Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shiverwhen: An Enduring Case of Madness

There are ideas that simply will not perish, no matter how much time passes since the muse first strikes. These dreams linger, clutching tightly to the imagination with the strength of a drowning man going down for the third time. Other projects and inspirations may occur, but these persistent ideas simply retreat from the light to await another time to stride forth once again on imagination’s stage. The Shiverwhen concept is one of those enduring ideas.

The seed of Shiverwhen was planted several years ago. As an idle diversion, I wrote a short, ethereal, and almost nonsensical scenario entitled “October Country: The MacReady’s Farm” and posted it on my blog, The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope. That was in 2009. In the years since then, the initial and much unformed ideas that led to that scenario have continued to develop inside my head—often when I wasn’t consciously thinking about them. My freelance projects and the major undertaking that is Stonehell Dungeon forced me to put aside the nascent concept of what was then entitled “The October Country,” but those ideas persisted in memory and would occasionally intrude into my nightly dreams. “The October Country” concept became a place that I could sometimes escape to in order to relieve myself of the burden of writing strictly sword & sorcery work and allow my imagination to bear strange fruit.

In April of 2010, I took a stab at organizing the “October Country” concept on my ancillary blog, Secret Antiquities. There, mixed in with other strangeness of historical horror, “The October Country” began to coalesce into a more tangible form. But it was to be a false start. My head and heart was not yet in the right place to breathe the crucial spark of life into the concept and see it flourish in the capacity it deserved. I rolled portions of those unfocused writings back into the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope and went on to continue my brutal battle with the fantasy projects that filled my plate.

But again, despite that obstacle, “The October Country” lingered at the edge of my mind, biding its time until I was ready to turn my attentions to it once more.

It is conceivable that that time has finally arrived. With the second Stonehell book gathering momentum and the very real possibility it shall see release before the middle of the year, I find myself drawn back to that “country where the hills are fog and the rivers mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay.”

Before I proceeded any further, however, it was apparent to me that a different name was in order. Although in some ways, “The October Country” name does a superb job of conveying much of the atmosphere I hope permeates this concept, it is not a perfect one. Complicating matters is that “The October Country” is taken by a writer far superior than I’ll ever be, and my own efforts, as wanting as they might be, should stand on their own merits and not dwell in the shade of Bradbury’s genius (where they will most certainly die on the vine). It was only after much deliberation and abandoning of other titles that I lighted upon “Shiverwhen.” This new name is not only unique, but accurately represents the feel I hope to capture with this concept. So let us wave fond farewell to “The October Country “and chart a course to Shiverwhen, a place where much seems familiar to our eyes, but the differences are far beyond our everyday life.

Time and inspiration allowing, Shiverwhen will see the lion’s share of my personal design efforts in 2013, replacing Stonehell in my affections after the dungeon’s sequel is released into the wild and I’m allowed to move past it. The design process, concept elements, mechanics, and other material will occupy this blog, providing me with a goad to remain dedicated to seeing it to fruition and to allow others a glimpse of the creative process and a first look at what Shiverwhen is all about. I’m not committing myself to a posting schedule just yet, but I’ll endeavor to remain dedicated to Shiverwhen until a playable draft is complete.

Work has already begun on the project and I’ll be playtesting the initial rules in the months ahead. The game will see its first public playtest in a little less than a month at TotalCon, and I’m hoping to run it again at NTRPG Con if it meets the organizers’ approval.

In the meantime, watch this space for the occasional posting on the various aspects of Shiverwhen as I develop the title and chronicle its ongoing journey from years-old idea to actual game. In short order, I’ll post about the general concept of Shiverwhen, my mechanical goals for the game, and the battle to write a game that comes from my own, slightly askew mind, but remains accessible to most.

A Taste of Things to Come

…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…
The October Country, by Ray Bradbury