Next Stop: D&D Exp.

This weekend the Goodman crew will be representing at the D&D Experience hosted by Wizards of the Coast. It is a chance for us to hook up with some of Wizards' fine people, play some games, and make plans for the coming year. I'll be running some play tests for my boss, two of the key organizers of our annual Dungeon Crawl tournament and a few friends. Specifically, the adventure I'm running is slated for our first 4E release. Heh. Hope it doesn't disappoint the boss.

Totally unrelated, I did a map search of Arlington, and unless my google-fu sucks, the convention is taking place in the Crystal City. Now, I don't know anything about Alrington or its slums, but "Crystal City" just reeks of c-punk. Who knows, maybe I'll get to run into Mike Pondsmith again.



And in other news ...

The banana-rific folks of Code Monkey Publishing have taken up publishing Dave Arneson's Blackmoor. Already they have Temple up for sale as a PDF, and are reprinting all the old books. The latest plan is to see a print version of City of the Gods by Gen Con, with a chance of seeing the PDF before then.


Genghis, Khan of Cons
versus Harley, the Reluctant Celebrity

Driving back from Genghis, the highway had vanished under a couple inches of snow, so I had a good 5 hours to review my weekend.

Genghis occupies that sweet spot where it has enough critical mass to draw gamers from the entire West and Southwest, but isn’t so large that it has to branch out into non-game events like Gen Con's dubious Segway Challenge. So while it doesn’t have the same sheer spectacle or intensity as some of mega-conventions, it is perhaps --- in the final analysis --- more true to the vision of a “gaming convention.”

I was a late-comer, so my events didn’t make it into the printed catalog, but we still had overfull tables at both games. The largest was 9 players --- we had one guy rolling up a halfling barbarian (his tribute to the sexy shoeless god of war) while I sprinted back to my room for more pre-gens and another guy looked for extra chairs. Note to self, always bring at least twice the number of characters required for any session. Both games had their own charm, and I think it was a good sign that my group was told to shush from a nearby table. When it was all said and done I was spent, and after only running 2 sessions, another good sign.

We were play testing Maze of the Oracle, a 3.5 version of Goodman Games’ 2008 Free RPG Day adventure. We’ll play test it again, in house, for 4E rules balance and whatnot, but this weekend I was looking mostly at continuity and to see where things bogged down and got boring. While it was good to run the adventure through the paces, I’m a terrible play test GM. When games gets boring, I make up stuff on the spot --- after all, I’m here to entertain the players, right?

So yeah, I have low threshold for boredom at the table. As soon as folks start stacking dice, I’m pulling the train off the tracks and making everyone roll for initiative. That’s fine and good for home games, but in the publishing world, “made up stuff on the spot” tends to not make it into the finished release, and some this weekend’s material, tailored to a specific group, was decidedly PG-13+.

(At one point, the rib cage of the party’s wizardress was rotting out, and the rest of her team was debating the merits of inserting the evil war-god idol into her side. Definitely not your usual DCC fair. Sorry guys, you won’t be seeing any of those travails in the final release.)

Stephanie Latta and the Denver Gamers’ Association put me up in style and took great care of me over the weekend. Scheduling permitting, I’m hoping that we can pull a repeat next year, with maybe some other Goodman Games writers in tow. It’d be fun to pull in cohort of writers and use Genghis to test out adventures and new games. Specifically, writers who are better at that whole play testing thing.

One of the cooler games I saw over the weekend was a massive war game table, re-creating the last battle in Lord of the Rings. Siege towers, boats loaded down with orcs, flocks of giant eagles, the whole shebang. I’ve never played any war games but they are a lot of fun to look at. The only flaw (and again I’ve never played in any) is that turn resolution seems to take forever. Witnessing one kid getting his hat handed to him by the Witch King of Angmar and then having to wait 5 minutes before slugging back was just painful.

