Business of RPGs
D&D and Novels: How Do They Work Together?
By Mary Elizabeth Allen
Brand Liaison, Books & RPGs
If we lived in the worlds of our characters, the game designing wizards here at Wizards of the Coast would use psionic abilities to know exactly what customers want, employ spellcasting powers to create perfect products overnight, and teleport the games directly to players who want them. But until "game designer" becomes a new prestige class (hey, we're working on it!), the process of planning, developing, marketing, and distributing roleplaying products remains a little more complicated. This monthly feature offers insight into the business side of fun and games.
Fans may not hear much talk about how concepts from our roleplaying games (RPGs) get integrated into other products here at Wizards of the Coast. The great reception to the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons over the past year may cause many to wonder how that success reflects in other business lines: When did the plan for integrating those new elements into novels begin? What kind of effort was necessary for it to take place? Who are the people involved in the process?
Planning is crucial to coordinating this type of effort. Writing, editing, and producing a single novel takes an average of one year, so advance preparation is key. In fact, the process for integrating new D&D material into novels actually began long before the first Player's Handbook ever hit the shelves. Novel editors and game designers attended informational meetings to exchange ideas and establish timelines. They had innumerable discussions regarding what new element should be integrated into which storyline, and how. One novel might contain just one or two elements of the new edition, while another might base its entire plot on a new concept.
Once these integration decisions were made, the process was off and running. Authors and editors received advance material to guide their concepting efforts. Using that material and the guidelines for their settings, they worked together to craft the new D&D elements into their stories. This process, of course, generated numerous phone calls, emails, faxes, etc. -- and not just between book editors and authors. After all, as storylines for the novels took shape, content for the new D&D game was continually evolving. All the parties needed to be made aware of any changes to statistics, rules, and so on. Anything from how an artifact works to spell effects can play a key role in a how a novel comes together. Consequently, it was necessary -- and still is -- for the RPG staff and Books Department staff to maintain open lines of communication about changes and new ideas.
After the new D&D game debuted last year, book editors and authors continued their fact-checking. The now-published rulebooks provided definitive sources of information as various novels moved into their final stages. The Forgotten Realms novel The Summoning, by Troy Denning, offers a particularly good example of a title that was heavily influenced by the new D&D content and for which, consequently, continuity was a key element.
So, what about the future of novels and RPGs? The good news for fans is that these groups are working together more closely than ever to integrate content and exchange ideas. Keep in mind that ideas definitely flow both ways during the process of creating RPGs and novels. Elements from the new edition of D&D continue to make their way into various novels, but concepts from novels also generate product ideas and changes on the RPG side as well.
Readers and players will continue to see the results of this combined effort in more and more products in the years to come. Perhaps the best example of this was the announcement just made at this year's Gen Con about the new Dungeons & Dragons novel line, due to begin publication in the summer of 2002. Ideas for content, design, release dates, and other elements are being generated by a team that spans across not just the RPG and books product lines, but periodicals, online media, and the RPGA as well. These groups will continue to be essential contributors to the development of the novel line, and elements from the D&D novels will play an integral part in the development of future products, stories, and adventures. This effort, and more down the road, will provide fans with more choices than ever for enjoying all of the elements of D&D. Ultimately, all these groups are working together to produce the best possible materials so that fans can enjoy a truly universal D&D experience.
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