I Found That Essence Rare

Well it seems we got the all the bad mojo out of the way at the beginning of the trip. Been in wall to wall meetings all week, but it’s all been good. Much plotting and planning that will keep us busy for years to come. Not much more I can say about that right now. In true Warhammer fashion, however, I have eaten too many meat pies and must really have some fruit or something tomorrow. Nik and I did go to a great eatery called the Loch Fyne Restaurant a few nights ago. It not only specializes in seafood, but seafood harvested from one specific loch in Scotland. I had a platter with four different types of smoked or cured salmon that was outrageously good. I would go back in a second.

It’s lovely to see a huge fuss break out about my blog while I’m overseas and with limited e-mail access. I’ll simply note that this is my personal website, not the Green Ronin site, and there’s a big difference. GR employs both staff people and freelancers with widely differing political views. I’ve published many authors whose politics I’m absolutely opposed to. Nonetheless, they get work from me because they are good game writers and RPGs are about entertainment, not politics. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Oh, and regarding my archives, I know they are broken. They have been since the page went up and I’ve never been able to figure out why.

To Recap

We left on Friday and flew into Chicago and a huge snow storm. After landing, we spent 45 minutes on the ground because another plane was being deiced in our gate. When we left the plane, we raced to get to our next flight, which was scheduled to leave in five minutes. We spent another half an hour at the gate, as it was deiced, then another half hour on the runway waiting for plows to finish and other plans to leave. Amazingly, we get out of Chicago, one of the last planes to do so. Flight is OK except for Russian jackass behind us who keeps kicking our chairs.

We arrive in London Saturday morning. Guess what? The delays of our flight were not enough for our luggage to get onto the second flight. They assure us bags will be in the afternoon. We head off to Nottingham. By this morning, no bags have arrived. Airline says the express company had them 4 pm on Saturday. Today we had no fresh clothes, no adaptors, etc. At 4 pm the bags finally arrive. It took the ‘express’ company 24 full hours to get us our stuff. Jackasses.

Now I’m on the hotel web station and I can’t get my e-mail. I’m hoping everything gets better from now on on this trip. Later.

Perfect Timing

Well, Bush’s lying face is all over TV because of the inauguration coverage. I can’t even bear to listen to him talk anymore. Just makes me want to punch him in his smug privileged face every time he opens his mouth. I’m reminded of the words of the late lamented comic Bill Hicks, who said this about Rush Limbaugh: “Every word out of your mouth is a turd in my drink.” That pretty much sums up how I feel about Bush. I tell you, just thinking about his second term makes me want to leave the country.

The good news is: I am leaving the country! For a little while anyway. Nik and I are flying over the UK tomorrow. We’re going to GW HQ for a bunch of meetings, just over a year since our last trip. Long time readers may recall how cryptic I was about our previous trip, since we hadn’t announced the deal yet. Thankfully, no such skullduggery is necessary this time. Come next week I’ll be drinking pints of cider in Bugman’s, GW’s onsite pub. Yes, they really do have a pub. That’s taking care of your employees.

I expect updates to be unlikely next week, but who knows? Maybe I’ll have some free minutes and an internet connection. We’ll see how it goes. Now it’s time to pack.

Return of the Playa

Pretty much since I was 12 years old, I’ve always been the guy in my game group who was most interested in new games. I was the one who bought games all the time, compared systems, and convinced others to try something different. With RPGs, this has meant I’ve spent more time behind the GM’s screen than in front of it. Oh, I like playing. Love it, in fact. But oftentimes, if I didn’t run a game, there wouldn’t be a game.

A couple of years back I tried to break the rut of my weekly group by issuing an ultimatum. At the time I was working on d20 stuff all day long and then running D&D; at night. There’d come a point every Thursday where I’d stop grinding d20 stat blocks so I could grind different d20 stat blocks to prep for the game. Finally, I told my group, “Look, either one of you has to start running D&D; or you guys have to let me switch to a different game for awhile.” I offered to run Call of Cthulhu or Pendragon but there wasn’t much interest in those (some day I’ll find the right group for a great Pendragon campaign; some day). A couple of the group made attempts to run D&D; in my stead, but they didn’t last long. Within a couple of months, I was back to GMing. They agreed to try Decipher’s Lord of the Rings game for a change of pace. I set up a big cool campaign that took place in the Long Winter. Had all kinds of great stuff planned too, but everyone hated the game system. When I admitted defeat and told the group that WFRP2 was ready for playtesting and I wanted to switch, people actually cheered.

The WFRP playtest lasted the rest of 2004 and wrapped up right before Xmas. We weren’t sure what we were going to do next, but then Ray told me he was interested in running a game. He joined the group for the first time last week so we could make characters. Last night we played the first session. Ray’s choice of game: Victory’s old James Bond 007 RPG. I hadn’t played the game since high school and many of group had never played it at all. I was worried that some of them might be put off by a different system, but I needn’t have. We put together our team of super spies with ease and everyone got into the spirit of the game right away. We kicked off with a classic opening action scene and had riotous fun climbing up walls with suction cups, parachuting off skyscrapers, and being chased by motorcycle-mounted thugs through London. It was really fun and I must say that the system really holds up. There’s some very clever design there that helps give the game the proper Bond feel.

It’s a weight off my shoulders that I don’t have to run a game for a while. Now I can just show up on game night, play, and have fun. Nice.

A Bit of History…

There was an American GI in WWII named Bill Mauldin who became a justly famous cartoonist. He did a strip called “Willie and Joe” that appeared in Stars & Stripes. His aim was to portray the real struggle of the common combat man, which he was well familiar with from his own time in the 45th Division. As Willie and Joe were frontline dogfaces, they were always disheveled and unshaved. They griped about chow, officers, rear-echelon goldbrickers, German 88s, and so on. The cartoons were so accurate that soldiers came to love Willie and Joe. Mauldin also made some enemies in the officer corps. Guys like Patton, who were all about the spit and polish, despised Willie and Joe. Nonetheless, Mauldin kept doing the strip throughout the war and became a beloved figure to the GIs.

