdf
  464. Satraps-of-the-Deserts.pdf
  465. SC Coordinated Combat Feats.pdf
  466. SC Horrifically Overpowered Feats.pdf
  467. SC Legacy Cavalier.pdf
  468. SC Legacy Dragonrider.pdf
  469. SC Legacy Gunslinger.pdf
  470. SC Technomancy Manual.pdf
  471. SC Toonimancy.pdf
  472. SFA Cannibal Clowns from Outer Space.pdf
  473. SFA Deluxe Drider.pdf
  474. SFA Sluagh.pdf
  475. SFS Psychic Space Cats.pdf
  476. SGP A Brace of Pistols.pdf
  477. SGP Argonax the Mad.pdf
  478. SGP Power Word Spells.pdf
  479. SGP Races Revised The Kobold Kings.pdf
  480. Skill Challenge Handbook.pdf
  481. Sorcerers Options Beyond Bloodlines-1.pdf
  482. Spell-Point_Compilation.pdf
  483. Starfarer’s Codex Witch Legacy Class.pdf
  484. The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill.pdf
  485. The Genius Guide to More Cavalier Talents.pdf
  486. The Genius Guide to More Fighter Talents.pdf
  487. The Genius Guide to More Monk Talents.pdf
  488. The Genius Guide to More Rogue Talents.pdf
  489. The Genius Guide to the Death Knight.pdf
  490. The Genius Guide to the Relics of the Godlings II.pdf
  491. The Genius Guide to the Relics of the Godlings.pdf
  492. The Genius Guide to the Talented Cavalier.pdf
  493. The Genius Guide to the Talented Fighter.pdf
  494. The Genius Guide to The Talented Monk.pdf
  495. The Genius Guide to the Talented Rogue.pdf
  496. The Pirate Haven of Blackrock.pdf
  497. The-Genius-Guide-to-the-Death-Knight.pdf
  498. The-Genius-Guide-to-the-Relics-of-the-Godlings.pdf
  499. Ultimate Charisma.pdf
  500. Ultimate Occult.pdf
  501. Ultimate Options – Arcane Discoveries.pdf
  502. Ultimate Options – Grit and Gunslingers.pdf
  503. Ultimate Options – Power of the Ninja.pdf
  504. UO Bardic Masterpieces.pdf
  505. UO New Magus Arcana..pdf
  506. UO Story Feats.pdf
  507. VC Radical Pantheon.pdf
  508. VC The Black Knight.pdf
  509. 4VCPDF.pdf
  510. Veranthea Codex – Lost Legends of Urethiel.pdf
  511. Veranthea-Codex.pdf
  512. Wind and Wing Racial Options.pdf
  513. Yuletide Terror.pdf

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Writing Basics: Bringing Your Publisher Concerns

In part one of my recent ongoing series of articles looking at converting every feat from the PF Core Rulebook that doesn’t already have a namesake in Starfinder to the Starfinder game system, I mention that if you think a project you are being hired for has bad decisions behind it, you should bring those to your publisher. I also mention that once you agree to do the job you should do it, without offering any exceptions for cases where you have moral or ethical concerns about completing the work. these can be tricky waters to navigate, but it’s worth discussing some best practices for bring your concerns to your publisher/editor/developer/producer.

Some of the following examples are going to sound extreme, and I don’t want to give the impression that every project is filled with objectionable, harmful, short-sighted material you have to fight back against. But I can’t pretend it never happens, and obviously it’s when the stakes are highest that this is both the most important, and the most nerve-wracking.

Also, I am aware of my own shortcomings enough to know I don;t always see the ways in which material can be harmful. So if you are writing for me, and you have concerns? LET ME KNOW. Push back. Point to this article if you want some back-up. I ASKED you to tell me if I’m requesting bad ideas from you.

As always, I’ll also note that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. Also, I come at this as a writer, developer, and publisher, as those are the kinds of roles I have filled for RPG creation. Artists, graphic designers, editors, and layout artists face similar challenges at least as great, but my advice may not work as well for them.

