Roleplaying Game Submissions
Roleplaying Game Submissions
Carefully read the following sections before submitting any manuscript to Chaosium Inc. You will find important details that will make both your and our jobs easier. Before submitting anything to Chaosium, please carefully read the Author’s Release. Any proposal or manuscript you send is governed by the terms of the Author’s Release - you don’t need to sign it as you consent to its terms by submitting something to us.
"We thank you for your interest in becoming a Chaosium author. With hard work, creativity, and attention to detail, together we can create tales of adventures which thousands of game players will appreciate for years to come."
- Jeff Richard, Creative Director
In estimating the page count of a book, a handy rule of thumb is that it takes approximately 15,000 words of text to end up with 32 pages of finished book (with art, formatting, layout, etc.). The length of a book should be a multiple of 32 pages. Thus:
- 16 page scenario is approximately 7,500 words.
- 32 page scenario is approximately 15,000 words.
- 96 page book is approximately 60,000 words.
- 128 page book is approximately 75,000 words.
- 160 page book is approximately 90,000 words.
- 192 page book is approximately 105,000 words.
- 224 page book is approximately 120,000 words.
- 256 page book is approximately 135,000 words.
We prefer to publish books of 256 pages or less. Longer books are possible (such as core rule books or such mega-campaigns as the Horror on the Orient Express or Beyond the Mountains of Madness), but they require exceptional interest on our part.
First-Time Submissions to Chaosium
We seek and publish more scenarios and adventures than anything else. If you have never been published by Chaosium or by another comparable publisher (Wizards of the Coast, TSR, Paizo, Steve Jackson Games, White Wolf, West End Games, Cubicle 7, Pelgrane Press, etc.) before, please begin with a complete scenario for the Chaosium game system of your choice. The normal size for a typical adventure is 7,500 to 15,000 words of final manuscript, including NPC statistics and maps. Please do not create an entire campaign before you prove yourself with a single simple scenario!
Never include more background material than adventure material in a scenario submission. Only the information which is relevant and integral for the adventure is needed. As a general rule, no more than ten percent of the submitted material should be background.
If Chaosium or a comparable publisher has already published your work, feel free to submit proposals for larger projects (still preferably 128 pages or less). But also feel free to submit scenarios - we always are looking for good stand-alone scenarios!
Format for Submission of a Manuscript
To submit a complete draft of a scenario/adventure that is 15,000 words or less, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The scenario needs to be in .doc or .docx format. If we are interested in the submission, we will contact you and may send you a contract for purchase. We may require that you make changes to the draft before we accept it (which is also when you can get paid).
Format for Proposing a Book
Please send an email to email@example.com summarizing your proposal - 100 to 200 words is usually sufficient. Keep it short and to the point. Include the estimated word/page count for the book and a rough table of contents. For example:
“A 60,000 word (96 page) campaign book for Pulp Cthulhu set in the Yucatan of the 1920s, exploring the identifications between Mesoamerican cults and the Cthulhu Mythos made in the old Cthulhu Companion. The campaign is based on the Mayan legend, “el enano del Uxmal” (the dwarf of Uxmal), but has the ambience of the teaser for Raiders of the Lost Ark. The campaign is centered on an archaeological expedition to Uxmal sponsored by Miskatonic University, which has found something that would enable a self-proclaimed heir to the magician-king of Uxmal to partially awaken Cthulhu. The book will cover the following:
- The Yucatan in the 1920s (4,000 words)
- Mesoamerica and the Mythos (3,500 words)
- The Campaign (30,000 words)
- Keeper’s Guide to the ruins of Uxmal and the Cthulhu Cult of Uxmal (7500 words).”
If we are intrigued by your proposal, we will get back to you. We may ask for additional details, or we may offer you a counter-proposal for an alternate topic. We will likely suggest modifications (in the example above, we may ask that the location be moved to Tikal in Guatemala and that the adventure include a subplot involving the machinations of the United Fruit Company and tying in the 1917 Guatemala earthquake).
Once the project is defined, discussion of practical matters like deadlines, payment, and manuscript brief follows. These are resolved on a per-case basis.
We aim to publish material that interests us and has artistic merit (at least in our eyes). We are not interested in publishing splat books or transparent efforts to jump onto the newest pop culture trend - we like to think that, at Chaosium, good and interesting material can create new trends. Don’t submit or propose a by-the-numbers scenario or campaign because you think that will have a better chance of publication - propose something that genuine excites and interests you. We are more willing to take a risk on truly creative and innovative projects than on something safe and familiar.
