|A well-stocked library never goes amiss!|
|There’s room for all kinds!|
|This is a true fact.|
|My ideal gaming group!|
|This happens sometimes.|
|All too common in this economy.|
I always work with a contract. This is, for me, an ironclad rule. Even when I’ve done work with people I consider trusted friends, I’ve always insisted on a contract. I firmly believe that a contract is necessary for professional work – it provides a clear description of the expectations on both sides and gives both sides a form of recourse if anything unexpected happens. I would strongly encourage any new writers, artists, editors, or anyone doing any professional work in the industry to always… ALWAYS get a contract between you and the employer. In my opinion, it’s just that simple.
|If only it carried over into real life!|
If you want to write for royalties, go ahead – just be aware that you’re selling your time and effort in return for a future payoff. And royalty payments are, in general, more problematic (as in, anything that can go wrong with mailing one check is now spread out over several checks).
|Sometimes the answer is “throw money at it.”|
No one should ever write for RPGs with the goal of getting rich – but there are two other benefits that come with writing for the RPG industry. The first is your name in the credits (depending on your involvement) as a writer, designer, or developer. Credits are very important in this industry, as you will often find your expertise, abilities, and professionalism are going to be weighed due to your accomplishments. Therefore, it is very important to get your name spelled correctly and receive the correct attribution for your work in the credits of any project you work on. If you find out later that your name was misspelled, left out, or given the wrong attribution, it is important for you to contact the publisher and attempt to get the mistake corrected as soon as possible (hopefully to be present in a second printing, if there is one).
As usual, my questions are in red text.
|Sam wrote the starship combat and starship construction rules for this game.. and they kick ass.|
|Sam’s first major project as lead developer — he did a fantastic job!|
|Awesome Star Wars smugglers & gamblers action.|
|One of the best gaming conventions I’ve ever been to.|
|Basically, this. But cooler.|
|Harvey Birdman has the power… of attorney!|
|Remember. The key here is meaningful choices. Not the illusion of choice.|
One thing that never ceases to bring a smile to my face is to find out that someone I like or admire happens to be a tabletop gamer, and never more so when that person speaks out in favor of my favorite hobby and pastime: roleplaying games.
I happen to be a big fan of a television show on Spike TV called Auction Hunters. In this show, Allen Haff and his partner Ton Jones bid on storage locker auctions, investigating the contents for cool and unusual items and then selling those items on camera. Auction Hunters is in its fourth season this year, and I happened to catch the second episode, entitled “Win, Lose, or Joust.” In this episode, the Auction Hunters find some hand-crafted jousting gear, including lances, armor, and a shield inside a storage locker.
Allen Haff was very excited about this find, and he explained to Ton how he used to play Dungeons and Dragons, how “it kept him out of jail,” and how he played characters who were knights and paladins. Later in the episode, Allen gets a chance to use the jousting gear in a real joust… and although he gets unhorsed, Allen is obviously having the time of his life.
It was very inspiring to me when I watched this episode, so I reached out to Allen on facebook to see if he’d be willing to talk to me about both the show and his history with roleplaying games.
Allen told me that he had played RPGs throughout high school and into college, and in fact, one of his cousins had hooked up his gaming group with advance products from Mayfair.
It was a great opportunity to discuss RPGs with a television celebrity. Allen was extremely engaging and gracious, and I am extremely pleased to present the results of that conversation here on Rogue Warden:
(As usual, my questions are in red text)
RW: Have you ever found gaming memorabilia, gaming collections, or gamer stuff in a storage locker that we haven’t seen on the show? I know you guys mostly throw out books, but you never know, right?
AH: Actually we donate most contemporary books but sell our first edition older books online. I’ve found and kept an original D&D basic box set in mint condition, plus i’ve accumulated all of the AD &D manuals even though I’m not playing anymore. It’s nice to look through them once in awhile. Growing up there wasn’t an abundance of disposable income around my house so it was my friend who had all the cool AD&D stuff and Star Wars action figures. But that’s why it’s such a great game, it doesn’t cost money for hours of endless entertainment and our parents were glad we weren’t out running in the streets or driving around looking for trouble. That’s why I say it kept me out prison.