All told, the show was blast. Next weekend I’m headed to Arlington for the D&D Experience, Wizard’s premier show, so it will be interesting to see how the two compare.

Thanks again to DGA, Genghis Con, and all the folks that signed up to playtest Maze. Hope to see you all again next year.



Life: Still about the After Party
Just back from throwing down with the Genghis Con folks. Very cool people, who are all very dedicated about this little hobby of ours. I brought some copies of Sinister Secret as a thank you gift for all they've done for me, and it was cool to see them excited about it. 

Much love tonight, even for the one shy guy in all of Denver. 



The Shy Guy at GC
Just a brief side note as I prep for my day. Waiting in the registration crowd and asking for a "guest of honor" pass made it into Harley's Winner Circle of top 10 most uncomfortable moments.

I don't know why I'm wired this way. The folks behind the desk were awesome, just like like everyone else I've run into so far. So why the hell can't I look someone in the eye? They told me to come here, so why should I be embarrassed to show up?

It's not even self-esteem. I have self-esteem for days. It's more like conditioning or retained reflexes. Harley's long since moved on, but the old reflexes are still there.

The part that breaks my heart is that I see it in so many other folks here. The overweight guy, talking to himself as he walks to buffet? That's me. The skinny, bug eyed kid who's looking around like someone is about to punch him? That's me.

We don't need to be this way. We're amongst friends here, and while people in groups are largely asses, individuals are largely kind. So what's the damage already?

Sheesh. Get it together, kid. If not for yourself, then so you can be an example to others.



Support Your Local Skateboarder Con
The generous folks of Genghis Con have invited me to be a guest of honor this coming weekend. This is officially my first “guest of anything." It is amazing that folks would actually invite me to show up anywhere, let alone put me up for the night.

Chalk it up to another unexpected experience made possible by this little gaming thing.

Anyhow, I’ll be down in Denver for the weekend, running previews of Goodman Games’ Free RPG Day Dungeon Crawl Classic. The DCC will be released under the 4E rules in June, but I’ll be running the 3.5 version at Genghis, due to NDAs and what not. If you’re planning on attending and want a peek at what we have in store, sign up for one of the “Maze of the Oracle” events.

With Gen Con looming on the horizon, folks can be forgiven for  forgetting about all the smaller cons between now and August. But the upshot of smaller cons (and nearly every gaming con is smaller than Gen Con) is that they offer a much more personal experience. Whereas it is easy to get lost in the crowd of 30,000 gamers at Gen Con, the smaller, local cons offer the chance to actually hang out with folks in a more relaxed atmosphere.

My hope is to make Genghis part of my annual con calendar, making a habit of offering up sneak previews/early releases to my fellow Coloradoans. After all you only have one “first.”



Smacked Down on the Step Up
OR Mountain 1, Harley 0

Way back before Christmas, I took a Sunday morning to hang out in one of the Snowmass terrain parks. One of the features was a 20 ft. step up (20 ft. being the distance of the gap, lip to landing --- all things considered not a terribly large jump). Essentially something like this:

The far side was just a tad concave, but was manageable the first couple hits. Later in the day I made my usual mistake of deciding to "really get after it," and bombed the hill. Took the jump with a more speed than recommended. I came down right in the midst of the concave, which --- when combined with a bit too much speed and bit too little proficiency --- had me airborne again, headed towards the flat.

The flat is where you don't want to land.* Anything with a real angle is acceptable --- your falling momentum gets pushed out, but when you hit the flat it's just you and the hard pack. I came down like a old man falling on concrete, separated my shoulder and called it a day.

Luckily, the accident was just before Winter Break. H and I went back East for 2 weeks to see her family and by the time I got back all was well again.

Which brings us to the present. We got another 11 inches of snow last night, with more on the way Wed and Thurs. That's lining up Saturday for an old school smack down, Harley versus the Volcano, or Mountain as it were. If you're up in Aspen this weekend, thats where you'll find me, trying to even up the score. ;)


*Warning: This one's a stomach cruncher. Brown lived to walk away though.


