Weekend Roundup

Friday night Nik, Kate, and I went to see the Simpsons movie. I had gotten about 3 hours of sleep the night before so I was really tired and didn’t think I was going to make it to a 9:40 movie. I realized after work that if I went home though I’d immediately fall asleep. So I went to the Eliot Bay Bookstore for awhile, had dinner in the International dinner, and then hooked up with Kate and Nik for the movie. I’m glad we went. I had no trouble staying awake because the movie kept me laughing throughout. I had seen some bitchy reviews that morning talking about how the Simpsons movie was 12 years too late. Screw the critics; it’s really funny. Yes, Homer is a bigger jerk than he’s ever been before, but whatever. They need a plot that would carry on for a lot longer than a 22 minute episode so I was willing to go with it. And the whole Spiderpig thing was undeniable stupid and yet I keep laughing at it.

Saturday afternoon my secondary game group got together for the first time since May so we could finish the first story arc of our Spirit of the Century game. We had a climactic confrontation with a Russian agent over (what else?) a volcano. We expected to just off the guy but I was able to use my marksmanship and my knowledge of pressure points gleaned from kung fu training to paralyze the villain with throwing knives. So we ended this story and now have a prisoner to interrogate to lead to lead us to the next. Tim is also talking about starting some kind of scifi campaign that would alternate with SotC. I may also get crazy and try running something short at some point.

Sunday I worked on GR stuff all day. With GenCon approaching and a veritable avalanche of stuff at print now, there’s a lot to do. I did get around to watching the Flags of Our Fathers DVD I got a couple of months ago in a set with Letters from Iwo Jima. I liked it just as much on a second viewing.

Last Day to Vote

I believe today is the last day voting is open in the ENnie Awards. If you haven’t voted yet, go here to make your voice heard.

Green Ronin receive 14 nominations in total, honoring 3 books we published ourselves and 3 books we designed for Black Industries. Amusingly enough a GR book is going up against a BI book in 4 different categories. It’s hard to decide what to root for in those cases!

Freeport in the House

We got a single advanced copy of the Pirate’s Guide to Freeport today. After all the work that’s gone into this book I was worried that at the last minute some stupid printer problem was going to muck it up. I can now relax because the finished product looks great. Not that I hadn’t gone through the PDF many a time, but holding the physical product is different. You can feel how hefty it is and see the Wayne Reynolds cover in its full glory. We tried to make this book premium and it shows. The paper is a better stock than we use in our softbacks, there’s a lovely color section with yet more Wayne Reynolds art, and Andy Law’s beautiful maps are printed on the end papers. Quite slick all in all. I also confirmed with the printer today that everything is on track for book to debut at Gen Con. It’s also looking like the True20 Freeport Companion and Dark Wings Over Freeport will release at the show as well, so it’s going to be a Freeport bonanza. Since Death in Freeport came out at Gen Con seven years ago, this couldn’t be more appropriate.


Nicole and I got married in 2001 on the East Coast, which was great for my family but not so great for our West Coast friends. We planned to have a reception in Seattle for those folks, but it didn’t come off that year. We decided to do it the following September for our one year anniversary. Our original plan was just to have a big party. Then we considered our potential guest list and realized practically everyone on it was a friend from the game industry or a gamer. Instead of doing a more traditional reception, we decided to do a weekend long event we dubbed WedCon.

We were able to rent out a big room in our local community center for Saturday. Nicole cooked a ton of great food and I brought down a bunch of games. We had about 50 guests, including friends from Vancouver, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and DC. We ate, drank, and played games all day long. I didn’t get in that game of Revolt on Antares that I wanted, but otherwise things went great. People who didn’t know each other met over boardgames. The hardcore retired back to our house, where we talked late into the evening. Then on Sunday Nicole threw a brunch at our place for the out of town guests and a few other folks. This turned into another day of gabbing and games, in which I finally broke in my copy of Carcassonne.

WedCon was five years ago this September. In the aftermath of that weekend, Nik and I talked about making it a yearly tradition. Reality made that difficult, but I look back on that event so fondly I wonder if it’s time to think about doing it again. WedCon 2: Electric Boogaloo?

Saved by the Kids

I was riding the bus to work the other day when some sort of youth field trip invaded. There must have been twenty odd kids, 7 or 8 years old, and three adult chaperones. I had been reading at the back of the bus and soon found myself surrounded. All things considered, they weren’t too badly behaved and I was able to keep reading. Then one of the adults says, “Hey kids, do you want to show the people on the bus how good we can sing?”

