Tuesday, August 2, 2016

GenCon and into the Future

GenCon 2016 is this week. Wait. That needed an exclamation point. GenCon 2016 is this week! I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to attend a convention nor have I been so nervous. This year’s GenCon marks the two year anniversary of my start as a freelance writer. After jumping in head first into untested waters when Onyx Path Publishing offered me a job writing Shattered Dreams for Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition, I have published over a dozen articles. Although Shattered Dreams’ release is still forthcoming and I eagerly await its release—as I am sure you do as well—I am just as proud of the smaller work that I’ve done that’s been published by Raging Swan Press, EnWorld En5ider, and EnWorld TRAILseeker Magazine and others.

The reason that GenCon is so important (and nerve-wracking) this year is that rather than attending as a congoer or as a writer with a single, forthcoming credit to my name, I am attending with a dozen plus credits on my CV. And that means that I’m looking for more work from more and more publishers. I have some pretty big (for me) announcements that I will be making as the year progresses. Contract negotiations are in progress. I have meetings with publishers and other writers. I get to have lunch with Richard Lee Byers! Lunch with an author of Forgotten Realms novels! That’s unbelievable but real!

In Other News:

I’m in the process of redesigning my blog for a more professional look. Writing has become my career. I want to have every advantage that I can going forward, so my blog will be going through iterations and changes to make it sharper, cleaner, and generally better. As you can already see, I’ve added links to my resume and writing credits. I’ll also be adding some writing samples as well.

If you’re wondering why my output on my blog has been nonexistent, it’s because I’ve been busy writing articles and getting paid to do it. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know that my fiancĂ© was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and has since had chemo, surgery, and she’s about to start radiation therapy. She’s cancer free! We’re not quite finished with treatments yet, but we’ve turned the corner.

Like the Joker said, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” While I’m not as mercenary as the Joker, I have the same 24 hours in the day as you do. I split those between work, writing, being with my fiancĂ©, and the sundry tasks that we all must do to get by (cooking, cleaning, bathing, paying bills). And unfortunately, that means that I focus my writing time on articles and short stories rather than reviews of my favorite Vampire: The Masquerade supplements.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t be updating this blog. It just means that my updates will be more sporadic than I’d like and less focused on the Classic World of Darkness. And the blog will be changing as I go forward. I’ll focus a bit more on hyping the articles and books that are being published or Kickstarted and just generally a less stressful experience for me.

If I get a chance, I will review a few things, but I try to be as in depth as I can with a review. That takes time, reading & re-reading, and a lot of writing and rewriting. So, I may limit reviews to books that I’m reading for other reasons. 

So, the future of Read the Damn Book is evolving. I hope that all of you come on this ride with me. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Updated D&D 5E Player's Reference Sheets

I know it's been a while, but I finally got around to updating my Player's Reference Sheets.  It's only a few small changes.  I fixed a couple of typos and I updated the information on unarmed combat that includes the most recent Player's Handbook errata 1.11

The new links for my Player's Reference Sheets are below"

Player's Reference Sheet - Player's Handbook Page Numbers

Player's Reference Sheet - Player's Handbook & Basic Rules Page Numbers

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Shattered Dreams Kickstarter Announcement

