Thursday, December 31, 2009

An All-Inclusive Toast

To all you grognards, simulationists, storytellers, cosplayers, wargamers, fatbeards, rules tinkers, tacticians, kit bashers, rules lawyers, munchkins, kitchen-sinkers, larpers, min-maxers, hex & chit generals, gamer girls, gamer boys, noobs, Euro board game fanatics, cranky bastards, weirdos, cat piss dudes, drama kings & queens, dice fetishists, mmorpgers, game masters, DMs, referees, PCs, NPCs, parties, troupes, coteries, old schoolers, new schoolers, neo-grognards, retro-neo-cloners, oddnards, snobs, sneaks, skeezes, sleezes, trolls, faeries, elves, dwarves, orks, necromancers, anti-paladins, bards, monks, lords, ladies, blognards, fanziners, garage publishers, miniature army assemblers, frustrated novelists, world-builders, boxed setting enthusiasts, completionists, home-brewers, mad men, thieves, and rabid dogs:

To each and every one of you I wish a "Happy New Year." This odd little pastimes of ours wouldn't be nearly as interesting without you. May you spend 2010 with the people you like, doing the things you enjoy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Resolutions Round-Up

About this time last year, I declared twelve gaming resolutions for 2009. With less than a week remaining in said year, it’s time to look back on my good intentions and see how they survived contact with cold reality. This could be ugly.

12 – Buy a copy of Outdoor Survival: Since this resolution just required me to spend a little cash – something I’m no novice at – I met this one early and easy. Stonehell is located on the OS map and I’ve started the business of stocking the outdoor map now that the lion’s share of work on the dungeon itself is completed. Resolution Success!

11 – Read at least six books from Appendix N that I’ve never read before: Like #12, this resolution just required money and time. Although I just managed to squeeze them in before the end of the year, 2009 saw me reading Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword, Lord Dunsany’s Fifty-one Tales, Sterling Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey, A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool, Fred Saberhagen’s Changeling Earth trilogy, and Margaret St. Clair’s Sign of the Labrys. What struck me most about those titles was how unconventionally “fantasy” they were. A more detailed post regarding this observation is sure to follow. Resolution Success!

10 – Assemble and paint Dungeons Invaders kit: A complete failure. The set remained untouched throughout the year and despite my attempts to improve my painting skills, I have no excuse for not even attempting to complete this one. Resolution Failure!

9 – Finish “Whispering Laurels” Call of Cthulhu scenario: Although I did manage to track down my notes for this one, that was as far as it ever went. Even participating in Cthulhu Day at my local gaming store failed to inspire me to complete it. Resolution Failure!

8 – Meet and play with some new gamers: Between sitting in on a CoC game at Cthulhu Day and the addition of three new faces to me regular gaming group, I did indeed spend 2009 throwing dice with new people. Although it was, like many things, a mixed success, it was accomplished as stated. Resolution Success!

7 – Attend a local game convention: Money was the culprit to blame this year. Between the economy tanking and my own sketchy employment this year, not even the local Long Island con was feasible to attend. I’m trying to stay positive for 2010, but I’m not making any predictions as to my attendance at either ICON or GenCon. Resolution Failure!

6 – Get three things published or otherwise distributed: Oh yeah. In all honesty, I thought I had a ringer for this one. The Dungeon Alphabet was already written and submitted when I made this resolution so I thought I had a jump on meeting this one. But since the Alphabet isn’t being released until after the New Year, I’m glad I didn’t rest on my laurels. 2009 saw my work make appearances in the Open Game Table anthology, Fight On! issues #5 and #6, Knockspell #2, and, of course, the release of Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls. Resolution Success!

5 – Run a classic D&D short dungeon adventure: This year did see me returning back behind the screen to run intrepid adventurers through the upper halls of Stonehell Dungeon. Lives were lost, treasure found, and mysteries confronted. Plus, I got to knock some rust off of the gears and get me motivated to do it again. Once a few things settle down in my life, I’m going to get a regular group of B/X going. Resolution Success!

4 – Work on a Gamma World sandbox game: Like being exposed to Intensity 18 Poison, I had no chance. Both time and inspiration never coalesced on the Gamma World sandbox this year. I have a partial map and a halfway completed Mutant Future adventure because of it, but nothing I can call “work” with a straight face. Resolution Failure!

3 – Play test Ol’ Nameless: Longtime readers might remember Ol’ Nameless, which was the initial megadungeon I started building at the start of this blog. Although well-loved, Ol’ Nameless was left forelorn after its little brother Stonehell came along and took up the majority of Daddy’s time. Now, bitter and maladjusted, Ol’ Nameless gets into trouble and does stretches in Juvey Hall. Needless to say, the play test never came to be. Resolution Failure!

2 – Finish up Ol’ Nameless through Level Five: By the strictest intereptation of the resolution, this was a failure. I never did complete the first five levels of the Ol’ Nameless megadungeon. I did, however, complete the first five levels of Stonehell Dungeon and therefore met this resolution in spirit if not in actuality. I’ll call this one a draw only because of the sheer amount of work that was required to get Stonehell done.

1 – Find a name for Ol’ Nameless: Finding a name for Ol’ Nameless was top priority when I wrote out these resolutions. Although it took a little time, Ol’ Nameless eventually became Gloomrisk just in time to be abandoned. There’s still a good dungeon waiting in Gloomrisk and I’ve been careful not to borrow very much at all from it for Stonehell. One of these days I will return to Gloomrisk and, with therapy, make it a happy, well-adjusted dungeon. Resolution Success!

Final Results for 2009 Resolutions: 6 resolutions kept, 5 failed, 1 draw. It could have been much worse.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Dungeon Alphabet is in My Hands

Christmas Eve brought a surprise of Santa-like proportions – a box containing my author’s copies of the Dungeon Alphabet arrived on my front porch. These were shipped directly to me from the printers, so I got them extremely early. The commercial release should be available through distributors by mid-January, so if you’ve pre-ordered or are waiting to see it on the shelves to pick it up, the wait is almost over.

It’s a surreal experience to hold the finished book in my hands. This whole process began over a year ago and, unlike Stonehell Dungeon, I was divorced from the publishing process. The book appeared almost by magic after my writing portions were completed. I’m obviously biased but it’s a good book. Of course, it will be up to you kind folks to prove me right and I’m looking forward to hearing what people have to say about it.

Most of my author’s copies are earmarked for various individuals, but I may hold on to one copy and do something special with it here on SoTPR. I’ll see what my options are and I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, I’ve got some reading to do.

More Stonehell Coverage

Two more reviews of Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls have appeared online. Jerry Stratton of The Bibylon Broadsheet talks about his impressions of the book here, and the Circle of Dar Janix provides a midway report on the book over here. Good things are said all around.

Remember that Lulu is still having its 20% discount offer. Use the code “HOHOHO” on checkout to save through December 31st. Even if you don’t pick up my book, there are many fine old school RPG products available, all of which could use your business.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

God Jul and Tend to Your Nisse!

