Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Alternity 2017 and Green Ronin Publishing Talent Search

Ready to design a planet? Seriously, a planet. Your business card could read, “[INSERT NAME], Planetary Architect and Wanna-lancer”. If that, or trying out for Green Ronin Publishing’s female-centric RPG talent hunt, appeals to you, read on.

Alternity from Sasquatch Game Studio

Alternity 2017 – A Science Fiction Roleplaying Game by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC
Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday, May 4 2017 11:59 PM EDT.

“A modular Science Fiction Tabletop Roleplaying game limited only by your imagination. Choose your future!

Alternity is back—and it’s better than ever!

Strange new worlds and deadly aliens? Mercenaries for hire? Post-apocalyptic survival? Explore your favorite visions of sci-fi adventure in the new Alternity Science Fiction Roleplaying Game from Sasquatch Game Studio.

Many Worlds, One Game: The Alternity Core Rulebook includes a wealth of campaign-building guidance and a modular rules design so that you can model your favorite SF setting or create your own. We’re also launching with one “pre-built” setting, our Protostar universe . . . but we’ve got plans for more worlds if you want ’em! We plan to unlock at least one more setting through our stretch goals for the project.

Alternity Rule Books

What’s your future?

In 1997, Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker created the original Alternity game—a powerful tabletop RPG engine for science fiction adventure across a wide range of genres. Now, twenty years later, Sasquatch Game Studio is creating a new sci-fi RPG inspired by the original game. We’re rebuilding the game mechanics to take advantage of 20 years of advancement in the art of game design. We’re marrying bold new ideas and exciting new subgenres to the original scope and vision of the Alternity game. And we’re bringing it all together in a convenient, full-color, handsomely illustrated Core Rulebook with supporting adventures and sourcebooks.

But don’t wait for the Kickstarter to finish! A Beta Test release of the Alternity game is currently available as a free download on DriveThruRPG! The Beta release includes an overview of the rules, an introductory scenario, and a sample adventure. We’ll be collecting feedback from testers and backers throughout the coming weeks to make Alternity awesome!

Want to see more about the development process? Visit our website at: and check out our Alternity Design Blogs!

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Alternity or Primeval Thule? Alternity is going to look amazing!

Sasquatch Game Studio is the design team behind the Primeval Thule Campaign Setting and the Princes of the Apocalypse campaign adventure for 5e. Our Alternity team includes the creators of the original game published by TSR. You can learn more about us and our products at”

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Egg’s Thoughts:

Sasquatch Game Studio, the designers behind Primeval Thule Campaign Setting, produced the first vanity press purchase I participated in. That setting – best described as Conan meets Cthulhu – stands tall among the 5e products I’ve bought along the way. The quality of their production (writing, direction, and art) is second to none.

Using Primeval Thule as a guide post, I think Alternity will be one of the best sci-fi products available. Being a new, wholly original iteration of the original TSR game, Alternity will provide both a retro-fix and break new ground.

As an added bonus, they have a vanity press pledge level that allows you to name and design a planet for their Protostar Mission Guide, the first campaign setting for Alternity. Ever had a whole sci-fi planet you wanted to design? Here’s your chance to do that and work with some of the top talent in the RPG industry. Based on my experience, I cannot recommend this enough.

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Green Ronin Publishing’s Talent Search Submissions are open!

“This is just one part of Green Ronin’s larger and ongoing diversity initiative. In this specific case, we’re interested in hearing from women-identified and non-binary individuals with a passion for dark fantasy. What we’d like to see are writing samples that illustrate a grasp of the elements typically involved in RPGs: rules design, world-building/setting write-ups, character profiles, and fiction vignettes, as well as writing that aims to hybridize these elements. Familiarity with the Lost Citadel property is not a requirement at this stage.

We will be accepting your submissions from today until May 15th and the winner will be announced to the public as part of our Lost Citadel Kickstarter on June 6th.

  • Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 total words.
  • Submissions should be sent with an introductory email that includes your name and contact information; during the evaluation stage we will be stripping the submissions of identifying information and assigning each a code number as part of a blind reading so they can be judged without regard to name, existing reputation (or lack thereof), or anything other than the quality of the work.
  • Submissions should be saved as a document file and sent as an email attachment to Don’t worry about heavy formatting, tone-appropriate font choices, or other stylistic flourishes.

While the setting is dark fantasy and its core expression will be in 5E, you are NOT required to adhere to those specifics in your submissions. We welcome submissions featuring mechanics from any edition, or those for our in-house system (AGE), or even those featuring other popular systems you feel might be dark fantasy-appropriate.

Green Ronin Publishing – Lost Citadel

Keep in mind that this is not a math test disguised as a talent search. While submitting a well constructed Pathfinder stat block may be acceptable, it doesn’t go very far toward showcasing one’s talent and/or ability as a writer, only one’s ability to do math. Remember, the idea is to make a strong impression with your writing.

By submitting your work for evaluation, you represent that you are the sole author of the material being submitted, agree that Green Ronin and its agents have the right to read your submissions for the purposes of this search, and acknowledge that Green Ronin is under no obligation to use, buy, license, or adapt your talent search submission for any other use.”

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Egg’s Manplanation:

Green Ronin Publishing is a Top Five RPG publisher. To be picked by them during this talent search would be a career jumpstart. Add to that, they’re targeting the expansion of the RPG industry by getting more women behind the keyboard. If you meet the above criteria and want to test out the freelance RPG waters, this is the talent hunt for you.

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Wanna-Lancer Opportunity – EN World Freelancer

This week, I’m looking at a success – I translated my wanna-lancer credits into a freelance opportunity and you can, too. Become a freelance RPG journalist through the open call on this major RPG news site. Read on for more details.

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EN World – Freelance Columnists Required!

EN World, one of the largest “DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and PATHFINDER RPG news” websites in the world, is looking for new contributors for their community-generated content program. They’re requesting pitches for ongoing 500-word articles examining RPG news, industry coverage, commentary on gaming and the gaming community, gamer-interest profiles, and focused reviews of games. It’s an exciting offer because, if they accept your pitch, it’s freelancer work that grows your RPG profile.

If you want to write about games and be paid for it, you can find their open call for freelance columnists here. Their guidelines and how to contact them are here.

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My favorite piece of art from the FirstFable Guide Book. Art by Charlie Bates

After reading about this opportunity, I pitched several column series ideas, and my wanna-lancer resume, to EN World. A portion of one of the ideas caught the submissions editor’s interest. He asked for a new pitch focusing on reviews for children’s games. I was stoked that he spotted a diamond in the rough. I re-wrote the pitch, he approved it. I wrote my first article, he had only short, helpful notes. I adjusted the article and the review, entitled Gaming at the Kids’ Table: The FirstFable RPG, can be read on EN World here.

My blog series on the Tessera Guild is about buying and building my RPG resume to move from a wanna-lancer to a freelancer. A big piece of the puzzle has been filled in with this freelance column on EN World. Does this mean that wanna-lancing is over? No. One assignment does not a freelancer make. But, it’s a positive step.

I want to thank EN World for offering this opportunity. A big thank you to Submissions Editor Christopher Helton for seeing something worth publishing. I also want to thank the Tessera Guild for letting me write here. Every article exercises the writing gears and helps get me ready for future assignments.

Thank you all!

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

April 11th Annihilation – A Big Book Sale

Hi there.

With any luck, the date you’ve wandered here is April 12, 2017.

If so, welcome to the April Annihilation Book Sale. For one day only I’ve decided to offer more than half of my books (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, and Coffee Table Party Books) either for FREE or deeply discounted.


Step here to view my entire catalog, including everything I’ve slashed for this one-day event.

To get a feel for what I’m offering, peruse some of my cover art right here:

dark_moon_daughter-initialcoverjuptereventcrop1cover101-qs-for-the-end-of-the-world-front-cover101-questions-for-humanity101-questions-for-midnight-front-cover101-questions-for-single-people-front101-questions-for-women-cover101-xxxy-questions-front-cover letthebodies_kindlenether-kingdom-createspace-bright-coversleepersimageforbloggingsoul-orb-new-ddp-cover-second-trythe-circle-macabre-cover the-strange-things-people-say-coverultimate-game-quiz-front-covermachina-obscurumthe-ultimate-quiz

Also find me in these locations: Facebook TwitterTheA Ur Hand G

Catch you later,

J Edward Neill

Wanna-Lancer Opportunity – Kickstarter for Sorghum & Spear

Why do I invest in RPG Kickstarters? Beyond the products, it’s to get the experience and writing credits to build a tabletop role-playing game resume. This week, I’m looking at a way to translate my wanna-lancer credits into an opportunity – a fantasy comic book series that seems designed with RPGs in mind.

[Ok, ok, ok… really, I’m looking for a way to push a worthwhile comic by a nice guy!… But there will be the potential for a RPG tie-in.]

Sorghum & Spear Art by Welinthon Nommo

Sorghum & Spear by Green County Creative
Kickstarter campaign ends on Monday, April 17 2017 7:00 PM EDT.

John McGuire did a fantastic write-up of Green County Creative’s Kickstarter for their comic book, Sorghum & Spear on the Tessera Guild. I’m a fan of the property, I’ve met creator/writer Dedren Snead at the Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo (super nice guy), I was happy to back the project, and I’m ready to read this comic book.

What is Sorghum & Spear? Sorghum & Spear is a fantasy saga that follows a group of amazing young girls who are called upon in a time of war to become the last line of defense against the Spora; a pantheon of demons bent on destroying their people and conquering the Eternal Realm.

Green Country Creative is producing an amazing comic for everyone to enjoy while dedicating it to people of color. Through this Kickstarter, Dedren is on a mission to make the world a better place. The Kickstarter has a charitable element that gives to Project Have Hope “to empower women in the Acholi Quarter of Uganda by providing education to both the women and their children and assisting the women to establish business opportunities to promote economic stability and sustainability.

Sorghum & Spear – Marlannah.         Dedren Snead and Welinthon Nommo’s character designs would be perfect for a RPG character sheet.

In the comic book, the story is a fantasy tale of young warrior women maturing into their independence and life juxtaposed against demons and war and last hopes. High fantasy told in comic book form.

The centerpiece of any comic is the artwork. Welinthon Nommo’s art for the covers, posters, and concepts elevates this sword and soul comic series. His work has enough dynamic power to leap off a comic book store shelf and go home with a happy reader. Like White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade used Tim Bradstreet’s art to define the aesthetic of their World of Darkness, I hope to see Green County Creative use Welinthon’s work as their baseline. Its kinetic imagery combined with cell shading colors really makes the world feel vibrant and the characters pop. Just the few images available through the Kickstarter sold me.

Sorghum & Spear – Namazzi.        Dedren Snead and Welinthon Nommo’s character designs would be perfect for a RPG character sheet.

The property, with its story and art style, is ready to jump medias. They’re exploring animation and Sorghum & Spear has a back-of-the-napkin plan to expand into RPGs.

Now, don’t let me put words into other company’s months. Dedren has not launched an official RPG or, as far as I know, conceptualized the game. But the Kickstarter for the comic book has already reached its goal and continues to grow. That’s the first sign there’s real interest and that can translate into additional products.

Because that’s a positive sign, we’ve exchanged a few words and, assuming the RPG morphs from thought to form, I believe we’ll talk again about what I can do to bring this property from comic books to tabletops. If all goes well, I hope to collaborate with Green County Creative on a module or other RPG options. I’m looking forward to that day.


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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!


* * *


Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Underworld Races & Classes

Playing in the subterranean underworld in 5e or Pathfinder? Need some more races (monsters), societies, and classes? AAW Games has the Kickstarter for you!

Underworld Races & Classes – Funglet

Underworld Races & Classes — 5th Edition & Pathfinder RPG by AAW Games
Kickstarter campaign ends on .

Help us put our Underworld Races & Classes into a massive tome with new racial traits, feats, archetypes, magic items, and spells!

The Underworld Races & Classes tome for 5th Edition and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (two separate books) includes devious drow, deep mining svirfneblin, psychedelic funglets, beautiful, semi-crystalline colliatur and more: a total of 14 new races and over 25 classes clocking in at 250+ pages!

In 2014 AAW Games released the ENnie Award nominated Rise of the Drow mega-adventure along with various source books, injecting a huge dose of the wonder of spelunking back into the deep realms of the games we all know and love.

Critical acclaim and fan demand prompted the creation of individual books, featuring new races and classes born from the darkness and alien splendor of the caves below as well as detailed notes on the cultures and histories of these proud people. 

The frontier of the deep, its black horizons with their phosphorescent lights, deserves unique heroes and villains to populate the crystal-studded caverns, black subterranean lakes and mushroom jungles.

Using feedback obtained from numerous fans, play-testers, and reviewers we have completely revised and expanded upon all of our races & classes and combined them into one rock-solid volume for each system, suitable as darker, weirder and more insidious companions to your Pathfinder RPG and 5th Edition core books.


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Underworld Races & Classes – 5e Layout

Underworld Races & Classes – Pathfinder Layout


Looking at these layouts, AAW is clearly thinking about how the source systems should be presented and not doing a simple copy and paste with only the stats tweaked.

Underworld Races & Classes – 5e and Pathfinder Cover Mock-Ups


While this Kickstarter does not feature any vanity press options (my usual barometer for pledging for RPG Kickstarters), I’m featuring it because:

  • it offers more races and classes – all of them specific to the underworld – to expand your game. The art and the write ups look great and you can’t – CAN’T – go wrong with fungus folk! [EDITOR’S NOTE – Mileage may vary on one’s love of fungus-based PCs… and fungus-based players.]
    • 14 Underworld Races
    • Detailed discussions of each of the race’s society and interactions
    • 25+ Underworld Classes
    • Additional Drow Domain Details (AD&D&D?)
  • I had an opportunity to do an early review of the Kickstarter and offer suggestions on it. The version of the Kickstarter that is posted now is more dynamic than the first two versions I read and better showcases the products that they are offering. Add to that it was funded in the first hour and you’ll realize that AAW games is knocking these books out of the park.

This is basically the Underworld Player’s Handbook and any campaign set underground will benefit from this resource.


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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!


* * *


Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Three RPG Kickstarters You Need To Back (by March 31st, 2017)

Looking for adventures, or maps, or a whole new tabletop RPG experience? Want to create an emotion-driven supervillain, or a weird magic item, or a custom dungeon map? Well, Kickstarter has three tabletop role-playing games that end this Friday, March 31st that cover all of that and more. The countdown is on!

3) Trinity of Awesome Returns! by Kort’thalis Publishing

Ends on Friday, March 31 2017 12:01 AM EST.

Get three adventures (one fantasy, one 80s sci-fi, and one pulp horror) for $7 or get the adventures and write content for them for $17. This Kickstarter is funded and close to reaching its first stretch goal! Want more details on the vanity press option, click here.

Trinity of Awesome Returns Art

2) Sensational: A Superpowered RPG where Empathy Matters by Thomas Constantine Moore

Ends on Friday, March 31 2017 3:48 PM EST.

A full superhero tabletop role-playing game for $5 or create content for it starting at $20. The core mechanic – your character’s powers are based on their emotional state – is destined to inspire in-character role-playing at the gaming table! Funded and working on the stretch goals! Looking for a more details on how Hulk Mad = Hulk Smash? Click here.

1) The Big Book of Maps (for Tabletop Roleplaying Games) by Justin Andrew Mason 

Ends on Friday, March 31 2017 10:oo PM EST.

Over 150 RPG fantasy maps served up three ways (several GM and player versions) starting at $10 or get a map commissioned for $80 (with lots of options in-between). Fully funded and wrecking stretch goals (adding sets of map icons)! This one may cover every lair and encounter your party will crawl for the foreseeable future. Need to see some samples and a little more detail on the custom map? Click here.

The Big Book of Maps

If you have the spare coin and love tabletop RPGs or, if you’re like me and building a RPG resume to jump from wanna-lancer to freelancer, these offer golden opportunities!

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

The Murder of March 22nd Book Sale

With any luck, the day you’re reading this is Wednesday, March 22nd.

And with a bit more luck, you like to read books.

Now then…

As of today, I’m offering half my entire body of work for sale. That’s more than a dozen titles.

Several titles are knocked down to only $0.99.  Most titles are free.

That’s right. Free.

Why would I do such a thing? Easy. I want reviews. If you happen to download one of my books (or several) I hope you’ll take a few seconds to leave an honest review on Amazon. If you need help learning how to review, here’s my simple guide.

View all my on-sale books right here.

Or take a quick swim in these titles right here:

Hecatomb front cover hi rez101-deeper-darker-cover101-questions-for-humanity101-questions-for-midnight-front-cover101-questions-for-single-people-front444-questions-for-the-universeh-e-tesseranether-kingdom-createspace-bright-coverold-man-of-tessera ultimate-game-quiz-front-covermachina-obscurumthe-ultimate-quiz101 Questions for Men Front Cover


J Edward Neill

Vanity Press: Resume Credit – Deep Magic 9: Ring Magic

We can all agree that your resume should be factual and that every experience listed on it should be able to be corroborated. For tabletop role-playing games, verification generally requires opening a book to find your name. However, occasionally there are too many contributors to itemize on a project and your role – playtester in this week’s instance – is not spelled out. Not to denigrate playtesting or playtesters, but the heavy lifting of RPG is the design, development, editing, and art. From that perspective, not listing the playtesters is acceptable. However, since I am building a RPG resume, the credit has meaning for me. Thus, this article is my corroboration.

Deep Magic 9 – Ring Magic

Deep Magic 9: Ring Magic by Kobold Press
Available for purchase here or as a stretch goal reward from the Midgard Campaign Setting Kickstarter

Their Pitch:

Deep Magic of the Dwarf-Rings!
Since the dawn of the world, dwarven smiths have fashioned rings of surpassing beauty—but it is not for the sake of beauty alone that these rings are made. There is power in them, which can be unlocked by the wise. Ring magic practitioners channel their magic through these rune-etched metal bands, increasing the devastation wreaked upon their foes; and can even imbue them with spells that someone else can unleash later.

Deep Magic: Ring Magic brings the secrets of ring magic into your 5e campaign, featuring:

  • New ring magic feats, and a new Ring Warden arcane tradition
  • 12 new spells, including enchant ring, curse ring, and create ring servant (with monster stats for this new construct), and more!
  • New magic items: molten fire forge, oathbound ring, warden’s link, and Karrek’s Bastion
  • The history of ring magic, the dwarves who are its masters, and the secrets of their legendary stronghold

Deep Magic 9 – Ring Magic: The Ring Warden

Journey deep within the earth, to places where molten rock flows like rivers, and the sounds of hammers never cease. Here you will find the true power of the rings—learn their ways, and use them wisely and well.

