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 Post subject: By Request: The Writing of Whiterock
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 12:03 am 
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Part One: Dungeons and Pie

[WARNING: Spoilers of Castle Whiterock will probably come up in this thread. I'll try to avoid it, but consider this fair warning.]

The story of the genesis of Castle Whiterock really belongs to Chris Doyle. By the time I was brought on board, my co-author already had several sheets of paper with notes like this:

Level Nine: Immense Cavern -
a lot of lairs here, natural critters, needs a water source

During the "How to Write Adventures that don't Suck" discussion, I believe Ken Hart mentioned how intimidating the empty page, the blank canvas, can be. Fortunately, I didn't have to face that bedevilment with this project. Every level had at least that much development, and most had more.

The final product is amazingly true to the original vision...fifteen levels and fourteen sublevels was more-or-less what we laid out at inception. The biggest changes came when I swapped, say, level 13 for level 11A, promoting the demon-prison to an actual level and downgrading the big bug pit to a sublevel. More on this later...

So given this lead, the task fell to Chris and I to divvy up the levels (based on availability and interest), see how they would logically connect, and talk about the metaplot and how it would work into each level.
These conversations took place over the phone, but when we had to actually put our heads together we would meet at a diner about halfway between our respective houses and have a nosh, discussing the physical layout and backstory over nicoise salad and pie.

Mmmm...pie.

In general I took the lower levels, mostly because Chris had already written level 1 by that point, and also because I personally prefer mid-to-high level shenannigans.

From the beginning, there were a few concepts we held to be sacrosanct. Even these, however, had enough wiggle room to flex to the evolving story. For my part, I treated the backstory as if it were a history I was discovering...the levels I was writing would lead me to what actually happened.

(Geez, hope that made sense)

Some examples:

1. Benthos was involved with what happened to Lady Chauntessa's lover

We were not 100% on the mechanics of how this went down until I wrote The Dragon's Lair (not my most original title, I grant). By that time, I had decided that Benthos would be a magic-y dragon and Sil a physical dragon, but even so I didn't want the red to have actually "done the deed"...I wanted it to be one of his minions. I was mostly done with my levels, so I had a good idea of what classes, races, and monsters were in the dungeon so I looked to fill a gap. Hasna'azhar was my answer.

[Side Note: "Hasna'azhar" actually means something like "flower of beauty"...many of the names I use actually have a meaning...it's a thing with me]

2. There is a druid refuge and a unicorn graveyard

This level started off as a mushroom cavern, but I decided to run with it in an entirely different direction. Riffing off Harley Stroh's cool fey glade in Hall of the Minotaur (which I was running my local group through at the time), I created the Far Garden demi-plane. I ran the idea past Mr. Stroh, the DCC line editor, got the green light, and altered Aereth's metaphysical makeup.

3. There is a big arena slave-market run by duergar that used to be owned by the drow

This one wrote itself, really. I love me some evil dwarves and I hate drow (HATEHATEHATEHATE). This was the hardest level to write because it is a lynchpin geographically and story-wise. Then I struck on the idea of having it be a kind of Babylon 5/Deep Space Nine for evil underground races. I mean, duergar are LAWFUL evil, so they could put something like that together. This lead to the Impresario (named after a minor character in the best Final Fantasy game out there - III/VI - no matter what Luke Johnson thinks!), Ambassador Ereluc, and all the madness of the Bleak Theater (my favorite title from CW).

I kept my co-author up-to-date on any changes I made, and he did likewise, usually over pie.

Mmmm...pie.

NEXT: Of Levels and Sublevels

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Co-Author: The Almanac of the Endless Traders, DCC #13, DCC #29, DCC #49, DCC #51, DCC #52, DCC #63

Author: DCC #55: Isle of the Sea Drake, DCC #61: Citadel of the Corruptor, more to come....


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 Post subject: Re: By Request: The Writing of Whiterock
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 7:22 am 
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Cool stuff. Please keep the 'designer notes' on this one coming - keeping the internal mechanics of a 48 to 56 page module consistent is a bit of work (at least for me), so I'd love to know how you guys handled a 700+ page module. I'm particularly interested to see what stayed consistent from day one of writing ... and what changed from concept to final product, either because of necessity or because somebody developed the inevitable "wait, I have a better idea!"