A Mauldin book called Up Front was published in 1945. It collected many of his most famous cartoons, along with essays on the trials and tribulations of the dogfaces. If you want to understand what it was like to be an infantryman in the US army during WWII, Up Front is required reading.

I bring this up because yesterday I was up in Capitol Hill and I walked by this used bookstore that’s closing up shop. It’s chock full of cool old books and records. They had a boxed set of Charlton Heston reading the first five books of the Old Testament! I was looking through their WWII section and noticed they had a copy of Up Front. On closer inspection, I realized that it was the 1945 edition. Furthermore, Bill Mauldin had signed it…in 1945. The store sold it to me for $10. How cool is that?

Pop the Cork

After a full year of working just about every day, I can now finally say: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is finished. Not only that, the first two support products are also done. That’s three products in the line put to bed, with two more on deck right now. I tell you, come this Spring Warhammer fans aren’t going to know what hit them. After years of little or no support, they are going to get it in spades. This has been a helluva lot of work and the most challenging assignment I’ve had in the game industry. I very much look forward to holding the final printed books in my hands. I’m also looking forward to taking a week off to chill the hell out, though I won’t really be able to until February some time. I just need a few days in which I relax and don’t think about game design. And I think I earned them.

Who’s That Jerk?

Sometimes, when I’m reading some opinion piece or blog, I’ll think, “God, that person is such an asshole.” Then I’ll pause and remember some point 5, 10, or 15 years ago when I might have said something very similar. Then I think, “Damn, I was a jerk back then.” I used to believe that once I settled into adulthood, this phenomenon would stop or at least slow down. Like hell. I think every year on my birthday, I should celebrate the death of the previous year’s asshole. Maybe this is called growth of character.

I imagine a lot of this stems from wanting to believe in the rightness of your own thinking. At any given point, you want to think that your beliefs and opinions are the right ones. Experience and cold hard reality may later cause you to revise those opinions. You then look back on your previous actions in a new light.

I suppose one can’t discount the arrogance of youth either. It’s very easy, when you are 18 or 20 years old, to think that you know all the answers. Older people “just don’t get it”, have been duped by the man, etc. Over time though, I have learned the value of experience. Thinking about something or reading books about it is no substitute for doing it. Running a game company is a good example. When I started my first company, the original Ronin Publishing, I had a few years of freelance writing under my belt and a lot of friends who were publishers and gave me advice. I thought I knew all about the game industry and how to run a successful game company. Now that I’ve done it for nearly ten years, I can look back and laugh. I had no earthly idea of what it would really be like. Things I believed in vehemently at the time have been shown by events to be completely delusional. Companies I used to criticize I see in a new light, as their decisions were informed by experience I lacked and in time proved to be the right ones. Conversely, companies I used to praise for “doing it right” have gone belly up or declined into insignificance.

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about this now. The New Year perhaps. Maybe later I’ll relate the story of how Kate complaining of snow-chilled hands led to me giving her a history lesson about the Russian Front in WW2 and Siberian ski troops.

My Kind of New Year

Had a pretty nice weekend all in all. Worked all day Friday on the next WFRP book, then we went to Redmond for an early New Year’s party. My friend Pat, who moved down to San Diego awhile back to work for Upper Deck, hosted a party at his dad’s place. Other young girls were in attendance, so Kate spent hours running around, giggling, and having a good time. We caught up with Pat and some other friends, ate some tasty Brazilian food, and left around 7.

We then went over to Ray and Christine’s and met up with the rest of Clan Geek. John and Jenny had made a couple of trays of righteous lasagna and Christine had one of her famous cheese plates in effect. We hung out, drank, and played some family games. At 11 Bill took half the party to his place, which has a view of the Space Needle, so they could check out the fireworks in style. Kate was delighted. We were playing some Cranium game (Hoopla, I think) when midnight rolled around and didn’t even notice until 12:15. The rest of the group then came back and people started drifting off into different rooms to sleep. I ended staying up yakkin’ with Winninger and Tynes until 3:30 or so, then went to the basement to sleep.

The next day everyone stuck around, as is somewhat of a tradition. Ray and Christine’s place is big and cool and everyone feels comfortable there. It’s not unusual to find two people drinking cocktails at the kitchen bar while two others play an X-Box game and yet others reads graphic novels in the living room or watch a movie in the basement. Saturday I made the coffee (my lot in life) and we ended up having cold lasagna for breakfast. Nicole started doing a giant puzzle and spent most of the day on that. Ray and I retired to the basement for a couple of games of Up Front, while Christine and Bill went out to get supplies for dinner and John and Jenny read books.

That evening we had fresh sausages, trip-tip, grilled asparagus, broiled fingerling potatoes, and fennel slaw. Kate then got just about everyone downstairs for one of her performances. It was a bizarre, steam of consciousness sort of thing, the point of which was to have everyone pay attention to Kate. That girl loves to be the center of adulation. When that had dragged to its conclusion, we finally loaded up and headed home.

Today it was back to work, finishing up a bunch of odds and ends on different projects. In the early evening I sat down to clean and mount some Flames of War minis, so Rick and I can start playing that soon. Still have a ways to go with my army, as I haven’t even started the tanks yet. And really, you gotta have tanks.

I used to have terrible luck with New Year’s Eve. I spent several years just staying at home, since my plans always seemed to backfire. This year I have no complaints. Well, OK, it would have been nice if we could have made it to Jess’s party as well, but we thought three shindigs would be pushing it.