Life is Too Short Not to be a Hypocrite
All right, so I lied. It turns out that TRUE happiness is being an independent school admin, calling a snow day, and then hanging out drinking coffee and writing. Got out, did a little cross country skiing w/ the miss, and now its back to writing again.

Even better, for kids throughout the Roaring Fort Valley, it's like Christmas all over again. ;)

And meanwhile, one of 2 roads out of the valley has been closed by an avalanche. Hopefully nobody was there when it came down, but we won't know for a few days, until the danger of additional slides has been dealt with.

For the love of God, don't click this link.
Yeah, I've become a Pandora Radio zombie, no thanks to the Mythfish. Currently listening to the Jurassic 5 "channel," but also delving into Rancid radio and the Sisters. Haven't opened itunes in days. *fear*



When I smile, your smile should be as big as mine.
Or ... Pimping the Peeps.

I'm pretty darn thankful for all the things that have come my way of late. Even better, the loose circle of writers I audaciously call my friends have also had great successes this past year. In our game, it's easy to get envious, but that's based on faulty assumptions.

Namely, this isn't a Zero Sum Game.

Jeff LaSala writes a NYT best seller? Awesome. Give him some props and write your own damn bestseller.

Anyhow. Before I sink into a diatribe ...

The great thing about this book finally making it to print is that when Jeff was handed the "Meek Writer's Guide to Wooing Editors and Getting Published" he promptly tossed it out the subway window. It's still down there someplace, moldering in the darkness.

Do I recommend his strategy? Absolutely not. But the man got results, and since he can back it up with his writing ... it's not really bragging is it? For the full story, harass Jeff at Gen Con. I'l be happy to point him out.

That, and the guy on the cover actually looks like Jeff. Apart from Ed Greenwood, I don't know anyone else who has pulled that off.

What can you say? This woman rocks. Of all of us, Marce is the one that manages to get in the most punches --- despite being a navy wife and mother of 2. I swear she submits manuscripts in her sleep. Fear this woman's work ethic, for if it catches you giving grief, it will crush you.

And, if you see her at Gen Con, give her a kiss. There will be generous bounties paid out for all documented Marce Drive-by Smooches.

This is the first in an ENworld trilogy by Aeryn "Blackdirge" Rudel, the most dangerous force in publishing behind Marce's work ethic.

Best known as DCC editor exemplar, Aeryn can turn around a clean manuscript in the time it takes most of us to brew a pt of coffee. But more to the point, the guy is a weight lifter in his spare time. So while we're all taking breaks from writing to grind some exp, this dude is pumping iron.

Even more threatening to my ego, Aeryn's the only one this list that's a fulltime freelancer. True story.

Jaleigh was the first person* to stop by my first signing. Actually, she might have been the only one. But it was worth her ribbing when I got to see the look on her face when she realized the guy next to me was Dave Arneson. Since that fateful day, when ever Jaleigh thinks of me, she sees Dave.

I think that's a win-win situation all around.

*Meaning, "non immediate best friend."

Jaleigh actually has 2 books on the list, but if I could get a darn cover scan, she'd have 3. Go buy her Nautilus Cell. You can thank me later.

(Insert witty text about Ed and link to store.)

(Even more witty text, this time about Erik. How DOES he do it, folks?)

I'm SURE I missed somebody/some book. If it was published in the last year or so, let me know.


Whew. To avoid all this work in the future I'm starting coding on a catalog. Till then, you can see Deather books here:



Happiness is ...
A cup of coffee and writing on a snowy Saturday morning.

As writers, we better darn well enjoy the process (at least some of it) because there is nothing else.

Finish this trilogy/novel/short story/sentence and what happens?

You pick it back up and start all over again.

Love or hate it, this is the act of writing. We’re not booksellers, we’re writers. This is a distinction often lost in the conflation that comes with publishing.