Chatty’s Year 2009 and the Importance of the Tribe

Yes, Yet another Year End Post.  I’m sure the RPGbloggers network‘s first page must crumble under that Echo Chamber effect.

But I don’t quite care about that.  🙂

The Year in Review

Oh man what a year.  Last year you could taste the the first signs of the rapid unraveling of my mind in my Dec 31st post.  To say that the first half of 2009 was anything less than hard and painful would be a lie.  Not that my life or job were bad.  My family was spared from all the unpleasantness of the financial crisis.  As I’ve discussed before, like many creative minds out there, I found myself touched with Bipolar Disorder as I went through my 2nd severe depression in 6 years.

Instead of bearing this moniker as a mark of shame, I decided to openly profess what I suffered from and fully accept that I would likely take medication to treat this for the rest of my life (baring a scientific/spiritual breakthrough to explain it).  Had I been a more famous person, I’d likely have written a book about it.

Maybe I will someday.

Fortunately, the medications not only left my creative mind intact (it’s not always the case), it has helped me lower the volume of noise in my overactive mind and helped me focus my ideas more. So much so that during the first half of 2009, while feeling miserable for myself and overly anxious all the time,  I was able to actually start and complete multiple projects:

  • I wrote a short D&D 4e adventure for Goodman Games entitled ‘When Madness Seeps through…‘ (yeah, how ’bout that, eh?) to appear in the From Here to There anthology to be published in February 2009.
  • I met the inimitable Chgowiz, we ran the The One Page Dungeon contest and published the One Page Dungeon Codex
  • I tackled an unfinished project and wrote a Primer for the Dungeon Reality Show.
  • Following a positive response by Wizards of the Coast for a D&D for Kids adventure proposal made in late 2008, I wrote an extensive outline for a Feywild-based Goonies-like adventure. I’m still waiting for their official feedback (but it got me to learn how to write an official submission)
  • I wrote a gaming article for a well-known gaming magazine.  To be published in early 2010.
  • I started creating my own D&D 4e adventures for our campaigns with the highly successful Primal/Within arc.

I went back to work in June of 2009 with The Plan (Get better, Get projects, Go part time, Freelancer) the hell out of it) and everything went up from there. Incredibly so!

At Gen Con, surrounded by friends I trusted, my impression that I could be a successful RPG writer was confirmed. Slapping hands and giving bro hugs to guys whose adventures/book I had purchased the year before (or whose websites were so much bigger than mine) gave me back the confidence that had eroded while my mind rotted in the grips of depression.

Getting invited by Chris Sims to have a few beers with him, a few other WotC freelancers (Hi Miranda!) and some WotC designers and mad geniuses was one of the high non-gaming points of the con.

After Gen Con, the focus was on stabilizing my full time job while I explored other possibilities.  My anxieties slowly abated as did my depressive moods.  I sent out resumes to colleges and universities (for continuing education job and training seminars).

I also sent a pitch for a Kobold Quarterly article that was accepted.  In fact, I just finished writing it yesterday. 🙂

Then, by a near-freakish series of coincidences, I scored a dream part-time (about 12-20 days a year) training seminar gig that pay near 4 figures per day. I just happened to contact the center’s director the week before he completed his winter course catalog. I sent him pitches for 3 courses and he really wanted to add them to his list!   Then, he lost a teacher one week before a course and I accepted to take over it and the students loved it, scoring me another new course in the aftermath.

At the same time, at the behest of Chris at WotC, I launched myself into a 6 week project of brainstorming for crazy cool adventure ideas for inclusion in Dungeon magazine.  It culminated in what I hope are killer pitches sent in early December.   Whatever comes out of this, I’ll have learned to write enticing RPG pitches this year.  If it does works, it will be part of my 2010 portfolio of projects.

Right after that, I asked my day job if they’d consider dropping me to 3 days a week… and they said yes, with no conditions!  Letting me understand they’d rather keep me part time than lose me outright.

Wha? Okay!

So starting next week, I’ll be working 3 days a week as a Quality Assurance Project Manager in my Pharmacogenomics Center and spend 2 working on my courses, blog and writing projects.  This is so cool.  And that’s not all, a local vocational college called me to schedule an interview in January to teach pharmaceutical manufacturing classes.

Wow!  On January 1st of 2009, I would never have believed how my life would turn for the better in such a short time.

The dream is back and I have an ongoing plan for 2010!

The Tribe

Throughout this year, one element ties my recovery to the way things have been turning up lately.  My Tribe.

I define the Tribe as the post-modern family.  It combines the elements of those in your family you hold dear, your close friends and all those you’ve let into your circle of trust. In my case, that includes my wife and kids, my mother, my gaming group, some online friends, etc.  People, I’d drop everything to help and those who have done the same for me this year.

People I care for and trust have told me to drop everything and write, others have helped me build The Plan, others did simple things like kicking me into gear and getting me to register for Gen Con when I was convinced I didn’t deserve it!  The Tribe supported me in my doubts and nudged me to get better.  People from my Tribe have called contacts to give me leads for teaching gigs.

But best of all, most of my Tribe has been repeating this near-Mantra to me on a nearly weekly basis

“Are you still taking your meds?”

They all know that my biggest threat now is myself.  I’m better now, better than I have been in years! In such cases, people with my condition often stop taking medication, thinking they no longer are ‘in danger”.  Few people understand that Mood Stabilizers act to prevent manic phases (the ‘fun’ part of bipolar disorder) and that depression are, in part, triggered by the biochemical ‘cost’ of such manic phases.

So yes Tribe, thank you for asking, I’m still taking them.  I’ll take them as long as a better treatment isn’t discovered.

More specifically, I want to thank the following members of the Tribe for this year.

