Friday, May 23, 2008

James Mishler Answers More!

In response to some questions and concerns I had in my review of the first issue of AGP's Adventure Games Journal, James Mishler has responded. I have reproduced the following from his email to me with his kind permission:

1) Regarding the throne, that bit is all original. In fact, the original concept was for a pegasus-based crown (the Overlord's Crown of Telepathy), but the artist, Peter Bradley, felt that would be too small in detail to show up well. So we decided to go with a pegasus-based throne which, as the shield device of the Overlord in the Wilderlands of High Adventure is a pegasus rampant, is also most excellent. Pegasi appear in many places in reference to the City State; the Knights of the Inner Circle are pegasus riders. Hygelak still has the crown, too, he actually has several, he just doesn't wear it all the time (he dislikes crowns in general, feeling them to be ostentatious; he's a simple guy in many ways, sort of like Attila the Hun in that respect).

2) Just to make sure that readers of this review who missed the replies to XXXI know, the trade dress and graphic design are developing and improving with each product. The next product will have standard covers and page counts, and beginning with Adventure Games Journal #2, we will have full-color covers. I also plan to have as many maps in full color as is financially feasable; the thought of a Wilderness Book along the lines of Shield Maidens of Sea Rune with 22 hexes in glorious color is just too cool to resist!

3) "The World of the Wilderlands of High Adventure" article was, indeed, overly long. It was needful, however, to establish the setting, geographically and thematically, with fans both old and new. Most articles will not be remotely as long, though some will deal with Wilderlands minutiae.

4) I should note that the Shopping List and Adventure Finder will not be continued; the space can be better used for other articles, plus even were the magazine to hit its bimonthly schedule, the information would always be out of date on publication! I hope to offer both to the AGP website, especially the Adventure Finder.

5) Regarding articles with Wilderlands minutiae, I will always have at least one article along those lines in each issue, though not nearly as long as the original article, as mentioned above; perhaps five or six pages or so. There are fans who enjoy these articles. These articles, as with any articles or even whole products about the Wilderlands, are all optional for use by the judge; we fully ascribe to Bob Bledsaw's "The Wilderlands is what each judge makes of it" philosophy. Nothing we produce is to be taken as canon, in that a player can point to it and say, "See, this is the way it is, you the judge are wrong." There is no Wilderlands canon, only suggestions. Any player who argues this point needs a thorough ass kicking, or at least should have his character eaten alive by ghouls.

6) As to the delays, yes, there have been unforgivable delays. There are many causes, but no excuses. At first the difficulty was getting the first issue done right, especially the establishing article for the Wilderlands. It was literally as we sent that first issue off to the printers that we found out about Bob's cancer. Then followed Gary's passing, and not long after Bob's passing. It's been a bad year so far, personally; Bob and Gary were not merely my heroes, they were also my friends. And of course, Bob was my business partner. This, combined with a horribly underperforming games market has caused no end of stress, which severely impacts my ability to write. That's been the central issue with the delays... writer's block. I'm no Steve Long mind you, but on my good days I can write upward of 4,000 words; but it's been a long time since I've had a good day, or even a poor day.

Things have cleared up of late; Gary and Bob's funerals were cathartic, and we are slowly dealing with issues, personal and business, following Bob's death. There now remain two dual humps, the release of Dungeons & Dragons 4E and the 4E GSL and the effect they will have on third-party publishers. Ideally, both will release the pent-up purchasing decisions that game consumers and retailers have held in abeyance since the announcement of 4E at GenCon. There are further issues to deal with vis a vis the GSL vs. OGL and the Wilderlands "brand," but those cannot be worked out until we actually see the GSL.

As to not subscribing, I can completely understand. Had I to do it over again, I would not have gone with the subscription method; I did it mostly out of fond memories of the Judges Guild as a "guild," a gamer's sodality, rather than any proper business sense. One of the first rules of business is to not let your emotions overwhelm your business plan; in this respect I did, and my subscribers have been the ones to suffer for my failures. Their faith will not be misplaced, though it will take some time to get things back on track. I guarantee that subscribers will get their due, and will not be disappointed. I hope in the future to evolve the subscription base into something more like a true guild of gamers, as Bob originally envisioned for Judges Guild all those years ago.

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