25 December 2005

The Annual Christmas Swag Report

Christmas is behind us this year. I commented to my wife last night that the holiday seems to be less about us, and more about Stephen (our son).

I'm fine with that; he's a bit young to truly appreciate the varied meanings of the season. He's also pretty oblivious to the fact that he made out like a bandit ten times to next October, pulling in so many new toys and other items of baby swag that we hardly have room for them all.

All he knows is that there's new cool stuff around to play with. That's all that matters.

That isn't to say that we didn't get anything. Quite to the contrary, we did fairly well. Our modest piles of loot were populated by several geeky goodies, but mine wasn't as full of gaming goodness as I might've hoped. All told, I've got two new volumes to add to my massive (yet stagnant) collection: Races of Eberron (thanks, hon!) and d20 Cyberscape (thanks, mom!).

Cyberscape looks like a good time. If I ever decide to do a cyber-oriented d20 game, it will be high on my list of supplements to use. Races of Eberron is also pretty groovy, regardless of the fact that I'll probably never run an Eberron campaign. The temptation to add some of those cool races (such as warforged) to other settings is fairly strong.

I did mention other geeky things, didn't I? My wife got a copy of Destroy All Humans! for the Xbox, so she can happily apply anal probes to hapless farmers, soldiers, and bovines. Our DVD collection is also somewhat larger. The first season of the new Battlestar Galactica is in our grasp (thanks, Adam!), as is the third Harry Potter flick (again: thanks, Adam!).

My wife bought me a copy of The Wild Geese on DVD, which is possibly one of the best mercenary-oriented war films ever. The packaging claims that it is the 30th anniversary edition of the film, which I find odd, considering that it was released in 1978. Wouldn't that make it less than 30 years old? Hmm?

I've also got several new CDs to add to my collection, including three old Oingo Boingo titles (Nothing to Fear, Dead Man's Party, and Boi-ngo) that I used to have on cassette, as well as GWAR's latest release, Live From Mt. Fuji.

I could easily use up several thousand words of text describing the various items that Stephen has added to his collection of playthings, but I will spare you the details. Besides, such descriptions would be better posted on Freelance Father, and likely will be at some point in the near future.

We've got edible presents on the menu, too. JD and Keri brought us up a homemade cheesecake this evening. I'm thinking that it will be devoured to the last delectable crumb sometime on the morrow.

So that's Christmas, in a nutshell. As much as I enjoy giving and receiving gifts, I'm glad that it's over...at least, for the time being.

A New Cover for Hammer and Shadow

Hammer and Shadow, which was originally due to be released in December, looks to have been pushed back to a January release date. Coincidentally, the cover art has been revised (old to the left; new to the right):

It's not as if I've been following this whole thing closely, though FFG did send me a head's up concerning the book being pushed back to January. The new art is definitely more striking, and conforms more to the subject matter of the product than the old art does. Still, I've never been one to poo-poo cover art of any type, especially in regards to FFG's cover art (which is, without a doubt, consistently some of the best in the industry).

Part of me wonders if FFG came to this decision [to change the art] by themselves, or if they were swayed by one of the many complaints posted to this thread on Against the Shadow. It would be easy enough for me to find out, but the question is: do I really want to know?

The "hard core" fans are difficult to please sometimes. I follow threads on AtS, but I rarely post. I'm always somewhat uncomfortable about singling myself out as an author on any product, so I don't. The closest I get to that sort of chest-beating is having a link to my web site and/or web log in my signature; if folks are curious about me, they can learn a lot by clicking one or two links.

Besides, it's not like I'm some sort of authority on the product line. I love Midnight, sure, and I hope it comes through in the work I produce, but I don't know every single piece of trivia that there is to know. By posting, "I'm so-and-so, and I wrote this," it seems that I'm saying, "Look at me! Aren't I groovy? You should listen to what I say; after all, I'm an author, which means that my opinion is worth more than yours!"

Which is, of course, some of the purest rubbish imaginable. I've seen such things posted by industry folks before, and while they might not explicitly come out and say it word for word, they certainly do imply it.

To my mind, in a business as small as the game industry, what's the point in getting your ego over-inflated? What percentage of the overall population is going to read my work? Which percentage of that percentage will even bother to read the credits in the book, giving them a less than equal chance of recognizing my (admittedly unusual [last]) name? And even if they do, what can I hope to gain by tooting my own horn?

To my mind, it's more important for me to be visible to the good people who offer me work by producing the best writing that I can, on time, and with a minimum number of editorial snafus. This is not to say that the fans and gamers out there do not matter; they most certainly do, since they're the ones who will spend their hard-earned cash to pay for the books that I've worked on.

I do suppose having a "big name" author work on a product is, in fact, a selling point for some consumers, but I know very few people who pay attention to the author. Most people are more interested in the content than in the creator.

Funny, how this turned from a news item into a rant. It's early yet, I suppose, and my brain got to running over. Then again, what's a blog for if not for this sort of literary spewing?

Merry Christmas, folks.

24 December 2005

Just in Time for Christmas! Food: The Poisoning and Toe: The Stubbing released!

As the title might suggest, it has been an interesting couple of days for me. It all started early Thursday morning, when I awoke at 12:30am with some of the worst abdominal pain of my life. Scratch that; in retrospect, this was easily the worst abdominal pain I've ever had. By 7:00am, besides writhing around in pain like a worm drying out on a warm sidewalk, I was also vomiting quite forcefully into one of our two toilets.

My good lady wife took me to the doctor, who examined me and asked, "What did you eat last night?"


"What did you order?"

"A couple of burgers," I said. Then I added, almost as an afterthought, "Off the dollar menu."

"The dollar menu?" he replied.

"Yeah, it's Christmas. We're strapped," I answered.

He chuckled. "You certainly get what you pay for."

Then he put me on a liquid diet, prescribed some anti-nausea and anti-cramping medication, and told me to go to the ER for IV fluids if I couldn't keep anything down over the course of the next six hours.

My wife dropped the prescriptions off at the drug store, then brought me home. She went away to pick up the pills and buy some safe things for me to consume: Gatorade, broth, soup, Jell-o, Big Sticks, etc.

The pills made a big difference, and by noon I was able to sleep for a while. It was blissful, compared to the agony I'd been experiencing over the past eleven or so hours.

As for McDonald's dollar menu: I think I'll be avoiding either it, or that particular McDonald's, for the forseeable future.

Next...my toe.

We were invited to a holiday dinner last night. Regardless of the gastrointestinal festivities of the previous day, I felt well enough to attend. The wife, the boy, and I piled into the Hyundai and consumed some very excellent prime rib, mashed potatos, corn, and gravy. Of course, we socialized, too. We're not complete barbarians. As always, the little man was a big hit.

Shortly after returning home, I was running around picking up Stephen's toys while my wife was getting him prepped for "night-night" (which is, to put it mildly, one of his least-favorite phrases). I guess I was moving too fast and not keeping track of my feet in relation to heavy, stationary objects.

My left foot and the sofa had an altercation, in which the sofa came out as the victor. My verbal response was quite...descriptive. It's a good thing the child can't talk yet, or I'd have some 'splaining to do.

Around 1:30am, I awoke for two reasons. First, I was thirsty. Second, my wounded toe had rubbed the wrong way on the bed or the sheets, sending a spike of pain to whatever cursed portion of my brain processes such signals. In the process of pouring myself some tea, I took a look at my toe. Black and blue and stiff, it no longer resembles the digit it once was.

