How to Get Me to Your Con

There are more game conventions and events than any one person or company could possibly attend each year. There are some that are must-gos for Green Ronin, like GenCon and GAMA Trade Show. Other than those bedrock shows, the cons I attend vary from year to year. I’ve never gone into how these decisions are made and a recent Facebook thread made it clear to me that people have some misconceptions. Let me clarify a few things.

First, I love to travel. Game industry wages being what they are, I don’t have the money for many actual vacations. Conventions then provide a great way to see more of the world. I can do a one day show in London like Dragonmeet and then have a few days to enjoy the city. My best overseas trip (a week in Finland) was thanks to the amazing Ropecon. So traveling for me? Not a hardship.

So what does it take to get me to your convention? Three things:
1) A plane ticket.
2) A hotel room.
3) A date that works with my schedule. I do have to spend time at home writing and running the company, so I can’t do everything, as much as I’d like to.

The following aren’t required but they are big plusses:
1) An interesting location, particularly if its overseas.
2) One or more locals to show me around. Always better than a guidebook.
3) Good food, particularly local cuisine I can’t get every day in Seattle.

And that’s it really. I don’t have speakers fees. I don’t demand you pick all the cashews out of the nut assortment or that you remove all the red M&Ms from the candy dish. My most outrageous demands would be a chance to play some games and trips to nearby museums or historical sites.

In short, if you’d like me to come to your con, ask me! Nicole will usually come with me if possible, so really you get two Ronins for the price of one.

And Poland, China, Australia, Japan, and the Czech Republic? Call me. 🙂

My GenCon Schedule

Below you will find the list of the panels I’ll be on at GenCon. Other than these seminars, I’m most likely to be found at the Green Ronin booth (#1517) between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm. I will be ducking out for meetings and such at various points, but I try to spend as much time in the booth as I can.

Friday

10-11 am: The State of Superheroes at Green Ronin

Crowne Plaza : Victoria Stn C/D

3-4 pm: Pathfinder and Green Ronin

Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Stn A

Saturday

12-1 pm: Emerald Spire* All-Stars

Convention Center, Room 231

* This is a Pathfinder super dungeon I wrote a chapter of for Paizo Publishing. It’s a two hour seminar but I can only be there for the first hour.

1-2 pm: What’s Up at Green Ronin Publishing?

Crowne Plaza : Conrail Stn

See you in Indy!

My GenCon Schedule

It’s that magical time of year again: GenCon! This is my 25th GenCon in a row and I still get excited every year. If you are looking to talk to me, my public schedule is below.

The easiest place to find me is the Green Ronin booth, #1703. We are right by a front entrance this year, which is great. Mornings are a good bet, but I’ll be around in the afternoon too unless I’ve got meetings or a seminar.

Thursday

5 pm: A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying and the Chronicle System

Convention Center, Room 242

Based on George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying allows you to play out the intrigues of this rich setting. We’ll also discuss the Chronicle System materials, which expand the scope of the rule set.

Friday

8:00 pm: ENnie Awards

Union Station Hotel, Grand Hall

Green Ronin is up for several awards and our crew will of course be there for the ceremony!

Saturday

Noon: Dragon Age Roleplaying and the Future of the AGE System

Crowne Plaza Hotel : Victoria Stn A/B

Bioware’s world of Thedas is the setting for our Dragon Age tabletop roleplaying game. Learn devs Chris Pramas’ and Jack Norris’ plans for the setting and the development of more AGE system games.

2 pm: Emerald Spire All-Stars Seminar

Convention Center: Room 231

Join a panel of the game design superstars behind the Pathfinder Emerald Spire Superdungeon. Panelists will discuss their original dungeon levels, followed by a Q&A and signing. Join a jaw-dropping panel of the game design superstars behind Paizo’s Emerald Spire Superdungeon. Panelists will discuss their original dungeon levels and share dungeon-themed anecdotes from their career in gaming, followed by a Q&A and signing. Panelists: Ed Greenwood, Frank Mentzer, Richard Baker, Wolfgang Baur, Mike Stackpole, Jordan Weisman, Chris Pramas, Lisa Stevens, Erik Mona, F. Wesley Schneider, James Jacobs, Jason Bulmahn, Sean K Reynolds.

See you all in Indianapolis!

Freeport Kickstarter: Why $50,000, Why a Deluxe Book?

