Where's the Blog?

November 24, 2020
So, I've been light on blogging here for the last few weeks, but that doesn't mean I'm not blogging! I've started a blog series on Paizo.com, about a dozen posts in all. They're all connected to the town of Otari, which is the setting for the Pathfinder Beginner Box (which I helped write), the Troubles in Otari adventure (which I helped write), and the Abomination Vaults Adventure Path (which I developed). Paizo is doing a lot of fiction set in and around Otari as well, called the Shroud of Four Silences, so we're going all-in on this location as the new "starter town" for Pathfinder Second Edition. There's lots of adventure and fun to be had there!

I'm going to be examining a lot of people and places around Otari in my blogs, and here are the first of them:

A helpful bookseller named Morlibint.

Activities at the Dawnflower Library.

A short fight with zombie goblins coming very soon.

And plenty more on the way!
 

Not Very Good...Yet

November 10, 2020
I have a friend who's interested in getting into the RPG business; he's quite young, and wants some advice about how best to get started. In talking things out with him, I realized something about myself. Here's my realization:

My Six Griffons Haunt adventure for Pathfinder (which is retooled as Ghosts of Sparwell Lodge in Pathfinder Second Edition) isn't very good. I mean, it's totally playable and has interesting characters and such, but it's still not very good.

Why? Because nothing you writ...
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The Force is With You

October 28, 2020
I want to talk about the force in Starfinder, and I'm not talking about solarians, who are TOTALLY NOT JEDI despite being lightly-armored mystics who fight with laser swords.

Instead, I want to talk about force damage. It's sort of in a weird place in Starfinder. In similar games (here, I'm thinking of Pathfinder First Edition, Pathfinder Second Edition, and Dungeons & Dragons 5E), "force" is just another damage type. It's a damage type that usually affects ghosts and other such creatures more...
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So Many Little Monsters, Part 2 of 2

October 20, 2020

Last week, I talked about the basic rules that swarms of smaller creatures have in many systems. Today, I wanted to give you a neat reskinning trick! You can turn lots of monsters into swarms by overlaying the swarm rules on top of an existing stat block.  

Let’s start with a new D&D 5E monster, a swarm of acid wasps! These nasty, intelligent critters lurk in acid pools, deadly swamps, and caustic areas throughout the lower planes. They’re malicious and durable individually, and together t...


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So Many Little Monsters, Part 1 of 2

October 16, 2020
It's interesting to me how games handle swarms of things: bugs, piranhas, spiders, birds, and so on. They're a classic threat, but the rules to support them vary widely between systems. Here's what's generally the same:

* They fill an area like a bigger creature. Even though individual swarm members are really small, the swarm itself is the size of a large creature (sometimes, its squares can bend around a lot, so long as they're contiguous).

* They can fit through small spaces, and other creat...
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Transparency in Games and the Torg Decision

October 9, 2020
One of the way Torg feels different than a lot of other RPGs is in its transparency. Simply put, mechanical information (such as the difficulty of a check) isn't secret. Here's how the game's rulebook puts it:

Transparency
Mechanical information isn't meant to be secret in Torg Eternity. How many Possibilities a foe currently has, what an enemy's various defenses are, and what modifiers apply any given DN [Difficulty Number] should all be apparent or freely shared if the players ask. All four s...
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It's Rontober!

October 5, 2020
It's always a thrill when something I've been working on comes out to the public. It's even more thrilling when several things hit at once!

First of all, here's the October product announcement for Paizo. I worked on the first book listed (Lost Omens Pathfinder Society Guide), and I wrote BOTH of the adventures premiering this month: Dominion's End for Starfinder, and Assault on Hunting Lodge Seven for Pathfinder. Both are great adventures, but they're very different. One is an ultra-high-leve...
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Number 14

September 30, 2020
Well, after an exhausting push through this weekend and into this week, I've completed and turned in my Starfinder Adventure Path volume kicking off an as-yet-unannounced Adventure Path. I think it's among the best Starfinder AP volumes I've written; it had the potential for being really scattered and disjointed, but I had a few overall framing things and interconnections that I think tie it all together well. My developer will be the first judge of that, and the players will be the second.

I ...
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Where New Monsters Come From

September 24, 2020
The Pathfinder Bestiary and Pathfinder Bestiary 2 have a ton of great monsters in them. There are old standbys, like giants and golems and froghemoths and stuff, and there are Paizo creations like goblin dogs, reefclaws, and sinspawn. But there are also plenty of brand-new critters in there as well, like the ostrich-like cauthooj and the limb-ripping mukradi. Where do these monsters come from? 

The alphabet.

I'm not just being glib. If you look at the placement of these new monsters--all of whi...
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The Bland Background Makes the Heroes Shine

September 21, 2020
I was talking to another freelancer recently. She was populating a settlement in something she's writing and was asking how two unusual ancestries might interact with each other. I didn't know, but I saw a larger issue and asked how many of the NPCs were human. She said not many, because there are so many interesting ancestries available, and asked how many should be human.

