Freelance Advice: Are YOU a Pixie Dust Designer?

Pixie dust designers are amazing, naturally talented folk. Whatever project they touch, they effortlessly sprinkle it with their magic pixie dust. Wouldn’t it be great to be a pixie dust designer?


Pixie dust designers don’t need the Golden Rules of Freelance Game Design or the Golden Rules of Project Management. In fact, they are so amazing and talented it is impossible for them to kill their career. The only problem is that pixie dust designers are somewhat of a rarity. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they don’t really exist. It’s easy to look at a designer’s body of work and only see the result. It’s much harder to look at their material and see all the hard work and effort that goes into its creation.

Successful designers work at all facets of their craft. They don’t rely on pixie dust. Successful designers know there is no such thing as a quick fix as a freelance game designer. They build solid skills and practises to enable themselves to produce the best material possible. A successful designer:

  • Researches: Before approaching a company, a successful designer does his research. If he is pitching a project to a company he knows what kind of products the company normally releases and makes certain his projects fits. If a company focuses on player options (new feats, classes and so on) he doesn’t pitch them a GM-focused supplement (and vice versa).
  • Trains: A successful freelance game designer practises his craft. He might post game material – stat blocks, encounters, feats and so on – regularly to his blog.
  • Reads: Reading a wide range of material is key to being a successful game designer. He reads around the subject of game design and linked fields of interest to increase his knowledge. He reads related subjects to the genre or rule set in which he works. He reads not only new releases but also their reviews so he knows what people like and don’t like. In short, he reads… a lot.
  • Up To Date: Keeping up to date with industry developments and trends is particularly important in a fast-moving industry such as the game industry. If an industry leader releases a new set of rules, a successful freelance designer keep abreast of the development.
  • Sweats the Details: Even if his creation is the greatest adventure, collection of feats or whatever in the history of the world he still sweats the details. He edits his work, ruthlessly, for grammatical errors, loose writing and the like. He knows that making the editor’s life easier is the key to securing additional work. (This is one of the ways a freelance designer can level up).

Successful designers realise the importance of getting it right the first time. They live by the mantra, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.” They take the time to get it right. They treat their freelance works as a proper job, and not a hobby.

In short, a successful game designer does not rely on pixie dust.

Help Fellow Designers

Do you have any more suggestions to help fellow freelancers succeed? Why not share them in the comments below and help fellow designers do a better job today!

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

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