This Week: The Talented Ranger

Coming This Week!
More than 22,000 words of edges, talents, tricks, traps, and tracking.
Find out what a ranger can REALLY do!

GG to the Talented Ranger Cover

Gen Con Schedule!

I’m being flown out to Gen Con by Paizo, so I’ll be working the show for them this year. My first company-funded GC trip since 2000!
Here’s my schedule for those who want to find me.

I don’t get into town until 3:30 or so, assuming the plane arrives on-schedule. I’ll likely get to my hotel (the Omni) by 4:30-5. I’ll need to eat dinner somewhere, then I have an off-the-grid event that evening starting around 9pm. I won’t be staying up super late though because…

I’m in the Sagamore Ballroom to assist with Pathfinder Society Events! I’ll be here until a little after 10am.
I’m in the Pathfinder 101 Seminar! Learn the backstory of the Pathfinder RPG, Golarion, and it’s iconic characters. At ICC: 231
Back at the Sagamore Ballroom
Seminar, Adventure Design 101. We’ll talk about plotting, encounter creation and balance, mapping, and more! Also At ICC: 231
I mysteriously disappear for the night! Awoooooooooo!

Helping with pathfinder Society in the Sagamore Ballroom!
Seminar, Be The Next RPG Superstar! We’ll give first-timers and veterans tips for submitting successful entries in next year’s contest. At ICC: 231
Green Ronin has a seminar (which I likely won’t be around for) on Pathfinder and Green Ronin, at Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Stn A. Go see what Chris Pramas has up his sleeve!
Meanwhile, I’ll be at the Sagamore Ballroom!
I’ll be at the ENnies, starting with the Cocktail reception. I’m an “ENnie Dream Date” for Alyssa Faden, so come hang out with us!

Once again, Pathfinder Society in the Sagamore Ballroom!
Seminar: Emerald Spire All-Stars! Join a jaw-dropping panel of the game design superstars behind the Emerald Spire Superdungeon, followed by a Q&A and signing. At ICC: 231
I may have a brief window to say hi to folks from 6:30-8pm or so, before I disappear again. ☺

Pathfinder Society in Sagamore all day, except for a break for lunch from noon to 1:30. Phew!

I don’t fly out until 5pm, so if people still want to see me and are sticking around for a bit, I’ll be there!

Shadow Warrior

In late 2009 I wrote The Genius Guide to the Shadow Assassin for Super Genius Games. It was one of SGG’s earliest Pathfinder-compatible products, and we even took the unusual (for us) step of ordering custom interior art for it. It was a huge hit, and remains one of our most-reviewed and best-selling products. Given its great success I decided a follow-up product, The Genius Guide to the Shadow Warrior, was in order. While the shadow assassin was a stealthy killer inspired by tales of mystic ninja and darkness-manipulating sneaks, the shadow warrior was to be a more direct killer, a combatant steeped in the power of shadow, darkness, and stealth. Much as a ranger is a fighter with connections to nature, the shadow warrior was conceived as a fighter with connections to shadow.
But the original design had some issues in playtesting. And then some other products came along that needed more attention.
And then 3 and a half years passed.
I have keep working on the design – tweaking special powers, rewriting troubling sections, sending it back out to playtesters for more feedback. I became a better game designer, so it became a better product, but it always needed at least one more big push to be done. As months slipped away, its priority keep being reduced. I mean if I hadn’t gotten to it in a year, surely 2 years was fine. Or 3. Or…
So last November I was bought out from Super Genius Games, but I got to take nearly all my Pathfinder-compatible design work with me. As I went through old files, I got excited about the shadow warrior again. I went back to work. i was going to have it out by the end of 2013!

Then, I got offered a position as the Pathfinder developer for Green Ronin.
I go back a long way with Green Ronin. They gave me a lot of my early freelancer breaks. Plus I am a huge fan of their setting and rule material, and getting to work on their coming back to d20 gaming was more than I could pass up. I accepted, got to work on the Pathfinder book for Freeport and the new Advanced Bestiary, and figured while the workload was going to delay things, I’d have the shadow warrior out by Spring of 2014!

