Halcyon days of the Kalashnikov

While I was in graduate school for my MA in Janitorial Science (a.k.a. creative writing), I worked summers up in Pingree Park, which is located just to the north of Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a wonderful, carefree time. I didn’t get much writing done, but I did get mountain hard.

What really made the summers exceptional were the human beings that chose to isolate themselves in the mountains. Everyone had their reasons – some were on the run from Johnny Law, others were looking to get back to nature, and some of us were just desperate for a job that paid in room and board.

One of the bosses of my trail crew was a staunch libertarian. He would spend his off hours tinkering with assault rifles and hosting movie nights (the film with women in bikinis shooting machine guns was always a hit).

Anyhow, while I’m a fan and friend to libertarians everywhere, the fringes of the movement always seemed more amusing than serious. And so amusement was the tenor of our road trip when a friend and I made the trek to town to a legal gun shop, laid down our summer’s hard earned cash and bought a Romanian AK-47, a few 30 round clips and several hundred rounds of ammunition.

Was there a point or purpose to owning an eastern-bloc assault rifle?

Absolutely not.

But, like the time I did the dyed hair thing, the experience was almost the point in itself. Given your finite life, is this something you’d care to add to your life’s resume? Some folks say no. Others say yes.

We used the rifle for photo shoots and set dressing for home movies, and generally did everything with it but actually shoot it. I learned to field strip and clean the weapon (never know when that might come in handy), and always behaved like a responsible gun owner.*

Fast forward several years. Last week I was driving back home over the mountains and the front tire on the Subaru blew out. I pulled over quickly but not before the tire had shredded. When I got home I discovered that in order to lessen transmission wear on an all-wheel drive vehicle, you need tires with identical wear. Unable to find a tire with the wear we needed, H and I elected to buy four new tires, deciding that $400 for tires was cheaper than new transmission in a couple years.

Sadly, despite being a highly paid gaming industry professional, even that $400 was a bit out of my range. And in one of those strange moments of synchronicity, a relative asked to buy the rifle.

And so it goes. I can no longer lay claim to being the owner of an assault rifle.

But I can say that I was once so poor that I had to sell an AK-47 to afford tires, and that’s a pretty fun story.

Besides, in the analysis of the tires vs. rifle equation, the sad truth is that I’m the sort of guy who would rather flee than fight, no matter what friends say. ;)

*Some things you just don't screw around with. Ever.


About Time
All right. Enough of your grumbling! You wanted Jeff LaSala in print? So be it!

What? You say that that's not enough? You want his first published gaming release to be a hard cover?

You drive a hard bargain, dear reader. Alas, you know that I have a spine of cardboard and will cave to any reader's demands. That's what comes from being a desperate hack.

So be it. I present you with Jeff's first release, in hardcover:

Available in May: The Adventure Begins!
Goodman Games

Seriously, along with Jeff there are a host of great d20 writers included in this anthology of low-level adventures. Notables include:

Bret Boyd, Michael Ferguson, Andrew Hind, Phillip Larwood, Brendan LaSalle, Jason Little, Rob Manning, Greg Oppedisano, Adrian Pommier, George Strayton, Michael Tresca, Dieter Zimmerman ... and yours truly.

Vanity leads me to mention that the cover illustration is by Roslof and highlights one of my adventures. Isn't that Carly Simon singing in the background?

And speaking of vanity...

Everybody Knows Owlbears Rule
Goodman Games' Owlbear
This miniature was ostensibly created for use with Legacy, but even I’m not so arrogant to claim that that’s why you should buy it. The truth of the matter is that our secret Owlbear Overlords forced me to write an owlbear into the module, just so that a miniature would be eventually be produced, ultimately leading to Harley writing “Reign of Beaked Lords,” an original RPG allowing players to take the role of owlbear overlords carefully guiding the evolution of humanity.

You think Chuck Norris is cool? That boy ain’t got nuthin’ on an owlbear.

But strangely, even owlbears kowtow to the mighty dragon turtles.

I’ve said too much.


Legacy of the Savage Kings at Game Storm 8
Legacy of the Savage Kings link

This weekend, in Vancouver, Washington, is Game Storm 8. On Saturday James Kundart will be running Legacy, my first published module. He'll provide the 5th-level characters, so all you'll need is cunning, creativity, and nerves of steel. ;)

BTW, watch out for the black dragon. Ol' Stygoth the Damned gets the party started right. :)



Finite Lives
So I’m one of those folks that has a lot of trouble sitting still for a two hour movie. Good movies are great, but the majority of movies aren’t, and more often than not I’m left regretting the time wasted. After all, why should I sit and watch schlock when I could be writing it?

