30 March 2006

"It's Been Comped."

So said Noelle tonight, when I told her I wanted to pay for the latte they gave me at It's a Grind last night.

"Hey!" I protested. "I told Michelle I'd pay for it."

Noelle shook her head. "Too bad."

So that's that, then. I paid for tonight's iced tea and retreated to my corner to write. I certainly hope these folks stick around for a while, and make some sort of profit. After this "royal treatment," I'd hate to have to go back to Borders/Seattle's Best. I'm freakin' spoiled rotten now.

Especially since Jennifer, the owner's daughter, offered to let me stay and work while they were cleaning up this evening. "Thanks for the offer," I said. "I have to go home and spend some quality time with my wife before bedtime." It's nice to know that I don't have to scurry out like a frightened rodent after hours, especially if I'm on a roll.

The Wizards book is, as they say, "In the bag." Another day or two and an art order and I can put it behind me. It's been a relatively interesting project, a positive experience, and a long-term goal achieved. It was a little more mechanics-heavy than I would have preferred, but that's the nature of the d20 beast. Writing for WotC, even in this limited capacity, is a goal that has long been in my sights.

Oh, one other small news item: I went and ordered a slew of D&D books from Amazon tonight. My wife is a temptress. "You earned the money," she said. Which is true. I did earn the money, word by bloody word. Might as well spend it on something game-related for a change.

By Golly, I'm a Coffee-House Regular

Or so it would seem. I've been there just about every night for the past two weeks. The barrista ladies are starting to call me by name.

I went in last night to work on the current project. Before I left, Amy offered to give me a few dollars to buy my coffee with. I declined; I use my ATM card, and besides, she might want to buy some lunch or something with the money.

I arrive, place my order for a triple latte, and pull out my ATM card. "The credit card machine is down," the young lady tells me.

Under normal circumstances, I'd drive the two miles home and get the cash that had been previously offered to me, and then drive back. But the coffee folks wouldn't have any of that, so they gave it to me on the house. Gratis. Free. I insisted that I'd pay them when I go back tonight, but they didn't seem too worried about it.

Try getting that kind of service at Starbucks.

I'm just about done with my work on the WotC book. Next in line is Enter Title Here for Midnight. That'll be fun, but it will also mean some crunch time. I really expected to be done with the Wizards book earlier, but there's no use whining about it now. I've made my bed, and now it's time to sleep in it.

Catch you later...

14 March 2006

Marcus to the Fourth Degree

So my little cleric will be advancing to fourth level, and I've been agonizing over the choices I need to make. I'd originally decided I'd slap a level of fighter on old Marcus when he hit 4th, but I've decided against that and determined that I'll stick with another level of Cleric. Perhaps I'll go with fighter when I hit 5th level, instead.

I suppose I could go through the reasoning, but it comes down to numbers. Mostly, I like the idea of the save increases for both Fortitude and Will. The extra spells are a nice perk, too. Plus, there's the 4th level attribute point, which I'll be sticking into his Wisdom score.

Fighter was appealing from the standpoint of the bonus fighter feat, and I really hadn't considered what that feat might've been. It won't hurt to wait.

In the meantime, I think Marcus needs to invest some of his hard-earned coin in a heavy crossbow. I'm sick and tired of not having some kind of ranged weapon to plink at bad guys.

Interesting News, and a new TTIII Review

It looks like Black Industries has announced the impending release of an RPG of hulking proportions: the Warhammer 40k roleplaying game. Due to be released as three separate games, it looks like it could be a lot of fun. Now, the hard part: waiting until March 2007, when the first core book sees release. This is a game I'd love to play right bleeding now.

Read the official press release here.

You'll also find a new review of Template Trove III over at ENWorld. The review, written by Duane Nutley, a Staff Reviewer for d20 Magazine Rack, is very kind to my humble addition to the Template Trove series. It's always nice to see one's work appreciated.

Read the review here.

12 March 2006

A Hard Choice

It's only happened a couple of times before, where I've had to choose between participating in two tasty projects. If I were Superman, I might be able to take on every single project that comes my way. Unfortunately, I'm not, and I can't. I have limits, and I have to be fair to both myself and the folks who pay me to write for them. I have to remain conscious of my limitations as a writer/game designer.

It's a difficult balancing act. As I've continued to write, my confidence in my abilities has grown. I remember when the thought of 7,000 words with a month deadline scared the living daylights out of me. These days, I see 7,000 words as ten days' worth of work (if I'm trying to stay comfortable), and a weekend's worth of work (if I need to crank it out post-haste).

