Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Getting "Into the Pit"

Guest Blog post by Amber Scott

When Gary and Wolfgang contacted me about writing an adventure for the Black Diamond Games Kickstarter, they didn't have to say more than "adventure" and I was hooked. I love writing adventures. There's something about creating an exciting plot and filling a dungeon with monsters that I can't resist. I jumped at the chance to help out on this project. 

Gary sent me the information he had on his homebrew world and an idea for an adventure he had already outlined. I loved the concept--a black salt mine full of dangerous denizens. Salt mines in real life are eerie and beautiful places, and of course the valuable black salt itself was like "black diamonds." The world itself was a fascinating place and the characters and societies Gary had come up with were wonderful. My imagination fired up and I started outlining. 

My first step was to come up with a series of locations for the adventure. I wanted INTO THE PIT to be more than a straightforward dungeon crawl. I developed a list of plot hooks and two overland encounter areas before the mine, then broke up the mine into three levels, each with at least one significant NPC or roleplaying encounter and at least one "boss monster," or challenging battle. I forwarded the outline on to Gary and he liked the structure I'd given his ideas. I had the green light to go ahead. 

By this point I had realized that I was more than a writer on this project. This is the first time I've worked without a publisher and Gary needed some help finding an artist and a layout person for the project. Artists I was sure I could find but I'd never had to worry about layout before. So I hopped online and emailed my friend John Ling, a fellow freelancer who works for Frog God Games. Did he, perchance, do layout work? He did not but he knew someone who did. That's how I met Marie Small. 

Marie has been a huge help on this project. Not only could she prepare the final PDF for us, but she made valuable recommendations on how to format the art, how to design the pages formats, and how to handle the OGL requirements. She brought up points I'd never had to think about. "Do you want hyperlinks within the PDF?" she asked. I replied, "Um...yes?" Yes, she confirmed, in-text links would help organize the piece and make it more useful to the GM. When I told her I had an artist, she coached me on what resolution and format to provide the art in so that it would be easiest to format while having the best appearance and most utility to the purchaser. Since my experience has been mainly limited to MS Paint, I forwarded all her comments on to the artist and left them to it. I know the final product is going to be a fantastic, polished piece. 

With Marie's help secured I turned to the matter of an artist. As it turned out, the one I had in mind was booked up through July and we needed the cover art ASAP to help drive interest in the Kickstarter. I wracked my brain for anyone I knew who could help. Then it hit me: until recently I worked at a paint store and my manager there, Caitlin Bauer,  was a talented artist. She had had a small exhibition in our city and sold some pieces but hadn't done freelance work before, despite being a huge gamer nerd like me. I reached out to her and thank goodness she was willing to help. 

One of the boss monsters Gary had come up with and I had run with was a salt drake. I told Caitlin that an image of the salt drake hungrily waiting for tasty adventurers to enter the mine would be a compelling image. 

"What do salt drakes look like?" she asked. 

"That's the beauty of it," I said. "Because I'm writing the text, you can draw whatever you like and I'll just write it to match!" 

Caitlin let her imagination run wild and the final image is even better than I expected it to be. After she sent me the initial sketch I told her we should name the beast to give it some personality. 

"How about Na'Kriss?" she asked. "I've always been of the opinion that creatures with no lips shouldn't have names you can't say without them."

So that's how Na'Kriss, the mutant salt drake, came to be, and how the adventure was designed, and how we acquired a layout manager who is going to make the PDF look fantastic. A $25 pledge is all it takes to receive a copy of INTO THE PIT and help Black Diamond Games reach its goal, so spread the word!

You can see more of Marie's work here: and
You can see more of Caitlin's work here:
You can follow me on Facebook at Amber E. Scott (Author) 

1 comment:

  1. Great post! And thanks for highlighting how to get the adventure - that's a little hard to find in the giant Kickstarter page.