Infinitely more…

It’s been a little while since I wrote about anything other than my latest game: Corsairs, but other things have been happening as well!

In the last few months three new source books have been released as a part of the Infinity: The Role Playing Game line. Going back over my spread sheets, across the three latest source books I wrote 7 chapters, totaling a little more than 53,000 words. It’s nice to finally see them released!

I have to say the cover art for these books is fantastic, and I am immensely proud to have contributed to all three of these source books. With the number of books left to produce from the Kickstarter dwindling, I wonder how long I’ll be working on Infinity. I can’t say at this stage, but I have enjoyed my time exploring and helping to expand this universe!

On to the books!

Mercenaries

Soldiers of fortune, bodyguards, pirates, cut-throats, and heroes. The worst villains and the greatest heroes of the G5 can all be found in this great melting pot of freelancing warriors. From the flickering bulbs of Novyy Bangkok’s fighting pits to the luxuriant skyscrapers of San Pietro, there is always someone willing to pay for their problems to be met with belt-fed subtlety and under-barrel discretion. Lone wolves, invisible techno-pirates, and even squads of murdering reavers, the mercenaries of the Human Sphere follow age-old traditions and work for the highest bidder, adapting and using all the latest technologies. Strangers to the ideals of patriotic love or loyalty, hard cash—or even better, solid quantronic credit accounts!—is the way to their hearts, and even more cash is the key to their loyalty.

 From the construction of the first orbital elevator to the ongoing conflict in Paradiso, many factions have turned to mercenaries for cost-effective violence and intimidation. Whether escorting doctors and refugees out of Ghezirah, providing close protection for paranoid executives across Neoterra, or brutally resolving a miner’s strike in Human’s Edge, the mercenaries of the Human Sphere will take your money and get the job done. Never have mercenaries been in higher demand thanks to the political situation in the various theatres of the Sphere, and both Hypercorps and G5 governments employ the services of these soldiers for hire. Sometimes in the open, sometimes undercover, it seems these lords of war are a necessity in the power games of the future.

But the life of a merc isn’t all bullets, venture onto the War Market where the cold and pragmatic business of war has never been so civilized. Meet Free Company Captains and review their units according to their performance both in the battle and in Maya. Your preferred company may be cost effective, but are they giving their extra with the WarCors and livestreams? Because in the Human Sphere, everything is about how good you look to the public!

The 114-page full colour Mercenaries PDF Sourcebook includes: 

  • Information on six of the major mercenary companies in the Human Sphere plus independent units such as the glamorous Foreign Company, the despicable Ikari, the discreet Spiral Corps, and the formidable Dahshat Company.
  • Rules and guidelines to develop your own career in the War Market, plus Lifepaths for Warmongers, Wardrivers, Recruiters, Arms Dealers, and others.
  • Weapons, equipment, and vehicles to kit your up-and-coming mercenary troops in order to fulfil their latest contract including antitank weapons, supplies, enhancement drugs, and pulpibeer!
  • Detailed rules on how to create your own Free Company and play a campaign focused on mercenaries.

Paradiso

We have fun, games and the bloodiest war in the Human Sphere! One of the most fertile planets known, living in this angry planet is a test for the hardiest settlers and warriors. Keep your wits about you or the jungle, its inhabitants or something worse will swallow you whole in an instant.

Hiding a tragic and terrible past, Paradiso is home to dark secrets and intrigue. Even before the NeoColonial Wars, the jungle planet has been the theatre of brutal conflict, destined to loom through the histories of numerous civilisations, human and alien alike. Never have the stakes been so high for Paradiso is the grandest trophy in the Sphere. Not only for the vast wealth offered by the system itself but with wormholes connecting to two alien powers, Paradiso is a Rubicon that if lost would lead to the Downfall of the Human Sphere.

Fame, glory and fortune wait for those brave or foolhardy enough to risk the dangers of Paradiso, so gear up and don’t miss the next Orbital Elevator planet side! Join the Human Sphere’s mightiest warriors and try to stop the Evolved Intelligence’s onslaught or lose yourself in populous cities under siege while you try to figure out who the infiltrated spy is feeding information to your enemies. Make sure you bring all your best equipment and don’t forget your bathing suit, for things are about to get hot in the Meat Grinder also known as Paradiso.

The Paradiso Sourcebook includes:

  • Information on Paradiso system, from the binary stars Nakula and Sahadeva to Orgoglio and Purgatorio asteroid fields, intriguing planets like Virgil, Dante, Ugolino, Beatrice and more!
  • Details on the current situation in the Paradiso theatre, the race for the last known Cosmolite in the planet and the truth behind the Penny Arcade.
  • Rules and guidelines to play your own Paradiso based campaigns including jungle warfare, terrain and the background of all three Combined Army Offensives in the system!
  • Weapons, equipment and vehicles to prepare for your jungle escapades: caltrops, machetes, flamethrowers, jammers and missiles! Lots of missiles!
  • Detailed rules on how to organize encounters in the dark jungles of Paradiso, wicked bandar-logs, cauchemar cats, nematodes, yorogumo. Brutal vegetation and deadly fauna are just some few of the dangers the paradise planets holds for you!

