silently and back to me

Patrick Stewart and I were participating in a charity auction. We both had our TNG uniforms to put on the block, and a room filled with over a thousand people was waiting for us to bring them onto the stage … but I couldn’t find mine. I searched a seemingly infinite number of closets in a hotel room that seemed to change size and configuration, thwarting my increasingly harried efforts to find it.

Then I was on the street in front of a different hotel. I needed to check out, but my suitcase was locked inside my room, and I didn’t have a key. I climbed a precarious fire escape and made my way across a cavernous lobby atrium — looking and feeling like something out of Angel Heart — to finally get inside the room.

When I got into the hotel room, I realized that I had to change out of my clothes. I didn’t know why, but I knew that it was incredibly important that I do it. I began to change my clothes, but when I took off my shirt, it revealed another shirt beneath it. When I took off that shirt, it happened again.

I had to check out of this hotel room, or I was going to miss my flight to Australia, but before I could leave, I had to take a shower. But I couldn’t take a shower until I changed out of my clothes, and the clock was ticking down. I began to panic.

I opened my eyes and saw my bedroom dimly lit by the faintest grey light of dawn through my blinds. My heart was pounding, my body was covered in sweat. Cold terror washed over me as I woke up, and I realized that I was in the middle of a panic attack.

This used to happen to me on an almost nightly basis, but it hasn’t happened for years, until this week. This week, it’s happened every night. I’m starting to dread going to sleep, creating what I think is a self-fulfilling prophecy, an orobouros of anticipation and terror.

I breathed as deeply and calmly as I could, willing my heart to calm down. It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not real. I repeated, in my head. Just stress dreams. You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay.

I’m not okay.

By any objective measure, I don’t have a good reason to feel stressed or worried or even mildly upset about anything, but my brain is broken and it does this to me when I least expect it. Like it’s waiting for to me work long and intense days, so I’m tired and weak when I climb into bed, so it can launch a sneak attack when I’m least able to defend against it.

My heart settled down. I realized that I hadn’t had any feeling in my hands, when feeling began to return to them. I sighed heavily, and frowned. This isn’t fair. I should be able to go to sleep without fearing what is waiting for me when I get there. I was frustrated. I was a little angry. I was really, really exhausted, even though I’d been in bed and sleeping for close to eight hours.

I was filled with a mixture of adrenaline and dread, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep. Though I didn’t technically need to be up and out of bed for another hour, I angrily kicked off the covers, and got out of bed.

This isn’t fair, I thought. This isn’t fair.

A bunch of stuff about Dread, Titansgrave, Armada, Brewing TV, and TNG

There’s a lot of stuff to share, which all happened in the last 24ish hours for some reason, so I’m just going to put all that stuff here in one post, instead of spreading it out.

Huh. When I put it in a list like that, it doesn’t seem like that much stuff. In fact, it’s not as impressive as it felt when it all came into my inbox or whatever one at a time over the last couple of days.  Maybe I should have split it up.

Anyway, I’m still working on the audiobook for Armada, and I’m about halfway through. It’s a really fun story, and I’m having a great time performing it.  In the last two days, though, I’ve learned to have tremendous empathy for people who have a daily commute, and boy am I grateful that I don’t have a daily commute.


Titansgrave: complete concept art image

Here’s the entire image I’ve been sharing bits of for the last week:


You can click to embiggen, and it’s huge. In fact, this image is so large, you could probably use it for your desktop if you were so inclined.

So this brings together everything that we wanted our artists (we have a team of artists from around the world working with us) to know, going into the show. You can see the elements of science fiction and fantasy, all living together. You can see the gleaming towers of a futuristic city in the back, looming over the more modest buildings in the foreground. You can see a few different races, including the Saurian walking with that robot, which I freaking love.

Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana premieres on Geek & Sundry this June.


The conclusion of DREAD

Yesterday, part two of DREAD on Tabletop was released.

I’m so happy with the way this whole thing came together, and it was fantastic practice for me when it was time to start running Titansgrave. I thought the players did a wonderful job exploring their characters — Ivan has a surprising and powerful moment in this episode — and I hope that their commitment to storytelling inspires players everywhere to keep the ROLE in Roleplaying.

A lot of you have asked to see the player questionnaires, and I’m working on that. I know that we have them somewhere at the office, but I don’t know precisely where they are. As soon as we find and scan them, I’ll share them.

Titansgrave: Unpacking some of the technology.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in this piece of our concept art. I’ll unpack some of it for you, and let your imagination do the rest. This section focuses pretty heavily on the science and technology aspect of the world, but you may notice those little dragon-like creatures perched up on the wires … I really love those things, and have this idea that they are maybe like pigeons or something in Valkana.