Sounds like you kept it pretty close to the initial ideas, though, which is the smart approach. :)

Jengenritz wrote:
These conversations took place over the phone, but when we had to actually put our heads together we would meet at a diner about halfway between our respective houses and have a nosh, discussing the physical layout and backstory over nicoise salad and pie.


If you discussed this at the old Felix #9 diner, I'm going to have to kill you. I probably could've leaned over one of the booths and added to the discussion. (And Felix #9 had awesome pie.)

Jengenritz wrote:
[Side Note: "Hasna'azhar" actually means something like "flower of beauty"...many of the names I use actually have a meaning...it's a thing with me].


I do the same thing. Many of the names in "Curse of the Emerald Cobra" are Nahuatl words for things like "traitor", "scavenger", and other literal translations of what I think the NPCs or locations should symbolize.

Looking forward to "Of Levels and Sub-Levels" ...

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 11:41 am 
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I'll try to keep up with this thread, and add to Adrian's comments as needed.

Believe it or not, the concept of Castle Whiterock was generated at the same meeting (with Joe Goodman, at an Irish pub in Valdosta, Ga) we laid the foundation for Crypt of the Devil Lich. If I have my dates correct, that would have been fall 2003. We disussed a mammoth crawl under a ruined castle, much like Castle Greyhawk. Shortly after the meeting, I started jotting down notes, level concepts, and encounter ideas. The project was code named "Castle BlackOsprey" b/c we needed to have a working title. Oh, and originally it was going to be a 96 page book, or about the size of DCC 14.

I started writing levels 1-4 the summer/fall of 2004 (when I was a stay at home dad), but had to shelve the project to write DCC #11 (the $2 module), and then DCC #0, for Dundracon. Then, I offered to finish DCC #15 for Joe (since I love all things Eygptian, and thought the plot was too cool to toss away). Then, in early 2005, my kidlet was sent off to daycare, and without even trying very hard, rec'd a very good job offer (in my field). I worked on CW on and off for the next year and a half, jotting down ideas and concepts and convincing Joe to make the project bigger. I think we tore up the contract 3 or 4 times. During this time, I fleshed out more of the story lines, the Inn, and how to tie the levels together. In the summer of 2006, it became clear that Joe wanted to move CW to the front burner, and give it a true deadline (b/c 4th edition was on the horizon, and several other mammoth crawls were in the works by other companies). Begrudgingly (at first), I agreed, but I needed another author. Someone who would share my vision and breath life to it, not change it all around. Adrian, was an obvious choice, due to his proximity in NJ, his track record crafting awesome encounters for the DCC tourney, and his copious amounts of free time.

Then at Gen Con 2006, Joe, Harley, Adrian, and myself sat down (the first Goodman Games Board Meeting!). The conversation began with the DCC tourney (both 06, and what to do for 07), and the GG product line for the following year. Based on the success of DCC #35 (and the fact that GG pulled it off in time), Joe implored that we get CW done for GenCon 2007 release. He said, we could make it a box set, and include a gazateer of a kingdom (check out DCC #35, for a teaser of CW) in the Known World where CW was set, and poster maps. At this point CW was about 9 levels deep with about 6 sublevels (conceptualized). I said, "Word count be damn will be our motto". We agreed to bring Jeff LaSala on board to pen the gazateer in between chapters of his novel.

The rest is history. Adrian and I had many meetings (over pie, mmmm) and added several more levels and sub-levels. We embraced our motto, a little too much, actually. Joe thought "Word count be damned" meant we were going from 96,000 words to 250,000 words (~ DCC #35). Well, we overshot the wordcount by a "tad" (in space terms, approximately half a million miles), and in Feb. 2007 submitted 420,000+ words of Castle Whiterock that did not include level 9, the intro chapter, or Cillamar.

After we talked Joe down from a very tall building in Chicago, he tossed to gether an impressive spreadsheet. The spreadsheet listed all the members of "Team Whiterock" (authors, editors, the GG "Stat" editor, artists, cartographer, etc.), and week by week duties. Joe e-mailed the entire team the spreadsheet and asked if folks were up for the challenge. I was shocked on how quickly everyone stepped up. Each week was accounted for from late Feb. until early July. And if one member of the team stumbled (or became seriously injured), we would not have made it to print by Gen Con. Although harrowing with many relationships stressed under the workload, we all pulled through, and made it happen.