Then, I got a job offer from Paizo.
I’m not complaining. I’m thrilled to be working for Paizo, even though it’s meant not pushing my own company, Rogue Genius Games, as consistently. Paizo has some of the greatest game and adventure designers in the world, and I am honored to have been included in their number.
But it did mean packing up my entire household, moving halfway across a continent, and settling in to an office schedule again (after 14 years of setting my won work hours as a full-time freelancer).
And I was (and am) still working for Green Ronin.
So Spring of 2014 came and went, and Summer, hit, and I finally got settled enough to make that last push.
So now, quick before Gen Con, I’m taking the last few steps to get the shadow warrior out into the world. Finally. More than 4 years after I originally planned it.
So far, it looks like it’ll have been worth the wait.
GG to the Shadow Warrior Cover

Father, good & bad

My father died in 1996, but that was just the physical culmination of decades of slow suicide. My father drank himself to death, starting before I was even born, but escalating into high gear when I hit my teens, right about the time my sister went off to college. As he had to focus more and more energy on drinking, and managing to hold down a job while drinking, he had less and less of himself to use for anything else. When he was a child, he was a boy scout. By the time I was walking, he didn’t want to be anywhere wilder than a restaurant’s outdoor seating. Growing up I remember him throwing pizza parties for his university students. By the time I could cook, he claimed to be unable to understand how ovens worked. He earned numerous commendations and awards early in his career as an economist. In his last years, the university let him take early retirement out of pity since he hadn’t written anything in a decade, and could no longer face grading papers or talking to students.

My father taught me to play checkers, then chess, then go just as soon as I could move the pieces. Then he took me with him to the local bar, and watched over me as I played with other alcoholics in late summer evenings, after my mother had gone to bed. It was the only way I got much time with him, at that point. By the time I had to learn to shave, he was either unwilling or unable to teach me. My friend Marc Curlee did, instead.
He pulled pranks in college, and once tried to build the world’s largest hookah. By the time I came along, his need for solitude was so great my family literally had to add an addition on to the back of our house, so he’d be far enough away from my bedroom and able to have a space of his own even away from his wife, my mother. He taught me a lot about honor and honestly, but broke many vows and promises. He taught me to value work and savings, but hated his job and wanted to splurge money on luxuries he couldn’t possibly afford. He was an economics professor who loved gambling, though thankfully never to excess.
My father and mother made plans to take my wife and me out for dinner on our first wedding anniversary. My mother had to call me and tell me she was going to do it alone, because my father had moved out of the house weeks earlier, and the night of my anniversary he was so drunk he couldn’t stand or answer his own phone.
Somewhat later, through sheer willpower, he was sober for 6 months solid because someone at a treatment center told him he was an alcoholic, and it was impossible for him to go 6 months without a drink. Right after hitting the 6 month mark, he drank himself into such a stupor he fell and bloodied his head on his apartment wall. But he’d gone the 6 months, so clearly he didn’t have a problem.

A few weeks before he died, I sat in his living room, and told him if he didn’t get help and stop drinking, he’d die. He told me he knew. I gave up. Of course after that when he ended up in the hospital and the doctor told him he was dying, my father indignantly replied “No I’m not!”
He was.
I loved my father very much. I love him still. But I have come to realize that his greatest service to me is as a bad example. Many of my failings – my dislike of being told what to do, my craving for a lifestyle I haven’t earned, my fear of the unknown or uncomfortable, my hated of asking for help, my fear of failure – are very much like my father. And I saw what giving in to those less noble traits did to him. So I fight mine. Not always very well, and not without failures and setbacks. But I fight them. Because I have seen what the alternative is.
I have never been sure what first cracked my father, but I saw how his method of dealing with it shattered him. All I can do is try to learn from his failings.
I know my father loved me. I hope he is at peace now. Despite everything, I deeply honor the good he did for me, the care he gave me, and the fact he did his best to protect me, and teach me.
Happy Father’s Day, dad.

Comicpalooza Schedule!

Heya folks! Next weekend I’ll be at comicpalooza in Houston. Here’s what my schedule currently looks like:

Friday 2pm-3pm Panel: Writing and Designing for RPGs in room 310 A
Friday 6pm-8pm Staff and Guest Mixer in the Hilton

Saturday 12pm-1pm Panel: How to Make Games Your Sole Source of Income in room 370 A
Saturday 2pm-3pm Panel: The Business of Games in room 370 B
Saturday 8pm-?? I’ll be mysteriously missing

Sunday 2pm-3pm Panel: Monster Design 101 in room 372 C
Sunday 3pm-4pm Panel: Networking in the Gaming Industry in room 372 C
Sunday 5pm-6pm Panel: Ask Owen K.C. Stephens Anything in room 370 E

Monday 2pm-3pm Panel: Encounter Design 101 in room 360 B

For more info on Comicpalooza (and the AMAZING list of guests!) check out

Happy DM’s Day!