I've done this before, but not for several years. If it turns black and falls off, it will almost be a mercy. Unfortunately, I know that it will remain exquisitely tender for at least another week.

That guy you saw writing at the Borders coffee shop on the morning of Christmas Eve? The one with the limp? Yeah, that was me.

Writing, yes. Gaming, too. The focus of this web log, after all, is the art that I practice, isn't it?

I've got a project to finish by Tuesday. How I will manage to get the work done in between now and then, I have little idea. Between running (limping) to the store and celebrating the holidays with my extended family, I expect to at least try.

Template Troves III seems to be doing well. As of this morning, it's up to #14 on RPG Now's Top Selling Products List. It's also #25 in all categories this month. There are two reviews posted so far, both of them five-star. Quite cool!

I guess that's all there is to report today. In closing, let me wish everyone a very Happy Holiday, no matter which one(s) you're celebrating. I'll be sure to report back on any game-related schwag that Santa Claus brings to me..!

13 December 2005

Template Troves III Released on RPG Now

I just found out that TTIII: Diseases, Parasites, and Symbiotes is up for sale on RPG Now. Please check it out, and let me know what you think. There's already one review up. I can only hope it's well-received.

I've got writing that needs done tonight, so I'll likely pluck away at that before I hit the rack. Also, it looks like I've got a pretty good line on a new WFRP project. I really enjoy working on Warhammer.

So, it's good news all around, I say. With luck, I'll have more to say later.

11 December 2005

A Trip to Narnia

I took my wife to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tonight. I never did read those books, but I remember seeing an animated version when I was younger. Prior to going into the movie theater, the only thing I remembered was a faun with a parasol. That was it. As the events unfolded onscreen, I remembered more and more.

When you get down to it, I liked the movie. I understand that it's more of a child's fantasy story...a fairy tale, for lack of a better description. My taste for fantasy is more along the lines of the gritty world presented in Conan the Barbarian or, to some extent, Jackson's envisioning of The Lord of the Rings. Much the same, I prefer my science fiction dirty rather than sterile; I'm keen on the Nostromo in Ridley Scott's Alien, rather than the Enterprise in Roddenberry's Star Trek. After all, something that big has got to have tons of grease and grime in it somewhere.

As for the allegory of Christ/Aslan, I say: big deal. It wasn't a word-for-word parable, and it certainly didn't smack me in the face. Sometimes the characters seemed a bit shallow, and I would've almost preferred Patrick Stewart to Liam Neeson as Aslan (I kept hearing, "No, Anakin!" in my head, over and over again).

Anyway...I'm not much for really deep, in depth movie reviews, unless I'm either a) blown away or b) completely offended. I'll buy it when it hits DVD, if for no other reason than to let the boy watch it.

Speaking of young children: what is it with parents who bring their young (ie, less than a year old) children to crowded, loud movies? Does it surprise them when their child cries, shouts, whines, or screams? Not only are they being unfair to the child, who doesn't know any better than to cry, shout, whine, and scream, but they're being unfair to the rest of the folks in the audience who've dropped a good wad of cash to see a first-run movie.

They've got commercials that remind folks to silence their cell phones. What I want to see is a movie theater that doesn't permit folks to bring in children below a certain age, unless the screening in question is specifically for such children and their parents. I'm not about to drag my nine month-old son along to see a movie, and I would expect other folks to have the same sort of courtesy.

I guess it's too much to ask of some people.

I want to send a shout out to Dave Lucca, one of the guys from the Friday night games I used to play in. Just before the previews started, I saw a fellow who looked suspiciously like Dave sitting three seats down from my wife, and I managed to catch his eye -- and it was, indeed, Dave. It was good to see him. He's a great role-player, a bit on the dramatic side (it's the Italian blood in him, I'll wager).

Speaking of previews: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest looks like it's going to be a fine time. Can't wait for that one. Seven months is going to seem like eternity.

You might be wondering how the writing went today. All I can say is: freaking stat blocks. I spit on them! Ptooey! Building high-level characters in d20 is like building pyramids the old Egyptian way. Once they're together they look pretty good, but unless you've got thousands of slaves and easy access to a slide rule, it's going to take a while.

Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but by the time they kicked me out of the coffee shop, my eyes felt like rasins.

I say "kicked me out," but it wasn't quite like that. Some fellow (I'm not even sure he was an employee) came over to me and asked if I would mind relocating to another table in the joint, seeing as there was a performance about to start (and I was near one of the two easily-accessible power outlets in the whole place). I considered telling him, "No, I'm sorry. The fate of Aryth depends on the work I do today. Find another coffee shop to schill your cheap, infantile mewlings."

Still, it was after 1pm, and I'd been calculating skill points, feats, and saving throws for nigh on three hours. I decided to be merciful. Plus, staying while a "show" was being put on is not a good way to get writing done. I can only guess what sort of dubious musical act they had waiting in the wings.

Enough for today. Mid-life crisis aside, it's been a good day so far. Another 90 minutes, and I'll be tucking myself in. Seven hours after that, I'll be dragging my ass out of bed to go to work. There's stuff that needs buying, and I'm the guy to buy it.

Writing on Sunday

I'm going to head over to Borders today and see about getting some writing done. I've put a dent in the current Midnight project, but I dare say I'd like to have most of it done fairly soon. The deadline is looming, and with the Holidays and all the associated activities, my weekends this month have pretty much been pre-planned.

Oh, the agony.

The family is still asleep. We had a late night, and the boy didn't hit the rack until well after nine o'clock. That's about two hours past his normal bedtime, which means he'll probably be sacked out for another hour or two.

I tell you, sometimes I question this freelance writing stuff. I enjoy the process, especially the end results, but it's a lot of work and the pay is sporadic. I don't know how anyone could manage to live on this sort of thing on a full time basis, though I know that some folks do. The secret seems to be getting a "real" job with a game company (though, in the current industry and in light of the recent lay-offs at WotC, how long would that last?).

I've given some thought to tying off the current run of projects as they stand and endeavoring to go back to school in '06. It might surprise folks to learn that I've always wanted to be an elementary school teacher. Wierd, I admit, but such a goal requires more education than I have. I'm 32 years old; given a modest turn-around time, I'll be 40 by the time I'm able to apply for a teaching position.

I wonder if this is what a mid-life crisis feels like?

Time to get some clothes on and get my gear together. I have several thousand words to write, not to mention a few stat blocks to map out. Plus, I can hear my son stirring in his crib. Time to go.

09 December 2005

Marcus Makes Second!

Who is Marcus? you may be asking.

Marcus is my cleric in my friend Alan's Shackled City campaign. He's an idealistic fellow, patterned after the hospitalers of the Crusades. Basically, he's a good-aligned cleric who follows no specific deity, and he acts as a defender and healer of pilgrims and travelers.

Just for kicks, I'll post his stats here. Maybe I'll post a story or something at a later date. For the time being, this will have to do.

Old-fashioned stat block, here we come...

