31 August 2005

Interesting Post on RPG.net

A fellow wrote these and posted them on RPG.net. Being as I've been trying to promote non-selfish gaming for a long time, some of these really strike home. The original thread can be found here, if you're so inclined.

Anyway...thanks to Ratboy45 for posting these. I think they're pretty neat.

A good player will think about what his character would do before he acts.
A great player will think of ways to make his character realistically take actions that benefit the game.

A good player will seek out opportunities to get his character involved in things.
A great player will seek out opportunities to have his character help others get involved.

A good player will avoid doing things that makes the GM's job more difficult.
A great player will look for ways to make the GM's job easier.

A good player will make an effort to learn the rules.
A great player will remember that the rules must sometimes be broken for purposes of flavour or story.

A good player will seek out ways to build his character's story.
A great player will know when to let his character’s story end.

A good player understands that winning means having fun.
A great player understands that winning doesn’t mean much unless everybody wins.

I may even go over the ones I really like, as well as I why I really like them, later on. Right now, I'm a bit too mentally drained to even consider doing that.

More later.

Note: I edited the format of these a little bit.

28 August 2005

Senseless Blathering

It's Sunday morning. I've been awake for about sixteen minutes (which explains any obvious typos). I hit the sack late last night, around 12am, after writing a number of words for the WFRP project. I'm driven to finish this chapter today, as difficult as it may be to do so.

After I returned from Gen Con Indy, I decided that I needed to re-prioritize my hobbies. I made an inroad with a large game company, and I may very well be writing for them come October. Their project sizes are daunting, larger than anything I've written thus far, but the paychecks...oh, the tantalizing paychecks..!

Outside of writing (which, I admit, I do less frequently than I should, even when I'm on a deadline), I have two primary hobbies: role-playing and re-enacting.

As far as role-playing goes, I've been playing with a group of guys that meets every Friday, rain or shine. Weekly games have always been tough for me to attend, and after my son was born, it was all but impossible to commit to a weekly session. I tried, though, I really did. In the five months since Stephen came along, I've felt further and further removed from the group (as detailed in this post on my Freelance Father web log).

While I'm up for gaming, I'm really not up for the weekly schedule. The games tend to run so long that they disrupt Saturday for me. Weekends are my primary writing time, and I can't really sacrifice them if I'm going to be committing myself to larger and larger projects.

So I sent the current DM an email and bounced my resignation off him before I wrote to the group as a whole and wished them adieu. It's not as if I'll never play with them again (at least, I hope not); at present, though, it seems to be the easiest route to take. I certainly don't want to burn any bridges. After all, they're really the only game group I've found in years that hasn't immediately scared me away.

I'll probably continue to DM/GM for my own group, though. I have to keep my finger on the pulse of the games I write for, which means running those very same games and keeping the rules fresh in my mind.

The other hobby is re-enacting the American Civil War. Between my current writing and my son, my participation in re-enacting has been pared down to one day out of every two that there is a scheduled event. I may need to cut it out entirely, depending on how things go. Our next event is in Huntington Beach next weekend. With my current deadlines (yeah, two of them, 9/12 and 9/14, respectively), I'm hesitant to attend. I've told my wife that I'll consider going up one day.

Re-enacting isn't as simple as it sounds. You don't just throw the uniform on and march around. Prepping for a Civil War weekend eats up lots of time. You've got to get your gear together, load your (blank) rounds (which takes up a good stretch of time), make sure everything is packed and ready. On the day of the event (or the day before, if you're staying over-night), you have to drive there, unpack your gear, run around and shoot, socialize, and then pack it all up again and come home.

Okay, so maybe that isn't complicated, but it is time consuming.

I want to succeed in the game industry. I don't yet know if I want to run the financial risks of being a full-time freelancer, what with a new child. It feels like we're barely getting by as it is, and that's with a steady paycheck. Freelancing is more like a second job, albeit a part-time one. If I want to succeed, I think I may need to step on the gas. Of course, this means that my other hobbies will have to suffer.

So that's what's been on my mind since last weekend.

In other news...

The WFRP game keeps getting pushed back. I'm not real concerned about it, since the adventure is pretty much written for me. I've never run pre-made adventures before, and I find them to be both liberating and, at the same time, unfulfilling. At any rate, I hope the players are enjoying them. We should have our third game this coming Thursday.

