Industry Interview – Alex Clippinger

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.

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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.

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Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Review – Sharn III, City of Monsters

I’m back! You may have noticed that for most of last week I didn’t blog at all. I got pretty ill toward the end of the week before, and was trying to shake it off before getting back into writing again. I have to fit blogging around my 9-5, my own writing, and any freelance work I’m doing, so sometimes it has to take a backseat.

This week I’m going to be taking a look at Sharn III, City of Monsters by Elven Tower. I’ve already reviewed both Sharn I and Sharn II by the same author. Both of these were good adventures, though sometimes needed a little touching up. The main factor that makes me recommend these adventures to you is the production quality. Although the interior art and covers are mostly stock art, the layout design and cartography from Elven Tower is superb, and definitely worth paying a couple of dollars for.

Before we dig right in, I’m going to take a moment to explain my (probably highly flawed) rating system. Each review I give will be given a rating out of five in each of three categories: DesignWriting & ProductionDesign will focus on mechanics for player and DM supplements, and on the narrative of adventures. Writing will always focus on the style of the writing, including how well it has been edited and how comprehensive it is. Production will take into account layout, artwork and the general flow of the document. Also, despite receiving a free copy of this product to review, I’d like to stress that all views are my own, and I’ve not pulled punches where I feel improvements should be made.

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This product is an Eberron adventure for 5th – 9th level characters. It’s the third in a series of adventures set in the city of Sharn. It should showcase the potential of an urban Eberron campaign, as the whole series started at 1st level and continues to expand. It was first uploaded to the DMsGuild on October 19, 2018. It so far has no ratings or review, and no best seller status.

As with the other Sharn adventures, we get a comprehensive introduction to the Eberron campaign setting, as well as Sharn more specifically. We get an overview of the adventure, hooks for new characters, hooks for characters coming from the last instalment of the adventure series, and a list of important NPCs.

The adventure begins with a battle on Sharn’s bridge against Droaamite monsters who have seized control. The characters come face to face with Haraania – an intimidation specialist medusa. After the fight, the characters have a meeting with the Boromars, who are at war with the Daask. When the characters leave the meeting, they are ambushed. The finale of the adventure sees the characters strengthen the Boromar forces, and then attack the most dangerous ward in The Cogs, hoping to find the heart of the Daask. They are forced to fight off a hoard of monsters, including the ogre mage leader of the organisation; Harannia.

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Part 1 – Sharn’s Bridge

We start with a set up which reveals a little history about the events occurring in Sharn, and the ways in which characters can gather information about them. This comes in the form of a gradated skill check. Although I like these kinds of checks in concept (they were great in the old Monster Manuals), I think here it would be more fun to have the characters come across a mix of rumours. Many of these link to the previous adventure in this path, and it would be fun for characters to hear how the truth of their adventure has been twisted by the rumour mill. After learning a little about the status quo, characters are sent to a bridge which has been taken over by monsters, probably by the Boromar. The Boromar’s warehouses and such have been under attack by monsters for the past few weeks.

The encounter on the bridge could go a number of different ways depending on how the characters approach it, physically and conceptually. The monsters on the bridge should be an easy fight for the characters, but they have 10 hostages who can be killed with ease at any moment. Although Harannia, the medusa in charge, is a silver tongued negotiator, there doesn’t really seem to be any way to talk her out of the situation. The only guidance given here is ‘she may agree to release a few of [the hostages] if the characters offer something in return’. This needs expansion, she won’t free them for a loaf of bread I assume? Other than this, the encounter is well detailed, should it come to combat there is enough tactical information to run a challenging encounter, and there is enough location detail if the characters want to try subterfuge to sneak in and free the prisoners.

After the encounter, one of the Boromars shows up and escorts the characters to the next section of the adventure. The author has a habit of these kind of links between adventure parts which to me feels a little terse. It almost makes the adventure feel like a film, where characters jump-cut between scenes and we assume there’s a good reason for it.

Writing: 3/5 There are a couple of grammatical errors that could have been fixed here during editing. The author also has a tendency to use male pronouns, even describing female NPCs as being an ‘accomplished swordsman’. It’s so easy not to do this that there’s not much of an excuse. I would have liked some read aloud text too, but generally the writing here is good enough for the DM to run a scene and elaborate on it themselves.

Design: 4/5 The design of this encounter, save for the lack of roleplay opportunity, is great. There’s enough location information for characters to interact with to make a combat encounter interesting, and there are three useful sidebars that help DMs flesh out the encounter even more. The use of hostages makes an otherwise walk-able encounter far more interesting, and shows good understanding of encounter design.

Production: 5/5 As with all of Elven Tower’s work, the production is professional. Expert maps and layout both aesthetically and functionally. The only thing missing is custom art, but that’s not always feasible.

Overall: 4/5

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Part 2 – Meeting the Boromars

In part 2 of the adventure the characters meet with the Boromars, who they might have already met in Sharn II. This gives the characters a chance to learn a little more about the Daask and their leaders, Harannia and Cavallah. They are then asked to help the Boromars raid Khyber’s Gate.

When the characters leave the meeting with the Boromars, they are ambushed by Daask monsters. There are some good tactics included in this section with regard to the goblin mages and trolls, as they both have different agendas. We also get some good guidance on how to adjust the encounter difficulty.

Writing: 4/5 This portion of the adventure seems better edited, and there is read aloud text for both of the major events that occur in it. My only misgivings are the presence of paragraphs that seem to tell the DM what to do such as ‘Do not stall the game with too much conversation…’ Essentially, there are paragraphs of text which could be cut without impacting the adventure.

Design: 4/5 The author has a habit of throwing meetings into the middle of adventures in order to dump lore on the characters. I’m not a huge fan of this, but at least in this instance there is an interesting combat encounter at the end. We also get some new monsters which are good fun.

