Saturday, November 29, 2008

Downgrading my online life

I'm spending a lot of money every month for domain hosting and for Apple's MobileMe, on top of the money I spend for internet access. That's starting to look a lot like paying money to three different companies to get overlapping features that I barely use, which some might describe as wasting money. How much benefit do I really gain from owning and hosting my web site there? I don't see much. Certainly not enough to justify what I'm paying for it.

So here's post #1 on my free Blogger page. To make it interesting, and at the risk of giving my editor a heart attack, here's where I am on Dragon War:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
81,732 / 100,000

My goal is to be finished with the first draft before Christmas. And then I can start playing Wrath of the Lich King.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I live in a yellow house, and other random thoughts

A young friend of our family has recently gotten into D&D. His friend and DM is, evidently, incredulous about the connection of our families. As in, "You know James Wyatt? You're kidding me." Evidently there were sentiments expressed along the lines of, "I can't believe you know James Wyatt. I can't believe we just drove past his house. I can't believe James Wyatt lives in a bright yellow house."

Yeah, well, about that.

See, we bought this house last summer. We tore up the carpet, ripped out the kitchen, and have been working (very slowly and not particularly steadily) to make the insides match the gorgeous setting of the house. We said last summer that we'd worry about the outside of the house this summer. Well, we did more work in the yard (reseeding the back lawn and trying to deal with the mole problem), but we still haven't gotten around to getting the house painted. That's a bridge we'll cross when we finally have our oven installed and can cook food that's not microwaveable. 

So for now I live in a bright yellow house. Maybe by next summer it'll be rich chocolatey brown. But it still won't look like a dungeon or castle. Sorry to say.

* * * * *

At GenCon, Ed Greenwood told me how much he has enjoyed reading my novels. I made him put it in writing, so we can exploit his kindness for commercial gain. Here's what he said:

"Every James Wyatt novel I read is a delight—may there be many, many more!"

That was pretty much the highlight of my GenCon. Thanks, Ed!

You would think that would be incentive for me to actually get Dragon War finished. But here I am blogging instead of working on it.

* * * * *

Apparently the Seattle Sonics are moving to Oklahoma. And in order to keep up with the edition change, they'll become the Thunder.

No, seriously.

* * * * *

Overheard at the D&D table, a couple of weeks ago:

DM: "Actually, you find a woman with a pig."

me: "You don't have a mini for that!"

DM: "That's called roleplaying!"

Other Player: "That totally needs to go on your blog!"

This was the wonderful village of Kustarg, where Biggie and the Smalls (as we are now officially known—it's on Baredd's character sheet, right there under "Adventuring Company or Other Affiliation") met one happy citizen after another, all clutching small pigs under their arms, and all represented by the human farmer mini, which is a man with a pig.

* * * * *

At work, I'm working a little frantically alongside three editors to get Player's Handbook 2 ready to go out the door, and it's an awesome book. My next character is totally going to be a . . . well, whatever class I happen to be working on at the time.

Once that's done, I'll be transitioning into a new position as Design Manager for D&D, which will mean a little less day-to-day hands-on work with our books, and more strategic oversight and, well, management of the design team. I'm looking forward to it! And I'll be especially glad to get PH2 and various other loose ends cleared out of the way so I can focus on the bigger picture. 

OK, back to Dragon War. I'm not going to post word-count totals, for fear of causing my editor heart attacks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The other campaign I want to run

The other campaign I want to run on my Gleemax blog...

See, the advantage of my Gleemax blog is that when a weird and random thought pops into my head, I can just throw it out on the Internet. Or else that's the disadvantage. I can't remember which.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dragon Forge: Rules of Writing

There it is! The other article I wrote to support Dragon Forge is up on the Wizards site—an exploration of the relationship between the rules of the game and the writing of a novel, seen through the lens of the transition from 3rd Edition to 4th. Check it out!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dragon Forge Interview Is Live

The interview I did for the Wizards website is live at last. Check it out!

