Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Validation – Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing’s Thoughts on Breaking into the Game Industry

Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing (publishers of Fantasy AGE, Mutants & Masterminds, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, and D&D 5e’s Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide among other role-playing products) wrote a post about how to break into the game industry. It is an excellent piece covering the practical ways to become a game designer. I recommend reading it for all of his thoughts.

Green Ronin Publishing Logo

Green Ronin Publishing Logo

Chris’ blog, falling at the end 2016, is an apt sounding board for a year-end review. For what my experiment – purchasing role-playing game writing opportunities via Kickstarter to build a resume and advance from RPG wanna-lancer to RPG freelancer – I want to compare the parts of his article that relate to my process as a gauge for how well I am doing.

Where is Chris Pramas at as 2016 closes? President of Green Ronin Publishing with a slew of games he’s designed and the awards to testify to their quality. He has two-plus-decades of experience seeing freelancers break into the game industry. With his position in the industry, his thoughts will make an excellent progress marker.

Where am I at the end of 2016? I’ve leveled from fan-with-a-plan to fan-acting-on-a-plan with a few pleasant RPG credits and I was invited to join this blog. With my day job and life leaving limited time to work on creative pursuits, I’ve enjoyed this year as I ramped up my skills and consistently met deadlines.

Let’s compare my plan to Chris’ suggestions. (All quotes are pulled from Chris Pramas’ article.)

Green Ronin Publishing - A Song of Ice and Fire

Green Ronin Publishing – A Song of Ice and Fire


“[…] create a blog and write about games.”

I started buying vanity press RPG writing credits in mid-2015 and started blogging about the results fourteen months later. To spread out the blog’s content, I have not covered all of the writing opportunities I have bought to-date. At the close of 2016, I have 10 Kickstarter RPG writing credits (published or forthcoming), 1 RPG art credit, some RPG work-for-credits, 1 trip to Gen Con, and a comic book mini-series pitch approved. I’m not out of the wanna-lancer stage but I’m taking baby steps to get there. With content and a consistent theme for my blog, 2017 should be a good year in my journey to freelancer.

“This costs virtually nothing […] writing regularly is good practice.”

While blogging does cost “virtually nothing”, the route that I chose, buying RPG writing credits, does have a cost. Being financially invested heightens my interest in finding time to make this happen. It’s less about wouldn’t-it-be-nice and more about I-need-to-make-that-money-back.

The same thought process applies to regular blogging. Having a blog that runs two to three Tuesdays a month, while not a hard deadline, helps to build deadline “muscle memory”. It also makes the most of the money and time I’ve invested in these by turning each Kickstarter into a part of the narrative of my quest.

“[…] I suggest writing actual game content. […] pick a game or two that you like and start writing material for it. […] Design some monsters or magic items. Write a short adventure. Make some NPCs with adventure hooks. If you start creating useful content, you can develop a good reputation in the game’s community. This may eventually lead to freelance work.”

The beauty of buying a RPG writing assignment is being given a small, specific project to develop that you know will be published. As Chris suggests, I am developing a monster or a magic item or whatever the assignment is. However, instead of putting it onto the internet and hoping that gamers and publishers see it, I am putting these short projects into successfully crowdfunded RPGs that will be read by editors and fans. It is Chris’ advice turned up to 11.

Celltar Drumthunder. Art by Egg Embry

Celltar Drumthunder from Ember Design Studio’s Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street. Art by Egg Embry

“At the very least you are developing a body of work that is easy to show off. If a developer asks you for a writing sample, you’ll have ready material for that.”

My plan has always been two birds with one Kickstarter pledge. Bird one is, of course, the writing and credits themselves. The opportunity to be handed an assignment from a publisher, work for them, get published, and, hopefully, open a door to become a RPG freelancer. As Chris suggests, I have submitted my published work as writing samples. Bird two is to blog about the experience and build interest with gamers for the product I’m in and the work I’ve contributed to it.

“Writing reviews can also be useful. It can show that you can think critically about games. Checking out a wide variety of game material is never wasted time either.”

Writing about the purchase and the creation process means, in a limited way, I get to review the product that I was in. With respect to these reviews, since I am not an unbiased observer, I don’t do an in-depth discussion. But, these blogs are a chance to bring up the product and cast a new perspective on it with some minor production information.

Some of the RPG assignments are for systems that I have limited experience with. My comfort zone is Dungeons & Dragons 5e. But, through purchasing assignments, I’ve added development work in Pathfinder, W.O.I.N., Call of Cthuhlu 7e, and touched on Castles & Crusaders. Doing this has exposed me to a growing list of game material, lockstep with the suggestion from the President of Green Ronin Publishing.

Green Ronin Publishing - Mutants & Masterminds

Green Ronin Publishing – Mutants & Masterminds


“[…] I’ve mentioned a couple of ways to break into freelancing already but there are others. Some companies do open calls from time to time. You will end up in a big slush pile but it’s a chance at least.”

