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Joshua Yearsley
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Editor/conqueror/lover of words; expert in games and technical writing.
Editor/conqueror/lover of words; expert in games and technical writing.

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HERE BE POSTS ABOUT RULEBOOKS #writingrulebooks
More about me: http://joshuayearsley.com/

Because it's gravely needed, I've started to write a book on rulebooks. Over the next 100 weekdays, I'm going to post at least 500 words a day of first-draft writing and idea sketches about understanding rulebooks and creating good ones.

Since it's unedited, the writing probably won't be all that pretty or particularly cogent, but I'd like to write out in the open so that people can give input as they like. Please comment, question, and suggest topics you'd like me to write about!

I'll keep this post pinned with links to each day's writing.

Day 1: Partitioning Information, Part 1
http://bit.ly/295BpIJ

Day 2: Partitioning Information, Part 2
http://bit.ly/297Z1sN

Day 3: Using Conditionals
http://bit.ly/29hZBpg

Day 4: Using Concrete, Specific Language, Part 1
http://bit.ly/29eMIbL

Day 5: Using Concrete, Specific Language, Part 2
http://bit.ly/29jsePZ

Day 6: Using Just-In-Time Language
http://bit.ly/29puYQL

Day 7: Making Text Exactly Exact
http://bit.ly/29nBUIz

Day 8: Choosing Effective Terminology, Part 1
http://bit.ly/29wc6tr

Day 9: Choosing Effective Terminology, Part 2
http://bit.ly/29C2HTk

Day 10: Chunking Concepts
http://bit.ly/29DxVNN

Day 11: Using the Stress Position
http://bit.ly/29RYT2s

Day 12: Using Multiple Rulebooks
http://bit.ly/2agxt3O

Day 13: Styling Text
http://bit.ly/29QngKv

Day 14: Closing the Loop
http://bit.ly/29Sd6sb

Day 15: Closing More Loops
http://bit.ly/29VmviF

Day 16: Writing a Style Guide
http://bit.ly/2aewSnB

Day 17: Using Active and Passive Voice
http://bit.ly/2a12s2b

Day 18: Picking Among Persons, Part 1
http://bit.ly/2a8vZab

Day 19: Picking Among Persons, Part 2
http://bit.ly/2abNNRP

Day 20: Using Imperatives and Declaratives
http://bit.ly/2ai163Y

Day 21: Recognizing Atoms, Concepts, and Processes
http://bit.ly/2akW86Q

Day 22: Analyzing Atoms
http://bit.ly/2ajhvpc

Day 23: Using Flavor and Humor
http://bit.ly/2auBZLY

Day 24: Reducing Wordiness
http://bit.ly/2asrkq3

Day 25: Using Glossaries
http://bit.ly/2aQN3qP

Day 26: Introduction, Philosophy, and Other Reading
http://bit.ly/2aQN3qP

Day 27: Understanding Editing Types
http://bit.ly/2as7FRg

Day 28: Using Body Elements, Part 1
http://bit.ly/2aGHmwy

Day 29: Using Body Elements, Part 2
http://bit.ly/2aIf9zu

Day 30: Finding and Picking an Editor
http://bit.ly/2bh4QYV

Day 31: Best Practices and Personal Preferences
http://bit.ly/2b8tWoB

Day 32: Writing an Introduction
http://bit.ly/2bnMxgH

Day 33: Using Numerals
http://bit.ly/2bigWj4

Day 34: Letting Your Reader Breathe
http://bit.ly/2bvQmk0

On a hiatus to organize everything I've got so far. More to come!

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Looking for someone who can do some short-term, ASAP work for Evil Hat as an international freight logistics coordinator.

(We normally work with a manufacturer who handles all of this stuff for us as a kind of black box, but we're now looking at doing some smaller printing runs than that manufacturer will do, and that means we now have to look inside the box... and boy is it confusing in there.)

Please read the document linked here before responding (to the email address found in the doc), and please only respond if you're a person with the skills to do the work. (That'll help make sure we get to a solution as efficiently/quickly as possible.) Thanks!