But in a strange turning of the cosmic cycle, the last week or so has been jam-packed with Harley approved events. Here’s a run down of things seen and done:

The Sisters of the Mercy Show
Even though they (rightly) disdain the title of “goth band,” the Sisters were and remain one of the seminal influences for goth culture. The stage show was comprised of three men, alternately appearing from and disappearing into a thick wall of stage smoke. Everyone in attendance was wearing black, and latex and leather were the norms, not the exceptions. Mohawks, pancake face makeup, bondage gear and a whole bunch of people highly motivated to convince you how tragic their lives are.

I loved it, irony and all, and spent the entire show with an enormous grin on my face. Of course, it’s not very cool to smile, but I’ve never been cool, so no loss.

Hah! That should instead read: Smiling is frowned upon.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s the Muppet Show!”
The HBO Comedy Fest is hosted in Aspen, bringing a whole gaggle (nothing worse than an incomplete gaggle) of entertainers to the mountains of Colorado, where they struggle to make up for jet lag, lack of oxygen, and way too many fur coats.

H and I missed out on most of the festival due to our work schedules, but we did manage to catch an adult improv act performed by Jim Henson’s Muppets.

Just think back to Animal and consider the possibilities.

The venue was set up with a camera that fed into a pair of screens. So you could either watch the stage, where performers held puppets over their heads and spoke into mikes, or you could watch one of the screens --- that cut off the view of the performer’s body. The illusion of life this created was amazing, and despite being able to look back from one to the other, it was difficult to convince myself that they were one and the same.

On stage there was a man with a puppet. On screen there was a living, breathing, blinking, cussing muppet.

Roma, Amor
And last, but certainly not least, I was shanghaied into running lights for the school’s sixth grade play.

Now, my first job was as an actor for the Colorado Ren. Faire, but I’ve never done any theater work with the tech side. Fortunately, the school’s light board is both very sophisticated and very reliable --- a rare instance in the world of modern technology. Our lights were all pre-programmed, so that all Harley had to do was follow the cues and key the lights.

Easy enough.

But what if someone drops a line at the end of a scene? Or walks out of the spot? Or the director decides he needs flame effects for the sack of Rome?

Time to make stuff up. Fortunately, you and I are authors. Making stuff up is what we do best.

All told, I left the booth with a serious admiration for the men and women that run lights at professional shows. There is a ton of work that goes on, and if they do their job right, we never notice it.

Did Harley run a professional grade show?


Did we get off stage without dropping the ball?

Darn right we did.

And Meanwhile …
I’m writing. A lot. Pretty much if I’m not with furry puppets, aging goths in bondage gear, or sixth graders, I’m writing. Because of overlapping deadlines, I got a little bit of a late start on the novel, but that’s mattering less and less with each passing day.

And I’m happy to report that it gets easier and easier. It's neat to pass over that line to where the word count starts looking too short.

Will Harley get the novel? Probably not. There are a lot of better writers than me out there. But this is a great learning experience, and I’m really enjoying the twisting, turning and tormenting of my characters.

Again, I don’t want anyone to be let down when I get the big bounce. Like Kam pointed out, I’ve been paid one thousand smackers for the novel, which is precisely one thousand dollars more than I was paid for my last book. I’d take this opportunity again in a minute, and the next book will be even better.

Whoops. 780 words. See? That would have made my quota for the day. This writing thing is overblown. ;)

GenCon News
Last year was my first time to attend the convention. I'll never forget Joseph Goodman looking around the convention, whistfully recalling when he used to come as a fan instead of a publisher. I nodded and smiled, confident that such a cruel fate would never overtake me.


As of Sunday, I'm looking forward to:

-Speaking at a seminar. "How to Write Adventures that Don't Suck"
-Doing signings with fellow authors.
-Running at least two sessions of adventures.

Which is all fine and good. After all, writing games isn't all fun and ... games. There is responsibility too. I never thought I’d get to go to GenCon, much less be a part of it.

But if you’re coming to the show, know this: Harley is one VERY shy dude. Super-shy. Introverted. Major people aversion. If he had the choice of a single super power, it would be invisibility.

Looks like another opportunity to grow.

960 words. ;)


I'm due for a post but there's another 3k words to write today and they aren't just going to pen themselves. :)

That said, nothing eases a freelancer's heart like lining up future projects. Life is good. :)


Post-Partum Projects
Do you guys ever find yourselves missing old projects? I just finished up this big one, where I’ve spent all my daydreams for the last several months, and I really miss it. Sure they're just fantasy worlds, but when we invest them with time and effort, a piece of us is left there even after the project is done and gone to print.

Funny that I didn’t see that coming. Thankfully, I just got an invitation from a friend to help out on a series of adventures, in the tradition of the old Drow/Slavers/Giants modules. If it gets the green light it will probably run around 120k words, or so, just enough to be meaty but not overwhelming. The project is still in its infancy, but it gives me something to look forward to after May.

On a different note I wonder if there isn’t something potentially unhealthy about falling in love with our dream worlds. Given the chance, I could easily spend all my working hours spiraling inward.

