Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Case You Missed It

You might have seen that Goblinoid Games is continuing to gobble up Pacesetter titles for re-printing and to create new games using the Action Table system. Buried in the most recent announcement that Dan Proctor has acquired Sandman: The Map of Halaal (I put him in a head-lock at Gary Con and refused to release him until he agreed to buy it) was this:
Looking for more Pacesetter SystemTM games? Michael Curtis has just finished writing and playtesting an all new game using this system. It will be opened for additional playtesting very soon to members of the Labyrinth Lord Society!
I can't release any details until Dan makes a formal announcement, but let me just say I had a blast writing this one. If I could only tell you some of the weird-ass books I used as reference material on it... I was worried I went a little too far into Bat Country, but so far, those who have seen the game really dig it. Forget D&D Next! Sign up to become a member of the Labyrinth Lord Society and get a first-look and chance to playtest it before it hits the shelves!

Submitted for Consideration for Your Next Campaign

I'm still getting settled into my new home, new job, and let's face it, new life, but I wanted to share something with you all that I see every day on my drive to work:

Graymoor either lies to the southwest of the Egg of Coot or exists in a parallel plane of existence. In either case, it is a land where sword & sorcery meets film noir. A land of shadows and mist, conspiracies, paranoia, trench-coated adventurers, and sultry femme-fatales. Sounds like the perfect cure for the high fantasy blues!

Or, it's a lonely county along the Atlantic coast (on either side of the pond), where the waves crash against the jagged rocks, crumbling manors cling precariously to the edge of cliffs, and the nights are broken by the sound of screams or howls that may not be animal in origin.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

So Long For Now

Tomorrow, I begin the move to my new place and new job. In just five days, I've found a job, apartment, packed up part of my life, and made arrangements to move the rest of it. I also got a chance to see friends I've not seen in years and spend time others I can't wait to see more of.

As hectic as this has all been (and not to mention a little scary), you people have made this so much easier with your kind words of support and even more outstanding contributions to help defray the moving expenses (Holy crap! Have you seen what it costs to rent a truck for a one-way move of 150 miles, lately?). I am in your debt, both emotionally and financially, and will attempt to repay both in the months ahead.

Despite the fact that I'm moving onto a new phase in my life, the old one hasn't ended entirely. This week I've been privy to some very exciting news from two of my publishers and I can't wait until I get the OK to break silence and let you know what's going on behind the impenetrable DM's screen of OSR publishing. Really, really cool stuff.

So, until life calms down and my PC is hooked up to the internet again, so long and thanks again. You folks are amazing.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

End of One Era, Dawn of Another

Life certainly has been interesting around these parts, lately. We can plot and scheme and dream, but the universe usually has other plans for us. Sometimes its designs are for the worse, but every now and then, life surprises you and puts you in places and facing directions you never saw coming.

When this blog began more than three years ago, I certainly didn’t expect that it would be the key to my becoming a professional game designer and writer. It began as a lark, a way to blow off steam and indulge in creativity during a trying time in my life. Then the Dungeon Alphabet took off and there’s been no looking back since.

Unfortunately, as many of you know, making a living as a full-time designer is not an easy task. I’ve spent the last couple of years living a hand-to-mouth existence on what should be supplementary income, but due to other factors had become my primary one. The creative benefits, the modicum of fame, and the occasional fan email, greeting at a convention, or supportive comment on this here blog were all priceless rewards, but not quite so pecuniary. While my design work was going well, my professional career as an archivist has been going nowhere for the past two years.

About six months ago, I sat down and took a long, hard look at my future. After much soul-searching, I decided that drastic steps were necessary to ensure my professional and personal development in the decades I (hopefully) have left on the third stone from the sun. The cost of living on Long Island is getting higher and higher with each passing year, and being situated in a place that is not only close to Manhattan, but home to two universities offering Library Science degrees, competition for employment is tough—especially given the state of the economy. It became very clear that I’d have to relocate if I wanted any chance at jump-starting my archival career and returning to the profession that I love just as much as game design (and is far more lucrative).

Having made up my mind, I gave myself a three-month timeline to locate a job, find a new place, and get myself re-established in another portion of New York State. I anticipated doing a lot of grunt labor and volunteer work to make ends meet and build a reputation within the library and archival community in the area for my first year, but was hopeful to reap the benefits of those labors after 12 months. Seems like a pretty sound plan, neh?

