When I created my Kickstarter for Numenera, I named one of the backer levels On-Line Gamer. One of the many rewards for the On-Line Gamer level was having an article written by me on the topic of the backer’s choosing and posted here. For his article, I asked On-Line Gamer backer and author/game designer Rich Howard a few questions about his writing.
Monte: What drives you to write?
Rich: Emotion. The best stories don’t tell you about something happening, they make you feel it. Words are magic. They can change the way a person thinks, or more importantly how they feel, about life. From comics to television to movies to novels to games around the table, the best stories you experience are the ones you must tell someone else about. Think about your favorite stories from childhood. Some are brilliantly written, some are tough to revisit as an adult, but that doesn’t make you love them any less. It’s the emotional memory that can never be taken away. The subtle mysticism of sci-fi and fantasy is they plant the seeds of change in your mind without you realizing it’s happening. The best sci-fi and fantasy gives you a new view of real life issues by slipping around the walls we put up to defend ourselves from them. It’s only on reflection that you realize how the challenges the character’s faced apply to our world.
Professional writing is a dream I never let myself have. It was the dream you want so badly you’re terrified someone will tell you you’re horrible at it. My wife helped me realize how much I was getting in my own way, so several years ago I did everything I could to face down my fear. I started serious work on several novels. I attended local writers’ conferences (luckily I live in San Diego, where conferences are abundant), formed a writers’ group, studied every book/podcast/article I could find, and called on my support group for encouragement. After I finished my young adult novel, Dreamings, I knew I needed something else, something that would push me into believing that the dream was real and within reach. So I bought a ticket to World Fantasy.
Walking among the likes of Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Todd Lockwood, Guy Kay, Pat Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Tim Powers, Charles de Lint, Charles Vess, Ed Greenwood, Mercedes Lackey and so many others pushed my ‘impostor syndrome’ far passed its limit. It was during a conversation with Paizo editor James Sutter that I realized the writing skills I’d worked so hard to perfect over the years could be combined with my decades of gaming experience to fulfill an even bigger dream than that of being a novelist.
Monte: Why games? What does game writing offer that other kinds of writing do not?
Rich: I’ve seen the shyist of gamers come out of their shell around the table, and the most close-minded become moved. I don’t just want my players to follow the trail of breadcrumbs from encounter to encounter, I want to compel them to find out what’s next. Gaming in the ’70s and ’80s molded my childhood. It kept me out of trouble, encouraged me to read about the world, and introduced me to the most intellegent, creative and giving people I’ve ever known. I not only want to give back to the community that has shaped me, I want to help create memories for a new generation of gamers the way Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, George MacDonald, Steve Peterson, Bruce Harlick, Ray Greer, Brian Phillips, Jeff Dee, Todd Lockwood, Elmore, you, Jonathan, Skip and countless others did for me.
Monte: What does the future hold for you?
Rich: I’m currently at work on third-party publishing projects for Pathfinder, including a comprehensive guide to lycanthropes from Misfit Studios, as well as other projects yet to be announced. Along with cultivating my freelance gaming career, I’m in the agent-hunting phase for my novels.
As a former marine biologist, I’m on a personal quest to bring more aquatic-based adventure to the industry. Our oceans are filled with mystery, beauty, and biological diversity rife for gaming. It’s a dream of mine to publish a campaign (perhaps a Pathfinder AP) that takes place entirely underwater. Brilliant RPGs like Biohazard’s Blue Planet and supplements like Alluria Publishing’s Cerulean Seas have already cracked the ice. Time to dive in.