Sean's FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

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Yes, I finally put together a FAQ, seeing as I've started to get the same sort of questions in the past few months and it's more efficient answering them in this manner.

Game Design Questions
Q: How did you get started as a game designer?
A: Well, let me tell you....

Q: Will you design a spell/prestige class/monster/savage progression/whatever for me?
A: Sorry, but no. I have a huge backlog of stuff that I'm working on currently and stuff I'd like to work on in the near future, which means my free time is full and I'm unable to make time for custom design jobs like that.
    If you really want me to design something especially for you, you should consider paying me for it, as that'll move it way up in my priorities, but right my rate for freelance works out to about $70 per page of material. Do I really think I'm worth that much? Not really, but it discourages all but serious offers.
    However, I always take suggestions for things. If I think it's a neat idea, I'll add it to my folder of ideas I'd like to work on in the future (currently running around 130 items) and if I'm lucky I'll get to it in the near future. :)

Q: OK, if you won't design it for me, will you look at the version I designed and give me some feedback?
A: Likewise, I don't have a lot of time to review other peoples' work. However, there are a lot of sharp people who visit my message boards on a daily basis. Post your creation there and you're sure to get feedback from them, and you're actually more likely to get a response from me on the boards than you would in my email because an unanswered email quickly scrolls out of sight, but a board thread keeps getting replies which keeps it in view longer.
    By the way, let me add at this point that I hate reviewing prestige classes. I don't like doing it even if I'm paid to do it. Reviewing prestige classes makes me want to barf. So even if you post it on my boards, I'll probably only give it a cursory look.

Q: Can you give me an official answer on something?
A: Yes and no. If you need an answer to a rules question such as how a rule is supposed to work or how does X combine with Y, you should post it on my message boards, where my alert and skilled army of minions will probably answer it before I even get a chance to see it. Garen and Carthain in particular are usually pretty quick about posting answers, and they both know the rules really well. There are many other people on my boards familiar with the rules and more than capable of answering your question. If someone else gets to the question before me and I like their answer, I'll sometimes post a message saying so, but if you don't get a response from me and other people have posted answers, that means I think their answers are satisfactory.
    If your question is more like, "Can you explain your intent when you wrote this thing in this book?," then you should still post it on the boards because that sort of answer is something that is informative other people. The other board users won't be able to give my intent for that rule, but when I do post my reply it tends to generate a good discussion. It also makes a more permanent archive of the topic, which is good for me because I sometimes loot my own board threads for things to turn into articles on my site.
    If your question is, "I say this rule works this way and my GM says it works another way, and the FAQ and everyone on the message boards thinks I'm right, but my GM refuses to accept that I'm right unless he hears it from a designer," then I'm not going to answer the question, not because of anything against you but because your GM is being a dumbass and needs to grow up. If 99 rules-knowledgeable people say that you're right, my comment isn't going to convince your GM; the DM is just holding out for the hope that someone with "clout" is going to take his side. This isn't a contest to see who can get the most game designers on their side of the argument. If you find yourself in this situation and the GM won't budge without an official answer, just accept that your GM is a doofus, buckle down, and accept his ruling. Oh, and spit on his dice when he's not looking.

Q: Can I write something for your company?
A: Sorry, I'm not looking for any freelance designers at this time. I have my hands full enough already just dealing with my own stuff and a couple of other projects; any more and it'll cut into my time to write the stuff I want to write, and that stuff is why I got into this in the first place. Questions
Q: I run a foreign-language website. Can I translate the articles on your website and post them on our site?

A: Certainly, just ask first, give me proper credit (say that the material is copyright Sean K Reynolds) and put a link back to my site. Also, if the material is Open, be sure you're following the Open Gaming License. Finally, if you give me the URL for the translated page I'll put a link to it from the item's page.

Q: Can I advertise my product on your message boards?
A: If you're just stopping by to post an ad and never return, don't even bother as I'll delete it. If you're a regular or even a semi-regular visitor to my boards and you want to do a "Hey, I got published in this book, here's the link if you want to check it out!" post, that's fine with me.

Q: I'd like to redesign your site for you. Would you be interested in that?
A: Thank you, but no.