Combined Army

From the darkest reaches of the galaxy, an implacable tyrant looms slowly and inexorably, searching for intelligent races, studying them, contacting them, and ultimately absorbing them. Behold the Evolved Intelligence, an alien virtual entity bent on achieving the godlike state known as Transcendence. To reach its objective, the EI will use every tactic and strategy necessary to increase its almost infinite knowledge of the universe. This includes shrewd political alliances, peaceful unification, and where necessary, all-out war.

The Combined Army sourcebook gives players the opportunity to approach the Paradiso conflict from the other side and GMs a vast array of information to better understand the implacable enemy of the Human sphere.

This 112 page PDF features: 

  • History of the Combined Army, the different races composing it, their strategies, armed divisions, and the terrible secrets of this ever growing empire.
    • Details on the true nature and origins of the Combined Army’s omnipresent leader—the feared and worshipped Evolved Intelligence. Learn about its drives, ambitions, and trepidations!
    • Rules and guidelines to play several of the Combined Army’s warrior races! From the violent Morat, to the cruel Shasvastii, vengeful Sygmaa, and traitorous humans!
    • Weapons, equipment, Voodoo Tech, and more! Enough gear to wage war on those who would dare turn their backs to the EI and the Transcendence project!

A Post-Apocalypse for Hire

In between numbly scrawling through Twitter and news updates about the state of my country and the world at large, trying to focus on what remote learning might look like for my class next term, and attempting to keep my kids entertained, there have been a few little rays of sunshine…

Red Scar Publishing just released Devil’s Run, a role playing game set in a post-apocalyptic America. The game is designed to use it’s own spin on the Modiphius in-house 2D20 system, with additional support for playing using the Savage Worlds system. I had the opportunity to write various bits and pieces for this core book, and while I had a lot of fun writing some of the background material, the piece I think I am most proud of is the section on group creation which can be found at the end of the character creation chapter. I really enjoy the 2D20 system, and obviously, yes, I am biased. Having said that, I really do like the in-game economies at work between the players and the game master, it adds a lot of story and agency to the game experience.

Devil’s Run is a lot of fun. I know this game has been a labour of love for Marc over at Red Scar, and it shines through every aspect of the game. I am thrilled I had the opportunity to work on it, and even more thrilled that Marc has the opportunity now to take a breath, and enjoy the feeling of having it out in the world. Who am I kidding, Marc is too busy to get to take a breath… but the sentiment remains!

Like everything everywhere at the moment, the production and shipping of the physical game is being held back by the global pandemic. Devil’s Run is available digitally on the Red Scar website, through DriveThruRPG and through the Modiphius Webstore.

Alongside the release of the core rules book, the first of the Collaborative Campaign adventures has been released online. I had an absolute blast developing and writing this adventure, and I hope anyone who has a chance to play it has half as much fun as I did! Life and Death (Echoes) is the name of the campaign, and the first adventure is called Out of the Night. My playtest group caused absolute mayhem (not unusual) when we were testing this adventure, and my fingers are crossed that anyone who gets the chance to play it leaves an equal amount of wreckage in their wake. If you’re a GM who’s planning to run this adventure, I hope you get a kick out of the Scene headings… and that they help set the appropriate mood!

You can find this adventure on the Red Scar website and Modiphius webstore, and on DriveThruRPG here.


Lastly, some news for the Infinity Role Playing Game, from Modiphius and Corvus Belli: the Mercenaries book is very soon to be released digitally. Like Devil’s Run the physical copy will need to wait, but very, very soon the book will be available from all the usual online conveyors of digital RPGs.

I wrote a few of the chapters in this book, and tried to sow a whole collection of adventure ideas and seeds throughout. There is a lot of awesome background material, a ton of neat equipment, some excellent rules and guidelines for running a mercenary company in the Human Sphere, and a whole bunch more! Plus, the cover art, by Bagus Hutomo, is just stunning!


That’s enough from me tonight, where ever you are, whether you made it this far or otherwise, I hope you’re safe, well, and looking after yourself!

2019 – Achievements…

2019 is on the verge of passing, and before the new year gets underway, with the related slew of ‘goals for the coming year’, I thought I’d jot a few notes down about the year that has passed. Every year, like many others I set down some goals. Reading back over my posts from January, my goals vacillated, I wasn’t sure whether to pursue my fiction writing, my freelance work, or work on my own games. In the end I settled on the idea of working on my own games, and continuing with my freelance work, albeit, winding it back a touch. So how did these things go?

Caradoc Games

2019 saw the founding of Caradoc Games, with a logo, a business name, and all the funky official things that go alongside it. It saw this website renamed twice, and shift through three domains to the current caradocgames.com.

