31 July 2006

My Rotten Mood

I'm in a pretty crummy mood tonight. I guess it proves that I'm human. Normally, I try to maintain a neutral tone hereabouts, but that's not happening tonight.

I got off work at my normal time, and then drove to my bank to deposit a check. Nah, it wasn't one of the largish checks I've been waiting for, but it's still money. You might not know it, but I do occasional freelance work for Upper Deck, writing creative content for one of their CCGs. That's where the check came from. Into the bank it goes, cha-ching.

After I put the check in, I drive to It's A Grind. The table I prefer was taken, so I plop down at another one. I must've been sitting wierd, or craning my neck in an odd position, because after an hour or so of that I started to get this dull ache in the right side of my neck. It was moving up, turning into a headache, before it really occured to me that I was in any kind of pain.

I'd only managed to peck out 800 words, which isn't bad for the amount of time I'd been there, but it's still not anywhere near what I wanted to get done today. I've learned that it's a good idea to cut your losses if you're feeling like crap, because no good writing can come out of discomfort. Sure, pain might breed art, but I prefer to think of that as emotional pain breeding art. Physical pain...well, it just sucks.

I drove home and got the mail. It was a waste of time, seeing as it was a handful of junk. Not even any bills in the mail today, much less paychecks or comp copies or month-late birthday cards. Hope springs eternal, I reckon.

I got home, and sent my wife off to nap. She was tired, and I always feel like she should get a break every so often. It's not like I'm out having fun, whooping it up with the boys at Hooters, when I'm writing, but I don't feel any less guilty for leaving her home to mind the child all by herself.

And what a foul mood he was in tonight. I think I must've uttered the word, "No," about sixty times in the first fifteen minutes. First he wanted to crawl on me, applying the force of his heavy feet to the more sensitive portions of my anatomy. It's not like he understands that my lap is not a trampoline, or that it's not normal for daddy to speak in a falsetto like that. He just thinks it's funny.

Then he wanted to stand on the coffee table. Bad idea. His little mind clicks and whirs and he thinks, "Well, then, if I can't stand on the coffee table...I'll stand on the sofa!"

Which earned yet another, "No," from me, along with an order to "Sit down."

He knows what that means, but he looks at me as if to say, "Oh, father? What's that? You can't possibly be speaking to me. I'll just go on doing what I'm doing. How else will I manage to fall and break a bone before I turn two?"

I ended up making him dinner, which consisted of macaroni and cheese, some apple sauce, and a pickle cut into bite-sized pieces. He ate a good deal, so he must've been hungry. After I'd cleaned up the mess, we sat and played Halo 2 until he began to rub his eyes in a manner that suggested he was tired, but unwilling to admit it.

So off to bed he went, after getting a shot of baby Tylenol to ease the agony of his newly-emerging molars (one on each side, at present). Teething is such a pain. Is it any wonder he was being bad? I suppose I'd probably run around being disobedient if I was in constant oral discomfort, too.

Surprisingly, he went to sleep pretty quickly. After his cooing and whining had tapered off to little toddler snoring, I went and got his mother up.

And here I am now. It's almost 10 o'clock, and I have to wake up and go to work in seven hours, after which I have to try to get some manner of writing accomplished before coming home and maybe doing some laundry.

A piece of advice to all you kids out there: don't grow up. It's a pain in the butt. Be nice to your mothers and fathers so that they will allow you to live at home in ignorant bliss of all the responsibilities you would otherwise be forced to accept as an adult.

Mr. Nose, Meet Mr. Grindstone

It's amazing how much work I can do in a single sitting if I put my mind to it, barring headaches, stifling heat, or toddler issues.

In that sense, it was a productive weekend. I've still got a good bit more to catch up on, but I feel confident that I'll have something that is (at the very least) presentable quite soon.

Working on 40k is intimidating. Licensed products, in general, are intimidating all by themselves; but this is Warhammer 40k. Not only do I have to answer to the folks at Black Industries, but there are a lot of hard core fans out there in the Materium with very strong, deeply-entrenched opinions about the setting that I need to consider, as well.

I wonder how it will all pan out in the end. It could go either way. I'm hoping the line will be a success, and it'd be nice to have an opportunity to continue working on it as it grows. We'll see.

I should be writing now, but it's lunchtime and I'm in my cube at work and the time I'm given to eat and relax only amounts to 1 short hour (half of which I've already squandered). I'm waiting to hear from my wife in email, which should happen any time now. Then I'll probably surf the internet until the proverbial bell rings and I am forced to go back to work.

The Emperor protects!

