Friendly Friday: Weregeek’s Alina Pete

Alina Pete

I remember the day I met Alina Pete, because I had a moment of gleeful geekery that stopped me in my tracks–which is hard to do when wandering the floor at Gen Con. I’m a huge fan of Edward Gorey (1), and I was immediately drawn to her homage of Gorey‘s style (2). I’m proud to say that the aforementioned/linked illustrated compendium of Gorey-meets-Dungeons and Dragons is now hanging on my wall, and it often gets many hilarious comments in semi-alphabetical order for those who know what a Quaggoth is.

That, however, was just the beginning of our friendship. Mind you, I had heard of and read Pete’s work before, via her webcomic Weregeek, and have been so excited to watch her career flourish over time. A capable illustrator and designer of the notorious gelatinous cube plush, Alina works tirelessly to produce comics, illustrations, and art for both existing and new fans. This is someone who is both talented and persistent, and is worth many, many squees. She is a lovely human being, and I am damn proud to consider her my friend.

For more about Alina Pete, you can follow her on Twitter @alinapete, visit the Weregeek website, or support her through the Weregeek Patreon.

(1) This, in part, due to Mystery and my fondness for the cross-hatching aesthetic.

(2) If Gorey and dry wit is your jam, I highly recommend you check out Gloom. I wrote about the game for Family Games: The 100 Best, and continue to recommend it for new players. There’s also a game called Corpse Craft: Incident at Weardd Academy produced circa 2008 you can download for your iPad.

    Mood: Grumbily like cinnamon coffee cake. These coffee house tables need a red light/green light when available–especially for those near outlets!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Um… I admit NOTHING!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Okay, work with me here. I figured out a route to hit a Pokestop twice, and get 3,000 steps in before my first cup of coffee. I call that a win!
    In My Ears: Some dipshit that’s dominating the conversation with a very talented, capable woman. This conversation is more one-sided than the one I have with my cats every day.
    Game Last Played: Pokemon GO. Review forthcoming. Post gym.
    Book Last Read: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: The Star Wars trilogy, remastered
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!

There’s No One True Path For Artists

The Hobbit Gandalf Avatar

In place of today’s Make Art Not War 2017 check-in, I wanted to talk about something I’ve seen pop up recently among new writers. It’s about the idea that if you don’t get a prestigious opportunity you’ll never make it.

When you’re just starting out, you are full of enthusiasm and passion. Maybe you’re a writer or an artist or a musician. You’re doing your thing, grooving along, but making art isn’t enough for you. You want to do more, so you do some research and talk to your friends. Maybe you find a mentor, or maybe you model your next steps after someone who’s already made it. You go to school, audition, apply, set up shop, enter a contest.

Failure isn’t an option, because you’ve internalized that the path you’ve chosen is the only way to get what you want. It’s the most prestigious contest, school, publication, venue, or internship but, while you know you’re up against stiff competition, you are shocked to learn you’ve been rejected. Now, you’re crushed. You will never be a professional artist. You’ve failed. That was the one path, the only option, and now you’re totally screwed.

I cannot tell you how incredibly damaging this mentality is to you and your inner artist. There is no one true path, because there are literally thousands of ways to be an artist, sell your work, and connect with an audience. Besides that, there are hundreds of things outside of your control. Sometimes, for example, you could take all the “right” steps and wind up with a crappy editor or a book launch that happens to coincide with a natural disaster or glaring headline. Other times, your venue could have awful acoustics and your mic could go out (1) and yet the show must go on.

Hanging your entire career as an artist on one path or one opportunity is all but guaranteed to crush you. Maybe not the first time, but what about the second? Or the third? Making art is what lays the foundation for being a professional artist, but having a career isn’t that cut and dry. You will have success, you will have failure, and you will have varying degrees of both. No doubt, you’ll learn this as you continue to build your career and have a life, because the unexpected can turn you sideways. You crash your car, watch a friend die, get pregnant, are laid off from your day job.