After I finally settled on producing some games and work of my own I started with development on a large fantasy RPG I had begun in the latter months of 2018: Ashmerl. Ashmerl has only seen a small amount of work over the last six months, including an early playtest that suggested I need to change a few core elements, this is something I intend to come back to, as I am a big fan of both the setting and the character creation system I devised. I’ve recently started to play around with some various ways to fix the issues I felt existed in the system, and some interesting mechanical alterations to other rules aspects. It is something that will feature heavily in 2020, I hope.

Despite not making a lot of progress on Ashmerl, I wasn’t idle, and released four micro-rpgs: Freedom or Toaster, Brigands of Sherwood, The Hoppy Pops, and Owlbear Omelette. I’ve also managed to finish off the rules for a slightly larger micro-rpg called Corsairs, which I hope will be released through the Kickstarter Zinequest… we shall see!

These four games were released through Patreon, on DriveThruRPG and on Itch.io, and links to all these places can be found on the Downloads page.

As of the time of writing this these games have collectively been downloaded over 500 times, with twice as many downloads through DriveThruRPG than Itch. Altogether I have made about $25 USD from these games, with a majority of the money actually made coming from when Owlbear Omelette and Brigands of Sherwood were a part of the indie-RPG Colludium bundles, put together by the most excellent Marcus Shepherd.

No, that’s not a lot of money, but since all four titles are available as pay what you want, it is more than I was expecting. Here are some of the stats, for those interested:

The most successful of my games so far has been Owlbear Omelette, it has been downloaded 160 times, 117 on DTRPG, and 43 on Itch.io. It has also made the bulk of the money, with $11 from DTRPG and $5 from Itch.

Second most successful has been Brigands of Sherwood, downloaded some 149 times, 109 of those on DTRPG and 40 on Itch, and raising $1.10 from DTRPG, and nothing on Itch.

Freedom or Toaster comes in next with 146 downloads, 82 from DTRPG and 64 from Itch. Interestingly it is my most popular game on Itch, and most regularly downloaded, even in more recent months. It has netted $2.00 from Itch, and nothing from DTRPG.

My least successful game has been The Hoppy Pops, which is a shame, because I really quite like it. I wonder if my choice of running with a coloured cover that looks (well, is) very amateurish has hurt it’s chances. I did have a sketched version, but felt this lurid colour suited the theme better. Not a choice I would repeat. It has been downloaded only 64 times, 49 on DTRPG and 15 on Itch, and has made no money.

All of the games I have released have been rated one time each on DriveThruRPG, and not at all on Itch. Ratings and comments really do help, I know it’s something I rarely do, and need to strive to do more often, but they are useful, and help draw eyes to a game.

So why talk so much about revenue when I made the choice of releasing all these games as ‘Pay What You Want’ (PWYW)? Well, because the purpose of releasing these games for free was ultimately in the hope that people would head to my Patreon account, where they could find the expanded versions, and automatically get copies of games as they were released. Which leads me to my next thing…

So far this year my Patreon efforts have been a dismal failure. I have one Patron, and that is a friend of mine (thanks Will!). I don’t necessarily think the idea of releasing micro-games to lead people to Patreon is a bad idea, I have only really just started, and so I don’t think I have given it a fair chance. I also need to make sure I aim to release one small micro-rpg a month, and something larger (like Corsairs will be) every couple of months. Yes, I have had no luck with Patreon this year, but it’s something I will come back to and put more thought into for 2020. I need to work out what I can be doing better on that front.

Hardest of all this year was finding time to playtest, this has been a continual struggle, and something I want to come back to talk about in more detail at a later date. But man, it is hard to find the time to playtest! Games rely on playtesting to smooth the kinks and see what falls apart. Playtesting relies on having willing participants and time, and the latter particularly has been very difficult to shoe-horn in around all of life’s other commitments. This is a topic that I will come back to later, but between family, friends, gaming, freelance writing, and working on my own games, getting in the playtests has been tough going! Speaking of one of these pressures…

Freelance Work

In 2019 I wanted to cut down on the freelance writing I have been doing and focus more on my own material. I managed the first, and partially managed the second. Despite cutting back, over the course of 2019 I submitted 14 pieces of freelance work to 3 companies, totaling more than 78,000 words.

The largest portion of my focus has continued to be work for Modiphius on the Infinity Role Playing Game line. For this line I wrote 7 pieces totaling nearly 60,000 words. My favourite piece to work on was a chapter for the upcoming Tohaa book, and I hope those that get it will enjoy it as much as I did writing it (no hints yet).

Next was Red Scar, writing for the Devil’s Run role playing game. I submitted 5 pieces to Red Scar, and my favourite piece was a hard-to-decide draw between the first adventure in the upcoming Living Campaign, and the group creation rules that can be found in the core rules book.

The last, with a little sadness, includes my work on the now cancelled The One Ring second edition role playing game. Of these, my favourite was the first, a background piece on the Mountain Pass in the Misty Mountains. Yes, I got paid for my work, but I still saddened that I won’t ever get to see it in print!

