As I type this, the Pairs Kickstarter stands at about $250K which means all 12 decks have been unlocked, and there’s been a lot of cool extras added.
Also, the kickstarter will be ending in about 33 hours. And after the kickstarter ends, there will be no adjusting your bid. (More details about this below, when I talk about the cool new stuff that’s been added.)
First, I want to show off some art. Like the Princess and Mr. Whiffle deck.
Three sevens – More Calamities, Mendicants, and Mortal Guests:
Early on in the kickstarter, people asked if the seven card in the main deck would be the Chandrian. It’s a sensible question. Chaen does mean seven after all….
That said, the answer is a resounding “no.” These are decks of cards *from* the four corners. A deck of cards like that simply wouldn’t exist. If it ever did exist, it would have been burnt down to the waterline long, long ago.
But this suggestion gave me an idea. So I had many secret talks with Shane and James. The end result is the Calamities.
Each of the sevens has a different picture revealing a different calamity. And James worked out a few simple (though optional) rules that makes drawing a seven worse that drawing a ten. (In Pairs, high-numbered cards are bad.)
Fast forward to about a week ago, when Hank Green and Veronica Belmont agreed to lend their likenesses to a couple cards in the Faen Deck:
(Early sketches of Hank’s Alabaster Buttocks and Veronica’s wanton cavorting with faerie boys.)
And I started to think, wouldn’t it be cool to have more Mortal Guests?
Like maybe some character from the books? Like maybe Kvothe? and Elodin? And Auri?
So we’re doing that. Nate has agreed to do five more pieces of art. There will be a few surprise guests too….
Lastly, we’re adding something similar to the Modegan Deck as well. The seven in that deck is Mendicants, and now each card will show a different type of traveler coming into town. There will be Tinkers, trade caravans, wandering Amari, and, of course, the dreaded Edema Ruh.
As you can see right on the kickstarter page, if you order at the 42 dollar level (or higher) you get freebies in addition to any four decks of your choice. (The limited edition Pairs coin and sticker.)
But there are a few other cool free add-ons that aren’t listed so clearly on the front page, because they were unlocked later.
For example, since we’ve hit 250K, everyone who comes in at the $50 level or higher gets a rule book that…
…will be a collection of all the Pairs variants, like Calamities and Pieces of Eight, and alternate games, like Blackstone and Hawthorn. It will also contain some Pairs history (both real and fictional) and artwork from the game.
One of the other unseen goals is for the people who come in at the $80 level and above. It’s a limited-edition bookplate, drawn by Shane and signed by me.
Plus you get the decks themselves, and since your pledge includes shipping, you’re actually getting them cheaper than they’re going to be selling for in the stores.
Finally, a warning.
If you’re like me, and moderately addicted to kickstarter, you’re probably used to being able to go in during the final confirmation process and add a few things to your pledge.
You won’t be able to do that with this kickstarter.
That’s because James isn’t doing add-ons. So we’re not using a third-party service like Backerkit or Pledge Manager.
The good thing about this is that it *really* streamlines the ordering and shipping process. That means we’ll be able to get you your order more quickly and cleanly than most kickstarters.
The downside is that if you’re used to waiting until after the kickstarter closes and adding a few extra items at the end, you’re going to end up being a sad panda.
* * *
That’s all I’ve got, folks. Thanks for being awesome and supporting this project. And by extension, supporting me and Worldbuilders. (I’m giving the charity a piece of my royalty money.)
And I’d like to say thanks on behalf of James and Shane and Nate, too. I love the games and art these guys create, and I love that y’all are helping them make a living doing it.
I’ve got some cool news today. Something that I’m really seriously geeked about.
But before I share that with you, I have to take care of some business. And that means sharing a little bit of bad news.
The (kinda) Bad News:
Luckily, this news shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s already involved. If you backed the NOTW Kickstarter last year, and you’ve been reading your e-mail, you already know the Kickstarter isn’t shipping on time.
I’m sorry as hell about that. But I’m afraid there’s not much I can do on my end. At this point, all the production, logistics, and shipping is being handled by Albino Dragon. There were over 11,000 orders, and it’s taken longer than all of us would like.
