Thursday, September 11, 2014

Designing With Bill: Average Joes

I am going to start sharing some of my memories designing with Bill here on the blog as a way of coming to terms with his passing. When you work with someone on creative collaborations for as long as I did with him, you become very close, almost like brothers. Now that Bill is no longer here, this is starting to occur to me as I continue on the things we had started working on. 

Lately I've been putting most of my energy into finishing Orcs of the North (which is based on Bill's last Sertorius campaign) and uploading our modules back onto RPGnow (something we had begun about two weeks ago). Today I started preparing Average Joes for upload and it immediately brought back memories of our work on that project. This book is particularly significant because of how it came about. 

Back in 2010 or possibly early 2011, Bill called me on the phone and said he had either a totally brilliant or completely terrible idea for Terror Network but wasn't sure which. He had just seen Paul Blart Mall Cop and thought it would be cool to make a module set in a mall attacked by terrorists but instead of the Player Characters being normal Terror Network PCs (CIA agents, FBI, etc) they'd be regular folks (plumbers, mothers, grandfathers and even children). I thought this was a really great concept and we started regular meetings to figure out how to make it work. 

Because we had other projects eating up our time we decided to contract a writer to write the module but we still had to do plenty of planning to give the writer clear instructions. The first thing we realized was doing a module like this required new rules for playing unconventional characters. This meant the first part of the book would cover character creation and the campaign concept and the module itself would be more of an example of how to run an "average joes" campaign. So right away this was more than a simple module. 

Terror Network was our first book and Bill's idea injected something new into the line. We already had three modules for it at that point and I think neither of us wanted to cap it with a book that just repeated what we had done so this gave us an opportunity to do something we never really thought was possible with Terror Network: comedy. Bill was by nature a comedian so Average Joes was right up his alley. I just remember brainstorming ideas at my kitchen table and him chuckling when came up with some new twist on the idea. It was the first time we really laughed making a Terror Network product and that felt good. 

I have fond memories of that project. Even for books he and I didn't write ourselves, we'd have to meet and go over lots of details together. Average Joes was a book that required weeks of these sorts of meetings which were always one part working in my kitchen and part eating in my kitchen. We might watch a movie after on TV as well. 

The phone initial phone call about the project was classic Bill. He'd always preface a big idea with whatever led up to him having it, and he'd always frame it as a multiple choice scenario (in this case was it a good idea or a bad one). When I got a call like that I knew I was in for an enthusiastic design session. 

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