Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Productive days

It seems to me that there are two kinds of productive days.

There are the days when I come home from work and tell my wife that I wrote 3,000 words on my current project. Those are good days. (Actually, it's more often the case that I emerge from a work-at-home day, which typically involves some time spent writing in a café as well as time working at home, with word counts that high. It's rare that I have such a productive day at the office.)

But there's another kind of productive day, which perhaps only occurs at the office. Today was one of those days. I finished up an overdue map order for d20 Past, started a concept art order for an unannounced book, and in the midst of all that managed to get about 950 words written on my current project (a different unannounced book!). We also had a design team meeting today, where we talked about the introductions to books, siege engines, substitution levels for the book I'm working on, the right amount of psionics content in any given book, and the development process. It was a long day and a busy day, and I really only finished one thing (the map order), but wow, it felt productive. 

Not such a productive night, though. I'm intentionally staying up a little late, because I have a sleep study tomorrow night and I want to be tired when I get there (not like last time). So I came out after getting both my son (9:30) and my wife (10:30) to sleep, intending to work on my Eberron novella. Two hours have passed, and I've edited a couple of words. I've also watched several music videos on the iTunes Music Store, surfed every Mac-related web site I know of in hopes of emerging news from Apple Expo Paris (the keynote is supposed to start at 1 A.M. Pacific time—24 minutes from right now), and generally puttered. 

Maybe I have only a limited amount of productivity in me for any given day, and I've already exceeded today's allotment. Huh. I doubt it. I think it's more likely that I use the Internet as a way of blocking my own creativity, particularly on the unfamiliar and threatening ground of writing fiction (vs. writing game stuff). So maybe the answer is to design a monster or two before heading off to bed...

Friday, August 27, 2004

GenCon, GenCon, GenCon

How a single event can manage to be both so much work and so very much fun, I haven't quite figured out.

Work highlights: I thought the "How D&D Minis Changed My Life... or at least my game" seminar went really well. The Eberron Delve seemed to be well-received, which is good considering that I put so much work into it that I'm far behind on my current project. The D&D Open, which I helped Andy Collins write and ran one of the semifinal rounds for, was a big success. The Eberron seminar was great.

Fun highlights: Friday night I stayed up very late playing D&D (gasp!) with Andy Collins , Gwen Kestrel , Steve Schubert (a regular in my Eberron campaign and, starting Monday, a new member of our development team), Ari Marmell (an established freelancer who's done a lot of work for White Wolf and is now working on a project with me) and his wife George, and Colin Suleiman (ditto what I said about Ari). Colin was gracious enough to run an Eberron adventure on the spur of the moment for us. Now, that's gutsy! Running an Eberron game for me, and without prep time! All right! It was enormous fun. I played a kalashtar bard named Halharath, whose stats I'll have to put up here later.

Saturday night I stayed up very late talking with Jesse Decker (development manager) and Charles Ryan (brand manager for D&D), mostly about work stuff—but high-end work stuff, business decisions I have no part of, that sort of thing. It was a little strange for me, because most of the time I think of myself as just a designer who wants to sit in his cube with his head down and design stuff, dammit, and not be bothered with discussions about how we run the business. But then I find myself in conversations like this and discover that I'm actually very interested in how we run the business. Go figure.

Fortunately, after a week back at work, I'm pretty much back in head-down-in-the-cube mode. Which is why I got up at 5:00 A.M. this morning—to WORK! And it's 6:20 and all I've done is post in my stupid blog! Aaagh!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

My GenCon schedule

Well, I'm about to head over to the exhibit hall for the start of the first day of GenCon, but I wanted to get my schedule posted up here for anyone who might care... Here it is:

Supervise D&D Minis demos 12–4
Seminar: How D&D Minis Changed My Life (or at least my game) 4–6
Epic Level Party: 6 on

Celebrity table 10–12
Seminar: Adventure Building 12–2
Supervise D&D Delve 2–4

Seminar: Eberron 10–12
Run semifinal round of D&D Open 1–6

Celebrity table 12–4

Hope to see you around!

Sunday, August 15, 2004


A song that's been playing a lot on my iPod lately—and in my brain, for that matter—is Liz Phair's Extraordinary . The primary reason I've been playing it is that my son is really grooving on it. It's very cool to watch this seven-year-old developing his own musical tastes, not always the same as mine. He's totally in love with Sheryl Crow after seeing his very first music video, for "The First Cut is the Deepest," on the iTunes Music Store. 

Anyway, Liz Phair. Like me, she went to Oberlin in the late 1980s. I was in a class with her, I believe it was Classics 100, which I took late in my college career in order to turn all the Greek classes I'd taken into an official classics minor. That's about the extent of my actual connection with Liz Phair.

