Monday, March 02, 2015

Losing Lanterns - Finished!

Hey, don't bother reading this long, meandering post! Just look at the cover, then run over to Amazon right now and grab the book in whichever format you prefer. It's pretty cheap, and better than anything you'll find in the ratty old blogosphere.

Still here? Hrm. Well... Okay, I guess I'll have to blather on about how I ended up writing this - as in history'n all that. Once upon a time, there was Eposic. They published my story, "Starshadows in Sideways Time" in The Book of Exodi (out of print).

After that book, the next one was scheduled to be Out of Order, in which the theme was, as you might have guessed, stories with a mixed-up temporal presentation. I don't remember if time travel was a requirement or if Faulknerizing would be allowed. My submission for that book was "As Always," the precursor to Part One of this novella.

Well, Eposic accepted "As Always," but went out of business before Out of Order was published, so I got the story back. I sent it to a couple of other places. I also sent the story that would become Part Three of Losing Lanterns around a bit. "As Always" actually got accepted by another outfit that went out of business before publication. I got a couple more rejections and got bored with the whole process. I know, I know, but it just occurred to me that I already knew how to get art and do layouts and all that, so maybe there was no reason to burn all those hours dealing with the ritual bullshit of submitting stories elsewhere.

I had intended all along for the two stories to mesh into a larger collection once they were done with their appearances in third party magazines, so I decided to just go ahead and re-shape them into a novel. Or a novella. Whatever.

Then I finished it, and everybody hated the end. Eventually, I agreed with them.

Then I finished it again, and here it is.

Monday, February 23, 2015

BASHCon XXX: Awesome Mix

This year's BASHCon was a wonderful surprise. I was pretty sure I'd have a good time. I can't think of a BASHCon that I didn't end up enjoying. Still, though, I just wasn't getting excited about it as it closed in. I suppose, for one thing, I was preoccupied with finally getting Losing Lanterns polished up and published. A few other naggy details were on my mind as well.

When I came home from work on Thursday to find Tom and Monk relaxing in the living room, I couldn't help smiling. I filled out character sheets and packed while they started up a Z Nation marathon. I was a little cranky Friday morning because this ridiculously cold weather is starting to get to me, but a nice breakfast at our favorite diner cleared that up. They picked me up from work and we were on our way. Not that it was an epic journey or anything. Toledo is only about two hours away.

Monk had signed up to run a game at 5:00, so we were a little rushed, but registration was moving right along. We were all set and at the table on time. I hadn't really expected to get to play in his Black Lotus Affair, because it overlapped a Friday night tradition, but he decided to shorten it so that they could run back to back. Black Lotus is a pulp era journey across Europe, seasoned with the machinations of princes and assassins. We traveled by dirigible, ferry, train, and… well, the train was as far as we got. Monk used a FUDGE variant to run the game, and it seems to work well for him. It was a lot of fun, even if we did have to use those "special needs" dice with the plusses and minuses on them.

Tom replaced our traditional Friday Tunnels & Trolls game with a Crawlspace one, The Swamp Troll. Jerry showed up with Liam, Beckett was there with a friend, and we had two other people join in as well. Beckett and I played characters we had used before in "The Return of Count Vulgarr" but, because of the way Crawlspace works, they didn't actually know each other in-game. I played an on-the-edge small town sheriff in the midst of supernatural cult activity and soap-opera-like personal entanglements. We barely stumbled our way through to a resolution, at which point Tom killed us all.

Paul showed up briefly to say hi and show off a cool bit of craftwork, but wasn't feeling well, so that turned out to be all we saw of him. After the game, I checked in to the motel and started winding down to crash mode while Tom and Monk and maybe other people went out for drinks and snacks.

Saturday morning, my Doctor Who event fell through, so we did some shopping and just hung around. I bought a couple of cool rings and almost bought the Archer board game. I love that show and the game looks like fun, but, given time to think about it, I decided that it would just end up in a pile with all the other interesting but unused board games I have.  Tom, Monk, and I eventually ended up haunting Phoenicia for a while, chatting, enjoying the comfy chairs, and, in my case, sketching out a few maps.

My Icons event, Night of the NecroDon, was up at 3:00. I had Tom, Monk, Liam, and Jerry playing an amphibian, a shape-shifter, a batman, and a dazzler. They dealt with an outbreak of superhuman mob violence, fought among themselves, and finally confronted a mad scientist/sorcerer in his lair. His lawyer got away, though, so there's bound to be a sequel. Monk said he really liked Icons and was planning to get a copy to use in his own games.

