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Why Are You Writing RPGs?

As opposed to firing them off? Oh, the other kind of RPGs.

A lot of my creative energies recently have been focused on RPGs rather than writing fiction. I’ve been asked why. It’s not something for which I had a ready answer. It was one of those things that just happened; you know, bright shiny object and all that.

Giving it some thought, I can think of three reasons why I end up writing RPGs instead of fiction: control, accomplishment, and reaction. There’s money as well, but while I’ve always been open about my mercenary inclinations, it’s not a large factor in this decision.

I am a control freak, it is true. In much of my life, it’s not an issue, because that particular idiosyncrasy only affects my creative output. And it isn’t a fear of losing copyright (doesn’t happen) or someone stealing my ideas (also doesn’t happen, besides, it is the execution rather than the idea that sells fiction), it’s control over when and if my stuff gets released. When I work on an RPG, because I self-publish, I know it is going to get out there. I don’t know how well it will be received, but I know that—some process complications aside—it will get out there in a particular quarter of a particular year. When I sell a story, it just kind of disappears for a while. Sometimes that’s a number of months, sometimes that’s a number of years. In the lead up to release, sometimes I worry something will happen and my story will never see print. I still have the money for it, but that’s not the entire equation, is it?

By accomplishment I don’t feel a greater sense of accomplishment for RPGs than I do for fiction, what I mean is that RPGs get accomplished—they get finished. I’ve got three stories right now that are either incomplete, or completed yet problematic. I cannot say the same for RPGs. For whatever reason, it’s easier for me to finish the 75 pages of Sword Noir and the 63 pages of Kiss My Axe—not to mention about 40 pages of adventures published or ready for publishing—than the combined 30 pages of fiction. I can’t say why that is, but it is so. I need more discipline in my fiction writing—that’s part of it. I also recognize that when inspired, I can fire through RPGs much quicker than I can fiction—again, can’t say why, but it is so.

Given my ego, public reaction is probably a big component of my focus on RPGs. Check out RPG Now, and you will see a large number of reviews for my stuff. There are also other reviews out there, most linked though the SEP Reviews page (I really need to update that). I have maybe two (more like one very short review and one mention) reviews of my fiction. Also, I have received much more correspondence related to my RPG work than my fiction. I love feedback—positive and negative—so it seems pretty logical that I would continue to put efforts into the work that gets the most reaction.

But which has greater cachet? That would be writing fiction. I get a heck of a lot respect as a published author of fiction. People, even those within the RPG community, are far more impressed by a short story in a magazine/journal than an RPG game or supplement credit.

And then there’s money. Yeah, in some respects this dictated a lot of my previous work. Mundus Novit was about getting paid. Not to say that I was not enthusiastic about the project or even that I’m not proud of the work I did, just that this was a company’s proposal and I worked within their strictures rather than something that came fully formed out of my forehead.

The work I am doing now is more about ideas and enthusiasm than about making money. Sword Noir likely won’t turn a profit for at least another year, and Kiss My Axe likely longer. I’ve done a playtest document for Centurion: Soldiers of Rome, but I am going no further because I honestly don’t see profit in it. I am now chasing the cachet again, and working on fiction. But I had to get that playtest document done first. I had to get those RPG ideas out. That’s the inspiration part. But now that’s done. I have three novels plotted and three stories that won’t finish themselves.

Time to write some fiction.

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