When it comes to the RPG industry, there are only so many open positions. Those game designers with experience and reputation will acquire those jobs before the inexperienced or less well known. Of course there is balance between cost of the game designer and the job to be done. Every company is looking for the next big idea along with the next big author.
One way to get over the hump of scarcity of game design jobs is to expand your horizons—and your skill set—and do other jobs in the industry. The well rounded freelancer is one who will never lack for work as long as they do a good job in every position they accept.
You as a Game Designer
There are several different jobs you can do as a Game Designer. There is the world builder—who creates the setting, the lands, the description of the political or religious hierarchy and the relationship between competing factions. There is the fiction RPG writer—who creates the flavor text, the opening stories and sets the general atmosphere of the book. There is the Numbers person—this invaluable game designer is the one who sets the stats for the monsters, NPCs, weapons and equipment.
Most of the time, if you work in the industry, you must be able to world build. That is the bulk of the writing. However, the most important person is the one who can work the numbers and stat out everything that needs stats. For a long time, I only did world building and fiction writing for RPGs. I was not confident enough in my own abilities to do the numbers.
Then, I received a full book contract. The work included doing all the stats. I was not going to turn the contract down because I “could not” do statting. I worked hard, learned from others, and did what needed doing. After that, I was more confident and I was able to take on the jobs that included the numbers and thus made myself a more valuable freelancer.
You as a Fiction Author
Straight up fiction writing is not world building. While you do world build, you are really telling a story that a reader—who may or may not know the RPG world—will enjoy. This is kind of writing requires a different set of skills. Most RPG game designers are also fiction writers, but not all.
Having the ability to write a good story will open up different freelancing avenues like tie-in anthologies, novels, or website serials. Knowing the RPG world that you are writing fiction in lends itself to making these stories that much richer and exciting to the RPG aficionado while not confusing the reader who is just looking for a good story.
You as a Editor
I have said this before but I will say it again: everyone needs an editor. This is especially true in the RPG industry. Editors make the products flow together in a single, cohesive piece of art. They are the overall polisher who smoothes over different writing styles from different authors into something without jarring transitions.
Also, editors catch mistakes—logical mistakes, factual mistakes, historical mistakes, and any other kind of mistake an author can make. This makes a game designer who can switch hats into an editor a freelancer who is in demand. I understand we all want to be writers but a writer who can also professionally edit will become a better writer as well as keep themselves on the payroll. It is a skill set worth developing.
You as a Blogger/Marketer/PR
There will be times when there are no game design or editing jobs available but there are the necessary jobs that involve marketing RPG products or authors of those products. This is having the ability to shift to a professional blogger, reviewer, or marketer can bring in money. There are RPG companies out there who will pay for professional writing quality reviews for their website, or for blogger essays on topics related to their products. Also, everything you read on the internet—be it a product description, a book blurb, or back cover copy—is written by someone who was paid to do it. Think about that.
Expanding your skill set to become a multitalented writer and editor is one way to ensure that you receive consistent work as a freelancer. There are a number of jobs related to being a game designer that allow the freelancer to do more, get paid more, and to discover what else it is they like to do. If you have the opportunity to learn multiple jobs, I encourage you do to so.
Do you have any questions, hints, or comments on how to expand your horizons as a freelancer in the RPG industry? Comment below and I will do my best to answer you.