Marcus: Human Clr2; CR 2; Medium-size Humanoid (Human); HD 2d8+4 (16 hp); Init +1; Spd 20 ft (30 ft w/o armor); AC 17 (+4 armor, +2 shield, +1 Dex), touch 11, flat-footed 16; Base Atk +1; Grp +3; Atk +4 melee (1d8+2, longsword); Full Atk +4 melee (1d8+2, longsword); Space/Reach 5'/5'; SA Turn undead; SQ None; AL NG; SV Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +6; Str 14, Dex 13, Con 15, Int 12, Wis 17, Cha 10.
    Skills and Feats: Concentration +7, Diplomacy +0, Heal +8, Knowledge (arcana) +3, Knowledge (history) +2, Knowledge (religion) +6, Knowledge (the planes) +2, Spellcraft +2; Cleave, Martial Weapon Proficiency (Longsword), Power Attack, Weapon Focus (Longsword).
    Languages: Common, Celestial.
    Possessions: Money (33gp, 6sp, 5cp), Backpack, Bedroll, Dagger, Explorer's Outfit, Flask, Flint and Steel, Heavy Wooden Shield, Wooden Holy Symbol, Hooded Lantern, Light Mace, Longsword, Lamp Oil, Belt Pouch, Scale Mail, Waterskin, Whetstone, Thunderstone, Smoke Stick, 2 Sunrods, 5 Tindertwigs, Vial of Antitoxin.
    Magic Items: Potion of cure moderate wounds.
    Spells (4/3+1): 0 – detect magic, light, resistance; 1st – bless, magic weapon (D), shield of faith.
    Domains: Healing (Healing spells at +1 caster level), War (bonus feats).
    Spell Saves: DC = 10 + 3 + Spell Level.
    Turning Check: 1d20 + 2.
    Turning Damage: 2d6 + 2.

In case you're wondering why his name is Marcus; it's not because I was watching Rome at the time. It actually came to me while listening to a Clutch song titled A Shogun Named Marcus, even though the character is most certainly not a shogun.

Template Troves News

Ian Johnson (aka Frilf) of Silverthorne Games has posted a quick news update on the ENWorld forums, as well as a link to a sneak peek of the forthcoming Template Troves III: Diseases, Parasites, and Symbiotes (written by yours truly). Take a look at the preview, which details the Plague Zombie template, here.

07 December 2005

Future Pharma! First Taste is Free!

The Game Mechanics have posted a freebie called Future Pharma, which includes the drug design rules that I wrote for Future Player's Companion III: Tomorrow's Evolution. It's not a bad deal, getting these rules for free.

Here's to hoping you'll get hooked on your first dose!

In other news, it appears as if Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary is finally back from print. You can order your own copy from the Green Ronin online store, or buy it at your FLGS.

On the gaming front...

You may recall that I was talking about starting up a new game. Well, I've gone ahead and given it a shot. I'm detailing the trials and tribulations of my efforts at a new game-centric web log entitled Shadows of the Past, which is the name of the Midnight campaign I'm picking back up.

Seven players. I must be crazy..!

02 December 2005

WotC Lay-Offs

Just in time for the holidays...


It looks like Wizards of the Coast has had another round of lay-offs. I'd be surprised if you hadn't heard about it somewhere else by now, considering I'm somewhat late coming to the news desk. Still, there are some folks that I know on that list, and my heart goes out to them.

I met Charles Ryan for the first time at Gen Con Indy this year. I had originally opened hailing frequencies with Charles back in the old days, when he was running Chameleon Eclectic from his bunker in Florida. I honestly don't know if he remembered me, but it was nice to finally meet him and put a face with the name.

Another Wizards employee that lost her job was Michelle Lyons. Michelle is a writer and editor of some skill. I got to know Michelle when I was working on Fireborn for FFG. She and I chatted over a few things, and bounced ideas off of one another. When I heard that she'd bagged a job at Wizards, I was quite happy for her. I had no idea it would be so short-lived.

You can read the whole news item at Gaming Report.

28 November 2005

Future Player's Companion Volume III: Tomorrow's Evolution

The third installment of the Future Player's Companion has been released on RPGnow. It has every indication of being a solid finale to a very good trilogy.

If you're a d20 Future player, or just want to support a few starving RPG designers, buy a copy. Heck, do us all a favor and buy the whole set!

25 November 2005

Gen Con SoCal: Photographs

As posted previously, we had our yearly pilgramage to Gen Con SoCal last weekend. We didn't take a ton of pictures, but let's hope that the quality of those we did take makes up for the quantity.

Our arrival at the Anaheim Marriott was uneventful. The boy slept much of the way, only waking up when we got to the hotel. I'd originally thought that we'd stayed at the Marriott before, but I had it mixed up with the Hilton (which is across the street, and which is where we stayed for the first Gen Con SoCal in 2003). We parked (getting what our friend Karen would call "Rock Star Parking," despite the fact that about ten-thousand gamers had taken the liberty of parking in the Marriott's parking structure) and entered the bowels of the hotel itself.

Once we'd checked in at the front desk, we headed to the elevator and took it up to the ninth floor. Stephen rode along in his stroller, oblivious to the fact that daddy was well on his way to maxing out his credit card. Ah, the bliss of childhood ignorance. How I envy the little guy sometimes.

The hotel room was relatively small, but it had two features which I quickly came to appreciate. The first was a bed the size of sub-Saharan Africa. The second was an honest-to-God balcony (which I later discovered was one of only four on our floor; how special!). Naturally, we took plenty of pictures from the balcony. My wife even took pictures of cabs and their associated cabbies. I have no idea why.

On to the con. I didn't have my badge; the wonderful folks at Green Ronin did. So, once we'd procured my wife's badge, I sent her into the hall to collect mine while I kept an eye on Stephen. We saw a great many things while we waited, including a man on stilts dressed in the garb of a Scottish highlander. I'd never seen such a thing; neither had the boy. We both stared in wonder as I fished around for the camera (which I couldn't find).

Amy returned to tell me that Stan! had my badge. Coincidentally, Stan!, JD, Keri, Marc, and Hyrum arrived at that moment. With my badge around my neck, we headed into the hall and took stock of what little it had to offer. That's not to say there wasn't anything worth buying, but SoCal has gotten smaller each year. I fear that it isn't a very profitable con for most of the vendors. Of course, Chessex always seems to have an endless stream of gamers waiting to purchase dice of various shapes and sizes. Stephen can be seen here, posing with his little dice love beads (or whatever they are) on our massive monarch-sized bed.

I went off to run my game, while the boy and his mother remained in the hotel room and had a nap. They called me just prior to my game ending, and met me outside the game room. We contacted JD and Keri, and found that they were waiting for Stan! just outside the hall that the costume constest was being held in. Stan! showed up, and we walked to the Hilton and had a tasty dinner. One thing about Anaheim, as opposed to Indianapolis, is that the variety of eating establishments within walking distance is pretty slim.

After dinner, I helped put Stephen to bed just before I went off to have a beer with my Aussie friend, David. When I returned, after about an hour or so, Stephen was fast asleep. As much as I might've liked it if he'd been able to sleep in his Pack 'n Play, he was much more comfortable in bed with us. Given the continental size of the bed, there was more than enough room for the three of us.

Sunday morning, I decided to take advantage of my exhibitor badge and tour the dealer's room. Stephen and I went to the convention center, via Starbucks, and took a seat near the cafeteria. I drank my iced coffee and shared a pumpkin spice scone (which was a big hit) with the boy before talking around and taking some pictures. We didn't see a whole lot of interest; to be honest, I enjoyed hanging out with the boy more than I enjoyed touring the hall.

