Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Release

The general release is here for the new Dungeon Solitaire game, Devil’s Playground! The new game book includes a stand-alone game, a two-player version, expansion rules for the Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls tarot game, four variants of a new original cardgame called Dungeon War, and guidelines for fortune telling using the Devil’s Playground custom card deck.

Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground is a fantasy adventure card game. Fight monstrous diabolisms, overcome obstacles, and endure misfortunes as you delve into the darkest dungeon in a quest to defeat three powerful demons. Along the way you will collect treasure and unique magic items, encounter strange locales, and acquire three divine graces. But beware, the dungeon is deep and even if you survive all immediate dangers, a fate worse than death awaits those who linger too long. You may face starvation and insanity, terrible curses and demonic possession, forever haunted, in the darkness of the pit.

Most of the games require the Devil’s Playground cards, available separately. Expansion rules also require the Labyrinth of Souls rulebook and cards. Dungeon Solitaire print rulebooks, PDF rulebooks, and custom card decks are available through the following outlets:

Print Rulebook: Amazon

PDF Rulebook: DriveThru RPG

Deluxe Cards: DriveThru RPG

Standard Cards: Gamecrafter

Learn more about the complete line of Dungeon Solitaire games and stand-alone novels here on the Labyrinth of Souls page. Gameplay videos can be found on my YouTube channel.

The Commencement Address

This year, the graduating class at the high school where I work asked me to deliver the commencement address. I was honored to do so, and I took the task to heart. It was a rare opportunity to speak to a group of young people at a transformative point in their lives. And with the parents, family members, and friends of graduates, as well as colleagues and members of the larger community gathered in the gymnasium, it was the biggest audience I’d ever had the opportunity to speak to. I’d like to share these words with you as well, so what follows is the speech I gave, pretty much word for word as it was delivered.

COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS

Delivered on June 9th, 2018 by Matthew Lowes

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I have to say, I am deeply honored to speak with you on this momentous occasion.

Some people expressed surprise that I would accept this task. But honestly … this is an honor I could not refuse. I am immensely grateful for the education I received, and for all my teachers, both in and out of school. So to me, to stand before a group of graduates and address them like this, is one of the highest honors imaginable.

Of course, I quickly realized that being honored is not really enough in a situation like this. It’s more of a … you know … you have to say something meaningful kind of situation. And so here I am, charged with saying something meaningful to you — something that might make a difference in your life and how you see yourself and the world.

It’s a tall order.

A few of you seemed concerned about what I would or wouldn’t say. You came around and asked me to say something specific, or asked if you could see the speech. But frankly, I turned down all requests. What would be the point of me speaking if you all knew what I was going to say. Also, I admit I didn’t entirely know what I was going to say yet. But since you all asked me to speak, I knew that I would have to speak from my heart.

The truth is, I know you just well enough to know that I don’t know the funniest anecdotes to tell, or the greatest accomplishments to highlight. But I know you well enough to know that I am grateful to have met you. And I know you well enough to know that some of you have struggled to be here, and others have overcome incredible hardships. And I am immensely proud of every single one of you.

Your accomplishments have encouraged us all. Your struggles have touched our hearts. And your presence has brightened our days.

Each one of you is worthy of far more time than I have here.

Nevertheless, I hope that I can give you some piece of advice, or a perspective on life that might be helpful. And with that in mind, I don’t want to reminisce about past glories, nor speculate on all the great things you may do in the future. I don’t want to pretend that there haven’t been hard times, or that there won’t be hard times to come. I’m sure there were, and there definitely will be.

Instead, I would like to talk about this moment, right now. For it is always in the present moment that we are living. It always has been, and always will be now. In this way, everything that has ever happened has happened today, and everything that ever will happen will also happen today. That is when our lives are unfolding. And this will always be the case, for you, for me, for everybody.

So let’s think about this. The past, as we remember it, is already gone. The future, as we imagine it, will never really arrive. It will always be now. This present moment that we are experiencing goes on throughout our entire lives. So how we live, here and now, is always what really matters.

This may seem obvious, but it’s a fact that is so easy to lose track of. It’s so easy for us to become distracted, unconscious of our remarkable existence in this present moment. And it’s so easy become wrapped up in our thoughts about what has happened and where it’s all going, or to become entranced by our ideas about who we are, what we’re doing, what we’ll become, what we’re capable of, what we should or shouldn’t do in the future, what could happen, and what it all means.

