Notes from Writing for Paizo Gen Con seminar

Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

Here's the write-up of my notes from the seminar. Anyone else who was there (especially Paizo staff) feel free to correct me and I'll edit accordingly.

Writing for Paizo Seminar Notes (8/19/2007)

When had 200 pages of magazine to fill each month, there were many opportunities for new writers (though Paizo staff "greedily took up many of those pages"). Now, obviously less than 200 pages of magazine a month, so not as many opportunities but still important to find new writers.

Using writers have worked with for much of GameMastery Modules and Pathfinder adventures, especially since Pathfinder adventure paths complex and need to be planned out far in advance.

Will look at new WotC D&D Insider content for new writers. For example, James is hoping to work in a new author as fresh blood on each Pathfinder arc, but will be from someone with publishing experience. But 3 main ways will be accepting open submissions.

#1 - Pathfinder Monsters
6 per book, and 3 or 4 are typically tied to the adventure and written by the adventure's author. So the rest are open. Booked with PF #1-4, but 5 and 6 as well as next arc has openings. Will start working on 5 within next few weeks.

Looking most for either brand new monsters or inspired by real world mythology

Either post on messageboards or email them to someone on the Pathfinder team (within a week should have up and running, but it isn't yet)

2-page spread – stat block, ecology/habitat, then tidbits (Quick laundry list given by James: variants, using as a PC, nursery rhyme about, legends, roles, sample treasure, how might function in different climate – eg. "a whirlwind devil – how climate might effect", construction of golems and such)

1200-1400 words including stats. As a general rule should never have 4 or more special abilities because won't get to use them, unless it's something highly reusable with a variety of roles, but the special abilities eat up word count.

Do full write up and send it in.

Within week or two will post formal guidelines.

#2 – Pathfinder Companion
New, unannounced product (Ok I announce it hear, right? – Ken). Has gone from "We should do this" to "We are doing this" but no further yet. 64 or 128 page companion to a Pathfinder arc released after arc ends. Will including material that expands the adventure path – new encounters, fleshed out areas, etc.

Examples of exactly what they are talking about

With AoW adventure 3, sidequest where everyone got a level 1 NPC to play through the infestation of the castle. Really put fear of the Spawn of Kyuss into the players. (And Jason notes that a baker does not stand up to undead very well.)

Another example – the Dungeon of Rust and Fire was just a dot on a map in the Savage Tide, but many posted on the messageboards fleshing it out.

This book will compile the best of these. Due to time needed to compile and print, will most likely commission authors for material that expands the last few adventures of the arc. But hoping to time it so that the first few will be out for people to post material on messageboards to consider.

#3 – GameMastery Modules
Usually set authors, but will have an open call soon (still solidifying plans for it).

Will release a "plot nugget" and people can send in an expanded outline for an adventure based on that plot nugget, idea for a new monster (since all modules have 1 new monster, but just idea for this proposal), and info on any other new rules like items, etc.

Paizo will review then ask a smaller group for more information, and then pick a winner to write the module to be released next year (2008). Will have more open calls, but not until after 4e (due mostly to the fact that the publishing schedule has to be set very far out). (I think I'm seeing the trend emerging of publisher timelines referring to pre-4e and post-4e even if it has nothing to do with 4e. – Ken)

Q&A portion

Q: Want monsters to fit party level? (Mostly in reference to PF #5 & 6)
A: Looking for monsters of all levels since GMs will not be running that adventure but still want something useful. More interested in monsters that fit the region.

Q: Maximum CR cap?
A: Not hard, official cap. But once have CR 20 monster or higher, makes it a lot easier to say "No thanks." Also since so complicated more likely to commission high CR monsters than take submitted ones. Lastly, much harder to fit a high CR monster onto the 2-page spread. So CR less than 15 is a good rule to work with.

Q: Sweet spot for monster CRs? (i.e. What are you most interested in?)
A: CR 5-12 probably best. People seem to like playing in that range the most.

