Q&A with Colin McComb

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Re: Paizo stuff starting to emerge!

Post by Havard » Sun May 24, 2009 10:45 pm

Welcome back Colin! :)
Colin McComb wrote:Hi, all - apologies for being away; I've been kept busy with a teaching gig and a pile of Paizo work, not to mention the iPhone development we've been doing, "we" being my wife and myself, working as 3lb Games; if you're interested in it, check out the video for our first app:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4crFGkFUx_4
Looks like fun. If only there were D&D monsters instead of animals! :lol:
Aaaanyway, Beyond the Vault of Souls, an adventure companion to The Great Beyond, will be out shortly... and then you'll see some country-based sourcebooks for Golarion following in the months after.
I'm keeping my eyes open for Golarion stuff, but mostly to see if any of it can be used with Mystara (or Thunder Rift). Any thoughts on this?
Fun stuff, people. Fun stuff. We now return you to your regularly scheduled discussion board. :)
Good to have you back! :)

Allright, maybe I'll dare another question. Rage of the Rakasta (originally intended to be called Rage of the Catfolk?) was written by William W. Connors, but did you have any thoughts on what the Rakasta of Thunder Rift were like? Their culture is similar to that of the Rakasta detailed in the Voyage of the Princes Ark (ie Japanese) and those Rakasta lived on the moon, so we figured the Rakasta of Thunder Rift came from there. They are said to be recent arrivals in the valley. Would that be possible, do you think? Do you have any ideas for further adventures involving the catfolk?

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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by rabindranath72 » Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:37 pm

Hi Colin,
I opened a thread about some "peculiarities" in Thunder Rift, namely the fact it seems it was written for AD&D:

viewtopic.php?f=45&t=2564

Can you shed some light on this?

Thanks,
Antonio

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Re: Paizo stuff starting to emerge!

Post by Colin McComb » Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:56 pm

Huh. I didn't get the notification for this question. MANY apologies.
Havard wrote:I'm keeping my eyes open for Golarion stuff, but mostly to see if any of it can be used with Mystara (or Thunder Rift). Any thoughts on this?
I'd say the answer depends on whether you've updated any of this material for 3.5. If so, then you might be able to pull it more easily. Fortunately, my work tends to be more on the fluff/descriptive side than the crunch side, so it's more easily portable to other campaign worlds. The UNfortunate side is that because it's more fluff than crunch, it tends to be more closely associated with the particular campaign world for which it was written. However, you can still pull elements and make them work in your particular campaign.

For instance, I contributed to the Cheliax, Andoran, and River Kingdoms books for Paizo. For those unfamiliar with Golarian, these are, respectively:
1. A crumbling, decadent empire of devil worshippers.
2. A new republic, struggling to bring light and equality to the world around it.
3. A lawless collection of small duchies where might makes right and the strongest survive.

I'm also currently working on a book for game masters, about which I can't say much more... yet.
Rage of the Rakasta (originally intended to be called Rage of the Catfolk?) was written by William W. Connors, but did you have any thoughts on what the Rakasta of Thunder Rift were like? Their culture is similar to that of the Rakasta detailed in the Voyage of the Princes Ark (ie Japanese) and those Rakasta lived on the moon, so we figured the Rakasta of Thunder Rift came from there. They are said to be recent arrivals in the valley. Would that be possible, do you think? Do you have any ideas for further adventures involving the catfolk?
I would absolutely agree that the Rakasta of Thunder Rift were related to those in Princess Ark. I would imagine that at least part of their goal now is either establishing a broad dominance range for themselves or else returning to their ancestral homelands. How they go about achieving either one of these goals could be the basis for a campaign, and the role of the PCs in this campaign depends on whether you want to make the rakasta villains, heroes, or merely a misunderstood race trying to survive in a hostile land. They will surely have technologies, weaponry, and magics that are radically different from what the PCs have seen before, and will go to great lengths to keep them from the hands of outsiders.

-Colin
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by MonteCook » Sun Oct 11, 2009 6:20 pm

Colin,

Who's funnier, Lil' Cap, or Penguin?

Monte

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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by night_druid » Sun Oct 11, 2009 6:27 pm

MonteCook wrote:Colin,

Who's funnier, Lil' Cap, or Penguin?

Monte
Monte Cook is here?!?! SAWEET! :ugeek:

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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Havard » Sun Oct 11, 2009 6:57 pm

night_druid wrote:
MonteCook wrote:Colin,

Who's funnier, Lil' Cap, or Penguin?

Monte
Monte Cook is here?!?! SAWEET! :ugeek:
And which forum does he choose for his first post? ;) ;) ;)

Yes indeed! Welcome to the Piazza Monte! :)

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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by night_druid » Sun Oct 11, 2009 7:07 pm

Havard wrote:And which forum does he choose for his first post? ;) ;) ;)
Heh, so long as he's posting here, who the heck cares? :lol:
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by MonteCook » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:30 pm

Just seeing what my pal Colin is up to. Nice to be here!

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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by night_druid » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:31 pm

MonteCook wrote:Just seeing what my pal Colin is up to. Nice to be here!
Plotting your downfall... :twisted: :P
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Havard » Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:25 pm

MonteCook wrote:Just seeing what my pal Colin is up to. Nice to be here!
Glad to hear it! I hope you will visit often! :)
I took the chance of posting a few questions for you in another tread (so as not to clutter up Colin's thread too much). I would be very happy if you have time to take a look at them at:
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2713

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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Colin McComb » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:21 pm

MonteCook wrote:Colin,

Who's funnier, Lil' Cap, or Penguin?

