Wednesday, May 29, 2024

I think I've Forgotten More than I Remember

 I've been working for Troll Lord Games for 25 years now. That's a fair bit of time and it has been an extremely busy and vibrant quarter century. Notice I don't use the word successful, because it has not always been that way. There were some hard fights along the way, most of the way. And I suspect more to come. 

So many things have happened or we have been a part of that it is difficult to remember them all, or even to string some of them together. I now can safely say, that I've forgotten more than I knew. 

I wonder though, if I went back through all the financials, if I could put things together. A time line for sure, but I wonder if it would trigger all manner of memories. 

For instance when we began, we kept records in a ledger book, one you would see from the 1930s. We had a huge business check book, spiral bound, black, that we made payments from. Now of course it is all automated and we do it on computers. Digital files. A wholly different type of ledger!

This jumbled pile of financials represents 2007 through 2018 or there abouts. Every receipt, check, etc. There's the historian's bread crumbs. The other 7 or 8 years are tucked away in other corners here and there.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Movie Recommendation ~ The Last Stop in Yuma County

I kicked back and took a little time to watch The Last Stop in Yuma County last night and I have to say, I was NOT disappointed. 

It was riveting from start to finish. It is a beautifully shot movie, capturing the Arizona dry heat in this not too glaring yellow wash. I felt I was there. The story is, very unusual, with some interesting bordering on wild turns. Everyone in the movie carried it wonderfully. 

No spoilers here but to say, it is not for the faint of heart and just, well, just watch it. 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Memories from the Office of a Game Publisher - My Office Circa '07

 I feel as if this is the typical office of an RPG publisher. Maybe. Maybe not.  This was taken in and around 2007 I suspect (see previous post). 

On the left you have a flail or a morning star as I like to call it. 

The fan of course. A printer with instructions written on the front of it. A pile of indiscriminate paper, which if I remember correctly led to the big metal 1950s teacher desks we have now. I had no drawers with this table as you can plainly see.

A monitor rather old and with no telling what windows was on there (95?). I wonder who I was emailing?

A pile of Gary Gygax books. What RPG publisher would be worth their salt without the world builder books!

A pile of screw drivers for lord only knows what reason. probably the printer. A map of the world of Aihrde on the wall. A stapler, not red, paper clips, scissors, check stamps, a calculator (I still have that calculator and stapler). 

A Dr. Pepper of course.

Interestingly the floor is incomplete. I was laying down pergo flooring and ran out. We ran out of money so it stayed that way for a few months. 

This was definitely taken in 2007 as the Cosmos Builder is there on the far right and it was published in 2007.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Memories from the Office of a Game Publisher – Office Space

Everywhere I look across social media I seem to be encountering two things. Economic news about the pending commercial real estate collapse, and the movie Office Space. The former is vaguely interesting to me, as I applaud the work-from-home movement (better in the long run for everyone, from employees to employers and on to the tread on your tires), and the latter is one of my favorite movies. If you’ve not seen it, you should get some popcorn and give it a look see….but only after you clock out as its not a movies-from-home movement!

But these two fish bowls got me thinking about my own fish bowl. I’ve been doing this, publishing games, for 25 years, how have my offices fared?

The first of my offices was in my kitchen, dining area in my home. That was in 1999-2001 or some such. Kathy (the wife, there can be only one) was exceedingly patient. I remember it well as my computers walled off the table and faced the kitchen so that any small raiders in diapers were plane to see.

The second office was short lived, ’02 or thereabouts. We rented office space from a friend of mine and tried to do that. It lasted about a year, maybe.

In 2003 I moved back to the house, but by then we had closed in an annex to the house and made it a library/office. I worked there for what seems like several years. Todd joined me there and later came Davis. We had three work stations, each with our own desks.

In ’05 we started the print shop in that annex and everyone was kicked out. I moved back to the dining/kitchen area and set up my old office. It was very inconvenient. The family had grown and was continuing to do so.

In ’06 we moved to a new, bigger house, one we picked because it had a room perfect for my office. I set up there (where I still am). In the beginning it was just me. Then Todd moved from the mail room (the large room adjacent to the office) to my office and we shared the space for about a year. But we eventually drove each other nuts, him with my music and me with his slow typing! So he moved back into the mail room, as we moved a great deal of the storage to a warehouse.

As a side note, previously all TLG backstock was in Fort Wayne or the mail room, it was crowded, but we moved the back stock to a local warehouse.

Todd remained in the mail room and me in the office I currently occupy. He moved on to other offices eventually and left me here. My current office has gone through many changes, the desk continually moving, dial up to digital, to no phone at all, painted walls from white to green and all the other sundries. But despite the alterations, I’ve been here for the better part of TLG’s 25 years.

I think its time for some new duds though. Not sure where, but I do know I’m not going to help the commercial landlords get out of whatever bind they are in. Maybe there’s a pasture somewhere, sans the cows, where just the green green grass is blowing back and forth in the wind.


The Annex served as my office for several years. I loved this space s it gave me plenty of room to work, natural light, and I could see outside with ease.
* The Annex served as my office for several years. I loved this space as it gave me plenty of room to work, natural light, and I could see outside with ease.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Memories of a Traveling Publisher ~ A Wild Ride

Some time ago, I think around ’04 or ’05, Todd Gray and I were coming back from Origins up in Columbus, Ohio. We were in Old Blue and had no camper shell. I can’t imagine why we went to a convention without a camper shell, but the cause and effect of such things are best not riddled over much. We tarped the cargo of course, but not much more than that.

