Podcasting Your Games, Legally Speaking

July 8, 2020
Here's a slight deviation from my standard "so you're an RPG writer" advice, but it touches on the two pillars of my professional life: gaming and the law.

There's been a big push in actual-play podcasting in the last few years. I'm even part of one myself (it's an awesome Starfinder campaign, and you can find our episodes here). With more people meeting virtually, I've heard more people considering recording and uploading their games as actual-play podcasts. This is fun, and the tech available makes it easier to do than ever. I note that such podcasts are rarely "actual play," but are often edited a little (or a lot) to make them seem faster paced, more lively, added sound effects, and so on.

A lot of this advice goes into streaming games as well; these are rarely edited on the fly, of course, but they implicate many of the same legal issues.

If you're thinking of making your game an actual play podcast or a stream, you should of course involve your players and let them know of your plans. With all the actual play podcasts and streams out there, you might not get a huge listenership, but you might develop a dedicated audience over time. You'll probably want an agreement among yourselves about rights and expectations, to address any hard feelings if a particular player isn't happy with a session (or a bunch of sessions), or wants compensation retroactively, or whatever.

Here are the elements of the kind of agreement you might consider. Generally, this type of agreement is called a "Media Release Agreement" or "Release Agreement."

* The Parties. Invariably, one person--usually, but not always, the GM--is going to be spearheading the drive to podcast the group's sessions. This person is going to undertake the effort of recording, editing, posting, and all that (the specifics of which are, frankly, beyond me, and you can probably find great advice about all that elsewhere). This advice is really for you, if you're that person. You should consider the agreement between you--as the person doing the legwork to make this all go--and the other players, who are participants in the podcast (we'll call them the "Participants" in fancy capitalized legalese). You might not go through the effort of establishing limited liability company or corporation for your podcast, but if you do, the agreement would be between that entity and all the Participants. It's fine to have all the Participants sign one agreement collectively. 

* Participant Authorization. This is the first of two core reasons for this type of agreement. Each Participant should grant you permission to use their appearance (including any video, images, sound, recordings, and so forth) however you deem necessary, and edited as you see fit. You should also state that there's no specific obligation on you to use any particular Participant, so if you edit someone down pretty significantly they don't have grounds to complain. This seems heavy-handed, but it allows you to mix and edit to keep the podcast lively. If you have someone who insists on being the center of attention and wants to be in the podcast so they can be the focus all the time, at everyone else's expense, then maybe making a podcast about the whole gaming group isn't the right thing for you to be doing in the first place.

* Participant Release. This is the second of two core reasons for this type of agreement. Each Participant should release you from any claims relating to the appearance. Someone might later claim there was defamation, an invasion of privacy, infringement of rights of publicity, or the like. You won't automatically deflect every such claim should one of the Participants decide to make a big issue out of this, but you want to have this release at the outset. That said, these gamers are your friends, so if someone says, "hey, can you edit out that part during the ogre fight where I yelled out in surprise and then flushed the toilet?" you should probably just do that before they're known across social media as "Grobnar Lightfingers the Flushing Rogue."

No Right of Review. Some jurisdictions might give a Participant the right to review or inspect anything that goes out with their likeness; you should state that there's no such right for the podcast. Otherwise, you will really slow down your release by waiting for everyone to weigh in on each recording in its entirety.

* Consideration. It's a fundamental tenet of contract law that each party must receive something from the other for a contract to be valid; a purely one-sided contract can be deemed unenforceable. For release agreements like this, it's very common--and, arguably, necessary--to include a statement about what the Participants get out of it. Even a statement that the Participants are being allowed to participate or perform in the podcast, and that such participation is agreed by the parties to be consideration, is a really good idea. You should state that there isn't any other compensation at all for their participation. (If there is, then you're looking for a slightly different type of agreement about hiring talent for performance, which has separate legal issues.)

* Boilerplate. Standard contractual terms about amendment, waiver, notices, governing law, and so on should be part of this contract, just as it is with any formal legal agreement. I could (and have!) blog about all these provisions that everyone besides me finds super boring.

With the legal technicalities out of the way, you can get to the practical technicalities--which are much more often the biggest hurdles to overcome to get an actual-play podcast going.
 

Another Adventure Path Kicks Off!

June 27, 2020
I've just finished an important work project, although it's something I can't talk much about just yet. We've announced our upcoming three-part Adventure Paths: the dungeon-themed Abomination Vaults Adventure Path, which I'm developing, and the martial-arts-tournament-themed Fists of the Ruby Phoenix Adventure Path, which my friend and coworker Patrick is developing. As will surprise no one, I've been hard at work putting together the outline for the Adventure Path after that one, which we ha...
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Into the Dungeon!