It has been nice seeing much of the work I have written over the last three years released in 2019. A slew of sourcebooks for Infinity, and an adventure for Star Trek Adventures that I am rather proud of (Trouble on Omned III). These are available as PDFs and most of them are also available as physical books. I won’t be getting my physical copies until the line is finished, but I am very much looking forward to it!

2020 will start busier than most years, I have a piece for Infinity to write, and several more waiting for outline approval. But… all the books for the Infinity kickstarter are nearly written, will there be more? What will the future hold for the line, and where will my place fit in it? This game line has been a main focus for me for three years, and in that time I have written more than 200,000 words for it, spread across more than 18 releases. This has included 8 adventures and a host of background material. 2020 will be an interesting year for freelance, and whether I go looking for other work or choose to refocus any spare time on Caradoc Games has yet to be decided.

Blogging

This is the fiftieth post made this year, so I have managed to keep ahead of my goal, which was to write about 4 posts a month. The most popular post this year was a piece I wrote about rates in the freelance industry, and I have more to say on the subject, something I’ll carry forward next year. Traffic here is slower than I would like, so I need to do a couple of things to shift that. Firstly I need to post more regularly. That doesn’t mean more often, but instead means I need to create and maintain a regular schedule. Secondly I need to write more posts that are useful, useful to others reading this site. It is no coincidence that my most viewed posts are about aspects of the industry that may be of interest to those experienced RPG freelancers, curious would-be freelancers, or interested observers. These posts have also gained me the most feedback, some supportive, some critical, and this is something I would like to reflect on at some point.

Overall I have been pleased with my output on the site, and just need to ensure I space things out more evenly, and post on a more scheduled basis.

Phew, well I think that’s more than I intended to say, but that covers some of things I have managed over the course of the year. Some of these pose interesting challenges to overcome for 2020, and topics I’ll come back to in the new year. For those who have read any of my posts (or have had the stamina to make it this far), thanks very much for stopping by! I’ll see you in 2020!

Zine Quest – Honing…

Time is sliding by and December is passing. Usually the amount of freelance I get over the December/January period slows as the holidays approach, but this year everything seems to be ramping up. I have two main freelance pieces to work on, one for Devil’s Run, and one for Infinity, and I need to find time to continue researching and honing Corsairs for the Zine Quest, as well as getting answers and finding more questions on the whole process.

I’ll write about some of my ongoing research another day, but for now I am excited. I’m excited because I’ve kicked off a playtest mini-campaign, the first adventure is done, and the next should see high action, and really put some different aspects of the mechanics to the test. I won’t go into the details, because if I find space (and if the project is successful enough) this mini-campaign will be a part of the stretch goals for the campaign. Suffice to say that an issue with a Customs house on the floating island of Teboa has the characters investigating the possibility that some of the customs agents are skimming the goods brought in for trade. The first adventure was a lot of zany fun as the characters set themselves on the path, found information, did some snooping, and caused general mayhem. In the next session we should see suspicions come to a head, and the implications may run deeper than anyone suspects!

What was that I mentioned above? Yes! The first stretch goal for the Zine Quest campaign for Corsairs is going to revolve around including a mini-campaign in the booklet! This will mean more pages, and a great jumping off point for any Corsairs interested in sailing the skies around the infamous pirate isle of Teboa!

Zine Quest 2 – Printing…

Everything is a learning curve. All the questions I have about printing have been answered, and new ones have taken their place.

A friend of mine was kind enough to ask a couple of printers they know for some quotes. I won’t list the specific printers here (as I haven’t asked them for permission to do so), but it helps to give some context and idea. I have listed one set of prices, as the quotes were about the same. All the prices below are listed are in Australian dollars.

As a quick aside: files would be submitted to the printer in ‘printer layout’ for booklet printing, so the first spread (two pages side by side) would be pgs 32 & 1, and so on through the document. The file for the cover (4 single pages – front outside, front inside, back inside, back outside) would be generally submitted as separate files. A good article on that can be found here. An article on paper weights can be found here (both links have been added to the Zine page).

For a saddle-stitched 32 page A5 booklet, on 113 gsm paper, and a 300 gsm cover with a matt cellosheen covering (a plastic layer over the cover for protection, like a magazine cover, which could also be gloss, etc), digitally printed (too small a volume for offset printing):

  • 50 copies sits around $580
  • 100 copies sits around $800
  • 200 copies sits around $1300

For 50 physical copies each Zine would cost around $11.60 to print. For 100 copies each Zine would come down to about $8.00, and for 200 it would reduce to about $6.50. Obviously volume is cheaper. Each copy would also need to have shipping costs added (though this could be charged after the Kickstarter as opposed to included in the backing level).