Several years later, while I was serving my two churches in Ohio, I remember being in a music store in Pittsburgh and seeing her face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. I was a little flipped out. Here I was, maybe five years out of college, with a Master's degree behind me and working as a pastor in Southern Ohio for around $20,000 a year (plus housing). And there she was, five years out of college, on the cover of Rolling Stone. It sent me into a bit of an existential crisis. Not, in the end, the same crisis or even the same flavor of crisis as the one that sent me fleeing from ministry entirely and led me to where I am today. I think I pretty well resolved it by reminding myself that Liz Phair and I had simply chosen different paths in our respective lives. She has obviously been quite successful in hers, and at the time I felt that I was reasonably successful in mine. Now, I feel that I'm very successful in this newer path that I have chosen, and while I am still unlikely ever to have my face on the cover of Rolling Stone, well, my name has been on the cover of quite a number of gaming books. Though by the standards of the recording industry, even Eberron is a long way from even gold record status (500,000 copies).

Well, hey, good for you, Liz. You've done well. And I get to say I took Classics 100 with you. 

But why am I so hung up on Liz Phair? I've had Chris Ballew (of the Presidents of the United States of America ) over to my house for dinner. His son is the same age as mine, and they were at the same school for the last two years. One of the nicest guys I know. And we have the same kind of piano.

When it comes down to it, I know a lot of extraordinary people. When I think about what I mean by "extraordinary," I come down to "creative." I think that people who embrace their creativity and express it and maybe even make a living off it are extraordinary. They are what most of us dream of being. And it's not just Liz Phair and Chris Ballew. It's people like Rich Baker, Ed Stark, Bruce Cordell, Monte Cook, Jeff Grubb, and Stan!, who are all published novelists and are all friends of mine. (And Rich has even hit the New York Times bestseller list!) People like Jeff Simpson, who is leaving Wizards of the Coast to get his Master's in either musicology or piano performance in New York, who talked with me late into the night at Origins about Scriabin and postmodern science and just blew my mind. People like my wife, who hangs her paintings on our wall, is starting a liturgical dance troupe, helping start a creative worship team, and auditioning for a production of The Importance of Being Earnest. I guess I'm incredibly fortunate to work in a place where I'm surrounded by brilliant, creative, extraordinary people who get to use their enormous creativity to earn their livings and live fulfilling lives. I guess I'm such a person, too.

OK, yeah, so I'll never have my face on the cover of Rolling Stone. But I—like Liz Phair and Chris Ballew and all the other people I just mentioned—I get to live creatively. Every day I get to dream up new stuff, play with words and ideas, tinker with rules and build worlds, I get to come home at night and write music (again, for the first time in years!) or work on the novel I'm writing now. Every day I get to act in the image of the Creator, creating things of beauty and enjoyment. That's pretty extraordinary. 

I am extraordinary
If you'd ever get to know me
I am extraordinary
I am just your ordinary, average, everyday, sane, psycho, supergoddess

Sunday, August 1, 2004

More on wikiverse

So today I went to the root of Wikiverse (which, I mentioned yesterday, emailed me to tell me they had linked to one of my Imperium Romanum pages) and discovered that it's simply "an up-to-date high-speed static mirror" of Wikipedia, which is far and away my favorite online reference site. When I was working on... Hey! I just discovered that d20 Past appears on the Wizards web site now! So I can mention that it's the d20 Modern book I wrote (with Gwendolyn Kestrel), which I've been alluding to in my Bullet Points columns all this time.

Anyway, when I was working on d20 Past, Wikipedia was my encyclopedia of choice. While it's about as useful as any encyclopedia when it comes to really hard-core details about things like early firearms (which is to say, not very useful), it's absolutely fabulous for quick reference questions and general overviews. And it's just darned addictive. When I was a kid, I used to spend hours lying on the living room floor in front of my parents' shelf of Encyclopedia Brittanica volumes, with half a dozen volumes spread out around me at once. Browsing Wikipedia is like that experience—the comprehensive hypertext linking allows you to just follow your train of thought wherever it leads you. Even if it weren't a free, community-updated reference, it would be a fabulous online encyclopedia. The fact that it is free and community-maintained is quite a testament to the power of open-source projects and the like.

So, sure enough, Wikipedia's page on Hispania Tarraconensis links to my Imperium Romanum page on Hispania. The section on religion is derived from my pages, which I guess were responsibly researched. Anyway, for some reason I'm tickled to be used as a reference for Wikipedia. That's just fun.

Weird thing about Wikiverse: The email I got from the webmaster is the strangest piece of writing I've ever seen. The text is right-aligned, but punctuation often appears at the left end of the line. So the first line is ",Dear webmaster at aquela.com". What do you make of that?

Could it have anything to do with the fact that the Wikiverse.org domain is registered in Israel?