Monte
Penguin. Definitely Penguin. Now if you'd thrown in Farmer Zeke, Spidey, or Barnolator, well, that's a whole different kettle of fish.
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Big Mac » Tue Nov 03, 2009 2:00 am

Woah! Did I miss this, or what? :oops:
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Something I have seen in actual D&D products (rather than fake ones designed to poke their tongue out at Bruce Heard) is a lot of random things named after D&D staff. Spelljammer has an entire planet (Nehzmyth) named after Bruce Nesmith (although the 3e DLCS has swapped that "joke planet" for the more correct planet: Shinare). Did you have any joke locations in Thunder Rift (or any of the other settings you did)?
The item I created with the most exposure was the Helm of Valor, from the Complete Book of Elves. This item allowed the wearer to take minimal damage from missile fire, assuming that he or she doesn't fail a Wisdom check and flinch. The Helm was based on a fencing mask I'd brought from college. Bill Connors discovered that plastic-tipped darts stuck nicely in the wire mesh, about an inch and a half away from the eye, and so we started putting it on people and throwing darts at their heads. This was especially fun for the new people - it became a rite of passage for any new editor or designer, in fact - and it gave us a quick sense of their personalities.
You know, I've got that book right near my foot. I keep putting it away, but I keep needing to pull it out again to look something up. :lol:

Hmm. Now, you have reminded me that you did that, I'm drawn to your Spelljammer section (on pages 27-28). There are a couple of things in that that occasionally get the Spelljammer fans running around with pitchforks and torches. ;) You wrote this ages ago, so might not remember, but do you have any memories that might shed light on either of these things:

The Imperial Navy: You call this the "Elven Imperial Navy", but in earier Spelljammer sources it is called the "Imperial Elven Navy" (if it is even named at all - some authors refer to it without naming it or call it the "Elven Navy" or "Imperial Navy"). SJ fans have debated which is the correct form of the name. (I think someone got a Chinese burn in the scuffle. ;) ) Do you recall anyone telling you to change the wording of this organisation? Or was this something that you were told to include, but not given the name of?

The Elven Homeworld: Various SJ sources speak of homeworlds for races, but (as far as I recall) your reference here is the only reference to an elven homeworld. I've always wanted to go with this (as gospel), build up an Elven crystal sphere around the small throwaway reference you have given us. Other SJ fans dislike the concept of single homeworlds - I believe they see it as potentially conflicting with the canon of individual campaign settings. However, I can't see a better way to explain the Imperial Navy than to make the world you touch on into the centre of an Elven Empire that once dominated the Known Spheres and have an Emperor or Empress. Was there ever any more to this sort of thing?

As far as I can see the Elven Empire (something that probably ceased to exist around the time of the First Unhuman War) is probably almost identical to the Known Spheres. I sometimes get a little bit frustrated* by the lack of detail about SJ's elves and I could have eaten up an entire sourcebook about Spacefaring Elves and their Empire.

* = My main reason for frustration, is that it is relatively easy to infer detail for elves on a normal campaign setting, but SJ is so "weird" that the stereotypes of elven behavior just do not appear to apply to elves who might be living on planets, moons or asteroids that have little resemblance to the normal sort of campaign world planet.

Frustration aside, this is one of my all time favorite "Complete" books and I'm sometimes a bit sad that some of the other racial books don't have all the same sorts of sections that you put in.
Colin McComb wrote:So, Thunder Rift didn't really have joke locations. It did have in-joke people, though. In Melinir alone:
- Connor the Scribe = Bill Connors
- Stefan des Herbsts = Steve Winter, the product lead for the AD&D line, and the guy responsible for hiring me at TSR.
- The Sarcastic Goat (and its proprietor): Zeb Cook, who looks and speaks like Jamie from Mythbusters
- Pickman the Sage: Jon Pickens, a fantastic editor with an encyclopedic knowledge of D&D, and a good guy, who actually does have a tendency to ramble; he was known for continuing conversations with people as they were getting into their cars.
- The Miller: Rich Baker (see, his name is Richard the Baker...). The "baking bread becomes very boring after a while" is a direct quote.
- Nicholas Maybrush: Me! A backstabbing, two-faced villain! (okay, I needed a bad guy in Melinir and didn't want to base it on any of my coworkers). See, "Colin" is a version of "Nicholas", and when I'm explaining how to spell my last name to people*, I tell them "Mc-Comb... like McBrush, only it's a Comb."
- Geoffrey the Mage: Jeff Grubb!
- Daffyd the Wise: David Wise, a great editor, Shakespeare buff, and later my boss.
- Ap Hen: Dale "Slade" Henson. See, "Ap Hen" means "Son of Hen". A real party animal for a while, instigator of much extrawork insanity.
- Dara: Dori Jean Heine, or "Dori the Barbarian". She was an editor at TSR who hung her office in a variety of furs, and had, as I recall, a large sword.