Details: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mibcQbrNyGusvFp1NtH1952iPWogdzZhSFqK7hIoaJA/edit?usp=sharing

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Kickstarter season is in full swing. Perseverant is now live.

Perseverant is a dramatic story game centered on a group's desperate attempt to survive a hellish landscape. It uses a pretty unique scene cadence and resolution structure (one which I'm extremely proud of), and works across a panoply of concepts and settings.

I encourage you to check out the link below to learn more about the game, and check out some of the beautiful artwork completed by the inestimable +Christopher Balaskas.

Special thanks to +Jason D'Angelo, +Ann D, +Jason Pitre, +Karl Larsson, +Elizabeth Chaipraditkul, +Hannah Shaffer, and +Evan Rowland for playtesting the game with their groups and providing me valuable feedback. Perseverant's only so polished and enjoyable because of their input (not to mention the many dozens of others who have been a part of internal and external playtesting over the last year.)

This is my first Kickstarter with content-related stretch goals, and I'm excited for the possibilities. Many of the aforementioned folks are waiting in the wings to contribute their settings and scenarios to the game, as well as such esteemed designers as +Jason Morningstar and +Kira Magrann.

This project and game is pretty different from my usual repertoire, but I'm incredibly excited and eager to share it with the world. Thanks again to all of those who've supported me, and helped to make Perseverant as enjoyable as can be before launch.

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Please apply.
Thanks to the continued generosity of +Avonelle Wing, +Vincent Salzillo, and all of our awesome GoFundMe backers, we've opened up the 2016 Metatopia Scholarship for applications this week! Check out the link below, spread the word, and please put in an application!

I can't emphasize that last point enough. We want folks to apply for this scholarship who are excited to come to Metatopia and playtest their games... but no previous publishing experience is required. We're looking to folks who are just breaking into the industry, people who are industry-adjacent but don't think of themselves as designers, anyone who is excited to bring new ideas to the table on behalf of marginalized communities.

If that sounds like you, then you should be applying!

The scholarship covers room, badge, $500 travel, multiple meals, and a whole lot of support. The application process is open through 11:59 pm Eastern on Friday, so let's get the word out!

#writingrulebooks – Day 34 of 100
Topic: Letting Your Reader Breathe
This is first-draft writing for a book! Links to all the writing here: http://bit.ly/290Tv8B

What’s the number-one thing that makes a ruleset more intimidating, harder to learn, and more frustrating to reference? Big blocks of text—many large, consecutive paragraphs.

Why do blocks of text make the rules harder to learn? Because they don’t tell the reader when to stop and take a breath.

A paragraph implicitly says: “All of my sentences are related. If you want to understand this concept or process, you should read through all of me.”

Another consecutive, unseparated paragraph says: “Keep reading. Though these ideas are new, and not necessary to understand the content of the last paragraph, all we unbroken paragraphs are part of a larger idea that you’ll need to understand.”

But when the paragraph does end, and paragraphs are separated by some other element, the reader feels allowed to take a breath. Like coming to a rest in sheet music. By telling your reader when to take a breath, you’re controlling their impressions of what’s important and what’s not. We can control these impressions by separating subsystems into new chapters and sections, but we must keep this in mind even within a section and in each paragraph.

Breaking up blocks of text will make your rulebook longer, but this isn’t a bad thing in itself! Your readers won’t notice the added length once they start reading. So, how should we go about separating rules?

Separate your concept; your procedure; and your exceptions, limitations, and clarifications.

First, if needed, tell your reader the concept: what they’re reading about.

Then, tell your reader the procedure: what they need to do. Think of this as your minimum viable product.

Finally, tell your reader the exceptions, limitations, and clarifications of the concept and procedure.

Basically: Put together text that serves one of these purposes, and separate text that serve different purposes.

