It's time for the annual look back at the year that was. This is continued from part one.
I saw Watchmen before it was released, and I loved it. When the screening was over, I got to be part of a Q&A with Watchmen's director:
Before I realized it, I was on my feet, getting in line, not to ask a question, but to make a comment.
When I approached the mic, I felt my hands get cold and I couldn't feel my feet. This is typically what happens to me when I'm really nervous.
I cleared my throat and said, "Hi, my name is Wil, and I'm from Pasadena."
He said, "Hey, I'm from Pasadena, too!"
"AWESOME!" I said, and felt stupid.
I steadied myself, as the entire theater faded away and all I could hear was the sound of my own voice, coming out of someone else, very far away. "I just wanted to tell you that I've wanted to see this movie for twenty years."
I took a breath, and was horrified to feel some very real emotion rising up in my chest.
"Oh fuck. Just say it and run away!"
"I just wanted to say thank you for making it worth the wait."
He said something, but I don't know what it was. I was too busy running away.
As I left the theater, and feeling returned to my hands and feet, I thought, "Shit. I forgot to tell him, "If they ask you to make Sandman, please say yes.'"
I doubt he'll ever read this, but just in case he does ... Zack Snyder, this is Wil from Pasadena. If they ever ask you to make Sandman, please say yes.
In 2007, I worked on Criminal Minds, rapin' and killin' and gettin' killed real good. I kept a production diary while I was on the set, and included it in Sunken Treasure. When my episode aired in March, I got this crazy idea to create an audio version of the production diary, which I released on Lulu for just five bucks.
The fundamental concept behind Operation Crazy Idea is to publish more things, more often, at lower price points. The simplicity and immediacy of POD technology, the Long Tail, and Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans Model (I hate that term, but I love the idea behind it) have all worked together to make the first effort in Operation Crazy Idea, Sunken Treasure, a huge success.
This morning, I got a genuinely Crazy Idea that I've spent much of today creating: An audio version of my Criminal Minds production diary.
"Why aren't you just doing an audio version of the whole book?" You may ask.
"Well," I would say, "because that wouldn't be a Crazy Idea."
What is a Crazy Idea, though, is recording the whole production diary, adding in the usual asides and extras, ending up with something that's about 78 minutes long, and selling it on Lulu for $5.
"Why $5?" You say.
You ask a lot of good questions, person-who-I-made-up-who-is-different-from-the-person-I-made-up-yesterday.
From the first time I colored in my dice and died repeatedly at the hands of the Rust Monster in that one cave (you know the one) I have loved D&D. I've played several other RPGs over the years (most notably GURPS) but with the release of D&D 4E, I've fallen back in love with the system.
I haven't DMed anything in ages, and I haven't DMed 4E ever, so rather than start them out in Winterhaven with the events of H1, I started them out in Fallcrest, and planned to run them through a slightly-modified version of the first level Dungeon Delve. I thought this would be a good way for me to remember how to ride the bike, and a good way to introduce them to the new combat mechanics in 4E. And I'll be honest, here: I love a good dungeon crawl as much as anyone. Because I'm running this campaign for teenagers, I didn't think it was wise to dump them into serious roleplaying right away, and I'd use a play session that was primarily combat-based to get them comfortable with each other as players, and with me as a DM.
We had a lot of fun, and played for just under five hours. I had planned for about four hours, but I had to spend more time than I thought I would refreshing my memory in the DMG.
We sat around the table, and I began...
"Sorry, all you know is that this dragon is pretty pissed that you're in her lair, and the Kobolds down here," I pointed to the end of the corridor, "are coming toward you, now."
"Oh! It's a she!" Nolan's other friend said. "That's so cool!"
"The dragon moves her head back and forth on her long, slender neck. She cocks her head to one side and then to the other. Her lips curl back, as she slowly opens her mouth."
I glanced up at them. Their eyes were all wide.
"She rears back, and a blast of freezing cold dragon breath surrounds you!"
As I rolled for each of them, Nolan noticed the change in the music. "Did you do that on purpose?" He said. I told him that I had.
"That's really cool," he said.
I planted the seed for the rest of the campaign:
"When you return to Fallcrest, you go straight to Douven's office to share your triumph with him. When the door opens, though, you find his wife, standing alone. Her eyes are puffy and red, and she clutches a small holy symbol in one hand.
"'Douven ... Douven is gone,' she says. 'He said that something terrible was happening near Winterhaven, but he wouldn't tell me what it was. He just said that if he didn't get there soon, it would be the end of us all!' She looks at you, expectantly." The music, which had been sort of triumphant and energized, had become soft and melancholy, another happy coincidence that I assured the kids was entirely planned in advance.
"Well, guys," Nolan's friend said, "I guess we're going to Winterhaven."
But, sadly, teenagers are flaky and playing D&D with your stepdad isn't nearly as fun as sitting in your room and clicking your mouse over and over again while you try to get armor to drop in WoW. Yes, I remain bitterly disappointed that we never played again, but I'm glad we played at all, because it was absolutely time well spent, and I was able to share some thoughts about things I learned while sitting behind the DM screen:
Today, I wanted to share some of the things that came to mind, as well as some other things from a lifetime of gaming that I hadn't thought about until this week. My hope is that this will be useful for DMs and players alike. I'd love it if you'd add your own comments, if anything related comes to your mind while you read this post.
First of all, in spite of our mistakes, we all had a lot of fun. As far as I'm concerned, the session was a HUGE SUCCESS as a result. The whole point of playing an RPG is to have fun while engaging the imagination, right? Mission accomplished, and not in the fake George Bush way.
Mostly, this session reaffirmed some of the core concepts that all DM guides share, fromGURPS to T20 to D&D and beyond. Among them are surprise! Fear! Ruthless Efficie – wait. Sorry. That's wrong. Put down the soft cushions and I'll try again.
I started a Flickr pool for my books, called Wheaton's Books in the Wild. Turns out my books have been to some very cool places.
I drew ascii dongs on my blog, as part of what I think is a pretty funny post about spammers and the people who believe them.
I played Whil Wheaton on Family Guy with the rest of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
I went to Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, and performed some stories for the nice people.
Anne and I went to the Nebula Awards dinner, where I presented the award for best script:
I wanted some kind of introduction, so a few minutes before I walked up to the podium, I came up with this:
"Everyone I know who is successful reads books. Everyone I know who is successful andinteresting reads science fiction and fantasy. As a parent, you can imagine how important it is to me that my kids read science fiction and fantasy, so I've used television and movies as a gateway drug.
"The nominees for Best Script are..."
I'm not going to lie: I felt pretty good about that, especially considering that I came up with it pretty much on the fly.
To be continued in part three...