Why I Probably Owe You an Email or Something

The last couple of months I have been slow in responding to emails and late in getting things done. If this has affected you, I’m sorry about that. My deepest apologies go to the Dragon Age fans, who have been waiting for Set 3 long enough already.

The trouble began at the end of April when I woke up with a sore shoulder. I thought I just slept on it badly and it would right itself in a few days. A week later I went to get a massage because it had not gotten better and I was sleeping badly. That did not help, so I went in to see my doctor. She thought it might be my rotator cuff and referred me to a physical therapist. She also had me take 12 Ibuprofen a day for one week to see if that’d relax the muscles.

The therapy and exercises seemed to help for a couple of weeks. I still had to sleep on the couch though, as I could not lie flat in bed without pain. Then one Sunday the pain came roaring back. That week I could find no position–standing, sitting, or lying down–that was without pain. My thumb went numb and I started to get shooting pains up and down my arm. I could not sit at a computer for longer than 15 minutes. Sleep was horrible and I began to dread each night.

I went to see my doctor again and she made what turned out to be the correct diagnosis: I had a pinched nerve in my neck. She gave a 5 day course of steroids and a small amount of Vicodin for the pain. I also continued to see my PT. The steroids ended the worst of the pain but then things just plateaued. She told me to do another week of 12 Ibuprofen a day, and I hoarded the Vicodin so I could take one pill before bed (well, couch).

My physical therapist told me to alert her if things didn’t get any better and she would escalate my case. By this Monday I was still in pain all the time, so I sent up the Bat Signal. I went to the Spinal Clinic on Monday and was diagnosed again by a different PT and a new doctor. They agreed that the culprit was a pinched nerve. We scheduled a MRI for the next day and then a steroid injection by my spine for Monday. He gave me more Vicodin (hooray!) and some Valium to help me get through the MRI.

So yesterday morning I went in for the MRI. Since I had been unable to lie flat without pain for two months now, the idea of having to do that in a narrow tube did not thrill me. I followed the doctor’s instructions and took a Valium and Vicodin when I woke up. Then I took two more Valium before the MRI. Nonetheless, when they strapped me in, there was searing, stabby pain. When they are giving you a MRI, you can’t move or you ruin the imaging, so all I could do was lie there and suck it up for 15 long minutes. Goddamn, that was hurt but I did it. The tech said I was “awesome at laying still.” I hope the images are worth it.

Monday I go in for the steroid shot. With a needle near my spine, I don’t expect it to be pleasant, but if it works I will gladly suffer through it. By bathing that area with steroids, hopefully the muscles will finally relax and unpinch my spine. Then a little more PT should take care of it. With GenCon coming up next month, I really want to get back into fighting shape. I also have a ton of work to do, on Dragon Age, Freeport, and more. I’ve lost enough time already.

And hey, Spine? After this let’s never fight again.

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


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!

Election 2012: A Progressive’s View

Most of the time, I try not to post about politics too much. I will post a link or make a comment or tweet sometimes, but I try not to make that the majority of my online presence. For one thing, most folks follow me because of gaming and not politics. For another, it’s easy to tune out the person who relentless beats the same drum every day and I don’t want to be that way.

This essay has been building for a long time and I decided that the day before the election was the best time to post it. Before I get into it, let me make two quick points. First, this should not be construed as the political statement of Green Ronin Publishing. Our staff has diverse opinions and we work with freelance writers, artists, and editors from across the political spectrum. If you want to hate me, that’s fine. Just don’t take it out on the folks who work for GR. Second, I’m going to say some very unkind things about the GOP. If you are a Republican, I want you to understand that my anger is not directed at you, but the current leadership of your party. America can and should support many political points of view and I’ll fight for your rights to believe what you want. I will not, however, stand mute while all the progress that was achieved at such cost in the last century is undone.

Honest Debate

One of the things that is most frustrating about the current mediascape is that there is little room for honest debate. We go from fake outrage to fake outrage and rarely get at the underlying truths. We can’t have an honest discussion about what’s been going on in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip because no American politician will give Israel less than 200% of their unconditional support. We can’t have an honest discussion about guns because of the massive power of the NRA and complete unwillingness of modern Democrats to even engage on the issue. And most ridiculous of all, we can’t have an honest discussion about President Obama.

Like many progressives, I am indeed disappointed in Obama. If we could have a critique of his performance that was based on reality, he would have faced a primary challenge from the left. My biggest problem with him is that instead of drawing a hard line between the Bush administration and his administration, he continued some of Bush’s most shameful practices. I wasn’t some wide eyed optimist in 2008 but I thought there was a reasonable chance we’d see a clean break from W’s disastrous presidency. Turns out not so much. While Obama did ban the use of torture and say the CIA black sites were going to be closed, the practice of rendition has continued. Instead of refuting the Bush era power grab of “executive privilege,” Obama went even further with the creation of  “kill list” and the execution of American citizens without trial. And he has presided over a drone war which is presented to Americans as focused and surgical but in fact has terrorized the whole border region of Pakistan and killed hundreds of innocent people.