FPlogo01

We’ve got five days left in the Freeport Kickstarter and we are still over $16,000 short of our goal. Throughout these last weeks, I’ve been reading your feedback and adding to or changing the campaign in response. People said they wanted more new content, so I added the Return to Freeport adventure series. I’ve also done things like offer a book-only reward level, and a way for Canadian backers to get more affordable shipping. The most common reason given for not backing the Kickstarter, however, is that the physical book is too expensive. I’d like to take some time to explain why I chose this format for the project and why our initial goal was $50,000.

Freeport is important to me because Death in Freeport is what put Green Ronin on the RPG map back in 2000. It sold like crazy and won an Origins Award and the very first ENnie Award (given to me by Gary Gygax, no less). I had originally conceived of GR as a fun side project and I didn’t expect it to be my full time job, but due to the success of Freeport and other d20 lines it became just that in March of 2002. Freeport was also the first commercial setting I created that was always fully under my control. No business wonk or brand manager could tell me what to do with it. You can understand, I hope, why Freeport means a lot to me.

During Freeport’s fallow period, it was always my intention to go back to it. The questions were when and how? Once Kickstarter began to change the face of RPG publishing, I of course thought of the City of Adventure. The way we used to publish, I would not have tried to do a 512-page full color hardback. It would be too risky and if it failed, could really hurt Green Ronin. That sort of calculus went into how we did the original Freeport hardback and its successor, The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport. The former was 160 pages with a black and white interior. The latter was nearly 100 pages longer but only 16 of its 256 pages were in color. Kickstarter thus seemed like a way to do the Freeport book I always wanted to do: big, sexy, and full color throughout.

I considered doing the new book without any game specific info, as we did with The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport, but sales data suggested that wasn’t the best approach. From what we could tell, the biggest segment of our d20 fanbase was now playing Pathfinder so using those rules seemed to make the most sense. We had previously published a Pathfinder Freeport Companion of 160 pages. Combine that with The Pirate’s Guide and our starting point was 416 pages. We certainly did not want to just slap them together and call it a day though; there had to be new material. That’s how the book ended up at 512 pages in our pitch. We wanted at least 100 pages of new material (and at this point it’s looking like at least 150 pages). We also wanted to revise and expand the material in the Pathfinder Companion to make sure the rules material was as up-to-date as possible.

When picking the goal for the Kickstarter then, I had to bear in mind the following costs:

  • Art Budget: a conservative estimate for quality interior art and a new cover is $15,000.
  • Print Budget: we are looking at least $25,000 here, since full color hardbacks are expensive to print.
  • Content Budget: writing, revising, developing, and editing a book of this size—even starting with previously written material—is going to cost us upwards of $10,000.

So that’s $50,000 right there and that leaves us no profit at all. That just makes the book. Our plan is to do larger print run than the Kickstarter requires and then sell the rest of it through distributors, retailers, and our online store. That’s where our profit would actually come from if we only reach $50,000 with the Kickstarter.

I’ve been asked how much the book will cost at stores after the Kickstarter. Our estimate right now is $75. That makes the Scurvytown Special, in which you get the finished PDF and the book shipped to you, a pretty good deal at $80. At $100, of course, you get a whole lot more (like the Return to Freeport adventure series and the serpentman promo miniature).

Some people have suggested that we should have started smaller and built it up with stretch goals. Maybe so. Frankly though, I didn’t want to play that game. I wanted to clearly lay out my dream Freeport book and try to make a reality, and Kickstarter makes that possible. It tells you how much interest there really is in your project before you spend a lot of money on it. If this campaign fails, it will still have served a purpose. I will know this was not the right project at the right time. I will also have tried to give the Freeport fans something new, which they’ve been patiently waiting for these past few years.

But we aren’t done yet. We have five days to get Freeport: The City of Adventure funded and I think we can do it. We’ve already gotten some great promotion from our friends at Paizo and Steve Jackson Games, as well as game sites, podcasts, and fans the world over. Thanks to each and every one of you. We just need a final push to get the word out, to find old Freeport fans and make new ones. So tell your friends, tell the internet, and tell your old gaming pals that Freeport is looking for a new generation of buccaneers! Let’s hoist the skull and bones, spread the word, and find this booty for Freeport!

