Category Archives: Personal

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!

Dark Heresy, A look back, Part 2

Part 1 you can find under the title “I am the Lord Inquisitor.”

Some additional thoughts on my tenure of Dark Heresy…

Artwork-wise, I got to work with some of the best in the business. Of particular note are Simon Eckert, whose black and whites in Ascension are pure magic, and Matt Bradbury — this guy was a superstar. He went from quarter-pages to doing covers for the books in no time (most of his covers are for Rogue Trader and, more notably, Black Crusade).

Another note about artwork: The plan was to originally have the same artist from the core book do the covers for the entire line. That didn’t work out due to the artist’s availability, so we ended up going with a different fellow for Ascension, and then Daarken for two more books, then Matt Bradbury, etc. I think in general, the line still looks very consistent, art-wise.

For Blood of Martyrs, something I really wanted was to give the Adepta Sororitas their due. The Inquisitor’s Handbook had some rules for Sororitas, but I didn’t feel like it really rang true. So we went all-out in this book to say, hey, Battle Sisters!

The Apostasy Gambit is entirely something created by the head of FFG. Christian Petersen was in charge of FFG at that time, and he had a habit of putting things on the schedule with just a title. This was something that Would Happen ™, but Christian was a super-busy guy. There was basically no chance of getting his input meaningfully on a project like this. So, it was our job to take the basic concept and… find a way to make it work. This isn’t always bad, but I don’t think the Apostasy Gambit is, or was, the best implemented adventure series for the line. Again, given my druthers, I would have done a single book (like we did with Lure of the Expanse for Rogue Trader) with one adventure (in multiple parts) rather than three separate books.

The adventure in the Book of Judgment was provided to us very early on (I think in my first month or two at FFG). That means we had to wait almost four years to find a good place to put this adventure, but I’m glad we did. It’s a fine adventure and the Book of Judgment is better for it.

The Lathe Worlds was SO FUN to work on. All kinds of neat stuff I had been saving for this book finally saw print. The Lords Dragon, motherfuckers! Hell yes.

One thing I really liked is seeing the links grow between the RPG and the miniature game. In one instance, the tabletop rulebook (5th edition, I believe?) had a notation for the Calixis Sector on the galaxy map. In another, the Ordo Chronos was first developed in Dark Heresy (Ascension, I believe) and has gone on to be mentioned in official Inquisition rulebooks for the tabletop game (thanks to Andy Hoare!).

Things just seemed to come together beautifully for Creatures Anathema. That book had some fantastic writing in it and went on to win some awards. I was a bit experimental on that one (since it was my first from start to finish as Lead Developer). I tried out putting a “thought for the day” on every page. Then, I quickly ran out of enough “thoughts for the day!”

The final book in the line, the Lathe Worlds, was actually one of the first books I mentioned during my initial interview for the job with FFG. Edge of Darkness came about as a project for an RPG intern… we needed to give him something worthwhile to do, so Edge became that thing. And now, Edge is recognized as one of the best intro adventures for the line.

Adventure contests were something fun that we did. I wish we had done more of them, actually. We found some great writers (such as the very talented Andrea Gausman) through these vectors.

The original Dark Heresy stuff (meaning, the line from Black Industries) was a bit of a mess. The Inquisitor’s Handbook was basically three separate books of content that was welded together at the last minute. It’s still a good book, but you can tell when you look at it that it was never meant to be a cohesive whole. In addition, I have some original files of Dark Heresy from the Black Industries days, and, well… it’s best left buried. Some of the writing is best described as “bad Shadowrun fanfiction set in 40K,” and some of the design concepts are bizarre (such as using WFRP’s multitudinal career system — “Speeder Jock” and “Astronaut” being two careers in that version.). Sometimes it is rough to see how the sausage is made. And I want to be clear, this is no slam against the final product of Dark Heresy and the Inquisitor’s Handbook — both are very special, very good products!

There is a ton of fan-made material for Dark Heresy. Some of it is good. In fact, we found one of our standout authors (Nathan Dowdell) through his fan-work (the Great Devourer, I believe).

I made a lot of references to fan-material and fan-favorite stuff in Dark Heresy. I snuck in references to 4chan’s /tg/ traditional games channel, Love Can Bloom, Adept Grendel, and more. I added in quotes from Commissar Holt, the hero of the awesome classic video game Final Liberation, and as many references to Dawn of War as I could get away with.

Personally, I love Easter Eggs. I put a bunch of them into Rogue Trader and Deathwatch, too.

Here’s a tidbit: Only War started out as a sourcebook for Guardsmen for Dark Heresy. Once we took more than a cursory look at the idea, though, it quickly became clear this was an entire line of its own, and we ended up making that so. It was the right choice.

One last thing I’ll leave you with: I named as many Tech-Priests as I could after fonts.

It’s My Life, and it’s Now or Never!

The title, of course, comes from a Bon Jovi song. Bon Jovi was big in my growing-up years. And I was thinking that it was a good time to talk more about myself and who I am–and how I came to be. Please don’t make me regret it!

So where did I come from?

I was born on May 22, 1975 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I would end up spending a lot of time as a kid in Arkansas, which led to a strong desire to get the hell out of there as an adult.

