Friday, November 10, 2023

News & Notes

Good morning! Hope everyone fortunate enough to have the day off today is enjoying their holiday (it's Veterans Day, here in the States). My kids are out of school, so they are sleeping in this morning...I, myself, woke up at 6:30am (not unusual) and went back to sleep till 7:40 (very unusual). Brewing myself some coffee at the moment...ratio of decaf-to-caf is approximately 5:1.

I appreciate all the condolences and kind thoughts expressed over the passing of my dog...thank you so much. Life continues to move on (as always), and everyone here is fine (more-or-less). It's still a little odd the small ways I miss her...many of my habitual behavioral patterns (closing doors, locking gates, guarding food, sealing off trash cans) were adapted over the years to compensate for my incorrigible rascal of a dog, and now every time I brush up against that, I feel a small void of emptiness. It's a bit more immediate than the loss of my mother...though it brings up a similar feelings, as this is the kind of thing I would get on the phone and call her about, causing me to confront (again) her absence. 


ANYway...moving on to the "news and notes." Apologies for not yet get my AP reports out from the Cauldron convention; those are still coming, and should get typed up (*hope*hope*) before the end of the month. Others (Ghoul, Melan, Prince) have provided their own post-con reports, so if you're interested in the German, Hungarian, and Dutch (respectively) perspectives on the event, I'd direct you to their blogs:

(yes, they're all written in English)

For myself, I've been rather busy lately with the current writing project (writing? What a shock!). The deadline for the NAP III contest draws near, and I have only begun writing up my entry. It's a rather large one. My first NAP submission (Hell's Own Temple) was all of ten pages and 18(ish) numbered encounters. My second NAP submission (Ship of Fate) doubled the number of encounters and ran to 17 pages PLUS an additional six pages of pregen characters. Those I knocked out in a couple-three days.

This one's...a bit bigger. Double+ the size of my last adventure in terms of numbered encounters, three appendices, plus a dozen pregens. The thing is currently in a "mostly outline" state, and it's already 14 pages. 

Have not yet started the stocking spreadsheets; have not yet drawn a single map.

Instead, I've spent the last ten days "sharpening the axe," diving deeply into the lore and figuring out how...really how...the adventure works and interacts with my own campaign world. There may not be a lot of the Emerald Empire in the thing, but there will be some. The adventure is set in the Idaho Deathlands, after all. Troop numbers and resources and geography are all being drawn from my home setting. It's a doozy.

And while I'm pretty sure I'll be able to finish the thing with alacrity (my push to have adventures ready for Cauldron showed me what's possible), I am running up against an additional time constraint: my imminent trip to Mexico. The family is leaving town next Friday...the first time we'll be traveling to see our family and friends down south since 2020 (2019? maybe). Everyone is, of course, excited. But if I don't have this thing knocked out (or mostly written) before I leave Friday morning, chances are slim that I'll be able to complete it before the end of November. Polishing I can do in my in-laws house. But scanning maps? No...and I'm not going to be bringing a bunch of books and reference materials either.

SO...six-ish days is about what I have left to finish the thing (we'll be back on the 27th, but a day or two to recover from the trip will mean almost no time before hitting "send" on the email). And it's not like I have six full weekends afford me very little time to write. The bulk of my work comes when my kids are at school and the wife is at the office. 

Or early mornings. Hmm...maybe I shouldn't have slept in...

But, there it is...I'll be pushing through and (if the blog is sadly silent) my readers won't be wondering whether I've fallen off some cliff or something. Just busy. In fact, I should probably log off now and clean the kitchen. The damn dishwasher broke down a couple days ago and I have to do all the washing up by hand...and last night I cooked a rather large feast of pork shoulder, Brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes.

And...oh, crap. It's my birthday in three days. The Big 5-0. And I'm sure the fam wants to do something for me. Something that will no doubt eat into my time. Crap.

All right, all right...I've got to go. More updates in a few days!

Monday, November 6, 2023


I am posting this today to mark the passing of my last "running beagle," Chewbacca ("Chewie"). Sixteen and one-half years she was with us...longer than either of my human children...she was a dear pet and great comfort to my wife and I through countless hard times. 

I could eulogize her for thousands of words, but suffice is to say she was greatly loved by my family and she will be greatly missed.  It is amazing the impact the loss of a simple animal can have. It is amazing the joy that they bring into one's home.

This has been a rough year. It hasn't been six months since I buried my mother. My grandmother died shortly thereafter (her funeral service was in September). Other family members (an uncle, an aunt) have also passed in 2023...though their absences leave far smaller holes to fill than the others mentioned. 

The passing of my hard. I told my son this morning that (perhaps) God has made humans (and pets) mortal so that we can have a greater appreciation for each other, so that we can cherish each other more and the limited time we have on this plane of existence. We have to love...and not take for granted...the precious time we have. 

He was still sad. But he understands.

For my daughter, it is somewhat easier. For her, Chewie is running and playing in heaven, no doubt eating treats provided by Grandma, and enjoying her reunion with her brother, Buddy.

It's been pouring rain for a couple days now, which does little to lighten my melancholy mood. But it is appropriate. And comforting in its own way.

That's all for today. God bless.

Friday, November 3, 2023


Well, I did think I was going to have more time for blogging. Unfortunately, the last of the "running beagles" is on her last legs (that is to say: apparently dying) and her care has been occupying much of my attention this week. It is what it is. I still need to finish (well, start really) my NAP3 contest submission, so that I can get it in by the 30th. Fortunately, I have a plan for that.  The plan for the dog is...slower in the coming. Though it appears the writing is on the wall.

*sigh*  ANYway...on to something a little more upbeat...

One thing I neglected to mention in my post about the Cauldron convention is that I, too, won a prize: I was awarded the trophy for "Best Dungeon Master" of the tournament. I am told (by the con organizer) that this was the "most prestigious trophy" of the con (it was certainly the largest trophy). It was also stated that I won handily by "all metrics considered" including number of game sessions run and quality of game sessions run (as graded by players). I was also the undisputed leader in the "most deadly DM" category (again, as voted by the players) with some players writing-in their own categories for my games including "Very Deadly...But Fair" and "Fantasy Fucking Vietnam." I am told that the results (at least in that category) weren't particularly close. Though I also handed out a lot of treasure.

Something to keep my dice in...

I haven't blogged about this before because...well, because it's needed to sink in a bit. I did not go to the convention to win trophies, after all. I went to Cauldron to play AD&D (specifically to play with a large number of adult aficionados) and I went there to meet people who...previously...I have only known or interacted with via the (rather impersonal) internet. I know I said as much in my last post. And I meant it.

But in mulling it over, there was definitely another reason I wanted to play this particular game with these particular people.  A selfish ego-driven reason. And yet a simple reason:

I wanted to show my chops.

Look: there are a lot of faceless blowhards on the internet. Not much has distinguished me from such folks over the years (if I am at all "distinct") except, perhaps, longevity and the fact that I've published a book or two. And, truthfully, that's cool...I'm not really blogging for recognition so much as for carving myself a little forum on which to vent my meandering thoughts. It is what it is: humans crave outlets for creative expression, and I am no different. I just choose this particular hobby as my channel. Once upon a time, I might have chosen something different. But this is plenty gratifying.

And yet, when one "holds forth" and blusters with"strong opinions" as I am wont to express here, I am sure there are some who might wonder: Is this guy full of shit? Or what? And there are times myself when I am confronted with self-doubt. After all, here I am writing about the joys and wonder of playing 1st edition AD&D...and, yet, the only people I've run the game for (since starting up again) have been children. My own and those of others. Not "real people;" not adult peers, some of whom have plenty of experience and design cred under their belts. Not the kinds of people that judge like I have a tendency to judge. 

And, so, running games...AD&D (1E) games...was something I desperately wanted to do. Not just for the joy of it, but to prove to myself...and perhaps others...that I could do it. Because I still wondered. Despite all the theory-hashing. There are plenty of folks who teach because they can't do (that old chestnut). But being able to teach or speak or write with any degree of authority requires one to put into practice the preaching. To put up or shut up.

That can be a tough leap to make in this hobby. 

No,'s not because it's rocket science or particularly difficult (it truly isn't). Rather it's just because so many game masters are (like so many other people) cursed with (at least slightly) fragile egos. Far easier for the fifteen year blogger like myself to NOT take the plunge: to instead stay home and say, oh yeah, wish I could go to that but, you know, totally busy. And, thus, not even taking the field. Save the reputation from the potential hit one might take. People seeing your failings, judging you, maybe (heavens!) posting on the internet how much you suck.

It's human nature to doubt oneself at times.

So, no: I was not at the convention with the objective of competing for awards, but I was there with the aim of proving myself...both to myself and to others. ANY acknowledgement of me running a competent game would have been welcome, trophy or not.

Especially considering the quality of DM running games at Cauldron. Guys who are well-known in OSR circles...designers/writers like Gabor Lux and James Raggi and Prince of Nothing. The Germans themselves brought more than half-a-dozen 1E DMs, most of whom (I believe) are associated with Nexus, the German adventure gaming club that has really pushed hard in recent years to dig deep into AD&D and its glory. No slouches on display, in other words...just competent, confident DMs. 

So a good testing ground...and a chance to step up and show that I'm not just an idiot with a blog.

It's all very silly, of course. Crowing about...or worrying/stressing well one runs a game in a niche section of a niche section of a niche hobby. But while DMing isn't rocket science, it does take work and effort. As with any pastime, one can treat it seriously and respectfully...or not. That is: the person doing the act (i.e. the person running the game, specifically ME in this case) can treat the "DMing art" with respect, or not.

Whether the rest of the world does or does not respect the work is not (and should not be) of much concern. It's my life after time I'm spending on the effort.

Still, it's nice to have external acknowledgement. Always nice; always gratifying. Like the people who put electronic dollars in my DriveThru account every time one of my books is purchased, it is encouragement: encouragement to keep at it, to keep working, keep striving at getting better. A pat on the back and an "attaboy" probably would have been sufficient. 

But it is a nice trophy. And (sad but true) I don't think I've ever earned ANY kind of award for ANY endeavor that I cared more about than this hobby of ours. I feel stupidly, absurdly proud...just for killing a few imaginary characters and handing out imaginary treasure.

Though it probably helps that my players (my kids) thought it was pretty cool.
; )