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#15: Why Lloyd Doesn't Write Adventures

rymoore

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I realize what you are saying is true but it is very sad. I won't even go near an RPG that does have a full campaign of published adventures. I simply don't have the time or inclination to write my own. My gaming group ran through every published adventure for Eberron and half the Eberron adventures in Dungeon in 6 months, if it wasn't for the fact that there are plenty of non-Eberron D&D adventures that can be adapated that campaign would be over. My group would love it if I ran Star Wars, SG-1, or the Farscape RPGs, or Exalted. I'd even hazard to guess that SG-1 and Farscape are now out of print because of the lack of adventure support.

I understand why adventurtes don't sell as well but they can still be profitable. My group of 6 six players own a collective 7 sets of the core rules for D&D but only one of us needs to own an adventure. However, I usually buy EVERY adventure for the particular game we are playing. I applaud the recent developments of "Shackled City", ""Age of Worms." and the full Accordlands campaign. I now have enough D&D adventures for 2 years, however I'd like to play a game other that D&D at some point.

The only way I can do this so far is to reach back to out of print games like Deadlands and COC, which have tons of adventure support.
 

LBrownIII

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As a player, that's why I love my collection of Dungeon Adventures. I have every issue but #1 and #5, and it's a treasure trove. I can always find a map or a storyline, or a complete adventure to swipe, and each campaign usually pulls at least 3-6 adventures from the collection.

Dungeon is the exception to the rule. I should have stated "stand-alone adventures" in the article because of this. Dungeon is different in that selling to Dungeon not only means decent pay but industry recognition.

Now that I think about it, I have sold a couple of adventures to the RPGA. One or two were published in Polyhedron at a fair word rate, and one, Artifact Quest, was run at Winter Fantasy '99, I think. At the time, it was the lowest word rate I'd received for any written work. I think it still is. $200 for 10,000 words, plus about four maps. Ridiculous.
 

smascrns

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Lloyd, very interesting analysis, but what about the publisher's perspective? rymoore's argument is that for him to game master a game he needs adventures. Maybe that's true about many GMs. If that's true then adventures become critical to keep the players playing the game... and buying more non-adventure books for it. Maybe publishers should look at adventures not as direct income generators but more in similar terms to promotion: A cost you need to afford. In this case they have to be ready to pay the people that write the thing...

Still, there's another aspect that I would venture impacts the economics of adventures. Adventures are the domain where consumers are more productive. I mean, I would expect that there are more GMs writting adventures than those that write fluff, rules or other rpg stuff. Granted, as always most of these adventures will be of poor quality but if the publisher taps from the potential of stuff produced by players he will always be able to dig the golden nuggets, polish them, and come out with publishable adventures for a fraction of the cost of paying a professional writter. Am I right about this?
 

LBrownIII

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Sorry, Sergio, I didn't mean to blow you off. Usually, discussion here dies quickly, and I don't always check back in.

smascrns said:
. Maybe publishers should look at adventures not as direct income generators but more in similar terms to promotion: A cost you need to afford.
Yes, to some degree adventures are a necessary evil, but publishers release the minimum they have to (except for publishers like Goodman Games, who have captured a specific market for their adventures). And it's always an iffy thing The publisher has to ask himself which would be riskier--writing, distributing and maybe carrying in inventory an adventure, or just buying an ad in Dragon to advertise the entire product line? How about reprinting the Player's Companion, which has been oop for 6 months? Maybe upgrade to hardcover for the 2nd edition? Attend the GAMA Trade Show and pitch your game line to a thousand new retailers? Adventures fall low on the totem pole.

Still, there's another aspect that I would venture impacts the economics of adventures. ... fraction of the cost of paying a professional writter. Am I right about this?
Adventures are a BEAST to edit. You have to playtest them, revise them, replaytest them, etc. You have to check stat blocks (and there are always stat blocks), make sure the timeline and plot don't have gaping holes, coordinate text with a map to make sure that there is a stairway on map A that connects to map B and both descriptions match up, make sure the writer followed your style guide....it's just a ton of work.

Also, while being able to write an adventure that your players love is a fairly common skill, being able to write an adventure that's suitable for publication is a much rarer skill. I'm not saying it never happens; it's just not a huge market, nor a really profitable one. For anybody.

This really is a job that some salaried dude gets tagged on to his normal work, usually with no extra pay. For small publishers, the publisher himself is often the salaried dude.
 

ShannonA

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Conversely, if a publisher doesn't publish adventures, it can kill the line. That was one of the big downfalls of Chaosium's Nephilim, which was weird enough that it wasn't immediately obvious how to run a campaign. Add that to no-adventure-books for a full year after release, and it's no surprise that the game got sucked into the Chaosium implosion of 1998.
 

Levi

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So, then, Lloyd; outside of straight-up cash money, what else could a publisher do, if anything, to make writing adventures for them be more attractive?
 

LBrownIII

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ShannonA said:
Conversely, if a publisher doesn't publish adventures, it can kill the line.
Which is why I call them a necessary evil. Somebody has to do it. You just don't want it to be you.
 

LBrownIII

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Levi Kornelsen said:
So, then, Lloyd; outside of straight-up cash money, what else could a publisher do, if anything, to make writing adventures for them be more attractive?
Well, nothing else really compares to money. I tried to pay my mortgage in reader goodwill one time, and the bank looked at me like I was crazy.

I'm racking my brain, and all the things I can think of to attract a writer--cover credit, comp copies, prompt payment--they should be doing anyway (and you should be asking for if they're not offering).

Product payment might be a measure, although a weak one. Production cost on product tends to be only 10-20%, so it should be possible for a publisher who offers .01/word in cash to offer .05/word in-kind. If you plan to write for that publisher, it could provide a helpful library. On the other hand, maybe you already have those products if you're writing for that publisher. In that case, it's worthless.

You might sell them on consignment at your local game store or take them to a used bookstore or something, but then you're probably back where you started; you might only get 10-20% of the value.

Here's an idea--back cover photo, like on a hardback novel jacket? Um, probably not.

I still think the best solution for everyone is the salaried staffer option.
 

capnzapp

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With respect, anyone calling adventures a "necessary evil" in my opinion either doesn't know the hobby or is only in it for the money.

Instead of having to read negative things like "Somebody has to do it. You just don't want it to be you." it would be much more enlightening and interesting to see you put a positive spin on this instead: "How To Write Great Adventures, And Make Money Too".

In my not so humble opinion, much of why adventures are considered bad business is because so much of it is absolute drivel.

Make great classics, and the money will come to you.

One good starting step here would be to stop writing for d20. You're absolutely right adventures need massive stat blocks, but only if you mean super-complex game systems like d20. Add the ridiculous focus on combat and pedestrian uses of spells in d20, then round off by the absolutely horrid ability of d20 spellcasters to kill off (circumvent) most good stories, and it should be apparent you have made it very difficult for yourself to create an outstanding piece of work.

I guess this boils down to how you view yourself: are you an artist or simply a bulk writer for hire?

I guess avoiding adventures is fair advice for the latter category, but as a customer, I'm only really interested in the works of the former anyway.
 
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