The Beginnings of the Makings of a Project, and How the Networking Began
I talked last month HERE about the Easy Pickings project with CE Murphy (Catie, of course), and my first foray into the world of self-publishing. This month, I want to share the Kickstarter project I am involved in. This post is all about networking, and the way that the relationships we develop in life carry us forward, enriching our plans and experiences in ways we never originally expected.
This project has been a four-and-a-half year networking experience, and I thought it might be interesting to the writers, readers, and gamers out there to see how a project like the Rogue Mage Role-playing Game came to be, from the networking stage to the Kickstarter stage. So, I asked the other members of the project to answer a few questions.
Faith: Mike, give us your 10-second personal bio and then jump in with the pivotal role you played in the conception of the long-term writing/book project.
Mike: I’m Mike Pruette, a mild mannered bookstore manager by day. By night a web site designer, digital graphic artist, and artisan leather craftsman. You can read more about me at my web site www.creativedragondesigns.com. At the time that Bloodring was released, I had known Faith for about 4 years through the bookstore. I knew Christina separately through the store because we carried some of her game books. After reading Bloodring I was blown away by the world that Faith had created. I approached Faith about the possibility of turning the landscape of her creative fiction into an interactive game world. We talked about it a few times and she seemed receptive to the idea, so I told her that I knew someone who could probably help take the project to the next level. The next time I saw Christina, I told her that she should discuss the idea of the game with Faith at an upcoming signing. She did, and the idea took off!
Faith: Christina, your turn. Give us your 10-second personal bio, your longer RPG bio, and then jump in with the RPG concept as you and Mike discussed it.
Christina: I’m Christina Stiles, and I’ve been involved with game writing since the early 1990s. My first publication was in DUNGEON Magazine issue #61. I currently write and edit for Misfit Studios, Open Design and Kobold Quarterly, and Troll Lord Games. I maintain a website at www.christinastiles.com, which showcases many of the projects I’ve worked on.
Faith: Oddly enough, Mike, who is neither a writer nor a game designer, was the pivotal person for the game. Mike, tell us how you had the idea for all this.
Mike: As a gamer from my youth I was convinced after I read Bloodring that this would be an awesome setting for an RPG. I wanted more of the world of Bloodring, something beyond more fiction. Faith had crafted a tangible, believable cast of characters within an incredibly fascinating, yet terrifying post-apocalyptic world. It begged to be made into a game. The idea of fighting monsters of Darkness in this world of seraphs, demons, and mages was inspiring. The RPG is a natural progression of the book series, as far as I am concerned.
Christina: After Mike introduced me to Faith’s Bloodring, I understood what he meant about the book being an interesting concept for a role-playing game. At the time, I had even been thinking about how the game Armageddon by Eden Studios would make some great fiction, and here someone had a novel that did something similar—but very different. It was like fate.
Mike and I didn’t have a long discussion about it. He just threw the idea out to me because he knew I wrote games. He told me Faith was having a book-signing at the store (with Kim Harrison, by the by), and that I should introduce myself to her discuss gaming with her. So, on that fateful book-signing day, shy person that I am, I stood in line and got my book signed and braved (it truly was bravery on my part) the topic that I wrote role-playing games. Faith’s face broke out into a smile. At first, I thought it was going to be one of those “Aren’t you a nutcase?” smiles we gamers and game writers often get. But, no, to my astonishment, she was elated. She said some of her readers had already approached her about a game, and that one wanted to write one, but couldn’t get her head wrapped around all the concepts in the book. Faith was seriously interested in making it happen, so we exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet over tea.
A partnership was born! And little did we know what we were getting into. 8-)
Faith: (Okay, this is getting weird here, but I do have to interview myself to share the story. J ) Faith how did you feel about Mike’s interest in this project, and then meeting Christina?
Faith: It was weird. This was not the first time that someone had broached the subject of gaming in the Rogue Mage world to me. I am a believer that if life tosses something to you more than one, it isn’t a coincidence, it is an order. So I went with it! And little did I know that, um, I knew less about my own world than the gamers needed. Oy.
Now, back to you, Christina. After we’d agreed to do the game, who came next?
Christina: As it turned out, Raven Blackwell was the gamer who’d first broached the gaming subject with Faith, so I agreed to talk with her. Raven had some great ideas, so I quickly brought her in on the project.
Spike: Next we have to go to Steven for his introduction.
Faith: Editors; always butting in. (sigh…)
Spike: Trust me. It fits into the networking theme.