I froze in horror. If I had to endure 100 Bottles of Bear on the Wall all the way to the Space Needle, I would strangle that chaperone.

To my immense relief, the kids yelled out in unison, “Noooooooo!!!!” The chaperone, crestfallen, let it drop. I silently cheered for the kids. They had shown way more sense than the adult in charge. Like anyone commuting on the hot and smelly bus wanted to be serenaded by screaming kids at 9 in the morning. I hope Mr. Chaperone learned a lesson that day.

Free RPG Day

Early this year Green Ronin was approached about a new promotion, Free RPG Day. The idea was to do something like Free Comic Day, but for roleplaying games. This sounded like a great idea to me, so I immediately agreed to participate. As it happened, we had an introductory product for our Mutants & Masterminds RPG, the M&M; Beginner’s Guide, in production at the time and we were printing extra for promotional use such as this. We told Aldo, the organizer of Free RPG Day, that this was a perfect item and we’d like to use it. He had decided, however, that all items for the promotion had to be brand new and without a printed price. Since the M&M; Beginner’s Guide was out four months before the promotion and had a printed MSRP of $7.99, he would not take it. We found this a bit frustrating, but decided that we still wanted to participate because it was a good marketing opportunity. We agreed to provide the requested 1,000 copies of a new item.

My first inclination was to do a quick start set of True20 rules with an introductory Freeport adventure. While that would indeed have been ideal, reality soon intruded. I had planned to write it but by April it became apparent that getting the project finished and in the warehouse by June 4 was going to be a dodgy proposition. I didn’t have enough time to write and Hal was already so backed up with layout projects that adding another to the mix was just asking for trouble. We decided therefore to take a project already in the pipeline, Bleeding Edge Adventure #5: Temple of the Death Goddess, and make that into our Free RPG Day offering. This wasn’t as sexy as a True20 Freeport quick start, but getting the word out about the Bleeding Edge adventures and promoting GR generally was still desirable.

Hal asked our b+w printer if they could have the print run done by June 4 and they said they could. By this point the requested number had risen to 3,000 and we agreed to provide the full amount. Then things went off the rails. The key piece of information the printer had failed to tell us was that if we made any changes during proofing we would miss our print window. When the proofs showed up, Hal found a couple of minor things and, as is standard practice with GR, fixed them. No one at the printer double checked with us to make sure we wanted to make those changes, since it would mean missing the June 4 date we had told them was very important. So come the all important day they had printed the insides but hadn’t even done the covers yet.

At this point we went back to Aldo and explained what had happened. We told him that we still wanted to participate, and offered up M&M; Beginner’s Guides. Since he had planned for 100 stores and gotten 300 signed up and thus was short of product, we figured he’d agreed to the last minute substitution. It’s not like we were trying to dump some 5 year old d20 book on him. This was a purpose built and full color introduction to our most popular game, just the sort of thing a retailer would want to give out on Free RPG Day. And at this point his choice was light boxes and no Green Ronin participation, or bending his rules slightly to address adverse circumstances.

He would not take the M&M; Beginner’s Guide.

I must admit I was flabbergasted. Here we had been promoting this to our fans for six months and now we’d have nothing in stores for the day. After mulling it over (and swearing a lot), I decided to do two things. First, I wanted to give away Bleeding Edge #5, the M&M; Beginner’s Guide, and the full core rulebook for True20 Adventure Roleplaying in PDF form on the Green Ronin website for 24 hours. I figured I’d take Free RPG literally and give away True20, so folks would really get something of substance. Second, I told the printer to halt the print job on Temple of the Death Goddess, so we could supply a new cover. We would offer it for $2.95, so it could still serve as a good introduction to the Bleeding Edge line. None of this was ideal, but I figured it’d still be good marketing.

I wish this was the end of the story, but the pain continued. On Free RPG Day way more people than we expected came to the GR site to download the freebies. Gamers, they love free stuff. Our server was choked all day. While a lot of people did get the freebies, many did not and our custserv address was flooded with complaints. I sure didn’t expect we’d get complaints about giving stuff away for free! The next day I decided to turn Free RPG Day into Free RPG Week. We offered the freebies again, but one at a time on different days, and combined that with a PDF sale. That chapter at last ended on a happy note.

