I am scared of GenCon.
GenCon ’04 — three days from now — marks the culmination and presentation of the single most important thing I have done with this drunken mess I call my life. My eyes are tearing up as I write this. Three days from now, I will stand in naked judgment of the assembled throng of gamerdom.
Scared: That’s the only word for it.
As you may know, Vampire: The Requiem debuts at GenCon. This single piece of writing has occupied the entirety of my attention for the past 22 months. Twenty-two months! This book has outlasted (or perhaps consumed?) my past two relationships. I’ve lived in two different places since commencing work on it and I’m about to move to a third mere days after the book arrives.
It’s good. It’s really good. I daresay it’s great. All humility aside, I’m very proud of this book.
That’s the problem. I’m hardly objective. It’s simultaneously the scary part. What if I’m actually an utter retard? A pretender who’s snowed his bosses, fooled thousands of earnest gamers, and secretly validated the criticism of his detractors? What if the emperor has no clothes?
At this point, there’s nothing I can do but chew my nails and wait. I can’t make changes to the book anymore. I can’t STOP THE PRESSES and rework an idea. If it has bugs, I have to cop to them. If it’s downright broken, I’ve fucked up not only my own magnum opus to date, but I’ve jeopardized the wellbeing of everyone I work with, because ain’t nobody going to want to play some busted-ass game. All I can do is sit here and sweat. Okay, I can nurse this bourbon and water, but all that really accomplishes is to transform the gnawing in my stomach into a pleasant, sugary burn.
This sounds negative and I don’t mean it that way. As I said, I genuinely believe that this is a great game. I’m ecstatic with the numbers it’s turning. I’m excited by the reasoned response the teaser bits have generated and I’m hella enthused by the critical thought some of the more clever fans have already invested in it. I can’t wait until it’s in their hands and they kick the ever-loving shit out of their gaming groups, infused with a sense of the dawning horror of the game and the rush of creativity it hopefully awakens in them. See? I’m not even making sense anymore. I’m so giddy I’m just piling words on top of each other.
Relax. I don’t act like this in the book itself.
Where I start to go awry is in recognizing the scope of this thing. It’s huge. It’s literally the most important thing I’ve ever done. It’s going to reach tens and hundreds of thousands of people. As the book’s shepherd, I’m the guy who went through every single idea in the book and asked if a previous incarnation of the notion was strong enough to keep, if we needed to twist the idea until it squealed, or if we needed to ditch the whole concept and build something new. (Of course, I have to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to my predecessors, without whom I wouldn’t even have had this chance.) Many, many hands contributed to the book, but I was their god-king, their führer, and hopefully more than a little bit of their Muse. All the disparate parts came together on my Frankenstein’s lab table. This isn’t ego — it’s accountability. That’s a lot of stuff to stitch together (to continue the Frankenstein metaphor). Massive amounts of material were rewritten or created whole cloth as the project grew, changed direction, reflected new thoughts and incorporated new ideas. I did it or doled it out to people I trusted to get it done correctly.
So there’s where the scope weighs on me. Right or wrong, I’m the book’s omega.
I’m working on a new relationship now and, frankly, it hasn’t received the attention it should because I still have this portion of career to place before personal ambition. It’s going well, though, and I wonder if some of that isn’t due to the feeling that my priorities are in the right place. It’s helping me not rush the relationship.
On the other hand, it’s been hard to sleep recently. I’m dead tired all the time, until I make it to bed, at which point I thrash around until one or two in the morning. I originally planned to move back to Texas after completing this book, but looking at it now, I can’t do that and expect to satisfy my books’ needs reasonably.
More than anything else, this book has made me take a long, hard look at myself. Vampire’s had its growing pains, which ultimately resulted in this Saturday’s release. By the same token, I have, too. Granted, I probably haven’t grown as much as Vampire has. I’m still the same drunken lout who punches people for saying things he doesn’t like and I still have a serious control issue with substances. On the other hand, those things are scaling back. I’m no longer afraid of getting older. By all accounts, this has been a wretched year personally, but even so, it’s been a good wretched year, if that makes sense. I think I’ve finally learned to deal with life gives me instead of trying to extort things from it that it doesn’t have in store.
God help me, for all the cursing and drinking and fighting, I actually feel somewhat… mature.
So now all I have to do is call upon that maturity and give the book to the world.
If you’re going to be at GenCon, I’m glad to do that with you. It means an inexpressible amount to me that people have such boundless anticipation for the game. Whether for victory or collapse, my life’s work is ready for you.
Here’s where I’ll be at the show:
Worldbuilding for RPGs panel: Friday 3p-4p
Vampire/ World of Darkness launch party: Friday 9p-God knows when
World of Darkness panel: Saturday 11a-1p
Vampire/ World of Darkness autograph session: Sunday 11a-1p
Behind the Scenes Debacles panel: Sunday 1p-2p