28 July 2006

I'm So Confused

I have been taken by surprise at how quickly the month of July has passed me by. A number of things have gone poorly, in one respect or another: my PbP WFRP game has been ignored, mostly due to my writing obligations (which have snowballed). The TW playtest session has been mothballed, as well, due in part to the lack of local FLGS support, as well as my own insane schedule.

I feel badly about it, but my hands are bound. Better luck next time, I suppose...that is, if there is one.

Part of the reason I feel so crummy is that all thoughts of the playtest had been driven out of my mind in the weeks following my encounter with Game Empire's manager. I promised to post a final decision by 7/1, which I ultimately forgot to do. The heat, as well as family obligations, haven't helped me to focus.

Obviously, I'm all about excuses. I'll try and make it up to folks, somehow.

GenCon is in less than two weeks!

26 July 2006

Uncredited, But Not Forgotten

Due to an oversight, it appears as if artist Frank Walls was not credited for his illustrations in the recently-released Hand of Shadow. Rob Vaughn of Fantasy Flight Games has posted a public apology to Frank, both on FFG's forums and on the Against the Shadow forums. I'm glad he did, or I might not have discovered this talented artist.

To view a couple of other illustrations that appear in Hand of Shadow, as well as some of Frank's other pieces, check out his web site, located here.

25 July 2006

Of Milestones and Millstones

One thing I didn't know about before I started landing writing gigs was the "milestone." In basic parlance, a milestone is a deadline of sorts, before the actual deadline. It's a chance for the folks you're writing for to review your work, make comments, and suggest changes. It also gives them an idea of how far along you are, and whether or not you're on track.

I've got a milestone due on 8/1. I'm not real worried about it, since the final deadline for the project is over two months out. Still, it's a little bit nervewracking. I want to be sure I have a good start, and I want to impress them with what I've got done so far.

So that's that. I've got quite a bit of work to do between now and then, but I've also got a much better idea of what I'm doing now.

Oh, and then there's Gen Con: the best four days in gaming, which will stretch out into six days of getting next to nothing done. Sure, I could resign myself to staying in my hotel room, putting my nose to the grindstone and generating words while my friends, peers, and colleagues venture out into the Indianapolis nightlife, eating and drinking and hanging out.

But to heck with that. If I'm paying for an airline ticket, you better believe that I'm going to try to enjoy myself between the time my plane lands and the time my return flight takes off. It's only fair.

Given that, I'm trying to decide if I should bother taking my laptop with me. On one hand, it's nice to think that I'll find a nice (free) hotspot somewhere over there, but odds are, I won't. I tried last year, and found nothing. I ended up lugging the computer around like a notebook-shaped cross. It's just another piece of carry-on luggage that I'd just as soon not worry about having with me.

From that, it sounds like I've made up my mind already.

As it is, I'll be lugging around a pile of books: my PH, DMG, and TW Player's Manual, for starters. Not to mention the game folder, which will contain the scenario notes, multiple copies of the PC character sheets, etc. My little battle mat, too, along with a handful of miniatures.

Speaking of the minis, I'd originally wanted to pick up some decent figs and paint them up, at least to represent the PCs. I even went so far as to pick them out, but I never did buy them. I don't really have the time to paint them, anyway, at least not to my normal standards. Given that I'm also out of practice (I don't think I've put paint to pewter in, gods...two years?), it would take that much longer to get a suitable paint job done. As much as it might embellish the game, I'm going to have to stick with a handful of pre-painted plastic D&D minis, like I did at SoCal last year. It's a shame.

I'll also need to keep some room open for the inevitable purchases I will be making. How much will I budget? I have no idea. I guess that depends largely on how many paychecks I get between now and August 8th. With luck, I'll be paid for some of my recent releases, which will allow me to go nuts, relatively speaking. Last year, I don't think I bought a single book. I relied on the generosity of others and begged for comp copies.

I've got no idea what, if anything, I'd like to pick up. Probably some of the Black Industries stuff I've been missing (business expenses, don't you know); new releases for the WFRP line, since it's one of the only games I'm keeping up with these days.

So, yeah. GenCon. Soon. The time has passed so quickly, my head is practically spinning. Ah, the joys of impending air travel!

23 July 2006

Event Ticket Up For Grabs

It seems that there's a fellow who bought a ticket to the Thieves' World game I'll be running at GenCon on Friday the 11th. He's putting it up for grabs on ENWorld, and only asking face value for it ($3). As far as I know, all three games are sold out, so if you want to play but couldn't get your foot in the door, this is your chance. You can get in touch with him via this thread on ENWorld.

Today was busy! I managed to get to the coffee shop and do some writing, though, and it was a bit easier than yesterday. I still have a good bit of work to do by next weekend, but I'm confident that I'll be fine.