The bad things that happen to you are normal. They can happen to anyone, and they are not a sign of your failure. There are so many things that make up the story of a life, and there’s no possible way to predict everything that can and will happen to you. This, dear reader, is why I feel learning how to be resilient is more important than pinning all your hopes and dreams on one action. People who aren’t, who have internalized the lie that success is granted via a linear, uphill climb, tend to look down on other artists who haven’t made “it” in their minds.

To be an artist is to walk your unique path. It may not be exactly the same as anyone else’s, but it is yours. Sometimes, you’ll get stuck at a crossroads or you’ll trip and fall. Sometimes, you’ll go really, really fast and the wind will be at your back. Enjoy it. This is your journey.

(1) Mic problems? This has happened to me more times than I can count.

Tentative Plan for Con Safety Discussion and Call for Feedback

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

Over the past week, I’ve had a number of people reach out to me in both the literary and gaming spaces. Conversations are happening both publicly and privately; the idea of a book on con safety is also gaining traction. Additionally, there’s been some discussion about putting together collections of critical essays that tackle why women (1) aren’t believed (2) as well. And, in the “this is reassuring” file, a handful of security guards reached out and told me I did the right thing. (3)

In light of this, however, I’ve since learned that what’s needed right now is for people to have those conversations in their cons, for their groups. Maybe some volunteers are recognizing that, when money exchanges hands, a convention isn’t “4theluv” after all. That’s hard to stomach on multiple levels, because without fans we (e.g. creators) wouldn’t be able to thrive, either. Maybe other cons could start by talking to people who’ve come forward with concerns at their events in the past, and ask them what they did right and what went wrong. The key, here, is to listen and get multiple perspectives because there’s a complex dynamic at work. There needs to be a bond of trust between guests/panelists and conrunners, especially since we’re expected to perform emotional labor to attract, retain, and entertain attendees. Attendees need to know that they’re valued, too, that if they have a concern it won’t be shoved aside.

I want to stress, however, that I am no expert on the subject of con safety. There are several people (4) who are already doing the work to make cons/events safer, and I feel that any forthcoming materials needs to emphasis those efforts and individuals. As I mentioned in the previous post, the discussion about con safety is far bigger than what happened at one con, and there can definitely be more than one solution (5) and multiple books.

What I Can Offer

Besides offering support, words of encouragement, or signal boosting where I can (6), I’ve had a few volunteers saying they’d be willing to help put together a book (7) on con safety. Doing so is complex, because a) it collates invaluable knowledge from existing volunteers b) people need to be paid fairly for their time c) it needs to be inclusive to address “what’s missing” from underrepresented groups d) it requires a publisher and ample distribution and e) possibly a Kickstarter.

Here’s what I can do with the resources I have at my disposal:

1. Form a private Slack for the project so people can have the necessary discussions. I would need moderators for this, to ensure that conversations didn’t get heated and people’s privacy remained protected.
2. Plan the book. Essentially, this would be the managing editor role to put together a book proposal with budget, outline, etc. I wouldn’t want to do this until the discussions have been had following this year’s convention season. Who knows? If someone else picks up the ball, maybe this book could be geared for creative professionals, instead.
3. Edit the book. I’m happy to do the full enchilada (or shoulder that burden with a co-editor). Mind you, I’m sensitive to the subject of payment, because my knee-jerk reaction would be to say “Yes! I can do this for free!” only to realize how much it interferes with my ability to get paid for other stuff. I want to do what’s fair, but I also want to do the right thing.
4. Help with the Kickstarter. This I’m less inclined to shoulder, because after running a Kickstarter for Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling (8) while high on Ny-Quil for a month… Well, running a Kickstarter is its own job, and I know I don’t have the bandwidth to volunteer for the full bit.

So that’s my proposed plan and follow-up. Comments are open on this post, and they are moderated. What do you think?

A Compendium of Footnotes

(1) This emphasis emerged in reaction to what I experienced, but I feel this isn’t limited to women but all marginalized voices. Harassment, in particular, often exploits imbalances of power and the perception of who has it and who doesn’t.

(2) I started writing this but, sadly, that turned into a very long treatise on the power of a story, the Malleus Maleficarum, the wandering womb, and the origin of pop culture myths. Not exactly light reading or relevant to this discussion, so I shall spare you my rant.

(3) There’s a laughable idea that the best way to deal with any harasser/abuser is to face them, because that’s the only way to prove you’re stronger. That, unfortunately, is how many people get hurt or worse, and those concerns escalate when you’re at risk.

(4) I learned that several game designers and members in the Live Action Role Playing (LARP) community have done some stellar work on this. Check out for starters.

(5) Brain went a bit haywire while I was out for a walk. I thought about a portal/website where conventions could be rated on different scales; safety, fun, panels, amenities, etc. Then I remembered I do not have the resources to pull that off. See also: story of my life. Oh, what I could do with a fat pile of cash and an adoring cabal!

(6) Long story short, last year I made a conscious decision to start working on my own stuff. I’m now perilously behind on that goal, and my bandwidth decreases if I–HEY THERE’S ANOTHER SQUIRREL! It’s crucial that I bust my ass right now.

(7) Another HEY SQUIRREL! was to tackle some safety stuff in comic form. The ability to read non-verbal cues, for example, is so crucial to ensuring people feel comfortable.

(8)(a) I was yelled at in a friendly way, to ensure that I did link to my book titles when mentioned. It sucks, but such is the life of a creative.

(a) I went a little nutty with the footnotes since rediscovering how to link them. But, it is an accurate depiction of how my brain works, regardless.

[New Release] Kobold Guide to Gamemastering

Kobold Guide to GM'ing

I am pleased to announce that my essay “Planning Your Campaign in Four Stages” is now available in the Kobold Guide to Gamemastering. In the essay, I introduce a spiderweb method to reduce the appearance of a linear plot.

Assigning a number of sessions and scenes to a campaign often traps you
in the idea that plots must be linear, and the scenes become points along
that line that always advance the story forward and in a specific direction. If or when players go off-script, GMs then compensate by creating other
towns or NPCs to lead the group back to the main story.

To reduce linear-campaign situations like these, reshape the plot to
accommodate for movement.

“Planning Your Campaign in Four Stages” is but one of the stellar essays available in the Kobold Guide to Game Mastering. I had a lot of fun geeking out about organizational methods, and I hope you enjoy my take on planning a campaign.

About Kobold Guide to Game Mastering

Every GM has struggled with some aspect of their game. Maybe it’s session prep or sustaining a long-term campaign. Perhaps it’s a more external issue such as problem players or limited play time. Many of these concerns, and others, will be addressed in the Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.

The latest in the award-winning and fan-favorite series from Kobold Press tackles gameplay head-on, with advice from everyone from veterans to talented newcomers on how to make a tabletop RPG session snap, crackle, and shine!

Edited by Sean Reynolds, the book’s writers include Frank Mentzer, Keith Baker, Zeb Cook, James Jacobs, Monica Valentinelli, Shanna Germain, and many other well-known industry vets and long-time GMs.

This 150 page, 6” x 9” softcover features cover art by Blizzard and Magic: the Gathering artist Eva Widermann and is part of the award-winning Kobold Guide series. So, if you know a new or long-time GM that could use some helpful, practical advice, or a few handy tips and tricks, this is the book for them.

This book is available in digital and print.

Suffering of the Unchosen Story Excerpt and Notes

“Suffering of the Unchosen” was a short story I wrote for Tales of the Dark Eras to highlight my take on the Salem Witch Trials for Hunter: The Vigil in Dark Eras. In Doubting Souls (1690-1695), I set the stage for a setting in which monster-hunting players have trouble figuring out who the real monster is. This story is representative of one take on Doubting Souls; that era has a considerable amount of setting information in and around Salem Town and Salem Village following months of research. Some of the resources I pulled from are also listed at the end of that chapter as well.

My story ties into that theme by presenting a main character, a grieving widower and father, who wants nothing more than to exact justice on the hunters who murdered his family. Whether or not his anger is justified is something you’ll have to find out should you read the entire tale.