I'm not sure how long it's been since our first session, but we're probably averaging one game every three or four weeks at this point. Sad.

I'm a bit more awake now. I think I'll scrape together something to eat for breakfast, visit the WC, and then check on my family.


23 August 2005

Gen Con Indy Update

As mentioned, I've returned safely from my trip to Indianapolis.

The convention was a success for me. I made some new contacts, and it looks like I've got more than enough work on the horizon to keep me happy. I got to meet a lot of people that I've been wanting to meet for a while, and the Thieves' World Player's Manual was released (and, by Sunday, sold-out).

I won't give you a blow-by-blow of the weekend. Suffice it to say that I'd be hard-pressed to remember every little detail. I know that I ate a lot of Indian food (well...two dinner's worth, which is twice as much Indian food as I've eaten in my lifetime). I have to say that I'm developing a taste for Indian cuisine. It's yummy in my tummy!

So...pictures. Here are a few.

The "Axis & Allies" collectible miniatures game is one of the new releases that Wizards of the Coast was driving home this time around. They had a full-sized tank on the premises, along with a couple of jeeps, a half-track, and armored car, and a motorcycle. I didn't get much of a look at the game; given my financial situation, the last thing I really need is a collectible game of any sort.

I was at the convention with my four-day badge, but I ended up spending most of my time in the Green Ronin booth. I even did a little booth work for both GR and The Game Mechanics. Trust me, at these events, they need all the help they can get! I don't really mind, either. It gives me a chance to socialize with folks I only see every so often. The alternative is walking the dealer's room, spending money I don't have.

Lynn Abbey, the co-creator of Thieves' World, was on hand to autograph copies of the Thieves' World Player's Manual. I've known Lynn for over seven years, but we'd never actually met one another. We'd planned to meet at Gen Con in 2000 (or maybe it was 1998 or 1999, I don't really recall), but it didn't work out.

When Chris Pramas asked her if there was anyone she knew that she thought should be working on the Thieves' World RPG, Lynn mentioned me. I'm thankful for the opportunity, because I doubt I would have had it otherwise. When I found out about it, she told me something along the lines of, "I've only opened the door; it's up to you to walk through it." Talk about performance anxiety. Gladly, it looks like I pulled it off well enough that Green Ronin is continuing to consider me for future work.

One of the other authors who worked on the Thieves' World Player's Manual with me was Robert J. Schwalb, pictured here. Rob has continued to amaze me with his integrity, his selfless dedication to his work, his wit, and his ability as a writer and game designer. It was great to meet him finally, after so many months of electronic correspondence. Unfortunately, our last co-author on the Player's Manual, Patrick O'Duffy, was not in attendance. He's an Australian, and he's retired from game design (or so I hear). His talent will be missed.

Of the Game Mechanics, what can I say? I've met them all, that is, except for Rich Redman. Rich is a lot different in person than he is at TGM's chat sessions. I wasn't sure what to expect, but he seemed a lot more reserved. Perhaps it was because he was wearing a Wizards of the Coast shirt.

Rich spent a little time at the booth, chatting us up. On Sunday, he even showed up and donned his official Game Mechanics work shirt! I wish I would've gotten a picture of that, but I didn't. As it is, here's a group shot of all the founding Mechanics, less Stan! Brown. Stan! couldn't make it this year, and we were constantly badgered by Upper Deck employees who dropped in to tell us, "Stan! says 'Hi!'"

Of the "Junior Mechanics" that were present at the convention (that is, freelance writers who work for the Game Mechanics), there were three (aside from myself). The first I will mention is Rodney Thompson, master of the Star Wars RPG Network, contributor to many Star Wars RPG products, as well as to d20 Future and a number of other books. I caught a rare photo of him here (trust me, Rod, it's much better than the other one, which I had destroyed).

The second Junior Mechanic on hand was Eric Cagle (or just "Cagle" for short, at right in the photo here). Eric's a funny guy, and he managed to maintain his sense of humor even after he had his hotel room burglarized. To make a long story short, Eric (who was rooming with JD Wiker) lost his wallet to a burglar who gained entry to their room on Wednesday night. JD woke up and confronted the guy, who shined a flashlight into his face and exclaimed, "Is this Bob's room?" before making his escape. Besides Eric's wallet (which contained money, credit cards, and ID), the thief got away with JD's business cards.

