Before I begin, sorry for only uploading twice last week, it was my birthday so I had to make some sacrifices! I had a great time fishing, drinking and playing board games, so I hope you can forgive me. Also, my girlfriend made me an INCREDIBLE birthday cake which might make up for the lack of content.
ANYWAY! This week in Deconstructing Dungeons we’re going to be taking a look at Grimm Encounters, a compilation of Halloween encounters that was first published on October 3rd 2017. Although it’s the end of July, I think there’s still something to learn from this anthology! We’ll take a look at what’s inside it, what went well, and what went poorly.
As I’m sure if obvious from the title, this encounter supplement is heavily inspired by the traditional folk tales of the Brothers Grimm. It came about due to the popularity of encounter products at the time, namely those compiled by Jeff C Stevens (such as Encounters in the Savage Frontier, and Encounters in the Savage Cities, both of which I contributed to). I wanted to take a stab at producing a similar product, and as Jeff (the encounter supplement king) had no plans for Halloween, I took the opportunity.
The other contributors to this project are Jeff C Stevens, Jean Lorber, Ken Carcas, Patrick E Pullen, Phil Beckwith (PB Publishing) and Tony Petrecca. I’d worked with most of these creators before, and am close friends now with many of them. I’ll also give special mention to Jeff and Ken, who basically got me started in this writing game, and who have supported me through thick and thin! It’s very likely I wouldn’t be doing this without them.
Rather than deconstructing each encounter and talking through their conception and creation, I’m going to run through the process for creating a product like this, which differs slightly from writing an adventure on your own.
The first step in the process is to come up with a strong pitch for what the product is. One that will instantly inspire your potential authors and customers, and make it an easy write and an easy buy. The premise of this book was to each create a few encounters based on Grimm fairy tales, warp them in classic D&D fashion, then stick the lot together in a ghastly tome of ghoulish hilarity. I wanted the encounters to be a mix of exploration, social interaction and combat, and also a mix of horror and humour, which I think we managed to achieve.
After you’ve come up with your pitch, you want to start reaching out to potential writers. Including myself, this product has 7 writers, for a total of 12 encounters. The encounter supplements Jeff puts together have even more! Picking these writers can be a hard task, as there are so many great creators on the guild, but at that time, I knew I a few people who I’d already worked with, and some that Jeff recommended. Once I’d contacted them all, it wasn’t long before I got their RSVPs, and we could start thinking about which tales we were going to tackle.
Once we sorted out (via google docs) which Grimm Tales we were each going to write around, I got to writing myself. For shorter encounters like these, it doesn’t always take long to pen them in brief, and then flesh them out into more balanced, thought through designs. Once I’d finished writing, many of the others were getting back to me with theirs, and it only took a few chaser messages to remind people before everyone had got back to me with their work. We handled payment through a mix of royalty splitting and paypal transfers, both of which are common fare.
Once I had all the work together, the process became similar to that of producing your own writing. I send all of the scripts off to Ken, which edited the lot. Whilst he was combing through them and conversing with their authors, I was sourcing artwork. The cover art for the project comes from Kraken Press. The majority of the interior art is from DMsGuild Art Packs, although there is some wikicommons and stock art in there (see this post for more info). Any cartography was done by the creators themselves. Once Ken (the editor) got all the manuscripts back to me, I fired up homebrewery for the layout, and put the works together.
What I did well: Came up with a theme that people loved, organised the group effort quickly and efficiently, and put out the product in time for Halloween! This product could have absolutely flopped, or had to wait for a whole year, if I’d missed my deadlines. I came up with the idea quite late into the year, but the writers I picked were very professional, and got the work done in time. Although a little gimmicky, I think the creators really enjoyed writing encounters based on the fairy tales, and the customers seem to enjoy it as well!
What I did poorly: This particular supplement could have done with, in my opinion, a better layout and better artwork. Because of the time constraints, I used a lot of free art, some of which doesn’t really fit, or causes a disconnect because of differing styles. If I were to redo this supplement, or make another of it’s ilk (which may happen), I’d probably try and commission some art that was fitted to each encounter, and gave it some cohesion throughout.
Giveaway! Share the post to be in with a chance to win a free copy! Draw on Sunday 29th July 2018!
Have you guys bought Grimm Encounters? Would you like to see it revisited for 2018? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you fancy giving me a birthday present, you can buy any of my DMsGuild adventures here, and can join my patreon here.