The Stephen King question was interesting. It's clear to me that the market doesn't support my answer—it's full of clunky bestsellers that tell good stories in inelegant prose. I just finished The Judas Strain, by James Rollins, which I wouldn't call an old clunker of a car, was making some funny knocking noises throughout the first third. Nah, throughout the book actually. 

Requires more thought. But not now. Now is for sleep.

Except that I have to mention that in this week's fight against a barlgura, Baredd got a crit with martyr's retribution, dishing out 48 points of damage and knocking it dead. Good times.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Posts at

I've added this category to point to posts on my Gleemax blog. As I said over there, I feel like my life will be easier if I put links here to posts I make over there, and vice versa. As if, somehow, that will make easier the decision of which blog to put a particular random thought on. 

Recent posts there include:
"You keep using that word" 
In praise of the 1-meter square 
and D&D 4e = WoW 

And the one I fear will get lost: Funny confluence of ideas

Monday, June 9, 2008

Taking a turn behind the DM screen... a lot more appealing when the screen looks like this: 

We had a D&D-filled weekend after the Seattle Game Day, but my son wasn't eager to take a turn behind the DM screen—despite the fact that I think he'd be a natural at evocative description and exciting encounters. Well, then today I got one of those awesome resin castle "screens" from Alliance and Gale Force Nine, which he had been drooling over at the Game Day event. (The picture doesn't show the center section—one tower was broken off in shipping, and the Krazy Glue was drying when I took this shot.) That made DMing a lot more appealing. So we had an encounter in the inn—an evil wizard animated a sculptor's statue, which attacked and then turned into rocky minions when we destroyed it. It was great.

The kids, they love the toys.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Dragon Forge . . . and 4E!

Dragon Forge is out, and it's featured prominently on the Wizards Books site. You can download chapter 1, which—even if I say it myself—is a pretty awesome chapter. I'm hoping that the interview and article I did will also show up there soon.

Fourth Edition is also out. Sales are awesome, I'm told. Response has been equally awesome. Our employee game day yesterday was totally awesome, and I can't wait to run the adventure again tomorrow. Bill's game last night was also awesome. Baredd perfectly tanked a barlgura—it never attacked anyone but me! And I managed not to drop once, though my repeatedly laying hands on myself provoked some snickers. (Especially from Biggie Smalls...)

Have fun playing D&D this weekend! 

Man, I forgot to publish my last entry. Well, two new ones for the price of one...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I did an interview for SFX as part of their annual Pulp Idol fiction competition, which D&D is sponsoring this year. Check it out!

Keep an eye on the Wizards of the Coast Books site for another interview, and hopefully another article to celebrate the conjunction of the release of Dragon Forge and the launch of 4th Edition, coming up in just 2 days!

This week, Greg Bilsland (one of our able editors) has been joining me at Starbucks around 7:30 A.M. to write. We're serving each other as incentive—I'm more likely to roll out of bed when the alarm goes off at 6:10 if I know Greg will be waiting for me. So Dragon War is coming along...

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
38,953 / 100,000

Speaking of the launch of 4th Edition:

• Thursday we're having a company-wide celebration of the launch with our own little game day. I'll be running a session in the morning and then teaching a lunchtime workshop on DMing 4th Edition.
• Friday we're having a little departmental celebration of a slightly different sort. Between the Thursday event and the Saturday one, just about everyone in R&D will have one or more opportunities to run straightforward D&D adventures. On Thursday, we're giving most of the department a chance to play some D&D that's a little less straightforward. My scenario is the most straightforward, involving two white dragons, demons frozen in ice and spawning undead, heroes frozen in ice whose spirits grant boons, treasure frozen in ice, and a Dudley Doright snowball sweeping across the battlefield, carrying characters off with it (hands, feet, and head sticking out as it goes).
• Saturday, of course, is Worldwide D&D Game Day, and I'll be celebrating (with most of the rest of R&D) at Neumo's in Seattle.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Back in the SPQR, again

I can't seem to resist that title whenever I get thinking about our old Imperium Romanum campaign, which I have been lately.

