Wes Schneider had been at Paizo less than a year the first time I completely changed his job and basically required him to be a superhero. It was a trend that would continue for more than a decade, but the difference is, that first time, I wasn't 100% certain it would work. Truth be told, although Wes had, at that point, served as an assistant editor on Dragon magazine for a half-dozen issues, I still wasn't 100% certain I could tell the difference between Wes and the magazine's other assistant editor, the late great Mike McArtor. Both had come to the company at the same time to do the same job, both were irritatingly young in a way that made me realize I was no longer the youngest scamp working on D&D in an official capacity, and both pretty much had the exact same haircut and facial hair. Both Wes and Mike had also worked with the previous Dragon editor to "relaunch" the magazine with an almost completely player-focused approach with Dragon #323. The only trouble was, as a long-time GM and lifetime reader of Dragon, I didn't really care for that approach. Fresh off my own relaunch of Dungeon, I knew that improving Dragon to be the magazine I thought it could be, I'd need to completely undo a lot of the work the previous team had done, within only about two months of them doing it in the first place. And I needed to figure out a way to have Wes and Mike do a lot of the dirty work for me. I took the two young lads out for lunch at the local Thai spot and said, essentially, "You know that relaunch you guys have been working so hard on? We're not going to do that anymore. Instead, we're going to do THIS."
It could have been an utter disaster. But Wes took the news like a champ, saw the potential in the changes I was proposing, and ably stepped up to the challenge. I was so impressed with Wes's attitude I made him the section editor of Dragon's First Watch column. I did this mostly because I knew he could handle coordinating reams of monthly RPG industry news and new product reviews, but I also did it because I knew we couldn't pay Wes what he was worth and that the position would put Wes in the path of mountains of cool free stuff that people sent to the magazine in hopes of getting coverage. Things like gaming books, board games, soundtracks, action figures—you know, nerd stuff.
Thirteen years later, as I sit here writing this within hours of Wes's going away lunch, several of those dubious treasures are sitting on the "Free Table" right outside my office. Some of these well-loved artifacts are coated with a decade of dust, while others are well-loved desk trinkets looking for a new home. In the time between that first Dragon issue and today, as Wes prepares to move on to exciting new career and creative challenges, I've set countless near-impossibly outlandish tasks before Wes, and he has not just risen to the occasion each time, but he's basically one-shotted all of these monsters with style, grace, and aplomb. I'll miss Wes's level-headed clarity, his compassion for his fellow employees, his values, and his phenomenal creative contributions to the Pathfinder line, which alas will now have to come in the form of what I hope will be many freelance assignments.
And while I'll also miss Wes's amazing, can-do attitude and ability to achieve the impossible, I'm less worried about the impact of not having that around. You see, in the last 13 years Wes has been setting his own series of impossible challenges for his own staff of editors and developers. Following his example, they also exceed my expectations on a daily basis. Even though Wes will no longer be walking Paizo's halls after today, the clarity, compassion, values, and ability to achieve the impossible with grace and aplomb lives on thanks to his amazing example.
Thanks for helping me with Dragon magazine, Wes, and for Pathfinder and everything in between. We'll miss you terribly, but you've made such a huge impact on all of us here at Paizo that your legacy will continue for many years to come!
Maybe 10 years ago, Wes took me aside and let me know that he'd accepted a job at Privateer Press, and would be leaving the company. I got all weepy and hugged him, making a big scene. A few hours later he told me he'd lied just to see what I'd do. ("I can't believe I got a hug out of it!" he mused.) So you can understand why I won't quite believe he's leaving until I see his office empty.
