Tips from the Philanthropist

You might know Rob Lang from his most awesome The Free RPG Blog and all his efforts over at He is also a huge supporter of NaGa DeMon, and has the following tips to help you through the next thirty days. Ignore them at your own risk!

Tips for getting yourself through November without going bonkers

I miserably failed NaGa DeMon last year but finished NaNoWriMo in 2007. I’ve also managed to finish a bunch of 24 hour RPGs. Here are some techniques I used to get through these time critical competitions.

1. Look at the month

Before you start, look at the month. Are there lots of family engagements? When are they? Do they need preparation? How long will they be? Write a list of all the events you’ve got going on.

2. Get your organisation tools ready

I’ll be using Trello┬áto organise myself. Trello is a free, well featured list keeper. I also use a physical notebook at all times, so when I am at work, or walking to work, or shopping, or while my dear wife is talking to me, I can jot down ideas. Get your tools ready now.

3. Have a plan

Know what it is that you’re going to do before you start. Define your game. Have an idea inside your head about, what the scope is and when you’ll know if you’ve finished.

4. Set milestones

For each 3 day period (each day is too much), have an idea of how much you need to have done. That’s easy for NaNoWriMo, because you’re chasing 50,000 words, so it’s 1667 words a day. For NaGa DeMon, there’s no word limit but there is a series of requirements to make the game playable.

Don’t forget that you’re going to need to play it too. Easy if it is a computer game, much harder for RPGs. Plan it. Book the game, tell your players that they are an integral part of your NaGa DeMon. Do this now, while your mind is still fresh.

5. Expect burnout, watch for it, keep extinguisher handy

You will find that your creative juices flow hot on the 1st of November but will naturally dry up. Expect it to happen. Don’t fear it, grip it by the horns. I like to have something fun and easy to do in my back pocket for when burnout arrives like an unwanted drunken Uncle at Christmas.

You know you’re burning out when you start hating it or you find yourself watching America’s Next Top Model and thinking it’s good

6. Get support

No-one is going to do it for you but having other people struggling alongside is important. Tell friends and family you’re doing it so that they know you’re undergoing a challenge in November. When you approach burnout, or hit it, tell everyone. Get onto the social media (see right hand side), they are ALL active so you will find other creators like you.

7. Stick to your plan, avoid scope creep

If you have an idea that is not integral but is worth capturing, write it down and stay on with your milestones. You milestones were written in the cold light of day, keep to them.

8. Deal with getting behind

If you find yourself sliding behind your plan, karate chop the scope of your project. Avoid planning to make it up. That works ok for NaNoWriMo where you are hitting word targets but NaGa DeMon is about hitting feature targets. Better to chop and keep going rather than stop. Don’t just leave it to tomorrow. Make a decision, cut scope and move on.

9. Deadling with roadblocks

When you slam into a section that you can’t figure out then put some sort of marker in your project (I use XXXXXXXXXX) and come back to it. Make progress where you can and return to the roadblocks. Deal with them later, you subconscious will be working on them while you nail other sections. Mark them properly and they’re not going anywhere – the edit pixies won’t touch them with a barge pole.

10. It’s a marathon, not a sprint [Optional]

I work better in small chunks. If I have an evening of doing “stuff”, I’ll do the chores, do a bit of creative (such as writing this) and play my bass guitar. I could just spend all evening creating but by breaking it up, burn out is less likely to happen. This is optional because I know that I love to lose myself in coding and can be pretty productive if given a day.

11. Keep communicating

A great way of staying motivated is by broadcasting your progress. You may not get a flood of replies but the act of updating sets a marker in your own mind. Full on blogging might require a little too much effort but microblogging is certainly where it’s at.

12. Don’t be hard on yourself

Human nature will force you to compare yourself to others online. As they sail to finishing their 400 page RPG epic in 30 days while you’re scratching out mechanics on the back of an envelope. Don’t be hard on yourself, it’s OK to fail. Failing is good. Failing means that you know how to do it better. Being brilliant all the time is boring. I hate people like that.

Best of luck with NaGa DeMon 2012, you’re not on your own.

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