With grateful thanks to James Wallis at Hogshead publishing.
Introduction Pelgrane Press is interested in seeing proposals for The Dying Earth Role playing game supplements, from both new and established writers and designers. However, we should say right now that we are only planning to release 3-4 The Dying Earth RPG products a year. As a result, the quality threshold for new proposals is set very high indeed.
What we want to see is proof that you can write extremely good games material. Talent is what we're after. If you send us a proposal that shows you understand the Dying Earth world in all its glory, then even if we don't end up commissioning your proposed project we may still ask you to develop a different project for us, or collaborate on a forthcoming supplement, or edit another writer's work into shape. In any event, we strongly recommend that you read the Magazine Submission guidelines that follow.
How can you prove that you're good enough? Simple. First, read these guidelines carefully. Secondly, send us the sort of proposal we ask for below. Send us anything else and it not get through our net. We need authors we can work with, which means authors who work the way we do.
What we are looking for
We want to see proposals for complete supplements of at least 30,000 words. That's it, really. We're not interested publishing your ideas for a new character career, or a selection of new spells, or a few interesting NPCs. We’ll take a look at these with interest, but they are more likely to be useful for fanzine fodder or for website content.
We need proposals for all kinds of supplement: adventures, sourcebooks and supplements. Please bear in mind that any new rules must expand the existing game, not contradict or replace material that is currently in print.
We recommend that you submit a proposal for an article for our magazine if you are a first-time author, if you do not wish to commit to a full adventure, or you want to dip your toes in the water before trying something larger. The standards for the magazine are not so exacting, and the pay, except for established authors ranges from nothing to benefit in kind to 3c a word. Please contact Jim Webster (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in writing for the magazine.
The typical published The Dying Earth RPG adventure is 48-128 pages (30-100,000 words), and although we may occasionally publish something longer, we are not looking for proposals for epics. Please do not send us proposals for multi-volume campaigns. If we want something like that, we will commission it.
An adventure's structure must give PCs the freedom to explore the world and do things their own way. Think about freedom of choice. If you really have to shoehorn characters into a situation, be subtle about it. If your proposal contains any encounter where the PCs can only do the right thing, die, or exit the storyline, it will be rejected. Pelgrane’s playtest crew contains some of the most devious, awkward players imaginable, and if there are problems with your plot, they will rip it apart.
You must include some motivation for the characters to get involved with the adventure's plot, and stay involved. Money is a good one, but isn't always good enough. Never, in the Dying Earth, rely on the PCs' selfless altruism to lead them to the storyline – they will almost never have any, especially if they are formed in a roguish Cugel-esque mould.
Most importantly, a good adventure will also include lots background or source material. It doesn't matter whether this is historical or geographical information, or data on a new society or group, or an expansion to the rules; it all helps to round out the book and make it more useful to GMs.
An example of what we believe is a good adventure is Masks Of Nyarlathotep for Call of Cthulu from Chaosium.
Sourcebooks Sourcebooks come in several forms. We are primarily interested in seeing proposals for geographical background (towns, cities, remote areas etc.); although if you hit us with a new idea, we may go for it. A typical background book will be 96-192 pages long (75-160,000 words).
Background must be complete, and it must be interesting. The way to get us interested is to load your proposal with things that GMs can use to build adventures. That can mean obvious things like ruins or less obvious things like rumours, historical details, local customs, strange and interesting NPCs or groups, incidents... anything which gets a GM's mind working is good.
Just as adventures should include some background, so background books should include some adventure - a short scenario at the very least. In an ideal situation, a sourcebook will be 10-20% adventure; and an adventure will be 20-30% source material.
Pavis for the Runequest RPG, again by Chaosium is a good example of a Sourcebook.
Supplements Supplements expand existing ideas within the rules or add any that are missing. The Dying Earth is not a violent world so we aren’t looking for war game rules, vast lists of weapons or an explanation of the physics of armour. Thus we are looking for more background in our supplements than in other RPGs. A typical supplement book will be 96-192 pages long (75-160,000 words).
What we are not looking for
Please do not send us proposals which make major changes to the The Dying Earth RPG universe or rules system. We cannot print an adventure in which Kaain is burnt to the ground or Prince Kandive the Golden abdicates, for example. The same goes for rules or background-based material: build on what already exists, and do not try to rewrite or replace it with your own version.
We cannot consider proposals for fiction set in The Dying Earth world, except for the magazine. We will look at “pick your path” stories. Also, as we have the rights for any non-computer game set in The Dying Earth, we will look at other game ideas you may have.
Tone The Dying Earth RPG has its own specific style and tone. If you don't know what that is, please don't consider sending us a proposal until you do. A generic scenario written for another fantasy role-playing game is not a The Dying Earth RPG scenario! We suggest that you should read at least the The Dying Earth, Eyes Of The Overworld, Cugel’s Saga and Rhialto The Marvellous in order to acclimatise yourself to the nuances of The Dying Earth.
One of the strongest features of the game's background is its style of dialog and magic system. The Dying Earth was the one of the first books to introduce the concept of a magic system, and that system is detailed and coherent. NPC from the setting, from the lowest serf to the highest mage, all have a rich formal language.
Although The Dying Earth RPG is not a comedy game, it has always had a strong streak of dark humour running through it. Be careful with this; grim and angst ridden isn't appropriate to the world of Cugel. Humour can arise from the situations that player characters find themselves in, from strange and eccentric NPCs, or occasionally from ‘in-jokes’ from the books. It should never be at the expense of the world or done in such a way as to damage the credibility of the scenario.