I can't describe how proud I am of the final product. Team Whiterock pulled through, and I owe many thnaks to Joe, Adrian, Harley, Ken, Jeff, Jeremy and the other members of the team!

As the thread continues, I'll try to add more insights....

Chris


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 12:04 pm 
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Quote:
After we talked Joe down from a very tall building in Chicago, he tossed to gether an impressive spreadsheet. The spreadsheet listed all the members of "Team Whiterock" (authors, editors, the GG "Stat" editor, artists, cartographer, etc.), and week by week duties.


I think Ken described it as a cigar-chomping sergeant giving his men a speech before charging a hill. That was exactly the feeling I had...all or nothing, go for broke, we're in this together. Great times.

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Author: DCC #55: Isle of the Sea Drake, DCC #61: Citadel of the Corruptor, more to come....


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 6:40 am 
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Man, this thread is awesome. I love reading stuff like this.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 2:26 pm 
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And from the review PDF I noticed you guys even managed to put some little "nods" to other DCCs into it. Like "Hilspek", a gnome family name making its appearance in DCC #1. :wink:
Way cool! Can't wait to put my hands on your "little" baby! :D

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DCC#1, DCC #11, DCC #28, DCC #17, DCC #17.5 :)


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 2:33 pm 
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We go into it somewhere else, but there are references to almost all the DCCs prior to 35, with some of the 40s.

Good eye, though. Peduncle Hilspek is the great uncle of (I think it is) Narzy Hilspek from DCC #1. Check out where he spent some time...that's another reference.

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Author: DCC #55: Isle of the Sea Drake, DCC #61: Citadel of the Corruptor, more to come....


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 2:28 pm 
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I've been wondering, are the pregen characters in Castle Whiterock the characters used by playtesters?


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 2:56 pm 
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Quote:
I've been wondering, are the pregen characters in Castle Whiterock the characters used by playtesters?


I can only speak with certainty about the playtests I was involved with.

Some of them used the pregens at advanced levels. In one case, we used the pregens from Palace in the Wastes. Most of them, however, used characters made by playtesters to a specified level...and some of those playtests involved non-OGL material my playtesters owned. This was done because I wanted the playtests to simulate home games as much as possible.

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Author: DCC #55: Isle of the Sea Drake, DCC #61: Citadel of the Corruptor, more to come....


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2007 10:50 am 
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As one head of the Editorial Ettin of Castle Whiterock, I'll jump in to describe the editing approach on this beautiful boxed behemoth. (I grew up reading Stan Lee and Marvel Comics in the '60s, so alliteration is in the blood! Make Mine Marvel! :) ) Because of the size and the tight timeline, Joseph wisely suggested splitting up the editing duties: I handled the text starting from Level 1, and Aeryn "Blackdirge" Rudel edited all the stat blocks working backwards from Level 15.

This was cool with me, because reverse-engineering stat blocks is not my strong point, and Aeryn is a whiz at it. He even bumped up some of Chris' and Adrian's bad boys if he thought they needed it. (So if your party gets wiped out in Whiterock -- hey, that would be a good T-shirt! -- there are multiple culprits. Muahahahahaha!) According to Joseph's original schedule, our edits would cross paths around Level 9 ... and amazingly that's pretty much how it worked out.

For a project that was less interwoven than Whiterock, you probably could have had two people editing the text. But the great subplots and NPCs that Chris & Adrian created do pop up throughout the module, so you needed one person to be Continuity Cop -- a job for which I was well prepared as an avid fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (getting up on soapbox) which was not only the best-written TV show of the last 15 years, but was a a paragon of editorial continuity (... well, except for Season 5) (stepping off soapbox).

Part of an editor's job is to be an advocate for the reader. That is, I try to view what I'm editing as though I'm someone picking this up off the shelf. And as a writer, I also know that one of the toughest things to do is edit your own work. For instance, while you may know in your head that Points A, B, and C connect, that connection won't be so clear to someone else reading the text. So there were plenty of e-mails between me, Chris, and Adrian to clarify things that seemed fuzzy to me ... and to give me an opportunity to gush to them about how awesome this adventure was.