Side note on Epic and other niches: James is a big fan of Epic and Mike is a fan of psionics, so eventually will fit those in. But right now, not sure how will work into the setting yet. Also, from what they can tell, Epic is less popular than psionics, and psionics is used by a small minority.

Side note on SRD: Emphasize to stick to the SRD. So no non-open monsters (beholders, mind flayers, etc.), and no "DM". Use GM instead. (Noted that they are still getting used to this as well. The Kobold King was almost sitting on a carrior crawler throne. Oops!

Q: What do you not want?
A: Generally still avoid clichés unless it is a REALLY original take on them. ("Don't have a rescue the princess adventure… unless the princess winds up being a hag that rides the king around." Yes, that's pretty much a direct quote. –Ken)

Also, there happens to have been a lot of templates in the early Pathfinder monsters, so good idea to avoid templates for a while.

Q: What about re-imaging of existing monsters (like the goblins), or will the Paizo staff being doing that?
A: Staff will do most of this, but might be interested in variants. However, with variants, don't want some monster just stronger (e.g. "Don't just raise its CR 2 and give it extra abilities. Like a blue headed troll that is also psionic. Because that's just what we really need - a rending psion.") Instead make it specialized somehow, not stronger.

Q: Specific templates for formatting?
A: Look at Pathfinder books for monster formats. Open calls will describe what format they want.

Q: If mechanics need a little work (e.g. if the CR is a little off), will work with to revise and not just reject?
A: If the core idea is good enough, will either work with the author or edit themselves to tweak mechanics. But certainly don't expect feedback on how to fix up every submission.

Q: Accepting magic items?
A: Yes, especially for Pathfinder Companion. Have a new magic item format (as well as new format for traps, cities, etc.).

Avoid spells. Very difficult to do properly, and there's a ton out there already.

Q: Are you looking for "great locations" / "set piece scenes" / etc.? What catches your eye?
A: Others said James goes for bards on dinosaurs. Big dinosaurs. James said it's easier to say what they are not looking for and what turns them off – this includes speling mistkaes, bad grammar, replacements for monsters that can't use (e.g. a "cube with 12 eyestalks that shoots spells" to replace beholders, etc.) National Geographic and history books are great inspirations. Interested in other types of cultures, cryptozoology, etc.

Wes said the setting will be traditional D&D. Medieval fantasy that is easy to fit any campaign into without much effort. So no lightning rails, ray guns, and such ("except that one spot").

Jason said "We get excited about everything."

Jeremy wants to see that the author is creative. Wants new and fun ideas, but not totally wacky. Show creativity and originality.

Q: What about darker, more adult themes? For example, R-rated material?
A: By and large will stick with PG-13. Caught some flack for some material that pushed boundaries too much ("You're going to the Abyss. It's going to be rough. Sorry."), but will listen to what readers want. Already many of their regular writers try to push it into hard-R area and they keep having to reel them in. Approach they like to take is, for example in Pathfinder, they include sidebars in certain sections saying "If you think your group would be ok with it, this part would be good to take to R-rated." So say where would fit best, but not have it on the page. Like to "ride the edge" so ok to push a bit. Ultimately, if the idea is good, they might still accept it and tweak the R-rated parts. But will be publishing in the PG-13 area.

Q: What about situations that offer no good choices for adventurers?
A: Love them!! But definitely don't want it all the time. So ok sometimes.

Awesome. But just to be straight, when you mention posting your monsters on the message boards or e-mailing them in; we should still wait for official word, correct?


The Last Rogue wrote:

Awesome. But just to be straight, when you mention posting your monsters on the message boards or e-mailing them in; we should still wait for official word, correct?


Yeah, since they said they should have formal guidelines up within a week or two, it might be best to hold off for just a titch longer. Besides, I bet they have to recover from Gen Con and Pathfinder launch!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Ken Marable wrote:

Q: What do you not want?

A: Generally still avoid clichés unless it is a REALLY original take on them. ("Don't have a rescue the princess adventure… unless the princess winds up being a hag that rides the king around." Yes, that's pretty much a direct quote. –Ken)

Insert Mother in law joke here.

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