*because they always say, "C-O-N-V?" no matter how clearly I enunciate.
These are all pure gold fun! (And this is the sort of behind-the-scenes background information that Wikipedia likes to use to underpin D&D articles. There isn't a Thunder Rift article at the moment. I'm not sure if it has never been made or if one of the delitionists got it removed.)
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote:If Thunder Rift had been done under WotC it would probably be an obscure part of Greyhawk. Did you ever look at the non-Mystara worlds to see where you would pick for alternate Thunder Rift drop-off points?
I did, but I don't actually remember where they are... :O
That is a shame. I'm sure that would have been something that (in another era) would have made a brilliant Web Enhancement to support the Thunder Rift line.
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote:* = Given that so many third party publishers managed to make campaign settings that were compatible with the d20 System, I really don't understand how people can continue to claim that TSR was killed off by having too many settings. (I'd love to see every out of print TSR setting made into a 3rd edition conversion. I'll be looking forward to what the Mystara fans can do with your Thunder Rift stuff.)
Keep in mind that the third-party publishers are significantly smaller than TSR/WotC, so they have significantly less overhead to worry about (office space, support staff, business management staff, and all the other associated costs with a huge business), so their profit margins and revenue streams can be a lot smaller and still let them maintain viability. Tabletop gaming, sad to say, is not exactly a lucrative industry - but it IS a hell of a lot of fun.
I've never really thought of the "office space" thing. But I have seen several small companies appear in the UK, put out a fantastic cool service, expand too quickly and then die from cashflow problems. I suppose once TSR (and then WotC) grew to a certain size it would have a need to gobble up a certain amount of income to sustain its new size.

I suppose that must be what people are flagging up when they say "too many campaign settings". I'm glad that Ghostwalk managed to squeeze under that anti-setting barrier and make it to the shelves.

For me Thunder Rift is now a "What would have happened if..." thing. Something that (in an alternative world) was featured in a 3e sourcebook called "Thunder Rift Campaign Setting" or something that was formally folded into Mystara as part of a multi-book product line. And with travel to alternative worlds being something that is impossible, I'll be hoping that the Mystara fans can knock this one up for me.
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Do you have a list of the unused ideas? Did you reject them because they didn't fit in with other stuff you wanted to do or were some of them things that got saved for later but never used?
Some of the stuff got recycled, I'm sure - I don't have a list of the notes anywhere, sadly, at least not in an accessible format. I've been through at least three computers since then, and I don't have a 3.5" floppy drive on my newest machine. I'll have to turn on the PC again to start transferring these files before they go extinct. :D
We have another author (Allen Varney) who has D&D files that he can no longer easily access. I'm sure that some of this stuff is getting lost every year. (I know there is a related issue of people struggling to open old computer files that were saved by applications that no longer exist.) What a shame. I wish there was some sort of central resource for role playing authors, where they could get their old inaccessible notes given back to them in a more modern format.

There must be plenty of authors who have old unused ideas they could reuse in new RPG products. Or other authors who (if they were not blocked) would be generous enough to put up "cutting room floor" material onto their websites.
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote: Who takes the blame for Thunder Rift not having a 3rd edition reprint? :P ;)
You. For not having bought it when it came out. YOU DID IT, BIG MAC. How could you? ;)
That is brilliant! :lol: I must grab that as a screen shot and turn it into a demotivational poster.
Colin McComb wrote:Alternately (and more realistically), you could blame TSR management for not having promoted the line effectively, and for generally not having a clue about what gamers want and need. Most of them (with the exception of Jim Ward) had never even played the game - and they hired marketing people who had never played (and never would play) the game. Way to go after the target market.
I've heard some of this recently, but the TSR managers from that era, did alienate me and cause me to give up playing AD&D. I never knew who to blame at the time (just as I never knew who to credit for all the cool stuff) but I did shake my metaphorical fist at the ceiling and curse the people who changed D&D.

I'm just glad that some cool Planescape products managed to make it onto the shelves after the management went downhill.
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I'd also like to know about any new RPG stuff you are working on (which should go into our Other Worlds section) and the sort of worlds that you use for your own personal gaming. So I hope that you will feel free to jump around the forums and butt into any conversations that look interesting to you. :D
I've recently finished an adventure for Paizo called "Beyond the Vault of Souls", which takes place in Golarion's Outer Sphere, and I'm working on a gazetteer-style book for them that I don't think has been officially announced yet, so I'm not at liberty to say anything. I'm also going to be doing some work with Kobold Quarterly, though that's more a meta-design discussion than actual RPG products. I'm ALSO going to be putting up some fiction and stuff on my personal website, which is not actually completely done yet so don't expect anything there yet. :D
Hmm. Beyond the Vault of Souls looks like it has the beginings of a "Planescape for Pathfinder" going on. 8-)
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Big Mac » Tue Nov 03, 2009 2:11 am

Colin McComb wrote:
Havard wrote:Any chance of seeing anything semi-linked to Thunder Rift? 8-)
Sadly, probably not. I don't have the personal resources to fight a copyright battle with Hasbro. Hell, even if I won the lottery I wouldn't have the resources to fight a copyright battle with Hasbro.
Commercial stuff would be impossible, but I think you would be fine putting up free stuff (if you wanted to do that). I would say that you would have as much right to do that as Havard or myself.

For example, the subject of what Thunder Rift locations being listed as villages, towns and/or cities has been brought up here, and if you were to write up an article that listed the size of locations (and maybe the population of them) then that could not be "official" D&D content, but it should be legitimate fanon. And I can't see why WotC would want to stomp on fanon, just because it came from the original designer.
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Re: Paizo stuff starting to emerge!

Post by Big Mac » Tue Nov 03, 2009 2:18 am

BTW: Good luck with all the things you can't tell us about.
Colin McComb wrote:
Havard wrote:Rage of the Rakasta (originally intended to be called Rage of the Catfolk?) was written by William W. Connors, but did you have any thoughts on what the Rakasta of Thunder Rift were like? Their culture is similar to that of the Rakasta detailed in the Voyage of the Princes Ark (ie Japanese) and those Rakasta lived on the moon, so we figured the Rakasta of Thunder Rift came from there. They are said to be recent arrivals in the valley. Would that be possible, do you think? Do you have any ideas for further adventures involving the catfolk?
I would absolutely agree that the Rakasta of Thunder Rift were related to those in Princess Ark. I would imagine that at least part of their goal now is either establishing a broad dominance range for themselves or else returning to their ancestral homelands. How they go about achieving either one of these goals could be the basis for a campaign, and the role of the PCs in this campaign depends on whether you want to make the rakasta villains, heroes, or merely a misunderstood race trying to survive in a hostile land. They will surely have technologies, weaponry, and magics that are radically different from what the PCs have seen before, and will go to great lengths to keep them from the hands of outsiders.
Hmm. This is making me have the feeling that Thunder Rift's Rakasta are perhaps going to have a few similar elements to the Oscray of Malatra.
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Colin McComb » Tue Nov 03, 2009 3:28 am

Big Mac wrote: The Imperial Navy: You call this the "Elven Imperial Navy", but in earier Spelljammer sources it is called the "Imperial Elven Navy" (if it is even named at all - some authors refer to it without naming it or call it the "Elven Navy" or "Imperial Navy"). SJ fans have debated which is the correct form of the name. (I think someone got a Chinese burn in the scuffle. ;) ) Do you recall anyone telling you to change the wording of this organisation? Or was this something that you were told to include, but not given the name of?
As far as I recall, this was probably my mixup. Some people say "Imperial British Navy", others "British Imperial Navy." I don't know which is the more proper; the navy refers to itself as the Royal Navy, and other sources mix it up. So no, there was no mandate from on high, nor from the side. This was me thinking I wanted to include it, and for anyone seriously injured in the ensuing battle, please remember: I was acting out of ignorance, not malice.
Big Mac wrote:The Elven Homeworld: Various SJ sources speak of homeworlds for races, but (as far as I recall) your reference here is the only reference to an elven homeworld. I've always wanted to go with this (as gospel), build up an Elven crystal sphere around the small throwaway reference you have given us. Other SJ fans dislike the concept of single homeworlds - I believe they see it as potentially conflicting with the canon of individual campaign settings. However, I can't see a better way to explain the Imperial Navy than to make the world you touch on into the centre of an Elven Empire that once dominated the Known Spheres and have an Emperor or Empress. Was there ever any more to this sort of thing?
This one I remember. Backstory: Jeff Grubb, Thomas Reid, and I used to take lunches and kick around the idea of a world of pure elven hegemony. This was a reference to that, playing it out further. I thought the idea of an elven sphere was incredibly cool, but because of the issue of core canon, it didn't go any further. Making decisions like this without the consent of the affected groups would have earned serious bad consequences. Instead, I got to make an allusion that could be interpreted without definitively saying "THIS IS HOW IT IS".

That being said, these are your campaign worlds. Once they left TSR, they were designed for you to play with as you wanted. There's no reason you couldn't take the idea and make it whatever you wanted.

(though again: Elves defending their sphere against beholders and illithid invaders, fleeing across the Known Spheres is a damn cool creation myth)
Big Mac wrote: Frustration aside, this is one of my all time favorite "Complete" books and I'm sometimes a bit sad that some of the other racial books don't have all the same sorts of sections that you put in.
Aww, thanks. It was one of the books I really wanted to write, too. When I saw it on the schedule, I campaigned for it and was overjoyed when I got it.
Big Mac wrote: I've never really thought of the "office space" thing. But I have seen several small companies appear in the UK, put out a fantastic cool service, expand too quickly and then die from cashflow problems. I suppose once TSR (and then WotC) grew to a certain size it would have a need to gobble up a certain amount of income to sustain its new size.

I suppose that must be what people are flagging up when they say "too many campaign settings". I'm glad that Ghostwalk managed to squeeze under that anti-setting barrier and make it to the shelves.
This is something I never really appreciated until I took part in a number of startups. Consider: In addition to the human resources cost (that is, in addition to salaries-to which I add that everyone always wants more-you also have to pay benefits, provide office space and equipment, AND at a certain number of employees, you need to add more support staff like admin, clerical, and IT), you've got the equipment for all those people, you've got utilities to pay, rent on the building... yeah. TSR reached a point where it had an enormous monthly cost just to break even. It didn't help that the high muckety-mucks were all dramatically overpaid.
Big Mac wrote: We have another author (Allen Varney) who has D&D files that he can no longer easily access. I'm sure that some of this stuff is getting lost every year. (I know there is a related issue of people struggling to open old computer files that were saved by applications that no longer exist.) What a shame. I wish there was some sort of central resource for role playing authors, where they could get their old inaccessible notes given back to them in a more modern format.

There must be plenty of authors who have old unused ideas they could reuse in new RPG products. Or other authors who (if they were not blocked) would be generous enough to put up "cutting room floor" material onto their websites.
Whoa, you're blocking authors now? Man, I've got to watch my language.

Anyway, I've just been digging in my machine, and apparently I transferred lots of my 3.5" stuff to this machine. Now I just need to get a converter for a file type that's, oh, 13 years out of date. I'm not seeing any Thunder Rift in here, though... this is primarily from 1994 and later, so chances are slim that it'll yield any good pickings.

Big Mac wrote: Hmm. Beyond the Vault of Souls looks like it has the beginings of a "Planescape for Pathfinder" going on. 8-)
Yeah, and Todd Stewart has been doing a bangup job writing their planar materials as well. HIGHLY recommended.
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by AuldDragon » Tue Nov 03, 2009 4:43 am

Colin McComb wrote:Anyway, I've just been digging in my machine, and apparently I transferred lots of my 3.5" stuff to this machine. Now I just need to get a converter for a file type that's, oh, 13 years out of date. I'm not seeing any Thunder Rift in here, though... this is primarily from 1994 and later, so chances are slim that it'll yield any good pickings.
What format are they in? Thirteen years old really isn't all that out of date; many of the formats are still in use in updated versions (.doc, anyone? :) ). Just about any DOS app that's not proprietary is still openable. Perhaps we can help find converters or identify apps that can open them if they're not a common file type though. Also, if you still have 3.5" disks with data you haven't copied, there are dirt-cheap USB drives you can get. If you have 5.25", that may be harder to copy from.