For now, though, I hope you enjoy this excerpt from “Suffering of the Unchosen”.

Suffering of the Unchosen

I was but a simple farmer whose tender son once planted seeds in barren, rocky soil, whose sweet wife once gathered berries, herbs, and mushrooms in the forest, whose family once led a trouble-free life surrounded by our cousins and neighbors in Salem Village.

Now, that life — the life of William Mansforth — is over. Though it is by some miracle I still draw breath, the rest of my family was tragically murdered a few nights ago.

I found their smoldering remains after I had returned home, battered and bruised, for I had been robbed by petty thieves earlier that day. Upon witnessing the horrible sight of my wife and child blackened beyond all recognition, I sank to my knees in despair, for everything I owned and loved had been ripped from me in a mere day’s time. My purse had been stolen, my cabin and tiny plot of land had been sanctified by fire, and my wife and son had been tied to the stake and burnt alive.

In truth, I had not the eyes to see the pyre for what it was — a ruse — for I was preoccupied with guilt. What could I have done to save them? My beloved wife, Mary, and my adopted son of five years, William, were unjustly murdered and judged as witches for all to see. They were no devil-worshippers! Questions plagued me; each was a pox upon my mind. If I stayed the night, would their murderers return and end me, too? Would I know the faces of the townsfolk who took two innocent lives? Or, was this the Devil’s Hand at work?

With an aching heart, I slept at the foot of that grisly sight, whispering prayers for their wayward souls, so that the spirits of my wife and son would not lose themselves in sorrow. Our cabin’s logs heaped upon the pyre still burned slow and hot; their orange embers provided warmth and kept the cold dew from settling on my skin. There I slept on the hard ground, inhaling and holding the dwindling smoke of that wretched fire in my lungs, begging for death. Who could have done such a thing? Who dared to commit murder and walk free?

At my wit’s end, I could no longer feign sleep. Instead, I sat up, pulled out my hunting knife, and sliced my open palm. I was careful not to wince as I did so; the pain was sharp, but lingering. It reminded me that whilst my wife and son were dead I was, by God’s miraculous Hand, still alive. So in this fevered state, I forged a pact with Him in my own blood, to shine His light into the darkest recesses of men’s most murderous hearts, to ensure my family’s killers were justly judged — even if their capture would come at the cost of my own life.


“Mary?” I knew not if her voice was inside my head, or if it was calling to me from between the trees. I yearned for her and hoped her ghost was a divine messenger. I shouted into the open air: “I am frightened, Mary. Is that you?”

“Here, William. Look to the great oak!”

I did as the voice bade, and saw a vision of Mary made whole, standing in front of the tree where we first met. Her naked body was shrouded in fine translucent robes, her long golden-brown hair flowed wild and free, and her kind brown eyes were just as merry as I remembered. She stood apart from me at a distance, but near enough so I could tell she was not a figment of my imagination.

“I am sorry, Mary. I was robbed, wife. Beaten and robbed!” I tried to beg her forgiveness, but my tongue was stuck. “Had I gotten home sooner…”

“William, you must listen carefully to me now. I have naught but a few moments, and I must tell you a secret…”

I fell into a fever-dream, half-drunk at the sight of her, wondering if I had finally gone mad. Was her spirit Heaven-sent or Devil-born? For precious few moments, I wondered if my wife truly was a witch. Then her words stuck to me like thistles, and they held fast.

“…three innocent babes, stuffed with herbs and dressed in linen, buried beneath the church by my late husband. I was the only one alive who witnessed were they were buried…and who killed them…”

“Who did this to you, Mary?” My voice was raspy, and I struggled to speak. I had to know. “Who slaughtered you and our dear boy for the sake of this knowledge? Who?”

“They call themselves hunters.”

Tales of the Dark Eras is now available now on Each story in this collection tackles a different historical era, and offers a look into vampires, changelings, werewolves and more featured in the Chronicles of Darkness game line. Watch for upcoming news about additional platforms!

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