Additionally, any other costs, for things such as art, editing, layout, and so on, would need to be defrayed across the copies printed to come up with the final value per copy, which would then give a clear indication of the cost per Zine, and therefore what the backing levels should look like. It’s worth remembering that Kickstarter is going to take a slice of the funds if the project succeeds, as is whatever other companies are involved in the post-campaign period and fulfillment (if any). Lastly, it is probably a good idea to tack a few dollars on for a profit per copy, and then a little more to pad out any costs, in case something turns out to cost more than was projected, or something else comes up.

What does this all mean for Corsairs? Well, I’m in the process of finalising the document itself, that is writing and editing. I’m looking into art and artists, and what the costs involved there could be. I’m looking at the costs of Zines from the first Zine Quest to get an idea of what a reasonable price might look like. I’m completing small pieces of art to include in the book. I’m preparing for more playtesting. And lastly I’m reading and asking lots of questions…

It is tempting to think that the easier option is to print a larger volume, but this then means a higher funding goal, and no-one wants boxes and boxes of their games sitting around the house. I think if the option for digital and the option for a physical copy are both offered separately, most people will opt for the digital. Especially if they are international. These prices are, from what I can tell with preliminary research, much higher than the printing service offered by DTRPG, but I have no idea how they stack up in terms of quality. From what I can tell the printing quote above is for a much higher gsm paper stock than that offered through DTRPG POD service. Something to investigate!

I’m sure there is a ton I’m missing, not seeing, or don’t know are things I’m missing yet, but hopefully that will be revealed in the coming month or so.

Last aside for today: the layout program I am using is called Affinity (link on the Zine page), and it allows you to move pages around easily, so I’m working directly on the file, and will shift the pages around to the final layout once everything is finished, edited, and ready to go.

All Hail the StateEmpire…

Just released in the Modiphius store is the YuJing sourcebook for the Infinity RPG. I wrote the Yutang chapter in this book, which is all about the home planet of the YuJingese StateEmpire, and the seat of Imperial power. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope that any prospective players or GMs that read it, have just as much fun with the material, as I did.

As always, every book released for an RPG is usually the work of a large team of people, from writers to artists, from editors to layout artists, and everyone else. They are a big undertaking, and the end product is the culmination of many combined efforts. I am very proud to have been a part of the team that put this together, and if you get it, I hope you love it as much as we have done!

Yu Jing. The StateEmpire. Governed by the Party and policed by the Emperor, the balance of the two makes this powerful G5 nation greater than the sum of its parts. Late as they were to the great space race that led to humanity proliferating amongst the stars, the people of Yu Jing have worked doubly hard to ensure they step beyond the long shadow of their nearest rival and rise to eclipse it. 

Viewed all too often with misunderstanding and mistrust from without, the Yu Jingese view themselves as a powerhouse nation that has the best interests of its citizens at heart. Wholly committed to spiritual and economic betterment so that they might serve as a beacon for the entire Human Sphere, the StateEmpire strives hard to be at the forefront of every arena it enters into. On the battllef eld, innovative servopowered armour designs are providing the StateEmpire Army with a superior advantage, while cutting-edge technology such as the Sù-Jiàn Immediate Action Unit is changing the face of Remote-led warfare. 

Not all is as harmonious as the Party’s propaganda would lead you to believe, however. Citizens slip through the cracks of society, instead turning to crime to boost their status. The fractured ninja clans, who of course do not exist, now fight a shadowy war for dominance in the wake of the Uprising. And the Emperor of Great Japan has torn his citizens free of an oppressive regime that treated his people as second-rate at best. 

Offering never-before-seen insights on the Jade Empire, this sourcebook will take you far beyond the Yu Jing’s veil of mystery. 

  • Details on the two key planets that have become the foundation of the StateEmpire: Shentang and Yutang.
  • Focused Lifepaths that allow players to immerse themselves in the diversity and duality of the StateEmpire, including Imperial Agents, Ninjas, and Those Without Name.
  • Additional armour, equipment, and adversaries specifi c to Yu Jing, including the deadly Neokatana, the ground-breaking Sù-Jiàn Immediate Action Unit, and stats for several unique adversaries.
  • Various discourses on the far-reaching effects of the hard-fought Uprising that led to the recent secession of Great Japan, plus several Lifepaths that provide an opportunity to play an agent of Emperor Hiroshi’s will.

You can get the YuJing sourcebook as a physical book, and as a PDF. You can also find it on DriveThruRPG.

End of The One Ring…

Sometimes you open an email, and the contents cause your stomach to sink. That’s the feeling I had when I read the news that a contractual issue between Sophisticated Games and Cubicle 7 meant that Cubicle 7 would no longer be publishing The One Ring Role Playing Game.

The One Ring has been cast into the flames of Orodruin… it is no more. I’m still reeling as I write this to be honest, and for a number of reasons.

First and foremost among the reasons I am particularly saddened is that I wrote a number of pieces that would have been released as a part of the second edition, and which will no longer see print. It is disappointing because I love The Lord of the Rings (it’s the book that made me fall in love with fantasy fiction, and the original MERP game is the game that got me into role playing). An opportunity to have made some contribution to the larger world of Middle Earth, even in some small way, was a joy.