Production: 5/5 The usual. Amazing aesthetic design work, plus plenty of layout solutions to prevent the text becoming too blocky, and useful sidebars including roleplaying information and adjusting encounter difficulty.

Overall: 4.5/5

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Part 3 – Preparations & Part 4 – Into Khyber’s Gate

I’ve rolled these two sections into one because they really should be just one section, or at least, they should be better linked. In part 3 of the adventure, the characters can help the Boromars prepare for their siege of the underground tunnels in the Khyber’s Gate Ward which contains Cavallah’s Lair. Each action they can take will chance the encounters in the tunnels in some way, aiding the Boromar army (and characters) against the Daask. This is a great idea, but could have been executed better.

Rather than allowing characters to use any ‘attribute’ to make a DC 14 check, I would recommend assigning specific skills and DCs to specific tasks. This makes it easier for the players to make decisions about what their characters can do. Even if the DM running the adventure allows Intimidation instead of Persuasion, they still have a framework. Secondly, rather than numbering each Preparation Action and splitting it into two tables, I’d combine both tables into one for easier DM use. The headings of the table would be ‘Preparation Action’, ‘Skill Check & DC’, ‘Effect’. The effect column could contain a preview for the players such as ‘reduces Daask monsters’, a mechanical description for the DM ‘remove a troll from encounter 1’ and then a piece of narration ‘your inspiring words spur the Boromar soldiers on, their blades taking down one of the trolls before you even make it into the fray’. The author has got most of the way there with this, and the events will play that way at the table, but it won’t be easy for the DM.

Writing: 4/5 The writing in this section is good. There are still a few mistakes that should have been caught; ‘She promises one thousand gold pieces of gold’, but overall the quality is good.

Design: 4/5 The actual encounter design of this section is very good, only the presentation needs tinkering with. Giving the characters an opportunity to affect the battle to come is great, but it needs to be made easier for the DM in my opinion.

Production: 4/5 Part of the design issue is actually a production problem. The tables need merging to make running this adventure easier. Aesthetically it’s great as usual.

Overall: 4/5

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Part 5 – Cavallah’s Lair & Conclusion

The finale of the adventure takes place in Cavallah’s subterranean lair. It’s sure to be a challenging encounter for the characters after having to fight their way in, and also provides enough roleplay opportunity as Cavallah tries to sway their will. I think it would have been cool to create a more dynamic setting in Cavallah’s lair, something to be used against the characters, or something they could use against Cavallah, but it’s still likely to be a fun encounter.

In the conclusion of the adventure the characters find the stolen Boromar goods, totalling nearly 200,000gp. I like that this huge amount of money might tempt the characters to break their ties to the Boromar and make off with as much cash as possible. It’s a nice set up for future adventures. The author provides other adventure seeds in the Developments section of the conclusion.

Writing: 3/5 I like to see read aloud text for each important area in a dungeon, especially those in the final lair of the big bad! I also don’t like the way the author has chosen to break down the text, using paragraph spacing rather than subheadings. This makes it a little harder for a DM to pick up and run the adventure. Overall, there is too much text to describe what’s here.

Design: 4/5 There are good tactics written for the BBEG, and the author has thought beyond the fight, giving characters an opportunity for roleplay. There’s also been a good amount of thought put into the future of the characters and Sharn after the adventure concludes. I would have liked to see a more dynamic lair – magical symbols inscribed in the floor, deep pools of water filled with leeches, hanging braziers fills with burning coals – all of these things can give characters ideas on how to fight beyond the d20.

Production: 5/5 Perfectly done. Good layout aesthetically and functionally with sidebars, full colour maps and full colour art.

Overall: 4/5

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Conclusion – 4/5

Overall, this is a great adventure, and a good sequel to the already impressive Sharn I II. I would seriously recommend picking he adventure up, as it’s only $4.95. Well worth the money for what you get! Again, if you’re looking for adventures in Eberron, Elven Tower is creating the best work in my opinion. It’s clear the author is passionate about the setting and immersed in the lore, and is capable of writing adventures that make a lot of sense in the setting, and provide new content such as maps and monsters beyond the remit of just a simple adventure.

My only concern with these adventures is their structure. Sometimes it feels like they are somewhat linear, and often peppered with meetings with NPCs to help move the story along, rather than revealing the lore of the adventure through more evolved play.

The highlights of the adventure for me are the preparation system for the final fight (which needs a little work but is a great idea) and the interesting, motivated villains. Both Cavallah and Harannia are powerful foes and realise that the characters could be powerful allies, rather than just trying to kill them blindly without any thought.

Definitely worth buying!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Parry’s Picks – 11th November 2018

Hello and welcome back to Parry’s Picks! Each week in this article series I take a look at what’s been published on the DMsGuild over the past 7 days and try to highlight 5 of the best ones out there! This week we have a real mix of products, including both player and DM facing work, and a new release from yours truly as an added extra!

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The Book of Uncommon Ancestry

Benjamin Huffman

In truth, I think there are enough options for players in the WotC published material. I’ve never felt the need as a player to reach out for 3rd party supplements, save for specific campaign settings. Because of this, the only player supplements I’m drawn to are wacky ones, and this fits the bill! The Book of Uncommon Ancestry contains 12 new character races including Dragontortleborn, Giff and Thri-kreen, as well as a load of supplementary content such as feats and magic items. Want a free look inside, check out their pamphlet.

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How to Play Good

R P Davis

Think of all the player and DM advice you’ve ever received. I bet you could fill a castle with it. Thankfully, R P Davis has taken the time to distil the best player and DM advice down into this product which should be useful for absolute newbies to experienced champions of the game. None of the advice is condescending or patronising, and all of it is useful, so what are you waiting for?!

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Khyber Khronicle Volume #3

Jay Africa et al.

I will always recommend the Khyber Khronicle when it’s published. If you’re running Eberron games for D&D 5th Edition, they you should be picking these up. These Eberron zines contain adventure paths, lore, new monsters and magic items, the works! They’re always good quality, and always worth picking up for all you Eberron fans out there!

