Thursday, April 12, 2012

Of Aristocrats and Experts, Part II

Yesterday, I wrote about how I came to eventually write (and have published) The Quintessential Aristocrat for Mongoose Publishing (which, I've learned, is now on-sale on RPG for the bargain price of $3.99! I don't get any royalties for this, so it's not a gratuitous plug).

   I Get Some Great Reviews

So, picking up where the story left off, the book came out and I ended up sending it over to a bunch of people for some reviews, including Crothian over at ENWorld (that review seems to be long-gone), and also my friend Wil (the same guy behind the recent "Table Top" show on Geek & Sundry) mentioned it on his blog which helped to generate a lot of interest for it.

Anyway, now pretty jazzed by the thought that I could actually commit to something and finish writing it, I of course turned my thoughts to "What's next?" I sent Matt a follow-up email in the Summer of 2004 and said, "I know you said that you were interested in publishing some other books in the Quintessential line. Do you have a particular topic that I could perhaps work on?"

Matt wrote back and said that he really wanted to do The Quintessential Expert and that he had in fact actually started working on writing it, but then he got too busy. He asked if I would be interested, and I said, "Yes!" so Matt sent me his notes.

   I Begin Writing The Quintessential Expert

What was really cool about his notes is that they were just a Word Doc and it was obvious that what he had done was take his notes from the very first Quintessential book he wrote (Quintessential Fighter) and then done a "Save As" and started typing over it. But, he never finished, so half of what he sent me was actually his old outline and notes for The Quintessential Fighter, and then the other half were his initial thoughts on The Quintessential Expert.

The notes were quite scant - a very short list of the character concepts (incuding the "Doxy") but no notes about how they would work, some equipment, and sparse notes about new uses for skills.

I took Matt's notes and ran with them and started to come up with my own ideas, of course.  Matt and I never really agreed on a deadline for this one, which ended up being my downfall.  I did a lot of research for this one, because it was a topic that I hadn't thought of on my own (unlike the Aristocrat book), so I felt the need to do even more research. I ended up with a list of Character Concepts that included the Apprentice Alchemist, Blacksmith, Cartographer, Doxy, Demolitionist, Guide, Herbalist, Historian, Inventor, Monster Specialist, Sailor, Scribe, Stone Mason, and Trader. Of those, as I remember, only the Blacksmith, Doxy, Guide, Mason, and Trader were on Matt's original list.

   I Add New Ideas to the Book - Alchemy, Primitive Gunpowder, and Inventions

You might also notice one there that looks kind of out-of-place - the Demolitionist. I decided that in order to jazz-up the Expert book, which originally was starting to look a little boring (I honestly was having a hard time trying to figure out how to turn some of the character concepts into Adventurers), I was going to take a different approach and add a bunch of stuff that hadn't seen a lot published in the d20 system yet - namely, alchemy, primitive gunpowder, and inventions. Those three things were actually going to turn into the core of the book.

For Prestige Classes, my list included the Apothecary, Engineer, Explorer, Forger, Judge, Master Alchemist, Merchant, Saboteur, Sage, Scout, Ship's Captain, and Siege Engineer. I wasn't super thrilled with my Prestige Classes because I felt that they really weren't "prestige" enough - they felt very generic, and that was something about the glut of PrCs that had really started to bother me around that time.

Similar to my Aristocrat book, I created a "new" chapter that wasn't in any of the other Quintessential books at that time - a look at multi-class options (how to optimize multi-classing an Expert with each of the 11 core classes in the Player's Handbook). For each of these, I utilized a relatively new concept at the time - the idea of swapping out the standard level-based class abilities for different abilities based on that face that you had a special "theme." I didn't have any multi-class options for Barbarians, Bards, Druids, Monks, Rangers, or Rogues. But, I had ideas for multi-class Cleric/Experts or Paladin/Experts (the Artifact Seeker; the cleric could lose the ability to spontaneously cast cure spells in order to gain a rogue's trapfinding ability). For Fighters, I had the Sapper, the Artillertist, and the Arms Crafter. For Sorcerers, I had the Arcane Investigator (and I described him as basically like an Agent Mulder type from "X-Files"). They were able to give up gaining an additional spell at certain levels in order to gain a "Contacts" ability and also to increase the power of their Divination spells. For Wizards, I had the Arcane Artisan.

   I Become a Victim of Too My Research and d20 Minutiae

What ended up happening is that I got so excited about my ideas to incorporate the concepts of alchemy, gunpowder, and inventions into the book that I spent way too much time trying to figure out the mechanics. I wanted to basically have a "definitive" Alchemist type class in the book, and rules for alchemy, and I wanted them to be based in historical ideas of alchemy, so I went to the library and to book stores and of course on the Internet. And I did the same thing with gunpowder.  The inventions part alone took tens of hours of work - trying to figure out the mechanics behind the process of creating the inventions, how they should work, what powers they should emulate, and then if all they were doing was emulating spells, then what was the point?

I got mired in a bunch of minutiae, and because it was just sort of a "fun" project for Matt (not intended as a money-maker), he never bugged me about it. Before I knew it, I'd been working on it for about two years, but I was still coming up with ideas. I changed jobs, and my wife and I bought a house. And I was STILL working on ideas for the book.

And then the announcement of 4th Edition came, and with it was an underlying theme, which was "It's so different that you shouldn't even bother trying to convert your 3.5 games. Just finish them up and then start a new 4th Edition campaign."

I was a little upset, but mainly just at myself for never having knuckled down and finish writing The Quintessential Expert. I think it would've been a fun book.

I still have all of my notes here on my laptop. Since at this point it's never going to be published as intended, would any of you readers be interested in me posting bits and pieces of each chapter? It's all based in 3.5-era d20 rules, but the ideas can always be stripped out to use in another rules set.  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: nothing
Listening: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" by Gene Pitney


  1. One of the great things about this little gaming corner of the internet is how people put their ideas out there for others to enjoy, whether it's a short description of a new monster, a map, or even an entire sourcebook. So I say yes, get it out there for the world to see!

  2. Thanks, Kelvin! Once thing I meant to add was - would you prefer if I rolled out the information piece-meal, like a character concept per day (or week or whatever), or would you prefer that I just condensed everything into a PDF and uploaded it somewhere for you to download?

    1. The advantage of dealing the material out bit by bit is that you can get thoughts and testing done on it as you go, before it's released as one volume. The disadvantage is that you may end up getting distracted by tweaking as you go and the project's overall coherence might suffer. I would say it's worth the risk, but that's just me!

  3. I wonder if, when you do finish, you couldn't self-publish it yourself?

    1. I have considered that, but one of the things that's holding me back is the lack of artwork, and I can't really afford to pay for any. But, I think it would be a dreadfully awful read without some art to break it up.

      If I were to self-publish, I'd probably just offer it for free because I'm not sure how many people would pay for something like this.

      I'd probably also have to go through and update everything to Pathfinder (it was written for 3.5). They're not major changes, but it would have to be done.

      You've published stuff before - would you recommend it?

    2. I would hope you self publish it, but it is your call of course. I know of an amateur artist who I work with who just takes a cut of the profit, perhaps you could find someone of a like mindset and just offer up the product for 2 dollars a digital download.


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