Today, we’re excited to get a chance to talk to Marc Tassin, creator of Aetaltis and the author of more than a dozen published short stories. His stories have appeared in several anthologies. He’ll talk about his career and tell us about his latest project, "Cool Name RPG”.
References and Links:
[00:00:00] Spaceman: Thanks for tuning into season three of the Halfling and the Spaceman Journeys into active fandom. We're having great conversations with people that have turned their love of fandom into something creative. We are fans talking to fans. Today we are excited to get the chance to talk to Marc Tassin, creator of Aetaltis and the author of More Than a Dozen published stories. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, including titles from DAW Books.
[00:00:26] Spaceman: He's also written for video games, role-playing games with work appearing in products from Shadow Run to Dragon Magazine. Welcome, Marc.
[00:00:37] Marc Tassin: Hey, thank you very much. For having me on the show, I appreciate it.
[00:00:41] Spaceman: So I couldn't get everything you've been credited with into the introduction. So why don't you start by introducing yourself to our listeners and telling 'em a little bit about yourself and your background.
[00:00:53] Marc Tassin: Yeah, absolutely. So I am just a longtime gamer and fan of all things nerdy and geeky, and it's been part of my life since I was a kid. There's a picture of me opening a X-Wing fighter when I was seven years old, and that's where it all began. Since then though, I've really sort of moved into the gaming, into the fiction area.
[00:01:12] Marc Tassin: I've written, like you said, I've done some things for Dragon Magazine for Shadow Run, some video games that sadly never saw the light of day. Which is sometimes how those projects go, also some of the things I've done is I've done short fiction, typically fantasy or urban fantasy, short fiction, and some steampunk as well.
[00:01:30] Marc Tassin: I've gotten in there. I also created a campaign setting for the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons called The World of Aetaltis. That's, we're continuing to produce new products for and is out right now. I ran the GenCon Writer Symposium for quite a few years, for about seven or eight years, which was a writing conference with, it was, at the time it was the largest, fantasy and science fiction writing conference of its kind in the world.
[00:01:56] Marc Tassin: Uh, we had about 2,500 unique guests every year. So it was a pretty awesome experience at GenCon. And then my latest project is something called Cool Name RPG, where I pulled together about a dozen of the best game designers in the industry, turned them into consulting designers to build a brand new game from the ground up and let everyone watch how it happens.
[00:02:15] Marc Tassin: So I. We're basically putting a spotlight on how the sausage is made for better or worse. So it should be an interesting experience.
[00:02:23] Halfling: Wow. How do you top that? You don't, so we'll just, we'll just say you, you have worn many different hats and, and apparently are just stacking them on top of one another on the
[00:02:38] Marc Tassin: Yeah. Maybe too many at times, but yeah, absolutely. It's, there's just been so many cool things I've wanted to do and I've just been lucky enough to have the opportunity to do them, which is really just great. For a fan like me, to be part of it all is just the best.
[00:02:51] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah. I, I can only imagine, you know? Do you ever get to sleep?
[00:02:59] Marc Tassin: You know, a lot of people ask, I don't sleep as much as I should. That is the absolute truth. Although as the years are wearing on, um, more and more, that's starting to be a, not an option as much as it had been. But yeah, I kind of, you know, when I have free time, I just work on the next project. I don't really do things that aren't geared towards the projects that I want to try to get done.
[00:03:19] Marc Tassin: So, you know, it's just where I'm always focused.
[00:03:21] Halfling: Yeah. Well, do you seek out projects or do you, , I mean, do people come to you and say, Marc, we want you to do this, or do you seek these things out? Or do you go to somebody, you know, a company or something and say, you know, I wanna do this. How, how does that work?
[00:03:42] Marc Tassin: You know, it's really a mix. , when I got started it was because I was actively seeking opportunities and someone came to me and said, Hey, I heard you were looking and here's what I've got. Right? You know, my first published short story that really got me going with all of this was for Jean Rabe. She was the editor of a DAW anthology.
[00:04:01] Marc Tassin: And Jean, for folks who don't know her, she wrote tons of, content for TSR over the years, fiction game materials, mostly fiction. And she has been a very prolific writer. She was running the GenCon Writer Symposium and she came up to me after I had done a writing workshop and she said, Would you like to write a short story?
[00:04:23] Marc Tassin: And I went, I'd love to write a short story. She goes, it's about talking animals. Is that okay? And I was like, yeah, sure. I love talking animals. Why not? I do not love animals and I don't necessarily love talking animals, but by God, when someone says, do you wanna write a paid short story for Daw about talking animals?
[00:04:41] Marc Tassin: You say Yes. And so, I wrote my first published piece for a book called Furry Fantastic. And from there it just sort of went on, right? I, I had new books that came along because of the people I made contact with. I really worked to network a lot. Opportunities came up, some of them I asked for, like when someone was writing a, putting together anthology of stories for Shadow Run John Helfers, I said, Hey, if you need another author, you let me know.
[00:05:09] Marc Tassin: I love Shadow Run. And he went, you do, because I need a short story. 'cause someone dropped out. And so there was my opportunity. So it really is, it's a mix
[00:05:18] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:05:19] Marc Tassin: For my personal projects, it's really just about having a passionate dream that I wanna see come true and just pursuing it with everything I've got.
[00:05:28] Marc Tassin: Right against all better judgment, you could say. And it's always worked out great in the end.
[00:05:35] Halfling: Yeah. Well, you, you have definitely made your mark in the industry, so to speak. Sorry, no pun intended.
[00:05:46] Marc Tassin: Right?
[00:05:48] Halfling: Well, you talked briefly about, you know, opening that first X-Wing, and so was that really your earliest memory of being a fan of something or was there, or how, how did that start?
[00:06:02] Marc Tassin: Yeah. I think my earliest memory was I, my aunt took me to see Star Wars. I. At the theater, and that was, you know, I guess I was probably seven, maybe, and she took me to see Star Wars and I walked out of that theater and I went, that's the greatest thing I've ever seen in my life. And honestly, I've received Star Wars toys at every birthday and Christmas since then.
[00:06:26] Marc Tassin: When I saw Star Wars. And you know, it is, it was where it started for me. I think the other area for me would've been comic books. My uncle collected comics and when we'd go over to his house, he'd just give us the big box and say, go ahead and read 'em. Which in retrospect, I realize now, I was reading Spider-Man Number One and Avengers number one, he had an amazing collection, but he just let us read 'em because.
[00:06:49] Marc Tassin: To him, it was more important that we loved the stuff. And you know, those two things are really where it all started for me. , a big turning point though was when I took a war gaming class in seventh grade through the school and this guy was running war games and we ran Gettysburg and stuff. I was like, that's really cool.
[00:07:08] Marc Tassin: But I looked over next to me and at this other table, they're fighting orcs. And I'm like, okay, it's really cool that I'm fighting, you know, reenacting the Battle of Gettysburg, but those guys are fighting orcs and they have fireballs. I want to know what's happening. And so for the second session, I signed up for that, some guy who is volunteering, and to this day, I don't know his name.
[00:07:28] Marc Tassin: I wish I did so I could thank him. He ran D&D , I played some a D&D with that guy and I was hooked from then on. That was my life going forward and I just love gaming to this day.
[00:07:41] Halfling: Wait, wait. Just to clarify, this was, this started with a class. This was a class,
[00:07:47] Marc Tassin: It was a summer program right where they, to keep kids busy in the summer to keep them outta trouble. So one guy in our area, Steve Jameson was his name, had a war gaming group, and he'd set up this 30 foot table with terrain and everything. And then the guy over at the other table had five people sitting around with nothing but a sketchy map.
[00:08:06] Marc Tassin: And yet that was so powerful to me, what I heard coming from that table that when the next session came up, I'm like, that one, that's the one I wanna do.
