Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Summer Recap

The last couple of months have been pretty active for me and I haven't really written about anything overly personal in months. Figure it's about time to mend that.

June was Pramas's 40th birthday. I threw him a party, saw a bunch of old friends and had a really nice time. The following week I went to Portland and camped out at an RV park in my mother's RV so Kate could attend Rock Band Camp for Girls. I videoed Kate's performance from the side of the stage but when I pulled it off the FLIP there was no sound (though there is sound if viewed on the camera) so I've got to figure out what's up with that so I can post the video of her band rockin' out. But I haven't yet.

In July I hosted a friend's 13-year-old son for a week. He's a total gamer and within minutes of his arrival he and Kate were talking Star Trek (or was it Star Wars?) and Xbox. We visited the EMP and the Sci-Fi Museum (which had a bonus Jim Henson exhibit going on), visited Starbucks (the kid likes mochas), stopped at Golden Age Collectibles, introduced him to sushi, and culminated with a visit to the Microsoft Game Studio. I tried to organize a visit to Wizards of the Coast but despite a bunch of advanced notice and call-outs to multiple people there we just weren't able to make that happen, but my friends at Microsoft more than made up for it with the tour they gave the kids of the Game Studio. Kate then went on a week-long trip to Hawaii with her dad and Pramas and I hunkered down to get some work done before GenCon.

My brother returned from his stint doing medical work in Haiti and suggested that we try to go up to Minnesota together to visit my grandpa (who turned 92 this year) with our dad. I was able to book my GenCon flight through Minneapolis to make this happen and it was a really lovely time. The weather was good, the rest of the family golfed (or followed along in a cart) and I got lots of walking in on the golf courses and great face time with the family. It also took my mind off the fact that Ropecon 2009 was going on. Instead I rolled into GenCon feeling as relaxed and happy as I've been in years. Where my brother and I really did not get along as children and I moved in with my dad in 10th grade while he continued to live with my mom, we've grown up and grown into a much happier relationship and I'm really enjoying knowing him as an adult after being either at odds or separated from each other for so many years. Valuable stuff.

August gave way to September and PAX here in Seattle. I attended again this year and reconnected with many good friends from the game industry that I don't get to see nearly enough of. I saw good friends who have moved away for computer jobs and pen-and-paper designers who otherwise don't have reason to visit Seattle. My most popular friends were hard or impossible to track down or only able to speak to us in passing and I left wishing the event had been a couple of days longer so I could have seen more but for me this year was totally about the people and largely not about the content of the event. Sadly, I was also one of the hundreds of people who caught the "PAXflu" and lost more than a week to laying around the house coughing, sniffling, and napping feverishly. I got over the worst of it just in time to head down to Portland to help my mom out as she underwent and recovered from nasal surgery. Even now I still have a very slight cough that pops up and it's been three weeks since the onset of my symptoms. Tomorrow I'll write up that trip in more detail.

That brings us to the beginning of Fall. Kate started back to school for her eighth grade year while I was down with the flu, her last year at Orca. Pramas and I will be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary in a couple of days, the bronze anniversary Google tells me. This weekend is the annual Green Ronin summit and the bulk of the boys will be arriving over the course of the day Thursday. The following weekend is the Diamond/Alliance open house in Baltimore which I'll be traveling to this year and by the time I finish that we'll be well into October and less than a month out from my 40th birthday. This is the year that FIVE of the Green Ronins turned 40 with me closing out the pack as the last of the year. It's also a year that has me feeling like a stone skipping across a pond, spinning along with an external momentum and only briefly coming into contact with the real "surface" of my life.

More later, for now I must sleep.

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An Open Letter to Marcus King

Dear Marcus,

I awoke this morning to see Green Ronin called out on the front page
of ICv2 as part of your commentary on PDF pricing,(
http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/14705.html ). Spurred by the Wizards
of the Coast sudden decision to discontinue all PDF sales of their
products, Green Ronin announced we were putting ONE product (our
True20 Core Book) on sale for $9.99. You ask "...would you also like
to drop the MSRP of your True20 core book to $9.99 -- so that your
distribution and retail partners can continue to support that title,
and your line?"

The answer to that question, sir, is NO. First of all, the retail
price of the True20 PDF is $17.95 while the retail price of True20
Adventure Roleplaying in printed format is $29.95. If we put the book
on sale for $9.99 we would lose money on every book sold. If my
distribution and retail partners need me to lose money on every book
in order to "continue to support that title" that's the kind of
"support" I can't afford. Secondly, this is a temporary sale in
response to ongoing events and changes in the marketplace. If you are
concerned that a $9.99 PDF if the rules is going to seriously undercut
your business as your price-conscious customers flock to buy electrons
during the sale, I would point to the True20 Pocket Player's Guide
which we've had available for sale since December 2006, at a retail
price of $14.95, put out to appeal to those very same price-conscious
consumers. I will also point out that Green Ronin has, and will
continue to, offer sales and special incentives to the hobby tier and
I know for a fact that you and your store have benefited from those
because I personally helped you move stacks of books to your GenCon
booth in advance of our industry-wide sale on our d20-logo products.

So, when I read "...I am insulted that my friends, my business
"partners" or "publishing suppliers" value another sales channel so
much that they would make a special effort to support that channel
over the one I have worked in for 20+ years, and hope to work in for
another 20" I will tell you that I match your insult. I am insulted
that you feel a sale in response to a marketplace occurrence entitles
you to some sort of cut, somewhere, regardless. You characterize our
sale as valuing another sales channel but that is not at all true. To
use an analogy, if you have a sale on your HD DVDs and a customer
complains that they "deserve" a discount on the BluRay DVDs, do they
get one? Are you valuing your HD customers over your BlueRay
customers, or are you responding to the conditions of the marketplace
(in which BluRay sales substantially outstrip HD sales)?

As Green Ronin's General Manager I reserve the right to set the price
of our products as we see fit and to engage in marketing and promotion
for my company and our products. I don't attempt to micromanage our
relationships with our distribution and retail partners and I would
appreciate the same respect.

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Green Ronin Podcast

I spent last Thursday chit-chatting with fellow Ronins Pramas and Sass for a new Green Ronin Podcast. Tune in to hear us discuss recent staff changes, game design versus game development, Supervillain's Handbook, the proper pronunciation of Leitheusser, True20 Freeport: The Lost Island, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Doctor Who, Mutants & Masterminds Second Edition's fifth printing, Freedom's Most Wanted, Wild Cards, the Green Ronin Online Store, the Green Ronin Character Record Folio, Family Games: The 100 Best, and Walk the Plank (plus shout-outs to some Friends of Green Ronin and their current and upcoming projects).

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Green Ronin Past, Present, and Future

I found myself moved to make a post over on ENWorld today, where people were discussing our recent announcement that Green Ronin will not be signing onto Wizards of the Coast's new Game System License to support 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It got a little long, so rather than spend more time trying to write something else up for the ol' blog, I'm going to reproduce the post here.

The 3rd party didn't prop D&D up, the D20 license and OGL gave these companies a market. GR, Mongoose, Malhavok... none of these companies formed, made games, then dabbled in D20. They were d20 companies that branched out.


The amusing part is how many of these companies that find the GSL unacceptable wouldn't exist if not for the OGL.

Green Ronin was formed in early 2000 and our first product Ork! the Roleplaying Game was released in June of that year. We shortly thereafter decided to dabble in this "d20 thing" by planning out a couple adventures, adventures that went on to become the Freeport Trilogy, but when we made that decision the OGL and the d20 STL were completely untested. Make no mistake, we certainly benefited from the license and will never deny the impact that d20 had on the direction of our company but I think it's quite overstating the case to claim that we "wouldn't exist if not for the OGL."

Green Ronin's founders had more than 35 years of combined experience in the game industry when we formed the company, experience not only in roleplaying games but also cards, miniatures, magazines, board games, and more. Due to the enthusiastically favorable response to our d20 dabbling, you could say we were "distracted" from some of our other possible projects for a while but we did continue to work on other things, even during the height of the demand for d20 material. The Spaceship Zero Roleplaying Game and Faery's Tale Deluxe, the Torches & Pitchforks card game and the Walk the Plank card game, map books like Dungeons of Doom and Cartographica, or our recent non-fiction hit Hobby Games: the 100 Best. We've always had our fingers in things other than d20 products.

I've often seen people talk about how third party publishers failed to support WotC or D&D, something I think Charles Ryan first floated here on EN World back when he was still the D&D Brand Manager. Green Ronin published almost 100 straight-up d20/D&D support products without counting support for d20 Modern or D20 Future. My feeling is that WotC's expectation that unrestricted numbers of third party support companies could continue to endlessly support straight-up D&D in the face of the product glut and unending direct competition was unrealistic. The market was demanding more and WotC themselves were not filling those holes; it's utterly predictable that companies would expand out to fill those niches and strive to create products to meet fan demand (as well as differentiate themselves from their competition). That was no more a "betrayal" than WotC designing a new edition of D&D... it's the natural course of business.

