Be Awesome At Freelance Game Design PDF

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Want to break into freelance game design, but don’t know where to start? Have you already had a crack at pitching a project and failed? If so, this is the book for you! Inside, Creighton Broadhurst publisher at Raging Swan Press and an ENnie Award winning game designer reveals his hints, tips and strategies for a successful career in freelance game design.

This book covers such subjects as:

  • What's The Point of this Book?
  • Why You Should Take My Advice
  • Eight Reasons To Freelance
  • Twelve Reasons Not To Freelance
  • Golden Rules
  • Project Management
  • Great Books
  • Be Productive
  • Be More Productive
  • Project Outlining
  • How To Level Up
  • Why You Should Have A Website
  • How To Kill Your Career
  • Pitching a Project
  • Designing Dungeons
  • Designing Dungeon Ecology
  • Designing Unoccupied Rooms
  • Designing Encounters
  • Designing Treasure
  • Designing Settlements
  • Designing NPCs
  • Designing A Villain’s Motivation

What’s The Point Of This Book?
If you've always wanted to have a go at freelancing, but didn't know where to start, this book is for you! Within these pages, I've distilled my 14 years of experience in the gaming industry. I don't explain the esoteric, maddening mysteries of grammar, the hidden truths of sentence construction or the terrifying secrets of crafting a compelling story. I don’t talk about game design. You can get that all elsewhere. Instead I give you practical advice on how to work professionally, pitch to publishers and secure reoccurring work.

I've endeavored to keep the advice herein as system neutral as possible. While my writing experience is exclusively with Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, the principles, tips and tactics within this book work with any game system.

Why You Should Take My Advice
In short, I've been around the block.

I've been on both sides of the designer/publisher fence. In 1999, I started out as a hungry, wildly inexperienced and tremendously naive freelancer. Now, I'm a grizzled (nay veteran) publisher and editor who has written, edited and developed well in excess of 1,000,000 words of gaming content. I've written for big and small publishers alike and won an ENnie for Madness at Gardmore Abbey (2012 [Silver], Best Adventure). A partial list of my design credits includes: Wizards of the Coast (Monster Manual V, Exemplars of Evil, Madness at Gardmore Abbey), Paizo Publishing (Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine), Expeditious Retreat Press (Legacy of Darkness, Plague), Kobold Press (Deep Magic), Rite Pubishing (Pathways magazine, Adventure Quarterly) and Raging Swan Press (Retribution, Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands, The Sunken Pyramid).

During my early freelance days I was very lucky to have a mentor of sorts. Stephen Radney-MacFarland at the time was the RPGA's Big Cheese and my Living Greyhawk boss. During the course of the campaign, he gave me countless pointers and pieces of advice on how to commission, edit and develop modules. He gave me tremendous insights into the design process both in the campaign and at Wizards of the Coasts. (Luckily, he also didn't strangle me despite serious provocation on several occasion). During my time on the campaign I worked on over 100 modules and wrote another 20 or so myself. I had a lot of time to practise his suggestions.

In 2010, I founded Raging Swan Press and have built it into one of the most successful, prolific and recognised publishers of Pathfinder compatible products in the multiverse. I've worked closely with dozens of freelancers and to date (November 2013), have released over 160 supplements, adventures and player aids.

I want to share with you the insights and advice I've received over the years. I was lucky enough to have a mentor, but you might not.

This product is a Dual Format PDF. The downloadable ZIP file contains two versions, one optimised for printing and use on a normal computer and one optimised for use on a mobile device such as an iPad.

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Good one


I am sceptical about 3pp, but the topic, extensive table of contents and a discount made me spend a few dollars on it. It was a good decision.

The document covers both business and design. Work efficienctly, focus on the publisher's goals, make players happy etc. - there is a lot of business advice how to do it. Some hints are rather specific for freelancing for the RPG industry, others are quite general. It's helpful advice coming from practice, but I found the repetitions a bit annoying.

The second half covers design, with an emphasis on dungeons first, but it moves on to general things like encounters and items. Here the book competes with Paizo products like Ultimate Campaign - and does ok. I especially liked the page about the value of unoccupied rooms.

Finally, there is some black-and-white artwork, likely to avoid a pure text book and probably to stretch the document to 32 pages. Only in one case I was able to draw some connection between art and text - I would have preferred diagrams or some example content here. Even just removing these art pages would have been better, for my taste.

An review


This guidebook to help aspiring freelancer is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so what is this book about?

Essentially, this book is Creighton Broadhurst's wisdom (with a slew from John Bennett thrown in for good measure), or at least a part of it, regarding the nature of freelancing - and in case you wonder - he does explain, sans hubris or pretensions, what qualifies him to give this advice - which is valuable.

Now usually, I go into a point-by-point analysis of a product's contents, but seeing that I'd have to essentially reproduce the whole book in this case, I'll instead tell you about some of the articles herein: First of all, examine why you want to go into freelancing - 12 reasons against it (like "for the money", "problems with taking criticism") and 8 reasons in favor - while I'd consider many of these self-evident, experience has shown that not everyone is in the know regarding the realities of the rpg-industry; I've seen people actually expect completely unrealistic things, so reading these should provide a nice reality-check for aspiring authors. Once you've decided to take the plunge, make sure you follow his GOLDEN RULES.

They're called like that for a reason - from editing, knowing and playing the game as well as the target audience/publishers, contracts etc. - there is a lot to take into account and yes, this includes the acceptance that whatever you write, it WILL be edited. Proper project management advice and further reading (re Kobold Press' EXCELLENT, nay MANDATORY design-books, for example!) further should provide several excellent starting points for aspiring freelancers.