[00:08:15] Halfling: Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. Well that, that's really cool. I, I can't say that I had anything like that when I was, when I was that age.
[00:08:26] Marc Tassin: Yeah.
[00:08:28] Spaceman: I don't know. You were a D&D playing Hobbit, so Well,
[00:08:32] Halfling: I mean, but that wasn't till, that wasn't until high school though. You were, Marc you were talking about young, a younger time, right?
[00:08:39] Marc Tassin: in middle school at the time. Yeah, probably seventh or eighth grade is when they introduced me to it,
[00:08:44] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I was, I was in high school like, you know, 11th grade or so when, when I first started playing D&D , so I.
[00:08:53] Marc Tassin: Well, and when we started playing D&D , finding people to play with, finding other people who even knew what it was, that was a trick at the time.
[00:08:59] Halfling: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. We, we were sort of, we were sort of considered the outcasts of, of the school. We were, we were the weird ones, you know? And so that, but that was the group that I fit in with.
[00:09:13] Spaceman: My, my wife, queen of the weirdos.
[00:09:17] Halfling: They
[00:09:17] Marc Tassin: Well, I mean, that's part of, oh, go ahead. Sorry.
[00:09:20] Halfling: No, no, no. I was just gonna say, they didn't call me Queen of the Weirdos. They called me Queen something else. Okay. Oh, yeah. I can't say it because of certain licensing, but,
[00:09:30] Spaceman: Yeah, we don't wanna run afoul of the Tolkien state.
[00:09:33] Marc Tassin: Oh gosh. Yeah. No, I won't even go there. So stay, keep a long distance away from the token estate.
[00:09:40] Halfling: Uh, well, I, I, you know, it sounds like I probably don't even need to ask this question, but I'm going to anyway, just to see what your answer is, but what sparks your creativity?
[00:09:52] Marc Tassin: Oh boy. , I think what sparks my creativity most, I. Are things that are a, a slight twist on the world that we live in, because I love the reality of our own world. I love the stories of real life. I love the, the passions and the emotions of, of human beings. But when we take those things and take two steps left of the world, we know right, where all of a sudden you add magic or superpowers or radioactive spiders or starships, right?
[00:10:23] Marc Tassin: All of a sudden you take everything that we know and you give it this richness that there's a lot of richness and wonder in real life. But I just love to pull away into this fantastic realm and thinking about those things is what gets me excited, especially when you can draw on the reality of our world.
[00:10:40] Marc Tassin: Like with Aetaltis, I draw a lot on my understanding of history and on how religions are built and how. People's superstitions exist. Looking at all of that and drawing that in to create a story is just, glorious. I love it. And for me, part of what I wanna do is give back to people what I got all those years reading, Tolkien, reading, you know, Lloyd Alexander, playing D&D .
[00:11:05] Marc Tassin: I wanna give some of that back so that other people can get some of that same joy. So,
[00:11:10] Spaceman: Marc. You've written in very many different genres. What's your favorite genre?
[00:11:16] Marc Tassin: My favorite genre is still fantasy. I, I love fantasy. I love to write fantasy. I love to create fantastic worlds, absolutely love fantasy, despite the fact that I have a room filled with Star Wars toys in my basement, and I still love Star Wars and superheroes. When it comes down to it. If I pick up a, you know, I was gonna say pen and paper, more like when I open the laptop, fantasy is what comes out of my fingers.
[00:11:38] Marc Tassin: So yeah, absolutely. It always will be. I think even though I've done some urban fantasy, even though I've done some steam punk, in the end, I always just drift right back to my spells and magic and fairies and elves and all of those good things.
[00:11:54] Spaceman: You know, you were mentioning Shadow Run earlier. I think Shadow Run is the greatest game system that we've never played.
[00:12:04] Marc Tassin: It is. It's a fun system. Now, I will admit that I'm a bit, even though I wrote for some of the later editions, I'm a little partial to first and second edition because that's when I played Shadow Run. I think the other thing about Shadow Run that I love and I. For folks who are playing now, they might not know because they've split apart.
[00:12:20] Marc Tassin: But Earth Dawn and Shadow Run were the same world. And it was just different points in history. When magic comes back to the world, and for folks who don't know Shadow Run, it's a cyberpunk setting where magic has returned. So then you got trolls and dwarves and elves and everything else with all of the trappings of cyberpunk.
[00:12:38] Marc Tassin: Well, they created another time, another system called Earth Dawn, where in that world magic had come back, but it was thousands of years earlier and it was the magic that we'd lost and didn't know existed. And I just loved that concept of tying those two pieces together. And they threw in things like immortal elves that lived through both periods and it was just a wonderful world.
[00:13:00] Marc Tassin: So in the end, the system was great. I love grabbing more d6es than my hand can hold to throw them, 'cause it's a dice pool system, but it's really the worlds that drew me in. Mm-hmm.
[00:13:09] Spaceman: We, we have played Earth Dawn, so, and I loved it because it was the one fantasy role playing game that explained why there were these empty dungeons everywhere.
[00:13:20] Marc Tassin: Yes. Right. The, all the cares and the the demons having been there. So they were basically fall magical fallout shelters. Right. Well, it's funny 'cause Earth On is actually would've been my first published work. I actually wrote a short story for Earth Dawn, sent it into Lou Prosperi, who's a great guy and was the editor of the Earth Dawn journal, their magazine, and he sent me back my story with about two to three pages of comments and my heart just dropped.
[00:13:49] Marc Tassin: I was like, he hates my story so much. He spent three pages telling me how bad it is now. It wasn't until about 10 years later. That was, I was probably 19 or 20, 10 years later that I went, oh my God, that was an acceptance with changes he wanted. I didn't even know it at the time,
[00:14:07] Halfling: Oh.
[00:14:07] Marc Tassin: gave up. 'cause I was like, oh, I had no idea.
[00:14:10] Marc Tassin: But it was just, it's funny now in retrospect just because a lot of times you don't know when you go into this business, there's no book that tells you how it works. And you look at something like that and think, oh, I'm so ashamed at the time
[00:14:25] Spaceman: You, you learn this stuff from other authors.
[00:14:27] Marc Tassin: you do. Right. And at the time I didn't have any contact with other authors because there, I didn't have the writer's symposium at Gen Conn. I didn't have those sorts of contacts available to me. And it wasn't until years later when I started making those connections that I learned and went, oh, oh, that's what happened.
[00:14:48] Halfling: Wow. Oh, what a story. I mean, but, but you know, it's actually good for listeners to hear stories like that because that teaches them that sometimes what you think, you know, you don't, and you need to be, you need to be, you know, you need to look at, you need to look at the feedback, you know, in, in, in a careful way.
[00:15:11] Halfling: Because sometimes it may, you know, you may initially think, like you said, you know, that, that, oh, this is just a projection when in fact it's just a, you know, this is really good. These are the change, this the changes that we'd like. And, you know, we'd love to have it. So, and that could be the, that could either make or break somebody's decision to make it a career even, you know?
[00:15:36] Halfling: 'cause if you, if you didn't have that, if you didn't have the, the gusto for it, that you, that you obviously do. That would've been, could've been the impetus for you to say, what the heck with it. I'm not gonna, you know, I'm not gonna even try. I'm
[00:15:48] Spaceman: I'm done.
[00:15:50] Marc Tassin: Yeah, well, and that's kind of what I did, right? It was, it was years before I tried again, and it was more by chance than anything because I started attending the writer's symposium 'cause I wanted to write games. And as they were talking, I suddenly realized what I had done and you know, almost 10 years earlier.
[00:16:06] Marc Tassin: And I went, oh my goodness. I completely did not realize. That's why I tell this story as well, because by hearing these stories, other people can learn from them. And even if it seems obvious now, it just wasn't obvious to a young guy who just didn't know anything about the business.