All the while the Obama Justice Department has done nothing to bring Bush era war criminals to justice. Men who lied us into war in Iraq, got thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, and squandered billions of dollars are not in jail where they belong. They are writing books, giving speeches, and appearing as pundits on TV. Obama said we should look forward not back. Well hey, I’m going to try that defense if I’m ever arrested. “Sure, I did those crimes but we should look forward, not back. Now where’s my book deal?”

These are all legitimate reasons that Obama should have faced a serious challenge for reelection. Instead of having that debate on what he’s actually done, the right wing noise machine has been fear mongering about Imaginary Obama (or IO). IO is a shared hallucination of the right, a bogeyman they have created that has little in common with Actual Obama (AO). He’s a dangerous radical! He’s both a communist and a Nazi! He’s a secret Muslim from Kenya! He’s going to create death panels and brainwash your children! And all his crazed plans will come to fruition unless we rally together and give the ultra-rich more tax cuts!

IO has been a real growth industry. It’s hardly possible to keep up with all the baseless scandals that have been whipped up and repeated ad infinitum on Fox News, talk radio, and so on, but the truth about AO is surprisingly ordinary: he’s a corporate friendly centrist who is left of Bush but right of FDR and sometimes even Reagan. Hell, even his supposedly socialist health care reform was birthed in a conservative think tank and first implement by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Do you think that’s what any progressive really wanted? We wanted the public option (AKA Medicare for All), but the Democrats (the world’s worst negotiators) took that off the table before the negotiation even started. Nice job, AO!

As I hope is clear, I have serious problems with Obama. I would have liked a different choice, but in our two party system he’s my leftish option. So am I going to show my disaffection by switching my vote and going for Romney?

No. In fact, hell no! Let me tell you why.

The Madness of the GOP

I have some friends who are not going to vote for Obama or Romney. They are either voting for a third party (like I did in 2000) or not voting at all (like I did in 1996, when I felt Clinton was not sufficiently progressive). There’s an article about this very thing in the Atlantic called “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama.” Many people are so disgusted with politics generally and with Congress in particular that they feel that both of the major parties are the same so they refuse to vote for either.

Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve laughed along to Bill Hicks talking about the puppets on the left and right. If you’ve paid attention to politics at all in the 12 years, however, you have to know that there is a difference. If you don’t vote at all, you reward the worst actor (the GOP in this case). If you vote for Romney because you are disappointed in Obama, you baffle me. It’s like saying, “This coffee I ordered is lukewarm. Give me a cup of poison instead!”

Americans, it seems, don’t like to remember how we got here. Conservatives have taken this to new heights with full on amnesia about the years 2000-2008. It’s the only way Mitt Romney can possibly say, “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” with a straight face. Certainly Mitt and his super rich friends shouldn’t be complaining: 93% of the growth from the recovery has gone to the 1%. And the Wall St. bankers who almost blew up the world economy with their reckless gambling and huckster tricks? They are not only escaped jail, they are making money hand over fist.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As soon as Obama became president, the Republicans became very concerned about the deficit. Why, this deficit was outrageous and it was all Obama’s fault, with his tax, borrow, and spend liberalism! What they fail to mention is that Clinton left office with a surplus and it was the Bush administration who piled up most of this debt. Two disastrous sets of tax cuts for the rich and two unfunded wars together with a recession that was almost a depression account for most of our debt. Take a look at the chart here that spells it out quite clearly. Yes, GOP, you truly built that and throughout the Bush administration you didn’t give a shit about the deficit. Dick Cheney famously said, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” He should have added, “when Republicans are in charge.” When a Democrat is president, they miraculously become super important again.

You’ll note the enormous effect that Bush tax cuts have had on the economy. And yet in 2010 and again this year the Republicans have fought tooth and nail to extend them and hope to make them permanent. Obama and the Senate had a perfectly reasonable plan to keep the middle-class tax cuts during the recession but let those for the rich expire as they should have two years ago. But the GOP said in essence, “Screw the middle class. Rich people get tax cuts or no one does!”

This was a revealing moment. This was the GOP fighting for its real constituency: the super rich. The big corporations and the greedy billionaires pay them very well to do so. And fighting so hard to protect and enrich the 1% by advocating policies that are a detriment to 99% of Americans? They call that patriotism.

The root of this, and it can’t be repeated enough, is the zombie lie of trickle down economics (AKA supply side economics). In a rare moment of truth telling, Bush the Senior called it “voodoo economics” and he was right. This is not an economic theory but a charlatan’s trick. If only we give the rich more and more tax cuts, money and jobs will rain down on the rest of us! We’ve seen little but this sort of magical thinking for the past 30+ years, so where is the promised utopia? Well, what do you know, it turns out most gains went to the super rich! Who could have predicted?

