Why You Should Take My Writing the Other Class

There is still time to register for Writing Inclusive Games: Creating RPGs Sans Fail.

Tempest and I have a great syllabus planned! If you’re interested in working on RPGs, here’s a few things I want to point out for your consideration:

    1. I’ve worked as a developer, writer, editor, creative consultant, worldbuilding consultant, and in marketing for over ten years on dozens of games with multiple companies. My knowledge, combined with K. Tempest Bradford’s, is enough to fill a set of encyclopedias. Take advantage of this!

    2. The hobby games industry doesn’t train writers. You have to go to the companies you want to work for and apply. Like any other industry, there’s cultural aspects and processes in place that already exist. If you’re new and representation is important to you, then you might feel intimidated. We’re here to help.

    3. People who design/produce games for the first time often make the same mistakes. The same is true when addressing representation. Knowing is half the battle, especially in an industry where costs are concerned. If you want to make your own game, there are many, many pitfalls to avoid that will save you time and money in the long run. We can point those out.

    4. The exercises are designed to be flexible. I’ll review them with a developer’s eye in a safe space. Some companies don’t have the time for hands on feedback with freelance writers or designers. This class offers you the chance to write and get invaluable comments, which will prepare you for future assignments or show you how to critique your own work.

    5. The class also addresses troubleshooting and methods to handle difficult situations. Creating RPGs is a complicated process with a lot of moving parts, and there may be problems that arise from time to time. Thanks to our combined experiences, Tempest and I can give you tips to assuage your fears and help you be more confident going forward.

For all these reasons and more, that’s why there’s a financial component attached to the class and why we can’t offer this for free. Writing Inclusive Games: Creating RPGs Sans Fail isn’t just about representation, it will also include a lot of information about the creation and marketing of RPGs as well to help you achieve your goals, too. Why? My philosophy is that if you’re paying for my time, whether that’s a RPG, a book, or a class, I want to make sure it’ll be well worth the effort.

Mark Your Calendar for GameHoleCon 2017

GameHoleCon 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin

I am pleased to announce that I will be a guest for this year’s Gamehole Con, which takes place November 2nd through November 5th at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Gamehole Con is the largest tabletop gaming convention in the upper Midwest. Tabletop gamers from around the country gather each November in Madison, WI for this carnival of gaming. The convention features role-playing games, board games, fantasy and historical miniature gaming, and collectible card games. If you are a tabletop gaming fan, do not miss Gamehole Con!”

I’ll have more announcements about the show in the coming months. I hope you consider joining us at the show!

Guest Posts and Class Date Changes for Writing the Other

After talking to Tempest, we realized that we needed to shift the class dates to accommodate our schedules and give me an opportunity to write some guest posts. The class, which is now scheduled for April, also offers a payment plan as well.

I did manage to write one guest post so far, I’m happy to announce that you can read more about my design philosophy over at the illustrious Jim Hines’ blog today.

“Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories.” –SOURCE: On Representation in RPGs

If you’re interested in registering for the class, hop on over to www.writingtheother.com where you’ll find the Writing Inclusive Games: Creating RPGs Sans Fail class description and more information. Mark your calendar!

What I Mean When I Say 3-D Character Design

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

Assume that the first 5,000 words of this post is a treatise on the use of propaganda to make it socially acceptable to attack opponents and commit horrific acts throughout history. I want to write it, but I have work to do and I’m grumpy(1)(2).

It was pointed out to me that I haven’t blogged about designing games or writing stories for a bit, and that’s something I definitely want to sprinkle in here and there. Often, the challenge for me is that I have my own lexicon(3) for creative elements. For example, I hate the terms “crunch” and “fluff” with the fiery passion of a thousand red suns, because I feel those terms devalue both the necessary work that systems designers do and the talented efforts of setting designers. Instead, I call the systems the “engine” for a game, because that’s what makes a game go. The setting, then, is the “vehicle”. Combined, they make a game filled with passengers (e.g. the characters). Without the engine or the vehicle, you don’t have a game. You have a pile of rules or you have a bunch of descriptions. You definitely need both to play.

What about those passengers, though? Well, circling back to my goal to define what I mean when I say “3-D character design”, I envision all game’s characters to be a personality that lifts right off the page. Player-characters aren’t photographs, because they’re not static. They’re active, and their stories are shaped by a player sitting at the table. In many games, I also like to envision the GM’s characters to be the same way, because that offers more potential for conflict and interactions. Thus, three-dimensional characters are more life-like than 2D; they are full of desires, fears, and quirks–just like the people filling their shoes.

I’m of the mind that three-dimensional character portrayals actively support a better play experience(4), because we–the designers–are presenting characters for two reasons. First, the characters are there for the GM to narrate. The more characters there are, the easier it is to portray them as photographs because they’re elements needed to build a narrative. But, even tweaking those characters just a little bit makes them more fun to interact with and more emotionally compelling to rescue, fight, investigate, chase, etc.

Second, the characters we present are not only necessary for the players, they also underline the play experience; you typically can’t have a game without characters (or roles) of some sort unless it’s intentionally designed not to have them. Character depictions are also a strong indicator of what that vehicle (e.g. setting) is like for the game, and when these portrayals are flat it sends a strong message to the players at the table.

For example, many players internalize they are not welcome in a game if the art and text doesn’t not include their identities, because they don’t feel a connection and can’t see themselves playing the game. This happens on both a subconscious and conscious level, and it is tied to one of the reasons why people buy games in the first place. To have fun, people need to feel vested in a game, and that investment depends on any number of factors. I’ve found that one of the best and surest ways to increase a player’s interest, is to focus on three-dimensional characters that many different types of players would be attracted to.

Three-dimensional characters do take some work to create, but I personally feel having this as a design goal makes us better designers and writers. The identity portion of that is part and parcel to ensuring characters are handled appropriately, and to that end I’m teaching a class called Writing the Other: Writing RPGs Sans Fail with K. Tempest Bradford. Outside of the discussions to sensitively portraying different identities, there are tons of techniques you can employ to zero in on making better characters.

Now that I’ve defined what three-dimensional characters are, I’ll address tips for designing them in a later post.

(1) Politics and winter. I have a great life, but nothing sends me into a rage faster than attacking women’s rights and seeing a bunch of dudes be smug about it. And winter, because this season has been way too long for sure!

(2) Broke my pledge to check in less, but I’m glad I got that out of my system now.

(3) It has always been this way, ever since I was very little.

(4) The same is true in fiction. Flat characters are boring to read!

Writing the Other Sans Fail Registration Now Available

I am pleased to tell you that the Writing the Other Sans Fail Class registration is now live!

When: Saturdays, 2 – 4PM Eastern Standard Time, February 11 – March 4, 2017
Where: ONLINE via Zoom Video Conference
Price: $360
Register Here

The goal of many game designers is to attract and retain players who want to see themselves as the hero in their own story. To do that, game writers lend their talents to portray characters whose gender, sexual orientation, religion, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity might differ from their own. Many game writers work within a team-based environment or with a developer, and are optimistic but fearful of what good representation means. Worried they’ll present a character wrong, offend players for their effort, get harassed or be fired for speaking up, some game writers opt to take the safe route instead.

It is possible to design characters and game material from a position of mutual respect in a sensitive and convincing way. This workshop can start you on the path to doing just that.

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