The more you play with the same group of guys the better you know each other and it’s reminds me of playing in a rock band. You got your bandleader (DM) picking the songs and then each of the players work together to make it work. Once in awhile you take a solo and raise the stakes and I remember a few of those sessions. Nothing like pulling double damage out when you are conducting a raid on the Thieves’ Guild. I only played into my college years with the same super creative group of childhood buddies and our level of play was pretty advanced so I doubt I would have liked playing with the game with new people.
RW: Would you say that there are things you learned from your gaming experience that helps you plunder the treasure troves of the storage lockers we see on the show? If so, what are they and why?
AH: Gaming groups learn teamwork and to compliment each other, like my business partner and I do. Everyone has different strengths and areas of expertise. D&D and a few other RPG’s helped me learn to use my imagination for the good of the group and to critically think about how to deal with challenges. We had to improv and act out what our characters were doing, and this may have contributed to me being even faster on feet.
AH: DC Heroes was our second favorite game after D&D and I got this game a year before anyone else had it. Star Frontiers and there was also a spy game but the name now escapes me. (Ross’ note: I think Allen may be describing Top Secret here) I even got some D&D modules up until TSR sued Mayfair for copyright infringement.
RW: Can you tell us a bit about your favorite role-playing game memories, and how you got into the hobby? Do you still get a chance to sling dice with your friends? If you could play an RPG right now, what character would you play and why?
AH: I haven’t played since college but you have to understand I started playing AD &D when I was 9 years. it pleases me that my buddy who’s cousin taught us the game still plays games to day and online computer stuff. he’s got a lot more time than I do now and with everything I’m into there just isn’t time. Maybe we’ll do a reunion game night when we’re old and retired.
AH: It’s expensive! We’re both exhausted with all of the extra work and stress and it is taking a toll on us. You’ll see how we deal with that stress and hopefully meet the new challenges to make even more money this year. Thanks to the store though I JUST BOUGHT AN ORIGINAL STAR WARS COLLECTION AND AN ORIGINAL BOBA FETT STILL IN THE CARD worth $2500.
RW: Lastly, I am super-grateful for you to take the time to talk to me, I’m a huge fan of you and Ton. My favorite two things about Auction Hunters:
A. How excited you and Ton get when you find something really cool.
AH: Thank you. We love what we do.
RW: B. How you always try out what you find and get cash for it right then when you sell it on camera. That’s unique!
AH: That’s the fun part, which is why it makes the cut. No one wants to see us use that vintage china tea service for high tea, but we still make a lot of money on the more conventional antiques we find. Thank you!
Cyber Commando. A creation of my friend Scott Venable, Cyber Commando had Incredible superspeed, Amazing telescopic sight, and… alas… Feeble ability to generate fire. Scott joked that his character could see an attractive lady with a cigarette a mile away and zoom over there to offer her a light.
January is a crazy month full of madness — from looming project deadlines to illnesses. These are not excuses, just letting you know what’s up and why I haven’t been as blog-post-making-guy as I used to be. 🙂
This week’s blog post is all about Andy Hoare. Andy is an exceptionally gifted writer and game designer who I came into contact with when I was working at Games Workshop back in the early 2000’s. Andy is a great human being who has conquered some amazing challenges and continues to inspire legions of fans with his books.
I brought him into the 40K RPG side as soon as I could when I was working at Fantasy Flight Games from 2008-2011 and he always provided top-notch writing even under some heavy deadlines!
Andy’s fantastic work helped build some great games, amongst them Deathwatch, Rogue Trader, Black Crusade, and Only War amongst others.
I’m very pleased to count Andy as a friend and colleague, and I’m very proud to have interviewed him for the blog.
If you want to learn more about Andy, check out his blog at: Mr. Andy Hoare, Esq
As always, my questions are in red.
RW: Can you tell me a little about yourself as a gamer and as a game industry professional?
Andy: As a gamer, it all started with red box D&D at school. I bought my first blister of miniatures around about the same time (a Citadel Lord of the Rings blister containing Gandalf, Ranger and Frodo). The blurb on the back of the blister mentioned White Dwarf and Warhammer, so a week later I bought White Dwarf issue 86 and that Christmas I received 2nd edition Warhammer, which I fell in love with. The next year (1987) 1st edition Warhammer 40,000 came out and that was the best Christmas gift ever!