While we are mindful of the role the OGL played in the development of Green Ronin, I personally don't feel we "owe our success" to it. We helped manufacture support for WotC's business according to the plan they offered and by doing so we received exposure for our company; it was a mutually beneficial relationship. Our success, on the other hand, was not granted to us from on high by Wizards of the Coast or any other Powers That Be. We competed, we worked hard, we made mistakes on some things and chose wisely on others and earned our success through our efforts. In the far less mutually beneficial climate of 4th Edition and the GSL, I am confident that we will continue to produce excellent work and find an audience for it, starting with A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying and any number of things beyond.



Origins Awards Comments

I started writing a long response to mxyzplk's post about the Origins Awards here, but then thought to myself "Hey, this could be a blog post of my own!" so I'm posting it to my own much neglected blog as such instead.

Thanks for the kudos on Freeport! We are, of course, quite proud of the product around GR HQ but recognized we were up against some stiff competition. IMHO, Paradigm Concepts is one of the most overlooked companies to come out of the d20 boom. We realized early on that our companies were made up of kindred spirits (a bit of trivia for you: GR's Chris Pramas and Paradigm's Henry Lopez share the same birthday... though a few years apart). Back in the days when many companies were trying to come out with material that covered much of the same d20 ground, Green Ronin and Paradigm announced virtually identical product plans on the same day. Instead of getting all adversarial, we decided to try to harness some of that mutual enthusiasm and we tried a line of co-operative companion books with the OGL Interlink logo (foreshadowing our more successful M&M Superlink and True20 licenses).

I'm not surprised at all that Paradigm was able to walk away with some well-deserved kudos at Origins. Early in the d20 cycle when we found ourselves at a crossroads, Green Ronin decided to put our efforts into getting more of our ideas out into products for the market, while Paradigm devoted a tremendous amount of time to their organized play program and building Arcanis (more trivia, Arcanis is one of the earliest third-party homes to Freeport).

Anyway, Origins has always been a good show for Paradigm and their Arcanis supporters. Since the Origins Awards are now voted on by the Origins attendees, it makes sense that Paradigm is finally getting a little love back. They've been shamefully overlooked in the larger marketplace over the years as they poured more of their resources into organized play and creating a community of Arcanis supporters. Congratulations to them on their Origins Award this time around!

Regarding Faery's Tale Deluxe vs. Grimm in this year's awards, I laugh because Grimm (the d20 version of this designed by Green Ronin favorite Rob "Dr. Evil" Schwalb) is a fairy-tails-gone-wrong kind of setting, while Farey's Tale Deluxe (by Firefly Games' owner Patrick Sweeney) is a sweet and lovely faeries-bring-out-the-best game aimed at youngsters (and those willing to play straight-facedly sweet and "good" faery characters). Made for quite the diverse range when it came to voting, I'm sure (and guessing that the 6- to 9-year-old set weren't getting out the vote at Origins). Heh.

Anyway, certainly an interesting year at the Origins Awards. We were happy to net a win for Hobby Games: the 100 Best.

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Off to ALA

Heading out to Cali. Green Ronin is kickin' it bi-coastal, as we do.

Of course, Sammy the Softest Bunny in the World picked the day before our trip to get sick and an unplanned vet visit had to be squeezed in yesterday. Poor little guy has a mass in his tummy and the sniffles. It was actually pretty scary to see him with a running nose and hear him with gurgling, congested breathing! Rabbits, being the delicate creatures that they are, don't show they're sick until they're pretty sick and then they're distressingly fragile. Got him taken care of and made the decision to send him up to Canada with Kate for the week so she can take care of him, giving medicine and watching his behavior. $155 of bunny medicine later, I hope he'll be on the mend by the time we get back. Poor Bonnie is a little freaked out, all alone in the bunny pen. They'll be reunited soon.

Meanwhile, the guys are at Origins (where we hope to win in the Origins Awards) and we're out to ALA.

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Rest in Peace Erick

Erick Wujcik
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
I just found out that Erick Wujcik passed away yesterday.

Last year when we were putting together Green Ronin's Hobby Games: the 100 Best, I did not hesitate to jump on the opportunity to write and essay for the book on Erick's Amber Diceless Roleplaying. Erick was one of the first game designers outside of the tight circle of people involved in the Minnesota gaming scene to really take time to dig into roleplaying games, game theory, game design, and the art of gamemastering with me. He made time for me in during GenCon as easily as during a 100 person regional con. He certainly had a large effect on me, even when I didn't agree with all of his positions. He was an undeniable force, a tinkerer, an idea man, and a wicked GM. After I moved out of the midwest and he moved more and more away from publishing we lost touch.

When I learned that Erick had agreed to write an essay on Ogre for the same book I was really pleased. I hoped this would be an opportunity to get back in touch. Erick had just returned from time abroad in China and I was positively tickled that I'd written an essay praising his work without knowing he was writing an essay praising the work of another. I hoped we might actually find an excuse to cross paths again.

Instead, in December 2007, I learned that Erick was suffering from pancreatic and liver cancers. I was so pleased to see that his time, though short, was spent as fully as possible and in the company of friends, such as at his 57th birthday party in January where around 150 people showed up.

Even knowing that it was coming, I'm rather deflated to learn of his death. My thoughts are with those he loved and who loved him.

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And just like that...

it's over. GTS technically still runs seminars tomorrow but as far as I can tell, the show is done today. They tried a new format where Monday was set-up day for exhibitors while retailers had seminars, then exhibit hall hours were Tuesday and Wednesday, then more seminars on Thursday. On Tuesday and Wednesday there were free lunch and dinner buffets offered in a room all but adjoining the exhibit hall. GAMA really did everything they could to encourage attendees not to wander off from the show.

Tuesday we saw a lot of people and they were quite interested in everything we had to tell them. We talked with a ton of retailers about Song of Ice and Fire, Wild Cards, Free RPG Day, the four Origins Awards Semifinalist products from our catalog and more. We made new contacts in retail, foreign distribution, translation, licensing and printing. We packed a lot into a short time but I really feel like we walked out of here with a lot of valuable face time with actually interested parties. Very few people coming by just looking for free stuff and many people coming by to give us props and tell us how much they like what we're doing and how well it does in their stores. Nothing to complain about.

The biggest question that came up time and time again: What is Green Ronin doing about 4E? I gave my stock reply that we don't know what we're going to do until we see the final license and WotC issues it's actual terms and shows us the GSL and the SRD but it was an unsatisfactory answer for everyone concerned. We got lots of support from people anxious to see us continue with our OGL games and heard from a distressing number of people from the retail and distribution tiers who are feeling really uncertain about the upcoming edition of D&D. Even outside of the OGL/GSL issues, many retailers and some distributors kept repeating that they still really don't have a good feel for what 4E is going to be like and they feel frustrated that the message out of WotC seems to be "Well, it's D&D! That's enough!"

Poor Scott Rouse was clearly in a terribly position as people kept asking him for clarifications he doesn't have and assurances he is not in a position to give. He handled himself gracefully every time I saw him and I do believe he's been forthright about what the state of things is but there's no getting around the fact that his job has put him in a really hard position and his job hasn't been made any easier by the recent announcements about the GSL.

But enough about that! I'm meeting the rest of Team GR in a few minutes for dinner and then I'm going to make an effort to kick up my heels a bit and socialize with whoever still remains in town tonight. I've done precious little of that with anyone other than my Green Ronin homies so far. Viva Las Vegas!

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Live from Vegas

Pramas and I spent the weekend in Las Vegas before the GAMA Trade Show officially kicked off. Gabe "Mondo" Vega is eve expanding his ConQuest gaming convention empire and this year he kicked off ConQuest Vegas. We came down to show our support. They had a lovely space up on the 26th floor of Bally's (rooms with a view!) where the GTS seminars have been held. In the future I hope to be a bit more involved than we were this year (the lead-up to Vegas coincided with having to get a lot of other things under control around GRHQ and Chez Ronin). We may even make an appearance down at the next ConQuest franchise: ConQuest Reno in November. We'll see.

Pramas and I were here early on Saturday and couldn't yet check into our room so we went over to enjoy brunch at the Las Vegas incarnation of Thomas Keller's Bouchon . Really good idea. Great food, relaxing atmosphere, and it killed just the right amount of time to allow us to go back to Bally's and check into our room. We've also enjoyed meals at Wing Lei at the Wynn (the only Michelin starred Chinese restaurant in America, where we enjoyed the Peking duck tasting menu) and Michael Mina's Seablue over at the MGM. We also made a trip over to the Stage Deli at Caesar's Palace before Pramas had to pack up and hit the airport. So, the eating's been alright so far. Ha.

Chris heads home tonight to rejoin Kate, who has had a grand little adventure of her own bouncing around to various friends and hitting going away parties and Passover dinners, among other excitements. We waited all day to see if there were going to be any further announcements of clarifications on the situation with the GSL but we didn't glean any further information. No one we've talked to seems eager to sign on for 4E support current conditions. It seems like WotC has cast somewhat of a pall over things as retailers and distributors (not just third party publishers) try to make sense of what's happening and try to predict what the gaming landscape is going to look like in six to nine months time. At least one RPG liquidator is already offering to buy up any and all d20 products publishers will be forbidden to sell after the end of the year. Meanwhile I've already seen an absolutely adorable book that I can't wait to snap up from Atlas Games. I look forward to seeing more stuff tomorrow when the exhibit halls are set up for real.

