Chupacabracon 2017 Report

Hi gang! I just returned from one of my favorite gaming conventions, the always-fun Chupacabracon in Austin, Texas. This is the fourth year of Chupa, and I’ve been honored to attend it every year so far. There’s a wealth of great guests, programming, and fun to be had at this intimate little (350+ people) convention that always provides me with plenty of great ideas and excitement.

I arrived in Austin on Thursday and spent some time with my parents in town. In the evening, I got together with several of my friends at the hotel (Wyngate by Wyndam) and we went out to dinner at Jack Allen’s Kitchen; I had some excellent chicken fried chicken and got to catch up with Jeffrey Webb afterwards.

Friday kicked off with some panels about GMing and Session 0. I had a very distinguished list of panelists and, somehow, I ended up as moderator for both! The panels were decently well-attended and I came away with a lot of fantastic ideas about games, stories, and managing failure in RPGs.

One of the games running all weekend at this convention deserves special mention: Andy Solberg’s Labyrinth Lord game, “In the Shadow of the Goat.” It is even themed to chupacabracon and name-checks the convention’s mascot! Andy ran this as a drop-in, play all you want in 30-minute chunks, mega-dungeon event all weekend. The gameplay was very old school D&D, and included plenty of awesome adventure! We explored lairs, solved puzzles, and left funny notes in the book that every other player had access to read along the way. Aleena the Cleric, my character, fell in love, lost her love, avenged him, and got a little treasure along the way, mostly by praising the Lawgiver’s church every chance she got. It was SUPER FUN and I hope Andy runs it again next year.

In the afternoon, Ed Wetterman and the ETU gang put on their very own ETU tailgate party! This was a great celebration of this fantastic Savage Worlds setting, complete with a large crowd singing the ETU fight song, party games, and plenty of food and drink.

That night I got a special treat of my own: Denis Loubet had arrived to sign some copies of Strike Force, and he stuck around to get into Michael Satran’s game of Champions Complete: Starfall. Denis ended up playing the team leader, a role he’s excellent at! It was a real pleasure to sit at the table with Michael and Denis and play some awesome superheroic action. I played the superpatriot electric speedster, Skybolt: a surprisingly fun and effective character who has a very simple set of powers.

Saturday began with more panels, this time on game design. Once more I had a strong team of panelists, and once more, I ended up doing the moderating! We had some interesting discussions about where to start with design and what questions need to be answered as the first steps.

Afterwards, I played in the diceless storygame Eons Protocol with Wendy Reischl. It was one of my first times with such a freeform narrative experience, and I enjoyed it. I’m not certain my improv skills were quite up to the needs of such a thing, though.

I then was interviewed by Aaron Burkett for Minionworks.net, a podcast that was interviewing most of the game designers at the convention. The interview was great and I’m very much looking forward to hearing them all once they’re available. That night, I participated in Savage Saturday Night in Sean Patrick Fannon’s Freedom Squadron game.

Sunday, the last day of the con, is always bittersweet. I hate that the convention has to end but it went out with a bang! We started with a brunch at Jack Allen’s Kitchen with the VIP attendees – delicious! After that, I got a chance to play in Sean Bircher’s Zorro game as Sergeant Gonzalez. Sean’s game was great: he even had a character sheet for Tornado! We rescued Zorro from the cruel Capitan before the Governor could arrive.

Sunday night ended with a fantastic dinner at the Steiner Ranch Steakhouse. The food there was simply mind-blowing. Cold-smoked steaks were devoured and praised by all as some of the best in the world.

2017 Convention Schedule

Hey gang,

I’ve gone quiet for a couple of months because I was busy moving! I headed south from Colorado and I now am a resident of Chandler, Arizona! This is the start of some big, cool things coming soon, so keep an eye on this space.

Here’s where you can find me at various conventions popping up this year:

  • May 12-14                                        Chupacabracon, Round Rock TX
  • May 25-28                                       Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix AZ
  • July 15-16                                        Crit Hit! Phoenix AZ
  • August 17-20                                  Gen Con, Indianapolis IN
  • September 22-24                           Spa-Con, Hot Springs AR
  • September 28-October 1              Tacticon, Denver CO

 

2016, in Review

Greetings, readers. 2016 has been a heck of a year, both in good things (for me, personally) and bad (though surely I don’t need to list some of the ways this year has disappointed us, especially with all the fine and talented folk who died).

