Category Archives: Personal

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 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!

 

Blast from the Past: 2004-2007

Hello readers! I’m continuing a semi-historical look at my career in the gaming industry. I’m inspired by Shannon Appelcline’s excellent Designers & Dragons series, and I’ve already written several blog posts chronicling the earlier years.

In 2003, I got hired by Games Workshop as a copywriter, a position I would hold until 2005. While I was there, I learned the art of editing from my boss–and a fantastic human being, Eric Sarlin.

WOTC offered me an opportunity to put that editing skill to work on Complete Divine under managing editor Gwendolyn Kestrel. I quickly learned that while editing is a great skill to have for a writer, editing was not what I wanted to do full-time… or even part-time.

Fortunately, I used my time at GW wisely, becoming an expert on all their IPs, including Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, and The Lord of the Rings. I got to try my hand at miniature game design, and I found that I had a talent for it, designing an expansion for the Kill-team rules found in Warhammer 40,000 4th edition.

Unfortunately, 2005 was a very turbulent year for me, involving a serious car crash, unemployment when Games Workshop laid off dozens of employees while decentralizing the HQ in Glen Burnie, and moving house to elsewhere in Maryland. This meant that my actual output of RPG work was at an all-time low since I had started in the business, and would continue until 2008.

Between 2004 and 2007, most of my work was writing articles for various magazines, including Knights of the Dinner Table and Digital Hero. I had a regular column for some time in White Dwarf, writing tactics articles for Warhammer 40,000 4th edition.

What sustained me during this time were my friends. I had a very strong group of friends around me, and we engaged in all kinds of shenanigans. Michael Surbrook and I ran a gaming convention for a few years in Glen Burnie called HeroCon, and I ran a TON of gaming sessions for my own RPG setting of Shadows Angelus.

I had obtained a job that allowed me a lot of free time. I was the office manager and later a consultant at the National Japanese-American Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. from 2005-2008. This was rewarding work, and it gave me a good teal of time to myself. In retrospect, I wish I had spent more of that time working on my own projects!

All told, this was the doldrums of my career, and there’s no telling what would have happened if another fantastic opportunity hadn’t opened up for me the very next year…

Until next time!

Blast From the Past: 2003, addendum

Hey readers,

Thanks for sticking with me as I journey through the past and chronicle my history in the gaming industry. 🙂

2003, as I mentioned before in the first part, was a big year. I started the year out as my last one living in Louisville and ended it by moving out to Maryland, where I would stay for the next five years.

I hit some big successes in the d20 industry just as that market was winding down. Fantasy Flight Games, through developer Greg Benage, gave me an opportunity to contribute to Sorcery & Steam, a steampunk sourcebook for D20. I took on writing up all the skills and feats and gear for this book, and my role expanded into writing up some vehicles as well. It turned out that my material was fairly influential, and many of the feats and skills I created ended up shaping the prestige classes for the book.

After that one came Dawnforge. I got to work on Dawnforge once I moved to Maryland, and this was an AMAZING opportunity. Dawnforge came out of the setting competition WOTC had set up a year or two prior, and it had risen to become one of the finalists (alongside Morningstar).

Greg handed me one of my favorite assignments I’ve ever had as a freelance writer: “Take a section of the map, any section, and write it up. Whatever you want. Here’s the basics on the world.”

It was creative bliss! I had received the Icehammer Front, a massive mountain range inhabited by Frost Giants. And that was pretty much all that was known about it! Naturally, my writing needed to fit the tones and themes of Dawnforge’s “ancient golden age” feel, but apart from that, I had an open canvas. I know now that as a developer, this is a big risk to take with a freelancer. In the end, however, I believe I truly appreciated the chance for what it was, and turned in something that I still look back on fondly as one of my first settings published for the industry.

Dawnforge would, in fact, go on to win a Golden ENNie in 2003 for “best campaign setting,” and I was especially proud of contributing towards that recognition.

I spent the rest of 2003 working at Games Workshop, writing up articles for White Dwarf and the web (an online-only publication called Black Gobbo), tweaking some rules for Kill-team and Warbands, and expanding my knowledge as an editor.

 

Year in Review: 2015

Greetings, readers! It’s time I took a look back at 2015 as we wave goodbye to this year and move on to 2016. Here’s some of the highlights from the year:

Professional

I did well this year, 17 different products got out onto stole shelves (virtual and physical), and many more on the way.