Not Quite a Talking Head

This week I talked to a guest coordinator from a morning talk show on the Lifetime channel. She was interested in having me come on the show to talk about roleplaying games and DC Adventures in particular. How did this unlikely event transpire?

Somehow the talent coordinator had gotten a copy of DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains, Volume 1 and was intrigued. She looked at the author list and then went on Facebook and found Christopher McGlothlin. Chris, as many of you know, is a long time freelancer on our Mutants & Masterminds line and a regular at our GenCon booth as well. When he called me last weekend to tell me “a hilarious story,” I thought it was going to be some tale of crazy academia. Instead he wanted to put me in touch with this woman from Lifetime. Not what I was expecting, particularly from Chris!

Tuesday I talked on the phone with the guest coordinator. She was quite nice but knew nothing at all about gaming or the game industry. I had to explain what RPGs were and how they worked. She apparently had never heard of D&D or even HBO’s Game of Thrones show. Since Lifetime is oriented towards women, I talked about how things had changed since the 80s and a lot more women were gaming now. I pointed out how I was running a game for my wife and step daughter. I told her about Blue Rose and Faery’s Tale. She asked if we dressed up and I said (politely) hell no.

After a half hour of this, she said it sounded interesting and that she’d like to book me for the show. Great, I thought. Lifetime isn’t exactly our main demographic, but I’ll go almost anywhere and promote gaming if you give me a platform. So she’s running down the particulars, like where they tape and when it would happen. Then she tells me that the cost to us will be $5,900. I about choked.

“Is the money a problem?” she asked. I said, “Well, yes. We’re a small company. I could print a book for that money.” And this is where our real culture clash took place. This is apparently normal in her world, but it sure isn’t in mine. We give out review copies but that’s about as far it goes. We don’t pay for coverage.

We talked for a little while longer. She suggested that, since Heroes & Villains Volume 1 had so many authors, maybe they could kick in to get this great coverage for their work. I tried to imagine pitching that one to the freelancers. “How’d you guys like to pay for me to be on TV?”

We agreed to touch base the next day. I told the staff about it and I could hear the gales of laughter from the East Coast. I sent her an e-mail thanking her for the opportunity but telling her that we simply couldn’t afford it. I said I’d be happy to do the show if they waived the fee, but otherwise I’d have to decline. Fee waiving was a no go, so that’s where it ended.

Looks like TV isn’t ready for me yet. I’ll have to start with YouTube.

The Highlights of My Year

2011 wasn’t the worst of years, but it wasn’t the best either. It was up and down, sweet and sour. I started the year living in Austin and working a day job at Vigil Games as lead writer on the Warhammer 40K MMO. I’m ending it back in Seattle with my family and I’m pretty damn happy to have reunited with Nik and Kate on a permanent basis. I don’t want to dwell on the negative so here are the top 5 other highlights of the year.

1. Kate’s Birthday

I wrote about this a few weeks ago so I won’t go on about it, but the most joyous event of the year had to be Kate’s surprise 16th birthday party. I often feel like it’s my job to apologize to Kate for how disappointing the world is, so it was awesome to see how happy our girl was with her party and all the friends who came out for it.

2. Brazil

In May I flew to Curitiba to be a guest at World RPG Con. This was my first (but hopefully not my last) trip to Brazil, and my first time south of the equator as well. I had a great time, though as usual with big trips like this I wish I could have stayed longer. The con was small but the organizers and attendees were super enthusiastic and they made me feel so welcome. I met many excellent gamers and had the chance to actually hang out with Steve Jackson (the other American game designer guest) for the first time.

The day after the con we got to ride the Curitiba-Paranaguá Railroad. It was a three and a half hour, 116 kilometer trip through the rain forested highlands to the coast. The route went through 13 tunnels and over 30 bridges, and the whole trip was in a vintage Italian train from the 60s. Then we had a huge seafood feast in Paranaguá, followed by more sightseeing by bus before the drive back to Curitiba. All in all, pretty awesome.

3. Seattle: The Returning

I moved back to Seattle in August. Nicole flew down to Austin, we loaded up a truck with the help of friends, and then it was a five day ride through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. I’ve mentioned my happiness about getting back with my family, but here I’m talking about the trip itself. When I moved down, I had a fixed deadline so it was four days of hard driving and nothing else. This time Nicole and I had no schedule we had to keep to so we decided to be more casual. I’m glad we did.