General Gaming Questions
Q: How can I get started in the game industry?
A: I wrote an article on that very topic. :)

Q: What do you think of the Open Gaming movement?
A: I think the Open Gaming License is awesome. It gets rid of many of the problems of 90's TSR's stance on fan-created materials ("If you use the D&D format, we own it because we own D&D") and actually encourages other people (and other countries) to publish D&D-compatible works. This benefits three groups of people.
    The players. WotC has a limited number of people it can employ in its RPG department, and they'll never be able to create all of the products the fans want. The OGL means the number of D&D-compatible designers (and products) increases by a factor of ten or more, which means the guy who wants the "troll PCs in anime-style superheroes" campaign might actually find a book on that, and be able to introduce it to his gaming group without them having to learn an entirely new game system. Sure, there's a lot of average-to-poor product out there, but the players are better off with more choices.
    The other game companies. No longer does the guy with the really neat idea for a campaign setting (or a variant magic system, or a whole new set of races, or the epic mega-adventure, or...) have to come up with their own game system and worry about balancing the core rules of that game system. They can just use the d20 system under the SRD, and know that it's a solid system that's pretty flexible and well-balanced after a lot of work and a lot of playtests. This means that the guy who's really good at making adventure plots doesn't need to worry about making his D&D-like races balanced against each other. The guy who's really good at convoluted histories with national and racial interactions doesn't need to create his own magic system. And so on. They can just focus on what they're good at or what they're interested in, and not worry about making mistakes with the stuff they're not good at; just use the core rules.
    WotC. Wizards is the real winner. All of those people writing for and playing with the d20 system need the 3 core books to do it (well, they can just get by with downloading the SRD, but most people prefer actual books). That means every time company X sells a copy of their Troll Anime Superheroes d20 game, it's going to someone familiar with the Player's Handbook (and probably owns one or more PHs). In other words, increased sales for WotC. And all of these other companies are filling the niche markets that WotC doesn't have the staff to write for, so WotC isn't getting annoying fan letters about "How come you don't publish what I want?" These other companies can also handle the smaller, less profitable books like adventures, which are too expensive for WotC to produce and still make money on; WotC has a large support staff and a large overhead, compared to "Three Guys In a Basement Games," which don't have to allocate part of their profits to a human resources department, shipping & receiving, or any other employees that are necessary for a good-sized business but don't contribute directly to the company's bottom line). If TGiaBG makes $500 selling 100 copies of their new adventure, they're happy; if WotC makes $5,000 selling 1,000 copies of their new adventure, it's a waste of time. True, some people at WotC still see the OGL as "competition" to D&D, but it's not ... the OGL supports D&D, drives sales of D&D, and strengthens the market share of D&D.

Q: Any comments on the Book of Erotic Fantasy?
A: Personally I don't think I would ever have need of this book in a campaign I ran. However, some people might, and who am I to deny them this sort of material for their campaign? I've only skimmed the book, but from what I've seen it looks like it's presented in a mature way, and the cursory look I gave to the game mechanics didn't sound any alarms; Gwen Kestrel (one of the two authors on the book) is a smart woman who knows the rules and I'm sure she put a lot of work into making it a quality book. Someday I'll get around to reading it in detail and doing a more formal review.
    I am disappointed that WotC changed the d20 System License so they can require approvals (note that it wasn't done in reaction to this book ... the decision was made before the book was announced). If anything, the change opens up WotC to potential problems because by assuming censoring-control over the content it makes them responsible if they choose to not censor that content. Plus, as it's worded, WotC can do a retroactive revocation of the license, which means a book that's been on the shelves for a year and ignored by WotC suddenly can be found in violation of the license and recalled. That's going to discourage people from writing about certain topics in d20-logo'd books.

Q: What books have you worked on?
A: The My Books section of my site (linked from the main page) covers all of that stuff.

