Today I am delighted to be hosting Christopher Dean, creator of the tabletop RPG ‘I Love The Corps’. (You can find out all about this awesome game here: http://www.ilovethecorps.com/)
He currently has a kickstarter campaign running to make the money needed to produce the awesome art needed for the project. Any help you could give would be enormously appreciated: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/222832406/i-love-the-corps-an-action-horror-and-military-sci
Without further ado, I hand over to Christopher to talk about his journey from games creator to writer:
From Writer, to Everything Else
My name is Christopher (Chris, unless I am being formal) Dean, and I am currently ‘living the dream’ I have had for a long time, and facing the reality of actually knowing I will see books with my name on published.
The books in question are the three core books for ‘I Love the Corps’, a military sci-fi and horror role-playing game I designed. (For the uninitiated, think Dungeons and Dragons, but replace wizards fighting goblins with diehard marines vs alien monstrosities, and you have the right idea.)
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I have been able to write down my ideas into coherent stories, but there were two major things that put me off really trying to get into it as a young one. Reason the first: though I am a fantastic ideas man, I could never, ever finish off a big story idea before more popped into my head. Reason the second: the concept of how you ‘get into it’ generally involved having a portfolio to present to people, and due to reason 1, I never really tried hard enough to make this happen.
When I hit my late 20s, realisation dawned on me: I had been successfully telling and giving others the chance to contribute to and complete my stories for the entire 16 years I had been largely Games Mastering role-playing game campaigns. 12 years ago was when I first created the game that became known as I Love the Corps as a very basic, largely free-form game. Why did I create this game? Because I wanted a system that did brutal, gung-ho, action, sci-fi horror, just like the movies, and I could not find one that did what I wanted, the way I wanted.
It still never occurred to me I should do that as a living. What caused that realisation?
Other people. I have been running the game at conventions for the last three years, and the first time I did it, people wanted to buy it, and were confused and surprised when they couldn’t.
This gave me the drive to finally believe I could be a writer (I find that rarely ever comes on its own, as we artistic types are highly self-critical, it seems. I need a kick. Or several.)
But RPGs are big tasks to undertake, especially when you’re a largely one-man team writing, producing and coordinating freelancers and volunteers to do all of the things you can’t do, to turn it into a set of books which make a pen and paper game.
I quit my full time day job in June 2015; I had changed jobs, to a job that should have been less hours, and turned out not to be, and consumed too much of my time to allow me to write in my spare time, so I decided to get this darn game finished, living off savings.
I spent the first four months as a writer largely doing 50 hours weeks of writing, writing, writing. And because this is a game we’re talking about, this involved weekly playtesting, leading to finding lots of flaws, leading to more rewriting. Then the books went out to editors, and there was something of a lull. But then I was still testing and changing things, and when the proofs came back, it wasn’t just a case of correcting mistakes, but moving around so much of the text content, to make it readable as a book and usable as a game. But come January 2016, the big writing stuff was mostly done. Then, it was onto the hard, stuff, the Other Stuff.
I launched my Kickstarter in August. Everything leading up to that time was getting ready for it. So much of that time was research, research, research. I went to some conventions to showcase the game, which consumed a lot of time to prepare. A long period was spent coordinating finances and budgeting, working out what money I needed to raise to make the books a reality and the amount of art needed. Some RPGs get away with cheap and sparse art, but I had a backlog of people who wanted books comparable to books made by massive teams, the games they largely played, and though I could not compare to them, I spent many months finding and gathering artists, commissioning pieces and being lucky enough to get art of a quality far beyond my expectations.
And then, there’s the promotion; constantly, posting, blogging and trying to get notice on the vast of the internet. Making contacts, accruing favours, getting music, help from people to make videos… the list goes on. Now the Kickstarter is going, several hours a day are just spent reading and sending e-mails. It is exhausting. I don’t feel like I have got to be a writer for a long time, or at least, not a writer of games or fiction.
Do I regret it? Certainly not. I spent a large part of my life thinking my only skills, my creative skills, were not the skills I could get a rewarding career, and now, through committing myself to a passion project, I have not only improved my writing talents, but also learned a whole host of other skills that could allow me to continue on in the RPG industry (if Kickstarter is well received, books are enjoyed by backers and there is a future for selling the game after that) or could otherwise allow me to try another host of jobs. I have also earned a massive amount of respect from what I have been able to do with my dedication and perseverance through some hard times.
But, at the end of the day, I love my writing. There are so many ideas in my head, books to be written, and games to be made. So it is a burning hope of mine that I Love the Corps can succeed beyond the short term success of its successful Kickstarter launch.
When all this is said and done, it will be nice to sit down and just be a writer again, if just for a bit. Which is a wonderful thing to say. Despite everything else, I am a writer now.
Here’s those links again: