(Get Curtain Call: A Sharn Adventure on DMs Guild!)
It is with great pleasure I share a bit of the story behind this brand new adventure written by Keith Baker, Robert Adducci, and myself for the Eberron campaign setting, now available in thanks to the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron by the same Keith Baker!
Back in April, the hosts of Manifest Zone were given the privilege to read and comment on Keith’s Wayfinder’s Guide and we got to see what only his gaming groups and Wizards of the Coast were privy to. The public guessed and predicted it was coming, though no one had concrete proof of its existence until July 23, 2018. The book went Platinum (1,000 sales or more on DMs Guild) in a matter of hours.
Behind the scenes leading up to that release, Robert got involved in the process of writing the adventure that is presented today. During writing and re-writing, the announcements of other products kept rolling in, the reveal of Embers of the Last War Eberron organized play campaign, even another 1st level adventure. The communities–especially the Eberron Enthusiasts on Facebook–were extremely excited, with questions and discussions popping up every hour.
I was very pleased to be a minuscule part of this event–Eberron being released for 5th Edition definitely qualifies as an event–as a playtester and incredibly happy for my friend, but I was also daunted by the upcoming challenge of completing the adventure we set out to write. I am not a writer by trade or profession, but I imagine that every Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master wants to either write a novel or design a game at one point in their life. Writing with Keith and Robert became a bit of an intimidating prospect, with expectations and the community riding high. For all aspiring and amateur adventure writers out there, and even some writers that are looking to improve, allow me to give three tips and references I drew from and learned during this experience.
1. Narrative Bumper Pool
Writing Excuses is an educational podcast for writers, by writers. In an episode titled Narrative Bumper Pool, with Bill Fawcett and Carrie Patel the hosts and guests talk about writing for games, specifically video games in this case, but the application is the same for a D&D adventure. This is a permanently saved episode I go back to every time I put Apple Pencil to iPad or fingers to keyboard designing an adventure. I cannot do justice in a summary, but it speaks a lot about how choices need to matter and how to get from beginning to the end of a story with those choices.
2. The Dungeon Master Experience
I would have never picked up On Writing by Stephen King without The Dungeon Master Experience series of articles and King is a big influence for Chris Perkins, whom I respect immensely as a DM and storyteller. In Stephen King’s Third Eye, the article delves into descriptions–boxed text for those inclined to adventure writing–and completely changed my view on how to describe things in text. I believe that published adventures are instruction books for DMs, NOT a storybook for them to read. The purpose of an adventure writer is to teach a DM how to run the story and give them the tools necessary, but not to make them a mouthpiece to a novel (or novella).
3. Mystery Adventure Writing
Mysteries are a whole other complication when it comes to adventure writing. I know what the classic traps are, but I did not know exactly what to do in D&D to avoid them. An episode of Gaming & BS taught me a bit about GUMSHOE and in turn I adapted that lesson into running investigations in D&D. An amazing article, Write a gripping mystery adventure in four steps, on The RPG Athenaeum made everything fall into place. The characters (hence the players) have to have clues in order to reasonably solve the mystery. The article delves deeper into the original references, but it clearly states how to write a mystery adventure. I am forever grateful for that resource.
So now I get to announce Curtain Call: A Sharn Adventure and hopefully everyone can take away something from my behind the scenes experience.
I wanted to give a huge thanks to the people who walked through the mystery and clues with me as we were developing: Mike Street, Vernon Kee, Alex D’Amico, and my wife, Joanne Wang. Lastly, this would not be possible without my co-hosts at Manifest Zone: Kristian Serrano and Scott W., along with Keith of course.
Addendum: Curtain Call: A Sharn Adventure made Copper status on the DMs Guild in its first day! Thank you!