At the end of the day, I'd finished running my second TW session, and the wife and I did our last-minute shopping. We'd gotten down to our last diaper (which Stephen was wearing), the poo clock was ticking, and we were still an hour from home. After such an eventful day, Stephen ended up konking out in his stoller. Looking in at him, he looked so damn peaceful. We couldn't help but take a picture of him, surrounded by all of his Lovecraftian goodies.

Into the car we went, and onward towards home we drove. The poo that we dreaded never materialized, though Stephen's only remaining diaper was sopping by the time we managed to change it out for a fresh one.

And that was my boy's first game convention. Next time, we take more diapers.

22 November 2005

Star and Shadow Unleashed

I found my comp copies of Star and Shadow this morning. The UPS man had delivered them by tossing them onto our balcony. I have no idea how long they'd been there; probably no longer than a day, but for all I know, they'd been sitting out there since last week.

The book is pretty tasty. I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out, and I hope the Midnight community is pleased, as well.

We drove by Game Empire (land of 1,000 games!) on our way home from my son's doctor's appointment this morning, but the place wouldn't be opening for another hour. I was hoping to pick up a copy of Heart of Shadow, as it's the only Midnight product I'm still lacking. It's extra important that I get it before the end of this weekend, as I'm traditionally restricted from purchasing anything for myself between the dates of 11/25 and 12/25.

Not that I'd be particularly worried about buying Heart of Shadow, but it's the principle of the thing.

The more I write for the Midnight setting, the more I want to start my old game up again. I have an issue with running weeknight games, though, because they don't allow for a lot of play time. Three hours every two weeks? It passes too quickly. I'd be more satisfied by 5-6 hours, personally.

There's also the issue of players. Not all of my players are available on weekends. Alan, for instance, has a family, and playing on weekends isn't a feasible option for him. I'd feel somewhat strange playing without him, even though I know he'd tell me to go for it (especially since I'm presently playing in his Thursday night game).

So it's something I'm thinking about, but at present, I have an art order to write.

20 November 2005

Back from the Con

Gen Con SoCal, that is.

The boy, my wife, and I stayed at the lovely Marriott across from the convention center. It was terribly convenient, and our room even had a balcony. The boy enjoyed crawling (yes, he taught himself to crawl last Thursday) on the very large uber-king sized bed. We wheeled him around the convention in his SUV-esque Eddie Bauer stroller (which, according to my wife, needs to have a cow-catcher installed across the front bumper).

Last Thursday, the TW playtest went well, though it was cut short by time constraints. The actual games on Saturday and Sunday went off with nary a hitch, as far as I can tell. I had some positive player feedback, which is always a pleasure. I'm not sure if the game sold any books...let's hope, eh?

I'll be sure to post some photos of the convention just as soon as I've got them downloaded from the camera.

It was great to see Chris Pramas and the lovely Nicole Lindroos at the con. Those two are part and parcel of what makes Green Ronin one of the best game design companies in the industry, as well as a wonderful company to freelance for. I am truly blessed to be able to write for them.

We also got to see and hang out with our good friends (in no particular order) Stan!, JD Wiker, Keri Reynolds, Marc Schmalz, and Dave Herber.

As far as booty, I came away with the "Advanced" series of books by Green Ronin (sans the Race Codex), as well as a larger battle mat from Chessex. They told me it was a factory second mat, but I'll be damned if I can tell how it's flawed. Maybe they just say that as an excuse to sell the things for $18. All I know is that it's about as big as my dining room table, and my days of suffering with a tiny little battlemat are finally over.

In other news: Star and Shadow is out! I saw two copies for sale at a booth at Gen Con SoCal, though I didn't buy it. I've got two author's copies coming to me, though I don't know when. Soon, I hope. It looks really neat!

Speaking of Midnight, I've been offered another assignment by FFG on an up-coming release. More on that when I'm able to discuss it.

Second news item: Silverthorne Games has announced, both on their web site and on EN World, the impending release of Template Troves III. They've posted pictures of the cover (seen here), as well as details on the product. I hope it lives up to expectations, and does good for them on the sales side of things.

All for now...

19 November 2005

Gen Con SoCal

We're off to the con this morning, and will return tomorrow. If I can find free wireless, I'll try to make an update or two.

Until later...

14 November 2005

RPG Radio Interview With Rob Schwalb

This just in: Robert Schwalb has been interviewed on RPG Radio. If you're interested in checking this interview out, download the MP3 podcast of Episode 102, and take a listen. The interview starts eight minutes and forty-five seconds into the podcast, right after the PETA commercial.

Rob covers the history of the TW RPG...
...as well as the d20 adaptation of the game...
...working with Lynn, and her input into the game...
...extensive discussion of the magic system...
...sixty-second commercial at 00:18:05...
...discussion about the game itself, mechanics, and the changes that mold it into TW...
...the deadliness of combat...
...the new classes...
...no alignments...
...and upcoming TW products.

They also talk a bit about Rob, how he got his start, and what Green Ronin has coming up in the future. The interview ends at 00:38:55, bringing the length to about twenty minutes in length.

Back to work on my scenario. See you all again real soon...

10 November 2005

Comp Copies

I love comp copies, I really do.

I now have my comp copy of Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary, albeit in PDF format. It's just in time for my impending TW game at SoCal. Looking it over, I'm trying to remember what I contributed to it.

I did some of the development of the characters; basically, figuring out which classes and levels they were. I seem to remember Patrick agreeing with me for the most part, but soundly thrashing a couple of my choices as well. I didn't mind, and the product looks to be stellar.

I also wrote a lot of the flavor text; specifically, the little blurbs that show Shadowspawn's (or Lone's) opinions on the different characters that are described. That was my favorite part, I think.

Despite all this, I'm pretty beat this morning. I still have nine hours of work to look forward to, and I'll likely be getting home an hour late. I'm concerned about a lot of things; money, for one. We never seem to have enough of it. I've got a lot of products that I've contributed to waiting to see publication, as well as a couple that I'm waiting to be paid on. The money is spent before I get it, which isn't a good thing; but it's life.

Freelancing: it ain't all gravy.

I guess I'm really worried about Christmas this year. It's my boy's first one, and though he probably won't understand it (and, truth be told, if he has a skimpy Christmas, it may as well be his first one), I will. Of course, his grandmother is going to lay it on pretty thick, I reckon. Which is good. Love from any direction is love well-received.

Going to work now.

08 November 2005

Midnight Titles, and Shadowspawn's Guide Updates

It looks like there are now product pages over at Fantast Flight Games for both Star and Shadow and Hammer and Shadow. The cover art is pretty nifty, I think. See to the left and right, and click to see them a little bit larger.

Though I had nothing to do with it, the latest Midnight supplement, Heart of Shadow has been released. I'll need to score a copy at Gen Con SoCal, I think.

In other news, Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary is available in PDF format on RPG Now. No news yet on when we expect to see it in print; soon, I hope.

I finished the last bit of Terror in Talabheim today. Yay, me!

The Game Mechanics have posted their Gen Con SoCal schedule. It looks like Marc, JD, and Stan! will all be there. I can't wait to see them all again (regardless of the fact that two of them now live quite close to me). I'll see if I can't wheedle my way onto a couple of their seminar panels...

06 November 2005

Oh, About That Gen Con SoCal Game

I guess it's a bit on the late side, since the games are already sold-out, but here's my SoCal schedule:

Game: Streets of Sanctuary
ID #: RPG00315
Time: 11/19/05, 4:00pm - 7:00pm

Game: Streets of Sanctuary
ID #: RPG00316
Time: 11/20/05, 11:00am - 2:00pm

I've got a three hour slot, but I reckon the game will go for up to four hours in length. We'll see. The winds of change are fickle.