The increase in worker compensation from 1978 to 2011 is 5.7%. Think about that for a minute. How much more expensive is every goddamn thing in the world now than it was in 1980? Wouldn’t it be nice if wages kept pace? Well don’t worry because the increase is CEO compensation in the same period was a whopping 726.7%. Yes, you read that right: 726.7% growth for CEOs vs. 5.7% for workers. Suggest in any way that this is unfair and you are accused of class warfare. Well, my not so wealthy conservative friends, I’ve got news for you: the 1% and your party’s leadership have been engaged in class warfare for decades and we the people are losing.

All that is stark enough, but the real lunacy comes in the realm of social issues. The Christian Right, including the frightening Dominionists, have come to the fore here and all of a sudden we are re-litigating fights that the rest of America thought were settled.

Unable to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the GOP has opted to try to make it as hard as possible for women to have a medical procedure that has been legal in America since 1973. The hypocrisy here really shines. The party that says it wants government off our backs has been passing or attempting to pass a series of laws in the states that mandate a transvaginal ultrasound for any woman wanting an abortion. This is an invasive medical procedure that they want women to go through for no medical reason. This is bullying and intimidation pure and simple.

But wait, there’s more for you, ladies. There are pious nutjobs like Rick Santorum who not only want to end a woman’s right to choose, but also want to ban contraception. If you have a baby, well that’s just God’s will! Then there are the increasing number of GOP rape enablers. There have been so many of these frightening statements from the mouths of Republican politicians, you’ll need to consult this handy GOP Rape Advisory Chart to see them all.

The Elephant in the Room

At last we come to the Tea Party, the supposedly grassroots movement that is of course nothing of the sort. I clearly remember, though the media does not, that at the very first Tea Party rally in DC Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks was ready with buses too transport protesters to the capital. Yes, nothing says grassroots like a corporate lobbying group “guiding” your movement.

I feel bad for the Tea Party people. I really do. Most of them are poor and middle class folks who’ve been fed a steady diet of lies so they march in the streets for their corporate masters while cutting their own throats. This is a movement that is outraged by high taxes (Taxed Enough Already) when taxes are at their lowest rate in 30 years.

Rather than fight tyranny, what the Tea Party has really done is let the most extreme elements of the right take over the GOP agenda. They have welcomed back with open arms paranoid conspiracy theorists like the John Birch Society, who were famously kicked out of the conservative movement by William F. Buckley. Their leader, Buckley said, had views on current affairs that were “so far removed from common sense.” The right likes to present the Tea Party as something new but it’s not. They are recycling the same nonsense the lunatic right has been peddling since the early 60s. The difference is that the Republicans have no one like Buckley to tell them they’re full of shit. The GOP thought they could use these people but the joke has been on them.

In 2010 the Republicans took over the House of Representatives, and a wave of of new Tea Party candidates came into the government. Naturally they all signed loathsome toad Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. This pledge, which most GOP Congressmen–and one Mitt Romney–have signed, says that signers will never vote to raise any tax for any reason. Now remember that the GOP is also the party that says the government should be run like a business and that’s one reason Mitt Romney is supposedly a great candidate. So taxes are how the government raises revenue to run the country. How would you react if the members of your company’s upper management signed a pledge to never increase the amount of revenue the company brought in? And if they told you that, better yet, the company should strive to bring in less revenue? Makes no sense at all, does it? And yet, Norquist and his allies have used this pledge to prevent Congress from doing anything sensible in the face of the financial crisis. Remember, the hallowed saint Ronald Reagan himself raised taxes 11 times.

The GOP takeover of the House better enabled them to execute on what had been their strategy from Day 1 of the Obama presidency: hysterically oppose anything Obama proposes–even when he tries to adopt Republican ideas–and work for a continued economic disaster for most Americans so they can take back the presidency this year. Or as they call it, patriotism.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” That’s the game in a nutshell. They have massively abused the filibuster rule in the Senate to block a long stream of bills, including the American Jobs Act. They cry about the deficit while refusing to allow the government to raise new revenue. Instead, they demand that we cut more social programs because austerity is the only solution. Yes, so convenient that they want to save money by getting rid of things they hate (like funding for Planned Parenthood and PBS, even if the “savings” would be paltry) while demanding even more money for the military (even when they say they don’t want it).

Meanwhile in the house, Speaker John Boehner “relentless focus on jobs” looks an awful lot like an attempt to set the social clock back 100 years. Lots and lots of bills about repealing health care reform and controlling women’s bodies, but very little on the job creation front. You can see their laser-like focus here.

Enter Mitt Romney

Honestly, I’m not going to waste too much time on Mitt Romney. He is probably the worst candidate the Republicans could have picked for this election. He’s a Yankee, formerly pro-choice governor from Massachusetts whose signature achievement–Romneycare–he must disown because it was the template for evil socialist Obamacare. He’s also the living, breathing embodiment of the 1%. The GOP might as well have nominated Richie Rich. His vaunted business experience was the predator capitalism of his company Bain, which destroyed companies–often previously profitable companies–by loading them up with debt and then riding off into the sunset with millions of profit. You want to see that template applied to America? I sure don’t.