Of course we need to remember the past, to acknowledge and learn from it. And we need to plan for the future as well, to set course now for our greatest aspirations. But never forget that the present moment is all there will ever be. Whatever you do, even when you’re remembering and planning, you will always be doing it now. And even when you are not really doing anything, you cannot help but not do it now.

So whatever joy you seek in life, you can only find it in the present moment. And whatever you intend to accomplish, you can only work towards it in the present moment. And whatever problems may arise in your life or that you perceive in the world, you can only solve them in the present moment. And whatever kind of person you wish to be, you can only be that person now, in the present moment.

Life can seem incredibly complicated, but the truth is very simple. Moment by moment, we live these beautiful lives. They are filled with soaring heights, mundane plains, and abyssal depths. But whatever happens, have courage for the moment. For all we can do is attend to ourselves and the situation at hand, always living in this present moment.

Wisdom has not changed throughout the ages. But it’s up to you to discover what it really is. I can only give you a taste, point in the general direction, and encourage you to discover it for yourselves.

To all those ends I say: Be kind, be curious, be loving, be truthful. And I say all these things in the deepest possible sense.

Endeavor to find out who you really are and what your true potential is. I assure you, it’s way bigger than you can imagine.

And through it all, always strive to understand what it is to be a good person.

It won’t always be easy, but moment by moment, if we can just be that, everything else will take of itself.

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Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2018!

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Devil’s Playground Progress

The Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter was a big success. Thanks to 314 backers we topped out at $13,605 in funding, and added eight substantial stretch goals to the project and some Kickstarter exclusives. I’m very excited to share this game with all our backers, and still anticipate shipping on time in June.

I’ve been very busy this last week doing final play-testing for the stand-alone game, putting together a rough draft of the entire rulebook with all stretch goals included, getting a start on creating the interior diagrams and tables, and coordinating with artist Josphe Vandel on the remaining artwork and card formatting. All the elements are starting falling into place, and everything is looking pretty awesome so far.

There’s still a ton work to be done though, including further play-testing on stretch goal games and variants, editing, re-editing, and re-re-editing the rulebook. Finishing final tables and diagrams and doing the interior layout. Then book and box covers, Then card proofs, book proofs, backer surveys, shipping logistics and finally orders! It’s a lot to do, and I will be on a tight schedule the next two months.

dp-playtesting
Devil’s Playground play-testing in progress.

Stay tuned here and on the Kickstarter page for further updates as the project moves forward. They probably wont be as frequent as I would like because I’ll be focused on the game itself, but don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. In the meantime, check out all the amazing Dungeon Solitaire games and Labyrinth of Souls fiction that is already available.

Three Days Left for Devil’s Playground Kickstarter

It’s been an exciting month, and an amazing success so far thanks to all the enthusiastic backers and supporters of the Dungeon Solitaire games. The Devil’s Playground Kickstarter smashed its initial funding goal in under 24 hours, and has gone one to hit seven stretch goals. We are on the cusp of another stretch goal with three days left to get in on the Kickstarter.

Time to get into the dungeon, and get in on the great rewards! There are high quality red-back cards for both the Devil’s Playground and the Labyrinth of Souls games, both featuring incredible, original artwork by artist Josephe Vandel. Included in the rulebook are a stand-alone dungeon delving game, Labyrinth of Souls expansion games, an all new card-based territorial wargame with multiple variations. And by getting in now, you will get two Kickstarter exclusive cards with special rules for incorporating them into your games.

In these last three days, please help spread the news by sharing this post or the Kickstarter page with your friends and gaming groups, on your blogs and especially on social media. This kind of word of mouth really makes a difference.

There is nothing more I can say, except to thank you deeply for all your support, enthusiasm, and encouragement. These games can only reach their full potential with the support of backers like you. And so I leave you with a few words from the introductory material for the Devil’s Playground rulebook, words taken from Malhak the Great’s Tome of Demonology:

At last, thoughts fall like shooting stars in the gravity of awareness. Some burn with the light of blinding suns, others with the light of a dim candle. But all catch fire and burn out. Nothing ever remains. Yet until that time, the soul is a house divided. It is a devil’s playground, at war with itself and everything it encounters.

