Here's the story.
I'm pretty well completely burned out on RPG writing. I have been for a long time, but I enjoy it and I need the extra money freelancing brings so that I can maintain the lavish lifestyle to which I have become accustomed. That said, since about the beginning of 2006, and probably before, I've been telling myself and my loved ones (to say nothing of my employees at Paizo) that "this one is the last one!" Basically, I just need a relatively long break to recharge my batteries and pay more attention to minor stuff like paying bills, keeping my apartment clean, paying attention to my girlfriend, etc.
In fact, I've needed a break for a long time. But just like the mafia, there's no quitting in the RPG business. Just when you think you've quit, they keep pulling you back in.
First it was Hordes of the Abyss, a massive treatment of D&D's Abyss (where the demons live) co-written with my colleague and friend bigfootcountry and Ed Stark, who at the time worked at Wizards of the Coast. I've been obsessed with D&D's demons since I was a little kid (hail Satan), and I've been keeping a grotesquely complete Word file of information about them since I was in high school. I first put this file to use as a consultant for Colin McComb's excellent Planescape product Faces of Evil: The Fiends, which I believe is my first formal credit in a D&D product. Later, I adapted some of this material and filled in the blanks, so to speak, for Green Ronin's Armies of the Abyss, one of the earliest d20 products and my first cover credit in the game business (thanks, Chris!). So when my buddy Chis Perkins told me Wizards of the Coast was doing a big third edition book on the Abyss and demons, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it, even though the writing fatigue was starting to set in and I knew I probably shouldn't take the assignment. This all happened about the same time I became publisher at Paizo and started dating bbcaddict, so I didn't exactly have a lot of free time. But it was demons, and I told myself that this would be my last assignment.
And then, within a couple of weeks, WotC offered me a spot on the writing team that would redesign Gary Gygax's classic Castle Greyhawk, the Ur-dungeon of AD&D, in the form of Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, the last in WotC's "Expedition" series of nostalgic hardcover superadventures. After I failed to convince Wizards that Gygax and Rob Kuntz should be the ones working on it I agreed to join the team, mostly to make sure that it was done respectfully and done right. As a bonus, I got to work with James Jacobs again as well as with Jason Bulmahn, an old RPGA friend I brought out to Seattle to be the managing editor of Dragon magazine and who now is hard at work on the Pathfinder RPG as Paizo's lead designer. So Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk turned out to be a sort of unofficial Paizo production, as all three designers work for Paizo and wrote the book in their free time. At this point the burnout was setting in pretty massively, so working on the book was a real chore. WotC decided not to renew Paizo's contract to publish the magazines right in the middle of the design process, which was totally unexpected and threw me into a bit of a depression, as I always thought when you did a good job at something you get rewarded. But I wasn't willing to do a shitty job on the book, so I made absolutely sure that it was among the best work I've written, and I'm very pleased with the results. Still, the turnover was considerably late and I felt like I let a lot of people down, but it was all OK because, after all, this would be my last freelance assignment for a while, and I could take my much needed break.
Then Wizards threw another curveball by dragging their feet on the Open Game License for their new fourth edition, and morphed their plans into something that, while its final form has _still_ not been seen (almost a year after we expected to see it), is certainly not "open" and is certainly not something Paizo could seriously consider for the Pathfinder brand. That coupled with the loss of the magazines and a lack of desire to lay off the entire staff forced us to reinvent our brand, including launching a new campaign setting to tie into our monthly Pathfinder product. A new campaign setting needs a new campaign setting book, and I was going to make damned certain that that new world had my fingerprints all over it. After all, I'd been tinkering with ideas for a new setting for years, and the opportunity seemed ripe despite my lack of time or energy. This new Pathfinder Chronicles Gazetteer was only going to be a wee 64-pager, after all, and Jason would be along for the ride to help me out. Design on the book took at least three months longer than it was supposed to, but I am very proud of the book and feel that this time, for real, it's the best thing I've written for the RPG field. It just came out a few weeks ago and the reviews are pouring in, almost all of them positive.
But I still wasn't finished. The Gazetteer was meant to be but a taste, after all, and the big debut of the campaign setting would come in the form of a massive 256-page hardcover that is set for release at Gen Con this year. I knew I didn't have the energy or time to do much of this book, but there were a few elements I wanted to make absolutely certain were perfect (Nex, the Azlanti race description, and brief summaries of the world's additional continents), so I foolishly signed myself up to write about 8,000 words of the book. Now, 8,000 words ain't that much, especially to a professional writer. But after a gauntlet of two straight hardcovers, designing a world from scratch, and managing a major transition for my company that often leaked into my "free" time, 8,000 words felt like 80,000, and took about as long to write.
But I'm happy to report that the words have been written and are now in the hands of irishninja, the hardcover's diligent (and justifiably impatient) editor.
And I am done with freelance RPG writing through at least the rest of 2008. I love doing it and I think I'm pretty good at it, but after doing it or worrying about not doing it every night for the last two and a half years I'm ready for a good long break.
But I don't plan to stop writing. I have lots of ideas for various bits of fiction I'd like to try, and after a decade of RPG work it will be nice to experiment with writing some actual dialogue. Mainly I'm looking forward to writing being a hobby again, and to finally being out from under a deadline. Counting the monthly deadlines as a magazine editor, I've effectively been on a deadline of one type or another since July, 1999.
It's only been a couple of days since I finished, but lord it feels good to be free.