This is off to the right side of the full image, looking toward an alley that you probably don’t want to walk down if you’re not looking for some kind of trouble. In fact, maybe that’s Grell’s Alley, back there behind them.

I originally wanted those weird little quadrupedal, canine creatures to be tearing through a corpse or something, and I can’t remember why we ended up not doing that in this image. The idea was to convey that not all of Valkana is shiny and safe, or even clean. Some creatures that are similar to those things end up making an appearance in the show, and they’re pretty nasty.

Because this image predates the existence of cities like Nestora (where our PCs spend a fair amount of time), it ended up shaping a little bit of what that city looks and feels like in some districts. Parts of Nestora are as futuristic as they can be in a post-apocalyptic word, but there are other parts, like we see in this image. Guess where most of the masses live? I think it gives a clear sense of the divide between rich and poor in Nestora, and it helps explain why that city is in such turmoil when we first get there.

Other things in this image that I really like are that assassin dude in the doorway, the security camera/turret above him, and the armor that female warrior is wearing. Those glowing things on her leg are batteries, which power her weapon. We decided that there aren’t fossil fuels in Valkana, and batteries power just about everything from vehicles to shields to blasters. There are three different kinds of batteries, representing small, medium and heavy. We’re calling them Fulgin M, Fulgent, and Carsilorate. I really love how they all work, and I really want to just paste it all right here, but I can’t. Eventually, though, you’ll get to see that, and so much more, and now I’m going to hit publish and get back to work on some of that stuff.

Some more Titansgrave art is revealed…

We needed to convey to our artists and other creative partners that Valkana is a world where science and magic co-exist, feeding and supporting one another. Part of getting that across was showing this spaceship in the background of our first conceptual art image:


You can also see some skyscrapers in the deep background, as well as some smaller, fantasy-style structures closer to our Desmage in the foreground. We ended up going with a slightly less British countryside look for most of our buildings, just because I felt like a Tudor look was a little too on-the-nose and too much of a common fantasy trope.

Those wires have something really neat associated with them, and we’ll show you that when the whole image is revealed.

That time I met Billie Piper

So exactly two years and one day ago, this happened:

That's my guy holding my gal!
That’s my guy holding my gal!

Then, this happened:

John Barrowman Sweeps Wil Wheaton off his feetSo while we were at Ottawa Comicon, and I was swooning over Billie Piper, I asked her if she’d like to be part of this tradition, and this happened:

Wil Wheaton Meets Billie Piper
She said I was “lovely”

She said I was lovely, and she hugged me, and I was so excited I felt like my insides were made of bees.

My son and I take KITT for a spin

“Have fun with your friends!” I kissed Anne goodbye.

“Have fun watching hockey!” Anne kissed me goodbye.

“See you when you get home,” I said. I watched her walk down the driveway, and headed back into the house. Marlowe and Seamus ran up to me as I got close to the kitchen.

“It’s just us tonight, dogs,” I said. What they heard was, “Chopper, how about a bunch of treats?”

Marlowe jumped over Seamus’ back as she ran — galloped, really — to the pantry where the dog treats live. Seamus looked at me, waiting to see if there was any reason to go to the pantry.

“Okay,” I said. His ears perked up and his tail began to wag. “Yes, you can have a treat,” I said. His tail sprang to life. Marlowe scrambled, Flintstones-style, on the floor in front of the pantry door, as she ran in tight, excited circles.

I pulled out the treats, had them sit, and gave them each little training rewards. I hope that someday I will be as excited about anything as my dogs are about a treat that’s not even the diameter of a dime.

I headed to the couch and turned on the hockey game. Montreal was trying to force a seventh game against Tampa Bay, and they trailed by two goals in the second period. My phone buzzed:

Nolan: Mom said you're home alone watching hockey.
Me: It's true.
Nolan: Want to hang out?
Me: Sure. Come over whenever. The first game is on now.
Nolan: When does the second game start?

I looked up the schedule, realized that I was wrong about there being two games, and replied.

Me: Tomorrow.
Nolan: What? Wait. I'm confused.
Me: Hi, confused. I'm Wil.
Nolan: ...
Me: There's no second game today. Come over whenever you want.
Nolan: Okay. See you soon.

I watched most of the rest of the hockey game. It wasn’t ever very close, and Tampa Bay won, eliminating the Habs (and the last Canadian team) from the playoffs. I felt bad for Canada, but as a life long Kings fan I’ll never get over 1993 (or Macho Grande), and there are so many players on this Canadiens team who I think are jerks, I was glad to see them go.

Nolan came into the house shortly after the game ended. The dogs ran laps around the house to welcome him.

