Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days

So, how's the New Guy been doing?

Seriously? Not too bad.

I mean, for comparison, about this time in the Previous Administration, we had just emerged from the first testing of presidential mettle when the Chinese grabbed one of our spy planes over their territory. With great resolve, the administration proceeded to apologize, grovel nicely, and get the plane back. Victory!

In comparison to that, the New Guy's first big foreign policy crisis showed up in the form of Somalian Pirates, allowing him to show chops similar to Bruce Willis in "The Fifth Element" ("Anyone ELSE want to negotiate?"). OK, its a small thing (except to those held hostage), but it shows the grace under pressure that this administration seems to just ooze.

A lot of the first hundred days has consisted of cleaning up the mess from the frat party of the past eight years. Gitmo's closing (but not closed). Black sites are gone. Iraq is winding down (but not wound down yet). Torture is back to being un-American as opposed to necessary evil. Stem cells are back on track, some of the more onerous destruction of the environment, EPA, and OSHA have been stemmed. Job stimulus bill. SCHIP. Middle class tax cut.

Oh, and high speed rail. That's what happens when your Veep commutes in by train.

And the little things. Almost equaling the previous guy's total first-term press conferences. High visibility. The dog. The wife. The kids. The garden. Dan Rooney - ambassador to Ireland. Video weekly addresses. Understanding the net. A fearless competence. And then there's the even smaller stuff.

Oh, and we're no longer being jerks to the rest of the world. It is interesting to see some actual diplomacy in our diplomatic efforts.

I don't like everything that's happened. More accountability on torture, please. Drag some people up about bugging the citizenry. "Just following orders"? - not such a good defense. Let's make sure we're playing smart ball in Afghanistan, the war we launched and then forgot.

And while all this is happened, the distinguished opposition has been regrouping and... what has been going on in the right side of the aisle?

Oh. I see. Wow. Circular firing squad stuff. Mocking volcano monitoring a week before a volcano goes off in Alaska. Dropping pandemic preparation just before Aporkalypse (a "Ham-demic" as a co-worker put it) strikes us. Still griping about Palin? Daring McCain to bolt the party? Every time you think they've reached bottom, they punch through the floor and find another sub-basement.

So bad that even Arlen Specter couldn't stomach it and had to bail. And guys, while I like the idea of the true big tent party, getting a new conservative Democrat is like getting another tie for your birthday.

It's going to be a long haul. The economy is going to suck for a while. We're still hanging out in global neighborhoods where we've broken a lot of windows. We are going to hit stuff that we aren't even THINKING about right now.

But I'm pretty positive. There is a cool confidence and a solid sense of progress going on. We may just get out of this one yet.

And I guess I have to stop calling him the New Guy. Looks like he's a keeper.

More later,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


So to best explain why I was protecting my deck from ninjas at 1 AM, I need to talk about my prostate.

(I don't think there is as single sentence as simultaneously intriguing and off-putting in the English Language. No, don't try.)

Without getting too graphic (yeah, I know you're disappointed), when I went in for my checkup, the bloodwork had an elevated PSA (Prostate Serum Antigen). PSA may be a indication of prostate trouble, but can be affected by other factors, which give a false positive. So I met with the urologist and we decided to eliminate those other factors, which include potential infection.

And to address that end, I've been taking ciprofloxacin.

Now, I have been very fortunate (touch wood) to not have to take anything heavier than tums. So a daily regimen of an antibiotic is a new thing for me. And I so I read the (huge) list of warnings about the drug side effects - effects including dizziness, drowsiness, hives, rapid heartbeat, hallucinations, paranoia, stomach cramps, diarrhea, nerve damage, sensitivity to sunlight, joint sensitivity, headache, fever, skin rash, trouble sleeping, and nightmares.

I think the nightmares come from reading the warning labels. The drugs may come from doctors, but the warning labels definitely come from lawyers, and include every possible effect. We could probably solve the street drug problem merely by giving them the same level of information.

In any event, since starting the regimen, I've been keeping track of potential side effects, and save for the continuing head cold (note: Cipro does not work on colds or flu), have been pretty safe (again, touch wood).

Until last night, when I was awakened by some chance noise - teenagers at the school or some animal in the backyard. I was awake, and within a matter of moments absolutely convinced that someone was out of the back porch outside the bedroom. Upon finding nothing (and not hearing anything else), these mysterious someones became ninjas who were watching, waiting for me to go back to sleep.

The rational mind said this was goofy, but the irrational mind was in charge, and waited by the door to the porch for the ninjas to make their move. Paranoia is a side effect of the drug, apparently (check the laundry list above). Fortunately, I had the antidote, in the form of the Lovely Bride, who instructed me to quit clowning around and come back to bed.

