Dungeons & Dragons,  My Life,  Raiders of the Serpent Sea,  Runic Tales,  Vikings

Working Backwards: 50 Years of …

Recently I released the final deliverable for my Raiders of the Serpent Sea Kickstarter campaign (The Raiding Seas!) As I wrap up several years of work on this TTRPG campaign it has led me to reflect on the huge impact Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has had on my life.

Even as I wrap up work on Raiders, I am currently busy as a contractor doing fun things on another exciting roleplaying project (and the reason I have this work is because of my previous work at BioWare). This project is likely what I’ll be busy with for the rest of the year and is sure to lead to new opportunities in the future. While I’ve worked on Raiders and this “new project”, I also contributed to two additional Arcanum Worlds D&D books: Minsc and Boo’s Journal of Villainy & Chains of Asmodeus!)

So its safe to say that over the past few years, I’ve either been working on D&D material, or doing work that has come my way because of my past experience (which itself largely grew out of playing and developing TTRPGs).

Odyssey of the Dragonlords

Prior to Raiders, I worked at NAIT, a technical college, where I collaborated on digital projects with various companies–basically running a small team of developers looking to innovate in industry spaces not normally familiar with the technology we were experimenting with. We also built a motion capture lab on campus! It was an interesting few years for sure and possibly the only chunk of work in the last couple decades that wasn’t tied to D&D (though my experience at BioWare helped me land the job). And during my time at NAIT, I was running Arcanum World’s Odyssey of the Dragonlords as a campaign for my kids and their friends. We had a great time and it helped get my mind in the right place for creating Raiders.


Before moving onto NAIT, I spent a couple years with Beamdog where I was once again surrounded by many folks playing the 5th edition of D&D. I also helped put together the enhanced edition of Planescape Torment, which reminded me of a lot of cool stuff from my second edition days with D&D. And during this time I was playing short 5e D&D adventures with my kids.

The Sword Coast

For a brief stint, I helped N-Space with Sword Coast Legends, which was my first real return to videogame development since leaving BioWare in 2009. But I was also given the starter set for 5e at this time. Up until this point I don’t think I’d had much to do with anything related to D&D for several years, so having that starter set really got me back into thinking about D&D again … and playing it.

Any and all contract work that landed my way after BioWare (such as working on Empire Avenue!) found its way to me because of my time at BioWare, and consequently, because of my past interest in D&D!

The In-Between

In 2009 I left BioWare as Dragon Age Origins development was wrapping up. I’ve spoken a lot about that departure in other places. But in thinking back to that time, I also realized there were a large number of years at BioWare where I wasn’t playing D&D consistently. Simply working the senior roles I was at BioWare, ate up so much time–I knew a few folks from BioWare managed to keep playing but I never understood where they found the time.

Neverwinter Nights

Looking back, the most active stint of playing I had as an adult was around the time the 3e rules came out–I was really into them as part of my technical work with Neverwinter Nights–helping to figure out how to get these new D&D rules to work in a videogame and so on. I ran a few campaigns and played in various others during this time period. I ended up acquiring many of the 3e books as I worked on the core Neverwinter campaign and the two expansion packs.

Baldur’s Gate 2

I started working for BioWare in 1999 (on the 2e game, Baldur’s Gate 2). Again, I’ve written a lot about getting the job there so I won’t repeat myself but honestly, having played (and DM’ed) a lot of D&D throughout high school and college helped me get the job. I had also recently had an article published in Dragon Magazine, which was maybe the icing-on-the-cake-of-being-hired (I’m sure my computer science degree helped a bit too, maybe?)

Prior to BioWare, I worked mainly conventional jobs–grocery stores, bottle depot, delivering newspapers! During that time I couldn’t imagine being able to use what I did for fun–playing Dungeons & Dragons–in any capacity at a job. It simply seemed impossible. Even when I went onto college, while I hoped I could forge a great career path for myself I seldom seriously considered that I’d be able to have such a close alliance between my favorite pastime and my work.

Definitely if we roll back into high school and earlier … it simply seemed inconceivable. And I’m sure everyone around me felt I was wasting me time, playing as often as I did. But what I think was often missed was all the creating I was doing. It wasn’t just the playing, it was the map-making, the adventure design, creating various tables and other rules (did I ever mention that I developed my own TTRPG before even playing D&D … I saw other kids play it and made up my own).

This was all practice for what eventually has become a lifelong career. Luck played its role of course, but I think the tasks I set myself to–not because I was trying to fulfill some abstract list of goals but because I enjoyed the tasks–prepared me to take advantage of those moments when they arose.

So all in all, I am thankful that I share a birth year with the tabletop role-playing game from which I’ve derived much of both my livelihood and joy.

Are you a raider hoping for raider-stuff? Find it here instead: https://runictales.com/raiders-of-the-serpent-sea/

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.