I wasn’t planning on doing a post for today, but I remembered I had to remind you folks about a very serious subject before this evening: Remember to leave porridge out for your nisse!

For those of you confused, allow me to explain. Growing up in a Norwegian-American family, Christmas time always herald the return of the nissen around the house. Atop pictures and amongst everyday items would be found tiny men wearing red stocking caps. Many resembled tiny Santa Clauses, but usually only because of their white beards and red caps. Others bore a resemblance to elves or gnomes. The more you looked, the more you saw of these little creatures. They were the nissen or “household elves.”

In Scandinavian folklore, they are magical beings who live in barns and watch over farms. Their real world origins lie in the pre-Christian notions of ancestor worship, but, like many other pagan aspects, the nissen hung around long after the Christianization of Scandinavia in folktales and cultural tradition. From the 1840s on, the nissen became associated with Christmas and are commonly found as household decorations or taking on the role of julenisse (Santa Claus) and therefore shamefully putting the Yule Goat out of a job (we’re a strange people, we of Scandinavian descent).

While the nisse was a helpful creature, he was easily insulted and offending a nisse could lead to serious calamities and even death around the farm. In order to keep your nisse happy, you’d best be sure to leave a bowl of porridge with a pat of butter on it out in the barn on Christmas Eve. Failing to do this simple task each year could have dangerous repercussions.

So, even if you’re not Scandinavian, Christian, or even a farmer, why take any chances? Leave a bowl of porridge out just in case you’ve got a nisse hanging around…

Nisse
No. Enc: 1 (1d4 on rare occasions)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 150’ (50’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2+1
Attacks: 1 (fists)
Damage: 1d6+3
Save: E4
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: None (or porridge)

A nisse (plural: nisser or nissen) is magical creature resembling a short human male. Nisse stand between 6” and 3’ tall, dresses in homespun garments, often has a long white or grey beard, and always wears a red stocking cap. Nisse watch over farmsteads, primarily looking out for the livestock, but guarding the farmer and his family as well if treated properly. Some believe the nisse to be the physical reincarnation of the farm’s original owner come back to watch over his property. The nisse most often dwells in the barn, but can occasionally be found in attics and lofts, provided those spaces are not too tidy. A few especially adventurous nisser take up residence aboard ships and are known as a skibsnisse. Despite his small size, a nisse possesses incredible strength (STR of 18) and can easily manage large animals and big hay bales. As magical creatures, they are only affected by enchanted weapons and spells.

Like many other “house spirits,” nissen assist the farmer by tending to the farm’s animals and performing helpful tasks. As a solitary creature, the nisse does not like to be disturbed in his job and will likely attempt to drive away any who disrupt his duties by trickery or fright (blowing out candles and lanterns or hissing at the interloper from the dark are common responses). Those unwise enough not to let the nisse be can count on a good ear boxing or being evicted bodily from the barn. In worse case scenarios, a nisse can become invisible at will. The farmer’s dog is often tormented by the nisse until it learns to keep its distance from the little man.

So long as the nisse is not insulted (see below) and his privacy respected, he is a valuable ally to the farmer. However, should he ever be upset, the nisse will cause calamity around the farmstead. Small slights against a nisse might result in animals being moved in the night (often ending up in the strangest places), having their tails tied together, the tangling of tack and harnesses, or sometimes a sound beating at his tiny hands. If greatly offended, however, a nisse can sicken animals, cause crops to fail, or start small fires. Sometimes family members are even slain.

Nisse are very traditional creatures and do not respond well to change. Altering the farm or the way it is operated is a surefire way to offend him, as is rudeness, urinating in the barn, mistreating his animal charges, swearing, or spilling hot liquids without shouting a warning. The greatest insult to a nisse, however, is failing to leave a bowl of porridge out for him on the night of the winter solstice. A pat of butter is placed atop the porridge to ensure the nisse’s continued good will towards the farmer.

For additional information:
Wikipedia
Christmas and the Nisse
The Farm Nisse
Encyclopedia Mythica
The History of Nisse
Monstropedia

New Stonehell Dungeon Review

Flynn has a review of Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls up on his blog. Check it out here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When Looking Back, Make Sure Not to Stumble

With less than a week and a half remaining in 2009, I’ve been in a naturally retrospective mood as of late. I’ve reread some of my earliest posts on this blog and have reexamined the resolutions I undertook at this time last year. A week of looking back on those resolutions and gauging my success, as well as anticipating next year, will commence after Christmas.

In rereading my earliest posts, I’m reminded of why this blog came into being and what I hoped to accomplish with it. At the start of this blog, I had experienced a very profound change in my life and I was looking to redirect my energies in a new direction. At the same time that I was casting about for something new to do, I discovered the burgeoning return to the origins of this hobby of ours. These two facets of my life synched together nicely, resulting in "The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope."

What I hoped to accomplish with this blog was straightforward. I wanted to make a modicum of support to the old school movement by contributing a few ideas to the many that were already being tossed around. That was my primary hope for the SoTPR. Secondly, I wanted to document my return to the hobby’s origins by way of the creation of a classic megadungeon. That complex would be my long-overdue gaming dissertation, allowing me to enter the ranks of the old masters with full credentials. And while I never expected anyone but a small group of future players to experience that dungeon firsthand, I impossibly dreamed that perhaps someday whatever creation I came up with would have some small recognition in the hobby at large.

I’m the first to be absolutely surprised when I achieve what I set out to do. Yet, it seems that I’ve done exactly that.

Despite a tendency towards self-deprecation, I can’t deny that I have made a contribution to this “thing of our” with this blog, my articles for both Fight On! and Knockspell, the release of Stonehell Dungeon, and the upcoming Dungeon Alphabet. Perhaps not as big of an impact as some, for there are many other creative souls involved with the OSR whose works renders mine a poor shadow, but one that I hope encourages others to throw their ideas into the communal pool as well.

While it has yet to be finished, Stonehell is developing into my final journeyman’s design project. Hopefully, I will be celebrating its completion at this time next year. And while I dare not image that Stonehell Dungeon has (or ever will have) the name recognition of Castle Greyhawk or Undermountain or Tegel Manor, it does have some product identity in this tiny demographic of ours.

Speaking of small niche demographics, over this past weekend, Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls broke the 150 copies sold mark, officially surpassing even my most grandiose dreams of how the book would be received. While 150 copies are only about 10% of a “real” gaming book’s print run, I’m ecstatic that so many of you have had faith in me (or your contemporaries’ reviews) to plunk down cash for your own copies. I think this says more about the integrity of the OSR community than it necessary says about the quality of the book. Nevertheless, I humbly thank you. I will do my best to not disappoint you with the sequel.

After looking back on the blog and my accomplishments since its inception, I’ve come to realization that I can stop now. Having done what I set out to do, I can cease writing these missive and concentrate on more sizable (and perhaps profitable) projects for the hobby without guilt or a lack of closure.

