A year ago, on November 1, I started a challenge to push myself as a designer. As you might recall, I was worried I was leaving “performance on the table”. This project was a way of pushing myself in a sustained fashion. My goal was to create something meaningful with value and weight.
That challenge is now complete. Or, more accurately, the initial design phase of the project is complete. The result: a project that is somewhat different to the one I originally envisaged. I’m normally a man with a plan—and in this instance, my overall plan has remained intact—but the substance of my creation is wildly different to what I thought I’d write.
My original goal was to design an isolated keep, an area of wilderness, a Caves of Chaos-style dungeon area and an abandoned monastery akin to that detailed in B5 Horror on the Hill. In that goal, I’ve been partially successful.
The isolated keep expanded to include a citadel, a village and a small town on a tidal island just off the coast of a howling wilderland. During the early phase of the design, I realised that a small keep was unlikely to be interesting and substantial enough to please players who enjoy roleplaying and social interaction. A small, isolated keep alone would also not serve well as a base for an extended campaign. Hence, the inclusion of a village and small town.
The monastery also expanded to include five or six different levels (depending on what you count as a level) and even has an extra-planar connection (spoilers, obviously).
The detail of the Caves of Chaos-style dungeon area fell by the wayside, but I have laid the barebones of its character and substance. (Could this be my 2024 challenge?)
My goal was to write 500 words every weekday for a year. That equated to roughly 126,000 words. I’ve exceeded that figure:
- Citadel on the Wilderlands: 99,607
- Monastery of Ineffable Evil: 60,496
- Total: 160,103
This means I averaged roughly 785 words a weekday during my challenge.
I failed to write 500 words five times during my challenge—the wife dragged me away on holiday, and I decided it would be a Bad Show to work while I was away—and I was right!
The work isn’t over. In fact, it’s not even really begun. As Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit,” and I have a ton of developmental work to get done. While Tommi Salama has done lots of lovely maps for the Citadel on the Wilderlands portion of the project, the monastery remains wholly unmapped beyond my wild and sanity-shattering deranged scribblings. I hate mapping. Similarly, I have done virtually no layout or added any art to either manuscript. Both books require multiple development passes. I know both require additional material. I have an ideas file that I need to carefully review.
There’s still lots to do, but I’m excited that phase one is complete!
Citadel on the Wilderlands is my love letter to B2 Keep on the Borderlands and B5 Horror on the Hill. I wrote 500 words every weekday for a year.