Your Audience Wants an Enjoyable Reading Experience

From EN World, via Reynard (who is paraphrasing James Jacobs):

It is also worth noting that many RPG products, long and short alike, are consumed primarily as reading material. That goes not just for “fluff” too. James Jacobs has stated numerous times that APs are designed the way they are because they are primarily purchased by people that read them, not run them. Your audience wants an enjoyable reading experience and that includes the visual design of a product.

Emphasis mine.

The takeaway? Don’t worry too much about producing 5E mechanics. If you’re inspired by something in a Volo’s Guide, or you see a way to link your work to a new mechanic, then write the mechanic.

Otherwise, focus on the story.

Let the story be the soil in which ideas for new mechanics grow. This was the core idea behind 3E’s Prestige Class concept, and you should do everything you can to marry story and mechanics going forward.

That’s what will sell your content on the DM’s Guild.



Thoughtstream: Mike Mearls, Chris Lindsay on Dungeon Masters Guild (Podcast)

Podcast made available 01/14/2016.

Direct link to podcast audio.

Mearls calls it a “marketplace of ideas.”

You can create whatever you want.

They will look at content, create categories, and creators, and focus their attention: three featured categories.

“Background Check” for new backgrounds for the Realms.

“Monstrous Compendium” they will make resources available, as in the art archive, and uploading bundles of art they haven’t updated to 5E yet. Create a new monster or update a classic monster. Plus art for creatures from other non-monster sources.

If you meet the guidelines, then you qualify to get tagged as part of that category!

“Sidetreks” basically short adventures. DMs want this but WotC isn’t producing it. This will be a featured category on the marketplace. For the sidetreks they have a collection of maps! Use that to write your own adventure and upload it. Again, bandwidth (in this case, human eyes to review the work) will limit what they look at. 100 page epics won’t necessarily be reviewed.

Building on what’s in the DMG, roleplaying game design is a skill. People that produce by the pound (read: by the page) do better work than those who go for making one awesome thing.

Make all that CK stuff free?

Again, they are focused on SHORT stuff so they can read through it. THEY SAY TO START SMALL!

Mearls wrote 1000 word essays to start.

Promote your work. (Yeah, they want you to do all the social media work yourself.)

They are going to watch how people use it, and adjust accordingly. It will adjust and be adjusted as time goes on.

To make a background, check the PHB, or look at HIGLY RATED backgrounds by others. Mearls may have written something too.

Templates for backgrounds and adventures will become available to use, in Word.

As new stories and expansions to the game come along, expect new templates.

The Realms!

A feeling of shared ownership in the Realms. The D&D team will always be responsible for establishing Canon in the Realms, but there are other people out there that have equally good ideas, maybe it will give users a chance to write into canon at some point.

They want us to use the novels and everything else as fodder, sort of. Core rulebooks, Sword Coast Adventurers Guide, Out of the Abyss. Start small and add more resources to that list. Future products, and then past products, and then possibly the novels. The novels are OFF LIMITS for now.

They are nuking the gatekeeper steps. Instead of submitting, you just post it to the community, and the community act as initial gatekeeper, then WotC final call (on what gets promoted to something like canon).

They’re trying to eliminate the divide between caretakers of D&D and the Community. It’s beneficial for them to have new ideas improving on the setting and skilling up over time, to improve things.

They are ready to shift things, to support the community of creators and increase the overall quality level of work.

On the DMSG right now, there’s the Adventurer’s League content. Going forward, AL authors stuff will go up on the DMSG, and their stuff will sell and the authors will benefit.

AL coordinators will look at DMSG offerings to offer people writing opportunities.

OGL is for the wholly original campaign setting. Or I want to publish on my own and also do DMsG…(does that mean what I think it means?)

OGL is 5E, plus anything in the OGL in the past.

OGL they imagine you will create your own subclasses, and only use their iconic subclass (they keep the rest).

Anything totally unique, or a knock-off (i.e. your take) on a classic setting like Spelljammer.

DMSG is meant to be “push button,” as in simple, easy to upload. If you want art, layout, design, etc., they assume OGL people will do that sort of thing.

Reading the material just for the fun of reading gaming material; they remember doing that. This program opens that up again.

Christopher Lindsay hasn’t gotten any questions about program on twitter. He’s at @onnatryx. I will hit him up on the Realms. Ask him if it’s OK to expand on Volo’s Guide to Cormyr.

The Dungeon Masters Guild: WotC’s New User Content Marketplace

WotC has opened up a marketplace of sorts to fans who’d like to create and upload content, and sell it online. That marketplace is called the Dungeon Masters Guild, and it’s a partnership between WotC and a company called OBS, i.e., the folks behind the DriveThruRPG and RPGNow websites.