Rest assured that the parts of the kickstarter I do have direct control over are being taken care of as quickly as possible. Those of you who were lucky enough to get into the tiers that included a the prototype jot should have already received it, as I personally mailed all of those out before Christmas.
The only part that’s still up to me is signing the bookplates.
So. Many. Bookplates.
You know what the best part of signing 4500 bookplates is? Nothing.
Okay, that’s not really true. They actually turned out really nice, and I know they’re going to make y’all happy when you get them. But you honestly have no idea how numbing it is signing several thousand of them.
I got these toward the end of January, and I’ve been signing them ever since.
At first I had a vague fantasy of signing all of them in one long 18 hour marathon. Unfortunately, I discovered signing my name 300 times in a row without a break caused a blinding pain to shoot up my arm, making me want to die.
And here’s the thing, I use that arm for a lot of things. Important things.
So, rather than flirt with carpal tunnel and potentially destroy my ability to type, I’ve been doing them in small batches over the last couple weeks.
As of last week, I’d sent about 2300 of them back to Albino Dragon so they could start shipping packages as soon as the other items end up at the warehouse.
(Edit! Only 20 minutes or so after posting this blog, I had a few people on facebook tell me they *just* got shipping notifications from Albino Dragon. So it looks like packages are moving toward backers at this very moment. Huzzah!)
As bad news goes, it’s not that bad. Everything’s still moving forward. The cards are going to look great, the poker chips will be cool, and the bookplates are beautiful.
But it does make my good news today a little awkward….
Here’s the problem. Months and months ago, game designer James Ernest dropped me a line. He’d created a new card game, he explained, and asked if I’d have any interest in incorporating it into my world.
For those of you that don’t know, James is the owner and head game designer for Cheapass Games. I’ve been playing his games for over 15 years.
Though a monumental effort of will, I kept my cool. I told James I was flattered, but I needed to play the game first to make sure it was a good fit for my world.
He sent me the rules, and I played it with a few friends. It was brilliant. Easy to learn, but with some good strategy. You can bet on it. You can play for drinks (or Sounten.) In 30 minutes everyone was mocking each other, cursing our own bad luck, and talking shit.
It’s exactly the sort of game you’d see people playing in the Eolian.
I told James I thought it was a great fit. “My people will love it,” I said. “But I can’t feel good about launching this project until my other Kickstarter ships though.”
“How about February?” James asked.
“Perfect,” I said.
But things didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped. And by the time I knew the NOTW kickstarter was going to be shipping late, James had already brought other people onboard and scheduled his launch. There was no good way to move things around.
The Good News:
Despite my Midwestern guilt and the awkwardness of having these kickstarters overlap, I’m still really excited.
Not only is the game designed by James Ernest, but the art is going to be done by Shane Tyree. He did the NOTW deck with Albino dragon. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to working with him again:
The previous kickstarter was a deck of cards *about* The Name of the Wind. But this is something different. This is a deck of cards *from* the Four Corners. It’s the deck of cards that Kvothe and Wil and Sim would sit down and play with at Ankers.
A few details:
This isn’t a standard deck of 52 cards. It’s a pyramid deck with 55.
It’s got ten tens, nine nines, eight eights, and so on.
The point of the game is to avoid pairs. To simplify this all the cards of each number have the same picture. (So there’s one Tinker, two Amyr, three nobles, etc etc, all the way down to 8 Bandits, 9 Beggars, and 10 Ruh.)
The one exception is the sevens. We hit one of our early stretch goals, so the sevens (Calamities) are each going to be unique. I’m sure the savvy among you can figure out why.
Folks were clamoring for an Adem mercenary in the deck, so we’re going to put that in. It’s probably going to replace the courtesan.
Honestly, there’s a lot more I could tell you about the decks, but I think I’ll save that for a later blog.
For now, I’ll just keep it to two things:
1. We’d like to do some other decks from my world, too. A Modegan deck. A University deck. A Faen deck….
James is hoping to bring in decks from other worlds, too. Like a Girl Genius deck done by Phil Foglio. I would love to see that.
But those need to happen as stretch goals. That way James can cover printing costs and afford to pay the artists.
That means the more people jump onto the kickstarter early, the more decks we’ll all have to choose from.