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The Lovers’ Handbook

Ashley May

Although it’s not a topic that often gets explored in my games*, love can certainly be a huge part of D&D if all of your players are comfortable with it. Ashley May is already well known for her off the wall supplements, and she upholds her reputation in style with The Lovers’ Handbook. If you want to include romance and love within your games, there’s not better supplement out there than this!

*One of my players birthed an abyssal cambion child last session, but it was far from romantic. Welcome to the world Poxie!

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Mad Mages of Undermountain

Troy Taylor

This amazing supplement for Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage contains five new fleshed out mages for DMs to add into their games. As well as containing these crazy NPCs, there are 10 lesser mages to throw in, tables to randomly create mages of monstrous origin, and introductions from famous characters of the Forgotten Realms such as Volo! For the low price of $0.99, this is sure to spice up your campaign.

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The Minotaur Trilogy

P.B. Publishing & JVC Parry

After years of work, Phil and I have finally finished putting together The Minotaur Trilogy. You might already be familiar with the three instalments of this monstrous work; Minotaur’s Bargain, Minotaur’s Betrayal and Minotaur’s Bane, but this product merges them all together into their final form! The campaign should take characters from level 5 to 11 and provide over 40 hours of gameplay. I like to think that Phil and I are at the top of the adventure writing game, but if that’s not enough to convince you, check out the sample pages! The whole thing looks incredible and is packed with full colour art and custom maps.

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Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Parry’s Picks – 4th November 2018

Hello and welcome back to Parry’s Picks! Each week in this article series I take a look at what’s been published on the DMsGuild over the past 7 days and try to highlight 5 of the best ones out there! This week I’m going to highlight instead of the usual 5, because I missed some gems released late last week.

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Dragon Season – A Waterdeep: Dragon Heist DM’s Resource

Valeur RPG

If you’re not already familiar with Valeur RPG’s DM Resources, then you should be! They release helpful DM guides for the published adventures which are aimed at assisting DMs with running the major parts of the adventure, whilst leaving room for a bit of the classic D&D hijinks we all love on the side. This particular supplement focuses on Chapter 4 of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and includes guidance on choosing your villain, cheat sheets to help you run chases and a deep dive into the Vault of Dragons with tactical assistance for running the encounters within. It’s already a Copper Best Seller!

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The Heist at Nimressa

Jeremy Tuohy

Another early Copper Best Seller! The Heist at Nimressa is a heist adventure (which seem very popular since the release of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist) in which the characters can plan and execute a robbery of a fort owned by the despotic baroness Ytrix. Nimressa is highly detailed, giving characters plenty of opportunities to infiltrate using their own plans, rather than feeling railroaded down a certain route. Also, it has great opportunities for characters whose strength lie outside combat and infiltration, as there are NPCs who can be talked around, making roleplay a feasible tactic. Great work from a debut author.

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The Malady Codex: The Guide to Diseases

Jason Bakos & Themis Paraskevas

The title says it all! This 5-star product contains 11 new diseases for you game, each of which is well detailed with lore about their causes, treatment and symptoms. The diseases are categorised by their lethality and origin too, which helps you implement those which are most suited for your campaign. The supplement also contains new NPCs, monsters and items which are relevant to the diseases too. If you want to make disease a big part of your campaign, there’s no better source than this!

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The Priest, The Witch, & The Lost Temple

David McDonough

Another debut author with a 5 star adventure! The first thing that caught my eye about this one is the amazing production quality; the art and layout are first class! The adventure covers 35 pages for only $2.50 and contains custom maps which are available as a separate product for other people to use! The adventure is set in the village of Whitehaven in the Forgotten Realms, which has been attacked by undead. The folk of Whitehaven are quick to blame the Witch of Whitehaven, but the characters have the chance to uncover the truth!

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Truly, Madly, Deeply-Module 3

Chad CrayPatrick Higingbotham & NZS Games

This adventure is part three of the Truly, Madly Deeply series, but can also be run as a standalone one-shot. The adventure is set in Heaven; a mining village near the Sunset Mountains that is rumoured to have been beset by bandits and robbers. The characters must travel the Uldoon Trail and unravel the mysteries they become wrapped up in along the way in order to progress through the encounters!

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Adventure: Unknown Whom II – The Mark of the Eye

Rob Twohy

How could I not feature the newest adventure by the inimitable Rob Twohy! I did an interview with the King of Fantasy Grounds not long ago, and so it was great to see another adventure from Rob hit the shelves. The adventure is the sequel to Unknown Whom, so I’d reccomend picking that up as well, but looks like it’ll continue with his amnesia ridden theme. In part one the characters awaken with no knowledge of their former selves, and escape a dungeon. In this title, the adventurers can the chance to discover why they’ve all been branded with the mark of the eye, and reveal the identity of the ‘Unknown Whom’. As with all things Rob, it’s available for Fantasy Grounds too.

Lemme know if you pick up any of the adventures, and make sure to get your hands on the rerelease of Cult of the Glutton too! Check out some of the interior below!

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Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Industry Interview – Chris Bissette

Welcome to this week’s Industry Interview. Each week I take some time with someone from the RPG industry and get a look into their newest work, the things they’re passionate about, and we try to come up with some new advice for people trying to break into the scene.

Chris Bissette is the mind behind the incredible, ENnie nominated Loot the Room rpg blog, as well as many some spectacular adventures including Bulette Storm and Breaker of Chains. Chris has also published a whole compendium of trinket tables to help facilitate your treasure needs. Chris has experience publishing on DMsGuild, DTRPG and his own website, as well as having a facebook, twitter and patreon.

What first drew you into publishing, and what was your first published product?

