There is nothing more satisfying than completing a project.

Used to be in the old days I’d be afraid of finishing something. If you finish a project, you have to let it out loose into the world and talk about it and let other people see it. That used to be frightening. These days, there is nothing more that I enjoy than crossing off a project on my list of things to do and going to have a celebratory cup of coffee. (Because really, when is there not an excuse to have a cup of coffee?)

The other day I completed No Exit for Evil Hat Productions. It’s one of the stretch goals for the meteoric Kickstarter that’s under a month to competition. It’s been a joy to work on and now I’m looking forward to poking at more things with Fate Core. Because I’ll say this, it wasn’t just fun to write – writing No Exit gave me tons of ideas. I have been kicking them around in a notebook for a bit. The sky’s the limit with a system like Fate Core and my friends are going to get bombarded with ideas for a tabletop game or six in the next few weeks.

That is, when I get back from drinking butter beer at Harry Potter World.

Vacation is a heck of a thing. I took the opportunity to go in between semesters of graduate school and I’m going to nerd it up at the giant Hogwarts in Orlando for a week. And, y’know, sit next to a pool in the sun and write. Because a change of scenery does ya good.

In other news, I’ve also picked up my novel again last night to finish it. Because, as I said before, I’m not scared of finishing things any longer. Consider that a lesson learned from 2012 — writing is the act of bringing something into the world. And if you don’t let it free, it hasn’t really been completed. I’m not going to be scared of that any longer. Hey 2013, let’s see how much I can get done.

It’s been quiet so far on the home front here at my blog. And that’s probably because it got mighty busy around the holiday season. Graduate school final projects are no joke and then the holidays hit, which included my birthday and New Years as it does every year. In between all of that, of course, I’ve been tackling the amazing project I’ve been doing for Fate Core – my setting in psychological horror, No Exit.

The process of creating No Exit has been a learning curve and an eye-opening process for me. Not only am I organizing a lot of thoughts about the basics of psychological horror, I’ve been learning quite a lot about how much to show an audience in a gaming book. Coming from a fiction and screen writing background, writing for games is a whole new ballgame that requires a different way of thinking. Thankfully I’ve got a great editor, John Adamus, mentoring me through the process. His comments on my first draft made me cringe, then laugh, then cringe again. Then crack up a heck of a lot in retrospect. A handy tip: whenever your editor hands you a note, always consider it carefully and decide whether you agree or not before you start making changes. Unless it’s about grammar or layout, in which case you’re probably terribly wrong and should fix it immediately.

My favorite part of creating No Exit so far has been messing with the mechanics. I’ve enjoyed finding out the best way to fight an environment in a game and what would be the best way to do things like, oh, attack an apartment building. What fascinated me was the idea that you could do these things with Fate Core easily – need a new mechanic? Hack in there and create what was needed. Don’t have a skill that exactly fits what you need? Make it work yourself. The sky really is the limit. I’ve had a lovely time finding a way to turn people’s memories into weapons and creating a mechanic for it.

Speaking of new things I’m excited to see – the other stretch goal settings and scenarios for Fate Core have me excited to give them a chance. I really want to play White Picket Witches by Filamena Young and Camelot Trigger by Rob Wieland because small town witches and futuristic Camelot just sounds like fun. And it only goes to show what you can do with Fate Core – which, as far as I can tell, is pretty much anything.

I’ve also been delving into some other inspirations for No Exit recently. Here’s some things I’ve been listening to and watching to keep me in the mindset of this setting:

Songs:

“Amen” by Leonard Cohen, “Seven Exodus” by Tub Ring, “No Light” by Florence + The Machine

Television:

“Lost”, “Twin Peaks”

Movies:

“Identity”, “Jacob’s Ladder”

Today I hope to complete draft two and send it on it’s way. A change of scene is hard when you’re trying to write scary and you’re sitting in the bright sunny SoCal sun!