That’s when life decided to step in and accelerate my timeline…rather abruptly.

Yesterday, I interviewed for and was offered a three-month consulting archivist position in Peekskill, NY. Totally unexpectedly, I found myself back in my chosen profession and with some income promised me in the months ahead. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the position starts on Monday, requiring me to completely uproot my life and relocate 150 miles from home, all while knowing that if everything goes completely wrong, I’ll be unemployed again in twelve weeks. I don’t even have an apartment lined up yet. Stressful and completely unforeseen? Yes, very much so, thanks for asking. Nevertheless, I’m excited and hopeful for the future, more so than I’ve been in awhile.

“That’s great news, Mike,” you may be asking, “but what about me, your loyal reader and fan?”

Obviously, my main focus is going to be getting my career back on track and my future stabilized. That means that this blog is largely going to be neglected in the weeks and months ahead (I’m not even sure when I’ll have internet access again). This doesn’t mean, however, that I’m leaving the field of game design behind for good. With my daylight hours occupied by the new job, my design time will be restricted to the evenings before bed and on the weekends (provided a part-time job doesn’t appear swiftly). Despite this reduction in hours, I intend to keep working on the Stonehell sequel until it is finished and released. My lack of acquaintances in the area and no cable largely guarantees that project will see more progress in the weeks ahead.

Also, I’ve built up quite a backlog of projects that are completed and just vying for a position on various release schedules. I suspect that between this year and the next, some of you may become quite sick of seeing my name on various gaming supplements. There’s no danger of me fading off the design radar for good despite my new responsibilities. I’ll also still be attending NTRPGCon and expect to re-new my friendships with those of you I’ve already met and make some new ones as well.

My change of location also means that I’m going to have to say goodbye to the two or three gaming groups I participate in here on Long Island, but their loss may be another’s gain. In the weeks ahead, I’ll be looking to join or form a group in Ulster County, NY. If you’re currently playing there and would like to add some new blood to your group, you can contact me via the email listed there to the right. I’m really looking to get out of the sword-and-sorcery fantasy scene for awhile (I get enough of that doing design work). It’s my intention to get a Call of Cthulhu campaign running (which ties in nicely with my new job) and to continue playtesting my October Country material, which is going to be my next big design project once Stonehell 2 is done and out.

You’ll also notice that I’ve added a “Donate” button on this blog over there on the right. Money’s going to be tight in the months ahead while I’m rebuilding my entire life upstate and every little bit helps. If life is treating you well and you’ve ever gotten some use or entertainment out of this blog or anything else I’ve had a hand in, please consider throwing a dollar or two into the kitty. I’ll be taking down that button in a few months once I’ve got me feet back firmly on the ground and the future is more clear, but in the meantime, a little extra cash for gas, tolls, and moving expenses really helps a lot. Contributors will be named (if they so wish) in a special "Thank You" section of Stonehell Dungeon 2.

The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope will rise again at some point, so don’t kick it off your blog rolls just yet. This isn’t goodbye, just so long for now. Thank you all for your steady support and readership, and may your 2012 be just as interesting as mine is turning out to be (I mean that in a good way).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The October Country: Project Sleeping Village

In 1972, the Central Intelligence Agency, working under the auspices of Project MKULTRA, erected a facility fifteen miles outside of Gilead, Maine. This facility consisted of six Quonset hut-style dormitories and five auxiliary buildings. Surrounded by razor wire and guard towers, the purpose of the facility was ostensibly to house an overflow of non-violent criminals incarcerated in the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport. In truth, the site was the home of an illegal C.I.A. human research program designed to stimulate and test psychic phenomenon. This program was dubbed Project Sleeping Village.

When the facility, known as “Town Hall” in declassified records, began operations, one hundred human guinea pigs were transported to the site and installed in the prefab dormitories. These one hundred test subjects came from various sources: federal prisons, college campuses, military bases, and as a result of classified intelligence operations around the globe.

Once inside Town Hall, the subjects were treated with a synthetic chemical known as Chimera, a drug that purportedly caused laboratory animals to exhibit spontaneous psychic talent. Testing of Chimera on the human subjects in Town Hall continued for six months, during which time 17% of the subjects experienced psychotic episodes, 5% lapsed into catatonia, and 1% displayed what was referred to as “anomalous sensory phenomenon.” The cost of these results: $2 million USD or approximately one-fifth of MKULTRA’s operating budget at the time.