 Onyx Path Publishing has announced their newest Kickstarter, Shattered Dreams the latest book for Werewolf:  The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition.  Shattered Dreams offers storytellers and players a chance to explore the ancient history of the Garou tribes and their degenerating relationship with the other Changing Breeds.  Although Gaia created each of the Fera to fulfill a role in her grand design, the Garou – in their hubris – believed they could usurp the roles of the others.  Shattered Dreams explores the causes of the War of Rage and gives players a chance to affect the outcome of the war.  Culminating in the genocide of the Grondr, the wereboars, and Apis, the wereaurochs, the War of Rage is one of the great tragedies in the prehistory of the Classic World of Darkness. 
            Shattered Dreams also discusses the Second War of Rage, the conflict between the native Mesoamerican Fera and the invading European Garou which occurred simultaneously with the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec, Incan, and Mayan empires.  The Second War of Rage resulted in the complete destruction of another Changing Breed, the Camazotz or werebats. 
            The previous Onyx Path Kickstarters have all been great, but Shattered Dreams is special!  I am one of the authors!  I contributed Chapter Four which details the Second War of Rage and the werewolves’ slaughter of the native Central American shape changers.  Writing for Onyx Path Publishing is a dream come true.  I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember.  Not only am I going to be published, but I’ve contributed to one of my favorite games, Werewolf:  The Apocalypse.  I can’t say what it means to me to have had the opportunity to work on this project.  Thank you Stew!  I will never be able to express my gratitude to you for taking a chance on a first time writer!

            I don’t want to go into too much detail about the chapter that I wrote.  However, I was fortunate to write about a topic that I already had a lot of interest in, the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica.  I’d like to thank Dr. Steven Bunker at the University of Alabama who inspired my interest in Mesoamerica and the Spanish Conquest.  Dr. Bunker introduced me to Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America which was the main source for the tone and mood that I wanted for my chapter in Shattered Dreams.  Thank you Dr. Bunker for being a great teacher and helping a former student remember the name of that book! 
            A lot of people are involved in the creation of an RPG book including development, writing, editing, illustrating, art direction and so many other tasks, big and small.  I want to thank you all!  If I miss someone, please let me know and I will joyfully add you to the list.  First, I want to thank the other writers, Geoff Skellans, Nick May, Leath Sheales, and Nathan Dorey.  They were amazing to work with. 

            A very special thanks to the editor of Shattered Dreams who is currently fixing all of the typos, errors, and issues in my final draft.  Sadly, due to the nature of freelance writing, I don’t know who the editor is.  Nevertheless, thank you!  A big thanks to Mirthful Mike and his crew of artists!  I can’t wait to see the illustrations that you’ve created for Shattered Dreams! 
            I know I’m gushing a bit, but I really want to thank Stew Wilson, the Werewolf:  The Apocalypse developer, for helping me through this project.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy reading over my first draft, but Stew, your redlines were some of the best writing feedback that I’ve ever received!  I learned more about revising and proofreading from Stew’s redlines than I did in my entire college education. 
            Finally, a very big thanks to Rich Thomas and the rest of the crew at Onyx Path Publishing.  Your work has made the return of the Classic World of Darkness possible.   I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner. 
In any book, only so much space is available to acknowledge those who inspired us and motivated us throughout the writing process.  So, I’ll use this space for that.  First, I’d like to thank my wonderful girlfriend, Allisa, who motivated me to send in a writing sample to the Onyx Path.  Without her, I never would have had the courage to send in that writing sample.   I’d like to thank my family, especially my parents who have done so much for me.  I’d like acknowledge my great grandmother who helped raise me.  She instilled so many lessons in me and helped make into the man I am today. 
And of course, I’m saving the most important people for last:  the fans of the Classic World of Darkness, the fans of Werewolf:  The Apocalypse, and the Kickstarter contributors.  Thank you!  This book wouldn’t be possible without you!  Your loyalty and love for the Classic World of Darkness and Werewolf:  The Apocalypse specifically has made this all possible.  I hope that you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it! I can’t wait to hear about the campaigns that you will run based on the settings and information in Shattered Dreams. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

D&D 5E Player Reference Sheets Update

I’ve been running D&D 5E almost twice a week since its release last year.  It’s just the nature of writing that when I write my material will come from whatever I’m most interested in at the time.  In this case, it’s D&D 5E. 

With that being said, my Player Reference Sheets have been very popular for players and DMs. That post remains one of the most popular on my blog.  I’ve used those sheets constantly and many of my players refer to them whenever we play. 

