When we at Tab Creations publish a new roleplaying game, we have a regular process that we like to go through in order to ensure that the game meets our quality standards. Using this process, a new roleplaying game supplement passes through a series of stages before it is considered complete. As we recently concluded the funding period on our Shadows Over Sol Kickstarter, an influx of new backers is likely wondering just what to expect as the game goes through its final production. The various steps we use to produce a game are detailed below.
- Outline: Before we even begin writing a new roleplaying game, supplement or adventure, we first make an outline of what we want it to include. This both helps us estimate word count (and thus production cost), but also if we are hiring a freelance writer, it helps communicate our expectations for the work.
- Writing: This is often the longest step in the publication process, but as it involves creating the central part of the supplement, that is to be expected. In this step the writer completes a draft, we inspect it, make some notes and then any requested corrections are made.
- Editing: After the writing is complete, go over the manuscript with a thin-toothed comb. This involves both proof-reading, as well as editing for content, making sure that the supplement does not contradict the rest of the game line and maintains a consistent tone.
- Art Direction: The text in more-or-less final form, we have a better idea how it will flow in publication. This allows us to commission art. For longer works, such as a core game book, we will commission art in several waves. For a shorter work, such as a small adventure, all of the art will be commissioned at once.
- Layout: With the text and necessary artwork in hand, layout on the work can begin in earnest. In practice, the layout step often overlaps with the art direction step, using sketches or placeholder artwork in the layout to mark where the final art will fit. Finally, once the layout is done, we look over the entire work to make sure that everything is in order.
- PDF Published: Once the game is all put together in PDF, we usually release it to DriveThruRPG. The work is published, but our work is not quite done. If we are publishing an EPUB or MOBI version of a game, we'll create those documents in this step as well.
- PDF Corrected: After the initial PDF is published we then wait a couple for feedback to come in. Even with the best practices, the many eyes of our customers are better our few at spotting any typos and other small errors that may have slipped through the production process. By waiting a bit, we can get these fixes integrated into the text and update the game's files before they're committed to print. With this update we usually also release the EPUB and MOBI versions of the game.
- Printing Proof: The document updated, we then order a printing proof, to ensure that the files have arrived at the printer without error. This process takes a couple more weeks, which can be frustrating when waiting for the print version of the game to become ready, but it also ensures that no one gets a bugged print run. This has helped prevent some pretty massive headaches for us in the past.
- Print Published: Finally, once we've received the printing proof and okayed it, we flip the switch and release the final print version of the game.