Try Not To Create Any Surprises

Ideally when working on a project you’ll have access to an outline and a general vision of the project prior to agreeing to write for it, so if you have any concerns you can bring them up early on. For example, if a project’s outline suggests covering topics you don’t feel are appropriate for an RPG, you can discuss that at the beginning with your contact. Even if that means you backing out of the project because you just can’t get on the same page as the publisher, it’s much better for all concerned if you do that early.

If your project is going to involve a lot of discrete bits, it’s worth scanning those for potential trouble spots extremely early in the process. For example if you are asked to do expanded write-ups on six cities, go through the existing material at least briefly as soon as you can. If one of the cities is mired in material you see issues with (whether those are as simple as it having a stupid name or as complex as having an explicit social set-up filled with stereotypes you find harmful), bringing those to your contact as soon as possible both allows everyone plenty of time to try to figure out a solution (while the rest of the project moves forward), and proves you’re taking your responsibilities seriously.

The closer you are to deadline, the less flexible your publisher is likely to be. While that is often because the publisher places money over your concerns, it’s worth remembering they have mouths to feed as well, and people counting on them. That doesn’t excuse making money on harmful material, but it is worth remembering if you’re trying to build a working relationship.

Of course sometimes things develop you could not have foreseen. You may only be contracted to write part of a project, and when you see someone else’s section it’s full of material you have issues with or, worse, it changes the context of your own material in harmful ways. Or you might be shown cover art you dislike so much you don’t want your name associated with it. Or you might get developer feedback that explicitly asks you to alter things in a way you have problems with. The point is that the sooner you can raise a flag, the easier the process is likely to be for all concerned.

There’s A Thing Line Between Asking for Clarification and Passive-Aggressive

A great first step when something from the publisher seems like a bad idea is to ask for clarification. Going back to my series of articles as an example, if a publisher told me to convert *every* missing PF feat from the core rulebook to Starfinder, I’d pretty quickly ask if they meant even feats that refer to rules that don’t exist in Starfinder and already have their basic concept covered, like Exotic Weapon Proficiency. The publisher might come back and agree that some feats don’t need conversion.

However, once I get told that yes, EVERY feat needs to be converted, constantly asking if that’s the case even if the end result is dumb, or even if that means confusing people, or any other objections, I’m moving beyond just asking for clarification. Once you have your answer work with it, for better or worse.

If the answer means you can’t work on a project for personal or ethical or legal reasons, at that point just say so.

Be As Polite As The Situation Allows

Ideally, you’ll always be in a place where you can be polite and considerate to your publisher. If nothing else, with luck you’ll have some idea what kind of material the publisher produces before working for them (or even pitching them ideas) and will have just avoided anyone who is going to ask for things you think are stupid or problematic.

Even just five years ago, I’d have made this advice to ALWAYS be polite. And, honestly, my privileged and luck have meant I have always had that choice (though I haven’t always used it, to my regret). But I have seen other writers put in situations where I confess, polite might not convey how serious an objection is.

I strongly recommend defaulting to as polite as you think you can possibly be, and reserving more stringent language and complaints for serious legal or ethical objections, but that has to be your call.

Explain Your Concerns

Saying “this piece of art is terrible” isn’t helpful to a publisher. Be as specific, and as nonjudgmental, as the situation allows for. Does the art depict the 8-armed Klyzon species as having 6 arms? Are the colors so muted and fuzzy that from 2 feet back it just looks like mud? Does the Klyzon look EXACTLY like a character from the Trek Wars animated series? It it’s tattoo of a symbol with real-world religious or political meaning? Is the Klyzon man a horrific monster in full armor, and the Klyzon woman a near-human with tiny horns wearing sexualized attire?

Specific details on what is your concern, and why it concerns you, helps move quickly to seeing if improvements or resolution can be found.

If there is a broader social issue in play, it may help to link to resources education on that issue. Yes, this is asking you to do extra work, and that’s both unfair and not your ethical duty. I offer the suggestion because I have found it effective, but you have to decide how much effort you’re willing to put into any issue.

Offer Solutions

If you can think of an easy way to address your concern, pitch it. Publishers love solutions to problems, especially compared to problems they have to spend time working on themselves.

In fact if approving your solution is less work than figuring out some way to get what the publisher originally asked for, the publisher may just agree to save time and effort.

