Creative Colleagues: Crystal Frasier

Crystal Frasier

Crystal Frasier Photo by Lauren Tozer-Kilts

Every now and then, I pester my creative colleagues with five questions about their work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.

Crystal Frasier is one of those insufferably talented people who don’t limit themselves to one artistic pursuit. Her maps grace the interiors of Pathfinder Tales novels, her graphic design work has adorned many Pathfinder game products, she’s written several acclaimed adventures, and her illustrations are adorable enough to give you a toothache.

I would say that we’re friends, but she has never baked anything for me.

Her most recent publication is the high-level conclusion to the Iron Gods Adventure Path, The Divinity Drive. Anyone with fond memories of the classic D&D module Expedition to the Barrier Peaks should check it out.

1. While I tend to think of you first as an illustrator, you’re also a mapper, a game designer, a graphic designer, and—just tell us, what are your many other talents?

I don’t know if I’d call them “talents.” I’ve just lived an interesting life and try to pick up whatever useful knowledge I can every time I drop into a new situation. Learning how to draw, how to map, and how to design were all just skills I picked up because I either didn’t know or couldn’t afford other people with those skills—the same reason I can fix my own car, cook my own dinner, and possess a detailed knowledge of human anatomy.

I think the only really natural talent I have is a gift for baking and candy-making. My mother taught me to bake when I was still little, so it’s sort of a background life skill I always possessed. From there, candy-making is just wet baking; it uses the same chemistry and similar ingredients, just in different ways. My delicate sense of smell gives me a huge advantage and goes a long way to making baking intuitive; It’s easy to avoid a lot of cooking pitfalls when you can tell if a batter is too alkaline or acidic before popping it into the over.

2. As an outspoken feminist and proponent of transgender issues, you’ve considered the sexism and intolerance among gamers more deeply than most. Do you see things getting better? Worse? Is the vocal minority giving gamers a bad name, or is there something about our community that reinforces these attitudes? Are there things all gamers can do to speed the decline of harmful stereotypes and hateful behavior both in themselves and among their peers?

That’s a complicated question. I don’t think there’s anything inherent about gaming or gamers that makes us prone to intolerance or hate, but I think our brand of crusading anger comes from the hobby we love. The core problem I’ve seen is that most of gaming—and to a lesser extent media in general—pushes the idea of good versus bad, heroes versus villains, scrappy underdogs battling against looming powers. And until recently, “gamer” was synonymous with “outcast,” “nerd,” or “loser.” We were picked on or ignored or beaten up by the looming powers. We were the scrappy underdogs. We were the heroes. But now women and minorities are coming along and saying things like “games have a sexism problem” or “some games push racist attitudes.” These people are calling us the enemy. And we’re the heroes, so they must be the villains.

That’s obviously an oversimplification, but a lot of the defenses I’ve seen of online harassment—from Facebook arguments on up to Penny Arcade themselves—come around to the defense of “I can’t be racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic. I’m a nerd! I got picked on! These people are just making up accusations or being overly sensitive to hurt me because I’m a gamer.” Some people just hold onto this attitude and sulk, or just keep making the same sexist or racist jokes as a point of defiance, but a small minority build entire quests around attacking these perceived enemies. That’s when you see those horrific campaigns of doxing and harassment.

We are making a lot of progress, though, in terms of inclusion. I think most gamers realize and accept that we all have a little evil inside us that we need to be aware of. I see harassment online, but also genuine curiosity from people who want to learn. I remember a time when just being the girl in the gaming group meant sexual overtures from half the table every week, but now I sit down with new groups or organized play tables and see other women, a variety of races, and out queer people. That’s a lot of progress, and I think that rapid progress is why we’re seeing very vocal pushback recently, as a particular segment of gamers starts to feel uncomfortable or displaced.

If individual gamers want to help speed our community’s maturation, then celebrate diversity and try to avoid cheap jokes at the expense of others. Let your favorite publishers know that you like seeing variety in their products. Follow a few diversity-focus blogs like Sarah Darkmagic or Medieval People of Color—at least start you thinking about “facts” you always just assumed to be true. You shouldn’t read or follow uncritically, but it always helps to reference a perspective different from your own.

Cover by Wayne Reynolds

Cover by Wayne Reynolds

3. You’ve designed the concluding volume of the Iron Gods Adventure Path, which is about the scariest design challenge I can imagine. What challenges do you face with high-level scenarios? Or are you the opposite of me and prefer high-level design? If so, how come?

