Table Secrets! Or how to play (old, maybe newer) D&D in a world where RAW is a lie.

So around 15 years ago I started sitting in on RPG sessions as a third party to directly observe how people interact with the rules, primarily with 3.5, since that was a game with a very strident RAW community, but also with other games. The results were very interesting, though it was a totally unscientific […]

Lazy Declaration

Here’s an option you can add to most conventional RPGs that have a core mechanic. It’s called Lazy Declaration, and it’s inspired by my work on Storypath (multiple actions) and Modern AGE (finalizing/adding detail to an action after resolving it through stunts). In Lazy Declaration you don’t say what you’re going to do before you […]

Writing Long Stuff

Writing is a skill…sort of. In a traditional RPG with skill mechanics, writing would be something anybody can try to succeed at (unlike brain surgery or particle physics) with the education we assume most people have, but which is greatly assisted by practice and even a little study. In some ways, this makes writing at […]

Writing for Nonlinear Readers

Folks like roleplaying games to read like fiction, like technical manuals, or like something in between. The in-between options are generally the best received. In my experience, people who argue strongly for technical-manual style works don’t necessarily like games written this way, but feel the need to argue for them. Where they are right, though, […]

Weasel Voice

“Weasel voice” is a fake, possibly misleading name for a real problem encountered by lots of RPG writers. Everyone has heard of active voice and passive voice in writing. (If you have not, Google it and come back.) In active voice, the subject acts upon the verb. (“She attacks.”) In passive voice, the verb acts […]

What to Expect From Development

When working on a mainstream RPG supplement, you should be prepared for radical changes to your text by the time it gets released, and even before it gets released. I’m an intensive developer. That means I will change anything and everything to make it fit the vision I have for a book and showcase the […]

Hide Your Process

When people beat around the bush at the beginning of a section, easing in through atmosphere, tentative explorations of its ideas, and lots of unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, this usually means I’m reading their process. They’ve just woken up or come back from a break. They don’t know what they want to say until they’ve […]

What an RPG Developer Does

I’m an RPG writer and developer. Sometimes the term “lead designer” gets used with slightly different responsibilities, and sometimes it gets used to no difference in responsibilities. In different companies, the exact responsibilities, and whether it’s a contract or staff position, vary. For instance, I don’t do any layout, and strictly work with word count, […]

Zero Draft

So, elaborating on yesterday, I’m going to talk about your zero draft. If you’re writing for someone else, you may think that once you get out the  length and message you need, you’re good–you should just hit send. Maybe a spellcheck is in order, but after that? Go. You shouldn’t. You have not produced a […]

2K a Day

I don’t know who needs to hear this for their career development, but apparently this is not well known: In long form tabletop RPG writing it is generally expected that you can produce an average of 2000 near-first draft standard words per day. This doesn’t mean every day is a 2000 word day. I have […]