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RPG Bloggers
Spotlight Interview
Bart Carroll

It's true—as much material as we can host on the D&D website, there's still no end to the glorious amount of advice, tips, tricks, house rules, and fan creations posted on other sites and blogs. But few sites can claim to assemble this material to the same level of the RPG Bloggers Network, "a coalition of people who blog about Tabletop Role Playing Games."

The past several months, we've been interviewing individual blogs (and would like to continue doing so) in an effort to help showcase D&D's community. This time, we wanted to speak with RPG Bloggers about their methods and goals for assembling and promoting some of the very best in the community.


Wizards of the Coast: We wanted to congratulate you on the incredible resource offered by RPGBloggers.com. For those not quite familiar with the site, can you introduce us to RPG Bloggers—who are you, and what material are presenting (not just for 4th Edition, but also from around legacy and other systems entirely)?

RPG Bloggers: First off, I'd like to make sure I set the record straight. I didn't start RPGBloggers, I just stepped in and took the reins when the previous owners (Dave Chalker, Graham Poole, Philippe-Antoine Menard and Danny Rupp) decided to make a change. They deserve all the credit for the success of the network and the value of the resource as a whole.

That said, the RPG Bloggers Network (RPGBN) is, simply put, a collection of blogs that cover material that would be interesting to pen-and-paper RPG enthusiasts, from players to GMs to game designers.

We syndicate content from network members and present it on rpgbloggers.com, so that readers can get a broader sense of what's going on in the RPG world, and so bloggers can get their content out to people who might not have seen it otherwise. Members retain full ownership of their content, and the syndication with RPGBloggers.com is non-exclusive. While there's a lot of 4E content that comes through the site, there's a wide range of subject matter. There are just over 300 member blogs, so there's quite a lot of variety, from game theory and design, GM tips, plot hooks, player advice, indie game development, and discussions about any system you can imagine. If it's out there, someone in the RPGBN has probably written about it.

Wizards of the Coast: So how did you become involved with RPGBloggers.com—and what might you be willing to share about your plans for the site?

RPG Bloggers: I maintain the blog A Terrible Idea. I identify myself as an aspiring famous game designer. I've been gaming since forever, and running games privately and at conventions for several years. I just released my first RPG. By day I'm a software engineer.

When Dave and company decided to step down from the RPGBN, they announced that they would accept proposals from people interested in taking over the network. I put a proposal together that I thought was interesting and that addressed what I thought were some of the problems with the site as it exists currently. To be honest, I didn't expect much of a response. My own blog was relatively new, nobody involved really knew who I was, and I didn't really know any of them either. Most of the people I had made connections with I had found on Twitter. But when it came time to review proposals, mine was selected unanimously. It was a bit of a shocker to me.

I decided to get involved because I believed the site was a valuable resource, one that needed to be preserved and enhanced. I had some good ideas about how to do this, so I put something together. It's been more work than I expected, and there's still a lot to do.

As far as my plans for the site and what I'm willing to share, I'm looking right now primarily at infrastructure improvements. However, the center of my proposal was putting together a system that rewarded good content without burying lesser known contributors. I also think that there's a great deal that can be done to analyze content that comes through the network to detect and present trends and hot topics in the gaming community.

Wizards of the Coast: Since a great deal of the site tackles Dungeons & Dragons, can you tell us about your current campaign, or favorite campaigns of the past? Any other game RPGs or game systems you're currently a fan of?

RPG Bloggers: As far as D&D goes, to be honest I've really not ever played a lot, and it's only been recently that I've played more than the occasional convention game. My personal tastes have usually tended toward modern and sci-fi settings. Even the D&D campaign I'm playing now is a homespun deal with a modern setting. I enjoy indie games quite a lot, and I'm a sucker for a good horror game.

Wizards of the Coast: Considering the amount of blog posts you're traffic-controlling, are there certain trends from around the blogosphere you've noticed—popular topics that have been recurring (or conversely, any topics that you'd still like to see covered)?

RPG Bloggers: I'm quite interested in games that are licensed using Creative Commons. There has been some interesting movement in that direction in the last year, if you look at Eclipse Phase and some other people that are dipping their feet in that pool (there's a neat story about how Terminus EST came about). I think that's something that we'll see more of this year, and we'll see more people writing about it as well, even if they are just musing. I'd love to see more of that. Google Wave was a big one this year, and a lot of people were writing about how to use it to run games.

As far as recurring topics go, there are some things that come up every once in a while. Debates about stylistic approaches, rules systems, the validity of certain mechanics, 3.5 vs. 4E, those kinds of things. Sometimes someone will start a new blog and write a post that they think is covering new ground, when they're actually re-hashing arguments people have been having for ages. It's normal, and in my opinion healthy. In Anathem, Neil Stephenson wrote, "Ideas are good things to have, even if they are old." I think that's a very true statement.

Wizards of the Coast: For bloggers out there looking to join the community, what guidelines are there for becoming a member of RPG Bloggers?

RPG Bloggers: To join the RPGBN we ask that people have a few weeks' worth of posts up, so there is some content to review for appropriateness. Certain things don't display on the site well, like posts that are only video or just a picture, so I've advised prospective members to add a couple paragraphs of context when they post those sorts of things. We ask specifically that prospective members provide us with an RSS or Atom feed that covers their gaming posts, so that the site doesn't syndicate off-topic posts. The network is tuned for blogs about pen-and-paper RPGs, so blogs about computer gaming, WoW, those sorts of things generally aren't going to work. The same holds true for blogs that are entirely campaign narrative or character fiction. We also only syndicate blogs that are in English. Other than that, members need to be comfortable with excerpts of their posts showing up on the rpgbloggers.com site, and they need to put up a link or banner on their site for the RPGBN.

Wizards of the Coast: Any final advice you'd like to pass on for creating and keeping a good blog, or even just for good blog posts?

RPG Bloggers: My advice to anyone wanting to create and keep a good blog is just to write. I see a lot of people—and I've suffered from this myself on more than one occasion—who start a blog, post avidly for a couple weeks, and then they stop writing. If you stop writing it's much harder to come back to it. If you don't have anything to write about, find something. Look around in forums, on Twitter, other blogs, find out what's going on and write about it. If you find something worth writing about, give credit where credit is due. Some of your posts are going to be better than others. Some of your posts are just going to stink. But if you don't write them, you'll never really know.

About the Author

A handsome head and torso sit atop Bart's snakey trunk. This author has no legs, but travels in a snakelike mode along the ground. He has huge bat wings. His tail is barbed and drips poison. Bart's arms are strong and hairy, ending in paw-like hands.