When I went to San Francisco and Chicago last month to talk to various press folks, I started getting really excited about D&D Insider, in general, and the D&D Game Table in particular. Chris Youngs talked passionately about "getting the band back together"—getting in touch with his old gaming buddies who are scattered around the world and restarting their campaign using the online Game Table. I've always been a little less than sanguine about that prospect because I'm a Mac guy, and a lot of my old gaming group are Mac guys as well.

Well, last week I got thinking about the old Imperium Romanum campaign again. It's that nostalgia that new editions seem to bring, which I talked about in an essay in DRAGON #360. So, for kicks, I sent an email to all the old gang, asking how many of them have access to Windows at off-work hours and might be willing to try out this game table later this year.

I got a very positive response back. I'm still not sure about the technical end of things, but I was pleased by the level of interest. The really interesting thing is where my thoughts have taken me since. I browsed through the old SPQR adventure log (including the adventure that Keith Baker ran—his sister was a regular part of our group at the time), and looked over the races and other rules we created for that game. Later I pulled out my old notebooks and folders and looked at the notes I kept on adventures I ran. 

Look at this entry in the adventure log:
Chala Does Tanis
DM: James Wyatt
Real date: 20 August 1990 
Game dates: 10 February 45–12 February 45
Characters: Chala, Tuina (NPC), others (NPC)

Chala did some independent research in Tanis in order to make some sense out of the goblins' letter. He learned the identity of the Denia mentioned in the letter: she is a human mage polymorphed into the form of a desert goblin as a result of a conflict with another mage in Tanis. Chala also learned the means to remove the spell on Denia. In the process, he established numerous important contacts among the mages of the town.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Yeah, baby—skill challenges. 

I'm thinking that 4th Edition is actually a lot more conducive to the way I used to play D&D, back in 2e days, than 3e was. And that it might actually be fun to run and play an adventure like that again. 

At this moment, I'd rather be thinking about the Imperium Romanum campaign—and the good friends I played it with—than writing Dragon War orDungeon Master 4th Edition For Dummies, which are the things I need to be working on right now. Novel in the morning, Dummies at night. 

I'm about ready for a vacation. Preferably one with some good, old-fashioned D&D playing in it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Starstruck? Moi?

I went to Emerald City ComiCon on Saturday. Not for work, but not exactly for play either. I took my sister-in-law (known henceforth as "Sis," though I never call her that), sort of as a mother's day gift for my mother-in-law, who hates going to these things. It was fun.

Comics are not my particular stripe of geekdom, but I know better than to look down on other geeks. These were close cousins, and I'm fairly sure I saw people at the show that I've also seen at GenCon. In addition to seeing several folks from my office (Bill Slavicsek, Michele Carter, Mike Mearls, Rodney Thompson, Logan Bonner). Oh, and the guy who used to be an assistant manager at the Starbucks where I used to write all the time, up by my old house.

Sis was there largely for the celebrities. First we talked to Gigi Edgley from Farscape, about whom more in a moment. Then we waited in a long line to see Wil Wheaton. We let Bill and Michele join us in line, partly because they brought 4e stuff (Keep on the Shadowfell and the new miniatures starter) to give to Wil. I sort of got lost in the shuffle and quickly dragged away, and didn't meet Wil, though, which I now regret. Not because I was ever a big Star Trek fan, but because I would have liked to have talked to him about playing D&D with our kids. Oh, well, I'm fairly confident there will be other opportunities.

Then we waited in line to get an autograph from the lovely Julie Benz, then another line for an autograph from the studly Jamie Bamber. I watched some Buffy (maybe 5 seasons on VHS) and really do think Julie Benz is lovely, but I didn't even know who Jamie Bamber was. And this was all about Sis, so I let her have her moment with the stars.

