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The Dude with the Hat: An Introduction to Lance McColgan

Lance McColgan

If you've never heard of me before, chances are you've only seen this photo with little more than a paragraph of text to go with it. That's all fine and good for the back cover of a book, but here I'd like to give you a more detailed and personal introduction to the author and game designer with a cool hat. So here we go!

A Few Basic Things: Geography and Such

My name is Lance, and I'm a native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. If you have any experience with western Mass, then you know all about Pittsfield. If not, suffice it to say this: I'm in the part of Massachusetts that even most of Massachusetts forget is part of Massachusetts. It's a three-hour drive to Boston, but only twenty minutes to New York State. During the height of summer tourism here, there are nearly as many NY license plates on the road as local ones! And small wonder, given that the scenery in Berkshire County is gorgeous.

Sunset on Pontoosuc Lake

Pontoosuc Lake, a minute's walk from where I live.

Since 1996, I've lived just north of Pittsfield in the town of Lanesborough. I was raised in a small family of Irish and Polish ancestry, with just one younger brother and a couple of cats to terrorize us as we grew up, plus my grandparents who lived next door.

My father founded his own land surveying business, which kept him quite busy providing for his family. Most days would have him working from dawn till well past dusk, except for when he put on his coaching hat for youth sports. Baseball, soccer, and ice hockey were an important part of my life growing up, and when combined with my dad's example, they taught me the importance of a strong work ethic.

My mother, a devout Methodist who once ran her own landscaping business, made sure her kids received a Christian upbringing and attended church faithfully every Sunday. She homeschooled us all the way from kindergarten to high school, on top of everything else she did to serve her church family. More than anyone else, it was from her that I learned to value the Bible as God's word and think critically for myself.

The Early Years of Writing and Gaming

I think I experienced the best of both worlds as a late nineties kid. My friends and I were equally as comfortable playing games outside as we were playing on consoles and the computer. Whether we played our favorite characters digitally or role-played in the backyard, we were always embarking on new adventures.

For a brief stint, the homeschool group I belonged to ran its own newspaper and chose me to work as the cartoonist. My drawing skills may not have been fantastic, but it sure was fun to create new stories for the world! Sometime after that, I even tried my hand at writing a fantasy trilogy (which, I assure you, had nothing to do with Cabalia and is of neither sufficient length nor quality to attempt resurrecting it).

As enjoyable as the literary pursuits were, I was much more of a reader than a writer and played far more electronic games than board games. The real turning point for my interest in tabletop games came sometime in my teenage years when my youth group attended a special game night hosted by a couple from church.

To make a long story short, this couple hosted a pirate miniatures game that converted an entire dining room table into a high-seas adventure. One night of playing, and I was hooked! My brother and I hunted down as many of the ships and expansions as we could buy, and we had fun playing with whatever friends we could rope into it.

It wasn't long until I started to tinker with the rules of the game and create expansions of my own. I'd often have to borrow pieces from other board games to support the new variants, but it was well worth the effort. My friends had a blast, and I got to practice thinking outside the box (literally and metaphorically). I didn't know it at the time, but it was good preparation for what was just around the corner.

Two Flights Up

As it turned out, the couple who had hosted the youth group game night were very much into board games. In 2014 they launched a studio just a couple of towns away to serve as a local hub for board gaming (and dancing, too, of all things). It was located on the upper level of a business building, so they gave it the name of 2 Flights Up. I was still a teenager at the time with plenty of energy to dash up all the stairs, so I didn't much mind that there weren't any elevators to use. Even if I had minded, what waited at the top would have more than made up for it.

Board game enthusiasts of all ages gathered every Thursday night to play games, share snacks, and have an all-around awesome time. Anyone could bring a game they wanted to play in addition to the featured game of the night, and most did! I got to experience a wide variety of games I had never known existed, let alone played before. It would have been exciting enough to simply play all the games people brought in, but my urge to tinker with things was still as strong as ever. Just a few months after my first visit to the studio, I borrowed some components from completely unrelated games to create my first unique board game prototype: a sci-fi strategy game of exploration and epic combat. It was an extremely rough prototype that proved unable to develop into a workable game, but the people who played it were supportive and offered fantastic feedback. My attempts to create an enjoyable game only got better from there, ultimately leading to the very beginnings of the world of Cabalia. But that, my friends, is a long story that will be the subject of another post.

The College Years and Beyond

Before 2 Flights Up opened, my parents discovered an educational program in my sophomore year of high school that allowed me to work on my first two years of college during my last two years of high school. It was an unconventional process that required loads of study and self-discipline, but I ultimately managed to enroll in Thomas Edison State University's online degree for Political Science. Just shy of my 20th birthday, I completed all the courses necessary to earn my bachelor's degree and graduated with honors in 2016.

My original plan was to become a constitutional lawyer in Washington D.C., and toward this end, I dabbled my toes in the murky waters of politics. I found out pretty quickly just how treacherous such things are, however, which left me in a dilemma: I had a degree in something I grew to loathe more and more with each passing day. This made it difficult to find and keep a job related to my degree.

My father suggested applying for an opening at the Pittsfield Post Office while I searched for a solution to this problem, and I took his advice. Seven years later, I'm still a full-time letter carrier who's thankful for the opportunity to serve his community and build relationships with many wonderful people. It hasn't always been an easy job ("neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night"), but it's been worth it.

I'm also quite active in my church, serving as an assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel of the Berkshires. Whether through involvement in youth ministry or teaching the Bible, it's been amazing to see what God has already done in the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I look forward to seeing what He will do next!

Concluding with Cabalia

Between a full-time job, church ministry, and some semblance of a social life, things have been anything but boring. With whatever spare time I have, I like to either read books and play games (tabletop or electronic, both are awesome), or write books and design board games. My first novel, The Secrets of Shadowcrest, started as little more than a short story to provide background lore for one of my upcoming board games, but it unexpectedly grew into an award-winning, full-length book. I hope to continue developing the wonderful world of Cabalia in the years to come, and I especially hope that you will join me on the journey.

There'll be plenty of future posts to fill in the details I didn't cover in this introduction, so for now, I'll just say farewell and thank you for reading!

Medieval man standing on dock and waving farewell

Until next time, sitalla -- farewell!

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