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4 things NOT to do when writing for an IP

Rise of the Drow hardbackI’ve had the pleasure of working with several different publishers, making material for use within a number of established campaign settings¬†(Fantasy Flight Games, Frog God Games,, LPJ Design, Amora games, and more). If you’re breaking into writing and want to work in this field, I’ve garnered a few things from my (still¬†comparatively¬†few!) experiences creating content within the confines of broad, cherished worlds.


If they haven’t sent you material for research or it isn’t freely available, ask for it. Even if it gets rolled into your pay a little bit, having this on hand will save everybody time in the end, establish that you are professional, and will see that your material resonates with fans of the existing product. Make notes for yourself (I made an entire visual Neo Exodus timeline) and refer to them often. Check to see if any key creatures exist in their setting if you aren’t already intimately familiar with it
‚ÄĒyou’ll be glad you did.

Immersion is the name of the game with this one. Don’t get your feet wet, jump in.


That timeline should come in handy for this, but a good general rule is to avoid absolutes. Making something that prohibits the existence of another element (undead is the popular one here, but serpentfolk get slapped around like this too) inside of a world is generally something that the original creators have already made a decision about. That’s not to say you can’t break precedent (see below), just that as a general rule of thumb, you want to supplement an existing IP, not complement it.

Write to enhance the setting, not evolve it.


Submit an outline first and avoid surprising the person receiving your material. While the extra content you designed might be fun, there are myriad reasons for why it might not be a good fit (a similar piece might already be in the works, it may be prohibitive because of something you didn’t know about, etc.) and that’s why this part of the process should never be overlooked. If you do end up adding more content or material than originally requested, make certain that it’s inside of the themes and aesthetic already present in your work and the larger library of material.

Clear your big ideas with the people upstairs first.


Image_Portfolio_1.14_Fantasy Butch Mapa 014. BE INFLEXIBLE
You’re playing in someone else’s toybox; if they want the red car, give them the red car and find a new toy. Be prepared for some of your ideas to get shot down or become morphed into things you never anticipated or intended. Try to improve the process by cooperating‚ÄĒcollaboration can cause some truly beautiful confluences and is not to be underestimated. There’s a lot of sayings for that, but we’ll hold off on the metaphors here. Just be open to compromise‚ÄĒyou’ll be pleased with the results.

Be agreeable and things will be agreeable.


[EDIT] Ryan Macklin has a great blog post that went up earlier this week about pitching your game. It is fantastic and you should definitely read through it for your own sake as a writer. I will point out that when he ‘pitched’ Mythender at me, he did so while dramatically spinning and yelling in my face (which I don’t personally recommend, though it was definitely effective).


Do you have a contribution or idea for Meta Thursdays? ¬†Send us your ideas (after reading the¬†submission guidelines) to submit(at) with ‚ÄúMeta Thursday‚ÄĚ in the subject line!



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Ashen Kisses

feyglade slumber pomumsAshen Kisses CR 4
XP 1200
CE haunt (20 ft. radius)
Caster Level 4th
Notice Perception DC 19 (to smell a flowery perfume)
Hp 4; Trigger proximity; Reset 1 day
Effect: On the round entering the haunt’s glade, anyone within its radius must make a DC 16 Will save or be paralyzed for the round. On a failure, a beautiful maiden manifests and delivers a light kiss on the lips of the unfortunate character, then disappears with a smile on her lips, leaving the paralyzed character(s) free to go.
The maiden manifests in front of each creature that fails their saving throw in the same round. After being subjected to Ashen Kisses, everything the creature puts in his mouth turns to ash, making it impossible for them to eat or drink for one week. This effect can be removed with a remove curse spell.

Destruction: A generous offering of blessed food (10 pounds and well prepared or 20 pounds otherwise) and drink (a barrel of water or several bottles of fine wine) must be placed in the glade where the haunt manifests.

Adventure Hook: The sheriff of Gladeston, a small village in the Auld Forest, wants to know why travelers are showing up with their mouths and throats filled with ashes. Hopefully the party can find out what is happening before rumors of the Ashen Kisses¬†take a toll on trade with nearby villages. Local tales of a famine some centuries ago might reach the PCs’ ears in the local tavern, and several of the farmers in the region have heard of the terrible periods of scarcity. If properly enticed (perhaps convinced by the argument that low trade means low prices), they might be convinced to contribute to ending the plight of¬†Ashen Kisses.