Another part of the editing process was cross-referencing the text with the maps, which early on were scanned-in files of the authors' pencil sketches. So there were a few more e-mails about how the gates in the Bleak Theater work, where a secret passage comes out in Thane Vejik's hall, where on the map the entrance to Peduncle Hilspek's sub-level belongs, etc.

Some names of people, locations, and beasties did change, which is inevitable with something this size, and so we were tweaking leftover references right up until the end. Even during the final round of PDF edits, there were one or two cases where the text didn't quite match the art, so that necessitated some edits in the description. (With our Gen Con 2007 deadline looming like the Eye of Sauron, it was a lot easier to change the text than it was to commission new artwork!) For instance, one of my favorite villains in Whiterock, Most Bloated Muthren (I love that name!), originally wasn't armed with a scythe, but we changed that after we saw the great piece of artwork for that encounter. That also required a couple of stat block changes for access to that weapon, yet it ended up making him that much cooler.

So bravo to Adrian & Chris for writing such a terrific adventure for me to edit, to Aeryn for editing the monsters and NPCs, to Harley & Jeff for fleshing out the town of Cillamar with a great amount of history and subplots, to Jeremy for his always-amazing cartography, and to Joseph and Harley for keeping me sane.

--Ken

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DCC #52: Chronicle of the Fiend

"It really is the height of pessimism to have a hat lined with chain mail." --Mrs. Peel


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2007 4:30 pm 
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Part Two: Of Levels and Sublevels

I'm sure that somewhere out there exists an "official" gaming contextual definition of "level" and "sublevel." Here are the loose definitions I used:

"Level" is a suite of encounter areas linked by theme and difficulty, and, most of the time, geography. It has to contribute to or be connected meaningfully to the main thrust of the story. It also should probably be physically connected to the rest of the dungeon.
For CW, it had to contain enough XP earning potential (before story-based awards) to get 6 PCs to the next level, assuming they were the same character level as the dungeon level.

(one of my fave Order of the Stick strips deals with the overuse of "level"...man I hope they change this around in 4E)

A "sublevel," however, did not count for XP or treasure limits. It didn't have to relate directly to the ongoing plot (but could be used to fill in backstory). It didn't have to directly (or obviously) connect to the main dungeon*.

How to keep it all straight, though? Easy, use spreadsheets.
We had two important ones. The WhiterockSchedule looked kinda like this:

Level > Title > Description > Foes > Writer > Status
2 > Slave Pits > quartz mine > orcs > Chris > Done
11 > Narborg > outer fortress > duergar, zettins > Adrian > Done

And the XPLootLog was basically an expanded Encounter Table that included XP numbers for the PCs, all the treasure earned, and stuff like that. With it, we knew exactly what encounters were plotted and where just about every copper piece was located.

Other spreadsheets existed to track handouts, artifacts, new monsters/feats/classes/items, DCC tie-ins, and subquests...from the get-go we were making notes on things we knew would be featured in an Appendix except 3rd party monsters and keys (those came later).

These spreadsheets would be sent to the partner as soon as they changed, so there was a lot of updating, but with just the two of us, it was easy to coordinate.

The benefit was that at a glance you could tell what types of monsters were already used in the dungeon, and where.
This both pushed us and gave us permission to dig deep into the SRD and 3rd party sourcebooks to avoid repeating ourselves ("...another level of orc city? For the love of Soleth!")
It also helped build a quasi-realistic dungeon ecology...honestly, some of the maps drew themselves because certain features were called for.

But now I get to a story I had promised to tell earlier...how 11B and 13 got swapped.

Originally the bug pit (which I dubbed Carapace Fissure) was supposed to be a level unto itself (level 12, I believe). The idea was that it was supposed to be a vertical shaft inhabited by tons of vermin (vermin being a bit under-represented in the rest of the dungeon).

We knew from our first meeting that we liked the idea of the Demondelve (as the Demonhold was originally known), and that it would be situated as a hidden entrance at the bottom of Carapace Fissure. The original idea was basically, "A bunch of demons and devils are stuck here"...check out the backstory to see what grew from that sentence.

As I got to writing, though, I was coming up with more and more ideas for the Demonhold and squat for Carapace Fissure. Plus, it's kinda hard to create EL 12 (plus or minus up to 3) encounters involving vermin without making them Gargantuan, creating new ones, or really getting complicated. Keep in mind that there was a serious time crunch going on...at this point I had 1 week to plot, write, map, and edit each level (more on that later). There simply was no time to force myself to work on Carapace Fissure when the Demonhold was brimming with possibility.