Will try to find time to get some of my food photos posted this week but it may all wait until I get home. Damned getting older. 9:30 in Vegas and I'm dead tired (and the exhibit hall hasn't even opened yet!). For now, this is all the news I can think to report.

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How do you figure that exactly?

The role Green Ronin Publishing will play in the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons landscape is still to be determined. It is the middle of March and it has been almost ten weeks since we and others were invited to participate in a conference call with Wizards of the Coast about the future of third party publishing and their plans for the new edition. The license under which third party publishers would be allowed to publish has not yet been made available and we have seen no more of the rules than have been released as previews or shown off in demos.

Green Ronin was an early and enthusiastic adopter of the original Open Game License and we were proud to have released support products for 3rd Edition D&D to such critical acclaim over the years. We certainly see our role in the 3E marketplace as that of a strategic partner to Wizards of the Coast. We are one of very few companies that can say Wizards thought highly enough of our designs to use our Open Game Content in their own books. As the environment in the market changed (more publishers entering the same territory, fewer options for books that hadn't been done already) we used the Open Game License to spin games out in different directions (emulation of romantic fantasy in Blue Rose, superheroes in Mutants & Masterminds) but not because we suddenly hated d20 or had it out for Wizards of the Coast or anything like that.

Recently Pramas got a look at 4th Edition in play and wrote up his impressions of the experience. This sparked quite a lot of discussion, both on his blog and on other boards where the story was picked up. One of the memes that sprang up around those discussions is this idea that Chris was being overly or unjustly negative in his comments (along with the gross oversimplification of his comments as "saying 4E is a CCG") and this was "obviously" because Green Ronin is a "competitor" and all commentary must be tainted by the fact that we have "a competing product", which is usually portrayed by the commenting party as an entry level game trying for WotC's market-share or as the game that was designed to be what we thought 3E should have been.

Frankly, I'm a little put out that people are so willing to jump on the idea that Green Ronin is a WotC competitor. We created products to fill niches we perceived in the marketplace, and yes, we've developed a couple of OGL-based systems that stand on their own and are doing pretty well. After 8 years of publishing, after releasing umpteen hundreds of titles that directly supported D&D, after following WotC through revisions and updates, and after signing up to be among the early adopters of 4E just as soon as Wizards actually gets us those documents they were promising 10 weeks ago, I think our credentials as third-party publishing partner are pretty well established. Considering the state of the roll out of the GSL and the 4E Design Kits, I think our abundance of caution is certainly justified. I don't consider our place as competition to WotC in any meaningful way and I certainly don't see us as adversarial. I really want to stomp on this idea before it grows out of hand.

I'm on my way out of town for the weekend and I really wanted to get this off my chest before going. Have a good weekend everyone!



The issue of the buy-in

Phil Reed hits the nail on the head regarding the WotC $5000 Developer Kit Buy-in:
In my mind, the fee isn't the problem. In fact, I think that there should be a fee to use the D&D name and a special, new, trademarked logo.

The problem is that after a few months there is no fee.
This dynamic (how the pay-to-play-devs and the free-devs are going to interact, the ramifications of each choice) is the thing that I keep going back to as I've been thinking over what WotC's 4E plan means in the short and long terms. Robin Laws and others have pointed out that assigning a cost for early buy-in is WotC's attempt to lessen the potential bubble effect of another wave of third-party support products for D&D, which I think is true. I agree that some sort of management was necessary. Others have worried aloud if this won't just slightly delay rather than prevent another "deluge of crap" we saw after the mass embrace of the previous Open Game Licensing deal.

Yesterday I opined ...[T]he OGL goes free this summer and it will be a good six months before those would-be publishers can release their products. During that time, the rules will be actually, really final (unlike the state they're in now, where WotC admits that they expect they'll be "tweaked" right up to mid- to late-March). WotC's core books will have been out for half a year and the first third-party (open content) books almost as long. During that time, people opting for the free license will have the chance to judge the marketplace (Does 4E launch big or is it a flop? Are people excited to switch? How have the products released by the "early adopters" who paid to play been received?).

All of that is way more information than those who are buying in early have. The Phase Two companies will have had just as long (if not slightly longer) to learn the new rules before their on sale date opens up, plus all the benefits of any errata that's discovered and content/experiences from other publishers to draw on. In theory, this staggered plan could actually result in better releases come January 09. It's vastly superior to the plan that would have allowed the users of the free license to sell product starting September 1. June to September is not enough time to learn rules, put together quality products and get it on shelves! The September 1 open date would have virtually guaranteed the "flood of crap" that happened with early D20 and that many people fear for 4E.

There'll still be junk hitting the market either way but I vastly prefer this schedule to the one that was proposed during yesterday's conference call.

The question for me isn't whether or not D&D is "worth" $5,000. It absolutely is. The question I keep coming back to is whether a few short months of advanced access and a starting-gun time table that practically necessitates companies paying to buy in do everything they can to press their "advantage" before the clock runs out, whether that is worth $5,000. Is it an opportunity or a sucker's game? If the money issue was set, pay or not, in or out, all the variables about the playing field leveled, the question of where 4E and the OGL fit into our plans would be completely different.

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The news has broken



I was going to post about this but Gareth beat me to it.

What can I say? I'm glad our business plan didn't rely on being able to produce officially recognized STL support for 4E D&D. As for the question of when prospective publishers are going to see the 4E rules, it's been my sneaking suspicion for some time that the answer is "When the books are released, dummy."



Summit: the end


We took it fairly "easy" today but even so I'm tired and the guys all had that glazed look by the time we finished dinner, too.

Started late today, a nice lunch at Etta's Seafood for the guys as they'd wanted to do a little roaming Pike Place market and the weather wasn't crappy as it had been all weekend. After lunch we got started on some play-evaluations of games that we're considering for the 2008 schedule. We tried to fit a podcast in but got into a deep rules-crunch discussion that ran out the clock on the summit and followed us all the way to dinner to boot.

After a fine dinner at Judy Fu's Snappy Dragon, full of handmade noodles, dumplings, salted and peppered items, chicken, and crispy eggplant we called it a night and officially ended 2007's summit. Aside from taking Rob and Bill to the airport tomorrow, my summit duties are officially discharged.

It was an emotionally draining summit for some reasons, exciting for others. Green Ronin is going to look a bit different in 2008 than we anticipated and some of the things on the agenda were not decided on in the way I would have predicted.

My in-laws are in town starting Wednesday night. I'm sure this will mean more eating out, if nothing else. Maybe I'll remember to take photos this time!

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GR Summit Official Day Two

Today was a pretty good day all around. Food-wise, things were definitely much better, and knowing the food situation was taken care of allowed me to feel more relaxed about things. Gotta make sure my people are fed. If nothing else, people who work for me won't go hungry.

We started the day with brunch at Serafina. I'd stopped in on Friday to make sure they could accommodate our large group and we had a wonderful time. The waitstaff was incredibly attentive and helpful, giving great suggestions and bringing the dessert menu around so we could add some pastries to our brunch selections. The food was really excellent, the live jazz a nice touch. I don't get over to Serafina very often but I'd definitely give it a great recommendation. Evan lamented that he didn't eat there back in the days when the Games & Gizmos offices were mere blocks away.

We had a ton of things to cover and I feel really positive about the schedule and the projects we have in development through 2008. We have some rather substantial changes in our future, which can be a little unsettling but we have a lot of exciting opportunities as well. I set out some crackers and some of the noshes we didn't polish off yesterday but largely people were satisfied until we broke for the evening. Dinner was pizza and salads from Tutta Bella, which has become my favorite pizza place in very short order. We tried five different types of their standard pizzas and they were all fabulous. It's probably a good thing Tutta Bella isn't closer to the house or they'd know me on sight.

I had to drive up to get Kate from her dad tonight, too, so most of the guys stayed around the house and played Ticket to Ride until I got back. After my return I served up the Guinness cake and ice cream, which went over really well. My cake was a little lumpy and should have been stirred more but I had been nervous about over mixing and over compensated, but overall it was still as good as we remembered. Mmmm.

Tomorrow is more of a half day for us; we're evaluating new game designs and game proposals tomorrow afternoon. Fun!

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GenCon 2007 Day 1

Opening Day. Apparently we have things people want to buy as we had the best first day of GenCon ever and two products have yet to show up.

Hobby Games: the 100 Best are on the table, though, and it looks sweet. Authors have been coming by to pick up their copies here at the show and between that and the excited response we've had to the Wild Cards announcement, I've been pretty darn pleased.

The announcement of 4E has been met with mixed reaction so far. Lots of excitement about the digital initiative and the online tools from some but less excitement about the subscription model and the retail/distribution chain is rightly skeptical that this is going to do anything good for their business models. Guess we'll see. GR has been making plans for some time now based on the signs we'd been seeing and so I'm fairly unconcerned about the impact any WotC 4E events will have on those plans. It's been a bit like those Dogfights they reenact on the History Channel, where everything moves so fast you can't actually target the other jet... you have to calculate and target ahead of where you think the other jet is going to be by the time you can get your bullets there. Not that we're shooting bullets at WotC, but it has been a couple of years of looking ahead and trying to predict.

