17 Sep

The Plural of Hiatus

D&D Insider Logo

My constant internal conflict with writing is that time spent promoting isn’t time spent writing. But you need both of them to be successful. I’ve had a successful run over the past few years writing Dungeons & Dragons material for D&D Insider. Any given morning during that time, when faced with the choice of writing an article for D&D Insider or writing a blog post, the decision was not a difficult one. Continue reading

2 Aug

Blibdoolpoolp: Tide of (Supple)mental Insanity, Part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, “here there be spoilers.” Cheaters will be consumed by Blibdoolpoolp. And, once again, I’ll point out that none of this material is official/canon. It’s just some extra pieces that you can add to Pearl of the Sea Mother, should you find you need it.

Briggs PointToday, I’m providing a little more about the unfortunate village of Briggs Point. The party should realize something is amiss as soon as they arrive. After that, they ideally hurry on their way to the lighthouse and the threats below. But, if they choose to linger in the village, a little more information about it could prove useful at the start of the adventure, and perhaps at the conclusion, even if it’s just to answer questions about the history of the village. Continue reading

1 Aug

Blibdoolpoolp: Tide of (Supple)mental Insanity, Part 1

On the heels of the publication of my adventure Pearl of the Sea Mother, I wanted to share some extra material with those considering running it for their group. Obviously, there are SPOILERS here, so if you’re going to be playing in the adventure, you should read no further. If you do, you deserve every Natural 1 you roll in the final battle and Blibdoolpoolp should swallow you whole.

Also, I feel compelled to add that this additional material is by no means official; it is not endorsed by Wizards of the Coast. It’s essentially fan material added by the guy who also happens to be the author. Some of it was cut in the early edits (by me or by WotC) for space, focus, or clarity. And some of it was self-edited before I ever put pen to paper (finger to key, in my case) because an adventure in Dungeon needs to be fairly self-sufficient, whereas I often like cooking up ideas that are more long-term.

Today, a closer look at what Makanel might be about and an alternate take on his deity. Continue reading

31 Jul

Off-Topic Tuesday: Pearls of Wisdom

I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes await the publication of finished articles with some trepidation. (Don’t worry, that hasn’t changed.) But there’s an accompanying excitement that builds, especially when I don’t know the exact date of publication. Part of it is the thrill of success, of completing something. And part of it is the desire to see the accompanying artwork and cartography. After all, I have a vision of something in my head but, lacking all talent for the visual arts, when someone turns my villain into an actual image, it’s like magic to me. And there is a special place in the Seven Heavens (or Arcadia, or the Twin Paradises, or wherever their alignment has decreed) for the cartographers who turn my insane maps into something people can get excited about!

As a writer, though, I’m also eager to see what final edits were made to a piece. I read the published article side-by-side with my final manuscript to see what’s different. Now I know this is not always the way of things. Obviously, a short story’s final look does not surprise the author. But, for gaming material (particularly adventures, the majority of what I do when it comes to gaming material), there are mechanical issues, balance issues, and the results of playtesting that all come to bear in one place. And there are people who are far better at those things than I am. Although no amount of staring at a Ben Wootten or Jason Juta cover painting is going to make me a better artist, making note of the changes made to a creature, an encounter, or even a passage of text can make me a better author. Continue reading

9 Jul

Minor Divination: Music that Inspires Madness

Tonight.  You.
“Blibdoolpoolp wanted me to deliver a message.”

I frequently create a musical playlist keyed to a particular project. It isn’t so much a soundtrack meant to accompany the work as it is “mood music.” My demeanor, day to day, is prone to . . . let’s call it, fluctuation. Although that’s great when you want to change gears between two very different projects, it’s difficult when trying to achieve a consistent tone in a piece on the first go ‘round. Obviously, good editing helps to correct this, but I like to start work each day “from the same place” as much as possible.

I try to pay close attention to this when writing D&D adventures. The encounters, in particular, can draw me into a close view that creates tunnel vision, obscuring what came before and what comes after. Again, rereading and editing smoothes any rough patches that arise, but I’d rather stay on target as I go. Enter the playlist.

I listen to music a lot as I write. Some people consider that sort of thing a distraction, but I find it sharpens my focus. After I settle on a piece or two that lines up with the idea I have in mind, I build a playlist and toss more material in as needed. I almost never begin with a song and write from it, quite the opposite, but I do draw from artists and material that are already in my head. The bones of Pearl of the Sea Mother were about 2 sentences of guidelines/suggestions from Wotc. The actual plot developed while kayaking through mangroves in Florida and staring at the ocean floor. The music didn’t fall into place until I sat down to write about a week later.

Mentally, I usually set the scene with opening and closing credits. Obviously, there are no credits actually scrolling by, only images intended to set the scene (opening credits) and the final mood I want to evoke when the adventure/article concludes (ending credits, obviously). The line that forms between these anchor points supports the material I write there as well as the additional tracks intended to hold my mood in place or set scenes that diverge from the anchor points.

“Get outta your mind!!!”
[Face of the Moon, Dungeon #201, art by Eric Belisle]

Sometimes tracks seem completely inappropriate in the context of the finished work. I once joked that I’d be curious to know who would be more shocked that a Lil Jon track was part of one of my D&DI adventure playlists: Lil Jon or the gamers playing through the adventure! Some of these non sequitur tracks are audio shorthand for me. Others are energizing or, at times, deliberately depressing (which is also energizing to me when it comes to certain material). And I’m always listening to Neko Case, so it’s a safe bet that her music ends up in there somewhere.

With Pearl of the Sea Mother getting ready to drop (as they say in the biz), here’s an audio tease of what was running through my head as I worked. With all this in mind, the playlist might not be the ideal soundtrack for the actual play sessions of the adventure, but there’s probably some good material there for you. There are no “spoilers” in the playlist. The opening and closing credits I mentioned earlier are “Seasick” and “Tightly,” respectively. The playlist actually followed the arc of the adventure rather closely, at least in terms of the mental structure I was assembling it around in my head.

The playlist, via Spotify:

And via Amazon: