Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Crucible of Thoth -- Episode II

The Crucible of Thoth

Bruce Heard & Janet Deaver-Pack

(continued from Part I)

      There was no time to waste. Whatever Quint had come to acquire had to be secured, and he, Percival St. Croix, Magus of the Rosicrucian Society of London and its unique Advocate of Order, would find the way. But first, he had to cover his move.
       Percival pooled his magic and uttered a spell, his words rippling through the ether like a fey breath upon a dark pond. Time slowed to a crawl and a golden aura suffused the scene that only those with the Sight could recognize. The reality of a well-ordered universe was a resilient thing. Changing it relied on affecting how others perceived it--the greater the number of witnesses, the higher the risk magic would fail. The invocation had to be believable from the start. (. . . )

Click HERE for the remainder of this episode. Your feedback is welcome since this is an unpublished story written specifically for this blog.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Crucible of Thoth -- Episode I

The Crucible of Thoth

Bruce Heard & Janet Deaver-Pack

Valley of the Kings, July 27th 1914

       Brimstone and dynamite.
       Something else in the air was wrong beside the vague scents. Percival peered past a gritty boulder at the debris sloping down from the rocky crag. The desert’s starlight cast a stark bluish hue upon a circle of tents surrounding a dying campfire. Workers slept directly on the ground, under the gaze of increasingly jittery dromedaries.  A short distance away, a fancy motorcar was parked near an old battered truck heaped with equipment needed to excavate an ancient tomb. A gust of wind lifted a thin sheet of dust that rustled down over the encampment. A man stepped from a tent, a westerner, judging from his impeccable suit and pale skin. He looked briefly at the camp and then lifted his head, facing Percival’s hiding place.
      Devlin Quint.
      Percival sensed his nemesis more than he could make out the man’s features. There was something about the master of a demonic sect that just made Percival feel queasy. If still around, the camp’s director, Howard Carter, must have already fallen under Quint’s mesmerizing gaze.
      (. . .)

Click HERE for the remainder of this episode. Your feedback is welcome since this is an unpublished story written specifically for this blog.


D&D ADVENTURE! -- Rougeain

The Dog Days of Rougeain

By Bruce Heard

Updated March 27 2012

Although the adventure is written for 1st Edition AD&D, it can easily be set in Mystara. Some allowances will be needed to convert AD&D back to basic D&D. Use common sense. A party of 6th or 7th level adventurers is recommended.

Those of you who are likely to be players in this adventure, stop reading and leave, including the group I game with on Wednesday evenings. You know who you are. If you keep reading anyway, you’re an ugly troll!

The party is hired by a local countess (Dame Geneviève de Séphora, Comtesse de Touraine in Mystara) to find the roots of a problem with lycanthropy in the village of Rougeain (a rather hairy place in the Glantrian Alps near Touraine), and eliminate the growing danger from the valley of Sangval.

(. . .)

Click HERE for the remainder of the adventure.  Your feedback is welcome since this is an untested adventure.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

D&D Game Ideas -- Golden Monkey

The Golden Monkey Award
By Bruce Heard

The Golden Monkey Award is an optional set of mechanics promoting and rewarding role-playing in the first edition AD&D game.  Combat and treasure are at present the usual, if not the only, source of Experience.  Nominations to the Golden Monkey Award fill the gap by providing the best players with Experience Points (XPs).

Click here to download the remainder of the document.  Feel free to provide feedback.  I'm always willing to fine tune game material.  Thanks, and cheers!

Or try this link...

Friday, February 24, 2012


Posted at Mystara on Facebook

Q: Ehm...I realized only now one thing...Bruce are you THAT Bruce? Andrea Ciceri
Bruce Heard on Wikipedia 

A: Sounds like it. ;)

Q: Bruce, in Brazil we didnt have the culture of playing wargames. I've read a lot how Gygax an so many other North American wargames played Napoleonics. Is this true in France too? -- Rafael Beltrame

A: (...) a lot more now than back in 80's. I also noticed a lot re-enactors getting together more recently, WW1 and medieval for the most part.  The first tabletop wargame I ever played was in France, and it was about... the US Civil War. Of course, I got stuck with Quantrill's "Dark Command" It didn't fare well, as I recall.  The funny thing, when I came back from my first long-term stay in the US, I went looking for a wargame club in Paris.  I found one, Rue d'Ulm (for those who know what I'm referring to), but I was told they ran one warrior at a time (not a regiment or a division)... I was confused, but went along. That was my first game of D&D. And it was pretty cool. 