Q: What magazine articles have you written?
A: That's a tougher question. I think the complete in-order list is (and sorry, I don't have issue numbers for these):
    Dragon Magazine: Alternity Vampires, How To Design a Feat (with Jonathan Tweet), Power Plays (written as one article but spread out over several issues, then reprinted in the 2nd printing of the 3.0 PH), Dwarven Language, Elven Language, Orc Language, Planetouched Feats (a preview of the stuff I wrote for Races of Faerûn), Saurials (later turned into a web enhancement for Races of Faerûn), War Magic, Ghostwalk Guild Secrets: The Bloody Swords.
    Dungeon: None ... yet.
    Polyhedron Newszine: Of Varsks and Winter Witches (a tie-in short adventure to go with the Polyhedron-only regional supplement for Vosgard in the Birthright setting).
    Living Greyhawk Journal: Enchiridion of the Fiend-Sage (a 7-part series of monster articles), Monkeyman (a somewhat humorous monster article in response to strange "monkey" attacks occuring in India at the time), Hero-Gods of Oerth (very minor deities of Greyhawk, co-authored with Erik Mona and Fred Weining).

Q: What's your favorite D&D/d20 campaign world?
A: It's a cop-out answer, but there are things I like about each of them. Ravenloft is cool and spooky; FR is full of interesting and old magic and the idea that anything can happen if you put your mind to it; Greyhawk is old-school with racial tensions, dead civilizations, and complex political interactions; Dark Sun is weird and different; Ghostwalk changes your conceptions of death in a D&D campaign; Dragonlance is backed by six interesting novels and cool concepts for magic; Birthright has the bloodlines and the awnshieglen. And so on. I'm not really familiar with the Scarred Lands or any other non-WotC settings, so I don't have anything to say about them.

Real-World Questions
Q: Is the story of your ex-girlfriend with the multiple personalities really true?

A: Yes, it is. She really has multiple personalities (after all I saw with my own eyes in the year that I spent with her, I believe it's true), she really did plan on killing me in my sleep, and she really did cheat on me with my best friend and dump me for him. And so on.

Q: What are your feelings on internet piracy?
A: I'm of two minds.
    One, as writer I think people should respect copyrights because that's how I (and many other people) make a living. Copying a book or downloading a PDF without paying for it is basically like taking money out of my pocket, especially if I'm supposed to get royalties for each sale (and a person who downloads it for free doesn't have much incentive to pay to download it again).
    Two, I'm aware that most of the people who pirate books rarely are the sort of person who's into buying the book anyway. They're either collectors with huge collections which they see as some sort of status thing but never have time to read let alone play, or they're "career pirates" who scan stuff and post it to gain status in the pirate community but (again) aren't interested in playing the stuff.
    There's a very small number of people who do download illegal copies, either because they're curious about the material (they want to browse it like they would a print copy in a store) or they can't afford to pay for it. But it's a really small number and I don't think it has a significant effect on sales (most people in the first category who like the book would choose to buy it, and the people in the second couldn't buy it anyway, so may the sales go down by a handful, but it's miniscule compared to the number of copies sold).
    Now, I don't think "can't afford to pay for it" is a valid excuse, especially as (1) gaming is a luxury, not a life necessity like food, clothing or shelter ... if you go without a new gaming book this month you're not going to starve or freeze to death, and (2) there is so much free material out there that you could spend a year reading it before you had to start looking at for-pay material (on my site alone there's probably at least 10MB of material).
    But anyway, I strongly discourage people from downloading pirated PDFs, but unless they wave the fact that they do so in my face I'm not going to worry about it.

Q: Are you saying you don't have illegally-downloaded music, books, or movies on your computer?
A: That's correct. I don't own any movies on my computer. I prefer reading novels in print and all of the RPG books I own in electronic form are either books I wrote, books friends wrote and gave to me, archives given to me as resources for various writing projects, or books I purchased from RPGnow or similar sources. All of my MP3s are either from CDs I own or owned ("owned" in the sense that I used to have them but they have since been stolen) or downloaded legally.

Q: Why are you such an opinionated bigmouth?
A: Maybe it's because of my science background, but when I form an opinion on something it's usually after careful deliberation and the examination of a lot of evidence, so I'm on pretty solid ground. That covers the opinionated part. As for being a bigmouth, well, I used to say that I'm shy, but my friends convinced me otherwise, so now I just let it all out. I'm truthful, I don't mince words, and I tell it like it is. I just don't like lies.

Q: What's your take on religion?
A: I believe that some people need a supernatural explanation for how things work in the world. I don't. If you need your faith to get you through the day, or your faith makes you a better and stronger person, more power to you. If you use your faith to belittle, oppress, hate, or objectify others, get out of my face.

Q: How can I email you?
A: Send an email to