We are more likely to get interested in a scenario that lets the players explore the Gloranthan Underworld in order to return from the dead or plays around with the similarities between Saint-Yves’ Agartha, Tibetan Shambala, and Lovecraft’s K’n-yan, than we are in another treatment of the King in Yellow or a context-less dungeon filled with incompatible monsters.
We pay a flat rate for roleplaying game products. Our rate ranges between 2 and 5 cents per word, depending upon the completeness and quality of the submission. Roleplaying game books are work for hire - when you get paid, you transfer full ownership of the intellectual property to Chaosium, although you will be named in the book as the writer or one of the writers. Chaosium reserves the right to revise, correct, expand, or condense material.
Each specific game system Chaosium publishes has its own specific peculiarities. Be familiar with the current Chaosium edition of the rules for that game system! Provide complete statistics and use the right terminology (for example Call of Cthulhu has no player characters or gamemaster, but does have investigators and a Keeper). If you submit a scenario for RuneQuest that uses the Mongoose RuneQuest rules, we are going to reject the submission.
In campaigns and scenarios, place the player characters (or adventurers, investigators, etc.) in the center of the action. We receive many proposals where the player characters (and consequently the players) are almost a second thought. Avoid expansive backstories that have little relation to the actual events and focus of the scenario.
What follows are notes for specific Basic Roleplaying systems. The Basic Roleplaying system includes Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest, as well as currently out-of-print games such as Eternal Champion, Ringworld, etc.
Call of Cthulhu - Mike Mason, Line Editor
Know the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition rules!
The usual setting for Call of Cthulhu books is Earth in the 1920s to early 1930s, and also the modern-day, so we want most scenarios to be set in these periods. The Dreamlands are an acceptable place to visit during a scenario. The Gaslight 1890s, the Fourth Crusade, etc., all are certainly possible. However, whatever setting you use, make sure that it is both appropriate and necessary for the plot. If a particular story could be set in either the 1860s, 1890s, 1920s, or 2010s, then make it the 1920s or modern-day (preferably include guidance allowing the scenario to be played in either of these core eras.
Call of Cthulhu is not a shoot-‘em-up or hack-and-slash game. Concentrate on mystery, investigation, horror, and the threat of madness. Create player handouts that are pertinent and ingenious. Make your writing style evocative of the mood and horror of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Scenarios that are geared to action and adventure in the style of Indiana Jones, The Shadow, and E.C. Horror Comics, should be written for Pulp Cthulhu. Ensure the tone and pacing of pulp scenarios embodies the drive to action and quick-fire investigation beneath a blanket of mystery and horror stemming from the Cthulhu Mythos.
RuneQuest - Jason Durall, Line Editor
We want full-length adventures and campaigns for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha! (RQG)
Know the RQG rules and its terminology (for example, adventurers and a gamemaster, the use of Runes and passions, and the availability of magic to all adventurers!), All submissions must conform to the RuneQuest Style Guide.
Always remember that combat in RuneQuest is dangerous for the adventurers - hack-and-slash scenarios tend to result in total-party-kills or boredom (or both!). Scenarios should be resolvable through means other than just combat - social skills, stealth, or magic should be at least as important as combat, if not more. Concentrate on mystery, investigation, exploration, social conflict, and intrigue - combat is always an option, but there should always be another way.
Always indicate where passions or Runes should, or could, be used and possible effects of successful or failed rolls. Avoid basing absolute success in a scenario upon a single die roll for any ability.
Do not be afraid to present difficult episodes which can be successfully completed only after successive visits.
Remember, the adventurers all belong to communities. They have families, belong to clans, temples, tribes or cities. Many adventurers owe personal loyalty to a king, war-leader, etc. Stories that threaten (or at least involve) the adventurers’ community have greater emotional resonance for the players.
Special Notes on Glorantha
When writing material set in Glorantha, you must be familiar with the Glorantha setting (as described in the Guide to Glorantha, Glorantha Sourcebook, RuneQuest Bestiary, and King of Sartar). If you are detailing a city, tribe, or other significant location or group, you will be working closely with the Creative Director to make sure that the details fit with the overall vision of Glorantha.
You the Author need the know setting - however, the gamemaster and players should not be assumed to know anything more about the setting beyond what is the RuneQuest rules. Help them explore this rich setting through the scenario.
Setting: Our preferred setting is after the Dragonrise of 1625. Sartar is no longer occupied by the Lunar Empire and Argrath either is Prince of Sartar (1627 on) or is maneuvering to become Prince. This is a time of adventure, change, and war. For most scenarios, it should not matter when precisely it is set - and when possible, make the precise year of your scenario as timeless as possible. However, the location does typically matter. Pick a location for where your scenario takes place.
