Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Of Aristocrats and Experts

Greetings, Cool Cats, Dames, and Daddy-Os!

As some of you probably know, a number of years ago I was lucky to be able to write (and get paid for) a d20 book for Mongoose Publishing called The Quintessential Aristocrat. It was part of their "Quintessential Series" that covered all 11 base classes and races in the 3.0/3.5 Player's Handbook, as well as some new classes and races like Samurai, Witches, and Kobolds.

A few people have asked how I ended up writing that particular book, and the story is actually kind of fun, although there's not much to it. I had gotten back into role-playing after a long absence from actual playing when my friend Cal invited me to his 3rd Edition Middle Earth (4th Age) game. Somehow, at the time, Cal and I ended up having a lot more free time at work than we both have now, and we both got really into the d20 system, and we emailed each other nearly every day, back and forth multiple times, to chat about the game and what new supplements were coming out. 

I started buying a ton of d20 support material from various 3rd Party companies, and this was a huge thing for me because, up until that point in my life, I'd pretty much only ever purchased games made by TSR. I'd looked at, and played, other games, but I'd never bought any. I think the only two non-TSR RPGs I owned at that point were Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Vampire: The Masquerade (and that last one was a birthday gift from my friend Brian).

Anyway, I was buying a lot of stuff and one of the first things I picked up was The Quintessential Fighter by Mongoose Publishing, and it was specifically because it reminded me of the 2E AD&D era The Complete Fighter. Even the cover design was crafted to recall the Complete series line. 

As I started buying more stuff, I wanted to get better information on what was coming out, so I started hanging around on message boards and eventually ended up over at EN World, which was a cool place to be because nearly every d20 publisher and writer was there talking about their products. 

In late 2002, "Mongoose Matt" (Matt Sprange, the publisher at Mongoose) was on EN World and kind of hosting a "question and answer" type thing in the forums. Somebody asked him about what other books were coming up in the Quintessential line, and he mentioned that he'd like to cover all of the classes eventually. Somebody on the forums asked if he would publish The Quintessential Expert and he said that he thought the idea had merit.

Then that idea got me to thinking - if he's willing to publish a book on Experts, then surely he'd want to publish one on Aristocrats, right? The aristocracy and nobility are two staples of fantasy fiction that I still to this day feel have been under-represented in fantasy RPGs (or, at least in D&D).

So, since this was like the "Wild West Era" of RPG publishing, I just simply sent an unsolicited email to Matt with a two-page proposal for me to write The Quintessential Aristocrat. I mentioned the "Audience and Purpose" for the book and the "Concept Basis" (basically an outline of each section) and asked him to kindly get back to me.

Can you imagine? I'm not normally "that kind of guy" but I was extremely interested to see if I could become a published author based on one of my hobbies/passions.

About two weeks later, Matt wrote me back and, much to my surprise, actually said he thought it was an interesting idea, told me which parts of my proposal were "no-no's" (for example, I had a GM section on "Running an Aristocrat Campaign" which he said needed to come out because these were player supplements), enclosed Mongoose's writing guidelines, and asked me to re-work the proposal based on his suggestions.

And the rest was history. The process started in September of 2002 and I sent in my finished draft of the book sometime before December 2002. I remember having to pull an all-nighter to finish by my deadline, and making photocopies of pages I had written for a few friends to read through to catch any spelling or grammatical errors.  The book was finally published nearly two years later, around June of 2004. They published it as a PDF ebook, which was fine with me. Print would've been cool, but I got paid and I was published. 

The book did quite well on RPG now in the few weeks after it was released (based in no small part to my shameless self-promotion, I'm sure, as well as a bunch of really good reviews it got at EN World and other places).

And that brings me to Part 2 of the story, which is The Quintessential Expert, but I'll save that for tomorrow.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Copain 2009 Tous Ensemble Rose (one glass left from last night's bottle)
Listening: "Ballad of the Alamo" by Rio Bravo


  1. I like this story because it proves that sometimes all you need is a good idea and some confidence; it's not too different from the attitude we're seeing as part of the OSR, with people just getting their ideas out into the world.

  2. Thanks Kelvin! Part 2 will be coming up later today.

    But, yeah, I think part of it was just the confidence of me sending him a note (combined with the "anything goes, wild-and-wooly" time of the early d20 movement), and then the big thing - I committed to getting it done. Lots of people start books, but never finish them. I should know - that's really the subject of Part 2!


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