The New Guard: Nathan Dowdell

While I was at Origins this year (2018), I had a conversation with Eric Simon about awards speeches. We discussed what makes a great awards speech, and Eric’s opinion was quite interesting to me. He said that one thing he would love to do in an awards speech is not just acknowledge those who had mentored him, but to also promote the young, up-and-coming creators he believed would be soon on the same stage.

This idea got me thinking about several creators that I personally know–many of whom are good friends–and how I could promote them and their work.

This is the first of a new series of blog posts celebrating the “New Guard,” talented game designers, developers, artists, and writers who are–in my opinion–destined to be standing on awards stages for our tabletop hobby. Eric deserves his own mention here, but I’m going to single out a very deserving friend for this post: Nathan Dowdell.

I first encountered Nathan during my time working on Dark Heresy. Nathan had a very interesting blog where he was creating additional fan content for Dark Heresy on his own time. I saw quality work there, so I invited him to do some work with me on the FFG 40K lines.

This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Nathan Dowdell is a highly talented and proficient writer. He’s also a great creator, and from the work I’ve seen from him at Modiphius, he’s got serious chops as a developer as well.

In addition to all that raw skill, Nathan is a seriously all-around good guy and professional. He and I have worked together numerous times, and I would love to work more with him again in the future.

What humbles me about Nathan is his generosity. He was very giving of his time and advice and feedback when I visited him in Nottingham last year. He’s been a tireless crusader for my own work, Wrath & Glory, sallying forth on Reddit and other sites to defend my creation and explain his opinions of its quality. He did all this AND ran my game on Free RPG Day!

I am not the only beneficiary of Nathan’s generosity, either. Ask any of the writers, editors, and proofreaders working with Nathan on Star Trek Adventures or any other project he’s led, and you’ll find a lot of loyalty and strong positive feelings there.

Nathan’s an up-and-coming creator in our industry. I have no doubt that I’ll be clapping for him to receive many accolades in the years to come.

Origins 2018 Report

Hello readers, this time around I’m here to discuss my visit to Origins Game Fair 2018. As usual, Origins takes place during Pride week, and the parade goes down very close to the convention center. There were people showing off their rainbows all over, and it was great to see.

Origins has been called “diet Gen Con” by some attendees, and I can understand why — it’s got that great “Gen Con vibe” without the huge crowds. There’s plenty of games to see and play, plenty to shop and explore, but the halls are never packed shoulder-to-shoulder and everything just feels a bit more relaxed.

This year, I was present to demonstrate the new Wrath & Glory RPG for its world premiere. This was also the same weekend as Free RPG Day, and Ulisses North America was presenting a Wrath & Glory quickstart to show off how the game works. Written by John Dunn, the adventure is quite fun — and I ran it about four times over the weekend, while also manning the booth area in Studio 2 and going through various business meetings.

Wendelyn Reischl and Stephen Rhodes were also there running games with us — Wendy ran about six games total, in fact — and our fans were exceptionally pleased. I got to meet several happy Warhammer 40,000 players who wanted to know more about the new RPG I had designed. Eric Simon performed heroic deeds managing the booth and keeping all of us on track throughout the weekend.

Primarily, I will remember this year for the people that I am very fortunate to call friends.  Wendy, Stephen, and Eric are all fantastic people — and we have a ton in common. Sometime I think it would be great just to grab a cabin in the mountains of Colorado and game for an entire weekend with these folks.

I also got a chance to sit down with James Layton, who is one of the hosts of the Grim Dark Podcast. Not only does James have a fascinating history of his own, he’s a very passionate gamer and has a talent for helping me come up with cool ideas for my game lines. Tim Huckelbery was also present — a close friend who I have known for 15 years now! — and it was great to reconnect with him.

We had a party at the Three-legged Mare on Saturday night, where we showed off some sneak peeks at the Wrath & Glory Starter Set maps, chatted about the game line, and met many new friends. I even got to embarrass Tim a bit by getting him a standing ovation from the attendees for his work on Dark Heresy 2nd edition.

Origins was a lot of fun, as it has been every year I have attended: this was my third. I will remember it fondly, and especially this year as one where the company of my friends was warm and inviting, a memory I shall cherish.

One sour note came from another poor experience I had with “living campaign” games. I’d like to write more about this at length, but the short version is that every time I’ve sat down to try out some kind of organized play in RPGs, the game itself has been very disappointing.

Here’s hoping next time I get to try out some new games in a different format!

In memory: Michael Satran

My friend Michael Satran died yesterday, from an inoperable brain tumor.

There are likely people out there who can write something more eloquent about Michael, people who had a different perspective on his work—like Jason Walters—or a different perspective on his life—such as his long-running gaming group. There are people who can write something about Michael’s impact on this Earth with more insight, with more detail. I write this as a way to deal with the emotional shadow that looms over my mind and spirit since I learned of his death.

I had known for a while that he was not well; mutual friends told me Michael was in the hospital, that the prognosis was not good. I attempted to speak with him a few times, hoping I could learn more, that I could console him, that I would learn somehow that our struggling medical system could work a miracle.

And then, he was gone. I heard about it yesterday morning during Essen Spiele, my first time at that particular convention, and I just kind of froze for a while. I sat, unable to move, unable to really see what was going on around me, except to think that – ironically – Michael would have loved to have been there.

I’ve known Michael Satran for over twenty years. We played Shadowrun online together in the early 90’s on sites like the Shadowrun: Seattle MUX. We met in person during 2000 at Gen Con in Milwaukee, the same year I met other friends like Sean Patrick Fannon, and the same year I became a professional in the gaming industry.

