Sunday, 1 May 2011

Why I Give It Away

Some vague worries have been inhibiting my posting today, somewhat brought up by Courtney's post that is zinging around the blogosphere. I want to share with you my resolution of those worries, not to diminish anyone else's decisions, but to exorcise personal jimjams.

In the eight or so months since I have turned from a merely theoretical blogger to a practical DM blogger, the focus of my efforts in this hobby has radically changed. I have gone from trying to produce things someone will find useful, to trying to produce things I will find useful, in the face-to-face game that has come to be a high point of every week I run it.

The more I focus on this experience, the less I care about counting things like comments, followers, or page clicks on the blog. I don't mean that I utterly don't care, but given a choice between100 new blog followers in a flash and two additional players in the game ... no contest. And face it, if you're writing a blog you're pretty much guaranteed to be the kind of person who sees 75-90% of the stuff out there and goes "that's neat, but I've got my own way" ... Too many divas, not enough chorus.

Rather than seeing this as "work" I am doing to get paid, in cash, comments, internet thumbs up or what have you, it is vital that I see my output instead as by-products of play. Perhaps this is because I am doing paid work elsewhere in the gaming industry, as well as managing a professional career that is also all about producing creative work.

Pretty much all the things I have put up here for free have been works of near-compulsion to finish. I never once said to myself, "Oh god, another monster for Varlets & Vermin" or "Time to make the dooonuts and finish another one-page chart..."

But that doesn't mean that I don't have drudgework projects in the old-school vein. Remember color magic? As my players gain level, I'm going to have to come up with more detailed spell descriptions for higher and higher levels. If I ever publish that book, I'm highly likely to not have it be free.

The same goes for an idea that came to me this week - the encounter table that is more than an encounter table. That's too insanely fascinating to share just now without actually producing it, but also too much work to just crank out in a weekend. Or if I ever pack all the insights, techniques and play aids from my game into one bumper volume - let's call it "Desperate Deeds" - with crazy amounts of bonus material, yes, I'll be charging a nominal fee.

In other words, I'm only asking to be materially paid for not having fun. But as for the larger questions of gratitude, respect, acknowledgement, community, those are more difficult to answer. Some of it is ego, some of it is genuine. One way I try to give back, come to think of it, is my practice of the "play report plus" ... the session report with insight into GM techniques and decisions. It's there I can give credit where credit is due for things I use in the game.

Another way is to do more reviews of other people's work. I'm not sure if this is something that works for me, though. I have been sitting on a review for months now - dare I say that writing it has felt like work? Should we get paid to write reviews?

Perhaps the best "review" is actual use.

Paying the bla bla toll, here is a chart of the probabilities for one of my favorite dice rolls, 2d6 minimum.

1: 11/36 (about 1/3)
2: 9/36 (1/4)
3: 7/36 (about 1/5)
4: 5/36 (about 1/7)
5: 3/36 (1/12)
6: 1/36

Chance of 3 or higher: 4/9;  chance of 4 or higher: 1/4.


  1. I have gone from trying to produce things someone will find useful, to trying to produce things I will find useful...

    I have yet to go wrong with this as my guide. :D

  2. Great post, great insight and I couldn't agree more!

  3. Yep. 100%.

    I'm still doing all the same work, you know? I have that same compulsion to do it. I doubt very little will ever not be available on my blog somewhere for free.

    I am of course, making things that I use for my own campaigns. That's pretty much why I make anything.

    But I feel silly when I don't ask for compensation if I take the time to pretty it up, draw art, and index it. I'm not doing it /for/ compensation.