[00:16:23] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm, I'm, I'm sure that you, you probably have a lot to offer at these symposiums. So I think it's absolutely wonderful that you, that you are doing are, are you still actively doing that or.
[00:16:38] Marc Tassin: I am not because I wanted to release the world of Aetaltis because I had these other projects I wanted to do. , I decided that it was time to move on from the writer symposium and let somebody else take the, helm for a little while. , and so now it's being run by a different group today. But yeah, I ran it for about seven or eight years.
[00:16:57] Marc Tassin: And I think at the height we had about 220 events over the course of the four days and around 80 authors and experts. We had, you know, agents come from different publishing companies. We had writers there, we had experts on various topics. Like one time we had a, a botanist come and talk about plants, and we had a writer paired with them to talk about how do you write about the plants while taking this reality and using it in a way that.
[00:17:24] Marc Tassin: You're not just turning your book into a a, a coursebook on botany. And so we had all sorts of cool stuff like that, and a lot of that is being carried on today. And so we had a blast doing it though. It was a great experience. And, Peter Adkison from, GenCon, who runs GenCon, was really great with us on helping to support us along the way.
[00:17:45] Halfling: That's great. That's great. Well, we wanna hear about your journey into becoming a creative force because it didn't just happen overnight, right? I'm sure you know as a kid, did you, did you have aspirations as a kid that this is what you wanted to do? You wanna be a writer, you wanna be a game designer? Did, did any of that enter, enter your mind, or, and when did it enter your mind?
[00:18:12] Halfling: When did you decide those were your goals?
[00:18:15] Marc Tassin: You know, I have, I've always wanted this, right? This is something I've always wanted. In fact, I wish I could go back and tell myself that it's all, that, it all works out because this is something that I've wanted, I've literally just brought up and I have sitting here next to me. My first game system I wrote in 1985, , and I wrote it for a class where I had to do a project.
[00:18:35] Marc Tassin: So I wrote a role playing game system for it, right? And for me, being able to tell these stories, to create these worlds, to share this experience with others, something I always wanted to do, all the way along from when I was young. , I started writing stories on my own. I was writing comic book scripts.
[00:18:55] Marc Tassin: I was trying to learn to draw so I could draw comic books, you know, like I said, I was designing games all along. This is something that I wanted to do. So from my point of view, there was never a moment where I, like I. Started necessarily so much as I was always there, right? It was always a part of me and I just chose to pursue it.
[00:19:15] Marc Tassin: And I think that's the biggest thing is I decided to put everything I had into making it happen. And you know, that's, for me, that's the biggest part of the journey is that constant push to keep going because there aren't big accolades most of the time. And there aren't big awards and there aren't major sales.
[00:19:33] Marc Tassin: Most of us in this industry don't make a ton of money and have a day job, but you just keep going and you don't stop. And slowly things start to click as you're going along. And when they do, it's a wonderful experience.
[00:19:46] Spaceman: Well, I'm glad that you've had the success that you've had, both as a writer and a game designer. When I was young, I had aspirations, but now that I'm not so young, not anymore, I'm, I'm, I'm happy being the spaceman and doing the podcast.
[00:20:00] Marc Tassin: Well, but I mean, this is a creative outlet of sorts, right? Because taking the time to talk to people, to bring out these stories, to pull people together in fandom in a way that's its own sort of creative storytelling. And you know, I'd say that I would disagree. I'd say you actually kind of nailed it in putting some of this together.
[00:20:18] Marc Tassin: This is great.
[00:20:19] Halfling: Well,
[00:20:19] Spaceman: thank you. Thank you so
[00:20:21] Halfling: so much. I appreciate that. It,
[00:20:23] Spaceman: It, it really helps that we're both giant nerds and we've been gamers since we were both 15. So, and you can tell by the, by the color of my beard that I'm no longer 15.
[00:20:34] Marc Tassin: So when did you guys start gaming? So you said like, in high school, Janet.
[00:20:38] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah. I, I mean, I started, one of my, one of my friends, , had gotten, two or three of his, his friends together and, , I, I don't know. We were just, we were, we were friends, but I didn't really know the others. And he was like, he said, well, hey, you know, I'm playing, I'm, I'm running this, this, game.
[00:21:02] Halfling: It's called Dungeons and Dragons, and it's kind of cool. , you know, and, and, and he, so he, so he talked about, you know, the, the, the other couple of guys that were, were playing, he was, he was like, I'd really like you to join us if you, if you're interested. Well, I have always been the drama queen. I mean, I have to say
[00:21:27] Spaceman: I'll vouch for it. I'll
[00:21:28] Halfling: it.
[00:21:29] Spaceman: uch for it.
[00:21:30] Halfling: You know, I've, I've always, I've always had a knack for, for dramatization and, , and so, you know, he talked about, role playing and I was like, oh, I. Okay. Yeah. I, I'm willing to give that a shot. And, so, you know, so I, I found that I sort of fit right in with these, you know, with these guys and, and, we actually, it's kind of a funny story.
[00:21:55] Halfling: And, and Roger's heard this a million times, so he can shut his ears, but, we actually got this group together. We called Entropy. , and we would, we would meet at my friend's, my friend's house, and he had a very tolerant mother. , we, we called Queen mom. , but, we would get together and we actually even acted out mock battles with fake, you know, like foam swords and stuff like that.
[00:22:25] Halfling: We go out into the woods behind his house and it was sort of like, are you familiar with the SCA, so I have an acronym. Okay. Well, we, we were there. We, we would've been there, there, , The, oh, I don't even know what you would
[00:22:41] Spaceman: Disre Disreputable cousins. Yeah.
[00:22:43] Halfling: there you go.
[00:22:43] Halfling: That's, that's a good, you know, , yeah. And so, so, you know, we, we would do that, but, it was centered around, you know, playing role, playing games, and then going out into the woods and fighting these mock battles and running around like idiots with. , and so that was really my first experience , with role playing games.
[00:23:04] Marc Tassin: Well, I admit I ran through the woods behind my house on more than one occasion during high school with my friends wearing a cape and carrying a, a bow and a foam sword.
[00:23:14] Halfling: Mm-hmm. Okay. Okay.
[00:23:16] Marc Tassin: been there and done that. Yes.
[00:23:20] Halfling: Okay. All right. Yay, spaceman.
[00:23:27] Halfling: What was your first, what was your first role playing experience?
[00:23:31] Spaceman: Little black box Traveller in around 1979.
[00:23:35] Marc Tassin: some Traveller. Action. There we go.
[00:23:38] Spaceman: Traveler first, then D&D then lots of other stuff, including Champions.
[00:23:46] Marc Tassin: Oh yeah. Yep. Champions, absolutely Hero system.
[00:23:51] Halfling: So we've all had our experiences, I
[00:23:53] Marc Tassin: Oh, that's awesome.
[00:23:57] Spaceman: Marc, can you tell our listeners what the steps or stages in your career have been and what single event do you consider to be your big break in the industry? I.
[00:24:09] Marc Tassin: My big break in the industry was definitely that story I wrote for Jean Rabe for Furry. Fantastic. That was the first time I ever saw something of mine in print by a, professional publishing company. I mean, to me that was the moment that it changed because up until then your resume for getting these sorts of gigs was, I really like to write.
[00:24:33] Marc Tassin: I swear to you I can. But at that point, suddenly you've got something on the paper. And in my case, I was fortunate enough that it was with DAW, so it was a reputable publishing company and something that people looked at and went. Oh, that's not bad. And as it turned out, you know, I hit my deadline and I wrote a good story and Jean then had other stories later.