On top of all that, Mitt is the lyingist candidate I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to say anything about Mitt except that he really likes, money, power, and Mormonism. Other than that, what does he really stand for? He acts like a businessman, telling each crowd what they want to hear. The Mitt we saw in the Republican primaries was a completely different guy than the one who appeared in the presidential debates. All politicians do exaggerate and lie to some degree, but 616 verified lies in 30 weeks? That’s some kind of record. Just recently while campaigning in swing state Ohio, Romney claimed that Chrysler was going to send American jobs on Jeep to China. Only problem with that claim: it’s totally false. This has not, of course, stopped Mitt from repeating it, just as he repeated the lie that Iran needs Syria for access to the sea line many times (most recently in the debates).

Mitt promises real change but that is nonsense. His policies and his advisers all come straight from the Bush administration. Mitt and his allies want you to forget that the GOP is responsible for the terrible shape of the country. They want you to forget that they have done everything in their power to prevent an American recovery because they’ll be damned if Obama gets credit for fixing their mess. Are things great now? Absolutely not, but things have improved since the the worst president in US history (that’s George W. Bush to be clear). Do you want a do over? Do you want to invade Iran this time? Or maybe you prefer different unfunded wars? Do you want more tax cuts for the rich? I sure don’t.

Vote Because They Don’t Want You To

This is all a long way of saying that Democrats and Obama have their problems, but they are by far the lesser evil. Please go out and vote, no matter what your party or views. When you vote, you are exercising your democratic rights and that is always important. You should also vote because fundamentally, the GOP doesn’t want a high voter turnout. Historically, high turnouts favors Democrats and low turnouts favors Republicans (that’s why they won in 2010). So in addition to all the other corrupt and morally bankrupt things they’ve been up too, the GOP has been busy trying to disenfranchise voters across the country.

The Republicans made up a phony threat–in person voter fraud–and then passed a series of voter ID laws to restrict voting. Actual number of verified in person voter frauds since 2000? Seven. Seven! Number of citizens they want to deny the vote to? Possibly more than 5 million, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. In Florida Governor Rick “Crypt Keeper” Scott refused to extend early voting hours and attempted a voter purge earlier this year. Republican Secretary of State in Ohio John Husted made an 11th hour rule change that may lead to countless provisional ballots being thrown out. In person voter fraud is bunk but voter suppression is very real and one party is behind it: the GOP. This a direct attack on our democracy and we should not stand for it.

Get out out there and vote to end this madness. I lived through 8 years of Bush and I don’t want to go back there. I want Obama to win and then in 2016 I want a real progressive to become president. I don’t want big government or executive privilege; I want good government. I want a government that doesn’t try to impose its will on other nations without just cause (and without sidestepping a formal declaration of war). I want a government that ends the bloated budget of the Pentagon and makes a leaner, smarter military. I want a government that will build and maintain infrastructure like roads and bridges, and plan for the effects of climate change. I want a government that will invest in science and education and leave religion where it belongs: in churches. I want a government that ends the disastrous and ineffective War on Drugs and the prison industrial complex that’s grown up because of it. I want a government that prosecutes war criminals and white collar criminals with vehemence, so we end the abuses of Wall St. and stop something like the Iraq War from ever happening again. I want a government that reforms the tax code so it’s truly progressive and easy to understand, with no tax special tax rates, loopholes, or deductions for the super rich. I want a government that is interested in social justice and the prosperity of all.

Let’s make it happen, Americans. Step one is not just defeating Romney but sending the Republicans in the Senate, House,and (very importantly) the State Houses packing as well. They have earned our contempt: let’s show it to them.


RPG Rarities and Author’s Copies Up for Auction

“One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.”


The past few months have not been kind to our bank account. I have a bunch of medical bills (don’t worry, nothing serious) and our shitty insurance is covering nothing (what am I paying for again?). Then the water line to our refrigerator burst in the middle of the night and the subsequent flood destroyed the rug in our living room and we’re in the process of doing the floor over. I’m trying to offset these setbacks by selling a bunch of stuff of eBay. This first wave is RPG focused, but there will be more.

There are some genuine rarities here. I’ve copied over the auction descriptions here, along with direct links. If you want to see my seller’s page, you can find it here.

In the US I ship USPS Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation. For international buyers, I ship USPS Express Mail. I will combine shipping if you win more than one auction.

Blood of the Valiant (Ronin Publishing Edition)

Blood of the Valiant is the Guiding Hand sourcebook for the Feng Shui RPG, and it’s also a great background book for players of the Shadowfist TCG. This is the first RPG book I wrote all of and I released it through my first company, Ronin Publishing, under license from Daedalus Entertainment.

The book was later reprinted by Atlas Games but this is the original release and it comes from my personal collection. I’m happy to sign it for you if you like (or not, if you’d prefer it without my scrawl).


