How do you make so many of these so consistently? Do you have a patreon?
Drafting the Adventure: My Process
I was jokingly going to leave this blank because writers block be like that sometimes, but then I realized the question of consistency in writing is actually something a lot of DMs and other creators who follow this blog can benefit from. Appeals to utility have always been the way to get me to do anything, so lets crack in and see what people can learn from the messy inner workings of my process.
Step 1: Inspiration
While I often describe my work as “writing down stories inspired by cool fantasy art”, my process actually begins long before I sit down at my desk to actually write anything. Though trial and error I’ve determined that I’m at my creative best when my brain is swimming in stories, even if they have 0 relevance to what I’m going to write about. I’ve almost always got an audiobook or podcast on while I’m doing mundane life upkeep, and I keep a phone note app or actual notebook within easy access at all times. These last two are essential, as sometimes an idea or story snippet will come to me and then linger around for years, just waiting for some other concept to magnetize to and create something amazing. Every time I get a quarter of a way through a notebook, I transpose the content to a google dock, that way I can have easy access to anything I’ve written down over the ages.
Step 2: Subject Matter
Choosing the right image is an artform in and of itself, as you need something with enough thematic richness to communicate an idea, while at the same time being vague enough to be flexible, in case I have a particular idea in need of an image. Early on I also made the mistake of just collecting images in my drafts folder, leading to a several thousand image backlog that I had to sift through whenever I knew there was ONE PARTICULAR image I wanted to use for a thing. I’ve since rectified my mistake and keep a separate blog specifically for art, which I can specifically tag to search through easier. I also use the “post to tumblr” browser extension to make image acquisition just that much speedier.
Step 3: Story Seeds
After I’ve got my subject in front of me, I study the image to generate a few base ideas: what’s the mood? the vibe? the unstated tension? where would this image fit in a larger story? these things provide the raw material for my writing and help me fill out details that I never would have dreamed of. I also figure out if any of my several years worth of idea backlog would fit into this in any way, and if changing a detail or two could massage a previously good idea into a great one with accompanying art.
Step 4: Gamifying
This is a d&d blog after all, so once the story starts to take shape, I start thinking about how I can turn these narratives into actual adventures. Is there a dungeon involved? a dare to test the party’s skills? maybe a mercantile opportunity to take a gamble on? The best adventure formulation is about dangling a reward out of the party’s current reach, then figuring out what challenges, twists, and pitfalls they’ll need to navigate to get there, while simultaneously setting them up to go on another adventure with a different reward after they’ve achieved the first.
Step 5: Actually writing.
Putting actual words on the page is perhaps my biggest hurdle, both because I suffer from chronic brainfog and because life can so often be too hectic to write. I’ve found that making a habit of writing ( every day for half an hour while I'm having my morning tea) is enough to generally get past my initial hurdle. I triage my projects, focusing on small light ideas when I don’t have the energy saving the big ones that’ll require a lot of work for good writing days or bitesized chunks. Some sessions are about limping along with as much as you can manage, while others are about riding that flow wave and getting as much done as you can. As for making that writing good, I’ve got a whole tag full of different ways to improve your adventure writing, so give it a read and take what you need.
As for a Patreon, I do indeed have one https://www.patreon.com/Villain4hire, and a ko-fi at https://ko-fi.com/villainforhire. I'll admit, I've left both of them on the backburner for quite some time both because I had life stuff ( moving etc) and because my ever looming podcast project would necessitate an overhaul of both.
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do you have any resources or guides for worldbuilding and reimagining the feywild? not looking for adventure prompts or npcs just your thoughts on setting and how to make the feywild feel dangerous and mystical
Planescape: The Feywild
I won’t lie, the introduction if the feywild is one of the best additions to the default d&d cosmology in a while, not only from a thematic perspective, but gameplay aswell, as it allows any podunk patch of land to act as a doorway to wild adventure. That said, too often this wonderland is treated as a place where things are just wacky, without real attention paid to the narrative possibilities introducing the feywild into a story can have.
To that end, I’m going propose a few different aspects of the feywild, different visions of how things could be drawn from different mythologies and storytelling conventions:
The feywild has no geography: like the notes of a song or the lines of a play, the reality of faerie is reinterpreted with every visitation, Coloring itself based on the expectations and emotions of those exploring it. This is why a child can stumble into a mushroom ring and have themselves a whimsical romp full of talking animal friends and life lessons, whereas adults tend to find themselves ensnared by echoes of their deepest desires and why adventurers ALWAYS find something to fight. If you want to go anywhere in the feywild you don’t need a map, you need a thematic structure that will carry you to your destination: whether that be staying on a yellow brick road through a number of distractions and tribulations, or winning a game of riddles against a talking bird who’ll swear to drop you off at your destination.