When I'm not running these games (which will be much of my remaining time), I'll be hanging out with The Game Mechanics and the swell folks at Green Ronin Publishing. Drop in and say hello!

Looks As If I Spoke Too Soon

My work on Terror in Talabheim continues.

Lest I sound ungrateful, let me say that I am happy for all the work I get or am offered. In less than a week, I'll be back to the "I'm bored" stage once again.

Next weekend, my work on my TW scenario will begin. Until then, it's back to Talabheim...

04 November 2005

And Now: The Boredom

As of today, I've got no projects due. I just sent in my latest turn-over, albeit three days late. I'm not generally late, mind you. I make it a point not to be. There were some events these past couple of weeks that were well beyond my control that sort of got in the way of writing. Either I was too emotionally-drained to get the work done, or I was too damn busy with the important things in life. Like family.

I don't want to make excuses, though. That's not what I'm about. I probably could've had the stuff in on time, but then again, I don't think I could've vouched for the quality. Then again, I can rarely vouch for my own quality when I'm not embroiled in extraordinary circumstances.

Just ignore me. My brain is burned.

Okay, folks. Everyone into the way-back machine. I want to talk a little bit about something. In fact, I want to talk about the reason I started this blog in the first place. In a title, the reason was Children of the Horned Rat. It was my intention to keep a web log of the creative progress if my work on that title here, a sort of simultaneous dev journal.

As it is, I got halfway through my first post and decided not to go forward with the journal. The project was very much a secret at the time, and I didn't want anything to slip out into the bit stream that would've been better left in my head or on my hard drive. At the time, I'd just discovered blogging (for myself), and I was exploring the potential of the medium.

Children of the Horned Rat, or CotHR for short, was my first WFRP project. I'd never been a player of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but I had done my share of Blood Bowl. Though the two games are very different from one another, BB does give you some idea of what to expect from the non-Human races in the Warhammer universe. Coincidentally, the Skaven team in Blood Bowl was my favorite one (next to the Undead team). So, in that respect, I'd had some small experience with the Skaven.

When I was offered a piece of CotHR, it was probably the last thing I'd expected. My prior work for Green Ronin had been on the Thieves' World Player's Manual (as well as a few thousand words on Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary). I was excited and nervous about it all at the same time.

The first thing I did was pick up everything that had been released up to that time for WFRP 2nd Edition. Research was the word of the day in the beginning. I have a copy of the original WFRP game (who doesn't?), but I needed to update myself on the mechanics of the system as well as the changes that had been made to the setting. I was profoundly impressed with WFRP, which made me even more eager to work on CotHR.

One thing that really did it for me was The Loathsome Ratmen and All Their Vile Kin. My Aussie co-author on CotHR, Steve Darlington, was snarfing around on the web one day and he discovered that there was a book with that particularly long-winded title. He wrote a quick email with a link and asked something to the effect of, "Should we be aware of what's in this book also?"

Rob Schwalb, the final part of our triumverate, managed to secure a few copies of Loathsome Ratmen for us. When mine finally arrived, I devoured it in a single sitting. It's a really great book, well worth the money (even though I got mine for free). Compared to the other books I'd picked up (Skavenslayer by William King being the first, and the Skaven Army Book for Fantasy Battles), Loathsome Ratmen was meaty, juicy, and did a wonderful job establishing a lot of mood for the project.

Skavenslayer was a horse of a different color. I'd never read any of William King's work before, so I wasn't sure what to expect from Skavenslayer. I can't say that I really liked the style of the writing, though the character development wasn't bad. This isn't a dig on Bill King, it's just the way that I'm wired. I'm not sure that I'd've actually read Skavenslayer on my own if I hadn't been working on CotHR. That said, the novel was still instrumental to a lot of the development I did on CotHR. It served a noble purpose.

I can't really get into the content of CotHR. I'm not entirely sure how much of what I wrote will make the final cut, so it'd be silly for me to make any assumptions on that count. Especially considering that the book won't see release until summer 2006. It feels like it's such a long time from now, too. I know that it will pass in a flash, and I'll be sitting down to ice cream cake on my 33rd birthday only to wonder where in the heck the time went.

One other thing about working on WFRP: English. You have to write in UK English. It's "colour," not "color." "Neighbour," not "neighbor." That sort of thing. It took some getting used to, and even now I find myself correcting these typos in private emails I send to friends. All I can say is, thank god that Word has a spellchecker than can be set to UK English, or I'd be one sorry buffoon.

Working on WFRP has been a lot of fun up to now. I hope it continues. I've had two projects for the line so far, and I'm hoping there will be a third (and a fourth and a fifth). It's an awesome game (and I even ran my group -- the guys you met last post -- though Through the Drakwald, the adventure in the WFRP 2nd Edition core rulebook). If I don't break down and run a Thieves' World or Midnight game, I think I'll probably end up running an original Warhammer game. That is, one that isn't based on a published scenario.

So that's it, for now. I think I got a lot of my chest, without actually saying much. Don't you think?

Oh, and what was that I was saying about being bored..? Well, I'm glad you asked. You see, I've got nothing to write, so I'm liable to be kicking around acting bored and being a nuisance to my wife (bless her heart for tolerating my neurotic self). Then again, it's not a bad thing: I have time to work on my Gen Con TW scenario. Plus, my slate will be clean for Gen Con SoCal in less than two weeks.

Well, Hastur (the Unspeakable Cat) just spilled a full glass of iced tea all over me. And he doesn't even care. I must get dried off.

Why do we have pets, again?

02 November 2005

Those Thursday Night Games

In case you were wondering who I'm playing D&D with these days, I'm happy to introduce you to them. So, in no particular order...

As mentioned in previous posts, my long-time friend Alan has taken up the helm as the Dungeon Master, running us through the Shackled City campaign. Things are starting to get moving, and I think he's doing a good job of keeping us all in line. I'm not entirely sure where the game is going just yet, and I'm wary of posting any spoilers. After all, this is about my fellow players!

We met Alan a few years back, and he and his family have become very dear to my wife and I. In fact, I firmly believe that it's Theresa's (Alan's wife) fault that my wife and I ended up having a baby. After all, if she'd never given us that copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting, I don't think we would've been expecting in the first place.

Still, you never know.

Next on the roster is Adam, my bother-in-law. I've known him about as long as I've known my wife. He's no longer the annoying thirteen year old that he used to be when I first met his sister. Adam's a very character-driven player. It occasionally takes him weeks to formulate the precise character that he wants to play. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but it makes playing off-the-cuff games interesting. In this case, Adam is playing Talmin, a human bard.

Mike is the third player. Mike is the lunatic of the group. I'm not sure if he's really insane, or just a damn good actor. My actual take on Mike is that he's so bloody smart, he can't help but be a little bit eccentric. His characters all come with incredibly detailed (and disturbing) backgrounds, and they are invariably cursed with names that average gamers have no hope of pronouncing properly (such as "Xicohtencatl" or, in the case of the current game, "Kaukomieli"). Mike's character (who I may start referring to as "Kook," for short) is a dwarven paladin of St. Cuthbert. As my wife has said on many occasions, Mike plays the sort of paladin who must burn the orcs in order to save them.

