2017 And The E.N. World User Generated Content Program

With the end of the year looming, it is traditionally a time for navel-gazing back at what has been done over the last year. I was proud to see that a number of my articles ended up in the round up of the top stories of the year, but as happy as I am with those stories (and the others that I have written for this site), the accomplishment that I am most proud of from 2017 is the one that gets the least amount of fan fair from the site. You may have seen tweets or Facebook posts about what we call the "UGC Program" here at E.N. World, and wondered what it means. What started as an idea to get a stable of freelance writers to augment the regular E.N. World columnists and their weekly pieces here on the site grew into what we call our User Generated Content Program (or UGC).


The program started with a short article linking to the program guidelines (those guidelines are a bit obsolete at the moment, as we are temporarily running shorter pieces due to fallout from the Patreon debacle). In April of 2017 we ran two articles as a part of the program. In the last couple of months we ran an average of twenty articles each month with the program. We will still likely run about that many articles this month, but because of the losses we sustained with our Patreon you will probably notice that the articles are a bit shorter. This isn't because the program is failing, or because it is any less of a priority with us, but entirely because of financial reasons that we hope to smooth out once the new year starts out.

What is the User Generated Content (UGC) Program? Morrus and I approached the idea like this: we want to use the resources of the world's largest tabletop role-playing game site to help foster the next generation of RPG writers, reviewers and journalists. I actually have a background in journalism, it is what I studied (along with Literature) when I was in college. It is also a background that you don't see a lot of among gaming writers. There are a lot of bloggers and gaming writers who are passionate about tabletop gaming (which is absolutely an integral part of pursuing this as a profession or an avocation) but more often than not those passions aren't tempered by any sort of guidelines or rules.

The other thing that this program has done is to expand the scope of what we talk about here at E.N. World.

We have published a series of really interesting articles on world-building from M.W. Simmes and Sean Hillman. Simmes and Hillman have presented a number of different ways to look at the cultures within the worlds that you build for your role-playing games, and how you can build deeper and more enriching worlds for your campaigns. Simmes, in particular, has written a number of intriguing articles breaking down cultures into their component parts and showing the impact that what people might think of as the inconsequential parts of a society can actually have on a society at a macro level. You may not yourself think about where the groups in your fantasy world may go to the bathroom, or how what they can or cannot farm impact where they live but she has, and she shows how thinking about such things can add layers to a fantasy world. Hillman has looked at a number of real world cultures from around the world, and shown how they can help GMs to create worlds with more depth than just the typical generic fantasy medieval setting.

Somewhere in the intersection of world building advice and role-playing game design theory are the articles by Lewis Pulsipher. I remember Pulsipher writing for magazines like White Dwarf back in the ancient days of gaming, and I never thought that I would be editing his words one day. That's one of the awesome things about RPGs, those people whose work got you interested in gaming in the first place one day become your co-workers. It is an amazing thing to do professionally.

A lot of people come to sites like ours to learn about new games, and find out what is new and interesting with role-playing games. When I was hired by Morrus to write for E.N. World originally, one of the tasks assigned to me was to expand the scope of the games that are talked about here. No one has better coverage of Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons, but Morrus felt that we could talk about so much more as well. I expanded this with the UGC program. Reviews are simultaneously the easiest and most difficult things that game writers can do. They are easy, because everyone has an opinion and in these days of the internet no one is afraid to give those opinions. Reviews are difficult because for them to be useful they need to be more than "just" opinions. Opinions on their own don't have any actual value. Anyone can say "This is the worst thing ever" or "This is the best thing ever," but without any context to those statements they aren't actually very helpful to anyone. A good reviewer can explain why a game works, or doesn't work, or even how it will work for some people and not others. A good reviewer can see the value in a game that they don't like personally, but that others will.

We have published a lot of reviews through this program, and I have spent a lot of time working with writers on how they can be better review writers. Egg Embry has written some good reviews, with an eye towards gaming with children or the family. David Larkins has been delving into horror games, talking about the new edition of Unknown Armies and various of the World of Darkness games, as well as looking at the community content programs that have started developing around these game lines. Jeff Duncan has looked at a number of small press and indie role-playing games in his reviews.

We've even talked about D&D 5E in the program.

The couple of places where the UGC program has had some false starts is in the coverage of conventions and local events. We've had a couple of articles about this at the beginning of the program, but it is a place where I would like to see the UGC program grow in 2018 (a hint to those reading along who might be thinking about sending pitches for the program to me). I would like to see profiles of local gaming stores and the in-store gaming programs that they run (without being blatant advertisements for the stores), bars, brewery and restaurants that have role-playing game nights and other parts of the local gaming scenes. Our gaming, and our communities, are informed as much by what is immediately around us as it is by what happens on the internet, and these things should get better coverage by sites like E.N. World.

In 2018 I want to see the UGC Program continue to grow. Part of that will be due to the support of readers like you who decide that they like what we do and want to support us through Patreon to bring the best coverage of tabletop role-playing games that we can. I also hope that more of you will want to write for the program as well.