Falling off the Rails
In case you may have been wondering, despite my recent lack of blog updates, I remain committed to my goal of writing a Pathfinder RPG adventure module—more so than ever. The reason for this lack of activity is due to a few different reasons—three beyond my control and one that wasn’t.
It started first by taking a week-long ‘business trip’ to Orlando for a convention (i.e. excuse go to the theme parks). I knew this event was coming and that it was going to affect my production on the adventure. These things pop up from time to time so no real surprise here.
During said trip, I happened to go to a club called the Ice Bar. It’s a ‘cool’ place (ughh). One side of the building is fire themed where they serve you flaming drinks, bartenders breath fire, and the staffs hot (ughh again). The other side of the bar is pretty much a freezer requiring that you put on a winter coat and wear gloves. It’s actually quite neat. The walls are made of ice, the bar is made of ice, hell, even the glasses are made of ice. As a Canadian I felt right at home. Unfortunately, I think this is where I might have picked up a nasty flu bug resulting in a rather unpleasant last couple of days on my trip. This particular flu had an uncanny ability to drain energy and I was out of commission for an addition week upon my return. Blogging was the last thing on my mind.
Not long after recovering (for the most part anyway), I had to spend another 3 days out of town for business once again which made blogging impossible.
Finally, I wasted another two weeks to just plain laziness and a failure to actively try to regain my momentum.
All-in-all, I lost about a month’s worth of time. Enough excuses through—such is life. It’s time to warm up the blogging engine and get to work once again.
Phase 1 – Concept Lessons Learnt
The following is a summary of the key lessons that I have learnt while working on the Concept Phase of writing my adventure.
- Self-publishing: Writing and completing a quality RPG adventure module is a challenging task for many reasons. If it were easy, more people would be able to boast that they have done it. At least one other person has pursued this goal (thanks for very much for sharing your work ??). The driving factors I feel that will enable me to be successful are my passion for the game and genre, as well as my unrelenting need to be creative. My criteria for treating the project as a success require only that I have fun, grow as a designer, and actually finish the adventure.
- Project Phases: Break the project down into clearly defined phases that allow you to focus your skills on one type of task at a time. For me, a larger amount smaller, easily achievable phases is preferable (20 in total) to keep me from feeling daunted by the amount of work to that needs to be done.
- Organization: Don’t just dive into writing the manuscript—take the time to fully organize the project before you begin. Decide on a digital file structure and where and how hard copies such as sketches and prints are filed, decide what tools and software you will be using to do the work, and ensure that you have an automated backup system that preferable stores the backup off-site.
- Schedule: Assign a preliminary project schedule including completion date for each phase and the overall completion date. Accept that this schedule will most likely change.
- Target Audience: In order to maximize the amount of people who might be interested in playing your adventure, you need to get clear on who you are making it for. In my case, I am targeting young adult Game Masters who are looking for free, game content and who might have been considering self-publishing their own adventure.
- Adventure Length – Page Count: It’s important to establish a page count budget rather than simply writing until it’s done and getting however many pages you end up with. Paizo seems to publish adventures in one of four lengths: mini adventures (16-pages), short adventures (32-pages), medium adventures (64-pages), and adventure path modules (96-pages) all of which are multiples of 16 pages. I am going to break the mold slightly but continue with the multiple of 16-pages for and go with 80 pages. In the future, I might eventually want to continue my adventure as part of a full-length campaign. If I do, I will be planning for 9 adventures rather than the 6 adventure format used by Paizo.
- Adventure Length – Word Count: Similar to page-count, it is equally important to establish a total word-count for the adventure and to assign the maximum amount of words to each page. On average, a typical page in a Paizo-produced adventure contains about 775 words taking into account illustrations, stat blocks, and maps. Stat blocks for NPCs, monsters, cities, items, etc. Account for approximately 20% of the total word count. I will be using the medium character advancement track for my 9-adventure campaign will results in approximately 55,000 words in length for each.
- Memorable Adventures: In order to write an adventure that will be memorable, focus on trying to generate strong and specific emotional experiences in the players by creating a unique combination of genre, setting, and characters.
- Adventure Subgenre: It is important to be clear on what subgenre you are designing your adventure for in order to ensure that the necessary elements for that particular genre are present and enhanced. Traditional literary genres don’t translate well to adventure modules. A more useful way of defining adventure module genres is to base it on the adventure goal. My adventure will be a Mystery using this definition.
I have also leant a few other personal lessons that are also worth sharing:
- Engagement: With the number of quality RPG fan-sites present on the web, getting feedback and engagement from the community has proven to be difficult. This is largely attributable due to newness and incompleteness of the site, a minimal effort on my part to engage in social media and market the site, and a need to create compelling content that is actually worth discussing. In the future I will be putting more effort into increasing the exposure of my blog and creating compelling content.
- Post Frequency: Blogging is very time consuming. Considering that I have a full-time career and a family, blogging once a day is not likely to happen, especially if I want to actually DO the work rather than just talking about doing it. Also, it’s not a good idea to post blogs at 12 pm. I tend to say some incredibly weird things when I get tired.
- Staying Focused: It’s easy to fall off track. All it took for me was going on a business trip and then getting the flue to lose a month’s worth of time.
- Stand-Alone Adventure/Campaign Adventure: Decide if you are writing a stand-alone adventure or a module for a campaign. Knowing the answer to this may affect decisions such as how the work is organized and the adventures length.
With Phase 1 – Concept finally out the way, I am really excited to be moving forward into Phase 2 – Pre-Production.
During this phase I will move beyond the conceptual definition of the project and begin to make the necessary design decisions that will form a strong skeletal foundation for the adventure. By the end of this phase I will have created a Design Document that contains the plot outline, character summaries, game balance decisions, reward distribution, encounter lists (and much, much more) so that there is never a need to stop production for design issues. This will be the most demanding phase from a creative sense and will be undoubtedly the most fun. I can’t wait!
As I begin transitioning into the next phase of this journey, I invite you to share any feedback you may have on the first ten episodes. Is there anything I can do to improve the blog? Did I miss any of the necessary steps typically performed when defining the concept of a project? Was there anything you enjoyed? Good or bad, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
See you next episode.