Wes was one of the first friends I made at Paizo, back when I was 20 years old and he was only a few years older, the two of us banding together to embrace our role as the department's hipster children. We actually shared our Dungeon magazine debut, co-writing the adventure "Shut-In" together in issue #128. (We would also write our first Adventure Path installment together, "The Lightless Depths" in Dungeon's Savage Tide AP, but we eventually started talking to each other again after that one, so all's well that ends well.) I often say that my first years at Paizo were spent learning what was cool, and Wes was my primary teacher in that regard, hosting Educational Movie Nights in which he and Jacobs attempted to correct my character flaws by showing me classic horror films. For the last 13 years, we've constantly learned from each other, propping each other up as we stumbled our way into managing departments, exploring social media, or writing comics. He taught me how to write adventures. I taught him how to write novels. He taught me how to buy jeans that fit. I taught him how to stop using that terrible crunchy hair gel that made him look damp all the time. He taught me to accept my own sexuality. I taught him that his garbage disposal was a perfectly acceptable place to vomit after challenging Jason Bulmahn to a drinking contest. (Wes has never accepted my explanation that, since I was half Jason's size at the time and drunkenness is a factor of body weight, I'd actually won mathematically.)
I'm pretty sure that at every convention we've ever been to together, someone has mistaken us for each other (most notably one of his longtime family friends, leading to what may well have been Gen Con's Most Awkward Hug). And the weird thing is, it kind of makes sense—after this many years of friendship and collaboration, probably half my verbal tics and gestures come from Wes, to the point where I can't even remember which half. So Wes, while moving on is always bittersweet, you can take comfort in knowing that part of you will live on in this building long after you leave. (I'm talking about your office couch. I'm pretty sure the courts will give me joint custody.)
James L. Sutter
Most of my best memories of working with Wes at Paizo are probably better left off this blog, so I'll keep this short. Wes has been a tireless advocate for the editorial team over the years, and more than that, a rock-solid friend who somehow always has the perfect piece of unexpected dry wit to get you through the rough patches. We'll miss you, Wes, but I'm happy for the bright and rewarding future you have ahead of you.
How do you pay adequate tribute to someone like Wes? Charming as hell; endlessly creative; never lazy in the work of making life better for his colleagues or repairing broken aspects of our games, our industry, and our world; always present as the company therapist (to be fair, Wes, you brought that one on yourself by putting a couch in your office); hilarious, especially in moments where humor and perspective were needed; generous to a fault with his time, brilliance, wisdom, and wit; creator of the best margin notes and doodles; deeply kind; mind-blowingly clever; and stunningly insightful.
He has been the genius loci of this place and this team for as long as I've been here, and we are all richer in spirit and creativity for having had the chance to work with him. May we do justice, as we go forward, to everything he's taught us.
Wes was one of the first people I worked with at Paizo. Together with Mike McArtor, we were the team behind Dragon up through its final print issue. While all of us had various jobs developing and editing the articles, Wes had an extra special assignment. He got us stuff! Back then, a section of the magazine was dedicated to new and exciting releases in the game industry and nerd culture in general. Wes put together these articles, which often entailed getting samples from the various companies. Once the articles were done and the products revealed, these samples would often be put up for grabs (if Wes didn't keep them himself). To this day, I still have a Monty Python Horse Action Figure, that Wes got as part of a big contest, hiding in my desk. That was over a decade ago. Over the years, Wes has been part of the bedrock of Paizo and while I am sad to see him go, I am excited for him and his future endeavors. Now if I can just get him to send us some swag from his new job...
Monty Python Horse Action Figure
Wes was the first Paizo editor to reach out to me and the rest of the PathfinderWiki team asking if there was anything we needed in the site's earliest days, providing us with specially tailored blog posts and shoutouts to increase our content and traffic. He was also one of the first Paizo developers to give me a shot as a freelancer (he, Josh Frost, and Sean K Reynolds all gave me small assignments about the same time), so my career in the industry owes much to him recognizing my potential. In our time working together, Wes has taught me countless things, both relevant to the publishing industry and the creative process in general. But above all, Wes has been a great friend, hosting the absolute best themed 80s movie marathons and geeking out over the same comics and movies and video games that I do.
I'm sad to see you go, Wes, but excited for the opportunities that lie in your future. And I can't wait to play the games you'll make, engross myself in the stories you'll tell, and enjoy the worlds you are sure to create wherever you may go.
