Saturday, January 9, 2010

The second dry spell

Earlier I had discussed the dry spell--the almost ten years when I only gave scant attention to anything rpg-related. That period ended in 2001-2002. Early 2004 commenced a second dry spell in my life. After spending untold hours drawing maps of various things on a computer using MS Paint (!) and really re-immersing myself in D&D and its current state of existence, I was forced to put it on the back burner.

Work grew extremely hectic: It was common to work 65+ hours per week. I travelled often, up to several weeks at a time, and was busier when travelling than when at home. Not only was work amping up, but the arrival of the little one in my life and all of the inherent duties associated with having her completely removed the possibility. Two years went by when I didn't think at all about the maps I had drawn or about D&D.

I also believe that this period, from 2004 until sometime in 2006, was a key time for the rpg, and particularly pdf, markets. It was key in that a lot of consolidation and elimination seemed to occur during that time. The big names grew bigger; the tiny names disappeared; a lot of churn had occurred and the playing field was solidifying. In short, the novelty of rpg pdf publishing had worn off. Looking back, The Fantasy Cartographic could have had a more successful beginning if I had jumped into publishing about three years earlier than I ended up doing. [More on that in a future post...] But I didn't.

In 2006, a family event was to occur that was going to bring together all of the people that I had played D&D with when I was younger. I was going to see (almost) everyone with whom D&D was a common topic of discussion. That prompted me to pull out and dust off the maps that I had drawn. And after two years, I was still happy with them. I even asked myself--why haven't you done anything with these? But I made the firm decision to actually compile them into something and publish them. This was when The Fantasy Cartographic was born.

[Why The Fantasy Cartographic? Well, honestly, I grew up reading, and completely loving, National Geographic magazine. My father had had a subscription since 1967, and they all sat on the bookshelf in our family room when I was growing up. The magazine was, to the real world, what D&D was to my imagination. It was geography, adventure, strange and faraway places, peoples, and cultures, and maps, fantastic maps. IMO, if there wasn't a D&D, the National Geographic would have provided everything that I needed to take me away from my mundane existence. I could go on, but maybe I'll write more about the National Geographic in another post. Suffice it to say that The Fantasy Cartographic is my personal tribute to the National Geographic.]

Initially, I thought that I would just gather all of the maps and sell them--just maps with titles, no text, no description, nothing. I eventually came to the conclusion, however, that to do that, the maps would have to be fantastic. Not just good, or even great, but knock-your-socks-off fantastic. They weren't. Now, I love them. But in a world where WoTC has Map-a-Day or Map-of-the-Week or whatever they called it, where they make available on the internet maps from their products for free, mine wouldn't cut it. In a world where everyone seems to prefer full-color, hyper-realistic, stunning works of cartography, mine wouldn't cut it. [Personally, those types of maps are really nice to look at, but I don't need those to play D&D. All I need is a crisp map that is evocative in some way. The maps that I had drawn were crisp. Black-and-white. Easy on the printer. They were maps that I would use and have used.]

So how to make this collection of maps something that I would be willing to ask people money in return for? Perhaps more importantly, something that people would pay money for? I decided that I would write an adventure idea for each map--some fluff inspired by the map, completely rules-free. So that brings me back to this family event coming up in the summer of 2006. Rather than do the writing by myself, why not enlist the aid of the people that I first played D&D with? And that's just what I did.

I brought that assortment of maps to said event. Each map had a title and nothing else. The guys looked them over, each volunteered to write about one or more of them, and off it went.

And fourteen months later, Locales, Volume 1 appeared for sale on Why fourteen months?  Perhaps I'll discuss that another time.

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