It’s been a bit quiet on here recently. There’s a lot of reasons for this. The main reason is the lack of time, but there’s another contributing factor: I’ve had to slow down a little.
So what’s eating my time? Put simply, work is largely responsible along with poor health and trying to do too much. I’m very much aware of how stress can manifest itself, having suffered it to a great extent last year. I’ve talked before about managing my time, but last year it really became an issue, especially as I developed discoid eczema over 75% of my body. This in turn fed my stress levels which pushed them even higher.
At the time, I was running two RPG campaigns, attending ELG, attending Leiththeatre (amateur dramatics), running ORC Edinburgh, being a “gaming ambassador”, working 9-5, and doing freelance RPG work in my spare time. I’d also just left a toxic relationship, which – although brief – had affected me more than I thought. Looking back, something was bound to give sooner or later.
Since last year, I’ve managed to strike a work-life balance. My RPG freelance work does not impinge on my day job (it never did, though). Plus, I’ve been receiving photo-therapy which has cleared much of the discoid eczema. I’ve sadly had to wind down both my RPG campaigns as found I didn’t have the prep time. I stopped the am-dram stuff as it was two nights a week, which meant I didn’t really get to stop until 10pm.
So what the hell, you may ask, has this to do with gaming?
It’s about managing expectations.
Working on RPGs and managing expectations
It’s been said to me several times that I’m “living the dream”. From a certain point of view I am, but there’s a cost involved – which I’ll come to in a minute. I love writing for RPGs. There’s a fantastic buzz to seeing a finished product with your name on it, no matter your contribution. I think there’s a lot of folk out there believing RPG writing is a dream job giving them a chance to make a lot of money doing what they love.
It’s not quite like that.
The folks that write RPGs work hard, at every level – we’re talking editors, proofreaders, artists – not just writers and designers. The full-timers have to make a living from their work, and freelancers often have to work as hard. What you put in, you get out – and the currency is time. So here’s my thoughts for anyone considering becoming a freelancer or full-time writer on RPGs (some is common sense, but…).
- Be professional, if you want to be taken seriously. Treat it as you would any paid job. If you do get a Non-Disclosure Agreement, honour it. Conduct yourself as a business-person, rather than fan-person.
- Hit any deadlines set. Even better, get your work completed well before the deadline.
- You will be edited: accept it. I worked on a project with Forgotten Realms’ Elminster himself, Ed Greenwood, who told me “We ALL get edited.”- if your work is cut, deal with it.
- Always get a proofreader, and get used to “red ink” or comments. Someone who’ll read over your work – this is less relevant for established publishers who will have their own proofreaders, but if you’re self-publishing, this is a must.
- Treat it like a job, not a hobby. Set yourself proper goals to complete your work – milestones like “1,000 words by Friday”. Don’t be too stringent on yourself – you need downtime (see below).
- It’s in the nature of the RPG industry (just like real-life!) that people move on to other projects and roles. While you’re working on a product, keep your loyalty to the product – not a person. There’s nothing personal in it.
- Make sure you have some downtime to deal with Real Life™. Family, friends, films, a book…. whatever! Make sure you take some time out. If you’re going to sleep thinking about your work consistently, you’re overdoing it. Stop. Chill.
- Do what you can, not what you want. Manage your time: to use a cliche, under-promise and over-deliver if needed. For example: I’ve been involved with almost the entire Mutant Chronicles line for 3rd edition. Much of that was indexing and caption writing, but I also helped fine-tune some of the writing and proofread. I am fine with that. Since then, I’ve found myself doing more and more on the product line.
- Keep to the assignment. If you’ve been asked to keep to 20,000 words, keep to it. You may not get paid for any extra words. It can have a knock-on effect in layout, so be careful! If in doubt, ask. Some publishers may want to keep extra material for future products – so keep it in mind.
- Deal with rejection. If your work has a problem, publishers will let you know. If you have to redo something, then do it. Don’t sulk about it.
- Negative feedback is still feedback. What went wrong? So fix it, next time. Not everyone will like your work, so don’t worry about the one Dislike among a hundred Likes. Take ANY criticism and use it positively.
- Believe in the product. You may not need to know the rules set, but turning in a half-arsed draft because you can’t be bothered with the canon is a shot in the foot. Also be preapared to talk about it on social media etc. (but honour any NDA!).
- Invoice promptly. Budgets can be tight so make sure you invoice for either your time, or the assigned word count.
