A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer


Into the Light

I've been talking about this for a long time... Hell, the actual product has been in development for five years... But now I'm finally going to do it for real.


My #1 pet project, my three part campaign called The Coming Dark, is *finally* going to go to Kickstarter. Like I said, I've been writing this thing for close to five years and the campaign has seen at least three different systems (4E, 13th Age and Pathfinder) before finally settling on being published through the OGL and being compatible with the 5th Edition of the Don't-Make-Us-Have-To-Say-It roleplaying system.

I've been crunching the numbers for a while now, putting together Kickstarter spreadsheets that inevitably contained a lot of red numbers. At first I wanted a physical product, a softcover or hardcover book of the adventure that I and many others can hold in my hands, but with the costs of editing and artwork I just couldn't make the numbers work without an absurdly high stretch goal for an adventure. So, like several other adventures and campaigns as of late, I'm going to go fully digital. That way I can drop as much money as I can on editing and creative for the project.

Now the only things I have left to do before launching it are:

  • I have an editor already signed up, but I do not officially have a creative artist signed up to do the cover or interstitial art. I know who I want, and am just waiting for their response (and, if you're reading this, *hint!* *hint!*).
  • I need to make a video. This could be considered a personal phobia of mine... as you can tell pictures of me are kind of hard to find, and those that you do find weren't actually taken by me. So I have to set my fears aside, record the video and pray I don't look like a total fool.

That being said, assuming I get the responses I need, the campaign for The Coming Dark, Chapter One might be submitted for Kickstarter review as early as the end of the week.

In an effort to be ready for the social media push, I created a signup site where you can register for notifications: http://tcd.dlimedia.com/

Really looking forward to this, and with all your support I trust I can make it a reality.


Trapdoor Technologies : They’re baaaaack!

One of the most frustrating things about freelance writing and publishing is that sometimes you're really excited about a product that you put together... and you can't tell anyone about it. This has been my torment for the last two months.

Some of you remember Trapdoor Technologies and the ups and downs they had with their product Morningstar... DungeonScape... Well, whatever it was called. I've had my share of exchanges with them and have made some commentary on their product in the past. Some of it good, some of it bad, but in either case it was necessary. They had a vision of what they wanted their product to be, and although they had high expectations in it Wizards of the Coast didn't exactly share the same vision. And, if you know anything about WotC's history, that shouldn't exactly be a surprise.

They launched a rather ambitious... Well, let's be honest here: extremely ambitious... Kickstarter in the hopes of making DungeonScape a reality, and it didn't exactly go as planned. Most people that suffer such a defeat go crawl under a rock, but not these guys. Well... actually... they kind of did crawl under a rock, but while under said rock they were actually working on the product anyway.

For months they worked in obscurity, releasing occasional tidbits of news like working with Ed Greenwood (which must have given someone in the WotC legal department an aneurysm), quietly developing their product and working towards releasing it to the world.

And now they have.

Today, Morningstar... DungeonScape... whatever it was called before is now officially called Playbook, and only minutes ago did they rebrand their Twitter account to @__Playbook__ and launched their Playbook micro site.

Now, what does this have to do with me?

CotDWell, a long long time I ago I had an idea for an adventure called "Cavern of the Damned". At the time there wasn't much to the adventure concept... Actually, besides the first room - the cavern, filled with the damned - there wasn't much else. So it languished for a while, being sidelined by all my other projects that I've been kicking around (like the campaign I've been writing for five years now, but I digress). But I got to talking with the Trapdoor guys, and they asked me if I'd like to publish it (reminder: "it" didn't technically exist) through their platform, Playbook.

Three months ago I agreed to doing that... And I sat on my ass for a month doing absolutely nothing on it. With two weeks to go before the agreed upon deadline, I decided "you know, maybe I should write this thing." So I did.

I'm happy to say that I completed "The Cavern of the Damned", a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure for a party of 1st level characters, and sent it on its merry way. Trapdoor in turn converted it - using magic, I can only assume - for use within the Playbook system. I admit I don't know what that even looks like because I haven't had any of the Apple Kool-Aid and don't own an iPhone or iPad, but it's out there somewhere.