What Egg Did:

I playtested the Ring Warden, an arcane tradition for the wizard class in 5e. I received an early version of the subclass, made a character, leveled it through a few adventures, and provided feedback. The most rewarding part of this experience was comparing the playtest version to the printed version to understand the evolution of the concept that the designer went through.

Egg’s Thoughts:

The book has a new subclass, related feats, spells, magic items, history, and a monster that is so integrated into this arcane tradition that it creates its own story. It touches on how this is dwarven magic, a corner of fantasy that is rarely delved into. This type of sourcebook is composed of parts that tie together and create a greater whole. Deep Magic 9: Ring Magic will inspire amazing characters, backstory-related adventures, and good nights around the gaming table.

The Ring Servant

This book was designed by Dan Dillon. I read his comments on social media frequently, and have reached out for his feedback once or twice. In every instance, he proves to be a knowledgable and friendly gamer. He has a clear understanding of the 5e ruleset and can explain the rules and the logic behind them in short, easy to understand morsels. Add to that impressive skill a list of products that are well thought out with potential stories threaded throughout and you have a RPG writer worth following. I appreciate what he designed on this project – an inspiring slice of Midgard.

This is an excellent book and I’m proud to add this one playtester credit to my tabletop RPG resume.


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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!


* * *


Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – The Big Book of Maps (for Tabletop Roleplaying Games)

The treasure? Tabletop RPG freelance work.
The Indiana Jones? Lil’ Egg Embry. [NOTE – I weigh, like, five Harrison Fords. There ain’t no whip ever made that’s strong enough for me to swing on!]
The map? This blog series about building my RPG resume with credits from projects like The Big Book of Maps (for Tabletop Roleplaying Games) on Kickstarter.

What vanity press options does a book of maps offer? Read on to see!


The Big Book of Maps (for Tabletop Roleplaying Games) by Justin Andrew Mason 
Kickstarter campaign ends on Friday, March 31 2017 10:oo PM EST.


A cartography collection of more than 130 full-color full-page tabletop roleplaying game maps w/ high-resolution + VTT-ready versions.

Here’s your chance to get a collection of full-color, full-page (8.5″ x 11″) high-resolution (600 dpi) tabletop RPG maps (including VTT-ready digital versions) for less than 14¢ each!

The Big Book of Maps – Cavern Map by Justin Andrew Mason

  • Need a treasure trove of maps at the ready for the adventure or campaign you’re writing?
  • Want a ready-to-use codex of over 130 maps to utilize on-the-fly when player characters take an unexpected turn?
  • Each map has a VTT version and two non-VTT versions (Player version and GM version). A great solution for “discovered” treasure maps.
  • All maps are formatted in high-resolution digital format perfect for importing into your favorite Virtual Tabletop (VTT) platform!
  • All of the digital maps make beautiful poster-size print maps scaled for use with tabletop miniatures. Check out this update for more info and a demo of a poster map!
  • Labels on the maps are language-ambiguous (numbers and single letters only), making the entire map collection useful no matter the native language of users.

The Big Book of Maps – Crypt Map by Justin Andrew Mason

The Big Book of Maps is a cartography collection of more than 130 full-color tabletop role-playing game maps that is being created by Justin Andrew Mason. These maps are being created on a twice-weekly basis throughout the creation phase of the project (April 2017 – March 2018).

Each map will be provided to those who pledge $20 (or more) in digital format (JPG) for integration into any tabletop RPG with alternate virtual tabletop (VTT) versions provided simultaneously with each map release.

Most maps will be geared towards a fantasy setting, though a few will likely have potential of crossing genres. The focus of this collection will be dungeon maps, but may include various subterranean complexes, crypts, tombs, castles, caverns, tunnels, mines, etc.

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Update #4 – Thanks to Supporting Bloggers, Podcasters & Channel Managers!

As a way of showing thanks to all the webmasters, bloggers, podcasters, and video channel managers helping to get the word out about this project, I’ve decided to offer free advertising in The Big Book of Maps (for Tabletop Roleplaying Games) PDF release. This free advertising will be via a section of 4.25” x 2.75” block ads. This section will accompany our backer “Thank You” page in the back of the PDF.

The Big Book of Maps Banner Ad

Their vanity press rewards:

The Big Book of Maps – Dungeon Map by Justin Andrew Mason

$50 (Early Bird) or $80 

Your Own Custom Map

The cartographer will create one completely custom full-color, full-page (8.5″ x 11″) dungeon map to your specifications along with a special VTT version. These custom maps will also be included inside the PDF & print versions of the book. You also retain the non-exclusive rights to utilize the map created for you (royalty-free) in your own personal or professional projects. These custom maps will be created as time allows throughout the creation phase of the project and will be done in the order of first pledged. The cartographer reserves the right to refuse to make specific elements on any map (the map must be PG-13 and suitable for inclusion in this collection). Backers at this pledge level will receive their map in digital format (including VTT-ready version). This limited pledge level also includes everything provided by the $20 pledge level.

• Custom Map Design
• Digital Map Downloads (weekly releases)
• PDF of Completed Book
• Print Book at Production Cost + Shipping
• Map Icon Packs (when unlocked)
• Your name in the book’s “Thank You” section.

My initial sense is to regard these custom maps as commission works, and thus credit backers custom maps as “Commissioned by…” – From the first update.

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The Big Book of Maps – Hideout Map by Justin Andrew Mason

Egg’s Thoughts:

Over 130 maps (and counting). 1 map that I’ll be credited with a “Commissioned by…” to add to my resume. That commissioned map can be re-used in my publishing. And by doing this blog that you are reading, the Tessera Guild will get a free ad that will be seen by everyone that gets the PDF of these maps (over 400 backers and counting). I could have been eaten by a zombie, have no brains left, and still pull the trigger on this deal, it is a no-brainer.

This sells itself. I’m in and the hardest decision I have left is what map do I want?



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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!



* * *



Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Tessera Guild at the Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo 2017 – March 11 and 12

Come meet the members of the Tessera Guild at the third annual Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo on March 11th and 12th, 2017.

North DeKalb Mall in Decatur, GA. Admission is free.

Robert Jeffrey IIJohn McGuire, and Egg Embry, along with Sir Leland Beauchamp, will host four panels over the two days:


Saturday, March 11th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as William Satterwhite

“Since its inception’s goal has been to be “the premier site for the latest updates on Sci-Fi, Sci-Fact and Fantasy entertainment, news, people, places, and events and the measure of their impact on the African-American community, while also seeking to inform and inspire the imagination of individuals who aspire to live beyond the boundaries of everyday life”

Join Editor-in-Chief Robert Jeffrey II, and contributing writer William Satterwhite as they discuss the in’s and out’s of working for, the websites goals and future plans, while touching on the general state of Black speculative fiction.”


You wrote something. Now what?
Saturday, March 11th from 5:00 to 5:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as Bobby Nash and Milton Davis

“Join writers Bobby Nash, Milton Davis, and Robert Jeffrey as they discuss what happens after (or during) writing a book (novel, comic, short story, etc). Enjoy this insightful look into each writers path to becoming a published author followed by a Q&A session.”


John McGuire co-hosting: Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5

Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5
Sunday, March 12th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by John McGuire, Robert Jeffrey II as well as Nicole Kurtz, and William Satterwhite

“The Ups, the Downs, and Everything Between
By day, mild-mannered 9 to 5-er, but by night they create worlds! Join freelance writers as they discuss keeping a balance between the daily rigors of their 9-5s and writing careers.”


Sir Leland Beauchamp co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in
Sunday, March 12th from 12:00 to 12:50 EST

Hosted by Egg Embry and Sir Leland Beauchamp

“Role-play, write-up, and crowdfund your RPG adventures!
Have an original adventure, series of monsters, or tabletop game? Interested in crowdfunding its publication? Join Egg Embry and Leland Beauchamp for a a beginner’s guide to monetizing your tabletop RPG products. We’ll create a D&D creature to take through a hypothetical Kickstarter (idea to pitch to funding to production to delivery to what comes next).”


Egg Embry co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

For directions to North DeKalb Mall and this free convention, visit the ASFE website here.



* * *



Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Missed the show? Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!



* * *



Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Trinity of Awesome Returns!

There is an open call to work with the Tessera Guild. When the offer to join was presented, I’m glad I accepted. My vanity press RPG series on the guild has led to several connections that are shaping my [hoped for] freelancer future. Among those contacts is Venger As’Nas Satanis of Kort’thalis Publishing. Several weeks ago I reviewed Goodman Games’ Kickstarter for How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck. In the write-up, I mentioned that I do not have a mentor. Venger hunted me down on Google+ and offered to be a RPG mentor to me. That made my day, that’s for sure!

Eh? There’s another Venger? In WISCONSIN?!

In the brief amount of time that I’ve known him, Venger has been nothing but generous. He’s provided me with samples of his company’s products to research, advice on what steps may benefit my tabletop role-playing game journey, and offered professional feedback on anything I choose to share.

Now he’s pitching his tenth RPG Kickstarter and it includes a vanity press option for an incredibly economic price.

I’m all-in!


Trinity of Awesome Returns! by Kort’thalis Publishing [WARNING: NSFW]
Kickstarter campaign ends on Friday, March 31 2017 12:01 AM EST.

Their Pitch:

More Trinity of Awesome… fantasy, sci-fi, and pulp / investigative horror RPG adventures from the slimy pen of Venger As’Nas Satanis!

Trinity of Awesome Returns Art

[TL;DR:  I’m making three scenarios, 10-page PDFs… back it if you like awesome!  Also, some of the images may not be safe for work.]

Welcome back, my friends!

It took me a little while to get things settled.  As some of you may know, I took about 4 or 5 months off in order to devote all my time and energy to family.  Our twin boys are 3 months old, healthy and happily spitting up breast milk on my wife and I.

As I type this [2/21/17], I just got back from having a vasectomy.  That’s how committed I am to being there for all Kort’thalis Publishing’s fans, supports, detractors, and casual observers!  Actually, we simply decided that 5 kids was enough.  😉

So, what’s this Kickstarter all about then?  Do you remember my last Kickstarter Trinity of Awesome? Here’s the link.

Well, this is more of the same.  I’m creating one eldritch science-fantasy scenario (Crimson Dragon Slayer), one retro sleazy sci-fi scenario (Alpha Blue), and one pulp / investigative horror scenario (The Outer Presence).

The S’rulyan Vault

Each of these adventures will be approximately 10 pages in length and will include color covers and 2 or 3 pieces of original b/w interior art.

Sometime down the road, these scenarios will most likely be included in a print-on-demand softcover.  But for this Kickstarter, I want to focus on making them awesome rather than the fulfillment of physical books.  Sending out PDFs is easy by comparison.

If you’re unfamiliar with those rules/systems, I’ve got some good news for you – each scenario will be between 80 – 90% system neutral, perfect for hacking, re-skinning, or converting to your RPG of choice.

Each scenario is mostly going to be setting, hook, NPCs, tricks/traps, creatures, treasure, and weird shit happening.  Expect lots of random tables.  That’s what I’m known for.  Ask around!”

* * *

Their vanity press reward:

The Outer Presence

Pledge $17 or more


You get 3 PDFs, one for each genre/system. Additionally, your name will be included in the front-matter of all three PDFs as a Kickstarter contributor! If you’d like to submit creative content, I’ll try my best to work it in.

* * *

Egg’s Thoughts:

This will sound mercantile, but this is as cost-effective as expanding your tabletop role-playing game resume gets. For $17, you get 3 ten-page adventures for three different genres and you get to add content to them.

This could be the hard sell or this could be, “Hey, it’s $5.67 a resume credit. You in?”

Ok, let me dial back the dollars and get to the important part – Will it be fun?

Slaves of Tsathoggua

As I mentioned above, I’ve spoken with Venger a few times and he’s a super pleasant dude. He’s done a number of RPG Kickstarters and other RPG-related projects. His original gaming system is so intuitive, I can explain it after a glance at the rules. His adventure ideas are gonzo. They exude fun! Add to that, he has three settings to choose from in this Kickstarter so you can pick your genre – fantasy, sci-fi, or pulp horror – and contribute what you want to.

But don’t just take my word for it. Eric Fabiaschi wrote his own review at Sword and Stitchery. Still need something else to convince you? Try out Kort’thalis Publishing’s system in Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11 for free.

There is no downside that I can see. Join the Trinity of Awesome!


* * *


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!


* * *


Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want to destroy the stars?

 Darkness Between the Stars

* * *

3,000 years from today, Earth is all but recognizable.
Stark cities made of black towers and white houses dot the planet. Tiny robots and powerful dream-inducing software keep humanity entertained. Nearly everything is automated.
But on one rural farm, a lone family lives a remarkably old-world lifestyle.
They harvest wheat. They repair their machines by hand. They drive the only combustible engine car left on Earth.
At night, the family’s youngest member of watches the stars and dreams of one day flying between them.
And when he sees them begin to disappear, he knows what will happen…

The beginning of the end.

Darkness Between the Stars

A science fiction journey by J Edward Neill

* * *


Consume me.

Review me.

Thank you,

J Edward Neill

The Skeleton Sculptor

Please enjoy my free short story, The Skeleton Sculptor.

…in its entirety.

The Skeleton Sculptor is one of four short stories appearing in the novella The Hecatomb, which can be purchased here.


* * *

The Skeleton Sculptor

 J Edward Neill


On the morning the hunt began, we’d had a hundred men.

After three months, we were down to eleven.

We all knew how it would end.

But only a few got to see it.

My name is Costas. Those who knew me would’ve said I listened more than I talked. They’d have been right, of course. I was always a watcher more than a doer. I’d grown up in the Master’s service, in a mountain city graven of pale stone. In the Master’s Citadel, we had towers taller than anywhere else in the known world. We had women more beautiful than the sun, moon, and stars. Why talk, I thought, when surrounded by such glory?

And so I watched. And listened. And learned.

It was a perfect place, my home. I loved it.

And if I weren’t dead, I’d return there and never leave again.

* * *

Most of what I remember of our ninetieth night out was that my feet hurt. I sat beneath the full red moon, the campfire snapping at my toes, and I rubbed my soles until my fingers went numb.

For a short while, I didn’t care about all the men who’d gone missing.

I didn’t care about the Master’s orders.

All that mattered was that my sandals were off, my armor was loose on my shoulders, and my belly was full of stew. After all, there weren’t many of us left to eat the food we’d started with. There seemed no sense in dying hungry.

“It’s ten days home,” a soldier murmured across the dying campfire. “Which means if we leave tomorrow, one of us will survive.”

I looked at the other men. Five of us were hunkered in the scrub. We were sulking by the fire, our gazes inky in the night. The other six were asleep in two tents atop a nearby hill. I could see the lights of their fires dying the same as ours. The flames were red, just like the moon.

There was no wind that night. Only the scarlet light on the silent earth.

“So,” Aios grumped on the fire’s far side, “the one who makes it back home…he gets to die on the Master’s gallows ‘stead of out here in the grass.”

I listened while the argument began.

“We don’t know the others are dead,” Nikolas grunted. “Could be they’re hiding. Could be they’re lost in the hills somewhere.”

Nikolas wasn’t wrong, not exactly. We’d never actually found any of the bodies. But Aios knew better. So did I. Not that I said anything.

“As likely missing as swimming on the moon.” Aios glanced skyward. “They’re all dead and you know it.”

Philok, biggest of our cadre, rolled his massive shoulders. Tanned to gold by the sun, still packed into his hard leather hauberk, he was the only one of us who still looked fierce.

If any of us survive, I thought, it’ll be him.

“I want it to come,” Philok rumbled. “Let it skulk out of the darkness. I’ve a spear for it. There’ll be no more of our bones. Only its.”

It was wishful thinking, and we all knew it. Aios shook his head. Nikolas just looked afraid. Leuk peered over the fire, moonlight in his eyes, and went back to eating from his wooden bowl. He never talked, our Leuk. He was even quieter than me.

“Spears don’t kill ghosts,” murmured Aios.

“Mine might.” Philok glared.

Our huge friend had a point. His spear, a man and a half tall, leaned on a boulder near the fire. Its haft was as thick as most men’s forearms, its tip catching the moonlight just so. I’d seen Phi skewer a boar with it once. It’d split the poor, squealing thing in two.

But our quarry wasn’t a boar. It didn’t squeal. It didn’t die.

All it did was take the living away. And never bring them back.

The men argued more. They’d done the same every night for weeks. But by now no one bothered to get truly angry. We all figured if we started killing each other, it’d only make our quarry’s work easier.

Easy enough for the Ghoul already, I thought.

I rubbed my feet one last time and went to sleep.


* * *

It had started ages ago, this problem of ours.

It’d begun before I’d been born. Before the Master’s great-grandfather had been born.

Before any of us.

Back then, before the Citadel, before all the pale stone cities had sprung up along the coast, it had been a better world. At least, that’s the yarn our elders spun around the hearths at night. And so that’s the tale we believed.

A fine, quiet realm,’ they used to say. ‘Green pastures, hillocks teeming with olive trees, golden sun shining on endless vineyards.’

And no Ghoul.’

I’d never cared about the stories. Not as a boy, anyhow. In the Citadel, home of the Master, there’d never been any ghosts. The clap of hard sandals on marble streets had been our music, not the howls of mothers who’d lost their sons or or husbands whose wives had never come home. The stories we cared about had been of wars fought and won, of islands conquered, and of white-sand shores. We dreamed of golden coins in our pockets and raven beauties that would one day be ours if we served with honor in the Master’s guard.

We’d known nothing about the Ghoul.

And our lives had been better for it.

* * *

In the morning we woke to shouts again.

“It’s Saulos!” I heard Nikolas scream. “How? He slept in his armor! He’s gone, but his breastplate’s still here!”

“Where were you?” one of the hill-camp soldiers cursed another. “You were on watch! You were supposed to be guarding us!”

“I was on guard! I—”

Amid their shouts, I clawed away sleep’s last cobwebs and sat up beneath the dawning sun. It was hot already, and I was tired despite having slept so well. To defend against the Ghoul’s nightly visits, the others had taken to sleeping for only an hour or two at a time, if at all. Not me. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be awake when death came for me, and so I’d almost always slept full nights…and weathered my nightmares alone.