Blood of the Valiant (Atlas Games Edition)

Blood of the Valiant is the Guiding Hand sourcebook for the Feng Shui RPG, and it’s also a great background book for players of the Shadowfist TCG. This is the first RPG book I wrote all of and I released it through my first company, Ronin Publishing, under license from Daedalus Entertainment.

This is the later Atlas Games edition and it includes some extra material by Keith Baker. The book comes from my personal collection. I’m happy to sign it for you if you like (or not, if you’d prefer it without my scrawl).


Children of the Horned Rat (WFRP2)

Children of the Horned Rat is the Skaven sourcebook for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd edition. To the best of my knowledge, it was only printed once and is thus increasingly hard to find.

I designed WFRP2E and wrote the adventure in this book. It comes from my personal collection. I’m happy to sign it for you if you like (or not, if you’d prefer it without my scrawl).


Dragonlance Fifth Age Pre-Press Copy

This auction is for a rare pre-press copy of the Dragonlance Fifth Age RPG. It’s a bound printout of the laid out book (without art) that was sent out to reviewers before the game was published. You can see on the pictures that it was printed out on May 2, 1996 at 3:54 pm. Only a handful were made, which makes this a great collector’s item for Dragonlance fans.


Dragonlance Heroes & Fools

This is a very rare misprint of the Dragonlance Heroes & Fools fiction anthology. Here’s the story.

When this book came out in 1999, I was working at Wizards of the Coast and my group was right next to the book department. When a new book came out, they’d usually swing by and drop one on everyone’s desk. I put mine in a drawer and then missed work the next day. While I was out, they came by to pick up all the copies. Turns out the whole first print run had a misprint on the final page. Worse, it was in Margaret Weis’ story!

As you can see in the pictures, somehow the last section of a previous story by Janet Pack was appended to the end of Margaret and Don Perrin’s story. The paragraph that begins, “Monster and Solamnic sprinted for the ruined weapon,” and everything after it is from the anthology’s first story and has no business being there.

Most of this print run was destroyed. Only a few fluke copies like mine still exist. This is a great item for Dragonlance collectors!


Dune RPG Limited Edition

Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium is the only RPG ever published based on Frank Herbert’s legendary scifi series of novels. Wizards of the Coast published it in the year 2000 in a limited run of only 3,000 copies. It has never been reprinted.

I was working at Wizards of the Coast at the time of publication and this is my personal copy.


Freeport Trilogy Original Modules

This is a complete set of the classic third edition D&D modules The Freeport Trilogy. They were some of the earliest releases for Green Ronin Publishing and the d20 System as a whole. The adventures are Death in Freeport, Terror in Freeport, and Madness in Freeport.

I wrote Death in Freeport and developed Terror and Madness. These modules come from my personal collection. I’m happy to sign them for you if you like (or not, if you’d prefer them without my scrawl).


4E Freeport Companion

Freeport is a city that can be dropped into any fantasy campaign setting and it’s detailed in full in Green Ronin’s Pirate’s Guide to Freeport. Expeditious Retreat published this companion for use with 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons under license from Green Ronin. If you love 4E and Freeport, this book is for you!

I created Freeport and wrote some of the material that was adapted in this book. This copy comes from my personal collection. I’m happy to sign it for you if you like (or not, if you’d prefer it without my scrawl).


HARP Bundle

High Adventure Role Playing is a set of fantasy rules published by ICE in 2003 and descended from their Rolemaster RPG. This bundle includes the core rulebook, College of Magics, Martial Law, and Monsters: A Field Guide. Get everything you need to start a campaign in one go!


Hong Kong Action Theater, 2nd Edition

You are bidding on a copy of the Hong Kong Action Theater RPG. The publisher, Guardians of Order, went out of business several years so it’s becoming harder to find.

I wrote the lengthy history of Hong Kong cinema and the movie reviews. This book comes from my personal collection. I’m happy to sign it for you if you like (or not, if you’d prefer it without my scrawl).


The Jade Hare (D&D)

The Jade Hare is an extremely rare D&D module published in 1992. This short adventure was given away with orders from the TSR Mail Order Hobby Shop in 1992. Most, like this one, came without a cover (I have one with a cover but I’m not desperate enough to sell it yet!).

I got this when the remnants of TSR’s old legal archive were put into the company store at Wizards of the Coast 12 years ago. I was lucky enough to be working there at the time.


Liber Chaotica (Warhammer)

Liber Chaotic is the epic background book about Chaos in the Warhammer world. There were originally four separate books, one each for Khorne, Nugle, Slaanesh, Tzeentch. These were combined with a fifth book about Chaos Undivided and the Liber Chaotica is the result. This is the softcover edition, of which I believe there was only one printing.


Over the Edge RPG Bundle

Over the Edge is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, so journey back to the 90s and see the original. This bundle includes 7 Over the Edge books: the core rulebook, Friend or Foe?, Weather the Cuckoo Likes, Player’s Survival Guide, Cloaks, Wildest Dreams, and the Myth of Self. Lose yourself or your mind on the island of Al Amarja!