Now, most people know about cipro in the wake of the anthrax attacks of about eight years back, when a large number of concerned and powerful individuals were downing the stuff in hopes of evading the potential of infection. Now, given the possible side effects of the drug, maybe the last eight years have ANOTHER explanation. Just a thought.

Keeping an eye out for the Ninjas. More later,

Monday, April 27, 2009

While I Was Out ...

Goodness. I've been home three days and I am still digging my way out of previous posts and announcements. Here's the latest news:

ArenaNet has announced that we've sold 6 million copies of our games, just as we are coming up to our 4th anniversary. I'm delighted by the continued popularity of the Guild Wars and am excited about where we are going with the game.

Also, the company has started distributing the game on Steam, so you can purchase stuff online.

In other news, The Worlds of Dungeons & Dragons, Volume 2, (which contains Ed Greenwood's story, "Elminster at the the Magefair", adapted by yours truly) has been nominated for an Origins Award. I am delighted by the nomination, though I think both the fiction and nonfiction categories are tough this year.

Jim Lowder was both an editor and a contributor to the WoD&D Vol 2, and is also the editor of the recently announced Family Games, The 100 Best 100, sequel to Hobby Games, the Best. Yep, I have something in this one, too.

But not all news is good. I got this note from my agent, Ashley Grayson, about the recent Google Books settlement, which legitimizes the "not evil" corporation's previous posting of other peoples' copyright material and gives creators the chance to "opt-out" of their continued use of such information by a method that is currently on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'. Right now I am trying to figure out which (if any) of the shared world projects which bear my name would be covered by this, and if I need to brave a leopard. Oh, did I mention you have to decide RIGHT NOW about this?

And watch, they can put up the Starcraft Archives without any prob, but I'll get in trouble for quoting Hitchikers' Guide.

More later,

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Days of Miracle and Wonder

I've been out of town for the past couple days on a business trip, and had no time even for the most inconsequential of posts or the slightest check of Facebook. But that's not what I want to talk about.

Instead, I have to say how easy it is to move through the travel system. Yeah, we all have horror stories, but I find it amazing that it takes me all of fifteen minutes to go from curbside to plane gate. Yeah, including the TSA. It is a combination of several things - ticketing kiosks with well-designed software, no luggage, and an educated traveling population that knows (mostly) to have their ID out and ready.

But it is more than that. On my brief sojourn I encountered competent service personnel, helpful hotel staff ("Would you like a king-sized bed instead of two twins, Mr Grubb?"), friendly airport personnel, tolerant cabbies, courteous wait-staff, and even a breakfast buffet worth the price. Oh, and my traveling companion lost his phone, and they found it and called me to say they would have it for him at the airport for his return trip. All of this with putting a hundred plus people into a tube and shooting them across the country so they can make meetings before noon at their destination.

These are days of miracles and wonder, indeed.

More later,

Update: And of course, after putting together a post that speaks of how easy it has become to move about the world these days, we have news out of Mexico City about a swine flu (Aporkalypse?) which is spread just as easy as catching the next flight to LA, New York, or Kansas. In blogging, like comedy, it is all in the timing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


And this morning I ran over some baby ducks.

Yes, it was a accident. And yes, I'm completely broken up about it.

I think I've mentioned how my office is in a bottomland crisscrossed by channels and shallow bodies of water. And with spring we have an abundance of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl raising their young. We have signs up and everyone is very careful about driving around.

And then I ran over the baby ducks. Now I'm a monster.

I came around a curve into our parking lot. I never saw the ducklings, and saw the mother duck only when I was right on top of them. Looking in the rearview I saw one of their little bodies flapping around on the asphalt and realized what I had done. I parked and went back but by that time it was too late.

There were two of them. The one I saw flapping was dead by the time I got back, and I found the body of another one, crushed, nearby. I moved them off the parking lot into the low marsh nearby, to where the mother was squawking loudly at me with her surviving brood. I apologized to the mother and offered a quiet prayer. But I had blood on my hands.

There had been another driver, right behind me coming in, but it doesn't feel right to share the blame. Or to blame the ducks for picking that particular moment to cross a heavily-traveled lot. Or to remember all the times I stopped, or even got out of the car to shoo ducklings to relative safety. Or to seek comfort in the fact that there are survivors, and part of the entire idea of raising a lot of duckling is that some will not survive, taken down by predators or illness or accidents.

But in this case the accident was me. And I feel like the clumsy giant, the uncaring ogre, the bad neighbor, the savage fool. Killing without purpose, an engine of destruction.

The guilt will remain with me for a while, as it should. I still feel the karmic debt for running over a chipmunk in Lake Geneva almost 20 years back.

I'm going to be carrying those ducklings for a while.

More later,

Monday, April 20, 2009

Theatre: Tales Both Told and Yodelled.

