32 Hours
By tomorrow night I'll have turned in the 180,000+ word d20 project I've been heading up for the last 9 months. Ink will hit paper in time for a GenCon release and you're all invited to the party.

I compiled a timeline of the world last night. It was around midnight that I realized the project had achieved critical mass and gone nuclear sometime in the last month. If I had another 6 months my writers could fill another 100k words, easy.

This is both exciting and a little sad. My instinct is to grind the project into perfection. But like a good punk song, a d20 work should end just as it is getting good. The best works are jumping off points for the players’ imaginations, not the last word on a subject.

If I’m excited about the next hundred thousand words, there’s a good chance the players will be excited too.

I bet Greenwood felt this way when he was turning in the final draft of the Realms. I know Wallace and the McCoys did. Must be par for the course. :)

In other news...
War of the Witch Queen was released at Dundracon in sunny California. I'm hoping my copies of the module show up in the mail today. I wrote in some player handouts in the form of full-sized playing cards, and I'm dying to see how the artist depicted the cards.

Free Stuff: Seed of Evil, the sequel to DCC #5: Aerie of the Crow God, is now available for free download here.


[Begin Pimping]
Goodman Games
So I did a froogle search for my adventure modules today, trying to see how cheap I could get them. To my delight, at two different sites each was the best seller of its category.* But that’s not point of this post.

One of the stores was in the UK. For some reason (maybe because the original Fiend Folio was printed in the UK) this was overwhelming. Suddenly I realized that this is real. I’m getting to write, and it I'm being published by people who make sure I don’t look like an idiot. The modules are being played at conventions as demos, some are being converted to 1st Edition AD&D (?!), and some are being used as tournament modules.

That’s huge to me. Even though what I write won’t save the world, even though what I write isn’t even considered fiction, it is the thing I’ve been dreaming about doing since the age of 7.

This isn’t intended to be some sort of self-congratulatory post. (“Harley is so great. Look what he has accomplished.”) Instead, it is intended to convey the amazement and gratitude I feel, towards you all, and towards anyone who has ever bought or played something I wrote.

Emotionally, it feels like watching a sunset. I’m not the one responsible, but I am taking part in something amazing. GenCon is rapidly approaching. I hope you drop by to see us, if only so that I can give you a big hug.

And, as always, a special Deathy thanks is due to the McCoy family, and everyone else who has been gracious enough to playtest one of my works. You guys are half the reason these modules ever see print.

*This is not the point of the post. At much larger sites, my work doesn’t even show up until #67 or so. And “Best Seller” is a moot point since I don’t know how they run their calculations. “Of all the crap sent to us by Harley Stroh, this stuff at least sells.”

Again, this is not the point. But if you want to see for yourself, Legacy of the Savage Kings rocks the UK. (Where it is currently sold out! Boggle.)

While the Iron Crypt is enjoying a run at Paizo.

Is there no end to his ego?
Dragon's Landing Inn
Just stumbled across this last night. In Episode 20 they do an interview of Joseph Goodman, in which he talks up some of his writers. Fun to hear. :)
[/Mercifully ends pimping]


An aside:
“Stroh Harley, meet Harley Stroh”

Long story that needs to be told some day, but for now I'll keep it short. It began the afternoon a friend and I discovered the world of dial-up BBS. We stayed up all night, high on the flood of information, telecom communication cripples.

Anyhow, since then, the 'net has come a long way. But it warms my heart that even today, with profiles and the diligent work of Big Brother, we can still get mysterious correspondences out of the ether at 3:56 in the morning.

Such as:

At 3:56 AM, Anonymous said...
I stumbled upon this at the odd hour of now. And I only now realized that my name is the inverse of yours; hope this means something.

At 12:25 PM, Grimbones said...

Funny, that. Is this SH? Because yeah, I'm HS. I noticed that too. But yours is changing soon, neh?

So it goes. Love this life. Absolutely love it.

And, by the way, if you haven't paid attention to Josh Wentz's work yet, you should. More on that later. I’m off to the skatepark.


Something spooky. No really.

Finally settling into the rhythm of writing the vampire novel. The d20 work continues, but baring the mutiny of my pirate crew, all that’s left is editing. Editing seems to engage different muscles than actual writing, so it shouldn’t infringe on the novel work.

Again, it’s still a long shot to sell the book, but that won’t keep me from writing a story that I’d love to read. If it sells, great. If not --- well you and I both know that I needed the practice.

One of the chief differences from my last novel writing adventure, is working from an outline. Each scene (I hope) is driving towards the book’s final goal. This is an elementary process, something I assume most professional writers do by force of habit, but it is new to me. The greatest payoff thus far, is that it makes it noticeably easier to write. My word count is up, I don’t spend a ton of time going over previous scenes, and my writing meanders less.

Again, elementary stuff, but if we’re going to talk about this process, I might as well be honest to my naivety. Then maybe you can avoid my missteps.

Prior to this experience, I mistakenly believed that constructing and adhering to an outline would limit the creative high I get from writing. This is how I write adventure modules, drawing the maps and writing the encounters without really having an idea of where I’m going. But modules are only 23k long or so, and they aren’t held to the same scrutiny as a novel, or even a short story.

But my experience freelancing with Wizards changed all that. The story I sold was set in the Forgotten Realms, a fantasy world, that some argue, has been recorded in more detail than some small, real world nations. Given the strictures of the assignment, and the previous work done by literally hundreds of other writers, I found myself in a very tight box.