I'm actually excited about the product for a variety of reasons.

  • It's the first real Pathfinder product I've ever written. I don't exactly count The Dragon's Master because that was originally a 4E module and, quite honestly, wasn't very good.
  • It's not very combat heavy. There's one big combat-like encounter right at the start, but beyond that it's designed to involve skills more than combat.
  • I'm dying to see the interactivity that Playbook brings to it.
  • Holy crap, I have COVER ART! And I didn't even ask for it, they just did it! That excited me more than anything!

Anywhere, so there it is... Playbook is, in some form, already available in iTunes; I'm not exactly sure what it looks like because I'm not an Apple guy, so I have to wait for the Android version.

But, be it now or in the future, go get Playbook and go get Caverns of the Damned!

In the meantime, Trapdoor is starting up their social media machine once again, and that includes the relaunch of their blog. So go read their "resurrection" blog post for more information!


Addendum: If you go to the main Playbook site, you can see a gallery of images from the app. Most of the images are actually from my adventure, Cavern of the Damned, and include the intro, the map, a few pages from the adventures and a monster. As far as I can tell, CotD is to be included free with the app as an introductory product. I'm cool with that... because I WROTE THAT THING!


Filed under: Uncategorized No Comments

Some 5th Edition Monsters

I've been recently re-tooling my campaign "The Coming Dark" with the hopes that I would launch a Kickstarter for it in the very near future.

One of the sections that I've completely rewritten is a scene where a bunch of drow would occupy a keep on the way to your primary objective. Although drow are interesting to some degree and challenging to a young party, after giving it a lot of thought they didn't really have much reason to be there. The BBEG was a high elf, so the thought of them working together was rather unlikely to begin with. And there wasn't any acceptable reason for drow to be wandering about the surface besides "elves are over there, and we hate them!"

Another reason I wanted to get rid of the drow is because of possible publishing implications. One could argue that drow are part of the OGL - after all, they're in Pathfinder - but the general consensus of it is that they are part of the D&D realm. Also, in order to fully comply with the OGL, I'd have to leave their lore out of it... and, let's face it, drow are kind of dependent on their lore. It defines who they are, and without it they're not much more than a mean elf.

So after removing them, replacing them with other creatures, I found myself with a few monsters I no longer intend to use. So, good samaritan that I am, here they are!

First off is the wood golem that I posted on Twitter. It's loosely based on the Pathfinder version, made into a CR 4 creature.

Secondly is the leader of the drow group, a mage named Draya. Originally she as a summoner because of where she was physically located in the adventure, but just looking at her stat block alone doesn't indicate anything summoner-like so I just left her as a plain ol' "mage".

Anyway, here ya go! Enjoy!

Leftover Monsters - Wood Golem and Drow Mage


“Revenge of the Kobolds” is out!

RotK covers, by Val "Kick Girl" Hochberg

RotK covers, by Val "Kick Girl" Hochberg

After languishing in a self-imposed "development hell" that lasted about two years, my pride and joy... Revenge of the Kobolds... is finally released! FOR FREE!

The product is made even more awesome through the cover art by Val "Kick Girl" Hochberg!

Now, if WotC would get their act together and release a 5th Edition license maybe I can convert this module to 5th Edition and make it even MORE awesome! I'm also debating converting it to Pathfinder and/or 13th Age, time considering... We'll see if I can ever get around to that.

Revenge of the Kobolds: DM's Guide

Revenge of the Kobolds: Player's Guide

And, like I said, it's FREE! So GO GET IT!!!


Did you know that there’s a Dungeons and Dragons slot machine?

DISCLAIMER: Company names and external links on all external communications have been omitted from this article. Proper names of individuals have been changed to protect them.

That title might sound completely unlike anything I've ever written on this site... and you're right, because I didn't write it.

Several weeks ago I got contacted by a company that was willing to pay me to post articles on my site.