At any rate, we were moving along as travelers are wont to do. After loading up we hit the road, somewhere around 5 in the evening. We took 71 headed to Cincinnati, Ohio, the first leg of our journey. We passed through the corn fields of that beautiful state, crossed the Ohio River at the aforementioned city and slipped on into the Blue Grass State, Kaintuck as Johnny Cash calls it in The Road to Kaintuck.

From there we went to Louisville and along one of my favorite interstates, 65. On that road its an easy drive to Nashville, Tennessee, as the road is usually open and not too crowded. As we crossed down to Tennessee the sun began to slip beneath the horizon. In short order we were headlights only, driving along. About this point Todd fell asleep. That boy can sleep in any moving vehicle as long as he’s not driving. If he’s driving he’s good for as long as the wheel is in his hands, when its not, he’s not, and he’s usually sound asleep.

We hit Nashville and turned left on 40, heading west to Memphis, anticipating crossing the Mississippi river and heading on home to Arkansas. Its still a five hour drive from Nashville and I was worn out, and so I pulled over to get some Dr. Pepper. He switched seats to take over and relaxed while I fished for my favorite beverage. Not driving, he promptly fell asleep. When I returned I played hell getting him to wake up and let me in the truck.

Off we went, and before long the dark sky lit up with lightning. The forested hills along that stretch are little more than black silhouettes, ominous shadows that ring in the plaintive lights of your little truck as it passes down the long highway. The flashes of light changed that, outlining the hills and trees in perfect detail, making what was ominous, suddenly baleful. We could feel a storm coming but had no choice but to plow on.

Somewhere on that dark, lonely road, about 11 or so, the weather turned. With windows wide open, as Todd and I do when traveling together, we could feel the weight of it and smell the moisture everywhere. What the lightning presaged gave us a go and the sky opened up. I remember it was a bad one, that rain fell like no tomorrow, beating the wipers in a flood they couldn’t contain, coating our headlights to flickering shadows, driving our windows shut, and hammering that tarp loose in the back. We had it tucked and not tied and those tucks in the back gave way right quick, so the tarp took on a life of its own and the cargo was as exposed as if under a bed sheet

Todd asked me “what do you want to do”!? I told him only one thing to do, “drive faster! use the cab to protect the cargo!” So on we went, plowing through that rain too fast and too slow all at the same time. It felt like a tunnel of water. The battering on the windshield drowned all but our maniacal exuberance, cascaded across the windows in unending rivulets, and whipped back into the cab through the open sliding glass in the back window. The tarp battered back and forth, loose now all up and down the load, as it strained to cling to its hold in the face of those wild winds and falling water. The submerging lasted forever, or so it seemed, and our exuberance began to give way to exhaustion and we both began looking for a safe harbor. To pull over without sure protection was to doom the load so we had to keep a sharp eye for a gas station. One after another slipped by, sometimes we didn't see them, sometimes their lights were off. It seemed to never end as the water harrowed our cargo.

After awhile we found an abandoned truck stop, whipped in to rest and ride it out, fix the tarp and enjoy the remnants of our Dr. Pepper.

It was a wild ride.

Old Blue just before retirment.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Memories of a Traveling Publisher

I sometimes wish that I could go back in time, stop the fellow I was then and tell him… What? I don’t know exactly. Maybe I just want to be in his shoes with the knowledge I have now.

But where would the fun in that be, knowing the end in the middle?

One of my fondest memories from the early days of Troll Lord Games is a night, I was laying in the bed of the truck, beneath the camper shell on the cot we had back there, waking up in the middle of New Mexico somewhere. I remember looking out the little window, screened as it was, and watching the dark interstate lumber by, the long white line. Beyond that was an arid darkness of faint scrub brush and shadowy forms I only guessed were rocks, but whose shape defied the dark’s understanding. The mountains, low as I remember, ran the horizon, crowned with the blue-black dome of the sky as it climbed ever higher, illuminated by a thousand stars who danced their lonely vigil over mountain, scrub, truck, and white-lined highway.

I lay there for a long time watching that country roll by. I don’t remember what thoughts ran through my mind, whether I was awestruck by beauty or working on wayward plans of what TLG would do next, of how we would break out. Probably it was both, one leading into the other, the world’s beauty lost in the world’s never ending fight for sustenance.

What would I tell him. In those beginning days when we didn’t know what we were doing but did it anyway. What would he want to hear? 

“Move along!” I would probably say. As I was not so patient then, as I am now.

This picture was taken from the internet. I do not know whose it is, but it is similar to the view I would have seen. Sadly all our pictures from the early days were lost when Todd Gray's phone was stolen back in '03.

Monday, May 20, 2024

This Puts the M in the Medieval Period

I'm not sure what was going on in the Medieval period, but I'm pretty sure it was very different than what we think. I think those people were having ever bit a good (and hard) time as we do today. 

Maybe time is a flat circle....

Songs from the Drowned Lands ~ Kernaghan

Recently I took a trip to New York (the city) and needed something to read that I could easily carry on the plane. I don't really buy pa...