Sarah Darkmagic's blog


Where Do We Go From Here?

I don't know if this is going to harm or help. I don't know if it's going to mean anything. I'm probably going to mess it up. I may end up being hated by a whole new group in gaming. All I know is I will try. I will try to do something right, knowing I may fail.

July 3

For those who don't know, back in 2014, I made these two tweets

These came after me expressing a bunch of pleasure regarding the inclusion of gender identity, sexual orientation, and a variety of skin tones in the art and text of the basic rules of the new edition.

July 5

I wasn't the first person to mention concern over the consultants list nor was I the last. But I was one of two people Mike Mearls mentioned on July 5th, presumably to Zak.

No worries - I did some digging and everything you cite squares with what I've read.

Basically, I keep getting "Zak hates gays and women" and when I ask for proof, people suddenly shut the fuck up.

Here's what I think is happening: Dudes like Hill or Sarah Darkmagic get really emotional about this stuff. A few people online know that they can bait these folks into forming a lynch mob, so they do. I've had people cite the blog post you linked to, and when I pressed them to actually read it they were like, "Oh, well, I was told he said something nasty, maybe not."

It's been eye opening for a few people.

So leaving that aside for a moment, one of the things we often do when there is an incident in my primary occupation (software development) is a thing called a blameless post mortem. That's where we get the folks involved in an incident and get together, with some rules, to understand what happened. So as I write this, this is about detailing what happened and what could have happened, so hopefully we can do better next time. So try to keep that in mind as I write. I'm not trying to blame folks.

July 3 - August 1

A bunch of discussion happens, mainly on G+ and mostly with RPG Pundit.

August 1

I write a post about what has been happening since I tried to talk to RPG Pundit https://www.sarahdarkmagic.com/content/what-happens-when-you-engage

August 4

https://www.sarahdarkmagic.com/content/what-happens-when-you-engage-cont...

August 5

https://www.sarahdarkmagic.com/content/what-happens-when-you-engage-act-3

August 16

Lunch at Gen Con with Mike Mearls (as detailed here: https://www.sarahdarkmagic.com/content/power-speaking)

So why make this timeline?

Things aren't often what they appear. Since 2014, a few people have come forward and said things about Zak. People that used to be pretty close to him. People who used to say I was lying about him. We know a lot more approximately 6 years later.

But even without knowing all of that, we went from the often referenced remark about how I was just manipulated into saying what I did to having lunch with Mike at Gen Con and discussing D&D and industry stuff. He was the only person I wasn't friends with who extended me that courtesy.

Does that absolve him? Absolutely not. Should that be good enough for other folks? Well, no. I honestly don't know what to do about the situation in that way.

But folks are asking me about what I want, and I don't know how to feel about the whole Fire Mearls thing. And I think when it comes down to it, it's because firing an individual doesn't fix a failed system. And it's the system that failed. In my line of work, when systems fail, they don't get fixed by getting rid of the human but instead by building a better system. That's part of what I thought I was doing at that lunch with Mearls.

Some ideas:

Protections for Freelancers and others

I have no idea how to actually get this done. One of the largest issues is that freelancers have no protection in an industry where fans are often fanatics. I've been asked to be considered part of a larger group where one of the other people in the group had called me a "pretentious bitch" because I had gotten an honorable mention for my blog on 4e. That person was going through some stuff, sure, and we talked through things much later, but at the time, I was still getting harassment from them.

Likewise, I had to watch as someone I admire, Rob Schwalb, kept being brought up as someone to axe so I could get more writing opportunities (like, it doesn't even work that way).

And there's no support for this. There's no paid time off to deal with these incidents. No HR to direct them to (not that that is a panacea). No one cares if you can't make deadlines because of the toll of this even though they want you to keep being in public because it increases the exposure of the company you are working for. (A lot of freelancers are hired because they already have an audience, not just because of their ability to write or draw or edit)

No wonder everyone was scared of reaching out to me and helping me. One of the people we're discussing apparently has Hollywood ties and let's be honest, a good portion of gaming is pretty much the entertainment industry, especially when you consider how many companies are either licensing IP to make games from or licensing IP from games to make movies and tv.