Steven: I’ve been a professional writer of RPG content for nearly 15 years, and continue to do freelance work on occasion. Most of my time is spent working on projects for Misfit Studios, the small-press publishing company I started in 2003 as a way to bring to market the projects that most interested me.
Faith: How did you get to know Christina?
Steven: I was first introduced to Christina during an open call for freelance writers for Uncommon Character, a book of non-player characters for Atlas Games. Later, she wanted to publish her own book and needed a writer to take on her Open Gaming License setting project, SpirosBlaak. I have collaborated with her on many occasions since, under the umbrella of Misfit Studios and otherwise.
Faith: How did you come to be the publisher of the Rogue Mage RPG.
Steven: Christina, who is a member of Misfit Studios, first mentioned the idea of a Rogue Mage roleplaying game to me years ago. It sounded like an interesting project and, as a professional I trust and respect, I offered Misfit Studios’ help getting it through gaming channels. Misfit Studios’ existing access to the e-book RPG market made it a good choice to distribute the electronic version of the game, and our established online presence gave Christina online outlets to keep people informed of the project’s progress. Plus, the game uses OGL material from Mutants & Masterminds 2e, a game Misfit Studios has long supported.
Faith: Who’s next?
Christina: I already knew who I’d snag as editor: Spike Y Jones. I just had to convince him to sign on.
Spike: I’ve been a freelance writer since my first article in DRAGON Magazine back in 1986, and a freelance editor since shortly after I moved from Canada to the States 20 years ago. I still write the occasional article, and I’ve had a monthly zine in Alarums & Excursions for over 25 years now, but most of my game work now is editing.
Faith: And how did you meet Christina and how did you get involved with this project?
Christina: Bwah ha ha! He rues the day he met me.
Spike: Yeah, it’s one of those love/hate things.
Back in 2000/2001, I submitted a number of short pieces to open calls for third-party support of the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons: some magic items, some spells, and some of those non-player characters for Uncommon Character, the book Steven mentioned above. Christina was the editor of the book, but when she found out that I was an editor, she asked if I could run another set of eyes over the characters she’d written for the book. Eventually we ended up co-editing the book.
Then when she and Steven were working on SpirosBlaak sometime later, she ran into a hole in her knowledge and asked if I knew anyone who knew anything about black powder muskets and cannons. Coincidentally, I’d spent four years firing muskets and cannons for a living, so I teamed up with her again.
Faith: One of those odd, life-sticks-its-big-nose-in things.
Spike: Yeah. Since then Christina and I have imposed on each other to help with over a dozen projects, from Christina looking over the NPCs in the Biblical RPG I was editing (Testament for Green Ronin), to a co-written article in Kobold Quarterly last year, to this little editing project Christina approached me about four years ago: she wanted me to “set two months aside” to edit something called the Rogue Mage RPG.
And one more networking thing: While Christina is the person who forged the connections between Steven and me, I think I’m the only one of us who’s actually met him. It turns out, Steven lives in my hometown, so I’ve had lunch with him when I’ve been up to visit family in Canada.
Faith: True. But then I’ve never met any of you but Christina. Spike, you and Christina please share with us something about the difficulties of converting a fiction world to a game.
Spike: Well, that whole “two months” business for starters.
More seriously, creating a role-playing game is hard enough, but the biggest difficulty in converting existing fiction to a game can be summed up by the sentence I dreaded reading whenever I got back a file from Faith: “Nice, but that’s not what happened.” Faith gave us a lot of freedom to explore Thorn St. Croix’s world, but we had to stay true not only to the published novels (and Host wasn’t even released when we started working!), but also to the plans Faith has for the next set of novels.
Faith: Here is where I get to go Mwhahahahahaha.
Christina: The most difficult piece was really translating Faith’s fictional vision into the applicable game rules. We had to ask a variety of anal questions to get a true idea of how the game could mimic the things happening in the novels. I think we floored Faith with the details we wanted to know about her magic system and the features of each race. Then there were the monsters. Luckily, we had Raven around working on the magic and the monsters. I think she really captured the feel of those well, and, of course, we fiddled around with things for a good while until we were satisfied with them. Then I went out and play-tested them at the cons to get feedback.
In all, I’ve learned that translating fiction is very difficult. Don’t ever tell an author you can create a game based on their world in a few months. J I think Faith learned that gamers don’t think like fiction writers in their worldbuilding; there are core similarities, but also major differences because the goals are different.
Faith: This had been a long post, but then we are condensing over 4 years into a few pages. More next time, in two weeks when we pick up again. Next week, however is a real treat. Something, someone different!