[Submitted by Brian Wiborg Monster]

Do you have a chilling idea for a haunt or cursed item? Send it along to us at submit (at), but please, bear the following in mind before you submit anything for review:

1. Anyone can submit an entry.

2. One entry per person at any one time. An entry must be your own work, not being published previously or considered by any other publisher, and it must original and not infringe upon copyrighted material.

3. All entries become property of, LLP.

4. By submitting an entry you authorize the use of your name and likeness without additional compensation for promotion and advertising purposes in all media.

5., LLP reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this endeavor at any time without prior notice.

6. All decisions of, LLP and their arbiters are final.

7. There is no compensation provided ‚Äď any entries are given freely by their creators for use by, LLP in perpetuity.

8. Your statblock must be properly formatted (compare to similar content on the AaWBlog for correct formatting).


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Rhythmic Nunchaku

Image_Portfolio_1.13_Fantasy Rudolf Montemayor 04Rhythmic Nunchaku
Aura moderate enchantment; CL 7th
Slot none; Price 25,152 gp; Weight 2 lbs.

This nunchaku is made from two ornate, beautifully wrought metal bars connected by a simple steel chain.

Three times per day as a free action, a monk making a flurry of blows with this 
+2 nunchaku gains a bonus to hit an opponent based on the number of times it has already successfully hit that opponent. Each time the wielder successfully strikes an opponent with a melee attack during a flurry of blows, they gain a cumulative +1 morale bonus on attack rolls (maximum +4 bonus) and gains 3 temporary hit points (to a maximum of 20 temporary hit points). If an attack misses, the attack bonus resets to +0, but any accumulated temporary hit points remain. The temporary hit points and morale bonuses on attack rolls disappear 7 rounds after the first flurry of blows is resolved.

HISTORY A character that makes a Knowledge (history) check to learn about rhythmic nunchaku identifies the following fragments of lore:

DC 15     The first wielder of rhythmic nunchaku was said to travel the lands far and wide many centuries ago. His prowess in combat was legendary, and it is said that he has seen him in unfair battles. fighting on the side of justice. None have ever captured him or claim to have spoken to the mysterious warrior, but tales of the Rhythmic Pugilist persist.
DC 20     Each generation has its own Rhythmic Pugilist; the sacred order raises all of their kin to assume the position, and every three years tournaments are held to determine whom will hold the mantle. The finest warriors to rise during this training period receive rhythmic nunchaku, ever ready to take the place of their peer should they fall.
DC 25 ¬† ¬† The Rhythmic Pugilist has never been a man. A warrior cult of female monks carry the tradition maternally, avoiding revealing their gender whenever possible. Their nobility is matched only by their staunch secrecy, and some loremasters know that those who learn of the Rhythmic Pugilist’s true origins often meet with untimely, quiet ends.
DC 30     A princess of the realm first wielded the rhythmic nunchaku, taking up the whirling weapon in the name of the oppressed peoples ruled over by her father. She oversaw the fall of his tyranny, and instilled the order of the Rhythmic Pugilist. It has become an honored, clandestine royal organization, its secret known to only a handful of the nobility.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, heroism (3.5) / righteous vigor (PF); Cost 12,752 gp 511 xp


Do you have an idea for an enchanted sword, arcane-empowered armor or unique magic item? Take a look at the¬†submission rules¬†and send a¬†brief summary¬†of your proposed enchanted item¬†titled ‚ÄėArmory of Adventures submission‚Äô¬†to submit(at)¬†with the following:

  • the nature of the item (weapon, armor or wondrous)
  • one or two sentences about its appearance
  • what the item in question does
  • the components and spell(s) used in its construction


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A Design Exercise in 4 Steps from Concept to Mechanics

hobgoblin_leader__storn_cookThe character in your head (PC or NPC) fits the vast majority of thematic requirements for the game or campaign you’re about to join, but none of the abilities available fit what you want. Homebrew is hardly unheard of, but nobody wants to waste time arguing over some house rules‚ÄĒyou need a strong set of mechanics that the GM and other players can fully approve of.