As a fan, it's easy to gloss over a book's credits page. I did it for several years as I eagerly flipped straight to the newest classes, feats, and archetypes, rarely giving more than a casual glance at who the developers, authors, or editors were. Even so, I had friends who had played in Wes's PaizoCon games (and buzzed excitedly about it for days afterward), and when he chimed in on the messageboards, fans snapped to attention. I couldn't understand quite how important he was to Paizo until I started working here. Wes has been a tireless advocate for each of us, whether conveying conveying our needs to the executives or trumpeting our accomplishments to the world. He's always proven accommodating and encouraging to us, urging us to make our mark on the world and make the most of the setting—even the pieces that are his creations.
I may sass him often—probably as often as he returns the favor—but for all the snark, we all know that he's been there for us when we've needed it and given us space when we just needed to get things done. Paizo shall continue, and though we will feel his absence for years to come, we're ready for whatever lies ahead thanks to the example he set.
Organized Play Lead Developer
Wes has been a patient mentor and fierce advocate for those of us on his team, and an able peacekeeper between people who care deeply but in different directions about what we do (which is to say, everyone at Paizo). Despite his attempts to maintain a Machiavellian image, his visible distress whenever he had to ask us to do anything particularly arduous always gave away of his concern for us. Wes, I wish you the best, will miss you heaps, and hope your future collaborators appreciate you as much as you deserve! (P.s. No take-backs on the feathers—they must find a new surprise home.)
It's still hard to wrap my head around the fact that Wes is headed out of Paizo's doors soon for the final time. For what seemed like forever, Wes was Paizo, in my worldview.
Back at Gen Con 2011, he was the first friend from Paizo I met when I was digging for ways to break into the gaming industry. Luckily for me, the email thread that spawned with Wes from that meeting turned into one gig, and then many others. Then, the phone call (again, with Wes), and here I am in Redmond. I've always kept that first email thread with Wes in my inbox because it marked a turning point in my life, and so did meeting Wes.
Since that first Gen Con, I have unabashedly looked up to Wes personally and professionally, admired him, and felt a creative kinship with him. When we moved to Redmond, Wes became one of my best friends.
It is likely that I would not be in the tabletop gaming industry without Wes. It is almost certain that I would not work for Paizo as a developer if it were not for him. In many ways, Wes helped me discover who I want to be as a professional and as a creative.
You might be leaving the office, Wes, but you'll always be on the hook for that. And, before you can say it: How dare you?!
Amanda Hamon Kunz
Wes, I will greatly miss working with you. You've taught me so much in the five years that I've been here (and even more in the previous years while I was an up-and-coming freelancer). I thank you for giving me some my first pieces of freelance work for Paizo, always supporting my and other freelancer's work and ultimately giving me a job here. I quite literally wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you.
This has been a wonderful experience and your leadership and guidance over the time has made all the difference. We've come up with cool ideas together and imagined and developed wonderfully disturbing characters, stories, and monsters. As you go on to your next big thing, know that I'll keep a creepy lantern burning to attract all the scary monsters!
When I only knew F. Wesley Schneider as a name on a book byline, I imagined a very different man. With a tough and academic name like F. Wesley Schneider and a writing style that was witty and confrontational, clearly he would be enormous and muscular, jolly and well-read, but probably kind of a douche. Years later, at my first PaizoCon, I spent a good thirty minutes chatting with the sweetest, most optimistic, nonthreatening, well-dressed man at the entire hotel, talking about games and then... I want to say Zelda and Castlevania? Then he had to run to a panel, and I realized I'd never asked his name.
"Oh, I'm Wes Schneider," he said, as if he were stunned that anyone in the world didn't know who he was.
"Wait, you're Wes Schneider," I responded, dumbstruck that he was a foot shorter than me. Then I ran off to get my copy of Seven Days to the Grave and made him sign it after his panel.
Ever since that day, I've rested comfortably in the knowledge that I could crush F. Wesley Schneider with my bare hands should the need arise. And thankfully, since that day, the need never has.
Wes Schneider is a unique man, above and beyond his extraordinary way with words and keen wit. He is gifted with deep empathy, and more compassion than any one person should be burdened with. He shepherds the best traits in others, and helps them find what they need in themselves. He teaches in a way that leaves you feeling empowered rather than chastised. He takes care of those around him, sacrificing his own health and time to do so.
He's my friend, and he has helped me become a better person. Working alongside him has been an extraordinary blessing.
Also, he's frustratingly good at Battletoads.