2010 Under the Laughing Moon
by Todd VanHooser
by Todd VanHooser
This time last year I was eagerly looking toward a busy future. I had a number of conventions scheduled, one publication nearly complete, and the Laughing Moon game book was beginning to take shape after years of development. Its hard to believe a year has already gone by...but it’s more difficult to comprehend how much I’ve done in these last 12 months.
Here’s 2010 Under the Laughing Moon
Two major releases: The Lamplighter Collection, and Adventures Under the Laughing Moon were both released in 2010, making this a very productive year for me personally. Oddly, now that I think about it, both projects span a very large part of my life, and it’s an interesting coincidence that both should reach fruition in the same year.
Lamplighter is a collection of short fiction that I started writing in my fiction classes at the University of Missouri. In fact, my short story titled "Catharsis" first saw print in MU’s literary magazine, Stir. I just saw an old copy of that laying around at my parent’s house and was quite happy to stumble upon it. My own copy of the magazine was lost in a move years ago, and it’s fun to see how that particular story has evolved. Other stories in Lamplighter are much more recent. In fact, the headliner story, The Ole Lamplighter, I credit with saving my novel, The Barren Twelve. I had hit a major wall in the writing of that book, and desperately needed something to help invigorate that writing. The remedy came in the form of a good old-fashioned ghost story. I wrote that story in about four weeks, and afterwards I was able to tear into The Barren Twelve feeling refreshed and eager to finish the book.
Adventures Under the Laughing Moon stands as my biggest personal achievement to date. Putting aside book sales, reviews, etc., I accomplished something I simply did not think could be done. The Laughing Moon game began in 1995 as a mash-up home brew gaming system that picked and stole from the current RPGs of the day. Naturally that system grew and developed over time, but one thing remained consistent: the story. After debuting the game at an Arizona convention in ’09, I saw an opportunity to share the story with more people. As a marketing tool, this was perfect—readers could enjoy The Laughing Moon Chronicles, and then take a more interactive approach by creating their own characters and developing their own stories in the game. But for me, there was even more potential. The story had the chance to take on a life of its own.
It took me the better part of two years to compile all of my notes and then re-design the gaming system to stand on its own and support the type of game I had always run. After the system was built, play-testing had to occur, and this spread over a number of months with tweaks and changes occurring along the way. Once the game was done, the real work began. I had to figure out a way to put the game into a book that would allow even those unfamiliar with table-top RPGs to pick it up and learn the ropes. My incredibly talented wife, Susan, took on the daunting task of interior layout and design, and finally in October, I held the final product in hand.
I’m very proud of this accomplishment, and I'm extraordinarily grateful to those who helped me along the road . If you haven’t seen the book, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. It easily stands next to anything on the shelf at your gaming or book store, and the content actually sets it apart from the competition. The feedback has been great, (one of my first customers told me that after a long dry spell this was the very first gaming book he had purchased in over two years) but having the Adventures book completed is something for me.
Nine conventions: Big ones, small ones, local ones, and out of state, this was a BUSY year when it came to the con scene. There were some memorable moments at these events—some with fans and attendees, and others that fall into the memorable, but unmentionable category. The Laughing Moon Crew likes to say, “what happens at con, stays at con.” Maybe it’s not exactly an original slogan, but it works in a pinch.
I’m getting a better feel for these events. There is an expectation that goes into it, and I have attended enough to have formed my own opinion on what makes a good convention vs. what makes a poorly managed convention. People attend conventions like these to mingle, socialize, get exposed to new elements of their favorite genre or hobby, and have fun. That last part is certainly something I like to provide in what capacity I can. It is my hope that I will be able to expand the Laughing Moon experience even more in this coming year.
Of course, the biggest event for me was Laughing Moon Con—my very own event. I was told early on in the process that the best advice when it came to organizing a convention was “don’t do it.” I understood that it would be an undertaking, but I felt that the time had come to “put up or shut up.” In my opinion, the vast majority of local conventions and events had fallen deplorably short at marketing to the younger generation. This was an observation I had noted on many occasions, and a concern I had even tried to voice to those who I thought might make a difference. All marketing was geared at conventions, game stores, ConNotations, and second hand book stores. In other words, they were marketing to the people that were already going to the events, without any attempt at drawing in fresh faces. I’m a fantasy author and even I have to dig around to find out when and where the events are taking place. My goal for Laughing Moon Con was clear from the beginning: get new blood. Our marketing went to high schools and community colleges, in addition to game and book stores. And it worked. The first Laughing Moon Con brought in over 300 people—most of which had never attended a convention before in their lives. Now those same people are asking about Amazing Arizona Comic Con, Phoenix Comic Con, Rincon, and others.
In other words, we hooked them. They’ll be back.
Local events: Customers at gaming stores and book stores got a little taste of the Laughing Moon experience this last year. With a number of appearances at Gamers’ Inn and Imperial Outpost Games, I was able to introduce new people to the game and expose them to role-playing Laughing Moon style. In addition to this, I was able to get in front of small audiences and share excerpts of The Lamplighter Collection and discuss both the fantasy series as well as the writing process in general.
New faces: This year we have welcomed a number of new people into our fold. Whether they are gamers, readers, fans, or those helping out behind the scenes, these are the people that make adventuring under the Laughing Moon worthwhile. Ours numbers have significantly grown in 2010, and 2011 will only see that trend continue.
A helping hand: And lastly, 2010 marked the first year where our efforts were able to help out a few others. The Laughing Moon crew was able to raise a little extra money in the beginning of the year to send a handful of high-school kids to their very first convention. Later in the year, funds raised from the first Laughing Moon Con helped send the Desert Edge Marching Band to the Fiesta Bowl Parade where they will proudly be accompanying the Arizona 501st and playing selections from Star Wars. How cool is that?
I’m raising my glass to a fantastic 2010 and all that came and went with the passing year.
And now I’m setting my sights on 2011, and the adventures that await just around the corner.