Focus on those harmed

Part of the issue with writing this is that it's going to come across as self-serving and I don't mean it this way. But part of what really hurts me is that folks still believe the lies Zak spread about the situation and about the people involved. Those people still have a hard time getting work. They have had a lot of people turn their backs when things were super dark. They need a path out of oblivion. One that isn't only about retribution and revenge.

Ask Wizards of the Coast how they've changed

They likely won't be able to comment on the situation directly any more than they have. But they might be able to talk about what training they have available for employees. Any policies they might have for working with consultants and the like. If you happen to work in fields with expert knowledge in these areas, it would be wonderful if you were willing to share your insights with the broader community/industry because this isn't just an issue with Wizards of the Coast.

I've seen some folks call for changes in how this community works and I'm definitely in favor of that. Not just relying on informal social networks for hiring or freelancers. Finding ways to give folks who get attacked like I did for years the ability to earn back trust and maybe freelance again.

Otherwise, what we'll see is a continuation of people being scared professionally to say something. And we'll see folks from marginalized groups saying its not worth it and burning out those who try to speak up.

I don't know if any of this will help anyone. I just know that I've never been a scorched earth person and, honestly, it feels too much like what Zak wanted to do to me for me to be comfortable with it. But I honestly mean this. Other people will feel differently and those views are valid as well. What's super important to me is that people listen to one another and find ways to try to move forward. Say what you feel and why you feel that way and maybe, just maybe, some healing will occur.

Part of the mermaid was done using a stamp by Jane Davenport.https://janedavenport.com/shop/supplies/stamps/jdmm-new-acrylic-stamps-mermaid/

Notes: The Haunting of Lobsterclaw Island


So, the story that I sort of have in my mind for Lobsterclaw Island is really getting to me, and so I'm trying to work out how I might create an adventure for it. But it's been a super long time since I've had a chance to run something other than a published adventure and I'm still catching up on all the changes to 5e since my child was born, so these are super rough notes.

One thing I want to tap into is the idea that some people lived on this island and that they were stolen from the land (enslaved). I think I want to make those who were enslaved humans and those who captured them orcs (but with slight twist). And I think I want this to have a huge impact on the land itself, culminating in a part of the story that I'm calling The Long Walk. My thought is to rely on undead and particularly haunting to make it work.

Random Encounters

  1. shadow + 1d4 skeletons
  2. specter + 2d4 skeletons
  3. poltergeist + 1d4 shadows
  4. Will-o'-wisp + 1d4 skeletons
  5. Specter + 1d4 shadows
  6. Legendary ghost - I'm thinking here a leader of the group that was captured and force marched, killed while protecting a grandchild. Her goal is to seek the proper burial of the grandchild and the return of an amulet that fell with the child to its rightful home in their town.

    For lair actions: I was thinking of producing shadows (1), skeletons (1), or specters (1) but I'm not sure because I'm not sure. I could also use the flavor text from the ghost and have the lair produce effects like cold or moving objects.

    For legendary actions (2 actions):

    • Recharge possession and immediate use (Costs 2 actions) - Her goal here isn't to fight the PCs. She wants to possess them to tell a bit of her story and to find the closest she can to peace.
    • Etherealness - Thinking this gives her an out if somehow the party traps her
  7. Eventually I'd like to move random encounters away from groups of "monsters" and more like scenes that would be available.

    Sleeping in the Woods

    Another idea I have is that any night they spend in the woods, they have a chance of a dream or vision. Some things that they might experience or see include:

    • Walking through intense dark, seeing pig faces by torch [My thought is to make the orcs pig-like and have pink skin]
    • Attempting to descend a dense forest during a downpour, wake up soaked to the bone
    • Vision of a young child beneath a large old ash tree with white delicate white flowers
    • Vision of the amulet

    Things to find

    Another idea I have is of "trinkets" to find while walking through the woods

    • Simple grave marked by a pile of rocks, someone who died on The Long Walk
    • Crude and decayed weapon of the orcs that attacked the folks of Lobster Claw Island
    • Intense chill that causes shivers for 1d4 minutes

    Other Ideas

    I think it would be interesting to have a background or two or some other way to signify characters who descend from those who once lived on Lobsterclaw Island and then have some of these parts of the adventure interact with that.

