Piney Woods Tour

-April 10th, 2013

No matter how many times we describe East Texas and the Big Thicket, the first thing many people think of when they hear “Texas” is rocky, wide open plains broken by the occasional tumbleweed. Fortunately for you I took a little East Texas excursion this past weekend, so this week’s “Campus Tour” is taking a deviation into the Big Thicket. While I didn’t have time to drive all the way to Pinebox, these photos were taken in the Big Thicket only about an hour away. Clicking on any of these photos will take you to a larger version.

 

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Not a tumbleweed to be seen. The Big Thicket is very green and full of life. It’s hard to say if this was a logging trail or if it served some other purpose, but it’s in remarkably good shape. When you imagine old trails cutting through the forest in Skinwalker, picture this.

 

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We’ve also written about how dense the Big Thicket is. Worse, when you’re trailblazing through the stuff it seems as if at least half is poison ivy. I actually took many other pictures of sections much more dense than this, but it turns out that a thick, tangled wall of vegetation makes for a boring photograph.

 

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I was especially fortunate to visit in the Spring after a good rain. Texas has suffered from a severe drought for the last two years, but rain swept through the state just a few days before my trip. We’re still far, far behind where we should be for rainfall so seeing running water in creeks was quite a novelty. Also, quite beautiful.

 

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Notice the high, steep banks. A flash flood dumping a several inches of rain overnight could turn creeks like these into death traps. It paints the term “gully washer” in a more serious light, huh?

 

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I saw several sets of animal tracks in the soft creek banks not far from this decaying bridge. The Big Thicket is home to poisonous snakes, bobcats, and wild boar just to name a few. Then there are the stranger, more deadly creatures rumored by locals to be in the deepest parts of the woods. They seem easy to dismiss as “just stories” until you hike into the Big Thicket yourself and the sounds of civilization fade away. Under the dark forest canopy, wrapped in stillness with nothing but the muted rustle of dead leaves and cautious birdsong, it seems not so unlikely. The forest is a big, forbidding place. Who can say what manner of creatures might be curled away under a leafy den, waiting for nightfall?

Waiting for their turn.

 

Class Notes: A Pinebox Primer

-January 9th, 2013

Over the last month or so, I’ve had a couple of people ask on forums “What is Pinebox? Is there a gazetteer somewhere?” I realized that a lot of fans have come to Savage Worlds since we went silent, so maybe this is a good time to bring everyone up to speed.

12 to Midnight became the first Savage Worlds licensee back in 2003 when we released Last Rites of the Black Guard. This haunted house adventure set the stage for the type of adventures we would become known for — modern day adventures in which the heroes are ordinary people thrown into supernatural mysteries.

The setting for Last Rites and subsequent adventures is the town of Pinebox, Texas– a rural town in the heart of East Texas with more than its share of weirdness. We’ve given away the setting basics here on our website. Just look to the right and you’ll see a link for Pinebox Campaign Setting. In fact, you can learn about Pinebox in two different ways. We started out with the gazetteer/almanac style common in our hobby, which is great if you want to hit the highlights in a hurry. I didn’t feel that it really gave the setting justice though, so several years ago I wrote the Jennifer Ridge transcripts— a series of travel reporter interviews with Pinebox locals. You’ll find the entire series on that Pinebox Campaign Setting link and I highly encourage you to give the whole thing a read. It’s so effective at conveying the setting’s essence that it also appeared at the beginning of our fiction anthology Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas. If you like what you read in the Jennifer Ridge transcripts, Buried Tales is a great way to dig even deeper into the setting.

In addition to the free setting information here on our website, Pinebox has been expanded through our published adventures: Last Rites of the Black Guard, Bloodlines, Skinwalker, Brainwashed, The Beast Within, and our wildly popular convention game Chickens in the Mist (yes, for real). We also collected some “loose” Pinebox adventures and released them as Ed’s Midnight Tales and Jerry’s Midnight Tales.

