Reflecting on What It All Means

I WOKE UP this morning to the realization that some of my plans for 2013 were going to need revision. At 5:30 this morning, little more than 36 hours after our Kickstarter launch for Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, we have pledges for the $26,000 we asked for. The fans and friends of the game came through like gangbusters, and now the original team that made the game back in the day — the “Fellowship of the Troll” as Steve Crompton dubbed us — will be focused on creating the best damn edition of the classic game that we’re capable of making.

I’m thrilled. I’m excited. I’m scared. I am most of all awed by the outpouring of respect and, yes, of the fans’ trust and belief in us.

Surprise Delight and AweEAGER AND EXCITED
I really am looking forward to this. I’ve been pretty much out of the T&T loop for quite a few years. I did artwork for other games, a lot of it for the collectible card games like Magic and Middle Earth.  I had a horrible Decade From Hell when I didn’t do much of anything for publication, but I experimented with ceramics, mosaics, and craft fairs. I got my library degree and put a lot of effort into that profession.

A few years ago, I turned my focus back to the work that means the most to me, as recounted in early posts in this blog. (Rebooting The Freelancer is where I started talking about it again.) Today, I can see the evidence that people remember me kindly, that my being one of the Fellowship here encouraged them to lay down their own hard-earned dollars to support a huge reboot to a game that was first written 37 years ago.

I started this post a couple hours into the morning, on the spur of giddiness seeing the project get funded. It’s well after dinnertime now and I’ve spent the whole day discussing stretch goals, emailing amongst the Fellowship or running trial balloons past likely audiences in Facebook and elsewhere. Writing thanks to scores of friends who stepped up without being asked. And all that time, the Kickstarter run kept ticking — it’s over $30,000 as I write.

But in the course of the day, I had an interesting conversation about whether Kickstarter is merely a callous money-grubbing shift-the-risk-to-the-consumer… or (as I see it) it’s one of the on-going experiments in how the internet is changing society and business. It seems to me that every part of the equation is changing.

Kickstarter Logo

Kickstarter itself defines its mission as “a funding platform for creative projects.” It’s not about charity; that’s actually forbidden. It’s not a storefront, although there can be an exchange of goods for money. Some of the goods arrive when the money is paid; sometimes they will come later. Sometimes the exchange is for an experience or even so that someone can build a secret HQ website.

Ultimately, Kickstarter puts creative folks in direct contact with those who are interested in their works, and there is a real sense of community and connection possible. It is direct and personal as never before and I find it inspiring beyond measure.

That’s the main word to describe how I feel today. I am profoundly inspired by the amazing warmth, the words of support flooding in with the comments delivered in emails, in texts to me, on forums and blogs, on Facebook and Twitter and G+ and on the Kickstarter list.

Drive, by Daniel PinkYes, the dollars are a tangible proof, but they’re the stick, not the carrot. I’m mulish enough that sticks do a lot less to get me moving than carrots do. That’s something particularly common to creatives, and Daniel Pink’s book Drive presents the studies that confirm this truth about us all, whether you think of yourself as creative or not.

I never felt this connected in the past, working alone in my studio in the 70s 80s and 90s. I’d get an assignment, do the work, send it off, go back and start the next assignment. I connected with art directors if I was lucky, but fan mail usually was brief and started “Please sign these cards?”

The only times I saw my fans was when I attended conventions. In the Bad Years, I didn’t even think anyone gave a damn about Liz Danforth’s art or whether she’d ever do so much as a single sketch ever again. Being a librarian was a good honorable grown-up profession, and the artist would have to fade away like last night’s dream.

Tonight, I know that’s not true. Tonight, I know people were touched by the work we did years ago; decades ago. They want to share the game they played as youngsters with their children. They speak of being inspired by something I wrote, and decided to enter the game business themselves. (Sorry about that!). That they learned to read and write, or that playing the game anchored them in their own Bad Years, and helped them soldier on through another day. That they met their closest friends and bonded over the game, people they remain close to today.

Do you have any idea how incredible that all seems to me?

The words on that Kickstarter page are mostly mine; I wrote “the Ask” as it is called in fund-raising circles. I said “Pledging to this Kickstarter earns our collective pledge in return — to make the game absolutely the best we can.” I know I speak for the others, but I absolutely believe this myself.

To see a Kickstarter success as a crass grab for money supposes that money is the only currency in the world that matters. It’s not; it’s not for me, at least. The warmth and the trust and belief in what I bring to this project is what is buying me. The money just pays the bills long enough for me to do it.

Reboot Your Life in...

Now the Kickstarter has ticked over $31,500. You people are amazing and I love you all. The best way I know to thank you is to give you the very best I am capable of. And I will.

