Under the hood…

Under the hood…

I get asked about our writing/production process sometimes at conventions or online. I never have a good answer so I usually make one up; preferably a funny one. However, a friend of mine wrote a post last  night that got me thinking about it enough to give a better answer. It can be...

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Musing on muses.

Musing on muses.

I get asked about our writing/production process sometimes at conventions or online. I never have a good answer so I usually make one up; preferably a funny one. However, a friend of mine wrote a post last  night that got me thinking about it enough to give a better answer. Lloyd Metcalf, the friend in question and artist of huge talent, posted about conceptualizing and outlining adventures on Facebook. Many real designers commented with the methods they used to form the heart of their projects. These ranged from starting with a piece of art, a map or even project management software outlines. I don’t do that. In fact I was almost embarrassed to comment on how I start after reading everyone’s techniques in the comments under his post but I will say it anyway. I always start with a title. I keep a list of them and occasionally cross off or add a few. After awhile one will click when I visualize a place or event tangentially related to the title in question. In both Whisper & Venom and Death & Taxes that place/scene/character did not make it into the published story, but it was the start. Once I have a scene in my mind I will spend time settling on a premise- a long time. I find it difficult to pick an interesting one that either  A) has not been done to death or B) foes not make me look like a pretentious douchebag. I worry about B more than A. Once satisfied I am neither of the above I do an outline in OneNote. It is here where I finally make a rough map; I use a chessex erasable mondo mat. It helps me with get a scale useful in game and its less tedious to completely tework than PhotoShop. It is also harder to lose (at 5′ x 9′ or whatever obscene dimension it is) than graph paper scraps. From there I write in marathon sessions about a week apart; usually typing about 4k words per session. In between I am constantly thinking about words I like, consistency, and believability; each thought I write, again, in OneNote. Then I cut over half of it and solicit an opinion from (usually) Edwin. I would guess of an original 20k word draft about 10% wind up in the final. The rest are changed, expanded or discarded. These are...

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Skills are a bit rusty

Skills are a bit rusty

Death, Taxes and, apparently a rust monster are coming soon. Illustration of the Fyrric by Lloyd Metcalf.

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So it begins…

So it begins…

Those boxes in the picture need filling and I am in the home stretch. The major components for the last phase before shipping are either in my hands or verifiably a few weeks away. In honor of the huge amount of work ahead of me I woke up early and did some work.  What follows is a short aimless rant about workflow mapping and me. I don’t blame you for stopping your read right here. All my time since sunrise has been prepping/planning the soon to be RAM busting InDesign document for the Death & Taxes Layout(s). I learned the hard way in 2013 what happens when you just start layout, as opposed to doing a modicum of research and testing. Last time I did not plan the page settings, master pages, master page inheritance, base styles, nested styles, object states, hyperlinks, bookmarks, indexing, TOC Headings and calming pill acquisition. For the first time in my life I did a workflow plan without having somebody force it on me. It was less entertaining than you would expect but I am glad I did it. While going over steps of the workflow I tested some of the more advanced tools for large documents and books. Most I was only remotely aware of 6 weeks ago. In the process I re-created the already finished but not released PDF for The First Sentinel. It is much nicer than the one I did last month. I can’t stand to look at the old one now, thus I am either getting better or more delusional. What the files for Whisper & Venom would look like to me now is stomach churning. Death & Taxes will be much better looking than Whisper & Venom plus it will not take 5-6 weeks (of 12-20 hour days to complete). If it does I will blame Adobe. They add options and tweaks faster than I can be bothered to know about them. They probably just do it to drive traffic to their online tutorials for a sinister purpose.What that that purpose might be I haven’t a clue. I am certain it involves evil laughter around a smoking conference room counting their (formerly my) money. Enough rambling. I opened and named the InDesign just before I hit post. So here I...

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Hydra? Fountain?

Hydra? Fountain?

  Both? I would recommend the most sinister option as being the most likely of the possibilities. The image is the prototype of the resin hydra fountain kit from Death & Taxes. The sculpt was done by Nic Genovese and he worked with Valiant to make sure it worked as a kit. The water streams are translucent blue resin. I honestly could not be happier. Here is the Hydra non-fountain kit (also...

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Feral as related to alignment

Feral as related to alignment

A post on the Acaeum got me thinking this morning about how I, as a pretend writer, attempt to write depth into our adventures. The relevant post is here. The quote that fired up the neurons is from the post Steve Marsh regarding the cosmology of his world’s Plane of Shadow. It functions as an entry-way to the negative material plane for the material plane it is connected to (a subset of Shadow) and it works as a layer from the shadow to the negative energy planes, one of the (perhaps many) ante-rooms to the abyssal levels and realms…. and [as prisons they] may be permeable so that more life can enter as new fuel for it.  Those imprisoned are already in a lesser hell. The ante-rooms of the abyss, or lesser hells, are fascinating when considered in game cosmology. Not the least of which is their role in avoiding the narrative trap of faceless ultimate evil versus shining virtue. Those light against dark struggles often miss the most interesting type stories to read, or in our case, play. The gray areas are where the stories exist. Sagas and epics are for Ulysses and Beowulf, game scenarios are, in my mind, for the motivated everyman. The ‘lesser hells’ as entries allow for varying levels of evil to be encountered for many purposes. The above caught my eye as I was recently reading the manuscript in question (gifted to me by Steve Marsh at the North Texas RPG Con). Apart from being about the coolest thing I have ever received the manuscript had a paragraph in it about alignment which, interestingly enough, dovetailed with another bit of writing by Mr. Marsh almost 40 years ago. The 1980 article, about Nymphs oddly, was in my ‘new’ copy of The Dungeoneer #18 (thank you BadMike and Mythoard). Steve’s description of magic types expressed in the 1980 article and the more detailed erudition in the manuscript both used the word feral. The direct connection of chaos to feral nature was very interesting to me. Although I used read long treatise about alignment- having long since stopped out of frustration, it is surprising I would write about it- this was the most precise and valuable description relevant to alignment I had ever seen done in a short paragraph. Steve attributes this origin to Pol Anderson’s Three Hearts, Three Lions, but this was the first...

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