Breakin' Hearts & Takin' Names, written and performed by Kevin Kling and Simone Perrin, Seattle Repertory Theatre, through 10 May.

Through acts of both gods and mortals, the Seattle Rep is running two similar shows at the same time, each featuring two characters. In the big theater is Carrie Fisher and her alter ego Leia Organa, and in the Leo K is Kevin Kling and Simone Perrin. And while I liked the Fisher/Princess Leia show, I really liked this one.

I've talked about these two before. Kevin Kling is a commentator and humorist who shows up on NPR. Simone Perrin is a femme fatale armed with dulcet tones and a deadly accordion. Together, they fight crime!

Well, not crime. But they do make a cool couple. Kling tells stories about his youth his family, and Minnesota, Perrin chimes in on occasion, providing support material, and delivers torch songs and yodeling. Yeah, yodeling. Deal with it.

And the thing is, it feels so much more grounded and realistic than the stories in the other theater. I've never hopped a freight in search of a seafood dinner, nor have I woken up next to a dead Republican, but Kling's storytelling makes the first perfectly feasible and understandable.

The audience at Breakin' Hearts was different, too. A lot less of the older crowd who'd remember Debbie Reynolds. A lot of young people, along with people who have never been in that particular theater before (that is, people who come in the wrong door and then have to move across the entire row to get to their seats). So I'm thinking - either someone has done a great job marketing tickets to unlikely sources, or NPR is a lot more popular with the kids today than I thought.

In any event, the crowd was loud and engaged. They were laughing hard and applauding harder. And this was something I noticed about how we treat storytellers and how we treat musicians. Kling would finish a story and we would all nod or laugh. Perrin would finish a song and we would all applaud. That's kinda irritating for the storyteller, but seems to be the way we engage with the subject matter.

On the down side? Not much. It is a recession show, a small-cast number with talent shipped in from out of state. Saving money on the tip of the theatrical iceberg (the actors) while the (slightly reduced) staff puts as much effort into the production itself as it would normally (the set was hardly minimalist - a nice re-creation of every bar I've been in when I lived in Wisconsin).

But really, Seattle Rep, I'd to see some REP in our Repertory, M'Kay?

End of the day? There are two such shows at the Rep running now, and they're both good, but the one in the smaller theater is the better.

(Yeah, and saying so may make for some uncomfortable backstage meetings between the matinees and the evening shows. So be it).

More later,

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jeff and Kate's Day Off

I'm thinking of declaring the Friday after Tax Day an annual familial holiday.

The Lovely Bride wrapped up her tax preparation this week, and I've been pushing hard with the day job and a convention the previous weekend, so we decided, by mutual consent, that today was a day off. Put in the vacation request and everything, and made sure I was caught up before leaving the team to go on without me.

So, over the course of the day, we -
- Overslept.
- Had oatmeal.
- Noted that the rain of the previous evening
- Went to the Woodland Park Zoo. Always enjoyable, though this afternoon a power transformer went out, plunging the buildings into darkness and causing the indoor exhibits to close prematurely.
- Took a chance on a restaurant that Dave Gross had recommended years before he left town.
- Had stuffed pizza at Delfino's, in the University Village. Really good pizza, excellent service, nice window view to watch the other consumers. The pizza itself was delicious, and though we will pick nits, its the best stuffed pizza I've had in Seattle. Recommended.
- Got caught in a massive traffic jam coming home (what, first nice day and everyone decides to leave the office early?).
- Napped
- Sat on the back deck, reading Jay Lake's Trial of Flowers, leaving the lawn for tomorrow, until it got too dark and I retreated to my office.

All in all, a very successful day off.

More later,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Advanced Book Announcement

Odd, I could have sworn there was a cat in this bag.

As has been confirmed quietly on the GW boards and by the author, fellow Alliterate Matt Forbeck is currently writing the first of the Guild Wars novels. The initial info (much of it incorrect or undetermined) appeared on bookseller sites and spread through the Guild Wars fanbase quickly.

Yes, we've been working on it with Matt for a while now. Yes, it's really good.

Sigh. Now I'm going to have to find something ELSE to wrap up and give for Wintersday. If ya'll get a waffle iron, you'll know why.

More later,

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Play: Princess Diaries

Wishful Drinking Created and performed by Carrie Fisher, Directed by Tony Taccone, Seattle Repertory Theatre, though 3 May.

This is many things. One woman show. Therapy through writing. Nostalgia act. Theater as book tour. Possible prep for the leap to Broadway. Last-minute fill-in. That final one is because the Seattle Rep got a short, sharp shock to the schedule and had to scramble. And to be honest they did pretty well as a result (since the original option was Godot)

Carrie Fisher you know from being Princess Leia in Star Wars, back in what was my youth and for most of you was a bajillion years ago. Yes, she's older and wider now, but I'm not one to talk. Fisher, however, does talk - about her heritage as the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, about he marriage to Paul Simon, about her addictions, about the dead guy in her bed four years ago (this is the opener). And about Star Wars.

