Thursday, November 29, 2018

How I Remember Grandma Cordell

We lived a quick bike-ride along a dirt road between fields to my grandma's house. And we loved going to my grandma's house!

It was a working farm, in that my grandparents raised all kinds of livestock. Including chickens, sheep, and cattle. So there was all kinds of territory to explore--old sheds smelling of machine oil, decrepit farm machinery found out in a pasture, the steep sides and crawdad-filled deeps of a dugout, shadowed interiors of "old growth" shelter belts where you could always find a handy walking stick from windfall, and lots more.

That was all great. But what was really wonderful was seeing Grandma Cordell. She was always so, so happy to see us. She demonstrated that in words, hugs, and as was probably most appreciated by us kids, FOOD! All different kinds, from meals, to snacks, to candy and dessert. Mayonnaise and Velveeta sandwiches were my favorite, but you couldn't go wrong with marshmallows on toothpicks dipped in Karo syrup! Of course, there was also apple butter on toast, cold cuts, and yep, actual candy. For a kid who was always voracious, it was like heaven.

Grandma also loved games. We played all kinds of paper and pencil games, like tic-tac-to and Dots & Boxes, plus card games like Go Fish. Later, Grandma's love and facility for word-find games was awe inspiring.

My grandmother currated a constantly evolving art wall in her basement. The white washed cement cinder blocks of the foundation created hundreds of rectangular canvases that she asked us to fill, one every few years, with whatever we wanted. Over the years that wall filled with life filertered through crayon by dozens of growing children and  grandchildren, cousins, in-laws, and friends. It was always an honor to be given another pristine space to fill with art. Or at least in my case, earnest childish scrawling :).

Grandma and Grandpa had a lively relationship. Sometimes their back and forth would really make me laugh. Like this one time, Grandpa Cordell said something he thought was funny, who knows what, but Grandma didn't.

So she rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, go jump in a lake."

"But I can't swim."

"Well, you better learn!"

No matter how much fun visiting Grandma was, sooner or later, we had to leave. Which meant it was time to wave goodbye. This worked best if you were driving or being driven, of course. Grandma would start waving from the driveway in front of her house, then move inside to the front window, then finally on to the side window as we got farther and farther away. And of course, we waved furiously back all the while. "Bye, Grandma! Goodbye!"

Whether it was food, games, or a chance to let our freak-art-flag fly, Grandma Cordell was amazing because she lavished attention on us grandchildren. We didn't realize it back then, but she always put us first. It delighted her to do so, and of course it delighted us to be the complete center of attention for those brief periods we were with her. Like we were royalty visiting, or guests in a foreign land where everything was candy, games, and love.

That was my experience of Grandma Cordell. I looked forward to going to her house more than anything else when I was young. That time is long over, of course. But not in my memory. She lives on there. If I close my eyes, I can still see her grinning, welcoming us into her kitchen. And of course waving, waving goodbye.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Real Insurance Saved Me. Now It's At Risk

I had a medical emergency earlier this year. Without affordable individual insurance, my 50 years of savings would have been wiped out.

Now it's a pre-existing condition, to use a term from a few years ago. Which means if I were to suffer a similar incident again and we move back to junk insurance, I'd have to declare bankruptcy.

Real insurance is the only reason I'm not living paycheck to paycheck, with no financial cushion. It allowed me to leave Wizards of the Coast in 2018 and try something riskier.

As Chuck Wendig says on Twitter, "Vote in November like your life depends on it. Because it just might."

Friday, July 27, 2018

Your Best Game Ever

A tool book for tabletop roleplayers. No matter what game you play or how long you’ve been playing–have your best game ever!
Your Best Game Ever is not your typical RPG sourcebook. It’s not a book with adventures, spells, creatures, or magic items. It’s not a book for characters at all, but a book for players! If you play or run roleplaying games, this book is for you. Inside this gorgeous hardcover book, suitable for your coffee table or your gaming table, you will find advice and suggestions for enhancing your RPG experience at the table and away from it. This is an insider’s look at everything that goes into the hobby—finding a group, making a character, running a game, creating adventures, finding all the right ideas, hosting a game…and that’s just for starters. 

