April TTRPG Challenge: Catch-up Edition

As has become tradition with these daily post challenges, I had several days where I wasn’t able to get a post up. And so here we are with a catch-up post! Yay! That said, I’ll be better about getting regular posts up. Also, if you haven’t been following the hashtag on Twitter, I highly recommend it. Some fantastic people are taking the challenge this month, many whose work I admire, some whose work I’m excited to discover, and a small few who I know and consider a friend.

But enough about them. Let’s talk about me! Which as an introvert is sort of my worst nightmare, but let’s go!

Day 3:  How did you start creating TTRPG?

Like a lot of folks in the hobby I think I started creating for TTRPGs by writing up things that were “missing” from the game. I started playing in 1980 and started GMing shortly after. Getting published modules and books was difficult, living as I did in Northern Canada, so by necessity I had to create a bunch of my own material. I also devoured sci-fi and fantasy stories and naturally wanted to bring what I was reading into the games I played and ran. So I would come up with stats and descriptions for Green Martians from the John Carter books, or figure out how the glaive from Krull would work in D&D. That would continue through every decade of the hobby; if it didn’t exist and I needed it, I made it. But it’s only fairly recently that it occurred to me that I should publish some of that material.

Day 4: Describe your work.

Up to now one word described my creative work: necessity. I created the things I needed, when I needed them, for the campaigns I ran. Between work and other responsibilities, and dealing with some seasonal anxiety and depression issues, I only made TTRPG material when I absolutely couldn’t find it anywhere else. That has changed in the last few years, and I’ve started to have the time and inclination to create things for my own enjoyment. Which will hopefully translate into creating things other folks will enjoy.

On the freelance editing side, I’ve worked on a bunch of TTRPG projects for writers and publishers putting out their work on DriveThru RPG. I started offering my editing services for that about six years ago, and while the workload has been variable I’ve enjoyed all that work. The best part has been demonstrating the value of good editing to a TTRPG project, and how it can make a product stand out from the many other products around it.

Day 5: Favourite game you’ve worked on.

One of the best things I ever worked on was The Player’s Guide to Zeif for the D&D 3.5 Living Greyhawk campaign. About a year or two before they closed LG down, they split the region we were in and we were given the opportunity to develop a new area of the Greyahwk world as our new in game region. We were given Zeif, and at the time the entirety of what was known about the nation was contained in a three-page entry in the Greyhawk Gazeteer, and a two-page article in an edition of Polyhedron. As part of the “History Team”, I helped develop the history of the nation and the stories and legends that current Zeif was built upon. I also helped edit parts of the rest of the document, which was equally exciting. It was the first time I’d worked collaboratively on a project, so I learned a bunch about that process. And there was a real sense of pride when we had finished and it was out in the world.

Day 6: Favourite game mechanic?

My current favourite mechanic, which is actually a collection of mechanics, is the dice rolling in Star Trek Adventures. For pretty much anything in the game the player will roll 2d20, trying to get a GM determined number of successes by rolling under a target number (generated by an ability+skill combination from the character). Rolling a 1 is a critical success which counts as two successes, and a 20 is a critical failure, which causes a complication. Players can spend Momentum (another mechanic I love) to get extra dice. As well, if they have a Focus which applies to the roll, they extend their critical range up to the level of the Discipline being used. If the roll involves their rank 5 Command discipline, for instance, they now get a critical success on a roll of 1 to 5. The GM, on the other hand, can spend Threat to either/both increase the number of successes needed to achieve the goal, and increase the threat range (spending three threat will extend the Complication range to 17-20 on the die). And these mechanics handle 90% of the checks in the game. I love it because there is just so much packed into this one simple die rolling mechanic. It aids the story, and allows the players and GMs to decide how important the roll is to them, and act accordingly.

Day 7: Your workspace.

I don’t really have a set workspace. I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated game room in the house I rent, so I do a bunch of my creating and crafting (and of course gaming) in there. But I work at my desk a bunch, because that’s where my computer is. I also work on things at my job on my lunch breaks and after work, because I have a computer there as well. But then, I also carry a notebook or two with me everywhere I go, and will often write things up freehand before copying that to a digital document. From long habit I’ll use the hand-written thing in game, and edit/modify it through play, before I write down the “true” version of it. As long as I have something to write with and something to write on, I can work. I have also begun using Google Docs regularly, so if I can get online that’s just a bonus.

I will say that I enjoy working at home the most, however. I tend to get up early (5:30am most days), and I enjoy working in the quiet of the morning. I also like being surrounded by my growing collection of gaming books. Whenever I feel uninspired I can grab a random book and flip through, and I will usually get some idea that I can develop.

Okay, all caught up! I’ll get back to posting these daily, for as long as that lasts, and do another catch-up post as needed. Talk to me in the comments about your TTRPG experiences, and follow the hashtag on Twitter to hear from excellent designers.

Comments? Questions? Amusing Anecdotes?

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