Here's the first email:

Hi David,
I hope you're having a great day! My name is Samantha and I'd like to submit an editorial piece for your website, rpg.brainclouds.net.
We have a team of writers ready to prepare a post written according to your site's topic, whilst adding references to our client. We are also able to pay an administration fee of $100 for your efforts in publishing the article.
Our aim is to contribute an article that adds value to your website and something that you and your readers may find useful and entertaining.
Please email me back if this is something that might interest you, David.
I look forward to working with you.
Samantha Smith

*NOTE*: "Samantha Smith" is not their real name.

A subsequent email explains how this would work...

Hi David,

I sent you an email about providing an article for your site. Have you read it and had time to think about it?

To repeat, we can send over a well-written content created specifically for your site. The post would also contain references to our client.

You will also receive an annual payment for your effort, paid promptly through PayPal.

Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.

Samantha Smith

"Yours"?!? Man, they're trying to sell me their body already?

So here's how it works: they send me an article, I post it in its unmodified form and leave it on my site for 12 months, and after 12 months they PayPal me $100. Sounds easy, don't it?

I, like pretty much anyone who's ever owned a meaningful blog, has probably gotten a fair share of requests like this. But has anyone ever done anything besides instantly hit the DELETE key and carry on with their lives?

So, for the sake of journalism and because I haven't posted an article here in millennia, I will take that challenge!

Now, if you're reading this you know what this site's content is about... but I couldn't help but wonder if they knew that. Furthermore, their article will contain links to their clients, so I can't help but wonder (1) whether they even can write an article about D&D, and (2) how they would railroad their existing clients into said article.

So, for curiosity's sake... or perhaps for amusement's sake... I decided to play along. I had some questions of my own before I proceeded.

This is my email to them, complete with shameless shilling of my fan base and my lack of time to post anything productive:

Well this is an interesting offer, I admit. I haven't had much a chance to post a lot recently, so really could use some articles to maintain my fan base (over 2,000 followers on Twitter!).
I do have some questions, though:
1) I currently do not have an active PayPal account due to collection problems with PayPal. Is there any other payment option?

2) Is it $100 per article or per year? If the latter, how many articles does that $100 include?

3) Do I have any right of refusal for articles you submit that I may deem inappropriate to post?

4) What kind of clients do you represent?

5) Do you have a company website, or somewhere where I can see examples of articles you have written?

6) Do you even know what my site's topic is?

Thank you for your interest. Maybe we can work something out after all.

Now, just to be clear, I could care less about the answer to questions #1-5... I wanted to hear their answer to #6.

And they did not disappoint...

Hello David,

Thanks for getting back to me and I'm more than happy to answer your queries.

1. We make our payments only with Paypal and Skrill/Moneybookers. We find these two channels as the most safe and efficient. If you don't have a Paypal account, you may also sign up with Skrill/Moneybookers, or we can transfer the payment to a friend or colleague of yours that has Paypal and we'll just cover the Paypal fees.

2. The fee is for just a single article which we would ask for you to keep on your website for 1 year.

3. The article is subject to your review and approval prior to publication.

4. The article will include a few references to our client, a digital entertainment company offering online games. You are free to review the article first to see if it suits your site and readership.

5. Yes, you can find more information about us here: http://letsgetwise.com/about-us/

6. The article we aim to contribute is written according to your site's topic - Game Design and /or D&D (video games)

Please let me know if you wish to see the article and I'll ask our writers to prepare the copy. You may also specify topics that you prefer so that I can pass them on.

I await your response.

Now there's two things to note in the above.

  1. Their client is a "digital entertainment company offering online games". Remember that description later...
  2. I'm a "game design and/or D&D (video games)" blog. Well, asctually, that's closer than I expected them to be so I'll allow it.

So far, there's no risk to me. They write me an article, and I get to choose whether to post it or not, and it doesn't cost me time or money. If anything, it costs me personal pride and ethics... but that's worth the $100 I'll make a year from now, right?

I, of course, had more questions before I commit to this...

I'm still considering it, and I am interested... One final set of questions, along with the request to see a sample of what they would intend to post:

1) Is there any sort of contract that would be involved in this?

2) Are there any restrictions - legal or otherwise - as to what I can and can't do outside of this one article (which I assume I can't alter) on my own site?

Beyond that, I would love to see the type of article I should expect from this sort of thing. If it really works out, I'd be more than happy to do this setup more than once; my site could use the content.