To get it back to questions regarding your work, I'm curious about the development of "On Hallowed Ground," particularly with regards to the Babylonian, Sumerian, and Finnish pantheons (beyond what little was developed in 1st Ed). Were there any non-gaming sources you referenced? Of particular interest to me is the Babylonian deity Druaga; I know the original 1st Ed Legends & Lore/Deities & Demigods contained him, but I can't find an external source (other than Namco's Tower of Druaga, but that could just as easily refer to the AD&D deity). Also, can you explain the reasoning behind killing off Enki?

Jeff
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Colin McComb » Tue Nov 03, 2009 1:15 pm

AuldDragon wrote:
Colin McComb wrote:Anyway, I've just been digging in my machine, and apparently I transferred lots of my 3.5" stuff to this machine. Now I just need to get a converter for a file type that's, oh, 13 years out of date. I'm not seeing any Thunder Rift in here, though... this is primarily from 1994 and later, so chances are slim that it'll yield any good pickings.
What format are they in? Thirteen years old really isn't all that out of date; many of the formats are still in use in updated versions (.doc, anyone? :) ). Just about any DOS app that's not proprietary is still openable. Perhaps we can help find converters or identify apps that can open them if they're not a common file type though. Also, if you still have 3.5" disks with data you haven't copied, there are dirt-cheap USB drives you can get. If you have 5.25", that may be harder to copy from.

To get it back to questions regarding your work, I'm curious about the development of "On Hallowed Ground," particularly with regards to the Babylonian, Sumerian, and Finnish pantheons (beyond what little was developed in 1st Ed). Were there any non-gaming sources you referenced? Of particular interest to me is the Babylonian deity Druaga; I know the original 1st Ed Legends & Lore/Deities & Demigods contained him, but I can't find an external source (other than Namco's Tower of Druaga, but that could just as easily refer to the AD&D deity). Also, can you explain the reasoning behind killing off Enki?

Jeff
These are in WordPerfect. I've been opening them up using Word's "Recover Text from Any File" function, and besides the pile of code, they're still largely readable. No Thunder Rift in there, although I do in fact have OHG. I referenced a number of sources for the pantheons outside gaming stuff. My primary resource was the hardbound LaRousse's World Mythology, edited by Pierre Grimal.

I'm trying to find notes for Druaga; to my recollection, I used him simply because he was in 1st Ed and I wanted to maintain a small thread of continuity... which I then snapped by killing off Enki. The motivation here was purely cinematic, I believe; that is, rather than using a static snapshot of myth and legend, I wanted to create additional drama for a pantheon that was being forgotten. As the worshipers drift away from belief in these powers, the remaining powers devolve into internecine power struggles for the bits of faith that remain.

In hindsight, I probably should have killed off one of the lesser gods to achieve the same effect, but I'll bet Enki and his portfolio would have made a hugely tempting target.
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Hugin » Tue Nov 03, 2009 3:59 pm

Colin McComb wrote:These are in WordPerfect. I've been opening them up using Word's "Recover Text from Any File" function, and besides the pile of code, they're still largely readable.
Well that's good news I'd think. It would be quite interesting to get a glimpse of some of that material.

I think you may underestimate how interested us fans could be in this kind of behind-the-scenes notes. ;)

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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by AuldDragon » Tue Nov 03, 2009 5:00 pm

Colin McComb wrote:These are in WordPerfect. I've been opening them up using Word's "Recover Text from Any File" function, and besides the pile of code, they're still largely readable. No Thunder Rift in there, although I do in fact have OHG. I referenced a number of sources for the pantheons outside gaming stuff. My primary resource was the hardbound LaRousse's World Mythology, edited by Pierre Grimal.
Ah yes, the one major format Microsoft still refuses to open properly. :roll:

And it looks like none of my local libraries have a copy of that book, unfortunately. :\
Colin McComb wrote:I'm trying to find notes for Druaga; to my recollection, I used him simply because he was in 1st Ed and I wanted to maintain a small thread of continuity... which I then snapped by killing off Enki. The motivation here was purely cinematic, I believe; that is, rather than using a static snapshot of myth and legend, I wanted to create additional drama for a pantheon that was being forgotten. As the worshipers drift away from belief in these powers, the remaining powers devolve into internecine power struggles for the bits of faith that remain.

In hindsight, I probably should have killed off one of the lesser gods to achieve the same effect, but I'll bet Enki and his portfolio would have made a hugely tempting target.
I rather figured you were using the 1st Ed deities specifically to keep continuity, although I'd figured Enki was killed off because of the great number of Greater gods in the combined group. :) Anyway, I asked specifically about Druaga because I'm working on revamping the Mesopotamian pantheon completely, and since I can't find a reference to him in any of my books, he (probably) won't appear in my final product. :)

Also, can you describe what you remember about the creation of the project (did you ask for it, were you assigned to work on it, discussions about it with other developers, input from other people, etc.)? I imagine a lot of in-game research needed to be done as well, which must have been a lot of work. I was rather surprised there was no re-evaluation of the power levels for the "missing" 1st Ed pantheons (Sumerian, Babylonian, Finnish) like there was for the other pantheons when they appeared in the 2nd Ed Legends & Lore, but I assume that was a bit outside the project scope.

