I was living in Quebec City, freezing my butt off as another few inches of snow added to my driveway. Snow I had to shovel. My twenty-foot long driveway had become a canyon. A canyon flanked by two walls of snow, the walls towered over my six-five frame ON BOTH SIDES. I hated my boss. I didn't particularly like my job. I needed something new.
The call finally came from Colorado.
I must admit that it wasn't quite the target area I was looking in (I was looking more towards the East Coast). But talking to my boss to be, Colorado seemed pretty nice. After thinking about it more than a little, I agreed to move there. I signed up for a 6-month probation.
I stayed 8 years.
We had 2 additional children there. Great friends, great people, great weather. Little oxygen.
But let's focus on the gaming.
I came to Colorado in 2005. It was the height of Living Greyhawk. I really liked the vibe and the dynamism of the community.
I saw a number of issues with the campaign. In 2005, the County of Urnst had finished its major arc the year before (the Lordmaker 2000-04). As of Year5, they had some of the very best adventures in the campaign. However, they were like Star Trek episode: completely unrelated to each other. The overplot was non-existent. After a difficult selection process, I was selected.
And thus started a long term work relationship with D'Anne. She and I clashed heads a lot about everything. But in the head, the best ideas prevaled (this is definitely a theme: clashes and arguments lead to a better result). I do have an ego, but as a proponent of Realpolitik, I believe the best result should win and ideas, not people should be fought. This collaboration has lasted beyond LG and into Legacies.
After my trial period at work ended, a seat on the triad became available and I applied for the job. Now I used to be the Triad for Quebec at the time, and had led a major effort to an engaging storyline. I really did not invent much there, simply built on what was already there.
Moving to the County was a challenge. Unlike Tusmit, there had already been a major storyline with strong, interesting characters; the major events HAD happened already, and now we had to deal with the fallout. There were a lot of rough patches - a lot - including:
- the dismantling of what I called "the boys club" where a number of great volunteers would be privy to everything that was to happen. These guys would write material, background, NPC notes and basically decide where the County was going. As I moved in, that stopped. The triad was composed of three people and I wanted the plot to be something people discovered together at premieres and interactives. This did not win me any friends, but I had a job to do, and making friends was not part of that. It would help, but it wasn't my job.
- the creation of a "We hate D'Anne and JP" group that provided us with many hours of entertainment. We would scan the list daily to see who would post (it was always the same people) and what they would say. One of the funniest thing was when one guy posted that I was completely destroying everything he had worked on for the County. The next sentence read "that said, JP has been keeping my original vision for the NPCs and their goals is what I planned for them." I nearly peed my pants. If you were on there, we knew what you posted about us.
- The kobolds. [removed the page of hate]
- Repurposing some of the favorite/ major NPC. This included replacing the Contessa with an NPC the PCs chose themselves during a special event, with Countess Rachel. That character was really awesome and had so much flavor and potential. I really loved to write about her and her family. Also, Lord Underley truly became the left hand of the County: he would deal with the undesirables and those the Countesses could not associate with: the drow and the forces of Iuz. I will also point out the mad Baron of Pikemaster who was known for his crazy antics. The "Black Man of the Swamp" was another villain we created - a black dragon. This allowed us to give these NPCs a lot more personality and a "when to use whom" type of document.
- We killed the Celestial Devil. It should never have existed, it was illegal. I'd kill it again. In a narrative.
- New NPCs were created,namely the Bird of Radigast whom we built up into a major villain was mentioned in previous adventures. The Gold Dragon Auric and his family who helped the county against draconic plots. Forces loyal to Hextor became prevalent towards the end of the campaign also.
I learned through this that if you have a good vision (and I believe we had a good one), that people eventually come to realize that you are not just doing things out of the blue for no reason. We had a long-term plan, a long-term plot, and some more immediate goals. We kept on our toes and used an approach between "best plot wins" and "first adventure done wins." Thus our storyline was never a fixed monolythic thing. It was something that evolved with time.
As a gamer and a writer
As a writer, one of the things that I learned to do was to research in-game material and then re-present it. But present it in a way that people who had played before would be recognize them and new players quickly get in on who these people were.
I also learned how to run a storyline with others. Previously, I was pretty much doing my thing, with some input. But here, I had to convince D'Anne of anyone of my hare-brain schemes. And she is tough. I can easily say that more than half my ideas got the axe.
Tusmit, in contrast had very few recurring non-villain NPCs when I started. The County had many. I just could not simply wipe the slate clean and do what I want. Players had experiences with these NPCs.
Moving to Colorado also saw a vast increase in my travel-for-gaming. While there, I went to the following states and cities I never went before: Arizona (Phoenix), California (Anaheim & San Jose), DC (Washington, I'd already been to DC but not for gaming), Idaho (Boise), Iowa (Council Bluff), Kansas (Wichita), Michigan (Ann Harbor), Nevada (Las Vegas), New Mexico (Albuquerque), Oklahoma (Tulsa), Utah (Salt Lake City), Texas (College Station), Washington (Seattle), and Wisconsin (La Crosse). Wow... a third of the US... NICE!
It was while I was in Colorado that I became a true freelancer. I first got paid for writing work for Living Greyhawk, then Living Forgotten Realms, then NeoExodus and beyond. I participate in Chaosium's adventure contests and got a few writing credits there. I wrote Paizo's "Night Terrors" which became part of the Beginner box. I still maintain that my original adventure set in Ustalav was more interesting and flavorful than Varisia/Magnimar, but I like the adventure nonetheless.
I short, Colorado expanded my horizons: collaborations and willingness to serve as guinea pigs for wacky projects. A willingness that existed in the N-IGA too.
In many ways, Colorado will forever loom over me and my writing style.
I can't say "Thank you" Enough