The role of our elvish rogue, Theriel, is being played by Alex. My wife and I met Alex in another fellow's game a few years back. Alex is a braniac. He's a scientist, working on his doctorate or something like that. When he's not in the lab, he's hanging with his wife or geeking out at the gaming table. Alex is a cool dude, and he knows his stuff. He's got an excellent grasp of the game rules without being a rules lawyer (which means I can be myself when he's around, nyuk). He has recently relocated nearer to us, so we can actually play together on a more regular basis.

My wife would normally be playing; in the case of the Shackled City game, she rolled up a wizard of some sort...but she hasn't yet played. Time and the child have both conspired to keep her away from the action that occurs at the dinner table every other week. Look here at what she's missing: the attack of the giant water-based marker pen! Aiiiie!

Of course, then there's me, your host. I'm playing a human cleric of no god in particular. I made sure to give my character a rather mundane and uninspired name: Marcus. He's based on the hospitalers of the Crusades, wandering and aiding the pilgrims of all good deities. For some reason unknown to me at present, he's in Cauldron. The more I see of the city, the less I understand why anyone would want to live there.

So that's our group, as it is. They hate it when I bring out the camera, but that's okay...they can deal with it, for the sake of my blog.

November Already

Where did the year go?

This is a brief news item, mostly to say that Gary Astleford Dot Com has been updated (at least, the news section has). The two secret WFRP products I was working on have been revealed by Black Industries: specifically, Children of the Horned Rat and Terror in Talabheim. Both are due out in Summer of 2006. You can read all about BI's upcoming releases here.

Not much else to say, aside from reminding everyone yet again that Gen Con SoCal is coming up very soon. I still need to reserve hotel space for Saturday night.

I'm off to work. I'll be sure to post again later...

19 October 2005

Time Flies When You're Writing Like Mad

Warning: The photos in this blog entry have nothing to do with the actual content, and are merely examples of a shameless father showing off his progeny.

So, my work on Hammer and Shadow is done; it was done on Sunday night, in fact. I sent the turn-over in to FFG, and I've spent the last two days pretending I don't have any more deadlines. Of course, I'm only fooling myself. I've got a WFRP project due on 11/1. It's not a huge project, but I am obligated to treat every book I work on just like it's the biggest, most high-profile one yet.

I'm currently waiting on several books to see release. In regards to electronic products, the last Future Player's Companion should be released relatively soon, as should Template Trove III. On the print front, Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary will likely be out in November. I'm not sure when the last Warhammer book I worked on will come out; I've seen the second draft, and it looks like it's going to be great. As for Star and Shadow, Fantasy Flight's "upcoming" page says it's due for a November release (with Hammer and Shadow due in December).

Next month is Gen Con SoCal, the best four...er, rather, the best three days in gaming. Heh. I'm planning to be there for at least two of them, and will be running a Thieves' World game for Green Ronin. Speaking of which, I need to put together some hotel reservations. I'm thinking I'll aim for something cheap this time...of course, I'm only planning to stay over a single night. Hm.

Anywho...I need to get to bed soon. It's been a long day.

30 September 2005

Another week gone by...

...and here I sit.

For some reason, it seemed to last forever. I haven't been particularly productive outside of work. After all the writing I'd been doing, I guess I figured that I deserved a break on the weeknights. So, in an attempt to do so, I've been playing Fable on the Xbox almost continuously since Monday.

My brother-in-law bought me the game for my birthday. That was in July. Three months ago. For me to sit on a game that long and not play it (heck, I didn't even take off the shrink wrap) means that I must be busy. The point of the game is that you're a hero, starting out as a young 'un, and the actions you take determine the way people treat you (whether they hate/fear you, or love you). You can grow to become so good (or evil) that you begin to show outward signs of your holiness (or unholiness, as the case may be).

Fable is pretty good. I didn't know what to expect, but it's alright, so far. I'm playing a good guy (by choice). My character has a visible halo and little ethereal butterflies flutter around his head. My wife, conversely, is playing an evil fellow. Her character already has a pair of stubby little horns.

Well, the fun has only just begun. I go back to writing this weekend, and will try to keep on top of things over the next week or two. I'd like to get through the current Midnight book so that I can get involved with another Warhammer supplement. I'll be at Borders tomorrow, bright and early, so we'll see how much actual work I can get done (as opposed to outlining, like last Saturday).

Sunday, between house cleaning and shampooing our carpets, we intend to go see Serenity at the local Monsterplex. Between then and now, I need to watch the last episode of the series. Let's hope it's a good flick; I'm sure I'll find something to enjoy.

Well, it's bed time. Sleepy! Not much sleep to be had this week, what with my late night forays into Fable and getting up at 5:30am to crawl my tired butt to work.

25 September 2005

Thieves' World Review at Gaming Report

As it turns out, there's a very nice review of the Thieves' World Player's Manual up over at Gaming Report. You can check it out here. Thanks to Chris Pramas for the heads-up!

I should've been at Borders nintety minutes ago, but my wife's not feeling too well this morning, so I'm staying around the house for the time being. I plan to get some work done this evening, after my son goes to bed. I may not get as much done that way, but I'll still get some time in at the keyboard.

24 September 2005

A little bit of whine with my cheese

It used to be, I could afford to buy just about any of the gaming supplements that I wanted to buy. After a time, I saw writing RPGs as a way of paying for my habit, much the same way as a drug addict might see dealing as a way of keeping him in the goods. As with most fantasy tales, it was not to be.

The paychecks arrive infrequently, and like as not, there's a pressing need that requires that I spend the money on more important things. Like food or rent, for instance. It's gotten to the point that I (half-)jokingly say, "Aww, I could've bought [insert number] of books with that money," whenever we buy baby necessities (or anything else, for that matter). For example, when they raised our rent $90, I said, "Awww, that's, like, three game books every month!"

Back in the day, when I was young and lived at home and my income was more or less expendable, I acquired quite a collection of gaming books. I worked for a local game shop for a little over a year (13 months, precisely) in the mid nineties, and I made excellent use of that 20% employee discount. It didn't help my pocketbook that I had first pick of the new titles, since I was the guy stocking the shelves.

Part of that collection is shown here; there are two other book cases full of this stuff in my "office" (which is currently carpeted in baby clothes), along with a smaller bookcase that is filled with D6 Star Wars stuff and a small collection of paperback books. My wife's game books got folded into mine when we turned my office into a baby room, so the whole collection pretty much belongs to us both.

So what's my point?

I guess that I'm merely lamenting that I'm pretty far behind in what you might refer to as my "reference library" of gaming material. As much as I'd love to throw the payoff for my last book at games and accessories, the money was more or less spent before I got it (between this fancy new laptop and the cost of Gen Con Indy). My credit card bills are fat and ugly (though I'm sure they're small compared to most).

I have managed to keep up with my Warhammer Fantasy Role Play collection. It's not hard to do, really, since the new edition's line is relatively small. I'm up to date on Midnight, too, given that I've been obsessed with it since it came out, and the releases aren't necessarily on a regular basis. Plus, they're typically inexpensive when compared to the hardcovers that WotC releases.

What I'm missing is a whole slew of D&D books, as can be seen by taking a quick look at my Amazon.com wish list. I'll buy the stuff eventually (or so I keep telling myself), since every title is a business expense, anyway. Writing games means I need access to some of the newer books so that I can see what's been done and what hasn't. When a product outline refers to an obscure rule in The Book of Snails, I will know what in the heck the reference means.