Second: I am reading The Lord of the Rings to my son at the moment (we have finished The Hobbit), and I was hoping to play the second edition (which I would have made some small contribution to), with him. Of course, the first edition won’t vanish, but there is something special about it having been a thing I helped, even in a small way, to shape.

Third, and lastly: because I know the massive amount of work people like Emmet Byrne, Jacob Rogers, and so many of the wonderful team at Cubicle 7 had put into this game, as well as the outstanding team of freelancers I was lucky to have worked alongside. I was really looking forward to getting a copy of the second edition myself, but more than that, the team at C7 were supportive, professional, and excellent to work with. A very sad day for Cubicle 7, and for the wonderful people that work with them.

Counting beans…

Last time I wrote about rewriting, dead time, and some of the economics of freelance writing in the RPG industry. This time I want to delve into that a bit further, and this one is longer than I had anticipated!

Pay rates are one of those topics that many seem to want to talk about, and at the same time few people really want to talk about. Many creatives on Twitter and elsewhere seem to agree that pay rates in the RPG industry are low, but few people seem to want to talk about how much they earn or the rates they get paid at.

I get it, I often feel that getting specific about rates may annoy the companies or people I work with, and that could jeopardize my relationship with them, and make it harder, or impossible, to get work.

So, with all that in mind I’m going to run with what seems fairly common practice. There seems to be a broad-ish consensus that a rate of $0.03 USD per word is usual for many writers (or for those starting out), and that $0.04 USD is fairly standard overall, some publishers may pay up to $0.06 per word, but for the sake of this post I’m going to stick with a ‘standard’ of about $0.04. The reason? This matches with my experience, and most of the work I have done in the industry over the last few years has been at $0.04 per word. I have read of rates as low as $0.02 per word, and upward of $0.08 to $0.12 per word (with some few claiming or quoting higher rates still).

Rates appear to be different between larger or more established publishers (probably a legacy of tradition and industry standard), and indie publishers, and many of the latter are starting to shake up the standard. Shaking up the standard is a good thing in my opinion, though time will tell if this starts to influence the larger industry. Many smaller companies, especially those using crowdfunding, are building stretch goals around increased pay rates for writers and artists, which I think is a great idea.

So why did I not demand higher rates?

Many people on social media and in the indie industry particularly seem to argue that writers should expect, ask, or demand a higher rate of pay for their work. I can’t necessarily argue with that, though as a freelancer I would argue that many people feel fairly powerless in their capacity to set the terms and make demands. I believe these low rates have been fairly standard for more than 20 years, yes, this is patently ridiculous, and yes, I really agree rates should be higher.

So why did I work for a rate I believe is low?

Because it’s what I believed is/was standard. Because I felt that asking for a higher rate was likely to lead to no work. Because no-one ever wanted to talk about the rates they got paid, even when asked privately, and this wall of silence reinforced my belief that $0.03 per word was ‘normal’, and $0.04 per word was ‘a good deal’.

I want to emphasise this: no-one wanted to talk about rates, even when asked privately, even when many of these people were on social media talking about how the industry needs to increase pay rates for freelance writers. This meant that for a long time I felt like I had no idea what to expect, what was normal, what was standard, or what was exploitative. Thankfully this trend seems to be changing in the last few years, with more information available about what is standard for different companies. Many indie companies are very vocal about the rates they offer, and I would strongly advise following as many creators as possible – search #ttrpg on Twitter, and join Discord and Facebook groups as you find them.

So are the rates actually that low?

Yes. Compared to freelance writing outside our industry, the rates for freelancing in RPGs is low. If we assume that somewhere between $0.04 and $0.06 is standard, these rates are at the very low end of the scale for freelance writing. If I refer to an article about standards paid to freelance writers (based on the survey of over 500 freelancers) rates for RPG freelancers are low. Of those surveyed in the article around 30% of beginning freelancers get between $0.01 and $0.10 per word, close to the same percentage get up to $0.26 per word, and a little over 20% get up to $0.50 per word. This is for beginning level writers. The article from which is get these figures is here for those interested, and is well worth reading.

At what point do you stop being a beginner? After you have written for more than 5 books? 10 books? 20? After you have had 50,000 words published? 100,000? A quarter of a million?

Having written for more than 25 published works totaling nearly half a million words I would hope I am not still sitting in the beginners category, but the rates I am most often offered sit at the very low end of what would be regarded as low for a beginning freelancer as defined by the article I linked to above. I use myself as an example, and maybe it’s just that I’m no good, but there are many many writers out there who have written far more, published far more, and who sit close to me on the pay scale.

We all know the industry is small and that profits are thin. We know there are a glut of writers keen to work on the games they know and love. We know that consumers expect RPGs to be art heavy, full colour, glossy, and cheap. And we know that RPGs are a uniquely creative hobby, a fact that enables and encourages people who participate in it to be creators (rather than pure consumers), and perhaps lessening the need for a dedicated group of creators (feeding the number of people willing or capable of being creators). I do not believe any of the companies I have worked for are being exploitative, but I do believe that a number of industry related circumstances combine to maintain a relatively low rate of pay for the creatives that work in it (and at this point I mean writers, editors, artists, sensitivity readers, and other creatives).