I’ve been interested in RPG writing for a long, long time. I first started playing D&D back in 1994 and gravitated towards DMing, and like most DMs I produced a ton of my own content. In the 3rd Edition era I had submitted some pitches to Dragon Magazine but never managed to sell anything, and I self-produced (I’m loathe to use the word ‘published’) a DIY zine during my time at university in the early ‘00s, but all that work is lost to time now.

The first thing I published after coming back to D&D with 5e and starting Loot The Room was Dark Deeds, a small set of 6 new character backgrounds for dark and evil characters that I’m still very proud of. That was never meant to be the first thing, though; that was The Wheelhouse, and Dark Deeds came about because I realised the personality traits in the PHB didn’t work with the NPCs I was producing for that book. Rather than just writing new traits, I instead wrote a whole set of backgrounds. Feature creep has been a regular theme in my self publishing adventure thus far, and something I’ve had to learn to manage!

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Where did you publish [Dark Deeds]? Why did you choose that platform?

For the first year or so of Loot The Room I published exclusively on the DMs Guild. Like many of us in this new wave of D&D content creators I came back to the game after discovering Critical Role, and when Matt Mercer released his Gunslinger class I obviously snapped it up. I had been aware of DriveThruRPG and RPGNow for a long time but had never dipped my toe in the waters, and the DMs Guild seemed more accessible to somebody relatively new to the game. Not having to worry about considerations like OGL compliance made it very easy to test the waters.

What do you feel are the major differences between publishing on DMsGuild versus DTRPG or your own site?

There are a few significant differences that I think all creators should be aware of. Being able to play in Wizards of the Coast’s sandbox – having access to the Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft, and being able to use anything out of the core rulebooks without having to worry about the SRD and the OGL – is a huge thing. It obviously comes at the cost of 50% of your royalties, but I think it’s worth it if you’re making full use of that licence. Because I’ve been running my own games in my own worlds for over 20 years I’ve never really utilised it fully – I don’t play in the official campaign worlds, and I don’t write content for them – so it seemed logical to me to step over to DTRPG once I had established myself and started to build a name for myself.

DTRPG is a much bigger playground. It’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond on the Guild, but it’s much harder to stand out on DTRPG. Moving over there felt like starting all over again. My work still performs better on the Guild, and DTRPG has been a real uphill battle. It’s nice to retain full ownership of my work, though, and with the recent changes to the rules about logos on the DMs Guild, DTRPG is an even more appealing proposition. I’ve built a strong brand with Loot The Room, and not being able to throw that logo on a cover definitely hurts my sales!

Getting away from the OBS sites, I want to talk about the concept of ‘Pay What You Want’ for a moment. PWYW is a model I’ve used successfully with music and fiction in other venues for years, and when I first started out on the Guild I embraced it fully. Unfortunately, as many of us have discovered, it isn’t really a viable option on the DMs Guild. PWYW titles get fewer overall downloads than purely free products, and make a fraction of the money of products with a set price attached. It seems, though, that this is a bizarre quirk of the OBS audience. Cities: Shadepoint is a PWYW product on DTRPG, as well as being available on itch.io and Loot The Room itself. Overall downloads on itch and LTR have been much lower than on DTRPG – surprising nobody – but in terms of money earned, Shadepoint has far surpassed any of the other products I’ve released on DTRPG or the DMs Guild. People are definitely willing to embrace PWYW, you just need to find the right venue!

Talk to me about Shadepoint. What made you decide to publish more setting based material? Are we going to see expansions or adventures set there in the future?

There are two things I’ve always been really passionate about – modular design, and building cool places. Shadepoint is really just me building on what I did with The Wheelhouse, which was the skeleton of a prison filled with characters, adventure hooks, and secrets, but with no pre-written adventure attached. The intention was to give DMs the tool to take that location and use it however they wanted to.

Shadepoint – and the Shadepoint Cycle that we’re currently in the middle of – is really our attempt to do something a little differently to other publishers. This is the first in a long line of setting cycles that we have planned, and all will be released using the same basic model. The initial setting – be it Shadepoint, or one of the other weird and wonderful places we have planned – will always be free. You’ll get maps, history, locations, NPCs, and more adventure hooks than you can shake a flumph at, all designed to be easily dropped into your games with a minimum of effort. Then we’ll support that setting by publishing adventures, backgrounds, classes, monsters, and more, all designed to work thematically in that setting while being easily adaptable to your setting of choice. It’s an ambitious plan, but people seem to be responding well to it and we’re excited to see how it develops!

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention my partner in loot, Matt Sanders. He’s had a pivotal role in helping to develop this business model. I initially put out Shadepoint as a standalone work; it was Matt who recognised what we could do with it, and developed the Cycle model that we’re now using. Luckily we were also working on another product together at the same time that lends itself really well to this model of publishing, so once Shadepoint is done we’ve already completed a lot of the groundwork on the second Cycle, too!

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Moving away from publishing, what inspired you to start Loot the Room?

Once again we go back to Critical Role. I got into it early, and I had spotted a call from Matt Abernathy and Kimmy Davies on Twitter seeking writers for their Critical Role fansite. I sent them a pitch, they liked it, and I wrote a couple of articles for them – one on running your first game as a DM, and one that was a primer on creating your first character. Unfortunately that site sort of fizzled out, as these things do, but by that point I had the bug. I registered Loot The Room, published those two articles, and started churning out content for it. The rest is history.

What do you think are the key aspects to creating such a popular blog?

Without a doubt, the key is consistency. When I started out I was studying for my Masters and only working 2 days a week, so I had a ton of free time to write and draw maps. For the first year-ish I was publishing new articles and maps three times a week. That kind of output gets attention, and my readership grew and grew.