Wish I could write more but I have to run to the bank again before the hall opens. We're desperately short on small bills... and I still need coffee. Oh how I need coffee.

GenCon = Awesome so far. Having a great time. Laughing myself to tears.

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Will it be a month of no lunches?

Ah, 4:10pm and once again I've had no lunch. It's not as bad as it could be, I guess, since I didn't have "breakfast" until noon...

Preparing for GenCon is always insane for us but this year seems to be worse than usual. I was a very bad girl this weekend as I didn't work but read the last Harry Potter book on Saturday instead. Of course, it's still a little over three weeks until GenCon and there's no way in hell I can work every single day between now and then and still have any sanity at all.

There are always the little inefficiencies that make things even more tedious and time-consuming, like the guy who titles his customer service request "Online Catalog". Does the subject "Online Catalog" scream out to be handled RIGHT NOW? Predictably, the message has nothing to do with the online catalog but with an order gone wrong and his increasing desperation to fix it... Or the people who contact me by fax (by FAX? Really?) which I don't notice (the Fax being in Chris's office on the second floor) until three days too late to respond. Or several of Chris's e-mails to us just flat never arriving.

The completely sucky un-summery weather so far this year (mostly 65-70 and rainy except for a blast of 95-100 for three days out of the blue) has done nothing at all positive for my disposition and being so busy that I forget to eat lunch is certainly not making me feel any better. Very growly and short-tempered about a lot of things right now. I want a sunny beach, a cabana boy, and some frozen drinks with little umbrellas. You can even keep the pony.

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Green Ronin Receives 14 ENnie Nominations

[Reposted from the Green Ronin website]

The nominees for the GenCon EN World RPG Awards (the "ENnies") have been announced for 2007. Between Green Ronin's own products and those we designed and developed for Black Industries' Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay RPG, we have received 14 nominations and 3 Honorable Mentions. The nominations are:

Best Cover Art: Ultimate Power (HM)
Best Interior Art: Ultimate Power, Children of the Horned Rat
Best Production Values: Ultimate Power
Best Writing: Children of the Horned Rat
Best Rules: Ultimate Power, WFRP Companion (HM)
Best Supplement: Ultimate Power, WFRP Companion, Tome of Corruption (HM)
Best Adventure: Time of Vengeance, Lure of the Liche Lord
Best Aid/Accessory: Deck of Many Things
Best d20/OGL Product: Ultimate Power
Product of the Year: Ultimate Power, Children of the Horned Rat
Fans' Choice for Best Publisher

We were also delighted that our friends at Firefly Games received nominations for Best Cover Art, Best Rules, and Best Game for Faery's Tale. This is great news, as Green Ronin will be publishing Faery's Tale Deluxe later this summer!

We would like to thank all the authors, developers, editors, illustrators, art directors, and graphic designers who worked so hard to make these great products. Voting on the awards begins next week and this is open to the public. The awards will be handed out at GenCon next month in Indianapolis. Thanks to the judges and congrats to all the nominees!

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Yesterday was Free RPG Day.

We had originally wanted to participate in Free RPG Day by having our Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide included (an introductory product for our flagship game that we specifically had printed up to take advantage of opportunities like this -- we promoted it at the ALA Midwinter show, we had it on hand at New York Comic Con, we've been sending it out as a prize to stores and conventions, etc) but the rules for Free RPG Day were 1) no products that had been released previously and 2) no products that had a price associated with them.

Instead we looked at what we could do in the time allowed and decided that we'd offer a Bleeding Edge adventure instead. "You can have it in our warehouse by this date?" we asked the printer. Yes, they assured us they could do it.

Except they didn't. (In fact, as of this writing we STILL don't have the adventure and I'm not sure when it will arrive, not that it matters at this point.) We tried to see if the printer could do the mailing separately but they couldn't handle it. So, we had to adapt. Again. We decided to price the adventure at $2.95 (print OR PDF, either one) and offer it as a promotion that way. It's not quite as nice as being able to give them away for free as part of the event but I like to think it's still something pretty cool.

We also decided to celebrate Free RPG Day by offering the products we originally wanted to include as print offerings (the M&M Beginner's Guide and the Bleeding Edge adventure) plus our True20 rules (since True20 deserves a little Free RPG Day love, too) as free PDFs for the 24 hours of the event. Our online store has some functions that would allow this to go smoothly and we'd upgraded to a shiny big new dedicated server earlier this spring. After promoting Free RPG Day on our site for months we didn't want our fans to feel they'd been left empty handed.

We had no idea the crush of people willing to come out for FREE STUFF. Holy crap. In fact, we'd been worried because we only really publicized the changes to our Free RPG Day plans a day before it was all set to go live! When the product when live at midnight Pacific time, European fans, insomniacs, and dedicated night owls wasted no time in logging on and getting their downloads. By the time the bulk of working-stiff US fans were up and logging in, our spiffy new dedicated server was crashing under the load, taking out our websites and message boards as well. Our heroic webmaster worked all through what should have been a beautiful, sunny summer Saturday with his wife and babies just to keep the site limping along.

Today, in the aftermath of the whole thing, we seem to be at about 50/50 happy people and disappointed people. The happy people got in, got the freebies (sometimes after long waits but sometimes it all worked as it was supposed to) and liked what they saw once the product hit their hands. The disappointed people were frustrated that the site couldn't accommodate the demand, were angry that they had to register to use the webstore interface (an anti-credit-card-theft precaution that we instituted after a rash of stolen credit card numbers passed through our store last year and something we didn't dare disable for the freebie event), were critical of us for not "predicting" there would be problems (and our "inexcusable" lag time) and so on. Of course it's always a bummer when something that's supposed to be fun and cool and good turns into something that makes people angry instead but at this point I'm satisfied that we did all we could do.

July 21st is UK RPG Day, sponsored by the fine fellows at Esdevium Game Distributors. I'm giddy with delight that Esdevium were willing to be more flexible in their requirements and were happy to take our offering of Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guides and Bleeding Edge Adventures. I'm so pleased that Esdevium made it easy for us to participate and that once we shipped the product to them the whole thing was out of our hands. I'm glad that someone is trying to organize something like Free RPG Day and I don't mean to disparage the effort, because it is indeed quite an undertaking but it was also a huge lot of trouble and stress for us from beginning to end and I'm glad to be done with it for now.



Pirate's Guide to Freeport

Wow! Just got the proofs in for this book and it's gorgeous! We've put out a lot of books over the years and I love each of our little book-children in their own special way but the Pirate's Guide to Freeport is the particular sweet, sexy, pirate-flavored goodness that makes me squee with delight.

Sexy! Awesomeness! I can't wait to get the actual book in my hands...

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Bella Sara

A while back Kate participated in a little PR thing for the folks at Hidden City, for their card game Bella Sara. I talked with Hidden City marketing guys at GTS and they told me that the video was up in the press area of the Bella Sara website. Check out the video of Kate (holding the dog of some innocent bystander who walked by and was shanghaied into letting Kate hold his "cute, cute puppy"). No need to watch to the end, where they shoved me in front of the camera when I least expected it. God, I wish I could stop rolling my eyes around when I'm on camera... I looked like a dork in the video of my first wedding, too. Kate, on the other hand, is a natural.

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GTS 07 is a wrap

So instead of making it down to Vegas by noonish on Sunday, I got bumped to a later flight and didn't arrive in my room until after midnight. The airline treated me well, though, and I got an upgrade to first class, enough meal vouchers to treat myself to a nice meal at Anthony's Seafood in the airport, and a voucher for a free future ticket.

Monday we didn't get our booth set up because tables and our graphics case had not yet been delivered to the booth, so we did what we could and then went out for a team bonding experience at The Gun Store, where we shot an assortment of automatic and/or futuristic assault weapons. It wasn't quite as fun as the last time, when they let us swap weapons with each other so we each got to try a couple of different guns but I think the outing was still a success. I know I had fun blowing the head off a gold-chain-wearing "scumbag" (our clerk's description) with a weapon our chaperon described as "the gun that Israeli housewives take to market." That whole macho gun-nut thing is really not my scene and I chuckled that despite my commie-pinko leanings I was able to illicit a couple of "good job"s with my gun handling from our chaperon.

At the show itself Green Ronin made our Song of Ice and Fire announcement, as well as the announcement that we're partnering with Firefly Games to do Faery's Tale Deluxe. We also handed out a few advanced copies of our new Walk the Plank card game, which I personally just love. All of these events were greeted with enthusiasm and interest from virtually everyone who stopped by to talk with us. Hoorah! I also got a peek at the development of the Hero Lab interface for Green Ronin's products.