More Like This Please: DMs Guild Titles - Part 4

On April 27th, OneBookShelf, in conjunction with Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Grounds, and White Wolf, announced a Play It Forward Event, running from May 4th (Star Wars Day) until May 17th. During the event, community-created products on those companies will forgo their royalties on products sold on DMs Guild and Story Vault and instead, the creators of the content will get 100% of all revenue. This is intended to help the creators, many of who are struggling due to Covid-19.

In addition to this change of revenue sharing, the sites will be having a 20% sale on titles at least 30 days old and temporarily suspending the affiliate program.

Perhaps you, like me, are wondering about some titles to invest in and explore during this event. I did some exploring and would like to recommend the following:

Triple Murder Most Fowl

Cover of Triple Murder Most Fowl

It is Highharvesttide and your character (along with two to four 10th-12th level characters) is invited to dinner. Soon after arrival, however, the characters learn that they don't have a Clue about what is going on. The matriarch was found dead, just that morning! And now they must figure out who did it, how, and where!

Reading through the adventure, I sense a lot of chances for jokes and just fun role play opportunities. I also wonder if it would be a good adventure if you have folks who want to participate in a D&D game by playing an NPC. It's exactly the sort of adventure I'd love to play.

To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

Eat the Rich | Volume 1

Cover of Eat the Rich | Volume 1

Eat the Rich, the anti-tyranny adventure anthology, contains 17 adventures for tiers 1-4. Like many of the adventures I've spotlighted, these attempt to explore real world topics through the guise of fantasy; allowing us to see the world around us in new ways. As such, some of the adventures deal with heavy topics like exploitation of workers, marginalized folks, and more.

Also, the pdf is gorgeous. I love the use of monotype and the art is decadent. The visual callbacks to zines fill me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

UNBRIDLED

Cover of UNBRIDLED /></p>
<p>Are. You. F*ing. Kidding. Me.</p>
<p>Yes, I love the above title, Eat the Rich. But, like, I want to know why no one told me about UNBRIDLED. I get it, it dropped while many of us were stuck at home and dealing with some heavy stuff, but seriously. Next time just <a href=@ me, ok?

Where to start?

Boring voice: Unbridled is a collection of 19 adventures for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons featuring hags and…unicorns?

Yes, folks, let's take the most of iconic of D&D monsters, hags and unicorns, and mix them up all over the place. Let's make it bizarre. Let's throw a bunch of stuff into a jar, add some glitter and water, and shake that sh*t up and play through whatever happens. That is what this book is all about. And if you think the cover art is catchy, wait until you see the unicorn on page 16. That's ok. I'll wait. Go have a look.

Ok, time to get back on topic. Another book where the art is gorgeous and on point and where the energy is amazing.

To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

More Like This Please: DMs Guild Titles - Part 3

On April 27th, OneBookShelf, in conjunction with Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Grounds, and White Wolf, announced a Play It Forward Event, running from May 4th (Star Wars Day) until May 17th. During the event, community-created products on those companies will forgo their royalties on products sold on DMs Guild and Story Vault and instead, the creators of the content will get 100% of all revenue. This is intended to help the creators, many of who are struggling due to Covid-19.

In addition to this change of revenue sharing, the sites will be having a 20% sale on titles at least 30 days old and temporarily suspending the affiliate program.

Perhaps you, like me, are wondering about some titles to invest in and explore during this event. I did some exploring and would like to recommend the following:

The Corruption of Skyhorn Lighthouse

Cover of The Corruption of Skyhorn Lighthouse

The Corruption of Skyhorn Lighthouse is an adventure for 8th-level characters expected to take about 5-7 hours. It may be run as a follow up adventure to The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse, a 5th-level adventure that is available for free.

There's a lot to talk about with this adventure, specifically that it takes a bit of a different approach than most of the ones I've seen. Encounters by and large are kept to one page (with hyperlinks or printables to help cut down on page flipping). Embellishments and details are kept to a minimum. The idea is to allow a dungeon master to "run at a glance with minimal preparation and a natural delivery." To further aid with this, there is a short video walkthrough of the adventure.