I want to use this post to take a look back at 2016 and catalogue some of the ups and downs that have happened in my life, and especially in the gaming industry. These kinds of posts are fun for me, as I get to talk about my accomplishments and hopes for the new year. So settle down for a discussion of the last 12 months.

Personal Projects

This year I had a lot on my plate (see the Evil Beagle Games section, below), but I did manage to accomplish a good deal of things for myself or as a freelance writer.

Wikipedia: With the help of my good friend Chuck Thornton, I have a wikipedia page now! I’m very grateful to Chuck and deeply pleased to be able to check off “wiki page” from my bucket list.

Accursed: I’ve talked about this setting before, and how much I love it. Accursed is important to me, and I’m proud to say I supported the line throughout the year, starting with the World of Morden kickstarter (funded, fully delivered!)–creating a full-fledged sourcebook for the setting–and ending with a one-sheet for the Christmas season. In all, I completed three one-sheet adventures, the sourcebook, and something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time: I wrote a novella for the setting.

Writing Pirate’s Oath was a major accomplishment for me. It’s the longest form of fiction I’ve ever produced, and I feel like it is also my best–thanks in large part to plenty of great feedback from friends and fellow professionals like Mel Odom.

BFG Armada: I was hired by Tindalos to write the characters, dialogue, story and trailer VO for this exciting video game. I’m quite proud of Armada, and I’d love to work with Tindalos again in the future. Armada won an award (4th place) for Best Sci-Fi game of 2016 at the Global Game Awards, and I’m positive the game will receive recognition from fans of Battlefleet Gothic.

Mystic Vale: This is one of the card game projects I write the story text for when working for AEG. The game is interesting, the box looks great, I have gotten numerous compliments on it from gamers during the year. Looking forward to seeing the sequel coming out in 2017!

Weird War I: This was a very fun project to work on for Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Creating bestiaries has turned out to be one of my signatures in the RPG industry, and I deeply enjoyed getting to create a series of monsters for this setting… including a ghost zeppelin, the Bloody Baron, and a latrine demon.

A quick side note: All told, I worked on 27 products that were released in 2016. That’s a current personal best.

Evil Beagle Games

2016 was a banner year for EBG. In partnership with Sean Patrick Fannon and Carinn Seabolt, we accomplished quite a bit. First, we completed the handover of the Shaintar line to Savage Mojo. As part of that process, we worked out a deal with Studio 2 to carry the physical books of Legends Arise and Legends Unleashed. I spearheaded this effort and helped adjust the layout to allow this mass printing of the core books.

However, once the handover was finished, EBG had only two products on our digital ‘shelves.’ I’m very pleased to say that we improved that number to 36 by the end of the year.

Savage Rifts: 26 of those products belong to the Savage Rifts line, and this is definitely where the lion’s share of my time was spent this year. Not only did I write quite a bit of material, I also served as the lead developer for the line. Savage Rifts has turned out to be a surprise hit, and we’re all very proud of how well it is doing out there amongst the gamers who love the setting. Thanks to our partners at Pinnacle Entertinment Group and Palladium Books, we made something truly memorable happen by bringing Rifts to Savage Worlds.

Primeval Thule: EBG prospered this year largely by partnering up with some of the industry’s best creators. We teamed up with Sasquatch Game Studio to bring Primeval Thule to Savage Worlds, which was a great project to work on. It’s also turned out to be very popular with our fans.

Aaron Allston’s Strike Force: On a more personal note, EBG partnered with High Rock Press to bring my friend Aaron Allston’s superhero setting–Strike Force–to life. We had a very successful kickstarter and delivered what I think is a stellar product and a great tribute to its creator. I believe that Strike Force is going to gain serious recognition in 2017.

Michael Surbrook Presents: EBG and Michael Surbrook have joined forces to bring out some great products. We’ve got three great books out, and many more on the way. Michael is one of my good friends and it is very satisfying to me that we can help him get his work out there for the gamers. This is really just the tip of the iceberg for MSP!