My answer? Just about all of the NPCs should be human. Definitely at least 50 percent. Maybe more like 90 percent. This h...
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Will of PCs

September 15, 2020
I talked recently about removing "the" from your writing to avoid "othering" certain groups, but this is only one of several words I search for when tightening up some text. Here are three more:

Will: RPG writing is in present tense. You don't say, "the count will reveal his plan to the party," or "if the party stops fighting, the ogres will listen to what they have to say." Put these in present tense: "the count reveals his plan to the party," "if the party stops fighting, the ogres listen to...
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The Bricks You Need

September 10, 2020
I'm writing another Starfinder Adventure Path adventure. It's not announced yet, but I don't think I'm doing the company any harm by saying I'm writing for them again. I don't think anyone is betting that Starfinder is going to quit doing Adventure Paths, or that they're going to quit arranging for and assigning them behind the scenes, before a public announcement. So I can't yet say what it is, I can say I'm writing a Starfinder adventure.

I just turned in my milestone--about half my total wo...
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More CUP Updates

September 2, 2020
I wrote recently, right here, about Paizo updating its Community Use Policy (or CUP). This is the policy that lets fans use their rules and their intellectual property, so long as the end user isn't charged for them. Functionally, it's about giving guidelines and comfort to creators of fan-made websites and videos (and other content, but this seems to be their new thrust).

They've made some further changes to it, although the specifics are tucked into a forum post. I want to walk through these...
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Avoid the "The"

August 27, 2020
Here's a quick tip today: I've been learning a lot recently about the phenomenon of "othering," which is setting a specific group apart because of its differences, almost always to treat them badly or dismiss their opinions or values. This is particularly damaging when applied to real-world people, because it's been used to justify all kinds of odious abuses (to ethnic minorities, to the physically or mentally disabled, and so on). Language that "others" is subtle but pervasive.

Here's a trick...
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The Opposite of Balanced Isn't Balanced

August 25, 2020
I'm doing some freelance writing for an upcoming Pathfinder Second Edition book that is going to have lots and lots of spells in it. My assignment is to write lots and lots of spells.

Although I have plenty of neat and thematic new spell ideas, I like to look over existing spells not only to make sure I'm not reinventing the wheel, but to see whether any of them spark any further ideas. I thought I had found a particularly good design space in creating an aggressive opposite of the longstandin...
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Paizo Updates the CUP

August 12, 2020
Paizo has two overall licenses for people to use:

The Compatibility License allows you to make products that use their rules and charge money for them; you can't generally use their intellectual property (proper names, etc.). Those of us producing 3PP (Third-Party Press) materials, like Run Amok Games, use this license. 

The Community Use Policy (or CUP) outlines how you can use their rules and their intellectual property for fan-made stuff. You get to use their intellectual property and even s...
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Six Sentence NPCs

August 7, 2020
Including NPCs in a game seems easy: you just slap a name on a stat block and you're done. This is Gobgor the goblin, who fights the heroes. This is Shopkor the shopkeeper, who sells stuff to the heroes.

I'm not going to get into naming NPCs well; I'm actually not very good at it. But there are easy steps to make any NPC evocative and useful at the table. This is particularly important when you're writing adventures, because the NPCs need to be simple (because some GMs and players will blithel...
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Paizo Licenses, Very Quickly

July 28, 2020
I was explaining the differences between the two licenses Paizo offers to a friend of mine the other day, and I thought a quick summary of them would be helpful.

The Compatibility License is for professional publishers who want to make money from their products. This lets you use the Pathfinder (or Starfinder, which has its own similar license) rules and claim compatibility with the game. You don't get to use any intellectual property (or, properly, "Product Identity") in them. So you can writ...
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Sandbox Adventures in Pathfinder 2E and D&D 5E

July 21, 2020
There are not a lot of rules similarities between Pathfinder Second Edition and Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, but I've recently noticed one very significant similarity when designing adventures for each system.

They both usually handle sandbox adventures very well--with certain limits.

I've talked about sandbox adventures before; they're the kind of adventures where the heroes can go anywhere they want in a large area and follow up on whichever leads strike their fancy. It's a lot of choice...
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How the Adventure Went Down

July 14, 2020
I posted last Friday about how I was going to write a 5,000-word adventure over the weekend. How did it go? Somewhere right between "okay" and "good." Here's the rundown.

As I mentioned, I knew that the introduction would be about 500 words (it's 430) and the final ambush encounter would be about 1,000 words (it's 1,130). On Saturday, I wrote all of that, then I started writing in more detail about the ogre keep. (Remember, the middle part of my adventure was divided up into "ogre keep" and "s...
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A 5,000 Word Adventure This Weekend

July 10, 2020
Happy Friday! This weekend, I'm writing a 5,000-word adventure. It's for a really neat project, and I'm collaborating with some fun people. I thought it might be helpful to let you know my process. Rather than, "eh, it'll get done this weekend," I'm being quite rigorous about preparation and planning the execution. Here's how I'll do it.

Understand the Parameters. I already know the adventure is for 5,000 words, is for Pathfinder Second Edition, and is fundamentally about attacking a caravan o...
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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 availabl...
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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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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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