[00:24:56] Marc Tassin: I had other people on other anthologies asking me to write short stories for those. So I was invited to a number of anthologies, which was very cool to have that happen. And so that's really where it started for me. I, I mean, you might even go back to just the fact that I went to the GenCon Writer Symposium.
[00:25:12] Marc Tassin: So Jean Rabe ran it and I went in there and I didn't intend to spend the entire GenCon in symposium panels, but I did once I got there. 'cause I'm like, this is amazing. These people are telling me how to do the thing I wanna do. They're teaching me everything I need to know to do this. And I was just, Into it.
[00:25:32] Marc Tassin: I got passionate about it and , I for years just went and attended. And during that time, one of the things Jean said, she goes, if you ever wanna just get some more information, walk up to one of the authors after and offer to buy them breakfast. Authors love breakfast, especially if you are buying it.
[00:25:48] Marc Tassin: And they'll sit down and talk to you and you know, it doesn't always work, but with the right author it can. And I learned so much and got more and more involved over the years and you know, because I started to go those symposium classes and there's classes like this everywhere, right? Windy Con has events like this all across, cons across the US and the world have events like this people can get involved in.
[00:26:13] Marc Tassin: And because I did that, I started to meet the people I needed to know. I started to learn the things I needed to learn and I then also, I. Started writing. I mean, that's one of the key things is doing the thing you wanna do. No matter how terrible you think you might be at it, no matter how hard and painful it is, you just have to do it.
[00:26:33] Marc Tassin: And so really from that start going to the writer symposium. 'cause that's what led to my work for Shadow Run. That's what led to some of the video game stuff that I did. That's what led to the anthologies I was in. And eventually it gave me the background and skills I needed to start my own company, mechanical Muse, to start creating our own products like the world of Aetaltis and the Cool Name RPG.
[00:26:53] Marc Tassin: , and on top of that, that's where I met all of these amazing game designers. Well, not all of them, many of the amazing game designers I met who I. I have now working on this project. I met them through this because I brought them in to talk about writing, to talk about their craft. So yeah, I think that's the, that was my big moment, was that writer symposium.
[00:27:14] Marc Tassin: But for a long time it was just me getting these occasional short stories and just working quietly in the dark by myself. Right. Once in a while I'd get something that I'd get it published once in a while I'd get something that would sort of reach the light of day. I, I actually got nominated for an actual, if you know what, furries are, an actual furry award for my furry, fantastic story.
[00:27:35] Marc Tassin: Even though it was just about cats, in a news stand. But, you know, over the years things started to accelerate and then when the opportunity to run, the writer's symposium came along, Jean came to me and said, I volunteered to help them for a while before that. She's like, how would you like to take over?
[00:27:52] Marc Tassin: And I went, sure. I don't know how to do this, but I'll give it a shot. Right. , but I think the biggest thing is just. For my entire journey has just been about putting myself at risk. Well, I mean, when I was in high school, I had a bunch of comic books and I always wanted to go to a science fiction con, but never could.
[00:28:14] Marc Tassin: So I hosted a comic book convention at the local, community center. I put posters all over town that I made. I still have some of the posters downstairs and slapped them up and got the community center to set up tables for free for me. And people showed up from all over the place and I met people who were like me.
[00:28:29] Marc Tassin: It's just again and again and again going out there and just going, well, this might be a complete disaster, but if I don't at least try, I'm never gonna know. And it doesn't always work.
[00:28:41] Spaceman: We, which is why we go to conventions to this day, even though we haven't been active, in the gaming industry since the mid nineties. So we still love gaming. We love nerd stuff.
[00:28:53] Halfling: Yeah.
[00:28:53] Marc Tassin: Well, you know.
[00:28:55] Spaceman: No, no, go ahead.
[00:28:57] Halfling: well, no, I mean, I, I don't remember who, who actually said it, but, but what was it? You, you miss a hundred percent
[00:29:07] Spaceman: Of the
[00:29:07] Halfling: shots
[00:29:07] Halfling: You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take. So, you know, that's, that's the upshot is, is you know, you're always gonna miss if you don't. If you don't at least make the shot, you know, try the shot.
[00:29:20] Halfling: So, , so that's a good lesson for, for people out there to hear, , you know, if they're interested in, you know, or they, they feel like, because sometimes you get down, sometimes you feel like, you know, here's another rejection. You know, am I really, am I really gonna gonna do something with this career?
[00:29:40] Halfling: Is this, is this really gonna take off? And it can be discouraging, right? Because I mean, you know, you get rejection after rejection and you gotta build that thick skin, or it's easy to, to just throw up your hands and say, I can't do it.
[00:29:54] Spaceman: Well, going back to that first work, if somebody approached me about being in a furry anthology, the first thing that would come to mind, are we talking about albedo or justifiers, or are we talking about Omaha? The cat dancer, so,
[00:30:10] Marc Tassin: Yeah, in this case it was just about animals that talk. At the time, the term furry was not quite as widely used and or known. And so at the time that it, she just meant talking animals. But, in the end, I mean, to be fair, The Fury Fantastic, nothing about that one wasn't about cats. That was about gerbils. I wrote, and I killed them because I didn't like animals.
[00:30:31] Marc Tassin: So I wrote this, this story, but it was tragic. It was super tragic. It was, I mean it was pretty dark like, but it was a fun story in the end. People really liked it, but it was a pretty dark story. But yes, it was before the term furry was really out there, so it worked a little better at the time. But
[00:30:49] Spaceman: yeah.
[00:30:49] Marc Tassin: I just want to mention something that I think is really important is that I talk about all these opportunities and the cool things that I've done and all the risks I've taken.
[00:30:59] Marc Tassin: It's hard. Right? It's hard. There are days where you just don't even know why you're bothering, right? You sit there and you're thinking like, this is so I'm, I'm not doing what I want. I'm never gonna be able to make a living out of this. I'm gonna have to keep my day job all my life. It's taking away time from other things in my life that I want to do.
[00:31:16] Marc Tassin: It's not always easy, and it's often really, really difficult. And especially if you have any sort of like, , you know, mental health challenges, right? It, it just, it can wear away at you and it's really important to take care of yourself and remember why you're doing it, that you're not doing it because, and at least I don't think this is why you should do it.
[00:31:37] Marc Tassin: I don't think you should do it because you think you're gonna get a New York Times bestseller or you're gonna make a movie, or you're gonna win even like an any award or anything. You do it because you love it and you wanna put it out into the world. And that's why I do it. And it's the only thing that I can fall back on because then no matter how it turns out, I will have achieved my goal in the end of putting that out there.
[00:31:57] Marc Tassin: But yeah, I, I just don't wanna pretend like, People hear that go like, well, I can't do that. It's like, well, I don't think I can do it most time either. Right? I go back to my room in a wreck after networking, right. I network all over the floor, try to meet people who are looking for writers when I was first starting, and then I just go back to my hotel room and huddle up in a ball and go, oh my God.
[00:32:17] Marc Tassin: So many people where I had to pretend like I'm brave and competent and confident. Right? But you, you talk to your friends, you do some gaming, you get your energy back and then you go try it again. Right? But it just, it's not easy. And it can be hard, but it's worth it. You know? It will be worth it.
[00:32:35] Halfling: Well, thank you for offering that up because I think it's important for people out there to hear, , not just, not just in, you know, the creative endeavors that we are, we're specifically talking about today, but just life in general. Yeah. I mean, because there are people out there who have a hard time just putting two feet on the floor in the morning and, you know, you gotta find some motivation.
[00:32:59] Halfling: You gotta find some way , to just say, okay, I, you know, I can do this and, , all I can do, if all I can do is put two feet on the floor and maybe push myself up off the bed, then that's, you know, then, that's will be a success for the day. I mean, there's some people that really struggle and, and it's, it's important for them to hear.
[00:33:21] Halfling: Things like what you've just said because it speaks to challenges in general.