Fortunately, I’m in no financial position to do that anytime soon. :) Nothing like paying rent to ground you in the real world.

Heh. Sanity: Another hidden benefit of being a poor freelancer!


The Adventure Begins!

Hey, Jeff and Mike, a friend pointed me toward this release. Barnes and Noble claims our hardcover is coming out on the thirteenth of this month.

Product Details:
The Adventure Begins
ISBN: 097707384X
Format: Hardcover, 160pp
Pub. Date: March 2006
Publisher: Goodman Games

Given that we haven't even seen cover artwork yet, what do you think are the odds? >;)



April, 2006

The first role-playing adventure I ever played was Keep on the Borderlands.

Into the Wilds has the same cover artist, the amazingly talented Jim Roslof.

I have the best night job ever. :)


If you'll be at the Con, can run a fast and furious game, and want the cost of your badge covered, follow the link and give the big man in Chicago a heads up.

Maybe you'll end up running one of my modules! Hah!

Let the Frenzy Begin
…please excuse the exclamation points

Though it might not be apparent, I’ve worked hard to keep my enthusiasm for this year’s GenCon Indy to a mild roar. With Goodman Games' open call for GMs, my convention season officially begins. The kid gloves come off, I start filing the corners of my dice, packing my rule books, and counting down to the big Con.

This year my dear friend and longtime mentor, Alex Anderegg will be running a few games. With his encouragement, I’ve agreed to run an adventure for 0-level characters (the same adventure that will also be released at GenCon).

“But Harley,” you might note, “there aren’t rules for 0-level characters in 3.5 ed.”

To this protest I need only remind you that any game is your game, and if there aren’t rules, then damn well make them up . . . or at least fudge it.

Baring that, you could always shell out some hard earned dollars and buy something I wrote. But why not come up with the rules yourself?

I’ll also be doing some signings, witnessing the release of one huge project and a few small but sweet ones (perhaps including a hardback release), doing some skating at the local skatepark, and generally smiling until my face hurts.

To refresh your memory, here are some highlights of the 2005 Con. In keeping with Harley’s working view of the world, some are bad, some are ugly, but all are fun.

-Meeting the Young Dragons of WoTC fame! Ed Gentry, Lara Gose, and Jaleigh “Jolly” Johnson all took pains to put up with me last year. Can’t wait to see them again!

-Hanging out with Dave “Blackmoor” Arneson. The look on Jaleigh’s face was priceless.

-My run in with the mysterious El Presidente. Will he return again? We can only hope not.

-I discovered that a bandanna was a viable (or not) option as a woman’s primary article of clothing.

-Riding in the back of Alex’s pickup truck through downtown Indy, as Alex gallantly escorted the ladies from the 5 Wits back to their hotel.

Highlights from this coming year:
-Game designers Jeff LaSala and Mike Ferguson will be releasing the largest Goodman Games product to date. Be there!

-Elaine Cunningham and Paul S. Kemp will be in attendance! Smile nicely and keep the fanboy hysteria to a minimum!

-Reunion and signing with the Young Dragons, including celebrity drake Eric Scott deBie! Also, Ed Gentry and Jaleigh Johnson both have Realms books in the coming lineup, so make friends with them now and they’ll sign books for your children down the road.

-The return of the Five Wits! Look for them at a gaming table near you. Oh, and there are three of them. I think.


If you’re a gamer, and if you’ve ever dreamed of attending, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Bring some dice, a tablet of paper, some pencils. Leave with ten thousand new friends and renewed appreciation for the power of the imagination.


Papa was a rolling stone.
Starting tonight, I'm a one-project man. Since last August there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t been working on 2 to 3 different projects at once.

The chance to focus on writing one, just one, is a relief. It’s akin to what I imagine an adulterer must feel. Sure there are benefits to having 2 mistresses and a wife on hand, but after the glow wears off it is nice to quit the late night antics, settle down and get to know the one you love.

That’s how I feel right now. Committed, focused, devoted.

Of course, Harley’s still got a cheating heart, at least when it comes to writing projects.

See, there’s this hot, little new RPG that’s all the buzz. I nearly sent away for the rulebook today, with the plan of learning the rules and then submitting material. Had to cancel my PayPal order not once, but twice.

May 31st. Just need to make it to the end of the book and then I can start dating around again. ;)

Edit:*Laugh* I just remembered that I committed to writing up some rooms for a GenCon tournament special. But those are all due no later than the 6th.

Honestly. After that I'm done. >:)

200,000 d20
Like a tramp liner full of swedish bilge rats, she's in. Came in a little over count (only 20,000 words or so ;) ) causing a bit of a panic last night, but after reviewing my notes and math I realized we were in the clear.


Exercising Developer Privilege, I wrote the Afterword last night and now I'm ready to sleep for a week.

Thanks for all the encouragement the last couple days. You guys and gals are the best.