The first publication since Old Vinnengael for which I was the editor. It hit store shelves on March 24, 2015, and had a print run of 120,000, easily the largest number for any single publication I've worked on. A huge victory for me, not only did I guide the magazine from inception to production, I wrote stories for it and helped put Kalmbach Publishing Co. on the map within the unmanned aerial vehicles industry. It may not be science fiction or fantasy, but it is still damn cool!
I wrote "Perfectly Imperfect" sometime in late 2006 or early 2007. It's less than 1,000 words long. I sent it out to a couple of mags at the time, but it was shuffled off my desk and forgotten, as can happen when you have a lot of projects demanding your attention. In July 2011, I rediscovered the story and asked an editor friend of mine to look at it. She gave it a good going over, suggested where it could be improved. I made some changes and sent it to Down in the Dirt. Not only does it appear in the December 2011 issue, but it's also in a new short story collection, 1,000 Words.
"A Mistress Without Mercy" is about a soldier who finds himself alone in hostile territory, betrayed by those he was sent to protect. I remember the day that this story was accepted by Down in the Dirt, and am still ecstatic that it appeared in the magazine. What's better is that it was included in Scar's Publications' short story anthology, Writings to Honour and Cherish.
The hardest part about this book was tackling a subject that has been done almost to death in the RPG industry. I went back and read a number of game books that dealt with undeath and the undead and tried to see the areas that those authors had missed. I really wanted to avoid the cliché. I'm not sure that I succeeded to the extent that I intended, but I was still pretty happy with the end result.
Although the writing I did for this book was done in a very condensed period of time, it was well worth it. I was able to immerse myself in R.A. Salvatore's DemonWars novels and produce a lot of rewarding material in the process.
I appear in another collection concerned with nasty magic items and their profound histories. By this time, I wanted to give some of the items a little common ground. I began to weave stories for the magical items that were tied to other items, heroes or villains that I'd written for other FFE collections. I'm not sure if it was appreciated, or if anyone really caught on to what I was doing, but it gave me a sense of cohesion when there weren't too many ways in which the magic item collections related to each other.
It is only on a lark that a prestige class I wrote appears in this book. Yes, there is only one. I had written a prestige class to accompany one of the demons for the Encyclopedia of Demons and Devils II. For whatever reason, the prestige class didn't appear in that book. But I was surprised, and somewhat baffled, to learn that it had appeared here. Unfortunately, it wasn't edited as well as it could have been, and lost a lot of the flavor it had when used in conjunction with the demon. So goes life.
For this book, FFE sent out a short synopsis of each villain, and it was up to me to flesh them out. I decided that I wasn't going to write the typical RPG villain encounter, but rather try to provide thought provoking baddies for players to interact with. I think I was successful, and I was able to inject a bit of humor into the encounters I wrote as well.
Following on the heels of their other two successful encyclopedias, FFE contracted me to work on this one. While I had a good time coming up with the various angels' powers, to me, they just weren't as fun to work on as the demons and devils. A little too bland, you might say, lacking the nasty crevices and cracks that I could cut into the bad guys.
DungeonWorld was FFE's second shot at a campaign world of their own (at least that I know of). Their first was based off of their CCG, Dragon Elves. DungeonWorld is a creepy place where the almost dead go to try and regain the lives that they lost, or never had. This book was part of a series of expansions to DungeonWorld, and allowed me to make one corner of the massive subterranean complex my own. I had some pent-up anger regarding a couple of things that had gone seriously wrong at the time, and I was able to release that anger in the creation of two catacombs. The writing process for this book was very therapeutic for me.
For this book, I was charged with creating three new "aerial" races. It was a little difficult to do since the work for the new rules, feats, skills and the like were all being written by other writers. It's hard to make your entries feel completely a part of the whole if you don't have the other component parts to look at and draw from. So, I tried to go less "crunchy," as some gamers like to say, and concentrated on the roleplaying aspects for the races I created. I really dig the cover art for this book.
