Calling all Freelancers! Adventure to Dice Castle

If you’re reading this column, you may recall Jennifer Brozek’s series of articles dubbed “Dice and Deadlines.” Jennifer talked a lot about the fundamentals of how to be an RPG freelancer. There’s a lot of good material in there so, rather than re-hash what Jennifer has already said, my column is going to talk about the journey. Each month I’m going to help you build your career within the RPG industry. We’re going on an adventure, dear readers, because that’s what being a creative professional is all about.

Before we head out on our quest to Dice Castle, there are a couple of things we need to figure out. First? We’re going to take a look at your character sheet to see what’s already there. Oh, and for those of you who decide to min/max this process? There will be some opportunities for that, too. You’re a Commoner at the moment, but with any luck you’ll be a Freelancer in no time. So sayeth the GM, so shall it be done.

Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Most character sheets have some form of attributes or skills in order to help you understand what that particular character is all about. Using that as our inspiration, let’s figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are.

Writing Exercise #1: Grab two sheets of paper or open a new document.

On the top of the first page, create three columns. You’ll want to label these great, average and poor. In the column marked “great,” I’d like you to write down all the things that you are proficient at. Do NOT hold back, but be honest. Are you timely? Can you tell an awesome joke? Knit an amazing sock? Then, use the other two columns and follow suit. List everything down that you’re pretty good at, but not awesome. Same goes for poor.

Once you’re done, grab a fresh sheet of paper and label the columns the same way. Then, I want you to transfer the skills you feel are crucial to being a good freelancer from your first sheet. In other words, you’re going to highlight what you already know and identify your weaknesses.

After you’re finished, take a good, long look at those two sheets. Hang on to them, because you’ll need them in a minute.

Every Quest Begins with Wisdom

By now you should have figured out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Please, for the love of Gygax do not beat yourself up over the things you suck at. Every human/orc/troll/dragon/wizard has weaknesses. Everyone does. The key thing is to figure out how to play into your strengths and minimize those weak spots. That’s where the min/maxing comes into play. How can you do that?

For starters, you can absorb knowledge and figure out an approach that works for you by listening to the advice of others. I’d like to help by sharing with you some words of wisdom from my own experiences:

  • If you want to write and design games, then write and design games. If you want to be a novelist, write novels. Don’t write for games because you think you’ll increase your chances of becoming a novelist.
  • Playing games is crucial to writing and designing games.

  • Penning game fiction is not the same thing as writing flavor text.

  • If you’re in the hobby games industry to get rich quick, then get out now.

  • No two gaming companies, game designers or freelancers are alike. Just because something works for you, doesn’t mean it’ll work out for someone else.

  • Accumulating freelancing credits in the hobby games industry does not necessarily make you a better game designer or writer.

  • Freelance writing and game design are not the same thing and often require different parts of your brain.

  • This industry is 1/1000th the size of the publishing industry. If you’re a jerk (or any variation thereof) – word will get around.

  • Freelancers are like Switzerland. Don’t engage in system or edition wars or publicly bash any company because it’ll come back to haunt you later.

  • When you’re a freelancer, you’re a freelancer. No matter how much you may love a game or a company, their decisions are not based on you, but on what’s best for them. Respect those decisions, even if you disagree.

    Apply Sage Advice to Change Class

    To switch your class from Commoner to Freelancer, you’ll need to absorb the advice you’ve heard and read and then apply it over time. In other words, you won’t become a freelancer overnight just because you say you’re going to be one. It takes time and effort to go from gamer to game designer, because you’re transferring your mindset from the role of consumer to creator. Can’t figure out where to start? Well, remember those sheets you just filled out?

    Grab the second sheet where you described your strengths and weaknesses as a freelancer. Now, based on the advice you’ve already heard (regardless of whether it came from me or someone else) ask yourself this question: Are there any opportunities for you to either improve or add new concepts to the sheet? If there are, add new terms into the appropriate column and then put a “G” next to the ones you want to enhance. (Be honest, this isn’t a test and I’m not looking over your shoulder.)

    This sheet will evolve over the course of your journey, but it is a road map for your professional development. Truth be told, it will always change, because it doesn’t matter how experienced you are — you’ll always have something to learn.

    Will You Join Your Fellow Adventurers?

    I hope you’ll enjoy this column as much as you did the previous one. Next month we’ll dip into your bag of holding to figure out what tools and equipment you’ll need for this process.

    I’d like to turn the conversation back over to you now, by asking for your feedback to help me plot out your adventure. What things are you looking for in a column geared for freelancers? What topics aren’t you interested in?

    About MLV

    Monica Valentinelli is a professional author and game designer. She has been published through Abstract Nova Press, Eden Studios, White Wolf Publishing, Apex Magazine and others. For more information about Monica's games and books, visit

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