Hey all of you out there in gamer land. You might have heard that this week has been HUGE on Kickstarter for a game called Fate Core. You may have heard of it before, but if you haven’t here’s the skinny. Fate Core is the awesome new version of the Fate System, which is the engine behind such games as Spirit of the Century, Dresden Files RPG, and Bulldogs. The folks over at Evil Hat Productions put together a fantastic new Fate Core and the book went up on Kickstarter this week. And, wouldn’t you know, it’s doing pretty well.

Yeah, okay, that’s the understatement of a lifetime. It kind of exploded in a glory of Fudge Dice and amazing stretch goals. The book was funded in the first fifteen minutes and as of this writing is somewhere around $93,o00. The response has been unbelievable and as a huge Fate fan I’m thrilled. But I’m not just here to raise a celebratory glass to Fred Hicks and the folks at Evil Hat. I’m here to tell you about a little scenario called “No Exit” being written for Fate Core – by yours truly.

A few days before the Kickstarter went up, Fred reached out to me to write a supplement that would be included as a Kickstarter stretch goal. We tossed around a few ideas but one rose to the top pretty fast. The scenario’s called “No Exit” and if you’ve heard that title before, maybe you’ve read a certain play by Sartre by the same name. That play’s been one of my favorites for a long time and feeds perfectly into the themes of interpersonal psychological horror I want to explore with “No Exit”.

“It’s what one does, and nothing else, that proves the stuff one’s made of.” – INEZ, Jean-Paul Sartre’s NO EXIT

Folks who know me know that I love games that give you the space to explore powerful interpersonal relationships and interactions. Any time I can really get into deep role-play situations that tug and pull at social dynamics, charged intertwined backstories, or intense psychological drama, you’re singing my tune. I’m a big fan of shows like Lost that play havoc with people’s emotions by twisting each character around the other, making everyone play off each other in remarkably odd circumstances. The goal is to discover how people REALLY are when the chips are down. So I boiled down those elements with a weird, unnerving scenario that came out of a strange encounter in the dead of night.

I had come home late from graduate school late one night and walked into the apartment to find no one home. That’s not unusual so I went about my business. As I was getting ready for bed, I heard a noise at the front door. As it was three AM, I got concerned and went to check. I tried to pull open the front door only to find it stuck. I tugged it over and over, but it wouldn’t budge. Finally I pulled as hard as I could and the door unstuck with a jolt, and I looked into my hallway. Down the hall stood a man, stooped over, looking at the floor. He looked up at me from under a hat for a moment and then walked through the door to the fire stairs. I wondered what the man was doing in the hall and why it sounded like he was at my door. I looked down and saw I was standing on a religious pamphlet going on in tiny, hand-written letters about bringing me back to God. I turned and went back inside and made sure to lock the door. I tossed the creepy pamphlet, forgot about it for the most part and went to bed. But before I fell asleep, I imagined one thing: what if the pamphlet had said something else? What if instead it was just a note.

It would say, “I know your secret.”

What if it was more specific? How about, “Your husband has been lying to you all along”?

No, more specific. “Your daughter isn’t your daughter after all.”

What if there were more notes, one for every apartment? What if there were phone calls, and mysterious voices that spoke through drains? What if there was a man in a hat who told you as you went to the garbage to think about last Christmas, when everyone went home early from the office party and you stayed behind with that girl from Accounting. And don’t you just remember that night, but you never told your SO for fear of what they’d do…

I lay in bed thinking about these options. Then I wondered about the front door and thought:

“What if it wouldn’t open?”

Intimate psychological pressure, confinement and the search for meaning. To paraphrase Sartre, hell really is other people.

With my stretch goal funded on Day One, “No Exit” will be released at the end of the Fate Core Kickstarter run. And I’ll give more updates about the process as I go along. Meanwhile, this project’s a hell of a ride and I’m excited as can be to be a part of it. Time to get on the writing fingers and go find out just what keeps people between the four walls of Westley House.