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[RPG]: Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss, reviewed by Endzeitgeist (4/1)

darrick3909

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First, I'd like to get this out of the way - Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss is also a primer for those looking to self-publish their scenarios. Gamers love to share their work (and occasionally get paid for it). This guide will help such enterprising adventure writers. Is this the only book they need in the world to succeed in their goal? Probably not, but I see published scenario after scenario after scenario that fails to live up to the baseline standards we should all strive for.

My book serves a definite purpose. It's needed. Hundreds of scenarios a year would be improved by adhering to my advice. Just because it leaves out things that might benefit those looking to get published by Pathfinder... I don't take that as a knock against my book. If anything, Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss is a manifesto against that kind of RPG corporatization. The revolution starts now!

Now, onto my primary grievance...

I have to object to the "wasted my money" part of your review's number system (4/1), Endzeitgeist.

Sure, if told about the basics of adventure writing, you might say "Yeah, I know all that." However, that doesn't mean the material is totally redundant or useless or obvious to everyone but noobs. Having everything in one place is valuable. So is the material's presentation (examples, illustrations, way things are communicated, personal insight, and motivation).

Additionally, things that are important to you and your gaming style are not a priority for me. For instance, a PDF filled with intricate Pathfinder-esque rules about spells having to do with wheat fields or feats related to a bard/shaman/canteen-boy would have no value to me (other than possible amusement/ridicule), though you might favor them with 5 stars. That's almost inconceivable to me, but you can't argue about taste. On the other hand, a guidebook about adventure writing is more or less universally valuable to gamers - GMs especially. If any of the advice (regardless of whether the information was previously known to the reviewer) has merit, then I can't understand a "1" rating.

Anyone plunking down $3, checking to see the page-count of 14, or reading the product's description should not be surprised that Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss is not an exhaustive treatise on every aspect of writing, designing, and self-publishing RPG adventures. So, I'm not clear on why this title is being penalized for having a limited scope.

Your review of Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss received higher marks in both categories, even though the titles are similar (though one is a guide for players and the other is a guide for writing adventures).

And what about this line at the review's conclusion? 4 and 1 averaged together makes 2.5, unless my math is ever worse than I thought.
In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars
Our stylistic, aesthetic, and philosophical differences keep us from seeing eye to eye on many things, Endzeitgeist, but I just don't understand what happened here.

VS
 
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darrick3909

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Endzeitgeist send me an email early this morning that I could share if I wished to. In the spirit of discussion, I'm copy/pasting the entirety of his response below. My reply will follow a little bit later in the day.

Hej Venger!

First of all: I've got a thick skin, man! I don't take posts like this personally!

At the same time, it is my honest opinion that your Adventure Writing guide doesn't really help folks seeking to gain traction in the industry. I *get* that from your perspective, for the purpose of submitting material to you or for private groups, the advice may be salient. It's why the pdf got the 3.5 stars. Thing is, the advice doesn't universally hold true. Even when writing for Labyrinth Lord, S&W or LotFP, there are submission guidelines, standards, rules-language, IP-concerns (*cough* 5e */cough*), etc.

It's interesting to me that, whenever you disagree with a verdict of mine, you complain about intricate Pathfinder rules and/or try to paint my criticism as being based in my fondness rules-heavy systems, completely ignoring the points I try to make in favor of establishing this dichotomous construct of "you/rules-lite/OSR-trve-kult" vs. "me/rules-heavy/the man/establishment". It's almost a rhetorical knee-jerk reaction that implies a dichotomy between me and you that is not there, at least not from my perspective; it is ironic, considering my lifelong outsider status, to be seen as the "man".

You know...I get it. I really do. My childhood's been crap and I've always had to fight against the odds. I get where the reaction comes from. But I also think it stands in the way of your own growth as a designer. To reiterate, since you seem to forget that whenever you get a "bad" verdict: There are plenty of books you released that I really enjoy and cherish.

I am not trying to tear you down; I am trying to provide help for you to improve and I have never been, nor will ever be a reviewer that doesn't tell it as I see it. I am not an echo-chamber that just reiterates opinions that are popular.

I think you may want to consider: I have never thrashed you for differences in opinion or design-aesthetics; heck, I even gave your free-form magic a grudging pass, verdict-wise, even though it is pretty far from what I consider good design; but that's a *personal* preference of mine and doesn't influence my *reviewer's* verdict beyond drawing notice to the lack of guidance there. What I do complain about, though, are instances where you disregard your own design principles or are inconsistent in their application; I complain about structural shortcomings etc.

Now, regarding the writing guide:

I've been working for quite a lot of years as both a reviewer and as a designer in the RPG-industry. Writing adventures is one thing; writing them for mass consumption, however, is where the issues lie; one suddenly doesn't just write for one's own entertainment, but for the entertainment of other groups with radically different expectations and requirements. One has to abstract the conventions of the play-style of one's group. Things that one GM can easily improvize are jarring problems for others.

