Awfully Quiet
Is how things will be around here the month of June. Many projects need to get done in time to go to press for sweet Genny. Something on the order of 70k. That's almost my own HarloRiMo.  

Which really means that Harley needs to follow the advice at the top of the page and get back to the writing. 

See you all at Indy...

But Until Then

...feel free to put the mighty, mighty Sandfolk to use in your Blackmoor game. Provided, free of charge, by the kind overlords at Code Monkey Publishing, and penned by some hack named Stroh. 



Big Willy Style

Join with Skeletor, and the rest of the Choosey Deathers in wishing the Saurus a happy birthday.

Saurus is the reason for all of this. I can say without hesitation that my entire career as a game designer is built off of writing adventures that I wished the Saurus and I could have played as kids. This is the little brother that, when I was getting the crap kicked out of me on a elementary field trip, dived into the pack and started busting heads at the tender age of 8. This is the man that gave me money when I was down, and –looking around my office– also gave me pretty much every piece of tech I own. He's twice as creative as me, and three times as stubborn , both of which bring their own blessings and curses.

So, in honor of the Saurus, everybody get on down. You'd hate to disappoint Skeletor.  



Born of Fail
It happens. You put down hard hours, burn some brain cells, neglect your family, and then finally finish the project, knowing that it rocks on toast. 

Then you get the call. The publishing schedule has changed. We'll try to use your work in the future, in one or two permutations, but we can't promise anything until the schedule settles down. You get paid on publication, so sit tight. 

I've been on both sides now, making  the calls to rightfully PO'd authors, and I've also had my own projects sidelined by factors outside of a publisher's control. But when you're selling work for hire, it comes with the territory. If you can't accept that, it's probably not the right profession.

Again, it happens. To *all* writers. Handle yourself in a professional manner, and you'll be around for more projects in the future. (And yes, occasionally some of those will be delayed ... and so on.)

Then of course, sometimes there is a lightning storm. The past few months multiple Stroh projects, through multiple publishers, have been drafted into service or canceled, or whatever. But as long as I accept the paychecks, I forgo my right to complain.

A couple nights ago, another hammer came down, and another project was caught between it and the publishing anvil. It was a cool one too, one my rare ideas that was actually kinda sweet. But Gen Con is 91 days and 14 hours away, and Harley's Cool Idea (tm) was just a little too much to send into production. 

You fail, thank you, try again.  

So for the past 48 hours I've been wracking the ol' gray matter, trying to come with another idea that was:
  • Executable in time for Indy;
  • Cool enough to merit your hard earned dollars.     
And for 48 hours I've been staring at the cover art for a non-existent product, wondering just what the heck I was going to do to fill the pages inside a pretty smoking cover.

Then, searching for presents for upcoming Saurus Celebration I came across a 3 word combo, highlighted in someone's random page. 

And it was cool. And executable. And it made my old project look lame. 

While I am not, by any means, a good author, I think that this process helps to illustrate attributes that a good author should possess: Persistence, humility and the willingness to find your ideas anywhere. Another author could have come across those same 3 words and not been inspired. Another author could have found inspiration in dozens of other worlds, earlier, and already have 30k down in ink. Another author could have had multiple projects delayed, and said, "Screw it, this industry is BS, I'm out."

But no one of my works is my magnum opus. If you know Harley, you know he's always convinced that his next project is going to be really sweet, and he's sorry that the one he just finished sucked so bad. Hopefully, as long as I keep breathing this will always be the case. It's an act of faith that, yes, you will come up with a better idea. And it's a case of loving your collective contribution more than any one work. And it's about sticking to it, no matter if you're a n00b or a vet, because, if you can't prove it with the next sentence you write, what good is it?

My collection of works is static. It's dead. Finished. My future works are still gestating. They're exciting, unformed and growing, each with its own small shot at perfection. I'm still in love with them and their potential. And when the current batch goes to print (sometime between now and Gen Con) they'll have finished out their lives as ideas, dying when ink hits paper. By the time you pick them up they'll be static.

But that's all right. I'll have moved on to new loves. And so on, until *my* life becomes static, finished, and goes to print. 



Wrath of the Faerie Queen

A photo from our recent May Faire, taken by the child's father. 

The festival is kicked off by selecting the king and queen. All the children gather in a circle, each with a handful of grain. A chicken is placed in the center of the circle, and selects the king (or queen as the case might be) by eating from a child's hand. This is a photo of this year's queen.  

The rest of the photos show her smiling, but this one, I think, is best.



One for the Mouser

Noted by my friend and yours, Ashlock, the cover to one of the first 4E DCCs showed up on ENworld, via the folks at the Ogre Cave podcast. 

One of 3 covers posted on the Ogre Cave site, this particular adventure is a favorite of mine. Set in the city of Punjar, I wrote it in an effort to capture the quintessential rogue adventure. While not exclusive by any means, the adventure will be a special hoot for characters looking to run around on rooftops, slink through alleys, and plump dark sewers. 

Silverlock, eat your hear out.    



Ridden by Fey, 1 of ?

I've been doing some cursory research on faeries in folklore, and came across an interesting notion in this article. In summary, it notes that "Consumption (tuberculosis) was sometimes blamed on the fairies forcing young men and women to dance at revels every night, causing them to waste away from lack of rest."

Now, while my sleepwalking escapades haven't had much to do with dancing at revels every night, I can aver to the exhaustion I feel in the morning after a rough night. Maybe some faeries hand out comp tickets to Oberon's Ball, but mine are lot less fun.

At least, they're less fun the day after. But when it comes to telling stories about my after hours adventures, they can be pretty amusing. Therefore, for your pleasure, dear reader, I'll be relaying some of the best/worst of my sleepwalking episodes. Many of you have already heard these stories before (or lived through them) so feel free to correct me where I'm wrong, or add some bits of your own. 

  • How Harley came to live in a doublewide with Cardboard over the Windows:  Once upon a time Harley lived in a trailer with his family on a farm. One of the bedrooms was devoted to my mother’s art studio, so Saurus and I shared a bunk bed in the other bedroom while Mom and Dad slept in the living room.

    If you’ve ever lived in a trailer, you have a sense of how cramped things can be. Sleeping on the top bunk put me within a few feet of the ceiling.

    (One thing I should mention before going further is that my sleepwalking episodes have me interacting with reality. As I noted in the previous post, it is as if there is a dream template laid over reality – I react and respond to the dream images, all the while manipulating the real world around me. Important to all of this, is the understanding that the experience to Harley is a *real* one. If I watch you die in my dreams, it creates the same visceral physical response as if I had stood by and watched you die in reality. But more on that later.)

    Anyhow, one night I “wake up” to find myself caught in a death trap. I can’t recall the purpose of the death trap, but that didn’t matter too much at the time because I was about to be crushed by a descending ceiling.

    (Remember - for intents and purpose, this is all “real”.)

    And sure enough, just above me, is the ceiling, coming down to crush me.

    I kick up hard with both feet, but try as I might I can’t stop it from coming down. Faced with imminent death, and a ceiling mere feet above me, I decide to make a break for it. In a dashing feat of daring, I kick out the window beside my bed and roll out, dropping to the ground some 8 ft. below.

    Success! I had escaped sure death to live another day. My Father met me outside, terrified and confused as all get out. We put replaced the window (luckily none of the shards had cut me, or my brother, sleeping below) but I would kick it out again in the coming weeks, so ultimately we just covered it with cardboard. 
Next time: How there was almost no Saurus



GAMA Trade Show: Was it only...?
...last week I was in Vegas, working the GAMA Trade Show for Goodman Games. Unlike Gen Con, the GTS is first and foremost a chance for game publishers to meet up with gaming stores and vendors. After hours, it is a chance to meet up with other publishers. 

If you're a long time publisher, this is old hat. If you're a newbie fresh off the farm, this is pretty impressive. Over the course of the 3 days I had the chance to spend time with Kenzer (Co. didn't make it this year), the publisher of Black Gate, folks from Mongoose, Eric Rodriguez (Conan and Soloman Kane writer), the notorious Chainmail Girl, Eric Mona and Lisa Stevens of Paizo fame, and the brilliant Brendan LaSalle - designer of the X Crawl Game. 

All in all, a good time, along with the opportunity to talk to shop owners about the DCCs (big Deathy shout out to the good folks of Rooks, Bozeman MT) and generally get a sense of where we are as an industry. 

But Harley, you might be asking. What about Sin City? 

Sadly, not many stories to tell here. Troll Lord Games didn't attend so alcohol sales were actually down this year. The night the Goodman crew went out to play test the not-soon-to-be-patented Kenzer Guide to Winning at Craps, I laid low and worked on upcoming DCCs. GAMA is pretty relaxed, so I did play in an X Crawl drinking game, where shots of rum we passed around each time something died. (Kill a monster, you drink. GM kills you, he gets to drink.) But all in all, pretty tame fair.  

In terms of sheer excitement, the height of our Vegas adventure came with my last night. I was running on a cumulative sleep total of 10 hours over 3 nights, which – when combined with a bit of stress – is an invitation to some serious sleep walking. Details are still pretty fuzzy, but it went down something like this: 

In the "middle" of the night (somewhere around 3 am) I dream I see my Vegas roommates up out of bed killing one another. Naturally, I  –the real life, physical Harley– start shouting at them to, "Stop! Stop!" and being the heroic type, I leap up, tear off the covers to the bed and ready myself for a fight. 

Though I am asleep, my passionate exhortations rally my sleeping roommates. Bredan of X Crawl fame, thinking that something serious must be going down, wakes up and makes a break for the hotel door. Our publicist, the gaming industry version of Entourage's Ari, leaps up and starts demanding to know what the hell is going on. My publisher and boss, trying to sleep before his industry wide meeting the next morning, shouts at us all to get back in bed. 

All seems well, but  I'm still half asleep, which translates to groggy, embarrassed and (driven by a full head of adrenaline) fairly confrontational. Someone says something along the lines of "What the hell?! Turn on the lights."

And me, being half asleep, groggy and confrontational, reply in my best sociopathic dead pan:

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

The room went *dead* silent and it took us the next couple days to sort everything out.  
City of the Gods

PDF out now, courtesy of Code Monkey Publishing. Print version to be released before Gen Con.