Now the essential thing beyond quality is actually getting things on (virtual) paper -advice for being productive is extensive herein and as a person who values efficiency (otherwise I wouldn't be able to all), I can attest that these are not only valuable, they even managed to teach an old dog like me a new trick or two, even if the pieces of advice in question were not that complex - just reading them has a benefit in itself -and yes, "Turning off the internet is just one of the pieces of advice I can attest to regarding efficiency, as is listening to music -fun fact: Whether I'm writing for my day-job, supplements or reviews: The proper music, much like a good work-out, can get you faster into the proper mindset. While Creighton doesn't go deep into details, I'll be egoistical for a second and provide some examples from my own array of writing-music.

Complete derail of the review in favor of some of my favorite tunes to write:

Are you writing something viking-themed? Get Turisas' "Varangian Way" or Týr's "Blood of Heroes" or anything by Amon Amarth. You're writing some dark "Sword & Sorcery"-stuff? Put Bal-Sagoth on your speakers. Decadent gothic horror/fantasy? From "Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio" to bands like "Pretentious, moi?" or "Project Pitchfork" (Beholder, for example!), a mix of low-key songs and sinister, pumping beats can go a long way. And once you need to get stoked, KMFDM's "Hau Ruck" or Sabaton/Blind Guardian make for a great background to get into the proper set of mind. Oh, and if you need some inspiration for disturbing imagery, there's not much that surpasses Sopor Aeternus' "La Chambre d'Echo" and for dark sci-fi "Darkspace", for bloody, fast-paced martial arts, Combichrist's "Today I Woke to a Rain of Blood". Finally, there's no track that better encapsulates a feeling of desolation on a post-apocalyptic level than the brilliant "78 Days in the Desert" by Sólstafir.


Sorry, got a bit lost there. Where was I? Oh, yes, project outlining - tips for properly outlining projects are provided herein as well and once you have started your career, the struggle is anything but over: Properly "leveling up" by pitching the right stuff the right way to the right people is crucial as well. Another page covers reasons why you want your own web-site - whether as a blog, a site or something else: There are benefits here and yes, the virtues and how and what to publish here are explained concisely.

Now what would make my job as a reviewer much easier is if everybody checked the "How to Kill your Career"-page here: There is a reason Raging Swan Press supplements only rarely miss the highest echelons of my rating system, and from missing deadlines to bad spelling etc., I can only fathom what some publishers have to deal with submission-wise. In fact, I do have some partial insights behind the curtain and having seen some submissions as they reach the respective publishers is sometimes horrifying to behold. Oh and there is the "Don't Argue with Reviewers"-point - at least here, I don't mind an argument, as long as it's CIVIL. I've been insulted, called out and even threatened and don't react well to the like - though I try to keep a calm head. Now on the other hand, I'm not perfect, nor is any other reviewer out there, so if you write something and feel a review has an OBJECTIVE mistake, feel free to point it out and discuss the review in a civil manner. I believe I have managed to remain civil and helpful in most instances and always like to provide feedback for improvements and at least I'm not beyond saying "Mea Culpa", man up and rectifying mistakes I've made. Just my 2 cents, though. :)

Proper pitching of projects is also important and with some experience at choosing pitches under my belt, I can attest that these guidelines here should be followed. Next up would be advice not on the logistics of freelancing, but on the act of actual creation - from dungeon dressing to dungeons that make logical sense within the world and how to properly make a dungeon ecology that does not break one's sense of immersion, these pieces of advice are GOLDEN. Oh, speaking of which -how to properly craft unoccupied rooms is handled here as well. What? Yes. And you should read and take this page in - there is a reason Raging Swan Press-modules tend to feel that realistic, concise and alive - and these are an integral part of it! Encounters, Treasures, Settlements, NPCs, Villain motivations - all the following pages should be considered a Bullet Point-check list to avoid bad design-choices and, more importantly, bland ones.


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant standard with 1-column-articles that fit (if your eyesight is as good as mine) up to 4 pages on one sheet of paper, making this very friendly on the printer. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst has provided a collection f articles and lists here that every aspiring freelancer should check out - the advice is thoroughly sound, concise and as a check-list to avoid design-sins and issues, this pdf can be considered an invaluable guide to help you get into freelancing - a cool and useful companion to have, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars +seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Is now available! I hope you enjoy it and find something useful.

Liberty's Edge

I posted this in the other thread, but I thought I should do so again here as well ...

I've been looking through this today and ... WOW, what a treasure-trove of great advice!

Both experienced and fledgling freelancers will find plenty of worthwhile info within. Highly recommended!

In 2010, I founded Raging Swan Press and have built it into one of the most successful, prolific and recognised publishers of Pathfinder compatible products in the multiverse.


RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I hope people find my modest contribution- Project Outlining helpful. While I've only been freelancing 2 1/2 years, I've done a lot of other writing and for me, personally, a solid outline is usually the difference between completing a project and frustration that ultimately leads to abandoning it. Plus, getting into the habit of doing outlines will help you in whatever field you write in (as hundreds of pages of graduate papers I had to write can attest to).

What would be really awesome is a mobi version so I can keep it on my Kindle along with my Kobold Press game design books.

Reviewed first on, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and's shop.


RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

Thanks, Endzeitgeist, for the review!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks very much for the review, old chum. I'm glad you liked this book as it was a departure from my normal releases.

Welcome back!

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