[00:33:27] Spaceman: And I personally have a social anxiety disorder and if you met me at a convention, you would have no idea. But I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by, you know, my business partners back in the nineties and they would break the ice and then the mid the ice was broken, I'd come right back in and I'd join in the conversation.
[00:33:47] Spaceman: And, Janet does that for me these days. She is my icebreaker and I am the slow lumbering super tanker that tags along behind.
[00:33:56] Marc Tassin: Well, I think that's a great point because a big part of this is connecting with other people who can help you bolster you along the way. That was another benefit of the writer symposium, where the people I met my writer's group that I've been a part of for almost two decades now with, author named Elizabeth Faun, amazing fantasy author, you know.
[00:34:17] Marc Tassin: I met her at the Writer's Symposium. She was at the same place as I was. The team that I have on Mechanical Muse are just people who I reached out to and half the time in our company meetings. , I'm putting air quotes here because company meeting is kind of a, a stretch for the number of things we've got going, which is not that much yet, but we are just bolstering one another on our own creative endeavors, right?
[00:34:37] Marc Tassin: Russell Marks our artist, you know, he's doing work for other people and sometimes you need somebody to tell, I don't know how to get past this picture. I've been on it for a week and a half and I don't know how I'm gonna get past it. And you need to have people to support you. You know, the guy who does layout and design, Sean King, he's, has the same sorts of challenges and, you know, we all do, we all have those sorts of challenges and, you know, finding those people , you know, build those networks.
[00:35:04] Marc Tassin: 'cause even if you have social anxiety, and I get it, it's so hard to make those connections. But at least at a place like GenCon, you can find your people and they'll get you. Right. They will get you. And which is, that part's great.
[00:35:16] Spaceman: We had been out of the creative scene for about a decade, maybe a little longer, and in 2015 or 2016, we were starting up an online zine. And so I reached out to our mutual friend, Steve Long of hero games, and I said, Steve, I wanna go to this convention, but I have a really hard time like some other gamers breaking the ice.
[00:35:38] Spaceman: Would you mind introducing to me, me to a few people? And Steve introduced me to a whole bunch of people and getting, including, getting, , acquainted with a few people that I'd met. You know, 20 years before in the gaming industry, people like, , Richard Dansky, who was working at White Wolf when I met him. So it was great.
[00:35:57] Spaceman: And you know, the truth is, is that if you're at a convention and the Halfling and the Spaceman are there, if you don't know anybody else, if you're listening to our podcast, come up and talk to us. We'll introduce you to people we don't mind.
[00:36:12] Halfling: Or, or, or just be satisfied talking to us 'cause we'll talk to you.
[00:36:15] Spaceman: Well,
[00:36:18] Marc Tassin: Well, I, I say the same thing, right? And not every author or creator is up for that. But it doesn't hurt to ask, right? If you, if you're polite about it, if you're a decent human being about it, you don't follow them into the bathroom or something, right? Which I've seen happen.
[00:36:32] Halfling: Oh Lord.
[00:36:33] Marc Tassin: you know, you come up to 'em, like, if I'm ever at a con, I hope people walk up to me and talk to me.
[00:36:37] Marc Tassin: I'm happy to meet people and introduce people and help people make it 'cause really, Most of the good people in this industry, all the good people in this industry, they just wanna help each other. We don't see each other as like competition, right? We're just all in the same thing, trying to all accomplish same goal, putting our cool stuff out there.
[00:36:56] Marc Tassin: So yeah, they wanna help most of the time.
[00:36:59] Spaceman: Talking about that. I have a little story I'm gonna share. , at GenCon, one year I was at our booth the guy comes up and starts talking to me. You know, he's a big guy. I'm a big guy. We start talking, talking about his D&D campaign and you know, I told him that I have to go to a panel. I, you know, so he follows me to the panel, follows me to the bathroom the whole time, telling me about his 50th level, D&D character who slew asmodeus, you know, I, and I was trying to be nice, but, but you know, when you walk into the restroom, that should be, you know, that should be a no.
[00:37:36] Spaceman: Uh, talk talks on.
[00:37:39] Marc Tassin: Yeah, I had to intercept a guy trying to follow Jim Butcher into the bathroom at Gem Con one year. 'cause he, he was there and I had to sort of, I almost had to tackle the guy. But, you know, one of the tough things about this too, to that I, not tough things. One of the things I always try to remember too is that most of those folks, they are like us and they might have a harder time of making those social decisions.
[00:38:02] Marc Tassin: Right. But there's still folks just like fans. Good folks who just are eager and excited and passionate, and sometimes they just need a reminder, right? They just need a reminder saying, you know what? You know, I, I've loved how passionate you are, but I need some personal space, but I hope you'll come back when I'm at the panel.
[00:38:20] Marc Tassin: Right? And a lot of times that's all that it takes because we're all folks who maybe don't quite fit in with the normal crowd, and we don't necessarily have as much practice as others at doing those sorts of introductions and things.
[00:38:34] Halfling: Well, I, I'll be perfectly honest with you, because we're huge Jim Butcher fans, and we have read the entire Dresden files, series and watched the, short-lived TV series I Pridefully would've fallen. We followed him into the bathroom.
[00:38:51] Spaceman: All alright,
[00:38:52] Halfling: I'm just saying
[00:38:53] Spaceman: you grab him low, I'll grab him high and we'll carry him out to the car and make him listen to our, our Dresden files. Fanfic.
[00:39:01] Halfling: No.
[00:39:03] Spaceman: Oh, and you
[00:39:04] Marc Tassin: I'm not sure he'd appreciate that, but you know.
[00:39:07] Halfling: uh, no, we, we really do. We're we're big fans of, of, him. And, so that's, pretty interesting
[00:39:15] Spaceman: You know, and, and, and it's weird because we were introduced to the Dresden files via the TV show,
[00:39:21] Marc Tassin: Mm, okay.
[00:39:22] Spaceman: so, and then we went back and read all the books.
[00:39:25] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:39:26] Marc Tassin: Was one of our guests of honor one year for the GenCon Writer Symposium, and so it was great getting to meet him. And I have to say, that's one of the things that, you know, I always nerd out about the people I've actually gotten to sit down and talk to. I'm like, I just wanna go back to my high school self so bad and say, you are not gonna believe this dude.
[00:39:44] Marc Tassin: You are not gonna believe this. You are gonna have dinner with Terry Brooks. It's the coolest thing in the entire world. Right. You know, stuff like that is just like these opportunities, I feel so fortunate to have gotten to this point. So it is pretty cool.
[00:39:58] Halfling: yeah, yeah.
[00:39:59] Spaceman: It reminds me of the story of the time Gary Gygax Cold called me.
[00:40:04] Marc Tassin: gosh.
[00:40:06] Spaceman: We had just gotten married and I get this call from somebody and it's Gary Gygax, and I'm just thinking to myself
[00:40:20] Halfling: that was,
[00:40:20] Spaceman: was, that was funny.
[00:40:21] Halfling: Yeah.
[00:40:22] Marc Tassin: That is fantastic.
[00:40:23] Halfling: Uh, yeah. When when he finally got off the phone talking, talking with him, he, he was like, Janet, you're not gonna believe who I was just talking to.
[00:40:34] Marc Tassin: I'm, I'm afraid that talking to Gary Gygax, it'd be one of those moments where I'd sit there and I forget what words are and just go like, oh my God.
[00:40:49] Spaceman: Yeah. I, if it wasn't for the fact that he then, sent me several copies of the Cyborg Commando, I would've probably, yeah, I would've believed he was somebody just pulling my chain?
[00:41:02] Marc Tassin: I've got Cyborg Commando in my basement as we speak. I have a have the box set.
