It’s that last point that matters. The rest are just catalysts to making the decision to begin the real work to break into the industry.
Loving games, playing since you were a pre-teen, and GMing a dozen campaigns—they’re all great, but they’re not qualifications. When you decide you want to work in this industry rather than enthusiastically play in the space, you have to change your mindset in order to be successful.
Here are some skills to hone, ways to avoid some common mistakes, and best practices to level up from hobbyist to professional in the world of TTRPGs.
Whether you’ve been into RPGs for decades or have only been playing for a few months, if you’re honing the right skills, you already have an advantage.
What do you want to do in the industry? Do you want to write, make art, own a business? Know your end goal, and know you’ll have to work your way up to get there.
What transferable skills do you have that could launch you into a career in gaming? Do you have a degree in programming? Start with an indie company that produces video game RPGs. Did you work for a magazine? Try getting into graphic design or page layout with a 3rd-party publisher. Do you have lots of clerical experience? Volunteer to help organize games at a convention for a nerdy non-profit.
Be willing to start with something less than ideal. I was proofreading Amish romance novels long before I was a full-time managing editor for 2CGaming. I learned valuable lessons from my early professional experiences, both technical and interpersonal, that still aid me to this day. You want to write an entire campaign setting guide and see it Amazon someday? Start with writing marketing copy for a shop on Etsy or for the back of a self-published author’s first book.
It's not glamorous to think of starting small, but it’s realistic. Keep that big dream alive by feeding it with the successes of a beginner.
Keep that big dream alive by feeding it with the successes of a beginner.
You love games. You run your own campaigns and have been asked by your friends to proofread their player handouts. Unfortunately, this is true for almost every person trying to get into a profession in the TTRPG world.
This is where your presentation comes in.
When you craft an email to a potential client, introduce yourself by your D&D class and level, and refer to your traits or action economy in your letter. When you make yourself a website to showcase your experience, create a stat block for yourself in the style of the game you’d love to work on someday.
On my website, I have a formatted stat block in Monster Manual–style featuring such traits as Eagle Eye and Professional Word Nerd. Some of my actions include Red Pen and Vicious Critique. I even have legendary actions listed!
The fact that you’ve been playing D&D since you were eight years old isn’t memorable. The photos on your website showing you playing back when you were eight are.
You want to work in an industry that is driven by creativity. Show it.
A lot of us who love gaming are introverts. And a lot of us starting out don’t have any personal connections in the industry. This is a conundrum as old as an ancient dragon and one that can be just as intimidating.
No matter how painful it feels, you must. meet. people. if you want to get into the TTRPG industry. Start with writing cold emails to the companies who publish the games you have on your shelves at home. When you go to a convention, spend a few hours each day meeting people, or make it your goal to make one meaningful connection each day. Take notes about what you talk about with these folks, even if it’s just about their dog’s surgery or their upcoming vacation. You can follow up with them via email later and ask how Thor’s recovery is going or send well wishes for their trip to France. These things show that you are listening and make you memorable.
It may be weeks, months, or even years later when these connections lead to a professional opportunity, and this is why persistence is key. Unlike in 5e, you get to make multiple checks to try and unlock the same door, even if the first attempt (or several) was a failure.
I met Jon (our founder and CEO) at a PAX Unplugged show more than a year before he actually hired me to do some freelance editing. I introduced myself to Jeremy Crawford months before I got my first freelancing gig at WotC. I bought a Hit Point Press product and talked to the folks at their booth about their lenticular decks multiple times before I got to write a book for them.
You don’t start a game at level 20 fighting the biggest, baddest monsters. You start with goblins. And just like you must do in your favorite games, you have to be persistent to level up.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this blog post series for more tips on breaking into the TTRPG industry.