Obsidian's Chris Avellone has returned to his blog to answer another pair of questions sent to him by the curious community, and this time the focus is on the application of game design classes and whether gamemastering a pen n' paper campaign might help you break into the video game industry.
I admit I smiled when I heard you ran possible scenarios for BIS games with your development staff. I have to agree that that is an excellent way to gauge a written scenario and receive quick feedback. However, do you think it a faux pas if one mentions one does gamemastering during a job interview for a design position? What do you think are helpful things one should say during such an interview?
No, it's not a faux pas to bring up gamemastering, as long as you have concrete materials you developed for the sessions that are applicable to the position, and they can be presented in design document format. For example, when running dual campaigns at Black Isle, I wrote a lot of explicit direction for cut scenes, mapped out Denver, mapped out scavenger camps, detailed out all the stats and voice direction for 30+ salvagers, did all the quest lines, dungeons, boss critter stats, weapon charts, and loot tables for the city, and trust me, that stuff is pretty damn relevant in most RPGs out there. A lot it made it into design documentation as well, some of which is already out on the net. Ferret Baudoin also did gamemastering for scenarios that took place in Neverwinter Nights 2 while we were at Obsidian for the NWN2 original campaign, and that was a lot of fun.
I will say it's much more relevant to actually have done design in a computer game mod or module for NWN1 or NWN2, however (whenever possible, you want to make a submission that someone can load up and play), so if you have time and the choice, do it from the computer game development angle, not the pen and paper game angle.
Note that if I got someone in an interview and they said they did gamemastering, it's not the kiss of death, far from it. I would have a number of questions, however - first off would be the system they use, what house rules they made and why, how do they incorporate PC backgrounds and traits into the campaign, how long they've been running the campaign (and if it fragmented, how often and why), and finally, what the player turnover rate is in the campaign (there are GMs who run a lot of campaigns, but the best sign of being a good entertainer is how long people stuck with the campaign because they were enjoying themselves).