25 Replies to “Reflecting on What It All Means”

  1. Should it be God bless us, every one — or God help us, every one? I thought I had outgrown being a fanboy.

    Never thought I’d see this day. What’s amazing is that I’m so excited for this volume – even though I’ll only use, perhaps, five pages of the rules. TnT was all about how to avoid using any rules – but the books were so much fun to read, that I can’t wait to see the new words, the new options, the new rules-I’ll-probably-ignore-but-find-fascinating, and especially the new art. Something that has been missing since Sorcerer’s Apprentice went away – is coming back.

  2. I’m glad that you feel that way. To me, I always thought your best work was the illustrations found in T&T v5.

  3. It stabs me in the heart to hear there was a time when you “didn’t even think anyone gave a damn about Liz Danforth’s art or whether she’d ever do so much as a single sketch ever again.”

    I’ve written this elsewhere, but your work, in T&T specifically, *defined* fantasy art for me as a child. T&T was my first game (back in about 1980!) and your work was a huge part of what made it wonderful to me. I’m glad we’re all on the internet now and can tell you what your work means to us.

  4. Hi Liz,

    Well, you know how I feel about both T&T (the game that started me on a 30+ year roleplaying hobby) and your art (Love it! And so proud to own a few pieces). Long may this adventure continue and dT&T seems a great way to further that.


  5. I’m happy to see it’s going so well and glad I could be a part of it. Playing T&T with a group of my friends was a great part of my youth and your art played a great part of what made the game so appealing.

    Thank You,


  6. Liz–

    This has not changed my view of Kickstarter itself (it’s just a thing, not inherently good or bad) or far too many projects I see here (skepticism bordering on sadness and revulsion at the choice of funding), but you guys did everything right. The numbers make sense. The plan makes sense. The ambitions make sense.

    And never underestimate the credibility you bring to the project. Love your art (still kicking myself that I rejoined the community just after you sold the interior back cover of 5.0), but knowing you’re handling editing chores makes me want to go up my pledge…I think I’ll do that now.


  7. Dunno how I missed the kickstarter going up 36 hours ago, but that’s been remedied.

    And I wish I’d been able to reach out to you in the Bad Years. Oh well, that’s the past. I’ll just have to settle for continuing to show support now!

  8. Liz,

    I know how you feel. I have put so much of my life on hold for various things. I am not a great artist, but that was one of the few “talents” I felt I had, but I took a good 20+ years off to pursue other more “rational” pursuits. But, Tunnels & Trolls allowed me to get back into it and get published as an artist after the long sabbatical. I have also gotten back into guitar playing after selling my guitar and equipment to pay for other parts of life some 10 years ago. I do not think the world is ready for me to do anything more than pluck around with my guitar in private. Other areas people think I have been doing it for years, but I have not. Also, most people do not know I am an artist, video maker, writer, and poor guitar player. I am just glad you are back. As I’ve mentioned some where else, I love your work and it is up there with the Frazetta’s, Neal Adams’, John Buscema’s, and John Byrne’s who I respect and love also.

  9. Quite often when you’re a fan, you assume that the person you admire is constantly told that they’re loved. And you stay quiet, and you feel foolish at the idea of telling someone so important to you, how great they are. I’d never though the result of that could be someone with so much talent being so surprised that your work is adored.

  10. I haven’t had the pleasure of growing up with T&T, but I’ve met those that have, and I’ve seen that it’s had a profound impact on their love of gaming.

    I think sometimes it’s easy to forget (especially as an artist with a mind swirling full of imagery) that not everyone looks on the world through the same eyes. Some folks only need words to picture beautiful worlds, whereas others need a spark like artwork to start their mind on that journey. The keystone of their understanding and exploration could easily be a page of beautiful art rather then the words around it.
    Your artwork started visions, left openings to those that may not otherwise have found them, and gave form to the world – a world partly made of book, and partly made of the reader. You allowed people find something so special and personal through quality illustration.

  11. Liz, I’m glad you’re discovering how much your art meant to a whole generation of gamers. I know myself and everyone in my group loved the distinctive style of classic T&T, and the “Danforth look” had a lot to so with that.

    Off now to pledge entirely too much money to the project …

  12. You people are putting me in tears. I can hardly type. You have no idea how much your words mean to me, Thank you.

  13. Trust is the keyword for me – I have pledged even though I gave never met or corresponded with any of you guys but I have read enough to know that you will put your heart and soul into the project because you guys have a respect and a love for the fans.
    T+T was my first and best RPG and opened up a whole new world for me many years ago and although I havent played in years this excites me and I cant wait to get the pen/paper and dice out again
    Like everyone else I am pleased at the outpouring of support for the game , T+T never died but maybe just dosed off for a while 🙂

    1. I am profoundly aware of the factor of trust, Mo. It is an honor, a weight, and an inspiration for me (and I believe for the others) to give it our all. Thank you.

