2016 Year in Review: David Hill
Most fun project: This is a really hard one, but Changeling: The Lost, Second Edition. I worked on a lot of things I’m very proud of, but Changeling gave me the chance to dig into what I really feel is the core of Chronicles of Darkness. By that, I mean using horror, fantasy, exploration, adventure, investigation, and social interaction to explore ideas about the human condition. To a lot of philosophy, their relationship to pain is the one thing that makes human beings unique. And Changeling is a game about people who were hurt, and who are reacting to that. It’s a way to explore relationships to pain, wrapped up in this really layered, evocative, fantastic tapestry. I particularly enjoy it because it gives you all these great chances to step back, to step away. If the topic gets too deep, you can side track and get lost for a little while in the sheer weirdness of the fae world. It does this great speculative fiction thing where you can ask all these, “what if,” questions about the way the world works, and those can drive entire stories despite (or complementing) the core premise of the game. If the pain gets a little too close to home, you can explore oneiromancy, for example, and just get lost in the implications of the ability to reshape dreams.
Most interesting research: I went to a bunch of bars and random sites in Shinjuku for some of my work in Lost Second Edition, Hurt Locker, and the various other game lines’ Tokyo sections. Some of the bars offer all-you-can-drink deals. To the professional writer, that’s like having a magic idea fairy that sits on your shoulder and feeds you story ideas, up until she decides to punch you in the face and knock you out. You can see why that’d be valuable. Shinjuku Park is this utterly lovely place full of exotic plantlife, where you can sit down and relax after a long day of travel. When I hit blocks, I found that sitting in a place like that and drawing a picture opened up my mind and got me interested in putting more words on the screen. While not every place ended up inspiring a specific location in a Chronicles of Darkness book, some caught my interest and kept me wanting to do more. For example, one of the major toilet manufacturers has an open showroom you can go to and have tea in. It’s sort of a toilet museum, which has a very strange appeal. Shinjuku is also well-known for its gay bars, having the largest LGBT district in Asia. There are literally hundreds of bars there, most very small, and every one a little different than the last. If you want a gay bar with authentic Mexican food, this is the place to go. Being a Southern California transplant, my need for authentic Mexican food is a mighty one and Japan isn’t exactly bursting with options. But this neighborhood is wonderful, because it’s just this amazing collection of more unique places than you can count. By the time you get through from one end to another, one bar has closed and re-opened under another name. Some of these places literally change throughout the day – they’ll have a restaurant name and theme through lunch, a hip dinner hangout name and theme through the early evening, then at night it becomes a bar and dance club with a third name entirely. That, to me, perfectly encapsulates the density of Tokyo, and the way it ebbs, flows, and adapts.
Favorite passage: From Changeling: The Lost 2E:
The Hedge isn’t all spikes and whips and rust and blood. Some of it is smokey-eyed come-hither looks. Some of it is the pie your mom made you before she died.
Some of it is the feel of silk, or the weight of gold in your hand. Some of it is the childish wonder of magic made flesh, of sorcery and enchantments and quests and dragons and eternal adventure. But some of it is spikes. All of it could hurt. And if it starts hurting, it goes away once it stops hurting.
Much of the time, that hurt comes from facing the reality. It’s empowering to don yourself in mirror-finished platemail, charging into the cave to slay the dragon for your beloved. It’s the dragon your foster mother told you about growing up. It has scales of brushed and polished platinum. It sits atop a pile of treasure, including but not limited to the lost texts of the Library of Alexandria and the magical trident held by the king of Atlantis. But at the end of that tunnel, there’s a dragon, and it’s very real, and its teeth are very deadly. Just because it’s beautiful and wondrous doesn’t mean it can’t eat you alive. The Hedge can be beautiful, but make no mistake, it can eat you alive.