Gary Con I and Junior High Revisited

Last weekend I drove up to Lake Geneva for my first ever visit.  I was fortunate enough to attend GaryCon I, a memorial convention put on by the Gygax family.

I met Rob Kuntz face to face and was lucky enough to have an invite to lunch from him.  That was a great time.  Rob took me to an old pizza spot where the TSR regulars used to gather for lunch or for an evening’s round of pizza and playing games.  Just up to street were the old TSR offices.

I met several members of Dragonsfoot and several movers and shakers from Castles and Crusades and various other Indie game authors and artists.  They were all very, very nice.  All in all it was a great weekend.

Sunday I was lucky enough to get into an AD&D game run by Frank Mentzer.  Yes that is the Frank Mentzer of “Mentzer D&D”.  He was also very nice and I was impressed with his great ideas and obvious talents as a DM.

I left the convention early on Sunday to drive back and beat a growing chance of snow.  On the way home I took a side trip back to Wheaton, Illinois.  This is the suburb outside of Chicago where I lived with my family all through 5th and 6th grade (when I went to Lowell Elementary School), through 7th and 8th grade (Franklin Jr. High) and finally my entire Freshman year (Wheaton Central High School).

Wheaton now vs then…

Our little house on Evergreen street was ridiculously small.  As a kid it never, ever seemed that small.  Even the little shotgun shack where we live now in Kansas was easily a third again the size of our house in Wheaton.  The window to my old bedroom and what I could determine to be the extent of my old bedroom itself was especially tiny.

Where the streets and neighborhood used to be filled with kids it is mostly a community of older / retired people now.  There are few children anywhere in that neighborhood.  I remember walking to school from my house the mile and a half or two miles or so up through downtown Wheaton, through the christian college campus all the way to Franklin Junior High on the North side of town.  I remember being accompanied by dozens of other kids, mostly friends of mine.

The big gothic county seat building which seemed old then is mostly closed up now.  All the old stores, including the wonderful book store and hobby shop I remember as a kid, all gone.  Even the old movie theatre has been sold and turned into a church although the kiosk was the same.

I took it in hand to walk my old street and pass the silent houses of where all my friends from those days used to live. 

I remembered a particular moment with crystal clarity.

A young, bright shiny me was walking to school on that same street oh maybe twenty five years ago now…next to him was his good friend at the time, Joe.  I had received the news that Joe was moving to Florida (and would soon learn that my own family was moving to California).  I was telling Joe that someday we’d meet up again in Wheaton and that we’d both be all grown up.  Maybe we’d be rich.  Maybe even famous.  Joe teased me that he’d be the famous one, probably president or something that I’d be some dirt poor bum.  I think I insisted that I was going to be writing game books…maybe I’d get a job writing games for TSR and get to work for Gary Gygax himself.  My love of roleplaying games was pretty deep even at that young age.

So there I was.  Standing in that same place on a dreary rainy March afternoon some twenty five years later.  Feeling old and out of shape.  That other me was such a hopeful, shining and enthusiastic soul…I was full of daylight…like the town used to be but was no longer.

It struck me that the Wheaton that once was.  That place where my friends and I used to walk to school together, have our snowball fights, stand outside of the movie theatre downtown to catch a glimpse of the new star wars movie…that place where I used to mow lawns for five bucks and save my dollars up to buy the latest Judges Guild book or miniatures…that altogether boisterous youthful happy place still exists…yet only within my memories.

I will miss that old Wheaton yet I understand that it is no more… just as I will miss that bright shiny me from so many years ago…yet I still have them both, carried carefully and with great affection deep within my heart and memory.

I did return to Wheaton Joe.  I stood outside your old house and raised a soda for you.  I hope you are well wherever you are.  I am not rich in money although I count myself the richest of rich men when it comes to my many friendships and my children, wife and family.

I now write games and do art for them, just as I had dreamed to do so many years ago.  I only just missed getting to meet Gary Gygax but I count myself among his friends.  I feel more than blessed to be getting to know some of the very people whose D&D books I’d read until those copies were so hopelessly dog eared and tired.

If you ever run for president Joe.  I will vote for you.


2009 Conventions

I will be at a couple of conventions this year.  Most notably Gen Con, Indie…Lake Geneva Con and Gary Con.

Maybe one other if I can swing it.

This year I will not be doing a table.  I will just be scouting things out, gathering information from other vendors or artists by asking them how they like it, what they would recommend, what to avoid, what to be sure to remember…

Then in 2010 I hope to do my first convention table.  By then we’ll have a small stack of different books to table and a couple of portfolios filled with art to hang up and show off / sell.

Getting a table at something like Gen Con is expensive or at the very least a major logistics undertaking.  I will be scouting how to have a table space for the smallest cost and get the biggest bang for my buck.  My hope is that I will at the very least pay for my Gen Con trip with sales at the table.


Sunday into Monday (Is it really March already?)

Spent the weekend fiddling with plugging my document into Word so the editor can more easily make changes and recommendations.

I have to find a better way.  Isn’t there an edit function if you own the full Adobe suite right in the .pdf program?  At least so you can make notes and send back for changes? 

Copy and pasting everything out of Indesign into Word and then taking the changes done in word and plugging them back into Indesign is going to really stink…the problem I have is that I absolutely loathe writing in Word.  Oh well I’ll probably just have to bite the big bullet and write everything in word, edit it and then after that is done finally plug it into indesign.

