As 2021 starts speeding by, we thought we’d take a quick look at what we wrote in 2020, as we sure didn’t write many blog posts.
Presciently, I wrote a short story about a plague. Meanwhile, Mark’s scenario, ‘The Crack’d and Crook’d Mansion’ reappeared, about being doomed inside a house. It was almost like we were prepping for staying home for a year.
Horror on the Orient Express reprint
Best news first. The train is coming back!
Horror on the Orient Express will soon be available again, as a hardcover reprint of the exact text from the boxed set. A completely revised full-colour version is on the distant Chaosium schedule, but not expected for 2 or 3 years, and it was too long for it to be entirely out of print. As MOB sagely observes, ‘HotOE is a fantastic campaign, and it shouldn’t have to be purchased at collector prices by people who just want to read or play it.’
Chaosium have made a few layout tweaks, and managed to squeeze six softbacks full of horror into two hardbacks and a poster map. They even have a Print on Demand version to save postage. My period Travelers Guide (by my esteemed psedonym P.E. Jensen) will be available as a standalone PDF and POD.
Apart from helping with a few typos, our work here was done. We’re delighted to see the return of the old blue train.
Chaosium are relaunching their fiction program under the helm of industry veteran and just incredibly nice fellow James Lowder, and a new short story collection is on the way: Sisterhood: Dark Tales and Secret Histories, edited by Nate Pedersen. The theme of the collection is stories set in female religious communities.
After we’d finished Horror on the Orient Express, I realised I still had some loose ends to follow [campaign spoiler follows!] and so picked up some ideas we had about why there is no Brotherhood of the Skin chapter in Venice, and ran with an order of nuns guarding dread tomes in the plague-struck and decaying city in the 14th century.
My story is titled “Unburdened Flesh“. There are plenty of other dark and dreadful tales in the collection by genre luminaries, Nadia Bulkin, Livia Llewellyn, Molly Tanzer, Sun Yung Shin, and Damien Angelica Walters. It was an honour to be included among them.
The book is almost ready but the cover is now revealed, so feast your eyes.
Mansions of Madness Volume 1: Behind Closed Doors
Mansions of Madness was a classic Call of Cthulhu anthology in the 1990s. Chaosium have updated it for 7th edition and are releasing a series, starting with Mansions of Madness Volume 1: Behind Closed Doors with three classic scenarios and two new scenarios. Mark was delighted that his ‘Crack’d and Crook’d Manse’ was one of the two classic scenarios chosen to lead off, and even more thrilled that Lee Gibbons has once again done a stunning cover.
We feel entitled to the title of ‘classic’ ourselves. We all play-tested this one in our university days, and they are long, long, long ago now.
Mark’s favourite Call of Cthulhu publication of recent times is Harlem Unbound by Chris Spivey, and Chris contributed new material on Harlem for the reprint of “Dead-Man Stomp” in the new Call of Cthulhu starter set.
So, Mark has written a scenario for Chris’s brand new roleplaying game Haunted West, about the Western heroes that history has overlooked. We’re both huge Western fans, and for several years we watched a Western every Tuesday night with our good friends Ching Yee and James. (My favourite Western is Rio Bravo but I’ll probably change my mind in a minute; Mark holds firm with The Gunfighter, because Gregory Peck.) Haunted West will appear later this year.
Other games writing
I have written three Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition scenarios set in Barovia that Mark is playtesting and editing (more on those soon), and Mark has been finishing his work on Reign of Terror 2. Plus we have been doing some other things as yet announced that we look forwards to sharing.
The Three Dungeoneers
On a lighter note, I write very silly short stories around our Campaign Coins company mascots, Dhum the dwarf, Avariss the half-elf and Hazzard the barbarian. The idea is that they are always heading into dungeons to get treasure and then losing it as soon as they come out. The meta-idea is that the stories are the result of a fantasy roleplaying game campaign where the world is serious and the GM is serious but the players are idiots.
We took our two collections The Three Dungeoneers and The Other Dungeoneers to the last actual convention we attended, Supa Nova Comic Con & Gaming in Melbourne in early March 2020. The crowd was already thining as the implications of COVID-19 were sinking in, and everything and everyone was awash with hand sanitizer, but we still had fun. We all miss the community of playing games and we hope we can all get together in conventions again soon.
Through 2020 I’ve been working on the third book in the series, The Anti Dungeoneers, which we will publish later in 2021. In tough times we all need a laugh, so here’s one, gratis.
Avariss was left to roam Temple Street alone, which normally she wouldn’t mind, as it contained plenty of high-toned merchant emporiums and she loved nothing more than browsing through a silk bazaar when she was in funds. Sadly, all the liquid party assets were in Dhum’s padlocked money pouch, and no silk merchant who wanted to keep their stock in store would let a penniless adventurer linger nearby. She went back to the Builder’s Hall but Dhum and Hazzard failed to appear, even though she stood in the entrance and carolled their names in a variety of High Elvish tones until the Temple Guards insisted she move on or be arrested for crimes against song.