I sat on a panel that I agreed to participate in because I thought I was going to moderate. Instead, Steve Wieck from One Book Shelf moderated and I was asked to speak a bit, though I think I really only spoke about GR things once, between Sean Patrick Fannon's Project '77 (A Manifesto for the Game Industry, not to be confused with Project 77 the Irish hip hop outfit or Project 77 the web designers) and Luke Crane's stories from the realm of those who self-identify as "indy" games publishers. When I did have a chance to speak, I thought it was more appropriate and helpful to the attending retailers to point them at Goodman Games brilliant Click-to-Brick Conversion program. What can I say, I guess I'm just not self-serving enough to insist on bending the conversation to being about me me me.

Overall I thought GTS 2007 was a clear success. People were happy (some deliriously so) with the hotel (both for accommodations and for hang-out spaces) and the convention center venue itself. I'm just personally glad to be done with the two and a half years of bitching and whining about the fucking Riviera and all the hyperbole about how it was dangerous to let your female employees walk the streets alone there blah blah blah. It's done, Bally's is superior (now that GAMA is not being held to an unrealistic room rate cap of $99/night and can actually contract with places of Bally's caliber) and even the union guys who worked the show were downright nice on the few occasions I had to deal with them. Overwhelmingly the gossip and speculation at the show revolved around WotC, while I'll comment on more in a separate blog post I think. Additionally there were distributor mergers and a couple more smaller or specific niche distributors who have gone out of business and absent retailers who either made the poor decision to attend Games Expo instead of GTS or just flat went out of business. The industry is "depressed" and WotC's current maneuvers (especially combined with their general policy of remaining closed mouthed about the changes that are ever more clearly on the horizon) is fueling interesting reactions, varying from cautious optimism to outright panic to full-blown paranoia.

I'm sure more events from the week will come to me in dribs and drabs now that I'm home and planted in front of a computer again. For now, I have a few thousand e-mails to catch up on and a family to reconnect with.

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Vegas Bound

Catching Shuttle Express in 7 hours. As always, I'm certain I'm forgetting something and I'm going to sleep like hell tonight if the last 17 years or so of history are anything to go by. Amped up before a trip I can't get to sleep when I should and always wake up every few hours, anxiously checking the clock. Gah. Hate that.

Decided not to take my computer, so I probably won't have any updates until I get back on Friday.

We'll have a couple of press releases going out at the show, and we'll have advanced copies of our new card game, Walk the Plank, to show off. Excited about that one.

Now, my sad attempt at sleep begins.

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Vegas Bound

Catching Shuttle Express in 7 hours. As always, I'm certain I'm forgetting something and I'm going to sleep like hell tonight if the last 17 years or so of history are anything to go by. Amped up before a trip I can't get to sleep when I should and always wake up every few hours, anxiously checking the clock. Gah. Hate that.

Decided not to take my computer, so I probably won't have any updates until I get back on Friday.

We'll have a couple of press releases going out at the show, and we'll have advanced copies of our new card game, Walk the Plank, to show off. Excited about that one.

Now, my sad attempt at sleep begins.

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Something I've been working on...

Essay Anthology to Feature All-Star Line Up

March 21, 2007--SEATTLE, WA:
What are the best hobby games of the past 60 years? Green Ronin Publishing and award-winning author and editor James Lowder put the question to 100 of the industry’s most influential and outspoken hobby game designers, authors, and publishers. Their answers will be revealed this August in Hobby Games: The 100 Best, a remarkable essay collection set to premiere at the 2007 Gen Con Game Fair.

One hundred different writers were asked to select a single hobby game and make a case for its place on the list. The only restrictions were the writers could not select a title they designed, or a game in which they have a financial stake. The problem for most of the authors was limiting their selection to a single game.

“The range of games the writers chose was terrific,” noted editor James Lowder. “The essays cover some titles that are familiar to everyone, but many others that will be revelations. Even the most experienced game fan will come away from the book with new titles to seek out and fresh perspectives on old favorites. And if you haven’t played many hobby games before, or only know about certain types of games, Hobby Games: The 100 Best will open up whole new worlds for you.”

The list of games covered in the book will be a tightly kept secret until its release. Speculation will no doubt run rampant leading up to its Gen Con debut.

“This is a book we simply had to publish,” said Green Ronin President Chris Pramas. “The lineup of essayists Jim recruited is impressive and both the authors and the games chosen cover our industry from its birth to the present day. If you are passionate about games, you will love this book.”

Product Information
Editor: James Lowder
Publisher: Green Ronin
Release Date: August 2007
ISBN: 1-932442-96-0/978-1-932442-96-0
Format: 400 pages, trade paperback
Cover Price: $24.95 US

In Hobby Games: The 100 Best, the top designers, authors, and publishers in the hobby games field write about the most enjoyable and cleverly designed games of the last fifty years. Their essays cover the gamut of the hobby market, from roleplaying games to collectible card games, miniatures games to wargames to board games, with titles both familiar and esoteric. These are the games that the designers themselves play, the ones that have inspired their most popular creations. Writers include such legendary designers as Gary Gygax (co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons), Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (co-founders of Games Workshop), Richard Garfield (creator of Magic: The Gathering), and Larry Harris (creator of Axis and Allies); best-selling authors R. A. Salvatore, Tracy Hickman, Douglas Niles, and Ed Greenwood; computer industry notables Warren Spector (Deus Ex), Bruce Shelley (Age of Empires), Jack Emmert (City of Heroes), and Bruce Nesmith (Oblivion); as well as dozens of other prominent and award-winning creators, including Richard Berg, Monte Cook, Zeb Cook, Greg Costikyan, Bruno Faidutti, Jeff Grubb, Steve Jackson (US), Tom Jolly, Marc W. Miller, Alan R. Moon, Christian T. Petersen, Sandy Petersen, Mike Pondsmith, Ted Raicer, Greg Stafford, S. Craig Taylor, Martin Wallace, James M. Ward, Jordan Weisman, Stewart Wieck and Teeuwynn Woodruff. Hobby Games: The 100 Best will also feature a foreword by board game legend Reiner Knizia and an afterword by SPI founder and wargame legend James F. Dunnigan.

Editor James Lowder has authored several best-selling novels, including Prince of Lies and Knight of the Black Rose, and designed game material for a wide variety of publishers and magazines. He’s helmed more than a dozen critically acclaimed anthologies, with subjects ranging from Arthurian Britain to zombies. He’s been a finalist for the Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award, and is a two-time Origins Award winner.

Green Ronin Publishing is a Seattle-based company known for its dedication to quality books and games. Founded in 2000 Green Ronin has won more awards for excellence and innovation than any other game company in the new millennium, and took home the coveted ENnie Award for Best Publisher an unprecedented three years running. With great licenses like Thieves’ World and Black Company, groundbreaking games like Mutants & Masterminds and Blue Rose, and a roster of top flight designers and illustrators, Green Ronin Publishing is a leading light in the hobby game industry.



The New, New, New (NEW!) Origins Awards

It's that time of the year again. Every spring around this time, after the initial deadline for the Origins Awards has passed and been extended and passed again, someone in the game industry wakes up and says, "Hey, the rules are different! What's going on?!" sparking the annual round of "We fixed it!"/"You broke it!"/"Who cares?" bickering as people take sides (or don't) and eventually some sort of awards based on some criteria are handed out to greater or lesser fanfare.

This year, once again, the people who have not yet had their months of futile and unappreciated work burned to the ground take up the same cries of, "Just give it a chance, just wait and see, this time we've really got it!" This year, for at least the sixth time in the last ten years, the Origins Awards have been restructured, re-defined, re-positioned and (they hope) re-branded.

This year GAMA is making no bones about it, the Origins Awards are to promote Origins. This philosophy has been bouncing around out there for a while but it has finally won out as the dominant vision for the awards. This means the pretense that the Origins Awards are somehow selecting the "best" games or even "favorite" games has been largely thrown aside in favor of a system that the organization hopes will generate publicity. Of course, if some good games are rewarded in the process, all the better but the inability to reach even a working consensus about what constitutes an exceptional game deserving of recognition by peers and players alike has unquestionably brought the awards to the point of being an unabashed marketing tool first and foremost.

The GAMA and Origins and AAGAD websites remain unintuitive and incomplete (for example, there's apparently an "Origins New Release Award" but the page about it is blank and the page on submissions merely says "Origins Awards policies are presently under review. They will be published shortly."), but ICv2 has a summary of the new, new, NEW Origins Awards process here.

I've had things to say about the Origins Awards in the past. I don't really have that much to say anymore, except to observe the passing of another year, another round of changes, another series of hoops to jump through (meaning forms to fill out, samples to pack and mail, CDs with logos and cover shots to provide and whatever else). Some people will bother, some people find the awards so tainted that it's not worth the effort. Awards of some sort will be handed out. People will hold them up and say yay, or not.

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Conquest NW

ConQuest blue

Chris and I and Katherine got ourselves together today to go out the Bellevue and visit with our pals at Avalon Conventions, the fine folks who put on the Conquest shows all along the west coast from LA to Seattle.

As I said to Chris, I can't believe it's been a year since we were out at the airport Marriott at Conquest's first Seattle show with just over 150 other people. This year had the show in a new venue, working in close conjunction with Seattle-area game associations and fellow conventioneers such as the folks who organize Dragonflight and the guys who run Enfilade. The show brought in over 400 people this year, and brought up Dave Arneson as Legendary Guest of Honor, which was really neat.