The other thing that has been a huge boon to me is the response to my monthly (well, mostly monthly – I’m a little behind currently!) Best of DMs Guild posts. I’m a big believer in the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats, and I’m passionate about drawing attention to the hidden gems on the DMs Guild. There’s a constantly growing deluge of new content on the Guild, and as a consumer it’s hard to know where to find the good stuff. And as a creator – as I’m sure you know – if you’re not on the front page of the Guild either as a new release or in the top 10, you aren’t going to sell many copies! I decided to do a one-off post of some of my favourite DMs Guild products, and the response to it was vociferous. There was immediate demand for more, and it very quickly became a staple of the site. I wear my biases on my sleeve, and I try to be transparent about both my criteria for review and about how much I pay for PWYW titles (because most of the titles I review tend to be PWYW simply due to the fact that most people seem to release under PWYW – I still believe that we can make that model work on the Guild if we just try, and I’m happy to lead the charge there). People seem to appreciate that, and those posts are still by far the most popular content on the site!

Have you got any advice for new authors or bloggers?

Embrace failure. Nothing you produce will ever be perfect, and if you focus on perfection you’ll never release anything. I’d say start small, too; don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s more important to be constantly working and releasing, and if you take on too much you’ll get burned out fast. That’s something I struggle with a lot, and I still haven’t got the balance right, so I’d advise you to do what I say, not what I do!

Somebody who I really admire for his “small, fast, good” approach to releasing work is Alex Clippinger, and I think new DMs Guild creators would do well to look at his output. He often takes seemingly ridiculous ideas and turns out really stellar work. There’s no feature creep or bloat – he takes on idea, executes it well, releases it, and moves on. Frankly, I’m insanely jealous of him, and he deserves absolutely every success.

The other piece of advice I’d give is to network. That’s a bit of a dirty word, but really it just means talking to people producing work you admire, and be interested in what they have to say. I was very, very lucky to create friendships with people like Phil Beckwith (PB Publishing) and Jeff Stevens when I started out. The two of them not only gave me a lot of great advice and support, but they also pushed me to do better work and opened a lot of doors for me in the process. Bulette Storm wouldn’t exist if Jeff hadn’t approached me to write for his Encounters… books and told me that he really wanted to see me produce a full-length adventure of my own, and I wouldn’t have got half of the gigs producing maps that I’ve undertaken if it wasn’t for Phil taking a chance on me when I had no real work to show off outside of the blog. I’m very, very grateful to them both!

Make sure to check out Chris’ work on DTRPG, DMsGuild and LootTheRoom if you enjoyed this interview to show some support!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Rerelease – Cult of the Glutton

Now that my Deconstructing Dungeons article series has finished, I’m starting to go through and rerelease my old adventures (as well as releasing new ones, keep your eyes peeled later in the month). These rereleases will update the layout, artwork and writing of my old adventures to give them a more professional touch, and keep them up to standard with the ever-improving quality of work on the DMsGuild. If you already own a copy of the adventure, all you need to do is download it again, if not, you can buy yourself an updated copy!

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The first adventure up for rerelease is Cult of the Glutton. You can read about it in its Deconstructing Dungeons article here. I started with one of my shorter adventures so that I could get used to the work, and the amount of money I’d have to invest in. For this adventure I got new interior artwork, cartography and a custom cover! I revised the writing in some places to make sure it’s all clear, but haven’t done any major reworkings.

For those that don’t know, Cult of the Glutton is a 3.5 hour Dungeons & Dragons adventure for Tier 2 (5th-10th) level characters. It involves a fight with a demon lord BBEG, which might be too much for some parties, but is sure to culminate in a climactic, dynamic encounter. As well as the new demon lord, the adventure includes new magic items, monsters and a new disease!

Fancy a look at the brand new Cult of the Glutton? Just keep scrolling!

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Cover art by Matthew Myslinski.

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Cartography by Matthias Rothenaicher.

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Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Review – The Carceri Bestiary

Welcome back to the weekly review! Today we’re taking a look at The Carceri Bestiary by The Grumbleputty! This product is essentially a monster manual for the plane of Carceri, one of the outer planes in the in the Great Wheel Cosmology of the Forgotten Realms. The supplement contains lore and statblocks for a whole host of the native fiends of the plane as well as custom artwork to accompany it.

Each product I review is given a rating out of five in each of three categories: DesignWriting & ProductionDesign focuses on mechanics for player and DM supplements, and on the narrative of adventures. Writing focuses on the style of the writing, including how well it has been edited and how comprehensive it is. Production takes into account layout, artwork and the general flow of the document. Also, despite receiving a free copy of this product to review, I’d like to stress that all views are my own, and I’ve not pulled punches where I feel improvements should be made.

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The Carceri Bestiary contains twenty statblocks with accompanying lore and art for the inhabitants of Carceri. Three of these are monsters from old editions, whilst the rest are creatures of the authors own creation. They range in CR from less than 1 to 18, but most fall in the range of Tier 2 encounters. Within the creatures we have the fiends, which are broken down by their role and rank within the hierarchy of the plane, and some NPC statistics which might be useful for those running a campaign in Carceri.

The product currently has 2 5-star reviews and ratings. It’s available for $2.75 (which is worth it for the art alone!) and as of writing is not a best seller. The product was published on September 25th 2018. Including cover, the document is 26 pages long with custom art on almost every page.

Because this product doesn’t have sections or parts like an adventure of player supplement might, I’m instead going to break down my review by the three pillars of reviewing, and then highlight a few of my favourite monsters.

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Design – 3/5

The design of the monsters in this supplement in terms of matching the stats to the lore is, generally, pretty good. There are instances where the author has detailed the abilities of the creature in the lore, then created new attack options of traits to fit the new monsters, and they work well. A good example of this comes from the first monster in the supplement; the Carniface, which can switch between using it’s extra legs for attacking and extra movement. Another example is Gullipher, which can disgorge smaller versions of itself called tongue serpents. This sort of mechanics-matching-lore makes it easy for a DM to pick which creature they want to run from their description, or even illustration, and know they can run an interesting combat with it.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that there are around ten creatures in the supplement with exciting abilities, there are quite a few others that aren’t much more than bags of hit points. I think the author was trying to give an all-encompassing look at the plane, and thus included monsters that would be the vanilla rank and file of the place (such as the block headed Vinculoth) but that means some of these cool creatures don’t do much from a mechanical standpoint, and could just be reflavoured ogres or imps, which I think has happened here. While this isn’t a major issue, it’s a shame there aren’t more stand out monsters in the product.

