Monthly Archives: September 2015

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.

I Am The Lord Inquisitor

Hi guys, I’ve got another post for you today. This one’s all about a game line that is near and dear to my heart:

Dark Heresy

I took over this game line in 2008 after five products had already been released for it through Black Industries. The core book was created by Kate Flack, Owen Barnes, and Mike Mason, with help from Alan Bligh and John French (not to mention some Dan Abnett!).

After the core rulebook, Black Industries produced a free RPG day adventure (Shattered Hopes), a character folio (this is the only item from this era that was never, ever reprinted by FFG), a game master’s kit (containing a screen and an adventure), a collection of adventures (Purge the Unclean), and a player’s sourcebook (The Inquisitor’s Handbook).

Black Industries had set the scene, so when I came into the picture I saw myself as a caretaker of something awesome.

When I joined FFG in June of 2008, I was made the Lead Developer of Dark Heresy. This was a big deal, as there were plans to follow Black Industries original goal of producing three game lines: Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, and Deathwatch. Few people get hired by FFG and put in charge of something so big.

At the time I started, we had some unpublished material: there was an adventure, Edge of Darkness, that was already done but not up to the current production values, and another sourcebook, Disciples of the Dark Gods. Disciples was written, but not edited, so I turned over the editing to Sam Stewart while I learned how to do layout. I started my development work on Disciples by moving some of the monsters into Creatures Anathema, the next book (and the first I would complete as Lead Developer).

As Lead Developer, I guided the production of three sourcebooks and three adventures. The sourcebooks I was in charge of were Creatures Anathema, The Radical’s Handbook, and Ascension. I’m particularly proud of Creatures Anathema and Ascension — the first was my first book I ever took charge of 100%, and the second was my first book where I innovated and iterated on an existing system to build something fun and new. The three adventures I helmed were the Haarlock’s Legacy Trilogy.

I had done some early development work on Blood of Martyrs, Daemon Hunter, The Book of Judgment, and the Lathe Worlds, but all of those books (as well as the Apostasy Gambit line of adventures) were turned over to Mack Martin so that I could focus my attention on Rogue Trader.

My goals for Dark Heresy were simple. I wanted to expand the options for characters, build on the fantastic foundation of the setting (The Calixis Sector), produce timely errata, and support each major release with a free pdf.

For the most part, I succeeded, and I think I laid down a strong legacy for Mack to build on. Mack took the line to the end (the Lathe Worlds), and I thank him for picking up the ball.

My favorite books: Creatures Anathema and Ascension

Why? I enjoyed working on these books more than the others. We made some fantastic content for the game that added significant elements to the enjoyment of the game for our players.

My least favorite books: The Haarlock’s Legacy Trilogy and The Radical’s Handbook

Why? I feel like I could have done better on the Radical’s Handbook. Rogue Trader was distracting me big time during this period, and I had a bunch of new freelancers to wrangle. I think, looking back, I feel like this book didn’t live up to its potential. The Haarlock’s legacy trilogy would have been better as a single book of three adventures, with more room for John French and Alan Bligh to tell their epic tale. As it was, word from on high was to chop it up into three bite-size chunks. In the end, we released it as a single thing anyway, so… yeah.

Missed opportunities:

Dark Heresy is now gone, replaced by the 2nd edition. The setting shifted to a completely new area of the galaxy, so we lost a lot of material we’d built. If I had a chance to wrap up Dark Heresy 1st edition properly (i.e., I had still been in charge and had, say, six months or so to do something about it), I’d have loved to look at the line and see if we could wrap up some loose ends.

  • I would have loved to do a hive book on Scum and Assassins!
  • We should have done a book for the other two Ordos of the Inquisition. (More likely one book than two).
  • There were some story elements I’d have loved to revisit: the homeworld of the Storm Wardens, the living planet of Woe, the ongoing corruption of certain worlds, the craziness of the Lathe Worlds, etc.
  • One idea that I was considering was for the war in the Spinward Front (and the lie about the Crusade!) to have eventually touched off a wave of unrest, anarchy, and rebellion throughout much of the sector.

This post, and especially the “missed opportunities,” was inspired by this fantastic review of the line over at RPGGeek.

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.

 

 

 

 

Rise from your grave!

Welcome to my updated and re-vamped webpage! It’s been long overdue, since I moved up to Colorado from Texas, and I’ve been super busy with tons of projects. One of the biggest being joining Evil Beagle Games, a fantastic game company that was founded by my good friend Sean Patrick Fannon. Along with Sean and Carinn Seabolt, my partners, Evil Beagle Games is looking to create some amazing game projects!

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Keep an eye on this space, I’m planning to try and resume some regular updates with thoughts on game design, gaming, and many other topics.