  14. “TnT was all about how to avoid using any rules”

    I d agree, and hope ypu can bear that in mind. I d suggest lots of world back ground, and play examples.

    1. There are a lot of rules in T&T if the intention was to use none at all — why publish any RPG when playing childhood Make Believe will do the job satisfactorily, by your assessment? (That isn’t a rhetorical question — that’s actually an option for some folk.) But basically, I cannot agree with your statement that T&T is about no rules, so perhaps you oversimplified the concept of using what works best for you and your friends, and tossing what does not.

      Ultimately, the rules will be written by Ken. I am the editor and developer. I believe that he and I both envision a strong, simple structure to the core game, with rich elaborations possible. I know he is bringing in a great deal of world background.

      1. Oh yes, it was definitely an oversimplification on my part (I yam the original poster of that statement) to represent the freewheeling games when our character literally (Don’t ask me how!) took over and Mr GM (me) couldn’t/wouldn’t stop the game to look up a specific rule. There were maybe five rules I could keep in my head (the number has since gone down) and frequently extrapolated. Or, if the character tried something especially entertaining, I ruled it worked.
        Nah – I wouldn’t ever put the TnT system down. It ain’t broje, and it allows the correct level of crunch or improvisation as each situation requires.
        Can I help it if my players were almost always so entertaining?

  15. Sometimes the audience remembers there are people of flesh and blood behind the work they appreciate. 🙂

    As I’ve admitted before, I missed Tunnels & Trolls the first time around. The inclusion of the original editions in this KS campaign has me especially excited!

    Here’s to something I’m definitely looking forward to. 🙂 Keep up the great work, Liz!

  16. Liz your contributions to T&T are what makes it T&T to me. I always thumb through every product that you have work in, just to admire your illustrations. Your style stands out enough that I can pick it out instantly.

    With that in mind, I was thinking about miniatures and T&T. I know they have never been a part of the game per se, but they are one of the loves of my gaming life. I discovered paper miniatures recently and have wondered if you have ever considered doing paper miniatures. I think your art style is very robust , and would work well for such an item..

    1. Dwight, I actually did the paper miniatures in the original Darksmoke, and there are others in the MSPE adventure of Stormhaven. This topic has arisen among the Fellowship, both before and after folks devoted to using miniatures asked about whether they are going to be better integrated into T&T, which has never relied on them.

      I know Ken is adding some words about using minis into dT&T and, as someone who doesn’t use them much himself, I believe he is touching base with those who do, to be sure the rules do justice to the topic. That will, of course, open the doors to the possibility that some time in the future (if I can dig out from under the other work piled on my plate!), you might see what you’re asked for here. Don’t hold your breath — no promises and emphatically not any time soon! But who knows, exactly…. 🙂

      1. No worries. It’s more of a wishlist sorta thing for me. By the way Idreen of Gy is my favorite paper mini you did. Boy I hope I spelled that right. Guess I’ll have to dig out the Isle of Darksmoke!

  17. This is such a wonderful post! I’ve been meaning to comment on it for some time, but haven’t had the chance. Every day has been filled with new things that had to be done for Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls that I haven’t had the chance to return here.

    I read this a week ago and almost cried (ok fine – I DID cry when I read it) Its what I DREAMED dT&T might be for me, Ken, Bear and especially Liz. Luring her back into the fold was not something she was in a rush to do. No one knows how draining it can be to try to live up to one’s own expectations of perfection and Liz has VERY high standards that she sets for herself. Too high for regular humans – which obviously makes Liz something special indeed.

    I hope all of us can hold onto that special feeling – that Fellowship we have gained from this very amazing journey. I now the results are going to be OUTSTANDING. I hope that we can all survive our turns at carrying the burden of “the Ring” We really have become a fellowship – that is not just a term we throw around for fun. I love you all and Liz, you will never know what working with you on this project means to me… There are no words to describe it. This is truly a magical time. Steve

  18. this is a while in coming, too, and on a post so many months old, but you forgot one thing – I moved a whole family (well, just the two of us) to Phoenix just to be near you guys and T&T. 😀

    And what friends you became. Remember, you and Mike were the witnesses at my wife’s ceremony for becoming an American citizen.

    Finding the kickstarter and connecting back with everyone has been wonderful!

    Take care Liz.

    stay frosty…

    aka Ashley Morton 😀

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