Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Three Years and Then Some

On August 21st at 4:05 PM, the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope achieved three years of existence in the blogosphere, which, while not being a Herculean task is nevertheless no small potatoes in longevity when it comes to the intertubes. Other blogs have risen and fell since I started posting these scribblings and I’m proud to have been up and around when things started to really get rolling in the OSR. The question that now stands before me is “What does the future hold?”

I’ve stated that I believe this will be the final year for this blog and my recent hiatus confirms that belief. I simply lack the interest to pursue this project much further. I’ve been blessed with a modicum of success and the things that I would once write about for this blog I now scribe for publication. As reasons to stop a blog go, that’s not a bad one. I’m keenly aware that there hasn’t been a lot of useful material produced by the Society in quite some time and that the signal-to-noise ratio is at the worst its ever been. Could I turn it around? Yes, but I don’t really care to.

As you can gather from the title of this blog, I started it with the intention to chronicle my return to the hobby by means of the classic dungeon crawl. My initial plan was to blog about my creating a megadungeon and getting a regular game going again; a plan that succeeded past my wildest imaginations. But alas, the megadungeon doesn’t have the luster it once had and my thoughts are going to places beyond the old Saturday night dungeon crawl. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not condemning it or the dungeon, but after three years of eating the same meal, one desires to sample other repasts. Add in the fact that most of the paid work I’m doing relates to fantasy and/or the dungeon, and I think you can understand my desire to do other things for recreation.

This doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning Stonehell Dungeon. I’m still working on it (unfortunately as slow as ever) and progress accumulates in between other, shorter projects. I will nevertheless be ecstatic when the second book is complete and I can close the Stonehell chapter of my life for a while. I’ll return to it after a well-deserved rest so long as people are interested.

Once I’ve written the final words for the Society, I plan to leave it up for an unspecified duration. I have no plans to burn the place to the ground as I walk out the door, but neither do I intend for it to remain up for whatever passes as eternity in the ether. At some point it will come down, but with plenty of warning—like a year’s worth—so don’t sweat it.

I remain interested in blogging, but I’m not certain if time and energy will allow for it in the future. Once Stonehell is out of the way and I can concentrate on other pursuits with more focus, we will see how things go. I have some cool stuff coming out and another project being discussed at the moment which might scratch an itch that I’ve been having. I’m cheerful about the future, even if the blog isn’t part of it.

This is not goodbye yet, but it is coming in the months ahead. It’s been fun, challenging, annoying, surprising, and enlightening, and I’m glad you all stuck around for so long. It is greatly appreciated by a guy who considers himself very, very lucky. I hope that even after I leave the Society behind that you’ll follow my efforts and hard work in whatever other forms they next appear.

Thank you all so very much,


Saturday, August 27, 2011

BÖC-Hurricane Party Video Mix

If you never hear from me again, I was swept out to sea.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stonehell from the Party's Perspective

Or at least how they perceived Level One before they noticed that the layout had undergone...changes...since they last ventured inside.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Otherworld Miniatures' Labyrinth Lord Boxed Sets 1 & 2 Available for Pre-order

It was announced back in March of last year that Otherworld Miniatures and Goblinoid Games were teaming up to provide a series of miniature boxed set that correspond to the various levels of the dungeon. After some delays, the first of those boxed sets are now available for pre-order at the Otherworld Miniatures store. Both are expected to be released September 20th of this year and will cost £60.00 now and £75.00 after release.

Originally, each boxed set was to include a 3-4 page adventure that would link together to form a larger dungeon complex. I do not believe this is still the case and that the adventure concept has been discarded--which is a shame since I participated and submitted my level on time so that I could get a set of these bad boys myself, but such are the whims of fate.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Third Annual NYC Arneson Memorial Game Day

This is a “Save the Date” sort of thing. More details as they emerge:

On Saturday, October 1st, 2011, the Third Annual NYC Arneson Memorial Game Day will be held at the Brooklyn Strategist to honor the life and accomplishments of Dave Arneson. As of right now, Tavis from The Mule Abides will be running Adventurer Conqueror King and I will be running a delve into Stonehell Dungeon. Others are encouraged to volunteer to participate by either running a game of their own or merely stopping in to play. More details will undoubtedly be posted here, over at The Mule Abides, or on this thread at the Original D&D Discussion Forum.