The Divinity Drive was the highest-level adventure I’ve ever written, and it was terrifying. Most of my home campaigns tend to wrap up around level 12 or 14, so writing an adventure for 15th and 16th level characters was a new challenge. In my home games, we take a lighter hand with the rules in high-level encounters, playing out a lot of combats narratively more than mechanically. Players work hard to get to that level of prestige after all, and want to feel like badasses who don’t wiff mooks on a natural 1. Obviously that approach doesn’t work with published adventures, which need to follow the rules as written.

My biggest challenge was just trying to anticipate what characters can or would do. PCs leap from 7th level spells to 8th-level spells in the gap, and gain access to game-changers like limited wish and antimagic field; planning for finds like that is hard, and challenging characters with that kind of power (without killing them outright) is daunting. So instead I tried to focus on making funny, interesting, or weird encounters, more so than truly deadly fights. Divinity Drive focuses on exploring a crashed alien spaceship, after all, so there were plenty of opportunities for “weird.” I basically threw a giant box of tools at the GM and just said “You deal with them!” Any GM who nurses their group along through 15 levels knows them far better than I ever could, so all I did was provide useful maps and stat blocks.

4. What are some ways in which your various creative outlets interact with each other? That is, are there ways in which your visual art influences or is influenced by your game design? Do you conceive of game scenarios in terms of location and the appearance of characters and monsters first before moving on to plot? Or does plot guide the visual aspects of design?

I’m a very visual person. I have trouble with a concept unless I see a graph or a portrait or a map, and that extends into my writing. I can’t write an adventure until I’ve built the maps for it, then naturally it makes sense that the bandit queen would put a trap here and keep her pet cockatrice there. I have a lot of trouble getting into a character’s head unless I sketch them first, or find at least find a portrait to reference; The Harrowing came so easily to me because Kyle Hunter’s beautiful artwork wrote most of the story for me, and most of my NPCs from Empty Graves were inspired by visuals in Miyazaki movies (especially Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which I made my wife watch for the first time while writing it).

I see a lot of my encounters as “wouldn’t it be cool if…” first, and then try to reverse-engineer game mechanics from that, with a lot of help from my visual references.

5. You’ve been both a freelancer and a full-timer in the game industry. Freelancing would seem to be by far the more challenging, but does it come with its own rewards and liberations?

Freelancing has been wonderful! It’s a lot more work, but I only have to work on projects I’m genuinely excited about, and only work with people I like. Unfortunately, I like way too many amazing people, so I don’t get to work with everyone I’d like to.

#RPGaDay: Game You’d Like to See a New/Improved Edition Of

27. Game You’d Like to See a New/Improved Edition Of. Pathfinder.

I love the setting, and it’s my favorite game in large part because of the Adventure Path, which provides a constant stream of quality scenarios, and the wide range of accessories like minis and poster maps. I admire much of the rules expansions, but I’ve long wished for a “Pathfinder Lite,” something more comprehensive than the Beginner’s Box but far simpler than the complete line of core rulebooks and expansions.

The problem is that a “Lite” version of Pathfinder would be valuable only if the Adventure Paths were compatible with both it and the “Advanced” version. After chatting with some Paizonians about the possibility a few years back, I finally accepted the reality that such a design goal was unachievable.

But it doesn’t have to be.

I look forward to the day when Pathfinder gets a second edition, and I hope it includes a “Lite” and “Advanced” version, both compatible with Paizo’s best product, the Adventure Path.

#RPGaDay: Most Complicated RPG Owned

24. Most Complicated RPG Owned. I gravitate toward games of low to moderate complexity, and I think of Pathfinder and any mature edition of D&D as fairly complicated (although a good 20% of that is due entirely to the grapple rules).

Back in the 80s, I marveled at the endless lists of critical hit results from a friend’s copy of Arms Law, Claw Law, Spell Law—elements the original version of Rolemaster. He had them assembled in a loose-leaf binder, which despite its organization had the unexpected effect of making it all look that much more patched-together and complicated. I glanced at a few of the funnier entries and put it away.

I own a later edition of Rolemaster, bought at Gen Con sometime in the mid-90s, but I never played it. The closest I ever came was a short-lived Middle-earth Roleplaying Game campaign, which was also plenty complicated for me.

