Feb 11, 2013

Top 10 RPG Blog Rules

Having kept an RPG-based blog for several years, hundreds of posts, and five self-published adventures, I have enough material and mistakes for reflection.  Some of these mistakes were repeated enough for me to build counter-habits.  I hope to share a few of those in this post as a series of rules and sub-rules.

Rule 1:  Revise Repeatedly
Grammatical errors and logical fallacies abound in first drafts.  Perhaps it's my personal history, but I suspect it's more human nature to miss what others would clearly see immediately even after several read-overs.

My solution is two steps.  First, never publish a post the same day in which it is written.  Second, always write the post on paper first.

Composition on a screen simply doesn't work for me.  I'm far less likely, in revision, to move sentences around to suit a better arrangement of presentation or logic.  I'm equally less likely via computer to improve my individual sentences with more accurate and descriptive vocabulary.  If I compare computer-only compositions with those that began their life within one of my humble notebooks I see a clear division along lines of complexity, coherence, and clarity.

1.A:  Publish Sober
As a sub-rule; don't drink and publish.  It's always a bad idea.

1.A.i:  Drink and Draft
I've created original and interesting compositions while sipping a savory six-pack.  Drinking not only reduces inhibitions externally with other people, but also reduces certain hesitancy within oneself.  Concepts, and more often prose, flow more freely from my pen when lubricated with a little (or a lot in some "cases") beer, wine, or liquor. 

There are times, often early in the morning, when I walk through a fog of cotton-mouth and pounding temples towards the coffee-maker, when I swing by my study, step around the empties, and find delight in what I'd written the night (or morning, as it may be) before, but didn't recall. 

There are also times when the writing holds a nugget of beauty, but is encased in a shell of rambling and possibly incoherent drivel.  There are also times when the words, read by the light of morning (or, ahem, mid-afternoon) are worthless for any destination save the trashcan.  That's OK   The morning trashcan represents a far better audience than my reader's eyeballs.

Rule 2:  Take Breaks
Blogging, and I believe RPG blogging in particular, can too quickly turn from a fun hobby into an obsession.  The data, the comments, the spam, the layout, and all the myriad other factors vying for your attention can create an unease when away from the screen.  Step back from time to time.  Limit your checks and time online.  At the end of the day, burnout lurks around each click of the mouse.

Rule 3:  Lock it Down
I'm a small-time blogger.  I don't get large amounts of traffic by any man's reckoning.  However, I do get large amounts of spam.  I can't think of a day I haven't received at least one bland anonymous comment along the lines of: 
"I'm excited to have found your excellent blog!  Your informed posts have changed by mind.  I'm sharing your blog with everyone I know.  Please visit my website:  www.freecondoms.com."
I don't let anything post to my blog until I read and approve.  Real reader's comments don't appear immediately, but that's OK   The primary purpose of this blog is my posts.  Reader comments are awesome and I usually enjoy hearing from them, but their immediacy isn't worth the mountain of spam that would quickly crowd its way in if I were to relinquish moderation.

Rule 4:  Numbers Lie
Don't read too much into the analytic data the blog host provides.  Or, at the least, think about the numbers holistically.  So what if you pageviews shot up?  Did  your follower count increase?  Are you getting more honest comments?  Is a spamsite using your links?

Ultimately quality blogs will have high numbers, but there are a lot of numbers and they're not all speaking the same language.  Don't tie your ego or value to them too tightly.

Rule 5:  Ignorance is Bliss
Web 2.0 is already full of trolls and vicious people who delight in torment.  Furthermore, our tabletop role-playing hobby is populated with many highly opinionated and divisive grognards.  Even normally rational readers have their buttons that, when pushed, drive them into evil actions and mean comments.

In my own experience, it's the sexually suggestive images of females that elicit the vicious comments.  I understand that a reader might think it's sexist for me to draw a nude elf in chains.  I get it that my drawing of an upskirt of a sexy medieval barmaid may offend your fragile concept of decency.  However:  I don't care.  I don't care and I don't want the stress of dealing with your asinine self-righteous attacks.  As soon as I see the beginning of a snarky comment queued for moderation  I don't even finish reading.  I mark it as spam, block the author if possible, and move on.

I like the female form.  I like drawing it, looking at it, and using them in my own game products.  I don't publish nudity, scenes of sex, or anything explicit because I want to keep my blog PG-13.  However, I don't mind and even appreciate some fantasy cheesecake in my RPG blogroll.  I'll admit to right-click saving a few images at Playing D&D With Porn Stars or Rather Gamey.  Speaking of sex, that bring me to...

Rule 6:  Be True to Your Title
I learned early on that I could drive up page views if I titled my post about post-Gygax TSR "Gygax Was A Great Big Jerk".  I know my numbers would explode if I titled an elf-based post "Nude Elf Chick in Bondage".  There was even an OSR meme to this effect a while ago with the intention of increasing overall readership. 

