Master Mines

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Behold, The Naysayer

“If you don’t have a nigh-completed manuscript, having a finished product at GenCon is… a bit enthusiastic, let’s say.”

That’s the advice Josh Roby gave to me on February 1st last year. And I think he’s right. Heck, right now it’s four months until GenCon, and it takes six to eight weeks to get a book printed.

Now this is the point where I probably get unpopular. Having been hip-deep in the the development process (which is different from the design process, mind you) for six months now, I have to say this: don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to get the text written, tested, and solid. Hell, I’m just hoping to get Penny out by the end of the year and I had a playable, mostly workable draft ten months ago.

Now I understand that I am neither the fastest nor the best writer around, so I suspect that just because it’s taken me this long doesn’t mean it will necessary take you that long. But I think we need to be realistic about things. I guess what I’m really saying is that while Master Mines is about design, don’t make the mistake of thinking that design is the hard or time-consuming part of publishing a game.


April 9, 2008 - Posted by | Group Feedback


  1. Thanks for the feedback, Paul.

    I hope that the new rules I put out there have not influenced anyone to rush to a state of Publishing.

    Comment by orklord | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. I fear I’ve not been a help in that regard, given how long I’ve been listed as Publishing. I’ve actually switched my status to Developing, because that’s what I’m really doing now: turning the design into a complete, playable rules text. The actual publishing part comes later.

    Comment by ptevis | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. I have no intention of publishing even by the end of the year. Earliest would be Dreamation, but even that is remote. I’ll be happy if I have a reasonable playtest draft by GenCon. I considered and abandoned the idea of the Ashcan Front yesterday.

    I’d love to hear from Rob – going from an outline, a page of notes, and a bunch of stuff in your head to a finished manuscript is no joke!

    Comment by Matthew Gandy | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  4. Oh, and when you get to the end of the design phase, I highly recommend Josh’s excellent post on How to Write an RPG for one method of creating your manuscript. It certainly helped me.

    Comment by ptevis | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  5. Paul,

    Where do you think ashcans fit in Joshua’s advice?


    I’d love to gas on about my process. Is there anything in particular you wanted to know?

    Comment by robertbohl | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  6. It depends what role you see the ashcan playing. For me, it was design validation. As a result, my ashcan was the “notes” that Josh talks about starting the process with. I’ve rewritten almost the entire ashcan text since then, using that post as a guide.

    Ashcans could also be used as text validation, along the lines of what I’ve been thinking of as “beta playtest.”

    Comment by ptevis | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  7. My notion for the ashcan of Misspent Youth is roughly as follows:

    * I am pretty confident about the quality of the game’s rules.
    * I’d like to have them tested in the wild to see if there’s anything I missed.
    * I’d like to see if my game text (which is not yet written) fails to communicate anything in the game.
    * I’d like to know what people think of the layout and design choices I made, to see what to carry over into a final book and what to leave out.

    To me, having a pretty good rule set now but not yet having written most of the text of a (short) game, planning to hopefully get lots of playtesting in of the game after the text is written, planning on hiring an editor friend of mine (exchange for services), I’m fairly confident about putting out an ashcan at Gen Con this year.

    So how does that line up with your concerns in the original post?

    Comment by robertbohl | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  8. Honestly, it really depends on how fast of a writer you are and what sort of packaging you intend for the ashcan (i.e. how much lead-time you’ll need for production). I certainly think it’s doable.

    Comment by ptevis | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  9. I intend to do a saddle-stapled or perfect bound book with minimal black and white art in the interior and a black, white, and red cover. I’m a pretty fast writer when I have to be (commonly was able to toss off 20-page Masters papers in a day).

    I feel pretty confident but I am open to being challenged.

    Comment by robertbohl | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  10. Rob,

    Why don’t you use MM as “the wild”? We can test your draft when you have written it.

    Perhaps you are in the Developing phase (which needs definition) like Paul?

    Comment by orklord | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  11. I certainly will do that, and I will do that with my friends as well. However, the scope of people you can access for testing with an ashcan is much larger than anything you can organize on your own.

    So, it’s a “yes, and” kind of a situation.

    Comment by robertbohl | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  12. Paul, you’ve said what I’ve been thinking every time I read a “we’ll have a game by GenCon!” post. Honestly, I think that’s part of why I let MM slip as long as I did — this started to get a “let’s get a game done by GenCon” vibe, and that killed my energy level last year.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | April 9, 2008 | Reply

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