My mother is an awesome geek, a fan of science fiction and real space exploration and fantasy of multiple descriptions, and to some extent boardgames — but not RPGs. They’re ust not her cup of tea, and that’s fine.
But when I was a pre-teen, and hooked on D&D, and no local group would take me in due to my age? She ran a game for me and a few friends, every Sunday, for about 2 years.
She ran us through scenarios from history, 1001 Nights, a lot of Excalibur myths, and plots from books she was reading at the time. We were 11 and 12, and she exposed us to political campaigns, romantic plotlines, the law of unintended consequences, exploration, mystery, and research games, and only rarely a dungeon crawl. Often, the answer to some vexing in-game puzzle required us to research some real-world bit of logic or history.
When we found another DM, she happily (and I think with relief) turned us over and never looked back. But she still has the “Dungeon Mistress” button I bought her at a Con a few years alter, and though she doesn’t *wear* it, she likes having it.
I grew up in central Oklahoma. I had a lot of friends who were forbidden by their parents from playing D&D. My mother instead ran a game for us, sat and talked with anyone we were playing with so she had an idea what kind of person they were, and encouraged us to have most games at her house (often in her garage) so she knew who I was with, and what I was doing.
So, Happy Mother’s Day, to my first long-term DM!
Thanks, Mom.

New Job

I don’t normally copy Paizo press releases, but in this case I’ll make an exception.
REDMOND, WA (April 3, 2014): Paizo Inc., publisher of the world’s best-selling Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as well as novels, game accessories, board games, and the wildly popular Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, is pleased to welcome the addition of Developer Owen K.C. Stephens to the Paizo design team.
A lifelong gamer, Owen K.C. Stephens began writing articles for Dragon Magazine in 1990, in the hopes of making enough money to pay for his RPG habit. In the decades since, his career has included work for Adventure-A-Week, Green Ronin, Steve Jackson Games, Super Genius Games, White Wolf, Wizards of the Coast, and Paizo. Stephens will join Paizo to helm the development of the quarterly, 64-page Pathfinder Module line, working with both established Pathfinder authors and RPG Superstar winners.
Says Paizo Editor-in-Chief F. Wesley Schneider, “Owen’s been helping us build adventures, settings, and rules for the Pathfinder RPG since its earliest days—you’d be hard pressed to find a single author who’s worked on more Pathfinder-related projects. Now that the stars have aligned for all of us, we couldn’t be more excited to have him lending his expertise to the everyday work of making Pathfinder even more awesome!”
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is the world’s best-selling tabletop RPG, in which players take on the role of brave adventurers fighting to survive in a world beset by magic and evil. The Pathfinder RPG is currently translated into multiple languages, and the vibrant Pathfinder universe has been licensed for comic book series, graphic novels, miniatures, plush toys, apparel, and is being developed into a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game.

Horrifically Overpowered Mythic Feats

Horrifically Overpowered Mythic Feats

Coming April 1st. Seriously.
But your shouldn’t buy it… these are too unbalanced to be of any use to you.
Requires both Mythic Adventures and the Genius Guide to Horrifically Overpowered Feats for use. Which is fine, because you shouldn’t use this book anyway.

Why the Movies SIGNS Makes Perfect Sense

I have explained before (at needless length) about why the movie 2012 makes perfect sense. ( So, here is why Signs makes perfect sense.
The aliens are drunk frat boys in an intergalactic hazing.
Think about it. If rich (rich enough to afford stellar travel, anyway), entitled humanoids are running around naked in an environment that is 2/3 made of harmful materials, and they are so incapacitated they can’t figure out how a door handle works, and they are crashing children’s birthday parties, what else could they be but drunk teens performing stupid dare-based bonding rituals?
In fact, they are SO drunk their wormhole drive gives members of the preacher’s family time-traveling visions of the moments just before they hit the tachyon overdrive to leave the planet (“Swing away”).
It wasn’t an invasion. It was a flashing incident gone wrong.

Twenty Three Years and Counting

Twenty three years ago Lj Hamilton did me the honor of marrying me and taking my last name. It was a decision I had taken more than a year to make, because I took it very seriously. It was also, bar none, the best decision I ever made.

Lj and I are a partnership, so we both get at least partial credit for anything either of us have ever accomplished. My writing career is a spectacular example of this, as without Lj’s encouragement, support, and help (especially in the first few years, when she took the time to edit my every magazine submission before it went in to the staff). It was her idea to submit  articles to Dragon and Pyramid, go to the TSR RPG Writer’s Work in Seattle, and apply for the job I got at WotC in 2000.

Together we’ve faced the deaths of family and friends, moved across the country and back, put in hundreds of hours of road trips (generally playing solo rpgs for half the time as we ground through the miles), screamed a few times, laughed a lot, cried an few times, and learned that while we cannot always guarantee our partner’s success, we can create an environment where it’s safe to try and fail.

Once we’d been married about a decade, we started being asked from time to time, what our secret for success was. Lj encapsulated it once, and it’s a great bit of wisdom I will never forget.

“If you love someone, act like it.”

Love you, sweetie. Happy anniversary.


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