Then we waited in line and failed to get food from the glacially slow Subway, grabbed a quick bite from Tully's instead, and rushed Sis off to Wil Wheaton's reading from The Happiest Days of Our Lives. I should have stayed for that, but I had been promised two hours where I didn't have to stick to Sis like glue, so I dropped her off and took off. Chatted briefly with the folks from Penny Arcade and PVP (whom I had met earlier in the week), talked a bit to Brom (who did the cover for Defenders of the Faith), ran into Mearls and his buddy, grabbed my laptop and sat down for a few minutes. Did a little bit of writing while Sis was in Jamie Bamber's panel thing. Got food (at last) from Subway, where the line was much shorter but still glacially slow. Then a bit of last-minute shopping. Talked to Bill Willingham about his days at TSR. 

Then we waited around outside the panel rooms waiting for the costume contest to end so that Gigi Edgley could take the stage and perform some songs from her CD. I confess that I went in there with pretty low expectations, but I didn't care, because between our interaction with her in the booth and our brief bit of interaction with her as she walked back and forth past us outside the panel rooms, she deeply impressed me as a nice, warm, friendly person. Despite being hoarse from eight hours in a crowded exhibit hall, ebulliently talking to fans, she lit up the stage and did a fine job soldiering through three songs from the CD. And they were good songs, too! 

So I was left wishing I'd had some interaction with Wil Wheaton, with no real impression of Julie or Jamie, but really impressed by Gigi. (Note that I have no opinion of her as an actor, never having seen Farscape or anything else she's been in.) I hope I have the chance to meet her again.

This was probably the first convention I've been to in more than a decade that I just plain attended. Most of the time, I'm sitting behind tables talking to fans and occasionally even signing autographs. In the limited world of the conventions I go to, I'm a celebrity. I just hope I can do as well by my fans as Gigi did by hers this weekend. (Though, granted, I'll never be as cute or as effervescent.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sobering realization

Some people actually read this.

I know what you're thinking: "Duh! I do!"

It just seems strange to me, is all. I keep having this experience where I'm trying to tell a story and the person I'm talking to says, "I know, I read that on your blog."

I can't decide whether that means I should stop blogging or blog more and forget about having actual conversations with people.

Which reminds me of another sobering realization I had recently. Stop me if you've heard this, 'cause I've told this story a couple of times recently. HA HA! You can't stop me! 

Anyway, my big revelation recently was that I'm actually an extrovert. I've been saying for 12 years that a big part of why I left ministry was that I was just too introverted for the job. False. Big lie. I'm really an extrovert. Which probably explains why I'm talking about this on the internet, even knowing that some people are actually reading this.

So I was talking at lunch a couple of weeks ago about the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory, because some folks in the group had just done a leadership training session discussing it and other ways of understanding the different personalities that interact on a team. And we're talking about the important distinction between being sociable, congenial, affable, friendly and all that, on the one hand, and being an extrovert on the other. The key thing being what recharges your batteries—extroverts get energy from being around other people, while introverts might do a great job of putting on a social face for a while but need to retreat and be alone to recharge. And we're talking about how we're all relatively good at the social face—we go to conventions and talk to fans and keep up the energy as long as we can, but then we go back to our hotel rooms and crash and need to be alone before getting up the next day to do it all over again.

It wasn't until a couple of days later that I realized that wasn't true for me. When I'm at conventions, I dread going back to my hotel room and being alone. I'd stay out all night if I didn't have to sleep. I write my novels in Starbucks, for crying out loud, because I feed on the energy of the people crowding the place (and the free-floating caffeine in the air). I need face time. Extrovert.

I left ministry, in large part, because I hate conflict. And when I do feel, even now, that I don't like people and I want to be alone, it's usually because there's some kind of conflict situation I want to avoid. 

