I swinging for the fences!

Started by Amar Woods, August 06, 2010, 06:04:42 PM

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Amar Woods

Hello all I'm new here at the Forge, but damn does this site/forum/community rock. I should have found something like this earlier, but my crew is very insular in that we have never played at a game store or with another group. I have to admit that I am really ignorant to the indie community and the games it creates, but I am very excited that something like this exists. I am a life-long gamer who has played all the commercial stuff; D&D(in all its forms),Rifts, Gurps, Shadowrun, all the White Wolf stuff, ...etc.

I've been writing stories and campaigns for years and just last year started on two separate rpgs; a dark sci-fi and a elf/dwarfless high fantasy, of which I plan to have both completed before I start to shop either about. As I stated in my topic I am "swinging for the fences" meaning I am very ambitious in my goals for these games and I would like to know what the communities thoughts are as to how to approach such a venture. Now I know that only a very small percent of games even those crafted by professionals ever meet with any level of commercial success but I am just the type of guy to put myself out there...maybe its because in my day to day I'm a stockbroker and am tolerant to risk but if you don't try you'll never know.Just to be clear I want to either shop my games to one of the big guys or launch a kick ass publishing company a la Privateer Press. I've been bopping around your forum for about a week or two soaking in as much of the sage knowledge as possible but I just wanted to ask this question so the great minds here can describe how they would go about it if this was their goal - no matter how unattainable.

P.S. Mr. Edwards I read your cautionary tale about those guys that wanted to appropriate your game and rights from you. And I will be on constant guard for folks like that.   

Amar Woods

Damn I already fill like a retard for botching my subject line. Bare with me folks.

Eero Tuovinen

Welcome to the Forge, and don't mind the occasional typo; the strict editing limits on posts here make all of us look like asses now and then. Keeps you humble, I imagine.

Your question is a good one, and I think that we definitely have a range of experience on the matter here at the Forge. Many Americans are at Gencon this week, but I expect that we'll get a variety of viewpoints in the next couple of weeks as the folks recuperate from the convention and find this peculiarly named thread.

If I had to pick just one point of advice for this sort of thing without knowing more, I'd say that the best thing a fledgling designer/publisher can do is to get to know the field. Learn from others: learn from their design, learn from what the market expects of the games, learn from how others have handled this publishing thing. It seems to me that the general trend today in small press publishing is that the folks who have unique games, clearly defined target audiences and innovative publishing methodology have the edge in comparison to those who try to consistently follow proven paths and duplicate the successful recipes of others. For this reason it's so important to get to know the entire field - the most drastic mistakes and misjudgments I see small press publishers make come without exception from curiously narrow fields of vision: the guy might be blind to how very average his game is, for instance, simply because he's done his design in an echo chamber. Or his understanding of the market dynamics is flawed and he prints ten-fold more books than he can sell because he's prototyping his market strategy on a company in a completely different position than he is. These sorts of mistakes are easy to avoid by being honest and comprehensive in looking around you and learning from everybody and everything you see; the option of delaying the project or scrapping it is always there, so there is no excuse for publishing something that fails as a game or has a completely unrealistic publishing strategy.

The question of whether to publish yourself or try to sell your game to a publisher is a good one, but perhaps not the first thing to consider. It's very difficult to get somebody else to publish your game nowadays, so it's not something you should count on or plan for. People designing for separate publishers work for hire almost without exception, meaning that they write to order for the publisher, who does not usually solicit outside submissions. Therefore a person who already has a game they want to have published is often left to do it himself. Only an exceptional game, often coming from an established name designer, has enough attraction for a publisher to sideline his own projects and interests and vision in favour of publishing this work by an outside designer. It's not impossible, but it's not something you should count on when there are so many more certain and even more sensible venues of publication, such as pure self-publication or semi-independent work under an arthouse brand like Flaming Cobra. If you're serious about seeking a publisher you should do that before writing much more than a submission draft, so as to leave the prospective publisher plenty of space to make changes and advice your writing process without having to trample over already finished work. If you already have a game that's more than half done, it's usually wiser to finish it all the way and then look into your options insofar as self-publishing or some more exotic options go.

There are many other topics here as well, this is a rather wide field. Perhaps we'll return to some other aspects of being a rpg designer later, especially as folks get back from Gencon.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Congratulations on your move to start RPG publishing.  Writing and working on your own RPG's is the funnest thing to do.  I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do at Action Games.  If you have any questions or problems with your endeavor please drop me a line. 
We want to help anyone that may benefit from our experience because it can be tough starting out.  Everyone here at the Forge has been so nice and helpful we want to give a little back as well.

Best luck on your endeavor
and the Action Crew