So in the end, I just swapped them...the Demonhold became level 13 and Carapace Fissure became level 11B.

Demons and devils (and cauchemars, ghaele, and maruts) give better XP and treasure than vermin anyway, and the internal politics of the Demonhold might be sufficient for GMs to springboard off into their own campaigns, so it's probably safe to say that those who bought and play the dungeon ended up winning out of the deal with a meaty (and treacherous) main level.

By the same token, I know from playtest that the fissure wasps are a delightfully difficult obstacle to overcome for those parties who dare the depths of Carapace Fissure...they make a good side story, befitting a sublevel.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that CW was built on stellar organization AND a fair degree of latitude for flexibility, which was a pretty magic combination.

NEXT: The Upside of Possession

*If your group is running around CW and can't find something, odds are it's in a sublevel...one that's been cleverly hidden. Hiding the sublevels was a whole lot of fun...we've got submerged tunnels, plain ol' secret doors, entrances disguised as natural features, illusory walls, magic bridges, things placed on the ceiling, and in one case a dire need for passwall.

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Author: DCC #55: Isle of the Sea Drake, DCC #61: Citadel of the Corruptor, more to come....


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:42 am 
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I've liked hearing the stories behind the making of Whiterock. Interesting stuff.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2007 2:03 pm 
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Great to read about how this came about.

...but I can't be the only one here hoping for more commentary on the pies. :D

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Playing RPGs since 1977 • Quasi-occasional member of the Legion of 8th-Level Fighters - Holds the power to play gnomes at will!

Here Be DCC Monsters...

General Yoros, Warrior, Str 13, Agl 8 (10), Stm 17, Per 13, Int 11, Lck 8; Law, HP 39, AC 17, R+2, F+4, W+2, band/shld, warhammer, longsword, longbow, pitchfork

Han Dee, (Weaver) Neutral Thief, Str 10, Agi 13, Stm 11, Per 11, Int 15, Lck 14, AC 13 (Leather), HP 25, Luck Die d6, Backstab 3, Sneak Silently 10, Hide In Shadows 9, Pick Pocket 10, Climb Sheer 10, Pick Lock 9, Find Trap 9, Disable Trap 9, Forge Doc 10, Disguise 3, Read Lang 5, Handle Poison 3, Cast Scroll d14+2, birth augur (Born under the loom) +1 to all skill checks (including thief skills), Banepicks (auto pick lock/disable trap, but lose 1d3 random ability loss, if a 3 then 1 pt is perm)


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 6:38 am 
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Hm, might be worth a later add-on sublevel (as a free download from GG) to Castle Whiterock: "REVENGE OF THE PIE MONSTER"... and it needs to be creamed! :wink:

Or maybe it's a "pie-in" to this little beauty: http://www.montecook.com/arch_lineos11.html :)

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 12:12 pm 
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Lol.

Argamae, that is too funny. In honor of Mr. Cook, I originally planned to have a 10x10 room with a single orc guard and a tasty pie somewhere in the upper levels of CW. I just never got around to it.

Should I have known pie was going to be such a theme in our post CW discussions, the room would have made it.

Damn it!

Chris


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 11:54 pm 
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Ken Hart wrote:
I grew up reading Stan Lee and Marvel Comics in the '60s, so alliteration is in the blood! Make Mine Marvel! :) )


That alone has elevated you from a scholar and a gentleman (which I thought you were before) to a demi-god.



...Very impressive major mortal-ascended-to-deity, at very least. :P


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 11:59 pm 
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Ken Hart wrote:
as an avid fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (getting up on soapbox) which was not only the best-written TV show of the last 15 years, but was a a paragon of editorial continuity (... well, except for Season 5) (stepping off soapbox).


OK, now you're definitely a celebrated deific entity. (And Firefly? Oh, don't get me started. Cried--seriously, tears--when I realized it wasn't going to be re-picked up after Serenity.)