Our first stop was at Reaper Miniatures in Denton, TX. Ed Pugh and Ron Hawkins gave us a thorough tour of their facility. They have a really impressive operation going on there and it was cool to see it. We probably spent too much time swapping game industry stories, but hey, how often are we getting to Denton? When it was time for us to move on, they gifted Nicole with some out of production Mousling miniatures, which made her squee with delight.

Next we stopped at the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson. It’s a really unlikely place for a museum dedicated to rocketry and space flight it’s quite well done. Apparently NASA wanted to get rid of a bunch of stuff back in the 70s, so Hutchinson said, “Give it to us and we’ll make a museum!” The history is well presented and they have some great artifacts, including the lovingly restored capsule from Apollo 13. Worth a stop if you find yourself in Kansas.

In Denver we stopped to have lunch with college pal Pat Brown at the Buckhorn Exchange. We worked out the meet up over Facebook on my phone while we cruised down the interstate. Thanks, technology. Pat recommended an over the top gourmet shop outside town so we had to pop in there as well. They had a huge room full of cheese that was essentially a giant refrigerator. The store keeps coats on hand in case you get cold, but after Texas I enjoyed it in there. Cheese and other goodies we got there made our dinner in the hotel later that night.

As we rode through Wyoming, I thought we were done with stops. Then I noticed on the map that the highway went right by Little Big Horn in Montana. Turns out you can get from the highway to the hill where Custer died in less than 10 minutes. Clearly we had to do it.

4. Dragon Age, Set 2

Professionally speaking, the highlight of the year for me was the release of Set 2 for Dragon Age. It took way longer to get done than I figured, but I’m pleased with the result. The release made me feel great for an hour or two. Then someone asked, “So when is Set 3 coming out?” Oh, gamers. 🙂

5. Steve Ignorant: The Last Supper

I’m ending my list with a bit of punk rock. I did not get to a lot of shows in Austin because I lived in north, north Austin and had neither license nor car. So when German band the Spermbirds came to America for the first time to play South by Southwest, I ended up missing their show. When I heard that Steve Ignorant was bringing his Last Supper show to Emo’s, I determined that I would be there. Thanks to pal Donna Prior, who agreed to drive and come to the show with me despite the music not exactly being her thing, I got my wish.

Steve Ignorant was the singer for Crass, an uncompromising British punk band of the 70s and 80s that went the Sex Pistols one better by taking their anarchism very seriously indeed. They became a hugely influential band, and ran a record label that put out lots of other anarcho-punk bands. Crass broke up in the mid-80s and I never had a chance to see them. I think they only got to America once and then briefly. A couple of years ago Steve Ignorant decided to put on a show called The Last Supper. Basically, he wanted to perform those old songs a final time as “a celebration of what Crass meant” to him.

So this was not a Crass reunion per se, but Steve singing songs from ’77 to ’84 backed by musicians from bands like Conflict, Killing Joke, and the English Dogs. I’m sure a lot of people saw the whole thing as a cynical endeavor but I don’t give a shit: it was awesome. Steve was into it, the band was tight, and hearing those classic songs live was a treat. The real surprise of the night was the performance of many songs from Penis Envy, Crass’s feminist statement on which Eve Libertine handled most of the vocals. A younger singer named Carol Hodge sang the Penis Envy songs and she killed it. She was fierce and delivered those songs with conviction and energy. It was the icing on my punk rock cake.

Originally published on LiveJournal on December 31, 2011. 

A Chronicle of Ice and Fire

I haven’t been doing any regular roleplaying since getting back to Seattle, as weekly game night at our place long ago devolved into eat, drink, and bullshit night during which boardgaming sometimes happens. And hey, that’s fun too but it wasn’t scratching my itch. Jon Leitheusser, Green Ronin’s Mutants & Masterminds developer, was nice enough to invite me to join his group, so this week I trekked down to Renton for a kickoff session of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying (abbreviated SIFRP).

When people ask me at cons and such how SIFRP captures the flavor of the books, the first thing I tell them about is the house system and the campaign framework it provides. Before you make your character, you sit down as a group and generate a minor noble house. This is the glue that will hold the campaign together. All the PCs are members or retainers of the house, so you have both individual goals and group goals as the house engages in the game of thrones. It gives a real reason for your characters to work together, so you aren’t just a random collection of mercenary sociopaths (though if you want that, I suppose you could run a chronicle in which the PCs join the Brave Companions).