Regicide

This is a biggie. I’ve been working on this game for over a year, and it was truly fantastic to see it take full shape. I wrote the story and the characters, which was very sweet, and I love watching people play the game on youtube. I think Regicide was an interesting idea, but I have to say that chess is not something I’m very passionate about for game-play. Aside from a few small issues, this was a great job that I loved doing.

In Defense of Innocence

I deeply enjoyed writing this book, as it is mostly a setting that ties into an adventure in the world of Malifaux. I wrote about 85% of the book, detailing the main adventure and everything about the town itself. I enjoyed working with Brandon Gensemer on this one, but there were a number of production issues involved — Brandon did not receive any credit, for example — so this is a bittersweet entry.  Still, I am very proud of the finished product, and I welcome anyone to talk to me about it or tell me what they think of the book.

Accursed: Fall of the Tower

This adventure grew out of the special Gen Con adventure I ran for the backers of the Accursed Kickstarter in 2014. We had a great time during the game, so why not turn it into an actual product? I think this is one of my better adventures, including all the things I like to see in a published RPG scenario–choices, options, a fun climax, and so forth. Again, I’m very proud of this one.

Shaintar (Many books)

I joined Evil Beagle Games as a full partner and the Managing Director in 2014, so 2015 was my first full year with the company. One of my priorities was to take the Shaintar setting books and get things moving with the line. We successfully produced 8 books for Shaintar in 2015, and several more happened in quick succession when the line was turned over to Savage Mojo. For this line, my involvement has been almost entirely as a developer, although I plan on writing something for this setting in 2016.

Savage Lairs: Fantasy Forests

This was a fun project that came close to the end of the year. John Dunn is a good friend and a hell of a businessman. I learned a great deal about small-press RPG production from John, and working on Savage Lairs taught me more valuable lessons.

Savage Worlds: Lankhmar and Savage Tales of Horror

This was a fun project to work on for Pinnacle Entertainment Group. I got to officially write up the character sheets for Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser! Going back and reading all the Fritz Leiber books was interesting, although I think the earlier tales really work better than the ones written at the end of the series. I also wrote an adventure for one of the Savage Tales of Horror books produced by Pinnacle in 2015.

Card Games: Lost Legacy and Game of Crowns

AEG is a great company to write for as a freelancer, and in 2015 I got to contribute my writing and worldbuilding for two of their card games. I always enjoy writing for these projects, and I am pleased to say that I have even more coming out in 2016.

Personal

  • I turned 40 in 2015, a milestone number.
  • I became a true Denver-ite and Colorad-an.
  • Made some new friends–Christa and Jason Berger–and celebrated ties with very old friends, like Bryant and Kait Smith.
  • I attended a lot of very cool conventions, including Comicpalooza, Genghiscon, Tacticon, Gen Con, and many others.
  • I re-connected with my relatives in the area, from cousins to aunts & uncles.
  • I wrote my very first complete book entirely on my own–I’ve worked on many, many books before this, but in 2015 I had the entire enchilada. 65,000 words, all mine. It was awesome.

What about 2016?

I’m very much looking forward to bringing out stuff that I worked on in 2015. In fact, I worked very hard on some projects that aren’t quite ready to be released, but hopefully soon.

In particular, I’m excited about Torg: Eternity, Strike Force, Savage Rifts, and the forthcoming worldbooks for Accursed.

With that having been said, I’m also looking to become more productive. I want to get at least one thing per month completed in 2016. I know this is ambitious, and I know it is likely to fail, but I’m interested in the challenge. I want to rise up to meet my goal, not set a standard that I know I can hit without striving.

I want to get out more as well, see more of the country surrounding Denver, and visit friends more often who live in distant parts of the city.

Time to write some fiction! I owe a novella for Shaintar, and one for Accursed — I need to buckle down and make those happen. In fact, my hope is that by stating this ambition out loud here, I’ll be more responsible and disciplined towards achieving the goal.

Blast From the Past: 2003

2003 was a huge year for me as a game designer. I was living in Louisville at the time, which was both good and bad. It was good, since I had a lot of time to focus on my writing. I had earlier broken into the d20 market through Citizen Games, and I was able to parlay that success into writing for Atlas Games on the Penumbra Fantasy Bestiary.

Looking back at my career, I’ve worked on over seven different bestiaries–you could say it is one of my specialties at this point! The Penumbra bestiary was a very special one, and not just because it was one of the first. One of my monsters for this book, the Dreadwraith, was turned into a miniature from the Lance & Laser sculptors. I still have a couple of these figures tucked away in my miniature collection.