Try To Do It All At Once

This isn’t always an option, but a publisher can much more easily deal with a unified, concise list of 7 issues with a project, than getting a new issues brought up 7 different times during production.

Pick Your Battles

There’s nothing wrong with noting you think a sketch of a monster you are writing up is too goofy to convey the theme of menace and fear you have been asked to write… but that’s also not something I’d ever take beyond the bringing-it-up stage. The publisher has people they trust to make publication decisions, and they are unlikely to take your freelance opinion over that of their staff or trusted contract producers.

Even when mentioning concerns, it can be worth it to note when you are just bringing something up for consideration, (and will finish your work as agreed, on time, to a high standard of quality even if nothing changes), and when you think there is a serious issue you need to find clarification on before you can continue, or that you fear may impact the value of your work.

To Thine Own Self Be True

I wish I didn’t even have to cover this, but that’s not the world we live in. Your own sense of ethics, morality, and right and wrong should take precedence over giving a publisher what they want… to whatever degree you decide you’re willing to pay the price for making a stand.

It’d be nice to claim you’ll always be rewarded for doing the right thing but again, that’s not the world we live in. Only you can decide what to do when legal obligations (such as a contract), financial obligations (such as looming rent payments), and moral obligations (such as creating work you think might harm others) aren’t in alignment.

But I don’t personally think advancing your career, or getting one freelance paycheck, is worth feeling you have made the world a worse place. Be honest with yourself, and make the best call you cab.

Don’t Assume The Publisher Is Making a Change Until They Say So

Some freelancers will write in they have a concern, propose a solution, and then immediately continue their writing as if their proposal had been accepted. In some cases this has included things such as saying a topic can’t support 1500 words, so they are going to write 1100 words on it, and 400 words on some new topic.

Don’t. Do. This.

The project outline and remit hasn’t changed until the publish says it’s changed.

Be Clear On Your Position

I never recommend starting with ultimatums or even making threats, but especially once you have voiced a concern, if you are dissatisfied with the publisher’s solution, it’s worth talking about how you would like to proceed.

You may just note you won’t want to take similar projects in the future. You might ask that your name be taken off a project. You might need to ask for extra time because you feel the scope of the project has shifted or requires more research than you expect.

I personally have never, on ethical grounds, backed out of a project without the publisher’s approval once I had signed a contract. But I’m not going to claim there are never circumstances where that might be the moral choice. Myself I’d always finish wordcount and turn a project over by deadline, even if I had to write something that wasn’t exactly what was asked for because I have conscientious objections to what was asked for.

I have asked a publisher if they would approve of my walking away from a contract for various reasons, and had them agree to it. In general, that means I don’t get paid for work already done (which the publisher then cannot use), and that’s often the cost of doing business.

Don’t Freak Out

As a socially awkward introvert with depression, I know it can be overwhelming to tell a publisher you think they need to change their concept. But it happens, and most publishers are used to it, and many even appreciate it. By being prompt, polite, and specific, you can generally get a dialog going on issues without having to take on a huge emotional burden.

If you find my line of Writing Basics articles useful, and you’d like to support the creation of more such content, check out my Patreon!

Writing Basics: The Freelance Work Process

I’ve talked many times about ways I deal with writer’s block, burnout, and the hard work of creating game material professionally. What I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about is my normal writing process. Like, if I am feeling okay and tackling the day-to-day work of a writing career, what does that look like?

Today’s my birthday, and birthdays are a good time for some retrospection, so I want to look at how my full-time freelance process looks nowadays, especially after 5 years of going into the Paizo office 5 days a week. I’m talking here just about how I organize and tackle my writing–things like getting assignments, editing, and so on are outside the scope of this article. (Though if you want to hear more about those, let me know!)


When I was first starting my writing career, I flat refused to use outlines. Outlines were, I felt, restrictive. Stifling. I didn’t know where my muse was going to take me, after all, so how could I outline it? Much better, I thought, to just begin at the beginning, and keep writing until I hit the end, and if that meant the project drifted all over the place, I could fix that in a second draft.

I was such a sweet, summer child.