I have seen the pox-ridden skies Illeanth, and the vermilion seas of Yoon. I have conversed with voices in realms of unending darkness. I have nosed perfumes so exalted that a single whiff bore a thousand years of bliss. I have walked with the first ragged tribes of humanity, and I have tasted ashes in the fallen ruins of their great civilizations. I have seen the arcs of eons and heard the silence that reigns in the depths of space.

And yet, all of these experiences have been but dreams within dreams within dreams. For in the emptiness between thoughts, there is no good or evil, no up or down, no light or darkness, no backward or forward, no past or future. There is no sight, no sound, no taste, no smell, no feeling. There is only that which cannot be uttered.

Until the sun rises beyond the distant mountains, until the spring comes, until we wake again, we remain lost in a dungeon of our own making. Until the illusion of the mind itself is destroyed, we wander in its depths. And though we ourselves designed the patterns its winding halls, we do not know the way out.”

The Art of Josephe Vandel

Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls and Devil’s Playground have both been the fruit of a wonderful collaboration between myself and artist Josephe Vandel. The rich world of dark fantasy he has created in the cards has been the perfect representation of the adventures, ideas, and themes I have been endeavoring to evoke in the rulebooks. And yet he has surprised me again and again with the scope and the imaginative originality and detail of the artwork.

Josephe’s skill as an artist were evident from his prior work, but the Dungeon Solitaire art has exceeded my expectation at every turn. So many pieces arrived on my screen to wide eyes and an agape jaw. The unexpected, the beautiful, the horrific, the weird, and the wonderful are all on display. He has delved deep into dark realms of the psyche, and researched rich architectural details. Time and again he has delivered pieces that are highly original and highly evocative.

We were absolutely thrilled by the funding success and reception of the Labyrinth of Souls, and are super-excited that so many backers have already made the Devil’s Playground Kickstarter such a success. We’ve had a lot of fun working together to create something incredible and unique for the gaming community. We talked quite a bit about what the Labyrinth of Souls and the Devil’s Playground are about thematically, and while Josephe has always been incredibly receptive to feedback and any direction I wanted to give, it has rarely been needed. I have been more than happy to give him plenty of latitude to express his vision, and the incredible results speak for themselves.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with Josephe and for his contributions to Dungeon Solitaire. He has created something extraordinary in the Labyrinth of Souls and Devil’s Playground decks. At once, his illustrations are evocative, dark, and filled with symbolic depth. And ultimately, the cards have the same classic and timeless quality I hoped to achieve with the rules. Taken as a whole, the decks present a unified vision and a grand space for the imagination to play in.

This is just some of the incredible art featured in Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls and Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground.

Check out the Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter now!

Devil’s Playground Kickstarter is Already a Great Success!

The Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter was launched on February 1st, and reached base funding in under 24 hours! It has since smashed through five stretch goals, and we are well on our way to the sixth. New stretch goals have been announced and new card art by Josephe Vandel has been revealed in a number of updates. And there’s more to come as we move into the middle of the campaign.

Thanks to all the backers have pledged already, and all our supporters who have shared the Kickstarter with friends and gaming groups, and on their blogs and social media. This kind of word of mouth really makes a huge difference!

I am super excited about all the content we’ll be including in the game, and looking forward to hitting more of our stretch goals! Support the Kickstarter now, and help us get there.

If you haven’t check out the dungeon-delving fantasy card game that is Dungeon Solitaire, the original game, Tomb of Four Kings, is available for free, and is playable with a standard deck of playing cards. The greatly expanded tarot game, Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls, launched with a hugely successful Kickstarter in 2015. The rulebook is available in print on Amazon and other online book retailers, and in PDF through DriveThruRPG, and custom tarot cards are available through Gamecrafter.

The Labyrinth of Souls has also inspired a series of stand-alone novels published by ShadowSpinners Press, with books by Elizabeth Engstrom, Christina Lay, Eric Witchey, Stephen T. Vessels, and myself so far, with new books on the way by Mary E. Lowd, John Reed, Cheryl Owen Wilson, Lisa Alber, Cynthia Coate-Ray, and Pamela Jean Herber!

I am more excited than ever that Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground is now in the works, once again expanding the labyrinth into the uncharted realms of the imagination. We’re going to deliver another great game!

Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground — Kickstarter!

Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground has been in development for a while, and has now launched an official Kickstarter campaign to reach its full potential.