The major issue I have with the design of the creatures is that their CR is wrong almost every time. CR is a difficult beast to manage, with many postulating that the maths for all 5e creatures is off, that CR is meaningless, or that the rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide are not those used by WotC designers. Whilst there is some truth to these statements, it’s my understanding that most DMs do get at least some idea about what they can expect to challenge their players with from an accurate CR. Even if the monsters are only balanced against themselves, CR gives a basic idea of what a party can handle. If your party is used to fighting CR 5 creatures, and then comes face to face with the CR 5 Empathurge, they will absolutely walk the encounter, as the Empathurge only has 2 hit points, and AC of 14, and doesn’t have any damage resistances or immunities. I’m not sure if this is deliberate, but either way it’s a mistake, and not the only one. There are no playtest credits for this product, which I think is clear.

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Writing – 4/5

The style and comprehensiveness of the writing in the supplement is superb. I feel like I’m getting a real tour around Carceri while reading the product, and it’s almost impossible to distinguish what comes from previous editions of D&D, and what comes from the authors own mind. This quality alone, in my opinion, ranks the writing highly. If your style is so consistent that you can make be believe what you’re writing is ‘reality’, then you’re doing a good job.

As well as lore about the plane of Carceri, each creature gets a paragraph or two about its status on the plane, what it looks and behaves like, and what its notable abilities are. These too are well written and again, I wouldn’t know which come from old editions of D&D and which are the authors own creation. Each of the creatures has its own unique character which comes out well in the text, and means it’s never a bore to read.

The only thing holding the writing back from a 5 is that there are spelling and grammatical mistakes peppered throughout. Although they’re nothing major, they’re something an editor could easily have located and rectified. This would have easily lifted the writing to a score of 5.

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Production – 5/5

Every creature in this monster manual has artwork. Every one. Although none of it is colour art, the sketches are impeccable, and the artist (who I believe is also the author?) should be incredible proud of themselves. Each sketch clearly displays the creature in question, highlights the major features, and never looks goofy or cartoonish.  They range from desperate, horrified humanoids trapped on the plane to demonic looking animal hybrids with dragon-tails spitting fire to alien-like, creepy fiends and back to aberrations that I feel like must have been dreamt up in some Cthulhu-influenced nightmare. The vision of the artist/author is clear in each piece, and are perfectly executed. The cover is an awesome adaptation of an existing piece of artwork, and fits the sketched theme of the bestiary as a whole.

As well as the amazing artwork, the layout of the pages is intuitive, and makes it easy to read. My only suggestions would be to use two columns where possible, and to make sure that the lore of a creature is as close to its statblock and artwork as possible, to avoid confusion and flicking between pages of a pdf.

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Here are some of m favourite entries in the bestiary!

Iudex

The Iudex are infiltrators who mix with the prisoners in Carceri and try to foment riots and get them into even further trouble. These owl-faced flesh columns have four tentacles on which they move around, and look absolutely terrifying. Thankfully, they can take human form to ease their infiltration activities.

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When the high ranking fiends of Carceri need to swell the ranks of their armies, they take their prisoners and encase them in living cages. The poor souls trapped within are forced to fight against their will, controlled by these horrifying exoskeletons. As well as being terrifying rank and file fighters, characters can also use abilities to free the prisoners trapped within as a get around to fighting.

Gullipher

Gross gross gross gross. If your characters ever anger a hag, let these loose on them. They are huge,  translucent worm-like creatures with hands for heads. They are used to track down and capture people that need taking back to Carceri. They are absolutely disgusting, and are possibly my favourite creature in this whole bestiary!

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Overall – 4/5

Despite the glaring issues with CR, and the couple of design discrepancies, I do think this is an awesome bestiary. Not only are the monsters within pretty awesome, but the lore about Carceri is superb, and I’d highly recommend this as a book for anyone wanting to run adventures in the Outer Planes! Best of all, the artwork in this product is phenomenal, it alone is worth the price of admission!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Deconstructing Dungeons – Winter Yonderland

It’s time for the FINAL Deconstructing Dungeons article! I can’t believe it’s already come to an end! What on earth am I going to write about on Mondays now?! Anyway, this week I’m taking a look at Winter YonderlandFor those that don’t know, Deconstructing Dungeons is an article series in which I take a look back at my published works and review them. I give a detailed, spoilerific synopsis of the plot, give some details about the resources I used to help me go from idea to adventure, and then summarise what I did well and where I messed up. I also give away a free copies of the adventure and my Adventure Compendiums each week (details at the end of the post).

Winter Yonderland is a Tier 2 adventure that should take one or two sessions, depending on whether you choose to use the random encounter section in the middle. I published Winter Yonderland on December 13th 2016. I like writing holiday themed adventures, and they always seem to sell pretty well so why not? Winter Yonderland is currently a silver best seller and has two 5 star review and one rating!

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The adventure takes place inside a magical snow globe. The hook is that the characters have angered a powerful mage who, as punishment, has trapped the characters inside the globe. They are doomed to remain in the frosty ball until they can slay the most powerful monster that lives within it, an abominable yeti! Thankfully, the characters have a little help in finding this creature, as a recently killing points in its direction. Two nights ago, some children were stolen away during festive celebrations during the night, and the tracks of the beasts remain imprinting into the snow near the gory scene. If the characters can track down the culprit they will be rewarded and freed from their imprisonment.

The first part of the adventure is set in the village of Snoëlbowg. Characters have the opportunity to speak to the major NPCs, including the parents of the missing child, the owners of a tavern, and a few others that are tangentially linked to the disappearance of the children. Although it’s mentioned in the intro that the mayoress of the town is willing to pay the characters to help out, I failed to reinforce this in the main body of the adventure with a roleplaying scene. This is something I’ll update when it comes to redoing the adventure. When the characters have gathered all the information they can in town, they are forced to track the beast’s footprints, which head out int the unforgiving Frosted Vale.

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The Frosted Vale is kitted out with some encounters to help give the place a sense of lethality. These encounters include a run in with a mammoth herd of the edge of a frozen precipice, and an ambush by a remorhaz from beneath the snow. Each of the encounters has some additional information about how you can make them more difficult for your characters if, for whatever reason, they are rinsing the encounters without difficulty. When I come to revisit this adventure, I think I’ll include some more encounters, possibly kitting it out with a full d100 table of them, some of which will give characters more insight into the mage that trapped them, or their possible salvation.

After the characters travel through the Frosted Vale, they manage to track the beast to an ice cave, occupied by yetis and other tundra denizens. The lair is a simple one in terms of mapping and could probably by updated a little to make for more dynamic combat. Great things to throw into winter locations are thin sheets of ice above frigid water, loose snow that could cave in at any moment, and ice tunnels which channel freezing gales at high speed into chambers, knocking weaker characters off their feet.

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During the final combat with yetis, the characters might feel outmatched by their foes. Thankfully, a frost giant who has been hunting them also appears with a small pack of winter wolves to tackle the beasts. My hope here is not to upstage the characters, but rather to encourage a little confusion in the combat as the characters try to distinguish friend from foe. If everything pans out, the characters have a chance to roleplay with the frost giant, and discover that their increased presence in the Frosted Vale is causing this unusual pack behaviour in the yetis. They might also have to make a choice about what to do to the frost giant. Let her live and risk her telling her friends about the ripe raiding grounds of Snoëlbowg, or let her go and hope she takes their side and stops pressing into the Vale.

Characters also discover a scarf which belonged to the missing child, proving his grizzly fate. With this token the characters can return to town, give closure to the NPCs, and receive their reward. The next morning they awake in their usual plane of existence, freed from the mage’s snow globe.

As usual, I used homebrewery for the layout of this adventure, and drew the maps myself with a little editing in photoshop. The map of the village was done using inkarnate. The artwork is a mixture of wikicommons art, DMsGuild creator resources and art purchased from artists through DeviantArt. The cover is by Caterina Kalymniou.

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What I did well: I think the best part of this adventure is the hook! Waking up in a snow globe is cool. I think that when I go back to redo this adventure I’ll make a bigger thing of this. A random encounter where the characters come up against the glass of the globe could be great fun, and maybe an earthquake proceeded by a snowstorm would be pretty funny too.

What I did poorly: There’s not much too this adventure, and I could have done a little more to develop the plot. When I go back I’ll definitely try to expand the random encounter table, and maybe have a few more things going on in town that the characters have to fix before they can escape the globe. Some kind of snowman cult might be fun…

GIVEAWAY! If you like the post on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be entered into a giveaway to win one of five copies of Winter Yonderland. If you retweet or share the post, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy of Adventure Compendium Vol Iwhich contains Winter Yonderland as well as a handful of other JVC Parry adventures! Good luck!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. We’re not far away from the end of the month, which marks a new influx of D&D 5th edition content for the DungeonFiller tier! You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also support me by buying my newest products; Grimm Encounters II and The Faithful of Eberron.

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Parry’s Picks – 28th October 2018

Hello and welcome back to Parry’s Picks! Each week in this article series I take a look at what’s been published on the DMsGuild over the past 7 days and try to highlight 5 of the best ones out there! This week we’ve got a real range of products, including two that I helped create!

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Captains & Cannons

Drifters Game Workshop

This incredible supplement focuses on running naval combat. It contains a huge amount of information about potential ships, each of which is given its own statistics which takes into account things like Initiative, AC, Weapon Slots and HP (Hull Points).  As well as taking you through the new mechanics for naval combat we get some upgrades for ships, and some humorously named encounters!

Drifters Game Workshop was kind enough to send me a complimentary copy of Captains & Cannons, so keep your eyes peeled for a full review in the next couple of weeks!

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The Faithful of Eberron

Alex Clippinger et al.

The first of the two products I was involved in this week is The Faithful of Eberron. This huge compendium provides new archetypes, backgrounds and stat blocks for religious fanatics in Eberron. As well as the brilliant design, the production quality of the supplement is extremely impressive, and the attention to detail in the lore is amazing. If you’re playing in Eberron at the moment, this is definitely one you’ll want to pick up. The Faithful of Eberron has already shot to #1 on the DMsGuild where it should stay for a while!

If you want to check out what I wrote for this product, check out the Monk archetype; Way of the Flayed Hand for The Mockery – one of the Dark Six.

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Grimm Encounters II

JVC Parry et al.

The second of my offerings this week is Grimm Encounters II! It contains 12 encounters and mini-adventures written by some of the DMsGuild’s best! Each of them is based on an original Brothers Grimm fairy tale, but warped into something far more horrific, and adapted for your D&D table! If you want a look inside the book before buying it, you can do so here.

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The Molded: Humanoid Ooze Sourcebook

Richard James Errington

Now tell me this, who doesn’ want to play a humanoid ooze for their Halloween one-shot session? The answer – no one! This hilariously amazing book is the one-stop-shop for playing ooze-based characters, and even includes a short adventure for 4th-5th level characters! For only $1.99, I’d seriously recommend picking this one up!

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Opus of Elemental Substance – 60 New Spells

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Says it right there on the tin! 60 new spells, all of which are based on elemental categories including acid, fire and thunder! These spells are a lot of fun, and are well balanced too. I’m not always a huge fan of supplements like this, as I don’t really feel the need for more player options, especially spells, when we have so many already, but DropTheDie has really created something amazing here. These spells are especially useful if you want to create a certain character that specialises in one of the elemental types.

