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#23: Why D20 is Good for Freelancers

smascrns

New member
Banned
Sorry but I don't buy your reasoning. D20 is not a single rules set, it has several variants (D&D, d20 Future, etc.), each with different rules and requirements. One still has to do independent research for each one of these. Furthermore, D&D (the variety of d20 I know) is far from being a simple game, so it requires a lot of research. On the other hand, there are several other game systems that are a lot simpler, thus require a lot less research to learn them.

I'm not saying that d20 is not a safe or even the safer bet for a freelancer. What I'm saying is that research time is far from being the main reason for such a choice.
 

fmitchell

Frank Mitchell
A few other counter-arguments:

  • Because there's such a plethora of D&D and D20 material, it's hard to make sure you're being compatible with everything else out there. A friend who is a freelance writer calculated that there are 1700 Feats in just the WotC-published supplements alone. To make sure that no two of those feats together don't unbalance the game -- witness Punpun the 5th level Kobold god -- means checking 2,890,000 combinations. (It's his contention that nobody actually does, even at WotC ... even supposed experts write stat blocks with errors.)
  • Because of the d20 material already out there, how is your product going to stand out? Will it sell? Is there really no other product that covers the same ground? Witness the d20 crash of the 90s.
  • Call me a "method writer", but if you don't really like a system, then it's unlikely you'll write well for it. I've speculated on writing game material, but I just don't like d20.

Of course, the above assumes you're writing for games because you like them, and want to do something cool. If you're just in it for the money ... you're mad. Try romance novels.
 

Fifth Element

Retired User
To make sure that no two of those feats together don't unbalance the game -- witness Punpun the 5th level Kobold god -- means checking 2,890,000 combinations. (It's his contention that nobody actually does, even at WotC ... even supposed experts write stat blocks with errors.)
Invoking Pun-Pun to support an argument is not terribly convincing - that build is an obvious fluke that takes advantage of loopholes in rules, and runs completely contrary to the spirit of the rules. (The Pun-Pun designer even said it's not intended to be played, and is merely an exercise.) Of course some people will find abusive cobinations of feats and abilities - but I think a writer can rely on a DM to have a modicum of sense to say "um, no, I'm not going to allow that." There is no requirement to check every other feat in existence when designing a new one. That's ridiculous.
 

masque1223

New member
I can't read the column, I keep getting
"Parse error: parse error, unexpected '}' in /var/www/rpgnet/slib/columnlib.php on line 1086"

Is it just me, or what, and if it is just me, how do I fix it?
 

LBrownIII

Registered User
Validated User
I just received an e-mail saying the error is fixed.

Thanks for the discussion so far. I'll be back later with more substantive comments.
 

Bill_Coffin

Part of the solution
Interesting article. But as one who regularly hires freelance (business) writers, I am not entirely thrilled with the common freelancer method of "research once, write thrice" method of cranking out material. Whenever I get articles that have sprung from ths kind of effort, I can always tell, and they are never nearly as good as articles for which the author conducted unique, specialized research. I don't know why this is, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the freelancers I deal with who write multiple articles off of the same material also tend to write for lots of different publications. This keeps them busy and their mortgages paid up. It also, in the long run, encourages sloppy writing, sloppy research, and corner-cutting of every kind. These kinds of articles always scream out that the writer doesn't necessarily want to be published in my magaizne, he just wants to get paid. That's all well and good, but when money is your primary motivation for writing, the writing always suffers.
 

fmitchell

Frank Mitchell
Invoking Pun-Pun to support an argument is not terribly convincing - that build is an obvious fluke that takes advantage of loopholes in rules, and runs completely contrary to the spirit of the rules. (The Pun-Pun designer even said it's not intended to be played, and is merely an exercise.) Of course some people will find abusive cobinations of feats and abilities - but I think a writer can rely on a DM to have a modicum of sense to say "um, no, I'm not going to allow that." There is no requirement to check every other feat in existence when designing a new one. That's ridiculous.
True, a pragmatic DM will find a rule screw, crumple up the character sheet, and tell the player "start over" (or "get out"). But it does point out a problem with d20 ... there are a plethora of rules, and "feats" that bend the rules, and feats that interact with other feats ... (Compare to point-buy systems like GURPS 4e or Champions, where most powers are combinations of existing advantages and already fairly balanced, or comparatively lighter systems like Call of Cthulhu and World of Darkness where rules take a back seat to color, atmosphere, and, alas, real-world research.)

A responsible writer will attempt to playtest his work before unleashing it on the public. Of course, playtesting undercuts the argument that "with a little research, you can pump out a lot of articles". An irresponsible writer will simply toss something out there; by the time some poor schmuck actually tries to use it, he'll have already collected his fee. As a previous post notes, eventually such a writer will gain a reputation for doing shoddy work ... but maybe he'll be selling time shares by then.
 

adaen

Atlantean Sorcerer
Validated User
Interesting article. But as one who regularly hires freelance (business) writers, I am not entirely thrilled with the common freelancer method of "research once, write thrice" method of cranking out material. Whenever I get articles that have sprung from ths kind of effort, I can always tell, and they are never nearly as good....(snip)
Not to undercut what you've observed in your experience, but isn't it possible that you've only noticed shoddy work from the "research once, write thrice" method when it was done poorly and that there are writers who do it so well that no one can tell that is what they are doing? I mean, there is a difference in recycling research and recycling via the "cut and paste", right?

Just to be clear, I'm not trying to be adversarial. I am truly interested in your (and others) thoughts on this.

Best,

~AoB
 

fmitchell

Frank Mitchell
Sorry but I don't buy your reasoning. D20 is not a single rules set, it has several variants (D&D, d20 Future, etc.), each with different rules and requirements. One still has to do independent research for each one of these. Furthermore, D&D (the variety of d20 I know) is far from being a simple game, so it requires a lot of research. On the other hand, there are several other game systems that are a lot simpler, thus require a lot less research to learn them.
I just wanted to highlight this argument, which seemed to pass without comment.

d20 might be the 800 lb gorilla of gaming, but there's simpler systems like Call of Cthulhu/BRP, RuneQuest, Fudge and its offspring (e.g. Fate), PDQ ... or if you prefer ones with bigger market share, World of Darkness, Shadowrun, and Savage Worlds.

Or, for that matter, a freelancer could actually do real-world research (gasp!) and translate that knowledge into systemless or multi-system articles and books. I think African culture and history are woefully unrepresented, for example; an expert in that could write a number of interesting supplements. A light dusting of d20 would hook into the biggest market, but the real draw would be the information. GURPS worldbooks are popular even for gamers who don't play GURPS, because many are 80-90% easy-to-read research.
 
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