Our latest project was by far our largest. Degrees of Horror is a complete Pinebox campaign set on the campus of East Texas University. Between the time that we started the book and when we finished it, we had switched from being a licensee to becoming a studio directly under Pinnacle. All of the 12 to Midnight partners have full time careers (aside from RPGs) and family obligations, and revisions to our first full campaign book took a serious delay due to health problems and “life”. Now though, the book has been returned to Pinnacle for review and a place in the production queue. As I mentioned last week, we also have ideas for supplementary support material for the campaign and we have another haunted house adventure ready, so Pinebox’s future is bright. Or should I say dark and twisted? [Mwuhahahahah!]

If you’re new to Pinebox, I really hope you’ll give the Jennifer Ridge transcripts a read. They’re free, so that’s hard to beat. If you have any questions or comments, the best place to post is on the Pinnacle forums.

Special thanks to Kristian on the Savage Worlds Fan G+ community for the idea for this blog post.

I’ll be honest. I kinda assumed I was whistling in the dark with these updates. After all, we hadn’t posted anything new in over a year. Other than those who hadn’t dropped it from their RSS feed, who would bother to keep coming back? Apparently Jeremy does, and I wanted to give him a shout-out for sending us a word of encouragement. It really means a lot, Jeremy.

Today I’m going to talk about how so many people seem ignorant of the supernatural activity in and around Pinebox. Before I do that though, let’s dispense with the weekly status report.

Plot Points Completed: 3 of 12
Pages: 20 of 38

You’ll notice I finished the new draft of plot point 3, although actually that was no great feat since I was much of the way through it last week. The next one will be a total rewrite. The original had the potential to be a fun adventure, but as I was revising the outline I realized that it was weak in delivering supernatural action. The new plot point is going to be a lot more fun for players while driving the plot arc forward, but since it’s a brand new adventure I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to knock out. I have a basic outline, but the devil’s in the details.

But enough excuses. Let’s talk about Pinebox and ETU. Since the setting is supposed to reflect the real world, how is it that characters (both PCs and NPCs) seem to encounter ghosts and monsters on a regular basis without the greater world seeming to take notice? In the age of cell phone cameras, how can anyone deny the evidence? Different modern horror settings have different ways of explaining it away, including magical veils, mass amnesia, and so on. Here’s how it works in Pinebox.

Look Away, Baby

One of the big reasons the citizens of Pinebox don’t seem to recognize the danger around them boils down to willful ignorance. But don’t judge them too harshly. There’s a measure of safety in choosing not to notice the supernatural. Often, when you take note of the spirits and creatures just beyond our periphery, they take notice of you in return. Consequently, deflecting evidence of the supernatural becomes a self defense mechanism, and it is one that generations of locals have honed to perfection. Those who refuse to look away either rise to become unacknowledged guardians of their friends and family or they become an object lesson in the wisdom of  just fitting in.

It has been said that we use our logic to justify what our emotions have already decided.  Guided by an undercurrent of fear at being “noticed”, witnesses in Pinebox commonly convince themselves of more “logical” explanations such as an elaborate hoax, visions brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning, poor lighting, alcohol, or any number of other excuses.

Photoshop


You’d think that a single picture would blow the lid right off Pinebox’s many dirty little secrets. Yet, a side effect of the Internet has been to sharpen our skepticism to a fine point– as well it should. All too frequently the quality of photo manipulation leaves only our common sense with “proof” that an image is faked.

In Pinebox, those who face the darkness stand alone. When presented with a photo of a ghost, bigfoot, or chupacabra, isn’t your very first instinct to think “hoax”? The Internet and Photoshop has ensured that no photo or video, no matter how realistic, will convince a normal, rational person of the supernatural. The heroes might even keep a blog documenting–with photo and video–all the weird happenings in Pinebox, but at best such a site would receive notoriety mainly among paranoid conspiracy theorists and hipsters playing along for irony.

MIBs

When all else fails, in swoop the Men in Black. If you’ve played Pinebox adventures such as [redacted to prevent spoilers] then you might have encountered these individuals. While they don’t follow the traditional physical descriptions of the MIBs, these teams have been known to swoop in and erase evidence of a paranormal event. We’ve never spelled out who they are, who they work for, or their ultimate motives. This was intentional on our part because we wanted to keep things as open and flexible for the GM. Once you start defining something then you limit it.