I tried out my recently-purchased Noteboard to provide a map of Lightfoot Island and to sketch out certain locations. I meant to take some pictures, but I was too into running the game, so I've enlisted Tio's help to model the product at home. He does great work, don't you think? Anyway, I found this little gadget immensely useful, and so much less cumbersome than the traditional rolled-up vinyl mat. Tio can be contacted for additional work through this profile.
 Jerry was ready to run pretty quick, so I grabbed a falafel wrap to go and we jumped into his AD&D game, part one of A Farewell to Hands. That's a pretty disturbing title if you don't think about the literary pun. Last year, we ended the game with the realization that we had acquired the Hand of Vecna. Not having anyone in the party who wanted to be both mutilated and brainwashed, we decided to look for a way to destroy the artifact. Our sources suggested that we should consult a floating head in Myth Drannor, where it's really stressful to be a wizard. We arrived by magic portal and fought our way through the tunnels until we hit the cut-off point for the next day's adventure. Tom and Monk were in another game, which wasn't even close to being over, so we had a late snack and Jerry dropped me off at the motel.

Sunday, Jerry had a full table for A Farewell to Hands, so Tom and Monk wandered off. Tom grumbled happily (yes, it really is possible) about being glad he didn't have to play D&D. The character I played before had already been claimed, so I played a fighter instead, which was actually something of a relief with all the funky magic distortion going on there. We fought our way on to the floating head, got the answers we needed, and finished off our quest to lose the extra hand by exposing it to the bone-crushing rays of an undead beholder.

After that, Tom presented me with a cool-looking pendant that had a clock inside it. Neither of us knew until Monk commented on it that it was a Harry Potter thing. We met up elsewhere with Jerry and Liam for Mexican food and talked about what a good con it had been.

Conclusion-writing. Bleah.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bothered About Basic Books

I just had a set of the latest D&D Basic Rules printed up. It was kind of a joke, actually. I already owned the core hardbacks, so I didn't need it, but I had seen this overwrought pamphlet from the bad old days of panic-mongering anti-role-playing activism and just had to make a cover out of it. The prominence of the title "Dungeons and Dragons" and the irony of wrapping it around the thing it so luridly decries made it irresistible. The pale blue color is even reminiscent of the classic "blue book" rules.

So, this book arrived and I posted a picture to show off how clever I was, and, even though I had read through the Basic Rules before, I flipped through it a bit. It occurred to me that I actually did have something useful in my hands.

The official hardbacks are beautiful. I'm especially fond of the Dungeon Master's Guide. And the rules actually live up to the publisher's hype. This is definitely my favorite edition of the game. I want to run a campaign with these books, or play in one, with other players who don't need their hands held. I want get to know a group of these characters from first level and watch them advance from riffraff to world-savers – or whatever. Right now, though, I'm running an Icons campaign and really enjoying it, and one campaign at a time is about all I can manage. D&D, for now, is more likely in the realm of pick-up or convention games.

And that's where the Basic Rules become an appealing option. For one thing, it's one relatively slim book instead of three larger ones. That matters when you're packing your book bag for a convention. Also, a more limited selection of character options hops from minus to plus when I'm facing the task of filling out and explaining everyone's sheet. Or, if it's a pickup game instead of a convention scenario, it's still handy to keep everything moving instead of waiting for everyone to decide which otherworldly patron their warlocks are bound to.

The beauty of 5th edition in this case is that the expanded rule books still aren't useless. You have zero conversion issues if there's a sequel or two and somebody from the pickup game wants to learn some feats or try multiclassing later, or if the dungeon master wants to throw in a new challenge from the Monster Manual. A player with the Player's Handbook could still use the extra options while the dungeon master runs the game from the Basic Rules. 

So, yeah, I'll bring this book to BASH Con next week and, the next time I run D&D at a convention, there's a good chance I'll make sure the Basic Rules (plus whatever I come up with myself) are all I need. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gen Con 2015 - My Events

I've got my events worked out for Gen Con 2015! The Peryton Gamers group is doing two theme days, Paranatural Thursday and Moonage Friday. I don't have event numbers yet, and I suppose, theoretically, the times could change. They never have, but I guess anything's possible. I'll probably just come back to this page and edit the new stuff in if it does change.

Anyway, pretty psyched!

ParaNatural Thursday

Shadow of the Peryton
Qalidar: Resistance - Thursday 8pm-Midnight
The quiet college town of Blackridge is being haunted by a soaring shadow, a dark, winged shape with antlers. On the ground, weird agents are looking for something, terrorizing people in their homes and then disappearing. Is it just a coincidence that there's a nuclear power plant nearby?

Moonage Friday

Raiders of the Dark Nebula
Icons Assembled Edition - Friday 2pm-6pm
The dust of a dead star-god, the Tenebrous Nebula has sheltered many strange civilizations, but none as relentlessly expansionist as the Dire Wraiths. Since their awakening at the fall of the Ilkani homeworld, these shape-shifting techno-mages have terrorized entire star systems. Take the role of a starfaring super-hero in this mashup of Micronauts, Farscape, Rom, and assorted other space fantasies.

