Thursday, April 4, 2013

The DM's Notebook: Using D&D for Creative Writing: ~Publishing and Skill DCs~

So I've been thinking for a while about the way the Dungeons and Dragons RPG, in its trappings and mechanics, has some really useful applications for Creative Writing.  The Dungeon Master's Notebook is a series of  to organize such thoughts. 

Dungeon Master's Notebook: Publishing and Skill DCs

This week over in Literary Citizenship we’re writing Query Letters, and in Screenwriting we’re discussing genre.  Near as I can suss it, it's easier to get things published when your story has less StuffStuff, here defined as ‘things that deviate from the norm,’ includes Superpowers, Aliens, Different Time Periods, GLBT Romance, and many other things.  Getting something published with Stuff is much harder than a work without Stuff.  It’s a bit like a skill’s DC.

DC, in Dungeons and Dragons, means the Difficulty Challenge.  There's a different DC for every Skill.  (Climbing, Crafting Potions, Linguistics, etc) and a player must roll1 to surpass the challenge.  Say it’s a Perception Challenge.  A character rolls to see if they can hear a bow being drawn in the forest.  The DC is 25.  Two players roll, add skill ranks, and get a 27 and a 31.  The third only gets a 17, and fails to hear the bow. 

Conditional Modifiers
Through a closed door
Roaring Tempest
Target is invisible
Creature making the check is asleep
Now, DC 25 is under normal conditions.  Say that there’s a battle raging.  The DC goes up by +1 per 10 feet away.   It goes up by +10 for every foot of Wall in the way.  That seems to be how it works in publishing, the more Stuff, the more the DC goes up.

Say you’re submitting your story to QuirkyUnafiliatedIndependentPress (QUIP) and SeriousLiteraryUniversallyRespectedPress (SLURP).  Now, QUIP likes a lot of stuff, but they’re not well known.  The base DC is only about 14.  Any sufficiently mid-level writer can make that DC.   But SLURP is harder to get into, because they’re very prestigious.  That DC is 25, fairly high.  You’d have to roll well AND be pretty high level.   But wait!

Let’s say your story is about a man in a polyamorous triad who dies and comes back as a ghost to take care of the child his girlfriend is having while helping his girlfriend and boyfriend fix their relationship.2  The DC goes up, because your story has the following Stuff.

Heavy GLBT themes

Now the DCs are 22 for QUIP and a rather high 33 for SLURP.  However, QUIP likes weird, genre-queer stories.  The DC only goes up by half for the Ghost, and doesn’t change at all because QUIP is run by sufficiently advanced liberals.  The DC to get your story into QUIP is only 18.  A good cover letter and writing talent and boom, they publish your ghost story.3

The trick to getting published is finding somewhere with a baseline DC you think you can beat and giving them something that doesn’t raise the DC too much.  (Although, it still has to be a good story. That's probably the most important thing for writing.  You have to be able to write.)

Previous Notes: Ability Scores, Random Encounter Tables

No comments:

Post a Comment