To my delight and surprise this actually made it easier to be creative. Like a vine creeping and crawling its way through, beneath and over a wall, the story adhered to the world and, I hope, made it just a little more colorful in the process.

An outline can serve the same purpose. White Wolf’s new shared world, the “World of Darkness” setting, has less than a dozen sourcebooks so far. That’s like rewinding the Forgotten Realms setting back to 1992. As shared worlds go, the box is wide open, which can actually make it more difficult to write. With everywhere to go, you end up wandering in circles, which is fine for your personal writing (like this blog), but lousy if you’re trying to create a novel that will hold a reader’s attention.

That’s where an outline shines. Rather than being handed strictures from on high, you are creating your own. Your writing is no less creative for the walls and obstacles you impose upon yourself, and --- in my case --- better for the intellectual terrain it has to overcome.

When I worked up at the Pingree mountain camp (see my last post), we had to clear forest that had been burnt in a fire. Wandering through the skeletal woods, I discovered that the trees that grew tallest and straightest, were the ones that had grown in dense groves. Without competition a pine is content to stay short. But the ones surrounded by other trees --- strictures and boundaries --- had to go big.

(I almost wrote “reach for the sky,” but that much schmatlz is toxic.)

Anyway. Thanks for reading. Hope you all are doing well and keeping creative.

In other news:
Spray painted my snowboard this weekend. If you see an old dude on the slopes of Aspen Highlands or Snowmass, riding on a matte gray board with skulls, skulls, skull, push him over or hit him with a snowball.


"Piracy is not a Crime"
Or, Context is Everything


No fear. It's an in-joke going back about 5 years. But you deserve an explanation.

Teknobi and I were working in a mountain camp with about thirty people, who --- for one reason or another --- found it necessary to work for minimum wage in the middle of the Rocky Mountains for 3 months. One of the truly amazing things about being isolated with that few people is that assumptions about identity break down, and very quickly you are forced to realize that nearly all people are very good at heart.

At least, when they’re in the wilderness. Anyhow.

To entertain myself I began leaving pirate maps and treasures for the children of my labor crew boss. But as the summer progressed and the maps became increasingly more elaborate, it became clear that the kids wanted to know who the Pirate King was. So come the end of the summer we had a pirate party to unmask the Pirate King.

Teknobi, Heather (not yet my wife), and some others filled the upstairs lab with skulls, portholes, nets and a host of other pirate/nautical themed decorations. We had this massive, kid-friendly party, culminating in the children locking the Pirate King (Harley) in manacles, and marching him off a gangplank into a creek, where he floated downstream and out of sight.

One of our fellow workers was a great kid we called "S.A.," (short for "Skinny Aaron," not the racial slur). SA made a shirt for the party playing off Harley’s two loves: skateboarding and pirates (the “arrrrrrr” type, not the download type).

Riffing off of the Skateboarding is Not a Crime slogan (debatable, but that’s another conversation), SA made a t-shirt with markers that read:

Piracy is Not a Crime.

The juxtaposition of the two thought streams, along with the image of Blackbeard wearing that shirt as he boarded sinking galleons, burned the slogan into our collective memory. SA, already indeared, was canonized.

So there’s the context. Who is "they?" Jonathan and I. :)


You know you've made the big time ...
When they start to pirate your work.

Well, maybe not big time. But it is oddly and unexpectedly warming to know that someone took the time to cut out all the pages of a module, scan them, and upload them to a pirate RPG site.

Thanks to El Mono de la Revolución for the heads up.

Where the heck is the Harleybot? That tin can hasn't shown up for work in weeks!


The McCoy family rocks. When that d20 setting hits stores this summer, that will be the end of it. Fame, money, geek status. They'll only take calls through their secretaries.

Ah well. Until then, know that if any of your players enjoy any of my modules, some loyal Knights of the Patio probably died there, kicking and screaming on their way down. :)


War of the Witch Queen!
War of the Witch Queen
Which actually has nothing to do with the esteemed Mr. Salvatore's book. Unfortunate timing, there.

But it has a lot to do with slimy monsters, spectral fortunetellers, and a lot of witchy goodness.

The module will have a limited print run, but if you won’t be attending Dundracon the adventure should be available for online for a while.

Also, the Goodman Games crew will be running 3 sessions of Iron Crypt of the Heretics. Wish I could be there to see those played. :)

And in other news …
I’m a…l…m…o…s…t done with this last module. I finally hit the groove last night, and all the pieces fell into place. A few more thousand words and then it should be ready for playtesting. I need to harass the McCoy family to see if their schedule has cleared up. Funny how I depend so much on folks I've yet to meet.

This post will be syndicated to livejournal when the lazy, good for nothing Harleybot gets around to it.


Name the mountain,
and I will move it.

No matter how old I get, it is still fun to write love letters.

Especially ones chock full of silly, boastful, impossible promises.

Ah, hyperbole. Wherever would I be without you?

Heh. That deserves an ode. An ode to hyperbole.

Meanwhile, back at the hacienda. Renewing my love affair with d20 work with the invitation to do a hardback collection of modules. Heh. Hard to believe someone might actually pay good money for that. Something to consider, at least, after May 31, which is now only 4 months away.

Chop, chop.

Ghost, vampires and blood rites. I love my night job. Hope you do too.