I just won't see much of my family over the next week and a half..!

22 July 2006

Like Blood From A Stone

So I'm here, writing, and I've done a lot less than I intended to do. Mostly, it's me staring at the computer screen, scratching my head, and trying not to pay attention to the conversations around me. I'm not specifically tired or anything, and I'm not uninspired, particularly.

I'd hoped to get a certain amount done today, but I don't know if that's going to happen quite the way I'd planned. Then again, I haven't really eaten since last night, and I'm planning to hook up with my wife and kid so that we can grab a bite somewhere. Maybe after I eat, I'll be more able to concentrate on the things I need to concentrate on.

More later, perhaps.

21 July 2006

A Couple of Things

First off, this is my 100th blog entry here. I've had the blog up about a year now. I'm not sure what it's worth, but...yay.

Next, Hand of Shadow showed up on my doorstep yesterday. It looks good, and I'm glad it's finally out. As my fourth and (for the time being, anyway) last contribution to the Midnight product line, it's a fairly high note. Feel free to let me know what you folks think of it if you get the chance.

In another piece of news, I've been told that I can give some information as to the project(s) I'm currently slaving away on. Let me give you a hint: the Inquisition.

Okay, okay. So maybe you know, maybe you don't, but BI will be releasing a series of role-playing games based on the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The first game, Dark Heresy, involves the PCs as agents of the Inquisition. I'm fortunate enough to be involved in this product line. I've already done some work on one product, and I'm currently crunching away at the next one.

I can't give much more in the way of details, but I've been bursting at the seams over this for a while now.

I was also able to participate in some playtesting for a project that JD Wiker (of the Game Mechanics) has been working on. This happened on Wednesday evening, and it was a good bit of nasty fun. I'm glad I was able to help out in my limited fashion.

All for now...

18 July 2006

Hand of Shadow Released

And here we have it. I guess it can be ordered from FFG's online store now, which also means it should be showing up at your FLGS any time now. Groovy, eh? Check out the product page here.

Next up, some news from Black Industries: basic product info on the forthcoming Dark Heresy game and companion GM's screen. Information on other products should be posted fairly soon, too.

17 July 2006

The Voting Booth is Open

For those of you who are interested, voting has started in the ENnie Awards. If it's your bag, go on over and cast your ballots. There are plenty of great products and publishers up for recognition this year.

16 July 2006

I Saw It. I Held It In My Hands.

We took a family trip to the Birch Aquarium this morning, and on the way home we swung by Game Empire to kill some time before heading off to a wonderful sushi lunch. There it was, back with the rest of the WFRP titles: Children of the Horned Rat.

I picked it up, stroked the cover, and browsed through the tome, admiring it. I showed it to my wife. I showed it to my son. Then I wiped off the drool I'd unconsciously left on the cover (heck, that's almost as good as an autograph) and put it back on the shelf with its companions.

It looks good. Speaking from a GM's standpoint, it'd be one of those books I'd buy if I didn't already have several copies earmarked for delivery to my front porch (I hope).

The goons across the way are having one of their profanity-laden hip-hop screaming drink-to-excess talk-too-loud laugh-like-buffoons-at-everything parties today. Keri and JD, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's days like today that make me wish I could cast silence. Or fireball.

11 July 2006

The Illusion of Nothing New

Well, with the release of Hand of Shadow for Midnight, my list of up-coming releases has been reduced to a meagre "Several Uber-Secret Projects." Now, all this really means is that I'm working, yeah, or I've got up-coming products on the way, but since they haven't yet been announced, I can't post titles or any of that jazz.

I feel wierd about it, I'm not sure why. It's kinda like, "Gee, I've got nothing to look forward to." Which is far from the truth. It's just that all the releases I've got up-coming probably won't see print until 2007.

There is one product I had a teeny, tiny hand in, which is TGM's Arcane Quarter, and that should be hitting virtual shelves any time now...

Well, then. That's that. Off to bed with me.

10 July 2006

ENnie Nominations Announced

The nominations for the ENnie Awards have been announced. Two of the products that I contributed to (the Thieves' World Player's Manual by Green Ronin [for Best Supplement and Best d20 Product], and Template Troves III by Silverthorne Games [for Best Adversary/Monster Product]) have been given Honourable Mentions.

I don't know if this means that they aren't eligible for votes in the ENnies, or not. Either way, it's still nice to know that the products were considered good enough to be distinguished in some way.

07 July 2006

Still No CotHR (or "Where's the Cheese for my Whine?")

