The Id DM earns an Action Point today as it reaches the 100-post milestone. I previously expressed gratitude to all who have helped me and summarized the first year of the blog. With my 100th post, I thought it might be beneficial to offer some unsolicited advice to other gamers and writers who have a blog or are thinking about starting one in the future.
The following observations and suggestions are not meant to be a sermon on “how to do things,” so please consume at your leisure. In looking back how I went from not having a blog in March 2011 to winning Stuffer Shack’s RPG Site of The Year in April 2012, these things stand out as decisions that were helpful for me. Others may have a different way of doing things, and that is not wrong by any means. But for those curious, this is how I have operated.
Get the know the community. If you have not already, join Twitter and follow the discussions that are transpiring with the #dnd, #rpg and #dndnext hashtags. Join in the conversation and ask questions. Visit other blogs, read the articles other writers post and respond with concise feedback and questions in the Comments. Contact other bloggers by email to ask questions or offer support or feedback about their work. Become involved!
Stop, collaborate and listen. My first roleplaying game article was hosted by NewbieDM back in January 2011. At the time, I did not have a blog but my motivation to write about my experiences as a player and DM in campaigns was growing. I thought the newsletter I created was a good idea and Enrique agreed to post the article on his site. The article on how to create an in-world newsletter was fun to write, and it was great to receive feedback from other players and DMs. From there I started my site, but I also jumped at the chance whenever I was asked to participate in something for another member in the community. I contributed two articles to Stuffer Shack and joined a blog-carnival series at Roving Band of Misfits. I later started a monthly monster-design series for This Is My Game and just recently participated in the May of the Dead blog carnival organized by The Going Last Podcast. I was also happy to take the time to participate in podcasts when asked, and collaborated with other members of the community on projects and articles that would not appear on my site. The collaborations have had multiple benefits. It’s been a great way to get to know people in the community, and it spread the word and brought new eyes to my site.
Put in the effort. I cannot calculate how much time I invested into preparing articles for the site over the last year. Between brainstorming, researching, writing and editing, I’ve spent hours upon hours of time building content for the site. I am humbly proud of the work I have done for the site this past year. I have attempted to treat each of the 100 articles on the site with care. Even though this is a blog and the writing is at times quite informal, I still want the articles to be clear and free of errors. I absolutely make mistakes – and you can visit the Comments of my first column when I was called out for repeated butchering of analysis versus analyze. Proofread everything you write before posting! And by proofread, I don’t mean click on Spellcheck and call it a day. I mean write your article, wait at least a few hours and come back later to carefully read the entire article to proofread. Edit the sections that are not working and tighten up anything that appears confusing. I personally think it’s better to post fewer articles that are really polished than many articles that could be a bit jumbled and unorganized. Anyone can write a few paragraphs and post them, but it takes time and effort to create a coherent article that flows well and is entertaining to read.
Do more than chase ambulances. On any given day in the online gaming community, there is a mini- or major-“controversy” occuring regarding D&D or other roleplaying games. It is very tempting to add a personal perspective to each controversy that takes on a life of its own. I have certainly participated in this as I’ve written about nerd-rage issues such as errata, save-or-die effects, open playing for D&D Next and the ending to Mass Effect 3. But I’ve attempted to balance these “topic of the week” articles with original content that is off the beaten path. No one was asking for me to test my d20s to determine if one of them was evil, but it was something I was motivated to write so I performed the analysis and turned it into an article. Contributing to the ongoing discussion about D&D and other RPG topics is terrific, but starting discussions – and simply writing for yourself – is also important.
Use your background. I had a strong inkling since high school that I wanted to be a psychologist. Through college and graduate school, nothing came up to alter that path. My inclination to become a psychologist and the subsequent training I received means I view most things through that type of lens. I have embraced that background and it has certainly influenced many (if not all) of the articles I post on the site. The psychology background lends itself quite well to discussing group dynamics and issues that transpire in a gaming group, but I believe any professional or personal background can inspire interesting views and opinions on roleplaying games.
Throw yourself out there. There have been many posts fueled by my struggles with running gaming sessions or dealing with issues as a player in a campaign. I have posted ideas for encounters, monsters and other gaming mechanics that seem interesting and useful to me, but others find non-productive. I have received feedback from people who disagree with my DMing approach and my thoughts on rules and mechanics. That is alright; everyone is not going to agree with me. But it seems better to be honest with yourself and the readers than only discussing the great moments in your campaign. For example, the follow-up to my The Thrill of Victory article discussing my joy and surprise winning Stuffer Shack’s RPG Site of the Year contest was an article detailing perhaps the worst session I’ve run as a DM (aptly titled, The Agony of Defeat). Be willing to accept feedback and let people know that you know you’re not infallible!
Respond to comments. If you write an article and someone takes the time to read it and make a Comment, then by all means respond to that person. Even if the person is disagreeing with the content, he or she still invested enough time to write something. That person will likely come back to read another article and may send others to view the site. Respond to as many comments and emails as possible to build a relationship with the readers who come to the site; they are more likely to come back in the future if they feel able to interact with you and the content on the site. However, there is no reason to respond to someone who is being openly hostile and inappropriate. The only time I shut down a Comments’ section of a post was last year when my DM and I wrote dueling columns regarding attendance and awarding of XP. I felt the comments were becoming too unproductive and decided to turn them off for my post. I have been fortunate to avoid trolls, and I attempt to respond to every comment left on an article I post.
Don’t be a dick. Last, but definitely not least, is perhaps the most important advice I can give. DON’T. BE. A. DICK. Respect the work of others even if you don’t agree with them. Every time you communicate through a blog entry, tweet, comment, email, podcast and forum post – it adds to your reputation. And you can never be sure who will see what you are writing, who is friends with who in the community and how your language might be interpreted. Should you be paranoid? Not exactly, but I always consider the following, “How would I feel if this comment were to land on the front page of the newspaper or my boss’ desk?” If the answer is, “That would be terribly embarrassing or get me into a lot of trouble!” then find a better way to communicate the information or let it go. Whether you are blogging for enjoyment or looking to get a foot into the RPG world for future employment, there is no gain to be made from burning bridges. And if you’re like me, you probably don’t even know how all the bridges connect so flaming away at one person likely burns seven other bridges you don’t even know about. Be nice. Don’t be a dick. Kill people with kindness.
Special thanks to David, Ed and Ryan for assiting with the image of Jay-Z behind a DM Screen. I could never have pulled that off without helpl! Also, I found the hilarious Stop, Collaborate and Listen picture at this blog; I want to ensure that the photographer is properly credited.
Now onward to the next 100 posts!