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 7:57 pm 
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I'm not going to debate someone who uses Jeremy Brett - Best. Sherlock. Ever. - as his avatar. :)

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DCC #52: Chronicle of the Fiend

"It really is the height of pessimism to have a hat lined with chain mail." --Mrs. Peel


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 5:45 pm 
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Part Three: The Upside of Possession

DISCLAIMER: This particular section is a little flaky, mostly because it deals with inspiration, which is hard to describe or quantify even to those who have been inspired. I trust you will forgive me if I wander a bit afield here. Thank you.

Inspiration...not just getting ideas, but real, sudden, BAM inspiration...comes in many forms. We all know about the Greek Muses, who divinely inspire the artist. Heck, Olivia Newton-John even played one in Xanadu.
The writing of Whiterock, however, was not like a visitation from a roller-skating, Austrialian-accented muse. It was more like being possessed by an orisha from the Santeria tradition...I was a puppet, having surrendered control to my fingers as they typed and some murky part of my brain that directed them. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself...

Although CW had long been on the horizon, it kept getting pushed into the background. In my case, I had Palace in the Wastes to work on, so I couldn't commit serious time to the project until after I had decompressed from Gen Con in August.

Come September, therefore, I had to write seven levels and eight sub-levels (I had already written 6 and 6A) by January 1st, plus my contributions to appendices B (including the guard NPC class), C (several monsters), D (some items), E (maybe half the unique items), and G (pretty much the whole thing).

Writing involved a LOT of cross-checking.
Do the stats of the monster in Appendix C match the stats used on level 6? If I use an invisible stalker in level 12, how many does that make for the dungeon? If level 2 references the Impresario's wizards casting charm on Kaernga, I better make sure it shows up in a spellbook on level 10. Should it also be in the Master Wizard's spellbook on level 12, since he trains all the wizards, or should it remain something special for the Impresario's men? Level 10A refers to the Skullcap of Umgoot being in area 9C-4...is that where it really is? Wait, Pelltar's obelisks redirect outsiders with the alignment subtype...that means Magus Revesk on level 9B knows he can't cast summon monster III for dretches.

More than just fact-checking, changing any one thing meant changing every reference to it*. If I moved the bones of Benden Talbusk from area 6A-1 to 6A-3, then I had to go back and change all location references to those bones on level 7A.
Here's a better example: if I make Benthosruthsa's "pet wizard" a fiendish lamia shadowdancer consort with ranks in UMD and some scrolls and name her Hasna'azhar, that changes Appendix A, the Backstory, and the History. It also affects Galdiera Goldmoon on level 9 (note that Benthos kills his old pet wizard).

It was a lot to internalize, but that was the only way to do it right. Unfortunately, it also took a lot of time to get a rythmn going. By late October, I still had to write something like five levels and six sub-levels (I might be a bit off, but not by much). This is where the orisha comes in...

Driven to finish on time, I settled into a pattern, thusly:

Sunday: plot out encounters, fill the Encounter Table, get the basic stat blocks in place
Monday: start drawing the map, labeling key encounters, finish Encounter Table, finish stats
Tuesday: finish maps, scan them in and manipulate them to make one continuous image (several Castle Whiterock maps fill up four or more sheets of graph paper), start filling out all encounter areas, write background and Scaling Information
Wednesday: Finish level's "skeleton" (Encounter Table, Scaling Information, Background, any special sections specific to the level, Areas of the Map, all keyed Areas, Wrapping Up, Rewards/Consequences, Further Adventures).
Thursday: Write the level
Friday: Finish the level
Saturday: Re-read what I wrote, then take the rest of the day off

And that was what I did for probably two months...all day, every day. I slept on the couch by my workstation, ate, drank, and breathed Castle Whiterock. No boats, no lights, no motorcars. The only things keeping me sane were my wife and watching Scrubs (which was a nice, half-hour vacation from work). It was a toss-up if I would write my dedication to my wife or to JD, Turk, Carla, Elliot, Perry, Bob, Ted, and the Janitor (my wife won by a nose).

(I have tremendous respect for Chris for being able to write his half while juggling a 9-5 and a kid. I don't know how he did it...I'm sure many of you would find his experiences more germane to your own life situations.)

There's a truism I heard somewhere about writing in general...how you can do all these things to prepare, to get in the groove, to have everything be just right but eventually you
just
have
to
WRITE
the damn thing.
This was that phase for my half of Castle Whiterock, in a trance state, possessed, directly channeling the orisha of CW. When I was awake, I worked. When I slept, I dreamt of it.