So Tuesday night Jon, Seth, Jason, James (by Skype), and I got together to generate a house and start character creation for the chronicle. We decided to roll up a couple of houses and pick the one we liked best. Houses have seven attributes (Defense, Influence, Lands, Law, Population, Power, and Wealth). You establish starting stats based on its location in Westeros and these can be modified in several ways throughout the process. You then get to make a certain number of rolls on the historical events table, which both modifies the attributes and gives you seeds to develop important events in the house’s past. Once the final attributes are determined, you can then spend resources to determine details of your holdings. When you’re done, you should have a good starting point for your house and an idea of where Player Characters can fit within it.

The first house we generated was in the Westerlands. That meant Lannisters, which I don’t think any of us were too keen on. Nonetheless, we went through the process so everyone could see how it worked. We ended up with a new house created after Robert’s Rebellion. We had small holdings in the hills with a hall near a river that passed through our territory. We had a lot of money (because hey, Lannisters) which we figured came from river tolls and our two mines. I had a feeling we weren’t going to stick with this house, so I suggested we skip detailing our banner house and military forces. We felt there were hooks here we could certainly use but overall it wasn’t what we were looking for.

The second house was in the Iron Islands and it was clear pretty quickly that this one would win out over the Westerlands house. Jon’s roll of 1 also meant we were an ancient house dating back to the Age of Heroes. This gave us a lot of rolls on the historical events table and plenty of stuff to work with for our house history. Our house was founded by treachery, for example, and other events made it clear it had had its ups and downs: defeat, victory, ascent, scandal, decline, favor. I suggested that defeat be the most recent event and we tie that to the Greyjoy Rebellion. With our resources were able to secure our own island and a small castle, but its dominant terrain was wetlands. We decided the house controlled a bigger, better island in the past, but in a period of decline we lost it to our rivals. As Ironmen we naturally opted for veteran warhips and raiders, as well as some sailors and a garrison for the castle. We brought in an artisan we we could have castle-forged steel, and used other resources so James could play the house’s heir.

At some point we decided that one of our ancient ancestors slew a sea dragon (or perhaps stole the credit for the deed, if we opt to make that the founding treachery). With that in mind, I suggested that we become House Greenscale and that our motto be “Cold Seas, Cold Blood.” We almost went with Seth’s suggestion of Highrock (he thought that’d be funny considering our wetlands) but Jon countered that it’d be a better name for the castle. We all agreed and so we became House Greenscale of Castle Highrock.

We still have some work to do fleshing out the history of the house, but this gave us a good framework to start creating our characters. Clearly court adventures and tournaments are not going to be our forte. We are a house of Viking raiders looking to revive our ancient glories. I’m working on my character now and will try to post something more when I flesh him out. I enjoyed the house creation session and I’m looking forward to getting the game going. Cold Seas, Cold Blood!

Originally posted on LiveJournal on December 1, 2011. 

My New Studio!

It’s official: I have joined Krab Jab Studio in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. It’s home base for a group of visual artists, including Magic: The Gathering veterans Julie Baroh and Mark Tedin, as well as Milo Duke. Now you might well be saying, “I didn’t know Chris was a visual artist.” That’s because I’m not! Confused yet? Allow me to explain.

I returned from Texas two months ago and since then I’ve been working Green Ronin full time, and doing so from my home. Nicole, GR’s general manager, also works from our home. While it has certainly been great being back, I began to notice in month number two that I wasn’t working too well at home. My office is so full of books, games, and miniatures that it’s been non-functional for years (really it’s more storage annex than office at this point). That meant that I was spending most days sitting up in bed and working on my laptop. Some days I would spend 80+% of my waking hours sitting in a 2′ x 4′ space. And with all the distractions of home, it wasn’t the most conducive environment for writing and design work. It was not, in short, a long term solution for my day to day work life.

I used to take my laptop and spend some days working in cafes and restaurants. That was an option but I wanted something more. I began to research coworking spaces in Seattle. Coworking is basically when many independent workers come together to share space and resources. It’s a way for people who can’t afford a full office or work space to enjoy a similar environment for a fraction of the cost. Green Ronin as a company doesn’t need and can’t afford a central office but I wanted somewhere to go away from my house to work, and to write in particular.