So, can we have professional writers in the RPG industry? Or should we expect nothing more than slight compensation for what should be regarded as a hobby undertaking?

First and foremost I hope there is change. I think an increase in the rates for the creatives that generate the books and rules we love so much means that we would be encouraging a higher standard overall. A better rate of pay creates a body of people who are able to focus more time and energy creating the content we enjoy. We have managed to sustain our industry on low rates, and despite it, we have high quality writing, but people should be compensated for the work they do, and that compensation should reflect the skill required and the effort expended. While many will regard freelancing as a part of the gig economy, that does not mean accepting sub-standard rates, or that those rates should be set and remain the same for decades. Writers who freelance in the RPG industry are passionate about RPGs, sure, but they are also key components in creating content that drives the industry forward, whether that is through the work they put out, or the mechanisms and concepts they explore.

So what does $0.04 per word get me?

If I get paid what seems to be around the current industry standard of $0.04 per word then 1000 words is worth $40. If it took me two hours to write that 1000 words, that’s a rate of $20 an hour. If it took 3 or 4 hours, that rate spins out to $13.3, or $10 an hour. Chances are that those 1000 words took more than two hours to write, and included a number of hours of research, communication, and preparation in addition to the actual act of writing.

If it’s a new game line, I need to read rules, catch up with lore (that may be only a little, it may be a whole lot). I would regard this broadly as investing time, as it is knowledge and information that will remain useful after I have finished one piece of freelance writing. This is especially true if you happen to get a number of freelance pieces all related to the same game or game line. In this sense, time spent getting familiar with the rules and setting is defrayed over all the pieces you work on. Many freelancers in the RPG industry work on games they are already passionate about or know intimately, so whether the reading of rules and lore is something you count is really up to you and your situation. But for the sake of the story, let’s imagine that refreshing lore and rules for a specific 1000 word piece requires a half an hour. So writing for two hours, and general research for half an hour…

More than general research is specific research… common Chinese names, common Italian surnames, naming conventions, the structure of the UN Security Council, the names of different types of sails, common farming practices in the middle ages, how to make ink, the effects of lead poisoning on the human body, and so on ( I spent hours one night reading about microwave beam attenuation). These are little details that crop up regularly when writing. When we need to research, some of us make a note and come back, some of us pause, research, then continue… whatever your practice, the fact remains that while writing you will often need to undertake parallel research. This research takes time, is intrinsically linked to the writing process, and may take a small amount of time, or a long amount of time, depending on what it is, how important it is, how obscure it is, and so on. Some pieces of writing will require more research than others, some will require none, but this is time taken, and time means that the money earned is defrayed over a longer period, reducing the hourly rate. If I spend half an hour in general research, an hour in specific research, and an hour and a half writing for a 1000 word piece, then that is 3 hours spent for $40 earned at a rate of $13.33 per hour.

Edits, rewrites, adjustments, and addressing comments are all aspects of the submission process, and many freelance contracts will stipulate the number of rewrites or edits a publisher is expecting you to commit to. Whether minor or major, these things take time, let’s say they take an hour. I open the document, read the comments, make the minor changes required, save the document with the iterated document title, and send it back. An hour might be about right for minor adjustments to a short document, major changes may take longer, so let’s hope you got everything right (or about-ish) in the first pass. Now my 1000 words is sitting at about 4 hours of labour, and I’m making about $10 an hour…

Chances are though it took a longer than that, and complications, twists, a couple of minutes looking for the right word here, and the right phrase there, restructuring, tightening, changing a name, difficulty in research, extra time in writing, some rewriting, and so on can easily mean that 4 hours spins into 5 or 6 hours, or even longer. Every hour added reduces the rate earned: at 5 hours I am earning $8 an hour, at 6 hours I am earning $6.66.

Is it a rules set? Does it contain rules? Is it an adventure? Do you playtest? All of these things add time. I like to run through the adventures I write with my (very tolerant) local game group. A session may be 4-6 hours, add notes, add adjustments and rewrites (because there will be rewrites after you test), all of it adds up.

Now, all of this will vary significantly from writer to writer, some writers will be able to get the words written much faster, others will take much longer, some will write clean drafts, some will need to take time to rewrite and edit. Some will find writing background fluff drags and drags, and others will find that writing world histories absolutely flies. I tracked the amount of words I wrote for a year, and found that I am usually quickest when writing adventures, which I think reflects the fact that these usually follow a structure and flow. Whatever your process, whatever areas you are quick or slow in, however long it takes for you to get that 1000 words written, rewritten, researched, edited, etc… all of that combined earns you $40. Some 1000 words will come quickly, some slowly, some will require a lot of extra work, some almost none. Irrespective of all of that, the piece is earning you $40.

