Monday, March 11, 2013

Calling All Designers...or...Help Me Obi Wan Designer, You're My Only Hope!

So, I'm in the process of doing initial copy for a new RPG that I have been working on for WAY too long. The problem is, I've never even thought of publishing anything before and this is turning into a pretty hefty project. 

I have about 80% of the rules completed before I start editing and re-writes, then I need to find artwork because I couldn't draw a stick figure if there was a gun to my head. And then I start page layout. Let me back up...then I learn HOW to do page layout...then I do page layout.

After that, I've been looking into self-publishing, but I'm sure there are pitfalls to avoid there. I'm not sure about copy-writing, trademarks, ISBN's etc, etc, etc...

So if there are any designers out there that have published products before and have any kindly words of advice...I should would appreciate them.


  1. I suggest doing it in this order:

    1. Get your text 100% finished. No sense in doing lay-out if you're just going to have to later change the lay-out to reflect changes in the text.

    2. Then get the lay-out 100% done. Do not commission art until after your lay-out is finished, or you might find yourself paying for art that won't fit into your book.

    3. Only then commission art based upon the blank spaces in your book that need art. That way you know exactly how big each piece of art needs to be. It also gives you a good idea for the type of art needed based on the text on the same and facing pages. ("Hey, I have a big white space on the page describing dragons. This would be a good place to put a drawing of a dragon rather than of, say, a hobbit.")

  2. Outstanding advice. I'm positive I would have collected up a bunch of artwork before page layout and then screwed myself up.

  3. What Geoffrey said: worry about finishing the writing first. Then, get someone neutral and disinterested to read a draft and edit/proofread. It helps if you do this, too (perhaps after setting it down for some time...a couple weeks), but you need at least one person besides yourself to look at it.

    Layout for me is incorporated with the artwork...I have a rough idea of pieces I want and then (because I'm a cheap bastard) I see what people will give me. Art students and former art students and aspiring artists (especially when they're local gamers) are good sources...they can see their work in the book, and have something to show other prospective clients or put on their web sites or fatten their resumes.

    Get all THAT done and then worry about ISBNs and printing/publishing. The fact that you wrote it means you have the copyright: material is copyrighted by the author once it's in some "tangible form" (like a printed document or a PDF you email to yourself or others) its copyrighted material and your intellectual property.

    So get the grunt-work done...after that the rest is relatively easy (um...with the exception of the marketing and driving sales part, etc.).
    : )

  4. Thanks JB, again, solid advice. It looks like I have a couple of months of writing left to do (It's turning into a pretty big project), then I'll need to find someone willing to do a read through of the whole thing. I might have exhausted all of my friend's favors by now with play-testing the many incarnations of over the years.

    I'm with you on the "cheap bastard" thing. I just don't have a lot of money to invest in a project of this size to get professional artwork, so maybe I can find some kind souls to donate artwork. Maybe an 'Art' Kickstarter where people donate pictures rather than money! But I'll jump off that bridge when I get to it.

    Good info about the copyright. I'm very nervous about showing this project to anyone. I think it's very good and has some innovative ideas and I would hate to have anything "borrowed" without my permission.

    Looks like its back to the grind stone...

  5. Ha! I have the same paranoia regarding my own "innovations." Chance are, someone's already done something similar (or is working on something similar); just push through and try to get out the best product YOU can't sweat the universe conspiring against you!

  6. Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean their not out to get me! :)

  7. Yes, I wouldn't do layouts till you have what you want. All works are works in progress. Even people like Gygax and Arneson simply typed the stuff up so others could look it over. The only thing you have to worry about with copyrights is whether you're using trademarked names: don't do that. Otherwise you can use the "open game license" if you want, like many people do. I personally wouldn't, simply because doing something original is more interesting and it's possible to produce game mechanics that are unique. However, technically you can't "copyright" game mechanics (supposedly) which is how people get away with using terminology that is the same. When it comes to self-publishing, CreateSpace has the best royalties and gives you a free ISBN: but Lulu is what many RPG self-publishers use as it has an option for saddle-stitching (center stapling), whereas CreateSpace has only "perfect-bound" traditional softcover books of various sizes. A number of people will do proofing for free; check some reputable blogs. You also might want to play-test it with a group before you begin to publish. Yes, it's a lot of work--but I'm sure you'll feel it's worth it in the end.

  8. Thanks for the response Perp (you don't mind if I call you Perp do you?). That's good information. I heard the same thing on a game designer podcast I've been listening to about not being able to copyright game mechanics (thus all the unofficial versions of Monopoly). I've been play testing the system for years and changing/ tweaking things that don't work and I finally got to where I am now that its close enough to what I want it to be that its time to start writing an "official" version. And I guess that means I can start blogging about it a little to see what people think of the ideas I've come up with.

    1. I look forward to hearing what the game's all about. It sounds like you want to publish it as a book, so I would recommend you don't offer the whole game free online or anything--some people do that, and I doubt they sell the book at all... And you can call me Reifyn: I'm the one who usually replies to blog posts, the other person with perpetual role does the design work mostly. Cheers -R


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.