The last of the TGM freelancers on hand was Neil Spicer. Neil is a new face in the industry, having done work on the second and third volumes of the Future Player's Companion. I've known Neil for a long while, ever since I wrote some articles for Action Check, an e-zine for Alternity buffs. Neil kept himself busy, helped at the booth, and he and I shared a couple of lunches together. We're both new fathers, so we had a lot of notes to compare in that regard. Neil is also expecting his second child. Congrats, Neil!

The ENnie Awards were held on Friday night. I was at a meeting just prior to the awards, but I managed to catch the last few minutes of the ceremony. I'm glad I did, as my friends at Green Ronin walked away with several, including one for Best Publisher. This Gen Con was the first time I've been exposed to the Green Ronin folks in more than just a passing capacity. They are genuinely nice people who are dedicated to their work, and to creating quality products. I can't wait to see them again at Gen Con SoCal in November.

Speaking of the ENnies, I also ran into Hound (otherwise known as M. Jason Parent). Hound runs a Cyberpunk 2020 web site (The BlackHammer CyberPunk Project), as well as E.N. Publishing, and he and I have been in contact, off and on, for a long while. I met him for the first time last year, and we've maintained a closer relationship since then. We may eventually work with one another on a writing/gaming project; I certainly hope so.

How about products that I liked? There was a company there, just catty corner from the GR booth, called Steel Sqwire. They were selling a series of wire templates for mapping out spell effects and the like for d20 games. I damn near dropped the money on this product, because it was slick and I liked the look of it. In the end, my miserliness got the best of me; I wasn't figuring that I'd be using the stuff that much, so I couldn't justify the expense. If Steel Sqwire comes to SoCal, maybe I'll change my mind.

Oh, and then there was the kilt girl. Let me explain: my wife likes to take pictures of guys in kilts at cons. Considering how many guys own a Utilikilt, it's not all that difficult to do. She starting doing this in response to Sean Reynolds' "Babes of Gen Con," calling her version "Kilts of Gen Con." So, as I'm sitting in the Game Mechanics/Green Ronin booth, I see a girl in a kilt. Figuring I could kill two birds with one stone (first, she's a babe, second, she's in a kilt), I decide to snap a photo. The next thing I know, her friend in the blue is handing me a card and saying, "If you want to see more, check this out." The card says, simply, "Gnymphs.net: Softcore Porn, Hard Core Geek Girls." Signed on the back of the card is the name, "Morgan."

Well, I ain't never.

One other person I should mention seeing before I forget is Tom Lommel. Amy and I met Tom back in 1997, at Gen Con in Milwaukee. We were originally in touch with Tom in regards to the Cyberpunk 2020 role-playing game. He was a member of NASCRAG at the time, and since he was at Gen Con that year, we arranged to hook up and have lunch. Tom's a swell guy, and an actor by trade. He and I both have credits in Hungry Little Monsters. He may be moving to California in the next 12 months or so. It'd be swell to be able to see him more than once a year.

I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting. If it comes to mind, and I feel it's important enough, I'll add another entry. But, in a nutshell, that was Gen Con for me. The end of the year is looking to be busy for me, if things work out. I'm happy to have the work; with luck, I'll be doing more of this as time moves on.

See ya!

I'm Back from Gen Con

Just a quick note to say I'm home, as of Sunday night. I'll post a little more later on, along with some photos from the convention.

For now, I'm on baby duty.

07 August 2005

Where Have I Been and Gone?

It's tough to pinpoint when I started role-playing. As in games, that is. I'd been doing the make-believe thing (from soldiers to Star Wars) with friends since I was seven years old. There wasn't any structure to it; I remember that we had a lot of arguments about who had shot who.

My seeds of interest in the fantasy genre were probably planted by (of all people) my father. He and I are estranged these days; he's someone I'd rather not know, so far gone now that I scarcely recognize him on the rare occasion that we are under the same roof.

I have a memory, and it has to be from sometime in 1977. I must've been 3 or 4 years old at the time. The animated version of "The Hobbit" was debuting on television. My father, mother, and I watched it together; I think we were living in Fort Gordon, Georgia, at the time. My mother would know for certain.

