Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Errata Guy Strikes Again!

One of the titles I've collected over the years is Keeper of the Freeport Errata, and this is the story of how I earned that label.

When D&D Third Edition was released in 2000, I gave a good deal of thought to what kind of game to run as my first campaign using the new rules. I'm a world-builder at heart, so didn't want to use the same published settings everyone else did. I'm also a Lovecraft junkie, and owned quite a few Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks in spite of having only rarely played that system. I was considering using the Dreamlands, mixed with traditional D&D tropes, when I discovered Death in Freeport in my local game store. Serpent people and the Yellow Sign? It was exactly what I needed to start off my campaign! Terror and Madness followed, and the game quickly became much more about Freeport than the Dreamlands.

Much as I loved Green Ronin's Freeport setting, I started finding little, nitpicky things that bothered me: typos, mistakes in stat blocks, and the occasional confusing bit of text. I combed through the books to compile lists of these problems, and applied my writing skills and knowledge of the d20 rules to propose solutions. I shared this unofficial fan errata on Green Ronin's online forums, where they were well received by other fans and by the Ronins themselves. I continued to post more commentary there as I acquired more of the growing product line.

When I compiled errata for the Freeport: The City of Adventure setting book, Green Ronin issued a PDF of my work as a free download on their site. That file was reprinted in Tales of Freeport, where I received special thanks on the credits page as "Keeper of the Freeport Errata."

That's the origin of the title, but it was only the start of my career as a Freeport contributor.

When D&D v.3.5 was released in 2003, Green Ronin and every other third-party d20 publisher immediately switched to the new rules for all of their new releases from that point on. This left a large legacy of v.3.0 products, most of which were never updated to the new rules. Many Green Ronin fans, myself included, publicly expressed a desire for a v.3.5 update of the Freeport Trilogy. Nicole Lindroos, Green Ronin's business manager, explained on the forums that the company very much wanted to provide that to the fans--it was the product that put them on the d20 map, after all. However, there was one simple reason they had not been able to do so: New releases are the life blood of any publisher, and they couldn't afford to divert any of their limited manpower (only four full-time staff, at that time) for a project that probably wouldn't make money for the company.

I emailed Nicole, as well as Chris Pramas (president of Green Ronin and creator of Freeport) and made my pitch: I offered to update Death in Freeport, the first and shortest of the trilogy, to the v.3.5 rules. If they liked my work, I was willing to do the same for Terror and Madness. I received a prompt and enthusiastic approval, we settled on compensation, and I got to work. As I completed each update, Green Ronin released it in PDF form. Once the set was complete, The Freeport Trilogy: Five Year Anniversary Edition was released in print.

That initial gig led to more freelance proofreading and editing work for the company, and eventually to some original writing in web enhancements for Cults of Freeport and Buccaneers of Freeport. Throughout all of this time, I continued to compile unofficial errata for new Freeport products (including, ironically and inevitably, my own), and branched out into products by other d20 companies that I had acquired.

I created a Wikispaces site to archive and maintain "Tim's Errata & Notes." However, Wikispaces announced this summer that they would no longer be offering free hosting for non-educational wikis. That meant that I would need to find a new home for my errata site, as well as the other personal wikis that I had created to share material on my Freeport campaigns and other gaming projects.

I settled on Google Sites, and have already migrated most of the player information for my current Freeport campaign, Winds of Freeport, to that host. This month I started building the new Tim's Errata Archive, but have only scratched the surface so far. I've posted "The Freeport Library," a list of every Freeport product produced to date (by Green Ronin and other publishers) and posted my updated errata for the "Focus on Freeport" series of web enhancements. I will be adding to the site as I find the time to review and edit my old files, and to transcribe the backlog of new notes that I had not yet posted to the old archive. Because Freeport has always been the the first and greatest focus of my errata efforts, I'll be concentrating on restoring and improving those pages before continuing on to my commentaries on other products.

My other main incentive for relaunching T.E.A. at this time is the imminent release of the Pathfinder editions of Green Ronin's Freeport: The City of Adventure and Advanced Bestiary. I lacked the time to contribute as much as I would have liked to the forum discussions about errata for the initial drafts, so I anticipate having a good deal more to say once I have the physical books in my eager fanboy hands.

As you explore Winds and T.E.A., please share your feedback with me here, on Ronin Army: The Green Ronin Community, or over email!

--Tim Emrick

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