Thanks again.

The reason for question #2 is, if I do decide to post it, whether I'm allowed to bash it mercilessly in a blog post the next day. I could care less about the $100 in a year... this has comedic value now!

Hello David,

I hope you are well and my apologies on the delayed response. We don't have a set of terms and conditions or contract. All we would ask from you is to keep the article on your website for at least 12 months. Again, you are also free to review the article and make necessary adjustments to match the tone and style of your writing, however, we would ask you to keep the hypertext and links originally included when the article is sent.

I should be able to send the draft for your review within the next couple of days. If you have any editorial guidelines or specific topics in mind that you wish for us to write or avoid, please let me know so I can pass them on.

Talk soon

At this point, I couldn't wait for the monstrosity of an article they were going to send me!

Today I received the article. After looking at the post and the supporting links (we'll get to that later), I told them that I would not continue with our arrangement... but, of course, I'm going to post their jewel anyway. For free, 'cause I'm such a nice guy.

Here it is, in its entirety but with the links removed.

Title: Did you know that there's a Dungeons and Dragons slot machine?

Yeah, totally sounds like something I'd write. Oh boy... this is going to be good...


This was the image provided for the article.

In May 2014, legendary game developer Konami launched two slot machines themed after Dungeons and Dragons namely "Conquests and Treasures" and "Enchanted Riches." (link removed) According to the games’ description, both have a 4-level progressive feature, free spins, and Xtra Reward.

To those who aren't familiar with slot machines, 4-level progressive is a fancy term used by game developers for bonus rounds, which can be triggered after playing a slot machine for a certain period of time. Bonus rounds usually yield bigger winnings than the payouts given by regular spins.

Free spins is pretty much self-explanatory. They award free games, and can be unlocked when a player hits 3 specific icons from a single spin. Xtra Reward, on the other hand, is Konami’s original slot feature that is offered to players who bet big.

Now, who would’ve thought that a lot of casino-goers are fans of the world's leader in tabletop role-playing game? According to G3 Newswire (link removed), guests actually waited in line when the game was launched at the Valley View Casino and Hotel in San Diego. Apart from cool prizes from the event organizers, each guest was given an official action figure patterned after the slot machines’ fire-breathing dragon model.

“The players we see this day and age are out looking for entertainment, and there’s a lot of entertainment value in the new Dungeons & Dragons slot machines,” said Randy Reedy, the Vice President of Valley View’s slot operations. “They really enjoy the experience. Just watching them, they get excited about additional bonuses within the free spin feature, which takes them to the progressive functionality. It’s very fun and interactive."

Today's young adults are usually the target of slot makers. This is evident on An Online Casino (link AND name removed), the world's first online casino that opened in the late 90s, having games that carry with them the commercial license of DC Comics and several other movie franchises. Perhaps there are already enough slot machines tailored for the more mature audience so slot developers are now trying to expand their market by attracting the younger demographic.

Check out the DnD Enchanted Riches game in action on this YouTube video. (link below)

So the "digital entertainment company offering online games" is an online casino... I mean, I expected something like that, which is why I was curious how they were going to railroad that kind of client into an article about D&D, but thanks to Konami they had a reason.

And, you know, I actually considered complying with their request, posting it as-is, and bashing it tomorrow... but something really rubbed me the wrong way and forced me to tell them "no" immediately and make this post.

What was it? Well, here's a video of the machine being demoed:

Let's face it, we can't expect a SLOT MACHINE to capture the feel that is D&D (what's with the playing card letters and numbers?!?). And I have to wonder if Wizards of the Coast is actually aware that this is what was going to be done with their brand and signed off on this.

But about 0:30 in we get this jewel:

"...but it's not really hardcore Dungeons and Dragons. It actually, what we found, is it appeals to both men and women..."

*headdesk!* ... *headdesk!* ... *headdesk!*

You know, I just can't accept that.

So I immediately said goodbye to the $100 I couldn't wait to spend next year, and sent them an email that I "would not proceed with our arrangement".

Well, at least I got a blog post out of this...

Filed under: 4e, 5E, DnD, Games, RPG, Uncategorized No Comments