[00:41:08] Spaceman: Yeah, that was kind of disappointing. Now, now,
[00:41:14] Marc Tassin: I haven't played it. I will say the art on the front hasn't aged well,
[00:41:18] Spaceman: right, right now, dangerous dimensions is something that I really wish would've got a more fair showing. it's like, let's take everything we know about D&D and combine it with, the Iron Crown Enterprises system and a little harm master. Ooh. And let's throw in a touch of the Living Steel too, just for a good measure.
[00:41:40] Marc Tassin: Yeah. Oh yeah, I, I have those books and we actually played a campaign of that for a while, and it was great fun. We had a great time playing
[00:41:47] Spaceman: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
[00:41:51] Halfling: Oh, oh, well, let, let's get back on track a little
[00:41:55] Spaceman: yeah, because the GameBuddah can go off. Well, sorry, I'm the spaceman now, not the game Buddha.
[00:41:59] Halfling: yeah. That, that's a different life. , that's my
[00:42:02] Spaceman: old
[00:42:02] Halfling: life,
[00:42:02] Halfling: But part of my job is keeping things on track, on failing miserably right now, but that's okay. So you've talked about, you know, you've talked about doing the writer symposium with, with GenCon, but you've also worked with Dragon Con too, right?
[00:42:20] Halfling: Haven't
[00:42:20] Marc Tassin: No, I haven't worked with DragonCon
[00:42:21] Halfling: Oh, you haven't worked with just,
[00:42:24] Marc Tassin: just Gen. Yep.
[00:42:25] Halfling: for some reason, I was thinking that you have worked with Dragon Con as well, that you might have done something similar with them,
[00:42:32] Marc Tassin: No, I know the folks who do the writing track over at, Dragon Con, but I just ran the GenCon track
[00:42:37] Halfling: Okay. Okay. All right. Well then we can kind of skip ahead.
[00:42:43] Spaceman: Well, we
[00:42:43] Marc Tassin: right.
[00:42:45] Halfling: Color me red.
[00:42:46] Spaceman: Halfling. We still need to know what types of panels he's done.
[00:42:50] Spaceman: So Marc, what type of panels have you done? Just writing. You've done other stuff. You've done anything on game mastering.
[00:42:55] Marc Tassin: You know, I haven't ever gotten to do any actual gaming panels, right. All the panels I've ever done, I've ever put together are purely about writing. Although I do have a tendency to bring in folks to talk about areas that they have expertise in that would be useful to gamers. Like say a, paramedic who can talk about the realities of injury or a, you know, I've, oh, I've brought in folks to do,
[00:43:22] Marc Tassin: panels about, script writing and screenwriting. So we brought in some amazing folks there over the years, and I got to sit on those and, and help out with, moderating those. The panels that I've been on largely been about writing in the craft of writing, right? About characterization, about plotting and storytelling, those sorts of educational panels that basically teach you the nuts and bolts of the industry.
[00:43:45] Marc Tassin: I've also talked about how the industry works because one of the things we wanted to do was I went to a lot of panels at conventions that were either about the books and the authors, or they were about, sort of esoteric sort of academia type of explorations of theme and things like that. I'm like, can you tell me how to do dialogue though?
[00:44:03] Marc Tassin: I need about four hours of information on how to write dialogue. And so that's what we did a lot of at the symposium, was a lot of just hardcore craft of the business to help people figure out how to do it. And so I've been on a ton of panels about those things.
[00:44:19] Spaceman: Okay, So, Marc, I'm gonna ask you a question. It's kind of an open-ended question and we'll, we'll kind of expand it a little bit, but how important do you think conventions are for fandom in general, and how important have they been for you?
[00:44:33] Marc Tassin: I think conventions are extremely important. I think that one of the things that conventions did that is not quite as necessary as it used to be, which is connecting fan people of different fandoms, right? In the past, if you didn't go to a convention, good luck finding your fellow Whovians or your Star Wars fans or your, you know, comic book buds, right?
[00:44:58] Marc Tassin: You, you struggled to find those people outside of a convention Today, you know, social media has changed all of that, and so there are a ton of different ways that you can connect however, My most meaningful con connections have still happened at conventions, and I think conventions of all sizes are important.
[00:45:14] Marc Tassin: A lot of time focus gets put on things like Gen Con and Dragon Con where there's tens of thousands of people. But I think the conventions that are really powerful are the small conventions that happen once a year in your town where all the fans get together and can just, you can be among your people where they know what you're talking about, they know what it is that you're interested in.
[00:45:36] Marc Tassin: You can make weird references and everyone in the room doesn't look at you if that side eye of like, what are they talking about? Right. Instead, everyone laughs and goes, you're totally right. Right? So I think that from that perspective, conventions are important, and not just from a fandom perspective, but from a business perspective.
[00:45:53] Marc Tassin: You know, there's no getting away from the value of hanging out with someone in, you know, over a coffee, getting to know them, and then later them offering you a short story. You know, those are the sorts of connections that you just can't have otherwise. So they're hugely important.
[00:46:13] Halfling: We had to take a break from attending conventions during the pandemic, of course, , where everything was pretty much shut down. But the first con that we got to go to after things started opening back up, was, was a local convention. And, it was one of our, one of our favorites.
[00:46:31] Halfling: And when we got there, I said, This is like coming home. These, these are, these are our people. And it really did feel like that. , you know, these, these are the people, like you said, they get you that, that understand, understand, you know, where you're coming from and, so there, there's just really nothing like it.
[00:46:51] Spaceman: Yeah. To quote King Julian from Madagascar. My people. My peoples.
[00:46:57] Marc Tassin: That's exactly it. Oh my gosh. I feel like that every time I go to a con, it doesn't matter whether it's a small one or a big one too. It's, I step out and I'm like going, yeah, I'm, I'm home. This is good.
[00:47:07] Halfling: Yep. Yep.
[00:47:09] Spaceman: Marc I'm gonna ask you a pointed question. What can we as podcasters do to support local conventions?
[00:47:18] Marc Tassin: I think there's a couple of things. The, the first thing that I would say is that, If podcasters who have, you know, a, a strong following, can find a way to get to some of the local conventions and actually be there in person. I think that's really powerful because when you hear a podcast being recorded live from a con, and they are talking to some of either the fans or the guests who are at that con, I think that that's a really powerful thing.
[00:47:46] Marc Tassin: 'cause it sort of validates the experience of going to that convention. It brings it out into the world and says, look, this isn't just a little walled garden. This is a place where you can be too, and it, it's there. Right? I think that's a really powerful message. The other thing about it is I think that.
[00:48:02] Marc Tassin: You know, if you were to ask your guests what their favorite local convention is like for me, it's Yukon, it's here in, Michigan. They have it over in, Ypsilanti, Michigan every year in around November. Yukon is the con. I started going to as a student and I've gone most of the years since then. It's a fantastic convention and just a lot of fun where you can get together with folks and game and have a good time.
[00:48:27] Marc Tassin: And I think that a podcast like this lets people remember that there are these other conventions, and even if they're not in Michigan, they might start looking around and seeing if there's something near them that they could go to, to support. Because those cons, they need you to go for them to keep alive.
[00:48:42] Marc Tassin: And I think that's a great way for people to find out about 'em. Or at least if nothing else, start thinking about the fact that there might be something down the street.
[00:48:50] Spaceman: That's true. That's true. Support your local con. That's all I can say We do. I'm sure Marc does. And lots of people that we've had on the show have.
[00:49:00] Halfling: Yeah, because without, the support of, you know, the. Attendees, you know, there, there won't be a convention. I mean, you know, the, the fact is that a lot goes into putting in these, you know, to putting on these conventions and there's, you know, a lot of people involved and, and a lot of time and, and material and resources taken up.