Early Conan the Barbarian Review

Marcus Nispel's new "Conan The Barbarian" is the film equivalent of having someone punch you in the face for two straight hours while someone screams in your ear.
Warning: there be spoilers in the review.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mike’s Mid-Week Gaming Tour

For those of you in the greater New York and Long Island area looking to log some gaming time before the weekend, you’ve got two options to not only do so, but to do so with me.

Tomorrow night, I’ll be running D&D Gamma World as a place-holder in between the last D&D Encounters campaign and the next one. The regular DM is out-of-town for the next two weeks and I volunteered to run the only 4E-related game I own to keep the home fires burning until he gets back. So, if you want to give the latest incarnation of Gamma World a whirl and have free time between 7PM and 9PM this Wednesday, drop by Brother Grim Games and Collectibles in Selden, NY. I’ll have pre-gens ready to go.

Secondly, I’ll be attending the Gamerati Tour 2011 stop at The Compleat Strategist this Thursday in NYC. It’s been at least ten years since I stepped into the Compleat Strategist and I’m looking forward to pressing the flesh and playing some new games. The tour stop runs from 3PM to 7PM and you can get more information either here or at the Mule Abides.

I hope to see some of you there!

Stonehell Dungeon T-Shirts Now Available

Over a year ago, I had a single “Official Stonehell Dungeon T-Shirt” made to help publicize the book. I’ve worn that shirt to conventions, my weekly game, and to other roleplaying-related events. After more than a year of wear, the shirt remains in good condition. During that time, I’ve had several people ask me where they could get a shirt of their own and up until now they couldn’t. But thanks to an agreement with artist Carl Nash and the good folks at, Stonehell Dungeon T-Shirts are now available to the general gaming public.

There are three varieties of shirts currently available at the Stonehell Dungeon Store. The first is the cheap white T-shirt with the iconic Ogre Face Arch image and Stonehell Dungeon logo. It retails for $18.00. The second is the basic “gamer dude” black T-shirt with arch and logo. The shirt is higher quality than the cheap white T-shirt and sells for $25.00. Lastly, there are the “I’m both ashamed and proud that I came up with this idea” official “In-Game Bonus” T-shirts. Coming in four varieties, each shirt grants a special modifier to the character of the player wearing the shirt. Roughly class specific, there is a shirt for clerics, fighters, magic-users, and thieves. They each retail for $35.00.

For the purposes of complete disclosure, the shirts vary in production. The cheap white T-shirts have the image directly applied to the fabric (I’m not certain if this is silk-screened or not; I don’t have the knowledge of the process involved). The black and modifier tees have the logo and image applied as an appliqué, not too dissimilar in method to the rockin’ “iron ons” we had as kids, but of better quality. The in-game modifier text on those shirts is applied directly to the fabric. I’ve had mine for over a year and the appliqué has suffered very little wear despite many trips through the wash.

I’m not expecting these to sell like hotcakes, but since people have asked and any extra money that comes in allows me to cover some bills while I finish the sequel, I’ve taken my final step into crass commercialism and selling out. I hope this will mark the end of that journey, but I should if ever become possible to create Stonehell Snuggies™ I’m so going to.

Zazzle offers a 30-day “replace or refund” guarantee so if you get a bummer or have second thoughts, you’re not out your cash. Also, much like Lulu, Zazzle offers regular discount codes on their products. In fact, until August 31st, the code SAYITTSHIRTS will save you $5.00 on each shirt you buy.

Stonehell Dungeon “In-Game” shirts are official in my own version of the dungeon, regardless of whether I’m running it at home or on the road. Individual referees can choose to accept or disallow Stonehell “In-Game” shirts for their own games. For the official rules regarding their use, click here, and remember to get your ref’s OK before buying an “In-Game” shirt.

Check out the Stonehell Shop and help support the Stonehell Dungeon sequel, coming this year from yours truly.

Stonehell Dungeon Official In-Game T-Shirt Rules

This is so the game masters out there running Stonehell Dungeon have official “by the book” rules to point to if Mr. Rules Lawyer or his cousin Knuckleheaded Gamer Guy start being a problem.

Rule Number 1: It is the game master’s prerogative to allow or forbid the modifier granted by a Stonehell Dungeon “In-Game” T-shirt in his or her game session. If they say the shirt’s modifier doesn’t apply, it doesn’t apply. Stonehell Dungeon “In Game” T-shirts always grant their bonuses in any game run by me, Michael Curtis.