In the year and a half I’ve been experimenting with this, I’ve only submitted for one RPG freelance assignment and that was under a month ago. Why did I wait this long?

  • It’s easier to buy an opportunity because, through the logic of commerce, they have to work with you because they took your money. For freelancing, the reverse is true – You have to work with them if you want their money. That means their schedule, their style, their notes, their way. I want to make sure I’m ready to follow other people’s rules before I raise my hand.
  • It seemed almost pointless to cold submit for projects with no resume. With no prior experience, I expect it would be a long while before anyone takes a chance on me. Now, I have some entries which have led to intern-esque opportunities.
  • I mention time a lot because I have very little of it that I can spend in front of a computer writing. That situation has improved recently so it is time to try these type of opportunities.

“You’ll also find game design competitions out there. You may not win—you probably won’t, in fact—but good work can get you noticed and may result in freelance opportunities. Once you get a gig, the most important thing to do is hit your deadline. If your developer asks for revisions, do them in a timeline fashion. It is better to do solid work on time than produce something of sheer genius months late.”

Through the Kickstarter for Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e, about 100 backers and I submitted monsters for consideration in their book. Twenty were selected. Mine was not one of the selected entrants. However, I did get quality feedback from Wolfgang Baur and Dan Dillon on the design that improved the monster. Dan shared that mine was in contention for one of the final two slots (as were about 20 others). I lost but, based on their thoughts, I was not hopeless. Taking their advice, next time I’ll have a better idea of what to do.

Green Ronin Publishing - Fantasy Age

Green Ronin Publishing – Fantasy Age


“[…] The biggest game changer though is crowdfunding. […] I’ll just note here that sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo make it possible for game companies to overcome the biggest hurdle most of them face: funding. […] Just do your homework before trying your first crowdfunding campaign. There is much to absorb about the process and the best practices of crowdfunding […]”

While I’m not racing to be a publisher, what I am doing would not be possible without crowdfunding and their decision to offer writing opportunities as rewards. Without those two things, I do not believe I would have a path to become a freelancer.

* * *

I only touched on some of Chris Pramas’ article. But based on it, I’m doing a number of the right things and I’m doing them my way. 2016 has been a successful year in terms of dipping my toe into the game industry. As I head into 2017, I have more products coming out and other irons in the fire. I am ready to make 2017 the Year of the Wanna-lancer!

* * *

I want to thank my gaming buddy, Sir Leland Beauchamp, for sharing Chris’ article with me. And Chris Pramas for sharing his insights with the world.

As the year closes, I want to thank Erica and our nieces and nephews for making every day worth living, my parents for their spirit of independence, the members of the Tessera Guild for letting me play in their sandbox, Michael Phillips at Midcity Comics for all of the good conversation and motivation, all of the RPG publishers that I have had the privilege to work with and all of the wonderful content that they’ve produced, and Michael Bugg‘s RPG group that keeps me in-character. Without each of you, 2016 would not have been a success for me.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Sunken Temple and Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland

Behind the scenes, I’ve made strides in my scheme to buy my way up from RPG wanna-lancer to RPG freelancer. Still working at getting into RPGs professionally, but strides are being made all the same. The root of my plan is buying role-playing game writing credits via Kickstarter to create a resume. Currently, here are some of the Kickstarters that are offering vanity press options.

I’ve chronicled the NPC that I created for Ember Design Studios via their Kickstarter for Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street. My guildmate, John McGuire, wrote up his experience creating a NPC for the same products here. As it happens, EDS is running another Kickstarter and they’re offering more NPC creation options.

* * *

Sunken Temple, an RPG adventure for 5e, Pathfinder, & WOIN by Ember Design Studios

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, December 18th, 2016 at 12:00 EDT.

Sunken Temple Art

Sunken Temple Artwork

Their pitch:

Lost beneath the waves for untold millennia, the Sunken Temple has been seen again. Inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft. 

Sunken Temple is an adventure written for 5e, W.O.I.N., and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It takes place in a mysterious range of never-before-seen mountains and is suitable for use in any setting. The module is inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, particularly The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and At the Mountains of Madness. 

The project includes: 

  • An adventure suitable for 4-5 characters of 6th-level. The playstyle is predominately a dungeon crawl, with a horrific element appropriate to the source material.
  • The temple includes several wings, each with a different feel, assortment of baddies, and their own malevolent purpose – with additional wings ready to be unearthed through stretch goals! 
  • Game stats and original artwork for several traditional Lovecraft beasties (deep one, star spawn, night gaunt, and rat thing) and a few originals of my own devising. 

Sunken Temple will be available in print, PDF, and through City of Brass.

City of Brass

City of Brass

Egg’s thoughts:

This project will have versions available for 5e, Pathfinder, and – best for my resume – W.O.I.N. That adds another system to my list. Adding to its draw, this is another project that plays in Cthulhu’s sandbox.