June 24, 2020
I recently contributed to an awesome project that is Kickstarting now. The Book of Dungeon Encounters is a collection of system-neutral dungeon encounters you can drop into any dungeon setting. If you like creepy, cool, fun, puzzling, or challenging dungeon encounters, don't miss out on this! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/philipreed/the-book-of-dungeon-encounters-for-use-with-fantasy-rpgs/
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Stumbling Blocks for New Adventure Authors

June 22, 2020
An online-only PaizoCon had a few wrinkles, but one of the best parts was being able to set up an "Ask Me Anything" thread for anyone to drop in and ask me questions about what I do. One question I received from Andrew Mullen strikes me as a great question a lot of people probably have:

What's the biggest—or what're the co-biggest—stumbling blocks you see from new adventure authors?

And here's my (mostly unedited) response to that:

Erratic party assumptions! Too many new writers assume all p...

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How I Develop, 3 of 3: What I Do to Your Words

June 9, 2020

Professionally, I’m a game developer. I focus on developing adventures. That means outlining adventures and assigning writing to freelancers, checking freelancers’ milestones, and developing the freelancer’s text before sending it to the editors. Let’s break those three things down! Finally, the development.

This is the bulk of my job. I’m taking turnover text that you, the freelancer, give to me, and I’m giving it a thorough edit, called a development edit (to distinguish it from ...


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How I Develop, Part 2 of 3: Your Milestone

May 28, 2020

Professionally, I’m a game developer. I focus on developing adventures. That means outlining adventures and assigning writing to freelancers, checking freelancers’ milestones, and developing the freelancer’s text before sending it to the editors. Let’s break those three things down! Second, the milestone.

What A Milestone Is. A milestone is a check-in point where I’ve asked you, the freelancer, to turn in about half your word count. This is to make sure you’re on track, and to make...


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How I Develop, Part 1 of 3: Forging the Outline

May 25, 2020

Professionally, I’m a game developer. I focus on developing adventures. That means outlining adventures and assigning writing to freelancers, checking freelancers’ milestones, and developing the freelancer’s text before sending it to the editors. Let’s break those three things down! First, the outline. 

I work with a lot of internal stakeholders to come up with a project outline that I give to my freelancers. Because I work on the Pathfinder Adventure Path line, the projects I’m outl...


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What Actual Feedback Looks Like

May 22, 2020
So, I wanted to talk about how feedback a developer gives you as a freelancer is going to range from the exceptionally specific to the exceptionally general. I know when I give feedback, this is nearly always the case. And I thought an example would be helpful, but I don't feel comfortable sharing the feedback I've given to others. Instead, here's some feedback I got myself!

Back in 2013 / 2014, I wrote The Choking Tower, the third adventure in the Iron Gods Adventure Path. James Jacobs gave m...
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What Makes a Good Milestone

May 19, 2020
If you're writing for RPGs, it's pretty likely you'll get asked to turn over a "milestone" about halfway through the process. This is basically a midpoint check-in, where you show you've got about half the word count completed. But a milestone can and should be a greater opportunity for that for you, the freelancer, to interface with your developer. What makes a good milestone?

* Word Count. What is "about half" of your word count? Anywhere near 50 percent is fine, so long as it's showing good...
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That's So Platinum

May 14, 2020
I was looking over a conversation about the "metal levels" on DriveThruRPG, the most significant site for digital RPG sales. These levels (Copper, Silver, Gold, and so on) correspond with sales: higher sales get rarer metals.

I've felt lucky if some of my third party press products even get Copper rated, but I was surprised to find that I actually have three Platinum products! All three adventures I wrote for the D&D Adventurer's League campaign (Beneath the Fetid Chelimber, The Seer, and Quel...
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Another Solo Adventure!

