This one's scary to post. I expect there'll be backlash. Fuckit.
There's been a lot of talk about the place of D&D in the wider TTRPG industry and artistic medium lately. That its utterly dominant position stifles the creativity to be found within RPGs and drowns out smaller works.
All of this is, for what it's worth, stuff I believe.
However, the fact of the matter is that D&D content sells. Some stuff clearly doesn't need to be shoehorned into D&D 5e (we don't need a D&D interpretation of The Wind In The Willows or The Great God Pan) but if you've got a classic fantasy adventure you want to make, the sort of thing with skelingtons and magic swords, then D&D 5e is by far the best market to shoot for unless your game is doing something really specific.
So, with that preamble, here are some things that are all true:
- I do this for a living. I need to make money. Food, rent, HRT and other expenses all chip into what I've got.
- I have a classic fantasy adventure - about exploring a place of embers and smog - that has been knocking about the back of my head for a while.
- FUCK making anymore OSR content. That scene is toxic, and I've finally been burned by it enough times that I'm not putting my hand on the stove anymore. I'm done with OSR.
- Seriously, I need money. I need to make something that will sell.
- D&D 5e sells.
Embers & Dust is a module about depression, burnout and dementia. It's about struggling to keep that spark of individuality alive in a world that tries to smother it. It's about staring into the face of a bleak, soul sucking world, and daring to keep moving forward.
More specifically, it's an adventure into a pocket of the shadowfell, in doomed pursuit of... something. You go deeper into the shadowfell, and the place changes you, creeping into your bones and wearing you down until you're just another part of its endless, bleak wasteland. The question at the heart of the adventure is not if you'll reach your destination. It's how much of yourself you lose getting there, and if it's worth it in the end.
Ynn was whimsical, the Library was creepy, and Dead Girls was painful. This one's going to be melencholy.
D&D 5e is a different system to what I'm used to working with. A bit crunchier, perhaps. More expectations of balance, more fighty. I don't want to warp D&D into something unrecognisable, but I want this to feel like me. So encounters aren't necessarily fights, and attrition is slow and grinding.
I'm still getting the hang of 5e's balance and flow. Looking at how to construct a stat block, what you can expect of a party at a given level, that sort of thing. It's a learning experience. It's actually pretty interesting, and kinda a new area of design for me to explore.
It's going to be good, trust me.
And finally, have a mockup of a page. Still pretty rough, but I like where it's going.
(art credit goes to Tithi Luadthong on shutterstock)