Once upon a time, I got a call from John Nee at WildStorm Productions. They wanted to produce a collectible card game, but they knew nothing about how to pull it off. Jim Lee and Drew Bittner had gotten together and designed a first draft, but they wanted a professional’s opinion about it.
John got my name from Martin Stever, an old college buddy of mine. John asked me if I’d be willing to fly out to La Jolla, California, for a week to hammer at the game. We worked out the details, and I was gone.
The game was rough, pretty much what you’d expect from people who’d never designed a game before, but it showed promise. Drew and I smacked the thing into shape over the course of that week and lots of later e-mails and phone calls. Eventually it became the WildStorms CCG
With the money I earned from the game, I paid off all my debts and started Pinnacle Entertainment Group with Shane Hensley. Meanwhile, I continued to work on expansions for WildStorms, keeping in contact with the WildStorm guys.
Sometime in 1997, I set up a deal for Pinnacle to publish a WildStorm Roleplaying Game. We were so close to signing the deal that we even put out a press release about it. There was a hard lesson learned: No matter how close a deal might be, never say anything about it until you have ink on dotted lines.
At the last second, WildStorm pulled out of the deal. They thought that Wizards of the Coast might do the game instead, and Wizards was sure to sell a lot more copies. Since WildStorm was working on the C-23 CCG for Wizards, John thought they had a good chance of placing the license there.
C-23 tanked, and Wizards never picked up the RPG license. By that time, Pinnacle had moved on to other things, and WildStorm was working on getting sold to DC Comics.
Fast forward to Gen Con 2003, the first one in Indianapolis. I always spend some time at shows wandering around and checking out what everyone else is doing. When I got to the Guardians of Order booth, I spy a flyer for a brand-new license for The Authority Role-Playing Game.
Up until WildStorm was sold to DC, I was on their comp list. This meant I got a nice box of free comics in my mailbox every month, everything they’d published in the last 30 days or so. I’m a comics junkie, and I devoured them all. Most of them were all right, but some were flipping fantastic. Warren Ellis’s run on StormWatch was at the top of the heap.
StormWatch later mutated into a whole new title: The Authority. Written by Ellis, with art by Brian Hitch and Paul Neary, it quickly became my favorite title.
So when I saw the flyer at the Guardians of Order booth, my first question to developer Jesse Scoble was, “Can I help?” Jesse was kind enough to not tell me to quit cutting in line and get back behind the rest of the designers drooling over the chance to work on the game. We talked.
In the end, I wrote the player’s chapter for the game, and I had a blast. I always love an excuse to reread great material. I even hit eBay and finally tracked down the WildC.A.Ts. vs. Aliens books Ellis wrote, in which StormWatch is nearly destroyed, leading up nicely to the formation of the Authority.
Besides having the chance to write a fun part of a great RPG, I got a bit of closure from the deal. I finally got to work on the closest thing there’s ever been—and may ever be—to a WildStorm RPG. You stick around long enough in this business, and it all comes back to you, sometimes even better than before.
The book is due out in March, and you should be able to find your copy at better game stores everywhere. Through some trick of alphabetization, I seem to be listed as the first name in the credits, although I only wrote a small portion of the book. My work there is fortunate to be surrounded by that of John Snead, John Chambers, and Jesse Scoble, and I almost can’t wait to have the actual book in my hands.