May 13, 2020
I've released my next solo adventure, a conversion to my popular Night of the Skulltaker for solo play. You can get it right here!
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Bells and Whistles

May 12, 2020
As an adventure writer, I like to think that the story comes first, and is the most vital thing I'm providing. Sure, there are monsters, but you can go get those stats in a monster book (whether a Monster Manual, a Bestiary, or an Alien Archive). The same with traps; something in the core rulebook is something you can look up yourself. Maps are often really important to tell the story, but you can draw those out yourself, or print the ones I include in the adventure. You've got all the tokens...
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When Results By 10 Aren't Enough

May 6, 2020
In Pathfinder First Edition, it was pretty common to see results broken up by 5s. Failed to climb that wall? If you failed by 5 or more, you'll fall. Failed to disable a trap? If you failed by 5 or more, you accidentally set it off. I saw plenty of tables, such as for information gathered while investigating something, that came in units of 5: If you got a result of 15 or higher on your Perception/Diplomacy/whatever, you learned X. If you got a 20 or higher, you also learned Y. If you got a 2...
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The Duskwalker's Gift, by Ken Melvoin-Berg

May 5, 2020
In what might be the first piece of fan fiction my works have ever received, here's a short story about Tarklo Dirge, the protagonist of The Duskwalker's Due, the solo adventure you can get right here. It's by my good friend Ken Melvoin-Berg and it's a lot of fun!

The Duskwalker’s Gift by Ken Melvoin-Berg


Hunting is what I was born for, literally. I was born again in this body of Tarklo Dirge and given a mission: hunt the undead to restore the balance of life and death. I was getting a smile ...


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Words Coming Up Short? Dos and Don'ts

April 25, 2020

A coworker of mine recently lamented that she was nearly finished with an adventure she was writing, but it was still under her target word count by a large margin. Although over-writing seems more common than under-writing, it’s important to know a few techniques to get those last several words you need down on paper. My friend Luis and I took turns coming up with Very Bad Ideas and Very Good Ideas about what do in that situation. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader which side I ...


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Solo Play for Pathfinder Second Edition

April 23, 2020
My solo Pathfinder adventure, The Duskwalker's Due, has proven to be a bit hit, so I'm designing a few more solo adventures. I thought this might be the case, so I planned by preparing a fairly generic "here's how to play a Pathfinder solo adventure" section near the beginning of that adventure. With light tweaks, it can go into any solo adventure. Even into yours! If you want to take this language and make it your own, do so! In these strange times, more solo adventures can be a big help.

Pla...


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Night of the Skulltaker, First Edition Style!

April 23, 2020
I've already updated a few of my Pathfinder First Edition adventures to Pathfinder Second Edition, including Teeth of the Storm and The Six Griffon's Haunt (updated to Ghosts of Sparwell Lodge). Now I just did it backwards!

My recent Night of the Skulltaker was concepted and written for Pathfinder Second Edition. But when I saw someone online asking if a 1E version would be available, I looked it over carefully and realized a conversion wouldn't be very difficult. So I put that together, and n...
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Order of Operations

April 17, 2020

Just a quick note today about Pathfinder Second Edition stat blocks. We now list a creature's equipment differently than we did before.

In short, it's strictly alphabetical. But it's alphabetical in a bit of a strange way. Let's say an NPC has the following items: a stunning snare, a moderate healing potion, a ring of climbing, +1 striking composite shortbow (40 arrows), +2 greater striking longsword, +1 resilient breastplate, 54 gold pieces, and an ivory bracelet worth 25 gp. 

The listing is a...


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Beware the Skulltaker!

April 15, 2020
For the news: my next adventure, the all-new "Night of the Skulltaker" is out.

You can get it here!

For some background: I wrote this adventure in just over 2 days. That's from jokey start to final layout and everything. (There were a few extra hours when I woke up, realized my Table of Contents wasn't right, and had to re-upload it in there, too.)

Here's how it got started.

Around Paizo, we joke with each other a lot. This hasn't stopped now that we're all working remotely; it just happens over ...
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Modifying Pathfinder Hazards

April 10, 2020

The Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide is out, and it provides several neat tools. One of these tools is the suite of instructions about how to build a hazard. These are more useful (and less labor-intensive) than they appear, because they also let you modify existing hazards to different levels. Let’s see how! 

First, let me take a classic trap, the poisoned dart gallery, from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.

Poisoned Dart Gallery    Hazard 8

Complex, Mechanical, Trap

Stealth +16 (expert) or DC 31 (mas...


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Building a New Ancestry, Part 4 of 4 (Ancestry Feats)

April 8, 2020

I’ve been designing gyers, a new ancestry of honorable and reclusive vulture-people. I’ve finished everything but their ancestry feats, but those are the most in-depth part of the whole process! I’ve talked before about how there are certain low-hanging fruit of ancestry feats, like AncestryName Lore and AncestryName Weapon Familiarity, and I plan to use those to focus on gyer concepts, such as their reliance on shields. I flagged earlier that they should be able to change into vultures...


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Building a New Ancestry, Part 3 of 4 (Heritages)

April 3, 2020

I’ve been designing gyers, a new ancestry of honorable and reclusive vulture-people. I finished their introduction and base statistics, so now I’ll turn to their heritages. 
 

