Few people know this, but I came up honest in the roleplaying world. Trained as a graphic artist, admittedly with a minor focus on writing, I never expected to be writing and editing for the Dungeons & Dragons game. I got hooked back into the game when 3e, a marvelous update, appeared. I started talking on forums, writing my own stuff, reviewing products, and entering contests.
Long story short, my reviews got me some editing work for third-party companies. That landed me some writing work. Eventually I landed the big break–Wizards had an open call for freelance editors. I had honed my skills, so I got in on that call. After determined applying to various jobs, I ended up working at Wizards.
I did my share of pitching to Dragon and Dungeon magazines, to Jesse Decker and Chris Youngs (although his name was Thomasson in those days). I remember how nervous I was. You wonder if you did it right or if some blunder will get you blacklisted. The pitch can be nerve racking, but it shouldn’t be. If you follow the guidelines and contributors’ etiquette, you might not receive a contract on the first pitch, but you are headed in a good direction.
One thing that almost got Chris Youngs to forget about me was confusion about adventure work I was doing. I had entered a contest with some adventure ideas, and won. After presenting the ideas to Dungeon, and getting the thumbs up, I decided that I wanted to do full-length treatments. I declined the Dungeon offer and pursued the projects with Monkeygod Enterprises. Chris suspected I had submitted my ideas to Monkeygod simultaneously with my submission to Dungeon, which is a breach of author’s warranty. Turns out that this wasn’t true, and Chris cut me some slack. But few breaches of contributors’ etiquette will land you in the “this writer can’t work for us again, ever” category. I’ve seen it happen.
Enough about me, though.
A lot of people want to see a sample pitch, and like you, I’ve had to do plenty. The online writer’s guidelines for D&D Insider spell out how to do one. I can understand the desire to see one, though. Here are a few detailed examples.
Dungeon–Ecology of the Rakshasa
This feature-length article will contain:
• Appearance of rakshasas in the world
• Involvement of rakshasas in destructive historic evens, such as the fall of Nerath
• Recent rakshasa schemes
• Bestial appearance as a primal mark (related to deva ecology)
• Illusion as a spiritual manifestation
• The cycle of reincarnation
• A long view
• Goodness is a path to oblivion
• Self image as messengers of suffering
• Evil is necessary
• Gods are worthless, coupled with a god complex
• The natural world and its spirits should be dominated through magic.
• Wealth, luxury, and decadence as status
• Scheming as art
Enemies and Allies
• The insidious patron
• The thorough destroyer
• The returned avenger
• The careful manipulator
• Devas and good angels
• Devils and demons
• Three new rakshasas
Word Count: 3,500 words
Dungeon–Temple of the Yellow Skulls
After the events of the “Storm Tower” (Dungeon 166), the characters discover the location of a haunted temple in the Ogrefist Hills. The temple, once the home of demon-worshiping gnolls, now shelters the remaining Yellow Skull bandits and their fearsome leader, the half-orc death mage Kaglosi. She plans on expanding her powers by using the demons trapped in the temple’s gold-plated skulls. This delve-style adventure will contain:
Encounter 1: Camp Among the Ruins
Bloodthirsty bandits block the way with violence. Characters might discover none of the bandits is willing to enter the temple.
Encounter 2: To Eat Only Dust
Descending into the temple, the characters run afoul of the first line of defense. What seems like a simple battle with undead guardians turns into something more. The characters and monsters have to deal with a trap that cascades dust into the room, forcing everyone away from the exit doorway.
Encounter 3: Seat of Power
Characters confront Kaglosi, along with her demons and undead. The mage is in an altered state of mind, allowing for roleplaying to alter the course of the encounter. In battle, Kaglosi calls forth unnatural creatures to aid her. The characters might find their own perceptions altered. If the characters slay Kaglosi, they gain control of three more golden skulls.
Word Count: 5,000 words
Dragon–Channel Divinity: The Traveler
Eberron’s deity of change offers characters numerous options. This short feature will contain:
• A background for those truly devoted to the Traveler.
• A few feats for the Traveler’s worshipers.
• A paragon path allowing a Traveler disciple to become as changeable as his or her deity.
• Hints for using these character elements with changeable deities from other settings.
Word Count: 1,500 words
Now my hope is that you come up with some pitches of your own. My examples aren’t the only way you might go about doing so. But when you do pitch, I hope my samples help. I look forward to seeing your articles in publication.
PS: See my comments below for a little more. I should have said some of that here, but I didn’t.