On retrospect, I regret having participated and have since gone back to revise that particular post.  I don't want to trick people into visiting my blog any more than I want to install pop-ups advertising male-enhancing medication.  I hold that if I write well and create quality products over time then I'll earn readers and keep them.

Rule 7:  Acknowledge Copyright
Frankly, I'm flabbergasted at the ubiquity of bloggers using copyright material   Sure, I love Elmore's realism.  Yes, I think Erol Otus is a fantastic artist.  You bet, I could make a weekly habit of posting Franzetta's incredible artwork.  All of this is beside the point; it's illegal, rude, and unnecessary for creating a quality blog.

At the onset of Digital Orc, I violated copyright with blatant disregard.  I saw Grognardia and other popular OSR blogs doing it and followed suit without thought.  That was my fault and is beyond excuse.  I'm still going back and eliminating these offenses in my blog and, as I move forward, try to follow copyright as best I understand.

Rule 8:  Be Honest or Be Silent
I used to post on Grognardia just to see my profile on a well-read blog.  Even if I wasn't interested in the content, I'd make sure to say something positive or sycophantic.  Sometimes I'd heap false platitudes on products because friends either wrote or liked them.  Sometimes I blasted off quick and superficial posts because I thought others would like it or something was happening in the OSR news.  I've learned since then that it's far better to be honest or silent, rather than untrue to yourself.

And by the way...

Rule 9:  Enjoy the Silence
Ultimately you have to enjoy writing about RPGs for its own sake.  Even though we bloggers publish into the wide world of readership, we mustn't forget that:
"Never before have so many said so much to so few." - Author Unknown (variation on Churchill's)
You could spend hours writing, editing, play-testing and finally publishing your awesome adventure only to observe three downloads in as many years.  Yes, we publish to share into a larger pool than our own imaginations, but we must be prepared to swim there alone at the end of the day.  And that's OK.

Rule 10:  Acknowledge the Awesome
Never forget that RPG blogs are an awesome way to organize and share your amazing worlds peopled and built, with little restriction, from your own imaginings.  What a great way to forge new gamer friendships!  What a fantastic process to stimulate and develop your composition skills instead of suckling at the glass teat or skimming people's inane status updates!

RPG blogs are awesome.  I'm glad to keep one.  I hope you, Constant Reader, are glad as well.


  1. All solid advice, but I'm not sure #1 is meant to be ironic or not, given the misspellings that occur throughout the post ("Repeatidly", "Aknowledge"). Proofreading and revising are my #1 downfall, mainly because I write my posts in "HTML" mode instead of "compose" mode in Blogger.

    I like the idea of writing and then waiting to let it simmer overnight before posting. Unfortunately, I don't practice this often enough.

    Good advice on the comment moderation. I've locked mine down to allow posts for a few days only, but I get an email about every post (or post attempt). This way, I can delete duplicates and also keep the spammers out.

    Also, I like your points about the stats. I was guilty of this early on, but then stopped caring. Sure, I check once a week or so just to see where folks are coming from (Zak S. and Jeff Rients are by far my biggest referrers), but I stopped the daily checks because, well, that was just a bit insane.

    1. Ha! So many errors, so little time.

      I don't always practice what I preach; especially if I'm really excited by a post.

    2. It is an iron law of the internet that any message advocating grammar or usage will itself contain at least one mistake.

    3. Absolutely. The finger pointing towards the moon isn't the moon.

  2. Right on! Personally, I value the knowledge that there is at least one blogger whom I admire and respect regularly follow my blog more than getting random likes that don't correspond to actual pageviews(!?).

    I kind of stole my art inclusion format from Teleleli, rather than Grognardia or some such, but have always made sure to keep any the wednesday art a)relevant to monday's "encyclopedia entry" post in terms of subject or mood and b)in public domain. No Frank Frazetta at Cirsova, largely in part, because that fantasy doesn't exist in Cirsova, but Able Grimmer's slices of peasant life certainly do.

    In regards to number 2, one thing I like to do is schedule posts out decently in advance, so that if I need to, I can take breaks from blogging without stopping the steady flow of 'new' content. As I create new content, I can either stick it in the queue, or if it's relevant, timely content, I can post it today.

    1. Thanks, glad you liked it.

      That's also a good point about the large amount of public domain art out there.

  3. Perhaps also include "know why you are writing the post, and to whom" but perhaps it is a mesh of the 1-10 ideas. I find that sometimes an idea for a post occurs and I used to post it regardless. I now post less, and post less personal material; but i feel that the things I am posting are of interest to my audience. Almost all my audience is myself though, which makes it strange.

  4. Some very nice advice here.

    I am incredibly guilty of watching my figures. But Ive been trying to separate myself from them recently - I was tempted to try the "Contraverial Title" approach, but decided against it.

    Instead, I'll stick to what made me want to make a blog in the first place - sharing my ideas, instead of writing what I think will get me more pageviews.

    1. Thanks! Glad you got it. I hope you keep blogging.


Thanks for posting to the Digital Orc! Be sure to pick up a copy of one of my old-school modules available at RPGNow.com!