Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net
Holly Lisle's Vision

The Roleplaying Game Market

By Christina Stiles

2001, Christina Stiles 

You like to write horror, fantasy, or science fiction, and like most writers, you aspire to be published.  My question to you, then, is: have you ever considered writing for the paper roleplaying game market?

The same skills that you use to create believable, compelling fiction could be used to create gaming supplements that do what no novel can: allow your audience to actively participate in your world, experience your plots, and interact with your characters.  Imagine authoring something that will not only be read for enjoyment, but played for enjoyment, too. 

I know.  You want to be a novelist, not a game writer.  Well, consider the fact that several bestselling authors have roots in gaming.  I’m sure you’ve heard of a phenomenal series called Dragonlance.  Well, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman worked on gaming products for TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons before hitting it big as novelists.  To this day, Tracy Hickman is widely known for writing a game adventure called Ravenloft, which he wrote with his wife, Laura Hickman.   The Hickmans’ adventure not only spawned an entire horror-based D&D game, but it sparked a series of novels by various authors, as well.  And maybe you’ve heard of Raymond Feist and R.A. Salvatore?  Parts of Feist’s world of Midkemia were previously published as gaming supplements, and Salvatore claims to be a long-time gamer to this day.  In fact, he wrote the D&D gaming supplements The Bloodstone Lands and The Accursed Tower. Of course, he is most widely known for his dark elf novels set in the Forgotten Realms, a D&D setting.

Have I gotten your attention?  I hope so.  I’m not saying that roleplaying games are an extremely profitable market, though some are.  Most companies pay between two to five cents per word, which is about the standard pay for a short story in the magazine market.  And, like the magazine market, the publishing outlets are very few.  The point is, however, that you can hone your world building skills in the market, and you can gain an audience for your future novel endeavors as you do so.  It’s something to consider.

The toughest part about writing for the game market is that you’re required to learn a game’s mechanics in order to write for it.  It’s also good to have played the game, in addition to processing its rules.  Both of these things require time.  In addition, if you choose to write gaming adventures, which are basically playable plots, then you need a logical mentality.  For instance, you need to cue the Game Master--the person running the game--on how to deal with foreseeable, conditional situations.  You might say, “If the characters attempt to open the secret door without the necessary magical key, they are immediately teleported to the top of Mount Viricoz.”  It’s important to outline as many situations as possible, as this helps the Game Master direct the outcome of the game.  Writing game supplements, like playable kingdoms, is a little more straightforward and novelist-like, but knowing the rules is still a must.

If you are interested in deciding if this market suits your writing skills, you might want to check out the following long-lived markets and their game lines:

www.sjgames.com (GURPS: Generic Universal Roleplaying System, Produces the online Pyramid Magazine)

www.atlas-games.com (produces the Penumbra D20 line, Feng Shui, Unknown Armies, and Ars Magica)

www.wizards.com (producers of Dungeons & Dragons and two D&D-related magazines: Dragon and Dungeon)

www.fudgerpg.com (Grey Ghost Games, producers of FUDGE)

Steve Jackson Games maintains an extensive list of game companies on their site.  You can find other possible markets from their link: www.sjgames.com/general/companies.html

I hope to see your name on the gaming shelves soon!