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Introductions: Jonathan G. Nelson of AAW Games

Hail friends!

A gig in Los Angeles.

My name is Jonathan G. Nelson, I’m the owner/publisher of AAW Games and here today to tell you a bit about myself. I am nearly 40 years old and have packed a lot of different experiences into my life such as touring the US with a professional rock band, working as a sous chef for various restaurants, and now writing and publishing for my company AAW Games / may already know AAW Games via our best-sellers, Mini-Dungeon TomeRise of the DrowUnderworld Races & ClassesInto the Wintery Gale, and Snow White. Our company has branched out over the years and currently produces adventures, maps, and more for Dungeons & Dragons 5th EditionPathfinder Roleplaying GameSavage Worlds, and the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

Chillin’ Anthony Bourdain style.

How did I get here? That question prompts a very lengthy and involved answer so I’ll try and keep things short and sweet. When I was about 8 years old my friend’s Aunt and Uncle brought us a well-used copy of the D&D red box and some funny looking, albeit colorful dice; that started it all, we had no idea what we were getting into but adopted some loose rules and just learned as we went along. From that point on, Dungeons & Dragons would become a staple of my life, influencing many of the professions I would obtain and relationships I would foster.


The journey of life eventually led me to cross paths with Todd Gamble, one of the main cartographers at Wizards of the Coast. Todd created maps for the D&D 3.5 core books, Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, and many other iconic tomes. Todd’s first love was model scenery and as he taught me some of this craft, we became good friends.



An early advertisement for the site.

One day, in December 2010, I had an idea for a website where DMs could obtain their adventures in a new format, not print or PDF, but HTML + open/close JavaScript boxes for things like combat encounters, audio for sound effects, and an entire online campaign setting called Aventyr, we would call it and release a new adventure on the site every week! Todd loved the idea so we joined forces and went ahead with the plans. A few members of our beta testing team such as Joshua Gullion, Stephen Yeardley, and Will Myers went above and beyond, helping us refine the site for almost two years before launch and later becoming part of the permanent AAW Games team. Many friends have come and gone since those early days including two people very dear to me who have since tragically passed away, Joshua Gullion (Rise of the Drow + layout lead), and CJ Jones (Fantasy Grounds conversion). It is very important to note that Stephen Yeardley, Will Myers, Joshua Gullion, and Justin Andrew Mason were all beta testers who later became valuable members of the AAW Games team not to mention some of my best friends.


Jonathan G. Nelson and Larry Elmore

As the company grew so did our fanbase which demanded we produce books in PDF and print, so of course, we obliged. AAW Games and have come a long way over the years but I’ll never ever forget those people who made it all possible be they friends, foes, fans, or fictitious figures from fantasy, every single one made a mark and an important contribution to help bring us to where we are today. Remembering the greats who came before me and those who helped me along the path is the first step toward fully finding myself and all that I’ll do before I leave this world. I frequently ask myself: What kind of difference am I making in other people’s lives? Why do I do what I do? What is the purpose? The answer typically comes quickly when I question the universe on such things, I want to bring joy into people’s lives. I want others to experience everything that I love about the Dungeons & Dragons game and continue to share it with their friends and family, carrying the torch and keeping the game alive for future generations.


Snoqualmie Falls in my hometown.

It’s been nearly 8 years to the day since I first proposed the idea for the website (December 13th, 2010), 6 years since the launch, and the ride just keeps getting wilder. I have a lot of experience to share, especially since I started down this path with only the skills of a Dungeon Master. Like many things I’ve learned in life, I just dove in headfirst and learned as I went. Sometimes you get hurt diving into the pool of life so recklessly but trust me, if you have the drive and creativity, you’ll not only survive but learn how to swim and navigate these waters, sharing your gifts with the world.  


Feel free to ask me questions about anything under the sun. I’m here for you!  


Jonathan G. Nelson 
AAW Games  


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Mendacious Materials: Mariner’s Quarter

Mariner’s Quarter
The Mariner’s Quarter is the underbelly of Mohkba, known for its dens of vice and ramshackle pubs. Despite being a place of inequity, a national icon to be found in the district: the Navy Museum, a colorful painted wooden house. It exhibits the wooden boat (great-grandfather of the Klavekian navy) that was sent out on the water of the Lake of Angelic Tears by the young Tsar Alexei III. Sadly that’s the only thing exhibited in the whole museum.

Mariner's Quarter - MohkbaAccording to legend, there was a stone idol worshiped by ancient centaurs that still stands in what’s become the Mariner’s Quarter. The hermit Natalya prayed and received a magical staff from a divine elk with which she destroyed the idol, and then built a church on the site of the pagan shrine. Before going to fight the Vikmordere, Tsar Alexei the Twin made a pilgrimage to the monastery to take the staff of Natalya. After the battle of the Serpent, the tsar in gratitude built a cathedral around where the church stood, making it one of the first multi-altar halls of worship (which have additional altars dedicated to different gods). The interior of this cubic six-domed church is unusual; the arches are supported by five pillars, which gives the effect of volume. It could justifiably be called the pearl of that period of Klavekian architecture and its domes, walls, door frames and all other available surfaces are full of mural paintings. In modern days the cathedral is seldom visited, and only the altars of gods dedicated to the sea and long voyages are cleaned regularly. The staff of Natalya is rumored to have inspired Tarissov the Leprous in building the first Blank Staff. This made his treason the more unbearable and added to the neglect of the Church of Natalya’s Staff.

[The places of interest in both this district and the whole of Mohkba are nearly beyond count, and you’ll find more of them in the upcoming Aventyr Campaign Setting product line. Until then, here’s one to chew on! -MM]

Dancing Skeleton
Once during the many wars with the Vikmordere a regiment of Klavekian archers managed to surprise the savages during a ritual. Suspecting a vile purpose at the heart of their practice, the ambushing archers peppered everyone attending in the grove, slaying them to the last—almost. When the storm of arrows ceased, only the leading shaman was still on his feet, dancing amidst a sea of dead. The next volley targeted him alone, but even mariner's quarter - townsfolkbeing obviously dead, his jig continued. The Klavekian were scared, but took the oddly unresponsive madman captive. Even bound he twitched in his dance, moving with vacant, dead eyes. Back in Mohkba the shaman was showered with positive energy to no avail and ultimately thrown in a pool of acid, where his flesh receded, but his skeleton still danced. WIth no greater recourse, it was bound again and put away in a deep cell.

Some decades later Tsar Alexei V (later called the Mad Tsar) decided to bolster morale of the citizens by putting the shaman on display. Since then the skeleton has danced on a pedestal, at first closely watched by clerics and guards, though these days only by an old honor guard of veterans that have fought in skirmishes or battles with the Vikmordere. Oddly enough the few Vikmordere ambassadors that have visited Mohkba and seen the shaman have been reported to not be offended by the sight, only smiling knowingly, which unsettled more than one of the veterans guarding the Dancing Skeleton. However, it’s been dancing for more than 250 years by now and nothing visibly bad has come out of it yet, so the citizens of Mohkba see the Dancing Skeleton as nothing more than a celebrated oddity, a trophy of war, and a symbol of the weirdness of their barbarous neighbors.