Artist Josephe Vandel and I have teamed up again to bring you this new evocative fantasy adventure that includes a 54 card custom deck, with both a stand-alone game and expansion rules for the Labyrinth of Souls tarot game. There’s going to be gorgeous full-color artwork, higher quality cards, and plenty of extras. Creating the Labyrinth of Souls was a dream come true, and I am super excited about this new game, the new artwork, and the expansion rules. I hope we can all make this incredible journey together again, from Kickstarter to production. We’re planning to make the Devil’s Playground a reality, and we’re looking forward to delivering another great game!

If you don’t know what Dungeon Solitaire is, it’s a dungeon delving fantasy card game. The original game, Dungeon Solitaire: Tomb of Four Kings, is available for free, and is playable with a standard deck of playing cards. The greatly expanded tarot game, Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls, is available in print on Amazon and other online book retailers, and in PDF through DriveThruRPG, with custom cards available through Gamecrafter. The Labyrinth of Souls has also inspired a series of stand-alone novels published by ShadowSpinners Press, with books by Elizabeth Engstrom, Christina Lay, Eric Witchey, Stephen T. Vessels, and myself so far, with new books on the way by Mary E. Lowd, John Reed, Cheryl Owen Wilson, Lisa Alber, Cynthia Coate-Ray, and Pamela Jean Herber! And now, I am super excited to be creating a third Dungeon Solitaire game and once again expanding the world of Dungeon Solitaire.

Check out the Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter now, and support the creation of another great game!

Never Too Late Gifts

With the holiday season in full swing, I probably should have posted this sooner, but hey it’s never too late for great gifts for yourself or loved ones. With that in mind, I’d like to highlight the ever increasing line of Dungeon Solitaire and Labyrinth of Souls books and games. So below are some links, including one for a free game. Book links are through Amazon where you can still get two-day shipping, but note that books can be found through other online retailers as well.

Dungeon Solitaire: Tomb of Four Kings is a free print-and-play game that uses a standard deck of playing card — perfect for whiling away the holiday hours and indulging your inner introvert at family gatherings. Download the PDF here, find a deck of cards, and you’re ready to play. A Spanish Edition is also available.

Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls is an expanded tarot version of Dungeon Solitaire. The 152 page rulebook contains Basic, Expert, and Advanced versions of the game, as well as a variety of exciting variants, including Two-Player, Dragon’s Lair, Undead Hordes, Megadungeon, Campaign Mode, and Cartomancy! This game can be played with any tarot deck, or with the custom Labyrinth of Souls tarot, with 10 extra arcana cards. Cards are sold separately and available through Gamecrafter with PDF Basic Rules included.

 

Labyrinth of Souls fiction from ShadowSpinners Press offers a series of stand-alone novels inspired by Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls. The Labyrinth of Souls is a manifestation of a mythic underworld, existing at a crossroads between people and cultures, between time and space, between the physical world and the deepest reaches of the psyche. It is a dark mirror held up to human experience, in which you may find your dreams… or your doom. Each Labyrinth of Souls novels features an adventure into a unique vision of a mythic underworld. Get ready to delve into the Labyrinth in a totally new way! Click on the book of your choice below, and look for more Labyrinth of Souls fiction coming out in 2018!

    

The Importance of Inspiration

tesla

Thomas Edison famously said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” While the spirit of this quote is most certainly true — it takes a lot of hard work to excel in any endeavor worthwhile — this saying has been used far too often in a manner that downplays the vital importance of inspiration.

Depending on how well Edison did his calculations, he may have exaggerated his point by quite a bit. After all, Nikola Tesla, Edison’s chief rival, not so famously said, “a little theory and calculations would have saved him [Edison] ninety percent of his labor.” You do the math.

In a practical sense, inspiration is not a magical feeling that randomly overwhelms you, or a fairy who whispers in your ear. These things are more usefully cast as motivation, which can be disciplined, and skill, which can be learned. Inspiration, on the other hand, is a thought that gives rise to form. It is the very reason a work comes into being the way it does.

As a writer, it’s important to figure out what your story is really about. What idea, or feeling, or effect do you want to convey to the reader? If you haven’t figured out what you’re trying to do with a story, your chances of succeeding are pretty random. Hence the need to understand your inspiration.

