Artist Spotlight: Leonard Balsera

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Illustration by Bree DiQuinzio

Evil Hat wouldn’t be where it is today without the amazing talent and passion of our artists. Today, we’re celebrating that talent in our artist spotlight. Yeah, we’re trying to butter them up. We admit it.

For our debut column, we’re featuring Origins- and ENnie- and scads-of-other-awards-winning designer Leonard Balsera. At times he’s been called the Hat’s secret weapon, the designer on the grassy knoll, the Teflon(R) brain, and the ghost of Evil Hat. He’s not as visible online as many of the other Hatters, but he prefers living his life of rockstar debauchery in peace. Or as peaceful as rockstar debauchery gets, anyway.

I met Lenny in the strangest of ways, as a Dresden Files RPG playtester. Our group started a game set in Las Vegas, and out of nowhere this guy starts e-mailing me editorial notes. I thought to myself, “What could this random guy know about Vegas in the Dresdenverse?” Then I discover he’s the guy who designed most of the game. (See what I mean about the obscurity thing? He didn’t even indicate who he was in his sig, to one of his own playtesters.) *Then* I discover he’s from Las Vegas and set his own playtest game there. We later met in person at NeonCon (which was in Las Vegas, go figure) and became fast friends. And I learned the Legend of Lenny, which sounds like it should be a song title, doesn’t it?

Lenny came to the Hat in 2002 as a fan. A really, really loud fan. He had been very active in various Internet communities under the alias Landon Darkwood (backers who have seen Fate Core might have noticed this name resurface) and had become a significant contributor to Fate’s Yahoo group. Fred says he recognized Lenny’s passion and wanted to focus it to productive ends, so he asked Lenny to do some writing in an official capacity. Lenny says Fred was just trying to shut him up, but he says it with a smile so we’re pretty sure he’s joking.

He was first slated to work on The Dresden Files RPG, but as Fred and Rob gained a better understanding of how challenging that task was going to be, given that they were new to the game publishing thing, they changed direction to a smaller project: Spirit of the Century. Lenny worked on that game as an assistant developer, and Fred credits him with “making sure the game we were playing at the table is the one we put in the book.”

After Spirit’s success, the Hat turned their attention back toward The Dresden Files, and Lenny found himself accepting a much larger role in the project than he’d originally anticipated. Give-us-some-development-help turned into take-on-this-system, which became and-these-chapters-too and finally take-the-reins-pleasepleaseplease, and thus, he became the lead system developer for Your Story and Our World.

Since then, Lenny has taken on the role of lead system developer for all things Fate. He started working on The Paranet Papers about a year after Dresden Files came out and spearheaded the current incarnation of the Fate Core system. He’s also an active behind-the-scenes participant, offering advice to anyone developing Fate products of their own.

Lenny somehow also finds time to work for other companies. He’s written The Esoterrorists: Profane Miracles and Ashen Stars: Terra Nova for Pelgrane Press. He worked on the recent Convention Book: N.W.O. for Onyx Path Publishing. Now he’s working on Cortex Plus Dramatic Roleplaying, part of Margaret Weis Productions’ Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide. He also works in hobby gaming by day, as the Munchkin Baron at Steve Jackson Games. (Yes, that’s his real job title.)

Basically, Lenny lives, eats, drinks, and sleeps gaming. We’re grateful for that.