[00:49:23] Halfling: And so all that needs to be supported. And if you get the, if you get the feeling like we've been talking about where it's kind of coming home and these are our people, you know, why, why wouldn't you wanna be part of that in, in some way? So, , so that, that's great.
[00:49:40] Halfling: So Marc, talk a little bit about what challenges you have faced and what ways you've been able to overcome those. 'cause you know, you've obviously had a lot of successes and you've had, you know, a whole lot of perseverance and like you said, risk, taking the risk and putting yourself out there.
[00:49:58] Halfling: But what, what actual challenges have you faced along the way and what did you do to overcome them?
[00:50:06] Marc Tassin: One of the biggest challenges I've had is when a project that I've put a lot of time, energy, money, heart into and just have it fail. 'cause they do fail sometimes. I've had, I've had a number of very successful Kickstarters, but I've had two that didn't succeed. In each of those cases, it was pretty tough to figure out what to do next.
[00:50:27] Marc Tassin: I sat there and I looked at it and thought, am I doing completely the wrong thing? Should I just fold this up and go home? And it took some real soul searching and some real talking to other folks in the industry and to my friends and cohorts to decide what to do next. And in each case, what we decided to do was just to stand up, brush everything off, push back whatever sort of sense of shame we might've had and say, let's just try it again.
[00:50:55] Marc Tassin: And we tried it again and it worked. You know, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. And it's just remembering that, remembering that for every success you see, for every book that you see published, there's an au That author has manuscripts sitting on a computer somewhere that didn't go anywhere, right?
[00:51:12] Marc Tassin: For every game, there's worlds and systems that never saw the light of day, and that's just how it works. They, everything doesn't click and you just have to try to do the next thing. So I think that's one of the biggest things for challenges. The other thing that really came through for me is a few times I had situations where, for example, an artist was unable to participate, and at the last minute before Kickstarter launches, I find myself going, I don't know what I'm going to do.
[00:51:40] Marc Tassin: I'm launching in a week. I've been promoting this. How am I gonna do this? What I found is that, You can do impossible things if you just try. And so for example, in that case, I just went to art station and I started looking through every single artist for like hours until I found people. And I just started randomly sending emails to people going like, you don't know me, but I think your art is awesome, and would you wanna do this?
[00:52:06] Marc Tassin: I had the same experiences with the writer symposium where I'm writing to authors who I'm like, I have no business writing to this person. They're going to just laugh when I get my email. But what I've discovered is that you know, you, if you're polite and professional and you reach out to people, amazingly, it's there.
[00:52:25] Marc Tassin: The success is there, but you just have to sort of go out there and go like, I know this is nuts, but I'm gonna do it anyway. And I think that's the biggest thing because it's hard. It's hard when those sorts of disasters strike and you're just thinking like, I am just bad at this. Right? Because it's hard not to take it personal when you're a creative person, when you're a creator and you've sort of launched this whole thing.
[00:52:46] Marc Tassin: So, yeah, that's how I've overcome them though, is just sort of putting it, I dunno else to say it, except for the fact ignoring reality. You ignore reality at, at least the way your mind sees it and you shoot for something that shouldn't work and then you find out you were wrong all along and it works fine.
[00:53:03] Marc Tassin: And so I think that's the message I'd give.
[00:53:05] Spaceman: That is great advice. That is great advice.
[00:53:09] Halfling: Yeah, I, I think it's just, it's a matter of putting yourself in the right mental space. You know, and just, just saying, you know what, this is gonna work anyway. I, you know, I'm determined this is gonna work.
[00:53:22] Marc Tassin: Or even if you can't get in the right mental space, do the thing anyway, while in the wrong mental space, it's, it's still, at least you're doing it. 'cause I've done that where I'm like, I'm like going, oh, I, I'm writing this person an email. They're never going to answer. Oh my God, I'm terrible at this. But I send it all the same and suddenly it works.
[00:53:40] Marc Tassin: I'm like, oh, I was wrong.
[00:53:41] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:53:43] Marc Tassin: Sometimes you can't get in the right mental space. He's just still gotta just do the thing.
[00:53:47] Spaceman: yeah, you get up, go to work every day regardless.
[00:53:50] Marc Tassin: You know,
[00:53:50] Halfling: Yep.
[00:53:52] Spaceman: Okay. Well, Marc, that was kind of a challenge. Can you talk about some of the advice that you could give people starting out in their own careers that you wish you would've known when you were a young person getting started?
[00:54:05] Marc Tassin: the number one thing I want, I, this will not gonna sound like a positive thing. The the main thing I want to say is that don't go into this expecting to make a living because most people don't. And that's okay. I. You, you hopefully will make enough to cover your costs and you will hopefully have an experience that you are passionate about and you care about.
[00:54:28] Marc Tassin: You know, one of the things I started thinking about as I got older, I was like, boy, I do not want software manager on my obituary. Right? That is not how I want people to remember me. I want them to remember me as a guy who created fantastic worlds and did crazy things and, you know, and I said, I said, that's what I need to have.
[00:54:46] Marc Tassin: And, but when I went into it, at first I had this idea that it was all gonna turn into a job, and then as long as I kept working, it was gonna work. And that's not how the, the arts work. That's not how writing and games and things work. You do the coolest thing you can do and you put it out there and be proud of it.
[00:55:04] Marc Tassin: And. Maybe along the way it turns into something amazing and you can quit that day job, but most people don't. And that's okay. Right? That's the thing that I would say is do what you love. And for a long time I pursued, when I was writing those short stories, I was being very mercenary. Anyone who wanted me to write something, I'd write it right, didn't matter if I liked the topic, didn't matter if I liked it.
[00:55:26] Marc Tassin: I was like, I'm gonna make a career, so I gotta do all the things. And I spent so much time working on things that I wasn't passionate about. And in the end, you'd get your check for a few hundred bucks and you'd be like, wow, what am I doing right? Pursue the thing you care about.
[00:55:41] Marc Tassin: Pursue the thing you love, and just put it out there into the world and let that be your end goal, because that's the most realistic end goal, and that's the one. It's gonna give you the most joy in my opinion.
[00:55:52] Halfling: Well, I, I have a question semi related to what, what you were just talking about, because you mentioned, you know, that most of the time you're gonna keep your day job and, and do this, you know, do this because it's the thing that you really love to do. But how do you, how do you, how do you go about time management?
[00:56:14] Halfling: How do you, you know how, because you know, you've gotta, you've gotta work your day job so many hours in the day. You gotta sleep a little bit. So how do you, hopefully you sleep at least a little bit. What's your time management like? I've never asked this question, by the way, so I'm kinda curious.
[00:56:32] Marc Tassin: You know, for what I think is, is the reality is there's some sacrifice involved. At some point you do have to sacrifice something. I did. You know, I don't play as many video games as I used to. Right. I love playing games like Skyrim and Elden Ring and things like that, but I just don't have the time for that stuff.
[00:56:50] Marc Tassin: Right? So you do have to give some things up along the way and recognize that that's just sort of, you only have so many spoons, right? And you gotta put 'em somewhere. And I think the other thing too is to recognize that, , as far as time management goes, that sometimes time management means not getting anything done because just making it through the day, like you were talking about getting out of bed in the morning, that's a win.
[00:57:15] Marc Tassin: Because then tomorrow you can do the cool thing. But today all you gotta do is get out of bed and it's, it's again, looking at your time that you have available to you and saying, I. How can I spend this in a way that is gonna be meaningful me, meaningful to me in the long run? And it's not always about getting the cool thing done.
[00:57:33] Marc Tassin: Sometimes it's just about the maintenance. So you can get the cool thing done tomorrow. But yeah, I think sacrifice though is the biggest thing, is that you really do have to sacrifice. And I personally though, the only thing I'd say is I don't believe in sacrificing family for this, not literally or figuratively.
