Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Tarot Adventures, Book Three: Death comes to Glenfallow

Art from Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow
Artist: Anthony Ojeda

The Tarot Adventures, my series of tabletop adventures for the 5th edition game mechanic.  This adventure has been a labor of love.  Artist Anthony Ojeda has graciously agreed to create the art for the book, and I'm extremely excited to see his art appearing in a Sinopa title again!

Writing an adventure for publication has proven to be a little different than writing for my home games.  At home you know the players, the characters and you can write to their story needs very readily.  With adventures for publication, you need to leave a LOT of room for game masters to add their own elements, introduce their campaign hooks, and provide challenges for a wide range of player character classes and types.

Designing the story:

The Tarot Adventures are each inspired by a particular card of the major arcana.  Book three pulls its inspiration from the Death card, symbolic of change and from the imagery the card conveys in the general public.  Death is dark, foreboding and scary.  The change element is nested in the underlying story of Glenfallow.  Players characters who survived the previous adventures will continue to play significant roles in the plot and will, quite literally, determine the course of the future of Pieron and Glenfallow.

Outlining the story across multiple adventures has proven to be incredibly useful.  I know where the story is going, how it can branch (for the most part, anyway) and how each adventure forms its own story within the grander tale.  This allows for great freedom at the individual story level while actually making it easier to avoid continuity conflicts.

Encounter design is really not much different from designing your home game.  Do note that it is important to consider the type of challenge you are trying to present.  For the Tarot Adventures, each book is designed to present a difficult to deadly challenge for the suggested level range. Find your sweet spot for difficulty and write to it.

Designing the look of the book:

Death comes to Glenfallow (I'm going to abbreviate that as DctG, going forward) is different from the first two in that there is only one artist creating the interior illustrations (for encounters) and the cover.  Books one and two had a wide range of artists and styles (which I rather like).   James Lee returns to create the ESS Map Pack (printable maps scaled for use with miniatures) and Nick Caponi has agreed to create the page border/background art.  A full color illustrated map of the Glenfallow region is being made available, the artist for that illustration has been contacted and contracts should be finalized in the coming months.

Art from Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow
Artist: Anthony Ojeda

Anthony and I have discussed a few things about the book but he will be creating the art based on his interpretations of the scenes and the flavor of the story itself.  With Anthony's talent, this promises to be a beautifully illustrated adventure!

Laying out the book to make it work:

With Comet over Echo Rock I coordinated the story line encounters with their accompanying illustrations.  The same will done with DctG to provide the game master and players with stunning visual references for the challenges they face.  Story encounters are laid out based on a chronological timeline, pushing the story ever closer to its conclusion like the inevitable arrival of death itself.

DctG will also incorporate random encounters.  This is being included as it diversifies the type of encounters and was something that backers of the KickStarter campaigns have asked about.  Adding random encounter data does increase the page count, but the value to the game master is immense.

Example dialogue will, as with the previous books, be provided along with the NPC and/or encounter data.  Example skill test results will continue to grace the pages to make things easier on the game master.

Encounter tracking tables will be provided for the story line encounters as well as for the random encounter tables.  I'm rather fond of this feature as they can be printed and used by the game master to easily track what encounters have been vanquished and which remain for use.

Treasure in DctG is scant on the ground, but with significant rewards available if the player characters can triumph over the evil that seeks to swallow Glenfallow up in death and darkness.  With Ild as the central villain, there is much for characters to fear.  Much of what is found has been looted from the victims of Ild's evil.  Whether the player characters return such treasure to the families or heirs of the victims is left up to them.  Is the good will of the survivors worth more than gold and silver?  Let the players decide.

NPCs and room for expansion:

Each Tarot Adventures book contains unique non-player characters and DctG is certainly no exception.  How your group interacts with these characters builds upon the story in ways that are simply impossible to predict.  Did the bard seduce one of the bar maids and if so how do her sisters react?  Is the Temple of the Sun blessing the cleric for her righteous efforts?  Can the fighter convince Pieron to allow him to built an outpost along the eastern river?  Is the warlock shunned for his unholy pact?  Will the thief lose a hand for stealing from shop?  These are just some of the possibilities that game masters have to take into consideration.  Fortunately, you don't have to provide information for each potential occurrence, nope that is the province of the game master.  Leaving room open for game masters to incorporate other elements, allowing for player choice to be a dynamic part of the game and weaving everything together in a fun way, that is the challenge faced by the writer / game designer.

DctG brings ample opportunity for game masters to incorporate their own material and to bring Glenfallow to their worlds. You're really only limited by your imagination.

What if the group can't defeat Ild?

Victory is by no means certain, it will take smart decisions, bravery and more than a little good luck to survive when Death comes to Glenfallow!

If Ild accomplishes her goals then Glenfallow becomes the scene for more harrowing adventures as the survivors seek either to escape from, or to put an end to, Ild.  Multiple outcomes are imagined so that even if many of the player characters are slain or captured, more adventures await.

Ild illustration from Whispers of Persephone
Artist: Christian Martinez

How it's made:

I crowdfund my projects so that I can pay the artists a fair rate for their work.  Remaining funds are applied toward future projects to help make it easier to reach future campaign goals.  I prefer KickStarter as a crowdfunding platform due to the fantastic level of support I've received from people, and the fact that a portion of all KickStarter profits are used for public benefit.

Once the campaign funds successfully and ends it usually takes 15 days before KickStarter can transmit the money to you.  When I receive funds for the project I pay the artists, usually that same day. The remaining money is used to purchase items related to fulfillment and then to ship those out to backers.  The whole crowdfunding process is geared toward bringing the product to market, giving backers the items first, and improving up the product to make it the best version you can produce.

After the fulfillment to backers you promote and sell your product to the best of your ability (this is something I'm still trying to improve upon).  If you possess a fine talent for sales then I think you'll find this to be a familiar and rewarding endeavor.

Art from Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow
Artist: Anthony Ojeda (pencils version)

Funding, KickStarter rewards and something for players:

In order to help reach the funding goal (there is a LOT of art going into this book), I'm opening a backer level reward tier specifically created for folks who don't plan to play as game master, but rather as players. This will be the Heroes of Glenfallow Tier and will include adding the backer's name to the backer credits (Heroes will have their own backer section) as well as a digital 'trinket' PDF that the backer can print off to represent the trinket in game (with Game Master approval, of course).

There will be several backer reward options, each created to appeal to people at different pledge amounts.  There will also be a very limited early backer reward tier which will only be accessible for the first 24 hours of the campaign.  This backer tier will grant the early backer all of the digital rewards at a substantially lower pledge point.

Digital backer rewards will include:
PDF copy of DctG
Print on demand codes through for soft and hard cover copies of the book
ESS Map Pack PDF for the adventure
Printable digital poster of the illustrated map of the Glenfallow region 
(this will allow backers to print the poster file locally, saving them money on production and shipping costs)

Other rewards:
Signed hard cover copies of the adventure
Having a place named on the map after the backer (this is limited to a small number of backers)
Having an NPC named after a backer (even more limited)
Having the adventure dedicated to you and up to five additional friends.

Look for Tarot Adventures, Book Three: Death comes to Glenfallow, coming to KickStarter summer of 2019.  I hope you'll check it out, support the project and have a fantastic time playing through the adventure.