Despite the fact that BI has attested to sending out the comps of Children of the Horned Rat (as well as Terror in Talabheim), I still haven't seen a copy. I'd say I'm not complaining, but I guess I am. At this rate, I'll be paid for the projects before I see them in finished form (which is something I wouldn't actually complain about, really).

I got out of work early today so that I could pick my boy up at his grandmother's. He and I drove to the local (meaning: less than 20 minutes away) game shop, and the child konked out on the way there. I put him on my shoulder after we'd arrived, and he slept quite peacefully as I browsed the store shelves.

They've got every WFRP title produced thus far at the store, right up to Barony of the Damned, but nothing newer. I sighed, shrugged carefully so as not to wake up the boy, and browsed the board games. The guy behind the counter asked if I was looking for anything specific, and I told him.

First off, he's not familiar with RPGs, and I can cut him slack for it. I know the guy from back when I worked at Game Towne; he was a very loyal customer, and now he's semi-retired and works at this store to pass the time and stay tuned to one of his favorite hobbies. Knowing him, I also know that he's much more a wargamer than anything else. That's fine, since the hobby isn't exactly limited to my own narrow slice of it. So when I mentioned the title, he wasn't familiar with it.

Still, what he said basically boiled down to this: it's not lucrative for the store to buy stock of most RPGs because they don't sell. He offered to order the book for me, in which case I'd get a copy within a week's time.

I thanked him, but since I'm supposed to have a number of complimentary copies coming my way, I'd be better off saving my money for a book that I didn't help to author.

So we get back to the double-edged sword of supporting the friendly local game store (FLGS). I'll be honest: about the only thing I buy at local game stores are minis (collectible and non-collectible), and dice. That's it. I will occasionally buy a board game or card game, because it's generally more economical to buy those locally. I've even been known to buy RPG products at a FLGS; I'm not against it, mind you, but I'm a self-admitted penny pincher.

It makes me wonder, perhaps the only reason the store's got all those spanking new WFRP titles on the shelf is because they don't sell, and they've made a decision to refrain from buying future releases because it's waste of their money since the books end up collecting dust. So, as an alternative, they'll offer to special order the books that you want. This means you have to wait up to a week to even browse the title, and then when you buy it, you're paying full cover price plus local sales tax.

As an alternative, I can order the same book from Amazon.com at a substantial discount, it will arrive within 2-3 business days, and I'm not paying sales tax (at least, not yet).

It's a tough choice. I don't want to see the local shops dry up and blow away, but I'm also an economically-challenged freelance writer with a family to feed, clothe, and house. Saving even a few bucks, especially on the things I deem to be luxury items, really does add up in the end. Given the choice of buying online or eating Top Ramen every other day, I'll take the online purchases.

If the crowds of boisterous tweens is any indication, this particular game store (which isn't the one I ranted about previously; you remember, the one where the manager got annoyed because I interrupted his EverQuest game to ask if I could book a table for my four-hour TW playtest, and was subsequently told that I couldn't because there was a Pokemon tournie that weekend) has a seemingly healthy corner on the local CCG market. CCGs are renewable income, and the tournaments provide additional cash payments. Are they close enough to bankruptcy that supporting the local RPG community is out of the question?

Which leads me to wonder, is there a local RPG community? If there is, are they not supporting local shops? And if they aren't, are their reasons in any way similar to my own?

It seems that the slippery slope gets slipperier. I hate to be a lukewarm supporter of my local game stores, but it's hard to get behind them when they don't support me, either as an author (by not carrying the products I work on) or as a gamer (by not carrying the products I may be willing to buy).

Not to mention Game Empire, which won't even give up valuable table space to cater to the RPG crowd.

I love the hobby, but I'm a bit frustrated. It's not like this is news, particularly, but it still annoys the snot out of me, and I had to vent a little.

05 July 2006

Ashamed of the Game

I read a post today on RPG.net, and it got me to thinking. Am I ashamed of the fact that I'm a gamer?

The short answer: no, I am not.

I've never been particularly shy about letting people know that I'm a gamer. At the most, I'm no more shy about telling folks that I play D&D than I am about telling them that I do this, that, or the other thing. What's to hide? If it comes up in a conversation -- if someone is really interested enough to ask me -- I'll tell them flat out: I play RPGs and I write RPGs.

Now, in my experience, when it does come up in casual conversation with non-gamers, they do one of two things: they nod, smile, and move the conversation on; or, if they have an interest, they'll ask for details.

In either case, I've opened up a virtual Pandora's Box for them. It's rare that anyone will care to ask more than a couple of questions, and if they do, that's fine. I'll try to make sure I don't get too in-depth; let's face it, some of the minute details of gaming can be pretty damn boring, even to gamers.