If that sounds even slightly intriguing, check it out here

Or watch Shanna explain here:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Gen Con 2018: My Schedule

I will be at Gen Con this year, and I hope to see some of you, too! Here's where I'll be.

1 pm WRITING FOR RPGs (Marriot: Boston)
What is life really like as an RPG writer? Bruce R. Cordell talks not about design craft but instead shares the processes and tips he's picked in his twenty-three years writing for RPGs.

2 pm DISCOVERY YOUR DESTINY (Lucas Oil Meeting Room 4)
Get the inside story on the design & development of Numenera Discovery & Destiny. Monte & the team take you deeper into the Ninth World than ever. Bring your questions!

6-8 pm AN EVENING WITH MCG (Union Station: Iron Horse)
Come hang with Team MCG! Join us to celebrate another great year, & the launch of two flagships projects: Numenera 2: Discovery and Destiny, and Invisible Sun.

Join me as Savion Clay and the others from MCG's groundbreaking Twitch stream, The Raven Wants What You Have, play a live game of Invisible Sun—and the audience plays a part, too!

4 pm SIGNING AT MCG BOOTH in the exhibitor's hall

6-7:30 pm Writer Symposium dinner

8:30-midnight Author Hangout


1 pm FROM RATIONS TO FEASTS (Marriot: Ballroom 1)
What will people eat in the future? How will it be packaged? What should fantasy adventurers bring on their quest, and what will be served when they feast with the king? Elizabeth Bear, Bruce Cordell, Daniel Myer, and Aaron Rosenberg discuss.

2 pm HOW TO HAVE YOUR BEST GAME EVER (Lucas Oil Meeting Room 12)
Join members of Team MCG to get tips on having the best RPG session ever. There will be GM tips, player tips, & game stories with a positive spin

5 pm SIGNING AT MCG BOOTH in the exhibitor's hall!

1 pm SIGNING AT MCG BOOTH in the exhibitor's hall

4 pm-10:15 pm MCG Booth teardown and pack out (Oof!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Watch us play Numenera in this new livecast series on Twitch!

If you're wondering what Numenera is, or just want to watch a bunch of excited people (that being me, Monte, Shanna, Darcy, and Sean) play an RPG game, this is for you.

To get you started, watch the first session right here (make sure you expand to full screen so you can see the art panel details, and turn it up just a bit to hear the weird forest background music):

If you like what you see, mark your calendars! We'll be playing this game every other Tuesday at 5 PM PT for the next several months!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Path of the Dead

Lantern in hand, Elandine walked the Path of the Dead under the light of the Seven Moons. Their cold radiance splintered on the raised road that wound for miles through the queendom. Crypts honeycombed the rampart beneath their feet. In those metal-clad and lightless cavities, the dead of Hazurrium were interred, from the lowliest beggars to royalty. According to tales told over campfires, the souls of the dead sometimes ventured up from the Night Vault to walk the Path of the Dead, looking for their loved ones to bid them goodbye.

“You won’t find her, Your Highness,” murmured Navar, who followed a few paces after the queen.

“I know,” the queen replied, her voice almost too soft to hear.

~text from Myth of the Maker, a novel of The Strange ~art by Cathy Wilkins.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Building Bridges Of The Mind

Being open to seeing how someone else thinks about things is a thing I'm still learning how to do. It's essential if I want to change someone's mind. Well, not change minds per se, but maybe make someone else realize that just maybe their views and mine really aren't that far apart, once all the divisive chaff is cleared away. To do that, my mind needs to be open enough to see alternative views, too, in order to see where we can go from there.

Artist:  Richard Tuschman

Saying that is one thing, doing it is harder. Which is why I'm still trying to figure out how to speak with people who I don't agree with in a way that doesn't immediately anger them or put them on the defensive. Or—at even more imporantly—allow trigger words or phrases to do that to me. If I engage in that state of mind, nothing good is likely to come of it. Because being angry and outraged (whether unconsciously or consciously) only pushes away the person you're supposedly trying to compromise with. If I'm going to address a problem, I want to find common ground. Being angry and outraged lights up the circuits in the brain in a way that seems "right" in that moment... but I don't think it really leads to compromise and good outcomes.