We arrived a little late in the day and I desperately needed coffee to offset the sleepy-high feeling from the cold meds, but even so we managed to get in a fun game of Ticket to Ride. Kate took second place fair and square. I was three cards away from making my 19 point LA to Miami ticket when Chris went out. I'm no James J. Hill, that's for sure, though I did totally own Duluth. Got to talk to the re-AEG-enabled Marcelo and Non-Legendary Guest James Ernest for about five minutes each.

The con is still going on tomorrow but we're heading to NY Comic Con on Wednesday, so there'll be no President's Day convention attending for me. Still, it's shaping up to be a good, fun little show and I look forward to seeing it grow even more. (Not to mention looking forward to finding out more about 2008's Cruise Con! I hear it's going to be a Seattle to Alaska cruise and I'm totally into that.)

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History of Lion Rampant

Shannon Appelcline has posted the latest in his history of hobby game companies, this time with the focus on a company near and dear to my heart, Lion Rampant.

I contributed a couple of anecdotes and read through an early draft of the article and I have to say he's done a great job. The article matches my own recollections of the Lion Rampant years and strikes a fair tone. If you're curious what I was up to in the late 80s and early 90s, check out A Brief History of Game #10.

He's currently working on articles about White Wolf and Atlas Games which I look forward to as well. That's my early trajectory through the game industry in a nutshell.

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Origins Update

Man, I've been SO busy. No time for blogging at this convention so far.

Tuesday we left for Columbus, arriving after midnight. We'd had a hellish connection in Dallas, where we had about 15 minutes to get from the last row of our crowded plane across the entire gigantic horseshoe-shaped Dallas/Ft.Worth airport. I'll go into more detail on that some other time. Suffice to say that we made the flight but our luggage did not.

The hotel we're in is brand new and we're very pleased. Because we had to check in with the staff several times due to our late-night arrival, the multiple deliveries for us, and our missing luggage, the staff knows us on sight. They've been extremely sweet and good-natured about not only our needs but handling the large influx of gamers at the hotel. Thumbs up to the staff of the Drury Inn.

Wednesday night was the GAMA general meeting and the GAMA elections. The meeting was well-attended and it seems that I can work with everyone who was elected this year, so that was very good news.

Thursday was the frist day of the show, which I thought was well attended for a Thursday. I was in and out of the booth for much of the day, so I don't have a sense of how sales went but I feel pleased at the level of exposure we've had. Our demos have been going off without a hitch as well, which is always a blessed relief.

Thursday night was the GAMA Board meeting, with the new Board of Directors. Very pleasant and productive meeting, with lots of good reports on the convention from the GAMA staff.

Friday I rearranged my schedule to have time enough to go on an outting to a waterpark with Kate, Mary, and Miranda. Good fun, though I did get a brutal sunburn on my back and shoulders. Luckily, the sunburn didn't show from under my dress for the Origins Awards.

The ceremony is another subject deserving its own entry, so I'll just say that it went off remarkably well considering how many last minute things were snafu'd. At the end of the ceremony I was announced as the new Chair of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, and to my stunned amazement received an embarrassingly long standing ovation from the attendees. Congratulations and condolences were offered after the show, and now the hard part begins.

Two more days of show, though today is half-over as I write this. Kate went with Mary and Miranda to the zoo and aquarium as part of the "Spouse Track" of offerings for the non-gaming family members of the gamers who attend the convention. Tomorrow I'm intending to take some of my off-time from the booth to take Kate to COSI, which is a really fun museum, great for kids.

We're not flying home until Monday night, so I intend to relax for as long as I can get away with on Monday before check-out. More updates are likely to happen then.

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Headache and Busy

Ah, preconvention prep. How I loathe it.

I need to get my badge requests in for GenCon. The California bureaucratic body that issues the seller's permits for Comic Con has not deigned to get back to me with my permit, so I need to sort that out as well. Have to arrange to ship the convention display, which means making sure the kit is together and ready to go. The new graphics have not been put together yet, so we probably won't have those for Origins. Managed to find people to give the eulogies for Chris Bledsoe, Paul Randles, and Sid Sackson, and hopefully we will have the Hall of Fame inductees on hand to accept their inductions. Made arrangements for our late-running June release to ship directly to Origins so we can have some on hand for the convention. Sent the proofs back for another project today, while confirming with the printer that two cases of our reprint should come here to Seattle, and what quantities we want printed on the other two books they have the files for. Tried to track down an order for a book placed by a prisoner who hasn't received it, prompting me to once again work on the webstore so that I can offer several different options for shipping (including UPS and Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation) that aren't so easily lost or mangled. Eventually had to give up in frustration for the day, as none of the modules would load correctly (even though they were downloaded and installed from the shopping cart company's website as per their posted directions). Still have to make GenCon and DragonCon flight arrangements, plus pay for the booth and the hotel for DragonCon too.

Somewhere around 2:00pm I felt a headache coming on. I tried heading it off by having a beer and taking some over the counter migraine pills, but no dice. Driving around in the hot car did not help; I definitely had light sensitivity happening, and of course it was a warm, beautiful, sunny day. Stopped at Fed Ex, drove down to the PO Box, and stopped at the store where I got everything for tonight's dinner but the fresh mussels I wanted. Tried another store, but no luck there either. Substituted frozen scallops and went ahead with the recipe, but by the time I'd cooked dinner, my headache was bad enough that I didn't feel like eating anything at all.

Need to put Kate in the bath and get her to bed. She'll definitely want me to read the Series of Unfortunate Events book we're mid-way through. Can't wait until I can lay down, but I really need to type up the code of conduct and How You Earn Points materials for my demo volunteers.

Oh, and as is typical, technology hates me again today. My Palm is having fatal errors and the G3 won't recognize the firewire external hard disk I bought to back up the company files, or the CD burner. Need to get all those things sorted out before convention season gets into full swing, or I won't get back to them until October. And I can't live without my Palm until October!

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Productive day today.

Announced the formation of our demo teams, and got a fantastic response off the bat. So far applicants are nicely spread out across most of the country, except for a surprising concentration of people from different parts of Idaho. Didn't expect that. I have information that I'm prepared to circulate, including our expected code of conduct, official "demo" policies and a volunteer agreement for people to sign. Back in 1998 when I launched the Demo Monkey program for Cheapass Games, things were so much simpler! In the old days I would have been much more casual about everything, but these days the government is involved and demands that we have official agreements in place, codes of conduct laid out, the whole bit.

Evan put a lot of work in fine tuning some data collection forms for demo applicants and convention support requests. We're also going to have an Events calendar at the website so people can keep track of when and where our demo teams are going to be running games. Just in time, too, because the convention season is essentially upon us! The websites are looking better all the time and I really get the feeling that people are building a real community around our games and support.

My next order of business it to catch up on the data entry for our mailing lists, and to get cracking on creating promo items in time to provide support for all my new-found minions. The half-implemented webstore is also hanging out there in the ether, and I really need to finish that up before we start the convention circuit, too. It seems everything in my life is measured around holidays, book releases, and conventions!

Managed to get a home-cooked dinner into the family tonight on top of everything else: honey-lime baked chicken wings, Deborah Madison's lemon-dill fava bean salad (fava beans are a hellacious amount of work to prep, with the shucking and the blanching and then removing a second layer of shell before finally having an astoundingly small pile of beans ready for cooking, but they are delicious and I buy them at the farmer's market whenever I can get them fresh) and some homemade peach-strawberry pie that I baked yesterday. Kate even ate a chicken wing, supplemented with a bowl of grated cheddar cheese. It's a freakin' miracle when this girl eats any of my home cooking. She "sorta liked" the chicken, but told me the "goopy stuff" (that would be the dressing) was "funny" and the beans "didn't taste like anything." I told her what she meant to say was the dressing was "tangy" and the fava beans were "subtle". In an effort to appease me, she did say that she liked the cheese (which was, of course, her independent addition to the menu). ::sigh::

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No answers

Argh. Still no idea what to do about the display situation. Furthermore, I updated some software on my Palm tonight and now the damn thing is in an endless loop of Fatal errors and worthless resets. I updated the software because not to long ago the Mac was crashing and I tried to solve the issue by defragging the hard drive. The defrag wouldn't complete, and then when I went to start up my mail program, it wouldn't start up either until I removed all my user info and saved mail from the file. Happily, I'd backed up my date book, address book, and everything except the mail messages themselves, so I wasn't too terribly screwed, but when I was reinstalling from those back-ups I noticed that several things from my Palm were not backed up correctly. I spent something like six hours reinstalling, downloading, upgrading, and so on to get my Palm in prime working order, except for one notice that said I needed to download the latest version of some software or other. When I did that, the above-mentioned Fatal Error loop began! Lame. And frustrating.

Of course one of the things I did lose with this defrag-inspired crash was a folder of requests for convention support that I had not backed up. And wouldn't you know it, tonight a guy comes out on the internet bitching about what bad manners I have for not getting back to him about his convention support request. I honestly don't ever remember getting anything from this guy, none of the details of his request sound at all familiar... but of course I can't look in my convention requests folder to be sure.