I won’t, however. I would miss having an instantaneous forum for sharing my more oddball ideas and the semi-regular connections this site allows me to maintain with the online role-playing community. I will maintain my lack of a rigid schedule for posting in the future though, as I am finding that certain larger gaming-related projects do occupy my a bigger percentage of my time than they did at the start of this blog. Additionally, I’m experiencing the irrational “publish or perish” fear that many beginning writers go through. I think that if I’m not working on my next supplement, I risk losing any momentum I’ve built in the past year.

This is likely to be the only post for the week here. I’m in the final stages of a long-promised article for Knockspell and I’m laying groundwork for another unnamed project. I’d like to spend the holidays doing as little role-playing writing as possible, and concentrate on the opportunity to play during the week ahead. So let me wish a Merry Christmas to those of you celebrating this week and a “I’ll happily see the rest of you next week” to everyone else.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Command Words

If you write a blog long enough, the thrill of checking daily traffic reports fades over time. I’ve long since passed that point, and now rarely check my Analytics page more than twice a month. Since I’m trying to update my blog list, however, I took the time to do a prolonged analysis of my monthly traffic to see who’s linking to me and what blogs have sprouted up since I last took much notice.

While doing so, a few choice search keywords phrases caught my eye, and I took an overlong look at that particular section for the first time. Some of the keywords that led visitors here were humorous, while others were mind-boggling. It being a slow Friday, I’ve decided to share a few of my favorites, along with the color commentary that their appearance brought to mind.

sake home brew "yellow mold": I did some home-brewing when I was in college (“It’s got four ingredients, one of which is water! How tough can it be?"), but I never had to utilize a potentially lethal form of dungeon mold to get a drunk on. I have newfound respect for the home sake maker.

rabbit vs sheeps tavern: This sounds to me like a pub located on the outskirts of the Hundred Acre Wood that caters to football hooligans.

quitting 4e returning old school d&d: Whether this is someone doing research on the OSR or a cry for help, I don’t know. I’m sure Alcoholics Anonymous experiences a similar phenomenon.

oakland raiders haters stencils: This one came a surprise. Let me state for the record that I’m actually a Raiders fan, despite being a New Yorker. When I was a kid, the Oakland Raiders had such an evil mystique that I was drawn to them and have remained a fan ever since. Once upon it time, it seemed that the only things to survive a nuclear holocaust would be cockroaches and the Raiders. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my fandom on this blog before, so how it got associated with the Raiders (and fans perennially disappointed enough by them to become “Raider Haters”) is unknown to me. And yes, I know they suck so please don’t bother leaving comments informing me of this.

miasmic theory and its premises in psyche: What? Huh? I’m going to have to look this one up myself because it sounds pretty interesting.

medieval torch hire: Somebody out there is pricing their next dungeon exploration. They should try spearmenportersandtorchbearers.com for price quotes and availability.

martin burbur quotes imagine yourself: If you’re looking for information on Martin Burber, you’ve come to the wrong place.

eat dragon brain dungeons and dragons: Just when you think dragons have enough problems with hobbits, dwarves, and knights in shining armor coming to their caves to steal their hoard and dice them into hamburger, now they’ve got brain-eating zombies to deal with.

dungeon porn 1987: Like the Martin Burber Guy, you, sir, will not find what you’re looking for here. But once you do find it, please let me know. I really want to know what was so special about dungeon porn of the 1987 vintage as opposed to other years.

dragon made of rope: On one hand, I get a mental image of a Peter, Paul, and Mary-esque dragon conjured up by “smoking rope.” On the other hand, a dragon constructed of rope is an neat visual and one I’ll be filing away for later use.

damage caused by dadly nightshed: Egad! It’s the dadly nightshed! “You kids clean up your room or I’ll lock you inside me out in the garden until dawn!”

deck of jeff rients fight on: In some forgotten chamber on the lowest level of Stonehell Dungeon lies the fabed deck of jeff rients. I’m not sure what this magical item does just yet, but it’s going to be awesome.

"stonehell dungeon" torrent: I hope you rot in Hell, you too-cheap-to-spend-$6.50 sonofabitch!

dunwich mushroom gills mouth: Believe it or not, this is the #1 search keyword for the SoTPR. I kid you not. Sure there are plenty of variations on rope, pole, society, and whatnot, but this particular combination has been used for 97 visits. This must be either some strange spam search spider doings or a whole lot of people where as disturbed by the scenario in H.P. Lovecraft’s Dunwich: Return to the Forgotten Village as I was.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Frog Points to Treasure

It sometimes pays to listen to voices in your head. Take today, for instance. Along with many other procrastinating shoppers, I was out in search of presents for my nephew this afternoon. He’ll be turning one just after the holidays and I’m determined to make sure he has a few of the traditional childhood touchstones scattered across his early years. I also have a personal code of honor that prohibits me from buying toys that make intentional noise or music for friends and family. These two factors determined that I was going to buy classic toys for the little tyke’s first Christmas.

As I pondered what exactly those classic toys should be, a voice spoke up from my unconscious and told me, “Buy him a funny-looking stuffed frog.” Pausing, I considered these words. That voice sometimes gets me in a lot of trouble, but its success to failure ratio has been pretty good over the last two years. A stuffed frog it would be, then.

After finding a suitably comic Animal Alley batrachian at Toys R’ Us, I consulted the voice again. “What now, oh voice of wisdom? What should we get?” From the mists of my mind burbled, “Wooden blocks.” I inquired whether it meant the alphabetical kind or the colorful building variety. “Figure it out yourself, genius,” came the response. Right, I guess I would know the proper wooden blocks when I found them.

The problem is that it’s difficult to find your standard wooden blocks nowadays. Everything’s either plastic, branded, or both. When the big chains failed me, I tried a few smaller venues that might cater to the less mainstream wants of the shopping public, but with no better results. Luckily, someone vaguely remembered seeing some at the local bargain books outlet.

Normally, I avoid this place. Although it is very close to my home and offers 60% off of the normal cover price on remainder books, it’s one of those overly-helpful places of business. I was once asked if I needed help finding anything ten times in eight minutes. And while customer service seems to be a dying art, there is only so much help a man can stand. For my nephew, however, I was willing to run a gauntlet of cheery store associates.

I arrived at the store and, after a few thrown elbows and a couple of rabbit punches to the swarming sales folk, I made my way to the pile of assorted wooden toys that lay against the store’s far wall. Although there were wooden puzzles, wooden stamps, a wooden train, and even a wooden snake, there were no blocks to be found. Defeated, I made a fighting withdrawal towards the exit, dumping a shelf of Twilight hard covers on top of a smiling, tow-headed girl who wanted to tell me about the discount on cookbooks.

Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw it. Surely it couldn’t be. Not in this shopping hell.

But it was.

Standing on one of the three shelves that comprises the store’s gaming section (exclusively 3.5 books and 4th edition quick starts) was a copy of the Arduin Trilogy compilation by Emperors Choice. I was so shocked that two book sellers almost managed to coax a confession from me as to where I had heard about their great values before I snapped back to my senses. After rendering them unconscious with a pair of dual-wielded R.A. Salvatore novels, I grabbed this most unusual treasure from the shelves, dove under a trio of Santa hat-wearing employees offering free gift-wrapping, and rushed to the counter.

