Storytelling With Others.
I began my career in webcomics as a solo creator, and once Star Power comes to an end at the conclusion of this Issue, I’ll be returning to focusing on my solo endeavors with The Legacy of Dominic Deegan. The last seven years working with Garth on Star Power has been a collaborative effort, and it’s taught me things about the creative process I would have never learned working alone. Collaborating has been an excellent exercise and I’ve been able to bring the lessons learned to another place where stories are told with others: tabletop roleplaying games.
I should note that Garth and I had an extremely successful collaboration. We rarely butted heads or had disagreements that threatened to unravel our partnership. Some collaborations are infamously destructive, but some work so well that it makes your bonds as creators and friends even stronger. The unfortunate aspect is that there are no guarantees with collaborations. Some work and some don’t, no matter how much effort both parties put into them. You just have to roll the dice and take your chances.
But let’s assume you’re lucky enough to enter in to a successful collaborative effort. What makes it work, and what keeps it working? The keys to our success were two things: clear communication and mutual respect. Garth had a say in every aspect of the script’s development, and I had a say in panel/page composition and layout. We made certain to speak openly and with respect to one another. We made certain not to become unwavering in our vision of a character design or a line of dialogue, which would have made compromise impossible. We each trusted the other’s counsel, because at the end of the day we were trying to make something we’d both be proud to have our names on.
Tabletop roleplaying games require a similar level of collaborative respect. Everyone in the game is trying to tell a story they’ll enjoy, but if you’re having a good time at the expense of others, you’re going to see your game (and maybe a few friendships) crumble. A successful RPG requires the players and the game master to practice clear communication and mutual respect. If something’s not working or making someone uncomfortable, be flexible with your vision. A change of direction is not always a punishment or a restriction. It can be an opportunity to flex your imagination in ways you never thought possible, and to explore roads you’d never otherwise travel. A collaborative effort that works will make you think in new ways and challenge you, and in overcoming those challenges you will emerge stronger.
But there remains that aspect of luck, and that’s something no one can provide reliable counsel about. Maybe it will work, or maybe it will crash and burn. You have to decide if you want to take the risk. But speaking from experience, when those dice land right and you find something that works, the results will enrich you beyond your expectations.