Personal Events

Gamer’s Tavern No More: One of the downsides to 2016 for me, personally, is that I needed to step down as the host of the Gamer’s Tavern podcast. I did not make this decision lightly, but it was the best choice for the show. Podcasting was very important to me, and I enjoyed hosting the Gamer’s Tavern a great deal. Ultimately, I hope I can get back into podcasting at some point in the future.

Conventions: I had an incredible year for conventions in 2016. Chupacabracon in Austin is always fantastic, and this year was no exception. Rincon in Tucson was stunning, especially as they created individual drinks at the bar for each guest. My drink was called the “Accursed,” and my god was it awesome. Spa-Con in Hot Springs was truly special because this brought me back to my old high school stomping grounds. Ropecon in Helsinki brought me back to Finland for an amazing experience gaming with the Finns one more time! And of course, Colorado’s own Genghiscon and Tacticon continued to provide me with unforgettable games.

Colorado: I’m loving living here. I wasn’t sure I could fully get Texas–especially Austin–out of my heart, but Colorado won me over with patience and graciousness. This state is regal and beautiful and full of amazing people.

Last, but certainly not least, I met someone truly awesome (at Tacticon, no less) and began a very fulfilling relationship.

Hopes for 2017

Here’s some things I’m looking forward to in the new year.

Torg Eternity: This is going to be a bad-ass setting. I’m very pleased to say I’m part of the core design team for this edition and working on new stuff for it even now.

The Endless: I have an RPG of my own design that I’m working on in between other projects.

More Savage Rifts! I’m sure this is no surprise. 🙂

A Novel: Now that I’ve completed a novella, the next step is to write a fully-fledged fiction novel. I’m very eager to complete this milestone.

 

 

A Rogue Warden’s Report of Spa-Con

Spa-Con 2016 happened last weekend; this is the inaugural comic-con like event for Hot Springs, Arksansas–which happens to be where I grew up from about 1985-1993. Basically, I spent some very formative years in this deep south tourist town, and it was fantastic to see the community embrace the things I love.img_1190

I was honored to attend Spa-Con as a guest. In a way, it was a “local boy done good” scenario; getting a chance to come back to Hot Springs where I began my journey into game design and writing professionally! The convention put me up in the Hotel Hot Springs–a very nice venue connected directly to the convention center. The hotel restuaruant was particularly nice, with a menu that’s written in such an entertaining fashion (there’s an entry for “I THINK I WILL JUST HAVE A HAMBURGER”) that I took one home with me.

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The convention kicked off with an outdoor concert on Friday night followed by a pub crawl sponsored by Bar Trek. I didn’t attend the pub crawl, but the band performance looked like it was well-received. On Saturday, folks started lining up to get into the main convention center early, and the line got long fast–however, the team of volunteers kept things moving right along. I ran a full table at 11 AM for Savage Rifts: The Garnet Town Gambit. None of my players were familiar with Savage Worlds, but the game is easy to teach, and we had a great time. Jon Westmoreland was running the gaming area, and he did a great job of welcoming me and setting up the game tables for each session.

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The dealer’s hall was nice and spacious, with plenty of room to walk around, and probably around 50 different exhibits, artists, guests, and vendors. The cosplay guests were excellent; each had brought some astoundingly good costumes to display and were very friendly to speak to. Lady Kate, I had heard, is actually from the area.

I spent a good deal of time speaking to Randy Duncan, a professor at Henderson University. Dr. Duncan has won some major awards for his comic-book education programs at Henderson and some important books he’s written on the subject. I would have loved to have taken that class, for sure.

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That evening, I ran my Game Design Workshop; I’m pretty proud of this presentation. While I always start out by saying there’s no one true way to design games, I enjoy sharing my own philosophy and designing a game with the audience in the second half of the event. Unfortunately, I was scheduled last on Saturday, so I lost about three quarters of my audience after the first hour. Still, my small group of die-hards and I created a cool game idea and I feel like the presentation went really well overall.