So earlier in the year, I annouced my current con schedule. On that schedule, I mentioned that I’d be hitting Worldcon, just like I do every year…
But about a month ago, the folks from Penny Arcade contacted me and asked if I’d like to come out to PAX.
I said I would like to come, I’ve wanted to hit PAX for *years*, but PAX overlaps Worldcon, and I already had plans.
Then they clarified, they wanted me to come out to PAX and play some D&D.
I told them it was tempting, as I do love me some tabletop. But, y’know, Worldcon….
But wait, they said. This isn’t just *any* D&D. You’d be be playing with Mike, Jerry, and Scott. You’d be the fourth member of Acquisitions Incorporated.
“…” I said eloquently. “But… I should really….”
Then they mentioned that they’d be willing to donate some money to Worldbuilders if I came out.
And that, as they say, was that.
I contacted Worldcon as soon as I knew. I had them pull me from the website and made sure they didn’t put me on any programming. I also went back and edited the blog I wrote about my 2013 appearances, and removed the Con from my tour schedule page.
But I couldn’t make an announcement on the blog until Penny Arcade made the news public that I was going to be involved this year.
So the bad news is that I’m bowing out of Worldcon this year. I’m sorry for the folks that were hoping to catch me there.
But the good news is that there will be a series of podcasts that everyone can listen to, and they’ll lead up to the main event at PAX, where I will D&D it up live onstage with Jerry, Mike, and Scott. That event will be recorded so there will be video footage of me making an idiot out of myself for y’all to share and enjoy.
I’ll also have a reading in Seattle at the University Bookstore when I’m out there, for those in the area who won’t be able to go to PAX. There’s more information on my Tour Page, and on the Facebook Event.
The next day y’all stomped in to the tune of about 70,000 dollars, blowing past that goal and every other stretch goal we’d planned out.
In celebration, Shane drew a picture of me as a sort of great Krakken-bearded beast.
Because everyone loved it so much, we made the art available as magnet and t-shirt add-ons.
We currently stand at 440,000 dollars. Almost three times the previous record. The video of me singing will be forthcoming.
I added 100 more jots to the kickstarter, doubling the previous levels.
I mention this early in the blog so those you can hopefully go and grab some before they’re all gone again.
Here’s a picture of the finished product, complete with the maker’s mark. Rest assured, more jots will be available in the future. Both in the Tinker’s Packs, and as a Worldbuilders fundraiser toward the end of the year.
Better Gaff Cards
Here’s the thing: all poker decks come with 2 gaff cards. They’re pretty useless. They usually have the rules for poker or some advertizement.
Shane and I came up with the idea of replacing them with something cool. We set stretch goals, then burned right through them….
So now we’re having:
1. A Lorren Gaff card that people can use as a bookmark. (Image forthcoming.)
2. A Willem Gaff card that you can use as a replacement card in your deck in case one of the cards is damaged.
All the Limited and Unlimited decks will have these Gaff cards included free.
We do this because we love you.
Signed Lorren Bookplates
Using the Lorren card art, Shane is going to make me a bookplate. My very first bookplate ever.
There’s only two ways of getting this bookplate.
1. You can add one to your order for five bucks. (Up to three.)
2. You get one for free if your order is $135 or more.
That’s it. Those are the only two ways to get them.
Would I love to include these bookplates with every order? Yes. But as it is, please understand that I’m going to be signing, like, 3000 of them. If I gave one away with every order, I’d be signing them for *days.*
That said, we have a stretch goal set at 450K. If we hit that, I’ll give one to everyone who buys in for 100 bucks or more.
Or, as I like to think of it, the Taborlin deck.
I’ve always wanted a deck of marked cards. So I asked Shane if we could do one. And he said yes. And so we are…
You can add a marked deck to any Kickstarter pledge for 15 bucks. And they have a different back from the others.
(I love the imagery here.)
Now here’s the thing: am I creating a deck of cards for cheaters?
No. I’m making a marked deck of cards. Because I think it’s cool.
Now you could use this deck of cards for evil if you wanted. But that’s your choice. You can use a screwdriver to kill someone if you wanted. That’s not necessarily what a screwdriver is for.
I like to think of this as the Taborlin deck because it will be *awesome* for card tricks.