#1) Idea
Where do we start? How do we take an idea from our brain and onto the table in an intelligent, responsible fashion? First, obviously, we need an idea.
For today’s purposes, we’re going to be using “Speedball” from Marvel Comics as our example (I was a big fan of his up until the whole Penance business‚ÄĒI’ve even got most of the first run of the terrible solo issues). making up a very basic framework for an equivalent in Pathfinder. For those not in the know, Speedball could basically make himself into a big bouncy ball, redirecting kinetic energy.

#2) Search
The first thing to do is see if the tools are there already or not. While the PRD is fantastic, when it comes to designing something for Pathfinder, you should be using John Reyst and his slew of minions are constantly adding 3rd Party Publisher material (so you know your design is unique), have a more accessible search engine (use those quotation marks, folks) and you can break up results by category (this saves an enormous amount of work vis-a-vis magic items, classes and spells).

133-Chained-library-at-Wimborne-Minster-1709x1021Let’s look up some keywords for Speedball’s abilities: “bounce”, “bouncing”, “kinetic” and “redirect”. Whenever possible, we want to mirror or incorporate the established mechanics set up within the RPG in question, so don’t be lazy about looking at what comes up. Most of the page counts shrink as well for some reason, so sally forth!

Bouncing Spell‚ÄĒWe’re not really doing anything with this. If I was writing an entire base class, this would absolutely become a part of it somehow, but we’ll stick to levels 1-5 if we go that route, and feats or a simple archetype if not.
Greater Ring of Bounce‚ÄĒA cursed item that gives a +10 bonus to Acrobatics check for jumping, but a -10 for any other use, CL 7th. This sounds like something we can use, so we’ll put a star by it to remember, and maybe a note. [***attack ability?]
Bounding Hammer‚ÄĒFrom Pathfinder Companion: Dwarves; on a successful hit with a thrown hammer, the feat makes it land in your square. [*** feat to catch thrown weapon]
Roll With It‚ÄĒThis goblin feat looks like we’ve struck gold. Take a melee hit, make an Acrobatics check (DC 5 + damage) as an immediate action, success means that you take no damage but move in a straight line (in a direction of your choosing) 1 foot for each point of damage you would have taken, halting after half your speed in movement. Run into something and you take 1d4 damage and go prone, and all that movement provokes AoOs. Worse yet, you are staggered for a round after¬†attempting¬†the feat. [***fundamental]
Tumbling Descent‚ÄĒThis roof runner rogue archetype ability from Ultimate Combat fills another great gap: so long as there are two surfaces no farther than 10 feet apart to bounce against, they can fall indefinitely with an Acrobatics check (DC 10 + 5 for every 10 ft. increment descended beyond the initial 10 ft. drop) [***fundamental]
Shield of King RytanRicochet Shield‚ÄĒThis is an interesting combat trick; a -2 attack roll penalty to bounce a thrown shield around an¬†
obstacle, with a note about range increments for total distance traveled rather than from wielder to target. [***attack ability?]
Bouncy‚ÄĒAnother goblin feat from the Pathfinder Player Companions; the first 1d6 lethal points of falling damage are automatically converted to nonlethal damage, and you get a +2 Reflex save to avoid unexpected falls. [***the cushion effect]
Kinetic Reverberation‚ÄĒThis 2nd-level wizard spell lasts rounds per level, allows for SR and a Fortitude save. On a failed save, the weapon striking the target enchanted by this spell takes the same amount of damage it dealt to the target. Doesn’t effect natural attacks. [***fundamental]
Impact‚ÄĒFor the equivalent of a +2 weapon enhancement bonus, increase a weapon’s damage die; CL 9th. Good stuff to know. [***fundamental]
Redirect Attack‚ÄĒThis advanced rogue talent allows a once per day redirect of a melee hit to strike an adjacent creature as a free action, requiring the attacker to roll a second time. Definitely high part of our core concept. [***fundamental]
Flowing Monk‚ÄĒThis guy has quite a bit of what we’re looking for: redirection, unbalancing counter, flowing dodge and elusive target (as well as the Elusive Redirection feat) fit the bill for our core concept. [***fundamental]

At least he's not weaing skin-tight red leather...

#3) Assess
Our design ends right here. We could break some of this down and rebuild the pieces, creating a more specific monk archetype (the bouncing goblin, perhaps?) but as it is, a goblin flowing monk with the right feats, a few errant class levels or new magic items and a bright attitude should do it.
A lot of our work is done for this guy‚ÄĒlet’s assume we make a goblin flowing monk 5/rogue (roof runner) 2. They can flow around attacks via flowing monk abilities (and, of course, the Crane Stance feats), with the Roll With It feat they can redirect movement from a solid hit, they can bound downwards with tumbling descent and slow fall, and on top of all that, jump extremely far thanks to high jump. None of the flowing monk’s abilities prohibit shields, so next level we grab up fighter and a feat for tossing things, keeping a few hammers around for the purpose; if we can manage it, with the¬†impact quality. For good effect, I’d throw in the Mobility feat somewhere to avoid those AoOs.

I’m not at all bummed, by the way. We didn’t even it make it to the repeat of step 2: searching for 3PP material to see what else can be (or has already been) done (hint: Trick Shot from Psionics, along with other Marksman things). That’s one of the reasons Pathfinder is so excellent‚ÄĒthere’s rampant versatility even within the core rules. We’ll take another shot at something totally original next time..

#4) Design
What didn’t we pick up along the way here? We’re going to miss out on Redirect Attack, but that’s hardly the end of the world.¬†Kinetic reverberation¬†is something we can work with however.
Let’s head back to, do a search and click on magic items‚ÄĒnothing shows up, so we’re clear for liftoff.
Of course, firsthand knowledge never hurts (ideally I’d be hip-deep in Paizo books for “research”) and I have an example from a Magic Item Monday back in¬†September. While I obviously liked it, we want our goblin flowing monk/rogue to use some kind of impact weapon anyway. We could get the quarterstaff enchanted, but then the shield aspect is gone.
Instead of enchanting the weapon, what about making an enchantment that activates a kinetic reverberation?
gauntlet-12We want something like a¬†cape of the mountebank‚ÄĒactivated on command with limited uses per day. This is a math problem now [(CL 3rd) x (spell level 2nd) x 1,800 gp] divided by (5 divided by 3 charges per day) = 6,480 gold. It’ll be costly to buy at 12,960 gold pieces (assuming we don’t have a buddy with Craft Wondrous Item), but our goblin flowing monk will now have¬†bracers of rebounding strike¬†that can be activated 3 times a day, granting 3 rounds of weapon damaging, kinetic action
 (Fort DC 13) with each use.

Maybe next time we’ll get lucky and hit the fields, but today we’re staying in the stables. Now, however, I am genuinely interested in putting together an elusive little goblin monk and am surprised I haven’t already…perhaps that will be something to be see in the upcoming Sidequest Saturdays? ūüėČ

Do you have a contribution or idea for Meta Thursdays? ¬†Send us your ideas (after reading the¬†submission guidelines) to submit(at) with ‚ÄúMeta Thursday‚ÄĚ in the subject line!

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Bog of Sacrifices

Image_Portfolio_102_Fantasy Jason Walton 30

The Bog of Sacrifices
XP 4,800
CE persistent haunt (30 ft. radius)
Caster Level 8th
Notice Perception DC 24 (to notice the faint sobbing of doomed sacrifices)
Hp 36; Trigger proximity, (within 5 ft. of the inscribed stone); Reset 1 day
Effect Upon nearing the stone inscribed with prayers to the Bogmother, the haunt triggers and ghostly hands and spectral roots rise from the ground to grab at anyone within the haunt’s radius. Every creature within the area of the haunt is the target of a combat maneuver check made to grapple each round. Creatures that enter the area of effect are also automatically attacked. The ghostly hands and spectral roots do not provoke attacks of opportunity. The ghostly hands and spectral roots have a CMB of +16, and each grapple is resolved individually on creatures in the haunt’s area.

If the ghostly hands and spectral roots succeed in grappling a creature, that creature takes 1d6+4 points of damage on each round it is being grappled, and furthermore gains the grappled condition. Grappled creatures cannot move without first breaking the grapple. All other movement is prohibited unless the creature breaks the grapple first. The ghostly hands and spectral roots receive a +5 bonus on grapple checks made against creatures they are already grappling, but cannot move or pin creatures. Grappled creatures are pulled down into the swampy ground, on the third round of having the grappled condition the creature must also avoid suffocating as it is pulled under the earth.

