Making art

My business cards do not say writer. I’m not. They say storyteller. I am.

I have been a storyteller since I had words. Some of the stories were what you would expect. But I never stopped at just that. There are six volumes of poetry sitting in a box. I have pulled out a small portion of #2 and #3, combined them, and published The Forestal. But that’s a small chunk. The Mirror is another chunk, as is The Desert Ring. Have many more. Most of the poetry doesn’t fall into long-forms like that, but could easily just be put out as is.

Might do that, one of these days. Might not.

But I storytell in other media. When I reached the point that I had to stop writing poetry, I needed a different emotional outlet. JM and Snake got me into playing Warhammer 40k (mid-90’s, second edition, I think. They just came out with 8ed this year. And nerfed everybody. Again.) So I painted miniature figurines for a while. Also fought them on the tabletop, but mostly just spent time creating characters. Sold everything when 3ed nerfed everybody and later got into Flames of War, and did the same thing. I’m like that.

Late in the 90’s I created a fantasy role-playing game with a buddy. It was fun. We played it a bunch. Had to put it away around 2004, because my partner wasn’t willing to put in any more work on it. Which is kinda funny, because at that point, we were only a few years from the indie publishing revolution and wouldn’t have had to go big to do it. Have a core rule book and three full supplements in the archives. But they’ll stay there.

Haven’t talked to him in several years. Giving him the thing he wants more than anything else in the world: The Last Word. Best friend for many years, and didn’t even invite him to my wedding. But we all grow up.

Thinking about all this because of Moirrey. Working now on the seventh Jessica Keller book: Lord of Winter, and The Goof figures prominently in the first overture. She had an idea for overturning ground combat, and wants to get rich. Writer-brain locked in and pointed at several somethings from the WH40k universe that I could bash into the right thing. And been thinking about bashing from a recent story.

Went so far as to stop by a GW Store in Lynnwood, but they didn’t have the figs I needed. The next day, I went by the one in Kent, but they were CLOSED ON A SUNDAY? (Shit, man, that used to be tournament day. What gives?) And the website is sold out of the figs I needed to do this.

So, obviously, I was not meant to buy those figurines and bash that image into plastic. These things happen, especially when you pay attention to your Parking Buddha. Fabulous Publisher Babe ™ and I got to talking about how there are a number of fantasy table-top games, and a few WW2 or civil war, but only one major SF game (not counting space games played on a table top, like my buddy Ken at Ad Astra Games.)

Got to thinking.

Couple hours later,  and I were at the grocery, walking across the parking lot. Writer-brain whispered a word. Just one, but you know how that goes.

You ever make rock candy as a kid? Heat up the water. Add a stupid amount of sugar and dissolve it. Turn the heat off and dangle a string into the water as a crystallization source?


Yeah. By Monday morning, I had six pages of notes on a new table-top, platoon-level, SF miniatures game. By Monday night, I had hints of an rpg that would scale up and down. (You could put your characters into a battle without conversion, or convert some cool table figs into characters to play off battle.)

Previously, me and the boyz had been talking about how hard it was to do science fiction role playing. You have to have a context. Without it, you end up number-crunching too much, or the GM has to invent whole universes on the fly and gets burned out quickly

And within context, what’s the easiest way to do things? Star Trek as a game requires the GM to invent whole new planets and cultures on a constant basis. I can, but it gets tiring. I can cheat and use random planet generators, but you lose something in the storytelling. Star Wars lets you slot into a number of timelines, and introduces all sorts of tech. There aren’t many other games that have made a major impact on gaming, that I know of. (Granted, I don’t pay that much attention, but…)

I had even gone so far as to create about half of a new rpg game engine last fall, as we were talking. Mostly lists of how characters would be built, and how to scale across genre from historic, to low fantasy, to high fantasy, to modern, to future, to SF. Didn’t write any rules, but had started assigning point scales and things to shape out the engine.

So now, nine days in, I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to start building characters in another week. And I’ll have this particular context, which is vaguely post-apocalyptic, concrete enough to start writing fiction and histories set in that universe. And ideas of how to shift both directions on tech and contexts.

Next, I’ll talk to some friends who are Makers (3d Printing, et al) and see how I would go about hiring an sculptor to create me some figurines we could use to test the table-top rules. I only have one core, three expansions, and two future editions already plotted out in my notes. Nothing much. Certainly not for a whole week’s work. 😉

And mind you, at the same time, I’m 20k words into Lord of Winter. And maybe halfway through the second Carl and Deke story. And juggling a couple of other projects.

Plus I’m still a data nerd at work, telling stories in numbers for some lovely folks who appreciate me.

But I’m a storyteller. Its what I do. I work in words.

Anybody know some 2d and 3d artists I could chat with? I’m gonna have needs, in this indie publishing future.

The only limits to my success are my imagination? Y’all are doomed, now.