I shambled up the hill. My sword pattered against my outer thigh, and the straps of my armor dangled without care. A year ago, I’d been a fresh recruit in the Master’s service, a newly-minted member of his honored guard.

And now what am I?


I came to Saulos’ empty tent. It was just as the others had shouted. There lay his armor, all red leather and polished steel. Saulos had been a captain. His armor was better than ours, or at least prettier. It didn’t much matter. It lay on the ground, almost untouched. It looked like someone had snipped the straps off and carried him away while he was sleeping. There wasn’t even any blood.

As I stood there, the others fell into their ritual panic. Some muttered prayers. Others shouted that we should return to the Citadel at once. Both cries were familiar. Neither really mattered.

One of us alive is better than nothing!” cried a soldier whose name I hadn’t bothered to learn.

“The hell it is!” argued Aios. “You think the Master will understand when one man marches up and explains ninety-nine of his brothers are dead? He’ll smile, name the survivor a deserter, and hang his body over the cliffs for the gulls to laugh at.”

Aios was right. If there was one truly hard thing about life in the Citadel, it was the Master’s law. He didn’t suffer failure, not from his fabled soldiers. If our hundred never came home, it wouldn’t matter. He’d have a feast, sacrifice a few bulls, and send out two-hundred more men.

Though somehow I knew the result would be the same.

The men argued. It got vicious. Someone cursed the Master’s name. Someone else shoved Nikolas in the dirt. Philok shook his spear, and everyone finally fell silent.

I don’t know why I stopped watching and started talking.

Might’ve ended better had I not.

“There’s one place we haven’t looked,” I chimed in.

“Where? What place?” grunted Philok.

“The lighthouse. It’s only a day south.”

“Why there?” spat Aios. “It’s just one cripple in a rotten tower. He’s probably a hundred days dead. Besides, the lighthouse doesn’t work. Doesn’t need to. Ships don’t use that route anymore. They come up the river.”

“He’s right.” Nikolas stood and dusted off his armor. “We’re trying to help the villagers, not some lonely old cod stuck in a tower.”

They were right, of course. We’d not help anyone by marching down to the sea and visiting one old man in his tower. The lighthouse keeper didn’t even have a family. Never had, not that we knew of. Even if he was still alive, we’d not do the countryside any favors by rescuing him.

But that wasn’t my point. Maybe it should’ve been, but it wasn’t.

“Nikolas, you still have the map?” I blurted.

“Aye,” he said.

“Well. Fetch it.”

He did. In moments he marched down the hill and back up. The others stared at me like I’d just slapped the sun out of the sky. Wouldn’t have been the worst thing, considering how hot it was.

Nikolas brought me the map. It was big, the Master’s chart, and I unfurled it on the hillside while several others knelt beside me.

“There.” I pointed to a village by the sea. Veni, jewel of the south, sat on a beautiful beach right in the map’s center. It was a new city, paid for by the Master’s coin. We’d been there a month prior. None of us had wanted to leave. Until the villagers had made us.

“So it’s Veni. What about it?” said Aios.

I dragged my finger eastward along the map. I stopped at a nameless black ink-blot. It was the lighthouse. I tapped it twice.

“We’ve been to every other village, tower, and crumbling old fort along the sea. But not the lighthouse. Not there.”

No one could disagree with that. We’d marched to dozens of hamlets, fisherman’s wharves, and sad little huts along the coast. All of them had lost people over the years. By the dates they’d given us, we’d figured it out. One person had gone missing every night. Just one, never more, never fewer.

For hundreds of years.

And we’d only just now worked up the courage to try to stop it.

“The lighthouse,” I said, “it’s right in the middle of it all.”

I traced a circle with my finger. All the places that had lost people, all of them, lay within it. And in the circle’s center sat the lighthouse.

The men stared for several moments. I figured Aios would be the first to argue. He was, after all, the smartest of us. If anyone ever forgot it, he was always sure to remind them.

“Now just you wait.” Aios didn’t disappoint. “The Master knew about the lighthouse. He sent men last year to scour the old tower up and down. They didn’t find a thing.”

“Aye,” agreed Philok. “I remember. That’s what started this whole mess. While our soldiers were in the lighthouse, people were disappearing in cities three and four days away. That’s when the Master decided to start the hunt.”

I closed my eyes. I knew what I wanted to say, just not how to say it.

“What if the Ghoul doesn’t come home every night?” I finally exhaled.

“So it goes out on rounds?” Aios let out a morbid laugh.

“Maybe so,” I countered. “But it still has to have a lair, right? A place to retreat? What if it’s the lighthouse?”

“Nice theory, but after all these years the lighthouse would be stuffed with bones a thousand men high,” said Aios. “The Master’s men would’ve noticed, I think.”

“Or they’d have found the bodies along the way,” murmured Nikolas.

And they’ve never found any of the missing, I thought.

They’re right. I’m stupid to bring it up.

But wait. There was something else I wanted to say.

Maybe it’d been a dream. Maybe something else. If the morning hadn’t been so damnably hot, chances are my brain wouldn’t have cooked and I’d have never remembered it.

What was it I’d thought of?

Was it a nightmare I’d had?

A memory of my childhood?

“I think I was born out here,” I said.

“What?” Aios made a face.

Several of the other soldiers stood and left. I knew what they thought. They thought I was a fool wasting their time. I didn’t blame them. I heard them talk about fleeing home to the Citadel. They didn’t want anything to do with the map or hunting the Ghoul. They wanted to be home in their beds.

But Aios, Philok, Leuk, and Nikolas remained.

“I was born out here,” I continued. “Not in Veni. But close. It was near the sea. I remember my mother. I think I do, anyway. And I remember the rocks. And the lighthouse.”

“No you don’t,” spat Aios. “You were born in the Citadel, same as us. It’s just another of your dreams.”

“What if—” I started.

“I wasn’t born in the Citadel either.” Philok came to my rescue. “I’m from the mountains. My father was dying, so they brought me down to the Master’s fortress. My family figured I’d never have a life unless I served in the guard.”

Aios looked stunned. I nodded at Philok, grateful.

“I remember walking on the shore.” I stared off into the sky. “My mother sent me off to play while she worked. At least, I think she did. One day, I wandered near the lighthouse. I remember it. It was above me. Way above. And I remember seeing something in the cliffs beneath it. Was it holes? Breaks? Cracks in the rock?”

“Holes?” Aios shook his head.

“I think he means caves,” said Nikolas.

I looked at the three of them. They’d been my brothers for the last year. They knew I didn’t talk much, but when I did, I meant what I said.

“That’s right.” My eyes were wide. “Caves.”

It hadn’t been a dream.

I’d just remembered a part of my childhood.

And my mother, who’d I been made to forget.

* * *

Clouds gathered over the sea. Greys and blues smoldered in the sky, darker than the water. The hour was only late afternoon, yet the world looked ready for twilight.

We were terrified.

We’d every right to be.

The five of us mounted a last hill and caught sight of the distant lighthouse. It was an old, old thing, its stones bleached skeleton-white. It’d been built long before the Master’s time, long before any of us. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the Ghoul’s prey the lighthouse had watched vanish.

One every night.

Hundreds of years.

I couldn’t make the numbers work in my head.

We’d walked all day. Ever since we’d split up from the other soldiers, I hadn’t said a thing. Phi, Aios, Nikolas, and Leuk had decided to join me. The others had chosen to go back to the Citadel and face the Master’s wrath.

Our group hadn’t lost anyone last night.

And so we all knew what had happened.

“I hope it took Diok,” chuffed Aios as we walked down the hill and into the fields between us and the lighthouse. “Never liked that prick.”

Nikolas sighed, “Maybe it’ll follow them instead of us. That’ll give us what…three more days?”

“Maybe.” Philok’s knuckles were white around his spear. “But what if there’s more than one Ghoul?”

None of us had ever thought of that before.

We shivered the notion away and kept walking.

The five of us drew nearer the lighthouse. Switches of dry grass skirled at our waists, dancing wildly in the wind. My feet hurt again. My ankles, too. The grass had nicked me in a hundred little places. If the Ghoul didn’t kill me, I half-believed the fields might drown me.

At least it’s not hot anymore.

By the time we came to the cliff, upon which the lighthouse stood tall and formidable, the rain began. The wind hit us and the storm’s droplets beaded on our sunburned skin. I looked my companions over. To a man, we savored standing in the rain. It was an island of peace in a world of despair.

“Are we going in?” Nikolas nodded.

“The lighthouse?” Aios smirked. “Why should we? We know what’s in there. Nothing.”

“Might be wise to weather the storm in there,” Philok held his huge palm open to catch the rain.

Aios looked annoyed. But then again, he always did.


I knocked at the lighthouse door. The oak plank must’ve been two-hundred years old. It felt soft as soap beneath my knuckles. I rapped it ten times before Philok pushed me aside and kicked the thing in. I’d hoped the old man would answer. But the moment Nikolas fired a torch and walked into the great round room beyond the door, we knew the lighthouse had gone untended for months.

“Think he died all alone in here? Somewhere up there near the top?” Aios’s voice echoed in the void.

“Maybe the Ghoul got him,” said Philok.

“Why would it bother?” Aios cracked. “Old man was damn near a hundred. Pointless to kill what’s already dead.”

Except the Ghoul doesn’t care, I almost said. He takes children. Pregnant women. Venerable old men.

And soldiers.

We used pieces of the broken door to light a fire. With it blazing, we peeled off our armor and hunkered down in the shadows. The rain shattered the world beyond the lighthouse walls, harder than anything I’d ever heard. It didn’t feel natural. Bitter breezes flew into the windows, and stray drops of water swirled into the room, stinging our shoulders. No matter where I sat, the rain found me. I finally settled on the spot farthest from the fire. Leuk, stoic and silent, shook his wet hair when he sat down beside me.

“Maybe you were right.” Aios smirked at me while cooking up a pot of stew. “This place is creepy. I hate it. That old man’s body is probably up those stairs. The Ghoul’s probably waitin’ for us.”

“How do you suppose we kill it? I mean really, really kill it,” asked Nikolas.

“The Ghoul?” Philok rubbed his forehead.

“No, the fucking rain,” quipped Aios. “Of course he means the Ghoul.”

Philok didn’t flinch. “This spear.” He flicked the blade of his man-and-a-half tall weapon. “Or Costas’ sword. Or Leuk’s daggers. Doesn’t matter. Everything dies.”

“Does it?” Nikolas looked afraid again. “It’s been a few hundred years, right? It should’ve been dead by now. What if it can’t die? What if it’s…forever?”

Philok thought about it for a moment, and then huffed. “There’s probably no such thing as the Ghoul. It’s probably a family of murderers. Might be they’ve passed down the family secret over the generations. Fathers teaching sons…hell…mothers teaching daughters. ‘Here’s how best to kill a man, lassie,’ they tell the little ones. ‘A drug in his wine to make him sleep, then a knife between his ribs. No one’ll be the wiser. Not even the Master.’”

No one laughed except Aios.

I might’ve known.

We set up a watch. I went first, else I’d never have woken for second shift. The rain raged as I tightened my armor and laid my sword atop my thighs. I probably should’ve been afraid. As it turned out, I’d little energy left for fear.

I didn’t remember falling asleep that eve. I suffered no dreams, no nightmares. One moment I was sitting beside the fire, the mist collecting on my shoulders.

And when I woke, Nikolas was gone.

The others were still dozing. It’d been Aios’s turn to watch, but he was curled up beside the long-dead fire, looking little different than a sleeping boy. Dawn’s first glow crept into the high windows. In a pool of soft light lay Nikolas’s armor, his blanket, and his bowl.

And his sword, still in its scabbard.

If I shout, it’ll go like it always does, I thought.

I’ll be quiet. 

I knelt beside the patch of stone Nikolas had slept on. He’d lain there for some time, it appeared. The mist had gathered all around him, but his blanket was dry. I touched the brittle fabric, and in the cold light examined it.

No blood.

Not torn.

Almost like he left willingly.

And then there was his armor. The straps were sliced clean through, the same as scissors through twine. Looking at the hunk of leather and steel, I wasn’t sure why we even bothered with armor anymore. The Ghoul wasn’t afraid of it.

The Ghoul wasn’t afraid of anything.

I looked at my hand. My knuckles were bloodless. I realized I was squeezing my sword.

For all the good our weapons do.

I woke Philok first. He came to with a jolt, seizing my throat in his massive hand.

“Phi—” I coughed.

He let go of me. As I knelt there gasping, something in my eyes gave the truth away.

“Who’s gone?” he rumbled.

“Niko.” I sagged.

“No blood? No one heard him?”

“Nothing.” I rubbed my neck. “It’s morning now. He’s only been missing for a little while.”

We woke the others. For once, there was no panic. Leuk said nothing. He looked stoic as ever, no different than if he’d slept in his bunk at the Citadel. Frowning, Aios kicked at Nikolas’s things and glared at the rest of us, but kept his curses beneath his breath. This was what it had come to. We were dying one by one, and we hardly even minded anymore.

After a time, Philok dropped a helmet on his head, shouldered his spear, and marched to the bottom of the stairs that led to the lighthouse’s top. The weathered stone stairwell twisted up through a gaping hole in the ceiling. No sunlight spilled down from above. The inky darkness of the lighthouse’s hollow heart oozed down onto Philok’s face.

“I’m going up there,” he grunted.

I expected an argument. But Aios plucked up Niko’s sword, unsheathed his own, and nodded at Philok with both blades in hand. “I’m coming with you,” he said.

Leuk and I had no other choice.

With Philok in front and Leuk in the rear, the four of us stalked up the stairs. We emerged into the void above the room we’d slept in, and we saw slender shafts of light carving pallid lines into the darkness. The windows on the lighthouse’s sides were shuttered. The climb to the tower top would be done mostly in shadow.

Step by step, we marched. The lighthouse felt a thousand steps high. The musty air filled our lungs, while plumes of dust from our footfalls floated the same as stars at midnight. We wound our way up through the cold emptiness, at last arriving at the door to the lighthouse’s top. None of us knew what to expect. I held my sword with no more confidence than when I’d first set foot in the Master’s training garden.

“If anything’s on the other side,” Phi whispered, “kill it. Don’t stop cutting until your blades are down to nubs.”

We all nodded. Aios cracked a wicked smirk. Philok shouldered the door with all his might, breaking the door to pieces.

The sunlight poured over us.

We invaded the lighthouse’s top room. We were an army, the four of us, a cloud of fear and steel. Philok roared when he went in, and Aios growled. Leuk and I didn’t make a sound, but we were ready. Our blades were as sharp as any in the world. And they should’ve been, for we’d never used them.

But there was nothing in the room.

No caretaker.

No bodies.

No sea of bones or carpet of skin.

Philok looked disappointed. Halting in the sunlight, he rapped the butt of his spear on the floor and glared at everything. As for me, I couldn’t help but be relieved. I let my sword sag and my shoulders droop. After all, the sunlight in the tower’s top was warm and soothing. It swam over me, gliding in from each of thirty windows, sparkling on the giant glass lens in the room’s center.

I figured it was the last time I’d ever feel warm.

No. I didn’t figure. I knew.

“It wasn’t ever up here,” cursed Aios. “We’re idiots.”

“We still had to check,” argued Philok.

“Yes…well.” Aios shook his head. “We checked. And nothing. So now what?”

“Costas’s caves,” said Philok.

I could tell Aios had expected Phi to say it. “No. Not yet,” he grumbled. “Breakfast first.”

Too soon, we abandoned the warmth of the lighthouse’s top. I felt sad to leave so quickly. Halfway down into the dark, I realized I’d never even taken the chance to look out across the sea.

At the bottom, Aios prepared breakfast for us. It was hard tack and fried cakes softened with hot water, same as most mornings. It didn’t much matter. Cooking had always calmed Aios, so we never complained.

With only a rotten beam of lighthouse timber to burn, Aios’ kindling of choice that morn was Nikolas’s satchel. Nikolas didn’t need it, after all. But just as Aios snared the leather bag and began cutting it to shreds with his knife, I stopped him.

“Wait,” I said, “Something’s in there.”

Aios made a face. “It’s just a book. Tear out the pages. It’ll save us from sending Leuk out to collect things to burn.”

“No…” I grabbed the bag and pulled the book out. “Just use the satchel. Let me keep this. I want to see what Niko wrote.”

Aios squeezed his eyes shut. He looked like he wanted to kill me. “Fine,” he muttered. “But remember; the dead can’t read.”

While Aios cooked and Philok rummaged through the rest of Niko’s things, I sat in a pool of sunlight and cracked the book open. It was well-made, a far finer thing than Nikolas had any right to possess. I couldn’t believe that with all my hours of watching, I’d never seen him with it. And then, when Philok grunted that he’d found a quill and a vial of ink, it hit me. I understood.

Nikolas had been keeping a journal.

The book has the Master’s mark on it.

Niko had always been a lazy soldier.

But he’d learned to write far sooner than the rest of us.

The rest of the world fell away, and soon it was just me and the journal. I read dozens of entries. Nikolas had done his work well. He’d catalogued how much food we’d had, our movements beyond the Citadel, the people we’d questioned, and the names and ranks of the soldiers that had vanished. He’d even written the dates they’d gone missing.

I skimmed across as much as I could. Most of it was trivial, but the deeper I read, the more I saw of Niko’s personal comments.

And the more I was filled with dread.

He’d written things like:

One soldier from Camp B gone in the night. Left his armor and sword. No blood. Same night: A man from Camp C swore he saw a shadow moving. The camps: an hour apart.

 Rained hard last eve. Saulos’s tent-mate was taken. Grigora says he found tracks in the mud. Not one set, but two. Not sandal prints. Bare feet.

 Another gone last night. Bibi – Captain, 1st Company. But Camp D, upon returning from the city, says that Veni lost someone that same eve. It’s always been one a night. But maybe this was more.

Does it mean two Ghouls?

 Occurred to me that we should look beyond our borders. Ask if others have vanished on the same dates. I know we can’t – they’re our enemies in the North and West, but still.

More than two Ghouls?

 Why is it hunting only soldiers now?

 Does it know we’re coming?

 Will it stop?


I closed the cover. I couldn’t read any more. Aios dropped a wooden bowl in my lap and snorted. “Boring read?” he chuffed. “Books are for scholars, Cos. Now give it over. We’ll use it to make a fire for tonight’s dinner.”

“No.” I pushed his hand away. “I’m going to finish it.”

“Finish it?”

“Yes. Reading it. And writing it.”

“Why? You’ll be dead soon.”

“I know, but—”

“Fine. Keep the damn thing. Whatever helps you die better.”