We decided that we’d watch a movie or something together. As we searched through Netflix and the DVR, I said, “You know, I have the complete series of the original Knight Rider, from the 80s.”

“Knight Rider?” He said.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s about –”

“A guy with a talking car.” He said. Not a question, but a continuation of my thought.

“That’s … uh …” I began.

But it’s more than that, I thought. It’s about … um … fighting crime! And that lady in the jumpsuit with the boots! And the old British guy, whatshisname! And KITT is, like, um … a talking car.

“Yeah, that’s pretty much what it’s about,” I said, “but it’s awesome!”

“Awesome like when you showed me text games, or awesome like something that is actually awesome?”

“Someday, you’ll thank me for showing you,” I reminded him. “because of me, you’ll never be eaten by a Grue.”

Before he could remind me that it was unlikely that would have happened anyway, I continued. “This show is genuinely awesome. It has The Hoff, the talking car, and is so unapologetically 1980s, you’re going to love it — and I don’t mean ironically. I mean you’re going to legit love it.”

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s give it a try.”

I searched through all the episodes I had, and decided that I wanted to show him something from the first season. Sure, I could have jumped in right away with KARR and Michael Knights Evil Twin™, but I was afraid it would confuse him, not knowing the rich backstory of a man who does not exist. I settled on a first season episode called Sammy’s Super Stunt Spectacular, where Michael and KITT must save a car stunt show from an evil developer, after the show’s owner, Sammy, is wounded in an accident which was engineered by the evil developer’s minions. It featured all manner of profoundly lame car stunts that were actually charming in their execution, and a stunt driver with a Hasselhoff wig that really should get its own spinoff series, where the wig is voiced not by the St. Elsewhere guy, but Mister Belvedere*.

Over 49 minutes, we were treated to some truly entertaining early 80s prime time action television. By the time it was over, Nolan was officially on board.

“So I think we need to watch this entire series,” he said.

“I knew I raised you right,” I said. “How’s your weekend looking?”

“Let’s not get carried away,” he said. “Knight Rider is something to be savored.”

“That’s … uh … ” I began.

We looked at each other, as the credits rolled and the theme music played.

“That’s pretty much exactly what it is.”

*In the pilot episode, the wig, called WIGG (which stands for Walking Investigation Guy’s Gear) helps the star of the show, Ted Jacobs, played by a young Parker Stevenson, works for Devon after Michael Knight drives off into mystery. Ted Jacobs, a former astronaut in training who faked his own death, helps solve the mystery of the missing computer tapes and saves a daycare center from an evil developer. Nell Carter and Justin Bateman co-star.



Titansgrave: The Saurian Empire

Continuing with our slow reveal of the world of Valkana, here’s another piece of art:

Early Saurian Prototype

So what you see here is an early rendering of our lizardpeople race, who we call Saurians. In the history of Valkana, the Saurians were the dominant species for a very long time, due to their mastery of technology. While the other indigenous species were crawling up out of the mud, the Saurians built mighty war machines, and dominated the world. They enslaved the Orcs (the Orcs are still pretty upset about this) and subjugated the Elves, Dwarves, and Cloustra, among others.

But one day, there was an apocalyptic event (every species and society has their own version of the story, and their own explanation of the sky falling down). When the sky fell down on the world, the Orcs took it as a sign and rebelled against the Saurians. The other peoples of Valkana saw the Orcs rebelling, and decided to get on that train while it was still chugging along.

A long and brutal war ensued, but eventually the Saurians were defeated, at great cost to all sides.

Now, the world is mostly at peace, and though old tensions still simmer, the Saurians and Orcs live side by side with Elves, Humans, Dwarves, and the Professorandmaryann,  in a world they built  on the ruins of the old.

In our campaign, Hank Green is playing a female Saurian, and Yuri Lowenthal is playing a Half Saurian/ Half Orc. They both have incredibly interesting back stories, and we had a great time exploring them.

Valkana is a broken and wounded world (or: the first Titansgrave FAQ)

This week, we’re going to be releasing a bunch of cool stuff to get you excited about Titansgrave (and to remind me what we’re all working so hard toward, because at the moment I’m so close to it I don’t know if I’m making the right editorial decisions any more.)

To get started, I’m sharing something from an ask on my Tumblr thing:

tallawkandnerdy asked:

I’m very excited to watch the Titansgrave series. I’m not too familiar with RPG games, but would like to be. Will I be super confused watching?

Maybe it’s a good idea for me to put some FAQ answers here:

What’s the system?

It’s called the AGE system, and it’s from Green Ronin. AGE is a 3d6 system that powers the Dragon Age RPG. The basic mechanic is: roll three dice, add them together, apply a modifier, and see if the total meets or exceeds a target number.