Sunday, I ran a game of Feng Shui 2 named “Blowing Up Hot Springs.” I had crafted a story involving a lot of local history, including Hernando de Soto and Al Capone, involving ninjas attacking various local landmarks. We blew up a great deal of Hot Springs defeating the plans of the ninjas, and a great time was had by all! Jon Westmoreland actually recorded the session, and you can find a copy of it here.

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Sunday afternoon, I ran my Worldbuilding for RPGs panel, designed from my own experience and some additional material from my roommate Sean Patrick Fannon’s own class he presented here in Denver a time or two. Once more, the audience was plentiful and very welcoming. I’d love to run some more seminars and programs for the Spa-Con attendees!

Spa-Con certainly was a success! The number I heard on Saturday was 3100 people, which is huge, especially considering that the organizers were only expecting around 500 or so. I spoke to some of the vendors who attended the show, and they said that they sold quite a bit of merch, making it both good for the attendees and the vendors.

As for the guests, I had a fantastic time. In addition, I met and spoke at length with accomplished voice actor Chris Smith. Chris also spoke with enthusiasm about the great convention and how much he enjoyed his time there. I got a chance to catch up with several old friends who attended the convention, and met some great new people, like local game master and heavy metal DJ, Jon Westmoreland.

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I want to single out the convention organizers for doing a fantastic job of keeping things running smoothly: Erin Baber, Adam Beck, and Bill (the convention chair). I thought that Spa-Con was a huge hit, and no doubt brought a boon to the downtown businesses! I’m definitely hoping Spa-Con 2 will happen again next year.

On Monday, I visited Game Planet, a Hot Springs local game store. It was clean, well-lit, and had plenty of awesome games to see and play. I managed to get some very good friends of mine into a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse to show off how much I love that game.

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Crossing my fingers to come back again in 2017!

The History of Accursed

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Inspired by Shannon Applecline’s excellent Designers and Dragons, I’d like to share the backstory behind a setting of my own creation, the dark fantasy Savage Worlds phenomenon known as Accursed.

 

It all started with Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: between 2008 and 2011, I was working at Fantasy Flight games as a senior RPG developer, in charge of the various 40K RPGs. Along the way, I made contacts with some excellent artists, editors, and freelance writers that continue to be a major resource for me today.

 

There were two fellows that I found myself working with again and again: John Dunn and Jason Marker. Both were talented writers, and both had some interesting views on the industry that matched up well with my own. We used to meet at Gen Con and say “Someday, it would be cool to create something of our own.”

 

We knew that we wanted to make something together, but we all agreed that we would need to wait until there was a project that we all found exciting. We wanted to collaborate on a project we all felt passion for, and although we bandied around various ideas, we didn’t find “the one” until later.

 

In 2012, I consulted with Catalyst Game Labs on the creation of Shadowrun 5th edition and other projects, such as a board game and a miniature game design called Sprawl Gangers. During this period, Randall Bills challenged me to come up with a pitch for what he described as a “dark fantasy RPG.” Initially, I struggled with the concept; wasn’t the genre saturated already? However, the more I thought about it, there was an idea lurking in the back of my head, inspired in part by the comic book “The Creature Commandos” and a WW2 game that Clint Black had run at Genghis Con that year. In Clint’s game, we played classic movie monsters fighting Nazis and vampires behind enemy lines.

 

With this idea in mind, I began to develop a vision for Accursed. The initial design hinged on one “elevator pitch” that stuck with me: Hellboy meets Solomon Kane. Monsters vs. Witches in a dark fantasy setting with black powder rifles and some Civil War-era technology.

 

I pitched the idea to Randall, but Catalyst passed. I actually was not at all disappointed by this outcome: I had found “the one” that John, Jason, and I were waiting for.

 

At 2012’s Gen Con, the three of us sat down and worked out the basics for what would become the world of Morden. There would be monsters: the player characters, who were men and women suffering under a curse that transformed them into something inhuman. There would be Witches, and some technology, and above all, an action-horror tone that would permeate the setting. We wanted “Castlevania meets Van Helsing,” we wanted Hammer Horror-with-Victorian themes, we wanted something vibrant and unique.