The best way to describe this is through example, and a rulebook that does this really well is Scythe. Here’s a little snippet for the Build action:

<start>
You can build structures (structure tokens) to enhance your actions, control territories, and get end-game bonuses. The resource used to build structures is wood.
To build a structure, pay the cost, pick up any structure from your Player Mat, and place it on a territory you control with at least one worker on it.

LIMIT 1 PER TERRITORY: Only 1 structure can be built on each territory. So if you’re the first player to build a structure on a specific territory, neither you nor any opponent may build another structure there.

STRUCTURE CONTROL: Opponents can’t use your structure abilities. You always get the abilities from your structures even if you don’t control the territories they’re on.
<end>

The first paragraph is the concept. It gives no procedure rules.

The second paragraph is the procedure. If you want to build a structure, these are the physical things you’ll do.

Then, the paragraphs with inline headers give limitations, exceptions, and clarifications with snappy, chunked titles. The first header is a limitation (of the procedure), and the second header is a clarification (of the concept).

In all of this, though, keep the proximity principle in mind: things that are nearby are seen as related. In Scythe, this way of separating procedure and limitations/exceptions really works because it doesn’t force the rules for a given action onto multiple pages. If it did, some rethinking would be in order.

Use sidebars, callouts, and text styling. We discussed this earlier in talking about body elements (http://bit.ly/2aGHmwy).

Use examples. I can’t stress this enough: end an important rules chunk with an example. Don’t wait until the end of the rulebook to give a big full-round summary. Giving examples as you go will give the reader an opportunity to contextualize the rules they just read, seeing the rules get reinterpreted in actual play.

Use graphics. Roleplaying games use this to great effect. Have you ever needed to reference a rule and thought “Oh, it’s on the page with the green dragon”? That’s the power of tying together rules with art. Not only do you make the page feel less intimidating and more enjoyable, but you’ll make referencing easier.

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#writingrulebooks – Day 33 of 100
Topic: Using Numerals
This is first-draft writing for a book! Links to all the writing here: http://bit.ly/290Tv8B

Rulebooks use a lot of numbers, so should you write out your numbers (“sixty-five”) or leave them as numerals (“65”)?

Before we jump in, though, let’s ask this: why do we use numerals in the first place? Well, numerals are useful because they draw the eye. Think about yourself scanning a rulebook page, trying to figure out how many cards you need to shuffle into a deck. Is that number easier to find if it’s spelled out or if it’s a numeral? If you’re like most people, the numeral is easier. Even eye-tracking studies have confirmed that numerals stick out (https://www.nngroup.com/articles/web-writing-show-numbers-as-numerals/).

But the strength of the numeral is also it’s weakness. Writing that’s full of numerals is exhausting, ugly, and intimidating. Plus, it’s no easier trying to find that important number on a page full of numerals than on a page with no numerals.

So when should we use numerals, and when should we spell them out? This question is fairly simple in ye old book of fiction or nonfiction. Here’s a common numeral style, from Chicago style:

- Spell out numbers up to one hundred. (one, forty-five, 109)
- Spell out any multiples of hundreds, thousands, millions if it begins with a number you would normally spell out. (two hundred, forty-four thousand, 267,000)

But game rulebooks are a strange mix of technical manual and fictional exposition, which means you’re probably not best served by applying a single numeral style across the whole book. That’s right: You don’t have to use the same numeral style across the entire rulebook. Though a key part of a good rulebook is consistency, consistency is not an end in itself, it’s a means to improve readability and clarity.

There’s only one style rule I’ll recommend for your entire rulebook: If a sentence begins with a number, write it out. Beyond that, we’ll have consider which style to use for the various parts of a rulebook: introductory text, rules, examples, and setting.

For setting and example text, I recommend Chicago style. This type of text is closest to traditional fiction or non-technical nonfiction, so just use the tried-and-true method.

For rules text, I recommend using numerals for just about everything you believe the reader will ever need to reference. Numerals aren’t particular useful when learning rules, but rather when referencing them.