I ate in silence. I say silence even though Aios talked the entire time. He rambled about how our lives had become meaningless, how our deaths wouldn’t matter because we had no children, no lands, and no possessions beyond our weapons and armor. Maybe it was true. Maybe we were dead men no matter what we did. But when he said meaningless, it didn’t sit right with me. Whether the Ghoul killed us for sport or the Master hung us for being failures, it seemed wrong to just let it happen.

I have to make it meaningful, I thought.

The journal. I’ll finish it.

Maybe someone will find it.

After breakfast, a deep quiet overtook the four of us. There was no fleeing for the Citadel now, we knew. Unless the Ghoul abandoned his hunt, we’d all be dead within eight days. And so we sat there for a time, sharpening our swords needlessly. I like to think we dwelled on the purpose of our lives, the good things we’d seen, and all the glory we’d hoped for.

But I knew better.

Philok dreams of destroying the Ghoul. Of being heroic.

Aios dreams of how he’d have done it if he were the Master.

Leuk dreams of the life he wanted. Of what might’ve been had he finished his twenty years of service.

And what do I dream of?


And then it ended. Philok stood, spear in hand, and looked at us. We didn’t say anything to him. We gathered our swords, strapped on our armor, and doused the fire. In a short, ragged line, we trailed Phi out into the sunlight.

And for all the glamour of the great blue sky, we felt the shadow upon us.

We left the lighthouse and walked to the cliff’s edge. As the tower fell behind us, I looked over my shoulder at it. The edifice was white as death. Its sides were smooth and ashen, its outer walls seamless. The old thing looked like it had sprouted right out of the cliffs. I was glad to be rid of it. I don’t know why, but I promised myself I’d write about it in Niko’s journal.

“Costas.” Aios’ voice pulled me out my daydream. “Wake the hell up. We can’t get down from here. See?”

I gazed over the cliffs and onto the dark ocean. The water boiled over the shore far below, the waves black and foaming. I imagined if one of us fell over the edge, we could’ve counted to ten before we hit the rocks. Aios was right. From our vantage, there was no way to reach the shore.

Or the caves. 

“We’ll have to go—” I began.

“To Veni,” Philok grunted.

In hindsight, I should’ve suggested we find another way down. A quicker way.

But Veni it was.

We marched.

And marched.

And marched.

That eve, tired and sweating, we descended out of the cliffs. Veni lay before us, sprawling and fresh beneath the violet sunset. It wasn’t a big city, but it was still beautiful at twilight. Strands of hanging lamps lit its rooftops the same as the stars. The waves were too rough for sailing, but I could see the masts stark against the sky, and I could hear the people’s laughter. I envied them. But I knew as soon as we soldiers were gone, the Ghoul would go back to hunting at random.

Some from the countryside.

And some from Veni.

“We shouldn’t go in there,” I said to the others.

“Why not?” Aios stared at me.

“We’re bad luck. We’re hunted men. Veni knows us. Even if they don’t kick us out, we’ll not be welcome.”

“The Master’s soldiers can’t be refused,” Aios argued. “If they deny us, it’s under pain of death.”

I looked down at the dirt path leading into the city. Sandy scrub and lonely trees pocked the twilit way. The sky was cloudless; no rain threatened us. There were a thousand places we could camp if we liked.

“I just don’t think we should,” I said. “The city can’t protect us. No one can.”

Aios looked ready to split me in half. “Fine. We’ll stay the night out here,” he said. “In the sand. In the dirt. If the Ghoul comes, you’re first.”

I almost hoped so. Not because I wanted to die. But because I wanted to know.

Beneath the endless stars, we made our silent camp. No one from Veni noticed us. Or if they did, they didn’t care. I’d rarely seen a night sky so bright as that eve. A million white pinpricks in a perfect black sheet, it seemed. Leuk and I stared at it for a long, long while.

By the dying campfire, I wrote my first words in Niko’s journal:

We make for caves east of Veni. Four of us left: Costas, Philok, Leuk, and Aios.

 We don’t hope to find anything. We’re going anyway. If nothing’s there, it’s my (Costas’) fault. I convinced them to do this by a feeling in my gut.

 And there’s something else.

I think the lighthouse is made of bones.

I closed the journal. I needed to focus. We’d agreed to do a double watch: Leuk and I first, then Phi and Aios.

I worried I’d fall asleep.

But it was Aios who drifted off during his watch.

And Philok who went missing.

I woke with Aios’ boot in my ribs. It hurt. I squinted into the early sunlight and saw him standing over me. He scowled, Phi’s spear shaking in his grasp. He’s gone mad, I thought. He’s going to save the Ghoul some trouble and run me through. But he didn’t. He just glowered and spat in the sand.

“Get up,” he said.

I complied.

“The caves. Take us now. Let’s finish this.”


“It’s fine if nothing’s there. I won’t blame you. I might kill you, but I won’t blame you.”

We didn’t eat breakfast. We didn’t mourn Philok. Walking ahead of Aios and his spear, Leuk and I led the way down to the shore. At the ocean, a lone child saw us marching. He stood in the foamy shallows, throwing rocks into the water. He smiled at us, watching us long enough to see us pass into the shadow of a stark and terrible cliff. I thought it strange to see the boy all alone. He reminded me of myself, of all the mornings I must’ve spent doing the same as he.

We walked into the shadows. And he was gone.

“I dreamed last night,” I said as I walked on the narrow strip of sand between the ocean and the cliff.

“No one cares,” answered Aios.

“I heard a woman laughing.” I ignored him. “She whispered something in my ear. She had dark hair. She was beautiful. I didn’t want to wake up, even with you kicking me.”

“A shame you’ll never meet her,” he mocked.

Maybe I will, I wanted to say.

We marched. Was it for many hours? Or much less? I couldn’t have said. The ocean crashed against the rocks and swirled at our knees, drowning out all the world’s sounds. Guarded by the mighty cliff, the sunlight never quite reached us. But the shadows and the cold couldn’t slow me. I slogged on, convinced I was going to my doom, certain I still had some part to play.

This is what madness feels like, I thought. All these years of not much talking, and now the loudest voice is in my head.

And then we came to it, a great dark hole in the cliff wall. The ocean roared in and out of it, and the rocks like teeth crowned its top and sides. Twenty men standing side-by-side could’ve marched into the cavern’s mouth.

And all of them would be eaten.

“Fucking lovely.” Aios marched past me. He still had Phi’s spear in his grasp, and he was wet up to his chest in seawater. The salt stuck to him, and us, in powdery white patches. We were miserable. We hadn’t eaten all day.

“Got a lantern?” he spat at Leuk. Leuk shook his head.

“Torches,” I murmured. “Just three.”

“We’ve got some daylight left.” Aios pointed Phi’s spear into the darkness. “Let’s go kill this thing. Just think…we’ll be heroes.”

I fired a torch, and in we went.

We were fifty steps deep when I realized what we’d gotten ourselves into. The ocean’s rush faded at our backs, and the absence of light swallowed us. I squinted in the dark and saw other tunnels, black branches trailing into the underworld. I remembered a story someone had once told me about such places, and why no one should ever go into them.

“Four different tunnels.” Aios saw them, too. “Wonder how deep they go.”

I wished Philok had still been alive. He’d have known which tunnel to choose.

“That one’s half underwater.” Aios nodded at the farthest tunnel. The black hole gazed back at us, smiling as if aware of our fear.

“So we’re going into this one.” Aios pointed his spear at the nearest cave. It sat above us, its archway crusted in ancient limestone. A pile of broken shells sat beneath its mouth, deposited by the sea. It was the narrowest of the four.

And the darkest.

Leuk and I didn’t argue. We clambered up the shells ahead of Aios. At the tunnel’s mouth, I held the torch into the darkness and saw that it went down. Way down. Aios climbed up beside me, snared the torch from my grasp, and smirked at me as he marched straight into the blackness. “Three men wide,” he laughed at us. “It’s perfect. Not scared, are you?”

We were, but it didn’t matter.

Down, down we went into the cave. I couldn’t believe any place in the world could be so dark. The ocean’s crash fell away to nothing. The only sounds were the torch’s snaps and our rotten boots squelching on the stone.

We walked for what felt like an hour. Then two. The tunnel never narrowed, never widened. The air tasted stale. White powder sloughed off the walls wherever we touched, and our boots left footprints in places no other men had ever been. I was sure night had fallen outside, but I’d have given anything to be back out there, to let the Ghoul steal me from sleep instead of moldering away after a long, slow walk to the world’s bottom.

Our first torch died. We lit another. Moments later, we slunk out of the tunnel and into an unthinkably vast grotto. It was truly massive, the cavern we’d found. Our torch felt like a candle in the great darkness. Far above, a lone shaft of moonlight cut through a hole in the ceiling and pooled in the grotto’s center.

“What is this place?” I whispered.

“A cave. Big as Veni.” Aios’ gaze was wide and black. “A giant, empty coffin.”

“No. Not empty,” I observed.

I’d seen caves before. In the mountains east of the Citadel, we’d walked through tunnels and grottos. They’d had growths in them, daggers of lime and ancient rock. There had been beauty in those caves, elegance in the way nature had carved them.

But the shapes in this cave were different.

They were sculptures.

Something had made them.

We didn’t say a word. We were too scared to talk, and too weary. Wandering out into the pool of moonlight, we gazed at the many hundreds of pale, ghostly statues standing on the grotto’s floor. They were graven of white stone, and in my heart I knew they were made of the same stuff as the lighthouse.


Human bones.

Most of the statues were of people. We glimpsed beautiful maidens holding decanters. We saw smiling children, some holding hands and standing in great rings, others all alone. As we walked through the pale, silent gallery of thousands, we saw old men and venerable ladies, soldiers and wealthy lords, beggars, fishermen, and stoic hunters. The sculptures were beautiful in a way. Whoever, or whatever had carved them had a talent like no other.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, Leuk tapped me on the shoulder. I looked back and saw horror in his eyes.

“What is it?” I felt myself turn pale.

He pointed at a row of sculptures removed from the rest. I took Aios’ torch and forged into the dark. We came to it, the part of the cavern struck least by the moonlight, and we stood there with our mouths open.

“Monsters,” I exhaled.

“Demons,” we heard Aios whisper.

The sculptures in the shadows were not of men or maidens, children or village elders. They were of monsters, malevolent and skeletal, with talons in place of hands, pale knives instead of teeth, and faces made of nightmares. Some had horns. Others had tails. All of them had strange writing on their skin, words and sigils from a language none of us knew. But the true terror lay in their empty eye sockets, which were huge and full of evil.

As I stood there, breathing not at all, I believed in my heart these statues mimicked creatures that must have existed. “How else could they look so real?” I uttered without knowing it.

Aios pointed his spear at one of the horrific sculptures. He looked wild with fear, sweating and cursing beneath his breath.

“We have to destroy them,” he hissed.

“How?” I argued. “There’s thousands. Tens of thousands.”

“Fine. We have to find what made them. Find it and kill it.”

“What if…” I looked up at one of the horrors. “…what if these are what the Ghoul looks like?”

“All the more reason to kill it,” Aios growled.

I didn’t know where to start. My fingers went numb, and a chill crawled down my backbone. We stood there, the three of us, gazing into the grotto, stricken still with our terror.

It would’ve taken us hours to search the cave.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to look at all.

The first thing I heard was the patter of footsteps. Aios and Leuk heard it, too. Bare feet, I thought. But…small?

Aios waved his spear in the direction of the sound. He crouched, looking deadly and afraid. And then I saw it, a little boy darting between the sculptures. He was naked, pale as a fish, and faster than any child had a right to be. At ten paces, he climbed atop a sculpture and leapt from its head to another, smiling all the way.

I shouted. Leuk pulled his daggers out.

The boy. It’s him…the one throwing rocks on the beach, I thought.

We were too slow.

The boy leapt from atop the statue of a milkmaid. Aios spun, screamed, and jabbed with his spear. He missed. The boy landed on Aios’s head, and Aios started screaming. I don’t know what happened to me. As they struggled, I just stood there with my sword in one hand and the torch in the other. It was like I knew:

No matter what I do, we’re dead.

I never expected Leuk to be the brave one. Never. The boy clung to Aios’s head, clawing and snarling. As Aios squealed, Leuk stuck his dagger into the boy’s back. For a single breath I allowed myself to hope.

Leuk’s done it. I backed away. He’s saved us.


Three times Leuk plunged his dagger between the boy’s ribs, and three times he drew it out. If the boy felt anything, I saw no sign. No blood oozed from Leuk’s steel. The boy’s skin opened up like dry, cracked parchment, but knitted itself closed within moments. I didn’t understand how such a thing was possible. Nothing the Citadel’s wise men had told us lived up to the truth.

With one of Leuk’s daggers still in its back, the boy-Ghoul leapt off Aios’ head. He looked up at us, still smiling, as Aios collapsed dead on the cavern floor. I saw no blood. I couldn’t conceive how so small a creature had killed one of the Master’s warriors. I was paralyzed. My sword felt as though it were made of paper. My blood felt like water in the last moments before a long winter’s freeze.

The boy-Ghoul dragged Aios into the shadows. Leuk stared at me, and then went after them. I swallowed so hard it wounded my throat. I knew what was about to happen. Somehow, someway, I knew. And when I heard a second set of bare feet pattering, and when Leuk cried out his last breath, I sank to the floor in a puddle of my own fear. Perhaps it was cowardice. I knew my sword wouldn’t matter.

So I didn’t even try.

Many thousands of breaths went in and out of me. I closed my eyes, and the world went dark. I don’t know whether I slept, but at some point I lifted my head from the floor and gazed into the darkness. The second torch had burned out, and so I fired another. It burned beside me as I sat there, a red whisper in the vast darkness.

There was but one thing left to do.

I opened Niko’s journal, dipped the quill into the last of his ink, and wrote:

There is more than one Ghoul. There may be dozens. Or hundreds.  

In a cave east of Veni, they hide.

They’ve been here for thousands of years, I believe.

They sculpt whatever they kill. Murder is their art.

They made the lighthouse.

They made the cliffs.

They took Aios and Leuk last night.

Tonight they’ll come for me.


The ink was almost gone. I only had a few strokes of Niko’s quill left. I don’t what made me do it, but I stood and walked to the most terrifying of the Ghoul’s demonic sculptures. I wasn’t as afraid anymore. I stuck the torch in the creature’s hand, held Niko’s journal before me, and started drawing the strange symbols and words graven into the sculpture’s skin. The words were old, old things. Maybe they were magic, if such a thing existed. I’d already shut the boy-Ghoul out of my mind, but for him to have survived Leuk’s knives meant something I’d never understand was at work.

I drew as many of the words and symbols as I could. When the ink ran out, I hunkered down and gazed into the dark. I left the book on my lap. I had the foolish hope someone would find it one day. The shaft of moonlight was far away, not enough to see by. I knew when my torch burned out, I’d die even if the Ghouls never came for me.

I didn’t have to wait long.

Within a hundred breaths, I heard their bare feet on the cavern’s cold floor. The boy came first. He was naked and ghostly pale. White powder, surely bone dust, coated his arms up to his elbows. His fingernails were crusted in dried blood. He’d been sculpting, I was sure.

My sword lay beside me. I didn’t bother to pick it up.

And then the second Ghoul came. I didn’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t her. Naked and beautiful, she walked into the yellow sphere of light made by my torch. Her hair was raven, her eyes pale blue lanterns. She wasn’t terrifying at all, at least not yet.

“I dreamed of you,” I said to her.

She didn’t flinch.

“Are all of these your work?” I regarded the thousands of sculpted dead.

She shook her head. Only some of them, she told me without words.

I sat, limp and sweating, and looked at them. The boy was her ward, her student, or maybe even her child. She tousled his hair, and a plume of bone powder drifted into the torchlight.

He’s the next in line, I thought.

She’s teaching him.

Just like another taught her.

Without moving any other part of my body, I extended my arm and set Niko’s journal into the nook between two sculptures’ feet. I left my sword where it lay. It occurred to me that I’d never once used it. Ever.

The Master would’ve stretched my neck just for that.

The boy-Ghoul started for me, but the woman held him back.

And then she showed me what she was.

With her fingers, she pried the flesh back from her cheeks. She tore like sackcloth; the sound alone made me sick. Next she peeled back the flesh from her arms and collarbone. She was one of them, one of the monsters so perfectly sculpted behind me. Her true fingers were boney claws, her real face a horror of white bone. She had no blood in her. She was all sinew and marrow, a skeleton wrapped in human skin.

I understood why none of the missing soldiers had cried out.

She’d probably never shown them the creature beneath her skin.

All they’d seen was a beautiful woman or a handsome little boy.

And when she killed me, it didn’t even hurt.


* * *

If you enjoyed The Skeleton Sculptor, consider reading The Hecatomb or leaving a review here.

Thank you,

J Edward Neill

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Dusk City Outlaws

Building a RPG resume? I am. To do that, normally I buy RPG writing assignments via Kickstarter. This week, I’m switching up my plan just a bit. I’m not buying a credit, I’m looking at the chance to create third-party content for a new gaming system.

Why a new system? Dungeons & Dragons dominates the tabletop role-playing game market. Since it is the best selling RPG by leaps and bounds, and has an open game license allowing anyone to write supplements for it, third party D&D products dominate the third party market. But it’s not the only tabletop role-playing game.

Which new system? Dusk City Outlaws is just coming out so the market for 3PP content is not saturated or even started. DCO content will stand out because it has no competition for eyeballs. The big fish, the small pond, you get the idea.

Let’s talk about stealing the gaming industry’s attention using a game about stealing anything.

Dusk City Outlaws Art By Joy Ang

Dusk City Outlaws by Scratchpad Publishing
Kickstarter campaign ends on Tuesday, February 28 2017 12:02 PM EST.

Their Pitch:

A roleplaying game of heists & other thievery by Rodney Thompson. Play as members of 8 criminal cartels in a massive fantasy city.

Dusk City Outlaws is a tabletop roleplaying game inspired by books, TV shows, and movies like The Lies of Locke Lamora, Leverage, and Ocean’s Eleven, where players take on the roles of thieves belonging to the eight cartels that rule the criminal underworld of a massive fantasy city. The players come together to form a crew and take on a job, planning and executing a criminal scheme and earning the respect of their peers.

Dusk City Outlaws Art By Jordan Grimmer

The game comes as a boxed set, with all the game materials needed for an entire gaming group to start playing. The game is designed to be easy to start playing, even on a moment’s notice. Once all of the players are familiar with the rules, it takes only minutes for one player to read through the scenario while the other players quickly make characters.

