Industry Interview – Jeff C Stevens

I’m trying out a new article series! Industry Interviews is designed to bring you guys the perspectives of people inside the industry, including other bloggers, DMsGuild Authors, podcasters and the like. I’m hoping it will help inspire people to start out doing these things for themselves. We’re opening strong this week with an interview with one of my favourite DMsGuild authors, and a close friend of mine – Jeff C Stevens. If you can think of anyone else you’d like an interview with, just let me know in the comments!

Jeff C Stevens is one of the DMsGuild’s most popular creators. He primarily produces Encounter supplements, for which he is famed, but Jeff also writes some top-notch adventures too. Jeff is one of the first creators who I became friends with on the Guild, and I think his encounter supplements are unmatched! Jeff also has an active twitter and facebook, as well as a mailing list!

What drew you to publish on the DMsGuild, and what was your first published product?

I had been away from D&D since the 1990’s. Having graduated college, I thought I was done with the game and I wouldn’t find any fellow gamers in my adult life. But, just before 5th edition released, my brother asked me to join a group of his co-workers who played. I was a little skeptical, thinking I was too old to take up RPGs again. Boy was I wrong. We played a little bit of 4th edition and then jumped right into 5th when it released. After the current DM finished his campaign, he asked if anyone would be interested in DMing. I’d never DM’d before but I was ready for the challenge, and I based my first campaign on Metallica song titles. There’s a lot of inspiration in those titles.

I didn’t know much about the DMs Guild at that time. I’d heard about it and looked it over, but I was skeptical to buy anything from the site, wondering if the products were worth my money. I (admittedly) picked up a few Pay What You Want products for free, but then returned and paid a little for the ones I liked. A couple of the products I bought were by MT Black and Tony Petrecca. Their writing and design inspired me to write up a few of the adventures I’d run for my home game. I spent $40 on my first product – The Throne of Bone.

What inspires your projects?

I get inspiration from a lot of sources. As I mentioned, song titles really inspire me. Also, movies, books, and everyday activities give me ideas for adventures. I’ve even picked up a few ideas from conversations with co-workers.

Out of all your products, which is your favourite and why?

Boy, that’s tough. I have to say Encounters in the Savage Cities is my favorite product. The authors who contributed to that product did a fantastic job coming up with creative city encounters. Luiz Prado’s internal art, Elven Tower’s maps, and Nathalie Lehnert’s cover really made that product beautiful.

How did you come up with the idea for an Encounter supplement?

The encounter supplement was inspired by Tony Petrecca’s Journey Through the Center of the Underdark. I love Tony’s style and he’s been one of my go-to writers for these supplements. When Strom King’s Thunder released, I noted the large sandbox area of the Savage Frontier. I thought this would be a good section of the adventure to offer pre-generated encounters. Originally, I had the intention of writing the supplement on my own but then I realized how long that would take me, and how boring it may be for the consumer to read several encounters written by the same author. So, I reached out to several other authors and ask if they’d be interested in contributing a short encounter to the project. Thankfully, the vast majority said yes, and I was able to create a 24-encounter supplement complete with custom art and maps.

What’s the hardest part of putting one of these supplements together?

There are so many things to choose from! I’d have to say the hardest part is deciding which writers to ask to contribute. Every time I start a new Savage Encounters project I tell myself, “Okay, Jeff. Only ten writers this time.” That doesn’t work. Part of the goal of these supplements is to shine the light on a few up-and-coming writers. If I notice a new writer release something on the Guild that catches my eye, I reach out to them and ask them to contribute. My list of ten suddenly becomes fifteen or more.

What’s your favourite element of putting together the supplements?

Another tough question. I like the whole production process – commissioning the custom cover, commissioning art and maps, working with layout, but mostly, I like reading the submissions. I love seeing what other authors pull out of their imaginations.

Have you got any advice for new authors on the DMsGuild?

The majority of new products sell slowly, especially adventures. Only a select few a year seem to really start off hot on the DMs Guild. With that being said, be prepared for a slow start, but don’t let that hinder your desire to create. Keep publishing new products, build you product library, and eventually you’ll see success. Be prepared to fail before you succeed. That’s what happened to me. My first release started out slow…so slow… After I posted more adventures, I started seeing more sales. If a consumer likes one of your products, they are likely to check out the other things you’ve created. So, my advice is to stick with it!

Check out Jeff’s most recent publication – Encounters in the Savage Wilderness on DMsGuild now!

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