An Offer I Passed On

Started by Jason Morningstar, March 30, 2009, 02:41:45 PM

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Jason Morningstar

The AEG guy just wrote to clarify his own misunderstanding of the deal.  Apparently:

* The game is written but needs to be polished and tweaked.
* The winning designer (polisher?) does, in fact, get paid - he wasn't sure how much but is going to check.  This person will also be offered more work in the future on the same game line.
* The losing designers don't get paid and don't own their unused work.

I'll hasten to clarify that this wasn't my mistake; these new terms emerged after I'd declined the original offer.  It doesn't change anything for me but is substantially different than what was initially proposed, so I thought I'd share it.  Some of the things that seemed to make people angry turned out to not be true. 


It certainly sounds like a strange way to do things. Maybe they're looking back at WOTC's setting contest as the model. I don't know.

Ron asked about our situation at Arc Dream. I try really hard to NOT get people to do work that they won't get paid for. With newcomers whose work I don't know, I ask for a pretty standard (by my lights) pitch and one-page outline, maybe a page or two of writing samples, and if all looks good we ask for a short project. If the short project goes well, we ramp up to more substantial contracts. If it's someone whose work I do know then we might go with a bigger project from the start, but the process is otherwise pretty similar. I want everyone on the same page before anyone starts to really work.

That's precisely how Monsters and Other Childish Things came about. Benjamin Baugh (who was unpublished at the time) came up with the idea on on a lark. I asked if he'd like to draw up a short, 16-page kind of thing for the website, and I fell in love with every word and kept asking him to expand it, and Dennis (Arc Dream is a partnership) was obliging enough to humor me while I sank a lot of work into it. But I wouldn't have asked Ben to write even a 16-page project sight unseen just to test the waters. My own time is too valuable to waste it like that, so I wouldn't expect someone else to do so.

As for rights, well, that's a whole other can of worms. I don't think anybody in the industry -- not me, not SJG, not AEG, not WOTC -- pays freelance or in-house writers or artists well enough to expect complete ownership of their work. What you produce as a writer or artist is unique; it's not makework. It's more valuable than editing or even page design. Those are crucial -- I spend a LOT more time on them than I spend writing -- but the product of an editor's day at the computer is not unique. Another editor of equivalent experience, attitudes and energy would probably produce pretty much the same results. I don't think you can replace one writer with another and get the same creation. (I know a lot of publishers disagree, but, well, that's one reason I set up my own company instead of hustling for freelance work all these years.)

I've worked a bit in more mainstream publishing, and writers in other fields are appalled at the terms writers get in RPGs. However, creators who work in this industry love it so much that many are willing to sign over ownership if you ask them. At Arc Dream we do ask for unlimited reprint rights -- and I regard that as a pretty major concession by the creators -- but we don't ask for ownership; Ben could take the Monsters property and the text of the book anywhere he likes without interference from me or Dennis, and more power to him. (He would want to work something out with Greg Stolze for the rules elements that grew from Greg's work, but you get what I'm saying.) And by the same token, I couldn't turn around and publish a line of Monsters and Other Childish Things books without Ben's permission. He made it. It's his. Arc Dream just helped a bit.

Of course, Arc Dream is nowhere near as big as AEG was after the same number of years in the business, so our way of doing things isn't necessarily the one to follow if you're looking for profits and licensing deals.

Jason Morningstar

Thanks for your thoughts, Shane, I really appreciate the perspective.  (And welcome to the Forge!)


Quote from: Jason Morningstar on March 31, 2009, 04:27:09 PMThe AEG guy just wrote to clarify his own misunderstanding of the deal.

That's certainly better than the presentation of the offering the first time around, and does mitigate most of the things that looked wrong to me. Thanks for the update, Jason.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Ron Edwards

Let's not forget that the initial offer was made, as such. Moving on is a fine thing, but smoothing it all over with a "forget that whole part then, eh?" is not.

Best, Ron


Quote from: Ron Edwards on April 01, 2009, 12:08:42 AMLet's not forget that the initial offer was made, as such. Moving on is a fine thing, but smoothing it all over with a "forget that whole part then, eh?" is not.

Exactly what I was thinking. I can't help wondering how much of the "oops, that was the wrong information" was actually "oops" and not after-the-fact butt-covering. I'd like to assume the best, and I will because I have no reason not to, but it's still out there that somebody thought the offer (even mistaken) was reasonable enough to present.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio