Letter to You

December 6th 2009: Nine years ago today I created Spell Saga. Well, no. That’s not true. Spell Saga arrived in my head--just the edge of it, sticking out from the sands of many other thoughts. I spent the next nine years creating it.

Things take time. And the number nine seems to haunt me.

Dec 06, 2009. The birth of Spell Saga.

Dec 06, 2009. The birth of Spell Saga.

Also this month: seven years ago: I was tired. I had been up late. My sister had almost died--the amount of blood she lost giving birth to her first child SHOULD have killed her, but modern medicine, a damn good midwife (the nurses didn’t catch it), and my family’s propensity to live like vampires had kept her safe. But I couldn’t sleep. And the next day at work I spent most of my time crying the bathroom. This was partly due to the feather-brush of such a loss, but (if I’m being honest) more because I had just met Meagen and she had left me after the best month of my life. A different kind of loss, to be sure, but one that felt just as final. Just as unexpected.

I knew we were supposed to get married. It wasn’t in the sort of--it was not a boy wanting to own someone as an object--I didn’t think I deserved her (far from it) but I knew it, in the same way that I knew Spell Saga was supposed to be real: Meagen and I were supposed to help each other, and be partners through life, love, and art for as long as we could manage to stay alive. “It’s like a switch just clicked off” she tried to explain, not unkindly. So I did what anyone should do. I left her alone. Watched my sister almost died the next day, and then crumpled into a heap in a public bathroom.

There have been several psychological “neck-snap” moments in my life. Most of them happened all in nine years ago. When she broke it off it was the end of a barely sustained reality--2011 had seen me finish the first draft of The Novel, create, pitch, and be destroyed by a publisher for  Spell Saga, and get kicked out of my own home in the throes of an unexpected (but eventually welcomed) divorce from an abusive ex-wife.

December 6th 2011: After work Meagen asked if she could come over (I didn’t tell her I had been crying all day). She drove up to the bushes in front of where I was staying. I threw a smile on my face and decided that everything would be fine. I walked up to her car and she walked away. I was supposed to follow. So I did. Right beside her. Neither of us said anything. She wouldn’t even look at me. Then she turned right at me  and burst into tears. I smiled even wider and we kept walking.

We are now an us. December 2011

We are now an us. December 2011

We pretty much moved in with each other that night, until finding a place of our own, just one street over from the moment she had burst into tears. We have tried our best to continue walking together and helping each other where we can. It’s good.

Here’s a pic I snapped while proposing to Meagen. I made her basement into an art gallery. June 2012.

Here’s a pic I snapped while proposing to Meagen. I made her basement into an art gallery. June 2012.

December 6th 2018: Nine years later, seven years later, in our home there is a living room filled with boxes of Spell Saga. I have spent several weeks packing boxes together and writing letters to those who are (even now!) receiving them across the US and Canada (there’s a few on their way to New Zealand as well,  and the rest of the world is patiently waiting).

Me in my living room with Spell Saga. July 2018

Me in my living room with Spell Saga. July 2018

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I think there’s probably a whole separate blogpost about Spell Saga—and everything I had made special for the people who waited so patiently for half a decade to receive it. But since it has consumed my life these past few weeks, I thought here would be a great opportunity to showcase some of the special stuff I sent out.

There were several prototype versions of Spell Saga. Each of them was sent around the world in these special editions boxes. Th small one was for proxy-type sleeved cards, while the larger box contained index card versions (I always start with index cards!)

There were several prototype versions of Spell Saga. Each of them was sent around the world in these special editions boxes. Th small one was for proxy-type sleeved cards, while the larger box contained index card versions (I always start with index cards!)

Several people also received these very limited edition binders, which held an original uncut sheet of prototype Spell Saga cards inside of it!

Several people also received these very limited edition binders, which held an original uncut sheet of prototype Spell Saga cards inside of it!

Backers who spent over $100 got their cards in one of these limited edition boxes. There were 25 unique designs and they were handed out randomly!

Backers who spent over $100 got their cards in one of these limited edition boxes. There were 25 unique designs and they were handed out randomly!

Another gift for those who waited: an extra large playing mat. these were expensive to make, and a pain to ship—but they are so gorgeous that I can’t help but fall in love every time I look at one.

Another gift for those who waited: an extra large playing mat. these were expensive to make, and a pain to ship—but they are so gorgeous that I can’t help but fall in love every time I look at one.

The play mat is SO large that here is a pic of The Weapon using it at Noah’s place during a Beset. meeting.

The play mat is SO large that here is a pic of The Weapon using it at Noah’s place during a Beset. meeting.

Is this too many pictures?

No?

Okay, let’s keep going:

Here’s one of the original prototypes for EPIOCH, a game that I’ll be releasing once the Spell Saga dust settles (I started designing it in 1996…it can wait). There were two of these boxes, one of them was sent to my pal and yours, Joey K in Missouri. And the other was sent to Dragonsoul101 in Illinois.

Here’s one of the original prototypes for EPIOCH, a game that I’ll be releasing once the Spell Saga dust settles (I started designing it in 1996…it can wait). There were two of these boxes, one of them was sent to my pal and yours, Joey K in Missouri. And the other was sent to Dragonsoul101 in Illinois.

This si the first ever version of Spell Saga: the 1.0 Protoype from December 2009. I sent it as a gift to a great gal in New Zealand named Zoe. I wanted to make sure the people who messaged me such kind things over the years were treated accordingly.

This si the first ever version of Spell Saga: the 1.0 Protoype from December 2009. I sent it as a gift to a great gal in New Zealand named Zoe. I wanted to make sure the people who messaged me such kind things over the years were treated accordingly.

Spell Saga 2.0 from December 2010. This one also went to Dragonsoul101.

Spell Saga 2.0 from December 2010. This one also went to Dragonsoul101.

Spell Saga prototype 3.0 (seen here with its limited box!) was sent to Texas, into the care of James Yarbrough—you can even PLAY with James since we put him in the prelude deck.

Spell Saga prototype 3.0 (seen here with its limited box!) was sent to Texas, into the care of James Yarbrough—you can even PLAY with James since we put him in the prelude deck.

And here’s my original design journal, gifted to Dheyrdre in Brazil (who you can also play with in the Prelude deck) I can’t believe my original notes for the game are on their way down South as I type this (minus a few pages I just could not part with).

And here’s my original design journal, gifted to Dheyrdre in Brazil (who you can also play with in the Prelude deck) I can’t believe my original notes for the game are on their way down South as I type this (minus a few pages I just could not part with).

During the 2015 New Language Launch campaign (a mistake, mostly but it’s over with), a man named Fallout Joe left the single greatest, most honest, heart-wrenching comment of any Kickstarter ever. It was so rough I had to sit the fuck down and reread it very slowly. I don’t want to paraphrase such a beautiful thing but he had been using Spell Saga as a coping mechanism while his wife fell ill. I was very happy to send him his package.

During the 2015 New Language Launch campaign (a mistake, mostly but it’s over with), a man named Fallout Joe left the single greatest, most honest, heart-wrenching comment of any Kickstarter ever. It was so rough I had to sit the fuck down and reread it very slowly. I don’t want to paraphrase such a beautiful thing but he had been using Spell Saga as a coping mechanism while his wife fell ill. I was very happy to send him his package.

Spell Saga 4.0—the infamous GenCon version. Most of this was sent to SoloStoryGamer (AKA Kierkegaard555, AKA Derek D.) but Deck 3 ~ The Caves (the ONLY working version of Deck 3 ~ the caves) went to Thelonicon in Montana.

Spell Saga 4.0—the infamous GenCon version. Most of this was sent to SoloStoryGamer (AKA Kierkegaard555, AKA Derek D.) but Deck 3 ~ The Caves (the ONLY working version of Deck 3 ~ the caves) went to Thelonicon in Montana.

And speaking of SoloStoryGamer, here’s the bitchin’ illustrated box Cousin Lauren and I made for him. This was the original prototype “music chip” box from 2013. It plays the Spell Saga theme song by Cricket Engine when it’s opened.

And speaking of SoloStoryGamer, here’s the bitchin’ illustrated box Cousin Lauren and I made for him. This was the original prototype “music chip” box from 2013. It plays the Spell Saga theme song by Cricket Engine when it’s opened.

This was something really special too: it’s larger than it looks, 12 x 17 inches. It’s a mountable shadowbox with a homemade holofoil print by Weshoyot Alvitre. Inside the box is a collection of notes from the very beginning of Spell Sag up until the 2014 Kickstarter. There’s also a snag of silver tinsel in there, it was hanging above our bed the morning Meagen looked at the phone and said “it’s funded.” And who did we send this too? Why none other than the man who funded it: SoloStoryGamer (a round of applause for him, everyone).

This was something really special too: it’s larger than it looks, 12 x 17 inches. It’s a mountable shadowbox with a homemade holofoil print by Weshoyot Alvitre. Inside the box is a collection of notes from the very beginning of Spell Sag up until the 2014 Kickstarter. There’s also a snag of silver tinsel in there, it was hanging above our bed the morning Meagen looked at the phone and said “it’s funded.” And who did we send this too? Why none other than the man who funded it: SoloStoryGamer (a round of applause for him, everyone).

And finally (for now) here’s a shot of the spread Lauren and I sent to SoloStoryGamer (not to mention multiple decks and holofoils)! I love this photo. It encapsulates the feel of everything I’ve been trying to accomplish for the past nine years. What a victory for this fucking idiot I happen to be.

And finally (for now) here’s a shot of the spread Lauren and I sent to SoloStoryGamer (not to mention multiple decks and holofoils)! I love this photo. It encapsulates the feel of everything I’ve been trying to accomplish for the past nine years. What a victory for this fucking idiot I happen to be.

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If you think I’m not wearing my wife’s leg warmers over a pair of jeans with the crotch ripped out, as I type this in a  laundromat, you are wrong.

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About a year ago I woke up and checked the news on my phone. Another mass shooting. It was the Vegas one (though who knows, by the time you read this, it might only be the FIRST Vegas one). I read the report about it still half asleep in the sheets: someone on a hotel balcony had opened fire on a crowded concert.

I don’t often write lyrics as an immediate way to process things. Most of the time I write from a  safe place, farther away. But that news report did something. There’s just something about being confronted by legitimate evil, I just needed to process some shit. I started writing lyrics for a song that would eventually cause the (first) fall of Beset.--the thing was so structurally complicated we had to put it away for almost a year. It needed space to breathe, and, as it turned out, Noah Sabellico to drum over it.

We brought weapons. Family heirlooms from our parents. We brought weapons. Take us to heaven. Call them dreams, they from our parents. We brought weapons. I’ve been runnin’ in place I think for too long, I’ve been trying my best to sing you songs. Numb and tired. the truth is not...so inspired. Dumb on fire, the constant lie of: moving higher. Do you really mean it?

(nine. months. later.)  We had two days for free in a multi-million dollar studio. We had three months to prepare. It was obvious We Brought Weapons was the next thing we needed to conquer.

Here’s me on October 15th. I dressed up for Beset. practice because I was celebrating (my other band had just released our first LP). And because I was mad at Noah…so I thought dressing like a ghoul would help?

Here’s me on October 15th. I dressed up for Beset. practice because I was celebrating (my other band had just released our first LP). And because I was mad at Noah…so I thought dressing like a ghoul would help?

We met in our new practice space nearly every week to try to figure out the song. The parts were still kind of fucked from a year ago, and I knew we needed more lyrics. The Weapon and I had done enough ground work over the last twelve months to freeze the song into some sort of permanent piece , but it was still a bit gelatinous in appearance--like unset concrete. I was definitely signing “bah da da da da dahhh!” on more than enough parts.

Here’s The Weapon: Giovanni Moreno, in our practice space.

Here’s The Weapon: Giovanni Moreno, in our practice space.

We got the song just to the point of “if someone were watching us, it would be okay”. And then time ran out, and we had to two days in the studio to not fuck everything up.

...In some ways, we fucked everything up. But only in the sense that I like to plan things to a crazy level and it just--you can’t really make music like that--you CAN, but it’s gonna be lifeless. I wrote the rest of the lyrics while The Weapon played acoustic guitar beside me, my finger swirling in the air to tell him to keep playing certain parts over and over.

The Weapon plays in the studio as I write down lyrics at the last minute.

The Weapon plays in the studio as I write down lyrics at the last minute.

