Insider 10/21/2010

On October 12th, I reviewed the last changes on the last editorial pass of the final story of MK II for Forces of HORDES: Minions.

Since the story is always the last thing to be finished and laid out for the book, that marked the completion (barring a couple proofing passes) of all the Mk II books! For our players there’s still a little more waiting to do, as the Legion of Everblight book is just landing in stores. It’ll be a short wait yet until the Circle Orboros and Minions books complete the process, but now you can feel secure knowing they are done and on their way.

While the intense deadlines did not start properly until we kicked off WARMACHINE: Prime Mk II, from my perspective the madness started with Forces of WARMACHINE: Retribution of Scyrah. It was the first Mk II book, completed while we were still ironing out the final rules of Mk II itself, and was also the launch of a brand new faction to the game, one with its own culture and history. While some the format changed slightly, the Retribution book helped us iron out a basic template that we would use in the Forces books to follow. Now twelve more books and over a year later, it’s hard to believe we are finally done! Naturally, this is just the start, as WARMACHINE: Wrath is right around the corner, but it’s worth taking a brief moment to consider what we finished.

We knew going into the project it was going to be the most ambitious thing we had ever done. We were able to talk ourselves into it because we knew we had a healthy bit of material on-hand. It wouldn’t be like writing each book from scratch, right? We already had most of the model entries, which would represent the bulk of the book. I would write a new short story for each, short chapter discussing how each faction’s military worked; we would then add in some nice painting tips, throw in some juicy theme forces, and then ship if all off to the printers. No problem!

It’s important to be optimistic at the start of a Herculean endeavor and find ways to convince yourselves to press on. It only became dangerous when I realized that some folks actually believed the things we were telling ourselves! For me, these expectations were akin to stories about Santa Claus: reassuring homilies intended to convey the spirit of a holiday and to get you in the proper frame of mind. Once you get old enough, you start to get skeptical about a fat bastard who jumps down the chimney to give you presents. I had similar skepticism regarding plans to complete a book every month for a year.

I knew from the start we would not buy a lot of time by having old material on hand. We are never satisfied with what we have done before. There is always room for improvement. The model entries stretched across more than half a decade, written by a dozen different writers at different phases in our evolving understanding and depiction of the setting and its factions. We also had new art arriving in a constant stream for many of the models and an entirely different layout, which has a big impact on word count targets. Every single model entry was read through and revised; many of them adjusted considerably, others subtly. The first pass was done by Simon Berman, then the entries went through me, Jason Soles, and eventually our scythe-wielding editor Darla Kennerud and her editorial team for a final tweaking and pruning. No piece of written material completed this process entirely the same as it arrived. In some cases, old entries had gotten a little portly sitting on the shelf, and we had to slim them down a bit. Others were anemic, and we had to fatten them up like a Christmas goose to fill out the page.

Writing the new material for each book was an entirely separate endeavor. I bravely tried to tackle writing both the new military chapters and the short stories for the first couple of Force books before it quickly became apparent that doing so entirely on my own would probably force me into an early grave. Thankfully, Simon began to assist collaborating with me on writing the military sections and section intros starting with the Protectorate of Menoth, and Aeryn Rudel added his creative spark to the mix starting with the Skorne. Even with their much appreciated assistance, getting the narratives completed was akin to a non-stop marathon race, except with each book it felt like I was starting the marathon over again since we were tackling an entirely different set of faction themes, different characters, and assembling a new narrative puzzle. I worked closely with Matt Wilson, Jason, and Darla on the stories, and I am very happy with the work we managed to do over the last year plus. It’s startling to consider the Mk II narratives represent over a hundred and forty thousand words of narrative material. That number may not mean anything to most people, but it’s enough to fill a novel! Now that they are done I can look back at the formidable stack of quality books we generated with a renewed sense of awe. Maybe that fat bastard does show up with presents sometimes.