Lack of statistically significant results combined with high operating costs doomed Project Sleeping Village and Town Hall was closed down the following year. The site was abandoned for almost a decade before the land and remaining buildings were allotted to the state of Maine and eventually became a summer camp for special needs children. Most of the classified records pertaining to Project Sleeping Village were destroyed in 1973 when CIA Director Richard Helms ordered a purge of all materials pertaining to MKULTRA. A few documents survived destruction, and an even smaller percentage has come into the possession of “interested parties” outside the U.S. Federal Government.

Considered a failure at the time, Project Sleeping Village and Chimera have displayed an unexpected longevity. Although the drug had little effect on developing psychic talents in the initial test subjects, the offspring of the original one hundred have demonstrated an abnormally high predilection for psychic ability. Three in five children with a parent who participated in Project Sleeping Village displayed some sign of extra-sensory talent before the age of ten, with the strength of this ability increasing significantly during puberty. Although no official tally exists, children of “Sleepers” reportedly displayed talents ranging from psychometry, telepathy, cryokinesis, telekinesis, precognition, and biokinesis.

These children are now in their mid to late 30s and can be found scattered around the country and overseas. Because of the broad spectrum of the original test subjects and the destruction of the records relating to Project Sleeping Village, it is virtually impossible to determine who bears the legacy of the that research. One common trait is prevalent, however: anti-social and even sociopathic tendencies brought about by constant abuse and ostracism during adolescence. Anyone dealing with a suspected Village Legacy should exercise extreme caution.

As a related note, recent intelligence reports have determined that a drug based on the original Chimera agent is being developed in nations unfriendly to the West. In twenty years, a new generation of psychically gifted adults could pose a threat to national security; operations to curtail the development of this chemical are currently underway. Those aware of the October Country worry that the drug could cross the barrier, with the results of a psychic stimulator in the Autumnal Lands causing widespread havoc in that magic-rich environment.

Reminder: NTRPGCon Event Registration is Now Open

Those you planning to attend the NTRPGCon in June should hustle over to the Con Registration section of the NTRPGCon website and pick your games if you haven't done so already. Some good ones have already filled-up and there's only a limited number of seats remaining in both of my DCC RPG events. Get in while the gettin's good!

UPDATE: Friday morning's game, "Emirikol Must Die!" is now full. There are a few seats remaining for Saturday evening's session of the updated and expanded "The Fane of St. Toad."

Friday, April 13, 2012

The October County: Les Rouge Soeurs

If you spend enough time around the bayas of Snakewater Swamp, sooner or later you’ll hear tales of the loup-garou, a nasty piece of work that haunts the backwaters and lonely roads late at night. Chances are, especially if you’re from Earth, you’re already thinking you know what ol’ loup is. You’d be wrong.

Old loup-garou is a man or woman who went bad...real bad. So bad that when they died, not even Hell wanted a piece of them and so they walk the world of the living, angry, mean, and hungry. You can tell a loup-garou easy: he’s got a wolf’s skull for a head and is wrapped in the burial shroud they put him in the ground in. He’s got long claws and razor-sharp teeth, and he likes nothing more than a dainty bit of woman flesh to chew on. Fact is, old loup will stalk a woman a’fore he’d stalk a man. That’s usually bad news for a woman or girl caught out after dark when he’s on the prowl.

But loup-garou has met his match a few times when he thought he’d spotted a helpless waif alone in the dark. Sometimes it’s due to sheer luck; other times it’s because that helpless maiden was more than she seemed and knew what lurked out in the night. But the worst bit of news for a hungry loup-garou is that the little bit of girl he planned to put the bite on is one of the les Rouge Soeurs.

Nobody can recall who started the les Rouge Soeurs  (otherwise known as the Red Sisters to those who don’t habla the patois of the baya). Nobody outside the Sister that is; those who bear the crimson could tell you, but it ain’t likely unless they’re welcoming you into their krewe—and they’re only doing that if you’re a woman who got one over on old loup-garou.

