"Calling out to all area crew..."
For a long time I've been trying to puzzle out a way to edge our games into something that works for the greater good. "Wargamers for Peace" or something stupid like that.

Needless to say, I haven't had my lightbulb moment yet, but if you're looking for a place to make a difference in a life, it has arrived via Paul Kemp, WoTC author. I won't say more here, because it's false for me to pretend to be familiar with Paul Kemp or his friends, so if you're interested check out the blog, pronto.

Here. We'll link it to make it easy.




Duck, Duck, Deadline!
I finished my portion of Temple of the Frog with nary a week to spare before it was run at GenCon. Following meetings at Indy, I signed up for an 89k monster due at the end of October, 2006.

I asked for an extension, but there was no wiggle room. Halloween or bust.

Possible? Yes. But probably not my best material.

But there were complications. New monsters needed to be vetted, new rules required testing, ideas needed time to gestate.

The cool part was that I fell in love with the project, and made it home for my best work to date. Creepy, unexpected, cool – with +89k worth of space, I could pull some funky moves.

But still, that deadline thing.

Deadline versus Love. If you know Harley, you know which I sided with. Up until today I was making my word count schedule, but it was all going into the wrong places. I was +20k into the work, but love or no love, things were going to have to change.

Then I got the email with those golden words: "We’ve decided to push back the release date to XXXX. Your deadline is now January 2."

Praise be. Out of nowhere, for no good reason, salvation.

A while ago, Jeff and I were talking about writing, and, I, being the usual ass, was complaining. When we spoke I was booked solid with writing projects. But the more work I had, the tighter the deadlines, and the worse the quality of my writing. I remember telling Jeff that Iron Crypt was the last time I had really been able to give an adventure the attention it deserved. That was over a year and a half ago.

(Which isn’t to say everything I’ve written since has been trash. Most folks seem to like the work, but it's never all it could have been.)

Flash back to the present. I have 89k all to myself, the time to do it right, and my legs are sore from skating. I’m the luckiest guy in town.

Hope you all are doing well. It’s a bright, beautiful world out there. What’s the line in the song? “I thank the Lord / for the people I have found.”

And that means you. Thank you.


P.S. Hey, Inversion – coming down the mountain soon. Hope to see you around.


Goodman Games

Iron Crypt 1e
The print copies of the Iron Crypt, 1st edition sold out in 2 hours, leaving a lot of dissapointed folks. Goodman games will be taking orders for the reprint, up to Sept 15. If you want one, grab it now, because they sure won't be around afterwards.

Heh. I put my order in for 2 copies this morning. :)




Death by Con: Part III
Or “Guess I Really Don’t Know How to Party”

One of the things I learned this year is that nearly everyone in the industry knows everyone else. I had breakfast sitting behind Mike Mearls. Dave Arneson was hanging around and signed some of my brother’s Blackmoor books (which Saurus promptly gave to me). I got to shake Mike “I created the cyberpunk genre” Pondsmith’s hand and thank him for everything he has given us. People know people.

I am not one of these people. Joseph Goodman is. Walking 3 blocks in the evening took us over 45 minutes, because every 4th person was an industry insider that needed to talk to Joseph. Amazing.

One of these groups included the boys from Necromancer games, which has something to do with White Wolf that has to do with lawyers, guns and money, but which nobody seems to talk about. Joseph, being the stellar guy he is, introduced me, and the boys from Necromancer gave us the blood-red tickets – invites to the White Wolf party.

Joseph (industry insider remember?) didn’t care to attend this year. But to me, his little sidekick, this scrap of red paper was my ticket to that hallowed place all would-be novelists yearn to be. Inside.

Like little Charlie en route to the chocolate factory, I carefully folded my ticket and placed it in my skull billfold. Joseph and I met for an hour or so, working out the release schedule for the next 25 DCCs, and then met with 2 writers finalize plans on the big Goodman Games releases planned for next year’s Con. We wrapped up after midnight, the blood-red ticket burning a hole in my pocket.

I hit the street at 1:AM. The party was being thrown at Club Industry, open bar, and the generous hosts had even arranged for a shuttle. Trouble was, the 2 “cross” streets listed on the directions didn’t actually intersect.

Harley needed a cab. Pronto.

