Alex Clippinger has burst onto the DMsGuild scene like a purple worm through a mine shaft wall! He’s best known for his collaborative projects; Faiths of the Forgotten Realms & The Faithful of Eberron. Alex has also written some great adventures, like Jungle Politics, and off the wall supplements like Go For The Eyes! Alex also has a superb Twitter.
What drew you to publish on the DMsGuild, and what was your first published product?
I’d known about the DMsGuild for a while, and one day I wanted to run a one-shot idea I’d had floating around in my head and wanted to use a template to type it out. I used the base template from the Guild, ran the adventure, and (with encouragement from my wife) put the adventure up on the site as a Pay-What-You-Want adventure. It was a short small-town mystery called A Call in the Dark. I’ve since flipped that particular adventure back to Private (not available) with the idea of coming back to it for a revision at some point. Hmm. Maybe my two-year anniversary on the site…
Perhaps more than any other creator, you seem capable of fixating on an esoteric topic, and seeing it through to publication. What’s behind that drive?
Weird stuff is fun stuff! Ideas have a tendency of wandering along and grabbing me by both ears and dragging me along until a product just kind of shows up in my documents folder. How’d it get there? Magic, I dunno.
The nice thing about esoteric supplements is that they do stand out. People on the site generally know that they’re there for adventures, or class and race options, etc. What they don’t expect to see is a supplement of fantastic places where their adventuring party will sleep, or weird quirks for NPCs, or (shout-out to Ashley May) a supplement for hangovers, love interests, and so on. People don’t come to the site looking for the unexpected, but they definitely enjoy it.
Obviously, Faiths of the Forgotten Realms and The Faithful of Eberron were huge successes. What was the process of making those supplements?
Both Faiths and Faithful were collaborative efforts, but the process was very different for both. Faithful of Eberron was a big group collaboration—more than a dozen contributors in total. In running that collaboration, I tried to set ‘soft deadlines;’ giving people general time-frames and goals without forcing creators to make content on short notice. The collaboration was started the same day that the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron dropped and was released in late October, which isn’t a bad turnaround for a large-group collaboration.
Faiths of the Forgotten Realms was pretty much the opposite. It’s just a small team of Scott Bean, Micah Watt, and myself. It took almost a year from the project’s initial conception to final release, though a good deal of that included initial delays of other collaborators joining and dropping and final delays as we waited for Print-on-Demand to be sorted out.
In both cases, it’s really helpful to open up all submissions to group feedback from first to final draft. We used Trello as an organizational tool and it was very, very helpful for people to post their content submissions and receive feedback, as well as to see all the component pieces progressing along from first submission to final editing. It’s something we’re definitely continuing right now with Faiths of the Forgotten Realms 2: Demihuman Deity Boogaloo (title not final).
Given that you publish such a wide range of material, what’s your favourite stuff to write?
I really enjoy writing class options. I think the possibilities for archetypes are all but infinite with the current selection of spells and mechanics, and each new release from WotC will help expand options even further. That said, I’m trying to dip my toe into adventure writing more often and become more fleshed out as a creator in general.
Given that, what’s your favourite DMsGuild product you’ve published and why?
That’s a tough one! I’d probably have to go with Faiths of the Forgotten Realms. I got to really practice everything I’d learned about subclass design up to that point and push into new ground, while at the same time having the freedom to write a lot of flavor text, sections bringing old edition lore into condensed 5E material, etc. It just hit a lot of different aspects of 5E content creation at once and it was really enjoyable doing that.
You recently wrote a freelance piece, Serving the Squash, for Poison Potion Press. What are the pros and cons of writing freelance instead of for yourself?
Writing freelance can be a lot like doing a collaboration. The obvious pros are that you’re getting to work with one (or more) fellow creators to make content that any one of you couldn’t accomplish alone. I think that, as long as the creators are working in isolation, they’re going to get a similar level of cross-checking and accountability that doesn’t happen with solo work as well.
The only downsides I could foresee are entirely dependent on whatever specific situation you have between yourself and the content requester. Working with Poison Potion Press was easy because we appreciated each other’s vision of the adventure’s guideline document. To work freelance OR to have someone work freelance on your project, you need to have wiggle room between expectation and reality. The freelancer is going to have ideas or approaches the original creator didn’t, and the original creator might have areas where they need to push back or make adjustments to the freelancer’s content to match their original vision. I think anyone who’s comfortably worked on a collaborative project where there was healthy constructive criticism can work freelance without too much trouble.
Have you got any advice for new authors on the DMsGuild?
If you’re just looking for the joy of creation, don’t be afraid to jump in and put stuff on the site however and whenever you want. If you’re looking to ‘make it’ on the DMsGuild, I have some more specific points of advice.
First of all, temper yourself in about ten different ways. Lightning rarely strikes for brand-new creators, even ones who jump onto the scene with good content. The site can be random and fickle and weird. Never, ever spend money you don’t have on a project because you expect sales returns to cover the costs. Dream of a thousand sales; budget for ten. Any disposable income you put into Guild products should be just that; disposable. Start small and take advantage of free commercial-use art resources (on the DMsGuild and elsewhere); reinvest returns into future products.
Second, long-term success on the site is a road trip, not a drag race. There are new creators every day, and many of them won’t stick around. The sheer volume of established and new creators means that a single product or creator doesn’t have the gravity it did when the site was brand new. Even creators who burst onto the scene with dazzling bestsellers for their first product will eventually slip off of the bestseller list and out of the site’s public eye; you need to create consistently. The best way to get people looking at all your old products is to produce new products.
That being said, it’s important to create what inspires you and to create at a pace that’s healthy for you. Feeling ‘obligated’ to release ‘anything’ is going to lead to burnout and probably a bad product anyway. Start on the Guild by making those ideas you’ve had a reality and being excited about them. Join collaborations where you can submit small bits like a subclass, a monster, some spells. When you work on ideas that excite you, you’ll end up with more new ideas.