Monthly Archives: August 2017
I used to send type-written article proposals to Dragon Magazine via US Postal Service, with a S.A.S.E. (That’s a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope, for those of you who weren’t trying to get published in the 80s and 90s.)
Then I’d wait 4-6 weeks for a response. If there were things he’d like to see some different version of, I had to send ANOTHER written physical piece of mail. If something was approved, or approved with changes, I had to type that out, then mail in the typed article.
When then-Editor of Dragon Dave Gross sent me an email address (sent my US post) I could use to send in magazine proposals and submissions from that point on (with orders it Not Be Shared), around about my third article, it was a HUGE boost to my career. But I began with paper submissions.
By the time I was interviewed for a job at Wizards of the Coast, I could bring files with me on a 3.5″ floppy, in case I stayed someplace with a business center that had a computer I could work on. (A laptop, though they existed, was entirely outside my economic grasp.) So when I was flown out for a in-person interview, I managed to finish a Dragon article between when I left home and when I arrived at the old WotC building to wait an hour or so for my interview, so when a Dragon editor ran down and asked if I knew when the article would be ready, and I gave him the disk, he hugged me and ran back upstairs to begin editing it immediately.
Of course, that meant the people who were about to decide if they wanted to hire me heard about how I brought a much-needed article with me, just before my interview.
Paper. Stamps. Email. Floppy disks. It could be done before filesharing and blogs and Google Docs.
(Looks around. Nods once. Trundles back to dinosaur cave.)
The Modern Era
Now, I can offer material directly to the end-users, with things like My Patreon!
Adventure idea: A community of unusually short-tailed, round-headed ratfolk (an ethnicity called ‘voles’ by other local races) who live in borrows (boroughs?) outside a major city have begun to be assaulted and driven out of local markets by rougher citizens of the city. The settlers accuse the ratfolk of theft, and desecration of several shrines within the city, saying the ratfolk move through the city’s sewers and drains, and have even been seen trying to get at children asleep in their homes.
The ratfolk proclaim their innocence, and point out they warned the city’s leaders weeks ago that wererats had been spotted in the thick brush of a nearby woods. The ratfolk believe the wererats have infected some city dwellers. The city government thinks the ratfolk are making false claims about wererats to protect some ratfolk hooligans, and thus aren’t taking it seriously.
Thus the ratfolk need help, because the wererats (who do indeed walk among them, including a few wererat ratfolk who only have a modest appearance change in hybrid form) are a demon cult who wish to summon agents of their demonic patron, a scavenger lord who spreads disease and uses vrocks as his agents. The wererats have summoned one vrock already, and want two more so they can do a dance of ruin beneath the city streets! So, the rastfolk want to hire some outsiders (the PCs) to fairly investigate.
The players must separate fact from fiction, deal with hunting down were rats both in the city sewers and hiding in plain site among the ratfllk, and ultimately deal with the apocalyptic whereat demon cult’s plans.
The name of the adventure?
“Vrock and Vole”
Full-time, on-staff tabletop/pen-and-paper RPG writers with benefits are incredibly rare in the US.
I was told in 2000 there were more full-time astronauts in the US (149 at the time) than full-time, on-staff RPG writers. I suspect that was true at the time. There are fewer US astronauts now, and a lot more small companies with 1 or 2 people running it as full-time jobs, so whether it’s true now is going to depend on how you define things.
Getting on-staff at a game company as a creative of any kind (designer, developer, R&D, writer… titles vary by company) requires you to have a proven track record and a reputation for being someone that is easy to work with. In my opinion, nowadays the easiest way to get those started is by writing things for social media (one of the reasons I have a blog, for example), then work cheaply for small game companies, often for pdf-only or print-in-demand products. Hopefully you’ll get better, get more work, and come to more people’s attention. As your network of contacts spread and more people know about you, the size of company that is interested in working with you goes up.
The leap from that to an on-staff position is still a big one. I worked for Wizards of the Coast from 2000 to 2001, then was a full-time freelancer for most of the next 13 years before I got another staff job here at Paizo. You may have better luck than I did, or you may want to start your own publishing company, or begin a Patreon, or just do freelance work for several different companies, many of them smaller than Paizo.
Good luck to everyone who tries!
I often play with new mythologies when writing up new campaign worlds, and some work out better than others. When making new mythologies, I like to remember that real-world mythology is often much, much weirder and more primal than the neat pantheons we often get in RPGs.
It’s a fantasy world. Have fun with it. And\ example:
“Think you that first came gods in man-form, in the shape of elf or dwarf was born divinity? Now, all these gods are but recent tribes, attested by those who build shrines to the power that look onto them.
Before the god tribes were the Hrimthur, the storm gods, and the Svadilfar, the horse gods. The Hrimthur sought to freeze or drown or shatter with wind and lightning all living things, and of all the first animals, it was the noble horse gods, the Svadilfar, who put the Hrimthur in check. Long were their battles, but in time the Hrumthur were driven back to the mountains and oceans, from where to this day their make their assaults in the storm seasons.
The Svadilfar sought to heal the world damaged by their battles, and the eldest and wisest of them, the mare Sleinyrsa, saw among the animals two that were more clever. She selected them, the female Freafar and her mate the male Wojanan, to aid in rebuilding the world. They were allowed to ride on Sleinyrsa herself, and thus became gods, and selectors of dead animals to also ride upon the Svadilfar. And this god riders became the tribes of tool-using gods, second only to the Svadilfar, and kin to the Raven King gods, who also learned of tools.
And from these tribes later come all the gods of elf, and gnome, and dwarf, and man.”