I did some research and turned up place like Office Nomads and Indie Ballard in the area. I found some promising leads but all of them required bus commutes of some distance. Then my friend Jenny told me that Krab Jab Studio was looking for a fourth member, since one of their artists had left recently. I’m not an artist but she thought they might be cool with having a writer come on board. Turns out that Jenny is smart.

I had a good feeling about Krab Jab before I even visited. I learned that Mark Tedin was a member and we had worked together at WotC a decade ago. In fact, we spent something like a year carpooling together from Capitol Hill. The studio’s location in Georgetown was also a huge plus to me. For one thing, it’s close to my house and thus an easy commute. Georgetown is also the closest thing Seattle has to NYC’s Lower East Side, or at least how the LES used to be. Just the place I’d enjoy spending more time. The building itself is also pretty cool. It used to be the bottling plant of the old Rainier Brewery, and now is the home to a variety of art spaces and small businesses.

After meeting Julie and Milo, it didn’t take for me to decide this was a great fit for me. I get a coworking space close to me in an area I like, but I also get a chance to plug in to the Georgetown community. Krab Jab is now organizing the Georgetown Art Attack, a twice monthly neighborhood event that delivers “art, music, and mayhem.” Those of you who remember my days at ABC No Rio in NYC know this is all right up my alley.

So on Nov. 1 I’ll officially become the “writer in residence” at Krab Jab Studio. Conveniently, I have extra furniture and such from my Austin apartment that’s currently sitting in my garage, so I can set up my area easily enough and maybe even free up some room at home. I am hoping that a new space that gets me out of the house and interacting with other creative people will benefit my work as a writer and expand my horizons in interesting and chaotic ways. I want some structure but not the soullessness of the cube farm. I’ll admit that sharing a studio with three artists is not the obvious move for a writer, but to hell with the conventional. I’ve already had too much of that.

Originally posted on LiveJournal on October 26, 2011.

I’m a Bad Blogger

It’s true, I’ve been a bad blogger. I haven’t updated since mid-July. My own site, chrispramas.com, has been moribund for over a year. I really need to get that up and running again. I haven’t written much in part because I’ve in busy, in part because I’ve been lazy, and in part because it’s too easy to squirt out a thought or two on Twitter and Facebook. Still, looking back on my old entries, I regret not writing more about what I’ve been up to. Details fade over time and it’s good to record them when memories are fresh. At least my Tweets are being preserved in the Library of Congress.

I’ve been back in Seattle for two months now. Had I stayed at Vigil, this week would have marked one year of employment there. Other than being poor again, I don’t regret leaving the job. I missed Seattle, and my friends and family here. My Austin sojourn already seems like a strange dream. I sometimes think, “Did I really live in Texas for almost a year?” Then I have some of what Seattle calls BBQ and I know the answer is yes, yes I did.

The focus of my effort moving ahead is Green Ronin. I have plenty of work to do, with my major task being the completion of Set 3 for Dragon Age. I am taking on some freelance work as well, to bringing in extra money and in some cases just because it’s fun. I got an unexpected offer from an surprising source to work on an intriguing project that is right up my alley, and I’ll probably take that on. I may do some shorter projects for video games as well, and I’m writing an essay for an upcoming anthology.

One thing I’d like to write more of is fiction. I’m going to start tinkering with a novel soon, because while I’ve written a lot of game books I have not written long form fiction. I have a bunch of competing ideas; I just need to pick the one I want to pursue. I’d also be interested in writing the occasional short story. If any of my publisher or editor friends need authors for short fiction collections, let me know.

Since my schedule is my own again, I also hope to travel more. I did make it to Brazil this year and that was awesome, but I’m always hungry for more. When I have a day job, I have money but little time. When I don’t, I have time but little money. This is why most of my travel in the last decade has been convention or business related, though Nicole and I have become masters of making the most of that.

My parents are visiting right now, so we’ll be hitting some museums with them this weekend. Hopefully, I will blog again before another two months have passed!

Originally posted on LiveJournal on October 22, 2011. 

 

The Pramas Fall Tour

The last two months has been one the most intense periods of travel and activity of my life. This is how it went down.

It started with a weekend trip to Vancouver, BC with Nicole. At this point we knew craziness was about to descend, so we decided to get a weekend to ourselves in and enjoy one of our favorite cities. We returned to Tojo’s, a great Japanese restaurant Nicole first introduced me to in 1995, for the first time in many years. We also took the opportunity to see Machete (awesome), The Girl Who Played with Fire (very good), and The American (meh).