In the end, I stand for the verdict I gave your Adventure Writing guide. I think it is a fair assessment, written in a rather positive manner, considering how the guide fails to address pretty much all concerns of professionally writing adventures, including different genres, structural requirements, etc. I stand by my conviction that, unlike the Player's guide or the GM's guide, this has next to nothing or nothing to offer for veterans or anyone with at least some experience under his/her belt, which constitutes undoubtedly a significant part of your target demographic. Hence, the rating reflects the status of a mixed bag that may be helpful for some, but useless for others.

Honestly, I'm not sure if your post is a publicity stunt or a genuine reaction and I don't have the time to engage all the commenters on your homepage. Let me say that it's nice to see that they rally behind you, defending you from an attack that isn't really an attack. If you want to, feel free to publish this response, but if you do, please do so in its entirety.

Anyways, I hope you have a nice day!!
 

darrick3909

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Believe it or not, I have a thick skin, too. And I also stand by what I write. My creations are like my babies and I'm very protective of them. Nevertheless, I know they have to go out into the world and face reality. That's why I'm fine with a fair shake, an even break, an open mind... you like to use "the benefit of the doubt" - even if a customer or reviewer hates it. The most I can ask is for people to clearly present their bias along with their opinion. To me, your bias seemed unrealistic and unclear. If you're a veteran who thinks he knows it all (or a lot more than me) and have written for established RPG companies, why are you reading my book when you could be writing and selling your own?

Shortly after returning from Gary Con earlier this year, I read How To Write Adventures That Don't Suck by Goodman Games and was pretty dissatisfied with it. That's why I wrote my own guide. Those who don't like mine because they could do better are encouraged to do so. Godspeed!

I simply feel that Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss didn't get that fair shake. The rant was written partly because of that and partly because I've noticed a disconnect between what you're looking for and what I've been providing for awhile now. And that's a problem.

You didn't address your messing up the math, which is ironic because that's something I probably wouldn't dock you for but I assume the Pathfinder crowd would be up in arms about. 3.5 does not equal 2.5 (the 4/1 split), and you can't rely on the "wasted my money" descriptor because you didn't spend any money. The PDF was provided to you in exchange for a review.

I use "Pathfinder" as shorthand for wildly divergent design goals that you and I have. "OSR" is a similar shorthand. Basically, I'm for...

  • Non-standardization > standardization.
  • Less is more > more is more.
  • Providing tools, suggestions, and guidelines > spoonfeeding / hand holding the GM and players with exactly what they should be doing and how they should be doing it at any given time.

While I've made that clear time and time again, I feel it's fallen on deaf ears. Since our design goals are more or less incompatible, we'd both be better served going our separate ways. Even though I occasionally feel like I've gotten a raw deal on some of your reviews, I valued many of your critiques and have learned from them. But I'm not sure that you've learned anything from reading/playing my work. If I'm right, then we definitely shouldn't be working together and I've already wasted enough of our time.

It makes no sense for me to provide a style guide in order to get published by other RPG companies since I've never worked for and have never written for any RPG publisher. Obviously, if I was interested in writing for an established RPG publisher, I would contact them for submission guidelines (including what style, format, etc. they prefer). I've submitted work to RPG publishers in the past, but for one reason or another nothing came of it. Which led me to creating my own publishing company that I use just for myself - Kort'thalis Publishing.

And I've had a successful run in the 4+ years I've been doing this. And if I can do it, then others can too. Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss is my attempt to prepare independent scenario authors and designers (like myself) what they need to get started. I happen to think those who've been doing this for awhile as a hobby or small-time business and want to improve their work could also benefit from reading the PDF.

Lastly, this was not a publicity stunt. My initial response to this thread was momentary outrage. And when I finished, I realized that I had just "wasted" about 90 minutes that I could have spent on something more productive. Then I realized that our dialog might actually be important discussion so I blogged about it.

There is certainly a divide between schools of thought. Our RPG philosophies don't line up. Your reviews and response above shows me that you don't think it's that uneven - or you don't think it matters that much. I believe otherwise.

Whatever RPG titles you still have in your cue, I'll leave that up to your discretion. Feel free to review anything you still have in the pile... or don't. But as of right now, I don't see the point in sending you anything new.

I wish you well and thank you for your time,

VS
 

darrick3909

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Just noticed, you also short-changed me on the page count. You have 11 pages listed in the sidebar when the PDF is actually 14.

VS
 

darrick3909

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That's why you have four replies to one less-than-glowing review?

Let it go man.
At this point, I'm just glad that someone posted in one of my review threads. Nice to be noticed. Thanks! I don't believe we've ever conversed before...

VS
 

Blackfang108

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Just noticed, you also short-changed me on the page count. You have 11 pages listed in the sidebar when the PDF is actually 14.

VS
Nope. He took out the cover, Glyph and editorial pages as they're not really "content." Mentioned in the first paragraph of the review. (I printed out the other 11 pages for my copy)
 

darrick3909

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Nope. He took out the cover, Glyph and editorial pages as they're not really "content." Mentioned in the first paragraph of the review. (I printed out the other 11 pages for my copy)
Is that what other reviewers do? They take the actual page count of a PDF and then subtract all the things that they're not reviewing or that doesn't matter to them, in order to get the real "content"? If that's standard practice, it's news to me and my apologies for calling Endzeitgeist out for it.

VS
 
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