Dusk City Outlaws Box Set Mock Up

Dusk City Outlaws has a streamlined rules set that uses a sleek narrative dice system and player-empowering special abilities to let the players craft a story about a daring heist or a long con without slowing the game down to consult a rulebook. Everything the players need to know stays on the table in front of them for the duration of the game. For the Judge, the game’s setting is a fantasy city sandbox, and the game provides a resource system that lets the Judge easily react to player actions and providing interesting challenges and plot twists without the need for advanced preparation.

The game hits the table quickly, plays fast, and gives the players the freedom to come up with their own plan and then make it happen!

Dusk City Outlaws Art By Justin Oaksford

The Digital Creator Pack Upgrade

If you’re anything like me, one of the first things you do with a new roleplaying game is start figuring out how to create your own material for it. Got an idea for a scenario that you want to put out there for other people to play? Want to create your own cartels? Add new specialties? Hack the game into a completely different setting or system? This upgrade gives backers access to digital files used in the creation of the Dusk City Outlaws game, making it easier to produce new material that looks just like the contents of the boxed set.

The digital creator pack includes:

  • Digital files for all artwork used in the game
  • Digital files for all page backgrounds in the game
  • Adobe InDesign templates for scenarios, cartel sheets, and specialty sheets
  • Any digital templates and artwork produced for stretch goals
  • License to create and distribute for free Dusk City Outlaws content

I want you to take this game and make it your own, make your own content for it, share it with others in the community, hack it, and get as much out of it as you can. This pack should help you do so, and help make the material you create look as close to the original game as possible.

All backers can add this upgrade to their rewards by increasing their pledges by $25.


Dusk City Outlaws Art By Joy Ang

Egg’s Thoughts:

This is a variation of what I normally write about. My goal is usually a printed credit in a book. This, on the other hand, is the opportunity to create original content and does not guarantee a credit unless you create a product.

Because my quest is printed credits, I might have bypassed this if the minimum cost was not so reasonable, $45 ($20 for a PDF copy of the game’s many parts plus $25 for the license to create and distribute free content along with art and templates). Skipping this would be a mistake. Because this is a new product, there’s an excellent chance that any 3PP work produced will be seen by the creators – Rodney Thompson, John Rogers, Saladin Ahmed, Susan Morris, Steve Kenson, Mike Krahulik, and Jerry Holkins.

It’s a risk compared to many projects I’ve joined. This is no lock that my name will appear in the book unless I produce. This only pays off if my free content, whatever it may be, is well-received by other industry professionals and fans. That said, if it succeeds, under the smaller pond scenario, the potential for it to lead to contacts is better than many. If I can steal their attention, then this plan will pay off.


* * *


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!


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Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Midgard Campaign Setting: Dark Roads & Deep Magic

Two weeks ago, I discussed picking up a RPG playtester resume credit from Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts and Book of Lairs Kickstarter. This week, I’m looking at Kobold Press’ 5e campaign setting, Midgard, the early access to playtest materials that they’re offering, and their stretch goal that will open this campaign setting up to let anyone write and publish in it.

Midgard Campaign Setting

Midgard Campaign Setting: Dark Roads & Deep Magic by Kobold Press

Kickstarter campaign ends on Friday February248th, 2017 at 4:00 PM EST.

Their Pitch:

Five years have passed; high time to update the Midgard Campaign Setting, and add Deep Magic, adventures, and player options galore!

Welcome to Midgard’s shadow roads, traveler! The way is winding and dangerous, but the rewards are great for the adventuresome and bold.

The rewards for the Midgard Kickstarter include 3 primary books, plus a slew of thrilling adventures and crunchy expansions! The core rewards include these volumes:

Dusk Queen of the Shadow from the Midgard campaign setting

Midgard Campaign Setting for 5th Edition and Pathfinder RPG: A 300+ page volume describing the Midgard regions, from the Northlands to the Western Wastes, and from the Southlands to the Crossroads. With detailed locations, cities, rulers, heraldry, plots, and adventure hooks galore, plus full details of the various pantheons, masked gods, and dark gods, there’s enough here to fuel years of adventuring!

In this updated edition, you’ll get the expanded Blood Kingdom of Morgau and updates to Zobeck, the Cantons, the Western Wastes, and other regions. If we meet our goals, we’ll also  add the Shadow Realm and Blood Kingdom as standalone chapters, and may even open the golden gates of Khandiria… It’s a rich and standalone edition of the setting.

This book is available in both a regular cover and in a special limited edition with leatherette cover, bookmark, and stamped gold foil, plus a handbound leather edition.

Midgard Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition: Full details for Midgard races, variants, archetypes, and backgrounds—everything you need to play trollkin, ravenfolk, kobolds, and others! You’ll also get more than a dozen new cleric domains, new weapons and equipment, and Deep Magic spells and traditions such as Clockwork Magic and Ley Line Magic. Stretch goals will add even more Deep Magic to the book, plus expanded races and broader options for existing ones.

Midgard GM’s Screen

Midgard Player’s Guide for Pathfinder RPG: Collects all of Midgard’s racial lore, class options, feats, and equipment under one set of covers—plus new material for ley line magic, and more. We hope to expand it with shadow magic and other stretch goals. Developed by Paizo staff developer Amanda Hamon Kunz.

Eldritch Lairs: A series of short 5th Edition adventures written by James Haeck and other designers, somewhat like the Prepared! collection of one-shots. This starts as a set of PDF stretch goals, and it will become a print volume included with the premium tiers once the collection is big enough (it will be an add-on for Basic pledge tiers).


Pit of the Dust Goblins from the Midgard campaign setting

Their tenth update: Open World of Midgard

From the earliest days, the Midgard Campaign Setting has been an open world: pre-Kickstarter, patrons brainstormed elements of Zobeck, the Margreve Forest, and the horrors hidden beneath the Ironcrag Mountains. Over the years we’ve kept that door open, with an open freelance submissions policy and frequent design contests to bring new talent into the field.

Well, now we’re taking a big step beyond that. If we get enough backers on this Kickstarter, we’ll launch Midgard as an Open World on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

What will it mean for Midgard to become an Open World? Glad you asked! Like the Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft in the DM’s Guild program, Midgard will be open for anyone to use and publish locations, adventures, characters, lairs or other playable material (under certain conditions). In this case, it would cover supplements that are compatible with 5th Edition, Pathfinder RPG, and 13th Age RPG.

Midgard Table of Contents

How close are we to that goal? We need 2,000 backers to form a strong enough nucleus of new designers to attempt it; we’re currently at just over 1,000 backers, with a little more than 2 weeks left. That means we definitely need your help to make it happen. It’s possible, but it’s not a slam-dunk.

What gets us there? Every backer of the project counts toward this goal, regardless of dollars pledged or rewards chosen. That means if all 4 players in your local game pledges $1, we’re 4 backers closer to the Midgard Open World. Any and all of those backers get first peek at Backer Updates in this project, which might also inspire them to roll up some homebrew encounters or build out that archetype they’re always talking about. It’s up to them.

Why Open Midgard? The reality of a small press is that we can never keep up with the demand for new material, and we’re always scouting talent. This approach helps with both, by providing additional Midgard adventures and resources, while opening up a way for talented-but-unknown designers to be recognized. Our hope is that participants in an Open Midgard will also become freelancers who keep the setting vibrant and join the Kobold crew on future official releases. That’s the plan; all we need is a large enough set of backers to launch it!”


Midgard Open World

Egg’s Thoughts:

I’m building a RPG resume by purchasing creator opportunities on Kickstarter. This Kickstarter has pledge levels that offer early access to playtest materials for one of the largest third-party publishers. As a bonus, if the campaign reaches 2,000 backers then Kobold Press will make the Midgard setting an open world.

What’s an open world? In this case, it’s a RPG setting that you can publish content for (with certain restrictions). Want to set an adventure and characters in the Midgard’s Ironcrags and publish it for profit? If this stretch goal is achieved, that will be an option.

In a perfect kickstarted world, I’d want to playtest as much of Midgard as possible and use that knowledge to create worthwhile new content within the Midgard setting. With every new backer on this project, we’re getting closer to my goal.


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer & Artist
  • Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e available at – Playtester

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck

No vanity-press-buy-a-RPG-creator’s-credit this week. Instead, let’s focus on a publication to improve my RPG adventure module writing skills.

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck by Goodman Games
Kickstarter campaign ends on Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 at 11:50 PM EST.

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck

Their Pitch:

“Advice on how you can write great adventures – from the company that has published more than 200 top-notch adventures!

Many years ago, when Goodman Games was first starting out, many sage elders in the industry gave Joseph Goodman advice on what to publish. The most common advice received was: “Don’t publish adventure modules. They don’t sell.”

What we have learned since then is that advice is largely true. Poorly written, uninteresting, uninspired adventure modules do not sell.

But the good adventure modules – the exciting ones – that ones that read well and play well at the table – they become treasured memories for us all. They become legends. These adventures are the shared experience that builds our community. We remember our exploits, ask each other how a different group handled that encounter, and lament the secret doors we may have missed. We tell our friends about the climactic finale; we are in turns surprised and devastated and thrilled as we navigate the encounters. And most importantly, if an adventure is fun to play – if the game master and the players both have a blast – then we tell our friends, and they play, and they tell their friends, and that adventure becomes a community builder. It is played thousands and thousands of times. It becomes a legend.

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck

This book is about how to create tabletop RPG adventures that become those legends. This book is about how to write great adventure modules – the ones that gamers can’t stop talking about.

This is the primer that every game designer needs to have on his bookshelf. I’ve been in the role-playing game design industry for more than forty years. In many of those years my products were the best selling products out that year. I learned many new things from this set of articles. I have learned things that have improved my design skills, so I know they will improve yours as well.

The essay writers include:

Jobe Bittman, Mike Breault, Anne K. Brown, Timothy Brown, Stephen Chenault, Casey Christofferson, Chris Clark, Michael Curtis, Chris Doyle, Joseph Goodman, Allen Hammack, Jon Hook, Kevin Melka, Brendan J. LaSalle, Lloyd Metcalf, Bill Olmesdahl, Steve Peek, Jean Rabe, Merle M. Rasmussen, Lester Smith, Harley Stroh, Jim Wampler, James M. Ward, Skip Williams, and Steve Winter.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck

I want to be a tabletop role-playing game freelancer. I have some creator credits and experience that I’ve bought through RPG Kickstarters. What I don’t have is a mentor. HtWAMTDS is not that, but it is written by individuals that would be ideal mentors. The book promises to share their thought process for designing modules and adventure paths.

The cleverest part of Goodman Game’s Kickstarter is the updates, they’re samples of the book’s philosophy. Unlike so many projects, this one creates a clearer and clearer picture of what you are purchasing every time they add a new post.

To be clear, there are no vanity press rewards here. Instead, for as little as $12, you can get the PDF of HtWAMTDS and learn from those that have gone before and made money in this industry. Seems like money well spent.


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer & Artist
  • Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e available at – Playtester

Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press – Tome of Beasts

“I want to be a freelance RPG writer… so then, uh… why am I buying RPG playtester credits for my resume?”

Covers for the Tome of Beasts and the Book of Lairs

First, what’s a playtester? That’s an individual who puts an unpublished/untested game through its paces. They play and look for successes and flaws and communicate their findings back to the creator for consideration.

Second, why do I want to playtest something? Two reasons.

  • It’s enlightening to see how the sausage is made
  • Networking

Unlike my prior purchases, I’m not buying RPG experience for myself. This time, I’m showing that I have enough experience to improve someone else’s work.

This is my journey to freelancer and it starts with selecting the Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press.


Alseid from the Tome of Beasts

Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press

In October, 2015, Dungeons & Dragons 5e was 15 months into their commercial lifecycle when Kobold Press kickstarted the Tome of Beasts and the Book of Lairs.

Why did they create the Tome of Beasts? At that time, 5e had a lone official Monster Manual of all the critters to fight. Volo’s Guide to Monsters was unannounced and 13 months away. The largest resource for third-party monsters was either homebrew or Frog God Games’ Fifth Edition Foes. The Fifth Edition Foes had been kickstarted the same month that 5e launched (along with two other 5e books). They generated nearly $64,000, so there was precedent that showed fan demand. Despite the monster foes, homebrews and various one-offs for 5e, there was a desire for even more monsters. Enter Kobold Press and their offering, the Tome of Beasts.

Why did they create the Book of Lairs? 15 months into the commercial existence of 5e, there were a number of official adventure paths but not as many standalone dungeons or monster lairs. Just want a dungeon for your characters to crawl with a hook, monsters, and treasure instead of a whole campaign? Kobold Press‘ Book of Lairs is for you.


Ravenfolk Art

Let me type a few words on Kobold Press. They are one of the largest 3PPs (third-party publishers) in gamedom. They wrote the first two official hardcover modules for 5e – Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat – and have proven to be a consistently nice group of folks. Kobold-in-Chief Wolfgang Baur, hobbylancer Ben McFarland, Kobold Minion Dan Dillon, and more have decades of combined professional RPG experience creating… well, throw a dart at any quality RPG product and chances are someone there had a hand in it.

Why Kobold Press is dear to my heart is spelled out in their FAQ. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert but I think – THINK – that they used to crowdfund and, to a degree, crowdsource their products.  Effectively, kickstart their RPG content the way I blog about before there was a Kickstarter. They were ahead of the curve in a way that foreshadowed what I want to achieve. Their FAQ hints at what I’m hoping to achieve – resume building through patronage.


One of the holes in my resume is credited playtester. Is it an important part of your RPG resume? Yes. It shows you have the skills to look at a game that is 90% to 95% of the way to publishable and find that last bit needed to make it shine. Playtester credits “prestige” is ranked by what company or project that you are doing the playtesting for. As I said, Kobold is a large 3PP so I want to have that on my resume.

Nihileth from the Tome of Beasts

Kobold’s Tome of Beasts offered playtesting and more. For this Kickstarter, I put in $180. What did I get for that?

  • Full-color, hardcover volume of the Tome of Beasts with leatherette cover, foil stamp, ribbon bookmarks, and special endpapers, plus the PDF edition for easy reference – $49.99 / $29.99 / $54.99 (Print + PDF)
  • The Book of Lairs in print and PDF – $29.99 / $14.99 / $29.99 (Print + PDF)
  • Printed pawns – $34.99 (Price from, currently unavailable)
  • All digital maps – $9.99
  • Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition (PDF) – $4.99
  • Cat & Mouse Adventure (PDF) – $3.99
  • Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition (PDF) – $4.99
  • Raven’s Call Adventure for 5th Edition (PDF) – $2.99
  • Tomb of Tiberesh Adventure (PDF) – $3.99
  • Prepard Encounters (PDF) – $5.99
  • Battlebards Sound Boards – ???
  • Total MSRP – $156.90

That encompasses the monsters, lairs, adventures, and sounds – the tangibles. What did I get that I can put on my resume and speak to:

  • Early access to playtest versions of all lairs and monsters for review and comment
  • A monster-design seminar with the Kobold Press design and edit team
  • Monster Submissions – All backers were eligible to submit a monster to the Tome of Beasts, and Kobold Press printed the best in the book
  • Feedback on the monster I submitted during the process and after
  • Vanity press upcharge – $23.10

I won for the extra $23.10! I got to playtest several monsters and provide feedback (the results of which I was able to see in the final product… now, whether it was my notes or every reviewer’s thoughts, I don’t know but changes were made).

For the Tome, I got to playtest monsters with several friends including John McGuire, Sir Leland Beauchamp, and my fiancee and we are all listed in the book. That’s a moment I reflect on from time-to-time, we got to have fun and put that fun into print.

Queen of Night and Magic from the Tome of Beasts

Experience-wise, I got to attend a virtual seminar with Wolfgang Baur and Dan Dillon to hear what makes a great monster and ask questions. With that education, I submitted a beast for their monster submission contest and got professional feedback from Wolfgang. I did not win but Dan gave me his thoughts and it amounted to [paraphrasing] not bad.

One of the challenges of buying credits is that the publisher has an obligation to make your submissions, whatever they are, work since you, you know, paid to be in their product. Since you are a customer, feedback from the publishers may be filtered. The monster submission for the Tome of Beasts was a contest open to every backer. Because it’s a contest, they were under no obligation to print my submission. I didn’t win but, based on their feedback, my beast had been in contention for one of the final slots. I lost because others were better, not because mine was awful. To get an unfiltered ‘not bad, not perfect, but not bad’, was encouraging.

For $157, I got some amazing 5e products. I get use out of them more often than any other 3PP I own. For $23, I got to provide feedback on a book that has gotten a lot of love, virtually meet the Kobold-in-Chief and Kobold Minion No. Dan (I don’t know his serial number… oy), submit a monster and get useful feedback that helped me to grow as a creator. That was $23 well-spent!

Vanity press RPG playtester’s credit number one complete! On to number two…


Covers for the Midgard Campaign Setting and Hero’s Handbook

For anyone interested, vanity press RPG playtester’s credit number two is available now on Kobold Press’ Midgard Campaign Setting: Dark Roads & Deep Magic.

Want to playtest the revised Midgard campaign setting for 5e or Pathfinder? There are a number of pledge levels on this Kickstarter that let you playtest the setting. I’ll delve into the ins and outs of what vanity press options are available through that Kickstarter before it ends on February 24th. In the meantime, I suggest you check it out.


Kickstarter information:

Tome of Beasts: 400+ New Monsters for 5th Edition by Kobold Press
Raised $191,431 starting October 5th, 2015


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer & Artist
  • Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e available at – Playtester

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Circles of Imora

Want to put collectible card game (CCG) designer on your resume? This is for you and you alone.

Circles of Imora – The Beginning

Circles of Imora by Dominik Hanisch
Kickstarter campaign ends on Saturday February 18th, 2017 at 4:59 AM EST.

Their Pitch:

Get one of the first 100 copies of Circles of Imora and become a member of the development board. COI is a brand new Card Game.

Circles of Imora ® is an action packed, brand new and easy to learn Card Game and comes in a full playable deck with 100 cards. Construct an army for survival on Imora, then expand your Deck with further expensionDecks to come. 

If you want to become a part of the final development and an important step to grow the community – then back us! We need you to achieve something big.

– Edition available in English and German.

Circles of Imora ® is designed for 2 players (Age 13 and above), competting with their individually assembled armies. Each player is allowed to expand its deck up to 60 cards. 