Question of the Week: Tabletop Roleplaying

While I’ve finally caught up on outstanding writing obligations (with revisions and one very short story on the horizon), I haven’t quite managed to shake the virus that’s shaken me for the past couple of weeks. I’m not sure whether bugs are simply getting more virulent or, more likely, I’m just less resistant in my advancing decrepitude. In any event, I look forward to a summer full of concerts, yard work, a new writing project, and finally some regular tabletop gaming.

Despite writing for some of the heavy-hitters among the tabletop RPG industry, I’m petty indifferent to the edition wars/brand rivalry that fuels a certain segment of the audience. I like using miniatures, and I like combat as part of the game, and generally a system of medium complexity is my sweet spot. But what really makes a difference to me is that there are good published adventures available. Thus, Call of Cthulhu and Pathfinder often win out over other systems, because I have a vast library of their adventures. Various iterations of D&D are a close third.

With the imminent arrival of the new D&D, I’ve vacillated between excitement and ambivalence. Having owned, read, and played all previous editions-—not to mention having worked at TSR, Wizards, and Paizo during two and a half of them—you’d think picking up the newest rules would be a no-brainer. On the other hand, I have to consider the volume of storage space taken up with all the books I’ve hoarded over the past 37 years and whether it makes sense to add to them.

Sales have long indicated that Wizards (and other big RPG houses) make their money off hardcover rules. For a while, adventures were considered a necessary evil. Wizards relegated theirs to the Dungeon portion of their website. Around the same time, Paizo turned their experience with the print version of Dungeon Adventures into a $20 monthly Adventure Path series, not only saving their business but proving there’s not only a market for adventures but that a big market depends on a steady flow of new ones. Now I’m sure the hardcovers still outsell the APs by a bunch, but I don’t think they could reach the sales heights they have without steady tending of the audience through Pathfinder’s APs.

Today’s news that Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter are the writers of two large adventures for the new D&D tips me back toward excited. I’ll certain pick up The Hoard of the Dragon Queen. If that’s as good as I expect, Wizards will have hooked me back—not with a new system, but with the promise of new adventure. That’s why I play.

What draws you to a particular tabletop RPG? As I’ve said, for me it’s adventures, with some pull from the availability of miniatures, especially pre-painted plastic. I also love Paizo’s flip-maps and other tangible accessories. Are you more interested in the rules design? The setting? The authors? The art? Is there some other element that appeals most to you?

Creative Colleagues: F. Wesley Schneider

Wes Schneider

Wes Schneider

Each week, I’ll pester one of my creative colleagues with five questions about his or her work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years. This week’s subject is Wes Schneider, author, game designer, and Editor-in-Chief at Paizo Publishing.

When they first joined Paizo Publishing, I didn’t get to know the new guys working on Dragon & Dungeon magazines for a long time. I was too busy with Star Wars Insider and Gamer, and I’d recently gotten a taste for having a life outside the office, so I didn’t linger at the end of the day. Several months after their arrival, I realized I didn’t know anything about the unit I thought of us “Mike-and-Wes” or simply “the new guys.” Finally I asked them out to lunch to get some idea of who they were as individuals. They couldn’t have been more different. While I ended up hanging out with Mike McArtor too, it was Wes Schneider who I discovered shared my love of cocktails and good food, not to mention a good horror movie—but not A Living Hell, for which they still blame me.

I migrated north before Paizo created Pathfinder, but upon my return as a freelancer, I bumped into Wes again when I set Prince of Wolves in Ustalav, his baby among the litter of Golarion nations. It was Wes who sent copies of the book to the Carrion Crown designers, most of whom slipped references to the novel into the Adventure Path. Since then, Wes has joined the Pathfinder Tales authors with his own Ustalav-based serial, “Guilty Blood,” and his web fiction “Shattered Steel.”

1. You’ve developed a certain reputation as the creepy developer over at Paizo, which is quite an accomplishment in a crowd that collectively reveres Lovecraft. What is it that appeals to you about the gothic supernatural?