I was living in Louisville, not far from the University downtown. I would often work until very late at night, around 3 or 4 AM, and I would take breaks by leaving my apartment and walking around the neighborhood. Now, downtown Louisville changes from decent (near the university) to very rough-around-the-edges, to decent again as you approach the main thoroughfare of downtown. So, there I was, walking around at 2-3 in the morning, thinking about writing for RPGs. It made for some interesting inspiration, I’ll give you that.

I spent much of this time writing for Digital Hero, the official “e-zine” of Hero Games, and writing articles for Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine. I also joined the Birthright.net team working on a 3rd edition D&D update for my beloved setting.

2003 was one of the years that I applied myself towards getting full-time employment in the gaming industry. I applied at Mongoose and sent in an on-spec project (one of the few I’ve ever done on-spec), for the Slayer’s Guide to Hydras. I never heard back from them, and I still have the files for my one and only Slayer’s Guide on my hard drive. A group of folks in my local gaming group formed Blackwyrm Games, but one of the founders and I didn’t get along, meaning I missed out on that opportunity as well. I applied to Hero Games when they were looking for a new writer (they ended up hiring Jason Allen), and also to Games Workshop.

It would be GW who would give me my first big break.

The opening was for a copywriter, and at the same time, they were also hiring a web editor. I applied for the copywriter position, got notified that they would like to interview me, and I was off to the races. This was a tough time for me, as I was feeling stifled in Louisville, really wanting a change in my life. One of my best friends, Brent Smith, was living not far from the Games Workshop HQ in Glen Burnie, and offered to let me stay with him for a bit while I worked out the interview with GW.

I went out to Maryland, stayed with Brent, and got a job in the meantime as Loss Prevention for Best Buy. My first interview with Games Workshop was… interesting. When I showed up, the two gentlemen interviewing me asked all kinds of questions about HTML, editing, etc. I did my best to answer these questions, and I tried to refocus on my skills by referring to my resume. “I think you’ll find I’m a great choice for copywriter, because…” And then, both of my interviewers did a double-take. It turned out they thought I was interviewing for the Web Editor job!

I must have made a good impression, though, since they called me back for another interview, and it was not long afterwards that I was hired. In no time, I moved all my stuff out of Louisville and moved in with Brent as a roommate.

Blast From the Past: 2001 Addendum–Winter Fantasy Con

A Quick Addendum for 2001:

One thing I forgot to mention in my last blog post was a very influential convention that I attended early that year: Winter Fantasy Con, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This convention was heavily focused on the RPGA, but it was not far from my location in Louisville, so I drove up with a couple of my friends. None of us were RPGA members, but we had attended a gaming con in the past, so we thought we knew what to expect.

We were wrong.

This convention was All-RPGA, all the time. This is not to say such is a bad thing, only that we were entirely unprepared for what that meant. First, it meant that if you did not have an RPGA membership (and a character to use in the games), there wasn’t much to do. No pick-up games going on, no open gaming areas, no places to sign up for things that weren’t RPGA–since there were none.

This led to three things: First, we participated in a Living Seattle game set up for first-timers, which was fun. Second, we organized a pick-up game of Shadowrun in our Hotel Room that turned out to be a LOT of fun. And third, we spent a lot of time in the dealer’s area.

This last bit is really important since the dealer’s area was largely deserted through much of the day. You see, RPGA events ran from 4-8 hours long, and that was the main focus of 99% of the attendees. So during game slots, there were only a handful of people who were not playing RPGA games.

Such as myself and my friends.

This had an unintended side effect–you see, Winter Fantasy had several guests there that year, game designers you may be familiar with: Andy Collins, Ed Stark, and Monte Cook.

And the guests weren’t really playing many games–instead, they were just hanging out near the dealer’s area.

This meant that my friends and I could just wander over, introduce ourselves, and have an amazing one-on-one conversation with these gaming giants.

And that’s exactly what we did.

I had an amazing time speaking with Monte and Andy, but my conversation with Ed Stark accounted for almost three full hours. Ed was extremely patient, wise, and encouraging. At the end of our discussion, I mentioned to him my ambition to become a game designer and write for the games that I love.

Ed looked me in the eye and said, “I believe you could do that, if you wanted to.” He paused. “So… Go. Do. It.”