Also, I’d get together with my friends and have a night of poker where everyone *tries* to cheat. Where it is effectively, *fair* to cheat. We would also probably drink whiskey and pretend to be cowboys of some sort.
Because I am seven years old inside, apparently.
In this deck, the gaff cards won’t be Wil and Lorren. They’ll contain the details of the marked-card cypher.
International shipping on the poker sets
Because several of you asked for this in the comments, we’ve added that as a special donation tier. (The rest of you can add the box sets as a simple add-on.)
The international shipping is expensive, but that’s because those high-quality clay chips are *heavy* and we’re going to be packaging them very, very carefully.
Guest appearances by Neil Gaiman and Felicia Day
Neil and Felicia graciously allowed us to use their likenesses for our two jokers: Elodin and Auri.
We listed these as stretch goals and met them less than a day later.
Reactions were divided. Some people made a vast ululating *squee* noise. Others said something along the lines of, “Boo! I want to see the *real* Auri and Elodin!”
So I just want to clarify things. We aren’t just going to draw Gaiman as Elodin, as if he were doing some sort of cosplay. That would be lame.
(Actually, that would be kinda awesome….)
But no. That’s not what’s going on here at all.
First off, the main reason Shane and I thought of Neil and Felicia is because they both possess certain characteristics we feel are very appropriate to Elodin and Auri.
Hell, I did an interview with Felicia on my blog back in 2008. Back before she was FELICIA DAY. While we were chatting, I asked which part she’d pick if she could play anyone in The Name of the Wind movie. She said, “My dream role would be Auri. I like playing damaged goods….”
And I thought, Yeah. I could totally see that. She has a whimsy about her that would be perfect….
Does that mean Auri is going to have red hair like Felicia? No. Obviously not. Auri will have Auri’s hair. But her expression and face will be influenced by Felicia’s because it works for the character.
It’s the same way we brought Jim Butcher in as everyone’s favorite Jackass:
(God. I want to slap him so much….)
It doesn’t really look too much like Jim, but if you know it’s there, you can spot it.
Gaiman is a similar good fit for Elodin. Trust me about this. Neil and Felicia are perfect for my two wise fools.
Almost exactly 24 hours ago, I did a video conference with Shane and Erik, the folks behind Albino Dragon. We were going to plan our strategies for the final days of the kickstarter. Plan stretch goals. Talk strategy.
But before we could get into that, Shane said, “We’d like to give 5% of Albino Dragon to Worldbuilders.”
“Sorry?” I said.
“We’d like to give 5% of Albino Dragon to Worldbuilders.”
And then I just kinda sat there. I knew what he’d said, but I didn’t quite believe he’d said it.
So I asked. “Do you mean you’d like to give Worldbuilders a piece of the profit from this project? More than we already negotiated?”
No, he said. Then he explained again.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
Shane and Erik have built this company themselves with their time and energy, with their blood and sweat and money.
And they want to give a piece of it to Worldbuilders.
We couldn’t mention it on the kickstarter itself, of course. Because kickstarter projects can’t be directly associated with charities.
But yes, they were serious.
“And if we hit 500,000 before the end of the kickstarter,” Erik said. “We’d like to give you another 5%.”
It’s not often that I’m caught completely flat-footed and at a loss for words. But I was, I honestly was.
Eventually I kinda pulled myself together. “That’s really amazingly generous of you guys,” I said. “It’s amazingly kind of you. I’m so flattered, and I’m floored, and I’m stupefied. It’s one of the most ridiculously generous things anyone has ever offered me, and I don’t know how to respond.”
Then I paused and took a deep breath. “But maybe you want to think this over. Chat about it. Make sure it’s something you really want to do. We can talk about it some more tomorrow.”
And they kinda laughed at me. They explained that they’d already thought it over and talked about it. Which is why they were making me the offer now.
I nodded for a while kinda absentmindedly, getting my head together.
“If you let me tell this story on my blog,” I said. “Me and my people will blow the fucking roof off the last two days of this kickstarter. We will bring thunder and fury to your very door. We will shake the earth.”
They said they were okay with that.
So. Here is our 500K stretch goal.
Now. Let’s be honest here. Are Shane and Erik being generous? Absolutely.