As an industry professional, I worked in the Games Workshop Design Studio from 2001 to 2009 as a games developer. During that time I worked alongside or met some of the leading lights of the industry, both past and present. Since leaving GW I’ve been fortunate to work with several other companies, including Fantasy Flight Games, Wyrd Miniatures, Architects of War, Wargames Illustrated, Mantic Games and others. I’ve also written a number of novels for Black Library.
RW: How did you get your start in the RPG industry?
Andy: It started when I heard that the Dark Heresy roleplaying game was to be expanded into Rogue Trader. I was working at Games Workshop at the time and knew a few other people in the business had been brought in as freelance writers. I contacted one (John French, who I’d say is one of the least well known best writers at Games Workshop) and he put me in touch with a guy at FFG called, oh, what was his name.. Ross something? I’d met Ross a few years earlier when I was a guest at Baltimore Games Day when he was working for the US White Dwarf, so clearly the stars were in alignment. Loving the 1st edition of Warhammer 40,000 as much as I do there was no way I wanted to miss out on a chance to work on a roleplay version and as it happened it was the start of a really good working relationship that continues to this day.
RW: What is something great about working in the RPG industry?
Andy: Anyone who can genuinely say they work in the industry they most want to work in is fortunate indeed, so that’s how I feel about it.
RW: What is something really bad about working in the RPG industry?
Andy: While not specific to the rpg industry, perhaps the biggest downside is that everyone’s an expert when it comes to critiquing your work! We all do this of course, whether we’re denouncing the latest Hollywood blockbuster as uninspired or slating a novel for a lack of pace, so you have to cultivate a certain degree of empathy with the consumer and not regard such critiques as the work of the antichrist or as personal attacks.
RW: How has your perception of working professionally in the RPG industry changed over the last 5 years?
Andy: There seem to have been a lot of changes in the four years or so I’ve been most involved in the rpg side of things. The enormous rise in social networking has brought writers and players into direct contact, especially at the smaller end of the scale. Bigger companies can’t really communicate that way of course, so I doubt that’ll change enormously. On a less positive note, I’ve seen a lot of unpleasantness being aimed at individual writers, but that’s more an issue with human nature and the platform of social networking than anything specific to the industry.
RW: You’ve been in charge of your own projects before… how would you do things differently now as opposed to the first couple of projects you were in charge of?
Andy: It’s inevitable that you’ll look back on past work and see immediately how you’d do it differently – in fact I’d worry if that wasn’t the case!
RW: What do you believe is the most important aspect of professionalism in the RPG industry from the viewpoint of the freelancer? What about from the viewpoint of a publisher?
Andy: Something I’ve seen in many would-be freelancers and in fact in some newly minted ones, is the desire to reshape a setting or ruleset according to their particular view of it. For me, the ability to zero in on what makes a line popular and to accentuate that element, even if it’s not how you personally would do it if you were in charge, is key. Writing for someone else is not an exercise in vanity and you have to set aside your own wants in order to fulfill the brief and serve the needs of a product that is the result of many peoples’ creativity, not just your own. You also have to be able to respond to feedback positively and not expect your first draft to be accepted without comment, which is another area many fall down on.
In terms of the publisher, I think they have to walk a fine line when dealing with freelancers, who are often in a precarious position themselves! Communication is really important, as I’ve often seen people given almost carte blanche within a project only to be told on handover they haven’t produced what was wanted. Good briefs that set solid milestones whilst identifying which parts the writer can really go to town on are very important. Managing creatives is a tricky business though, and I’ve seen some people get it very wrong and others get it very right, so there’s no simple answer.
RW: If you could change one thing about the RPG industry, what would it be?
Andy: The obvious answer would be more money and paid in advance, but that would be madness!
RW: How do you engage with the fans of your work?
Andy: Well firstly, I dislike the term ‘fan’ because it implies the work is passively consumed by a spectator, which isn’t the case in this industry as people actively engage with it in the process of playing. To be honest, I’m not really one for pushing myself into the limelight (I know I probably should though!) but I hope I’m open and friendly and if anyone asks me something on my Facebook page or blog I’m always very pleased to answer.
RW: What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as an RPG professional?
Andy: A couple of things stand out actually. One is the Lure of the Expanse adventure book Owen Barnes and myself wrote soon after Rogue Trader was released. There’s a couple of things I’d do differently of course, but on the whole I’m really proud of it and consistently see positive chat about it.