The feywild is a place of stories: When a peasant family leaves out milk and performs small acts of thanks for the brownie, they are unwittingly inviting the primal energies of the feywild to fill the space they have made for it, creating a creature that had always been there, looking out for them. Likewise, when folk tell of wonderous places just beyond the edge of the map, the feywild becomes those places, taking solidity from repeated tellings of the tale and incorporating different interpretations to give themselves depth. This is not to say that the translation is perfect, as one can’t simply make up a story, tell it to an audience, and expect it to suddenly become true as it takes a powerful and engrained sort of lies, embelishment, or folktales to give shape to the otherworld. When populating your local fairy-realm or those areas near enough to it, consider what sort of stories people tell about that place, whether it be about monsters that gobble up wayward children or treasure hidden there by bandits long ago.
The feywild responds to your emotions: When your party takes a rest, ask them how they think their characters are feeling. Consider whether they are frightened or foolheardy, adventurous or avricious, and then sketch out some random encounter to spice in along the way as the realm of whimsy responds to the vibes they’re putting out. A party that’s feeling hungry may encounter a friendly fey teaparty or a dangerous lure disguised as a snack, a group that’s feeling pressed for time may hear the horn of a savage hunter stalking them, or a parable about stopping to help others can actually speed you along your own path. In this way, the fairyland is in diolog with the party’s desire to press their narrative forward, and will test or reward them according to its whim.
The feywild is everywhere: one of the underutilized aspects of having the feywild in our games is that a portal to the “shallower” areas of the otherworld can pop up anywhere overtaken by nature, allowing fey beings and other oddities to cross over in a way that creates all manner of adventure hooks. If I’m building a dungeon in the wilderness, I’m personally fond of having a mounting fey presence the deeper in you get, replacing the normal ruin dwelling hazards with troops of hobgoblins, odd enchantments, and various tricksters. For smaller dungeons, the closed off fey portal can be an adventure hook for later, encouraging them to come back when they need to delve into whimsy, whereas for the larger dungeons, a non contiguous fey realm connecting multiple points can serve as a combination of fast travel AND bonus stage. Even for non dungeon locations, consider how much fun of an adventure it’d be if someone discovered that their cellar had been replaced with a fairy’s larder, or that the vine-covered lot where neighborhood kids play during the day transforms into a vast battlefield for sprites during the night.
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Mechanic: Crafting pt 2, Consumables and Magical Items
In the first part of this post I expressed my frustration with how clunky crafting in d&d usually is and offered a few fixes. In this post I’ll continue by tackling consumable items like scrolls and potions, and how more modern notions of game design can remove burdensome inventory management and turn the process of alchemy into its own delightful minigame.
Here’s some points about consumables in no particular order:
No one likes how healing potions are implemented in 5e. They’re so necessary to the game that they’re one of the few magical items parties are allowed to buy, but no one enjoys having to scrounge around town looking for the merchant who sells them OR having to jump through so many hoops to make them. Players should be able to produce their own supply of healing potions, and that should be factored into the game.
There’s a natural instinct to horde consumable items in case they’re useful later, which invariably leads to them not being used/forgotten about. Healing potions are ALWAYS applicable given how much fighting a party is liable to do, but anything situational has a risk of being totally forgotten. See Skyrim, BotW, or any JRPG where the main character’s pockets get completely filled with useless basic healing items by the end of the game.
To counteract this bloat, lets look at things like decoctions from the witcher, or the estus flask from darksouls, which give the player a set resource at the start of each “deployment” and test their ability to ration or utilize these resources at their disgression. I’d much rather have a gameplay loop where a party starts in town all loaded up with potions and useful gadgets and slowly gets whittled down to nothing over time.
I’ve more than once said that a party’s equipment are like a second suite of class abilities that offer infinitely more customization. While obviously you don’t want to drown your party in powerful options, 5e’s move to restrict items cut off a lot of that customization which left a lot of characters in the lurch. Following on from that, letting the party replenish their consumable items lets them come to a better understanding of their mechanical toybox, and gives them more encouragement to seek out new items.