That being said, in Degrees of Horror book we do crack open the door a bit wider and give you a look at certain human agencies that seek to influence paranormal events. Some operate for their own gain while others are more benevolent. Many operate at an entirely different level than the everyman-turned-heroes who make up the PCs in a typical Pinebox campaign. As such, what sometimes appears as an inscrutable monolithic organization to the players are actually multiple groups with shifting allegiances and conflicting goals each jockeying for the upper hand.

In fact, just about the only thing these groups each have in common is a deep, abiding desire for secrecy. Secrecy allows them to continue pursuing their goals, so the less the public (and their rivals) know, the better. Most groups actively cover up evidence of the paranormal, although their methods vary as widely as their motives.

So there you have it. Even in the modern world, it’s nice to know there’s still room for the unexplained. Though, you’d better consider the ramifications the next time you try to get someone to believe you about your run-in with a ghost in Mom’s Diner.

Halloween in Pinebox, Texas

-October 29th, 2010

A town with as many dark secrets as Pinebox is bound to have an equally spooky Halloween, right? Our friends at FlamesRising.com have posted a short travel essay on the Pinebox Fall Fest written by 12 to Midnight’s Preston P. DuBose. Fall Fest begins on Halloween and extends through Day of the Dead. The festival includes a parade, food tents, costumed street dance, and much more! Read between the lines and introduce your players to a weekend of mystery, intrigue, and danger at the Fall Fest!

Pinebox Coming to Pinnacle

-April 6th, 2010

The day that we have been waiting for has finally arrived–the day that we can talk about this announcement on the Pinnacle front page. Since the news there rotates weekly, I’ll paste the most relevant part here below. To say we’re excited about this new direction is an understatement. Having Pinebox become an official Savage Worlds setting is like watching our high-schooler graduate and move off to college. And with ETU: Degrees of Horror coming out, that description is very apt!

The terrifying tales of Pinebox, Texas are coming to Pinnacle Entertainment! With the writing of ETU: Degrees of Horror all but complete, the stars have aligned and the time has come to reveal the Grand Convergence. Effective immediately, longtime Savage Worlds licensee 12 to Midnight is passing the reins to Pinnacle for the production and sale of Pinebox setting titles. This lets Ed Wetterman, Preston DuBose, and the rest of the 12 to Midnight creative team concentrate on what they love (writing for the Pinebox setting) and Pinnacle to give you more of what you love (in particular, Pinebox horror materials for Savage Worlds).

So what does this mean, exactly? It means that Pinebox will be getting more exposure than ever before. It means that we can focus on producing more new, cool Pinebox material while someone else focuses on production schedules, art direction, layout, and so on. For you, it’ll mean more new Pinebox content, more regularly than we’ve been able to produce before.

With this new focus comes changes to our catalog of titles. Now that Pinebox is an official Pinnacle setting for Savage Worlds, we are retiring the d20 editions of our Pinebox titles. That means that if you want PDF copies of Last Rites, The Beast Within, Brainwashed, Bloodlines, or Skinwalker for d20 Modern, you’d better get them this month. At the end of the month, they’ll be retired for good. Expect a sale shortly. On the flipside, since we’re focusing on Pinebox for Savage Worlds, our military horror PDF titles Weekend Warriors, Innana’s Kiss, and Fire in the Hole will be retired from the Savage Worlds system. After the end of this month, they will only be available for the modern d20 System. Don’t worry– we’ll put the affected titles on sale this week so that you can afford to stock up before they’re gone for good.

I know the 12 to Midnight front page has been dead lately (ba-dum-dum-chit), but that has partially been by design. We haven’t been able to talk much about the future until this news became public. Expect a lot more news here in the coming weeks and months. ETU is completely written and is being proofread. The Raven’s Report is rising from the ashes. A new stand-alone Pinebox adventure is almost done. We’ve got great things in store for Pinebox, so we hope you’ll stick around… if you dare!