Although books are usually around 60% off of the cover price, the Arduin Trilogy sported a yellow label that was good for an additional 15% mark-down. When all was said and done, and the flash-bang explosions allowed me to escape, I paid $13 for a $50 book. And, oh what a book it is.

My nephew hooked up his uncle with a Christmas present of his own today. He certainly doesn’t know it, and I have no idea how this all came to be, but I’m thankful for it. The only thing I do know for certain is that somebody has a humungous set of wooden blocks coming to him from Amazon.com for Christmas this year and one grateful uncle who’s going to be building ancient temples ruins with him.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gadzooks! It's Stonehell and Death Frost Doom on the Offical D&D Podcast

James Raggi caught this one. With my less than comprehensive awareness of the podcasting field, the fact that both Stonehell Dungeon and Death Frost Doom received a mention on the official D&D podcast this past week would have slipped under my radar. I mentioned just a week or two ago that I forget sometimes that I'm not the deranged madman ranting in his garret that I often envision myself as. It's events like this that dispel that illusion and remind me that, even if I don't see them in person, there are people out there taking an interest in what I do. That's all sorts of humbling, scary, and crazy cool.

Three Things About the Dungeon Alphabet

In no particular order, here are three bullet points regarding The Dungeon Alphabet:

On February 4th, 2010, the next issue of Realms of Fantasy Magazine hits the newstands, and a review of The Dungeon Alphabet will appear in that issue. I expect to spend that morning standing on the curb with the blind newstand agent, awaiting a bale of Realms of Fantasy magazines hurled from the back of a passing truck.

Zachary Houghton of the RPG Blog II awarded a gold medal to the DA as Best Fantasy Product of 2009. If such accolades continue, I'm going to have to get my chainmail tuxedo dry-cleaned as a contingency.

Lastly, and most importantly if for no other reason than it means that hype man Mike Curtis is getting close to ending his stint, according to the recent news on the Goodman Games website, The Dungeon Alphabet has been sent to the printers. While there are few certainties in this life, if all goes well, we're looking at mid-January for the book to reach the shelves of your local games' bazaar. But, just in case trucks are attacked by Zuagirs, maybe you should pre-order your copy now to be safe and get entered in the drawing to win a copy of the book autographed by Erol Otus.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Save 20% on Stonehell Dungeon

Lulu has announced a site-wide discount of 20% off any purchase between now and Dec. 31st. Just enter the code "HOHOHO" during the check-out process to receive the discount. I've confirmed that this code applies to my own book, so if you were looking for an excuse to pick up a copy (or yet another copy), consider this your green light to proceed.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New B/X Class: Freebooter

The idea for a freebooter class came to me while I was writing Stonehell Dungeon Supplement One: The Brigand Caves. I wanted a highwayman-type class that was more Fafhrd than Gray Mouser, more Conan than Cugel. Although I solved my dilemma by updating the old bandit “monster type,” the idea of a tougher rogue remained. It’s bound to not be to everyone’s liking, but I’ll offer it up for possible inclusion in your own campaign. The experience point costs are closer to Moldvay/Cook than Labyrinth Lord. Those running Labyrinth Lord may wish to raise the cost of 2nd level by 100-250 experience points and recalculate the level costs from there.

Freebooter
Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: STR
Hit Dice: d6
Maximum Level: None
Attack as: Thief
Save as: Cleric

More rough and rowdy than their city-dwelling counterparts, freebooters are outlaws who ply their trade in the unsettled wilds. Preying on trade caravans, merchant ships, and innocent travelers alike, freebooters run the gamut from base villains to bandits with hearts of gold. Freebooters tend to be more hale and hearty than thieves due to their outdoor living, receiving slightly better hit dice and saving throws. Freebooters are also not restricted to leather armor and may wear up to chainmail and use shields without restriction. They may use any weapon in battle except for pole-arms.

Although not as adept as true thieves, freebooters do possess a handful of thief abilities. They may move silently, hide in shadows, climb sheer surfaces, and backstab as if a thief of equal level. They freely use the magic items they plunder and are able to utilize magical weapons and armor, rings and potions, miscellaneous magic, and protective scrolls. Unlike regular thieves, freebooters do no gain the ability to read languages and use magic scrolls at any level.

Reaching 9th level:Freebooters may not build castles and strongholds like other characters. However, upon reaching 9th level, a freebooter may assemble a band of outlaws. In order to do so, the freebooter must establish a base of operations (a cave hideout, a sailing ship, a desert oasis, etc.) Once established, he attracts 2-12 1st level freebooters who flock to character for a share of plunder. These thugs will be (mostly) loyal and will not be replaced if they should leave or die.

Table A: Freebooter Level Progression

Freebooter Level Progression

Level

Title

Experience

Hit Dice (d6)

1

Thug

0

1

2

Brute

1225

2

3

Outlaw

2500

3

4

Bandit

5000

4

5

Brigand

10,000

5

6

Scoundrel

21,000

6

7

Highwayman

42,000

7

8

Freebooter

94,000

8

9

Freebooter King (Queen)

188,000

9

10

10th level Freebooter King (Queen)

301,000

+2 hp only *

11

11th level Freebooter King (Queen)

414,000

+4 hp only *

12

12th level Freebooter King (Queen)

527,000

+6 hp only *

* Constitution bonus no longer applies.
113,000 experience points per level for each additional level beyond the 12th.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fight On! #7 For the Holidays


Deep under the misty mountains, the proudest and toughest keep Fighting On! Join us in those days of blood and plunder by picking up a copy of issue 7, dedicated to M.A.R. Barker and featuring EIGHT adventures, tables, settings, reviews, encounters, monsters, spells, magic items, new classes, non-canonical expansions to Empire of the Petal Throne, and much, much more! With art and articles by Akrasia, Mark Allen, Lee Barber, Baz Blatt, Calithena, Jeff Dee, Krista Donnelly, Allan Grohe, Zach Houghton, Gabor Lux, James Maliszewski, Peter Mullen, Stefan Poag, Alex Schroeder, Anthony Stiller, and more, this is one of the most beautiful issues we've produced. Take your game to the next level and buy it today!You can get the new issue at http://www.lulu.com/content/8047414 .