And you know, it felt good to be that immersed. I was pulling from deep down, tapping wells of word-smithery (that are clearly failing me now) I didn't know existed. I imagine most of you reading this have sipped from this same cup a time or two. You get what I'm talking about.

So yeah, there's an upside to possession. Even today, almost a year later (my God, a year?), I miss that sensation.

NEXT: After the Storm

* This is not to say there were no corrections to be made when it went to edits. Ken and Aeryn, the Editorial Ettin, certainly had their fair share of work to do, as they can no doubt tell you. I, personally, would like to hear some of their stories.

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Author: DCC #55: Isle of the Sea Drake, DCC #61: Citadel of the Corruptor, more to come....


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:42 pm 
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Part Four: After the Storm

As I said before, it took two months to finish up my levels for CW by deadline.

Each "level" was a package containing:
- the level itself, the Word document
- "raw" map...scanned images rotated and made into one fluid map; kept handy for backup and archive
- "populated" map...raw maps that have area labels attached, elevations noted, shading effects added for trap radii (or other, more sinister purposes), and any other important notes
- any handouts, either written as separate Word files or hand-drawn images scanned in
We also had to check that all the pertinent data was entered into the two spreadsheets we were using and make sure the Appendices were updated. This required a good deal of discipline to do right away, and sometimes I slacked off, but eventually everything was filled out, helping us keep track of what had been done and needed yet to be finished.

Finally, though, what I referred to in my dedication as "the storm," the primary writing, was finished...all 450,000+ words of it.

This is NOT, however, to indicate that it was over.

Quote:
After we talked Joe down from a very tall building in Chicago, he tossed to gether an impressive spreadsheet. The spreadsheet listed all the members of "Team Whiterock" (authors, editors, the GG "Stat" editor, artists, cartographer, etc.), and week by week duties.


The spreadsheet Chris mentioned came up sometime around here.

Almost immediately came the art requests. While handouts are one thing and are planned well in advance, the art requests - the little illustrations, full-page splashes, and chapter banner art - for CW came later.

[FANBOY]
And I'll say this again...the artwork for Castle Whiterock is, IMHO, incredible. By far the best I've ever seen in a DCC (or a great many other books). It is one of my top three favorite moments as a writer to see an artist read my words and then recreate in pictures EXACTLY what was in my head...if they don't improve on it!
[/FANBOY]

The role of the writers shifted to a "support" role as the Editorial Ettin took over. We would make changes the editors suggested if they were big enough to get kicked back to us or if time was tight, we were essentially "on-call" to answer any questions about plot, stats, or design, and a few times we had to explain our crude chicken scratches to Topo Rex for our hand-drawn maps.

For example, we redesigned the climax of the Narborg invasion to make it grander in scale. The mapping for the Far Garden demiplane needed some tweaks (and I had forgotten to send Jeremy one of the maps!).

While this was going on, the writers were also reviewing each other's work. Harley and Jeff had Chris and I look at the Morrain Gaz and the Cillamar chapter, and they were looking at the dungeon...we came up with ways to integrate kingdom, city, and dungeon.

For example, after talking with Jeff, part of Benthosruthsa's hoard became a Morrain carriage with a portrait and several bottles of a very special wine, all fabulously expensive. After reading the city chapter, Scithia the "handmaiden" became interested in the dirty war fought in Cillamar's underbelly.

There were odds and ends to pick up...this creature needed descriptive prose, that character didn't have a name or needed a different one, that sub-quest needed to be put into the same format as all the rest.

Eventually, after both Ken and Aeryn had reviewed a level and given it an "all-clear" tag, Joseph put it into a .pdf proof that incorporated all the art requests (our first chance to see them).

The next task was to review all the proofs...again, looking for stat block errors, grammar, spelling, continuity, and anything else we could catch.

Quote:
For instance, one of my favorite villains in Whiterock, Most Bloated Muthren (I love that name!), originally wasn't armed with a scythe


Ken's story about Muthren's scythe came up at this stage, for example.

While this was going on, we decided to add two more appendices.