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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by DuBeers » Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:04 pm

I haven't tried it, but here is a page with instructions for opening WordPerfect files in MSWord.

http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/wpdos/wptoword.html

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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Colin McComb » Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:14 pm

AuldDragon wrote: I rather figured you were using the 1st Ed deities specifically to keep continuity, although I'd figured Enki was killed off because of the great number of Greater gods in the combined group. :) Anyway, I asked specifically about Druaga because I'm working on revamping the Mesopotamian pantheon completely, and since I can't find a reference to him in any of my books, he (probably) won't appear in my final product. :)
That might have been one of the reasons for killing Enki as well, though I can't say that with complete certainty. Re: Druaga, from what I can find, this is another name for the deity that would become Ahriman - but if this were a true 1:1 power trade, Druaga would have to be a hell of a lot more powerful. Frankly, I'd leave him out of a revamp, especially if you don't have to contend with angry 1st Ed.ers.
AuldDragon wrote: Also, can you describe what you remember about the creation of the project (did you ask for it, were you assigned to work on it, discussions about it with other developers, input from other people, etc.)? I imagine a lot of in-game research needed to be done as well, which must have been a lot of work. I was rather surprised there was no re-evaluation of the power levels for the "missing" 1st Ed pantheons (Sumerian, Babylonian, Finnish) like there was for the other pantheons when they appeared in the 2nd Ed Legends & Lore, but I assume that was a bit outside the project scope.

Jeff
Oh, I very definitely asked for this one. As with the CBoElves, this was one I desperately wanted. I've been a mythology geek for much of my like (thanks in no small part to the D'Aulaire mythology books in my childhood), so when this one came up, I managed to convince the other Planescape group people that I'd be the best choice for it, and rather than farm it out to a freelancer, they agreed (no doubt reluctantly).

Re-evaluating the power levels was definitely outside the scope of this project. Once I gathered all the research material, assembled the outline, messed around with the mechanics and the broad points at the front of the book, and made sure that I wasn't contradicting significant reams of published material, I had to get the actual writing done. Frequently, this meant making certain decisions on the fly, and one of those decisions was "don't dick with 1st Ed Deities & Demigods." :D
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Colin McComb » Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:16 pm

DuBeers wrote:I haven't tried it, but here is a page with instructions for opening WordPerfect files in MSWord.

http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/wpdos/wptoword.html
I'll take a look at this. Thanks!
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by AuldDragon » Tue Nov 03, 2009 8:48 pm

Colin McComb wrote:That might have been one of the reasons for killing Enki as well, though I can't say that with complete certainty. Re: Druaga, from what I can find, this is another name for the deity that would become Ahriman - but if this were a true 1:1 power trade, Druaga would have to be a hell of a lot more powerful. Frankly, I'd leave him out of a revamp, especially if you don't have to contend with angry 1st Ed.ers.
Yeah, I noticed the wikipedia article mentioned that, but there was nothing in the Zoroastrian article/Ahriman articles that I saw on a quick skim (unless it is somehow a corruption of the concept of "druj"). At this point, I'm more curious about where they got him from than any sort of need to include him. :lol:
Colin McComb wrote:Oh, I very definitely asked for this one. As with the CBoElves, this was one I desperately wanted. I've been a mythology geek for much of my like (thanks in no small part to the D'Aulaire mythology books in my childhood), so when this one came up, I managed to convince the other Planescape group people that I'd be the best choice for it, and rather than farm it out to a freelancer, they agreed (no doubt reluctantly).
Awesome, way to go! :D I went through two copies of D'Aulaire's book of Greek Myths myself; read them so much they fell apart!

Also, regarding the CBoElves, how much discussion did you have with Terry Dykstra over the art? He was among my favorites of TSR's B&W artists and I was pleased to see his work in that book.
Colin McComb wrote:Re-evaluating the power levels was definitely outside the scope of this project. Once I gathered all the research material, assembled the outline, messed around with the mechanics and the broad points at the front of the book, and made sure that I wasn't contradicting significant reams of published material, I had to get the actual writing done. Frequently, this meant making certain decisions on the fly, and one of those decisions was "don't dick with 1st Ed Deities & Demigods." :D
Makes perfect sense. It's really a very useful book, one of the most "genericly" useful (useful to everybody or useful regardless of setting) books released for Planescape; I was actually rather surprised it was released under the Planescape label, especially considering Warriors of Heaven and Guide to Hell were NOT Planescape!

Jeff
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Big Mac » Tue Nov 03, 2009 11:44 pm

Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote:The Imperial Navy: You call this the "Elven Imperial Navy", but in earier Spelljammer sources it is called the "Imperial Elven Navy" (if it is even named at all - some authors refer to it without naming it or call it the "Elven Navy" or "Imperial Navy"). SJ fans have debated which is the correct form of the name. (I think someone got a Chinese burn in the scuffle. ;) ) Do you recall anyone telling you to change the wording of this organisation? Or was this something that you were told to include, but not given the name of?
As far as I recall, this was probably my mixup. Some people say "Imperial British Navy", others "British Imperial Navy." I don't know which is the more proper; the navy refers to itself as the Royal Navy, and other sources mix it up. So no, there was no mandate from on high, nor from the side. This was me thinking I wanted to include it, and for anyone seriously injured in the ensuing battle, please remember: I was acting out of ignorance, not malice.
Well, to be fair to you, although I think* you are the only person who said "Elven Imperial Navy", the name "Imperial Elven Navy" wasn't really consistently used by earlier authors, so it must have been very ambiguous.