All of this raises questions… Could RPG books reconsider how game fluff is presented? Setting the rate per word is encouraging writers to do what, exactly? Where should money be spent when it comes to writing? Is a publisher happy paying $8, $9, or $10 per hour (or should they be)? Is a by-the-word rate a good way to structure a pay scale? Can our industry support rates at a higher scale? What needs to give if not? Is setting rates at x point encouraging a style or approach to writing, or discouraging another? Can our industry support freelance writers as professionals, and not treat it just as a hobby undertaking?

All of these and many more even better questions are relevant and important. They are not questions I have answers to however, thoughts perhaps, opinions maybe, but no answers. If you managed to read to the end, and you have any questions, thoughts, or opinions, I’d be keen to hear them, and will try and work them into follow up posts in the future. Email me at caradocgames@gmail.com, or find my on Twitter @caradocp. If you’re a freelance writer in the industry starting out, I hope this provides you with some information and areas for consideration. If you enjoyed or found this interesting in any way, feel free to head to the downloads page on this site, where you’ll find links to the the micro-rpgs I have released! Or consider supporting me on Patreon!

Word by word…

One chapter closes, another one opens… Well, not quite closes, but one chapter submitted, and I hope it is written well enough that I don’t need to revisit it, much…. This is the perpetual battle for someone who works as a freelance writer and gets paid by the word: the piece is done, it is submitted, please don’t let there be many edits!

Going back to rewrite, rework, edit, and change things is dead time. It’s time I don’t get paid for. It’s time I could be using to write something I do get paid for. So it’s something I want to avoid.

In the RPG industry a majority of freelance work is paid by the word, and rates are typically low. ‘By the word’ is what goes into layout, not what was submitted, deleted, swapped out, or altered. If I spend an hour researching, and then an hour writing 1000 words, I get paid for 1000 words, and that pay represents two hours work. If, for whatever reason, I need to spend another hour rewriting 500 of those words, I still get paid for 1000 words, but now that pay represents three hours work. The longer the piece, the more hours it represents, and the hours spent rewriting are hours that could have been spent on a new piece…

Now don’t get me wrong, rewriting is completely understandable. If I make a mistake, or get information, intention, tone, or emphasis wrong. If that’s the case then it behooves me to change it, make it better, get it right. I absolutely don’t have a problem with that! Making mistakes, or not following the direction given to you, lack of communication or miscommunication can all end up in extensive rewrites, and these need to be avoided. Poor communication or direction can also end up meaning work done needs to be redone. The result? I lose hours. Hours means words written. Words written means money.

In short: I don’t want to rewrite.

This may sound like I am happy with sub-par work, but I am not. I want to do the best I can, but I also need to balance the time I spend with the compensation earned for that time. I want to get it right the first time, or as close as I can. I want to ensure that the piece I submit is written cleanly, that it is good, and that it doesn’t need to be reworked or rewritten. I want to make sure the information I include is correct, and that it matches the tone and requirements of the publisher.

That is the nature of being paid by the word, because at some point the ‘by word’ rate is translated into money made given time spent.

What does this mean for me? It means I need to read the directions I am given carefully, and stick to them. It means it is better to ask too many questions about whether I have the right concepts or tone, than find out after I have drafted a piece of writing. It means I need to research: be familiar with the game, with the line, with the publisher, with the setting, and with any of the ideas that I am introducing, including, or referencing. It also means that I need to write well, or as well as I can.

I’m sure there is a further conversation to be had, that all of this will lead many people to to reflect on debates about quality and quantity in the RPG industry, but this is not that post. Just some idle thoughts about writing and rewriting, and the economics of being paid by the word…

Questions and Answers

I was interviewed recently about role playing games, game design, and writing, by an old friend Patrick Matthews. If you’re interested in any of these things, the interview can be found on Pat’s blog here.

Many years ago now, it feels, I wrote some various articles for a website Pat ran which was called Games for Educators. I wrote about using games in the classroom. I also hosted a short podcast series there which was co-hosted by Tom Vasel and myself, called Teaching Strategies. Later, Games for Educators also hosted another podcast I recorded with Donald Dennis, called Games in Schools and Libraries (which is still running strong I might add, hosted by Kathleen Mercury and Donald Dennis). Pat is an author, game designer and software developer, and has recently started a blog series on his site called ‘6 Questions‘. Under Patrick, the Games for Educators site had a range of authors writing about games in an educational setting.

In the 6 Questions series Pat interviews authors, game designers, and other creatives. I was honoured to have been asked to contribute something, and I hope anyone interested in freelance writing, game design, or writing in general finds something interesting or useful in my various and rambling answers.

In my interview I wrote about role playing games and why I love them, creative focus, offered some thoughts on writing, processes, writing in the RPG industry, and talked about what’s upcoming from Caradoc Games. Check it out here! Thanks Pat for asking me to contribute something to your 6 Questions series, it was a lot of fun, and I am very honoured!