For EDS’s last Kickstarter, I created Celltar Drumthunder. It was fun, easy, and formed a part of a set of memorable Christmas gifts as I gave two other NPC creation slots to my buddies, John McGuire and Leland Beauchamp. We tied the back stories of our non-player characters together.

For this adventure, EDS is offering two types of NPCs, sailors or more prominent characters (captain, etc). Since this is a similar opportunity as with Yrisa’s Nightmare, let me offer Sunken Temple the highest praise I can give – John McGuire, Leland Beauchamp, and myself are all investing in it and all paying the extra to create more NPCs. The experience was good enough to warrant repeat business.

That brings us to the 6th Kickstarter update to their campaign, the vanity press rewards:

Sunken Temple art showing the reason the temple sank - Too many C[thulhu]arbs!

The reason the temple sank – Too many c-thulhu-arbs!

New Addon: Make a Sailor

With the unlocking of Voyage of the Sea Darter there is a chance for those of you who want to leave a more lasting mark on Sunken Temple to do so.

Sea Darter boasts a crew of about 20 sailors. Several of them will have minor roles in the adventure, and the more and diverse personalities that they have, the better. So, if you’d like to take a swing at creating a sailor that will appear in this finished aventure, just add $20 to your pledge.

Now, maybe you want to have a more prominent impact both on the project funding and the characters in the adventure. If you’d like to nab one of these slots, add $50 to your pledge and message me, so I know which one you want and make sure we don’t have everyone adding the same ones. For each of these that someone claims, I’ll also commission extra artwork for the character.

The limited roles include:

  • Captain
  • First Mate
  • Navigator
  • Mutinous Sailor (I’m not saying there’s a mutiny but just in case)

* * *

Hypercorps 2099 Wasteland: 5th Edition Apocalyptic RPG (5E) by Mike Myler

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, December 18th, 2016 at 11:59 EDT in the evening.

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e - Mutants

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e – Mutants

Their pitch:

Venture into the ruins of civilization! Fight nuclear fallout and wild warlords! Try to survive and thrive in Earth’s atomic twilight!

Pockets of Earth are decimated by nuclear war in 1969 after the Bay of Pigs escalates into World War 3 and atomic weapons are unleashed across the planet. The alter sapiens of the world put aside their differences and use their abilities to create safe havens across the globe, saving those they can from nuclear devastation. Almost a century and a half has passed since the atomic apocalypse and through tireless scientific effort, areas of the world are becoming livable once more and civilization is creeping out to seek out life once again under the sun—though doing so means surviving in the Wasteland and many believe they were better off locked away in their shelters.

Help us make a 120+ page campaign setting source book for taking your D&D game into the apocalyptic future of an alternate Hypercorps 2099!

Egg’s thoughts:

This setting is an alternate timeline deviating from their main setting which is a variant timeline from our own. The idea of multiple timeline settings presents a campaign idea – learning the origins of these worlds by dimension jumping the PCs from the Hypercorps 2099 timeline/setting to “our” timeline to find out why the altered sapiens and fantasy races never emerged. From there, travel to the Cuban Missile Crisis to see the start of Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands before traveling to the “current” wastelands setting. There’s a nice story in seeing the cause and effect of the worlds and how the players can influence it.

Add the vanity press post apocalypse Kickstarter rewards and this is a winning setting! Not only do you get to design a wasteland warlord and/or a NPC, you also are involved in the art discussion. You will get some say with the artist on how the character(s) will look which is a nice bonus.

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e - Cyborg

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e – Cyborg

Their vanity press rewards:

Pledge $250 or more

Wasteland PDF, Wasteland hardcover, 5 session mini-campaign through for you and four friends, and you will help design and order artwork for one of the warlords in Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland!

  • Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland Hardcover and PDF
  • Hypercorps 2099 5e Hardcover and PDF
  • 5 Session Mini-Campaign Through for You and Four Friends
  • Help Design a Warlord for the Wasteland (Includes Art Order)

* * *

Pledge $500 or more 

Wasteland PDF, Wasteland hardcover, campaign through for you and four friends (minimum of 10 sessions), and you will help design and order artwork for a unique NPC survivor of your own design and one of the warlords in Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland!

  • Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland Hardcover and PDF
  • Hypercorps 2099 5e Hardcover and PDF
  • 5 Session Mini-Campaign Through for You and Four Friends
  • Help Design a Warlord for the Wasteland (Includes Art Order)
  • Design a Unique NPC for the Wasteland (Includes Art Order)

* * *

Closing thoughts:

Both projects will be fun to see brought to life. Cthulhu or mutants? Both are going to be fun to fight!

I’ve already pledged for EDS’s Sunken Temple. I’ve worked with them before and they are easygoing. I expect a top shelf product with plenty of extras. I’m really excited about this one! And that’s no slight to Mike Myler’s Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands. I believe it will turn out nicely as well. He is presenting an interesting world and solid vanity press options.

Both have an extra bit of win, they could be purchased as Christmas gifts for the RPG fan that has it all… save for creator credits.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at