While I try to maintain realistic expectations of my own abilities, I certainly don't want to undercut myself. I am oftentimes (okay: I am always) my own worst critic. It's quite easy for me to convince myself that there's no way I can accomplish a specific task in a set amount of time, much less juggle two or even three projects like some kind of literary acrobat. At the same time, if I can look at the time I have available in conjunction with the word counts and relative complexity of the projects at hand, I can often see ways to make it work with time to spare.

It's not only a matter of knowing how much I can get done, either. I've got a family, and I need to devote a certain amount of time to them, too. Giving them less of me than they deserve or need is just another way of making life harder. Fortunately, my wife is the most understanding person I know; my son seems to be equally forgiving.

So that's the way it goes. Without getting into specifics, I've had to cut myself free of one project in order to work on another. My feelings, all at once, include guilt, elation, trepidation, and relief. It's strange, this emotional rollercoaster that they call freelancing. I suppose that we're all different animals with different creative engines beneath our respective hoods, but I wonder if other writers feel the same way when these things happen to them.

At the present, I'm at the new coffee place. Free wi-fi never felt so good. Another reason to scorn Starbucks and Seattle's Best, with their damnable pay as you go commercial wireless networks.

Last night was Alan's Shackled City game. We were down one player due to rotten luck mixed with slick roads: Adam, my brother in law, had a fender bender on the way to the game, and pulled out in order to get things taken care of. With Mike driving down from Palm Springs, the rest of us decided to play without him. It was a bloody mess, but we performed relatively well, taking the bad guy and his brood down after a tough battle.

Will Marcus make 4th level? Will any of us? Here's hoping. We need as much as we can get. The only choice at that point will be thus: should I continue on as a pure cleric, or add a level of fighter in to boost his martial abilities?

My plan was always to stay along the lines of a cleric/fighter, with the emphasis on cleric. I reckoned the ratio would be 3/1, which means I'm due for a level of fighter-type. I don't expect that the difficulty of the campaign will diminish, and we'll need all the BAB and HP that we can get. Spells are nice, but I tend to go through them so quickly.

Anyway, a picture or two from last night's game, featuring product placement by Alex. Because everyone knows that gamers with taste drink Diet Coke.

11 March 2006

Latest Release: Future Player's Companion in Print!

The Future Player's Companion is now in print, and should be gracing the shelves of discriminating game stores as I type this. Formerly released in three electronic volumes by The Game Mechanics, the FPCs have been combined into a single book and published by the great folks at Green Ronin. The FPC was written by myself, Neil Spicer, and Rodney Thompson. Anyone who plays d20 Modern or d20 Future (or any combination thereof) should find the book to be indispensable.

In other news...

It's not that I've given up writing at Borders/Seattle's Best, but given my near-daily forays into that neck of the woods, I'm starting to dislike the drive. You see, the thing that attracts me to Seattle's Best is the size of the coffee shop. It's large, roomy, with lots of tables. It gets crowded, but the clientelle is rarely obnoxious. I've found that it's easy to go into "writing mode" while I'm there, and I get lots of work done.

As I mentioned, though, there's the drive. With afternoon traffic during the week, it can take me nearly 45 minutes to drive home. Between the time spent in traffic and the horrid price of gasoline, I've started to desire a place that is somewhat closer to home. That's not to say that I haven't tried other places in my neck of the woods. None have made the cut. I've tried a number of the local Starbucks shops, but they're either a) too small, or b) rife with distraction.

So I learned about a week ago that a new coffee shop has opened up just down the street from me, maybe five minutes away. "It's A Grind" looks to be a franchise, though I've never heard of it before. I went in today to give the place a shot, and I found it to be a pretty satisfying place to work.

On the plus side, the prices are pretty good (as far as coffee shops go), the coffee I had was tasty, and it wasn't crowded (which is a double-edged sword; there needs to be a steady stream of customers to keep the place in business). The folks who were there (the barrista girls and a few customer-types, including a few local cops) weren't obnoxious. On the down side, it's a smallish place. There are two tables near the rear of the place, by the restrooms, which are perfect places to sit and work, but I have a feeling they'll be prime real-estate for people like me.

I'll go back there tomorrow morning and do some more work on the WotC book. For now, I need to keep any eye on my child before he tears the place down around us.

07 March 2006

I Have Become Bee-Like

That is to say, busy.

One thing I have noticed about this industry is that the work comes in fits and spurts, and not in any sort of rational or predictable manner. Though it has been a steady progression (kind of), there have been occasional periods of dead air punctuated by endless months of breathless creativity.

Take the time being, for example. The WFRP project is moving now, though I dare say I haven't started on it. Given the deadline, I feel that I can slack for a little bit while I wade through my portions of the book I'm working on for Wizards. Add to that a new Midnight project that I'm sharing with Robert Schwalb with a mid-April due date, and you can see what I mean.

Anyway. I'm on lunch, but it's back to buying in a few moments. I'll check back in at a later date.