Beyond the Storm in Print—and a Preview for You

Beyond the Storm: Shadows in the Big Easy is now available in softcover as well as a PDF. You can order either or both versions from All proceeds from the book go to support Katrina disaster relief. I’m going to order one for myself right now, and you should too. Not only is it a great book full of wonderful roleplaying game material, short stories, and essays, but it’s for a good cause.

For my part, I wrote up the “Naked Room Service” story of GAMA Trade Show legend in a piece entitled “Truth and Lies in the Big Easy.” As a teaser, here’s the first part of the story to whet your appetite.

Truth and Lies in the Big Easy

In the middle of the night, I hear a knock at the door of my hotel room. Still a bit tipsy from spending the earlier part of the evening down on Bourbon Street, I have no idea what time it is. For some reason, I figure I’ve overslept a bit, and it’s housekeeping trying to get in to make up the bed.

“We’re here!” I call, hoping whoever it is take the hint and goes away.

The knock comes again.

“I said, we’re here!” I shout louder this time. Maybe the person on the other side of the door didn’t hear me the first time, or maybe the person doesn’t speak English. I don’t know. I just want her to let me go back to sleep.

I’m here in New Orleans for the GAMA Trade Show, and I’m beat. GAMA (the Game Manufacturers Association) holds its annual trade show sometime in the early spring every year. It’s four days in which the people who make some of the coolest games in the country can come and show their wares to the retailers and distributors who might buy them and then sell them to other people.

Even back in the early ‘90s, I’d been going to the show for years, usually helping out my good friend and mentor Will Niebling by standing in the booth of one of the companies that had hired him on as an independent sales rep. This year, the fine people at Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) needed a hand. Since I’d written a few things for them by that time—they published my first big roleplaying game book, Western Hero—I jumped at the chance for a free trip to the Big Easy to give them that hand.

The show had been in Las Vegas for many years, but a fiasco with the convention services company GAMA had hired to run the show got them kicked out of the City of Sin. The GAMA board decided to try a mobile show instead, one that moved to a new place every year, and the first two post-Vegas years found us—and me—in New Orleans.

I close my eyes, and that unknown person raps on the door again.

“Go away!” I yell.

I’ve been out late. At most conventions, I’m out late every night. Me and my pals close out whatever bars we can find, and then we go looking for others and close them out too. Some bars never close in the French Quarter, so this means staying up until 3 or 4 AM. When this person starts knocking at the door, I might have had an hour of sleep and still been buzzing from the night’s drinks.

Fortunately, my roommate—Bruce Neidlinger, the CEO of ICE—is an understanding soul. As long as I don’t make too much noise when I stagger in at whatever ungodly hour I like, he’s fine with it.

I’m always at the booth on time in the morning, smiling and happy. No hangovers for me, especially in those days. It’s the Irish in me, I think. It makes for easy mornings, although it’s all too easy to see how lots of fun with few consequences can make the path toward alcoholism a smooth and easy slide.

I stumble out of bed and storm toward the door, dressed only in my boxers. If this is housekeeping, they’re about to get an eyeful of me, but I don’t care. If they can’t be bothered to go away when I tell them to, then they get what they get.

I throw open the door and snarl, “What?”

Then I stop, stunned.

Standing there before me is a slim, pretty woman with wavy, blond hair that tumbles just past her shoulders. She’s wearing nothing but a large, forest-green dinner napkin, one corner of it clutched to her chest.

I pause for a moment to take this in.

“Can I help you?” I ask.