A couple of years ago, Peter Adkison came to me. “Hey, Steve, I’m going to film school. You wanna come with me? It’ll be great.”

Yes, he’s the same Peter Adkison who started Wizards of the Coast, the company that created the entire trading card game genre, first with the game Magic: The Gathering, then followed by an additional mega-TCG, Pokémon, and then with the purchase of TSR, Inc., he brought the world Dungeons & Dragons 3rd times-a-charm, (i.e., 3rd Edition). Once revered as the janitor at Wizards of the Coast and Game Mogul (both titles he proudly displayed on his business cards), Peter was determining his second career: film.

While film school sounded like it had potential, I flatly refused. At the time, I had three children in college and a fourth in private school. I needed to get my kids through college, and I could ill-afford to go back myself.

So, Peter ventured off to film school on his own, and I decided to lend my talents to Electronic Arts for a time, a relationship which abruptly ended two years later. (All things at EA seem to end abruptly, as near as I can tell, but that’s a story I only share with people who buy me expensive Scotch.)

Peter’s film school pursuit and my EA experiment ended at about the same time. He was experimenting with a lot of interesting small independent film projects. When I told Peter I was a freelance rogue, he immediately pounced on it. “EA’s loss is my gain. Let’s make a film.”

If you can’t tell by the genre of games we’ve produced, our first love is high fantasy. We’re what you call super-fans of classic fantasy: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Robert E. Howard’s Conan, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars series, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champions, Stephan R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and many more. The darker and grittier, the better—raw and fucking epic.

If money were no object, we would have immediately greenlit Chaldea. But. . . money can, on occasion, be the only object that matters. One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Good words to live by. But sometimes, Al, it takes money to bring your imagination to life. And with Peter’s fertile imagination, it would take a lot of money, fucking Olympus Mons  of money. Yes, we wanted to produce fantasy films, but they were well beyond our capability at that moment, so we set our sights on something nearly fantasy.

Thus our first project was a short film, The Devil walks in Salem, a 1692 period piece. Dark, gritty, muddy, far from modern society.

All it was missing was orcs and spells.

But we could fix that.


Steve Conard