Are they being perfect, saintlike altruists? No. They’re clever folks. Really amazingly clever. Because with a single piece of outside-the-box thinking and startling generosity, they’ve brought me onto their team. I’m going to *so* many projects with them in the future. So many.
And you know what? I’m fine with that. Because they do awesome work.
This is the best sort of cleverness. The sort of cleverness where everyone is awesome, and everyone wins.
Now I’m not asking y’all to rush over and join the kickstarter. If you’ve already signed up, I’m not asking you to run over and increase your order.
But if you were thinking of picking up some of the new add-ons anyway…. Well, you can make that purchase knowing that an even larger portion of the money is going to a good cause.
And if you have a friend that loves NOTW, and you wanted to buy them an deck of cards as early Christmas present…. Well, you can rest assured that not only will that deck be as awesome as I can make it, but that the money is going directly to the artists. To the company they themselves own.
And if you wanted to twitter about this. Or talk about it on your blog. Or drop a link to this blog on facebook….
Well, I’d take that as a kindness. Because we have less than two days left.
And I’d really like to show Shane and Erik that they’ve made a good choice here.
Later space cowboys,
P.S. If you have any questions about the kickstarter. You can ask them in the comments here. I’ll answer the ones I can. But tomorrow’s a busy day, and I’m flying out to Ohio for a convention.
So if some of the more kickstarter-savvy among you can help out with some answers too, I’d really appreciate it.
As with all of my events, I’ll show up, read some stuff, and answer any questions people might have.
And by “Answer questions” I mean that if you ask me a question, I will tell a rambling story that may in some way relate to the topic of your question.
Also, there will probably be some jokes. And maybe cussing. I also might sing.
After all that, I’ll sign books until everyone has as many books signed as they want to have signed. Books.
If you can’t make it to the signing, you might want to consider stopping by….
I’m GOH this year at Origins. It’s in Columbus, and runs from the June 12th to the 16th.
We’re trying something new at this convention. Since I’m Guest of Honor and all, we’re going to have a booth in the dealer’s hall.
That means that if you want to buy a Kingkiller t-shirt, you can swing by the booth and get one. Want a Draccus poster? You can swing by the booth and grab one. Set of Talent Pipes? Same thing.
Really, pretty much anything that normally shows up in The Tinker’s Packs, you can swing by the booth and grab it there with the added bonus of not having to pay shipping costs.
And it’s possible we’ll have some *new* stuff there that isn’t available at all in the store. Cool stuff. Secret-y stuff….
As always, proceeds go to Worldbuilders.
What’s more, I’ll be hanging out at the booth to sign books and meet people, too.
If you’re not normally a convention-type person, Origins does something pretty cool They offer a day pass on Saturday so people can come in and wander around the show. It costs just 10 bucks for a person, or 15 bucks for your whole family. You have access to *most* of the convention, and you get free run of the dealer’s hall, can play game demos, and stuff like that.
So even if you don’t want to hit the whole con, you could still stop by and see me at my booth, get a book signed and hang out for a bit.
Then there’s Me, Amanda and Kat. I’m easy to spot, as I’m the only boy.
Unseen but not unloved is Nate, who took the picture. And Brett, who happens to be roaming the earth right now, trying to collect all the pieces of the triforce. Or something. I honestly don’t know what he’s doing, but I suspect it’s something like a vacation.
And honestly? He deserves a vacation. Everyone here does. Without these lovely people, Worldbuilders wouldn’t have happened. I would have had a nervous breakdown and lit everything on fire sometime around December 18th.
Of course it goes without saying that without all of *you* Worldbuilders wouldn’t have happened either. So you all deserve vacations as well. Take one. And if anyone gives you grief about it, tell them I said it was okay.
I feel like I should point out that what you see in the picture above aren’t even all the packages. That’s just the final batch we sent out Tuesday.
I would have liked to get these prizes in the mail sooner. But…. well…. things got a little complicated this year.
You see, up until this year, Worldbuilders has been something I banged together on my own with a couple people helping out.
The first year Sarah helped me. The second year (2009), I had an assistant to lend a hand.
In 2010 & 2011, I had an assistant and a half, and some other friends helped with packaging, e-mail, some of the bookkeeping….