I hoofed to the nearest ATM and leapfrogged from ATM to ATM until I found one that worked. Took out cash and was back on the street. Hailed a cabbie and we were off to Club Industry.

Indy is an interesting city in that the downtown is beautiful, but just outside the downtown are the ruins (equally beautiful) of massive factories and refineries. You drive past them, see them surrounded by rubble, and are amazed that they are standing. This is the foundation of Indy, upon which the rest of the city is built: industry, concrete, rusting metal and broken glass.

The perfect venue for a White Wolf party.

I hopped out of the cab, and over tipped the good man. After all, I was drinking on WW tonight. No need to be stingy.

Hammering down an alley flanked by razor wire, came the minor chord wails of "This Corrosion" by the Sisters of Mercy, the same song that was on repeat for the 3 months I was writing the Vampire novel:

”I got nothing to say I ain't said before –
I bled all I can, I won't bleed no more.”

Papa was coming home.

I followed the music to the end of the alley and through a pair of utterly nondescript doors. Inside the bouncers took my ticket and waved me through into darkness.

Sad to say, I never found my editor that night, but I did muster the courage to join my fellow misfits on the dance floor. Back in Fort Collins we had a group of friends that prided themselves in their ability to dance. I’m not much a dancer myself, but with Andrew Eldritch screaming classic goth tunes in your ear, it is hard to go wrong. We danced until 3 in the morning when the club kicked us out.

Savoring the moment, I took one last look and a drink on WW’s tab, and walked back into the alley …

… and directly into the most vicious game of alley dodge ball ever caught on pixels:

The punks from Shadowrun were lined up against a ragtag band of Others. If there was anything I learned from going to college with reformed streetpunks, is that you don’t mess with these people. Lean and hungry, these are the kids that were kicked around their entire lives. They (we) take this whole tribalism thing seriously.

Real seriously.

Men with dyed dreads and facial piercings were working the English on the balls while women were shedding their skirts in order to dodge more effectively. Clothes were coming off, balls were screaming across the alley, and every five minutes the judges had to pull one baller off another. I rooted for the ragtag team, if only because they were getting slaughtered in the alley, but to no avail. The Shadowrun designers led a massacre.

It was now 4 in the morning. One look at that crowd and I knew it would go all night long. I hoofed it back to the hotel, unrolled my sleeping bag and set my alarm for 6:45 AM, just in time to shower and meet with another editor to discuss arrangements for a novel. I picked up a voided ticket on the way for you guys.

This is the other face of GenCon, the distinctly not-for-kids version. When I got home I emailed Stewart thanking him for the good time, and he replied, inviting me to the next WW party.

Rock and roll.

So if you see me on Sunday, next GenCon, and I have a black eye, a twisted ankle and a stupid, zombiefied grin, now you’ll know why.

A huge thanks is due to White Wolf for throwing the party, and a big, Deathy thanks to Rob Boyle, Shadowrun Developer of FanPro, for passing along his photos. Stop by and buy one their award winning releases.

They're good people, but – for the love of god – don’t challenge them to dodge ball.

Shadowrun RPG

Death by Con: Part II
Everyone that goes to GenCon has a different experience. The event is so rich and varied that there were dozens of rooms and events that I never saw in any of the 4 days I attended.

Having declared my ignorance, I am now going to tell which of these thousands of events was the coolest.

On Saturday I was running my “Halls of the Minotaur” in one of the RPG rooms. A single room packed with 9 or more tables, each with 6 (or in my case, 9) gamers. An intense experience by any standard.

Just behind my table was a game being run by a woman in her mid-thirties. She had a kind, mature way about her, and seemed to radiate a calm joy.

At her table were 4 children, fully enraptured by her game. Of the +50 gamers in the room, these kids were the ones living fully into their imaginations. Some wore costumes, some didn't. They were all having the time of their lives.

This, ultimately, is the magic of role-playing games, and the best that our industry has to offer. Nothing else we do will ever come close.

Death by Con: Part I
Before leaving Denver I made up a list of goals for GenCon. What is the quote about war? Something like the best laid plans evaporate after first contact with the enemy?