Fisher paces the nicely-designed stage with a confident intensity and ranges out into the audience looking for victims. Oh yes, there is audience participation. Sort of like being in the front row of a Gallagher show, but with glitter instead of watermelon guts. You've been warned. She takes questions from the audience (about her dead guy). She picks up a few souls in the audience to commune with. She takes volunteers (and no, I'm not going to spoil it for you, but it's hilarious).

And she does not take herself too serious. For a woman my age, she sounds older, a creature of another age, a survivor with a knapsack full of nostalgia and gossip. Sometimes she sounds like my actress mom-in-law. Sometimes she sounds like Harlan Ellison. And she does a dead-on Debbie Reynolds impression.

She does use visual aids - no Mike-Daisey-lone-guy-at-a-table here. They range from the family tree of multiple parental marriages to backdrop slides to some comfortable chairs for here to perch in. Still trying to figure out the deeper significance of the garden gnome, though.

Its nice, its bright, and its a good afternoon spent. Its like spending the afternoon with the wild, creative aunt, once you're old enough to hear the REAL family stories. For me, coming from a Science Fiction Convention, it was sort of a perfect ending to Norwescon. Definitely worth catching if you're a Star Wars fan (and that's,what, about 90% of Seattle).

More later,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Norwescon Notes

Conventions have been a hit and miss affair for me over the years. I've attended well-managed, well-run, and enthusiastic conventions, and I've had more than my share of bankrupt con committees, disastrous personal relationships among the con organizers, con nazis, vaporware scheduling, car accidents, personal injury, midnight fire drills, LSD-laced juice, and surprise visits by the police and/or EMTs. So my approach to cons is always with the politeness that one would normally show any explosive device you might suddenly find in your kitchen.

And just so there is no surprise, I put Norwescon in the former category, under the well-run, the well-managed, and the enthusiastic. Yes, there is always something going on or going wrong, and a good team rises above it and keeps everything moving smoothly, helping the convention experience of the participants.

The big challenge for the convention was parking, which approaches legendary proportions. The con is located at the Doubletree at SeaTac, and things filled up very fast. This year, they got additional parking available behind an office building two blocks away. I had to balance my convention panels with my day job, and soon discovered I could drive up, valet the car for a modest surcharge, and let the hotel staff find a parking place for me. It was a neat trick, but unfortunately, by Saturday the hotel had rumbled the ruse and restricted valet service to those staying at the hotel. Even so, it was only two (reasonably long) blocks away to the overflow parking, so it wasn't like it was going to kill me.

The gaming track of panels was very strong. This year they invited Bob Salvatore as GoH, and WotC as Publisher. Often SF conventions treat gaming like the AV room - a space put aside that they occasionally toss raw meat into (I'm looking at YOU, Emerald City). In addition to several such locations (open gaming and planned events), we had a boatload of panels on gaming and the gaming industry. AND Seattle has such depth of creative writers, designers, and editors, that not everyone was on the same panels (I think I teamed up with Erik Mona three times over the course of the week).

I also liked the fact that they got me out of my comfort zone in a number of places, putting me on panels that were not horrible strong points for me, like talking about Tolkien on a panel with a real Tolkien scholar, or talking about creating comic books with Paul (Concrete) Chadwick and Donna (Desert Peach) Barr. Those were my favorite panels because they were so outside my regular topics (and I really liked the fact that the Tolkien scholar gave a shout-out to the Gnomes of Dragonlance for being really cool).

And its been years since Bob and I have had a chance to talk, and we were nattering on like old grandmothers (grandmothers talking about server loads and poly counts for our respective MMOs, but still grandmothers). Plus it was the first time I've seen a lot of long-lost local friends for months, so it was way cool.

Norwescon is a strong costume convention as well. I showed up in my long-running costume as "older gaming professional". This consisted of a loud Hawaiian shirt and jeans during the day, and adding a black or linen suit coat for the evening panel. It was fun seeing guys in Klingon Battle Armor giving me the "Who's THAT guy" look in the halls. I think I was freaking the fandom.

And the fans themselves were extremely nice, and the bozoid particles seemed to be operating at an all-time low. The wonderful thing about having a long career in a number of different areas, is that I never know what I'm going to be talking about when a fan comes up (Of course, some fans may say I don't know what I'm talking about, regardless of the subject (NOTE: REMEMBER TO INSERT SMILEY FACE HERE)).

The dealer's area was heavily stocked for all the basics of modern fandom, such that armor, cloaks, corsets, weapons, wands, games, and videos vastly outnumbered books. I set out to find a copy of The Anubis Gates in non-collector-first-printing-signed-by-the-author version. I was unsuccessful, but I did score big at Night Shade Books, which had a Jay Lake book I've been meaning to read, the first two parts of a trilogy by Matthew Hughes, and a pirate short story collection with a Howard Waldrop tale in it. Bonus!

Plus, I ended up at a signing party next to Ken Scholes and his lovely (and expecting) bride, and now have to pick up a copy of his first novel, Lamentation (hmmmm... I see I can get it for the Kindle...).

So all in all it was a great convention for me - a lot of people I haven't seen in a while, a lot of interesting stuff going, panels that I wanted to attend, and good, solid level of enthusiasm and professionalism. Good Going, guys.

And then, of course, there was the part where a member of audience was making out with Carrie Fisher. No, wait. That was later in the day, at the Seattle Rep.

More about that later,

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Punishment Fits the Crime

So Pierce Watters, a fine gentleman who works for Paizo Publishing, writes reviews for Kobold Quarterly, and teaches Tai Chi, gifted me recently with a CD of The Mikado. The Mikado is one of Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular comic operas, and this particular recording was from the Bell Telephone Hour version of the 60s, starring Groucho Marx as Ko-Ko the Tailor-turned-Lord-High-Executioner.

I've been listening to it over the course of the week on my commutes, and now cannot get it out of my head. Bad enough the songs of Misters G & S are infectious, throwing that bit of Groucho into the middle of it is enough the drive one mad.

In general recap,it is a general madcap G&S - Minstrel Nanki-poo loves maiden Yum-Yum, who is supposed to marry her guardian, Ko-Ko, who in turn was appointed Lord High Executioner by the town of Titipu because he was himself the next to be executed (and he would not be able to execute any until he had lopped his own head off, a novel solution to capital punishment). But the ruling Mikado notices the lack of death in the town, and demands an execution. Nanki-poo, bereft from Yum-Yum, decides to kill himself, but Ko-Ko makes a deal with the Minstrel - Nanki-poo can marry Yum-Yum if at the end of the month he agrees to be executed. But it turns out the Nanki-poo is the Mikado's son, on the run from his father's own whimsical justice. And then things get wacky.

The end result is a rather sunny musical in which all the characters sing about death. No one dies, mind you, but there are all sorts of threats of death, suicide, and punishment. It is practically bouncy in its morbidity, and only after it is all said and done do you realize that no one perishes, and the worst punishment doled out is marriage.

The Bell Telephone presentation is an adaption, which means that content was edited for time and to fit the venue. Some minor characters disappear, the town's own complicity in the various shams is minimized, and Katisha (who is the closest thing to the "heavy" in the plot, though you would think Ko-Ko, who is initially keeping the lovers apart, should be) loses her initial appearance before the end of the first act. As a result, some of already intricate and dodgy logic is handwaved away entirely.

One reason that the role of Ko-Ko does not require as much vocal ability, and can be played by someone with good stagecraft but not an operatic voice. I've seen a version with Eric Idle in the role, and one that shows up on local cable fairly regularly starred local radio talk-show host Dave Ross. That allows more "stunt" casting as opposed to the talent casting, which actually helps is trying to untangle the plot.

And Groucho works adroitly, with enough of his "You Bet Your Life" persona, and in Ko-Ko's courting of Katisha (which provides part of the resolution of the pretty mess everyone is in) evokes his earlier romances in film with Margaret Dumond (in particular in "There is beauty in the bellow of the blast"). And Groucho is eminently listenable to, as he hurtles through the Gilbert's libretto.

But, as a kid with too much Halloween candy, I have overindulged, and now I've got a little list trapped in my head, and it is keeping me up at all hours.

More later,

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Dave Arneson

Dave Arneson, co-creator of D&D with Gary Gygax, passed away last night. In a little more than a year, we have lost both founders of the game.

I never had the opportunity to work with Dave - his (staggering) contribution to the hobby was at a time when I was but a nascent fan. But I do remember, in later years, how excited our freelance wrangler, Bruce Heard was, when we started work on what would be the DA series of modules. I met Dave in the flesh a handful of times, always under the convention lights, and always found him to be kindly, friendly, and modest.

Gary and Dave were the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby of our hobby, the names by which later generations would conjure. They created what would be modern roleplaying, and the rest of us are caught up in their wake.

Rest easy, Dave. You will be missed.

More later,

Norwescon Schedule

All the cool kids are doing it, so here's my schedule for Norwescon.