This was an amazing moment for me. I had someone I respected in the industry telling me right to my face that I could do this, that I SHOULD do this. I had a brand-new resolve and determination to make this dream come true, and upon returning from the convention I threw myself into writing and designing games full-time.

I never looked back.

 

 

 

 

Blast From the Past: 2001-2002

Inspired by Shannon Appelcline’s excellent Designers & Dragons series of historical books about the RPG industry, I’ve decided to go through my own history and talk about my perspective on the projects I’ve been involved in.

By 2001, I had already had some published work. If you can call it that. I spoke before about the TwoMoons MUSH where I exercised my first public creative work in an interactive story environment. Also, in 2000, I got a chance to contribute to the Hero System APAzine, EZ Hero with an article.

But things really started to move in 2001. I was living in Louisville, Kentucky. I was going to school at the University of Louisville, fresh out of a 4-year stint in the US Army. At this time, I was in the reserves, and all I really wanted to do was get a degree in creative writing.

Or so I thought.

In truth, I found U of L to be stifling for the most part. Oh, classes were alright, but the student community and the campus policies just weren’t my cup of tea. In the meantime, I reached out to some local gamers to find a new gaming group. I managed to find a FANTASTIC local group of gamers that included Dave Mattingly (one of the guys who founded Blackwyrm Games), Derrick Thomas (a professional game artist for many Hero Games, and later, Blackwrym products and other game books), Eric Rademaker (another Hero games artist), Ryan Wolfe (creator of Lux Aeternum and many other gaming products), Des Kirkpatrick, and a few others.

This local group would become the nucleus of some fantastic RPG campaigns, and introduced me to several new systems: Feng Shui, Jovian Chronicles, Tri-Stat, and more. In time, we roped in one of my old Army buddies, US Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Bryant Smith (one of my best and oldest friends) to join us. Most memorably, I ran a strong (*IMHO) Birthright campaign using 2nd Ed D&D (transitioning to 3rd edition in late 2001), and participated in several super-fun Feng Shui games ran by Eric.

Dave Mattingly introduced me to a fellow named Rob Stone, who was starting up a game company called Citizen Games to jump into the D20 market with some new adventures and sourcebooks. Citizen Games was looking for a D20 Line Editor, and I had experience with the system. Rob seemed to agree that I was the right man for the job, and I jumped into my first “professional” work with Citizen.

The first project I worked on was Sidewinder: Wild West D20. This was a fun book to be involved with–I wrote a series of small adventure hooks for one chapter of the book. However, my very first foray into RPG work hit a major snag — they forgot to credit me in the book! I received a nice letter from Mike Eckert, Citizen Games’ president, apologizing for the oversight. However, it is still a little awkward to talk about Sidewinder, for obvious reasons.

After Sidewinder, though, I got to work on more Citizen Games projects in a larger role. I was the Line Editor for 1,000 Faces: Villains and Scoundrels. This was the first sourcebook planned in a series that would present NPCs for D20 games. We had some stock art from Larry Elmore to use on the interior, and it was my job to wrangle the writers into using standardized stat blocks. This was my first real foray into project management and development, since I was writing a large portion of the book and overseeing the work of other writers at the same time.

In the end, 1,000 Faces only had the one book, and it was entirely focused on villains. 250 of them, to be exact! Some of the entries are rather cliche, looking back on the project, but there are quite a few that are somewhat interesting, and a handful of very interesting and unique villains for any campaign. I consider it a qualified success as a product, and I’m quite proud of it.

The other book I got to work on during this time was called Way of the Witch. This was a “concept book,” an idea that Rob Stone had come up with one evening. He wanted a book about witches, written entirely by female game designers, and he wanted the development of the book to be very collaborative. “Like a coven!” He explained.

Way of the Witch definitely features many talented designers, but I felt that this project was extremely challenging for a new developer/line editor. I had difficulty keeping the writers on track, and while much of the content is creative and interesting, it tends to wander all over the map. In the end, I think back on Way of the Witch as an interesting experiment that produced a book of middling quality. It’s fair to say I learned several lessons about project development while working on Way of the Witch.

When I look back on this period of my career, I’m surprised by how much work I was actually doing as a developer and project manager. At the time, I considered myself a writer first and foremost. The role of “line editor” was never fully explained to me by the guys at Citizen Games, and I was working entirely on my own most of the time. This certainly contributed to my rocky start as a developer! On the other hand, I enjoyed working with Citizen Games, and the books we made had a lot of heart and a lot of passion put into them — nobody was “phoning it in.”

