The Making of Whisper & Venom and the genesis of Lesser Gnome.

How did a complete amateur learn how to make a retail game when his professional experience was primarily in the unrelated (and much less reputable) world of politics?

A.) The Hard Way
B.) The Expensive Way
C.) The Long Way
D.) All of the above

The correct answer is, of course, ”D’.

When the mid-life crisis fairy waved her magic wand in my direction I skipped the the regular manifestations i.e. the sports car, the mistress or the hair replacement procedure. Instead I decided to write a game. My ambitions started very small, a simple module, that was to be available free on the web.

Ahem. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours later I can assure you I am past that stage. It won’t be free, but it will be priced in such a way that I can manufacture and ship it via Kickstarter at very close to my cost. Close to cost meaning that when I ship the final box to the last backer I will have enough left over to cover my sunk costs.

Tim Kask told me at GaryCon IV, when I first met him, that the fastest way to go broke is to start a game company. If my goal was live on the proceeds of Whisper & Venom, even at a subsistence level, I have already failed. Lucky for me I have more money than sense and decided to give it a try anyway.

In the beginning. . .

I was minding my own business on the MUNI in San Francisco (where I was living part-time) using my iPhone to pass the time. I typed ‘vintage games’ into Safari and wound up at Grognardia.

“Wow! People still play AD&D?” I asked the Internet.

“Yes” answered the Internet.

So began a two-week long perusal of James M.’s archives. Nostalgia mugged me and made me give it my wallet. In return I received boxes from eBay laden with well-used (to put it mildly) materials. The leap from polite interest to nerd obsession is a short one in my world and soon I was a member of the Aceaum who bought backer boards in bulk.

As I re-read all the modules I saw in stores back in the day but could never have afforded at the time I remembered the submission guidelines I sent away for in 1985. I thought the coolest thing I could ever do would be to write an adventure for Dragon/Dungeon Magazine. I typed away at my Apple IIc assured that I was just the kind of writer they needed. I never found out (though I know the answer) because it never met my own standards.

Being middle-aged with no kids, no pets and a often traveling flight attendant spouse leaves me a surfeit of time. In a moment of nostalgia I decided I would write a module.

So I did. In sixty days. Sixty days that ended 500 days ago.

A reasonable person could inquire as to why it took so long from the end of the rough draft to the state I am in now. The answer is my very first convention, GaryCon IV. In the vendor room I met the Gentlemen behind BlackBlade Publishing and Goblinoid Games. I bought OSRIC Hardcovers, The Mutant Future Softcover, DCC Modules, Pacesetter Modules and a module written by Guy Fullerton.

I like reading RPG’s as much as I Iove playing them. So I read these from cover to cover.

Then I read my Whisper & Venom draft again and again.

In comparison to what I had just bought my little adventure seemed subpar. I saw two options: Upload what I had for free or admit that more work was needed.

Basically my choice was ‘Go big or go home’.

I chose to go big.

So if you are here now you are seeing the result of all of this. I have had many collaborating artists, met a few very good friends and learned more than I imagined just getting to this point. For me every cent has been worth it and every hour fulfilling. To make it a dream come true it has to be an actual product and that is where all my backers came in.

Regardless of whether you decide to buy Whisper & Venom (or any of our products) or are just checking out what we do out I am grateful for you.

Thanks for stopping by, I sincerely mean that.

Zach Glazar

Head Gnome

October 2013

One comment

  1. Zach,

    I am just chiming in to say that I learned of your company through Erik Tenkar’s Tavern. I’m glad to get to know guys who have the same arcane hobbies as me. While I do not have the finances to get to cons or buy much gaming stuff, I am proud to exhort those who do much for the hobby. (I guess one could say I rolled “Encourager/Cheerleader” on the secondary skills table.)

    For S&W Light alone — and what it represents for bringing in more gamers or returning wayward RPG players “home,” thanks and keep it going!

    Happy gaming,
    Michael Gross (AKA Zudrak in D&D and around the Internet)

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