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 outlining are usually 6-part series of adventures. The most work goes into deciding what would be cool and sell well, but a lot of thought goes into how the adventure fits in the larger framework of our publishing schedule. The outline probably goes through several drafts and can get comments from as many as a dozen people. For an adventure path adventure, this outline is very thorough: apart from the adventure outline it includes important dates, a rough background, a listing of any existing material the freelancer should read, and some general writing advice we give everybody (like “no Easter eggs,” “keep diversity in mind,” “avoid passive voice,” and so on). It might be 50 pages long, and it’s only the outline! Once I have all the appropriate internal approvals, it goes to you, the freelancer. You’ll see the whole adventure path, and you’ll know which adventure is the one you’ll be writing and how it fits into the larger story. Here’s what I expect you to do with the outline.

Read It. You’ll need to know the whole story, even adventures you aren’t writing, so you understand how your story fits into the greater whole. Sometimes, you won’t be writing an adventure, but will be writing one of the articles in the back of an adventure (we call these “backmatter” articles). In this case, you’re given the outline if you need to have a larger view of the whole series to write your article. Sometimes, you only get a smaller outline that’s more focused. But if you get the whole adventure path outline, it’s because that’s important for you to know and you should read the whole thing.

Write to Spec. The specifics included in an outline are there for a reason. Perhaps the adventure needs to be low-level because we’re planning a follow-up adventure down the road; perhaps we have a lot of mid-level or high-level material coming out around the same time, and want something low-level to provide a wide array of offers—so a freelancer asking me, “how about I write this for a higher level instead” isn’t usually helpful. The word count is determined by our words-per-page-minus-art-per-page formula, and it’s very specifically calculated. Names included in the outline—particularly the adventure name itself—are probably already off to our marketing or art people, and are set in stone (or, at least, rapidly hardening cement).

Anything I Don’t Say Is Fair Game. The other side of the prior point is that anything I haven’t set forth specifically in the outline is yours to create. If I say there’s a “rebel leader,” you can come up with the race, class, motivations, and so on. If I ask only for an encounter with a barbed devil in a small village, the nature and specifics of that village is up to you, as are the specifics of the encounter—what’s important to me is that a barbed devil be there.

Don’t Do What I Say Not To Do. People don’t generally think or write in negatives, developers included, so if I’ve taken pains to indicate there’s something you should leave out or avoid, there’s a reason for it. If I say “don’t use giants,” it’s probably because we’ve got something else giant-related that’s independent of your adventure and we don’t want too many giants running around at once (does anyone?). If I say to not make an existing NPC demeaning or misanthropic, it might be because the NPC is already seen that way by the community and we want to work hard to repair that negative image. If something I’m asking you to omit seems weird, just ask—the reason for it might not be public, but it’s probably not secret from you, the freelancer.

Mind Your Deadlines. An outline includes deadlines for milestones, maps, final turnovers, and maybe one or two other things. Those dates aren’t arbitrary; they’re chosen to align with our internal scheduling for the art department, the editing department, my development tasks for other work, and so on. Make sure you can hit the dates, and let me know if you can’t! I’m impressed by freelancers that look carefully at the deadlines first thing and email me back with something like, “Those dates all seem realistic, and I can meet those.”

Be Willing to Work with Others. Sometimes I’ll assign work to multiple freelancers in one outline. Their names will all be in there, so you’ll see who your fellow freelancers on a project are. I might not specifically connect you, but you should feel free to reach out to each other and bounce around ideas—with the understanding that each of you holds accountability and responsibility for your own sections.