Citizen Games did good by me, professionally. Although they flubbed my credit in Sidewinder, they never failed to pay me what I was owed. In fact, the company came through for me in a big way in 2001. My father was in a very serious industrial accident that left him with a life-threatening injury, and I needed money to get an immediate plane ticket home to Arkansas to take care of him. Mike Eckert sent me a check the very next day to cover the flight–an advance on my work for 1,000 Faces.

I did some other small work for Citizen Games during 2001-2002, designing a new monster, proofreading some adventures and playtesting others. However, Citizen Games did not last long and shut down soon afterwards. Perhaps this was a good thing, as they were spared the worst of the d20 collapse in 2003.

Also of note in this time was my first work for Hero Games, contributing to the house e-zine Digital Hero. I also got an article published in Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine, the first of a half-dozen articles I would write for that periodical over the next few years.

 

Blast from the Past: 1993

Hello readers,

I was just thinking today about when I really started creating. I had been bitten by the creative bug very early in life, and spent much of my junior high and high school life playing RPGs to satisfy that urge. There were a couple of summers where I wrote some short stories (very short!) and that helped, too. RPGs, Car Wars, idle experiments in fiction pretty much carried me through my youth up until I went away to college in Laramie, Wyoming.

When I was writing fiction, I had this old electronic typewriter that scrolled the words across a tiny screen, making editing a huge pain in the butt. I’m super grateful to have a computer with a screen these days to watch myself type out the words… it’s a huge help.

Anyway, when I got into college, I finally had access to computers. It turned out that the University of Wyoming had spent some serious cash on putting computer labs in almost every building. Even the dorms had a tiny computer lab (with an ancient CRT computer from the 80’s — we called ’em ‘Datasaurs’). And this is when I finally got to start really satisfying my need to create.

This was the early 90’s, and there were simply tons of creative things going on. White Wolf was dominating the RPG market, comics were seeing the Death of Superman, tv had Star Trek: TNG (and I was exposed to Red Dwarf), and we had computer games like Mechwarrior. I drifted into an entirely different kind of computer game while at college, however: MUDs and MUSHs. I’ve talked about these before, but suffice to say that these were entirely text-based predecessors to modern MMORPGs.

My first MUSH was called TwoMoons, and it was based on the ElfQuest setting. As a fan of ElfQuest, I fit right into TwoMoons and it was quickly my home away from home. I spent uncountable hours creating characters and playing out stories there, but I still felt like I wanted to contribute more.

Enter Ravenholt.

One week, my desire to create something hit overload, and I managed to petition the game’s ruling council to create a new region for the game. This place would be called Ravenholt, and it would have its own history, several different areas (all meticulously described in blocks of text), and even had some primitive code installed to make certain things happen (there was a tidal cave that would fill with water and an “old faithful” style geyser). There was also a mysterious “cave of visions,” that was part of a storyline I had intended to explore the idea of spells left behind by the High Ones that may have been linked to one another (similar to the spell that created MadCoil, for anyone who is an ElfQuest fan!).

Even better, Ravenholt attracted players to explore the area. In short order, there was an entire new tribe thriving on the MUSH. This meant that somewhere between 17 and 70 people from around the world were exploring and interacting with my content. Stuff I had created was out in the wild, being used and enjoyed by other human beings.

I actually had Ravenholt listed on my resume for several years as an example of my writing skills, since I felt it was noteworthy that I had essentially built part of an MMO-before-there-were-MMOs in a popular license, and that my content was considered good.

As an interesting note, some of the people who engaged with Ravenholt are fellow creators, including urban fantasy author C.E. Murphy. I met one of my best friends in the world, Brent Smith, thanks to this game (though not this content). Brent’s character for Ravenholt was Quickstorm, by the by.

At any rate, it’s been years and years since I had anything to do with Ravenholt. I wish I had better records of it (as far as I am aware, nothing remains of the text I wrote for it). I no longer list it on my resume since the MUSH has long ago been shut down.

But I’m still damn proud of it.

A Game of Crowns

Today, I received a great surprise. Comp copies of Game of Crowns, a card game I worked on for AEG. I had almost forgotten about writing this one, coming up with all the houses and the backstory for the setting. Creating game settings is one of my favorite things to do.

And so is what happens next. Now, I get to update my list of published work and my wikipedia page with another game that came out this year. Something to be proud of!