My dad loved Tolkien, and I think that had something to do with his own grandmother, Agnes (a wonderful lady that I knew, but I oftentimes wish that she'd had more time on this earth so that I'd've known her when I was old enough to appreciate her). He took me to see Ralph Bakshi's "Lord of the Rings" in the theater, but it was well after the movie had been released in 1978. I suppose it's possible it was a first-run movie at the time, but my time sense is that it was well after I was six or seven years old.

Most of the time that he and I went to movies, we were seeing movies that he wanted to see. That was par for the course, really, insofar as my dad was concerned. In some instances, this wasn't really a bad thing. In others...well, let's just say that he also liked horror films, a taste that I didn't really acquire until I was much older.

We saw titles like, "The Sword and the Sorcerer," "Krull," and "Conan the Barbarian" together. I assume that, from this short list of titles, he had a healthy interest in the fantasy genre. I know he'd read some of Robert E. Howard's stuff. So I'm assuming that he is partly responsible for the fact that I was drawn to fantasy gaming.

I didn't actually read "The Hobbit" until I was in the 5th grade. My teacher, Mrs. Chick, had a special reading group for the gifted children, and we read "The Hobbit" chapter by chapter. I recall reading the chapter "Riddles in the Dark" in the back seat of my parents' car as we drove to Palm Springs one weekend. I know that at some point I also picked up and read "The Sword of Shannara" by Terry Brooks, but it wasn't all that captivating to me.

What really got me into reading, and which eventually led to gaming, were elementary school book fairs. They sold lots of silly things (posters of kittens and ducklings, for instance), but they also sold a few things that I really liked. Such as "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, and (more to the point) "Endless Quest" books, which were set in Dungeons & Dragons campaign worlds. Dungeon of Dread was the first one I bought and read through.

There was an older boy who lived down the street from me named Jason. Jason and I used to read the Endless Quest books to one another in his garage, and we would take turns choosing which route to take. Jason's mother was a Seventh Day Adventist (I think; at the time, name brand religion wasn't something I really registered). The important thing was that she in no way approved of this activity, so when we read the Endless Quest books at his house, we were very careful about it.

Jason told me once that there was a game that the Endless Quest books were based on called "Dungeons & Dragons." He told me that it was better than the Endless Quest books, because instead of having two or three choices of what to do, you had an unlimited number. You could do anything you wanted to do, and you could play any type of character that you liked.

Wow, I thought. That sounds neat.

Jason also told me (in a whisper) that the guy who had created the game was a Satanist, which is why his mother didn't want us reading the Endless Quest books. In retrospect, I guess he was talking about Gary Gygax. My family wasn't much for religion, so I wasn't particularly worried about the religious leanings of D&D's creators.

That's how I found out that D&D was more than just Endless Quest books (which, at that point, I had a pretty good collection of; too bad they've all been lost or thrown away in the intervening years). I begged my mother to buy me a copy of the original "Monster Manual" at a local bookstore (which I still have to this day). The monsters in that book fueled hours of imagination, even though I'd never seen anything but six-sided dice up to that point.

I didn't play the game until I was in seventh grade. I ended up sitting next to a boy named Phillip in my math class. He and I got to talking, and he told me about his older brother, Jeff. Jeff played D&D, and a lot of other games besides. In time, Phil and I played with Jeff and his friends in their D&D games. Sometimes Jeff would run games for us, but this never happened as often as we wanted it to. So we started gaming ourselves. I picked up a copy of Top Secret/SI, and Phil and I played the heck out of that game. We played the Robotech RPG, not to mention West End's Star Wars. I'm sure there are other titles, but those were the ones that really stuck out.

So I guess that's where my gaming roots are. Not real impressive, but I suppose it's not all that unusual.

I eventually branched out into other games: Cyberpunk, GURPS, Vampire: The Masquerade. I made new friends, and lost some old ones. I think I did a lot of gaming, but my memories are vague and indistinct. Sessions run together into a series of highlights and anecdotes.

I don't see any of the people I used to game with while I was still in school. Phil and I had a falling out, but I managed to keep in touch with his brother, Jeff, for quite some time. I haven't seen him in years; don't even know if he's still gaming or not, though I think it would be easy enough to find out.

Anyway...I just got to thinking about it, so I figured I do the math. I might do more of this later, but for now I need to get to work.