Life: It’s all about the afterparty.
This year’s Winter X-Games have come and gone. H and I were treated to the Aspen Effect* and invited to attend a private party halfway up the mountain, directly adjacent to the slope style course.

The party was held at a $22 million dollar spec home that was still under construction. The hosts offered food, drinks and live music, and were genuinely gracious folks. H and I hung out with the kids, made fun of the people in pink furs, and took off by 5.

Contrast to 3 years ago, when I was washing dishes for the same event. On breaks away from the power washer I’d climb atop the refrigerated semi and watch the slope style course from down below. Once the place shut down, our boss took us out to drinks in Aspen. We crawled the mall with visiting Argentines and some folks from Venezuela, and by the end of the night/morning, we exercised the judicious revocation of driving privileges for all involved.

Same event, two parties. Having seen both sides now, I can honestly say that Street trumps Sheik. It’s shared misery that makes celebration notable – the sense that, as a gang, we pulled off something incredible, so bartender, bring another round.

I’m reminded of the Ren Fest afterparties. The patrons leave, the sun goes down, and suddenly that friendly Medieval-esque village takes on a decidedly adult tone. Leather jackets come out, bodices are loosed, the jokes get bawdier (as if that were possible) and for a few short hours, the elevation of hell is raised up a few feet.

For better or worse, my days as a dishwasher are largely behind me now. I can’t lay claim to that fine and pleasant misery, nor the collective triumph that follows. And as writers, we largely work alone, and without clear demarcations of success. (By the time any printed word hits the bookstores you’ve already long since fallen out of love with the work.)

There must be some way of seeking out and celebrating shared experiences as writers, but I’m not sure what it is yet. Cons, to a small degree fulfill this purpose, but you can’t (or shouldn’t) forget that you’re constantly in the company of hard working customers, and hard-eyed employers. I’m sure something will come to me before August.

Or maybe I just need to get a job washing dishes again.


*Aspen Effect: The phenomena of dirt poor folks enjoying the privilege of the wealthy, thanks to geographic proximity.


On the Internet ...
... everyone can hear you scream.

I was reminded again yesterday just how important it is for writers and would-be writers to maintain professional decorum when posting/blogging/whatever. When your words can be instantly reposted anywhere, you better make sure they are good ones. Rants, justified or not, are almost universally Bad Ideas.

To whit.



A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall

Goodman Games recently announced that it will be one of the “early adopters” for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Outside of the gaming industry this doesn’t have much significance, but on the micro level of game design freelancers, it means that there is a select core of folks that are going to be working very hard between now and Gen Con. Today I've corresponded with freelancers, made art requests for covers, and even *gasp* tried getting some writing in.

One of the implications of the change in the rules set is a corresponding change in the campaign settings. WotC’s flagship CS is the Forgotten Realms. Sometime around August the new setting book will be released, unveiling the sweeping changes that took place to make the Realms compliant with 4E.

Still with me? If this is too esoteric, hold on, I’m getting to the point.

Campaign settings are compelling when they are persistent, when they are just as stable and tangible as the real world. Devoted players come to love these worlds, investing countless hours over scores of years, and even decades. Whether or not this is healthy, I’m not qualified to say, but their devotion does drive the multi-million dollar franchise of books, games, comics, and toys, that is the Forgotten Realms.

I too, have been fortunate enough to publish a campaign setting, the home of Goodman Games’ DCC adventures. If the Forgotten Realms is elephant, than Áereth is a fly – the two are alike only in name.

In FR, they’re advancing the timeline by a little less than 100 years, to account for the differences. Fans on forums everywhere are in an uproar. Everything they once knew about the Realms – everything they’ve invested their lives in for the last 20 years – has changed.

In Áereth, the changes are disarmingly simple. By planning a setting birthed out of old-school pulp conventions, ala Howard and Lovecraft, we were disturbingly close to the vision of 4E. A tweak here and an introduction there, and suddenly we’re compliant again. Ta-da!

Even despite the slight changes, I've taken pains to assure folks on the forum that their 4th edition DCCs are going to be just as good or better than the old ones. With a very finite pool of folks interested in our world, I need every single one of them to stick around.

Put another way, I need my customer more than he needs me. There are tons of other worlds to play in.

Is this also true for the Realms? And if it’s not, is the inverse of the statement – the customer needs the Realms more than the Realms need the customer – true?

I hope not. It is a little ugly to think about. And yet, here are fans whose devotion I would kill for, lamenting the coming changes.

I'm not suggesting Wizards should kowtow to every fanboy's request. Absolutely not. But it does seem that the fans deserve a concierge, of sorts, someone to show up on the forums, assure the gamers that all will be well, and help make the shift a little less daunting. Keeping old customers is cheap. It's getting new ones that's expensive. A small investment now would pay for itself ten times over when those legions of fanboys and girls start singing the praise of a new edition.

Just some thoughts to muse on while I head back to work. Here’s hoping whatever world you live and play in makes you happy. Otherwise, what’s the point?