The game consists of successive, dependent fights. Each fight will take place in one of the 4 available skills. Additional bonus features can affect the game before, during or after a fight positively or negatively.

At the beginning of the game each player has 20 life points. After all the cards are played the final score decides who has won. If a player previously falls on 0 points he has lost the game immediately.

– the package contains 100 cards of the nations and territories of Imora as well as special cards to strengthen/ to defend your army during your fight.

Circles of Imora – Card Detail

We’ve been working for over two years to invent, create, develop, design and test the game. Now we’re ready to complete the developing process and it comes down to licence the illustrations, build the community and doing the fine adjusting in the gameplay. 

Your chance as part of the final development-Team:

  • choose/ vote for Characters names
  • choose/ vote for Characters looks
  • help us finalize the game functions
  • help us to complete the game internally
  • help us to balance the gameplay
  • become influencer for the emotional appeal
  • become our reference and test community

We wanted to put this project on Kickstarter because it’s the fastest way for us to get the game into the your hands and build a community – with your help! We think this game is great and we need you for the fine tuning, for the final development to bring it to the market. So, if a world full of epic battles, is a world you want to be part of then please back this project.

With best regards,

The Circles of Imora Team (Will and Dominik)

Egg’s Thoughts:

This project is not for the casual fans, it’s for the super fan that wants to leave their mark on the CCG industry. Literally, you either make a pledge without a reward or you add “The Developer” pledge and you help create the game. This is the future of crowd-anything. Crowdfund + Crowdsource! Take my money and my ideas!

I love it!

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Their Vanity Press Reward (this their only reward level):

Pledge CHF 380 or moreABOUT $379
The developer

Become one of our developers and influencer for Circles of Imora – The Beginning. Your inputs, ideas and actions to improve the game regarding functionality, balance and fun are highly appreciated.

  • One physical Copy of the first, exclusive edition of the Card Game. Signed by the creator
  • You can create a custom Card with us – within reason (no invincible characters).
  • You can participate as VIP on our exclusive Events (Testing, Launch Partys and Championships).
  • You’ll be listed in the games credits under “Developed by”
  • First info, copy and relase dates of further extensions Decks for pre-testing and your feedback.


  • One copy of the first Edition (PDF) – pre sent in June 2017

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Circles of Imora – Cards

Closing Thoughts:

If any project was created with me in mind, this is it. My blog is about buying vanity press RPG writing rewards from Kickstarter to build a resume. I’m doing this to move from wanna-lancer to freelancer. This is the first project I’ve encountered where the *ONLY* option is to be a developer. You sign up and you’re making the game.

This project is not RPG, it’s CCG but it speaks to me in so many ways! If I pledge, I get to write for it and it will expand my presence in the wider gaming world.

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – The Gods Have Spoken

When Jim Shooter took over as editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, he instituted several writing directives that can be summed up as reintroduce your concept every issue because that issue is someone’s first. I try to live that with this blog series. Every blog entry for my RPG resume building experiment has a re-introduction that covers:

  • I’m a RPG wanna-lancer
  • I want to be a paid RPG freelancer
  • To make the transition, I’m buying a resume of RPG writing credits through Kickstarter RPG projects

As the experiment goes, it’s a matter of time (needing more time to write and waiting for the time when the dots of this experiment connect) and seeing what the gods say…

To that end, let’s review the RPG vanity rewards of the Kickstarter for The Gods Have Spoken.

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The Gods Have Spoken (5th Edition RPG Supplement) by Dread Unicorn Games
Kickstarter campaign ends on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 at 2:11 EDT.

The Gods Have Spoken - Art by Justin Wyatt

The Gods Have Spoken – Art by Justin Wyatt

Their pitch:

“Twenty-eight new fantasy gods arranged in three new pantheons for your 5E game. New domains and player options that fit the gods.

The Gods

The Gods Have Spoken offers a fresh take on the gods, not just a rehash of the Greco-Roman pantheons, but new pantheons influenced by history and religions from around the world.

The followers of the Old Gods were long ago forced out of their lands and into the wild places . Today druids and elves keep the faith alive, while cults of the Old Gods seep back into the teaming cities where once they were banished. The world tree and nature are central to the pantheon.

The followers of the pyramid-building Thirsty Gods came across the sea and pushed out the faith of the Old Gods. A warlike people, they too have fallen to more recent invaders. Still the pantheons continues to be followed in many places, including the halls of the dwarves.

The Bright Gods are worshiped by the newest conquerors of the worlds of men. Their sacred number is three, and the gods of their pantheon are divided into three groups of three. Bits of the older pantheons have been incorporated into the current beliefs and rituals of the Bright Gods.

Add these gods to your world, or take bits and pieces that work best for your campaign.”

The Gods Have Spoken Art by Justin Wyatt

The Gods Have Spoken Art by Justin Wyatt

Egg’s thoughts:

Here’s the vanity press options they’re offering:

  • Make a holy relic magic item
  • Make a holy relic magic item and a saint (NPC) for one of the gods

As they stated, these are new options for Dungeons and Dragons gods so there’s a chance to create something integral to the religion. Or a fanatic.

Yeah, probably a fanatic.

Cathedral of the Holy Convergence by Sparrow Buerer

Cathedral of the Holy Convergence by Sparrow Buerer

Their vanity press rewards:

“Pledge $50 or more

The Relic Maker

Name and describe a magic item of your very own. Use your character’s name if you want to! Binky’s Staff of Clerical Cat Herding?

We’ll turn your creation into a balanced magic item for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

(Of course, we reserve the right to reject offensive or problematic names and/or descriptions.)

Receive a black-and-white soft cover edition of The Gods Have Spoken, a digital color copy of The Gods Have Spoken, and your name will be listed on the book’s Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all digital stretch goals.

* * *

Pledge $100 or more


Name and describe a saint (or other holy person) for one of the pantheons (or even a saint-without-portfolio) and we’ll add it to The Gods Have Spoken. Name it for your favorite character, pet, and so on.

(Of course, we reserve the right to reject offensive or problematic names and/or descriptions.)

Name and describe a magic item of your own, (as in the Relic Maker backer level).

Receive a color hardcover edition of The Gods Have Spoken, a digital color copy of The Gods Have Spoken, and your name will be listed on the book’s Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all digital stretch goals.”

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The Gods Have Spoken - Justin Wyatt Art

The Gods Have Spoken – Justin Wyatt Art

Closing thoughts:

Rarely do you get to build a part of a religion unless you’re the DM. With this, you can think of a cleric, paladin, or druid that will be a featured NPC with their own relic to strengthen their position in the religion.

Creating a magic item or an NPC needs to service a setting more than anything. With this pledge, your NPC saint could be someone or something (it’s D&D, why not Saint Beholder?!) that completed a task so important for their goddess/god that they become a linchpin for the religion. This option allows for a cool, directed NPC that advances the religion in whatever campaign it’s added to.

Best of all, “Patron Saint of NPCs” looks good on a resume.

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Why Kickstarter RPG Vanity Press Rewards? Why Not Self-Publish?

Why am I dead set on buying role-playing game writing credits via Kickstarter? Why build a resume through paying to work for other creators? Why not, you know, self-publish my own RPG content? There are a number of options to sell third-party RPG publications:,,,, (of course) and more. So why not be my own boss and dive in?


I’ve touched on my major obstacle to doing more, time. I lack it so it makes more sense, for now, to do small parts of larger, collaborative projects.

Another major concern I have is being seen. I want what I write to be read. Would I develop a following out of the stone blue?

Then there’s the one my creditors care about the most – Profitability. Would I make more publishing than I hope to make as a freelancer?

Some of the answers to those questions appear in One Year on DM’s Guild, an entry by Jacob Driscoll on his blog The Wonder Waffles. In the article, he discusses his RPG sales in 2016 on the Well worth a full read.


Without reprinting all of Jacob’s research, here are the *edited* parts of his article that are pertinent to what I do (see his article for a fuller picture):

Productivity (Supply)

  • I’ve made a total of 16 Products […] Prices ranged from Pay What You Want (potentially free!) to $5.
  • These products have had about 340 Total Sales, in all, or a raw average of about 21 sales per product.

Profitability (Demand)

  • I’ve made about $250 profit for myself in royalties …
  • That profit works out for me to about $2.06 per page, or, hourly, $0.50/hour. Or, by word, about three-tenths of a cent per word.
  • On a per-product basis, I’m looking at an average of $16.19 profit per product. That breaks down to about $0.70 per unit …”

From the perspective of my vanity press experiment, there are some worthwhile pieces of information to be assumed from this. After buying two of Jacob’s products – People of the Eternal: Races of the Astral Plane and Hereos of the Eternal: Classes of the Astral Plane – and some Googling, Jacob has more experience in freelance RPG creation than I do. Because of his position ahead of me, his results are worth referencing as a roadmap for the road not taken.


For this comparison, the most important difference between Jacob’s path and mine is our methods. I’m hoping to buy writing assignments, do a solid job and move from being a wanna-lancer that pays to write to a freelancer that gets paid to write. Jacob is jumping right into production and profit and contacting RPG fandom without working for a third-party publisher.

That deserves emphasis. He’s making money while I’m spending it. Jacob’s generated profits ($250) equal to what I spent on my first RPG Kickstarter vanity press reward ($250). He’s WAY smarter than me.

That said, I’m experimenting and that’s worth something. Testing a hypothesis has value… right? Right? I mean, what’s, ah, what’s money?

I mean, other than everything… hmm… uh, <sniffle>… back to topic…

kickstarter-logoJacob points out that, to-date, his per word pay rate (the normal measure for a RPG freelance writer) is $.003 (3/10ths of a cent) per word. While I have not jumped to paid writing gigs, many RPG publishers advertise freelancer rates of $.01 and $.02 per word and $.03 per word and $.05 per word, between three and sixteen times higher than Jacob’s current take. That said, I believe (and clearly Jacob does as well since this is the direction he’s moving) that he will grow a fanbase over the years and in the long game see more money.

In measuring his first year’s accomplishments, Jacob notes his total units sold in 2016 are 340. While that does not represent 340 individual fans, he’s been seen by a number of fans. In the article, he talks about the pricing methods he’s using to attract customers and get a greater amount of sampling. I am lockstep with him on the need for fans to see your work. It’s part of why I chose to buy onto Kickstarter projects. Because they funded, I know they were successful and that any work I do will get eyes on it. As an example, my short (few hundred words) location seed in Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e was seen by at least 850 RPG fans. No one bought it because of what I wrote they bought it for the genius of what Sasquatch Games created. In that amazing campaign setting, the fans got to see what I added and, I hope, will look favorably on trying my future freelancer work because of it.

If Jacob is bringing in a check and building a fanbase and establishing himself, why don’t I? Why am I not going Jacob’s route?


It’s still time. He’s putting in an estimated 10 hours a week. I have difficulty being certain I’ll have that week after week. But also there’s the exposure. I believe that saying I worked on X projects is more likely to turn heads and generate interest in future works. Then there’s the money. In the near-term, freelancer work has the potential to pay more. In the end, there’s my experiment. I think that there is value in a story. Saying you bought your way into your job, well, that’s a story worth telling.

Thanks to Jacob Driscoll for writing his article and John McGuire for pointing it out to me.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Itherverse

It’s 2017. I’m a wanna-lancer looking to become a tabletop role-playing game freelancer. My plan to get there involves buying a resume via Kickstarter vanity press options. So, what’s out there to buy?

I pledge for Kickstarter RPG rewards that allow me to write something in the kickstarted project – a NPC, a magic item, an adventure, etc. I get experience writing and build a resume while breaking into the game side of the industry. There is another side of gaming (there’s several, actually) but magazines were a critical part of the industry when I first started playing. They were the place to develop ideas, share smaller products that did not warrant their own release, reviews and advertisements for games, and they allowed gamers to connect and feel the international community. In other words, the printernet (print + internet… you get it, right? Right?! Oy…). Today, the print magazines are largely in decline. Enter Itherverse, a gaming eZine hoping to fund via Kickstarter.

* * *

Itherverse: Multi-Genre RPG Adventure eZine for any System by Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 at 5:27 PM EDT.

Their pitch:

Itherverse Website

Itherverse Website

Monthly ePub packed full of pre-written RPG scenarios for use in any table-top system or game setting using our quick conversion tables


Hello and well met, fellow Game Masters and Players of tabletop dice and story-telling role playing games. You are going to LOVE what we have put together for you today.

First, let me address the Game Masters , but I have something for Players too, so stand by.


Have you found yourself searching high and low for pre-written, play-tested, adventures and material that will work with YOUR setting and more importantly, YOUR game system.

  • Medieval Fantasy
  • Western Frontier
  • Space Marines & Pirates
  • Gnarly Sea-Faring Pirates
  • Post-Apocalyptic Mutants
  • Super Heroes & Villains
  • Zombies
  • Modern
  • Horror
  • etc..

ITHERVERSE is a monthly e-publication (or e-Magazine if you will) that will be packed with just what you need. EVERY MONTH, as a subscriber, you receive an email link to your copy of the latest release (and depending on how our stretch goals go, we very likely may offer printed and mailed versions), but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Did you hear me a moment ago?

These adventures, scenarios and encounters have been designed to work in ANY game setting and easily convertible to ANY game system. Emphasis on EASY!

The Itherverse motto is “It’s YOUR game, play by YOUR rules” and we’re not changing your game in the slightest, only providing you with exciting new content and an easy way to use it.

Egg’s thoughts:

Itherverse Example Pages

Itherverse Example Pages

Unlike most RPG products I have pledged for, this is not a module or sourcebook or setting. It’s a magazine/eZine. One of the “old” ways into the industry that Chris Pramas suggested in his article about breaking into the industry:

People often ask me how they can get started in in the game industry and I used to have a standard patter about it. In the 90s I would tell writers to start with magazine articles. Dragon and Dungeon were always on the lookout, and there used to be options like Shadis, Valkyrie, and Arcane. So sell a few articles, I’d say…

As Chris himself points out later in the article, that’s dated advice because “[g]aming magazines, always a tough business, have largely gone by the wayside.

Itherverse offers an old fashioned avenue into gaming, getting published in a magazine. It’s hard for me to write that what was done in the 90s (my high school/college decade) is retro, but there are elements of that time that are… quaint today. I know there are several gaming magazines that are still going but the only one I buy is Knights of the Dinner Table. I know, it’s not a magazine, it’s a comic with game magazine elements that grew out of Shadis gaming magazine. But, KotDT is the bulletproof gaming magazine – it’s a comic, it’s a magazine, it covers RPGs and nerd culture, it’s got something for everyone in the industry.

Since game magazines are not in vague at the moment, Itherverse offers something unique, a chance to be in on the magazine scene. By pledging for their Kickstarter, you get a chance to state that you broke into the game industry via mags.

Their vanity press rewards:

Itherverse More Example Pages

Itherverse More Example Pages

Pledge $300 or more LEVEL 8: GUILDMASTER

Collaborate with our Creative Designer to not only name something, but to create it from the ground up. Have a monster idea you would like to see in print? Have you designed a weapon, machine, new race, complex trap, simple story idea, or other similar item. Don’t just name it, but we will talk on the phone, exchange emails and/or web cams if necessary to put together a rudimentary concept.

NOTE: Itherverse must be granted exclusive royalty-free rights to the design concept; however, supporter will receive a co-design credit byline and a membership upgrade to 6-months. + Reward #1 through #7


  • Autographed, 1st Edition 
  • PDF, monthly for members 
  • Contributor: Credit 
  • Your Design Collaboration 
  • Membership (6 months) 
  • Special Thanks: Credit 
  • Sponsor Credit, 1st Ed & Web 
  • Autographed Poster 
  • Put Your Mark on the Game

* * *

Pledge $400 or more LEVEL 9: SUPREME WARLORD

Collaborate but on a much LARGER SCALE. Don’t just submit one idea but work together with our Creative Designer on an entire adventure or a group of items. Discuss the plot, setting, enemy tactics, room descriptions and contents. Basically co-design an entire section of the publication, even if it is not an adventure but some other idea. We will talk on the phone, exchange emails and/or web cams if necessary, multiple times, to put it all together.

NOTE: Itherverse must be granted exclusive royalty-free rights to the design concept; however, supporter will receive a co-design credit byline. + Reward #1 through #8


  • Autographed, 1st Edition 
  • PDF, monthly for members 
  • Put Your Mark on the Game 
  • Special Thanks: Credit 
  • Autographed Poster 
  • Contributor: Credit 
  • Membership (6 months) 
  • Sponsor Credit, 1st Ed & Web 
  • Larger Design Collaboration

* * *

Closing thoughts:

I try to frame these posts in a positive and uplifting light. And, I mean, how can I not? This vanity press pledge gives a wanna-lancer gaming credit via a gaming magazine! That’s a win! However, there is one downside:

This project opened on 12-26-16 and as of 1-3-2017, it has generated only $186 of the $25,000 goal. The chances of it funding are low (not impossible, but low).

That said, do not let that number stop you from helping out. The best part of Kickstarter for the backers is if you pledge, you are not charged a dime unless the campaign reaches its funding goal. If you want to put money in, do so without the worry that the campaign will fall short of its goal and you just paid into a project that cannot be achieved due to financial challenges. Kickstarter lets you pledge with some piece of mind.

I hope this project makes it and it helps someone achieve their goal of writing for a gaming magazine!

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at


The Birch movie poster

The Birch movie poster

Happy 2017!

In the tradition of Amanda Makepeace’s short film reviews, I am sharing and reviewing:

The Birch (2016) – Horror Short Film

Sword and sorcery speaks to me. Those never-existed fantasy worlds and characters speak to me. In my regular blog series, I write about my quest to buy a resume that will elevate me from a tabletop role-playing game wanna-lancer to freelancer. I want to enter that field because I have sword and sorcery stories that I want to tell.

Where does The Birch fit into that? [SPOILER WARNING – The film is linked below so skip ahead, watch the short and then come back for my thoughts.] The movie takes place in the modern-day UK so you have to squint just a bit to see it as fantasy sword and sorcery. If you squint you’ll see a spellbook and magic and an elemental and the enemy uses a knife and the final battle takes place in the woods. Sword and sorcery veiled by modern clothing and backpacks and streets and a bedroom.

In D&D* terms, The Birch is about a young wizard who is given a spellbook by his dying mother in order to protect him. He is being bullied and she cannot save him but she knows a secret that can. After studying the spellbook, he uses magic to summon an earth elemental to be his protector and surrogate mother.