I had always wondered what the HELL could cause Cthulhu* to give so much side-eye.
I now believe he had read the commends section of the Necronomicon.
“The layout of R’lyeh is so bad it’s hard not to conclude it was intentionally designed to inconvenience visitors.”
“A single read-through and I have already found five runes that would cause you to be ripped apart in the streets by invisible spirits. I am disappointed, as I (very reasonably) expected better editing from my favorite Elder God. No effort went into this.”
“I know Cthulhu may be uncomfortable discussing how chubby his tentacles are getting, but as a fan I feel I have to make sure he understands how dangerous that is for his health.”
(With much love to artist Erol Otus, and the original 1st Edition Deities and Demigods.)
On a warm summer’s eve
On a team bound for nowhere
I met up with the gamer
We were both too tired to sleep
So we took turns a-starin’
At the window with the forums
The boredom overtook us,
And he began to speak
He said, “Son, I’ve made a life
Out of readin’ GM’s faces
Knowin’ which big monsters
Had caught their beady eyes
So if you don’t mind me sayin’
I can see you’re out of d6s
For a sip of some Jolt cola
I’ll give you some advice”
So I handed him my bottle
And he drank down my last swallow
He pulled out a tablet
With a screen with a backlight
And the night got deathly quiet
And his faced lost all expression
He said, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right
You’ve got to know what’s your THACO
Know who to whack-o
Know when to fireball
Or to pull a gun
You never count your gp
When you’re still in an encounter
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dungeon’s done.
(With apologies to Kenny Rogers)
I try to be open about my various mental, emotional, and physical issues. But I also try to not harp on them. I’m not sure what the right balance is, but as I sit 10 days from Gen Con, and the release date for a whole series of books that have eaten up a lot of my headspace, it seemed reasonable to offer a snapshot of how I am doing.
The idea here is not to bemoan my circumstances (I am fortunate and privileged in many, many ways) or ask for help (I have the support I need). But I do want people who feel their own limitations puts various achievements out of reach to be able to see the spectacular level of imperfection that is normal for me. Your path may well be much harder. I’m not trying to give some life coach pep talk. Just honestly share where I am, and let all of you who care to read it decide what that information means for you.
There’s more work to be done than hours or brain cells to do it, and even when I have the time I don’t always have the capacity. Numerous things that trigger many of my anxieties are all happening at one, and even knowing I have been through these things many times before doesn’t really seem to help me keep a handle on things. This is a spectacular confluence of events hammering my sense of calm. As an analogy–knowing ripping the band-aid off will hurt, and that it’s both necessary and temporary, doesn’t reduce the pain of doing it.
I’m not getting enough sleep, and I am stressing too much. These factors will build until after Gen Con, and then, maybe (but only maybe) I can get my life back to some semblance of normalcy. Until then, I am desperately trying not to let anyone down, not turn over sub-par work for anyone else to have to clean up (a task at which I have apparently already failed a couple of times), and not cry in public. That last is trickier now that I work in an office than it was when I worked from home 90% of the time.
I know, intellectually, I am going to get through this. I am even proud of a lot of the things I am accomplishing, and I have no intention of giving up. But I also am being honest with myself–there are yet more rough times ahead. There will be great times mixed in with them, too. That’s kinda how life works. My depression is a wild card, but even that I’ll get through if it rears up. The important thing is to keep doing everything I can, whenever I can. Some days will be good. Some will be bad. And I need to keep to my coping mechanisms, and forgive myself when they break down.
I’m exhausted, and repetitious, and run down, and worried. But sometimes I am proud and excited, too.
To a lesser extend, this is what any major new release or convention appearance does to me. this year is just magnified significantly in all regards.
It’s all imperfectly normal for me.
This is a spoiler-free review.
Where I am Coming from: I have read, and enjoyed, the Dark Tower books, but I’m not invested in them, their characters, or the story elements. I have no primal need to see any of it in a specific form, so I can’t be disappointed the way I could be by Lensman or other formative stories of my life. To me the ideas are the best part of the Dark Tower, and I am most interesting in seeing those ideas on the screen, rather than any specific character or event.
My Reaction: I enjoyed this movie very much. I found it to be well written, well acted, and well directed. The ideas I am most interested in from the Dark Tower began to be presented (obviously you can’t fit all the neat ideas from a multi-book series into a single movie), and the movie developed some of its own neat stuff, which I think is important for an adaptation.
It also gave me tons of ideas for stories and game elements, which is also a big bonus for me with a movie. There were a very few Easter Eggs I noticed that I enjoyed.
The Audience’s Reaction: The crowd at the theater I was at seemed to like the movie a lot, and their was applause when it ended. On the one hand I was at a super-cheap 11am Saturday matinee (less than $6 tickets) so people might have lowered the bar, but on the other hand the sound cut out briefly a couple of times at the beginning so a lot of people began the experience annoyed.
Of the people around me, I heard one person who specified they loved the books, and one person who said they’d never read the books, and one person who said they normally hated Stephen King all mentioned they enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t hear anyone have anything negative to say, though obviously the majority of folks didn’t share any opinion at all where I would hear it.
My Entirely Anecdotal and Subjective Verdict: I thought this movie did a great job of a very difficult task, and I hope the plans to related tv series and sequels are carried out. Most of the changes made from the source material seemed to be to have been made for reasonable goals, even if I might have gone a different direction with them.
This is particularly good as a source or inspiration for certain kinds of RPG settings, though I can’t say what without adding a spoiler. If you watch the reviews, it should be clear.
In my binary digit-based rating system, it gets a thumbs up.