Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Suggestion For Folks Thinking Of Publishing Game Stuff

Here's the ideal for me ("the ideal"--not what I expect or demand, but--hey, we're DIYing this Old School Gaming thing so why not start doing things a different way?)...

Rather than a writer going "Hey, I'm gonna write an adventure about Giant Worms From Space, then once it's done I'll send it to this artist that I think would draw awesome worms and see if I can get him/her to illustrate it."

Maybe try..."Hey I'm gonna write an adventure about Giant Worms from Space. I'm gonna tell this artist who I think would draw awesome worms -right now- and commission him/her to send me a picture of some Giant Worms From Space doing something right now and then maybe I'll get some ideas, and I'll use the picture in the adventure. Then wherever I get with writing on that, I show the artist, and then I'll ask for another picture, and then maybe I'll get some ideas from that, and we'll go back and forth and make an awesome adventure."

All OSR writers are DMs, most artists are, too. If their work seems interesting and it seems like they would be right for your project, it probably means they have ideas about that thing. You can't actually draw a Giant Worm From Space without thinking about one at least a little.

And yeah, that's maybe harder, you have to commission the picture before you're even sure the thing's written, but we should be trying new crazy ways of doing things. For the DIY D&D artists, who--let's face it--are not getting paid a lot, being involved in the project at this level makes it much more fun and exciting, and may make them more willing to get involved and put work in. It's their baby too.

If an artist is working for you, chances are s/he would like to one day hold up whatever s/he makes as a portfolio piece to attract future clients. That means s/he'd really like to do something s/he thinks is interesting and is engaged in.

For further reading on the subject of artists having good ideas to contribute to media involving both words and pictures, see:
Paul Jacquays
Kevin Siembieda
Elektra: Assassin
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby


  1. I think that's a good rule of thumb for any creative endeavor that involves several people: Get those people involved. The sooner people get involved, the better everything meshes together.

    There are stories of writers being hired by game development companies, only to be told: "Okay, all the levels are constructed, can you work up some cutscenes to tie the whole thing together?".

  2. I'd add Godfrey Reggio and Phillip Glass to that list if expanded to music and pictures. This is the process by which they made Koyaanisqatsi, going back and forth, editing the film to the music, rewriting the score to fit the film, over and over. That part took 3 years, so maybe not the best model unless you're trying to build something monumental.

    (How cute: My word of verification was "pronstr". Did JOESKY get a new gig?)

  3. Very valid point - I get dozens of ideas mulling through 100 year old, public domain art. Certainly a gamer/artist is going to provide some nice collaboration.

  4. @John

    Much as I'd like it to be, I wouldn't say it could really be a "rule of thumb"--projects come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes you just won;t be able to work this way.

    However, I feel like it'd be nice to see a few more things where the artist and writer were clearly playing off each other.

  5. Speaking of which: how much for a statblock? "Five cents per word" sounds off if you already know half of them will be DEX, CON, etc...

  6. @Spawn of Endra:

    I think so. One of mine was "Unconsis".

  7. As an artist and DM that is pretty much how I work. I draw a picture or make a map and then flesh out the detail from there. I've never done it any other way. I'm pretty happy with how it works out.

  8. There was a suggestion, a couple of months back, to do this in Fight On!. The artists would submit images, then the writers would work up articles for the magazine based on those images. It fizzled out after two pictures were submitted.

  9. How I wish my art abilities hadn't stoppped at age 12. Seriously, I can draw the same "bases" & "monsters" in the same two-dimensional side-view, but after that I'm out. Sufficient for DM notes, but not for public consumption.

    In other words, I have the art skills of Aleister Crowley.

  10. Great advice, it mirrors what I remember about my "creative process" as a kid DM. A small, grainy picture tucked in the corner of Dragon magazine could fire me up enough to support a campaign at times.

  11. This is an excellent suggestion, we ought to do this type of collaborative creation process more often. As an adventure writer with no illustration / drawing ability, I am going to implement your proposed method forthwith!

  12. Huth -- Statblocks are math; math is dense; 5 cents per word is underpriced.

  13. There's more to clever special abilities than just math...

  14. You can really see this in Despicable Me: there are gags in there that I at least think could only have come from the writers seeing the art in development, and it's so much stronger for it.

  15. I'm doing this with someone lately. Along with the whole, 'I've got this idea, can you draw it?' back and forth thing, I'd recommend also doing it where the artist commissions a written piece from the writer, which they then draw some aspect of. One cool variation on that was having the writer 'reverse engineer' some notes from a piece they did, ie trying to get back into the mindset they were in before they wrote it, and the artist drawing something based on that.

  16. We do exactly this with our patronage projects, and a bit different with stock art for our Reverse Design products.

    Steve Russell
    Rite Publishing

  17. I totally agree. This is how I come up with most of the adventures that I run. I usually start with the artwork and then come up with adventures/monsters from there. It's gotten to a point that when I show some of my artwork to members of my game group, they'll say "That's cool, but I'm afraid we're gonna end up facing that thing someday..."

  18. John Wick did this when designing Orkworld. He commissioned some pictures from Thomas Denmark, and he was so inspired from them that he ended up giving Denmark credit for the story too.

    (Sorry to comment on an old post, but I always thought that was interesting. I used to read his design diaries as he was writing that book, and still have a signed copy on my shelf.)