Not coincidentally, WotC released the much pined for Systems Reference Document for 5E  on the same day, and they did it under the Open-Gaming License! (The online, non-PDF version of the 5E SRD can be found here.)

What makes this so interesting is that WotC has released the Forgotten Realms IP for self-publishing purposes, meaning a user can write content for the Realms and potentially sell it through the marketplace! (The user receiving half the take, while WotC and OBS split the other half.)

Looking around places like ENWorld and Facebook, some Realms-related commentary jumped out at me.

MarkCMG writes (emphasis mine):

(…) Then, I think we’ll see some cream rise to the top as some quality risk-takers do their own thing and pick out some underserved sections of FR and put some new but well-integrated spins on subjects folks discover they didn’t know they’d need. These will be the ideas and products WotC would do well to latch onto as they move forward.

Make no mistake, DMGuild is a talent show with WotC in a front row seat. Much in the same way they snagged the consistent and prolific Mike Mearls out of the Era 3.5, they have the chance to re-invigorate their freelancer list from what shows up from many unexpected corners of the gamerverse. The best of the folks that will do well on DMGuild will be creators who are both innovators and know how to follow the rules WotC has set up, and WotC will have access to the hard sales data and customer feedback to know precisely who is doing what.

I wonder how soon users will realize there is an enormous pile of unpublished Realmslore (in the form of answers from Ed Greenwood, and others) sitting in places like Candlekeep, just waiting to see print. (No pitchforks, please; I’m not talking about stealing from the Candlekeep website by taking Ed’s replies, copying it wholesale and trying to make money off of it.)

There are some rare nuggets of Realmslore that could be built on, expanded and transformed into a useful chunk of content. I think a Dungeon Masters Guild user would be well-served by creating content that’s anchored in Realmslore most people didn’t know existed.

What’s more, that Realmslore covers parts of the setting that WotC has produced a lot of material for already. This might seem a bad thing, but for gamers who really like, say, Waterdeep or Cormyr and prefer to set their games there, truly new material that’s based on official Realmslore is going to grab their attention.

Looking at the Dungeon Masters Guild website, it appears WotC’s emphasis is on adventures (and primarily material that expands on their storylines, such as Rage of Demons), and monster conversions to 5E from older editions.  This may not be as limiting as it sounds. One could easily include Current Clack-style entries, as well as NPC and location write-ups.

From the Content Guidelines page:

  • Your content is rated and reviewed by fans who purchase your adventures, allowing you to improve as a designer, and allowing Wizards to easily identify the best creators for additional publication opportunities. The best work will also be eligible to be selected by the Dungeons & Dragons team at Wizards, to provide our digital partners with salable, downloadable content (DLC) for games such as the Neverwinter MMO and Sword Coast Legends.
  • While all types of content are welcome in the Dungeon Masters Guild, there are certain types of content we think are more in demand by players, and we will therefore tend to promote it more prominently on the DMsGuild marketplace. Primarily, we’d like to see short adventures that can be run in a single session, especially ones that can complement larger campaigns already published by Wizards (e.g., Rage of Demons). Also in demand are fifth edition conversions of monsters absent from the fifth edition Monster Manual and new backgrounds for players to use with their characters. Again, we’d like to emphasize content that would be useful for other D&D players looking to expand on existing official storylines, such as a collection of demons useful for Rage of Demons. At the end of the day, though, the best content for you to write is the content you’re inspired to create. The Realms is a big place. We look forward to seeing what you create for it!

My questions about the new program are:

  • How best to price a product?
  • Is there still a market for lore-heavy Realms products?
  • How about a market for products that are rules-minimal, like the Volo’s Guides? And will WotC allow something like this?
  • Is artwork something that other users can re-use, just like the marketplace allows for content to be re-used with attribution?
  • Does content that borrows from Realms sources found online require attribution (or rather, can it be attributed to catch a reader’s attention)?
  • What are the restrictions (if any) imposed by WotC on what Realms content can and can’t be used?
  • What are my minimum production values? “Looks great in PDF format” or “Wow…this would be great as a print on demand book”?
  • How will the Ed Greenwood Group approach this? Will some of the old hands that “WotC has sidelined for a decade or more,” according to James Lowder, start writing again? Personally, I hope they start writing like crazy.

My takeaways are:

  • WotC has figured out a way to publish content for the Realms without having to worry about canon.
  • I am on the fence about the Guild policy of allowing other users to take something I create for one of my own products and put it in their product. All they need to do is cite their source.
  • I need to produce some new content, quick! Everything I have that’s good is already available for free at Candlekeep, and soon here (once I port everything over and edit it to my current standard of writing).
  • REMEMBER: the best content may be selected by WotC for purchase and inclusion in the Realms!
  • WotC sits on royalties for 60 days, and they charge $2 per withdrawal.

Finally, there is a Reddit AMA (e.g., ask me anything) scheduled for Friday.