Juggling Rules

As most of my readers know, I’m a freelance writer. Most of my work has been done in the tabletop gaming field, where I’ve written for companies from Games Workshop to Third Eye Games, and many in between.

When writing for such a diverse selection of games, it’s important to be familiar with a lot of different game systems. Knowing how the rules work is critical for my success. Writing for a new game system usually adds anywhere from a few days to a week to my writing time as I get up to speed on the new rules set and how things work in-game.

This past week has been a great example. I’ve been writing a series of character creation articles for Onyx Path, highlighting a number of different games they publish. The idea is to provide a resource for new players, one that walks them through the process of how to create a character. Hopefully, this will also by default teach a few tidbits of the rule systems to the prospective players. I just finished one of those articles yesterday, and it was for a game I’d played before, but also one for which I’d never had never had to create a character, so that was a bit stressful, but not as bad as a couple of the previous installments in the series where I was starting from step 0. Today I’m working on creating a scenario for another game, new to me and also not yet published, and I’m feverishly reading the rules and taking notes, working out what I need to know to flesh out the characters and situations for this adventure.

I have to admit, I envy writers in the business who do a lot of work on the same game system. Once you have the basics down, cranking out material gets a lot easier, and as most writers will tell you, coming up with ideas isn’t the hard part: it’s the doing the actual writing — sitting down and hammering the text into a pleasing and functional shape — that is the tough part of the job. I did do a lot of work for Achtung! Chtulhu, which uses Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying System. The bad news is, that system has been changed and updated. I’ve been playing a game with friends using the new rules, and I have to say they’re an improvement, even though I loved the original rules. If I ever get to do any writing for Chaosium, at least I’m nearly up to speed on the new system already!

I’d like to think I do a pretty good job of assimilating rules, but if I’m honest, I also know I miss things and make mistakes. That’s what editors are for, and mine have done a stellar job of catching things to make me look more professional. Writing seems like an easy job until you are committed and get stuck in, and by then it’s too late to back out. Like anything else, it takes a certain skill set to succeed. My skills may not be perfect, but they’re good, and getting better with each new task under my belt.

Turning in a final draft of text is rewarding: seeing the finished product even more so, and I look forward to seeing some of these new projects when they make their debuts.

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