Okay, I'm done whining (for now). Time to get ready to work. As mentioned yesterday, I'm going to Borders so that I can write. I reckon I'll be there from 9am until noon. If you happen to show up and see a fat guy staring at his laptop, it's probably me. Be nice and buy him a D&D book.

23 September 2005

My chive! My precious chive!

I got my pocket knife back yesterday, but there was some concern that having a knife at work is a Bad Idea (tm).

For the record, and in my own defense, I've carried a blade of one kind or another every day since I worked in my company's warehouse. It's habit, and I still open a lot of boxes from time to time. It's nice to have it available, especially when I'm restocking the office supplies.

Still, with today's environment, it's been suggested that all such things should be left at home. Not wanting to inadvertantly violate my workplace's violence policy, I'm more than happy to comply. I'm just glad to have the thing back in my possession.

Tomorrow...I will work on the latest Midnight book. I've got an October 17th deadline, and I'd like to get my portions finished a little bit earlier than normal. As it turns out, I've got a wee little WFRP project on my agenda, due a couple weeks after the Midnight sourcebook is. With all this work, you'd think I was in demand or something.

I'm going to make my trips to Borders a habit. I plan to go there and write every Saturday and Sunday morning for at least three hours each day. That gives me the rest of the weekend to play. Plus, I've been managing a rate of 1,000 words per hour (albeit, on fluff) when I write at Borders, so that makes for a good amount of work being done if I can keep it up.

Besides, my wife is happy to be rid of me. She says she doesn't need to worry that she's going to be bothering me when she moves around, cleans the house, vents nasty gas, or whatever.

What about tonight? you ask.

I'm not sure yet. I may mess with my blog templates a little bit, by moving a few things around between Freelance Father and here. Mostly, I'll be modifying the links on the right.

I also need to go to the store. The cupboards are absolutely bare. Nothing to eat but ramen noodles, spaghetti, and baby food.

I might just get around to watching Krull, too. Just try and stop me.

I did go by Drive Thru RPG and open an account so that I could download a free copy of Eden Studios' Witchcraft RPG. I've known for a time that they have free downloads of interesting stuff on occasion, so I reckon it can't hurt to be able to snag those when they're available.

News Item - It looks like Green Ronin has put the two current Thieves' World role-playing titles up for sale on RPG.now. I'm surprised, but I think that it will probably increase the sale of the product. Knock on wood.

21 September 2005

A Frenzy of Updates

I updated all my blogs today. All one, two, five (three, sir!) of them. I mean, there's the Freelance Father blog, which is mostly about personal, non-gaming-related stuff (especially as it relates to my son). Then there's this blog, which is mostly about personal, gaming-related stuff (especially as it relates to my writing). Finally, there's the third blog...the one that shall not be named.

In the news...

(Insert annoying teletype noise here.)

The second installment of the Future Player's Companion, entitled Tomorrow's Hero, was released today on RPG.now. The first volume, Tomorrow's Foundation, has received some pretty good reviews so far. With luck, the newest addition will receive similar acclaim.

I'm not sure when TGM plans to release the third volume, but I reckon it will probably be in October, or just prior to Gen Con SoCal in November. The print release, which will combine all three volumes into a single softcover, is scheduled to be released by Green Ronin in January '06.

I've just recently discovered that the Thieves' World Player's Manual is available on Amazon.com, but with a 3-5 week wait. Ouch! I can only hope the distribution improves a bit.

Lacking any writing to do at lunch (which isn't precisely true; I've got a new Midnight book due in October that I should get working on right bloody now), I've been working on the Thieves' World scenario that I'll be running at SoCal in November. Mostly concept and characters so far. I'm not 100% sure which direction I'll take the game, but I've got a general idea.

I'd like to kill one or two characters within the first hour or so of the game, just to show them how easy it is to get waxed.

I lost my pocket knife today. It was a nice Kershaw that my father-in-law gave me for Christmas last year. I've taken it just about everywhere since then, and I've come to rely on it a great deal at work (opening boxes, etc.). I had no idea how much the damn things cost ($59.99 retail). It makes me feel even dumber knowing that.

The story goes like this: I was on my lunch break, and one of the other employees came and asked me to help them put a new toner cartridge in one of the printers. Now, being on lunch, I'm not specifically required to help anyone, but I'm a nice guy (to a fault) and I always do whatever I can, even if it's not in my job description.

I used the knife to open the thick plastic wrapper that the toner cartridge was packed in, and I set it down on a filing cabinet near the printer while I installed it. Seeing as I only had about two minutes of my lunch hour remaining, I rushed off to clock in and went about my day...completely forgetting that I'd left my $60 knife behind.

I realized my mistake about an hour later, but by then it was too late. Someone had come along, found the knife, and taken it. I figured they might've taken it up to reception (the default Lost & Found), but no one had. I asked the receptionist to send out a memo, and then I asked a few people in my area if they'd seen the knife. No on all counts.

It's frustrating to me. That someone would see the knife and pick it up and pocket it without thinking:

"Hey, this is a nice knife. It probably belongs to another human being in my workplace. I should take it to the front desk so that whoever owns it can get it back."

...just completely floors me.

Maybe they did think such thoughts, but didn't care. After all, it's "only a knife." Being small, it's obviously not of any great worth, so why not keep it? Who's going to miss it?

Of course, that's theft, plain and simple. The same thing happens day in and day out where I work, only it usually involves pens or other kinds of office supplies. This probably makes people less likely to feel any manner of guilt for these sorts of deeds.

I guess I've gotten off on a rant here. I remain angry about the whole incident. Angry at myself for being so spacy that I forgot the bloody thing, and angry at whoever found it for not being honest about it. I suppose that it's possible that someone will turn it in at reception tomorrow...but I doubt it. I figure it's gone, plain and simple.

The moral of the story is: don't do anything nice for anyone. And if you do, don't use your $60 pocket knife in the process.


An hour until bed time. What shall I do? I guess I'll relax, read, take a load off, and brood for a bit.

P.S. - If you find a nice Kershaw Chive 1600SS in a pawn shop somewhere, it's mine!!

19 September 2005

Done! Done, I say!

The WFRP project is finished for me. My art order has been sent in, and I'm free as a bird..!

Well...maybe not. I've got other work to do now...like that other Midnight book. This means that I'll need to brush up on certain pieces of the setting's history so that I can correctly portray their results in the supplement.

I really do prefer writing to research, but you can't put the cart before the horse. All things in good time...

You know, I was thinking about it. The "Art Order" is something I never knew existed prior to my professional writing career. I always assumed that the artists read the books and extrapolated the art based on what they've read. In some ways, that's not entirely untrue, but art orders take the guesswork out of it.

For those of you who might not know, an art order is a list of suggested illustrations that the authors detail. They give the art director a place to start, and they can be assigned to the artists once they've been approved. For the WFRP product, I produced one illustration description for every 1,500 words I wrote.

As an example of an entry in an art order, I'll go back in time to one that I wrote for Artifacts of the Ages: Rings. To wit:

Illustration #B7: Diablatorio, the Ring of the Black Pontiff (1/4)

Description: The Diablatorio is wrought from adamantine, and resembles a coiled serpent with gleaming emerald eyes and tiny fangs of polished ivory.


The artist, Pete Schlough, came up with this interpretation from my description of the ring. I have to say, I was quite pleased with the outcome.

