from the archives: the long journey of Torin and Danthres from RPG characters to the stars of a book series

This piece was written in 2012 shortly after Goblin Precinct had been published and Audible bought the rights to audio versions of the first four novels in the “Precinct” series. Since then, Gryphon Precinct and Tales from Dragon Precinct have come out, the books have changed publishers, and now I’m working on Mermaid Precinct, plus we’ll be adding Manticore Precinct and Phoenix Precinct. Oh, and the vague thing I talk about that might happen still might happen, but hasn’t yet. So the conclusion of this six-year-old blog entry is even more poignant now…..


From 1983 until 1995 or so, I played role-playing games a lot: Dungeons & Dragons, Marvel Superheroes, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Champions, an early version of what was eventually released as the Wildside Gaming System. Lack of time led to me moving away from it, and it’s now been ages since I RPG’d.

But there were two characters I played that I had a particular fondness for. One was a D&D character I played in college, the other a Wildside character I played in my 20s. The former was a friendly, red-haired male Ranger named Torin ban Wyvald, the latter an attitude-laden half-elven woman warrior named Danthres Tresyllione.

For years, I kept starting stories that paired these two up. The D&D game that Torin was part of included a human cleric, an elven mage, and a dwarven warrior, and I added Danthres to that mix and started a fantasy novel loosely based on our campaign. It failed miserably, as what makes a good game doesn’t always make good fiction. I tried Danthres and Torin in a bunch of other combos, but they all sucked.

Still, the characters never strayed very far from my head, and when John Ordover invited me to pitch an original novel to him in 2003, I was deep in the throes of my abject love of police procedure. I always loved cop stories, going back to being captivated by Hill Street Blues at the tender age of 12, and by the early days of the new millennium I was practically obsessed.

And it occurred to me that that was how to use Torin and Danthres — make them cops.

Credit to John for the title — I don’t even remember what I was originally calling it, something uninspired like Cliff’s End Castle Guard or some such nonsense, and John said, “Why don’t you call it Dragon Precinct?” It was perfect — it showed both elements of it, the fantasy element and the cop element, in one simple, elegant title.

I had already plotted out the book and written a good chunk of it when John made that suggestion, so it was only after that that I retrofitted the five-precinct structure into Cliff’s End. This also gave me five handy book titles, and I thought having more precincts was just going to be considered hubris…..

Then the original SF/fantasy line that Dragon Precinct was part of was discontinued. The novel had decent sales, nothing that blew the doors off, but not a flop by any stretch, either. Still, when Pocket started up doing non tie-in stuff again years later, they passed on doing a sequel. Their fantasy focus was more of the urban variety than the high variety, and the Precinct books didn’t fit the bill.

Then in 2011, Neal Levin of Dark Quest Books offered to take on the series, and I wrote Unicorn Precinct, then I got the rights back to Dragon, so DQ reissued that in trade, and then Goblin Precinct, and now a deal to do audio books of the novels, and I’m also talking with someone else about something else related to the novels (specifics deliberately vague until and unless something real happens beyond talking about it).

This is why you need to be patient. Sometimes it takes a while for stuff to happen. And then stuff happens all at once. And sometimes stuff never happens. It’s a crapshoot, but instant gratification should never be expected.

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