I don’t read fantasy and afterwards believe in dragons. I don’t read sci-fi and believe it’s what the future is going to be. But when I read good horror, I do believe. I objectively understand that there aren’t shadowy things watching me from the closet… but nevertheless, it’s going be a while before I’m going in there. Regardless of whether you call that overactive imagination or garden-variety cowardice, I’ve always enjoyed being scared, being able to indulge in a story and have it continue to affect me even after I’ve put it down. There’s something special, something enviable about an artist creating something that takes an hour to enjoy, but that influences the audience even after they step away. Maybe that’s the definition of trauma, but it’s a sort of consensual trauma that’s addictive to many creatives and their willing audiences. Mindful of that, I love the attention gothic horror and great ghost stories pay to crafting ambiance, to building tension, to manipulating emotions toward a particular response—that’s horror that’s not just going for the momentary scare, that’s horror trying to traumatize. If someone tells me something I wrote made them want to flip on a light switch, well that’s about the highest compliment I can get.

2. You’ve also become one of the prominent voices addressing issues of gender and orientation in gaming. What do authors writing “the other” need to keep in mind when, for example, a man writes a female protagonist (as you do) or a straight person writes gay characters?

Avoid stereotypes like the plague. That might be obvious, but it can be more challenging than it seems, especially if you’re not a member of a group and aren’t adept at identifying associated clichés. Recognize your own experience and inexperience. If it turns out that you’re not sure if your “other” feels like a realistic representation, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from a person from that culture, with those experiences, or with success writing similar characters—preferably another author or creative. If you do ask for notes, though, remember that you’re only getting one individual’s feedback, not the consent or endorsement of an entire group. Tokenism is a real thing, and you’ll never be able to defend instances of insensitivity by saying you got person X’s okay. As writers we should all be striving to get into the heads of our characters, but that’s not something we have to do alone. Talk to your friends, ask if you can have a candid conversation about someone else’s life or challenges, read the accounts of those who speak on related topics, and let yourself be surprised by the experiences and goals of those walking different paths. It won’t make you an honorary member of a social group, but a little direction can set you on a course you might have never previously thought to explore.

Cover by Alex Aparin

Cover by Alex Aparin

3. Fantasy writers often get a reputation for lingering over descriptions of food. Now I know you’re a bit of a foodie, but I haven’t seen this habit in your writing (yet). How do you resist it? Why do you think so many other fantasy writers make food such a prominent aspect of their stories?

Ha! You’re right. My usual characters might be a bit malnourished. I’ll have to look into that. But it’s definitely something I’ve seen in my time on Dragon and Pathfinder’s lines. Just as fiction writers indulge sensory descriptions so do adventure writers and world builders. I’ve seen some writers spend paragraphs on an inn’s menu only to practically overlook the murderous cook or the tarry horror lurking in the inn’s basement. Writers write what they know and readers are most affected by what they can empathize with, but I’d encourage all writers to remember their goal and genre. A little description can be a powerful thing, but if you’re having to cut plots or encounters to fully detail every course of the mid-story feast, then maybe you’re not doing your work that much of a favor.

4. You’re kind of the lord of Ustalav, and you run an annual Bastardhall adventure. It’s an open secret that you’re writing a novel set in this land of mists and shadows. What can you (and other authors) add to a gothic setting that hasn’t been done a thousand times before? Or, how can we approach favorite tropes without letting them feel clichéd?

Well I guess it’s an open secret now! I’m not going to say too much yet about my Ustalav-based Pathfinder Tales novel, though. That’ll have to wait a couple more months until it’s actually done!

Many writers and game designers get themselves into trouble when they try to reinvent the tent poles of a classic genre. In trying to reinvigorate something they end up poisoning it. Readers who like stylish vampires, haunted castles, and curse-spewing witches like those things for what they are and for what they’ve been, not for what they aren’t. There’s strength in drawing upon the pedigree of classic literature and mythology. At the same time, though, if an author pitches me an adventure or story that’s a complete rip off of Dracula or Frankenstein, I’m going to pass. Ultimately, it’s all about new contexts and new situations. I don’t want to see a new take on the lordly vampire or the tortured ghost, I want to see how those classic characters handle situations they’ve never been in before. Like in King’s ’Salem’s Lot, Barlow isn’t a new type of vampire, he’s a classic vampire in a setting we’ve never seen one in before. This leads to a host of new possibilities and terrifying situations. That’s what I’ve tried to do in Ustalav—my gothic-horror-themed corner of the Pathfinder campaign setting—dropping recognizable terror-tropes into a world of heroes and dragons and watching to see how they fare. It’s been a fascinating experiment and even after numerous setting guides, the Carrion Crown Adventure Path, and visits by novelists of exceptional taste, it remains one of the most popular—and certainly my favorite—part of the wider Pathfinder world.

