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...