Races/Creatures We are interested in new creatures for The Dying Earth RPG. These must be interesting and bare no resemblance to existing creatures.
Submitting Your Work A proposal for a The Dying Earth RPG product must consist of four parts:
3. Writing sample
4. Signed disclosure form
The Overview should be around 3500 words long, and should describe what your proposed supplement is, what it covers, how it works, what its tone is, how it fits into the The Dying Earth RPG line, how many thousands of words it will be (at least 30,000 - we really can't release anything shorter). You should also say what makes it different, why thousands of excitable punters will buy it, and all the rest of that. Sell us the idea. Enthuse us. Blow our minds.
The Breakdown should be a section-by-section, chapter-by-chapter synopsis and description of the material that is going to be in the supplement, and how it's going to be structured, arranged and presented. Think of a really, really detailed contents page, with a sentence or paragraph of description after each entry. The length of this part of the proposal should depend on the length of the proposed product, but this is the material that we pay most attention to when we consider your submission.
We shouldn't have to say this, but tell us about the book you want to write. If you don't tell us what your ideas are, we can't decide whether we want to publish your work or not.
The Writing sample should be an actual section of the proposed supplement itself: a piece of text that might appear in the final book. It's our way of checking that you can actually write a decent amount of coherent text to a professional standard.
If you've never had your work published before, the sample must be at least 5000 words long. If you've had a decent amount of other games material, fiction or journalism published professionally (i.e. you've been paid for it) then we'll accept 2500 words and a copy of the published material. If you've had The Dying Earth RPG material published professionally before, we'll settle for 1000+ words of sample, plus a copy of your published material.
The sample can be any part of the book but it must be a single piece of text, not snippets from different sections. Don't send lists, descriptions of PCs or NPCs, room descriptions from a building or anything formulaic like that: any idiot can write that stuff. If you're proposing a background book then send us part of the background; if you're proposing an adventure then send us part of the adventure. Again, try to send us a piece of material that'll really enthuse us about your book.
All writers who submit any work for us to consider for publication must print it out, fill it in, sign it and return it before we will look at your proposal. We will not read proposals submitted without a signed disclosure form.
The disclosure form is not an excuse for us to rip you off. Honestly. We receive a large number of submissions, and many overlap with each other or with projects we are currently developing. Therefore we need to take a couple of legal precautions. If you have submitted your work to other games companies in the past, you will know that disclosure forms of this type are standard throughout the industry.
Finished proposals may be submitted by e-mail to email@example.com, after we have received a signed hard copy of the disclosure form.
Do not, under any circumstances, send us the complete manuscript of your masterpiece yet. We don't have time to read it. The proposal system makes life much easier for us, and lets us suggest changes to the book's structure before you start writing it.
The Process of Approval It's very rare that we will immediately accept a proposal from an author we haven't worked with before. It's much more likely that we'll send it back to you with some suggestions for changes, and ask you to modify it.
Don'ts Don't send maps or artwork with your proposal. If you want to work for us as an illustrator or cartographer, please drop us an email and we'll talk about that separately.
Don't send us proposals for new RPGs. We develop such things in-house, or with freelancers we've already worked with. Sorry, but that's the way it is.
Don't phone us up and demand to know when you're going to get a response to your proposal. It'll be somewhere in the slush-pile, and we'll get to it eventually. The slush-pile works like this: new proposals are added at the top, and when we get a spare moment, we take the proposal at the bottom and look at it.
Payment The payment method is negotiable, and is determined on a case-by-case basis. We usually pay a flat fee of 5c per word for well-known published RPG writers. Royalties are paid half-yearly and will not be considered for core rule books.
Any final hints we can give you? Just one. “Until work has reached its previous stage nympharium privileges are denied to all.”
We hope that these guidelines have been helpful. If you have any queries or need to check anything, please get in touch with us. We look forward to seeing your proposal. And don't forget the Disclosure Form.
This is version 1.2 of the The Dying Earth RPG writer's guidelines, last updated 14th November 2000.
Title and brief description of proposed work (to be completed by author):
This is to certify that I have submitted an original game design, manuscript or concept to Pelgrane Press Ltd (hereafter ‘Pelgrane Press’) for evaluation.
I certify that this material is the product of my own creative effort and that I am legally able to offer it for sale.
I further certify that this material or any similar material created in whole or in part by myself is not being considered for publication by any other company and that I will not submit it for such evaluation for three months after the date of this form, or until I receive an offer or rejection from Pelgrane, whichever comes first.
I understand that by submitting this material to Pelgrane for examination and filling out this form I do not establish:
1: Any contractual relationship or other obligation between me and Pelgrane Press;
2: Any confidential relationship or guarantee of secrecy;
3: Any recognition or acknowledgement of either novelty or originality.
I understand that Pelgrane may, according to its own judgement, accept or reject the material submitted and shall not be obligated to me in any way with respect to my submission until and unless they enter into a properly executed written agreement with me, and then only according to the terms of that agreement.
I, the author of the material submitted, fully understand that Pelgrane Press may already have in its possession or under development similar designs, manuscripts or other creative works bearing a resemblance in subject matter, mechanics, design innovations, concept, theme, etc. to my submission, and that said other works may be published in the future, after my present submission has been evaluated and rejected.
I hereby agree that, should such a situation occur, I shall have no claim or recourse, legal or otherwise, against Pelgrane Press Ltd.
Return this document with your proposal to: Submissions Editor, Pelgrane Press Ltd, 18-20 Bromell's Road, London SW4 0BG, Great Britain.