5. You had a lot of game developing experience under your belt before your short fiction began appearing at How did it prepare you for prose fiction? And how is it a different task?

As a game designer, I cut my teeth working on Dragon and Dungeon magazines, first as a freelancer and later as a staff member. If nothing else, writing for periodicals teaches you two things: the inviolability of deadlines and to always be planning what’s next. The magazines created a fantastically stressful environment, but you either learned how to be creative on a schedule or you cracked.

I’ve tried to retain those lessons even in my fiction writing, meaning that I’m a pretty fanatical outliner and scheduler. I’m already pretty dismissive of writer’s block as a concept, but when you’re on a deadline you need to know what you’ve written and where you’re going. So I tend to create ridiculously thorough outlines, which I regularly elaborate on even after I get working. Also, for me keeping to any schedule is about momentum. Aside from forcing myself to write every day, I record how many words I write at every sitting. Not only is it encouraging seeing how even those 500- and 600-word sessions add up, there is nothing more shameful than a day with a big zero staring back at you.

Writing fiction is a wildly different world from writing rules and campaign setting descriptions, though. In fiction, the watch words are “show, don’t tell,” but game design is all about “telling.” World building in campaign setting guides and adventures gives you the freedom to spill all of your ideas to the reader, as ultimately they’ll be the ones telling your story. In fiction, there’s not an RPG’s Game Master serving as a middleman. While fiction might not give you the chance to detail every facet of a place or character like you might in a game setting’s analysis, you get to focus more on what’s important, how it’s presented, and how the world works from the inside. Both are a fantastic amount of fun and even though I’ve been angling more toward fiction recently, I certainly won’t be leaving the world of RPG design any time soon.

Read more about Wes at his website.

Creative Colleagues: James Jacobs

James Jacobs

James Jacobs

Each week, I’ll pester one of my creative colleagues with five questions about his or her work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.

For a while, as far as I knew him, James Jacobs was “the new guy” who worked on the far side of the cube farm in the first Paizo office. (They’re now in their third.) He’d come aboard to work on Dungeon after I’d migrated to a galaxy far, far away. It took a while for us to realize we had a shared interest in horror and Asian cinema. It’s taken him and Wes Schneider even longer to forgive me for inviting them to see what turned out to be one of the less coherent examples of both forms.

Even though I’ve long since departed the Paizo offices for the northern prairie, Pathfinder Tales and the Seattle International Film Festival bring us back together now and then. And while I forgive James and Wes for refusing to let me choose the movies, I rely on them to introduce me to the best breakfast joints that have sprung up in Seattle since I left.

1. You’re best known as a designer of RPG adventures, and H.P. Lovecraft is an obvious influence on your choice of subject matter. Who are some other authors or filmmakers who have influenced your game writing?

Lovecraft is hands down the biggest influence on my writing, but not the only one. His pulp companions Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith are important as well (Clark Ashton Smith’s Xothique stories having been a huge inspiration for the necromancer empire in my home-brew setting that would eventually itself inspire and inform the nation of Thassilon on Golarion), along with modern writers like Clive Barker, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, and Ramsey Campbell.

Horror, for the most part, is what inspires me, and that carries over into film, with the works of directors like John Carpenter, Guillarmo del Toro, and Akira Kurosawa being very inspiring (yeah, I know Kurosawa’s not a horror director, but he’s awesome!). George R.R. Martin is my favorite fantasy author of the moment. For some more obscure writers and film directors, I’d have to give call outs to T.E.D. Kline, Tim Lebbon, Thomas Ligotti, and most recently Joseph Payne Brennan have been huge influences on the writer side of things. As for more obscure film directors, I’d call out Ti West, Xavier Gens, Pascal Laugier, Gareth Edwards, and Mike Flanagan as having delivered some truly unforgettable and inspiring movies.

2. I once watched in awe as you began a Call of Cthulhu session at PaizoCon. Not only were you great, but you had three or four great players at your table. What struck me is that none of you were performing in the sense of improv actors, but the talk was so fluid and conversational compared with the awkwardness we often see at convention gaming tables. How do you do that? Is that how all your games go, or was that an anomaly? If it’s always that way, how do you do that?