So many of my memories of Michael are from gaming conventions. Nearly all of them.

I saw Michael at least once a year, every year. Often, we would get a chance to meet and talk multiple times at different gaming conferences like Chupacabracon. Michael always wore a suit – it was a reflection of his day job as a suit salesman, something he was exceptionally good at, but it was also, in a way, his signature. You could tell people to look for Michael by finding “the guy in the suit.” He made a good living selling suits, and he was exceptionally knowledgeable about the field. When I needed a good-looking suit to attend the Air Force Ball earlier this year, I called Michael – and he got me hooked up in style.

That is because Michael’s greatest skill was his generous spirit. Michael never, not once, refused to give aid or assistance if he could. He regularly helped other gamers find lodgings at conventions, bought meals, provided rides, extended contacts. Michael was the guy you turned to if you needed something, because he would always—always—have your back.

Michael loved gaming, especially RPGs. He had it in his soul. Michael never seemed more alive than when he was talking about the games he ran for his home group, or while discussing his own projects for Blackwyrm Games or later, High Rock Press. Michael loved running games as well—he would obsess over getting every detail right, from the character sheets to the crazy scenarios (he once described to me an amazingly unique adventure set in a miniaturized superhero base hidden inside a soda can). I had the honor to game with Michael, both as a player when he GM’d, and with him as a fellow player in other games over the years. He was passionate about our industry, about our hobby, about the ways that games make people feel things.

Champions was Michael’s RPG of choice. He played the game continuously for decades. Both of us were fans of the game system, and both of us were determined to get into the game industry to create some things of our own. Michael achieved that goal and created several adventures for the Hero System, with one of the last being a very impressive setting/campaign called Journey to the Center of the Earth. He was a remarkably dedicated writer, and produced not just a sizable body of work in the gaming industry, but also created his own novel.

There are more things I could say about him, more that I could tell you about his struggles, his personality, his challenges. Yet, this is not, and should not, be a dry list of accomplishments or facts. Michael was more than those things. He was a friend, a confidant, a man who embraced life and found fulfillment in bringing other people the same sense of joy that he carried inside his heart.

Today, I will rage against the world because he is no longer in it. I will angrily shout that was too young. I will lament that I will never get to show him my own games anymore, that there was so much more for him to see and do, that he was an inspiration.

Goodbye Michael. I will miss you.


Amazing Stuff to Read: Drew Hayes

Hey guys — I know it’s been a long while without a post from me here on the Rogue Warden. My life’s been crazy hectic.

I’ve got a new career: I’m the lead designer and line manager for Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory at Ulisses-Spiele and Ulisses North America. Along with that, I went and moved to Germany (I’ll be living in Idstein, not far from Frankfurt) to concentrate on the project.

In the middle of all that, though, I found an author who deserves some serious praise. The man’s name is Drew Hayes, and he’s quickly grown to become one of my all-time favorite authors.

I discovered his work when I found an interesting book series called Spells, Swords, & Stealth. It is a gripping fantasy tale that blends in a healthy amount of tabletop roleplaying game adventure in an engaging way. Interestingly, I started with book 2 of the series first, called Split the Party. I’m not sure how I got confused about which one was which, but regardless, I jumped into the middle of the tale rather than the beginning.

And it was damn good. Something I really appreciate about Drew Hayes’ writing is that he delves deep into establishing his characters’ motivations. You know what drives these characters, you know what makes them tick. In addition, Hayes picks some fascinating tropes to explore in greater depth, like “What makes a Paladin, a Paladin?” and “what would a Half-orc Wizard look like?” The barbarian character–the town mayor’s daughter–has a particularly unique arc.

So I finished Split the Party, moved to book 3, and read that… and it was also damn good. So I went back and read the first book, NPCs, to get fully caught up on the series. When I finished, I knew that Drew Hayes was an author that I wanted to follow.

Looking around on the internet, I located more of his work: the Super Powereds series. This was going to be different from his fantasy books, I could tell, but I wanted to check them out all the same.

I fucking devoured these books.

What I mean by that is I had difficulty putting them down. I had trouble finding out where I wanted to stop before going to sleep at night. These books are sinfully, radioactively good.

The Super Powereds series is about superheroes, but it is in a world that is very different than other superhero books I’ve read and enjoyed (such as Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart and related series). Drew Hayes’ superhero world is one that has some very interesting twists; what if there was a nation-wide agency devoted to dealing with superpowered individuals? What if being a superhero was a defined career choice with specialized academies to become certified? These are just some of the issues that come up in the Super Powereds world.

If I had to pick a short-hand to describe the series, I could say it is “Basically Hogwart’s for superheroes,” but that would not really suffice. Super Powereds is a series of books that explores the way potential superheroes are trained and guided towards their destiny as defenders of justice and protectors of the world. A better way for me to try and describe it would be this: Super Powereds is everything I’ve ever wanted to see in a story about training superheroes to do what they do.

There’s little else I can get into without spoilers, so I’ll wrap up with a brief summary of what makes Super Powereds so great. There’s an episodic nature to the books that keeps you guessing about what’s going to happen next. A cast of interesting characters (though the Super Powereds Wiki does come in handy if, like me, you sometimes lose track of who all the side characters are), and some blisteringly good subplots layered in throughout.

It doesn’t hurt that there’s a LOT of Super Powereds to read, as well. Three novels and two spin-offs are available, plus at least one more main novel in the works at Drew Hayes’ personal website.

If you like great books, check out Drew Hayes’ lineup. You’ll be glad you did.


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, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Crossing my fingers to come back again in 2017!

The History of Accursed


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!