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Last week, I set out to answer a question we get periodically, “when are you guys releasing more Qerth books?” but kind of got sidetracked explaining what happened with Qerth (and our company, and the game industry) between the time we started writing it in 1997 or 1998 and the book’s eventual release in 2006. The book (and later the PDF) wasn’t a blockbuster, but it sold well enough that we could justify releasing more books. We wanted to release more books, in part because there was a lot of material (including character advancement tables beyond Rank 3 and a whole bunch of spells) that was already written. But outside of The Dungeon of Moderate Annoyance adventure (which Joshua LH Burnett wrote and illustrated), we still haven’t released any new Qerth books. There are a few reasons for that.
As most of you know, the Qerth Apprentice Level Rules are set up much like the D&D basic set. By doing this and including information for the first few levels, we kind of locked ourselves into that format. Since we already had the advancement tables (several of which form complex extended jokes when you look at them as a whole), some of the spells and at least ideas for monsters, magical items, boring minutia, and all the other stuff, this mostly made sense at the time.
The problem with the format is that since most of the things in the first book existed only to make fun of old school D&D (there’s even a section in the GM part of the book that basically says “Oh sweet Jesus don’t try to play this game as written!”), and since we’d already hit the most common tropes and cliches in the first book, filling out the additional books meant either repeating the same jokes in slightly altered format or making fun of increasingly obscure elements of fantasy gaming that only some members of the audience will get. Following the format also meant spending a lot of time on tedious filler. It’s fun to write a couple of goofy monsters, dumb magic items, or pointless rules, but writing enough of them to fill a book gets boring really fast. As a result, a lot of the fun-to-write parts of the future Qerth books has been done for years, but there’s a lot of filler that needs to be written if we want to release a book that continues the “Blank Level Rules” format. It’s really hard to get the time and energy to write filler, especially when there are a other projects in the works that involve writing something fun or interesting.
The other problem with writing Qerth is the authorial voice of the book. Even though everything about the game is stupid, it’s written in the voice of someone who thinks all this nonsense is pure genius. It’s the voice of a gamer most of you have run into at some point: the guy who’s covering just truckloads of social awkwardness and insecurity under a layer of know-it-all pomposity. Writing in the Qerth style requires capturing just the right mix of stupid ideas, totally unfounded smug superiority, and years of unresolved butthurt. While I’m sure there are better writers who can just sit down and write whatever tone they need, I can’t do it. To make Qerth work, I’ve got to be in just the right frame of mind. When the Qerth Muse (or maybe Eris) is there, I can churn out Qerth material. When she’s not, it’s tedious and slow and painful and I usually end up deleting most of it because it just doesn’t work. Unfortunately Eris doesn’t drop by very often, doesn’t stay long, and usually shows up when I’ve got more important things to do.
Long story short, the reason it’s taken so long for us to write new Qerth material is because the rules set format require generating a ton of material that nobody wants to write. So we’ve decided not to write it. Most of the stuff that adds to the experience of the game is already done, so instead of holding it back until we can force ourselves to write filler that doesn’t improve the game in any way, we’re going to just pretend the filler already exists. Instead of the Journeyman Level Rules, our next Qerth product is going to be The Comprehensive Soldier. The Comprehensive Soldier “reprints” pertinent soldier-related information (like advancement tables) for the “previously published” Qerth rules sets along with new material Soldier characters. Other Comprehensive Splat guides will follow. This format allows us to get most of the rules we’d intended to put in the Blank Level Rules series without having to write all the stuff that we don’t want to write and you don’t want to read. Since Qerth is as much a joke as a game, we think this is a fine solution, and referencing books that don’t exists seems especially appropriate to a game where Eris plays an important role.
We’ve got the Comprehensive Soldier mostly written, so it should be out in the relatively near future.