I was a pretty normal kid–loved cartoons, especially Transformers, GI Joe, and their 80’s ilk. I also loved movies. My dad used to take me to films quite a bit as a kid, almost anything I wanted, and we even went to several films for repeat viewings. I can’t tell you how many times we saw Ghostbusters, The Last Starfighter, and the Neverending Story.

I grew up between Wyoming and Arkansas. My junior and high school experience was the deep south, with all of that entails. Fortunately, my school (Lakeside) was one of the best in the state. All the doctors’ and lawyers’ kids went there, so we had a terrible football team and lots of money for cool school programs in art, literature, and science.

I got my first job mowing lawns in Hot Springs, Arkansas during my junior high school days. It was hot, dirty work, but I got enough money to keep me in comic books and gaming books.

Gaming

I’ve also been a life-long gamer. My dad started me out at age 11 when I was living in Evanston, Wyoming. My father brought home this red box labeled ‘Dungeons and Dragons.’ He told me that ‘it looked interesting,’ and that I should ‘really learn how to play it.’ So I did.

I played D&D religiously for years. Once I got to junior high and high school, I branched out a bit. My friends (some of which I am still in touch with!) helped me get interested in games like Rifts, Star Wars (West End D6), TMNT, Robotech, and Marvel Super Heroes, amongst others. I first got interested in Champions (4th edition, the big blue book) during this time.

Wargames were also something I’ve loved for a long time. I got started (again, in high school) with Starfleet Battles, Wooden Ships and Iron Men, and some others that one of my friends had (he owned a nice large collection of Avalon Hill games).

I didn’t get into serious wargaming until my army days. I was in my first enlistment and deployed to Fort Knox, Kentucky, when I met some guys playing Warhammer 40,000. This game hooked me in right away, and I never looked back.

Since then, I’ve been an avid player of miniature games like Battlefleet Gothic, Necromunda, Mordheim, and many others. It’s this love of miniature games that led me to design some of my own.

Fort Knox led to a lot of gaming milestones for me. When I got out of the army, I moved to Louisville and met up with the gaming groups there. These groups included some good friends of mine, like Dave Mattingly, Eric Rademaker, and many others.

We played a ton of games, like Feng Shui, Jovian Chronicles, Tri-stat, and more. Through this group, I got hooked up with my first “real job” in the gaming industry–a company called Citizen Games had formed in 2000 and was looking for a line editor who could work with D20. I got the job.

Professional! Mostly!

Citizen Games gave me the chance to work on some cool books with cool people. I dove right in, and not long after that I was freelancing for Atlas Games. The Penumbra Fantasy Bestiary was my first foray into making monsters — and hardly the last. I must have done pretty well, since one of my monsters (the Dreadwraith) was turned into a miniature from Lance & Laser.

I got hired by Games Workshop in 2003 and worked there until 2005. I was a copy writer and copy editor, and I got onto the White Dwarf team writing articles (mostly tactics stuff) and battle reports. I also wrote a bunch of scenarios for Warhammer Fantasy and The Lord of the Rings battle game. This is where my interest in Warhammer 40,000 got sharpened to a razor edge. I also became an expert on Warhammer Fantasy around the same time!

I got hired by Fantasy Flight Games next to work on Dark Heresy. This was fortuitous since I had been in touch with them just a few weeks earlier about doing some 4th edition D&D work with them. They were hiring a guy to do Dark Heresy, and with my background, I was a perfect fit. It was basically like being headhunted.

Working at FFG was great. I was thrown into the deep end and I learned all kinds of valuable skills. I went from being just a writer to doing everything related with project development. Managing freelancers, art direction, budgets, production, schedules, and most of all layout! I grew a huge amount in my skillset at FFG and produced some great games for Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay.

After FFG, I got headhunted again — this time for video games. There was a studio in Austin, Texas called Vigil Games working on an MMO: Dark Millennium Online. It was 40K-based, and my background again came into play. I got hired and moved to Texas.

This was a bad time to get into the video game industry, though: 2011 was rough, and DMO got cancelled soon after I arrived. I did get to create some quests, build some characters, create regions, build quest chains and POIs and Hero props. I even did some level design work with the editor. But, the game seemed doomed, and everything ended early in 2012.

Instead, I found myself working on Darksiders II.

Darksiders II was interesting to work on. On the one hand, the studio was a mess: I was literally told in one meeting by one of the higher-ups on the game, “I don’t know what I want, but I don’t want _that_” (pointing to our work on the screen). I worked on the main script for the game and wrote the story and dialogue for all three DLC’s, but they refused to give me a “writer” credit. Instead, I’m credited as a “designer.” Let me put it this way: if you read the description on any item in the game, look at the info on how a skill works, or see Death talking during any part of the DLC’s, I wrote it. I polished quite a few bits of the main script too (not that it was bad, the main script was pretty good).

On the other hand, I had almost complete autonomy. The writing team got pared down to two early on: me and Molly Fincher, an intern. Molly was awesome, she learned the ropes right away and we rocked it out as the writing team. We spoke all the dialogue aloud to each other and checked in with the sound guy to make sure our stuff sounded good. We created quests and characters and made Death sound awesome.

At the end of the day I’m super proud of Darksiders II and I enjoyed writing for it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat (Nordic Games, let me know what’s up!).

From there, it was back to freelancing, writing for other companies, and starting up my blog… which led to this website you’re reading this on right now.