Table of Contents
Legend of the Dullahan (Matthew Riedel)……………….3
Creepies & Crawlies (Zach Houghton & Douglas Cox).....7
Temple of the Sea Demon (Gabor Lux)…………………9
Knightly Orders (Robert “Treebore” Miller)…………....14
The Shaman (James Maliszewski)………………………16
Thrazar (Steve Zieser)………………………………….19
The Devil’s in the Details: Pé Chói (Baz Blatt)…………20
Former Gnomish Caves (Alex Schröder)……………….25A
Part of the Tsuru’úm (Baz Blatt)……………………..26
Barony of Northmarch (Coffee)…………………….….27
Rad Expanse of the Broken Moon (Brian Isikoff)……...28
Song of Tranquility (Jerry Stratton)………………….…29
Tables for Fables (Age of Fable)……………………….35
Maze Master’s Miscellany (Beaudry, Random, & Rients).36
Grognard’s Grimoire (Ragnorakk & Mistretta)…………37
Beware the Lord of Eyes (Allan T. “Grodog” Grohe)….38
The Forgotten Entity (Geoffrey McKinney)…………....44
Mooning Ixtandraz (Peter Schmidt Jensen)…………….45
Wandering Harlot Table (Adam Thornton)………….…46
From Tekumel’s Underground (Aaron Somerville)……..48
The Search for Lord Chúrisan (Krista Donnelly)……….52
Taking it with you (Lawson Reilly)……………………..61
The Duchy of Briz (Akrasia)…………………….……...63
Darkness Beneath: The Fane of Salicia (Lee Barber)…....66
The Four M’s (Calithena)………………………………77
Critical Misfortune (Clovis Cithog)……………………..78
One Charge Left (Lee Barber)………………………….79
One Time at D&D Camp… (Harnish & Robbins)……..80
Finding Players (James Edward Raggi IV)………….…...82
Merlyn’s Mystical Mirror (various)……………………...85
Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (Green & Calithena)....88

Front cover by Peter Mullen. Back cover by Brad Johnson. Fight On! and Erol Otus logos by Jeff Rients. M.A.R. Barker photograph by Giovanna Fregni. Interior art and cartography by Mark Allen (portfolio.marjasall.com: 3,5,29,33,37,38,42,44,48,49,56,57,60,62), Matthew Riedel (4,7), Black Blade Publishing (blackbladepublishing.com: 5,37), Dei Games (deigames.com, 6), Anthony Stiller (7,40,41,42,43), Lee Barber (ghosttower.crithitcomics.com: 8 (logo),66,68,71,72,73,74,75,77,79), Kelvin Green (junkopia.net/kelvinsdirtybits/main.html: 8,88), Otherworld Miniatures (otherworld.me.uk: 9), Gabor Lux (10,11,12,13), Bill Hooks (14,15,36), Tita’s House of Games (tekumel.com: 15), Steve Zieser (19), Kesher (23,51,59), Alex Schröder (25,43,54,58,84), Baz Blatt (26), Coffee (27), Brian Isikoff (28), Jerry Stratton (www.godsmonsters.com; 30,31,32,33), Age of Fable (35), Martin “Istarlömé” Gillette (40), Peter Jensen (45,88), Jeff Dee (50), Talzhemir (51), Mikko Torvinen (64), Akrasia (65), Robert S. Conley (66), Ben Robbins (80), James Forest & Larry Whitsel (81), Stefan Poag (84), M.A.R. Barker (85), Joe Wetzel (86), and Eric Bergeron & Rob Kuntz (87).

There was simply too much cool this issue for me to make it into the pages, so you'll have to wait for FO! #8 to see what I had in store for you. But, if you're looking for your MC fix to go along with your FO! jones, this would be a great opportunity to order a print copy of Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls along with your copy of Fight On! #7 and bundle them for shipping. Just a suggestion...

Also, save an additional 10% off of Fight On! by entering the code HUMBUG during check out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Dungeon Alphabet Pre-Order Offer

It’s been announced on the Goodman Games site, so I’ll reiterate it here. Everyone who pre-orders a copy of the Dungeon Alphabet will be eligible to win a collector’s copy of the book autographed by cover artist and role-playing luminary, Erol Otus.

Any pre-order made through local game stores and the Goodman Games’ online store will be eligible for the drawing, even those orders placed prior to this announcement. The offer expires on February 1st, 2010, and the drawing will be held March 1, 2010. A copy of the flyer/order form can be downloaded here and contains all the details.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Inspirational Passages: The Cosmic Champion

Through a Glass, Darkly

Through the travail of the ages,
Midst the pomp and toil of war,
I have fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star.

In the form of many people
In all panoplies of time
Have I seen the luring vision
Of the Victory Maid, sublime.

I have battled for fresh mammoth,
I have warred for pastures new,
I have listed to the whispers
When the race trek instinct grew.

I have known the call to battle
In each changeless changing shape
From the high souled voice of conscience
To the beastly lust for rape.

I have sinned and I have suffered,
Played the hero and the knave;
Fought for belly, shame, or country,
And for each have found a grave.

I cannot name my battles
For the visions are not clear,
Yet, I see the twisted faces
And I feel the rending spear.

Perhaps I stabbed our Savior
In His sacred helpless side.
Yet, I've called His name in blessing
When after times I died.

In the dimness of the shadows
Where we hairy heathens warred,
I can taste in thought the lifeblood;
We used teeth before the sword.

While in later clearer vision
I can sense the coppery sweat,
Feel the pikes grow wet and slippery
When our Phalanx, Cyrus met.

Hear the rattle of the harness
Where the Persian darts bounced clear,
See their chariots wheel in panic
From the Hoplite's leveled spear.

See the goal grow monthly longer,
Reaching for the walls of Tyre.
Hear the crash of tons of granite,
Smell the quenchless eastern fire.

Still more clearly as a Roman,
Can I see the Legion close,
As our third rank moved in forward
And the short sword found our foes.

Once again I feel the anguish
Of that blistering treeless plain
When the Parthian showered death bolts,
And our discipline was in vain.

I remember all the suffering
Of those arrows in my neck.
Yet, I stabbed a grinning savage
As I died upon my back.

Once again I smell the heat sparks
When my Flemish plate gave way
And the lance ripped through my entrails
As on Crecy's field I lay.

In the windless, blinding stillness
Of the glittering tropic sea
I can see the bubbles rising
Where we set the captives free.

Midst the spume of half a tempest
I have heard the bulwarks go
When the crashing, point blank round shot
Sent destruction to our foe.

I have fought with gun and cutlass
On the red and slippery deck
With all Hell aflame within me
And a rope around my neck.

And still later as a General
Have I galloped with Murat
When we laughed at death and numbers
Trusting in the Emperor's Star.

Till at last our star faded,
And we shouted to our doom
Where the sunken road of Ohein
Closed us in it's quivering gloom.

So but now with Tanks a'clatter
Have I waddled on the foe
Belching death at twenty paces,
By the star shell's ghastly glow.

So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.

And I see not in my blindness
What the objects were I wrought,
But as God rules o'er our bickerings
It was through His will I fought.

So forever in the future,
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter,
But to die again, once more.

- by General George S. Patton, Jr.
The idea of the Eternal Champion or a castaway on Time's winds has been turning in the back of my head for several months now. I'm of two minds as to which direction I wish to go with this idea, but after stumbling upon Patton's poem, I realize that it's a concept I most definately wish to put my own spin on. The above bit of verse is perhaps the best piece of inspiration literature I've found regarding the subject not written by someone with the surname of Moorcock.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Stonehell Purchasing Opportunity for Long Island Area Gamers

Yesterday, I dropped the two remaining copies of Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls from my personal stash off at Brothers Grim Games and Hobbies in Selden, NY. They are autographed and I believe are marked at the same price as their Lulu brethren. If you’re in the Long Island area and have been meaning to pick up a copy of the book, this is a perhaps never-to-be-repeated opportunity to grab a printed version without the need to pay (and wait) for shipping. There’s only two available on the shelf (or at least there were yesterday), so it’s first come, first served.