Doctor Who: Out of Joint
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space - Friday 7pm-11pm
Swept into a twisted branch of the Time Vortex created by the nascent Time War, the Eighth Doctor finds himself surrounded by an impossible assortment of companions in an abandoned Dalek city far in Skaro's future. Or, more precisely, a maze of Skaro's possible futures.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Inappropriate Mysteries of the Jersey Shore
Bean! (Heavily Modified) - Friday 11pm-3am
Take the roles of animated fast food products or one of their neighbors in this off-the-rails RPG based on the late night cartoon.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Another Year Over

In a lot of ways, 2014 was dominated by mourning. I don't mean to say that I spent the whole time shuffling around in goth gear, wailing for my dead brother, just that dealing with the loss influenced a lot of what I did and how I saw the world. I'm not done with that process - I'm not sure I ever will be - but I think 2015 might be something different.

Among the good parts of 2014 is that I've stayed in touch with some old friends  that I recently re-connected with, and even managed to drag one of them to Gen Con. Speaking of Gen Con, I made my usual round of conventions in 2014: BASHCon, Gen Con, Carnage... I missed the local Holiday Game Bash this year, and I'm not counting Cleveland ConCoction, but I still covered the main ones. I even started an Icons campaign. It's been a while since the last session, but I'm hoping to get it back on a semi-regular schedule now that we're past the holidays.

Despite lingering indifference to the whole game publishing thing, I managed to get Qalidar Basic out. I also put Stars, Specters, and Super Powers together in preparation for more fiction projects. All my projects have kind of drifted in a lazy, half-hearted morass, though. Being lazy and half-hearted isn't an unusual experience for me, but I'm wondering now if I could be ready to be something new. Probably still a lazy something, but maybe I can remember how I used to work around that.

Tom had an idea for new Qalidar stuff which led to a way that I can keep working on it without making it such a grind. To be clear, Qalidar never stopped being something I love - I just got bored with the task of turning it into a "product," and explaining it to convention players because none of them ever bother to find out anything about the games they've signed up for. Anyway, rather than focus on a big ole complete book, I'm going for a sequel to the Basic one next, with material for advancing to - I don't know - maybe 12th level, new abilities, new creatures, and at least one short adventure. Maybe more.

First, though, I've got to get Losing Lanterns, which is embarrassingly close to being finished, out there. By the way, that link goes to an old interview sort of thing which is outdated in many ways, but it's still the closest thing to a summary I've got.

Other projects? Well, there's the bad idea I had a couple of months ago. I've fleshed that out quite a bit since then, and it's shaping up into what I think will be a really good novel. I'm still not quite ready to say what it is or why it's a bad idea, though. Another idea for a novel I've been working on is, I think, quite a good idea, but I'm not going to share any details on that, either. I've been doing research and coordinating concepts, though.

So, projects for 2015:
  • Losing Lanterns (almost done)
  • Qalidar sequel to the Basic Book (mostly a matter of formatting and artist-wrangling)
  • A Bad Idea for a Novel
  • A Good Idea for a Novel
I'm not sure which of the last two will come first. I'd actually be really happy to get any three of these done.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Blah blah blah ideas blah blah blah plans blah blah blah opinions blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Oh, and a picture.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Fistful of Carnage

November 7-9 was A Fistful of Carnage, their second time at the Killington Resort venue, and my first. It was also my first time heading out that way on my own. Tom had a weekend with Monk and Jerry planned, but I still really wanted to go to Carnage, so... there it is. The drive was uneventful. In a sudden nostalgia attack, I decided to stay at the Maplewood for my mid-trip stop. Oddly, there was no Dark Gathering in progress, so I made do with delightfully awful SyFy Channel movies and worked out some details for the games I was planning to run.

I pulled up to the resort around five o'clock Thursday evening, but the the combination of oncoming winter and heavy clouds left the mountain pretty dark. After I checked in, I drove back and forth a couple of times before I realized I was reading the map backwards. I probably shouldn't admit that in public. Oh, well.

Once I found my spot, I poked my head into the luxurious condo, checked out the view from the back porch, and unloaded my bags. Well, except for one.
That one had to go with me over to Andre's Thursday night game. It's a bit of a hike from where I was staying, and it's even longer if you wander over to the Snowshed first because you had a room number but no building name to go with it. And then it turns out that the room number isn't a room number, but some kind of hotel code for the type of room. Eventually, though, the front desk staff at the Killington Grand got me pointed in the right direction.