However, there are some pieces of rules text where you could use either numerals or written-out numbers. Personally, I like writing these numbers out, but you may come to a different conclusion. But when you decide on a style to use, stick to it.
- Using comparative and superlative modifiers (“if your roll is three shifts higher” vs. “if your roll is 3 shifts higher”; “three highest dice” vs “3 highest dice”)
- Referring to counting alone (“up to three times” vs. “up to 3 times”)
- Separated from unit (“one or more combat cards” vs. “1 or more combat cards”)

Beyond rules, setting, and examples, there’s a third kind of text to think about: introductory text. Basically, any text that introduces concepts in a broad sense, especially when you’re talking about components, that the reader won’t need to reference after reading once. It’s kinda-sorta rules text, kinda-sorta broader explanation. Here’s an example from early in Endeavor, talking about the map:

<start>
The main playing area is divided into seven regions which are distinguishable by their color and by the map borders that separate them.



Europe & the Mediterranean is often referred to as the starting region of the game. It is unique in that it has two card stacks, and has no Shipping Track.

<end>

We can justify the lack of numerals here because the reader almost certainly won’t need to re-read this text. They’ll look at the board, you see there are seven regions and two card stacks, and when they play again and open up the board again, they’ll be cued by the board itself that there are seven regions and two card stacks there.

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#writingrulebooks – Day 32 of 100
Topic: Writing an Introduction
This is first-draft writing for a book! Links to all the writing here: http://bit.ly/290Tv8B

The foundation of your rulebook is your introduction. Let’s take a look at an excellent example of an introduction, in the game Scythe:

<start>
In Scythe, each player represents a character attempting to make their faction the richest and most powerful in Eastern Europa. Players explore and conquer territory, enlist new recruits, produce resources and workers, build structures, and deploy monstrous mechs. A game of Scythe typically begins with players building up their infrastructure, exploring the world, then engaging each other in combat.
The game progresses as players place stars (achievements) on the board, and it ends when a player places their 6th star on the Triumph Track. You can earn a star for accomplishing any of the following:
• Complete all 6 upgrades
• Deploy all 4 mechs
• Build all 4 structures
• Enlist all 4 recruits
• Have all 8 workers on the board
• Reveal 1 completed objective card
• Win combat (up to 2 times)
• Have 18 popularity
• Have 16 power
<end>

This introduction does exactly what an introduction should do:

It tells you who you are. Context is king in introductions. How will you understand anything if you don’t understand who or what you are?

It tells you what you’ll be doing. And it avoids using jargon or game-specific language like “during the Deploy phase”.

It tells you how the game progresses. Don’t expect a game that’s all about combat as you read through these rules, it says.

It tells you when the game ends. It’s wise that Scythe chose to put the details of placing stars here, because it’s so tightly related to the entire rest of the rulebook. Placing it at the end may have left some readers hanging. It does finally bend on giving some game jargon—the Triumph Track—which might be a minor failing. It might have been just as accurate and less jargon-y to just say “earn stars”. But hey, this is my only criticism.

The reason Scythe can get away with placing these details on how you earn stars is because we intuitively understand what these words mean: upgrades, mechs, structures, recruits, popularity, power, and so on. Though you don’t know how all of these systems work, you understand the concepts intuitively.

Now let’s look at the goal:

<start>
The goal is to have the greatest fortune at the end of the game; a typical winning fortune is around $75. You can accumulate coins during the game, but you will earn most of them during end-game scoring in the following three categories:
• Every star token placed
• Every territory controlled
• Every 2 resources controlled
The amount of coins you earn depends on your level on the Popularity Track. The higher your popularity, the more coins you will earn. You can also get a few bonus coins based on where you built structures.
<end>

Again, the goal does what it should do:

It tells you the goal itself. Most money, got it.

It tells you the typical winning score. $75, yup. Knowing this is important in Scythe because you’ll be spending your victory points to take actions. If you know what a winning score looks like, you’ll have an easier time valuing each dollar in the early, mid, and late game. And it comes at the cost of only seven words.

