Getting into the heart of Magic.
This afternoon, we are looking at delving into the actual magical abilities. The plan is to make final tweaks to the damage dealt by each, adjust the Status effects to make sure they are aligned with other abilities, and clarify the descriptions of the ability. This is the part to which I actually look forward. I know there are modifications within the set. Now that we have worked on spell fusions and developed a clear endpoint to the skill, we have a guiding light to lead us forward on this endeavor.
In the last blog, I talked about goals and milestones of achievement. I guess a little needs to be said about setting those goals. When you are creating a 300+ page technical document detailing ways of having fun telling a story, you can easily get lost in the process of creation. As fun as the writing of such a manuscript sounds, we need to keep in mind focus is often a waning attribute. It becomes increasingly important to set little goal posts letting us know when we've actually accomplished something.
Naturally, chapter completion is always a nice goal. Unfortunately, that can become a little more complicated than it sounds. If your system is anything like ours, you'll have integrated elements linking many, if not all, game components. This means a lot of cross referencing and double checking. This process basically comes down to playtesting, realizing you need to correct something, correcting it, going back through all the cross references, correcting those, falling into the false security you've got it patched, playtesting it again, and starting the cycle all over.
The editing process involves finding all those fragments of earlier versions you skipped, rewriting them, realizing they no longer fit into the current rule set, debating which rule set you want to follow, making a decision, realizing you'll need to rewrite practically ever chapter except the introduction and glossary, rewriting it, adding pages, deleting pages, renumbering pages, and driving yourself nuts. At that moment you've come to believe you would be better off straightening the wire in a scouring pad, you realize: It's right.
You've got the abilities and items you want and the mechanics to allow it all to make sense in a story setting. Now, all you need is a little polish. The deal is this: You think the first round of editing was the toughest. It's not. It's actually the easiest. Getting it explained so a stranger can pick up your game and play it. O. M. G. You have just begun.
This is the stage I like to call the refinement stage. It's the stage at which you first think anything other than game writing wouldn't be such a bad career change. It is the stage where you have to EXPLAIN how to play your game. Not the rules. Not the mechanics. You must explain how a person sits down at the table and the things they do while playing your game. It is maddening.
This is the point at which you had better start setting some achievable goals. Little goals at first. "If I complete two pages, I'll have done a day's work," kind of goals. The beginning of the process is the absolute worse. Rather than tell you about it, I'll tell you what happened.
Back in July of 2020, I finished my first rough draft of the new edition. I'd developed the mechanics, converted all of the content into the new format, and expanded the item descriptions and mechanics allowing GMs to create their own. I felt pretty smug about the whole document. I had it printed, bound, and cleaned up as best I could. I even drove 150 miles to hand deliver a copy to Kevin and let him preview it.
By the end of the weekend, he called me to let me know, and I quote, "It's got a lot of things I like and fixes a lot of things with the old system. With a little work, it can be cleaned up to something really good." The conversation went on to include little jewels like, "glaring errors", "hard to read", and "a real mess" to mention a few. He was right.
My biggest error was not in the rules but in the explanation. In writing this monster document, I've actually become blind to what I have written. Instead, I now see what I intended. Even after months of editing, I still see what I intended over what I've written.
We've managed to go from completing a couple of pages a day to actually completing entire chapters. Our goals have expanded and we are now able to achieve a lot more in our time because the effort of editing has forced me to retrain my eye (and mind) to see the written word. I still need someone to work with, but the synergy between Kevin and myself in terms of editing and productivity has increased dramatically.
In short, take heart. The process is tedious if you want to put out a good product. Take your time. Make sure the document says exactly what you want it to say and don't afraid to explain and clarify the intentions of your rules. Finally, take pride in what you've accomplished. Even if the only intention is to have your personal game system for home use, it is yours. Go the extra mile to make is something your and your group can be proud of.
Thanks for reading!
K. B. Kidder
If you are checking out this blog for the first time, you may access our website by clicking here: Tortured Earth
If you are interested in the creature development process, you may submit your own creatures by filling out the following form. We will review the forms before publishing the creatures to the website. Creature Creation Form
If you would like to see what Tortured Earth looks like, the GM portion of the rule book is available as a free download on the Tortured Earth Home Page. Tortured Earth Beta GM Guide
And finally, I have created a Tavern Generator and Loot Generator. Both are free downloads and can be adapted to a wide range of story settings. Both are written in Excel. If you are using a tablet, you can download a free version of Excel and operate it live at the game table.