Dungeons & Dragons on Discord!

I think I have officially thrown in the towel on board game design. With work days being longer than they were in Guelph, and not having my Guelph game design friends here in Saskatoon, I just don’t feel up to it anymore.

And I’ve found a really great group of people to play Dungeons and Dragons with, so we get together 1-2 times per month. I’ve been playing a gnomish wizard and enjoying the experience quite a bit! I don’t normally play spell casters, but had a fun idea for a cowardly wizard who only wants to have a store to sell magical items that he makes. He’s grown more brazen as he gains power, but still prefers it if other people do the heavy lifting. That said, one of the players called him the MVP of one of our previous games because he dished out serious amounts of pain with a lot of burning hands spells!

But I miss DMing. Our DM here in Saskatoon is good, but his game is pretty old-school. It’s been 100% dungeon crawls up to 4th level, and we got rail-roaded into staying there longer than we would have liked.

So I got to thinking that I want to run something as well. As often happens, it started with a map…

Kingdom of the Sun

Nothing fancy, just a small slice of a world, as is my usual way of starting out. When I thought about actually running the game, I got an idea for a split campaign… starting players out with level 15 heroes of the realm who are investigating something peculiar. The Forest of Woes sounded like a nice place to start, and I began generating ideas for NPCs in the Lordship of Invenny, and a kernel of a quest popped in my brain.

Here we are, a few weeks later, and this map is just one of several. The entire first adventure for the level 15 characters is planned out, and I’m happy with how it came along. The plan is that they’ll play one session as the heroes to learn about the setting and back story, and then think about what they want to do to create their own level 1 characters who will start off far to the north of this location. I’ve even got some ideas of how that second session will start out, but it will be much more free form. I prefer it when the players help me discover the world, rather than having a campaign on rails that they need to follow.

I popped the idea online, with the added idea that Patrons who support me at $3/month would get a guaranteed spot at the virtual table. I didn’t get any bites on that, but that’s okay. I’m just looking forward to DMing again! But if anyone ever does decide to back me, the funds will go back into my book writing.

There’s some debate about the DM-for-hire model, but I figure people used to pay $5 every two weeks to sit at my table when I ran a game in Guelph, so $3/month for a game wouldn’t be too much of an ask. Could be some people will decide to donate later, but even if no one does, I’m feeling energized and happy, forging another world in my universe! I’m going to ask the players if they’d be okay with recording the session as a podcast, so you might just be hearing about this some more later!

August Recap

This month I started something new.

I know, I know, I have so much going on, how can I possibly do something ELSE?

Well, I’ve found a way. Somehow.

I started as a game master (GM) at The Round Table for Dungeons and Dragons, Fifth Edition (D&D 5e) and had a blast! It was so much fun that I decided to write out the adventure as a story. However, as I don’t have the rights to the world, I’ll just be sharing it with the players in the campaign.

The group consisted of a human fighter, a gnome druid, a deep elf rogue, and a squirrelley rogue. The second session added a tiefling warlock. The third I had two returning characters, and four new ones. So consistency isn’t really a thing, but it’s fun!

“Wait a minute, Ryan. What’s a squirrelley?”

Great question! To learn more, you can pre-order a copy of the Legacy of Mana! Basically, the squirrelley is a halfling with arm flaps that let it glide, and they have some pretty funny quirks.

The story begins with a quick teaser, introducing the ursine chieftain Grodurs Whiteskull and vulpine Petey Furnax. It then starts into the adventure, following the point of view of Jebeddo Raulner, the gnome druid. So many crazy things happened, some planned, others not, but that’s the great thing about playing these sorts of creative games. It gets your brain working in new and exciting ways, as you have to figure out how to tell a coherent story with players who are making their own decisions about how to make their way through the story.

But – probably not surprisingly – it takes up a lot of my creative time. So I think I’ll just write up the first three sessions, and leave it at that. After all, I don’t want to fall TOO far behind on my other stuff!


Work continues on prototype v3.0 for Wizards’ War. Remaking everything pretty much from scratch is a long slog, but I’m almost done. Just need to get a quote for parts and see how much this thing’s going to cost to produce. Then I’ll start putting the wheels in motion to plan out a Kickstarter campaign.

I’ve also requested some art for the game from Harvey Bunda. After reworking … well, everything! … I don’t need as much art anymore. Thank goodness. But one thing I do need is character art for the four wizards and their units. So that’ll be finished soon. I’ve already received some, too, which I’ll share now!

Sample unit cards for Wizards’ War (Click for larger image)

But this version of the prototype is taking me a lot longer to make because I’ve really spread myself thin. There was a steep learning curve with the D&D 5e, a lot of time and effort put into creating the foundation for that story, plus with my decision to start writing about the adventures, and editing A Hero’s Birth… well, I have almost no free time anymore. It’s a bit stressful. I think once I finish my story arc with the characters in D&D 5e I might take a session off to focus on other stuff. But I’m just having so much fun with the game I don’t want to stop!