There’s also the settings for Black Crusade and Only War (the former written alongside lycanthropic tabletop wargames veteran Andy Chambers). Developing a background like that is a real challenge as you have to provide a broad but necessarily shallow sandpit that everyone can play in, whilst seeding numerous ideas that you and other writers can expand on later on (which means you can’t be too precious or jealous about these ideas). I’ve seen this happen with the Black Crusade setting, where little ideas I included in the core rulebook, often no more than a paragraph, sentence or name, are now being expanded on and because they’re rooted in the core description of the setting the whole process is pleasingly organic.
RW: What do you feel is your greatest setback as an RPG professional?
Andy: Being a generally positive person it’s hard to say, but I hate missing a deadline, though if I do its usually only by a very small margin and I’m sure to agree an extension with the client before it becomes an issue. I’ve occasionally had to turn a job down due to other commitments, which I really hate doing as you’re never quite sure if that client will come back (they have so far!).
RW: How do you reconcile working on a game that, on the one hand, requires a set of rules… but on the other hand, encourages GMs and players to break the rules or come up with their own?
Andy: I have no problem at all doing so, but I appreciate that others do. For me it comes down to seeing the issue in black and white or as shades of grey. I’ve seen some people objecting to the idea that GMs should add in their own rules on the grounds that they could do that anyway, so what’s the point in buying a rules set in the first place, while others want a game that allows the GM lots of leeway to jam along as they see fit. The way I see it is you have to provide a balance between the two; you have to provide a usable and stable framework and when you build in leeway you have to provide examples of how to do so. There’s very little point in saying ‘make stuff up!’ if you don’t give a couple of examples to demonstrate what you mean. Ultimately, any game has to appeal to a wide range of people to be commercially viable but, paradoxically can never be all things to all players.
RW: If you were a fantasy adventurer, you’d be a…?
Andy: An old school sword and sorcery barbarian 🙂
RW: What’s your favorite RPG (that you have not worked on)?
Andy: I cut my teeth on West End Games Star Wars and have a soft spot for their D6 system so I’d say that’s still my favourite. I still enjoy a good old mechanical dungeon bash though!
RW: What is your favorite part about writing for games? The background, the rules, the adventures?
Andy: I’ve always tried to occupy the exact point where these things all come together and spark the player’s creative drives to go off and do something. When I was writing codexes and White Dwarf articles for Games Workshop I’d always try to provide those small gems of background, rules or hobby inspiration that make you go off and collect a new army, write a new scenario, start a new campaign or whatever.
RW: What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the game industry?
Andy: To get there in the first place, take part, contribute, be a positive influence and promote your creativity in a way that inspires others and ultimately gets you noticed. Maintain a blog and fill it with examples of your work and lively discussion so that when you approach potential clients you can show them what you’ve been doing (and they may well have heard of you already). Be rounded and don’t obsess over little details (at least not in public!). Don’t indulge in rants or hyperbole. Be humble and polite, and respectful of other people working in the field, even if deep inside you think they’re fools of the worst order – remember that one day (if you’re lucky) you might be working with them or given a brief to write something in a way you wouldn’t choose to do yourself and it might all look very different indeed.
RW: What is a project that you have always wanted to make but never have had the chance?
Andy: I’ve been plugging away at a set of narrative tabletop skirmish rules for a while, aimed at non-setting-specific ‘sword and sorcery’ wargaming and if I ever get the chance I hope to develop them to a publishable point and get them out there. If they proved viable I’d expand the core rules into other genres too so you never know…
RW: What do you look for… and what is a red flag… for a random freelancer submission?
Andy: I think you primarily look for people who can demonstrate that they truly ‘get’ the setting. This doesn’t have to be an intimate knowledge of the canon (though that helps) but rather an affinity for the themes, feeling etc that it promotes. In terms of turn-offs, I’d be on the look out for the writer’s ego seeping into the work too much – like I said before, if they’re trying to re-write the setting or rules to better fit their own idea of how it should be done they’re doing it for the wrong reason.
RW: If you could pick up the dice and play an RPG right this very instant, you’d play…?
Andy: FFG’s Rogue Trader, WEG’s Star Wars or (red box) D&D, all for very different reasons!
I’m tackling a number of campaigns that I’ve played to a satisfying conclusion in chronological order.