We got back late on a Sunday night. The very next morning I went to the airport to fly back to Canada. This time my destination was Edmonton. I spent a couple of days visiting BioWare’s office and talking about all things Dragon Age. I got to see some of Dragon Age 2, which looks awesome, and had good discussions with the folks there.

The day after I returned from Edmonton, the Green Ronin crew began arriving for our annual summit. This is usually a three day affair at which we make our plans for the following year and discuss the overall state of the company. We extended it one day this year so we could have most of the staff in town for our 10 year anniversary party at Dragon’s Lair in Bellevue. Summit and party both went well, and we had a productive few days and a bit of fun.

Before all the Ronins had even left Seattle, I was on board another plane and heading to Chicago. I was there for a week, primarily to attend Riot Fest. I saw 24 punk bands in 5 days and had a blast. Most awesome for me was finally getting to see Articles of Faith, one of my favorite hardcore bands of all time. I had waited 23 years for the opportunity and they did not disappoint. Since they also played a “secret show,” I got to see them twice. Bonus! Other great moments included the Busted at Oz reunion show (featuring bands like the Subverts, Silver Abuse, and the original lineup of Naked Raygun) and a terrific performance by the Zero Boys.

The punk rock was awesome but that was only part of the Chicago fun. Ken Hite was kind enough to put me up at his house and when I wasn’t at punk shows I was eating my way across Chi-town with Ken and frequent guest Will Hindmarch. Had some great food at Hot Doug’s, Frontera Grill, Xoco, The Publican, Kuma’s Corner, and Dawali Mediterranean Grill. Also got to see a Nazi u-boat, play For the People, and talk a lot of history with Ken. I squeezed a lot into those 7 days.

I got back to Seattle late on October 11. I then had two days to pack because I was moving to Austin! Thankfully, I was not trying to pack up all my shit, just what I thought I’d want to have in Texas in my new apartment. In moves that were very much us, Nicole started by packing up kitchen stuff so I could cook, while I picked what games and miniatures to bring so I could play. By Thursday morning the U-Haul was packed and ready, and we’d even squeezed in a dinner with Rob Schwalb, who was in town visiting his corporate masters. Always great to see Dr. Evil.

We took off on the 14th and we had four days to get to Austin. Nicole had a clever plan to stop in Portland and go to Ikea for the furniture I’d need. Since there’s no sales tax in Oregon, we saved a bunch of dough. The drive was about 2500 miles and Nicole had to do it all since I have no license. She was awesome and did not blanch even at the 15 hour day we had on Saturday. We listened to two audio books on the way (American On Purpose by Craig Ferguson and Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett) and they really helped pass the time. We went east through Oregon into Idaho, then south through Utah, and southeast through Arizona, New Mexico, and finally Texas. We arrived at my new apartment on Sunday night. Phil, Gina, and Andrew helped us with the move in, for which we were very grateful. Then at 9 am the next day I started my new job at Vigil on the 40K MMO.

I’ll talk about Vigil and settling into Austin later. For now suffice to say that I had a couple of weeks to acclimatize to both new city and new job and things are going well. Nicole flew back to Seattle after the first couple of days. It was weird to live alone all of a sudden but I had something to look forward to: NeonCon. This convention in Las Vegas happened to fall just a couple of days before Nicole’s birthday. We decided to meet there to celebrate. This gave us a chance to see a bunch of our friends and enjoy Vegas for a couple of days. It was a brief reunion but we made the most of it. I won’t see Nicole or Miss Kate now until Christmas (boo!).

You’d think that would be quite enough travel for the time being but I have one more trip this year. On Thanksgiving Day I’m flying to London. I’m going to be a guest at Dragonmeet, a one day game convention held on November 27. I last attended Dragonmeet in 2002 and it was a great time. I’m looking forward to going again, seeing many of my UK friends, and squeezing in as much London fun as I can manage. After that the whirlwind really will subside. The return to a day job means accruing vacation days and such, so such travel won’t be as easy. I also won’t be as broke, so it’s a trade-off. I guess I really need a day job that’ll pay me well and allow me to travel a lot, but for now the grim darkness of the far future will have to do.

Originally published on LiveJournal on November 10, 2010.