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Peregrine's Nest: What Does a Line Developer Do?

The role of a Line Developer appears self-explanatory, but few people really know exactly what it entails.

In role-playing game production the role of a Line Developer appears self-explanatory, but few people really know exactly what it entails. Sure, you clearly ‘develop the game line’, but what does that really mean?


Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

I’ve been lucky enough to be a Line Developer, initially for Victoriana 2nd edition (Cubicle 7) and more recently Dune: Adventures in the Imperium (Modiphius) and My Little Pony (Renegade) as well as doing development work on a couple of other books. While some companies consider this an in-house position, my experiences have all been as a freelancer.


Line Developers are essentially the ‘show runner’ for the game or book they are developing (some companies take on developers for a line, others for each book). There is a lot of creative control, which is part of the attraction, but not as much as you might think. Some companies leave you to get on with it, others like a tighter reign. That’s only fair, as they will be paying all the costs, so they get to overrule the Line Developer, or at least set certain terms and styles they want to see in the game. While you may be the creative boss of the team, you rarely have carte-blanche to do as you please.

As the Line Developer, it will usually be your job to create the concept of each book in the line, or work with the producer to decide on that concept. This means roughing out what should be in the book and in what order, and delivering a word count estimate for how large each section will be. The total word count will usually already be defined by the size of book the company wants to produce. Sometimes the Line Developer is told it will be a book about ‘X’ and it will be ‘Y’ pages long, so you have ‘Z’ amount of words to divide up.


Creating a concept for the book isn’t a lot of writing, but does require some experience. Knowing what detail should go into the book means being both familiar with the setting and with the expectations of a TTRPG customer. Luckily, you probably are a TTRPG customer, so you mainly need to ask yourself what you would want to see in it. The tricky part is gauging how many words you will need dedicated to each section. If the Line Developer doesn’t get the book structure right, they will usually find some writers may have overwritten their allotted count. Word count bloat is not uncommon; it's often hard to cut it down, as many will have thought of things you wish you’d put in the initial concept!


Once a concept is approved by both the company and the licence holder (if it’s a licenced product), the next step is to assign writers to each section. This means you need a good stable of reliable writers to call on, and not all of them will be available when you need them. I like to show my team the concept and ask if anyone has any sections they’d like to do, then try and assign everyone what they’d like. I think a writer tends to work best on what they are most interested in. But some developers like to decide that for themselves and offer assignments that way.

If you are a writer yourself, then you can shamelessly assign yourself the parts you're interested. It’s one of the main perks of the job. But you also need to be realistic about your time. You can’t miss the writing deadline, because that is when the other writers will deliver a ton of work you need to dive into and develop. There are times with Dune I’ve wanted to write a section and had to pass it to another writer as there just wasn’t time. If you're a fan of the setting (probably a requisite if you are a Line Developer for a game), it can be tough to let this go. But it's important to balance your time, interests, and the skills of your team along with your love of the game.


Once the writers' deadline hits, the Line Developer should have a pile of drafts. However, it's not uncommon for writers to miss the deadline. In extreme cases, this means reassigning the work, so it is always good to have a fast writer on hand who can dive in at the last moment to cover those who can’t deliver. When it comes to managing writers, speed is just as important as communication. Line Developers are constantly anticipating challenges and adjusting schedules, but they can only do that if they have enough information about each piece of the product. The earlier they know about an issue, the faster they can adjust. Life happens, and Line Developers factor this into their timeline, as we'll see below.


Once you have a pile of drafts, you can dive into editing and developing, or ‘redlines’. You can start on this if you are missing work from a late writer, depending where it is. So giving a straggler a little extra time while you look at the delivered work you already have is a good way to find extra time. If you are a Copy Editor, part of redlines will be correcting spellings and grammar, etc. But you may have an editor do that for the final manuscript anyway. For the most part, your job is to do a 'developmental edit,' ensuring the text has everything that was asked for, in the format and style it was requested. The Line Developer will also need to make sure the rules and system used are correct. This means you need to be an expert on the game rules of your line, often more than you know the setting.

How you return redlines to your writers is up to you. Unless there is something really egregious, I tend to make rewrites myself, given I’m also a writer. For me, it’s easier to make small amends the way I need it done than try to explain to the writer how they should do it. But some Line Developers send back an annotated document and ask the writer to make all the adjustments. The style is particular to each Line Developer, although most writers prefer the opportunity to do the rewrite themselves, especially if it is a major change. So a good balance is best.

Even with the best writing team in the world, you will have to do a certain amount of writing to connect everything together. You will likely need to adjust or add to the ends and beginnings of the submitted work to connect them to make the manuscript cohesive. You might also consider writing the introduction, as you're the best person to introduce the book and set the reader’s expectations.

Finishing Touches

Once the manuscript is complete, your work is mostly done, and it’s time for the rest of the team to take over. You may have a Copy Editor check over the work. You may need to help the Art Director create briefs for artists, or at least make sure that what they have fits the concept of the book and the setting. If it is a new game, you will have a say in the look of the layout, but you won't be the only one. If it’s already an ongoing line, the layout template will be fixed by now, so you are just looking for consistency.

With the art in and the layout done, you get to see the book in final digital form to give it a once over with everyone else. You will find a ton of proofing errors and oddities you can’t believe you missed, but that's part of the process. Make sure you’ve done all the ‘page XX’s and then it is ready to go.

Extra Duties

While the above covers most of what's expected of a Line Editor, there are a lot of other responsibilities that come with the job. The main one is that you are there to fill in any shortfall. It’s your responsibility to deliver a manuscript, so you'll likely be expected to fix any issues. You're also one of the main advocates for the line, so you be prepared to write for blogs, support the marketing team, and do a few podcasts (although these are a lot of fun).

Being a Line Developer can feel like a step up from writing, a promotion of sorts, but it's a very different job that requires a wide variety of skills. The creative control is very nice, and getting to be the lead in forming the way a game is presented and styled is amazing. However, as the lead, the developing the game will leave you with a lot less time to do actual writing. The end result is a bit like being the ‘show runner’ for a TV series: while the final product might have given you plenty of headaches, it is an amazing feeling to hold a game in your hands that you and your team brought to life!

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Andrew Peregrine

Andrew Peregrine


Studying publishing to get published feels kind of weird. It feels analogous to becoming a waiter in order to get people to eat your new burger recipe. Like I see the connection, but it also feels backwards—if someone wants to make stuff, then shouldn't they study how to make good stuff? I dunno, hah.
Totally agree, but I think about 98% of my classmates fell into that category, and it kinda ruined my experience. But the other piece of that was my own inability to speak up about my experience at the time, and the fact that I'm an old geezer now and was entering publishing during a period of significant transition to digital, without getting any of the education in the digital side.

C'este le vie and all that.

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