Realms of Sorcery (WFRP2)

Realms of Sorcery is the magic sourcebook for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd edition. To the best of my knowledge, it was only printed once and is thus increasingly hard to find.

I designed WFRP2E and co-wrote this book. It comes from my personal collection. I’m happy to sign it for you if you like (or not, if you’d prefer it without my scrawl).


Slavers (AD&D)

Slavers is the second edition AD&D sequel to the classic A1-A4 Slavelords modules of first edition. I wrote this with Sean K. Reynolds back in 1999 and it was one of the last releases for second edition.

This is one of my personal copies. I’m happy to sign it for you if you like (or not, if you’d prefer it without my scrawl).


 Wings of the Valkyrie (Champions)

Wings of the Valkyrie is the only Champions RPG release to ever be recalled by the publisher and is this quite rare. In the adventure, the PCs must go back in time to save Hitler and so preserve the timeline. This plot did not sit too well with many folks at the time, and this led to the recall.

This copy has never been opened and is in its original shrinkwrap. It comes from my personal collection.


Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards RPG Bundle

Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards is an acid trippy fantasy movie from 1977, but did you know it also had a roleplaying game from 1992? It’s true and you can get everything published for it in one go! You get the core rulebook, Scorch sourcebook, Montagar sourcebook, GM Screen, and Character Sheets.



The Art of RPGs: Curator’s Statement

This month and next at Krab Jab Studio we are featuring the Art of Roleplaying Games show that I curated with Julie Baroh. We had a great opening the weekend before GenCon and now on Thursday night we are doing another event. This one is a meet the artists mixer and it’s happening on the eve of the Penny Arcade Expo here in Seattle. Many of the artists whose work is in the show will be there, and there will be beer, wine, and snacks. For more details, see the Facebook event page.

Julie and I wrote curator’s statements for the show. For those of you who can’t make it down to Krab Jab, I thought I’d share mine here.

Curator’s Statement

From the beginning of published RPGs in the early 70s, art has played an important role. The words described the rules and evoked the worlds, but the art helped bring it all to life. I got into RPGs in 1979, when I was 10 years old. Certain pieces of art, like the cover of The Village of Hommlet and A Paladin in Hell in the AD&D Player’s Handbook, were burned into my brain forever. Later, I encountered artists whose work defined entire game lines, like P.D. Breeding-Black on Talislanta and Tony DiTerlizzi on Planescape.

In the early 90s I started my career in the game industry as a freelance writer. At first I had no say in the art that accompanied my writing. Then in 1995, when I was working on a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay book called Dying the Light for Hogshead Publishing, I got to write my first art order. It was exciting to conceive something in my mind and then see a talented artist interpret it in the final book. In my first company and then in the early days of Green Ronin Publishing, I had the chance to art direct many books and that was a new challenge. Not just writing the art orders, but recruiting artists and working with them to produce the final work gave me a true appreciation for the work that goes into a RPG book beyond the text. It also made me realize that while I could art direct a book, there were folks far better at it than I. That’s why I brought in Hal Mangold as a partner, and he has art directed and graphic designed almost every Green Ronin project for the last ten years.

When I joined Krab Jab in 2011, I was just looking for a co-working space to do my writing. I loved the idea of working in a creative space instead of a soulless cubicle. I wasn’t thinking in terms on curating a show, but one day I suggested to Julie Baroh that a show focused on RPG art would be awesome and we decided to curate it together. As far as I know, no one has attempted a gallery show like this before. The response from the artists and the public has been tremendous and I’m thrilled with how the show came together. We’ve got work from 30 years ago to today and from a wide variety of artists. Here’s the thing though: this show only scratches the surface of what’s been done in RPGs in the past four decades. RPG art has rarely appeared in galleries but I think the skill and imagination on display here make it clear that it should.

I hope you enjoy The Art of RPGs and get some of that inspiration I experienced as a 10 year old. Even more, I hope we get to do this again!

The Art of Roleplaying Games Gallery Show Looking for Submissions

I am co-curating and Green Ronin Publishing is sponsoring an art show at Krab Jab Studio called The Art of Roleplaying Games. The idea is to show off some of the awesome art that has been produced for RPGs in a gallery setting. We hope to display a breadth of material that represents RPGs from the early days to the present and feature art from a wide variety of games.

The show opens on August 11, 2012 and runs through the first week in September. We’re planning a special event the night before the Penny Arcade Expo begins, and we hope we can lure some attendees away from downtown to check out the show and the Georgetown neighborhood where Krab Jab is located.

We already have some art lined up but right now it’s mostly from local Seattle artists and we’d love to have participation from further afield. If you are an artist, collector, or company  that owns original RPG art and you’d like to be part of the show, please contact us at krabjabstudio [at] gmail [dot] com. Let us know what you’d like to show and what game products they appeared in.