 

During that meeting at Gen Con, the three of us agreed that we’d found something we felt very excited about. Accursed began production the very next month. John planned out a Kickstarter launch, fueled by blog posts that actually doubled as part of the design process for the setting. I tracked down the immensely talented Alberto Bontempi as our main artist, for his dark style perfectly captured the setting’s feel. Between the three of us, we launched Accursed in 2013 to a resounding success.

 

Shane Hensley, CEO of Pinnacle and the creator of Savage Worlds, loved what we were doing. We signed on some talented writers like Andy Chambers, Richard Lee Byers, and Mel Odom to draft some fiction for the setting, and several other game creators chipped in by creating some one-sheets for the setting’s launch.

 

Within one year, Accursed was a gold best-seller on DriveThruRPG, and we’ve continued to support it over the years since. John has been the driving force on the business side, and I’ve maintained my position as the creative director and lead developer for the IP. Currently, there are over 34 products available for the setting, including the core setting book, a setting sourcebook (World of Morden), an adventure collection (Ill Omens), a crossover adventure with the Shaintar setting (Darkest Tides), a custom poker deck, 6 1-sheets, a special adventure (Fall of the Tower), and fiction; 3 novellas and 1 short story.

 

Not bad for a crazy idea and three game designers who wanted to do something cool together.

 

One of the reasons I felt compelled to write about this is that I recently released Pirate’s Oath, my first novella set in the world of Accursed. Pirate’s Oath was exceptionally fun to write, and I’d love to craft more fiction for this world again soon. Actually, completing a novella is one of my lifelong dreams, and achieving this milestone is truly something special in my life.

A Rogue Warden at Ropecon

It is an immense privilege to be invited as a Guest of Honor to any convention. Even more so when that convention is held overseas. Ropecon 2016 extended me the esteem of being their gaming Guest of Honor this year, and it was an amazing experience I shall never forget.

Ropecon is held in Helsinki, Finland–a beautiful city with a rich history and plenty of interesting things to see and do. The Finns, as a people, are very welcoming and friendly. Especially the Finns who are also gamers–they have a very strong and dynamic community of gamers in that nation, and I got to meet several of them over the weekend of Ropecon.

The venue for this year’s convention was very impressive: roomy, clean, well-lit, with plenty of rooms for panels, workshops, and games. The areas for card games, board games, LARP, and miniature games were very roomy indeed, and there were built-in cafes and restaurants so attendees would not need to leave in search of food.

I must first single out my handlers for special mention, Joonas Katko and Ville-Eemeli Miettinen. Ville was a fantastic translator, making sure I understood everything being said at the opening and closing ceremonies, plus a great guide to Finnish culture. Joonas spent hours showing me Helsinki and explaining the rich history of the region.

The Ropecon convention staff were also excellent, including my “Finnish big sister” Eevi Korhonnen, Arrtu Hanska, Aarne Saarinen, Heidi Saynevirta, Aaro Viertio, and many others. From my perspective, the convention ran extremely smoothly. Security and event organization was top-notch and my friend Pekka Wallendahl ensured that the systems kept running!

I caught up with many of my Finnish friends from my previous trip, including a great conversation with Tiina Uusi-Rasi, Jukka Sarkijarvi, and many others (My apologies if I forgot your name!)

It was also a pleasure to meet some Finnish game designers, especially Miska Fredman, Mike Pohjola (both of whom I remembered well from Tracon 2013), and Ville Vuorela. Miska showed off his new work on Astraterra and Cthonian Highways, while Mike showed me the amazing boxed set for Age of the Tempest. Ville signed a copy of Stalker RPG for me as well. It was amazing to meet all these creative minds and share some ideas with them.

Claus Raasted Herlovsen was the other guest of honor, a very talented and famous Danish LARP organizer. Claus taught me a great deal about his chosen field, and I left Finland far more educated about LARP than when I arrived. Claus and I couldn’t seem to stop collaborating and discussing games the entire trip–Claus even sat in on my game design workshop and turned the last ten minutes or so into an impromptu LARP about the difficulties of designing and pitching games to investors!