I shouldn't worry, I suppose, but I do. I want so badly to please people, to put out products that they love and deeply enjoy, to give them that extra bit of attention that makes them happy. Every time I fail to do that it just eats at me. When someone, for example, hates a picture in one of our books and feels the need to harp on it in public, at the slightest opportunity like it's some personal vendetta, it eats at me. When someone who *knows* there are only three of us working full time at Green Ronin complains about what a rotten, rude, horrible person I am for not answering his e-mail (that I can't even say for certain I received), it eats at me. I wish I didn't take the criticism of virtually anonymous strangers to heart, but I always have and judging from my response to tonight's latest round of dismissive rantings, I clearly still do.

What can I say? I'm sorry, I suck.

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Puzzle of the Day

Figuring out the most cost-effective way to get our convention display from San Diego Comic Con (ending Sunday, July 20th) to GenCon Indy (set-up begins Wednesday, July 23rd). Getting ourselves to both conventions is tricky enough (since I must stop back in Seattle and drop off Kate, who is going to San Diego with us but not Indianapolis) but I'd definitely prefer not to spend $2000 2-Day Air shipping 100 pounds of convention display before leaving town.

Will be sure to update on my brilliant solution as soon as I have one.




Whew, that was quite the whirlwind tour. I'm SO glad to be back home.

JD asked in the comments recently about the travel and networking required for running our business. I have to say that I usually enjoy the travel and attending the conventions. Having been in the same line of work since I left high school has meant that I've met many dozens of other game industry regulars who have, over the years, become some of my best friends. The internet allows us to keep in touch, even though we usually don't get to see each other in person for more than a few hours at a time, two or three times a year.

On the other hand, the turn-over in the game industry is tremendous. People leave the business on a regular basis, going off to more stable or lucrative jobs as game systems and companies rise and fall in and out of popularity. Sometimes the companies come in with a spectacular splash: sponsoring banquets, offering golden contracts, throwing parties with ice sculptures and live bands, renting riverboats or hotel ballrooms. Sometimes they go out in a similarly spectacular manner: they blow the money for their new fax machine on a dinner for their staff and volunteers at a highbrow German eatery, they spent the money for the print run of the new book on ice sculptures and hired models to hang out in their booth, they have stiffed so many printers/artists/writers they can't hire anyone to print/draw/write their products anymore. Countless people have come on the scene with their "better" versions of D&D or their take on Magic: the Gathering, dozens of perfectly nice men and women have mortgaged their houses thinking that the world really needed another game magazine. I miss many of those people and wonder what they're up to these days. If one is not actively "in" the game business, one is very much out.

Having now been to E3 in person, I have to say I hope never to have a job that would require me to attend on anything like a regular basis. Just being there for one day was far more than I could stand! The lights in all the halls are dimmed so that no glare on the computer screens will distract people from whatever cool, new graphic effect your company is introducing to the world. Giant, flashing, booming displays thirty feet tall loom in each of the three gigantic exhibit halls, where people line up to have a chance to play a few minutes of your as-yet-unreleased game (or crowd around to watch some other lucky fellow have his turn). The noise is tremendous and assaults convention attendees from all sides. Each exhibitor wants to attract your attention and draw you to his booth, but not only that! They do not want you to be distracted by other exhibitors' game noises or promotional hooha, so when you enter the circle of their exhibit space you're assaulted by a wall of sound that miraculously blocks out all others around you until you somehow wander out of the range of the noise and into the range of the next booth's soundblast. Having a conversation with someone on the floor of E3 is like trying to shout out anything meaningful to someone standing right in front of the amps at a rock concert. I have no doubt that serious hearing damage took place at that show, and I feel no compulsion to put myself through that even once more.

I'm pretty wiped out, so I guess I'll wrap this up and get some shut eye for now.

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Small victory

The competitor I mentioned recently has agreed to remove half of our company name from his site, but maintains he has the right to use the other half because of its "historical significance". Whatever. As annoyed as I am, he's reaping what he deserves, and if he wants to corner the market selling to pedophile gamers, he can go right along doing that and hopefully he'll be leaving me out of it from this point on. Ug.

Taking our flight down to LA tomorrow, conducting business meetings and so forth at E3. Am leaving Kate in the capable hands of Uncle Jess for the weekend. Jess has been an excellent friend, stepping up at the last minute to shuttle Kate back and forth to school and hanging with her while we're gone. Kate adores Jess and Kathryn, they're like the extended family, the aunt and uncle she doesn't have (at least not near by). Still, it's no small undertaking to agree to keep Kate for two and a half days straight. On a scale of one to Awesome, they're super-great.

In order to try and keep this unexpected trip from costing too much, we booked the whole thing through Priceline, which has up arriving something like 24 hours in advance of our meeting, and leaving late the day after! If all goes well, we'll be able to hook up with some other people at E3 who might be in the mood to make deals with little ol' us. If not, the meetings we have scheduled are plenty fine all on their own.

In addition to the scheduled meetings, I have hopes of seeing other industry folks that we know. It's possible The Bish will be there, and we just could run into him if he is (that would be swell, we haven't seen Bishop since he took a job in Edmonton and moved away with barely a fond, drunken farewell). Friend, and fellow Atlas Games alum, Jeff Tidball is currently living in LA, having finished his stint at film school. He's now working on the Lord of the Rings property at Decipher, and if we don't manage to hook up with him on this jaunt, we expect we will be seeing him at either Origins or GenCon later this summer.

Most pleasantly exciting of all, for me, is that LA is relatively near Palm Springs. One of my oldest, very dearest friends, with whom I've only been in sporadic contact with in the last eight or nine years, is a reporter for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs. It's been, oh, nearly 10 years since we've seen each other in person, and since we're getting in so god-awful early I should have no trouble at all making the drive out to Palm Springs for some face-to-face reconnecting. I'm absolutely thrilled, especially because I have so few close friends from childhood that I still have any connection to.

Must pack, so I can get Kate bundled off and packed up to Jess's by 5:30am. Cursed early-morning flights!

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Found out today that a competitor (and I use that term in the loosest sense, as this company is run by a bottom-feeder who is not in our league in his wildest dreams) is using the names of our company and some of our better known products, jumbled up with words stripped from every game or media company/property of note, including (but not limited to) Hasbro, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games, AOL, Fox, Paramount, Marvel Comics, DC Comics... as Meta-Tags for his site(s). That's sleazy enough, but included in this list are all sorts of search words like "sex pedo nude girls" and "cheerleader little russia illegal cock hard big tits" and "sucked lolita lolitas pimps" and "bondage date rape black angels" or my personal favorites "card games multi player cum spit farm animals dogs" and "barely legal pre teen young adult film movies mpeg exploitation money back guarantee daddy incest daughter gays gang bang..." It goes on, but you definitely get the point.

Makes me sick and angry to think that someone looking for our products in a search engine would type in our company name or some other generic game terms and end up at "Prison Bitch: the card game" instead. You want to enjoy the great wide world of free commerce? Go right ahead. More power to you! But leave my products, my company identity, my trademarks and brand names out of it! Why is it so hard for some people to leave others in peace?

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Forced Vacation

Chris left today for a week in New York City. It took some applied pressure, but we finally managed to convince him not to bring his laptop with him. The poor man needs the mental break, and the chances were slim of him actually getting any work done in between visiting friends, bachelor parties, weddings, receptions, and whatever else he decides to do while he's there. Better to not even take it along, than to take it along and then be concerned with checking his e-mail, trying to handle things he's not supposed to be worrying about, and generally feeling bad because he feels he "should be" working.

This leaves me with a few things on my plate that I didn't really expect to be handling, but it's nothing I can't take care of. I feel really empowered to tackle things regarding the business. Weird that simply being *alone* during the day has such a dramatic effect.

Today I must get to Renton to check the PO Box and several orders need to go out, as well as support materials for some upcoming conventions. I'm also trying to fit in a visit with a friend from junior high school (who is passing through town), a meeting with Osseum (picking up our check in time to get it to the bank), and praying that Kate's school isn't having an early-dismissal day today (so I can squeeze a couple extra hours out of the day). Tired just thinking about it (or is that because I was up at 5:30 to take Chris to the airport?).

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Went out for sushi last night with Evan and Rona. Kate's with her dad, so I have a free weekend. Sushi was good, up on the north end of Seattle where we never really go. Lots of spicy rolls, and some spicy scallops that were out of this world. It was nice to see Evan and Rona socially, haven't seen Rona since the wedding reception. After sushi, they tipped us off to a place that serves a really decadent Mexican chocolate cake (complete with fried bananas, caramel sauce, and vanilla ice cream), so we walked over and had coffee and dessert.