Have I missed anything? Probably. But anyhoo… I’ll be at the UK Games Expo in June. If I’m not running a game, I’ll be at the Modiphius stand (or the pub)!
UK Games Expo Games I’m Running/Ruining
10:00-14:00 Mutant Chronicles: Ice Cold in Eden
15:00-19:00 Conan (2d20): Seethers in Darkness
20:00-Midnight: Achtung! Cthulhu: A Light on the Mountain
10:00-14:00: Conan (2d20): Seethers in Darkness
20:00-23:59: Mutant Chronicles: Ice Cold in Eden
I have mixed feelings about 2016. I reckon everybody has now. I’ve had a load of setbacks, but have also upped my “game” this year considerably. Not all of these setbacks were gaming related, but they impacted on both myself and my gaming nonetheless.
I made the official jump to being a freelancer last December (as in, HM Taxman now knows I do freelance writing). On the plus side it means I can be taken a little more seriously and can also factor the costs of doing business into my tax return (probably a minus!). I will be paying voluntary National Insurance contributions. Ethically, and morally, I don’t agree with finding ways to hide money from the taxman. We’re all likely screwed anyway, thanks to the current political climate in the UK and abroad…
OK. Back on topic. Time has also been a casualty this year for me. As well as holding down a full-time job (with extra duties and responsibilities – and pay!), the freelance work has taken a huge chunk out of my ability to devote time to the hobby. This is a natural progression of things I reckon. Last year I’d hoped to become more of a gaming “ambassador” trying to get the disparate gaming groups of Edinburgh to perhaps try to talk to one another. I’ve put this project on hold for now – I cannot devote the time to it. A number of people commented on how busy I was, but I didn’t realise how much until my health took a bit of a body blow. When something you enjoy stops being fun, stop and take a breather.
With that in mind I had to make a few changes.
Convention-wise, I didn’t go to Conpulsion, Q-CON, or others this year. I attended the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet, but that was the only two. There’s a significant cash outlay in both travel and accommodation for conventions outside Edinburgh. The state of the pound means it’s unlikely I’ll attend GENCON or ESSEN. If I’m honest, these are actually working trips – I’m either helping setup and help on the Modiphius stall (5am start for Dragonmeet!), and/or I’m demo’ing games. There’s something very rewarding about having players come back to your games from previous years. Even more so when they buy the game based on the session you ran. 😀
I also turned in a selection of Doomtroopers for the Cartel Tactical Centre, a Mutant Chronicles/Warzone fanzine. I’m writing a regular column called the Damnation Dossier, using Her Serenity’s Agent Sir William Heron nom de plume. I’ve a loa of NPC ideas for MC.
Most of my freelance work relates to the Mutant Chronicles. I’ve done the indexing, captioning, error checking and stats for much of the line. I call it “Chroming”. It’s hard work, but the buzz you get when it’s done.. . The Dark Eden Setting book was a true marathon for all involved.
I’ve had to reduce my weekly sessions of ORC games to fortnightly. I’m running Achtung! Cthulhu Shadows of Atlantis. I’ve a good group. We spend half the time delving into history, which I’ve really come to enjoy. It’s not Call of Cthulhu as such, but something pulpier. Sadly, the enervation of time meant I had to stop running my Mutant Chronicles game, which was fun while it lasted.
Long time subscribers to my blog may have noticed that I’ve not mentioned ORC. It’s still going strong. I have simply gone to the next level. I covered this in a previous post – see http://www.themandragora.com/orc-edinburgh-moving-on/
Goals for 2017
For 2017, I’m trying to strike a compromise. Take time to get a breather, when it’s needed. I’ve worked pretty hard over the last year (not just gaming-wise), and I’ve a better idea about what I can do. But I’ve a bunch of ideas.
In that regard, I plan to write adventures down, not just have them in my head. I’ve a nice number of notebooks that contain “figments”, for want of a better word. Not just Mutant Chronicles, but Achtung! Cthulhu too. I really want to get the ideas down and out there. I’ve an idea for an Achtung! Cthulhu campign that I really need to spec up.
I’m hoping to play more boardgames: I tried to get more involved at ELG over the year, but time was limited. I backed “Siege on the Citadel” which should come as no great surprise. It’s something of a quandary, as I don’t really like competitive games, but enjoy the social aspect.