The Birch

The Birch

If this were D&D, it would be an excellent backstory of what drove a character to become a wizard. It delves into the origin of their spellbook, their mystical lineage, what motivated them to cast their first spell and why they can never turn back from that path.

This origin story leaves open future campaign plot points. Did the boy get away with the murder? What happened to the birch? Does it still obey the wizard or is there a darker, more tragic end to their relationship. The deepest reach might be, what killed mother? There are worlds of possibilities generated by 4 minutes and 31 seconds of story. Need a bit of horror magic for the New Year? I recommend:

The Birch (2016) – Horror Short Film
Directed by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton
Written by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton and Cliff Wallace
Full credits and production details at BloodyCuts and at IMDb.

4 minutes and 31 seconds of horror:

*For sword and sorcery, Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) provide so much of the glossary.

Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Validation – Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing’s Thoughts on Breaking into the Game Industry

Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing (publishers of Fantasy AGE, Mutants & Masterminds, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, and D&D 5e’s Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide among other role-playing products) wrote a post about how to break into the game industry. It is an excellent piece covering the practical ways to become a game designer. I recommend reading it for all of his thoughts.

Green Ronin Publishing Logo

Green Ronin Publishing Logo

Chris’ blog, falling at the end 2016, is an apt sounding board for a year-end review. For what my experiment – purchasing role-playing game writing opportunities via Kickstarter to build a resume and advance from RPG wanna-lancer to RPG freelancer – I want to compare the parts of his article that relate to my process as a gauge for how well I am doing.

Where is Chris Pramas at as 2016 closes? President of Green Ronin Publishing with a slew of games he’s designed and the awards to testify to their quality. He has two-plus-decades of experience seeing freelancers break into the game industry. With his position in the industry, his thoughts will make an excellent progress marker.

Where am I at the end of 2016? I’ve leveled from fan-with-a-plan to fan-acting-on-a-plan with a few pleasant RPG credits and I was invited to join this blog. With my day job and life leaving limited time to work on creative pursuits, I’ve enjoyed this year as I ramped up my skills and consistently met deadlines.

Let’s compare my plan to Chris’ suggestions. (All quotes are pulled from Chris Pramas’ article.)

Green Ronin Publishing - A Song of Ice and Fire

Green Ronin Publishing – A Song of Ice and Fire


“[…] create a blog and write about games.”

I started buying vanity press RPG writing credits in mid-2015 and started blogging about the results fourteen months later. To spread out the blog’s content, I have not covered all of the writing opportunities I have bought to-date. At the close of 2016, I have 10 Kickstarter RPG writing credits (published or forthcoming), 1 RPG art credit, some RPG work-for-credits, 1 trip to Gen Con, and a comic book mini-series pitch approved. I’m not out of the wanna-lancer stage but I’m taking baby steps to get there. With content and a consistent theme for my blog, 2017 should be a good year in my journey to freelancer.

“This costs virtually nothing […] writing regularly is good practice.”

While blogging does cost “virtually nothing”, the route that I chose, buying RPG writing credits, does have a cost. Being financially invested heightens my interest in finding time to make this happen. It’s less about wouldn’t-it-be-nice and more about I-need-to-make-that-money-back.

The same thought process applies to regular blogging. Having a blog that runs two to three Tuesdays a month, while not a hard deadline, helps to build deadline “muscle memory”. It also makes the most of the money and time I’ve invested in these by turning each Kickstarter into a part of the narrative of my quest.

“[…] I suggest writing actual game content. […] pick a game or two that you like and start writing material for it. […] Design some monsters or magic items. Write a short adventure. Make some NPCs with adventure hooks. If you start creating useful content, you can develop a good reputation in the game’s community. This may eventually lead to freelance work.”

The beauty of buying a RPG writing assignment is being given a small, specific project to develop that you know will be published. As Chris suggests, I am developing a monster or a magic item or whatever the assignment is. However, instead of putting it onto the internet and hoping that gamers and publishers see it, I am putting these short projects into successfully crowdfunded RPGs that will be read by editors and fans. It is Chris’ advice turned up to 11.

Celltar Drumthunder. Art by Egg Embry

Celltar Drumthunder from Ember Design Studio’s Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street. Art by Egg Embry

“At the very least you are developing a body of work that is easy to show off. If a developer asks you for a writing sample, you’ll have ready material for that.”

My plan has always been two birds with one Kickstarter pledge. Bird one is, of course, the writing and credits themselves. The opportunity to be handed an assignment from a publisher, work for them, get published, and, hopefully, open a door to become a RPG freelancer. As Chris suggests, I have submitted my published work as writing samples. Bird two is to blog about the experience and build interest with gamers for the product I’m in and the work I’ve contributed to it.

“Writing reviews can also be useful. It can show that you can think critically about games. Checking out a wide variety of game material is never wasted time either.”

Writing about the purchase and the creation process means, in a limited way, I get to review the product that I was in. With respect to these reviews, since I am not an unbiased observer, I don’t do an in-depth discussion. But, these blogs are a chance to bring up the product and cast a new perspective on it with some minor production information.

Some of the RPG assignments are for systems that I have limited experience with. My comfort zone is Dungeons & Dragons 5e. But, through purchasing assignments, I’ve added development work in Pathfinder, W.O.I.N., Call of Cthuhlu 7e, and touched on Castles & Crusaders. Doing this has exposed me to a growing list of game material, lockstep with the suggestion from the President of Green Ronin Publishing.

Green Ronin Publishing - Mutants & Masterminds

Green Ronin Publishing – Mutants & Masterminds


“[…] I’ve mentioned a couple of ways to break into freelancing already but there are others. Some companies do open calls from time to time. You will end up in a big slush pile but it’s a chance at least.”

In the year and a half I’ve been experimenting with this, I’ve only submitted for one RPG freelance assignment and that was under a month ago. Why did I wait this long?

  • It’s easier to buy an opportunity because, through the logic of commerce, they have to work with you because they took your money. For freelancing, the reverse is true – You have to work with them if you want their money. That means their schedule, their style, their notes, their way. I want to make sure I’m ready to follow other people’s rules before I raise my hand.
  • It seemed almost pointless to cold submit for projects with no resume. With no prior experience, I expect it would be a long while before anyone takes a chance on me. Now, I have some entries which have led to intern-esque opportunities.
  • I mention time a lot because I have very little of it that I can spend in front of a computer writing. That situation has improved recently so it is time to try these type of opportunities.

“You’ll also find game design competitions out there. You may not win—you probably won’t, in fact—but good work can get you noticed and may result in freelance opportunities. Once you get a gig, the most important thing to do is hit your deadline. If your developer asks for revisions, do them in a timeline fashion. It is better to do solid work on time than produce something of sheer genius months late.”

Through the Kickstarter for Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e, about 100 backers and I submitted monsters for consideration in their book. Twenty were selected. Mine was not one of the selected entrants. However, I did get quality feedback from Wolfgang Baur and Dan Dillon on the design that improved the monster. Dan shared that mine was in contention for one of the final two slots (as were about 20 others). I lost but, based on their thoughts, I was not hopeless. Taking their advice, next time I’ll have a better idea of what to do.

Green Ronin Publishing - Fantasy Age

Green Ronin Publishing – Fantasy Age


“[…] The biggest game changer though is crowdfunding. […] I’ll just note here that sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo make it possible for game companies to overcome the biggest hurdle most of them face: funding. […] Just do your homework before trying your first crowdfunding campaign. There is much to absorb about the process and the best practices of crowdfunding […]”

While I’m not racing to be a publisher, what I am doing would not be possible without crowdfunding and their decision to offer writing opportunities as rewards. Without those two things, I do not believe I would have a path to become a freelancer.

* * *

I only touched on some of Chris Pramas’ article. But based on it, I’m doing a number of the right things and I’m doing them my way. 2016 has been a successful year in terms of dipping my toe into the game industry. As I head into 2017, I have more products coming out and other irons in the fire. I am ready to make 2017 the Year of the Wanna-lancer!

* * *

I want to thank my gaming buddy, Sir Leland Beauchamp, for sharing Chris’ article with me. And Chris Pramas for sharing his insights with the world.

As the year closes, I want to thank Erica and our nieces and nephews for making every day worth living, my parents for their spirit of independence, the members of the Tessera Guild for letting me play in their sandbox, Michael Phillips at Midcity Comics for all of the good conversation and motivation, all of the RPG publishers that I have had the privilege to work with and all of the wonderful content that they’ve produced, and Michael Bugg‘s RPG group that keeps me in-character. Without each of you, 2016 would not have been a success for me.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Ultimate Wish List

When I was a kid the Christmas Catalogs were the end all be all of what might be available for the holiday season. I’d spend hours flipping through the pages, looking at the various Transformers I could never deem to actually ask for. I mean it was one thing to ask for multiple $5 or $10 or even a $20 toy, but I want to say that this:


Cost over $100 easy. Didn’t matter that it might have been the coolest thing EVER.

Now that I’m older we call flipping through the catalogs Black Friday ads or at this point just going to and seeing if anything strikes my fancy. And sure, these days if I really wanted that $100 toy it wouldn’t break the bank. So like everything else we must aim a little higher. If money were no object… maybe a Brewster’s Millions situation or say I won the lottery tomorrow, but maybe it wasn’t a lottery win where I could buy an island, just enough to get some higher end toys and see how the “other half” lives.

(Note, this is about “stuff” not experiences. Yes, I’d love to travel with my sudden imaginary wealth. This isn’t about that.)


3D Printer


Years ago CD Burners were this mythical thing. Having the ability to copy someone’s cd directly instead of saving it on a tape? Having that extra space for easily transferring files back and forth. These were the pipe dreams of a younger day. But I spent about $200 on a cd burner while I was in college because no one else had one on the hall. And it got used to make copies of anything and everything.

This item though… what would I actually do with one? Probably dick around with it. Maybe make miniatures. Maybe make game pieces. I’m sure I could figure out something once I actually had it.

That’s not the point of the list. I don’t have to have an actual purpose designed for it.


Avengers 4


For the uneducated, this is the Silver Age debut of Captain America. After spending two decades trapped in ice, a fledgling team of Avengers finds and revives him. What you might think of as the “core” team really comes to fruition in this issue. An idea that a lost relic from another age of comics could not only come back, but eventually be the heart and soul of that team…

While I own just over 10,000 comics, I’ve been in the process of trying to collect a full run of the Avengers books. The oldest issue I have is #9, and the bulk of my run really begins in the 130s and up. This would really be a true linchpin of any collection.


Entry into the World Series of Poker Main Event


We (my wife and I) play poker once a week at a restaurant. I have no illusions that this makes me anything other than someone who likes the game enough to play every week.


There are stories all the time about some person no one ever heard of before suddenly has a nice run in the tournament. I’m thinking “I could be some person”.


Superbowl Tickets


I know I discounted experiences above, but this is one of those that I could never justify the money other than within this blog. Vacations, even to exotic places, can still happen in my real life.

Mostly this is about experiencing the atmosphere, seeing a game the whole world is watching…

And maybe cheering on the Dolphins?

R2-D2 Moving Frig


Because sometimes the real refrigerator is too far away.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at


Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Island of Moaning Voices

Happy holidays! Looking for a unique gift for a role-playing gaming fan? How about giving them the opportunity to write for an RPG? On certain RPG Kickstarters, there are vanity press rewards that let you buy the option to create a non-player character that will be immortalized in a RPG product. For a select few, that is the perfect stocking stuffer – the gift of work!

Wait… Work? Hmm… That’s like a tax refund… I’m getting my money back! Yippee… sorta… So, this holiday season, the suggestion is to pay to work for a gaming company? Uh, why?

Your mileage may vary but the reasons I do this are:

  • Build a resume! My goal in buying RPG writing credits via Kickstarter is to build up my resume and experience to move from a RPG wanna-lancer to a RPG freelancer.
  • Be creative! Do you or a friend have more ideas than time? Here’s a chance to unleash just a taste of that creativity on the world.
  • Be immortalized! …at least until the next edition of the RPG system this product is written for comes out.

Tempted? Here’s a possible RPG Kickstarter with some vanity press options to consider.

* * *

Island of Moaning Voices: Setting

Island of Moaning Voices: Setting

Island of Moaning Voices by Entire Party Killed
Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 at 15:37 EDT.

Their pitch:

“An extended adventure module compatible with Fifth Edition, designed for 4-6 characters from level 1 (or more) to 10.

What is inside this book?

  • A complete adventure for 5th Edition, suitable for level 1-10 player characters
  • A whole new island to uncover and explore, involved in the history and politics of two Kingdoms
  • New rules to explore the wilderness
  • More than 20 New monsters, creatures, NPCs, spells and magical items

The Island is available as a PDF or a full-color hardcover volume of 112 pages and, in addition, you can have a 24″ x 36″ Full Color Map and a Full Color Master Screen, with an innovative system of Initiative management.


It is an epic adventure that can engage groups of players for countless sessions and make them grow from level 1 to 10. It is a whole new island of adventure, mystery, exploration, struggle for survival but also political intrigue and dark plots that can unfold and develop further in the, already planned, sequels. You can immediately start to play with the pre-generated characters or use your own, even if they are not novice ones! The Duke may call it Prosperity Island today but, for the inhabitants, it is still old Moaning Voices and it “welcomes” people of all kind and powers!

Island of Moaning Voices is a 112 pages sandbox adventure for characters of level 1-10 (or more, in the sequels, if we reach certain PLEDGE GOALS) with rich graphics and original contents, set in an exotic and mysterious island. It’s an OLD SCHOOL flavored setting but in line with the simplicity and flexibility of the 5th EDITION game. In the adventure module, presented both in the inexpensive PDF version and in the elegant hardcover volume, there will be many NEW MONSTERS, CREATURES, SPELLS and MAGIC ITEMS! Moreover, NEW RULES for terrestrial exploration will let the players to use the strategic hexagonal map to discover this fascinating setting. A part for the fantastic locations, there is a surprising story and many plot twists! Island of Moaning Voices represents the frontier for the inhabitants of the rich seafaring Duchy of Belqualam, an only partially explored frontier, definitely wild and fraught with dangers. Furthermore, there is the recent discovery of a precious arcane metal whose properties are still not completely understood. The metal, called “Prosperium” to bring good luck to the beginning community, makes the Island a strategic center for the economy of the Duchy and its military supremacy over the neighboring Kingdom of Halethia.

However, the exploitation and colonization of the Island have been particularly difficult. In an effort to clean up the island from the many hostile presences, the Duke thought of gathering there a large number of Adventurers. He has been very successful in this endeavor thanks to a gimmick: since a few years ago, in fact, he organizes the FRAG FEST on the island. It is a month long festival whose main attraction is THE GREAT HUNT, a series of organized events and competitions designed to decimate the population of hostile creatures of Moaning Voices.

What of you? Will you be brave enough to undertake the journey to the Island and become a Hunter? Wealth, Glory or simply Death … what is it really in stock for you?”

* * *

Island of Moaning Voices: NPCs

Island of Moaning Voices: NPCs

Their vanity press rewards:

“Pledge €180 or more
About $191
Sculptor of Fate

In addition to Landlord goodies, you can work with us to create a main NPC of Island of Moaning Voices, with his own background, personality and traits. Our artist Domenico Neziti will realize his portrait.

Remember, it could be your player character too!


  • PDF versions of the 112 pages Book
  • PDF Map of the Island
  • Hardcover, 112 pages Full color Printed Book
  • Printed Map of Island (24” x 36”)
  • Dungeon Master Screen (about 8.5” high and 3 x 11” wide)
  • Work with us to create a main NPC”

* * *

“Pledge €400 or more
About $424
Lord of the Island

Like Sculptor of Fate but the NPC you created with us will also be central in one of the main events of the plot. You will help us to shape the story, so you will really be the Lord of the Island!


  • PDF versions of the 112 pages Book
  • PDF Map of the Island
  • Hardcover, 112 pages Full color Printed Book
  • Printed Map of Island (24” x 36”)
  • Dungeon Master Screen (about 8.5” high and 3 x 11” wide)
  • You will create a key NPC in one of the main events of the plot”

* * *

Island of Moaning Voices: The Great Hunt

Island of Moaning Voices: The Great Hunt

Egg’s thoughts:

Choose the Sculptor of Fate reward to create a NPC and see it illustrated by Domenico Neziti. Do the write up and, with that, you will influence this artist’s work. Alternately, you can choose to be the Lord of the Island and not only write up your NPC and have her/him/it drawn but also help guide the plot of the adventure. Along with all of the print and PDF products, you will have a hand in building this fantasy society and creating a member of that world.

With seven days to go, this project still needs to raise 87% of their funding. If you want to create an NPC, back this project. They’ll appreciate the support. If it funds, the world will read your, or if you are giving this as a gift, your friend’s, creativity.

Have a happy holiday!

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Sunken Temple and Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland

Behind the scenes, I’ve made strides in my scheme to buy my way up from RPG wanna-lancer to RPG freelancer. Still working at getting into RPGs professionally, but strides are being made all the same. The root of my plan is buying role-playing game writing credits via Kickstarter to create a resume. Currently, here are some of the Kickstarters that are offering vanity press options.

I’ve chronicled the NPC that I created for Ember Design Studios via their Kickstarter for Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street. My guildmate, John McGuire, wrote up his experience creating a NPC for the same products here. As it happens, EDS is running another Kickstarter and they’re offering more NPC creation options.

* * *

Sunken Temple, an RPG adventure for 5e, Pathfinder, & WOIN by Ember Design Studios

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, December 18th, 2016 at 12:00 EDT.

Sunken Temple Art

Sunken Temple Artwork

Their pitch:

Lost beneath the waves for untold millennia, the Sunken Temple has been seen again. Inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft. 

Sunken Temple is an adventure written for 5e, W.O.I.N., and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It takes place in a mysterious range of never-before-seen mountains and is suitable for use in any setting. The module is inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, particularly The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and At the Mountains of Madness. 

The project includes: 

  • An adventure suitable for 4-5 characters of 6th-level. The playstyle is predominately a dungeon crawl, with a horrific element appropriate to the source material.
  • The temple includes several wings, each with a different feel, assortment of baddies, and their own malevolent purpose – with additional wings ready to be unearthed through stretch goals! 
  • Game stats and original artwork for several traditional Lovecraft beasties (deep one, star spawn, night gaunt, and rat thing) and a few originals of my own devising. 

Sunken Temple will be available in print, PDF, and through City of Brass.