It tells you the main ways to meet the goal. This part is important: a good teacher doesn’t just say what win condition is, but the basic routes to meeting it. If you sat down to learn a game and the teacher just said “You win by having the most victory points,” and then jumped into the turn breakdown, you’d be confused, right? Again, Scythe can get away with giving specifics because the meanings of territory and resources are intuitive, and the rules already explained star tokens.

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#writingrulebooks – Day 31 of 100
Topic: Best Practices and Personal Preferences
This is first-draft writing for a book! Links to all the writing here: http://bit.ly/290Tv8B

If there’s one truth I’ve learned about what makes a good rulebook, it’s this: Even if you squish every typo and remove every ambiguity, someone will inevitably take issue with your rulebook. This isn’t your fault, or the reader’s. Instead, this happens because different people like different things. People have personal preferences.

Often, your personal preferences depend on what you’re used to, and your readers may be used to different things than you are. This means working around your readers’ preferences is a tricky dance. Even we rulebook writers and games professionals can’t find common ground on some preferences. Here are a few case studies:

Chapter and section numbering. Wargame rulebooks often number their chapter and section headers like this: 1.2.5. Most other rulebooks don’t. If you put these headers in a rulebook for a party game, your readers would probably raise an eyebrow.

Introductory flavor. Crack open a roleplaying game rulebook and go to the beginning of a chapter, and you might find a paragraph or two of flavor text. Here’s the first paragraph of the upcoming <AS OF AUGUST 2016> RPG Noirlandia:

<start>
A little “WHUMP,” and a dainty crack of thunder, interrupted us. Someone had just teleported out of the room. They had heard everything. “Goddamnit,” she said, and grabbed my arm. “Let’s go, before the path goes cold.” Obviously, following the teleporter would throw us into whatever ambush they were inclined to prepare. But we hopped into the ether and didn’t bother with hope.
<end>

I believe that introductory flavor, done in moderation, can help flesh out the setting in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the reader like reading whole chapters of setting can. But John Adamus—a great editor, friend, and fellow Evil Hatter—thinks flavor bits can distract the reader from what they really want: the rules. He once compared these flavor chunks to Poochie, a character in the Simpsons, who distracted the Itchy and Scratchy on their ride to the fireworks factory, the episode’s focal point. Milhouse, watching this happen, whined: “When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?”

Capitalization of key terms. Mike Selinker, a game designer and the owner of Lone Shark Games, dislikes capitalizing most game terms, unless lowercasing would cause confusion. Check out his talk “Mike Selinker’s Ten Rules for Writing Rules” at Pax Dev (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SshUdUEtIw8). In Rule 8, “Going Easy on the Eyes”, he points to the words “Site card” in a rules excerpt and says: “Site cards? Are you accidentally going to refer to something else as site cards in your game? Right? You’re not.”

But Rym DeCoster, in the talk “Designing Game Rules” at PAX (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuThpe-Rgxs), approves of using capitalized terms. “You need to use a consistent lexicon… Uppercase, if you know contract law, it’s an uppercase word, a reserved word—it means something special.”

Rules writing philosophy. Personal preference runs as deep as the philosophy of how to write a rules paragraph. Mike Selinker, again in his Pax Dev talk, gives the rule “Use Real Words” and as a counterexample shows an excerpt from Advanced Squad Leader, a highly respected but extremely complicated wargame:

