Today I made my first submission to DMsGuild, which is part of DriveThruRPG.
The contribution is small – only eight pages. And, it’s free.
Here’s the link: NPC Conversations
So far, it’s been “sold” 4 times and one person left a very positive review with a 5-star rating. This is encouraging!
Start small, and grow, right? I can get into a conversation about the article itself, but that’s not what I want to do here. What I want to talk about is how easy it was. Of course, there were a couple stumbling blocks, but there were no calls to support, no waiting for a response online, or any of that.
I’m just going to go through how I developed this little supplement, which may serve as a guide for others.
Last week was a short week at work. I hate to admit it, but I spend a lot of time at work doing my own thing. It isn’t that I lack work to do, it’s that I fill my gaps to stay busy. I’d rather work on something useful than spend hours just browsing the internet and social media. I’m not saying I don’t do those things – it’s that I get bored with them quickly. I want to do something productive! Short week aside, I had few real work-related tasks to complete. This week, and going forward, I’ll have less and less time to work on my own things.
My idea was to come up with a list of meaningless conversations NPCs might be having when the adventurers stop in a random town at a random tavern. I looked online and found nothing especially useful. There were some fiction writing sites that provide resources and suggestions for authors to help make background characters more interesting. The advice was good, but I wanted specifics. I changed my search parameters and found a variety of lists suggesting things random NPCs might be talking about, the but the overriding theme was they were prompts for quests, missions, and tasks. This is good, but not what I was looking for.
I spent a couple hours coming up with stuff out of my own brain and compiled a list of 100 possibilities. I ran this list by a co-worker, another D&D player, and he marked about a quarter of them as, “this will prompt the PCs to investigate.” I didn’t want that for this list. I yanked out most of them and reworded a few that I could.
Then I started a conversation on Facebook. A few people berated me for being a bad dungeon master just for suggesting that an NPC might not have anything useful for a PC. A few people understood what I was trying to accomplish and provided many great suggestions.
I gave up arguing with the nay-sayers. Especially when it became obvious that people were rehashing the same arguments made previously when it was obvious they hadn’t read through the entire conversation. I closed commenting and extracted the useful comments and suggestions. These were added to my list, which grew it to 160 entries. Nice.
I ran it by my co-worker again and he made a couple comments leading to minor changes.
DMsGuild – Part 1
During GenCon last year, I attended a seminar on how to submit things to DMsGuild. It wasn’t as much a how-to, but a you-should. They insisted the process was easy and the community support was great. After GenCon I downloaded the help documents, instructions, style-guides, and templates. I stuck them in a folder on my computer and promptly forgot about them.
It struck me that there was nothing in DMsGuild that filled this niche. I searched just to be sure, using a variety of keywords and parameters, but came up with nothing. Finding random encounter ideas was easy. There are plenty of those. But random conversations that don’t lead to quests? Nothing. Seems to me like I have an opportunity.
It took me a couple hours to re-write my table’s introduction, incorporating comments and ideas from the contributors, and to format everything into the template. If you know what you’re doing in MS-Word, which is what I use, it’s not terribly difficult. If you don’t know how to use a word processing application, I recommend you figure it out. It’s not just a useful skill writing game supplements and blogs, it’s a useful job skill, too.
I spent a little time looking at the page on DM Guild’s site where contributions are made. Obviously, you need an account. The list of questions seemed straightforward. I was tempted to upload my document right then, but I held off. I’m glad I did.
It is true that a writer should never edit their own stuff. Nor proofread. I’d like to think of myself as a good writer. My style is easy going and conversational. My use of complicated words is reasonable, and I do a decent job with grammar and punctuation. I know I’m not perfect. Any writer who thinks their writing is perfect is deluding themselves. I don’t care who you are. I don’t know how many writing seminars I’ve attended where established, major published authors have stated, quite clearly, that they’d be nothing without their editor.
I printed out my rough draft and read over it a couple times. I fixed a few things here and there and gave it back to my co-worker. He suggested a change to one item, which turned it into a cultural Easter Egg, but said it looked fine to him. He’s not a documentation professional, though.
I brought it home Friday. I have a D&D group that meets at my house every Friday Night. I gave the document to one of them. He read it through and thought it was good. He didn’t read every entry in the list though. He handed it back with no notations or comments.
I asked my wife to proofread it. She’s in the process of starting a Virtual Assistant business, and one services she’s offering is proofreading. She didn’t get to it until Sunday night, but when I got up this morning, I found my rough draft on the breakfast table covered in editing marks! She read through every detail – every sentence from the introduction to the final word, and every entry in the table. It seemed there were multiple corrections required in nearly every paragraph and at least half of the 160 entries in the table.
As I worked my way through them this morning, I discarded less than ten of her suggestions. These pertained to game- or setting-specific terms, like “bard” and “cartwright.” She wasn’t sure if they should be capitalized.
A few sentences needed rewording or restructuring, but her edits were complete and thorough.
I printed the document again and re-read everything. A couple more fixes were needed, but finally, I felt it was ready. Is it perfect? Probably not. Can I offer it for free on DM Guild? Yes.
Making the PDF
The next challenge was converting the Word Document to PDF. Fortunately, this is easy, but there’s one gotcha I learned about a few years ago with my Tunnels & Trolls book, Final Exam. Embedded fonts. The good news is that embedding fonts is easier now than it was eight years ago. The bad part is I couldn’t find instructions how to do it on Adobe’s website. I found where to see which fonts were embedded and which ones weren’t, but their advice on how to embed involved some other tool I don’t have.
I found the property page and determined that two fonts weren’t embedded. Sure, the two fonts are standard issue Microsoft fonts, but I don’t want to take any chances. I searched Google and found a quick walkthrough. It’s very easy! When you’re creating the PDF from Word by printing to a PDF file, select the PDF printer option, click the Properties button, find Advanced, Fonts, and select the button to embed all fonts. There’s a hidden gotcha. On the lower right is a window titled “don’t embed these fonts.” I removed the two Microsoft standard fonts from this list and re-created the PDF.
I went back and checked the PDF. All was good.
DMsGuild – Part 2
Now it was time to submit it.
It would have been awesome if someone were sitting next to me walking me through the steps. I wouldn’t have made any mistakes. Or fewer mistakes. Fortunately, the site was forgiving, and the prompts and instructions were helpful.
I found the link on the Account page and started entering stuff. I missed a couple things on my first try:
- I didn’t see where to upload my PDF
- I didn’t add a cover image
I had to make a cover image. I have Snag-It installed on my workstation which made this easy. I only had to be sure to save the image as .jpg, not the default .png that Snag-It uses.
When I returned to the submission page and added the cover image, the robot captcha box was unchecked. Not surprising. But I still didn’t see where to upload my document.
It only took a moment to find the link to the right page to upload the document. On the same page was a link so that I could view what the product looks like to the customer and where I can set it to be public.
And it was done.
Is my supplement perfect? Probably not. Is it useful? I hope so. While typing this blog, I had to do some real-work stuff. When I came back to finish, the supplement is up to 18 downloads and 3 ratings – two at 5 stars and one at 4 stars.
I’d say this is a good start. It’s an encouragement because there’s a lot more content I’d like to publish on DMsGuild, including my revised Wild Magic Surge table and, possibly, my 3-Dragon Ante mini-quest series. Both will require more editing, polishing, and all that. Now that I’ve been through the process once, I feel confident I can do it again with something more complicated. It’s cool that I was able to go from original concept to publication in only five days.
Even better, I might start creating content that costs money, and I might turn a few bucks profit. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?