But I was still trying to run it all myself.
I hope it doesn’t disillusion y’all to learn that I am not a great organizer. Worldbuilders worked, but things were pretty chaotic behind the scenes. This didn’t particularly bother me, as I tend to gravitate toward Chaotic Good anyway…
But every year Worldbuilders got bigger. And every year there was more to do. And every year I was a little more overwhelmed.
So this year I brought in people to run the charity. Smart, lovely people. People who could organize things. People who liked to make spreadsheets. People to answer the e-mail and run the store. People to package and talk to donors and take pictures and help me put together the blogs.
And I learned two things:
1. It’s awesome having enough help.
2. It takes a lot of time do things the right way.
We’ve got an inventory system now where we scan in books with a bar code reader. (Before we entered them into a spreadsheet manually.)
Now we can print out winner’s addresses on sticky labels. (Before we printed them out in Word, cut them out, and taped them onto the package.)
These thing are so nice, but it took us a while to get them all in place and running smoothly.
What’s more, we now have our own *building* now. For the last several years we’ve been running this whole thing out of an old student rental I bought on the cheap. Now we have space to spread out and grow. But it’s taken us a while to move in.
Plus, we had a lot more prizes to give out this year. A lot more books and a lot more winners.
Now, answers to a few questions.
How will I know if I’ve won?
A package will show up at your house in the next couple weeks. A springtime surprise.
Please keep in mind that while there were a lot of winners, there were also a lot of donors.
If you won one of the specialty prizes, like the favor ring, or my tuckerization, or the ARC of Stardust, I’ll be getting in touch with you over the next couple days. So if and unfamiliar number shows up on your cell phone, you might want to answer it.
Will you be posting up a list of winners?
Sorry. We won’t. It would be a violation of the winner’s privacy.
If the winners are okay with it, we’ll share what’s happens with some of the bigger prizes. Like the favor ring and the ARC of Stardust. But that will be their choice, I’m afraid.
If you’d like to take a picture of yourself with your prizes, you could post them up in the Worldbuilders Facebook Group so that everyone can gaze on you with envious desire.
What were this year’s final totals? How much did we raise?
For that information and much more, stay tuned. We’ve got a lot of cool news coming up….
Well, actually, let me tell you a story that consists of several stories. And it’s *about* stories.
This should not surprise anyone, really. This is what I do.
* * *
Back in 2009 I attended Gen Con as author Guest of Honor. It was one of my first GOH gigs, and at a convention I’ve been attending off and on for most of my adult life.
That said, I was still a pretty new author in 2009. I only had one book out, and had only been published for two years. People came to my signings and panels. I had fun. But honestly, I wasn’t a very big deal.
Wandering around the dealer’s hall, at one point someone came up to me and said, “What makes you so honorable?” When I gave him a baffled look, he pointed down at the ribbon on my badge that said. “Guest of Honor.”
“Oh,” I said. “I write books.”
“Oh,” he said. And walked away.
* * *
After taking a break from Gen Con for a couple years, I headed back in 2012. I wasn’t GOH or anything, and was mostly going to play some games and hang out with friends, including my new bestie Robert Gifford of Geek Chic.
But in 2012 I’d been published for *five* years. And I had *two* books out. I’ve hit #1 on the New York Times. I’ve been hugged by Felicia Day. I’m not really a big deal, but I’m certainly a bigger deal than I ever was before….
The difference was most notable when I walked around the dealer’s room. People would stop and say, “Are you Patrick Rothfuss?” And we’d stop and chat a little bit. One particularly memorable couple came up to me and said, “That’s the best Pat Rothfuss cosplay we’ve ever seen! The beard looks so real!” and asked to get a picture with me.
I won’t lie, it’s kinda fun. One of the main reasons I go to conventions is to meet up with my readers. My readers are lovely people.
Still, I was surprised at how *many* people recognized me. Artists, dealers running their booths. Catgirls.
On Sunday, a tall dark stranger came up to me and said, “You’re Pat Rothfuss, aren’t you?”
“Yup,” I said. We shook hands and I read his badge. “Nice to meet you Colin,” I gestured to the vast panoply of geekery around us. “How do you fit into all of this?”