[00:57:50] Marc Tassin: I, I think that you have to always remember that, you know, that's, an irreplaceable part of your world and you know, at some point those dreams you have to push them aside just for a little while, while you focus on the things that really are important.
[00:58:08] Spaceman: We've only missed one week of the podcast since we got started, although I can't swear that that won't happen the week that, Starfield's released.
[00:58:19] Marc Tassin: Yes, I, I can't promise that I'm gonna be doing any game design on that, that day or that week either. So I, I may have pre-installed it, pre preparing for the release day.
[00:58:32] Halfling: He has been watching video after video, after video at trailer, after trailer. It's just been, I'm like, with the game, just please come out so you can go ahead and play. So,
[00:58:45] Spaceman: look, I've, I've applied every mod that I can think of to Skyrim vr, and I've played Skyrim vr, you know, constantly for three years now. And I played the flat game before that. And, and, and Fallout 76 was such a nightmare that I didn't even make it to the release. I, I installed the pre-release version and deleted it.
[00:59:10] Spaceman: I just, oh my goodness. I Bethesda ships buggy code, but this is ridiculous.
[00:59:15] Marc Tassin: Yeah. Fallout 76 did not work for me. I, and again, I get to do some fun things, right? I don't, it's not all doing the work. I get to play some of my games, but Lord knows, my friends are like, so, I'm like, 40th level. Do you want to team up on a quest? I'm like, I'm like third level dude. That's all I had time for, right?
[00:59:34] Marc Tassin: I I still got to play, but you know, I'm not gonna be able to play at that level.
[00:59:39] Halfling: Right. All right. Well, I, I think that's a, that, that's also a very good thing for people to hear, , because I think sometimes people wonder, you know, oh, I've gotta do this and this and this and this. How do I do this? I know I'm going through that crisis at my mundane job right now. We are, this is the time of year for us where we are just so overwhelmed with hundreds of emails and requests for things, and, and it is, you know, and I wake up in the morning going, Ugh. I need to do this and this, and I have this list and I go to bed thinking about this list of things that I need to do the next day. And it's, it's been consuming. , you know, so, yeah. So I, I, I'm glad that you brought up that fact because like you said, sometimes, sometimes it's just a matter of, okay, today I'm just gonna get out of bed today.
[01:00:36] Halfling: I'm, you know, today I might just do a little laundry. You know, that kiddo,
[01:00:45] Spaceman: Marc, the next question, normally, , this goes to Janet, but I'm gonna ask it because I wanna ask it a little bit differently. One of the things that I've asked people recently started up is I've asked them to give our listeners a pitch for their upcoming work. And the way that I met you was through the Cool Name RPG, actually through our mutual friend Steve Long.
[01:01:06] Spaceman: So could you give us a pitch for Cool Name RPG?
[01:01:11] Marc Tassin: ""Cool Name RPG" is a, not just a game, but a project. And it's a project to build a brand new game system from the ground up with the help of some of the best designers in the industry, game designers in the industry today, and the input of an amazing group of creative followers and give it out to the world for free.
[01:01:32] Marc Tassin: When the project is done, we're giving it away. The system's gonna be freely usable, no license needed, you know, it's all gonna be creative commons. They can take the tech straight and put it into their own product so that every single one of us can add to this awesome creative endeavor and put our own pieces into it, which is what gaming is all about.
[01:01:50] Marc Tassin: In the end, a bunch of people getting together, being super creative and creating something really cool when they're finished. And so that's what cool name R p g is all about. And that's what we're doing today is every week we do a design journal. Every , play test document we send out, we have surveys so people can do feedback, and we're just building this thing from the ground up and sharing what it's like, the good stuff, the bad stuff, and everything in between.
[01:02:14] Spaceman: Thank you. Thank you. And do you have any other projects coming out?
[01:02:19] Marc Tassin: Yeah, We're actually working on a, I haven't really told anybody about this, but on the sly I'm working on a, monster book for the world of Aetaltis. And part of that is gonna be publishing some of it through our Patreon that we have as well, for Mechanical Muse, where we're trying to put together a new sort of the equivalent of the Old Dragon Magazine, but for a new age and, you know, published it, printed if you want the printed copy.
[01:02:47] Marc Tassin: And we're gonna be releasing some of our new a Aetaltis material there over time and eventually Cool Name RPG material as well as we start building this out. So that's our big projects we've got on the horizon, but right now we're pretty focused on the cool name piece.
[01:03:02] Halfling: That's, that's cool. That's cool. Well,
[01:03:05] Spaceman: I don't know. I don't know. Halfling, I think Marc just said something dangerous.
[01:03:14] Halfling: after Starfield, right?
[01:03:16] Spaceman: After Starfield,
[01:03:19] Marc Tassin: Yeah. Boy, I'm so worried about Starfield because I'm afraid I'm really gonna wanna play it so
[01:03:24] Halfling: Ah, well, well, you, you, you should allow yourself a little time every once in a while to do that set
[01:03:33] Halfling: aside, set that, set aside that little bit of time, you know, it's like, like spaceman over there has to, has to allow him himself , one, chocolate drink a week. Yeah. Okay.
[01:03:45] Marc Tassin: That isn't acceptable.
[01:03:46] Halfling: that's, that's him.
[01:03:47] Halfling: That, you know, that's his thing to look forward to. So you gotta have something to look forward to.
[01:03:52] Halfling: you gotta,
[01:03:53] Spaceman: you gotta
[01:03:53] Spaceman: have
[01:03:53] Spaceman: something to
[01:03:53] Halfling: look
[01:03:54] Halfling: forward to.
[01:03:55] Halfling: Well, Marc, tell us where people can find out more about you in, the projects or, or your works. , you know.
[01:04:03] Marc Tassin: Uh, the first place that I'd send folks is coolnamerpg.com. That's where you can find all about that project to create our new game system and give it away to everyone, which I will add. People keep telling me it isn't a great business plan, but I'm sure somehow it'll work out. This is one of those impossible things.
[01:04:20] Marc Tassin: , also if you wanna check out our campaign setting, Aetaltis, it's a e t a l t i s.com, so it's sort of like aian but Aetaltis.com and you can check out all of our stuff there. It's a world that sort of embraces everything that's cool about classic fantasy gaming and fantasy worlds, and then twists it just enough that it's a brand new world to explore.
[01:04:43] Marc Tassin: So I would love to have people check that out.
[01:04:46] Spaceman: Are you gonna run ads with no elves like they did for the old Talislanta RPG??
[01:04:52] Marc Tassin: No, that is not our plan at the moment
[01:04:55] Spaceman: Oh, okay. Okay. Okay. That that was their selling point back in the day. No elves.
[01:05:03] Marc Tassin: No. You know, honestly, I'm a huge fan of tropes. I think tropes, people don't like tropes. Badly used people like tropes that are executed well. They, they work for us. They resonate with us, and I don't think you can hide from them. I think if you try to get rid of 'em, you'll only hurt yourself in the long run.
[01:05:20] Spaceman: I'll make sure that I get all that in the show notes so that people can find,
[01:05:24] Marc Tassin: Aetaltis, Yeah.
[01:05:26] Halfling: Marc, thanks so much for talking to us today and taking time. We, we've had a great time obviously talking to you. We've had a lot of fun. , and thank you for sharing your journey, , with us and with our listeners.
[01:05:40] Marc Tassin: Well, thank you. It's been great to be here and I really appreciate what you guys are doing. This is awesome.
[01:05:45] Spaceman: and we want to thank all our listeners for tuning in today. We hope if you've enjoyed and perhaps become inspired by today's guest, Marc Tassin. Marc, we give you a huge thank you and shout out for joining us today, and this is the Spaceman of the Halfling and the Spaceman Podcast over and out.
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