When I first started to network on facebook, it was with some vague idea that I could put to use all the time I spent DMing under difficult circumstances, and offer advice (and free random encounter content) to other DMs that I wish I'd have had access to. Remember when we'd have regular Personae Malevolent updates?
Yeah, me either.
It was mostly a lot of fun, though of course whenever you get involved with any large group over the internet while letting your opinions hang out, there will inevitably be some amount of hilarious drama. My favorite was when a lady accused me of claiming to have written the Tomb of Horrors (???), though there will always be a special place in my heart for those who decided that not liking their favorite version of D&D meant that I was simply not worth talking to, and the dude that insisted that I wanted to engage in sexual congress with a horse because I think the new My Little Pony cartoon is pretty rad.
However, things got very real very fast at the tail end of this year's May. I'd just finished another semester of spinning my wheels in college and was starting to get excited about being a freelance writer with TPK Games (thanks in no small part to a recommendation from my pal Richard A. Hunt) when Ben Dobyns let me know that the Mask of Death was going to happen, and its Kickstarter campaign (which would go on to be funded in 6 hours) would be a prelude to the Hands of Fate. Could I have it all wrapped up in two weeks?
The Mask of Death was a project that I had been fiddling with for a long, long time. Back in late 2010, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment was promoting a re-release of The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising. As this is one of our all-time favorite movies, Amanda and I were happy to kick in a few bucks to see the Dungeon Remastered Edition (no price was too great to get rid of Lodge's infamous "No you don'T. ..Tuh."). During this promotion, I asked their facebook wall if there would be a re-release of the mythical Goodman Games version of The Mask of Death, of which there are only about 200 copies that were sold at GenCon 2005 (3 years before the movie even came out)! I received the response that, sadly, they had asked "as many times as would be polite", and Goodman would absolutely positively not be doing a reprint.
That night I got into bed and stared at the ceiling for about half an hour before hopping back online and asking if they'd just like somebody to write a new one for them. When I woke up the next morning, it turned out that the answer was "yes", and Ben Dobyns had dropped me a line asking to see my chops. He liked the stuff he saw (largely from this blog!), and the gig was mine.
Fast forward back to June of this year. Ben introduced me to Brian Clements, who would be my editor. It was this poor man's duty to tell me things I didn't want to hear about a book I'd been writing on and off (and had once had to entirely rewrite due to accidental deletion) for a little bit over a year. We'd grapple with the huge stack of virtual paper I'd accumulated, and try to bang it into a somewhat manageable 48 pages.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, it was decided that Amanda and I would be making the pilgrimage to Washington to attend Paizocon, and also get together at Dtwenty Games with a celebrity group of ZOE gamers to do a final playtest on the module's rough.
She painted all of the miniatures herself, because she is awesome.
From The Gamers franchise, we'd be meeting with Scott Brown, Nathan Rice, Brian Lewis, Andy Dopieralskim and Ben Dobyns. Also attending would be Joanna Gaskell and Edwin Perez from Standard Action.
This was our first gaming convention ever (and my first convention period!), so there was a lot of excitement and nervousness leading up to it. When we finally got to the Redmond Marriott, we were amazed by the friendly and open atmosphere. Within our first few minutes of hanging out in the lobby, we found a group of guys who helped us get set up for society play out of the goodness and enthusiasm of their hearts. We made several new friends, gamed alongside a few published authors, and shot the breeze with the Reynolds', who were both absolutely great.
Yes, that Reynolds.
We got the chance to hang out with Joanna Gaskell, Edwin Perez, Rob Hunt and Carla Miller; stars, director and set designer of the very awesome webseries Standard Action. We met them in line bright and early in the morning to try to get into Society play, and then met again that night for a preview playtest of The Mask of Death that went about three hours longer than expected. Edwin (who claims to have never played a bard before despite the role he plays in SA) turned Flynn the Fine into an absolute killing machine, much to the awe of everyone at the table. We did so much laughing and got on so well that it was like gaming with my home group - so much so, that when I woke up the next day I was so hoarse that I was afraid I wouldn't be able to GM the official playtest
Luckily this was Washington, so we hit three Starbucks for tea with honey during our four-block sojourn to the drugstore for cough drops.
The day of the playtest, Scott Brown picked us up in the hotel lobby. He was chatting it up with Sean K. Reynolds when we came down, and...yep, this was about the point where I had checked right the hell out of reality as I had come to understand it.
Next thing I know, we were having lunch with Scott Brown at Claim Jumpers. Not "a" Scott Brown, but THE Scott Brown. With a "C" in there. We hit it off really well and actually stayed longer than we meant to at the restaurant, so we arrived late to the play test, where we were introduced to Andy, Ben, Brian, and Nathan.
The game went amazingly well, and in no time flat we were getting along like we'd been gaming for years.
The conclusion of the evening's adventure was a thrilling showdown between our heroes and Mort Kemnon's bodyguards, who were overcome when Flynn the Fine (played by Scott) thought outside the box and saved the day! We hung out with Scott and Brian for a little while after the game, and then hitched another ride with Mr. Brown back to the hotel. By the time we were headed back to Duluth, we'd already planted the seed for another ZOE project, and spent a good portion of the trip home discussing how we'd get ourselves to our next Mask of Death related obligation.
That's another story, though...