Consumable items that are NOT replaceable should generally be fairly powerful, so it’s actually worth the party doing the Risk V Reward calculations.
We need way more types of consumables than just potions and scrolls. sure alchemy items have been part of the game for a while, but what about whetstones/weapon oils? Great food to take on the road? Incense and candles? Clockwork wizbangs? Having these sorts of items only restockable in certain settlements/large enough markets encourages the party to revisit places they’ve previously passed through if it means topping up their gear.
So, without further ado, here’s how I’m running Consumable items from now on:
Rather than crafting an individual item ( check my original post or below the cut for a refresher on how I do crafting rules) Completing a consumable in crafting represents you completing/researching a formulae that will allow you to quickly produce the item in the future, requiring only a few uses of the relevant crafting kit and a number of work periods based on the rarity of the base item.
I’d also highly suggest using this brilliant system of “Depletion Dice” for potions rather than tracking individual uses. It takes a little while for players to wrap their heads around, but it grants a lot more utility to a crafter than single use items.
Also below the cut: Crafting magical items, the genius upgrade system that WOTC invented completely by accident.
Items have a quality rating that sync up with the rarities of magic items: Mundane, Common, Uncommon, Rare, Very rare, Legendary.
To craft an item, you (or an npc you’re working with) need proficiency in the right toolset and a proficiency bonus based on the Quality of the item you’re trying to make (+2 for common, +3 for uncommon, etc)
You’ll need a properly equipped workshop for the task at hand, and sufficient components for the project you’re attempting (more on this below the cut)
An item requires a number of “work sessions” per grade of quality, each amounting to eight hours out of a day, though these days need not be contiguous. Each session requires the crafter to make a skill check using the appropriate proficiency (or use my mini-game rules for extra special crafting projects) against a DC determined by the quality of the object: 10 for mundane, 15 for common, 20 for uncommon etc.
If half or more of the item’s work sessions are successful by the end of the run, the item is complete!
Spending an hour ( including a short rest) in a workshop related to your kit replenishes all charges. Generally you need to be friendly to this workshop, stealing from an unoccupied one, or pay for the privilege ( see below)
The herbalist’s kit and others that rely on natural ingredients can be replenished by spending an hour per use in an appropriate environment, possibly requiring a survival check to restock if the surroundings are harsh.
Visiting a market and paying 1/10th the value of the kit per charge. you may spend as much as you want this way, but in total the process only takes an hour.
Harvesting components from creatures relevant to your Kit’s specific trade, providing a number of charges equal to their CR.
Making magical items: There’s a tried and true questline that has the party hunting down some magical beast/rare material on behalf of a wizard looking to make some kind of critter. Plenty of players have internalized the idea that bits taken from monsters can be turned into magical items, so why not let them? It creates a delightful plothook where a party that wants an item needs to go find a crafter and a monster/ a party that’s just beaten a monster has to go find themselves a crafter and ends up discovering an item. You can also create the exact same sort of plothook with interesting elements/objects found in the monster’s lair, which can help with the more ephemeral creatures.
The trick is to find a magical item that overlaps the CR of the monster ( not a large problem with the surplus of 3rd party material out there) and fits with the general concept.
However, don’t make the mistake of trying to make items for every monster the party encounters (as I’ve done before), specifically wait for them to TELL YOU they’re looking to make monster loot, and plan accordingly.
Upgrading magical items: I know I’m in the minority in saying that I like the item rarity system 5e implemented. I find it way easier to say “alright, X items of rarity 1, Y of rarity 2, and a nice rarity 3 as a cherry on top” when making a horde than having to convert treasure values and budget portions for art objects. While some items DO need to be sorted better, I find it comfortingly light weight.
It ALSO allows for a neat bit of ability stacking if you consider each grade of rarity to be a tier of enchantment that can be layered on top of one another so long as the abilities remain consistent. For example, imagine I give the wizard in my party a pipe of smoke animals (common rarity) in an early session. WAAAAY later on they have an encounter with an iffrit who recognizes the wizard’s power and blesses the pipe with a bit of elemental ferocity, adding the “wand of fireballs” enchantment (rare rarity) to it. Now this has become a signature item for the wizard, who decides to meld it with his (uncommon) +1 focus, creating an iconic signature item.
Infusing enchantments like lets us navigate the old problem where a character finds an enchanted weapon during their travels, but is carrying another weapon with less power but more personal attachment.
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