Aside from my day job documenting the cutting-edge finance technology at Ripple, I've been fortunate enough to be contracted by Fantasy Flight Games as a contributor for several books in their Star Wars role-playing line. Working with them has been an absolute pleasure, so I figured I'd share some of the writing and development credits I've earned.
(Disclaimer: the thoughts and views expressed here are my own, and do not represent those of Fantasy Flight Games, Lucasfilm, or Disney.)
My first writing credit for FFG is this book, a supplement for the Age of Rebellion line targeted at the Diplomat career. For my part, I wrote a whole bunch of background material and character inspiration stuff—Diplomat Backgrounds, Duties, and Motivations (pp. 12-17, 35-36). Admittedly, even among the niche audience that buys the book, probably a lot of them will never read those 8 pages. (I happen to a know a certain player who might not read any pages...) Still, I like to think that the concepts here have helped some players roleplay deeper, more interesting characters.
Backgrounds, of course, are the seeds that push a player to consider her character's checkered past and how it motivates him in the present. Duties incentivize a character in the present, rewarding the team when a character fulfills his role. And Motivations, including my Diplomat-specific "Creed" category, invite a player to consider what drives the character on a daily basis. I can only hope that my suggestion that the players "look for opportunities... to mention their Creeds" aloud has led to someone annoying the heck out of her GM by repeating a stupid mantra every time her character is about to make a fool of himself.
My first reaction upon hearing that I'd been contracted to work on a book focusing on the Diplomat career was, "a sourcebook for the non-combat character class? Who'd even buy this? ... aside from me, I mean?" In a way, it was a perfect fit. After all, my preferred style of play in tabletop RPGs is talky, with all the negotiation, investigation, and creative puzzle-solving as you can fit around a dinner table before one of my fellow PCs literally starts blows things up out of boredom. (This has happened... more than once.) The truth was, of course, FFG is more clever than that, and the book is packed with rules crunch, too, but my favorite sections (not counting my own) are the bits that suggest ways to work humor into a campaign naturally.
My work for this one involved introductory material, more Backgrounds, Morality, and Motivations (pp. 12-17, 32-33). In essence, this was an exact parallel to my work on Desperate Allies, this time for the Guardian career in the Force and Destiny game. Of the three books I've worked on, this is the one that got most heavily edited. I think my colleague Max, the lead developer on this one, added and rewrote several big sections. I'm very glad he did, because the end result is way better than the draft I turned in.
One of the challenges of working on the book is, I think, intrinsic to the Force and Destiny line itself. Historically, the problem with tabletop role-playing games set in the Star Wars universe was that everyone wants to be (a version of) Luke Skywalker. The plotline of the original trilogy hinges on the idea that Luke is the last of the Jedi, so it really cheapens that if everyone gets to be a special Jedi. (Incidentally, the original Star Wars Expanded Universe had almost the same problem. I guess that tends to happen when the line between fan and creator is so easily crossed.)
I'm just guessing here, but I think that's (partly) why FFG decided to release two entire game lines focusing on everything else before finally publishing the game for Force-sensitives. I'm glad they did, too. It creates accepted spaces for people who want to be more like Han and Lando, or like Wedge and Leia, without space-wizards ruining everything. In general, separating Star Wars into three compatible game lines makes for tighter campaigns since the PCs are sort of roped into common causes. (I'd also guess that they sold more books that way, but I have no way of knowing.)
Force and Destiny works because it lets everyone be just a little bit special, but it's still in a weird place as far as Star Wars continuity is concerned. In terms of the timeline, it's set around when Return of the Jedi takes place, which means that there really isn't much room for other actual Jedi besides Luke. Instead, you have people with Force powers, people inspired by the Jedi, and people tangentially connected to the Jedi Order—and an entire book of
character classes careers for different aspects or versions of not-quite-Jedi. Differentiating those from one another is a challenge, and one I personally struggled with in my work there. Nonetheless, the words and phrases I strung together came out pretty well when supplemented by the stellar work of the FFG editors.
The latest book from Fantasy Flight Games to feature my writing is this Age of Rebellion supplement focused on the Soldier career. My work in this book is the Vehicles section (pp. 56-63), covering walkers, landspeeders, and airspeeders. It's quite the departure from my previous two books, where I did mostly fluffy background writing, but maybe less of a departure than you might realize. After all, every vehicle comes with a nice couple paragraphs of background to evoke the look, feel, history, and purpose of the model.
I find that kind of writing to be surprisingly fun to write and read. Some people might think it's dry, but I relish the idea of looking into another world through the profiles of vehicles like the ones here. Sometimes you learn things on the macro scale, like how the Low Altitude Assault Transport is an underestimated piece of hardware because it put itself out of a job. Other times, you get personal stories like the stormtroopers who don't trust dropships that can't get them back into orbit, after watching others get abandoned. (That one was inspired by a particularly memorable dream I had many years ago, in case you're curious!)
Just like with Backgrounds and other rules-light sections, the goal of a vehicle profile is to provide the players inspirations for their own creativity. In a sense, every vehicle comes with a short story, providing a prop, a backdrop, or an inciting incident for a scene that unfolds in the act of roleplaying.
Of course, vehicle profiles are also collections of stats and equipment lists, which are not as easy to write, especially if your goal is to differentiate the mechanical profiles of vehicles that fall into similar classes. Fortunately for me, the fine folks at FFG thought up and filled in some appropriate "Additional Rules" to make some of the designs stand out more in gameplay.
Overall, I think my work for this book is some of my best published writing. Together with the great design and illustrations that come standard in a Fantasy Flight Games book, it's something I'm proud to share and glad to have on my bookshelf.
It's said that the only good writing is rewriting, which is why I'm so glad to have had the dedicated and steady hands of Fantasy Flight Games to polish up the sloppy ideas they bought from me before sharing them with the rest of the world. It's an amusing turn of events that I was working at Disney when they bought Lucasfilm, but I only got to work on Star Wars after leaving. Life is full of twists like that, and it's my belief that roleplaying games give us an opportunity to experience a greater diversity of experiences without ever leaving home.
For someone like me who spent so much of his school years reading Star Wars novels, getting the chance to contribute back to the property has been a dream come true, and I hope that I'll have similar opportunities in the future. To that end: it will probably help if these sell well. So, if you haven't already, head on down to your friendly local game store and buy some books!