My (Secret) Life in Gaming

About 14 months ago I wrote an article called My Life in Gaming. It was a simple piece talking about the many different sorts of gaming that I’ve been involved in over the last twenty-five years, from D&D to board games to computer games and back to board games again. Much to my surprise the folks over at the British ‘zine Flagship liked the piece, and reprinted it in issues #120 and #121.

Since I wrote that article, life has continued changing, as it ever does, and I’ve been surprised to see the gaming pendulum shift once more. It’s ultimately one of the reasons that I’m writing here less than I used to. (I’ll get to that shortly, but as you’ll see, it’s more lack of time than lack of interest).

I should say that I still am playing board games. Almost every Wednesday I go over to EndGame for four hours or so of play, and almost every Thursday I have folks over to my house for my “review nights” — though I’ve actually been reviewing less too, and as a result we sometimes play something random on Thursday instead.

However, in balance with that, my interest in roleplaying games has increased quite a bit, to almost the levels it enjoyed when it was my prime gaming entertainment back in the 1990s. The reason has ultimately been my job — which is nice, given that working in the industry was part of what burned me out on RPGs about a decade ago.

RPGnet and the Gaming Index

My company owns RPGnet, where you’ve probably read my reviews, and which is the top independent roleplaying site on the ‘net. Last summer I decided to get serious about an RPGnet project that I’d been playing with for a while on my own time: the Gaming Index. In short, it’s a BoardGameGeek for roleplaying games, designed my way.

The project itself has been a major undertaking. At this point I’ve written about 12,500 lines of code, which I’m pretty sure is the biggest coherent set of programming that I’ve ever done for anything. And, it seems able to suck up any free time I have, with a constant list of new features that I want to add and things I want to modify or fix.

However besides the code, the Gaming Index also required a lot of data entry to get going, which sent me scurrying to my book shelves to input whatever I could. As I paged through my books, entering authors and descriptions, I gradually came to rediscover what interested me in roleplaying in the first place. This came in two parts: the fun stories told in fabulous worlds, and the collectibility aspect of the hobby.

That in turn is precisely what rekindled my interest in the roleplaying hobby.

Writing, Writing, Writing

As you might have guessed from my entries in this blog and my reviews, I’m a writer. I write obsessively and constantly. Before I was blogging here I wrote a few hundred computer game design articles, and before that I carefully chronicled the adventures of my roleplaying group. I suspect you could find millions of words of my writing on the ‘net.

I also used to write roleplaying books, with Tribunals of Hermes: Rome (for Ars Magica),The Nephilim Gamemaster Companion (for Nephilim) and Tales of Chivalry and Romance and Tales of Magic and Miracles (for Pendragon) being my largest collections of work in print. However that largely fizzled out about a decade ago when I went to work for Chaosium.

Until now, when my resurgence of interest in roleplaying has led to a resurgence of interest in roleplaying writing too. And that (finally) is one of the reasons that I’ve been writing less here. Since last September or so I’ve been working on three different major roleplaying projects.

The first was Elder Races: Aldryami, a 100,000 word sourcebook for the HeroQuest roleplaying game which I hope will see print in 2007, but may not come out until next year. It’s a book that I’ve literally been working on for a decade (depending on your definition of working, that is). It’s the definitive sourcebook for elfs in the world of Glorantha — unique plant creatures that I think I’ve given an interesting worldview. I finished this book up last December and sent it to the publisher.

Just when I was finishing up Elder Races: Aldryami I discovered that Mongoose Publishing, who is doing a different Glorantha game called RuneQuest, was also planning to release a book about elfs. Terrified that it would contradict my own work which I’d been working on for so long I practically begged them to let me write a book for them. They agreed, and the book, Aldryami: A Guide to the Elfs, is due to them at the end of the month. Fortunately as of last week I’ve got a complete draft of 62,500 words. I’m going to give it a full edit over the next three weeks.

However my biggest project since last summer has been the “Brief History of Game” project, which is intended to be a history of roleplaying games told one game company at a time. I initially started writing my first history because I was curious about a company that I was then entering into the Gaming Index. Afterward I decided to publish some of these histories at RPGnet as a way of building interest in the Index itself. Except along the way I’ve learned that people had a lot of interest in the articles in and of themselves. To date I’ve gotten four queries about publishing a book of these history essays.

I’ve accepted one, which has forced me to notably speed up my work. The book is going to have a ton more stuff than I’ve published online to date. (To date I’ve published 10 histories, have 12 more sitting on my computer in various states of completion, and am writing one a week.) The book should also be a really beautiful artifact, if it comes out the way my publisher envisions it. If all goes well, this book will see print this year too. I’m definitely pushing it.


So that’s my secret life in gaming … all the stuff I’m doing that isn’t exactly board game related and thus is outside of the scope of this blog (usually). The first four months of this year have been particularly crazy because I’ve been simultaneously writing my history book and my second elf book. Last weekend was my craziest weekend of writing ever, with almost 20,000 words of text going down onto electronic paper in first draft form. But I got some good games in too.

I’m looking forward to May, when things will slow down a bit, and perhaps I can take a break to really go gaming.

Author’s Note: 2007 turned out to be a pretty bad year for my writing projects. First, Issaries stopped publishing material themselves, which killed my Elder Races: Aldryami book. The newest HeroQuest publisher, Moon Design, has vaguely considered it, but to date hasn’t made any commitment to publishing it. Worse, my originally publisher for my RPG history book (which came to be called Designers & Dragons) decided not to publish it, literally 2 weeks’ before it was due. They paid a handsome and not-required kill fee, so I was eventually mollified, but in 2007 the only one of my books that was published ended up being the Mongoose Elfs book. Despite the fact that all three had been written under contract.

Fortunately, there was better news for Designers & Dragons down the road. In 2010, I decided to take up the project again, and I contracted with Mongoose to publish the book. I worked on the book for another year, then Mongoose released it in a handsome faux-leather hardcover in late 2011. I reclaimed the rights to the book in 2012 after Mongoose let it go out of print, and I’ve since contracted with Evil Hat to publish a new 4-volume(!!) version of the book. The first edition came in at 350,000 words, making it (I think) the biggest single work I’ve ever done. I’m planning 100,000-140,000 words for each Evil Hat volume, so that’ll be even bigger. I’m at this very moment finishing up work on the 1st and 2nd volumes, which are due to Evil Hat in about three weeks. If you want to learn more about the new books as they move toward release, please LIKE the Designers & Dragons Facebook page. —SA, 12/14/12

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