Spent the weekend working on art.  Getting paid a little money even.  Still.  I have to say that my heart goes out to artists big time.  Huge hours get dumped into a piece of artwork that a client then demands a change on which then means even more hours dumped in to make the changes.  If I wind up making two dollars an hour doing artwork I’m right in the ballpark. 

Outside of volunteering for artwork for a few magazines here and there and then fairly rarely I think I am going to confine my art to one or two special clients and my own books.  Doing art for my own books is really the only way that doing fantasy / science fiction art at all makes any sense economically.

I’m going to have to way tone down my doing free artwork for these fanzine publications and retro clone rule books though.  The more I look at where I spend my time and in this economy…whether what I am spending my time on is putting food on the table for my kids…I can see alot less freebie artwork in the future.

In short order though I’ll have at least two solid clients with pretty high map and art demands.  They both pay but the point isn’t the money, its working for -some- amount of pay and learning the business from people who know it from the inside out.  I’ll have scads of art to work on when I factor in the dozen or two dozen pieces for each of my own books…so much that I’ll probably be turning out more than a hundred published pieces of RPG artwork a year.

Well…there’s no school like the school of hard knocks.  I’ll be learning by doing.


The New Book

Tomorrow a large chunk of the new book is wrapped and goes to the proof reader / editor for review.  This will move something like seventy percent of the book out of the “still able to fiddle with it” realm into the “beyond the changes recommended by the editor…I’m not changing this any time soon” realm.

Its a big step.  As things close in on the wrap…which won’t be for several weeks yet, I am pounding away on art projects both for the new book and for some other projects.

All in all quite busy.

2009 – Here we go.

Its time to get things rolling.

Love it, hate it…RE is moving forward.

First stop is a prequel for the Rocketship Empires setting that introduces an old school / retro style rules set.  This book is slated to be posted as a free…yes…don’t fall over…a free .pdf download for the next four to eight weeks to allow people to comment and generally provide feedback.

The Tramp Freighter Book – Is Done

It is slated for release on April 30th. 

Jeez Ed, why so late?  Well.  We are already a year late.  Instead of pumping out a bunch of books in a month or so that have been on the back burner I am now going to get into the swing of writing for the book coming out in say….six to eight months. 

Meanwhile hanging on to this book and the next one or two and slowly releasing them about every other month will get me on top of some kind of work flow and release schedule.

That is mission critical and its what is going to happen.

The Kingdom of Holland Region Book – Pretty Much Done…release date is June 30th.

2009 is going to see a major change in direction in the company, in the books, in my style as a writer.  In early 2008 we did great but what with everything else that went down I can see that I was just way in over my head.

So in 2009 we are going to take a big step back and start making game books for the main reason we began making them…because they are fun…and for fun….not to make a big splash or name or big dollars.

That means some major changes in direction and looks…

It means creating a core rule book or two which is offered absolutely free to download.  That’s right free.  We’re largely a labor of love and so why not act like it.  The print copies will cost some as I have to go through for anything printed but they will still be a pretty good deal all things considered…plus I won’t have to be in the picture when it comes to printing books.  Bonus.

The reorganization is going to be kind of a big pain in the tookus and I don’t expect everyone will be completely happy BUT at least it will put me back in a situation where I can write books and not stress about it.

Its time to go back to the original premise that if I am selling fifty or a hundred little fun game books and people generally like them and think they are a good value….then awesome.

Its just going to be about doing a good job without killing myself doing it and having fun as a sideline from here forward.


Happy Halloween

Fall is my favorite season.

After spinning my wheels outside of game writing and such I feel like a very difficult life challenge is passing into the rear view mirror of life.

What a crazy year 2008 has been. 

We still have November and December to turn things around and make it a more or less good year from the perspective of all things RPG.

I am turning the garage into a dedicated table top RPG room.  Having this luxury was recently approved by my lovely wife Valerie.  I am about to the point of finishing getting rid of the massive stockpile of old boxes and clutter that the garage had turned into since our move here two years ago and moving on to the patching the finished walls..painting and putting down some sort of floor cover phase.

In the end I’ll wind up with a dedicated, clean space with its own heater.  All my game books, figures and painting and such will go out there.  I also want to put a drafting table out there so I can work on my art and turn it into a sort of art studio.


Switching the Tramp Steamer book to the first in line.  Going to keep working at the module and trying bloody hard to get it done before the year’s end.  If the gods are with us and merciful there will be one other sixty page or so pdf book up before the year’s end.  Likely a region book.

I want to get the ship moving again so that 2009 can be a good year for us from beginning to end.

On a very personal note a good year from my personal perspective is…

A year I get to spend time with my kids and wife…and I don’t deal with chronic pain or similar problems AND a year I get to be creative and do alot of game book self publishing, game art and cartography. 

My art is improving.  I’ve some opportunities to actually see some of it out there in various game publications and magazines very soon.  My cartography is also coming along.  If all works out well somewhere between now and the end of 2009 I’ll be doing a fair amount of illustrations and maps in my own book.

I like that possibility.  I would also like to see Chris and MIke doing more art for RE in 2009.  I do think that will happen but its a matter of logistics. 

Happy belated Halloween everyone.  Its been a pretty fall out here in Kansas.



Margaret Weiss and her publishing group announced that they will release the core book for the Cortex game system at Gen Con this year.

Big congratulations to everyone who contributed to that project as it is definately one of the better game systems to roll out in a very long time.  I will resist the urge to ooze geeky excitement over the pending release of the updated and expanded rules.  I can see how this set could be applied to just about any setting and especially to science fiction games.

I will be most curious to see if there is a license offered for Cortex.  Here’s keeping fingers and toes crossed as it would be a great system to write for.