That should give you some idea of how the art orders are supposed to work. Every publishing house has its own way of doing things, though. I've worked on products where I haven't issued a single art order. Still, I think it's groovy to have some manner of influence on what the art looks like in regards to words that I've written.

Other things on my "To Do" list:

1.) Write my Thieves' World adventure for Gen Con SoCal.
2.) Write a history for the character I'll be playing in Alan's "Shackled City" campaign.
3.) Watch Krull for the umpteenth time. I can't help myself.
4.) Cross my fingers and pray that I'll have more work lined up once this Midnight supplement is written.

18 September 2005

Expanding my Borders

Well, maybe not literally. After talking with my friend Stan!, I decided to give a go at doing my writing at a local coffee shop ("Seattle's Best") which just happens to be attached to a Borders Books in lovely Carlsbad.

Are you wondering why I chose to try this? Do you realize that I'm going to tell you, even if you aren't?

Writing at home is all well and good, but there's too much distraction. Between the cats that meander around (and over) me, the siren call of the television, the tractor beam-like pull of Al Gore's internet, and easy access to a relatively comfortable bed or sofa for when I can't keep my eyes propped open, there's a lot to compete with my desire to sit down and get actual work done.

Long story short, I hopped in my car yesterday and drove to Borders. I found a nice table against a wall with easy access to a wall outlet, plugged in my Dell Inspiron 600m, and got to business. Three hours later, I had 3,000 more words done than I'd had when I'd arrived. Despite the occasional distraction (the espresso machine, girls in skin-tight denim, high school kids bitching about calculus homework), it worked out really well.

After all, it was crunch time. It still is crunch time, come to think of it. I've got a little more work to do before I can send in my final for the WFRP project. The latest deadline for my turnover is tomorrow. I was apprehensive earlier in the week, but things seem to have turned around. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I can send my work to Rob Schwalb and be proud.

In other news...

I've been invited to work on another Midnight project, and will be contributing about 16k words to it. I could've handled more than that, but I'm trying to take it somewhat easy on the off chance that I get an offer of work from the guys in the Big Leagues. Knock on wood.

Anyway, I want to put my head down for a few minutes (what was that I said about comfortable beds and sofas getting in the way of work?), and then wash my hands of that last Chapter.

09 September 2005

The Kilt Girl

As I mentioned in my Gen Con Indy report, there was a girl there in a kilt, and I snapped a picture of her and her friends while they were checking out the prints in Ne Ne Thomas' booth.

I guess she reads blogs, because she sent me an email today and thanked me for mentioning her. I find this exceptionally amusing, all told. What a small internet world it is!

Her name is Ada, and folks will be able to see a lot more of her when Gnymphs.net (Beware: Adult content!) goes live. I won't lie; the first thing I did when I got back from Indiana was to check and see if that URL was authentic or not. Sure enough, it is.

I'm still chuckling to myself.

Thanks for the email, Ada. It's good to know you got home safely. If you guys come to Gen Con SoCal this year, drop on in and say hi!

Concerning Gen Con SoCal: They've changed the format! I guess the con hasn't done too well these past two years, so not only have they changed the dates of the show from December to November (which we already knew about), but they're also cutting the show back from four days to three days. No more Thursday for SoCal's Gen Con. I guess the numbers on Thursdays really bit for SoCal.

It looks as if they'll still have gaming on Thursday, but no exhibit hall.

As far as SoCal goes, I'll be there. At this point, I only plan to attend on Saturday and Sunday. Finances are such that I'm not really comfortable dropping a wad of cash on a hotel room for more than a single evening.

I will be running two Thieves' World games. This is to help out my friends at Green Ronin, as well as to support the Thieves' World Player's Manual. The games are going to be scheduled for Saturday, 4pm - 8pm, and Sunday, 11am - 3pm. When I'm not whisking six lucky players off to Sanctuary, I'll be at the Green Ronin and/or Game Mechanics booth.

We've got a couple of months to go. I've already got some scenario ideas, and we'll see where they take me. For the time being, I'm going to hit the rack. It was a long day, I'm tired, and the roof of my mouth hurts.

05 September 2005

Star and Shadow

I'm finally writing for a Midnight supplement, entitled "Star and Shadow." There hasn't been much information released on this supplement yet, but it is scheduled for release in October. My turnover is due next week, but I intend to have it done today. After that, I go back to finishing my work on the WFRP book.

Truth be told, Midnight was the game that made me want to write for the d20 system. It's a very neat setting, very dear to my heart. I'm glad I discovered it, though I haven't been able to run it as often as I'd like to. I had a campaign going for a while there, but the group split off on two occasions and it's been shelved until further notice.

When I contacted Fantasy Flight Games in 2003 in regards to writing for Midnight, I found there wasn't anything open at the moment. I met Robert Vaughn at Gen Con SoCal, and after that I was offered a spot writing for a Dawnforge supplement that, for one reason or another, never saw completion. It's a shame, really. Dawnforge is a neat setting; I guess it didn't sell.

Shortly after the Dawnforge gig was deep-sixed, I was asked to write for a new (at that time) game that FFG was calling Fireborn. That was my first big professional project, and it taught me a lot about how things work on the professional side of the game writing biz.

Prior to being publishing in Dungeon/Polyhedron magazine, I'd done quite a bit of writing on the amateur side of things. In addition to my own work on this web site or that web site, I contributed to Action Check, an ezine dedicated to the Alternity role-playing game. I also wrote an article or two (or three; can't recall) for the Star Wars Online Journal.

I won't say that the amateur publications are any easier to write for than the professional ones, but it's definitely easier to get your foot in the door. They don't pay you for your work, so they're eager to have someone who can actually string two words together on staff. Plus, it's tough for them to find reliable writers; since the articles aren't paid for, writers can oftentimes find other things they'd rather be doing than contribute their time to the 'zine. This results in delayed publication of the 'zine, which ultimate leads to a lack of interest in the target audience. I can't remember how many times I saw people whine, "When is the next OJ coming out?" on the SWRPGNetwork forums.

Working for a professional company was an eye-opener. First, they were going to pay me. Second, they were serious about their deadlines. None of this, "I couldn't get to it this week," stuff. If you don't get your work done on time, you'll be lucky if you write for them again...especially if you're a fresh face.

I take my deadlines very seriously. I'm a worry-wart by nature, anyway; having a deadline looming over my head like the Sword of Damocles is a sure-fire way to keep me up at night in a cold sweat. Maybe that's why I'm always on time.

Anyway...I've got two deadlines coming up, and I'm going to knock Star and Shadow's out over the next hour or two.

01 September 2005

Death from a Single Cut

We played our third game of WFRP tonight. It lasted about two hours, and then it ended. After all, the scenario was over. While it was fun, I think we're going to shelve it for the time being. I'm not sure what we'll be playing next, but...such is life.

During the final encounter of "Through the Drakwald," I managed to give myself a painful paper cut on my WFRP rulebook. Is there a lawsuit in there somewhere, I wonder?

Once the game was done, we pulled out "Bang!" and played it for a while. Here is my brother-in-law, Adam, showing his Mancato!

I nixed Mike (in the foreground), but Alex (in the background) got his clock cleaned by exploding dynamite, virtually handing the game to the only remaining outlaw (my wife).

So the game is done, and I continue to work on writing for it. The project's over as of 9/14, which would be prior to our next game, but that's fine. I was looking forward to running them through Ashes of Middenheim, but I can save it for a rainy day.

All for now...