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The City Beyond the Gate
The City Beyond the Gate
#1
So I took a quick look at the rpg.net thread to which Evil Midnight Lurker linked in his "I'm back" message.  I'm not going to post there -- I'm so horribly embarrassed of/by City Beyond the Gate that I don't want to get into a discussion of it.  But I'm going to offer a few tidbits about it in case anyone wants to carry them back to rpg.net.

First off, it wasn't originally written for publication.  It was an adventure I wrote for my original Narth campaign at the old Simulation Games Union at Princeton University, which ran around 1981ish to 1984.  It's not written for Oerth.  What people don't really remember any more is that the initial books for AD&D1 were absolutely littered with throwaway references to Gygax's Greyhawk campaign with absolutely no context to them.  So when I created my campaign, I actually went through the books and found all these little details and wove them into my own world so I could just cite these things without thinking about it or juggling some kind of translation into my game world.  Cuthbert and his mace were two of these details.  Consequently, the adventure wasn't written for Oerth because Oerth as a setting that anyone else could use didn't exist yet -- hell, no one knew the name "Oerth" yet except maybe Gygax and his players.

One of the posters on the rpg.net thread said something about viewing the adventure in the context of the 1980s.  That's off by at least a decade.  The adventure was originally written and played in early 1983 -- and the Borribles books which inspired it were set in the 1970s, so technically that's the "current era" of the adventure's London.  Even so, some of the stuff I included, like the beerwagons, were probably still anachronisms.  But they were there to begin with -- because, you see, the original adventure was explicitly set in the world of the Borribles -- it was a crossover.

(As a side note, when I actually ran the adventure, I had friends who had read the Borribles books roleplaying some of the characters -- and the game sessions spontaneously became my first experience with LARPing when my players and my "cast" just fell into character and didn't need me for anything for hours.  I just sat back and enjoyed the improvisational theater.)

Anyway, that's where some of the weirdness came from.  Dragon's staff -- IIRC Kim Mohan was the editor at that point and was my main contact -- loved the whole thing (obviously), but they didn't want to get into the whole hassle of getting permission or worse paying to license the Borribles.  So I had to translate a whole bunch of stuff from copyrighted to arguably original material.  It was a lot of work, and I didn't change any of the world background that I didn't have to.  

Also, keep in mind that this was, well, not before the Internet, because it existed, but decades before the Internet became the world's instant reference for every fact under the sun.  Also, I was doing the rewrite after I'd graduated, and was no longer able to simply walk up-campus to spend an afternoon researching in Firestone Library.  I had no easy access to any kind of reference works to fact-check "my" London against the real thing.  (Other than maybe a 1984 World Almanac and a 1976 Webster's Geographical Dictionary.)  So the best I could do with the deadline I was operating under was to file the serial numbers off, blur a few telling details. and hope for the best.  Unfortunately that meant more than a few details that were appropriate for the Borribles setting became anachronisms and inanities in the final version.  And that on top of stupid errors like leaving pre-decimalization British currency in the adventure.

When these errors and inanities were pointed out, it didn't take long for the whole thing to become such an embarrassment that I didn't want to ever think of it again.  And it shamed me into making sure my research for all my future works, with only a couple lapses, was as rigorous and right as I could make it.

About the only good memory I have of the article itself is the check I got for it -- which I brandished in front of my mother as proof I could earn money as a writer.  (She had actually said that she didn't believe they would really pay me for something so "silly", so when I showed her the check for what in today's money was close to $6000 she was quite literally stunned into silence.  And for years afterward when I would complain about being short on cash, she would ask, "can't you write something for your games again?"  She never did quite grasp that there were usually many months between the writing and the paying...)
-- Bob

And she'll have fun, fun, fun 'til her daddy takes the T-Rex away.

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RE: The City Beyond the Gate
#2
Nothing like looking back at your early disasters to see how much you've grown as a writer, eh? There is that, at least.
--
‎noli esse culus
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RE: The City Beyond the Gate
#3
This is why I like to try to keep my old shit around. It's amazing to see how far one has come, even if it can be a bit cringe-inducing.
Yasuri Nanami is my number one waifu, if only because she would horribly murder all the others if they didn't shut up and toe the line.
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