I can be shy sometimes, and it's not always easy for me to keep conversations going. But the inescapable reality is that I'm a total extrovert. So that pretty well rules out going whole-hog on the blog and giving up on face-to-face interaction.

Speaking of faces, let's talk about Facebook. I joined Facebook because an old friend from Ithaca invited me, and then I had about four friends, all good friends from Ithaca. Then I did the address book thing and found lots more friends, and increasingly, people are finding me. I find it interesting that a lot of the people I'm connected to on Facebook are professional extroverts—people in brand and marketing, for example, for whom networking is a professional requirement as well as something they do naturally in their personal lives. I've never thought of myself as someone like that, but with this new-found realization that I'm actually an extrovert, it begins to make sense that I'm connected to these people. 

But now Facebook is a source of guilt for me. I have 26 requests of various kinds that I don't know how to respond to. Some of my friends are really close friends, some are old college friends, some are people that I worked with years ago and knew kind of in passing. (I love you all!) I don't know what to do with Facebook. It's out of control. I'm considering quitting it entirely, rather than feeling guilty about the people I feel I'm slighting in some way by not responding to their invitations.

Speaking of beholders, did you see the one that's in Seattle?

Hey, I call it Random Musings for a reason.

It turns out I do not, in fact, know anyone in Chicago. But I did talk with Joe from ENWorld and Shawn from The Analog Gamer. Lucky Bill Slavicsek, though—he's on G4 TV!

Speaking of Bill Slavicsek, another great session in his game last night. We're a hair away from 5th level (this is Baredd, my paladin who died a few weeks ago) and getting started on Thunderspire Labyrinth. I also had a great time in Mike Mearls's lunchtime game yesterday—a really fun encounter with a trap and some skeletons. (I put a thing on my Gleemax blog about the character I'm playing in Mike's game.) It reminded me of something I told folks when I sat them down to run one of the adventures at D&D Experience in February: "This is still D&D. You can still try anything you can imagine." It's that whole flexibility thing again. 

Speaking of flexibility, I need dinner.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My son the game designer

I've been playing a lot of World of Warcraft with my son the last few months. He's getting really into it—so into it that it's beginning to frustrate him. See, he's my son, and therefore he's got some natural inclination, it seems, to be a game designer. He's always designing new classes, talking about new races, and lately getting frustrated that he can't build the exact character he wants to play. He wanted his rogue to be able to dual-wield engineering wrenches, and gave up playing the character when that turned out to be impractical. Then he decided that what he really wanted to play was a combination of rogue and paladin. "We should play D&D," became my refrain.

Finally he took me up on that, and we sat down on Thursday night to make characters and play some encounters. He had moved on past the rogue-paladin idea and wanted to play something like a shaman in WoW—a totemic, he said. So we designed the class from the ground up, as sort of a cleric-wizard hybrid. I think he might be a bit broken-good, but not too much. Over and over as we played—that night, Friday night, and much of the day today—he kept saying, "I love this game! It's so much better than WoW!" With the key selling point, of course, being the flexibility. 

Did I mention the fire archon character I made for him, just by re-flavoring rogue powers into fiery things?

Speaking of selling points, I went to San Francisco last week to talk to some press, including cnet and Maximum PC. Tomorrow, I fly to Chicago to do more of the same. Do I know anyone in Chicago?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Anyway, back to me... posted a review (a "rising 6" out of 10) of Storm Dragon.

Check out the index of videos from D&D Experience. And in particular, hear me talk about the DMG:

I did a few interviews at D&D XP as well, so I'll try to keep an eye out for when they're posted and let y'all know.

Oh, and thanks to the guy at the show who, in reference to the Slashdot thing, pointed me to this crystal-clear explanation (language warning).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Heading to the District of Calamity

Actually, Arlington, Virginia, for D&D Experience. I get to play a lot of D&D!

As at GenCon last year, I'll have a place on the D&D message boards where I post updates. I'll post that link when I put something there.