I believe FFE's first or second release was The Encyclopedia of Demons and Devils. What was so cool about the book was that it took characters from real life myth and legend and gave them shape for the D20 system. With this book, they continued to run with the idea, and I really wanted to help. When I was finished with the entities assigned to me, Tim Brown told me that they were under the gun because one of their other freelancers wasn't able to complete his assignment on time. So, I was able to do more work for this book than I was originally slated.
By the time this book arrived, I was freelance writing for FFE regularly. I wrote a number of pieces, and FFE continued to push the idea of the "magic item with a past" motif. What I was beginning to find though, was that I was including with my magic items, story ideas that I'd been carrying around for years. It wouldn't be until later that this would begin to bother me.
One of my favorite memories about the creation of this book was my close working relationship with artist and cartographer Diesel. We had weekly meetings to talk over the appearance of the city, Vinnengael. At GenCon in 2000, I was able to get the original map for the Sovereign Press office. It's an impressive display of an artist's tenacity—each building was hand drawn, no computer aided drawing there.
Everyone likes a good bad guy. Every good bad guy has to have a favorite weapon. In this book, I helped to make bad guys and evil weapons. When I was working with Sovereign Press, I always wanted to make clear that magical weapons didn't just grow on trees. There is always a reason for even the lowliest of enchanted weapons to exist. The key is to make each weapon memorable. Give it history, a lineage, a purpose. With this book, we were charged with not only giving the swords purpose and history, we were to give them killer owners too!
Not long after Demonic Lairs, Jim Ward sent me a proposition to work on a book that was a collection of small adventures that were all generally tied together and could form the basis of an entire campaign. The hardest part about writing the adventures was the word count restriction imposed on each. They had to be short, and it's hard to put any detail, sizeable monsters or magic items without using up space. Somehow, I managed.
This was the first book I worked on after I left Sovereign Press. I needed some work and Tim Brown and Jim Ward from FFE gave me three short adventures to write. I was freed up from the strictures of the SovStone world and was able to write adventures using creatures that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to use. It was a real good time.
The original manuscript for the Codex existed from the day I was hired at Sovereign Press. But we were under such a deluge of back work that it took a long time to get at it. I finally finished editing it on the plane to Las Vegas and Origins 2001. The funny part is that when we came back, we decided to switch over to the D20 system. The whole book had to be retooled. It was a long process, but the product, in the end, was well worth the work and wait.
Game Trade Magazine (now GTM, an industry publication from Alliance Game Distributors), asked me if Margaret could write a short story for them. At the time, she was in the middle of working on the second Sovereign Stone novel and another Dragonlance book. Margaret offered to collaborate with me on the story. That way she didn't have to take on all of the burden when she was so pressed for time. I wrote the first draft and handed it over to her. Since she was the driving force behind Loerem, we decided she should rewrite the story in her voice. We passed it back and forth a couple of times, editing and revising. It's a cool short that I enjoyed writing with her.
Most of the work for The Taan had already been accomplished with its original printing for the Sovereign Stone Game System. Jean Rabe and Janet Pack put so much material into the manuscript that it had to be pared down a lot. Many spells were reworked and I added a few new ones. Margaret and I consulted frequently, making sure that the game book didn't interfere with any material in the novels, and in fact reflected what she and Tracy envisioned. Interestingly enough, many of the elements that we introduced in The Taan found their way into the novels.
I was working at Sovereign Press (now Margaret Weis Productions) as editor when we decided to make the Sovereign Stone RPG a D20 fantasy world. We had just hired Jamie Chambers to help out as my assistant editor when Margaret called a meeting. We decided, with some resistance on my part, to make the move to D20. With that decision, I threw myself into the switch, which I must say we accomplished in record time. Needless-to-say, it was a fun process, although bittersweet, since we were leaving our own game system behind.