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Industry Interview – Ashley Warren

We’re back to interviews this week, and we’re reopening with a HUGE guest; Ashley Warren! I have another few interviews cued up with some amazing people, but if you have any ideas for other people you’d like to hear from, just let me know in the comments or through social media.

Ashley Warren is a popular DMsGuild Adept who recently broke onto the scene in a big way with her RPG Writer Workshop. This workshop helps new authors get their footing in the field of RPG writing and has been a huge success. Beside the writer workshop, Ashley is probably best known for her A Requiem of Wings adventure saga, which starts with the electrum best seller A Night of Masks and Monsters.

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

I first considered writing for D&D 5e almost exactly a year ago (fall 2017). While on a trip to Italy with my family, I was inspired by the beautiful ancient history around me and had an idea for an adventure featuring angels and demons. When I started looking at these creatures in the Monster Manual, I felt overwhelmingly inspired! But it was my DM, John, who encouraged me to post my work to DMsGuild. My first product there was A Night of Masks and Monsters which I conceptualised in Venice and published in December 2017. I had no idea that publishing Masks and Monsters would kick off the most amazing year ever!

What inspires your projects?

Travel, food, music, language, culture. Atmosphere excites me as a writer and whenever I travel I am always inspired to write. I try to infuse a lot of that into my stories. My angels and demons series, A Requiem of Wings, is inspired by my Italian and Russian heritage, so I pull a lot from folklore and mythology. I’m a visual person and tend to come up with stories based on “tone” or “aesthetic.”

What’s it like writing as a Guild Adept in contrast to before?

It’s challenging! I do not have decades of experience playing D&D or writing games, so I’ve been playing catch-up on learning the lore, especially for my Eberron adventure coming out in November. I’ve had to learn all the rules for Adventurers League. I feel like I’ve come into this as a complete outsider; I’ve been a writer, professionally, for more than a decade, but I’m still relatively new to game design and RPGs in general.

But I love it! I’ve tried to jump in with both feet. It’s so exciting working on projects that coincide with the new releases. I love getting a peek into the work that Wizards produces. It’s given me such a greater appreciation for everything Wizards does. Hours and hours of hard work go on behind the scenes. I’m so grateful to be involved but definitely fight impostor syndrome on the daily.

How did you come up with the idea for the RPG Writer Workshop?

I have my Masters degree in Literacy Studies and used to be a college English teacher. I am really passionate about helping people find a love for reading and writing.

To be honest, there is an overwhelming amount of information about RPG writing on the internet. I kept seeing people ask a question about adventure writing on Twitter or Facebook only to be sent a deluge of articles and YouTube videos and books, without any sort of advice or structure. That is daunting and can be a deterrent to people new to the community.

I felt like a workshop that was both a collaborative space and a step-by-step primer to adventure writing could be a useful resource. I was only expecting a handful of signups and couldn’t believe the interest the first pilot workshop received. That’s when I knew for sure that the idea had potential. I was starting to see success as a game designer, and with my background in education, I felt comfortable that I might be able to offer a different approach.

On a selfish note, I love any chance to teach and mentor, especially when it comes to writing.

What are the major challenges you faced when designing the workshop?

There are so many aspects to game design and I wanted to cover as much as possible. However, I know that new writers can get easily overwhelmed by too much information presented at once. So, I wanted to make the content bite-sized and approachable but also actionable. I wanted it to be released over a set schedule so that people could realistically complete their adventures in the midst of their busy lives. I strongly believe that a big part of being a successful writer is having a rock-solid writing process.

My biggest challenge is: how can the workshop help people actually complete their adventures and see their ideas to fruition? I’ve tried to make the workshop informative and engaging and motivating, all in one. I brought in amazing creators (like you, JVC!) to help me accomplish this.

What do you hope will be the biggest takeaway from the workshop this year, and are there plans for its future?

I have so many dreams for the workshop! I’m just excited that people enjoyed it and that this incredible community of writers now exists. Like I mentioned before, a writing process is important, so my biggest hope is that people will find a way to make writing an important part of their lives.

I hope to offer more classes in the future. My goal is to host the full workshop twice a year, and then have smaller classes available at any time — classes taught by experts and specific to narrative design, cartography, playtesting, etc. The workshop is a good overview of the whole process, but I know there are many writers who want to get better at one aspect of game design and would enjoy delving into that specific topic. So, I’m hoping to make that happen in 2019!

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

These are the three things I often tell new authors:

  • Just get started. Don’t wait for perfection — it doesn’t exist! Write something and share it. Then write something else and share it. Then go back and improve what you’ve shared with what you’ve learned.
  • Let the act of creating be as fulfilling as the act of publishing. I think many writers get excited about their big picture dreams: the money they think they’ll make, the glowing reviews they’ll receive, the beautiful art they’ll commission. They skip over the hard work and focus too much on the end “vision,” but when they sit down to write, they get discouraged and can’t finish a project. I see this happen time and time again with new writers. So when you can make writing something that fulfils you, and not a hypothetical audience, it remains exciting and motivating. Publishing is a fine goal, but sometimes aspiring for fame and glory is a deterrent.
  • Unless you’re a prolific author who has a track record for finishing projects, don’t announce the projects you want to write unless they are almost finished. We get a false sense of accomplishment from announcing our intentions, but that wears off when the work begins. It’s OK to keep your ideas and aspirations private. There are no shortcuts to writing or any creative endeavour. Do the work.

Check out Ashley’s amazing adventures on the DMsGuild, or look her up on Facebook and Twitter. If you like the sound of the RPG Writer Workshop, check it out on Twitter or Facebook, and go sign up using the offer code JVCParry to receive $10 off. Registration closes on the 31st October 2018 so don’t miss out!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

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