Custom Handwritten Fonts for Your Campaign World

For many years now, I’ve been labeling the various maps of my campaign world with a specialized style of handwriting I call “Shaky Hand.” It is a purely creative adornment, but one which makes my maps easily identifiable as my own fantastical creations. In addition to Shaky Hand, I’ve created a customized alphabet or three to use in ciphers, lost languages, and other alphabetical conundrums. Like Shaky Hand, these alphabets reside in my commonplace books when not needed, requiring me to reproduce them by hand each time I need to create the various player handout or other props that I sometimes use.

Over the break, I discovered fontcapture.com, which converts handwriting into True Type fonts. The service is free and requires only that the creator have access to a PDF reader application and a scanner. With these, he can upload a sample of his own handwriting that is then quickly turned into a True Type version. Although intended for signatures and other personalized forms of correspondence, if you’re like me, you quickly see the role-playing applications this service provides.

Intrigued by the possibilities, I took fontcapture.com out for a trial run. The process from start to finish only took about five minutes, and I now have two versions of my custom alphabets available for use in Word and Photoshop, which is pretty much all I foresee myself ever needing it for. The more perfectionist-types might find the process takes a little longer as they fiddle with their handwritten font sheets to produce the cleanest and most uniform version of their handwriting, but even ten or fifteen minutes of fine tuning will leave you with a completely unique font for use with your own role-playing game creations for years to come. If you enjoy making maps and other player handouts, and want a little spice to flavor them with, you must give fontcapture.com a try.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I’m Back…Sort Of

I don’t know about you, but that break went by fast. At this point, I’ll take any free time I can get my hands on and, despite sharing my downtime with my birthday (which becomes less and less about me each year) and a national holiday, I did grab a few afternoon naps to try and fill in the bottomless pit of sleep deprivation I carry about with me. After managing to squeeze in a Toshirô Mifune triple-feature, it wasn’t too shabby of a temporary vacation.

Although I intended to have a period of relatively design-free time in my immediate future, I plan and the universe laughs. I’m currently working on a new project for another party, and I expect this to take up a decent chunk of my off-hours for the foreseeable future. Since this project isn’t for me, it gets pushed to the top of the “To Do” list. Once I’ve got a fair handle on it, I’ll be back to addressing concerns closer to home (like this blog). In the meantime, I’ve got a few posts scheduled, but I can’t see myself getting back into a regular schedule until after the holidays at the very earliest. I ask for your indulgence in this regard…again.

Stonehell Dungeon is still continuing to sell. Although it wasn’t my intention to release the book to coincide with the beginning of the holiday shopping season, I won’t knock that happy coincidence. To those of you’ve who bought copies since I last extended my gratitude, “thank you.” I’ve read your comments and emails, and, even if I don’t respond in person, I’m extremely pleased that so many how found the book to their liking and thankful that you took the effort to let me know.

I know I’ve been lacking about updating my blog list. Since I’ve started this digital endeavor, there’s been quite a few OSR blogs that have risen and fallen, and I’ve been meaning to bring my list up to date to reflect the casualties and reinforcements. I’m long overdue, but I hope to do some culling and adding in the near future. If you’ve contacted me in the past and I’ve failed to include you, have patience – your time is coming.

Stonehell Dungeon Review en Español with Pictures

Today, the Spanish gaming group, La Marca del Este (The East Mark), has a photo review of Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls on the blog, Aventuras en la Marca del Este. I received a very nice email from them yesterday letting me know about the review beforehand. You can read the review and check out the photos here. Here's the Babelfish translation for Anglophones.

I often forget that I’m not lodged in a garret somewhere, spewing these obscure thoughts out via parchment and a big, feathery quill. People actually do read some of them, and those people are located throughout the world. It’s only at times like this that I remember how plugged in I am to a larger audience. It’s perhaps for the best that way, too. My illusions of obscurity and locality prohibit me from overanalyzing what I write and they keep my thoughts honest.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Words

I can be peculiar when it comes to using words. Some might even consider my predilection for using certain words properly as snobbish. Take the word “awesome” for instance. The way that word is used in our current culture makes me cringe. It’s too great a word to be bandied about the way it is. “Awesome” should be reserved for events that truly inspire awe in their witnesses. The birth of a child is awesome. The rising of Atlantis from the seas would be awesome. First contact with extraterrestrial life is awesome. Scoring tickets for a sold-out show or finding a parking spot are not events worthy of the use of ” awesome.”

With this in mind, let me say that your people are awesome.

The entire time I was writing Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls, I had a number in mind. It was not a gigantic number, nor was it an easy-to-hit mark. It was a number based on a reasonable prediction of what the book might do over time given that it’s basically an overblown vanity project aimed at a specific niche of a niche customer base. If I hit that number at all, I’d consider the book to be a modest personal success and worth the time and effort it took to create it.

Forty-eight hours after the book debuted, I reached that number. Two days is all that it took.

I’m absolutely blown away by the fact that so many of you decided to open your wallets and take a risk on an unproven book by an unproven author. I’m doubly gobsmacked by the positive reception the book has received from those who’ve had a chance to read it. To everyone who has bought a copy of the book (electronic or perfect-bound), I offer my deepest and sincerest thanks. You are all awesome in my book, and that’s not me using the term casually.

Now that the book is out, I’m reveling in the sudden quiet time I find myself with. I thought that I might find myself not knowing what to do with this newly rediscovered free time, but that’s not proving to be a problem. I took the weekend to start catching up on various loose threads and promises I’ve accrued over the last few months, and I’m likely to continue this trend throughout the rest of the month.

With both my birthday and Thanksgiving occurring in the week ahead, I’m taking the rest of the month off from the Society to enjoy this temporary oasis of tranquility before the next crunch hits. The first tendrils are already starting to twine their way into my creative attic space, so I’m taking five while I can. Posting will resume after December 1st. Right now I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the space next to my computer does not contain a copy of the Labyrinth Lord rulebook, a sheaf of charts, a handful of dice, and a spiral-bound notebook. It’s a good absence, but one I know will be short-lived.

Let me wish an early “Happy Thanksgiving” to those who will be celebrating it, another “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You” to everyone who has bought a copy of the book, and a final “Thank You” to everyone who makes the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope a regular stop on their journeys through the ether. I have a lot to be thankful this year because of all of you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls is now available

For sale on Lulu: http://stores.lulu.com/poleandrope

134 pp. perfect-bound book: $13.00
PDF download: $6.50
Six page preview PDF: Free
Supplement One: The Brigand Caves: Free

Review available at: Grognardia

Stonehell Dungeon is a classic-style megadungeon, filled with enough monsters, traps, weirdness, and treasure to keep you gaming for a long, long time. Explore over 700 rooms, encounter more than 40 new monsters, and discover 18 mysterious magical items – and that’s just in the dungeon’s upper half!

Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls details the first six levels of a megadungeon intended for use with the Labyrinth Lord™ role-playing game, but is easily adaptable to most early versions of the original fantasy role-playing game and its retro-clones. Featuring the art of J.A. D’Andrea, Lee Barber, Marcelo Paschoalin, and Ralph Pasucci, Stonehell Dungeon gives the game master all the necessary information to run his players through the dungeon, while offering enormous opportunities to customize and expand on the site.

The monsters of Stonehell Dungeon are waiting to meet you. Won’t you come in?

Artists vs. Ninjas

The podcast currently appearing on Ninja Mountain Scrolls features a round table discussion of old school gaming art. Sitting around that table are Erol Otus, Jeff Easley, Stefan Poag, and Joseph Goodman. You can bet that The Dungeon Alphabet gets mentioned at least once, but anyone with an interest in the development of fantasy art through the early days of TSR should take a listen.

Check out the podcast here.

"At my signal, unleash hell."

Soon.

The Obscure Octavo: Thuggee Bear

It’s amazing what a change of mental scenery will do for the creative process. Sometimes just changing genres for even a short period can result in unexpected mental leaps.

I mentioned last post that my character was adamant that the body count in the CoC game could be explained away as the actions of an angry bear. When we found a body that was suffering from both a massive bite wound AND signs of strangulation, that theory began to unravel (hence the “bear and boa constrictor working in tandem” alteration to the hypothesis). Another investigator proposed the counter-argument that we might be dealing with a bear armed with a garrote – a culprit I then dubbed “Thuggee Bear” after Antonio Fargas’ character on “Starsky and Hutch.”

It turns out that a strangulating bear isn’t a bad idea for a Mutant Future beastie…

Thuggee Bear
No. Enc: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: 3 (2 claws, bite) or 4 (tentacles)
Damage: 1d3+3/1d3+3/1d6+3 or 1d3 (per tentacle)
Save: F3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: VI

Thuggee bears are mutated grizzly bears that have grown to prodigious size. In addition to their huge stature, two pairs of tentacles grow from their shoulders and their fur is a bright yellow. These massive ursine monsters are prone to anger and it is only their near-blindness that allows the occaisonal victim to escape a thuggee bear attack alive.

Thuggee bears attack first with their 10’ long tentacles. These tentacles constrict victims on a successful attack and deal 1d3 points of damage each successive round. For each tentacle constricting an opponent, the victim suffers a cumulative attack penalty of -1. A constricting tentacle can be cut off if a total of six or more points of damage are dealt with one blow. Once a victim is entwined by its tentacles, a thuggee bear will drag it close to unleash it deadly claw/claw/bite upon it. It gains a +2 bonus to attack any creature wrapped in its tentacles with its claws or bite (thus nullifying its vision impairment modifier).

Mutations: aberrant form (tentacles), gigantism (19’ feet tall), vision impairment

While many travelers claim that a thuggee bear is the worst example of altered bear stock roaming Ruint Ert, a recent tri-D photo taken along the shores of the ‘Cific seem to indicate something much worse stalks the lands of Gogun:

Picture from Cult youth

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lionel Price Will Not Write the Great American Novel

Yesterday, I took a break from the sword & sorcery genre and ventured down to my FLGS for Cthulhu Day.Despite a late night with my regular gaming group, it had been too long since I played CoC and I looked forward to Sanity shattering horrors and a high body count. I was not discouraged on either count.

I arrived promptly at 11 AM to make sure I snagged a spot in one of the CoC sessions, and spent the next several hours playing Lionel Price, a burly writer who was quite convinced most of the shenanigans of the scenario could be explained away as the actions of a rampaging bear (later amended to “a bear and a boa-constrictor working together”). Alas, poor Mr. Price’s bear theory proved to be horribly wrong and I became the first PC casualty of the game.

It’s been far, far too long since I played Call of Cthulhu, but the mechanics are so simple to remember, I was back in the swing of things in minutes. If I had any difficulty at all, it was that I was hesitant to rely on the use of skills to resolve anything. I kept asking probing questions or double-checking the scant evidence we accumulated to see if we overlooked something critical instead. It’s been so long since I played a skill-based RPG that I kept forgetting you were supposed to use those things once in awhile. No matter though; skills wouldn’t have saved me from the tentacle/maw combo that ingested our budding writer.

The scenario we played was entitled “Engine Trouble,” and will be appearing in an upcoming publication from Miskatonic River Press. The scenario’s author and MRP President, Tom Lynch, acted as our Keeper for the game. I won’t say much about the story other than it started with a blocked bridge, a corpse, and a thunderstorm, and progressed quickly downhill from there. It was surprisingly combat-heavy for a classic era CoC game, which surprised me. Reexamining it, however, I see that that was probably for the best for a one-off game store run, but I’m still more used to slow, methodical investigation followed by sudden violence, insanity, and death when it come to CoC.

However, my main problem with the afternoon was not the scenario, the TPK that it ended in, or the more violence than expected. Instead, I was unlucky enough to have to endure the session with the type of gamer I detest more than any other you’d care to mention: the pedantic loud-mouth.

I’d rather sit next to the socially inept gamer who smells like cat piss than have to play with a PLM. To make matters even more unpleasant, this particular PLM is one of the owners of the store – a fact which had escaped me up until today. I’d seen him in there from time to time before, but took him to be one of the usual social flotsam and jetsam that accumulate in such establishments.

So instead of having a great game with the four guys we had started off with (PLM was a late comer), I had to listen to this ass spout wisdom on such topic as the mechanics of a 1920’s engine and ninjutsu, and have the unwelcome revelation that he had predetermined that he’d be the hero of the scenario minutes after he joined in. A role he was so determined to fulfill that he actually shot one of the investigators (the cop) in order to get back possession of the scenario’s MacGuffin.

I had to pause here a minute before continuing because only by writing about it did I realize how much this guy grinded my gears today. I’m usually a pretty laid-back guy and I’ve been around the block enough times to realize there will always be these types of social misfits in the hobby. Goddamnit though, I hate it when stereotypes prove they’re based on fact. It’s because of people like this that I keep my participation in this hobby quiet more than anything else. It’s also one of the reasons I don’t play in more pick-up games. I hate to have to game with people like this more than once a decade or so. I take some solace in the fact that the cop shot the PLM in return, killing his character and removing any chance of him doing anything worthwhile to stop Armageddon and be the hero of the hour.

OK, moving on.

Other than PLM, I had a good time and it was nice to while away the afternoon in 1920s New England (a time and place I’ve expressed a fondness for in the past) rather than a gloomy dungeon set in a pseudo-medieval realm. Once Miskatonic River Press releases the book with “Engine Trouble” in it, I’ll probably be moved to pick up a copy of my own, if only to find out everything that was going on during that stormy autumn night along the Aylesbury Turnpike. In fact, today was enough of a reminder of how much fun CoC can be that I’d even consider playing in a semi-regular CoC game group. It sounded like there were some rumblings about getting one together at the game shop yesterday.