* = Unless someone with more geek-fu than me can tell me otherwise.

At the moment my main objective is to pick the most logical name for the articles that go up on Spelljammer Wiki**, but I'm sure your clarification will aid my pitchfork army as we run over to the other side of the SJ fandom and hand out a few Chinese burns. Given that the three words in the name, and the two shortened versions - that drop either "Elven" or "Imperial" - are all in English, they probably represent the Common (or Human) translation of the organisation's name. So a High Elf name might be better than any of the name variants that have been used.

** = Spelljammer Wiki is an encyclopedia of SJ canon, that hopes to provide full citations showing the book and page that every SJ factoid comes from and who wrote it. So far, nobody has gotten around to writing the Colin McComb article. :oops:
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote:The Elven Homeworld: Various SJ sources speak of homeworlds for races, but (as far as I recall) your reference here is the only reference to an elven homeworld. I've always wanted to go with this (as gospel), build up an Elven crystal sphere around the small throwaway reference you have given us. Other SJ fans dislike the concept of single homeworlds - I believe they see it as potentially conflicting with the canon of individual campaign settings. However, I can't see a better way to explain the Imperial Navy than to make the world you touch on into the centre of an Elven Empire that once dominated the Known Spheres and have an Emperor or Empress. Was there ever any more to this sort of thing?
This one I remember. Backstory: Jeff Grubb, Thomas Reid, and I used to take lunches and kick around the idea of a world of pure elven hegemony. This was a reference to that, playing it out further. I thought the idea of an elven sphere was incredibly cool, but because of the issue of core canon, it didn't go any further. Making decisions like this without the consent of the affected groups would have earned serious bad consequences. Instead, I got to make an allusion that could be interpreted without definitively saying "THIS IS HOW IT IS".

That being said, these are your campaign worlds. Once they left TSR, they were designed for you to play with as you wanted. There's no reason you couldn't take the idea and make it whatever you wanted.

(though again: Elves defending their sphere against beholders and illithid invaders, fleeing across the Known Spheres is a damn cool creation myth)
I think this is definitely an idea that a number of the fans want to pursue. Beyond the Moons has official site status and we could turn a number of unfinished TSR outlines into netbooks and seek approval for Beyond the Moon canonisation. At the moment, I'm gathering facts for the wiki in an attempt to make sure that everyone that wants to work on fanon has a full understanding of where the original canon leaves off. It is a bit of a slow (and sometimes boring) process and I keep getting busy at work, so I've not as much progress as I would like to. I could actually spend less time doing this and more time churning out concepts for fanon, but I have made minor continuity errors in my LARP work in the past, and they bug me to this day. So I would rather see the maze of canon simplified instead of made more confusing. Hopefully, one day soon, I'll be able to get enough of the big picture together to start inferring a ton of new fanon from unrelated canon that just asks to be connected.

But I would like to know more about "a world of pure elven hegemony" (if there is any more). Perhaps it might be more appropriate to make a thread about this in the Spelljammer forum (instead of hijacking your Q&A thread for questions about this implied world/sphere).

One of the things about the creation myths (the generic ones) that you have in the Complete Book of Elves is that they don't really work if you have elves springing up on different worlds...but if you have some sort of shared root (as your tree-like diagram suggests) then the early elves can have a shared mythology. You can justify a single set of gods and all the nuts and bolts stuff that go with it. And the same sort of thing applies to elven legends (like the story of Jarsali and the Treant). If a GM runs a game that uses more than one planet, I think the only way to deal with those "shared legends" is to invent that world that you spoke about with Jeff Grubb and Thomas Reid.

I suppose that an alternate plane is another way to go for a source of elven origin myths. I think that is what 4e has been trying to do with the Eladrin. But I would much rather lift the various "elven worlds" that you suggest in Chapter 13 of PHBR8 and stick all six of them into a single crystal sphere. A sphere like that could probably find a way to milk every single suggestion out of your sourcebook and give each concept a bespoke land, country or place where the setting fits the story like a glove. If that was done, then even stuff that might not be appropriate for Dragonlance elves, Forgotten Realms elves or Thunder Rift elves is going to be totally appropriate in the context of a bespoke sphere is built entirely around your work. Even things like your Undead Slayer kit can be reverse-engineered to infer a land, continent or moon where the forces of undeath are the main threat to elven life. And the one single linking mechanism could be Celenaress (your grey elf city from page 64) which could, over time, be the capital of a nation, continent, world an entire sphere and then the Known Spheres, themselves.

I think the only thing missing is a "scattering of the elves" myth. Something that shows the elven gods wanting their people to see the entire universe...or somesuch thing. But perhaps that sort of thing could be left a bit vague in order to allow the creation myths of D&Ds various settings to be slowly woven together.
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote: Frustration aside, this is one of my all time favorite "Complete" books and I'm sometimes a bit sad that some of the other racial books don't have all the same sorts of sections that you put in.
Aww, thanks. It was one of the books I really wanted to write, too. When I saw it on the schedule, I campaigned for it and was overjoyed when I got it.
Well, you did a knockout job. But with these books being modular things that expanded on classes, races, and (in the case of things like CGR1) campaign settings, I really think that they should have been treated a little bit more like Monster Manuals. Obviously this was something that couldn't possibly have been known until you lot pioneered the way, but if someone ever does a retro-clone of AD&D, I really hope that they take concepts like the kits and give them the same sort of design focus as monsters get. Because kits are to classes what monster races are to player character races.
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote: I've never really thought of the "office space" thing. But I have seen several small companies appear in the UK, put out a fantastic cool service, expand too quickly and then die from cashflow problems. I suppose once TSR (and then WotC) grew to a certain size it would have a need to gobble up a certain amount of income to sustain its new size.