Yes, you can fix things in a second draft. But the sooner you find problems, the easier they are to fix (and the less work you’ve done on things that are geing to get cut). So now I outline nearly everything. Often in very rough terms (maybe just listing out some potential headers), but enough for me to know where a piece is going to start, what it’ll cover, and how it will end.

I DO keep in mind my format, and this is a place where the years of being a developer for Paizo have really honed that skill. For example, if I know I want everything to break at the bottom of a page, I can do rough wordcounts to writing only as much as I need to do that. On the other hand, if something is going to be a 2-3 page pdf and never see print, i know it doesn’t matter nearly as much what my exact wordcounts are.

Prioritize, Schedule, Assess

Early in my career, I was often doing just fairly random magazine articles, and deadlines were pretty rough. I also usually worked on only one at a time, so I didn’t have to worry about priorities. Now I am often doing two-dozen things all at once, and some are for myself with loose deadlines, some are for myself with firm deadlines (like this article, since I promise Patreon readers a good-sized article every Monday), some are for other folks with loose deadlines (most of the things I produce for Rite are done when they are done… but they do need to get done!), and some are for other folks with hard deadlines (if Green Ronin or Paizo needs a thing by a set date, it’s crucial I adhere to that–there are lots of steps after mine that need time, and big books that go into the retail market get announced way before they are finished.

So I need to know what I need to work on TODAY to hit deadlines. I prefer to work on 2-3 different things per day, so i keep a running list of what deadlines are upcoming, how far along those things are, and I (ideally) check it every work day. I also have the free tacking program Asana, which I use to track projects so they don’t get totally forgotten if I put them on the back burner for a few days or weeks. That helps make sure that if Rogue Genius Games needs marketing text from me before a product can be made available for sale, I get that done in a timely manner.

If I have an idea I can;t begin yet, it gets noted so it’s not lost. i used to do that in physical notebooks. Then I moved to online files. Now, i use Asana.

Writing Time

The hope is to get 8 hours of writing done per day 5 days a week, and 4 hours 2 days a week. That actually usually takes me 12 and 6 hours, because when I find myself hitting a slowdown in my writing, I often take a short break to clear my mind. That may be 5 minutes on social media, or 15 minutes gluing bits of a model together, or 20 minutes on a computer game. Or a half-hour lunch break. The idea is to pause, rather than let my writing urge go completely cool, but distract my mind with something different enough that I can come back at it ‘fresh” in a bit.

But it’s important to keep a running track of how much work is actually getting done, and what is due soon. If I am producing plenty of words per day (I shoot for a minimum of 3,000 words/day, spread out over various projects) and everything is on-track to hit deadline, I don’t worry overmuch how many minutes I spend on non-work-writing. But if my production slows, or I have something behind schedule, I get much more serious about making breaks short and infrequent. I try to get up and do something else for at least a few minutes every hour, but if the muse has me head-down writing for 3 hours, I don’t interrupt that process.

The Space

I have a dedicated work space–a home office I share with my wife. It has my laptop, my reference books, chargers for phones, a place for my cat to sit within-reach but off my desktop, a few hobby-related items, and that’s it. No television. No chairs other than the office chairs. There IS a window, because getting some natural light is helpful to me. No microwave. When I look around, I see only things related one way or another to my writing, and that’s a big help for me.

Putting It All Together

For example, I began this article on Friday the 25th, based on an idea from my idea file I got from a friend on social media. I didn’t get much more done than outlining some headers. I took runs at it again on the 26th and 27th, but kept both short because I had a past-due project I needed to turn in on the 28th. OTOH I also took time out on the 27th to spend time hanging out at a friend’s house, because I had been working all week and the next day was my birthday.

But that meant this wasn’t done today… and neither was the past-due project. But the past-due was ALMOST done, so finishing it clearly took priority. Then a quick break to spend a few minutes with my wife. Since it’s my birthday and I have a 3pm phone call that is industry-related, i WANTED to play a game for 15-20 minutes… but I couldn’t take the time for that when my Monday blog post wasn’t finished yet.

So this became the next major priority, and I hammered on it until it was done. Now I can take a break, and then start on the NEXT most-urgent thing on my list. 🙂

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