Novelization of a Game 8:00 PM Cascade 7

Many video games today have accompanying fiction, often providing a more detailed storyline of either what was going on in the game, or what came before or after the game’s events. Many roleplaying games have series of novels expanding their worlds with characters and cities and events that become canon in that setting. Join our panelists as they discuss how a game’s setting is translated into a novel that, in turn, gives back to the game.
Janna Silverstein, Richard Baker, Jeff Grubb

Where are All the Sci-Fi Games? 9:00 PM Cascade 7

Dungeons. Dragons. Swords. Magic. What about the lasers? Interstellar space travel? Aliens? Netrunning? The Dark and Gritty Future? Are they all video games these days? Panelists discuss why fantasy is king in gaming right now, when Sci-Fi will make its comeback, and what Sci-Fi gamesAREout there right now.
Randall N. Bills, Jeff Grubb

The Tabloid Game (Ripped from the Headlines!) 1:00 PM Cascade 5

Our group of expert game masters will create a scenario before your very eyes using only a selection of tabloid newspapers. Come join in the fun and throw out a few suggestions of your own.
Erik Mona, Jeff Grubb, Andy Collins, Darrin Drader

Playing God, Part II: Gods and Religion 8:00 PM Cascade 8

Part of world building is designing the pantheon responsible for the whole thing. Our game experts discuss how they go about filling the cosmos with deities worthy of a hero’s worship, and how they manage to stay upright on such a slippery slope as religion in gaming.
Erik Mona, Wolfgang Baur, Sean Reynolds, Jeff Grubb

Autograph Session1 11:00 AM Evergreen 1 & 2

Grab your books! Our Guests of Honor and many of our pros will be available for autographs.

R.A. Salvatore, Geno Salvatore, Todd Lockwood, Richard Baker, John P. Alexander, MH (“Maggie”) Bonham, L.J. Bothell, Ted Butler, Jeff Carlson, Greg Cox, Darrin Drader, Michael Ehart, Elton Elliott, Spencer Ellsworth, Roberta Gregory, Jeff Grubb, Warren Hammond, Paul Melko, G.David Nordley, Sean Reynolds, Kat Richardson, Ken Scholes, Jeff Sturgeon, Tiffany Trent

(Note: I haven't written a new book for years now, so I think this one will be pretty quiet for me. Show up and we'll make fun of the cool kids (and celebrate the fact the Liberty's Crusade finally earned out).

Forgotten Realms: Past, Present, Future 6:00 PM Evergreen 3 & 4

Now in all the lands 'twixt bustling Waterdeep and the sparkling waves of The Sea of Fallen Stars, no men were more loved -- and feared -- than the stoic swordsman Durnan, the blustering old rogue Mirt, and the all-wise, ancient wizard Elminster. Dragon Magazine #218 These were the very first words written about the Forgotten Realms, written in 1967 by an 8-year-old Ed Greenwood, who originally designed it and began writing little stories of his own about heroes adventuring in an imaginary world and publishing a series of short articles detailing the setting in Dragon magazine. Since 1987, this campaign setting has grown and developed, generating over two hundred novels, dozens of computer RPGs, and a host of adventures and gaming supplements. Join our distinguished group of gaming professionals as they discuss the history of the Forgotten Realms, and recount their parts in developing it.
Jeff Grubb, Richard Baker, R.A. Salvatore, Sean Reynolds
(Note: I'm supposed to be leading this one, so expect a train wreck.)

Tolkien Has a Lot to Answer For 7:00 PM Cascade 4

With Lord of the Rings, Tolkien established the fantasy genre and many of the current fantasy traditions. Has this now hindered the growth of the fantasy genre?
Michael Martinez, Jeff Grubb, Eric Mona


Writing for Comics 10:00 AM Cascade 4

Somewhere between novels and screenplays can be found the comic book. How does one write for the comics? What's the difference between script-first and plot-first? Can you write for comics if you have no artistic talent whatsoever? How do you break into the field in the first place?
Donna Barr, Jeff Grubb, Paul Chadwick

Expect light blogging as I juggle my regular life and the convention.

More later,

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


So I went to my GP today for my annual physical. And I'm in pretty sound health, though I could be better in many ways.

We talked about the colonoscopy and the prodigious size of the non-cancerous polyp they removed and the need for another screening in three years, but I didn't feel bad about that.

We talked about the fact I was running a mild fever, and that at my age, baby aspirin would be a good safety measure against heart disease, and I didn't feel bad about that.

We talked about the fact that my blood pressure is a little up - not badly, but still above normal, and that I should engage in better diet and exercise, and though I will miss the goldfish crackers in the breakroom, I didn't feel too bad about that.

No, what bothered me was the fact that I have apparently shrunk, and am one inch shorter than I had been a decade ago. And that, more than anything else, bothers me, probably because there is nothing I can do about it (except stand up straight and preserve what height I still have).