Work can be any 2D media, color or grayscale, and must have been created for use in a roleplaying game publication. Krab Jab Studio does have an artist agreement that needs to be signed prior to hanging (it’s very standard legal stuff). Krab Jab Studio takes 20% commission for works sold inhouse or online, but you are not required to have your pieces for sale. We do catalog the show and list it on our website (www.krabjabstudio.com). By August we should be set to ship art within the US (we currently sell locally).

About Krab Jab Studio

Fully established by 2010, Krab Jab Studio is the workplace of artists Julie Baroh, Milo Duke, Mark Tedin and writer Chris Pramas. With a monthly rotation of guest artists in our gallery, Krab Jab has developed a steady following in the funky, industrial artist’s haven known as Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.

Krab Jab Studio also facilitates classes and workshops, most of which are developed as further education in the illustrational arts. Mark and Julie run a successful weekly costume drawing group, bringing in costumes and models of all kinds.

The name “Krab Jab” is a combination of initials of founders Julie Baroh and Kyle Abernethy. We found it to sound funny, and it stuck, even after Kyle left in 2011 (he still shows with us each month). Previous Krab Jab artists have included painters Michael Hoppe and Sandra Everingham.

About Green Ronin Publishing

Green Ronin Publishing is a Seattle-based company known for its dedication to quality books and games. Founded in 2000, Green Ronin has been at the forefront of roleplaying game development ever since, taking home the coveted ENnie Award for Best Publisher an unprecedented three years running. With great licenses like Dragon Age and A Song of Ice and Fire, groundbreaking games like Mutants & Masterminds and Blue Rose, and a roster of top flight designers and illustrators, Green Ronin Publishing is a leading light in the hobby game industry.

Personal Note: If you are wondering how I am both president of Green Ronin and a member of Krab Jab, see this older post. Short answer: I’m using Krab Jab as a co-working space.

Game Night

Note: I wrote this as one of our Ronin Round Tables, a feature we do each Friday on www.greenronin.com. I thought I’d post it here for folks who don’t make it over to the company site frequently. Enjoy. 

In 1999 Nicole and I decided to start hosting a game night at our place to play RPGs. While we’ve moved from that apartment, cycled many friends in and out of the group, and changed the night of the week several times, game night has been going on as close to weekly as we can manage for the last 13 years. It’s a key social activity for us and one that we always try to maintain. Even last year, when I spent 10 months in Austin working on the Warhammer 40K MMO, I Skyped in for at least part of the night to keep that connection. Maintaining a game group is not without its challenges though, and we’ve faced many over the years. I know we’re not alone in this either. How many of these sound familiar to you?

Many Players, One GM
For many years, I ran nearly every RPG on game night. In the early years we played a lot of d20 games, as Green Ronin was one of the leading d20 publishers during that era. I had a long running D&D campaign, ran Freeport adventures, and playtested V for Victory, the World War 2 mini game I designed for Polyhedron Magazine. Later I ran a playtest for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd edition, and even a short-lived Lord of the Rings game when it seemed like we might get to design a LotR game for Games Workshop (not getting to design that game still makes me sad). Later there was Dragon Age, of course, but game night is not all about playtesting. I also ran stuff like a Savage Worlds Day After Ragnarok game and a weird mash-up of Feng Shui, Underground, Delta Green, and Deadlands. Once in a while, someone else would volunteer to run and I’d enjoy just playing, but those campaigns never lasted. We’d do 3 or 4 sessions and then I’d be back in the GM’s chair. I do like to GM but a certain point I started to get burned out. We got another GM when Ray Winninger joined the group, but ultimately Ray decided he preferred running longer sessions on weekends than working within the constraints of a week night that includes dinner and socializing (and hey, Ray, you can start those up again any time!).

Differing Tastes
Some groups have one glorious campaign that lasts for a decade or more but in my experience those games are the exception. Most campaigns seem to last six months or less. That is certainly true of our group. We’ve had maybe two that have lasted longer than a year. Naturally then, a common question is, “What are we playing next?” This isn’t always easy to answer. Tastes vary widely among our group and what we ended up playing was often a matter of compromise. In all our years of game night, I’ve never run one of my very favorite games, Pendragon, because I knew we had players who just wouldn’t be into it. That game requires a group of players who really buy into the setting and concepts, and I didn’t want to frustrate myself by trying to force it on them.

Life Intruding
I look back fondly on my teenage years, when I had way more free time for gaming. Everyone in our group (with the exception of my step-daughter Kate) is a grown up and of course we have all sorts of responsibilities. Almost everyone who has ever been in our group works in either the tabletop or video game industries, so there have been many times that we lose people for months of crunch time. Convention season is another difficult time, as many of us travel for weeks in the summer to attend this con or that. Marc “Sparky” Schmalz, GR’s Director of E-Publishing, also went back to school a couple of years back, which sometimes limits his time. Mitch Gitelman, an old friend who joined the group while I was in down south, is one of the guys behind the recent Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter and we’re pretty sure that’s going to keep him busy. So while we try to meet every week, it isn’t always possible. Sometimes it has seemed like the whole thing will unravel, but we’ve always pulled it back.