In 96 hours, I had planned to:

Meet Kam and Erik.
Done! These two are amazing human beings, as anyone who has spent time with them will tell you. Both are kind, generous, socially adept, and pretty much defy all the negative stereotypes associated with gamers. It was a privilege to spend time in their company.

Meet with the Fans.
Unlike last year, when only Jaliegh, Marissa and Jeff showed up, this years signings were insane. Products were literally being offered from all sides, with requests for signings. Thank you to everyone that took the time to stop by the booth, and if you have any questions or concerns that didn't get answered, feel free to drop me a line.

These games are NOTHING without the gamers. More publishers need to realize this.

Hang out with Saurus, Noise, Wentz, Ed, Jeff, Lara, Marisa, Rob, Technobi2k, TacoJon, the 5 Wits, the Young Dragons … and not feel like I’ve slighted anyone.
Almost done. The convention was a tab bit busier than I had planned. The Saturday and Sunday offered a total of 5 hours sleep, and that was just due to meetings. Sorta.

I still feel pangs of guilt for not getting to spend more time with these wonderful people, but it wasn’t half as bad as last year. I don’t mean to be a jerk, I’m just crap for scheduling. The worst part is that Jeff started warning me about this months ago, so I have no excuse.

Run 4 four-hour sessions of Halls of the Minotaur.
Success! Lost my voice by the end of day 3, but at least the players had a lot of fun. A special, Deathy shout out to the NINE player group that stormed my last game. You guys rock. Hope to see you next year, especially the dwarf suicide squad. (“We check for traps!” “How?” “By marching forward into glorious martyrdom!”)

Also, my apologies to anyone who was subjected to my enactment of “The giant spider drops on you from behind!” Some scenes are just too visceral to not have a physical component.

Dance my booty off at the ENnies.
Failure! Goodman Games ducked out through the kitchen after we lost the award, and celebrated, Irish wake style, down the street. When we won a judge’s choice award later that night, no one was there to accept. There’s a lesson there, but we’ll see if it sticks.

Make it to the Gamers: Dorkness Rising showing, as part of the Goodman Games crew.
The first night of the showing was rained out, even though the event was indoors. Something about a pool and water running down the escalator. The second night Goodman Games got red carpet seating up front. The movie was well received, and our adventures were nicely featured. Good times. This was the beginnings of Harley’s 4 Days as a Rockstar, and root of my ultimate demise.

Crash one of TacoJon’s games. (He’s running the Iron Crypt, 1st edition.)
Taco is a brilliant and vicious GM. Be very afraid. Goodman Games produced a special, 1st Edition release of the IC for GenCon, and it sold out before noon the first day. I wasn’t even close to getting a copy of my module. Amazing. Expect to see copies showing up on Ebay soon.

Crash one of Noise’s games (He’s running Jeff’s new module.)
Noise joined me in the Iron GM challenge. Alex is a machine.

If you’ve never tried running 4 sessions over 4 days with total strangers, I applaud your wisdom.

Confirm my rejection from White Wolf.
Failure! I was too scared to approach the booth, so my little brother did the dirty work. The annoucement has been delayed. Expect one timed with Halloween.

Meet with a publisher to discuss possibilities for my first novel.

That report about covers the skeleton that was GenCon. Expect the meat shortly.


Make that Six!
If you are playing "Temple of the Frog" at GenCon (yes ... THAT Temple of the Frog) you will be playing an adventure developed by Richard Pocklington and written by Harley Stroh. There is a lot more to the adventure, much of which was written by Richard, but the bits you'll be getting at the con are some of my contributions.

And maybe you'll even get to play on a giant Harley-drawn map. Fear.

Temple of the Frog originally appeared in this badboy, the SECOND D&D supplement released by TSR:

Having the opportunity to contribute to this project was a lot like being asked to re-carve the Holy Grail, and on a deadline. We got 'er done, but only thanks to Jeff "Ask And It Shall Be So" LaSala, Richard's fantastic ground work, and Christopher Reed's patience and willingness to answer any question at any time ("Lasers! Yes or no?!").

Anyhow, the GenCon games are just the tip of the Temple. I'll do the giddy dance about this some more when the rest is made public.