We brought weapons. Take us to heaven. Call them dreams, they from our parents. We brought weapons. I’ve been runnin’ in place I think for too long, I’ve been burnin’ them oils all night long. I’ve been livin’ with hatred anger and fear, it’s unforgivable (do you really mean it?). Numb and tired. The truth is no, so inspired. Dumb on fire, the constant lie of: moving higher. And I will outshine you, may the guiding lights of being nobody guide you.

It was nearly a year to the day that The Weapon and I had first worked on the song. We still liked the demo version but it had changed and morphed into something really strange--still good but different. We brought Geoffrey Maybe into the studio to play some bass and generally just recorded the song over and over again.

Geoffrey Maybe tunes his Chinese knock-off Fender style Bass (a THIRD of the sound of EFFORTS) in front of Noah. November 2018.

Geoffrey Maybe tunes his Chinese knock-off Fender style Bass (a THIRD of the sound of EFFORTS) in front of Noah. November 2018.

Here is an incredible outtake:

It took about a week for me to realize we had two different songs, the demo and the new version. So now we had  a new plan: pursue both versions, and keep the same lyrics, like two sides of a coin. Now we have two singles.

Beset. advertisement.

Beset. advertisement.

(seven. years. later.) Last night I picked The Weapon up at an empty grocery store, and we drove to his empty house to work on “The Red Window. Is Open”. Within minutes he was clutching his side and I was driving him to a (mostly empty) emergency room. We nearly hit a coyote, who glared at us before trotting down the on ramp to a highway. I stood in the waiting room for an hour, just as I had seven years ago.

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On Thanksgiving I kissed my wife and drove away from some fancy dinner at some fancy place to go be with EFFORTS for a few hours. Zach and Geoffrey Maybe has spent the day cooking and drinking together, without me, something that has never occurred before in the history of the band. When I got there we took our first REAL band photo and talked about the future.

EFFORTS from Nashville, TN.

EFFORTS from Nashville, TN.

Zach and I really want to play next year, shoot videos and continue down the DIY path we started paving three years ago. Geoffrey wants to as well, again, maybe for the first time in the history of the band--but he was also just accepted into the air force reserve. I have some strange and conflicting emotions about this, and his reasons for joining, but for the moment he is both in AND out of the band. Something which has been the case since he joined. I mean, we named him Geoffrey maybe for fuck’s sake. So the future of the band is: yes we are doing this thing, and no, we are not quite sure how.

EFFORTS advertisement

EFFORTS advertisement

As for Geoff’s and my side project: DAMNSEL & THE EUTH GROUP, we decided a few weeks ago to kill it anyhow, and treat those songs as demos toward something else. And on Thanksgiving, sitting on Zach’s couch, we decided that, no matter where the band is going, these songs will be the roots of the next album. This is a scary decision for me, as the sound is so--I mean it still sound like us, but it veers so alarmingly toward uncharted territory that I can’t help but feel nervous (not to mention there ain’t no way I can play these things live on a guitar, I may have written most of the guitar parts but there’s a reason Geoffrey tracked ‘em). I also had (already) a dozen demos for the next LP. So we’ll see. I mean, I’m sitting here typing this in an EFFORTS sweatshirt so there’s a CHANCE I’m overthinking all this anyhow.

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I spent a couple weeks typing this blog during spare moments--between sending packages across the world (hooooooly shit cardboard is heavy and expensive to send), and being struck down with some sort of biblical plague. I was so sick I woke up on two different mornings thinking I was Spider-Man.

Here are some other things that occurred: Beset. Tees. for a Beset. Christmas.

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And Efforts Sweaters and Plaques for an Efforts. Xmas.

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And last but not least, I sat down one night, ill and tired and gross and awful...and I wrote. I figured out part of the story I was stuck on for months. I wrote about a playing card and a green feather and a ring that remembers magical logins and passwords. The novel is almost finished.

(post.script.)On December 7th I received my first ever comic book in the mail. A story which took me 9 months to write the script, and 9 months to Photoshop it as a comic (it was released nine years after I had written it.

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And here is  bonus pic of me in 2003, when I was 19 and just wanted to make stuff more than anything (especially, mostly, certainly: comic books).

Me. Age 19. Sometime in 2003. Photo by Christopher J. Rook.

Me. Age 19. Sometime in 2003. Photo by Christopher J. Rook.

-mE.















Todd Rogers