Heritages aren’t a thing in the Pathfinder First Edition version of gyerfolk, so that’s something to consider anew now. I could look at different kinds of vultures, maybe, or different habitats of vultures, but I think I want to try something a little bit different to differentiate their heritages: their hatching....


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Building a New Ancestry, Part 2 of 4 (Base Statistics)

March 31, 2020

Last time, I started building out gyers, a new ancestry of honorable and reclusive vulture-people. I finished their introduction to establish their flavor, so now I’ll turn to their base statistics. These are the rules that apply to all gyers, before adding in a heritage (next time!) and picking feats (the time after that!).

Base Statistics. Gyers have 8 Hit Points (the usual), Medium size (the usual), and a Speed of 25 feet and a fly speed of 30 feet (distinctly not usual). 

Now, for the abi...


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Building a New Ancestry: Gyers, Part 1 of 4 (Introduction)

March 29, 2020

I talked last time about what goes into a Pathfinder Second Edition ancestry, so today I’m building one. I decided to pull up my Pathfinder First Edition product, Run Amok Bestiary, and look there for a race to turn into an ancestry. There are two playable races in that product: ulqar (cannibalistic dwarves) and gyerfolk (honorable vulture-people). Since ulqar seem like maybe a heritage for dwarves rather than a whole new ancestry, I’m going to frame out the gyerfolk ancestry here. Their ...


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The Pathfinder Ancestry Checklist

March 25, 2020

By now, word’s gotten out that we’ve done something brand new in the third volume of the Extinction Curse Adventure Path, Life’s Long Shadows: we’ve presented a brand-new, complete, playable ancestry. Shoonies are small, dog-faced people who like simple, pastoral settings and hard work. Normally fishers and farmers rather than adventurers, you nevertheless have everything you need to play a shoony adventurer. 

Speaking as the developer: new ancestries take up SO MUCH SPACE, guys! Back ...


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Behold the Alien Codex!

March 14, 2020
In the frenzied run of projects at the end of last year, I added even more fun to the pile by jumping in and providing some Starfinder development work for Legendary Games's mammoth Alien Codex. It's right here!

Now, I only saw piecemeal bits of this massive book, developing a few parts of a few chapters. I didn't see the whole thing in its entirety until just a few days ago when I got my contributor copy. And it's really neat! I already knew there would be fun toys for players, like the Overw...
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Tiffany, Forks, and Doorknobs

March 9, 2020
Writing fantasy games, or fantasy fiction of any kind, sometimes requires a look back into history. I've done a lot of research into medieval flour mills, funerary customs, ancient cartography, and all sorts of other topics that would puzzle anyone reviewing my search history.

For the most part, writing for fantasy is about avoiding anachronisms that take your readers out of the moment. Sometimes, though, you hit items that seem to break that.

My favorite example is the name Tiffany. This seems...
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Topping 150

March 5, 2020
I've been doing some updating of my site, primarily including a more robust and complete set of my "Other Works" and providing links to my Pathfinder Second Edition adventures released through Rogue Genius Games. Combined, these products total 145 published credits to my name. This list includes my work as a freelance developer, but it doesn't include projects I develop on a day-to-day basis as part of my job with Paizo for the last couple of years. Perhaps, for completion, it should include ...
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Monster Relationships with Spellcasting

February 24, 2020
Hey, I'm leaving shortly for a two-week-or-so vacation; this is my last post until early March.

I previously described how you can fiddle with Pathfinder Second Edition monsters' levels, but one of the things to keep in mind is their spellcasting. This is good to keep in mind even if you aren't adjusting the monster levels, because it's a valuable window into how heavily the monsters rely on their spellcasting.

Monsters in Pathfinder Second Edition have two kinds of spellcasting: Innate and The...
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Creating the Psychic Spell List

February 22, 2020

Psychic powers are a staple of science fiction. Many sci-fi games have a psychic powers or even a whole psychic class. Starfinder only sort of does, in that many mystic and technomancer powers feel kind of psychic-y. There’s a phrenic adept archetype and a few psychic power feats, but there isn’t anything that just says “here’s what a psychic gets.” It strikes me that there must be some better spell list that’s something between the mystic’s and technomancer’s (with some of th...


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About Me


I'm Ron Lundeen, developer for Paizo, Inc., active gamer, and RPG freelancer. I've recently had products in print for Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Raging Swan, Open Design, Headless Hydra Games, and Rite Publishing. I'm still taking freelance writing assignments, but also focusing on writing for Run Amok Games.


 

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