Well, thanks! You’re making me blush! I suppose it’s no real secret that having great players at a table really helps to make a game overall much better, and when I’ve got great players at my table, they inspire me to do better. At the very least, they’re constantly giving me new things to go on and to expand upon.

I’m not afraid to throw out parts of the adventure’s plan if, for example, a player comes up with a much more interesting interpretation of a clue or whatever; not only does that make the game more fun, but it gives the players the feeling that they figured things out. In any event, being good at improv is, I think, an essential skill for a GM. You have your script (in the form of an adventure), but the players are really good at going off script. Being a voracious reader and watcher of films helps here—you build up a lot of material in your head when you immerse yourself in stories like that, and it also certainly helps to have spent some time acting as well—I was pretty active in the drama club in High School, and dabbled a little more in college with a few acting classes as well. In any event, that’s more or less how I run all of my games. I’m not afraid to let the dice get set aside once the players and I start getting into playing out conversations and the like with NPCs. I run very few convention games, in any event, so all of that comes from my home games I’ve run over the past three decades.

The Midnight Isles, fourth installment of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path.

3. The world of Golarion is vast and varied, yet it seems certain areas (notably Varisia) are much more popular among players than some of those that depart from the European paradigm. With the Jade Regent Adventure Path, you seemed to have a strategy to ease Euro-centric players into Tian Xia. How well did that strategy succeed? And how would you apply it in bringing players to areas like Osirion (soon), Qadira, or Vudra?

I think that the strategy worked pretty well. I do kinda wish we’d gotten to Tian Xia at least one adventure sooner, but the way in which that Adventure Path “eased” players into playing a game steeped in Asian mythology and inspiration was always the intent.

For an adventure set in Osirion, Qadira, or Vudra, we can kinda cheat—there are nations in the Inner Sea region that are already all about those cultures—they’re right there on the map, bordering (or near bordering) other more European-themed nations. As such, it’s much easier I think to do adventures there, since you can allow the players who prefer more European tropes in their games to simply play “next door neighbors” visiting the area.

For the upcoming Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path, we’re starting in Osirion and staying there the entire time—we’ve done enough with that nation already that I think folks are familiar enough with the ideas there already that we don’t need to ease anyone in. It certainly helps that we’ve done a few adventures set there already, and that one of the factions for the Pathfinder Society organized play campaign is Osirion!

4. I’ve heard that you’d like to write fiction but just can’t find the time. How much of the fiction itch does writing game adventures already scratch, and what additional or different satisfaction do you anticipate when you do write that first novel?

Writing adventures is certainly fun, but for me, at least, it only intensifies the itch to write fiction.

The main difference between writing fiction and writing adventures is that when you write an adventure you’re missing out on the chance to write the best part of the story—the protagonist’s role. In an adventure, those roles are played by the player characters, and you have to be comfortable with that if you’re writing an adventure. Comfortable with the fact that, no matter how much work you put in on what you write, those NPCs are often just gonna end up being reduced to numbers and things to loot in the end. Comfortable with the fact that in a typical group, only the GM gets to actually read what you wrote—what the others at the table get to experience is more the GM’s creation than yours.

It’s weird, for example, seeing a bad review of an adventure you wrote and reading it and realizing that all the things the writer was complaining about are bad ideas introduced (unknown to the reviewer) by the bad GM. Or likewise, seeing a great review of an adventure you felt was terrible, because the GM was brilliant and turned a poor adventure into a masterpiece.

I’ve written a fair amount of short fiction, and have plenty of ideas for novels in my head, what I’m really looking forward to there is the ability to spend time with characters I have full control over, rather than spending time on the surrounding characters whose fates I have no control over… and to seeing more people check out my writing, I suppose.

5. Like some of your Paizo colleagues, you have a reputation for liking the dark and scary stuff. Yet I have a feeling you have some big, bad phobias knocking around in your imagination. What is your worst one?

I hope this doesn’t backfire, but the worst one is, hands down, clowns. I’m not a fan of crowds (and as such conventions tend to be high-stress for me), and tsunami are the most often-repeated themes in my actual nightmares, but clowns are the thing that distress me the most. Ugh.

Keep up with James’ latest hijinks at Bigfoot Country.

And if you missed yesterday’s Crossing the Streams book giveaway, check it out.