Sean K. Reynolds is a prolific writer and game designer who’s worked on hundreds of supplements for various RPGs, including Dungeons & Dragons. Sean and I met years ago when we were both working for Upper Deck, where Sean was an IP developer. From there, he left to develop the Pathfinder RPG at Paizo. He currently works for Monte Cook Games, where he just finished the Kickstarter for the Planebreaker RPG alongside legendary RPG designers Bruce R. Cordell and Monte Cook. Sean is an awesome guest with lots to share!
“You just have to practice that writing. It’s like any other skill. Practice it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes, and you need to learn from them.”
We start by discussing how Sean entered into his RPG design and writing career. What we find is not too surprising. Writing modules, campaigns, and worlds for RPGs follows the same process as any other creative endeavor: Create, Iterate, Collect Feedback, Apply Feedback, and Repeat.
“One of the important skills that you need to learn when you’re starting out as a designer is that just because something works for a home group doesn’t mean it’s going to work for a whole bunch of other groups out there.”
The core principle behind developing RPGs is the players have fun becoming the creators. Here we discuss how to develop a game so that different groups of players across the world can pick up your game and use the ruleset for their playstyle preferences.
“If you are working as a developer or freelance wrangler or managing editor capacity, you have to recognize that these people are working for you because they have skills, and you value those skills, and you want the way they talk about things to shine through on the paper because there are people who love their style and buy their books because their names are on them, not because my name is on it.”
There is a huge difference between doing all the work yourself for a game and managing a team of people to create with you. In this section, we discuss working with writers for role-playing games and how to manage your expectations and outcomes regarding their work.
“If you have a game that you like to play, and it kinda fits the narrative, start with that.[…] whether you’re just going to reskin something or just take the bare bones framework or the game mechanics and build upon that like putting meat on a very sexy skeleton.”
We spend a lot of time discussing how to make an RPG. There are a lot of lessons in this section, as Sean has been part of the biggest RPGs on the planet. At Monte Cook Games, he is developing some of the highest-grossing Kickstarter in the RPG space. If you’re as interested in making an RPG as I am, get your notebook ready!