The saga of Temple of the Death Goddess did not, however. The revised covers were printed, the books bound, and the finished product sent to our warehouse. There it was discovered that the back covers had been misprinted! Every instance of the letter Y had been dropped out and there was a weird grid over the art. This was not how the proofs looked. So now the printer has agreed to ship the books back, where they will tear off those covers, print new ones, and rebind them. If we are lucky, we can actually release this thing by the end of July.

All of this makes me laugh when I look back six months. A 32 page product for Free RPG Day? How hard could that be to put together? This is a lesson for the ages in publishing. Whenever you think that a project is going to be easy, it will find a way to vex you until you think your head will explode. Despite all this, however, we are planning to participate in Free RPG Day for next year. We already have the product planned out and dropped into our schedule. That should help things along, but I will not jinx it by saying it’ll be easy.

I Love Trouble

We’ve had a heat warning here in Seattle for the past couple of days. Supposedly it’s going to top 100 today. Tuesday nights are usually game night but we called it yesterday because many folks were out of town or unavailable. Rather than sit around a hot house, Nik and I decided to take advantage of the Noir film festival running at the SIFF Theater this month. We saw a film from 1948 called I Love Trouble. This is one of those lost movies that disappeared into a studio vault after its release. It was never released on VHS or DVD and only recently was the studio convinced to dig it out so it could be shown at festivals like this. Eddie Muller, author of Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, was on hand to talk about the film and give a little background on the author of the screenplay and the novel on which it’s based. His name was Roy Huggins. He started as a yet another crime author knocking off Raymond Chandler, but went on to have a lengthy career in TV. He created such shows as 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, and Baretta. The film was a lot of fun. It is indeed Chandler-esque but it never takes itself too seriously. You might even call it a noir-comedy, as it was full of great banter and zingers. Muller warned the audience beforehand that they shouldn’t try to make sense of the plot, but I’m not sure why. I followed it just fine and it made sense to me. Anyway, I Love Trouble was an enjoyable romp and should it show at a festival near you, I recommend checking it out.

ENnies Nominations

I probably don’t say this enough, but all of my comrades at Green Ronin kick ass. They work hard day after day for very little reward while dealing with a whole lot of bullshit. It makes me happy to see them get some recognition, as happened today with the announcement of ENnie Award nominees. Between Green Ronin’s own products and those we designed and developed for Black Industries, we have received 14 nominations and 3 honorable mentions. Faery’s Tale also received three nominations, which is cool because GR is publishing Faery’s Tale Deluxe this summer. Here’s our list of nominations:

Best Cover Art: Ultimate Power (HM)
Best Interior Art: Ultimate Power, Children of the Horned Rat
Best Production Values: Ultimate Power
Best Writing: Children of the Horned Rat
Best Rules: Ultimate Power, WFRP Companion (HM)
Best Supplement: Ultimate Power, WFRP Companion, Tome of Corruption (HM)
Best Adventure: Time of Vengeance, Lure of the Liche Lord
Best Aid/Accessory: Deck of Many Things
Best d20/OGL Product: Ultimate Power
Product of the Year: Ultimate Power, Children of the Horned Rat
Fans’ Choice for Best Publisher

Big thanks also to the talented freelancers who worked on our products. We couldn’t do what we do without them.

Now on to GenCon Indy!

Summer Conventions

I did not go to Origins this year, as it was cheaper and more convenient to let the GR East coast staff handle it. Will I be at other upcoming conventions? Find out!

San Diego ComicCon: Looks like a no go this year, unless FLS decides they need a last minute replacement.

Recombination: This is a scifi, fantasy, and gaming con in Cambridge, England and I’ll be one of the guests of honor. I’ve been to England many times but I’ve never been to Cambridge. I wish I could spend more time on this trip but with FLS in overdrive and GenCon the following week I cannot dally sad to say.

GenCon: I’ve been to every one since 1989 so I’m not going to start missing them now. Green Ronin will have a lot of new stuff at the show too.

Penny Arcade Expo: I won’t be in a booth but I’ll be there doing some seminars.

Austin Game Developers Conference: I hope to make it to this, but I’m waiting to get confirmation from the higher ups at Flying Lab. Trips at FLS are often last minute affairs. Jess once had to get on a plane with two hours notice. Hopefully, I will know sooner rather than later.