Les Rouge Soeurs specialized in hunting loup-garou, bringing the fight to those critters with fire, silver, and mirrors. You can recognize one of the Rouge Soeurs by the red cloaks and dyed leather armor they wear. They usually ride chestnuts, sorrels, or palominos when they can find them and seat them with red saddles tooled with silver. Almost all the Sisters carry firearms, but each is a master with a blade as well. They work in teams of five or six, with each krewe responsible for a large region, oftentimes covering many hundreds of miles in area. Each group reports to a superior known as Grand-mère who works to coordinate her team with other krewes of les Rouge Soeurs to hunt down and destroy loup-garou wherever they might lurk.

Les Rouge Soeurs only recruit woman and teenage girls who have survived a loup-garou attack. For many of these victims, the sense of sisterhood offered by membership in les Rouge Soeurs, combined with the skills and tactics they learn upon initiation, helps them cope with psychological trauma they face in the wake of an attack and forges them into self-confident, powerful women. With this empowerment, few have any desire to return to the world and society they knew before they met their monster.

Although they specialize in loup-garou,  les Rouge Soeurs will hunt other dangerous creatures, especially those that victimize the young, old, or defenseless. They have an uneasy relationship with the Rambling Men and occasionally work with one of those travelling troubadours when their interests coincide, but the personalities and the misogynistic attitudes that some Rambling Men have tend to make those partnerships short-lived.

Monday, April 9, 2012

It Arrived By Mi-Go This Afternoon

Man, I have been waiting for this one! My interests have fallen largely away from sword-and-sorcery (exposure overload) in the past year and the Victorian Era is a favorite of me (sans Steampunk thank you very much). I may have to get a CoC Gaslight game going set in Wildwyck County once I take care of some big changes in my life. Now if only that Colonial Cthulhu source book that I've been hearing about for the last three years gets published, my archivist's heart could rest easy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Update on DCC RPG, NTRPGCON & Me

So with any luck, you have a copy of the DCC RPG pdf in your possession and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the hard copy version in the weeks to come. By the time June rolls around, you'll be well-versed in the esoteric knowledge contained within that hefty tome's covers. But what to do with that unholy lore?

Come to Texas! I'll be running two sessions of DCC RPG over the weekend at the NTRPGCON 2012. See below for times and details, and remember: game registration opens at midnight on April 15th.

Friday, June 8th, 1000-1400
Game Title: Emirikol Must Die!
Game System: Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
Number of Players: 6-8
Pregens/Level of characters: Yes/4th level
World/Setting: Generic

The mad wizard Emirikol is terrifying the city! Striking without reason to slaughter the populace, the infamous mage has gone too far. Now a coffer of jewels is offered to those who would dare defeat him. Eager to collect that reward, a collection of reavers, cut-purses, heathen-slayers, and warlocks bands together to defeat the servant of Chaos within his very sanctum. The ever-changing walls of his Shifting Tower are guarded by a host of diabolical traps, fiendish guardians, and unimaginable terror. Will the adventurers come out victorious…or lose their very souls in the attempt?

Players will be provided a selection of pre-generated characters to choose from before they begin their assault. This event is open to all players and familiarity with the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is not required. The scenario mixes thrilling battles and deductive thinking. Only a party able to master both stands a chance of emerging triumphant.

Saturday, June 9th, 1800-2200
Game Title: The Fane of St. Toad
Game System: Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
Number of Players: 6-8
Pregens/Level of characters: Yes/3rd level
World/Setting: Generic

For as long as men remember, the cult of St. Toad carried out unspeakable rites in their squatting temples situated far from civilization. Tales of human sacrifice, squirming servants, and rich, but loathsome treasures were whispered of the cult. Now, unexpectedly, the cult has seemingly vanished, leaving behind their fanes to molder in the marshes. A brave band of adventurers gathers to explore one such tabernacle, eager to discover what riches—and terrors—the cult has left behind…

A good old-fashioned dungeon crawl, The Fane of St. Toad was first written for OD&D, but is now adapted for Dungeon Crawl Classics. Players will be provided a selection of pre-generated characters to choose from before they begin their delving of the Fane. This event is open to all players and familiarity with the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is not required. Batrachophobes need not apply.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Some Drunk Umber Hulk Reviews "Stonehell"

It's been a mixture of chaos and joy the past few weeks and I'm only now getting myself sorted out. Posting is likely to be light in the coming weeks as I have some big projects to attend to. In the meanwhile, please enjoy this review of Stonehell Dungeon over at The Drunk Umber Hulk. We'll return to normal posting soon.