“I write games,” he said.
“Role Playing stuff? Computer games?”
“Both,” he said. “I worked on Planescape back in the day…”
“The computer game?” I asked.
“Planescape Torment?” I asked.
He nodded again.
“You are fucking kidding me,” I said. “I was just talking to someone about Torment. That was one of the best games I’ve ever played.”
He looked at little surprised at this, “Wow,” he said. “I….”
“The narrative was brilliant,” I said. “It’s been ten years, and I haven’t known a game to come close to it.”
“I mean you had honest-to-god open-ended character development that was an integral part of the main narrative,” I said. “Nobody else has ever pulled that off as well. It was amazing.”
“I still remember the interaction you could have with some of the NPC’s,” I said. “You actually had to be clever talking to them. You could offend them and piss them off. The writing was solid and smart. You had a branching narrative that still felt cohesive and engaging. I’ve never seen that handled so well except for maybe in the early Fallout games.”
“And the dialogue,” I said. “It was great. How the hell do you manage to write things like that? To keep track of all the different ways a conversation can go…?”
Eventually I shut up long enough for him to tell me he liked my books. We traded e-mail addresses, and he offered to show me what the dialogue trees looked like when you’re writing a computer game.
I was happy as a kid at Christmas.
* * *
A couple months later, in November, Colin and I chatted a bit.
“We’re going to be writing a game that will follow in Torment’s footsteps,” he said. “Good character. Good story.”
“I’m tingly at the very thought,” I said.
“Want to help write some of it?” he asked.
“Oh shit,” I said. “Yes. I’ve always wanted to take a poke a writing a computer game.”
“Cool,” Colin said.
“No,” I said. “I want to, but I can’t. I have to work on Book Three.”
“We don’t want you to write *all* of game,” Colin said. “Maybe just a side area. Subplot. A piece.”
I made a miserable noise. “I can’t.” I said. “My editor would be pissed. My readers would be pissed. I’m already behind schedule.”
“That sucks,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
I’m paraphrasing a bit, you realize. But the sentiment is dead-on. When I said “no” I felt like a kid who had to stay inside and practice the piano while all his friends got to go eat ice cream and have awesome sex on the moon.
* * *
Colin: You sure?
Me: I really can’t. Revision is going slow. I should keep grinding away.
Colin: Fair enough. I understand.
* * *
I bring in Colin McComb, Jerry Holkins (From Penny Arcade), and Veronica Belmont (From Sword and Laser) to talk about videogames and storytelling on Storyboard.
It ends up being one of my favorite episodes so far, probably because everyone is passionate and outspoken. Colin, Jerry, and Veronica all know so much more than I do on the subject, and that’s great.
(Sorry. It’s embedding ugly. Just click over to Youtube.)
Colin mentions the upcoming Torment game. They’re going to launch the kickstarter tomorrow. They’ve got a lot of great creative people on the project.
During the panel, I get a little crotchety about modern games. I make some noises along the lines of, “Video games are pissing away the storytelling opportunities available to them. There’s bad writing. Foolish mistakes. When I was a kid….”
Jerry steps in and says, “We’re at the helm now. If we see these things we don’t like, it’s our fault. [...] We can’t just point at it and expect the universe to fill it.”
It’s startling to hear. But he’s right, of course. I know he’s right.
They raise over $2,000,000 in less than a day. It seems like I’m not the only one who remembers those old games fondly.
* * *
I realize the story I’m trying to write for an anthology isn’t working out. It’s my second attempt to write a story to fill this obligation I agreed to more than a year ago. I’m months overdue, and I feel like an asshole.
I need to get this story done and out of the way so I can get back to working on book three.
Though honestly, those revisions aren’t going that well either. It feels like a grind. It’s going slow.
* * *
I’m at the Tucson Festival of Books, eating Pizza with Sam Sykes, Kevin Hearne, and Diana Gabaldon.
Sam Sykes says, “We’re at our most creative when we’re at play.” Then he tells a story about a famous director who would send people home for the day if they were taking their job too seriously.
And he’s right, of course. I know he’s right.
* * *
Coming home from Tucson, I think to myself, “Fuck it. When I get home, I’m going to start a new story for that anthology. Something fun.”