<start>
2.2401 GUN DUELS: Vs a non-concealed, non-Aerial DEFENDER's declared Defensive First Fire attack on it, a vehicle may attempt to Bounding First Fire (D3.3) its MA (/other-FP, including Passenger FP/SW) at that DEFENDER first, provided the vehicle need not change CA, is not conducting an OVR (D7.1), its total Gun Duel DRM (i.e., its total Firer-Based [5.] and Acquisition [6.5] TH DRM for its potential shot) is < that of the DEFENDER, and the DEFENDER's attack is not Reaction Fire (D7.2). Neither the +1 DRM for a Gyrostabilizer nor the doubling of the lower dr for other ordnance in TH Case C4 (5.35) is included in the Gun Duel DRM calculation. The order of fire for non-ordnance/SW is determined as if it were ordnance [EXC: TH Case A can apply to non-ordnance/SW only if mounted-on/aboard a vehicle that is changing CA; all such non-turret-mounted fire is considered NT for purposes of TH Case C, and A.5 applies to any type of FG]. If the ATTACKER's and DEFENDER's total Gun Duel DRM are equal, the lower Final TH (or non-ordnance IFT) DR fires first and voids the opponent's return shot by eliminating, breaking, stunning or shocking it. If those two Final DR are equal, both shots are resolved simultaneously. Any CA change the DEFENDER requires in order to shoot (5.11) is made before the ATTACKER's shot if the DEFENDER's total Gun Duel DRM is ? the ATTACKER's; otherwise its CA changes (if still able to) after the ATTACKER's shot. After the initial Gun Duel has been fully resolved, and if otherwise able and allowed to, that DEFENDER may announce another attack vs that ATTACKER who in turn may declare another Gun Duel; this time the printed ROF of one firing weapon on each side may be included as a negative DRM in that side's Gun Duel DRM calculation. Only the ATTACKER may declare a Gun Duel [EXC: not if the DEFENDER has done so as per 5.33].
<end>

After showing this example, Mike says “The developers of this game believed that this was something people could understand….This is not how we talk. This is not what people do.”

But Geoff Engelstein, game designer and co-host of the podcast Ludology, used Advanced Squad Leader in his Metatopia talk “Writing a Rulebook for your Board Game” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElcQcOQ-ssY) as an exemplar of no-nonsense, comprehensive reference rules. Referring to another rule in ASL, he says “This is a great rule if you know how to play ASL. If you don’t know how to play ASL, it’s a nightmare.” This split in philosophy deserves a chapter on its own, but that’s for another time.

So, given these splits in preferences and in best practices, what do you do? Here’s what:

First, think about best practices. Is there a best practice for a given part of your rules? If so, go with the best practice.

If there is no obvious best practice, think about your readers’ preferences and your preferences. If they’re different, swallow your ego and go with your readers’ preferences. Ultimately, you’re writing the rulebook for the benefit of your players, not yourself.

But think about this: Do you want your game to appeal only to your pre-existing core audience or also to a broader audience? If, for example, you’re a wargame publisher, but you want to make a game that has broader appeal in the eurogame market, think about this: Which personal preferences of your core playerbase can you afford to subvert in order to appeal more to that wider audience? And which of their preferences should you stay firm on?

Once you decide on a practice, though, stick to it. Don’t set expectations and then break them. If somebody takes issue with your decision, the best you can do is show them that you thought about the decision and applied it consistently. If you're going to state every rule once and try to make every section compact and comprehensive, a la Advanced Squad Leader, stick to that strategy as much as you can. The only time you can mix and match rules philosophies is if you have multiple rulebooks, as discussed earlier (http://bit.ly/2agxt3O).

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#writingrulebooks – Day 30 of 100
Topic: Finding and Picking an Editor
This is first-draft writing for a book! Links to all the writing here: http://bit.ly/290Tv8B

As good as you are at writing your rules, and hopefully you’ll be quite good after reading this book, your rules will always benefit from an editor on your team. But it’s a big wide world out there, full of editors—and people who call themselves editors. There indeed are predatory editors out there who’ll use spellcheck and a few other tools, then call it a day. So how can you find a good editor?

Look through rulebooks. Have you read a rulebook you found exemplary? Check out the credits page. If there’s an editor listed, do a search. If you can’t find them, contact the publisher to see if they can help.

Talk to the community. Ask around in places like the Indie Game Alliance, the Indie Game Developer Network, Boardgamegeek, and RPG.net.

Talk to industry professionals. Twitter is amazing for this. Or even better, if you have the time and money, go to a tabletop developer convention like Metatopia.