Whether you’re a person who likes to write first and figure out the story while rewriting, or the type who likes to figure out a few things before starting, a conscious examination of what inspired you to conceive of such a story will go a long way toward shaping what you’re trying to write. Inspiration gives focus and vision to the creative process.

A story might be inspired by any number of thoughts, ideas, images, or characters, but the more clearly you understand your inspiration, the greater your chance to realize its full potential. Edgar Allan Poe thought a short tale ought to be inspired by a singular desired effect, preconceived by the author, and that every sentence should work toward building that idea.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, if you look for it. I found the inspiration for this piece in an interview with Horacio Pagani, a designer of hand crafted super high performance cars. His parents were bakers in Argentina, and while he certainly worked hard to create his dream, what struck me most was the specificity with which he described his inspirations, and his passion for turning them into amazing cars.

Many great artists can clearly articulate their inspirations, and this is probably not a coincidence. So yes, there will be perspiration, and I dare say there will be blood, tears, and sacrifices along the way too, but don’t underestimate the importance of inspiration, especially if you aim to create something extraordinary.

*First Published on ShadowSpinners, February 2014.

The Door of Tireless Pursuit

The fifth Labyrinth of Souls stand-alone novel is out! The Door of Tireless Pursuit by Stephen T. Vessels launched at the World Fantasy convention two weeks ago. It is available now on Amazon and other online retailers in print and ebook formats.

Stephen T. Vessels is a Thriller Award nominated author of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and cross-genre fiction. He wrote his first story when he was six years old, and forty years later wrote one that sold. Among his earliest inspirations were the horror films of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price, SF films like Ib Melchior’s “Journey to the Seventh Planet,” and the legendary Modern Library anthology, “Tales of Terror and the Supernatural,” which he read in the back seat while his parents drove through Texas. In 2012 he received the Best Fiction award from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. His first story collection, The Mountain & The Vortex and Other Tales was released in 2016 by Muse Harbor Publishing.

The Door of Tireless Pursuit is another great book by Stephen T. Vessels! After reading The Mountain & The Vortex, I was super excited he decided to contribute to the Labyrinth of Souls project and really looking forward to this book. It exceeded all expectations! Love is one of the greatest themes in literature, and The Door of Tireless Pursuit shows just how far reaching, how profound, and how powerful it can be when placed at the center of a weird and dark fantasy. At once a character-driven romance and an adventure of mind-bending scope and consequence, this story delivers on every level imaginable. It contains one of the strangest, and most badassed other-worldly beings I have ever encountered in a book. There is wild action, with spectacular and cinematic grandeur. There are wide vistas of other realms, and a large cast of lovable and villainous characters. And at the heart of it all is a mystery and a conflict that seems at once contemporary, relevant, and universal.

Here is the copy from the back cover:

Sandy’s comfortable, workaday life is rocked when he meets Lark, a mysterious woman who can manipulate time and teleport across great distances at will. What begins as a romance turns deadly when she is abducted by a sorcerer who seeks to control the metaphysical portals she defends. Determined to rescue her, Sandy is drawn farther and farther from the life he knows, into the wondrous and perilous Labyrinth of Souls. There he meets fantastic allies and adversaries, and learns that the very fabric of reality is threatened by his quest.

In other news: ShadowSpinners Press and the Labyrinth of Souls team had a great showing at the World Fantasy convention, where we displayed our wares, sold and signed books, did a reading, and talked to a lot of people about what’s inside the labyrinth. I met a lot of awesome writers and many new friends who I look forward to seeing again at future events. Many thanks to Christina Lay of ShadowSpinners Press for taking the initiative in setting this up, shipping books, and putting together an awesome table for the convention. And many thanks to Stephen for making it clear I had to be there. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

with Stephen T. Vessels and Elizabeth Engstrom at the World Fantasy convention

I have been hard at work on the next Dungeon Solitaire game, Devil’s Playground, which is now planned to launch with a Kickstarter campaign in February. It’ll be another great game with more mind-blowing artwork by Josephe Vandel. Work on turning The Labyrinth of Souls into a mobile app and computer game continues. Although there is no official timeline for this project yet, it is progressing. We now have a workable Basic game and the focus has started to shift toward fine tuning the aesthetics, the writing, and the game interface.Stay tuned for many exciting developments in 2018, including more Labyrinth of Souls novels!