Here's the link! 

See you there! (Either at D&D XP or on the message boards...)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lest My Ego Grow Too Large

Posted by Edward Knight at
I'm about two thirds done with Storm Dragon by James Wyatt. This book gives me hope. It gives me hope that if a book written as poorly as this one can get into hardcover with a major publisher that I still have a chance as a writer.

You just gotta laugh.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fearlessly dead

My paladin, Baredd, died tonight, at the poisonous fangs of a green dragon two levels higher than him. It seemed, somehow, as though someone were trying to prove a point. And what a point—at the end of the fight, of the six characters, two were dead and three were unconscious. Jarrett the halfling warlock saved the day!

I think the number of times my d20 came up above 9 might have been lower than 5, starting with my initiative roll and proceeding on to a whole bunch of saves against ongoing poison damage.

However, because we successfully rooted out the followers of Tiamat masquerading as a fanatical sect of the church of Bahamut, my companions managed to get Baredd raised. I need to give some thought to how death might change Baredd, though. Is he still confident of his ability to help build a better world, restoring the glory of the lost empire? Or is his undying optimism perhaps tempered somewhat after this experience? "Not even death can stop me!" might be his attitude now...

Good times. Still loving this game. It's even gotten better while I've been on vacation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I feel better now...

Within the span of four hours after posting my little Slashdot rant, I received three encouraging emails that helped me get past that particular knot of frustration. One from a person in my office, one from a person at Slashdot, and one from a fellow Eberron novelist—none of whom I would have guessed read my blog regularly (what's to read?). Anyway, thanks, folks. 

See, the great part is that I get to go to my game on Thursday night and enjoy the fruits of those years of work, throwing d20s around almost as fast as the terrible jokes, doing the paladin thing, kicking monster butt. It's the best D&D I've ever played, and I've played many different D&Ds since 1979.

I think it's my fault, by the way, that Steve Winter decided to play Biggie Smalls as the halfling Ron Jeremy. I'm still sorry. But my character (Baredd) insists on calling him Mr. Smallpenny.

Poo on Slashdot

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed here are my own, and not those of Wizards of the Coast, blah blah blah.

I'm just cranky because I read a Q&A with Andy Collins, Chris Perkins, Scott Rouse, and Sara Girard on Slashdot, which was fine, but then started wading into the comments and got overwhelmed by obnoxious. We try to explain why we think 4e is a better game than any previous edition, and people willfully misread that as "We want you to spend more money."

Damn it, I've been working insanely hard for almost three years now to make the best game I know how to make, the D&D I really want to play, and it pisses me off to watch people dismiss it as a half-assed marketing ploy.

There, I said it. Maybe I shouldn't be saying it publicly, but I'm on vacation and my boss can't yell at me until . . . well, until I go play D&D at his house on Thursday.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dragon Forge Cover on Amazon

It's probably been there for a while, but I only just noticed that has the cover of Dragon ForgeIt's purty.

I have the bound galley of the book in front of me as I'm working on Dragon War, book 3 in the trilogy. I am on vacation this week and next, which means that my work on the 4e core rule books is pretty much finished and I can finally return the time and attention that I stole from this book for months as I was trying to get the DMG finished and then adventure H3, Pyramid of Shadows. Two weeks of full-time novel writing. Wild and wacky.

Oxymoron of the day:
"Top News: Jane Fonda uses vulgarity on Today show"

All right, back to it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Triple Play

This one took many tries to figure out, and I only did it by putting in an extra, non-symmetrical given (that blue N). But there just aren't that many triplets of words that'll work in a sudoku grid, so I had to plow through and make it work!

In the meantime...
• The DMG is safely in editing.
• The Player's Handbook is so close to done I can taste it!
• The art order for H3: Pyramid of Shadows is finally done.
• I had a fantastic time playing my paladin, Baredd, tonight. 
• Dragon War is suffering from neglect.