I recently had a chance to read back through those sheets, and I found several areas where they could be improved.  I’ve revised them to make the wording clearer and the information stand out more on the page.  I hope you like these improvements.

Also, I would like to thank Mark Merida for taking the time to add page numbers for the D&D 5E Basic Rules to my Player Reference Sheets.  Thanks to his work, I can now offer two versions.  One has the page numbers for the Player’s Handbook and another includes the page numbers for the Player’s Handbook and free Basic Rules (found here). 

If you have any suggestion for improving my Player Reference Sheets, please leave a comment below or contact me via email.  I would love to read your feedback and criticism. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Legend of the Five Rings: The End of an Era

             On September 11, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) announced that they had purchased the license for Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) from Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG).  For fans of the L5R card game, this was apocalyptic news.  The L5R CCG had been in production since 1995 and had built an enormous and devoted following thanks to its multiple clans – with which players would strongly identify – and its emphasis on a storyline that the players could affect through tournament play. 
            Two more products remain to be released for AEG’s version of L5R, Evil Portents the final expansion for the CCG and the Atlas of Rokugan for the RPG.  AEG’s sale of its L5R licenses represents a massive change to the gaming landscape.  The L5R CCG has remained unchanged since its release 20 years ago, even when it was owned by Wizards of the Coast (WotC).  However, the end of AEG’s production of the L5R RPG is of greater importance. 
            AEG has been producing RPG products since 1997, and over the course of the last few years, AEG has cut back on the development of RPG products.  L5R was the last RPG license that they were developing.  Now, L5R is gone, too.  Once they were a strong competitor in the RPG market with a large slate of great RPGs:  L5R, Brave New World, 7th Sea, and Spycraft.  They also produced licensed RPGs for Farscape and Stargate SG-1.  They even released a number of supplements during the D20 open license glut in the early 2000’s including the World’s Largest Dungeon and World’s Largest City supplements.

            FFG’s purchase of L5R is not the first time that the license has changed hands.  Shortly after it was first published, Five Rings Publishing Group took over the production and development of L5R as a joint venture of AEG and their publishing partner ISOMEDIA.  In 1997, Five Rings Publishing Group became a subsidiary of WotC until 1998 when WotC subsumed Five Rings Publishing Group completely. 
            The addition of L5R had an enormous effect on D&D 3.0.  Rokugan became the default setting for D&D’s Oriental Adventures campaign replacing Kara-Tur in the Forgotten Realms.  Under WotC’s stewardship, the L5R CCG’s mechanics and emphasis on story remained the same.  However, AEG re-acquired the property in 2001, and WotC released the Japanese themed Magic:  The Gathering Kamigawa block.  One might guess that once WotC sold L5R, they were stuck with a large amount of art for the game that they then re-purposed for Magic:  The Gathering.  (This is purely conjecture on my part but the sale of L5R in 2001 and the release of the Kamigawa block in 2004 certainly points to that as a possibility.  Perhaps someone with better understanding of Magic:  The Gathering’s history will correct me if I’m wrong.)

