Industry Interview – Rob Twohy

Rob Twohy is the DMsGuild king of Fantasy Grounds. If you have a module that you want accessible for users of that platform, then Rob Twohy is your guy! Rob has almost one hundred products on the DMsGuild, including conversions, random generators, and expansions to core rules. You can also find Rob on Twitter, Twitch, Patreon, Discord and YouTube!

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

In January 2016 when the DMsGuild first started, I had just heard of it, so I thought I would give it a go. I had come to find the Fantasy Grounds VTT in September of 2015 and I really just dove in. My first publication on January 29, 2016, was called Race Ability Modifiers & Key Class Stats it was an effort to list out the key points for all the races so that a person didn’t have to flip back and forth between the pages of the Players Handbook. It was all just right there in one convenient sheet for character building. I made the PDF and the Fantasy Grounds module.

I put that up for sale as PWYW and made 55 cents my first day. One sold for $1 (the suggested price) and another for 10 cents. In addition, FORTY copies went for zero. So my 50% cut was the 55 cents. I was bitten, I had the bug. I saw a need, I filled it, people liked it, and now I’m not looking back. When I started, Mat McCoy of the DMsGuild contacted me and said something like, “You’ve got some really fantastic things here for people, don’t do PWYW. Put a price on these.” I currently have 90+ titles on the DMsGuild and about half of those are collaborations with other creators.

Now, I would say, almost three years later, this is what I DO. I mean this is my JOB now.

How do you end up doing conversion work? Do you approach the author, or do they approach you?

Both. Initially, I was approaching authors but now I would say I have more approaching me. My forte, of course, is creating the Fantasy Grounds module conversion for creators that want to get their material to that subset of people.

There seems to be a bit of a “miseducation” among the community as to how valuable Fantasy Grounds conversions are. I have worked with a few creators who are not excited about the Fantasy Grounds sales numbers. They seem to be disappointed that the FG sales represent only a fraction of the PDF sales. But this follows logically because there are MILLIONS of D&D 5e players and of those, only perhaps a couple hundred thousand FG users. I’m not sure of the exact number, but it is a small subset of D&D players that do it online using a VTT.

The thing about that is, Fantasy Grounds users are a LOYAL fan base and they are willing to pay for the material to be converted for them so they don’t have to do the work themselves (which many do). There are many people who buy the PDF and then just convert it on their own to FG. But those people would be willing to purchase an already converted FG .mod file and perhaps even the PDF as well.

A great many of the creators on the Guild don’t realise that they could have another product out there, and unless it’s for Adventurers League or Guild Adept, it can be sold as a SEPARATE ITEM, making separate and additional profits. It also adds to that creator’s exposure with another group of people – the FG users.

I encourage people to contact me if they want their materials converted and put out there.

What are the easiest products to create for the Fantasy Grounds platform?

This is a tough question. It depends on the mindset of the person doing it. There are things that are EASY, but then again there are things that are DIFFICULT, yet take less time. It’s kind of hard to explain to the layperson who isn’t a VTT developer.

For me personally, the easiest would probably be a book of monsters. Like the Monsters Without Borders and Monsters of the Guild project. It was a LOT of work, but it was pretty straightforward work. Create an NPC, make sure the image and token are good, rinse, repeat. Now that’s an oversimplification of what was involved because although I used NPC Engineer (a free program at masq.net – which has now been renamed Engineer Suite) I did have to go into the XML and configure some things.

Each Project is certainly different, and for me, it’s a mindset I have to get into whether I’m doing an adventure, a splatbook, a monster book, whatever it is…

Why have you picked Fantasy Grounds over other Virtual TableTops, such as Roll20 or MapTool?

When I started looking for ways to play D&D online, I first found Roll20. It seemed cool the idea of being able to roll dice online and then move tokens on maps and play the game. After diving into that, I discovered Roll20 wasn’t for me. It seemed too complicated to create characters (in 2015) and the system was browser based. I didn’t like the idea of NEEDING an internet connection to work on my gaming materials. So I searched more and found Fantasy Grounds (which is client side). And now, my name is synonymous with Fantasy Grounds. What I mean is if someone mentions Fantasy Grounds, you might not necessarily know who I am, but if you mention Rob Twohy, people go “oh the Fantasy Grounds guy”.

Fantasy Grounds to me is the best VTT out there, and in my humble opinion by LEAPS AND BOUNDS. There is definitely a learning curve, but there is an instruction manual  and an unofficial website and discord server called “Fantasy Grounds Collegewith over 3,000 volunteers and teachers. They do classes on Combat 101, DMing 101, Map Making, the list goes on and on. The FG community as a whole is the BEST! People really want to help others any way they can with using the software and getting into games. Another thing about FG is that it supports almost all RPGs. There are official rule sets like D&D, Pathfinder, Chthulhu, etc. But the software can be made to support ANY RPG game.

It really is wonderful, and FULL DISCLOSURE here… I do work for SmiteWorks USA, LLC – the makers of Fantasy Grounds.  That’s an entirely different story, but the quick version is I love it so much and since I was streaming and doing conversions for the DMsGuild and for SmiteWorks directly, Doug Davison (president of SmiteWorks) hired me as a Social Media Consultant. It’s kind of like he’s giving me a salary to do what I was already doing anyway which is PROMOTE the living bejesus out of Fantasy Grounds. The only difference between before he hired me and now, is I have access to the Fantasy Grounds Twitter and Facebook accounts. Ha!

What’s the hardest thing about making content for Fantasy Grounds?

I would say the hardest thing about creating FG modules is tempering your frustration when things go wrong. It is not an exact science. Although I did recently make a video for creating an FG module beginning to end, each one is different and each one comes with its own challenges, so you can never really know what’s going to blow up in your face until you’re wiping the code off your cheek.

What’s been your favourite thing to create or convert for the platform so far?

Wow. That’s like asking me who my favourite child is. It’s Janelle by the way. No, I’m only kidding. I don’t have kids. I’m not married. My preferred pronouns are dude, yo, hey, ya’ll, and all ya’ll. And I am single… LADIES!

Alright, so my favourite would maybe have to be the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron because it was my first official WotC product and I felt that when I was given that task, I had been RECOGNISED as someone who was legitimate in the world of D&D (behind the DM screen if you will). Also, Jeremy Crawford thanked me personally at PAX West. I was blown away.

But many others were equally as fun/challenging. I mean between DMsGuild and the Fantasy Grounds Store I’ve done over 125 projects.  People can actually follow my progress LIVE in this Google Sheet!

Have you got any advice for people hoping to publish Fantasy Grounds material, or for authors who are looking into conversions?

My advice will sound really cliche…  but that advice is JUST DO IT! Dive right in. Go to the Fantasy Grounds Forums and read about developing. All 70+ developers for SmiteWorks are just people who were in the forums and one day decided, let me try this.

Anyone can do it if you put in the work. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I LOVE IT!

If you want to get started on Fantasy Grounds and are looking for a whole load of work to get your started, check out Everything Rob Twohy 2016-2017 Sale!

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