One listed all the 3rd party monsters and templates, where they originally appeared, their read-aloud description, and the company that made them. While Chris had been wise enough to already include that in most of his levels, I *cough* lacked that foresight and had to start from scratch. Tracking down all the monsters was a bear, because although some - like the vespertilliac - may appear to have first shown up in in DCC #20: Shadows in Freeport, they were actually from another book (that I had to buy online to get the page number).

The other appendix listed all the keys...where they are found, what they unlock, and who has them. Man, if you thought tracking down the vespertilliac was hard... I can't promise that each and every key is in there, but by Crom's Teeth you'll be hard-pressed to find one that isn't!

So over the course of a week, I personally read the entire dungeon three times...once for edits, once for keys, and once for 3rd party monsters/templates. I feel confident to guess that Chris, Harley, Ken, Aeryn, and Joseph all did the same.

Every change that was made had to be updated in the Glossary, which Chris and I had fortunately started long, long before. That bad boy has all the names of people, places, and items referenced in the entire dungeon...even some names that just get dropped as part of backstory and never mentioned again, nor have much to do with the dungeon, like Aaradil the Clay-Master (area 10B-1; he made a very expensive bowl) and Voltigeur (area 6-10; there's a tapestry that shows the island where this city lies).
We threw in all these details for GMs to play with or ignore. Maybe an NPC is collecting the works of Aaradil and needs that bowl? I just made that up, but that's a plot hook based off an otherwise-useless detail...and we all KNOW that players often latch onto the most extraneous detail and run with it.

(...at least mine do...)

Just about the last thing written was the Introduction, which we released as Castle Whiterock spoiler #1. Chris had written one as part of the core files waaaaay back when this whole thing started, and I used that blueprint, especially the timeline and the general info on the Company of the Black Osprey, to build the current Introduction.

At last, finally, in fulfillment of prophecy, Castle Whiterock was sent to the printer.

NEXT: The Bullet-Proof Box

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Author: DCC #55: Isle of the Sea Drake, DCC #61: Citadel of the Corruptor, more to come....


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 7:47 am 
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so jenge, once WR comes out, will you be running any games at home? if not, what do you play in your time away from the goodman games offices?

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 9:52 am 
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Quote:
so jenge, once WR comes out, will you be running any games at home?


First, sorry I haven't updated this or the Building the Palace thread...current projects have been crowding me out a bit.

I'd LOVE to play some CW campaigns, but unfortunately my local group helped me playtest it. I also use them for a sounding board...they already know most of what goes down!

So yeah, if there is a downside to writing CW, it's that I need an entirely new group to run it for!

Although...well, keep reading...

Quote:
if not, what do you play in your time away from the goodman games offices?


Funny you should ask 'cause our new campaign starts this very Sunday.

What we're doing next is an Aereth-ized Red Hand of Doom. This week I'm going through the module, converting it to the DCC setting, completely rewriting the ending, and giving it a little more spice.

I plan on incorporating other DCCs along the way, and in order to reach the endgame they pass through level 8 of Castle Whiterock (kinda...I use the setting with different circumstances...if you own the boxed set you know what I'm talking about).

It's a giant multitool of adventure love, that boxed set!

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 2:26 pm 
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Quote:
This one wrote itself, really. I love me some evil dwarves and I hate drow (HATEHATEHATEHATE).

And yet there was no keeping drow out of the gazetteer. ;) MuhahaHAHAHA!

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 2:37 pm 
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Quote:
And yet there was no keeping drow out of the gazetteer.


Bah!

About that Gaz, though, you feel like sharing some insights from writing it? That was actual, honest-to-Sodoutym prose as opposed to dungeon-y bits (and as some of you may know, Mr. LaSala is an author-author* in addition to being a dungeon-smith).

I know I'd dig on learning what went into making the kingdom!

* check his sig line, "The Darkwood Mask"

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 2:52 pm 
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Not half the dungeon-smith you are, Adrian. And Chris. Hell, few are after Whiterock.

Actually, I hadn't for a second considered that there'd be much interest in gazetteer design. These are Dungeon Crawl Classics, not Campaign World Lore Classics. ;)

But if that's something anyone's interested, I'm happy to talk about it. I've always enjoyed it. Maybe I can rope Harley in, too. He designed Cillimar, which is the "home base" of this boxed set. Heck, what about map design? I can scare up the ephemeral Mr. Jeremy Simmons...

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Blindsided Books: Savant
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