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.