Happy GM’s Day! I’m not sure whether it’s appropriate or mean that I set a deadline for today.
Seems like every week I say it’s been a busy week in the Vampire office. Lately, though, it’s always true. Just over the weekend, I worked on Blood and Smoke and Demon drafts, plus a minor product I can’t talk about yet. Jess Hartley is hard at work editing the fiction anthology.
This week marks the end of our public playtesting for Blood and Smoke and the beginning of the manuscript phase of development. Thanks to everyone who participated, and especially those of you who tried the new Disciplines at your own table.
B&S has been an unusual book for us. Usually, the development process starts with the developer writing an outline. The outline is sent out to writers, who submit drafts for each chapter, usually with some e-mail discussion of each other’s content. The developer “redlines” those drafts, commenting on things he or she likes or wants changed. The writers take that feedback and submit second drafts. The developer takes those drafts, makes any additional changes he or she thinks are necessary, and sends the book to the editor to make sure the copy is clean.
This book is very different.
Working on v20, I experienced the advantages of the open development process. With that book, we solicited feedback on a broad range of topics. Like v20, B&S is dealing with a gamespace that people already understand, so we could start soliciting feedback in small enough pieces to meaningfully interact with players. But where v20 tweaked and polished, Blood and Smoke was going to overhaul the existing game. I wanted to see if we could apply open development from the very beginning.
I formally started work in June, although I’d accumulated notes for both a Requiem overhaul and the Strix pretty much the entire time I’ve been custodian of the game, and had been working on foundation stuff since the previous November.
I started discussions with the writers in August, at the same time I was working on a new Writer’s Guide for the entire line. We began tackling the fundamentals of the game: what each Discipline said about vampires, what its aesthetics were, what kind of vampire stories we thought were appropriate for Requiem that existing rules or setting elements ruled out.
Starting in September, we began the rules portion of the book, while I continued to work on the core setting. That was when we started showing our work to you, with the physical Disciplines being posted on the forums.
I finished the core setting in November, as we continued working on the rules and posting our initial takes on them. We got lots of excellent notes from you folks, which we tracked and discussed, both publicly and on the writers’ e-mail list.
I wrote the outline in December and distributed it at the beginning of January. Formally, the writers had about two months. But we still had more Disciplines to test, as well as various other mechanics like the predatory aura. I made the rather risky decision to press forward with testing and open development during the actual drafting process.
We continued posting playtest versions up to almost literally the last minute. Nightmare was the last Discipline, and it went public seven days before the drafts were due. I pushed the schedule as much as I could (still am), and we got a lot out of it.
By the time manuscript drafts started coming in, we’d racked up over a thousand posts on the writers’ list, and a bunch more in off-list discussions between the writers and me. I can’t even begin to count, although searching through my forum account suggests I’ve posted over 300 messages about the book.
This is pretty unprecedented for a White Wolf or Onyx Path book… six months of formal work before the process usually even starts, and an order of magnitude more input taken from both writers and players than usual. Sometimes it’s been exhausting, and the writers deserve credit for putting a lot more time in than I could have asked for. This is way more work per word than a book usually involves, and several of them joined me on the message boards and blog to talk to you… something they’re not compensated for.
So what now?
For me, the next step is redlining. I’ve gotten about 47k into the drafts so far, out of a total of 160k. Once I’ve received and redlined all the drafts, they’ll go back to the writers for changes and polish. There’s also more internal testing to go, using the mechanics we’ve already refined by working with the public. At this point, we can’t make more than small changes, but every little bit helps.
Although we’ve reached end of public playtest, we’re not going silent. I’ll be continuing to preview content from the book, and maybe documenting more of the development process.
One thing that hasn’t gotten much public attention yet is the work we’re doing on the setting. It’s been hinted at in the rules, and I’ve had a number of discussions with y’all on the forums, but we haven’t shown much of what we’re developing yet. The setting, both core and domains worldwide, makes up 92-97k of the outline, depending on how you count the stuff about ghouls. That’s not even including the material about the Strix themselves… so we’ve got a lot to talk about.
Thank you again for helping us get here.