Check out Burn Bryte, an original science fantasy TTRPG I helped create for Roll20!
For the last several years I’ve gotten messages from designers describing a product they plan to create then asking if I think the project will sell well and grab the attention of big publishers like Wizards of the Coast. My response is always this question, “Is this product something you are excited about and would buy yourself?” If the answer is no, even if it is something you are sure will sell a million copies, don’t make it. Your reputation depends on it, and if you end up making something you wouldn’t marry, you may grab the attention of big publishers in a bad way. Plus it won’t be fun or fulfilling for you, which is kind of the point!
Passion is Everything
Let’s face it. Most of us didn’t get into the RPG design industry to get rich. Though RPGs are growing, it’s still an industry that makes less than many other forms of entertainment. We get into this stuff because we love it. If you start to make products you aren’t 100% all-in on, you’ll start to resent ever wanting to make RPGs. There’s already a lot of reasons to resent the work (long hours, little pay, and internet trolls to name a few). You shouldn’t give yourself more.Passion for your work is more than just avoiding resenting your work. It is a motivator, a tool that helps push your work forward, makes it better, and helps it sell.
Carries the Work
If you are excited about a project, it is far easier for you to sit down each day and actually write, playtest, edit, and do anything else related to the project. When you care about the work, you actually sit down and do it. For many people, RPG design comes second to other work, family, social, and life commitments. You’re cutting into relaxation time to get it done, so make sure you care enough about what you’re making that it’s worth it to not watch the latest episode of The Mandalorian right when it drops. Many, many, many RPG products never see the light of day because their creators don’t believe in the project enough to get it finished. If you like the product, you’ll still have to work hard, but at least you’ll enjoy the work more.
Makes the Work Thorough
Passion doesn’t just help ensure your work gets finished. It ensures your work is done thoroughly. If you don’t have the passion for a project, you might skip that final revision pass, a playtest, or some other aspect just to get the project done and off your desk. You want anything you put out to be done right, not just done. If you don’t care about the work, it can get sloppy, which hurts sales and your reputation as a designer.
Informs the Work
Ever pick up a book or sit down to watch something and think, “This isn’t going to be for me,” only to be a huge fan of the property five minutes in? It’s because the people who made that art cared about it so much, their enthusiasm got you on board. They weren’t just making something to sell or advance their own career. They were so excited about the Civil War (or whatever) that you got on board with them. The same is true for you. When you are excited about the products you make, that comes across in the work and makes it more engaging. You want the audience to love what you love. It’s part of being a nerd!My first RPG product for another publisher, my first paid work, was Give Chase, an article for EN5ider that gave advice about creating and running chases in fifth edition D&D. No one was asking for that, but I felt strongly about the material. That came across in my pitch, which I took me a while to write and revise. James Haeck took a chance on me, and the rest is history.
Easier to Market
No secret here. RPGs are a small market with a lot of creators. You need to be THE cheerleader for your product on forums, social media, podcasts, etc. If you don’t love the product, you’re going to get sick of talking about it. If you don’t believe in the product, eventually you’ll stop mentioning it. You are your product’s marketing department. Having enthusiasm helps you keep shouting out the message and makes your message genuine.
Makes you Happier
You likely got into designing RPGs because you thought it would be a lot of fun. If you’re working on something you like instead of trying to write something that you think others want, you’re not going to have a great time. Write what you WANT to write. That’s why you got into this to begin with.In conclusion, a project you believe in means better sales, a better product, and a happier you.
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