Owen KC Stephens' Tabletop RPG Truths #2

Last week I posted about Owen KC Stephens posting about the 'Real Game Industry' on Twitter. He didn't stop there though! Here are some more of his thoughts.

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  • While there are absolutely exceptions, there are two common paths to becoming a manager in the TTRPG world.
    One is to be a game creator who does that so well, that you are promoted to the entirely-unrelated field of managing people, with no management training.
  • I have been extraordinary lucky and well-treated in my RPG career. I love most of the companies and people I have worked with. It's just a harsh industry. This hashtag isn't intended as complaints. They're facts and alerts I wish I had gotten 20 years ago.
  • Someone having tons of RPG writing credits is no guarantee they'll do a good job on the project you hire them for. They might have had amazing editors. Their day job may go into crisis during your deadline. They might burn out. Especially that last one.
  • A freelancer absolutely mustn't cease communicating with their developer/producer or conceal how far behind they are on a project. When things go south as a freelancer, there is a huge urge to cease communication and conceal how far behind you are on a project.
  • It is clearly unreasonable, and potentially inappropriate, to suggest freelancers make friends in the game industry to get more work and be treated better. People in the game industry tend to give their friends more work, and often treat them better.
  • On some projects, the writing is easy but the research is hard. On some the reverse is true. For the other 80%, it's all hard. Some need new rules systems. Some need playtesting. Some need map sketches. Others don't. None of this normally impacts your pay rate.
  • It is extremely common for gamers to offer to give professionals an idea, and offer to "let" the pro "finish" the work and the "split the profits." They rarely like being told coming up with an idea or starting a project is not the hard part of writing.
  • There is a crucial difference between collaborating with someone on a project, and being their assistant. Either can be reasonable, legit work, but not everyone in the industry understands the difference (and how to say which of those a project is going to be).
  • Editors are the most unsung heroes of the industry. The better they do their job, the less people notice. but without them, I'd be posting under @RealGameInustrya and $RealGameIndustry as often as #RealGameIndustry
  • It's impossible for backers to tell from funds raised by a crowdfunding campaign raises how much profit it earns. Huge numbers can mean a minor miscalculation or change on the ground becomes a huge loss. Companies don't even always know until its all fulfilled.
  • The majority of TTRPG professionals--staffers, freelancers, owners, et al., are substantially underpaid for their skills. Saying "they shouldn't be in this industry if they want to be paid more" is saying "I don't want any professional RPG content to be made."
  • The reason you don't know how you are supposed to get your first gig, climb the ladder of TTRPG freelance, get the attention of developers and producers without annoying them, or improve your craft, is that game companies mostly don't know those things either.
  • Many TTRPG fans are lovely to interact with. Some are so awful that many companies who brought me to cons told me their secret signs to indicate when you needed another staffer to pull you away from a horrible interaction. It is, of course, worse for women.
  • TTRPG careers are advanced the most during after-hours bar gatherings at big cons. Nothing else is as effective. By not going to drinks early in my career, I set it back 5-8 years. Club soda would have been fine, though the industry does drives folks to drink.
  • Though it is far from universal, many TTRPG creators have all the fun of playing games removed by deadlines, toxic fans, and an endless grind of monetizing their creativity. "Do what you love for work, and you can no longer escape work with the thing you love"
  • Many RPG companies depend on "Institutional Knowledge," which means there are things done by people who know, but none of it is written down anywhere. Largely because budgets are so tight staff is always overworked, leaving no time for things like documentation.
  • It is common for TTRPG professionals to think various other people in the industry are asshats. It is rare to say so outside of tightly-controlled comments to groups of trusted friends. This reticence can unintentionally spill over to not calling out bad actors.
  • While there are absolutely exceptions, there are two common paths to becoming a manager in the TTRPG world. One is to be a an experienced manager from another field that is hired to be a TTRPG manager, with no prior experience in the TTRPG publishing industry.
  • There are great managers in the TTRPG industry... and awful ones. Many TTRPG employees have such little experience working under a manager, they often can't tell the difference between the good ones and bad ones. Occasionally, company owners can't either.
  • An example of how small, but important, things can be overlooked in the #RealGameIndustry.

Follow the Twitter hashtag here.
 
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Dire Bare

Legend
While part one has many shocking eye openers. I have to say that the majority of these second set of points are common to most industries... particularly the three or four points related to promotion and management.

Yeah, but they tend to remain unspoken in those other industries as well. Still good to know for those interested in a career in TTRPGs.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
The promotion to management without management skills or training is super common. Really good managers are unfortunately not as common, at least in my experience.
 

dragoner

KosmicRPG.com
While part one has many shocking eye openers. I have to say that the majority of these second set of points are common to most industries... particularly the three or four points related to promotion and management.

True, and where in a few years I went from design and installation of steel towers for elevators, to managing multiple projects with hundreds of people, all without a management degree; now I do have the degree and work alone as a consultant. haha

It is still interesting to hear, and others might not have heard it.
 



The promotion to management without management skills or training is super common. Really good managers are unfortunately not as common, at least in my experience.
Even worse is when you have a manager that doesn’t even want to be a manager. It was just that was a part of the promotion. So they end up leaving you to manage yourself (and don’t back you to higher management).
 

TheSword

Legend
It is clearly unreasonable, and potentially inappropriate, to suggest freelancers make friends in the game industry to get more work and be treated better. People in the game industry tend to give their friends more work, and often treat them better

Isn’t this called networking? What is inappropriate about ‘making friends’ in the industry, whatever ‘friends’ means. If by friend you mean someone you like, trust and wish to associate with them I would assume making friends is important in any number of industries.
 

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