Changing Faces
The game industry can be volatile so we’ve had to watch many friends move away for new jobs, but we’ve also filled empty spots with friends who have moved to Seattle for a new gig. Sometimes the same person has done both those things. The most famous example is Bruce Harlick of the old Hero Games crew, who moved here to work on the Matrix MMO, was part of group for many years, and then moved back to California for several other video game jobs (ending with his current gig at Zynga). We still call him “Bruce the Traitor” for leaving us but he’s far from the only one. Jim Bishop left to go work at BioWare, Patrick Swift for a job at Upper Deck and now Cryptozoic, Tim Carroll for a job at Apple, Jess Lebow for a job at Ubisoft (and the distance record by moving to China!) and hell even me for a while when I lived in Austin last year. Every time we gain or lose people, the dynamic changes a little bit. This isn’t always bad, but it’s another thing that makes long term campaigns hard. GR’s webmaster Evan Sass gets bonus points for being the one person outside the household who has stayed with us through thick and thin.

Campaign Failure
For many of the reasons outlined above, we’ve found it harder and harder to maintain campaigns. While the group was originally conceived as RPG focused, a few years ago board and card games started to overtake that. Since the group often varied week to week, depending on who was traveling or crunching or what have you, it seemed better to play games we could finish in a night. And as I mentioned, I was also burning out on GMing and I wanted a break as well. So we’ve ended up playing games like Ticket to Ride, Dixit, Thurn and Taxis, Small World, Formula Dé, Dominion, and recently Miskatonic School for Girls (a Kickstarter that Nicole backed).

As you can see, we’ve had our ups and downs. Some nights we don’t even game at all. Nicole Lindroos, in addition to being Green Ronin’s General Manager, is a fabulous chef, so she always cooks and we drink, talk, and catch up. Those nights are fun too and even if we only talk about gaming (which is pretty much inevitable for us), I’d rather get together than miss a game night. It’s gaming that keeps us bonded together, keeps us coming back week after week to socialize, and keeps our friendships strong. Of course, it’s better when we actually play something but now my step-daughter Kate (who is 16) is part of the group and she’s helping to keep us honest. Last week she basically told us that game night without games was bulllshit and she wanted to play a superhero RPG please. I think we raised that girl right!

Top Five Reasons I Won’t Support Your Kickstarter

5. Your promises are vague and so is the delivery date of the project.
4. You spend 30 days on all social media talking about nothing but your Kickstarter. I didn’t back it the first 500 times I heard about it, but number 501 is sure to do the trick!
3. The leader of your team is an ethically-challenged piece of work who has already publicly disgraced himself.
2. Your “funny” game is about rape.
1. You are a millionaire and you Kickstart something you could easily afford. Asking people poorer than you to fund your project is so 1%.

We Are 138!

It is common practice for writers and game designers to put Easter eggs into their work. They are often targeted at super fans, whose deep knowledge of the topic at hand lets them get the joke. I did this somewhat frequently in my early days as a freelance writer, except I put in things simply to amuse myself. In particular, I put punk references into my game writing with the full knowledge that few, if any, readers would get it.

“We Are 138” is a case in point. In 1996 I wrote an scenario for the Feng Shui RPG (and no, non-gaming friends, this was not a game about furniture arrangement, but Hong Kong action movies) that appeared in the book Marked for Death*. In the adventure the PCs go to the dystopian future controlled by the Architects of the Flesh and visit a town called Pride 138. They witness a legion of school children in matching uniforms marching down the street chanting, “We are 138! We are 138!” The adventure explains the town’s curious name:

“If anyone asks about the origin of Pride 138’s name, Footen tells them it’s a product of one of the Buro’s less successful campaigns. They sought to increase civic pride by naming new towns in rural areas Pride; needless to say, by the time they hit the 138th town named Pride, the campaign lost its novelty.”

“We Are 138” is, of course, a song by The Misfits, possibly inspired by the movie THX 1138. The old Misfits tunes are pretty well-known these days, but even so I never had anyone tell me they got the reference in that adventure. Same for most of my Easter Eggs, with the notable exception of the cloud giant pimp named Dolemite I put in the AD&D supplement Vortex of Madness. No one ever figured out that Krokus Behemoth, the ormyrr watch captain in the City of Glass from that same book, was a reference to the early stage name (Crocus Behemoth) of Dave Thomas of Rocket from the Tombs and Pere Ubu.

The funny thing about Marked for Death now is that I can’t actually remember which came first, the idea of using the song in an adventure or the idea of the Buro naming hundreds of towns Pride. Since the ill-conceived propaganda campaign works whether you get the reference or not, I suppose it doesn’t even matter. 16 years later I am still amused.

* I pulled down Marked for Death when writing this to get the proper quote. I hadn’t looked at for ages and thought, “Damn, that’s a sweet cover. I checked the credits, only to discover that the art was done by my Krab Jab studio mate, Mark Tedin. Funny!

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.