Iron Crypt: First Edition
Also, no image to point you to yet, but Goodman Games is releasing a limited run of a First Edition Iron Crypt of the Heretics. As in, pull out the old Player's Handbook and roll up a character, first edition. Half-orc assassin/clerics and everything. Crazy. I've heard rumors of only 500 copies being printed, but those are just rumors.

The man responsible for the conversion was Jon Hershberger, aka TacoJon, who also did an amazing job of editing the new rooms. He was also the man driving the entire project, having done a conversion for play in Gorilla Con.



...GenCon Blackmoor releases...

Blackmoor CS Softcover
DA's Blackmoor

The entire "Son of Flame, Son of Hak" serial is included in this reprint. (Previously, only the first one or two episodes had seen the light of day).

This is one of those stories that wasn’t a favorite of mine, but that everyone else likes. If you haven’t picked up the Blackmoor sourcebook yet (or just want to get the cool fold out map) and end up getting this, let me know what you think.

Player's Guide to Blackmoor
DA's Blackmoor

I contributed some pseudo-fluff organization material for the Player’s Guide. Fun to write, especially since the whole is far greater than the parts. The group I wrote about was in direction opposition to the Wizards’ Cabal (the other organization I’ve contributed to), so somewhere in Blackmoor there are two of Harley’s “Wouldn’t this would be cool?” idea sets, warring it out with one another.

Fun. As a note to fellow writers, the speedy turn around on the Player’s Guide gig got me another 39k worth of Blackmoor work which I turned in last week, and another 89k project which I’ve just begun work on. That’s enough work to see me through to Christmas, though I’ll probably need to turn it in sooner.

If Blackmoor is your thing, the good people of Zeitgeist Games are working very hard to make you very happy.



There are 5 "Stroh-related" d20 releases coming out at GenCon. "Palace in the Wastes," a crazy, unreleased/unannounced version of Project X, the 2 Blackmoor books above, and DCC World (which is really another 3 works, but what the heck).

I’m at a loss to convey how fortunate and grateful I am. This was never part of the plan. The real Harley Stroh was supposed to die of a car accident years ago. This life I’m living has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the world.

Does that make sense? I’m giving myself leave to babble, so it might not.

There is no virtue, talent or skill that separates me from anyone else. No magical formulae, and I’m certainly not some brilliant writer/game designer. I look around and see people far more accomplished and brilliant than I will ever be, and I just hope they hang in that last day to when their ideas go to print. I have two friends that are living examples of this, though the announcements haven't been made yet.

Still, I’m still not sure what to make of all this.

When it is all said and done, I’ll tell you the most ridiculous story about Harley and d20 … but not until then.

And it needs to be stated, I'm still nowhere close to making a living at this. :)



The Little Proposal that Could
Plans for the con have reached critical mass. Signings to attend, games to run, and – I'm embarrassed to admit – an awards ceremony. I’m even in negotiation with a pair of ninja bodyguards, which won't seem so odd if you’ve ever been to GenCon.

All this plus Saurus, Wentz and Technobi2k in the same city? Watch out Indy.

No word from White Wolf yet, which I am assuming to be a bounce. They had planned on announcing the winner at the con, which means legal (contracts issued, signed and returned) would have to be taken care of first. So with only a week to go, my powers of deduction tell me that I’m not the big kahoona. There's still a chance of being a little kahoona, but no knowing how long it might take to arrive at that decision. As a wise woman once told me, you have to write and move on.

BUT before you whip out the whetstone and start sharpening your poisoned shuriken, here’s a story to allay your vengeful wrath:

A year ago Publisher X asked for a novel proposal. I cranked one out, only to watch it vanish into the ether.

Or so I thought. Turns out it has been floating from hand to hand between editors. A week ago one emailed me saying he liked the proposal and was interested in more, even though the original proposal had nothing to do with his line.

We’re meeting at – you guessed it – GenCon.

This is clearly NOT even close to a done deal, but it is flickering candle of optimism for all of us would-be novelists. Prior to this I always assumed the rejected proposals ended up in the trash, but it turns out that some stick it out, struggling to work magic with whatever life we’ve given them.

A year out in the world, shuffling from desk to desk, advocating for the cause. That’s a hard working little proposal. If we work out a deal at the con, I’m raising a glass to the trooper.



Also, Young Dragon J.L. Collins has a new site up. You can find it here: