Projects Lost and Projects Found

Michael O. Varhola

Recently I have been sorting through some of the older stuff stored in my office and came across a number of not just interesting but actually significant things.

One is an old game notebook containing about 200 pages of printed material I developed for the Dungeons & Dragons RPG during the period 1989-91, including hundreds of monsters, spells, and magic (which I discuss in greater depth in the video that accompanies this post). 

The other thing I found and have been sorting though is a collection of old 3.5-inch floppy disks and it has, suffice it to say, been somewhat more of a mixed blessing. Several of the disks had things of various sorts on it, including a number of projects I worked on for about a decade starting in the early 1990s and was very glad to rediscover, among them material from the "Indian Adventures" campaign setting I had in development for a number of years and my my old Diabolist character class.

Unfortunately, more than half the disks could not be read with my external "A" drive and I was unable to retrieve anything from them. Many of those had labels indicating they contained items associated with various publications I was running or writing for during that era, including Civil War Times, a University of Maryland student newspaper called The Crier, and my own Living History, The Veteran, and Update. Most, however, had labels tying in with a variety of other projects, many of them gaming oriented. It is aggravating to not be able to retrieve the information on those disks, which included ones with the following labels: 

Adtkeh: This is a serialized action/horror story that I wrote for The Crier in the early '90s but stopped writing when I graduated in December 1993 and never completed. Despite not being able to read the disk, I have print copies of the publication and thus could at some point scan in the chapters, edit and rewrite them as necessary, and finish writing the piece. An interesting aside is that the first published segment of this story actually appeared in the "Message in a Bottle" department in Pagan Publishing's The Unspeakable Oath (TUO)

Bayonets: This may have contained an article I wrote or was working on for publisher Christoph Amberger's old arms-and-armor newsletter Hammerterz Forum

Bronze: At a number of points many years ago I put too much effort into modeling the characteristics of  bronze weapons and armor in the whatever edition of Dungeons & Dragons I was playing, and to researching the subject accordingly, and this disk might have contained some or all of a writeup on that. 

Chilean Monsters: During the era in question I did a lot of research into monsters and other elements associated with the folklore of various peoples and places, and this disk contained at least a of creatures of the title sort, and maybe even a number of them stat'ed out for D&D or the beginnings of an article for TUO
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Cnidus: Named for a peninsula on the Aegean coast of Turkey, this was the first adventure for what is now the Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting! Part of its intent was to introduce new players to the d20 RPG system and on one level it was a tribute to the classic adventure Keep on the Borderlands. Fortunately, some or all of it still exists in printouts and did not perish with the unreadable disk. 

Elephants: This may also have contained an article I did for Hammerterz Forum on the history of elephants in warfare, which I also adapted into a presentation that I gave a number of times during this era (e.g., to the U.S. Army Reserve unit my wife Diane was drilling with at the time). Information from it also likely got incorporated into the section on elephant warfare that I wrote for the Skirmisher Publishing book Warriors

Hindu Mythos for TUO: This was an article stat'ed for the Call of Cthulhu system that I wrote for TUO and which drew on research that I did for a Dragon magazine article and the item described below. 

Indian Adventures: For several years I developed a D&D fantasy campaign setting drawing upon the history, folklore, and mythology of the Indian subcontinent. Unfortunately, this effort predated the formation of my Skirmisher Publishing, my playtest group was profoundly deffective and affected a hostility toward the setting, and my work on it eventually just ended. Fortunately, much of the material still exists in print format ​— possibly including whatever was on this disk ​— and it might yet be resurrected in some form. 

News of the Mythos: This was a concept that I tried to sell the editors of TUO on and which would have been a digest of weird real-world news stories that could be interpreted in terms of the Mythos. I do not think it was very viable as I conceived of it or that TUO was the right venue for it, and it is one of those things that might be best served by electronic publication on a website or blog (and maybe it is something I should experiment with as a department for d-Infinity Online). 

Rose Red: This was a Gothic fantasy short story I started writing for my children that was set in a crumbling manor on a deserted island and which had as its hidden monster the blood-sucking roses that appeared in some early D&D supplements. I don't think any of what I wrote is extant but I might just start this story from scratch again some day and knock it out for my grandchildren. 
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Soldiers (Guide To): One of my most ambitious projects during this era was compilation of a dictionary of different types of soldiers. On the one hand, a directory of this sort might be less useful today, when so much information is readily available through numerous online sources, and on the other hand it would probably be facilitated by various electronic media (e.g., a dedicated website). 

South Seas: Like a number of the other projects mentioned here, the contents of this disk were probably associated with an article for the Call of Cthulhu system that I was working on for TUO. I don't think this ever got published and I may not have even finished it, but I recall that I wrote a pretty good piece of short introductory fiction describing a party of adventurers being overrun by a band of what I believe were Micronesian warriors. Sadly, I do not think any elements of this project still exist. 

Weapons: My concept for this project was that it would be a comprehensive volume describing every weapon and armament I could identify and terms related to arms and armor and it was even more developed and ambitious in scope than the afore-mentioned "Soldiers" project. Unfortunately, I do not think any portions of it still exist (but remain hopeful that some might turn up). Over the years since I conceived of it, however, the knowledge I gained from researching it has contributed to dozens of different projects!