Friday, October 21, 2011

New Horizons

I am without a doubt undergoing a sea change in my gaming preferences. I’ve lost all enthusiasm for level-based fantasy games in the last few months and I now realize that I’ve hit my saturation point. This doesn’t mean I’m done with them for good, but it will be some time before I’m running D&D in any of its myriad forms again. Playing the game is fine; running it is another story.

This also doesn’t mean that I’m finished with writing for them either. In fact, I just finished up my work for another level-based fantasy game and have another contribution in that vein on my schedule. However, when it comes to my personal life, it’s time to change things up.

The downside of this realization is that Stonehell is effectively in stasis for the foreseeable future. I hate to do it, but my lack of interest in writing dungeon adventures is blatantly obvious when I look over what I’ve written so far. I have high expectations for the sequel and I’m not meeting them. I’ll come back and write the second book once I can get excited about the dungeon again. My apologies to those of you who’ve been looking forward to the sequel, but I’m not going to take the sleazy route of writing a piece of shit and asking you for your money for it.

“OK, Mike, if that’s how you feel, what’s next?” I’m glad you ask.

Unless something gets changed (which is entirely possible), the next issue of Fight On! will feature the first of a series of articles I’ve written aimed at “modern” horror and fantasy. I use quotation marks because the default period is the 1920s (all the better to fit classic Call of Cthulhu) rather than the 21st century. I’m extremely proud of this series, more proud of it than anything I’ve done for my own enjoyment in some time. The article features a map (a glimpse of which is below)done by cartographer Ravi Shankar who I met over at the Cartographer’s Guild. Ravi does some excellent work and I encourage you to check out his portfolio—especially if you’re looking for a good cartographer.
The series details a quaint little portion of upstate New York located in the Hudson Valley region. In real life, the Hudson Valley has a great deal of folklore attached to it. One finds stories of everything from headless horsemen to Bigfoot to UFOs. After I’m done with it, there will be even more weird goings-on reported. The purpose of the series is to present a sandbox setting in which referees can place their own historical horror games. Tired of Arkham? Come visit Wildwyck County. If I do my job correctly though, the place can be used for more than just Call of Cthulhu. It’d make an excellent Colonial Gothic campaign if you roll the clock back or a World of Darkness setting if you advance the timeline ahead. One could even remove all the serial numbers and turn it into a fantasy-based campaign using Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Realms of Crawling Chaos.

The series has personal connections for me, which is one of the reasons it has me so excited. Wildwyck County is based on real life portions of New York State where I had many happy experiences. The chance to return to that place (even in a fictionalized and highly spookified form) is a great pleasure. In fact, it’s even inspired me to return there in real life for a few days to engage in some R&R&R (rest and relaxation and research). I plan on taking some photos to use in future articles to support the artwork I’ve already contributed (chosen, but not created by me, thankfully) for the initial article. 

Connected to the ‘Wyck (as the locals call their home)are the eternal autumnal lands of the October Country. I’ve been rambling about and designing for the October Country for over two years now on the blog Secret Antiquities and it represents my second big project. I’ve got enough material to begin playtesting the setting and I hope to assemble the finished material into a book once I’ve worked the kinks out. If I had to pick a work that I’d consider my magnum opus, the October Country would be it. I call it my Rosetta Stone setting because any story I want to tell—fantasy, horror, intrigue, pulp, or weirdness—can find a home in the October Country. It’s a personal place, but one I hope has enough common touchstones to be universal.

I’m not sure how I’ll handle that setting in the future. I’d like to see it in print, but I’m not certain I want to go down the road of self-publishing again. I’ve gotten lazy and like it when all I have to do is string the words together and let somebody else worry about the art, the editing, the layout, etc. Unfortunately, I’m hesitant to relinquish ownership of the material, so self-publishing may be the only course. But that’s all carts far, far in front of horses for now.

This brings me to my last concern: the future of this blog. My original plan was to keep it up until I released the Stonehell sequel and then quietly retire it. Now, with the sequel on hold for the foreseeable future, I’m at a loss at what to do. I have no interest in writing more about fantasy games like D&D here for now, but this blog draws a lot of traffic and has a robust following. Do I mothball the blog until I come back around to level-based fantasy games again or do I repurpose it to reflect my new interests? And if I do that, what happens to Secret Antiquities? Frankly, I don’t know.

That’s my future, folks. One which may or may not be of interest to you, but I thought you deserved a heads up as to where I’m headed. Things have been very, very quiet here as of late and this is the reason why. I hope this glimpse at where I’m going and my future plans sparks some interest and you hang around here or follow me where I’m going, but I understand if you’re more comfortable remaining where I’ve been. It’s all good either way.


Limpey said...

I'm sad to hear that future Stonehell releases will be delayed, but completely understand your reasons. Call of Cthulhu sounds like a hoot.

If you are looking for suggestions, I would suggest you do nothing with "The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope," you may want to post the occasional update on your writing projects, etc., and then continue your adventures on your other blog --- which I will subscribe to.

Neil Ford said...

How did I miss Secret Antiquities before? Horror gaming an Call of Cthulhu are my all time faves. I for one will be cheering from the sidelines.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have an entire blog's archives to catch up on.

- Neil.

kelvingreen said...
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kelvingreen said...

I agree with Limpey; keep the blog, add to it if something comes up, but otherwise leave it here for people to discover. I've lost count of the times I've encountered a new site and have then spent the rest of the day going back through the archives.

I'm looking forward to the Wildwyck content, by the way. I've been itching to run something for Call of Cthulhu for a while, but one of the members of my group buys and reads everything; I suspect that Fight On! falls under his radar as he has a distaste for the old-school.

Badmike said...

Sorry to hear about Stonehell, but this looks great. The map looks properly authentic. IIRC, the classic horror short story "Sticks" by Karl Edward Wagner is set in the Hudson Valley, it is an appropriately creepy tale about a hiker/hunter that comes across an abandoned cabin in the valley, look it up if you haven't already.

Anonymous said...

Best of luck with whatever you pursue, Mike. I've been enthusiastically following Secret Antiquities since you minted it and see that it is clearly a labor of love. I hope you'll also consider keeping this blog open forever for reasons I offered when you announced its closure some time ago.

Mike said...

I'm very excited to check out this new material. I too missed the announcement about Secret Antiquities, so I'll be delving into the content over there. I love playing CoC, but haven't had the opportunity to act as Keeper. Maybe this will help complete that goal.

Like most, I'm also bummed about the delay in Stonehell, but completely understand the rationale. I'd much prefer a great volume 2, over something you crank out just to finish it.

I hope you keep this blog around, even if it doesn't end up getting much traffic. There is a lot of great stuff held here that I hope to be able to reference into the future.

Brendan said...

I have greatly enjoyed reading Stonehell (though I have not had a chance to run it yet). I hope the muse takes you again at some point in the future.

I would also humbly suggest leaving the blog online and available to OSR newcomers. I have only recently discovered the OSR myself, after taking an approximately 10 year break from gaming, and I can say that blogs like this, even if they are not updated regularly, are a wonderful resource.

rainswept said...
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Peter said...

I'd love to see you leave the blog up, even if you stop posting on it for a while. If you re-purpose it, it'll never be clear when you come back to Stonehell and D&D. Better to let it sit and then suddenly pop back up on your follower's radar when you post again.

Start a new blog for the CoC stuff. It's just easier to sort it all out that way.

And I'm reading Stonehell now, so I'm a little concerned you might close up the blog and it'll all disappear.

Oakes Spalding said...

Maybe you don't want to talk about it, but I confess that I'm curious: why have you lost all enthusiasm for level based games?

scottsz said...

Mr. Curtis,

I don't care if all you want to write stuff for is Monopoly and Scrabble, you'll get my attention and my dollars. Period.

Michael Curtis said...

why have you lost all enthusiasm for level based games?

Short answer: overexposure. I've done nothing for the past three years but play, write about, and design for them. I like a good steak as much as the next omnivore, but I get sick eating the same thing.

Slightly longer answer: Overexposure plus there's things I want to explore that don't lend themselves as well to a level-based progression rule system as they would a skill-based one. It's time to shake things up for a bit and explore other options.

Oakes Spalding said...

Cool. I understand.

Anonymous said...

BOC played their first show in a town called New Pulse and which is where you and I ran in to each other. Knowing you made that town bearable for me and can easily be labelled as some of the absolute best times in my life and you were there for them..."the Roost",Snug's, old tomb stones, bird demons, WoD, ending up on a roof somewhere, libations to Bacchus with Jeff McBride at Beltane, above all-good conversations...great memories man among many others. October Country. I'm sure every one else has there own memories of similar places in there own towns and homelands, but I guess seeing an interpretation of one's own makes one wax a bit. Its like I can say "October Country! I was there!" Sorry for the self indulgence.

Anonymous said...

,I know how you feel Sometimes you have to take a break from things to recharge your juices. I haven't really wanted to play for awhile but the new Rotworld game really perked up my interest as I've been having an itch to GM a post apocalyptic type zombie campaign.

Dom said...

Your article in the next Fight On! might be what I needed to push me in buying the periodical for the first time. Keep the blog alive and start a new one for your modern horror posts.
The Society of the Flashlight, Magnifying Glass and Tommy Gun. ;)

scottsz said...

Actually The Society of the Light and Glass does have a nice ring to it for some eldritch exploration...