Rule Number 2: The player’s character gains the benefit of only one shirt at any given time. Shirts do not stack regardless of how many the player is wearing at the game table. Only the topmost shirt grants it bonus and the player is allowed to change shirts during a game session (but see Rule Number 3 below).

Rule Number 3: The shirt’s modifier must be plainly visible at all times to be claimed by the character. If someone standing behind the player cannot read the text on the back of the shirt, that player cannot apply the shirt’s benefit to their character. This means that “In-Game” shirts worn under other clothing do not grant a bonus; shirts obscured by the back of a chair or other situation where the player need only lean forward or to one side to reveal the game text still grant their bonus.

Rule Number 4: If your campaign allows for “shields to be splintered” to avoid damage, the Stonehell Fighters Tee can be used in lieu of a shield. To claim this benefit, the wearer must physically tear his or her shirt off in their best Hulk Hogan fashion and slam the strips of cloth triumphantly on the game table. All other players and/or bystanders must immediately give that player a standing ovation. The first person to send me a video of themselves or another player performing this action in actual play will receive a special Stonehell-related gift from me of my choosing.

Rule Number 5: The benefit of wearing a Stonehell Dungeon “In-Game” T-shirt is completely negated if the player is also wearing an “RPG guy hat.” “RPG guy hats” include, but are not limited to: fedoras, sombreros, fezzes, cat ears, Australian -outback style hats, surplus military hats, Viking helmets, and other headwear that no self-respecting person would wear, yet the player mistakenly believes makes them cool, quirky, or more stylish than everyone else. If there is any debate as to whether a hat qualifies as an “RPG guy hat,” a vote of all players present is taken and majority rules. The in-game modifier is only negated if the shirt owner insists on wearing his or her “RPG guy hat” at the table. I can’t stop you from wearing it to and from the game (as much as I wish I could).

Rule Number 6: If any other uncertainties or debates regarding the modifier granted by a Stonehell Dungeon “In-Game” T-shirt arise, see Rule Number 1. The game referee always has the final say and his or her decisions trump Rules Number 2-5.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Secret Fire is Burning Down Tenkar’s Tavern

I’ve been concentrating on other things for most of the summer (and some announcements about those things may be cropping up in the near future) and I completely missed the progress and changes that Legends & Labyrinths had been undergoing since I sat in on a playtest back in June. Luckily, Tenkar of the Tavern seems to be covering the game post-release in painstaking if random detail.

Obviously, the biggest change was the fact that it got a new title: The Secret Fire. It also seems that some folks have been coming out of the woodwork to praise George Strayton’s creation. As I said after the playtest, the game incorporates elements from all the editions, utilizing them and improving on some of them to very good effect. I’ve not had a chance to read the released version of the game yet (ahem), but from what Tenkar’s been reporting, it sounds like the playtest was very indicative of the final result.

There are some interesting game mechanics in The Secret Fire and even if the game turns out not be the one you going to be playing, those on the lookout for different options and unconventional designs will want to take a look at the game. But don’t take my word for it: Keep reading Tenkar’s coverage and make up your own minds.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Over the Wire & England Invaded

I’ve let it be known that I have a fondness for that historical period spanning from the end of the American Civil War to the end of World War I. I find this era fascinating; so close to our own world-view yet oh-so-different.

While tooling around online looking for Victorian period minis, I happened upon a mention of the miniature skirmish wargame, England Invaded. Produced by Over the Wire Games & Miniatures and available from Warrior Miniatures in the U.K., it seems to be set in an alternate history timeline where World War I broke out a couple decades early. The minis are the perfect mixture of the Victorian and the Great War, and cover the English, German, French, Turkish, American, Cossacks, and a few independent forces (the Americans all have cowboy hats).

I’m not much of a mini wargamer and have no interest in pursuing a second career as Warhammer general, but this line tickles me in just the right places. Has anyone out there had any experience playing this or with the minis? The prices aren’t bad for buying them overseas, but not cheap enough to justify spending the cash without doing some research.

My attitudes and interests when it comes to RPGs have been heading in strange directions lately, and if this turns out to be a winner, I can see strange fruit being born from peculiar trees.