Once upon a time, Wizards of the Coast made huge, serious, coke-dealer sums on Magic: the Gathering and decided to hire the coolest, most brilliant, most innovative designer they could find to make an RPG for them. They picked Jonathan Tweet and the game he made was EVERWAY.
People complain that EVERWAY was too politically correct, and speaking as a guy whose published ouvre is perhaps littered with more sodomy jokes than are strictly necessary, they may have a point. But that minor flaw (if it is one) is more than overweighed by EVERWAY’s brilliance of concept, not to mention art that is just gob-smack stunning. No game since has looked this good, full stop.
EVERWAY was aggressively right-brain. Characters were developed by picking out images from a huge collection of the aforementioned gob-smack stunning art. Stats were quite sketchy. Task resolution was a draw from a deck of cards that worked essentially like the Tarot, and their impact was not numerical but pure, grade-a plot and tone. It was an end run around all the simulationist math that characterizes most gaming. (I’ve got nothing against simulationist math, but before EVERWAY, I’d just assumed that was How Gaming Was. Nuh uh.)
To support this game of hot hot plot-on-plot action, Tweet was allowed to hire his goofy camp follower to write the first sourcebook. That was me, and SPHEREWALKER was the first book that was cover-to-cover Stolze.
(Okay, it’s not true. There are entries in it that were written by the WotC staff. But not many.)
I’m not sure how WotC came to eject EVERWAY. I’ve heard stories, but I’m making an effort to keep this site bitterness-free (or at least bitterness-reduced) so I’ll just say that Rubicon Games got the license along with my book and eventually published it. I liked the cover but, in retrospect, there were better options – especially given the breathtaking quantity and quality of art they’d inherited with the game.
The book itself is a stat-free pile of ideas – organizations, monsters, characters, realms, theories, histories, arcane practices. I’d read The Dictionary of the Khazars and been really wowed by its nonlinear but interconnected structure. (That same influence cropped up in City of Lies, too.) I just came to the project with all the energy and unfettered enthusiasm of a newbie writer fanbone getting his first shot at a big publication.
Rubicon games published a few other EVERWAY supplements – an adventure I wrote calledWaves of Time was released as a CD-ROM, cheaper than printing it I guess. SPHEREWALKERreally impressed the hell out of some people, including Ken Hite, thus indirectly leading to my work for Trinity. I got paid in full at WotC rates, something I appreciate more in retrospect as I’ve come to understand how rare being paid in full at a good rate is.
Still, I can’t help but be a little disappointed. Very little of my work – Godwalker, UsagiYojimbo, all the editing and new material in the second edition of Unknown Armies – is as much an unalloyed work of love and enthusiasm. I guess I wish the market had loved it as much as I did.
Yet, as I write that, I find myself saying, ‘screw it’. Would I be happier if it’d sold phenomenally and kept Rubicon afloat for a few more years, at the price of radical changes to my vision (and maybe a tit-splayed cover)? I wouldn’t. It was a work for hire. I was told I’d make X dollars and I did. The book is good. I’m letting my regrets go… now.
(After Rubicon folded, a company called Gaslight Press bought the rights to EVERWAY andSPHEREWALKER. Near as I can tell, Gaslight is dead and the corpse ain’t even twitching. If anyone reading this knows what happened to the rights to EVERWAY and SPHEREWALKER,let me know… for old times’ sake.)