(Trivia & Anecdotes is a series of blog posts I’ve been meaning to make for years now about weird and sometimes funny behind-the-scenes facts about various books I worked on. Yes, the acronym is deliberate.)
Back when TSR owned and ran Gen Con, the Creative Services department (what nowadays you’d call RPG R&D) held a Designer’s Party the Saturday night of Gen Con, invite-only, and generally industry people-only. The event was financed by a freelance project that the Creative Services staff put together, donating their freelance fees to pay for the party (Lorraine Williams, owner of TSR, apparently was OK with this, or she didn’t know and Jim Ward took care of it, I don’t know). From what I remember, the project was usually a collection of monsters or short adventures–stuff easy for multiple authors and multiple editors to put together without any serious problems.
The year was 1996. The project for this year’s party was Children of the Night: Ghosts, a collection of short adventures involving ghosts, set in Ravenloft, to be published in 1997. By this time I had been at TSR for 6 months (perhaps closer to 12, I don’t remember the exact month we wrote this) and while I wasn’t officially part of Creative Services (as TSR Online Coordinator, I was part of the marketing department), they all knew me and knew I was a gamer. I heard about the project (or someone told me about it) and said I’d like to participate.
My ghost adventure was about a young boy who witnessed a murder, and in fleeing the murderer he got ran over by a cart, suffered severe head trauma, died, and came back as a ghost and haunted the place of his death. Visible as a ghost boy with a big head wound, all he could do is scream in fear and say three words: “blood,” “wine,” and “onions.” These words were the clues to solve the adventure.
The boy’s story was inspired by my college friend Bill Breglio, who was hit by a car when he was a kid, and thrown into a wall from the impact and knocked out. When he awoke in the hospital, all he could say were four words: “blood,” “onions,” “s—,” and “f—.” And the weird thing was that he didn’t realize this at first, and saying only these words no matter what he tried to say really freaked him out as he heard himself speak. So when he was trying to say, “What the hell? Why am I only saying onions and blood and stuff?” it came out as “Blood! Onions! S—! F—! Onions!” Fortunately, this only lasted about 20 minutes, and he recovered fully.
This book was the first time I got to work with my friend Cindi Rice; she was the editor for half (?) of the book and she gave me good feedback as to how we could improve it. I think having a friend review it make it more comfortable and less critical, and helped me accept other peoples’ feedback regarding my design. It doesn’t make them right, of course…. ;)
Modern meta-anecdote about this book: A few weeks ago at work we were talking about weird stuff and I mentioned the head trauma story of my friend Bill. Suddenly wesschneider Wes says, “Hey, that’s from Children of the Night: Ghosts!” Sometimes I forget that the people I work with may have read some of my old stuff. :p