City of Brass

City of Brass

Egg’s thoughts:

This project will have versions available for 5e, Pathfinder, and – best for my resume – W.O.I.N. That adds another system to my list. Adding to its draw, this is another project that plays in Cthulhu’s sandbox.

For EDS’s last Kickstarter, I created Celltar Drumthunder. It was fun, easy, and formed a part of a set of memorable Christmas gifts as I gave two other NPC creation slots to my buddies, John McGuire and Leland Beauchamp. We tied the back stories of our non-player characters together.

For this adventure, EDS is offering two types of NPCs, sailors or more prominent characters (captain, etc). Since this is a similar opportunity as with Yrisa’s Nightmare, let me offer Sunken Temple the highest praise I can give – John McGuire, Leland Beauchamp, and myself are all investing in it and all paying the extra to create more NPCs. The experience was good enough to warrant repeat business.

That brings us to the 6th Kickstarter update to their campaign, the vanity press rewards:

Sunken Temple art showing the reason the temple sank - Too many C[thulhu]arbs!

The reason the temple sank – Too many c-thulhu-arbs!

New Addon: Make a Sailor

With the unlocking of Voyage of the Sea Darter there is a chance for those of you who want to leave a more lasting mark on Sunken Temple to do so.

Sea Darter boasts a crew of about 20 sailors. Several of them will have minor roles in the adventure, and the more and diverse personalities that they have, the better. So, if you’d like to take a swing at creating a sailor that will appear in this finished aventure, just add $20 to your pledge.

Now, maybe you want to have a more prominent impact both on the project funding and the characters in the adventure. If you’d like to nab one of these slots, add $50 to your pledge and message me, so I know which one you want and make sure we don’t have everyone adding the same ones. For each of these that someone claims, I’ll also commission extra artwork for the character.

The limited roles include:

  • Captain
  • First Mate
  • Navigator
  • Mutinous Sailor (I’m not saying there’s a mutiny but just in case)

* * *

Hypercorps 2099 Wasteland: 5th Edition Apocalyptic RPG (5E) by Mike Myler

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, December 18th, 2016 at 11:59 EDT in the evening.

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e - Mutants

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e – Mutants

Their pitch:

Venture into the ruins of civilization! Fight nuclear fallout and wild warlords! Try to survive and thrive in Earth’s atomic twilight!

Pockets of Earth are decimated by nuclear war in 1969 after the Bay of Pigs escalates into World War 3 and atomic weapons are unleashed across the planet. The alter sapiens of the world put aside their differences and use their abilities to create safe havens across the globe, saving those they can from nuclear devastation. Almost a century and a half has passed since the atomic apocalypse and through tireless scientific effort, areas of the world are becoming livable once more and civilization is creeping out to seek out life once again under the sun—though doing so means surviving in the Wasteland and many believe they were better off locked away in their shelters.

Help us make a 120+ page campaign setting source book for taking your D&D game into the apocalyptic future of an alternate Hypercorps 2099!

Egg’s thoughts:

This setting is an alternate timeline deviating from their main setting which is a variant timeline from our own. The idea of multiple timeline settings presents a campaign idea – learning the origins of these worlds by dimension jumping the PCs from the Hypercorps 2099 timeline/setting to “our” timeline to find out why the altered sapiens and fantasy races never emerged. From there, travel to the Cuban Missile Crisis to see the start of Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands before traveling to the “current” wastelands setting. There’s a nice story in seeing the cause and effect of the worlds and how the players can influence it.

Add the vanity press post apocalypse Kickstarter rewards and this is a winning setting! Not only do you get to design a wasteland warlord and/or a NPC, you also are involved in the art discussion. You will get some say with the artist on how the character(s) will look which is a nice bonus.

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e - Cyborg

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e – Cyborg

Their vanity press rewards:

Pledge $250 or more

Wasteland PDF, Wasteland hardcover, 5 session mini-campaign through for you and four friends, and you will help design and order artwork for one of the warlords in Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland!

  • Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland Hardcover and PDF
  • Hypercorps 2099 5e Hardcover and PDF
  • 5 Session Mini-Campaign Through for You and Four Friends
  • Help Design a Warlord for the Wasteland (Includes Art Order)

* * *

Pledge $500 or more 

Wasteland PDF, Wasteland hardcover, campaign through for you and four friends (minimum of 10 sessions), and you will help design and order artwork for a unique NPC survivor of your own design and one of the warlords in Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland!

  • Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland Hardcover and PDF
  • Hypercorps 2099 5e Hardcover and PDF
  • 5 Session Mini-Campaign Through for You and Four Friends
  • Help Design a Warlord for the Wasteland (Includes Art Order)
  • Design a Unique NPC for the Wasteland (Includes Art Order)

* * *

Closing thoughts:

Both projects will be fun to see brought to life. Cthulhu or mutants? Both are going to be fun to fight!

I’ve already pledged for EDS’s Sunken Temple. I’ve worked with them before and they are easygoing. I expect a top shelf product with plenty of extras. I’m really excited about this one! And that’s no slight to Mike Myler’s Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands. I believe it will turn out nicely as well. He is presenting an interesting world and solid vanity press options.

Both have an extra bit of win, they could be purchased as Christmas gifts for the RPG fan that has it all… save for creator credits.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Review my deep, dark fantasy – Nether Kingdom

I’m hunting for honest reviews of my deepest, darkest fantasy novel yet, Nether Kingdom.

At the world’s edge, Andelusia awakens to the terrible realization that all her dreams have come to nothing. No matter that her father, the warlock, has fallen into exile. No matter that the enemies of mankind have retreated into darkness. When the shadows in her heart cause the seasons to change and deadly storms to sweep across Thillria, she knows what will come:

Nether Kingdom

Click here to buy and review!


Nether Kingdom is the third and final book in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.

It can be read as a standalone novel.

Books I and II are here:

Soul Orb New DDP Cover Second Try Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover

J Edward Neill

Master of sci-fi and fantasy

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy

Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press – Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Streets

“If I buy my way into RPG freelancing, will I ever be taken seriously?”

To obtain a job and be successful at it, generally, you need the applicable skills for that profession and you have to prove you possess said skills. I want to move from a role-playing game wanna-lancer to a freelance writer. My proof that I have those skills involves buying writing credits in RPGs via Kickstarter. Stocking my resume with vanity press entries. But if my resume is all vanity press, will that make me a laughing stock instead of someone to take stock in?




Yrisa's Nightmare.

Yrisa’s Nightmare.

Before I dive too far into these thoughts, let’s touch on how the Kickstarter vanity press idea works? Some RPG Kickstarters offer rewards that let you submit content to their game. They offer an opportunity to write and you pay them for the opportunity.

Due to my schedule, this is ideal. It lets me write something with a low word count, typically a few hundred words like an adventure hook, a NPC, a location seed, a monster, or a magic item that will be printed and credited to me.

This is my journey to freelancer and it starts with selecting the Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press.




For my first purchase, I participated in Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e where I provided a location seed in their campaign setting. Another opportunity that presented itself was Ember Design Studios’ Kickstarter for Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street.

Yrisa’s Nightmare, an RPG adventure for Pathfinder and 5e by Ember Design Studios

Yrisa’s Nightmare is a supernatural mystery set in a viking fort town. Your characters arrive, supernatural attacks happen to them and those around the settlement, and your party either uncovers why these attacks are happening or they don’t get to leave. Ever.

Rats in the Street. Featuring Wererats.

Rats in the Street. Featuring Wererats.

Rats in the Street (5e) by Ember Design Studios

Rats in the Street is a city adventure in the same world as Yrisa’s Nightmare. This time, you’re facing a gang of wererat thieves and you have to piece together the clues to stop them.

Launched in November, 2015, both adventures come from Lucas Curell the creator of the online RPG tool, City of Brass. The concept – viking mysteries – interested me but I collect Kickstarter writing credits. To get my $75 they needed something extra on top of:

  • Print and PDF copies of Yrisa’s Nightmare for either Pathfinder or 5e – $25 via Kickstarter / $25.53 (taxes and shipping to me) via
  • PDF copy of The Song of Aracos for 5e – Kickstarter Bonus / $4.95 via
  • PDF copy of Rats in the Streets for either Pathfinder or 5e – $5 via Kickstarter / $4.95 via

That extra sauce that captured my wallet was the:

  • World Builder add-on – “Work with [Lucas Curell] to create an interesting NPC for the village of Yroden or nearby countryside.
    Remember, Yroden will be released using a CC BY-SA 4.0 license so only select this option if your comfortable with that. These characters will all be included in the web supplement, and in the finished adventure.”
  • Vanity press upcharge – $15 x 3 = $45
Celltar Drumthunder. Art by Egg Embry

Celltar Drumthunder. Art by Egg Embry

The opportunity to create an NPC expanded my resume from just a location seed to a character. I bought the ability to create three NPCs for Yrisa’s Nightmare. It was just before Christmas 2015 and these seemed like fun gifts for my RPG buddies, John “Cursed Sword” McGuire and Sir Leland Beauchamp. What did we do with three NPCs? We alluded to a shared history through them.

Lucas picked up on the shared backstory and saw a clever way to use the characters. He put Kaiya Blackmoore as an important NPC in Yrisa’s Nightmare. In that adventure, Sully and Celltar Drumthunder appear as part of the supernatural effects that drive the tale. In Rats in the Street, Sully and Celltar take on some of the larger NPC roles within the adventure. The characters unite these adventures through their shared easter egg (no pun intended) backstory.




UPDATE – 2016-12-07 – John McGuire did a write up of his character and the process here.




City of Brass

City of Brass

Credit where credit is due. Lucas took these characters, saw their backstory and potential within his world, and wove them into the fabric of his tales in Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street. The steps to bring this to life – pay, bat ideas between John and Leland, write, draw, submit, read, smile – were all easier than I could have asked for. These adventures have been delivered and enjoyed. Vanity press RPG writer’s credit number two and RPG art credit number one complete! On to number three…




To my initial question, will I be taken seriously if my resume is all vanity press Kickstarter rewards? It was a worry. Then Sir Leland* and I went to Gen Con 2016, my first Gen Con. There we had the opportunity to meet Lucas and play through another adventure he created,  Bella’s Yarn (5e), another excellent adventure. I really liked playing mideval detective to solve that mystery. For his part, Lucas was awesome. Instead of treating me like a joke because I am trying to buy my way through the door he was happy to talk gaming, and Kickstarters, and RPG websites. He treated me like a welcome addition to the community. It cured my concern.

Will I be judged for my start in the industry? Likely. Will that be the end of my quest? No.

*The “Sir Leland” reference is because my buddy’s name is Leland Beauchamp – Amanda, Jeremy, John, Chad, Robert, the whole Tessera Guild, we all know Lee – anyways, in high school, he named his D&D knight, Sir Leland. Could you imagine if I tried that? Ser Egg. Only George RR Martin could pull that off…




Sample NPCs from Yrisa's Nightmare.

Sample NPCs from Yrisa’s Nightmare.

Kickstarter information:

Yrisa’s Nightmare, an RPG adventure for Pathfinder and 5e by Ember Design Studios
Raised $2,680 starting November 13th, 2015

If getting a NPC into an adventure is on your Christmas 2016 wish list, Ember Design Studios is running another Kickstarter and is offering two options to get your sailor NPC into the mix (see the 6th update on the Kickstarter). Sunken Temple, an RPG adventure for 5e, Pathfinder, & WOIN by Ember Design Studios
Raised to-date (this Kickstarter is still going at the time of this writing) $4,273 starting November 18th, 2016




Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:


  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Did I Miss? – The Faerie Ring

Current State? Role-playing game wanna-lancer. Mission? To become a RPG freelancer. Plan? Pledging for writing credits in other creator’s RPG Kickstarters.


From The Faerie Ring by Zombie Sky Press.

That’s the situation now, but what about the past? Are there any un-mined RPG writing credits in Kickstarter’s long tail of products? As it turns out, yes.

The projects I didn’t back… Some are professional and, likely, memorably fun but charged more for their vanity press pledge levels than I could afford. Some were great looking products but did not have a vanity press option at all. One of the latter was The Faerie Ring for Pathfinder and 5e. I did not pledge but I follow them on Facebook and they have posted a writing opportunity…

The Faerie Ring for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and 5E by Zombie Sky Press

This Kickstarter is in the rearview having started on November 30th of two thousand and fifteen.

Their pitch:

The Faerie Ring expands the fey options for both players and GMs using either Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or 5E and creates new opportunities for meddling where you probably shouldn’t. It introduces new fey monsters, playable fey races and other character options, fey big bads or patrons (or both!), fey cities and planes and other locales, and more.

This project aims to highlight the fey: to build their mythos with the strong personalities of powerful fey lords, to build their mystery with extraplanar fey locales and adventures, and to build their influence with fey character options.


This picture encapsulates the wanna-lancer to freelancer journey. From The Faerie Ring by Zombie Sky Press.

We’re updating and remastering the two existing PDF releases (“Prelude” and “Red Jack”) and incorporating them along with nine additional chapters of brand new content as The Faerie Ring: Along the Twisting Way in two printed volumes: a Campaign Guide and a Player’s Guide. Plus, a third book in PDF, the Magic Guide.

The Faerie Ring began over 5 years ago and launched Zombie Sky Press. And though the project’s been silent for a while, we’ve been quietly designing the whole time, and now, we’re ready to unveil our plans. The original “Prelude” is linked in the Update section for everyone to check out.

Egg’s thoughts:

Not out of intention, but every RPG game I’ve played has been set in a human-centric world. The concept of the fey fleshed out to be more than the occasional antagonist is interesting. This product seems likely to offer both the flavor and crunch needed to make the faerie races, monsters, magics, and societies feel grounded and workable. Had there been a vanity press option, I’d have happily put in my coin.

But, a year later, there is an option.


From The Faerie Ring by Zombie Sky Press.

Update #23:

Public Update and a Call for Magic Submissions

We Want Magic Submissions! 

As we pull together the Campaign and Player’s Guides for The Faerie Ring, we’re thinking more and more about the Magic Guide. So we’re calling for magical pitches. Interested in submitting something for consideration? Accepted pitches will be commissioned at 5 c/w.

For design contributions, please put together a pitch of one or more ideas for the Magic Guide that you’d be interested in working on. We are certainly looking for individual spells and rituals—and I’ll be asking for those at a later date—but we’re currently looking for other things, like fascinating optional subsystems related to magic and the fey. For the pitch, give me a description of what you’re proposing and the presumed word count (assume you can’t have more than 2,000-3,000 words per idea, though great pitches may be given more room). These can be for either 5E or Pathfinder (if accepted, we’ll convert if possible), or maybe, they’re largely flavor with minimal to no crunch; let us know in the pitch. Send pitches to scott(at)zombieskypress(dot)com by December 1, 2016.

Get your ass to Mars.

Kuato Lives! From The Faerie Ring by Zombie Sky Press.

For example, the concept of the moonshadow will be a part of the Magic Guide. This will detail how the moon’s passing affects different fey in different ways (but all fey feel the effects of the moon in some way).

Here’s the PDF that started it all back in 2010. It’s getting some updates for the new release, but it is offered here as inspiration: The Faerie Ring Prelude.

Egg’s closing thoughts:

To this point, there has been safety in paying for the opportunity to write. Once they have my money they can’t fire me without a refund.

What Zombie Sky Press is offering is work-for-hire. Submitting to write comes with no guarantee of acceptance like a Kickstarter pledge does. This situation requires skills not born of my bank account. They’re offering the first major test in my mission: Have I reached the level (oy) where I can move from paying to write to being paid to write? Am I ready to jump from wanna-lancer to freelancer?

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Apocalypse the Risen RPG

I am building a resume of tabletop role-playing game writing credits by buying them from Kickstarter. The goal is to go from a RPG wanna-lancer to a paid freelancer. It’s… well, it’s my personal demon. To that end, there is an option to pay to write about that or any type of demon.


* * *

Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting

Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting

Apocalypse the Risen RPG (Pathfinder Compatible) by Rust Portal Games


Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016 at 10:18 EDT in the evening.


Their pitch:


Can you survive the undead and demonic horrors ravaging post-apocalyptic Earth some 25 years after the Rise? Pathfinder Compatible RPG.


Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting is a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible post-apocalyptic fantasy horror RPG based on Earth, twenty-five years after the fall of society, an event known as the Rise. This full color hardcover campaign setting will be heavily illustrated and over 400 pages.


Ghost, Emotes All by Preston Stone

Ghost, Emotes All by Preston Stone

Apocalypse the Risen thrusts you into the role of a resolute survivor, forging through the ashes of humanity on an Earth besieged by demons and the dead—known as Risen. Twenty-five years after the collapse of society, humankind and their new allies now fight back, staggered and beaten but never broken.


Is it the survival of your Colony that drives you onward in the hunt for precious resources? Or perhaps hatred for the evils walking the Earth that fuels your righteous anger seeking redemption?”


Egg’s thoughts:


First, like so many Kickstarter RPG projects, the art is rich and amazing. The book will look glorious with this level of art.

Second, you get to design a demon. I mean, does it get more metal than designing a demon? No, no it doesn’t.


Their vanity press rewards:


Descended Draft, Seraphim Banner by Rodrigo Vega

Descended Draft, Seraphim Banner by Rodrigo Vega

“Pledge $349 or more



You are the Light against the Darkness.



  • Design a Demon! Apocalypse the Risen includes a detailed demon creation system and we will put it at your fingertips. Give us an idea, a name, a concept, or dig deep into the demon creator and we will work with you to design a demon to be published by Rusted Portal with designer credits for you.
  • Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting Hardcover
  • Access to Stretch Goals unlocked during campaign!
  • AtR Character Portfolio Pack (18 Sheets)
  • Apocalypse the Risen GM Screen
  • Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting PDF
  • “Adrift” AtR One-shot Adventure PDF
  • Nine 8th Level Pre-Generated Characters PDF”


* * *

Shonk, The Holy Wood

“OMG! Demon metal me?! Yeah-no!”    – Shonk, The Holy Wood!


Closing thoughts:


The project looks stunning, the concept – post-apocalyptic Earth – is, while not wholly original, a fresher patch of farmland than replanting yet another crop of pseudo-western Europe setting-seeds. It looks like a world where action will carry the story and the conflicts of good and evil are defined.

The vanity reward is designing a demon. How do you make a demon fun to run for any role-playing group? Pinhead would not work for every table and, because of that, making a fitting demon would take some thought. The hardest part of this task is likely to be not basing the demon on one of your old role-playing buddies… That might be impossible.


* * *


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer


Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:


Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at