Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On Writing, Part I

With the release of Sky ov Crimson Flame I've decided to take a little retrospective look into its development and the personal experience points I've gained (I'm at least at level 2...)

WARNING: If you haven't read Sky ov Crimson Flame there's a chance you'll catch a few spoilers!

Before the Owl Knight's Flight

As I've stated numerous times, Sky ov Crimson Flame is based on the first impromptu session of DCC-RPG I ever ran. There, late at night, in a darkened kitchen, with only a handful of friends; I spun a tale of prophecy, black magic, a horned moon rising and a crimson star falling. In that moment I was in my element!

You see for a few years prior I had been wanting to play a good fantasy RPG campaign, but I didn't want anything to do with 3rd/Pathfinder or (gods forbid) 4th edition; while at the same time I wanted something "new" that wasn't 1st or 2nd edition. That's when I stumbled across the OSR community via Google+ and an entire new world was open before my eyes. I looked at all the "new" retro clones, but it was DCC-RPG that struck a cord. A rockin' heavy metal cord that vibrated straight to my very core!

So to say I was excited to be playing an RPG again is an understatement and as I wove my story of evil resurrected, killing lowly 0-levels left and right, I had no idea that I would attempt, in the near future, to actually produce an adventure. Yet that's exactly what happen. Maybe it was all the 3rd party adventure materials I was buying or the community in general that appears so open and accepting.

In any case I began what I thought would be a simple project, maybe a little dungeon, just a couple of pages. After all, the first funnel was a small ruined keep with 3 rooms top (the players were two nervous to explore the rest of the keep, which of course I was making up as I went along). However, as I've learned time and time again, none of my projects end up being small endeavors.

So It Began...

The first draft had several titles as I slowly determine what the hell the actual story line would be. Devil's Moon Rising (eh...), Horned Moon Rising (meh...), Red Flame Resurrection (too on the nose...). That first draft was a meager 8 pages long and at the time I felt like I was really doing something! Go me! Then came the next draft.... and the next draft... and the next. The next thing I knew I was 8 drafts in and had an additional 8 more pages.

So what changed between drafts 1-8? A sense of grandiose ideas were forming in my monkey mind. More rooms! Nastier baddies! Things of epic portions were taking shape. Some of which stuck in the final version and some of which changed. Through play-testing several rooms were merged into one and the finale was re-worked again and again!

Changes & Developments

Concerning the Witch

In earlier drafts the witch was encountered by the second area:

Area 2 - A Keep in Ruin

50 yards away the Keep comes into view. A facade of stone, blacker than the night. Rotted vines cover the walls and hang off the mounded gargoyles that leer at you from above. Through the large archway in the front wall a great pyre can been seen. A figure dressed in nothing but a bloody stag skin and brandishing a strange dagger dances and chanting around the fire.

The figure dancing and chanting around the fire is a witch. The loan survivor of a cult dedicated to the necromancer Balrothharid. In her hands is the very dagger the necromancer once used. She is wearing a bloody stag skin and is otherwise nude.

This was due in part of that first session I ran. She was going to be very powerful, killing off several 0-levels in a grand battle right before the Crimson Star fell on the keep and caused the dead to rise, etc, etc. In a sense she was a red herring as the players were suppose to believe she's the end all be all early on when actually she's just a pawn. (Similar to the final version). Everything happen at a much more rapid pace at this point.

By the 8th draft the Witch was called the Head Priestess (later changed back) and, like in the final version, the PCs had to first journey through the bowels of the Ancient Keep in order to encounter her at the climax.

Concerning the Necromancer

For several drafts the Necromancer, Balrothhraiid, (who's name changed several times) was resurrected and encounter in a true old school fashion - a tomb. However the idea of him travelling across unknown worlds was present early on and in some cases there were multiple shades that attacked the PCs as they attempted to destroy the body of the Necromancer encased in crystal. Sound familiar readers of SoCF? Some of these elements were kept in one form or another.

For the longest time I had this idea of the Crimson Star causing worlds to collide and the structure of the Ancient Keep changing to its former glory as represented on another world. The flames would take shape of a greater structure and could be walked on. In the end that idea faded out pretty quickly as I just couldn't make it work. 

Concerning Game Mechanics

At first I had no idea what I was doing! I had only every really written screenplays (nothing you've seen believe me) and so to prepare I read the rulebook over again, cover to cover, and as many adventures as I could get my hands on, both official and 3rd party. Still I was unprepared and the only way in which I improved was by constantly writing, draft after draft. Am I great writer? Nah! I get excited and type too fast and the next thing I know I've written incoherent garbage that I don't even know exactly what I mean, but I kept at it and that's my only advice for anyone inspired to do the same. Never. Stop. Writing!

Now for your reading pleasure I present the FIRST DRAFT of Sky ov Crimson Flame. From reading it and comparing it to the final print version you can gather some knowledge of the inner workings of my brain, or maybe just get a kick out of how simple it was in the beginning. Hell, I don't know! This is literally the brain dump version that I haven't even read and I'm sure is chalk full of errors and terrible ideas. So enjoy!

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