Such is the price of age. More later,

Saturday, April 04, 2009

To The Emerald City

So this morning I drove downtown for the Emerald City Comics Convention, a show which has just crested over the status of "up and coming" and may be verging into the domain of "fandom overload". It is a two-day convention (for which I appreciate), and the last few years was in the cavernous depths of the stadium complex next to Qwest Field. This year it moved to the downtown convention center, and neatly occupies its main floor while giving both the booths and the fans sufficient space to breath.

Still, it was a mob scene. It was, however, probably the most polite mob I've ever seen (that's a Seattle Thing). When I arrived they had formed into a serpentine queue snaking through two rooms, which they KEPT to all the way through (no line-jumping). The lines moved quickly, and I thought it was because of all the people who had purchased tickets in advance. Imagine my surprise when, getting to the head of the line, the big block was at people trading their prepurchased tickets for badges, and almost no one was at the "pay cash to walk in" section. I felt pretty good about my procrastination (well, my local comics store was sold out by the time I remembered).

The floor was nicely packed, with frequent fandom clots. And while I am tolerant of all the stoppages due to a) costumes being photographed and b) families with strollers, I have no patience for the back-pack wearers who suddenly drop to their knees at the crosspaths, trying to dig something out of the voluminous packs. Saw a lot of friends, most of them behind booths, which was pretty cool. There was a "when nerds collide" equality here from the largest and most popular companies and creatives to the small press and self-published, all in one great room.

The longest line was for Wil Wheaton. The second-longest line was for the DC booth, where they were giving away Wonder Woman Tiaras and Flash rings (I got one of each, gave the tiara to my wife, and the ring to a friend whose booth was on the long line into the DC area. The third longest line was for writer Brian Michael Bendis. Met Doug Sneyd, who did wonderful cartoons for Playboy (yes, when I was young, I read Playboy for the cartoons). I bought the last copy of Keith Knight's "K Chronicles" compendium from the artist. Bought my annual trilobite from Phil at the Studio Foglio/Girl Genius booth (I buy one every year - someone admires it, and I make it a gift to them, then have to buy a new one the next year). Picked up some literacy t-shirts ("Will Work for Books").

The convention is just getting big enough to more than a peaceful afternoon. A lot of folk are avoiding San Diego as it gets larger and larger (To quote Yogi Berra again - "Nobody goes there anymore - it's too crowded"), and local conventions like Emerald are picking up the slack. Last time I went there was a rise of Cthulhu and Oz books. Now there is a strange coming together of young families and the Suicide Girls. And, of course, zombies.

Its a good show, and should slow down a bit tomorrow, if you're interested in browsing the floor. Go have fun.

More later,

Friday, April 03, 2009

DOW Breaks 8,000!

[Note to the new arrivals: I look in on the American economy every so often, using the DOW crossing a millennial number (in either direction) as a guide. You can find other entries by searching for "DOW Breaks", and will probably discover that I find that Wall Street does not intersect with Main Street, and that our larger markets involve more fantasy than will be found in an entire year's worth of Forgotten Realms novels.]

Well, we're back up 1000 points, so I guess the recession is over.

Yeah, right.

Actually, I expect more wild gyrations over the next year as we approach something that resembles a "new stability". I think the current short-term bull market comes entirely from an administration that declared a) we're in a hole, and b) we think this is a good time to stop digging. Its amazing what kind of effect it has on markets based on what people THINK things are worth, as opposed to what they ARE worth.

And yeah, I have an opinion on the entire AIG matter. Yes, the bonuses ("retention" bonuses, because you want to keep people on who did such a good job), are but a tiny fraction of the entire bailout, like paying $100 and quibbling about a dime. But if we are investing in such companies (and I prefer the idea of "investing", since its our money being poured in), we are going to get to quibble about such such things and make the lives of those who got us into this mess rather unpleasant. Because then they will be more interested in getting their company ship-shape and GETTING RID of our continual attention.

So if you want things to go back to normal, banks, consider this an inducement. I think the idea that we'll STOP paying attention to your bonus structure will be a great encouragement to you fixing the mess you've created post haste.

More later,

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Let me lay out my credentials. I started playing with Airfix plastic soldiers when I was but a child, and quickly graduated to the Milton Bradley/American Heritage Series of games (Dogfight, Battlecry, and Hit the Beach). I got into board wargames in junior high. My first real (hexes and paper chits) wargame was Avalon Hill's Panzer Blitz, and my first issue of S&T was Fall of Rome (1973). I got into RPGs in the fall of '75, in my freshman year of college, back when the game consisted of three little booklets in a fake wood-grain box, along with the Greyhawk supplement.

Yet despite this rich (and aged) heritage, I am afraid I am not a grognard.

"Grognard" is an evolving word. It takes its origin from Napoleon's veteran grenadiers, who had seen their way through many campaigns, and were known as "The Grumblers" (though the modern translation of "grumbler" in french is grognon. It jumped the species boundary into wargaming as a reference to older gamers in general (according to this story from Alan Emerich, quoting Jim Dunnigan).