As for myself, I ran two sessions of Savage Rifts: The Garnet Town Gambit. One was an “All-Star” game for Finnish game designers, the convention staff, and the Ropecon Pathfinder Society organizer. It went really well and was recorded on youtube for posterity. Later that same day, I ran the game again for many of my friends from Tracon and some new friends as well–and it went even better!

I participated in panels about “Passion in the Game Industry” and “the Business of Gaming,” both of which were excellent. I got a chance to meet one of my idols, the legendary Tuomas Pirinen (creator of Mordheim among many other great games), and I ran my very own Game Design workshop. I spent the first half of the session explaining my philosophies of game design, and the second half I guided the audience into creating their own game vision: this time, the audience wanted to make “Cold War Space Race,” a competitive board game where players take on the roles of nations trying to achieve milestones in space exploration despite espionage efforts against them. It was very well received (especially with Claus’ help at the end), and I felt it was a big success.

The afterparty for Finnish conventions is legendary at this point. I shouldn’t have to say much here, but I will give the highlights:

  • Fantastic food
  • Excellent company
  • Lots of alchohol
  • Finnish Sauna!

At the end of the night, I felt that Ropecon had left a lasting impression on me as one of the finest gaming conventions I had ever attended. Keep up the great work, you crazy Finns!

 

The D-Infinity Independent Game Awards!

I’m very pleased to say that I was selected to be one of the judges for 2016’s D-Infinity Independent Game Awards. This project is a competition aimed to discover some of the best independent game products of the year. In addition, 2016 is the first, inaugural session of these awards. I’m proud to help introduce this award into the tabletop gaming industry!

Obviously there is a strong RPG element to this award system, partly because it was founded by RPG enthusiasts and professionals like myself, Joe Charles, Michael O. Varhola, and Jason Yarnell. That being said, the awards are looking at board games, card games, and gaming accessories in addition to RPG products.

There are only a few days left to vote on these awards, so please check out the site! One thing that is special about these awards is how the votes are counted. Basically, there are five judges weighing in on the submissions; the four I’ve named already, and the popular vote forming the fifth judge! This is a great way to look at a gaming award, since it allows the popular vote to have an impact, but does not reduce the award to simply going to the most influential gaming company involved in the program.

It’s been very interesting going through all the various products submitted for judgement this year. I’ve had to weigh the impact of content, writing, editing, production values (such as artwork and layout), and the theme or ‘essence’ of a particular work. There’s also some intangibles to look at, such as the sense of passion and excitement evident in the work from its creators.

I hope the D-IIGA awards continue and I look forward to seeing how things work out during Comicpalooza! The award ceremony itself will be broadcast from the convention for anyone to watch, so keep an eye out for it!

Michael Surbrook Presents: The Grand Melee

Hi gang,

I’m very pleased to announce that Evil Beagle Games has teamed up with my good friend and talented creator, Michael Surbrook! We’re helping Michael publish several of his projects for various game systems, starting with The Grand Melee for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!

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The Grand Melee is a great resource for running medieval tournaments in your game, covering everything from rules on how to run the tournament to the prizes… plus some great adventure seeds!

Remembering Aaron Allston and Strike Force

I’m writing this post on February 27, 2016. And just two years ago today, Aaron Allston passed away.

I first became aware of Aaron Allston in the late 1980’s, through seeing his work on the shelf of my local game store or in the pages of Dragon Magazine: stuff like Autoduel Champions (I was a huge Car Wars nerd in my youth!), and later, the Grand Duchy of Karameikos and the Dungeon Master’s Design Kit. Dungeons and Dragons was one of my favorite things to do in junior high, so I kept appraised of what was out there in the world for this fascinating game, and so I saw Aaron’s name on a few products.

I didn’t really become aware of his importance, however, until the 90’s. It was then that I discovered Champions 4th edition, and through that gateway, one of Aaron’s most important works: Strike Force.

I don’t have all the room here to say just how profound this book was for me… how formative it was on a young man fumbling his way through Gamemastering and running games for his friends. Strike Force taught me HOW to roleplay and gave me an example of a serious campaign. From Strike Force, I had an idea of the kind of games I wanted to run… and it put me on the path towards my eventual career as a game designer.