Unfortunately, it also sounded like the pedantic loud-mouth would be playing in those.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Down Darkened Streets

If the bishop’s seat was the spiritual heart of the community, the donjon, overshadowing the public square, was its secular nucleus. On its roofs, twenty-four hours a day, stood watchmen, ready to strike the alarm bells at the first sign of attack or fire. Below them lay the council chamber, where elders gathered to confer and vote; beneath that, the city archives; and, in the cellar, the dungeon and the living quarters of the hangman, who was kept far busier than any executioner today.

[…]

The donjon was the last line of defense, but it was the wall, the first line of defense, which determined the propinquity inside it. The smaller its circumference, the safer (and cheaper) the wall was. Therefore land within it was invaluable, and not an inch of it could be wasted. The twisting streets were as narrow as the breadth of a man’s shoulders, and pedestrians bore bruises from collisions with one another. There was no paving; shops opened directly into the streets, which were filthy; excrement, urine, and offal were simply flung out windows.

And it was easy to get lost. Sunlight rarely reached ground level, because the second story of each building always jutted out over the first, the third over the second, and the fourth and fifth stories over those lower. At the top, at the height approaching that of the great wall, burghers could actually shake hands with neighbors across the way. Rain fell rarely on pedestrians, for which they were grateful, and little air or light, for which they weren’t. At night the town was scary. Watchmen patrolled it – once clocks arrived they would call “One o’clock and all’s well!” – and heavy chains were stretched across street entrances to foil the flight of thieves. Nevertheless rogues lurked in dark corners.

A World Lit Only By Fire, pp. 47-48
The next time you sit down to sketch out a pseudo-medieval, fantasy city, try making the streets a little more twisted and cramped, instead of the broad ones we’re so used to. Those looking for an aboveground “dungeon” may also want to take note.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dungeon Alphabet Pre-Orders

I’ve been notified that The Dungeon Alphabet is available for pre-order over at the Goodman Games website. There will be a special pre-order offer announced later, but I’m not certain how much I can divulge about it at the moment. Stay tuned for further details as they clear the information embargo…

UPDATE: Since it has been asked and some of you might be hesitant to pre-order until the special offer is announced, I can say that the special offer will not affect anyone who pre-orders before the announcement is made. You won't be missing out on a special deal by ordering your copy now. Everyone who pre-orders a copy of the book will be equally eligible for what's to come. I hope this allays any fears in this regard.

The Stars Are Right Over Long Island

The readership of the SoTPR is worldwide, so I don’t mention regional events on this blog. However, since my local neighborhood game store has been very good to me over the past year (taking a huge amount of old game books off my hands, putting aside used materials they think I might be interested in, and already ordering a few copies of The Dungeon Alphabet for their shelves), I will attempt to throw a little business their way in case anyone in the Long Island vicinity is interested.

Sunday, November 15th, is Cthulhu Day at Brothers Grim Games & Collectables. There will be two Call of Cthulhu groups playing and a few pick-up Lovecraftian board and card games during the day. I believe things are tentatively schedule to kick off around 11:30 AM, but since the two Keepers doing the CoC demos are coming from out of the area, arrival times have not been confirmed for the RPG groups. I was told there would be more information available by Saturday. Contact information and the store’s location are listed below.

Email: brothersgrimgames@gmail.com
Phone # (631) 698-2805
1244 Middle Country Road,
Selden, NY, 11784

I will down there on Sunday trying to get into one of the CoC groups. If you’re in the area and feel up to some loss of Sanity, please come down and join me.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Truthful to Ourselves

Over the weekend, I had a moment that occurs to me every few years or so. I was proofing the Stonehell book, making sure that all the monsters and their loot were accounted for and that the traps were all in place, when the camera suddenly pulled back and gave me a broad glimpse at what I was doing. Immediately, the thought struck me that this is an incredibly goofy hobby we have.

I’m not knocking what we do, but a little self-honesty every now and then helps one keep from getting too wrapped up in this fantastical recreation we share. It also makes us more understanding of our non-gaming friends and loved ones as they try to grapple with this arcane pastime of ours, and struggle to understand what we exactly see in moving little figures around on a grid, rolling weird hunks of plastic, arguing over nonsense, and speaking in funny voices. Bless them, for they are a put upon people.

Lest you think I’m only pummeling our own pastime, I admit that most any recreational activity is pretty strange if you stare at it long enough. We humans spend an awful amount of time and money on our regular attempts at recreation, and very rarely have anything more tangible to show for these pursuits other than lower stress levels and some happy memories, but anything to help us make it through the week, can’t be a bad thing, right?

This satori doesn’t mean I’m planning on putting away the dice for good anytime soon. As I stated, I have this revelation every few years. Once I reintegrate it into my mind set, I keep on with the playing. It does help me keep in mind that, to the average non-gamer, our books and periodicals make about as much sense to them as an issue of Cat Fancy magazine does to me.

Just a little something to keep in mind the next time the hoopla storm front blows through the blogosphere.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Up and Running Again

My computer guy came through for me and I’ve got my PC working again. Although the monetary cost was something I could have done without, the upside was that nothing was lost or damaged in the conflagration. Go me.

The big news of the week was not the temporary nullification of my computer capabilities, however. Yesterday saw the arrival of the Stonehell compilation proof and I’ve finally been able to heft in my hands the end result of ten months of inadvertent labor. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a tactile sort of guy, so having an actual book that I could page through was the highlight of an otherwise frustrating week.

“So what’s the deal with the book now?” you might ask. “When can I, the person who has been patiently waiting since you promised to have this darned thing out by ‘end of August/beginning of September’, get my hands on a copy?”

The upswing is that the book proofed as good as I had hoped. Any nagging doubts about the legibility of maps or the quality of the illustrations in the final print have been put to rest. The downswing is that, having a chance to pour over the book in physical form, I’ve caught a handful of minor errors and typos that desperately need correction before I’d even dream of asking for a single cent for the book. This weekend will see me finishing up my last proofread and final edit of the manuscript. I hope to have the new PDF distilled and posted by Monday or Tuesday, with a new proof ordered immediately thereafter. After I see the final proof, I’ll be making the book and the PDF available to you. I want to make sure you get the best I can possibly give you with the tools I have available.

In short, I beg your patience for one more week. I’m as anxious to be finished with this book and pass it on to everyone else as you are to read it. After such time, I intend to take three months off from doing anything Stonehell related. Then I’ll get cracking on Book Two.

Thank you all for your enthusiasm and your patience. I hope you’ll find them both to be well rewarded.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Gremlin on My Wing

I'm experiencing technical difficulties and my computer is undergoing repair. Although I might be back online tomorrow, it's far more likely that I won't have access to anything more sophisticated than my commonplace books and a pen until early next week. Posting and communication will resume at that time. Have a pleasant weekend, everyone.