I've only ever managed to cultivate a couple of new players in this fashion, and these were people who'd gamed earlier in their lives, but had since lost touch with the hobby and wanted to try their hand at it again. Recruiting new players from the ranks of non-gamers seems to be a rare occurance. Why? Beats me; maybe the stereotype of "gamer = geek/nerd" is ingrained in their consciousness, and God forbid that anyone do something that is considered geeky by the rank and file.

Is gaming geeky? You might as well ask yourself if Chess, Checkers, Monopoly, Clue, The Game of Life, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, Jenga, Twister, or any one of a number of common family board games are geeky. What makes these games socially acceptable/mainstream, while role-playing or wargames are "fringe"? Is it because the latter are more visibly keyed to "make believe," and "make believe" is a childish pasttime?

I think that some gamers feel persecuted. There's this racial memory (or something) stemming from the days of Pat Pulling and BADD. It constantly crops up on message boards, and the argument that RPGs are somehow evil or Satanic or involve real magic has been debunked so many times by so many qualified individuals that it seems like an exercise in self-validation to continually bring it up in public forums.

When was the last time that gaming was portrayed in the mainstream media in a negative light? I'm not talking about the occasional 700 Club expose on evil role-players or the Vampire card game; I'm talking about Dan Rather telling the American people that Satan is amongst us in the form of dice-wielding nerds. I can't recall anything recent; which isn't to say that there hasn't been something, but I'm sure it would've been transmitted through the grapevine by now.

So why the bum rap, both within the hobby and without? Is the bum rap from without merely our own self-persecution or "gamer pride" coming to the fore, uninvited and unprovoked? Or is there really some threat from beyond?

Concerning my own habit of speaking plainly about my gaming hobby, there are folks in my workplace who know about it. A couple of them will occasionally tease me, and this is easy enough to shrug off. They mean it in a good-natured kind of way (at least, I hope they do), so it's easy to ignore or laugh at.

Being involved in a hobby -- any hobby -- can lead to extremist attitudes. Someone who rides his bike religiously, participates in marathons or races, and who has a life-sized sculpture of Lance Armstrong in their den might be perceived as strange, too. Still, biking (or skiing, or surfing, etc.) are physical activities that are accepted enough to see prime time on television. Poker, as well, is something that you can tune into, though I wouldn't necessarily peg it as my kind of spectator sport.

When was the last time someone televised a D&D game? I'd like to see that, even though I'll be the first to admit that it'd probably be really boring unless the production values were through the roof. Like Poker, I don't see D&D as a spectator sport, either.

As far as inducting non-gamers into the hobby, I can't say I haven't tried. I'd never ask someone I'd just met if they'd want to play in my group, whether they were a gamer or not. I need to know what sort of person they are, what their likes and dislikes are, before I even begin to consider adding them to the roster. Even then, they'd have to express an interest for me to broach the subject.

Once more, I'm off on a rant. Heh. Enough grandstanding. My lunch hour is just about up, though, so maybe I'll touch on this more later on.

04 July 2006

I Am Fortunate


From a personal standpoint:

I have a great family. My wife and son povide me with no shortage of love, happiness, and support. My mother is always there when I need her.

I have wonderful friends, both locally and abroad. No matter the distance, I can always count on them for advice, information, or a friendly chat.

I've got a good job. I don't make six figures a year, but I'm still able to afford little luxuries here and there; a show, a nice dinner out, an iced latte at the coffee shop.

From a professional standpoint:

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with many gifted authors and designers on projects (and products) that I believe in.

I have been able to write for some great game companies, such as (in no specific or particular order) Green Ronin, the Game Mechanics, Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight Games, Black Industries, and Silverthorne Games. These companies are all top notch, they pay on time, and they support their freelancers.

Most of all, I've been able to create a small niche for myself in an industry that has been a part of my life, in one form or another, since I was in grade school.

The reason I'm posting this is because it's easy for me to lose sight of the fundamental things that make my day to day existence enjoyable and interesting. Life isn't all fun and games, and I get distracted by the daily worries that haunt us all: bills, taxes, traffic, world affairs, politics (God forbid), aches, pains, and age.

Wait...it's Independence Day, not Thanksgiving...

03 July 2006

Just For Fun...

I've no idea how accurate this is, but...

You scored as Storyteller. You're more inclined toward the role playing side of the equation and less interested in numbers or experience points. You're quick to compromise if you can help move the story forward, and get bored when the game slows down for a long planning session. You want to play out a story that moves like it's orchestrated by a skilled novelist or film director.





Method Actor






Power Gamer


Casual Gamer


Law's Game Style
created with QuizFarm.com

So that's my score. How about you?