For example, my warrior wants to smash a goblin in the face with her axe. The goblin is squishy and lame, so the target number I need to get is 10. I roll my three dice, and I add them together: 8. Well, that’s pretty typical for the way I roll dice, isn’t it? Lucky for me, my warrior is really tough, and her strength (which is the thing I’ll use to see how good I am at smashing things with my axe) is 3. 8+3=11, so the goblin is now a two-headed dead goblin.

There’s this thing in the AGE system that I really like, called “stunts”. It works like this: I have one of my three dice that is a different color than the other two. This is called my Action Die. Whenever I roll doubles on any of the three dice (which is almost half the time), I get to do something cool and extra. Exactly how cool is determined by the number on the Action Die; higher is better, so if I rolled 1, 1, 6 when I was smashing the goblin, I’d get to do a six point stunt, like maybe smash another goblin in the face with my axe on the same attack.

Okay, I realize that this has gone from a very simple thing to me nerding out about an RPG system I love, so I’ll get back to what I imagine are your questions.

What’s the world like? What’s it called?

We created a world of fantasy and science-fiction, inspired by things like Thundarr the Barbarian, the Heavy Metal movie, and On A Pale Horse. In our world, called Valkana, magic and technology exist side by side, so our wizards can cast mighty fireball spells against cyborg lizardfolk who are wielding swords.  Valkana is a broken and wounded world, a post-apocalyptic land of science fantasy that is so much fun to create and explore.

Who are the players?

Yuri Lowenthal, Alison Haislip, Hank Green, and Laura Bailey. There’s more about them all in this post. More information about their characters will be released this week.

Can I get the adventure to play with my group?

Yes! We’re on track to release The Ashes of Valkana at GenCon this year. After that (either later this year or early next year, depending on scheduling and things), we’ll release a more comprehensive guide to the whole world, so you can create your own adventures and explore Valkana with your group.

Will Titansgrave be the same format as Tabletop?

Not really. Tabletop is designed to share the experience we have playing a game, explain the rules, and create more gamers in a world that is crying out for them. Titansgrave will do some of that, but we’re not going to cut to rules explanations like we do on Tabletop.

We’ll have some graphics to show what the dice rolls are during combat, and we’ll probably spell mechanics out a little in the first couple of episodes, so people who aren’t experienced RPG players will know what’s going on. But I don’t want this show to be about rolling dice and looking at charts. I want this series to be about the story that we all tell together. I want to put the ROLE back into Roleplaying, get people to stop thinking about RPGs as exclusively tactical miniatures games (not that there’s anything wrong with them, it’s just not what I’m going for), and have a season of narrative storytelling that’s as compelling and interesting and shocking and moving and exciting as any fully-scripted program on television.

Maybe you can understand why I’m so nervous about everything coming together in exactly the right way, now. I have made the stakes and my expectations very high, because I didn’t have enough to worry about already.

Can we see some art from the show?

It’s like you knew the whole reason I sat down to write this post in the first place. You sure can:

Titansgrave One

So this is one part of a full image that we’re releasing a little bit at a time over the next few days. When the whole thing is assembled, you’ll see the image I used to show the actors and crew how I imagined Valkana’s particular blend of science fiction and fantasy would look.

In this image, you can see a special wizard class we created, which I call the Desmage. The Desmages are huge and burly, like a warrior, because they use their strength to manifest their magical abilities … at great cost to themselves (in game terms, it’s sort of like a bloodmage). We didn’t end up with any Desmage PCs in this season of the show, but this artwork was created before I knew who the PCs would be, so it’s in this image.

Where will Titansgrave air?

New episodes will be on Geek & Sundry, every Tuesday.

So I can only watch it at Geek & Sundry?

Nope. It’s still going to be in an embeddable player, and it will go on YouTube later the same week, but I’d like everyone who watches the stuff I create with Geek & Sundry to get used to watching stuff there, sort of the way you watch a TV channel.

Will there be gag reels?


Will it air every other week?

No. Every week, for ten weeks, you’ll get a new episode. The final episode will air right around GenCon.

When does it start?

We planned for June 2, but I decided to push release back by one week so we can make really good decisions about the first episode’s final cut, instead of making decisions in a rush because we want to hit that release date. We’re releasing something cool on June 2, but the first full episode will be coming out on June 9. Episode 0 will be out a few days before then, or on the 9th, depending on how the edit of that episode shakes out.

I want to know more!

There’s going to be stuff on the Geek & Sundry Facebook thing, and on the official Titansgrave homepage, so that’s a link you may want to hold onto, if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s also a Titansgrave forum at Geek & Sundry, because I guess forums are still a thing?

50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong

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