So I’ll probably just keep doing everything until I collapse.


Whoaaa, we’re half way there!

Speaking of editing, I’m half way through A Hero’s Birth! If you’re planning on re-reading the series, we’re probably getting close to the time to start. My aunt is e-mailing me a chapter every day or two, which is really intense. I’ve been hammering through them, trying to keep up with her, and it’s AWESOME! I totally feed off this sort of thing, and the faster people throw stuff at me, the more energized I get. I’ve had quite a few nights where I’ve been up past midnight lately, which isn’t a good thing in the respect that I function poorly with less than 7 hours of sleep. But whatever. I’m pumped for everything and I hope other people are excited about what’s coming down the pipe, too!


And I saved the best for last. I took two weeks of holidays, as I often do at the end of the summer. We went to Quebec City! We haven’t gone anywhere in a long time, and we’ve been talking about going to see our aunt (my editor) for a while now. The kids had never been out of province, so it was fun going somewhere completely different. Quebec City is gorgeous, and they had a lot of fun attractions for us touristy types, like Old Quebec, the aquarium, and Montmorency falls.

I remember hearing people saying that people in QC were snooty about French, but that’s the opposite experience we had. Everyone was so friendly, and many employees automatically spoke to us in English if they overheard us talking to each other as we approached. A parking attendant at the aquarium saw our Ontario license plate and spoke to us in English straight away. We only ran into a couple people who didn’t speak English, but they were really friendly about us not understanding French.

That said, we did get a chance to practice speaking French a lot while we were there. We bombarded our poor aunt with question after question, as we failed to remember French words we had learned way back in grade school.

The whole trip was great, and I look forward to visiting again!

Totally screwed

I think the reason my first long-running D&D campaign was so successful is due to two factors:

  1. Dumb luck.
  2. I screwed with the minds of the characters so, so hard.

Dumb Luck

This game started without any sort of real plan on my part. It literally started with us sitting around the table, not knowing what to do, and me saying, “Okay. Make characters. You’re siblings. I’m sick of the meeting in a tavern thing.”

It was an idea we’d never used before, and I figured it’d make it nice and easy to keep the party together without any real treachery. What I hadn’t banked on was the sibling rivalries that would ensue, but that’s another blog post.

Also, they weren’t orphans, or poor, or any of that typical starting stuff. They were the children of nobles in the capital city of Stowenguard. And within the first two minutes, they were all summoned to meet with the king. From there, they were introduced to a prophecy and given a task that sounded quite simple at first, but turned into a monumental mind-fuck.

The first few quests they were given were completely random. Additionally, we added a couple new players to the table for one session, and I can’t remember why they didn’t come back after that. Whatever the reason, they will be featured in Chapter 6. I don’t remember their character names anymore, so I’ll make something up, but they’re fairly pivotal in helping to set the adventurers on the path to their destinies.

The fact that I managed to weave a cohesive story from the random events of the first few campaigns still leaves me a little awestruck. From a random, “Go look for dwarves in the mountains,” and “Find out why we haven’t heard from the lumberjacks” quests they found on a noticeboard, the entire theme of the adventure started to take root. I don’t know when the grand plan of the whole thing fully coalesced in my mind, but when it came together, it was brilliant. Well, at least I guess it was, since my buddy was still thinking about it years later and talked me into writing books about these adventures.

Screwed with their minds

Count the black dots

Count the black dots

As a psychology major, one of my favourite things was how our brains put things where we want them to be. Visual illusions are so much fun, and I just went through a bunch of classic ones with my daughter who had her mind blown by them.

Are the horizontal lines bendy or straight?

Are the horizontal lines bendy or straight?

I just wrapped up the first scene of Chapter 5, which is the culmination of everything … a moment that will live on forever in my mind, because it broke the mind of one of the characters, who became neurotic and paranoid. It was the sort of traumatic event that made the whole campaign work. Betrayal, plots within plots, misdirection … so many twists along the way that every time the players felt like they were making headway, they realized they had no idea what was really going on. The master stroke came much, much later (which will be the end of book 2 in the Strongblade Siblings series), when all the pieces fit together to glorious effect. All of the seemingly random events made sense, and it left the characters (and players) cursing not just the characters in the story, but me as well. In the most delightful way, of course. Just when they had the illusion of safety, another layer would be peeled away, leaving them wondering if anything was what they thought it was.

Things are in motion... right?

Things are in motion… right?

I wrote over 5000 words this week on A King’s Decree, which is way over my quota. I’m not sure how long the book will be when I’m done. According to my outline of chapter headings, I’m 1/3rd of the way through, but some of these chapters that are coming are going to be a fair bit longer. Maybe 90,000-100,000 words for the first book in the series? Not bad. Nowhere near the 140,000+ of A Hero’s Birth, but this is just the opening stages of the story. Book 2 might dwarf even A Hero’s Birth, though. There’s so much that happens in that one!