I’ve few ideas to help the Modiphius Silvershields programme. It’s early days yet, but I’m hoping that the ideas I have may give it a bit of a boost. Volunteer GMs are a resource to be cherished by games companies. I’m not talking about organised play like Pathfinder Society or Adventurer’s League, but GMs that give up their time to run their own games.
Infinity is a game I’d like to get into, after buying Operation: Red Veil. As regards the RPG, I’m an NPC. I’m not sure if I’ll get heavily into it. Way too much background fluff, and I plan to stick to Mutant Chronicles and Achtung! Cthulhu for demo purposes. I can’t really run any more games – even Star Trek, although I’ll manage a monthly sojourn to Black Lion.
Convention-wise I plan to go to Conpulsion this year, as well as the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet. Possibly Claymore too. I’m not sure whether it’ll be as player or GM, but I’m planning to take the opportunities as they crop up. Either way, I reckon the work will be worth the reward.
One of my final reflections is that I’ve become something of a local gaming celebrity. I’m not a guru or an expert. I AM NOT A CELEBRITY. I’m a guy that has some gaming experience and can talk to people. That’s all.
Anyways: Happy New Year.
It’s almost the end of summer here in Edinburgh. The leaves are already coming off the trees, and the Festival is finally ending. After a rotten personal start to the year, things have – by and large – sorted themselves out.
I’ve found it necessary to de-clutter, and got rid of some of my gaming collection earlier in the year. Thankfully, to people who will use them I hope. In a strange twist of fate this led indirectly to me being interviewed for a piece on RPG collecting, which I hope to see soon online.
ORC Edinburgh goes from strength-to-strength, although I find little time to organise things as much as I did. I’ve now lost count of the number of GMs running games. I am sticking to running both the Mutant Chronicles and Achtung! Cthulhu games. I’ve also set up some of the members as Moderators. Games Day was a great success with around 30 gamers turning up to play. We hope to repeat it again at some point but it’s not something I want to organise alone.
I went down to the Games Expo again this year. had a lot of fun working on the Modiphius stand, although I didn’t get to demo any Achtung! Cthulhu. It was far more focused on board games this year, with only a few RPG companies in attendance. I did get the chance to snag a slipcase of 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu there. I could have got it signed but it completely slipped my mind. AUGH!
I’ve pretty much gone off board and wargames for the time being. I don’t have enough space in the flat to store them, or to paint and assemble minis. I’m working longer hours and the freelance work I do eats up a lot of my time (but I love doing it).
I’m largely resigned to the fact that my days of being able to play games during the week are now over. Work has become pretty challenging, so I’m never really bored. Getting my work/life balance sorted has been a bit of a tightrope this year.
One of the high points of my year so far is getting my name on this little beauty of a book. Listed as a proof reader on most of the range and have also been logging the errors, writing the captions, doing the stats, and compiling the indexes.
I’m working on the final book in the Mutant Chronicles Kickstarter, the “Dark Eden” campaign, which I hope to complete this week (or at least the bit I’m working on!).
I also plan to write up some sample Heretics and the adventure, “A Life in the Day” for the Mutant Chronicles.
Both Achtung! Cthulhu and Mutant Chronicles games will resume (I took some time off from MC). I’m hoping to begin converting Shadows of Atlantis to 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu soon.
I’m hoping to be at Dragonmeet this year too. Better get organised!
It’s been pretty quiet here recently. There’s a number of reasons for this, and I’ll come to them shortly: it’s a mixture of good and bad news. Simply put: I’d had a lot of plans but some are going to have to take a back seat. I’ll be attending the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet conventions this year, but no other conventions.
Again it’s down to time – and sanity. I’ve pushed myself to the limit over the last six months, for a number of reasons, most of them personal. They’ve no place here, but suffice to say, I’ve had to compartmentalize things and take some steps.
The following is somewhat bullet-pointed, but it helps me get things ordered in my head.
I’m running two fortnightly campaigns at ORC now: Achtung! Cthulhu’s Shadows of Atlantis, and the Mutant Chronicles Dark Symmetry campaign (the latter of which I helped write in a tiny fashion). I’m enjoying running both. I’ve good players, decent attendance; and as they’re already published, easy to prep for.
I’m doing freelance work for Modiphius Publishing on the Mutant Chronicles line – the indexes and occasional demented captions in most of the supplements are mine (as well as some of the proofing!). I’ve also been helping stat up the Dark Eden Supplement. I’m hoping to pick up more freelance work in the months ahead. I’m finding it very rewarding, as well as giving me a creative challenge.
I didn’t make it to Conpulsion this year, sadly – nor will I make Q-CON owing to a prior commitment. I hope to, next year; if time and finances permit. I will be at the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet, of course! Looking forward to doing a bit more networking this year at them, plus I enjoy meeting other gamers. Not signed up to run anything this time, so I might get to actually play some games this time around.
My Edinburgh Gaming page still proves incredibly popular, so I’ve been keeping that updated! On the down side, I’d hoped to try to get the disparate gaming communities to talk to each other more, but I just haven’t had the time. I try to do it when I can though, but I step back from the politics now: it’s still very entrenched in old rifts and personal vendettas.
Over the years, I’ve been asked to review products or publicise Kickstarters and game launches. I’m of two minds about these. Often, it’s someone looking for free publicity or product evangelist for products that aren’t even ready. Also, getting time to do a playtest or demo review session can be tricky. On the other hand, it’s pretty good fun to do.
ORC’s Games day at the Kilderkin was a big success. There’s stuff we could do differently, and more effectively, and I/we’ve learnt from it. Not sure when we’ll do the next one, but next year I think! We had a lot of new visitors. The Kilderkin has also hosted the Conpulsion’s after-party and the Board Gamers took over the pub at one point. I like to think that I may have had something to do with that.
I ran a fun game of Conan (mid-Kickstarter) at Tabletop cafe , just up the road from the Kilderkin. I hope to run more demo games there soon, when time permits. Good food and drink, friendly staff, and a great atmosphere. I need to visit there more. As part of the Kickstarter, I’m going to be drawn in as a stat’ed NPC in Conan: Adventures in the Hyborian Age. I’ll also be appearing in art and as an NPC in the Infinity RPG.
The novel has been assigned as a secondary aim, along with any short fiction. I know I’m technically capable of writing them; just not temporally! It’s one of those things that I may revisit in future months, but for now, it’s on the back-burner.
I’m part of the Modiphius Silvershield scheme that allows GMs to get credit from running games – in my case, I ran a lot of games last year, so have built up some considerable credit. I also get points for referring new business. You can get 10% off Modiphius products in their store (both PDF and print) by using this link r.sloyalty.com/r/uc3wlqcchb8R
I’m taking my freelance work seriously enough to register with the Inland Revenue for Self-Assessment. Morally, and practically, it is the right thing to do. I’ve done it before, during my Nova Games era. There’s a chance I may or may not have to pay more tax; but I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to get any tax rebate. I’m certainly not paying for an accountant to do it.
I’ve managed to ask some members of ORC Edinburgh (the gaming community I help run) to take on Moderator roles for the site, so I can start taking a step back from that side of things. It’s an easy transition to make, thankfully. I’ve lost count of the different groups now, or what games are currently running and/or looking for players. ORC is now so big, it’s become difficult to keep track of things, in that respect.
I’m not doing any war gaming or board gaming now, I’m afraid. I don’t have the time during the week, and need to maintain a “normal” life as it were. Plus, I seem to have trouble dealing with some of the more complex ones – I think it might be a side effect.
I’d hoped to get a chance to play some starter games of Cassus Belli’s Infinity game (the miniatures are absolutely amazing), and Battletech. I’d been thinking of trying to develop some of the Cthulhutech setting into the Battletech rules for some time now. I’ll get around to it at some point, I reckon.
I’m still awaiting the RAFM Cthulhu minis from their Kickstarter, and the Cthulhu FATE book, Into the Shadows. I’ve got doubts I’ll ever see these, as it seems anything Cthulhu-related on Kickstarter is doomed to “eternal lie”… but at least the 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu shipped (which I should get from my FLGS)!
I’ve tried to do a lot over the last six months and it has caught up with me spectacularly, so I think it’s for the best that I “clear my head” of the extraneous clutter.
In other news…
I’m reducing my time on social media. It can easily consume a huge amount of free time or attention. I’m on Google+ and LinkedIn, but hardly use them. I am still on Twitter and Facebook. It’s easier if you spend 15 minutes on there, rather than getting involved in the minutiae! In moderation… I should probably update my profile on LinkedIn anyway to reflect the changes in my professional circumstances (and the About Me part of the site)!
