Joyous Gifts

adventure-legosAs I bring the family gift shopping to a close this season I’m finding presents on my mind. My children are teenagers now and just aren’t as easily excited by gifts as they used to be, and I suppose the same thing is true of me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so thrilled by a gift that I grinned from ear to ear and ran off to enjoy it for hours at a time.

(I mean gifts in the traditional sense, not “oh, the love of my child” or “the gift of life” or some permutation thereof.)

I wonder if that change in joy level is because as we age we’re less surprised even by the things we like. I mean, even when I received a copy of a rare pulp collection it still wasn’t like discovering that toy I was mad for when I was five actually under the Christmas tree. On the other hand, that pulp still brings a smile to me whenever I pick it up, so it’s not as though the joy has gone. It’s just not as intense. Read More



1 Comment

Last Stop for Ki-Gor

molunduOver the last few days I finally finished the last unread Ki-Gor novella in my possession, Slave-Caverns of Molundu, and after setting it down I think I’m done reading jungle man adventures for a while. It wasn’t quite as good as the first three, and, as I’ve mentioned, too many jungle stories in a row kind of wear on me/emphasize the ridiculousness of the whole genre. This adventure started strong, but didn’t have as much variety or out-and-out weirdness as the best ones. There were also occasional signs of hasty composition, like a word repeated too many times in a row.

On the other hand, it did have a great, driving pace, the characters were suitably heroic, and there were strong action scenes. And as a final reward, there were occasionally paragraphs of great descriptive power. Like the following: Read More




Story Play or Game Piece Play?

game-pieceThe Old School Renaissance is immensely appealing to me. I like a lot of the “simpler is better” philosophy behind the design of adventures and rulesets, and the emphasis on creativity. But I keep bumping my head on one of the common conceits. I think it’s best summed up by this line from the famed module Anomalous Subsurface Environment 1, in which the writer Patrick Wetmore declares, in an advice section for players, “You will probably die at some point. Possibly  repeatedly. That’s okay, rolling up a new character is quick and easy. Don’t take it to heart.”

The thrust of this kind of gaming is centered on problem solving and discovery, and I believe — I can’t be sure — character development and narrative must be de-emphasized. I’ve seen some people playing this way, and the characters are only loosely role-played and the players don’t really speak with their voice at the table. If one is removed from the board, they just drop in a replacement character and keep going.

Read More




Return to the Jungle, Ki-Gor Style

silver witchIf your to-be-read pile is anything like mine, sometimes stuff leaps ahead for no good reason. For instance, I have a score of books I’ve actually been looking forward to for years and have never gotten to. Sometimes it’s a matter of taste (maybe I’m not feeling like a pulp adventure) and sometimes its just timing, or that I’m saving THAT book for a long airplane trip because I’m positive I’ll like it (such is the fate of Nathan Long’s third Ulrika book, and Tim Powers’ The Drawing of the Dark).

But sometimes it’s just a whim. I drop by James Reasoner’s excellent blog from time to time, and on November 18th he posted a review of a Ki-Gor story. He kind of liked it, and I dropped in to say that if you like THAT one, just wait, because they get weird and wild and far stronger pretty soon… and that got me and my pal John Chris Hocking talking about Ki-Gor again. He decided he’d finally get around to reading one of my favorites, “The Silver Witch” and I decided to heck with my TBR pile, that I’d tackle a handful of Ki-Gor stories I’d never gotten around to.

Read More




Raging Swan Rocks

raging-swanGamers, have you ever looked over the products from Raging Swan? I should probably highlight them over at Black Gate to draw even more attention to them. I can’t speak to the adventures they publish — I haven’t read any yet — but the game master material is top notch.

I get notified by RPGNow about their “daily deal” (one of the few marketing lists I’m deliberately on) and some months back learned that a little book called “Wilderness Encounters” was on sale for less than half price. What the heck, sez I, and bought a copy. What turned up was a whole host of lists with interesting, creative, evocative possibilities. Different bandit encounters, different minor events that could happen on the road, different weather events, and on and on. Ideas just flowed out of that book. I was immediately taken with it, and am slowly acquiring other holdings from Raging Swan’s stable.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. If you want to see the quality and variety, click here for NUMEROUS free samples. Even if you’re not a gamer and are a world builder, I think it’s easy to find inspiration here.

Incidentally, they bill themselves as a Pathfinder producer, and while they started that way, a lot of the stuff is either system neutral or available that way, and from what I gather a lot of their catalog also is available for 5th edition D&D.



Friday, August 30, 2013

…I am not at WorldCon 2014 (AKA LoneStarCon 3). In the grand scheme of things it is a tiny disappointment and certainly no tragedy, but I find myself…

Dreaming of the Writing Life

Thursday, August 29, 2013

When I was a kid, the writing life had a magical luster. I felt as though were I to become a published author, I would have “made it.”…


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I learned a while ago that no one method always seems to work for me when it comes to story drafting. I do have some tried and true…

Words Good. Hulk Not Smash.

Friday, August 2, 2013

I’ve been deep in the trenches writing up a storm. The Hearthstones project is really picking up steam, and if people have as much fun reading it as…

Sword-and-Sorcery Gaming

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Even though I have a vast assortment of old role-playing modules staring down at me from my bookshelves, and even though it’s been a few years since I…