In the summer of 2016 I announced an Open Call for Writers to bring new ideas into my Galaxy Pirates sci-fi setting. The theme was tools of enlightenment, from simple lights to high tech vision helmets. The Open Call was a hybrid of a design contest looking for new writers and traditional writing proposals where the authors pitched items and were paid on their final delivered word count.
In the weeks following the announcement I received pitches from folks that didn’t read the rules, pitches for items outside the theme (even through some sounded amazing they just don’t fit in this book) and a lot of really cool stuff you’ll be reading about shortly.
Lesson: We’ll try to be clearer in our next announcement.
We received submissions from folks that were less familiar with the Magic Item Creation rules and others whose mastery over the material, effects and costing were very strong.
Lesson: We’re going to try and put up some item design examples in the future.
As we were taking individual items similar to a design competition the word counts were pretty small, if a writer only had one or two items they wanted to submit, they might make as little as $5 from the whole thing.
Lesson: This format had unusually low word counts, unlike a design competition we weren’t offering some prize at the end. Everyone whose idea was accepted had to be paid for their final submission. A least one writer made writeups for general gear, there wasn’t much game design going on, but they fulfilled a no less vital role. Somewhere in your favorite game book some professional writer had to tell you what rope is. We may do more of this in the future to raise the word counts and payouts. It’s still writing for a product, in a style guide, for money.
As the line editor I read every item proposal, I also accepted or rejected them on their merits within the setting. Once an item proposal was accepted and the draft item was received, the rules, effects and math all had to be evaluated by me. Again the quality here working with new writers is kind of uneven. Sometimes a revision was required to take care of the most egregious issues. Overall this process is a lot more work to coordinate than directing an established professional to create something from an outline.
Lesson: Even though its more work, we’re going to keep doing these as time allows, because we’re focused on getting new people writing new and interesting things.
We paid everybody on the submitted word count, as estimated by the word processor. I see a lot of publishers pay on the edited word count. At the low word counts and low price per word involved with the Open Call, I was more concerned with people being paid on time. To me it’s not the writer’s fault if the editor is busy and has to fit in their 200 word submission with thousands of other words by other writers. If the writer has to wait a month for a $5 payment because of factors outside their control, that’s antithetical to one of the guiding principals at Evil Robot Games, that “everybody gets paid”.
Lesson: We’re going to have to be scrupulous about cutting word bloat on primary revisions from authors. Edited word may become the norm on bigger projects assigned to freelance writers making more money per word, but I don’t know where the tipping point for that is yet.
The pages of the Enlightenment Gear Books represent the outcome of this experiment. I hope they enrich your game and that we’ll see more work from these writers in the future.
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