Encounters are set up to resolve a dramatic question. Sometimes the expectation is that this will be around combat but often it includes a non-combat way to resolve the question. Once it is resolved, the idea is to move forward to the transition, which helps wrap up the current scene and kickstart the next. This is my first introduction to this approach and I rather like it.

If this interests you but you'd love to learn more before purchasing, the free 5th-level adventure follows a similar format.

To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

Exit Pursued by Owlbear

Cover of Exit Pursued by Owlbear

Exit Pursued by Owlbear is an anthology of five adventures all inspired by the bard, Shakespeare. The Rose of the Fair State is inspired by Hamlet and is for a party of four 5th-level characters.

A Shrew’s Vengeance is for a party of four 3rd-5th level characters (with an average party level of 4) and is inspired by The Taming of the Shrew.

If We Shadows Have Offended explores A Midsummer Night’s Dream through a game.

Much Ado About Cookies takes its inspiration from Much Ado About Nothing and is for a party of four to six 3rd-level characters.

Finally, Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble delves into the world of Macbeth and is for a party of four 5th-level characters.

To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

Budding Baba's Growing Hut

Cover of Budding Baba's Growing Hut

Have you ever wanted to have your own wandering hut like Baba Yaga's? If so, this is the title for you (and if you read this blog, I hope the answer is yes for you and your character!) This product contains rules for growing a hut including advancements, quirks, personality traits, some special abilities (like the ability to kick out unwanted guests!). I absolutely adore this one.
To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

More Like This Please: DMs Guild Titles - Part 2

On April 27th, OneBookShelf, in conjunction with Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Grounds, and White Wolf, announced a Play It Forward Event, running from May 4th (Star Wars Day) until May 17th. During the event, community-created products on those companies will forgo their royalties on products sold on DMs Guild and Story Vault and instead, the creators of the content will get 100% of all revenue. This is intended to help the creators, many of who are struggling due to Covid-19.

In addition to this change of revenue sharing, the sites will be having a 20% sale on titles at least 30 days old and temporarily suspending the affiliate program.

Perhaps you, like me, are wondering about some titles to invest in and explore during this event. I did some exploring and would like to recommend the following:

Wanted: Dead or Alive - A Collection of Dastardly Criminals for Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons

Cover of Wanted: Dead or Alive

Wanted: Dead or Alive is a book of NPCs, presented as a series of wanted posters. In addition to the poster, we get some background of each character including their "crimes" and background on their life, special items they may have, plot hooks, tactics, and a stat block. The book includes 18 characters. There are content warnings where appropriate. In addition, each character has the name of its author, helping readers to track down other works written by their favorites.

To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

The Princess Project

Cover of The Princess Project

The Princess Project is an anthology of adventures. Each focuses on fairy tale and mythological princesses, aiming and subverting tropes and the patriarchy. The title includes magic items, spells, and more.

I particularly enjoyed "Tying the Knot," especially the list of items that need to be collected before the wedding as well as the locations. I may steal some of them for my own games as well.

In addition to the adventures, there are several random tables in the appendix, including trinkets and wild magic, as well as themed items and spells.

To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

i've been

Cover of i've been

i've been is an adventure for four 3rd-level characters that explores themes around mental health, particularly "depression, self-loathing, and isolation." As a person who has faced depression and anxiety and has had a number of friends and others in my life who have done the same, I super appreciate this adventure. In particular, I liked the metaphor for what it's like for some to have depression and similar. Like a number of the titles I'm featuring, creating this module helps the designer (and also potentially us) to explore these issues. At the end there are resources for safety tools to use if you decide to run the adventure as well as a number of crisis lines for the US.

To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

College of Acapella

Cover of College of Acapella

College of Acapella contains player options for bards including a bard college along with some spells and feats. In particular, I love the concept of the chorus of harmony, which gives your character a number of duplicates (allowing you to be a one-person acapella group!).

To purchase: DMs Guild affiliate non-affiliate

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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