The game was late getting started, so I didn't even miss out on the pizza. This scenario was a bit of a departure from the usual Andre fare, a Dark Age adventure using his prototype Lucid Dreams system. None of our characters died or even went insane, although I think Ray got a little twitchy after Andre made him read that entire scroll out loud. And then it was really late. Probably. My watch kept switching modes, so I was never sure.

I spent Friday morning and some of the afternoon finishing up my D&D adventure. It turns out I had just written some notes and a few monsters that I wanted to use, so I had to draw the map and place things and do all that nifty stuff.

Despite the fact that I was eager to hurl myself into the convention crowd, it was great having all that space to myself to just geek out and enjoy the fake fireplace and the view in between scribblings. Finally, still not quite believing that I had managed to get everything ready on time, I hiked over to the Killington Grand to pick up my badge and t-shirt.

Over at the Snowshed, I got acquainted with the area, caught up with some friends, and settled in at my table. One guy showed up. We had a nice chat about D&D editions while waiting to see if anyone else would pop in, but finally Nyssa and Tyler made me untie him and let him get away. I blame "Adventurers League" for the weak showing. I mean, my promo was awesome, so there must have been organized play or some other stultifying influence, right? Anyway, I thought about jumping in on someone else's game, but ended up going back to my room to get some writing done. The travel and the whole mountain thing and having all that space to myself added up to a really nice creative boost.

By Saturday, the snowdrizzle had cleared up and the mountain was all bright and sunny. The panorama up at the top is also from my Saturday morning hike to the Snowshed. I grabbed some lunch at the food court thingie, mingled a bit, and got set to run my Doctor Who adventure, "Stetsons Are Cool."

This was the one I had been most excited about running, so I was gratified to find a full table, including Tyler, Steve, and several people I didn't know. And I wasn't disappointed.

Everybody managed to turn the pre-generated stat sheets I handed out into fun characters who helped me bring the decaying desert town of Scurl's Hollow to life. Well, metaphorically, anyway. It was still full of really old people, ranches without livestock, empty mines, and a railroad that went nowhere.

The team of six 51st-century time agents under the command of Kip Brannigan (possibly a relative of another famous Brannigan) wandered around town shocking people with their strange eating habits and baffling the barkeep just because he was easily baffled.

In the course of these important activities, they were able to work out enough of what was going on to thwart a time-traveling cultist and restore quite a few cybernetically zombified townspeople to relative normalcy. The zygma device was recovered and a talking brain from another universe was sealed away from our continuity. I love this game.

After that, Tyler told me about the late night trivia game in the bar and wandered off. I went with Steve and a couple of his friends to try out the hotel restaurant. My Qalidar session at seven was a bust. I lurked around the Snowshed for a while.

Before long, I was invited to jump in on a card game. I think it was called Dominion. I figured I might as well, but my first turn gave me flashbacks to old management seminars, so I screamed and ran and screamed and ran and screamed and ran until somebody hit me with a tranquilizer dart.

I woke up in a comfy chair by the fireplace in the Killington Grand lobby. It wasn't all that late, so I tinkered with my latest bad idea and just enjoyed the ambiance. A group of card gamers finished up at the nearby table and was replaced by a group of board gamers. Eventually I decided it was probably late enough to go find the trivia game.

Nobody seemed to be playing anything at the bar, so I sat there for a while and tried to order a drink, but couldn't get the bartender to make eye contact. I wandered off again to see what else was going on and ran into Tyler, who showed me how to cross into the alternate reality version of the bar where the trivia game was happening.

Somehow our team got the name "Freebird." The game was bizarre. As near as I could tell, it was played by yelling at the MC until he asked your team a question or made some random reassignment of points. Someone else at the table described it as the trivia quiz version of Calvinball.

We came close to winning. We at least managed to knock Tyler's teenaged nemesis out of the running, but in the end we were defeated by a louder team. One of their players had previously won awards for being loud in other games, so there was no shame in it. Also, I had finally found a spot that the bartender could see, so I was feeling fine.

The crowd buzzed around for a bit until Tyler, Nyssa, and I were politely invited to continue our conversation elsewhere. Looking around, I was a little surprised to see that there was nobody else in the bar. We wandered around the hotel for a bit because we each had a different idea of where the party was. Finally tipping over the correct shell, we found a high concentration of cool people in what I think was Scott & Petra's room.

The party drifted into a sort of cartoony haze, but the brutal hangover of Sunday morning is considerably clearer. No lobby-lounging farewells for me, this year.  Queasy, brain-bruised, and unsure how badly I had embarrassed myself the night before, I packed up and slithered down the mountain without a word.

I had originally intended to drive farther than Syracuse or maybe even make the whole trip in one day, but I was in no shape for it after that party, so I stopped in a motel that afternoon, ordered a pizza, and watched the latest Doctor Who.

Have I mentioned before how much I hate writing conclusions?