When I first started in this hobby I was 14. It was a less crowded digital world then; you had a few major names creating content, and most of them were focused on advice and musings more than actual, usable creations. I admired these creators who were able to spin up a website and consistently write blog posts on top of game supplements on top of what I assume was a day job unrelated to elf games.
That admiration fostered a strange standard of success that was impossible for me to hope to emulate. These were clearly successful, well adjusted people, who effortlessly pumped out top shelf RPG goodness because it came naturally to them. They never had failures, surely, and they never struggled to make a post. Right?
Obviously, this is not true. In the spirit of not fostering this same “effortless” veneer I want to take a moment to show you some of the failures I’ve had along the way. These are the posts that never make it, are never shared. some of them I spent months on, yet I still just couldn’t find it in me to believe that it was worth it at the time.
I hope that this might inspire other creators to show some of their own broom closets of never finished work. By doing so, we make the act of starting and sharing that much more approachable for new creators.
The first thing I did when I committed to making more content and ACTUALLY sharing things I make was to take an inventory of all the stuff I never completed.
The goal was not to shame myself; it was the opposite. I wanted so desperately to be a “creative person” that I had set a standard so high for what that meant that I could never meet it. All these projects were holding me down and telling me, “look at how much you suck.” So I was going to dump them on the ground and Marie Kondo them so I could focus my efforts on just a handful that I actually wanted to work on.
It worked. I know it worked because I don’t have nearly the anxiety and guilt I once had about all this, and you’re reading my blog – a direct product of this effort!
Elf Games, Never Played
Several of the above items are simply tabletop games I wanted to run and prepared content for, such as my series of Ravnica one shots based on the Azorious most wanted articles, or Sharim, my weird desert sci-fantasy world full of moth angels and star symbolism. Luka Rejec did that idea a million times better than me, so I just abandoned that and happily bought UVG instead.
These games never got ran for one very simple reason. I am a father of three with a full time job and a pretty active social circle in meatspace – so my ability to run multiple 3+ hour long game sessions is limited by the amazing patience of my wife, who very gracefully tolerates 2+ sessions a week already. Were I unwed, or was not a dad, I could have many more games at the cost of a far less amount of joy and happiness in my life. So this is a fair trade I think – especially since my kids are the most entertaining players I’ve ever had!
Dungeons & Dragons Pets
At one point, I had wanted to learn how to emulate the look and feel of Wizard’s of the Coast’s “look”, and I wanted to try putting some content on the DMsguild. I had wanted to make a supplement for obtaining cool or adorable pets since my players often made a habit of doing this anyways, so it seemed like a natural fit.
What I learned is that the official look and feel is more legal trouble than I care to contend with, and the DMsguild just didn’t seem worth the effort either at the time. This is the point where I started to think if I wasn’t a visual artist then I just couldn’t be worth anything as a creator in this space. Surely you need high quality art, custom professional layout, and all the other window dressing, I told myself. this wasn’t true, but it still stopped me from sharing 16 fully written up pets for Dungeons and Dragons that otherwise might have been fun for someone. On a positive note, it also made me learn digital art, and I am mediocre to this day!
A Pillow Fort Dungeon
I love making short, easily ran dungeons, especially ones that aren’t a “Typical” dungeon. In this case I made an entire “dungeon” that was one big giant pillow fort. The idea was that this was a literal rest stop along the planes; a quiet little corner of a great wheel that never slept. The walls were all comforters, sheets, and carpets, and the chief threat was getting caught in an animated snuggy. Well, other than the sleephits. Sleephits were comfy elementals which normally looked like fluffy, round pillows a grandmother might keep on a pristine couch, and could cast sleep at a spell like ability.
I never shared this because it wasn’t “good enough.” The formatting is basic. There’s no art of the a sleephit here. I didn’t write a bunch of fleshed out rooms or encounters because I don’t run games that way anyways. So without those things, I never wanted to be associated with something so “flawed.” I think that is silly now, so here it is, flawed or otherwise.
Board Games, in MY RPGs?
There was a time where I tinkered with board games. I was still an RPG person at heart, but board games appealed to my desire for fun mechanics and tight design. To that end I failed to make two of them:
The first was BETA PLANET ZERO!, a 4x style game of raiders and mutated weirdos. It was a 4x take on gamma world and fallout in essence, and honestly, I liked it a lot. However, I didn’t have the means to actually play test it without access to things like virtual tabletop or a local group of designers, and so it was shelved. Recycling the several hundred hand cut pieces was a sad day. RIP BETA PLANET ZERO!
Aetherspire was my attempt to mix card games with miniature wargames, and somehow make it a PvPvE 4 player game too. It was actually a lot of fun, but once again my inability to produce high quality art assets or actually test it meant it failed. This is where I started to realize that my social circle, while very supportive and loving, were not artist, creators, or designers. I had no one to really turn to for guidance or help, so this project met the same fate as BETA PLANET ZERO! I still have the digital copies of the hundreds of test cards I made though, so maybe one day I can revisit this one.
My main game has been a giant love letter to dnd via the medium of Planescape. In three years, my players have visited almost every plane, met several hundred famous dnd characters, and have now almost defeated every iconic villain before we approach the true ending. During that time I’ve made a lot of guides to make the game for me and them.
What is funny is that I would share this one, but I never actually got to use it much! My players end up crashing that party almost immediately and actually didnt spend much time in the city of doors. C’est la vie. Again, lesson learned – it’s ok to share stuff that you didn’t get to test or run yourself, since others can make their own assessment and steal what they need.
So why bother writing this and sharing these things now? Well besides the hope that other bloggers and creatives do the same and inspire others to get started, I also wanted to show that really being successful creatively almost always means “failing” hundreds of times before you start to turn the corner and feel “successful.” Especially during times like now, it can be easy to tell yourself that you’re not good enough, or no one cares, but consider that every artist you admire likely has a lot of projects they never showed the world.
If you think literally a single sentence is useable or fun that I shared above, then I think it was worth it in the end. It built up skills for myself, and it was fun for you. Had I never shared any of this, both of us would have missed out on that. None of that is perfect or done, but it got me here, where I can share my thoughts and make a habit of making more elf games content.
When we make and share with each other without fear or guilt, we all benefit from doing so. If you have a blog and want to share your own content, please feel free to drop a line in the comments so we can all show some support for each other.
…BETA PLANET ZERO!