My wife Alex: She was under no obligation to stick around through a second depression, heaven knows she didn’t deserve this. Still she did and I am eternally grateful.

My children Nico and Rory: They are the light of my days. I spent hours with them during my at-home recovery and we forged strong bonds that I hope will long remain.

My mother: She believes in me and doesn’t care about money and status.  She’d rather see me starved and happy than rich and miserable. She planted the seed of The Plan in my mind.

Mathieu: Long time friend, playing RPGs with me since we’ve been 13. He’s my reality check guy. Helped me write The Plan and checks on my mental health periodically. Thanks bro.

Dave the Game: Nudged me when I faltered and strong believer in my talents.  Collaborator and partner in many of my upcoming projects. I think we teach each other stuff about being writers by working together. Expect to see both our names to appear near each other in coming months.

PM: Always ready to provide an oasis of Geek when things became too dark to face, PM has stoked the fires of my creativity and is everything an overlord would expect of a potentially backstabbing  loyal lieutenant.  🙂

To those and many others, I thank you.

And to you dear readers.  You stuck around when things were gloomier.  Yet I see your numbers grow daily (near 2000 now) and am amazed that so many drop by to have a quick read or a quick chat.  Stick around, the fun is only starting.

Tomorrow: Chatty’s RPG goals for 2010!


  1. 2009 has been quite a ride hasn’t it? Good to know you’ve made it through, and here’s to 2010 my friend!
    .-= greywulf´s last blog ..Basic Orcstinct =-.

  2. Happy new year from Spain, Chatty DM! I hope all your projects came true in 2010 (or “2D10” as a roleplayer friend of mine says)
    .-= Carlos de la Cruz´s last blog ..Resúmen del 2009 y propósitos para el 2010 =-.

  3. @Greywulf: Hell yeah! 2k10 will also be quite a ride… but hopefully I’ll be steering most of the way through. Thanks for being around 🙂

    @Carlos: Prospero Annio to you to Amigo. Happy gaming in both the old and new worlds!

  4. Oh! Oh! And me! I still keep your website from exploding on occasion! 😀

    Happy new year! I’m proud to call you my Crazy French friend.

    Which I do call you.



    @Carlos –
    2d10, eh? I like it!

  5. Sounds like a great year Chatty, and now an even greater one in the making.

    Looking forward to your stuff on ‘010!
    .-= Wyatt´s last blog ..Homebrew Skill Rituals Part 1 =-.

  6. @Graham: of course you’re in the Tribe man. You’ve been almost since you told me that Wight Dragon story. Without you I’d still be on Blogger fighting Chinese Gold farming spams.

    @Wyatt: Chances are, we’ll hear a lot about you. Congrats on making Wizbook’s 1st page many times over.

  7. Inspiring post, Chatty! Thanks for sharing. What I’m learning is that artists/writers can easily get lost in their own “within”. A tribe is an invaluable resource, and one we can draw on (and contribute to) daily. You’ve got a great tribe around you. Enjoy the successes you’ve achieved, and here’s to more in 2d10!

  8. Ah, yes, the Wight Dragon… That was back in… 2002? The players from that campaign still throw things at me when it’s mentioned. 😀

    But you can thank Andy Collins for that story. He posted the Wight Dragon stats on WotC back in 2001-ish. It never would have happened without those.

    Which is part of the reason that, when you offered the chance to interview Andy at Gencon, I absolutely could not turn it down! So, um, thanks for that.


  9. Wow, what a year. Looks like you’re pulling through pretty fine, though. That’s a lot of awesome stuff you’ve ended up in positions for, and I’m really interested about that “D&D for Kids” thing.

    Totally agreed about the Tribe. I’ve got a bit of a Tribe of my own, and it’s awesome to have people like that.
    .-= Andy´s last blog ..Of Dice and…Well…More Dice =-.

  10. It just goes to show, you can never tell how things will end up. If someone had told you at the start of this year where you would be now, what would you have said?

  11. I just want to say congratulations on making it through the mania and the depressions to be where you are today.
    I have experience as the partner of 3 different Bi-polars, so I want to give a big shout to your wife for staying by your side and helping you out.
    As for you, your RPG blogs are so much more and I look forward to reading your updates because I never know what I’ll learn.
    You inspire me as a DM and I hope some day to be playing your “D&D for kids” with my own.
    You keep doing what you’re doing so you can keep giving us a great blog.
    Happy 2d10.

  12. Thank you for sharing your life and talent with us.
    .-= David´s last blog ..December Board and Card Game Patents =-.

  13. I’ve got a bro hug saved up for you in 2010, Phil. Can’t wait to see you again.
    .-= Ed Healy´s last blog ..Farewell Kobold Quarterly & Level Up! =-.

  14. Back at ya big guy.

    …And your mom is above me. Ha ha ha.
    .-= Dave T. Game´s last blog ..The Most Important Games of the Decade =-.

  15. Keep rolling 20s Chatty. Love the blog, grats on the awesome writing gigs and RPG projects and kudos on getting the seminar gig!
    .-= Johnn Four´s last blog ..The Hidden Key: Resolutions as a window to personality =-.

  16. I’d just like to congratulate you on all your accomplishments this year 🙂
    .-= Lunatyk´s last blog ..Settings =-.

  17. May 2010 bring you lots of love, luck, fortune and good health.


  1. […] » Chatty's Year 2009 and the Importance of the Tribe […]

  2. […] Chatty DM had a great blog post, talking about the importance of “The Tribe.” He had his own demons to face down in 2009, and the blog post he wrote about it hit close to home.  I’m going to try to get my blood pressure under wraps; and if my behavior in terms of both anxiety and staying focused doesn’t change, I will seek help. And when my family and friends harp on me to stay on track, whether it’s with goals or taking my meds, I will listen. […]