Here's an example to put some of this in context: if my hypothetical eight-year-old daughter tells me she's scared to go to sleep because there's a monster under her bed, I don't tell her "Sally, you idiot! Don't you know there's no such thing as monsters?"

Why? Because telling Sally she's stupid for believing as she does just adds another problem to the first one, because now Sally is mad, sad, and defensive IN ADDITION to believing that there is a monster under her bed. Plus, demeaning her intelligence is just mean. No parent willingly wants to be mean to their child. Nor should we willingly want to be mean to other people,.

Because hey, they're someone's kid, too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

President Mitchell

Mitchell died when I was ten. Somewhere around that age, although maybe I was nine, or eleven. But I remember when Mitchell died. It was winter and he was sledding. Down one of the unbelievably massive ridges of snow that street-plows used to pile up along the sides of South Dakota streets before climate change. He slipped under a car that drove by at just the wrong time.

Mitchell's death got to me. It was the first death I was old enough to appreciate and understand. All these decades later, I can still recapture the sick-at-my-core cloudy blot of darkness and loss that his senseless death conjured in my ten-year-old gut.

I like to think that if he had lived, maybe the world would be in a better place. In fact, maybe that's when things went off the road in this reality. Except that it was such a small thing compared to world events that no one (outside the small town where I grew up) noticed. A butterfly flaps its wings, a child dies too soon, that sort of thing.

I wonder if in another reality, where Mitchell lived... things would be different. Who knows, maybe he'd have risen to become the 45th president.

Mitchell, somewhere out there, I hope you're doing right by the life you never got to lead here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wanna Listen To Something Strange?

As of today (Feb 22, 2018), Myth of the Maker is available as an audiobook on

(UPDATE: Are you outside the USA? Go to this Amazon link and click on Audible link there, which I hear is more likely to get you to the audiobook:

Let me just say, this is just what I needed to make me feel better after that LAST blog article.

Carter Morrison, gazing out over Ardeyn
So if you're curious about the reason Carter Morrison killed his friends and himself—it was them or the end of all life on the planet—head over here give the sample a listen. If you like what you hear, well, having the whole thing is of course only a click away ;).

Myth of the Maker audiobook (inside US):
Myth of the Maker audiobook (outside US, click on Audible):

Want to know more about Myth of the Maker? Here's a good place to start:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

That Time I Didn't Die

2018 continues to be the year I didn't die! Too early to call it? Screw that. I spent last weekend in Tacoma General Hospital's intensive care unit (ICU). I was treated for dual pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in both my lungs that were restricting blood to and from my heart) over the weekend and through until Monday—February 17th to the 19th 2018.

(Torah tells me blood clots in the lungs leading to a heart attack is what killed Carrie Fisher. Wisely, she kept that to herself until the clots were dissolved.)

By the mere fact that you're reading this, you've probably guessed that the treatment was successful. You're right! I got tPA (clot-busting juice) Saturday evening into early Sunday morning dripped into me via IV. But for several hours before and after that, I got heparin, a blood thinner. Sometime around 2 am Sunday morning, the clots were gone.

Styling in my hospital gown. They gave me pants! And groovy socks.
I had to stay in the ER for 36+ hours after the tPA treatment, where someone woke me once an hour to check that I wasn't having a brain bleed, with questions like "Where are you? Do you know why you're here? What's your name?" Luckily, I consistently answered correctly. Though at one point the idea came into my head to start answering everything with "Blurple" because how funny would that be? (Blurple is a term coined by Bear Weiter, MCG's Art Director, to signify a busy status beyond Red.)

During that same period, my average heart rate came down from 80-90 bpm to the 50-60 bpm (or 45 when I'm really relaxed) it normally is. My really scary blood pressure dropped back down to its normal level, which is in the 120s / 80s. Apparently, no lasting damage had been sustained.

Finally, I got to come home Monday afternoon.