            L5R has had a tumultuous existence not even counting WotC’s purchase and sale back to AEG.  While owned by WotC, the original five interlocking rings logo used on the back of the CCG’s cards and on the covers of their RPG books was the focus of a lawsuit by the International Olympic Committee.  The IOC claimed that the interlocking rings infringed on their trademark and the settlement required that L5R change its logo.  They choose to use five coins instead.   The change occurred when WotC released the Spirit Wars expansion in 2000.  The change to the card backs forced players to sleeve their decks with opaque-backed card sleeves to avoid cheating.  WotC included sleeves in the starter decks for Spirit Wars as an apology to upset fans who didn’t want to spend extra money on card sleeves. 
            WotC’s ownership of the L5R RPG also led to the production of many L5R RPG 2nd Edition books which included the rules for both the D20 system and L5R’a original D10 system.  Both companies hoped to keep fans of the L5R RPG happy whether they preferred the new D20 system or AEG’s system.  Soon after AEG reacquired the license they released the third edition of L5R returning it to its D10 roots in 2005. 
            The L5R CCG, which many loved including myself, is no more.  FFG has announced that they will update the rules and begin releasing the game as a Living Card Game similar to Star Wars:  The Card Game and Warhammer Conquest.  In and of itself, this transition from random booster packs to pre-packaged expansions is exciting.  FFG has proven that this style of game is extraordinarily successful.  They have also shown that they are excellent stewards for licensed products.  Role playing games such as Star Wars: Edge of Empire, Star Wars:  Age of Rebellion, Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, miniatures games like Star Wars Armada, X-Wing, and board games like Battlestar Galatica and Eldritch Horror are all excellently designed and managed properties.  Star Wars:  Edge of Empire is the best Star Wars RPGs since West End Games Star Wars, Revised system.

            Although many fans of L5R are sad today that AEG and FFG have decided to end a game with 20 years of history, FFG is undoubtedly the best stewards for this license moving forward.  Yet, AEG no longer makes RPGs which is a great loss to the tabletop RPG hobby.  The mechanics developed for L5R’s RPG remain excellent and were great for representing the culture of a fantasy Far East medieval civilization.  These mechanics allowed players to create a variety of characters that could be sneaky, deadly ninjas, katana-wielding duelists, powerful magic-using shugenja or sharp-tongued courtiers.  All were equally playable and viable within the system.  The back story of Rokugan, the setting for L5R, was so well developed – both deep and broad – that game masters had an endless supply of eras in which to set their game, NPCs to introduce, and story hooks for adventures. 
            As sad as fans are about this change, no other company is better suited to restart and redevelop L5R as both a Living Card Game and an RPG.  FFG has scheduled the re-release of the L5R CCG for GenCon 2017.  Currently, they have not made an announcement regarding the re-release of the RPG.  However, FFG should consider keeping the current L5R RPG as it is and release an updated and improved edition without significantly changing the rules.  Unlike when FFG acquired the license for the Star Wars RPG from WotC, L5R does not need a completely new system.  Regardless of whether or not FFG changes the system, a new L5R RPG developed by FFG will be a must buy. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Report from GenCon 2015

