Writing for Roleplaying Games: Co-Authors

(Or, do I have to work with someone else?)

Multiple authors write most roleplaying books. A roleplaying company assigns the books, and usually the authors are each told which parts they’ll write. Sometimes they’re allowed to split things up between themselves. Only rarely does a developer assign an entire book to a single author. (Tiny d20 modules and self-published books are often an exception to this rule.)


It just makes sense for a company to team you with a co-author, especially on your first few books. If you fail to turn anything in, they already have a writer who’s familiar with the project to pick things up and run with them. If you haven’t written much in the way of roleplaying work yet, it lets them team you with someone who already knows the ropes. The company is also less likely to end up with an abjectly bad book; the odds that both of you will put out your worst work on that particular project are much smaller than the odds that one of you will.

What It’s Like

Working with another author can be wonderful or terrible, or anywhere in between. If things go well, your co-author may inspire you. Having a co-author gives you someone to talk about your plots with, who can point out the holes for you. She can look over your material and point out the problems before the project goes to the developer. This will not only make your developer a whole lot happier, but it’ll make you happier when you get less red ink on your draft.

I once had the pleasure of working with a marvelous co-author. We worked very well together, planned out many things and pounded out so many plots. I credit our teamwork with the responsibility for the fact that we only had to rewrite a very small portion of a rather large piece of work.

However, you might end up with a busy co-author who refuses to look at any of your work, resulting in inconsistencies within the book. Or you might get a co-author who hates working with outlines (or won’t stick to them), so you never know what he’s going to write, and find out afterwards that he’s written half the same material as you. If you have a particularly strong vision for a book and it doesn’t match your co-author’s, you might not like how the book turns out. Or your co-author might ask for your opinion but only pay attention to it when it’s favorable, which can be pretty frustrating. These are just some of the problems I’ve heard of and experienced.

Tips for Working with a Co-Author

There are as many good and bad ways for such a partnership to go as there are potential co-authors. Do your best to work with your co-author and try to work out your differences between you. If that utterly fails, let your developer know so that he can deal with whatever effect it has on the manuscript. Ultimately he can point out the problems in the redlines and you can fix them in your rewrite.

The best advice I can give you is to clearly split the work out ahead of time if the developer doesn’t do it for you. Make certain that who does what is clearly detailed, and get it in writing. Preferably, if you haven’t worked with your co-author before, make sure the developer splits things up for you; that way there’s no ambiguity, and no room for power struggles.

Then be as polite and accommodating as you can. Most importantly, be professional.

Posted in Gaming, Writing

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