Q:  Bruce Heard can you, please, tell us the story of the publishing of the gazetter of Glantri? Pleeeease!-- Andrea Ciceri 

A: Well, I was able to negotiate a freelance arrangement with TSR (although I was employed there) to write Glantri.  It was fortunate that my boss at the time (Michael Dobson IIRC) didn't mind me tackling a 96-page project.  So far, my past experience had been with 32-pagers. I do still appreciate his trust to this day.  Back then, these were seen as "monster" projects (ha! ha!)
          I took a long, hard look at the first two Gazetteers and thought 64-pages just weren't sufficient to do the job right. Then afterward came many hours of work, all on top of full workdays or during weekends, trying to conceive a relatively new format and style.  At the time at TSR, cutting-edge design resided in early DragonLance accessories.  Aside from those, TSR products were relatively simple in their design and execution.  Things changed very quickly at that point.
          I remember Jeff Grubb once referring to D&D Gazetteers as "gold bar" projects, not so much for revenues they generated, but for contents offered (and probably production costs as well).
         One big advantage of being a staffer was the opportunity of brainstorming with the two primary "mappers" assigned to the Gazetteers.  The map style was well established by then, but I could really get into details of the GAZ3 map because Dave Sutherland and Dennis Kauth were excited with the Gazetteers' direction, and allowed me to sit with them to help out (doing such things as pre-positioning map tags to simplify their work).  That was just awesome.  Mapping was all manual cut-and-paste on multiple acetate layers that had to be scanned to produce blues and chromes... O Joy!
         Launching a product like this was almost like firing off a rocket.  You were never entirely certain what the end result was going to be, and whether the thing would blow up on ignition.  The smoke cleared, and GAZ3 went on its merry way.  I think it did okay. ;)
         I also had the pleasure of working with Stephen Fabian who took on interior illustrations, and Clyde Caldwell for the outside covers. There's no explaining how that feels. It's just pure joy when everything comes in and looks wonderful.  I'm very happy I had the opportunity and privilege of working there, doing the things I did.

Q: Bruce , I ask how exactly you got to do Glantri. I mean, you have not invented the name Glantri, right? So, your boss came to you and said "Bruce, we need a new GAZ, and its about Glantri." So, was there previous history about Glantri, and you have to follow those lines, or you had total liberty to write Glantri? -- Rafael Beltrame

A: The name Glantri already existed as part of the Expert Set's Known World.  As the leading creative for Mystara, I came up with the list of Gazetteers and D&D accessories, their intended contents and style, and the order in which they would be published.  Once that was approved, I had complete creative liberty to do whatever I wanted.  It was absolutely ideal!
         Working with Mystara had pros and cons.  One problem was that just about nobody on staff was the least bit interested in Basic D&D or Mystara, especially early on.  On the other hand, this meant I could pretty much do whatever I wanted with these products.  The other key factor was that I also ran TSR's freelance acquisitions, allowing me to contract whoever I wanted for whatever project.  Naturally, I secured some darn good writers (you bet!) for D&D accessories. Strategically, I was in a total sweet spot!

Q:  Were you exposed to the Known World prior to being placed in charge of the classic D&D line? -- Roger Girtman

A: Yes, through modules I purchased when I lived in in France, and later when I translated D&D material into French on behalf of TSR. I learned my stuff about the "future" Mystara mostly through BECM sets. I wasn't actually "placed in charge." It sort of happened by default.

No one in house (at least when I was hired by TSR in '83) was really interested in BECMI products other than Frank Menzter. This meant that all adventures and supplements other than rulesets had to be freelanced. I ran TSR's freelance acquisitions, so by definition I became the creative lead for Mystara. The success of the Mystara line made that function official.

Q: What direction/instruction did you provide your team and writers when you began the transition from an "example wilderness" to a full-fledged and proper campaign setting? --
Roger Girtman

A: Very specific in some ways, but in others I remained very liberal. My instructions concerned essentially the structure of the products (what and how much of it), while the creative end was open-ended.  I did provide general ideas for design features and direction.  On the other hand, I was in frequent contact with my freelancers to brainstorm and provide support.

This work style was somewhat "counter-current" to how other teams operated. Part of the reason it worked is that I tended to select mature and experienced writers, used them as consistently as possible, and followed their products in house throughout editing and production very, very closely.

Q: I understand your writers had significant roles in developing their own respective nations & adventures. --
Roger Girtman

A. Yes, of course. That's what I hired them for! I wanted my freelancers to be a part of a creative team rather than merely execute instructions. It was risky, but the payoff was worth it in the long run. I had to be careful about who I worked with, and I sometimes made some necessary adjustments.

Q: How much was under the direction of your "unified vision"? --
Roger Girtman

A: All of Mystara products and the RC remained under my responsibility and leadership, as I explained earlier.

Q: Bruce, I remember you extended the Poor Wizard's Almanac way past AC 1030. How far out did you extend [it]? -- Brian Caraway
A. [...] there are real answers to your question. If what you're looking for wasn't published, odds are overwhelming that nothing was written about it.

Part of the reason for this is that Mystara wasn't someone's established campaign world, like Forgotten Realms for example, which already had a wealth of accumulated information. The Known World, and Mystara in general, was the result of a very sketchy embryo of a game world introduced in Basic & Expert.

        The other thing was that I, as the lead creative and product manager, did not have time enough to design various aspects of Mystara for its own sake. My job at TSR was to manage freelance acquisitions for TSR's game division, which started out as a full-time job. Directing Mystara kind of grafted itself by default onto my job description. Sure, I liked it, but it came at a cost. Not long afterward, I also had to manage all of TSR's production planning. That was a huge piece of work and a massive headache. The end result was that my time came at a premium -- I could only handle what was absolutely needed, short of burning out.
         Did I have other ideas for TSR besides modules and accessories? You bet. And these took the form of Voyage of the Princess Ark and various other articles in Dragon Magazine, which were produced outside of my regular job. If there was something that I wanted to do with Mystara, it either became an accessory or a feature in the magazine. In other words, what you have in print is what we had in mind. There is nothing else out there beyond what was published. Sorry -- no secret files, special insights, hidden knowledge, or behind-the-curtains plans, including the infamous swamp-gas products that once appeared as titles in catalogs but never saw print. I don't keep old stuff in my garage, simply because there was no such thing.
         [...] This sort of question comes up often on various sites, which is why I'm giving you a lengthy response. So, if you find a sketchy area in Mystara, it was either by design (i.e. it's open for anyone to flesh out as they see fit), or it should have benefited from a later treatment (which never happened with TSR's untimely demise).


Sunday, February 19, 2012

D&D? Mystara?

Sure, why not.  I'll probably post a few things connected with my time at TSR: D&D!  Just for fun and old time sake.  That is... if the resident feline approves.  Odds are it'll all be related to cats (and canines): werewolves, rakasta, kzinti, lupins, rakshasa, etc.  You get the idea.

Shadow of the Rose

Co-author Janet Deaver-Pack and I will be adding to this blog short stories inspired from our novel Shadow of the Rose.  The hero, Percival St. Croix, is an archeologist and a mage during WW1.  Besides running an antique shop in London, he is an artifact hunter and, more secretly, the Advocate of Order for the Rosicrucian Society.  His nemesis is Devlin Quint who heads the Brass Ring, an evil sect bent on foiling the aims of  the Rosy Cross and on bringing Chaos to Earth's universe.  Magic and occult beings are a feature of our world, yet only those with the Sight and knowledge of the Arts may perceive them.  The stories will say more about this.  Patience... 

Click HERE for Episode I of a related short story introducing Percival St. Croix.