Once you find some options, though, how do you pick from among them?

Know editing-speak. “Editing” means different things to different people, and there are many types of editing (http://bit.ly/2as7FRg). If you know how to talk the talk, it’ll be easier for you to sniff out the good editors from the bad. Ask them questions about their process and philosophy; ask them how they feel about descriptivism and prescriptivism. Do a gut check: are you satisfied by their answers?

Ask for references. Talk to a publisher or designer they’ve worked with. Were they responsive, friendly, and professional? Did they deliver quality? One thing to keep in mind: if you find a rulebook that an editor worked on but didn’t turn out well, that isn’t an immediate black mark. It’s difficult to know the challenges of each production process, and perhaps extenuating circumstances got in the way. However, if you find a few rulebooks whose text could’ve been better, that’s cause for concern.

Ask about cost. If someone offers to edit for bargain basement rates, this is a red flag, especially if they present as an established, experienced editor. An excessively low rate means the editor doesn’t value their time properly, is desperate for work (which doesn’t reflect well upon their quality), or is just taking you for a ride.

So what’s a reasonable fee for editing? This varies heavily depending on the type of editing you need and how many passes you need. Editing is often charged by the word. A single pass of proofreading will likely be 1–3 cents a word, while a pass of stylistic editing and copy editing could be 2–4 cents a word or more, and a full package of substantive editing plus a post-layout proofreading pass could be as much as 10–15 cents a word. If the editor charges by hour, it’ll likely be somewhere between $25 and $100 per hour, depending on their experience and the type of editing.

Ask for a contract. Check out their terms and requirements. If they cannot offer you a contact, this is a big red flag. Without being asked, not all editors will provide a contract—if, for example, your rulebook is extremely small and time is tight—but if you do ask for one, the editor should be able to provide it.

Ask if they offer a sample edit. Most editors will provide a short sample edit, if asked. Many will want payment for it, some won’t. If anything looks funny in the sample, ask the editor about it. They should be able to give you a reason for any change they made. Don’t go overboard with this, of course—you haven’t bought infinite service with the sample, but since you’re probably looking to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars, it’s totally reasonable to ask questions.

A common question among game designers is “Can I crowdsource my editing to fans?” Here’s an analogy: As a game designer, you give your prototype to playtesters for their comments and feelings, then you implement changes based on your intimate knowledge of your game and how you want it to work. You don’t just let the playtesters make the changes for you, designing your game by committee.

Just like playtesting works best when supervised by an expert—you, the designer—making a great rulebook also works best when supervised by an expert: the editor. Even better, you’ll be investing money back into the games market, helping to cultivate full-time professionals and ensure that more games get released with excellent rulebooks, raising the standard for everyone.

That said, there are three legitimate places for rulebook feedback from players prior to release:

Usability Notes from Blind Playtests. Give the rulebook to some players and have them read it and explain it to others. If they’re confused about a particular part of the rulebook, note it down. After you figure out what is and isn’t work fixing, give the important feedback to your editor. Please act as a filter between the raw feedback and your editor, though, to prevent them from pulling out their hair.

Post-Proofreading Error Catching. After your laid-out book is proofread, you could release the release candidate to a small contingent of fans. Be strict about the kinds of errors you’re looking for. “We only want typos and errors in graphics: for instance, if we give an example talking about a card named The King’s Ire and the graphic shows a card named The King’s Disdain.”

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What do you think is a good, better-than-fair rate for freelance writing work in the RPG industry? I have my own opinions and experience (on both sides of the equation) but I'm curious to see what G+ thinks.

Specifically, this is for writing, not design. So, assume the system is well-explained and the writer is part of a team with the designer. But, they have to translate the design docs into player-facing prose.

Any and all anecdotes are also appreciated. Reshares welcome.
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votes visible to Public
0%
0.01 to 0.02 per word
5%
0.03 to 0.04 per word
59%
0.05 to 0.06 per word
27%
0.07 to 0.08 per word
9%
0.09+ per word
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