* * *
I decide I’m going to write a story about Bast.
I have no idea what the story will be about. I have no plan. I have no plot in my head. Honestly nothing.
When I teach, I stress that writing is not merely a communicative process. People think writers are effectively engaging in transcription. We have something in our heads, and we just write it down. That’s how people think stories happen.
But that’s not how it works. Writing can be communication. But most of the time, writing is a generative process. The story comes into being as it’s being written. It’s about discovery. Assuming you have to know what happens before you sit down to write is a rookie mistake.
So I sit my ass down. I decide I’m going to take my own advice. I’m going to write even though I have no plan. I’m going to write and see where it takes me.
I’m going to be irresponsible. I’m going to play.
At the end of the day, I’ve written 4,500 words.
* * *
I write 16,000 words. Good solid words. That’s not even counting the crap I trimmed out and threw away. I finish the Bast story except for one or two small scenes. It will be a great fit for the anthology.
I feel great. I’m excited about writing again. I think about revising book three and it sounds fun. I want to get back to it.
If you don’t know how much 16,000 words is. Let me put it in perspective for you.
If I wrote 16,000 words every week. By the end of the year I would have produced over 800,000 words of text.
That’s twice as long as The Wise Man’s Fear.
If I can maintain my sense of play. I could easily write a book a year.
A book a year *plus* all the other things. Fun little stories. Poems and songs. Maps.
* * *
I call Betsy, my editor. She’s glad to hear the writing’s going well again.
She’s not surprised that a fun side project has helped refresh me. She’s knows how writers’ brains work. She knows more about it than I do, actually. That’s her job.
She’s a great editor.
* * *
I send Colin an e-mail. Then I decide to call him, instead because I know we’re getting down to the wire.
“Do you still want me?” I ask. “I know it’s kinda late.”
“We’d love to have you,” he said. “We can add you as a stretch goal.”
“How much writing are we talking about here?” I ask.
“Maybe 10,000 words,” Colin says. “More if you like. Less if you need it to be less.”
“Could I maybe help with some of the character arcs too?” I ask. “I’m pretty good with character. You could use me as a sounding board if nothing else, and ignore me if you think I’m being an idiot.”
“Um…. let me think,” Colin says sarcastically. I can hear the smile in his voice. “A chance to chat with you about stories and character development. I think the answer to that is…. yes. “
I want to for so many reasons. But still, I hesitate.
“We’ll pay you of course,” he says. He names a number. “I could get you more, if you need it.
“That seems fair,” I say. “I don’t want to put the squeeze on you.”
Then a knee-jerk instinct kicks in. “However…” I say in my best used-car salesman voice. “I do run a charity….”
“You mean Worldbuilders?” he says.
“Oh,” I say, pleasantly surprised. “You’ve heard of it.”
“Of course I’ve heard of it,” he says.
“Well,” I say slowly. “This year we started accepting corporate sponsorships….”
“I can make that happen,” Colin says. “I’ll talk to the boss, and one way or another, we’ll make it happen.”
“Okay,” I say. “You’ve got me.”
* * *
So there you go. Pretty soon, within just a couple of hours, they’re going to be announcing my involvement in the project.
I’m not going to lie. I think it’s going to be an awesome game, and I’m not just saying that because I’m writing a piece of it.
If you’re on the fence, here are a couple reasons to consider jumping into the kickstarter.
1. If you’re planning on buying the game eventually, it’s cheaper to buy it now.
2. If you know you’re going to want to try it later, chipping in early means they’ll be able to make it an even better game. More development money means more content.
3. If a healthy number of my readers rush over and jump onboard, I get to look kinda cool to the developers. They’ll think things like, “Oh, maybe we didn’t make a horrible mistake bringing that Rothfuss guy in.”
4. You have to give these guys credit for supporting Worldbuilders. That’s mighty damn nice of them.
5. This is the first step in my extended master plan. If this goes well, it means we’re *much* more likely to see a Kingkiller game. More importantly, a Kingkiller game I’ll be able to have a direct hand in. Personally, I think that would about a thousand flavors of awesome.
Later Space Cowboys, I’m off to sleep. I’ve got a story to finish tomorrow….