I suppose that must be what people are flagging up when they say "too many campaign settings". I'm glad that Ghostwalk managed to squeeze under that anti-setting barrier and make it to the shelves.
This is something I never really appreciated until I took part in a number of startups. Consider: In addition to the human resources cost (that is, in addition to salaries-to which I add that everyone always wants more-you also have to pay benefits, provide office space and equipment, AND at a certain number of employees, you need to add more support staff like admin, clerical, and IT), you've got the equipment for all those people, you've got utilities to pay, rent on the building... yeah. TSR reached a point where it had an enormous monthly cost just to break even. It didn't help that the high muckety-mucks were all dramatically overpaid.
True, true. I think that I'm finally seeing the logic of this.

But although I'm coming around to the need for a big company to avoid small sub-product lines, I do have to say that I think that WotC really failed to capitalise on their vast portfolio of settings.

If WotC had made more of an effort to do the same sort of licensing deals they did with Ravenloft, Dragonlance, Diablo and Warcraft, they could actually have pushed out far more settings and sub-settings and done some sort of profit-sharing deal that enabled them to turn more of the third party d20 System market into a licenced D&D campaign setting market.

I think that if they had done that, then they would have created a situation where some other company would assume the risk of something small (like Thunder Rift) and then try to hunt down and hire gurus like yourself to write 3e conversions of the thing they are licensing. That would cost the 3rd party publisher R&D money, but not cost WotC so much. However it would have created a trickle of profits back to WotC. And if WotC had worked on a micro-payment deal, they probably could have got many more settings onto the market (without needing that big office budget). I know that there would have had to have been a guy in an office to look after this, but if it had been done in a similar way to the ESD rollout, it could have been kept as cheap as possible.

And the beauty of it is that if a specific author really loved an out of print setting, they would have spoken about it so much that they (and the setting's cult following) would have generated a lot of the publicity. And even if a 3e Thunder Rift Campaign Setting had been tiny (when compared to Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting...or even Dragonlance Campaign Setting) you would still have a bunch of Thunder Rift Players that would need to buy a WotC PHB.

Maybe I'm still not seeing some stuff (as I've had plenty of people argue that my RPG utopia would not have worked) but as far as I can see, market forces would make all "bad" licenced conversions hit third party companies and make all "great" licenced conversions drive cash towards WotC.

Still, this didn't happen with 3e and WotC are unlikely to confess which settings they definately don't want to bring back for 4e and then farm them out.
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote: We have another author (Allen Varney) who has D&D files that he can no longer easily access. I'm sure that some of this stuff is getting lost every year. (I know there is a related issue of people struggling to open old computer files that were saved by applications that no longer exist.) What a shame. I wish there was some sort of central resource for role playing authors, where they could get their old inaccessible notes given back to them in a more modern format.

There must be plenty of authors who have old unused ideas they could reuse in new RPG products. Or other authors who (if they were not blocked) would be generous enough to put up "cutting room floor" material onto their websites.
Whoa, you're blocking authors now? Man, I've got to watch my language.
:oops: :oops:

Excuse my poor wording. I'm not blocking any authors...and nether is anyone else here. What I meant was that it would be nice if authors could share any old notes they wish to share with gamers...provided that they have not signed into some sort of legal contract that forbids them from discussing their working out.

I know that plenty of authors sign non-disclosure agreements before working on things, but thought that they would expire after the work has been completed.
Colin McComb wrote:Anyway, I've just been digging in my machine, and apparently I transferred lots of my 3.5" stuff to this machine. Now I just need to get a converter for a file type that's, oh, 13 years out of date. I'm not seeing any Thunder Rift in here, though... this is primarily from 1994 and later, so chances are slim that it'll yield any good pickings.
Even if this stuff is mostly notes that are only good for your personal brainstorming, I think that it might be something that could remind you how you came up with particular ideas or something that inspires you to write notes that tell fans to find new ways to use your old books.
Colin McComb wrote:
Big Mac wrote: Hmm. Beyond the Vault of Souls looks like it has the beginings of a "Planescape for Pathfinder" going on. 8-)
Yeah, and Todd Stewart has been doing a bangup job writing their planar materials as well. HIGHLY recommended.
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Re: Q&A with Colin McComb

Post by Big Mac » Wed Nov 04, 2009 12:34 am

<threadjack>
AuldDragon wrote:Also, can you describe what you remember about the creation of the project (did you ask for it, were you assigned to work on it, discussions about it with other developers, input from other people, etc.)? I imagine a lot of in-game research needed to be done as well, which must have been a lot of work. I was rather surprised there was no re-evaluation of the power levels for the "missing" 1st Ed pantheons (Sumerian, Babylonian, Finnish) like there was for the other pantheons when they appeared in the 2nd Ed Legends & Lore, but I assume that was a bit outside the project scope.
I'm hoping that, at some point, someone takes all of the "abandoned pantheons" and uses the ESD Conversion Agreement to turn them into a 3rd edition netbook.

As for the dead gods. DLCS said they were dead, but still stuck in stats for GMs who wanted to run campaigns set in earlier eras. So I would like to see a panthon that works without Enki, but a sidebar that tells people how to put Enki back.
</threadjack>

BTW: I've started a thread in the Spelljammer forum called "[Celenaresspace] Milking PHBR8 to create THE elven sphere".

EDIT: That Celenaresspace thread has shot up to three pages already. I think it may well go epic. :lol:
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