Cardhalla, where attendees have built impressive structures from donated cards
             I have been to a lot of conventions and even worked for one, but I have never had a better time than I had this past weekend at GenCon.  GenCon’s motto “The Best Four Days in Gaming” is not hype; it is truth!  I hadn’t attended a convention in several years, and although I had attended Gen Con previously, I really didn’t do everything that I could have to make it the best experience. 
            I would like to start by thanking the entire GenCon staff for running such a great convention.  I know from experience that behind the scenes of any convention is chaos, but the mark of a great convention is that the con-goers never see that chaos.  I can’t say what the GenCon staff did or didn’t do.  All I can say is that I never felt their presence, and everything ran smoothly.  That in itself is an impressive feat for a convention of 60,000 plus attendees. 
A wonderful balloon artist built this over 4 days of the convention
            Next, I would like to personally thank the medical staff in the first aid room in the Indianapolis Convention Center.  My girlfriend had an asthma attack on Saturday afternoon, and they were not only quick to help, but very friendly and experienced.  They treated her quickly and professionally.  I don’t remember your names, but thank you very much for everything you did!
            The city of Indianapolis was amazing, too!  Everyone was friendly and you could really tell how excited the city was to have GenCon.  The hotel staff at the Cambria where I stayed were so nice and outgoing.  They asked about the convention, and although they are further out from the convention than some might prefer, I cannot recommend them more highly!  Everyone restaurant in the city was re-themed for the convention as well.  We ate dinner at the Colts Grille and they had hung banners for various games and given new names to their menu items paying homage to a variety of games, comic book characters, etc.   Not to mention they gave us free, Indiana Colts themed dice. 
            GenCon was not all fun though.  As many of you know, I am a freelance writer, and I spent many hours wandering the Exhibitor’s Hall meeting game developers and handing out as many business cards as I could.  I met other writers as well, including The Gentleman Gamer, with whom I had lunch alongside Neal Price, the developer of Scion.  I attended many panels on freelancing and learned a lot, made some new contacts, and really got a better sense of the path to being a better writer. 
I bought a ton of d8's.  I always need them when I play wizards.
            Of course, I attended the Onyx PathPublishing events!  And in a case of burying the lede, they announced Vampire:  The Masquerade 4th Edition!  Rather than being an homage to earlier editions of VtM like V20, this new version will update the mechanics and world much like Mage 20 updated that game.  Not much else is known about this edition, yet, but I will be keeping up with new information as it is announced.
            On the subject of Onyx Path Publishing, I would like to say that I have never met a nice group of people.  My girlfriend raved about how friendly and open you were.  She’s even talking about running a Werewolf:  The Apocalypse game in the future.  Your excitement for your game lines and the friendliness of your staff is both infectious and inspiring.  I always felt welcome at your booth, and I stopped by every day to meet someone new or just say hi to Eddy Webb or Neal Price.  (Btw, Neal, I’m really sorry I missed you Scion panel!)
Fantasy Age is a new RPG by Green Ronin and Baby Bestiary is an art book. 
            Other than the Onyx Path seminars, I attended several freelance writing seminars including Paizo’s and two lead by third party publishes like John Ling, Jr. from Frog God Games and Wolfgang Baur from Kobold Press among others.  I learned a lot about what it takes to be a freelance writer and especially how important it was to always have a business card on hand. 
            But GenCon wasn’t all work.  I played in the new D&D Adventurer’sLeague season adventure Harried in Hillsfar.  Our DM was great!  He kept the action rolling as we moved through the corridors of a strange temple.  
            I also played a new board game, Compounded, by Dice Hate Me Games.  It was so good that my girlfriend immediately bought the base game and I bought the expansion.  In Compounded, the players randomly draw elements and try to complete a variety of chemicals.  It’s a great game for anyone who enjoys science.  I think it’d be a great game for high school chemistry classes.  I highly recommend this one!
What is a convention without buying some old AD&D 2E books?
             Shopping took up a great deal of our time at GenCon.  My girlfriend bought a lot of art prints.  All of them are gorgeous.  I bought a ton of RPG books and new dice.  I wanted to get a copy of FFG’s new Star Wars RPG Force & Destiny, but the line was just too long.  I did get the new Green Ronin RPG Fantasy Age, and I can’t wait to read through that. 
            Of course, I bought plenty of older stuff, too, including a copy of Blue Rose.  I also found an old VtM module by Atlas Games called Blood Nativity and a copy of New Orleans by Night.  I had to control myself in the Exhibitor’s Hall.  The temptation to buy just everything was too great.  I limited myself to those items I knew that I would use in upcoming campaigns. 
            I also got a chance to meet my favorite podcasters, Kevin, Brady, and Dustin from UnderDiscussion.  They put on a great seminar for people interested in starting a podcast.  My girlfriend and I were able to chat with Brady and Kevin for a while after the panel too.  That was definitely a highlight of the convention for me. 
And of course, my White Wolf swag!
            The biggest surprise of the convention was sharing a bus ride with Richard Lee Byers, author of the Year of the Rogue Dragons Forgotten Realms book series (amongst many, many other fantasy books).  We had a great conversation on the bus ride back to our hotels.  I guess not staying in a downtown hotel closer to the convention really paid off!  I’m sad to say that I haven’t read any of Richard Lee Byer’s books, but I will. 
            That shuttle ride is also how my girlfriend and I made two new friends from California.  You know who you are!  I had a great time playing Compounded with you guys.  I look forward to seeing you at GenCon next year!