We also took the opportunity to look over copies of Cartographica, our new full-color map book. I really hope people like this one, but lately we've been receiving such strange criticisms of our products I'm filled with worry that we're going to see reviews that grade us down on the product because it's not in a spiral binder (of course, if it was in a spiral binder, we'd be graded down for non-standard binding and pages that could possibly tear out) or some such. It's a beautiful book, meant to serve as inspiration for the GM who needs a location to build an adventure around, or a map of a keep or tower or mine to show players where their adventure is taking place. Todd Gamble created the entire thing and really went all out. Still, I want so much for people to respond well (while fearing that they won't) that I'm going to worry about it for the next few weeks until the first reviews are in. I'm such a freakin' people pleaser at heart, it's tough when your market is the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. Link shamelessly stolen from foldedspace.org, where JD talks about CBG's recent career switch: JD's new doctor.

Woke up this morning having slept soundly and about 45 minutes longer than usual. My head is full of ideas of how I can spend my day. First on the list is definitely cutting the grass, since it's about 4 inches longer than our Home Owner's Association permits, and growing steadily. I also have a large bag of potting soil, seeds and bulbs in the back of my car just waiting to be planted. Waiting since pedicure day, in fact, so it really is about time I got to it. Would like to slip out to see a movie this weekend as well, but that might be asking too much. May end up calling Ray and Christine, our traditional "free Saturday" friends, if the roving Mr. Tynes didn't drink them dry last night.

Ah, the endless possibilities for a free Saturday!

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Got together last night with a friend who is in town for WrestleMania. So weird to think of people coming across the country for something like this! We met him at his hotel and then sauntered five blocks straight downhill to The Bookstore bar at the Alexis Hotel. Back when Ray and Christine lived in Chicago but came to town on business, the Bookstore was their favorite haunt. We looked around for Christian, the server who always had the best gossip about what celebs were in town, but there was only the slightly bored and irritated waitress to be found.

Hal had been going on about his ephiphany over bourbon in Vegas, so I went to their booze list and asked for some help picking a bourbon to try. Ms. Irritated didn't seem in the mood to help me expand my horizons and gave a couple half-hearted suggestions off the list, so I gave it the ol' college try and picked one at random. Turned out to be $13 a shot, and not the kind of thing that would make me wonder what I'd been missing. Shoulda stuck to the Macallan 18-year, at least I know that's what I like.

It was good to hang with Zev. We reminisced about the time we all found ourselves in Germany at the Essen Game Fair. Several of us had hooked up for dinner, wandering into a steak house of some sort where we were fairly unwelcome Americans. After hanging around too late at the restaurant, we searched for somewhere to carry on our rowdy conversation (extra-exhuberent because of riotous Paul, our loud, old-school-punker, stereotypical New Yorker friend) we found that Zev's hotel had no lobby to speak of, so we moved to the room. At some point, while we were in the midst of loudly discussing sexual deviancy or Nazis or stories of Paul's adventures, the phone rang. Mild-mannered Zev answers the phone and from our side of the conversation we hear "Hello...No...Yes, ok, sorry. Yes, sorry. Ok." We wait expectantly to be filled in on what's happening. Zev hangs up. Apparently the front desk had called up and said "Have you a fire? No? Then perhaps you could be quiet? Your neighbors are trying to sleep." Ouch. We tried talking quietly for another half an hour or so, but invariably the volume and intensity of the conversation would creep up and Paul would be half-shouting and Zev would be spasming "Shh, SHHH!" We decided it would be best to sneak out of the hotel before we got Zev evicted from his room.

Good times. Maybe we can do it again this year.

We tried to vacate The Bookstore in favor of cheap late-night eats at McCormick and Schmicks, but it was crowded with young couples and hipsters who'd staked out their turf early. We decided to pack it in and head home instead.

I briefly considered taking Zev to the Zig Zag, but since he doesn't drink I didn't want to drag him all that way from his hotel so he could drink water there too. Judging from other reports, sounds like we missed out on crossing paths with some other fun-loving friends out for the night.

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Vegas Recap

Las Vegas was awesome. The GAMA Trade Show was stellar this year, with three halls of exhibitors and record numbers of retail and distributor attendees.

Monday was largely a day for registrations, booth set-up, and seminars. Touched base with some good friends and started the convention off on the right foot by holding the official Green Ronin dinner at Picasso, a French restaurant in the Bellagio hotel that is simply out of this world. It was, without question, the best meal I have ever had. The service was like a dream, the food and wine were outstanding, the atmosphere was classy, soothing, calming and a welcome relief from the hustle of the long day of travel and convention prep. Simply amazing, I can't possibly convey how glorious that two-hour, five-course meal was.

Tuesday Green Ronin co-hosted a brunch for retail and distributor buyers. The room was standing room only: we had been told to anticipate ~500 retailers and in the end there were over 2100 badges sold, over 600 retail stores represented. The response to our announcements was enthusiastic, and there was much buzz around the room when we talked about some of our upcoming products, like Cartographica, our book of color fantasy maps, or Bastards & Bloodlines, a book of half-breed fantasy monsters. We were especially pleased by the response to our official announcement of our license to do a game book based on The Nocturnals.

Tuesday we were also pleased and grateful that the members of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design chose to honor us with five Origins Awards nominations.
Game of the Year: Mutants & Masterminds
Best Role-playing Game: Mutants & Masterminds
Best Graphic Presentation of the Book Product: Mutants & Masterminds
Best Role-playing Supplement: Freeport: The City of Adventure
Best Game Accessory: Pocket Grimoires

Tuesday wasn't *all* fun and games, though, because it was also the first day that the exhibitors halls were open to all attendees, and the booth was packed. We talked until we were hoarse, we gave out hundreds of magazines, collected business cards, and stood until our feet ached. The overwhelmingly positive response was wonderfully soothing after hunkering down all winter for what seemed like endless work on difficult projects. It was all worth it to hear that those products were well-received.

Tuesday night we met with our sales and fulfillment partners Osseum Entertainment for yet more fine dining at Nobu's Hard Rock Casino branch. We had the chef's arrangement and it remains some of the best Asian cuisine I've ever enjoyed. Though we didn't get our favorites off the menu, like the Shrimp in Spicy Creamy Sauce, or the Miso Black Cod, or the Tuna tartar, we were treated to plenty of other wonderful, unusual, creative dishes. Yum, yum, I could eat my way through Las Vegas into bankruptcy, no problem.

Somewhere between Monday and Wednesday we discovered our website was hacked by a group claiming to be anti-war protesters. They erased our front page and replaced it with an anti-war message. I doubt they're really motivated by the war. We've had trouble with Russian hackers who have exploited weaknesses in the program we use for our message boards in the past, and our webmaster has been tearing his hair out trying to keep ahead of them this week as they've continued to break into our website, erasing back-up files and tinkering with things they had no right to touch. Very unpleasant, but essentially minor vandalism. And we've gotten a lot of love from the fans as they've found out about it.

Wednesday was another day on the convention floor, and lots of meetings. Lunch with one of our favorite retailers, Jim Crocker and as always he provided us with some invaluable insight into the industry from the retail perspective. Wednesday night we had a business dinner with two distributor reps (Marcelo and Nicole), our good friend Jeff (who does some freelance graphic design for us on occasion) and the Green Ronin staff. This time it was dinner at Red Square in the Mandalay Bay. Once again, wonderful wonderful. Sadly I had to call it an early night because of an early morning Board of Directors meeting. War breaking out made people a little more troubled and subdued than usual.

Thursday was the last day of the show and also the day I had to do the most politics. I hate politics. However, I have to say that the meeting was one of the best I've attended in the three years I've been serving, and I am quite excited about the direction the organization is taking. It's especially a relief to remove some of the obstructionist board members that have been serving in recent memory. People come to the board with their own agendas, obviously, but it's refreshing to no longer be under the thumb of people who are determined to be obstructionist bullies. We get so much more done!

Thursday night I missed going out for dinner with my friend John Kovalic and his lovely wife Judith because I had a Board of Directors dinner. That is probably the most disappointing thing that happened to me in Las Vegas! Dinner was unforgivably slow in coming, an hour to get appetizers, over two hours to get our entrees. So slow that people had to leave to catch their planes without being able to eat the food they'd ordered! I was furious, starving, and had a miserable time because of it. Sometime after 10:30 I managed to hook up with Hal and Chris again, and we'd talked about going to a popular bar called Ghost Bar to have a little fun but I was not up to taking yet another cab ride out somewhere to *start* an evening of fun at 11:00 pm. Must be getting old, but I decided to go up and go to bed instead. Besides, the war footage was playing on the bar televisions at the hotel, and I just wasn't feeling very jolly or celebratory.

Friday we checked out of the hotel, shipped our convention display home, and had a few hours to enjoy ourselves before catching the plane home. We decided to do something we would never do at home: we went to a shooting range where you can fire automatic weapons! The place is called The Gun Store. I believe the Thompson was the hands down favorite of the three weapons we tried. Chris kept a spent casing as a souvenir, which turned out to be a slight problem once we got to the airport (but only after they made me pour my iced-coffee drink out of its clear plastic to-go cup into a less threatening paper cup). Apparently a completely spent and harmless shell casing needed to be examined by three different people before we were allowed to fully pass through security "just in case" (though just in case *what* was never clear).

This update is long enough for now, I suppose. I will be leaving shortly to go pick Kate up from my mother's house and heading back right away. Then we're done traveling for a while, until April.

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