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...