After all that clot-dissolving and clot-preventing medication, including the blood-thinner I'm going to remain on for at least 3 months, my blood is unlikely to throw up another clot. The downside is that if I cut myself during this period, it won't stop bleeding. Thus I've been warned. I'm imagining the results like something out of a Monty Python skit.

So, what life-altering wisdom have I taken from this near-death experience? I wish it was as easy as that. It's pretty muddled. Here's where my thoughts mostly are right now.

1) Your loved ones, friends, and family are really the most important thing. I didn't once think "Man, I wish I'd lost that extra 10 pounds," or something similar. Instead, I thought "Wow, I'm sure glad Batgirl's here." Batgirl (Torah) stayed with me the entire time, sleeping in a chair for two days while I had the bed. Imagining how she, my friends, and my family would feel if something happened to me was really the only time I felt sad or scared. (But maybe that wouldn't have been the case if she hadn't been there to keep me company.)

Sometimes Torah got TWO chairs to sleep on
2) It's hard to appreciate how wonderful it is to stand up and not have to catch your breath, to talk longer than 4 or 5 sentences and not have to catch your breath, not to be afraid of going up the stairs and therefore choosing not to, to be able to walk the dog for a block then not pass out on the floor and sleep for 2 hours to regain equanimity... It's all still fresh for me, so whenever I do one of these "minor" things over the last day and a half, I still marvel. It's wonderful.

3) We often hear about the failures of western medicine. And even experience them sometimes when a friend or family member passes, or when a chronic condition manifests. But holy moly, It almost seems like science fiction that in one short weekend's treatment, I'm feeling better than I have in months. I'm amazed, and I hope all of you get to be just as amazed as me, if something should ever go so wrong for you.

4) Yes, it's a cliche, but after my brush with death, I feel like I need to do more to improve the world than what I'm currently doing. Except what that is hasn't come to me with crystal clarity. I give money to several charities. I support several Patreons on an ongoing basis. But I don't really give up my time to volunteer or work on charitable initiatives. Maybe that should change. Not sure what's a fit for me right now, but it's something I'm going to think about.

5) At the very least, I'd like to figure out how to build bridges between people. I was examined, transported, treated, cared for, cleaned up after, and in some other way helped by a bare minimum of fifty different people during my weekend Embolism Tour. Every one of them was smart, dedicated, and caring. And I bet at least half of them disagreed with me on some particular issue or other. Should I let those single points of disagreement define those people to me?

In case you're wondering, the answer is not "Blurple."

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Raven Wants What You Have, an Invisible Sun RPG

GM (Monte), Savion (me), The Cicatrix (Darcy), Seru (Sean), In'Kalia (Shanna)

This RPG streamed game promises to be fantastic, and I hope you'll tune in to watch. The Raven Wants What You Have airs weekly on Fridays at 7pm PT on our Twitch channel starting February 16th

We recorded a short narrative of multiple Invisible Sun game sessions that shows our character advancing through our character arcs. Between each session, we recorded some of the game’s side scenes, which we call Development Mode, so you can watch every step of the game.
We call this narrative The Raven Wants What You Have, and as the story progresses, you’ll discover the secrets of the Girl From the Other Shore and follow a group of friends (including me, Savion Clay) all across the city of Satyrine and even realms beyond. Our four characters include:
I play Savion (have I mentioned that?), a Goetic who summons devils and angels
  • Savion, a Goetic who wants revenge on his wicked father who’s holed up in a demon-filled fortress beneath the Red Sun (played by you know who)
  • Seru, a Weaver who wants to craft a sword of magical glass
  • In’Kalia, a Maker who seeks the help of an organization called the Hendassa to help a friend trapped in Shadow
  • The Cicatrix, who is interested in advancing her own Order of Honed Thought

We get caught up in the theft of a magical violin, break into a floating skyscraper, encounter an eternally dying god, and make our way to the realm of the Red Sun by way of a bloody and brutal competition in the Undersling. On the way, we conjure spirits and ghosts, craft our own magic items, learn arcane secrets, battle demons, and master spells and incantations that produce all manner of strange and wondrous effects. It’s a surreal and weird story full of twists and surprises—surprises for both players and GM—and you’ll get to watch it unfold right there at the table as it develops.