This was in the mid-seventies, and the phrase quickly spread among the gaming fans. For our group at Purdue University, the term referred to the older gamers at the university's gaming club. Most of these guys were miniatures gamers - primarily WWII armor but some Napoleonics as well (which may have aided the adoption of the name). There was some early friction between the tankers (who would push three tables together, cover it with a green dropcloth, and spend the Sunday afternoon with their tape measures and panzers) and the D&Ders (who would also want three tables for a host of younger gamers, and spend all the time talking). So for me, the term grognard is usually a wargamer, tape-measure and spotting charts in hand.

Now that definition has moved on, so that now a grognard is now an adamant fan of older games, particularly games that are no longer in print, or that have been revised to the point they no longer resemble their original. There is a grapeshot-whiff of nostalgia among these nouveau grogs, which often blossoms into a full-fledged mad-on about anything more recent than Unearthed Arcana. They are fans a particular era, and anything since has gone beyond the pale, jumped the shark, nuked the fridge, and passed into the lower planes in a handbasket.

In the D&D world, these new grogs tends to collect around the time of one of the early basic sets (called the "Holmes Basic" after its editor), aided by the first Monster Manual (back in those days, we got ONE hardback a year, and we LIKED IT!). That puts it about 1977, and was the time when D&D made its big explosion into a larger market. I have a lot of friends who came to the hobby in this era. And it was a good time join, since without a solid grounding in miniatures gaming, those original little booklet rules were pretty darned impenetrable.

So I should be among these later-day grognards. Heck, my history PREDATES theirs. I still have a copy of Tractics on my shelf, for Gary's sake. I should be telling THEM to get off my role-playing lawn.

Yet I can't - I've been an early adapter of many of the revolutions in gaming (Computers, CCGs, prepainted plastic miniatures), have missed others (LARPs, ARGs), and have seen a few that never were (anyone remember Disk Wars?). Why can't I get into the spirit of declaring my own personal golden age, and bemoaning that after that, there came the deluge?

I think part of it is because I see gaming as an evolving thing, sometimes smoothly, and sometimes (like in the break between the tankers and the D&Ders, the arrival of CCGs, or the current edition wars) with a sharp disconnect. Each new generation brings its own experiences to the party, and creates new things. I don't always agree with new developments, but I see potential solutions in the next generation beyond, as opposed to retrenching in the past.

And part of it also the recognition that the first drafts of great new ideas are just that - first drafts. D&D blossomed with problematic rules. Magic: The Gathering was infested with broken cards. Early computer adventure games had, to be kind, primitive graphics. The "Indie Game Movement" has both the blessing and the curse of self-publishing.

I like the original D&D, but I also like the various incarnations of Basic, A&D, 2nd Ed, 3rd Ed, and now 4th Ed. And I will probably be around for 5th and 6th as well, as the conversation continues and the game continues to evolve. The new edition of White Wolf's World of Darkness does not offend me (though I really like what Monte Cook did for them with the same basic building blocks). I've drifted away from Magic and World of Warcraft and many other games, and drifted back (a couple times).

I love my old games, but I'm equally curious about where we go next.

More later,

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Advanced Screening

So previously in this space I've addressed the concerns of our fans regarding the upcoming release of Guild Wars 2, pointing them in the direction of this post by our head honcho Mike O'Brien (Short version: Chill out, dudes, we got this covered). And the great majority of the fans are cool with this, and have sent notes to the effect of getting it right is more important than getting it right now, and all of us appreciate that.

This hasn't stopped a number of fans from creating their own trailers for the upcoming game, most of which are very nice and real cool and, to be frank, we like them here at the office. But the one I've embedded below actually uses footage from the game, which gives all of us pause.

Take a look, and know that our team of ace cybertrackers are hot on the trail of those responsible.

Oh, and have a nice day.

More later,

Update: Yes, it is Poisson d'Avril. My fellow writer and game designer, Ree Soesbee, came across this while looking at fan-generated trailers, and I pocketed it for just such an occasion. Thanks, Ree (and warning, her site comes with music - though no Rick Astley).

Update Update: Got an email from one of the individuals who created this video (for those of you who stayed for the credits - they read "You have been GW Rolled by Infested Kerrigan Shadow the Troll, Gabe Fall, Uobie May, and X Aldiminica X"). Thanks to all you who made this.

Update Update Update: Massively covers what we REALLY did for Guild Wars this year, which was wonderful. And they name-check this blog (must have been a slow news day). But because it was covered in Massively, I got to rickroll some of my fellow employees that are normally too smart for that kind of thing. Still, I am regretting I never put a counter on this page.

More later,