Lifted from Design Camp...


So, just wanted to share something I wrote for the Patrons of Design Camp:

So, I've been insanely busy the last few weeks and haven't been posting here as much as I'd like, but I hope to remedy that in the coming week or so. With that said, let me tell you what I've been up to! Yesterday, I uploaded the final copy of The Mists of Akuma, a book I helped develop and write last year. It's not my first time designing for 5e (I've done several 5e conversions for Rhune), but it was a definite learning experience. It was also a very fun project. The whole team on this project had great energy and the whole concept was cool. So, yeah, I'm pretty excited to see it out in the wild. In addition to that, I've been preparing stuff for the upcoming Kickstarter forBloodlines & Black Magic, a setting Clinton Boomer, Ben McFarland, Brian Suskind, and I (with some help from Michael Azzalino, Matt Banach, and Stephen M. DiPesa) have been brainstorming/designing for the last year or so. It's still in work, but will likely be complete (at least the general manuscript) before the Kickstarter finishes. We're setting a date for October, 2017 for it to go live to the public, but suspect backers will see it a lot sooner. Of course, I've been organizing the back end for the new Design Camp website (which I shared with you late last year), so that once it finally goes live, it includes some of the content from this camp. That takes a little longer than normal, so in addition to my other duties (how soon tax season will be upon us), I'm a shade behind my writing schedule. And that happens. That's not because I don't want to, but because life sometimes "gets in the way." We all know it. And in that, it's something we can plan for, something we can learn from. In fact, if anything is true of this (and future) Design Camps, it should be this: this is a learning experience. It's not just about the pitching process, the evaluation and discussion of design elements, the creative flow between collaboratives, or even the final manuscript - it's about the overall experience. If you ask me, that's awesome. Why? Because it's sometimes the spark we need for good design, while remaining that enduring whetstone, helping us sharpen our skills. So, while I may not be where I personally want to be, I know I can adjust for it. That's part of the writing process (at least for me) and something that leads to better practices later on. So, it's not just about the pure design, but about becoming a better designer and writer. So, in that spirit, I want to share a quick list of my personal best practices: Communicate - If you're ever going to be late, tell the people who absolutely need to know. If you're running a project, this means the people involved. If you're running a Kickstarter, tell your backers. If you're driving a car, tell your passengers. The point is, be a cool human and communicate. No one likes to be left in the dark. So, if you're not where you want to be, let folks know. This is especially true of game design, as well anything with a deadline. Of course, communication isn't just about letting folks know when you're a little behind. It's about collaboration, too. And if definitely includes compliments and brainstorming. If you've got something positive to share with someone, that's another great reason to reach out. Our only channels of communication shouldn't be to criticize or attack others (Facebook I'm looking at you). Instead, we should be looking for ways to create fun bridges between what we see in the real world and what we'd love to see on our game tables. Hopefully, with time, we can do it with a little grace, too. That said..... But don't be too persistent - We're going to listen. We read your posts and feedback. We engage you on social media. But we have lives, families, friends, and so on, all of whom demand our time. So, be patient with us when we don't respond right away. A lot of writers/designers/developers are doing this in addition to something else (sometimes a "real" job). So, we have to keep our focus and direction, which means avoiding distractions (like Facebook). In general, asking, "Is this a good time?" is a great way to start nearly any public dialog. Respect people and their spaces. (I am, in moments of designer excite, prone to forgetting this rule. Encourage your friends to remind you when you're breaking this rule - you know, because. Stuff. And things). Look for Inspiration - I don't care if it's just to watch some fun gaming videos while you sip some tea, take time to enjoy your hobby (and to relax). Make time to question things, to create monsters in your mind. Draft campaign notes and plot your NPCs against one another. Write stuff down. Work on campaign terrain for future encounter locations. Tramp through the dark corners of Tumblr. Get lost on Pinterest. It doesn't matter how you do it, but set aside time to be inspired.... Take Time to Create - Honestly, I'm probably the worst at this, because I'm constantly juggling two dozen things at any given time. But it's something we all need to do, especially designers. We need to make the time to stat up new villains, to create new rules, to find non-traditional ways to challenge our players, and to keep things at our tables fun and exciting. In short, as creatives, we need to absolutely take time off to create things. Different things work for different people. Me? I'm a weirdo night owl who works best at night, with the music blaring and the incense burning. I like to set up my writing environment, create a space for myself. For years, I was a morning person and I would go through a little ritual (it involved coffee and cigarettes - back when I was a smoker) before I started to write. But I had to set the time aside. And you do, too. Make time to create.... Find Out What Drives You - I know it sounds a little cliché, but I think it's important. In fact, there's a reason I include this after the previous two points. Because you need to be inspired and you need to practice/create before you can really zero in on what drives you. For some folks, it's monsters (I'm looking at you, Adam Daigle). For others, NPCs or threats in a certain range. If you ask Ben what his deal is, he'll tell you it's rituals. He just digs them. And he's one of the best when it comes to designing them. So, when you can find out what really excites you about game design, zero in on that and develop it. Personally, I think this is one of the primary drivers a lot of writers share, especially when it comes to design and development - you're dealing with a group of people who experience the innate drive to build worlds, to create vistas based on their own distant horizons (and sometimes, personal experiences). This is also one of the reasons you see some designers running these really fun Patreons, which offer everything from new Feats/traits (Boomer's Patreon is a perfect example) to full on dungeons (like LPJ's Patreon). I suppose, to me, it just makes perfect sense that most designers (as well as aspiring designers) wear multiple hats. We are, at the end of the day, tried and true creatives; that comes through in every aspect of our lives. Mind you, it's not always easy to set aside time. Of course, it can be done. For some of us, it's just a matter of.... Turn Off the Social Media/TV - Seriously. I know things seem horrible right now and everyone is very active on social media (hell, and don't exactly blame most of you), but know where and how that serves you. If you're really passionate about creating, look for ways to do just that. We all know it's important to address a lot of the items being discussed by the general public, that doesn't mean you need to remain glued to the screen. The fact is, while often a great source of public information (for adventures of all sorts), the consistent flow of social media can be damaging, as well. And too much immersion can drown a person, no matter how high their Constitution score. Just turn off the media every once in a while. Give your brain a break. And when you do choose to engage folks, be polite and civil. It's pretty simple. Play Games, Read Books - I think it surprises most folks to discover this little fact, but I rarely play RPGs online. In fact, I'm a definite FPS guy. Battlefield 4, Star Wars: Battlefront, Battlefield 1, The Division, and Titansfall are games I regularly visit (or revisit) when I need to "data dump" or otherwise unwind. Sure, I like Assassin's Creed as much as the next gamer, but at the end of the day, that's just what works for me. Of course, I also try games of all varieties, whenever possible. I play a wide range of board games, and when possible, the occasional war game (although I'm not dedicated to any particular system or rule set). I just like to play games. The same goes for books. Read new (old) stuff and be inspired by it. For me, it's that simple. Mind you, that doesn't have to be fiction, either. In fact, if you were to look at my desk right now, you'd find (in addition to piles of books on the Tuatha Dé Danonn), a copy of Myths from Mesopotamia and For Freedom Destined: Mysteries Of Man's Evolution in the Mythology of Wagner's Ring Operas and Parisfal. I suppose that's a trait a lot of us gamers have - we love our books. In that, I'm no different. Them the Rules .... those are my rules (mostly for myself), but you're more than welcome to take and cherry pick whatever works for you. I'm not under the illusion that any of my ideas are unique, but those are the ones I try to regularly use. ~Jaye


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