I’m moving out of the flat (briefly) for renovation work, which could take a week or more. Had another aqueous insurgence (water ingress) in January! I can’t say it’s not a stressful place to be in (in every sense of the word), but things are moving forward. Looking ahead to getting it over with: every stage completed is one step forward. Still, it’s a bit of an “embuggerance”. I’ve got to get quotes for removal and storage and have to make it clear to the loss adjuster I’m NOT going to be staying in the flat while they rip down the plaster-and-lathe ceiling.
My day job has recently thrown up a number of challenges. I do a lot of work with virtualised machines (VMware) and field sites. The Chief Executive at my work has personally congratulated me on the work I do supporting the science. I’m becoming far more comfortable with the High Performance Cluster running Scientific Linux at my work. I’ve also manage to remove Flash Player and Quicktime from our PC estate of 1500+ computers. By the way, if you haven’t removed these, you should! Flash in Chrome is “sandboxed”, but not in other browsers like IE or Firefox. Quicktime is longer supported or patched by Apple, and is now insecure.
I need to reorganise this website: make it more simple. There’s too many pages, and this site has evolved, content-wise. It’s gone far beyond what was a simple RPG setting site. In fact, it’s been largely sidelined in recent years, as I’ve become more focussed on Edinburgh’s gaming community, conventions, and freelancing. That’s pretty easy to sort, thankfully. Not sure if I’ll keep using this site theme, though.
I’m also heading down south for the May Bank holiday, to Craster Tower, a 5* accommodation. It’s owned by my other half’s family, so I thought I’d give it a plug! Plus I’ve never really been anywhere 5* 🙂 My girlfriend used to work as an Archaeologist on Ernest Shackleton’s base camps in the Antarctic so we’re heading to London for the Shackleton Centennial service at Westminster Abbey. I’ve been reading up on him, and her experiences there might be very handy when I run Beyond the Mountains of Madness or Assault on the Mountains of Madness (Achtung! Cthulhu).
All in all, feeling I’m in a better place than six months ago!
Sorry, it’s been a bit quiet around here for a while – I’ll come to the reason for that shortly! Dragonmeet is on this weekend, a London convention that I attended last year for the first time. It’s only one day but I enjoyed it last year – plus there’s a pub meet for the following day. It’s also a chance for me to catch up with the Modiphius crew again after the UK Games Expo. They’re a nice bunch.
I’m heading down on the Friday afternoon (4.5 hours on the train), a bit of a long haul, but am quite looking forward to it. I’m running demos of Achtung! Cthulhu, and the Mutant Chronicles. I’ll be running them at the Modiphius stand. You can book a slot to play on the day at Dragonmeet – space is limited to four players though, so you’ll need to be there early!
The Achtung! Cthulhu scenario, “Under the gun,” may be the first time it has been run by anyone else. Written by none other than Graeme Davis – one of the team who designed Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay RPG (WFRP), it should be a lot of fun. I’ll be using Call of Cthulhu for it. The Mutant Chronicles scenario is one I’m doing myself, “A Life in the Day,” which I’d better get writing! A Luna City Police Department game (AKA Luna City Blues), I’m writing it to try and demonstrate the various aspects of the 2d20 system.
I’ve recently started both a Achtung! Cthulhu campaign, alternating with a Mutant Chronicles one. I think I may have sold them too much on the games. Or my players are trying to kill me. Modiphius do some discounts at conventions, so the players are sending me to get the following:
2 x Achtung! Cthulhu Investigators Guides
4 x Mutant Chronicles Rulebook
Mutant Chronicles Players Guide
Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide
Achtung! Cthulhu Horrors of the Secret War
2 x Achtung! Cthulhu Shadows of Atlantis Campaign
The reason for the silence is that I’ve been asked to write for the 2d20 system (Conan, Infinity, Mutant Chronicles, John Carter on Mars) by Modiphius Publishing. It’s been a busy few weeks. I’ve already prepared indexes for sourcebooks regarding Capitol, The Brotherhood, and Cybertronic. I also helped proofread, contribute to, and index the Dark Symmetry Campaign book, which looks great. I’ve spent the last few days indexing the Dark Soul source book. It’s the one dealing with the bad guys: the Dark Apostles and the Dark Legion. I am also in charge of something I’m calling BRIMSTONE LIBRARY (a universal index to all the Mutant Chronicles material produced by Modiphius). I’ve also been accorded the opportunity to compile the official errata for the MC core book.
I’m enjoying the experience, and if I’m honest, it’s always something I’ve want to do – but real life always got in the way. If anyone reading this is at Dragonmeet, come say Hi – I don’t bite, but you may leave with a few books as a result…