Mythic flavor: A good Gloranthan adventure should have some mythic resonance. Even straightforward scenarios such as raiding trolls or killing broo has a mythic dimension, if only the conflict between Light and Darkness, or the struggle against Chaos. Here are some examples:
- Many adventures follow, at least superficially, the Hero’s Journey of Joseph Campbell even if they are not heroquests.
- Conflicts of the Gods Age are endlessly repeated, and the cycles of mortal time repeat the mythic conflicts of the gods.
- At many times in history, men have cooperated with the Elder Races, the dragons, giants, and even broos. Great empires have been founded with the secrets learned from non-humans. But the curse of knowledge is that once you learn something new you endanger the certainty of old truths.
- The dangers of arrogance and pride. The rise and fall of the Broken Council, the God Learners, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, and even the Lunar Empire are examples of this theme. Great empires rise in Glorantha, determined to change the world forever, only to fall into ruin.
- The price of success is new conflict. The seeds of the next war are planted in how we ended the last war. Success always comes at a price, and that bill always eventually comes due.
- The paradox of the Hero. The Hero is endowed with exceptional powers and uses those gifts to battle against enemies who would endanger the peace and wellbeing of the community. And yet, the Hero is not bound by the rules and restrictions of the civilization they defend, and is rarely at home in the civilized world.
RuneQuest Fantasy Earth
We are also looking for supplements set in RuneQuest Fantasy Earth. These use the rules template presented in the new RuneQuest Mythic Iceland. These might be additional adventures set in the North Sea of the 9th or 10th centuries AD, using Icelandic Adventurers along the lines of Egil’s Saga or the Viking Romances.
We are also looking for new settings for RuneQuest Fantasy Earth, such as Anglo-Saxon England, Constantinople under the Macedonian Dynasty, the Holy Roman Empire during the Ottonians, Abbasid Baghdad, Heian period Japan, the China of Di Renjie, etc. All RuneQuest Fantasy Earth settings should be set in a specific historical period and culture. Don't try to present everything - focus on a specific city or region. Be historically accurate without being pedantic.
A new setting book will need to include a short self-contained rules section that includes creating characters in that setting, the RQ game mechanics and combat system, magic for that setting (which should not be based on Rune spells or sorcery - the Gloranthan Runes are not present in fantasy Earth!).
Other Basic Roleplaying Games
We are open to proposals to use the Basic Roleplaying system for other settings.
Games based on existing literary, comic book, or movie properties pose special problems. We do not want to purchase the rights until we see the game, and you will not want to write an entire game until the property is secured. Various companies have already bought many reasonably promising properties. We often know of purchased properties that are not yet in print. Contact us first if your game proposal is dependent on a licensed property.
Chaosium has published several art books on the Cthulhu mythos, including a coloring book, which have been extremely well-received. The Guide to Glorantha and Glorantha Sourcebook are non-game books that do not fit within the category of our fiction line. We have other such books in the works.
We will entertain ideas for other unusual types of book like this. They should be related to one of our games or settings. Other unusual items, such as the Miskatonic University Graduate Kit were extremely well-received. We do not need mere ideas – we need finished product. If you have an idea, work it into a solid product and send us the final text.
Proposals that we don't want at this time
- Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, Larry Niven’s Ringworld,Wendy & Richard Pini’s ElfQuest - Chaosium does not currently have the rights to produce new materials in these settings.
- Magic World - we have no plans to publish further scenarios or supplements (however, you may wish to propose a Magic World product yourself under license).
- Universal or Generic Supplements.
- Other companies’ games. We do not publish scenarios or supplements for games not published by Chaosium Inc.
If you (the Author) submit a proposal to Chaosium for review, you agree that the receipt and evaluation by Chaosium of this proposal will be undertaken under the following conditions:
- Chaosium agrees to consider this proposal as a possible step toward publication, and to maintain confidentiality about it, but makes no promise that publication can be expected or guaranteed.
- No confidential relationship or other obligation of any kind is created or implied by the receipt or consideration of this proposal by Chaosium. Author acknowledges and agrees that elements of this proposal may already exist coincidentally in either previously published format, unpublished format, or in the form of a work in progress or concept draft at the time of submission.
- This agreement binds all parties who lawfully succeed to the rights of the Author.
- This agreement constitutes the entire Agreement pertaining to this proposal between the Author and Chaosium.
- The Author hereby warrants that the Author has the right to submit this proposal to Chaosium on the forgoing terms and conditions, and guarantees that the work is the Author's sole creation. Any ensuing charges of plagiarism or copyright violation are the sole responsibility of the Author who will bear all costs of any necessary legal defense and indemnify Chaosium for any costs, settlements, or judgments made concerning those charges.
- This Author’s Release is governed by and shall be interpreted under the laws of the State of Washington applying to contracts made and to be performed in that state.
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