From there, I was more aware than ever of Aaron. I bought and read his Car Wars novels, then Doc Sidhe, then Galatea in 3-d. Aaron was a very prolific author–even today, I am discovering obscure little novels that he worked on or finding another RPG supplement that benefited from his creativity.

I ran into Aaron here and there over the years, often during Gen Con. I didn’t really get to speak with him at length during those times, keeping a respectful distance and simply thanking him for all the ideas he inspired in me. I got him to sign my copy of Strike Force, amongst other books, and he always struck me as a very kind and welcoming man–even when surrounded by legions of fans.

It wasn’t until the 2010’s that I really got to know Aaron better–just before the end of the life, it turned out. I attended a seminar he and Michael Stackpole held about writing techniques at Dragon’s Lair in Austin, and then I ran into him a year later at Chupacabracon 1. This would be a fateful meeting, for Aaron had plenty of time to chat, and I got to talk to him about a wide variety of subjects.

We talked about superheroes, writing, worldbuilding, game design, and more. It was wonderful. I believe we spent a good three hours or so, calmly talking in the green room. This was the first time we spoke about Strike Force at length, and he confided in me–with a grin–that he had plans to do a new version of his landmark book.

This was a discussion I will never forget. A chance for me to talk about all the things I love with one of my personal heroes, a man who had influenced me for decades. Aaron even invited me to playtest a game he was working on about giant robots fighting in an arena, and I eagerly accepted. I was on a panel or two with Aaron during this convention, and I remember leaving it with a huge smile on my face… a great deal of that thanks to Aaron and his amazing way with people.

Not long afterwards, of course, I heard what had happened at Visioncon that year. Aaron collapsed and then died of heart failure.

I remembered the way he walked very carefully down the hallways at Chupacabracon just weeks earlier, and the wan, pale complexion that initially worried me… I had asked him if he was allright, and he smiled, responding “I’m fine.”

All of this made me one of the last people to really speak with Aaron before he died. I took his death very hard–it was difficult for me to work through the grief. The world lost an amazing creative talent that day, and just a heck of a nice guy.

Over a year later, I was contacted by Jason Walters, owner of High Rock Press. Jason had gotten in touch with Aaron’s family, and through the Allston Estate, he was interested in picking up Aaron’s unfinished project and making it real. I didn’t hesitate — this was my chance to honor a great man.

It’s been about a year since then, and I’ve gotten a chance to work with some fantastic people–Denis Loubet, Steve Kenson, and Michael Surbrook–to build a new version of Strike Force, one that we all believe Aaron would be proud of. This project is not just another RPG book… it’s a dedication to someone who inspired all of us.

(The kickstarter for Aaron Allston’s Strike Force is in its final hours — please go take a look and consider backing us to help us finish strong!)

Accursed Worldbooks Kickstarter Live!

Ever since we published Accursed in 2013, the most common question I get from fans is, “When can we find out more about the world of Morden?”

We’ve actually been hard at work creating more content for Accursed, including adventures like Fall of the Tower, Grove Point, and Darkest Tides, plus new card decks of NPCs and Monsters. In addition to all that, John Dunn, Jason Marker, and myself put our noses to the grindstone and came up with what fans were asking for: more material discussing the world of Morden, long held beneath the Witches’ conquest and home of the Accursed.

Jason and I wrote Frost and Fang, a book about Valkenholm and Steppengrad. John and Jason collaborated on Science and Sea, which gets into the Discordian Sea and the technologically advanced nation of Manreia.

We are joined by George Zeits and Chris Avellone’s excellent book, Sand and Stone, chronicling Hyphrates and Hebron–the first step down the road that inspired the rest of us. There’s another book, as well — Bone & Barrow, focusing on the Outlands and Cairn Kainen!

We’re excited to bring Frost and Fang, Science and Sea, and Bone and Barrow to our fans, but we need your help. The goal is to make these books to the same level of art and production quality as the rest of the Accursed line, and so we’ve launched a kickstarter to help fund this project.

If you are a fan of Accursed, if you like the idea of a well-developed dark fantasy setting, if you love the concept of “Hellboy meets Solomon Kane,” please take a look at our kickstarter page and consider backing us to bring these great books to life!