After three rounds the ghostly hands and spectral roots dissipate and no new grapples will be initiated, but any ongoing grapples are maintained. For those first three rounds, the haunt’s area counts as difficult terrain. The ghostly hands and spectral roots’ CMD is 26 for the purpose of escaping the grapple.

Destruction A series of six icons of the Bogmother stands around the haunt in a distance of one mile, these icons mark the ancient site for the sacrificial rituals of the Bogmother’s worshipers, and must all be destroyed to release the souls from the bottom of the swamp. These icons are all hidden from view by centuries of plant growth or submerged in the swamp, or even protected by a tribe that knows nothing of the icon’s original purpose.

Adventure Hook¬†Centuries ago the swamp was home to several tribes that venerated an evil diety, the Bogmother. The tribes heeded her call for human sacrifice, and many criminals, prisoners of war, and unlucky travelers ended up on the bottom of the swamp honoring the fetid queen. The paladin order of The Righteous Flame cleared the swamp of the Bogmother‚Äôs influence and with time she was forgotten. On the bottom of the bogs the sacrifices did not forget, however, and when a recent earthquake pushed a holy relic of the Bogmother to the surface, they seized the opportunity to exact their vengeance in the area around the inscribed prayerstone. The pathways through a vast swamp shift occasionally as the dynamic landscape releases built-up gas, or the soft ground causes whole passages to disappear into the watery parts of the swamp‚ÄĒfor every path that disappears, another path appears. Recently a minor earthquake destroyed the most stable route through the swamp and soon after travelers started to go missing in the area (more travelers than usual, that is). Rumors of the swamp punishing trespassers quickly surfaced‚ÄĒthe drowned body of a local hunter has been found, and now the village elder of nearby Crannolang wants to find out why, if he drowned, the hunter‚Äôs face was frozen in fear.¬†


[Submitted by Brian Wiborg Monster¬†though I only included it after this guy because I realize how mean jack-in-a-box-zombies are ūüėČ -MM]

Do you have a chilling idea for a haunt or cursed item? Send it along to us at submit (at), but please, bear the following in mind before you submit anything for review:

1. Anyone can submit an entry.

2. One entry per person at any one time. An entry must be your own work, not being published previously or considered by any other publisher, and it must original and not infringe upon copyrighted material.

3. All entries become property of, LLP.

4. By submitting an entry you authorize the use of your name and likeness without additional compensation for promotion and advertising purposes in all media.

5., LLP reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this endeavor at any time without prior notice.

6. All decisions of, LLP and their arbiters are final.

7. There is no compensation provided ‚Äď any entries are given freely by their creators for use by, LLP in perpetuity.

8. Your statblock must be properly formatted (compare to similar content on the AaWBlog for correct formatting).


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Paizo Publishing Launches Largest Open-Call for Amateur Game Designers

Paizo Publishing, LLC, publisher of the world’s best-selling Pathfinder Roleplaying Game announces the kick-off of the 2014 RPG Superstar game designer contest.

Going on its 7th year, RPG Superstar is Paizo’s annual competition to find the best and brightest unknown game designers, and give them the opportunity to have their work critiqued by industry veterans, game design rockstars, and the fan community.

Entries are reviewed and critiqued by industry veterans, game design rockstars, and the Pathfinder community. The RPG Superstar contest is hosted by Paizo Designer Sean K. Reynolds, This year’s panel includes:

Peter Adkison, Gaming Legend                 Rich Baker, Writer

Judy Bauer, Paizo Editor                             John Compton, Paizo Developer    

Liz Courts, Paizo writer                                Adam Daigle, Paizo Developer

Crystal Frasier, Writer & Artist                   Lee Hammock, Goblinworks Designer

James Jacobs, Paizo Creative Director     Rob Lazzaretti, Cartographer

Frank Mentzer, Gaming Legend                Russ Morrissey, ENWorld

Patrick Renie, Paizo Developer                 Amber Scott, Writer


The winner of the competition will have their adventure published by Paizo as a Pathfinder Module, a full-color, 64-page, high-quality softcover book, compatible with not only the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (RPG), but also with any game published under the Open Gaming License (OGL). Also, three runners-up will win assignments to write Pathfinder Society scenarios, offering all four finalists professional writing contracts with Paizo Publishing, and an opportunity to begin their game design careers by working on the world’s best-selling roleplaying game.


In last year’s contest, more than half a million votes were cast by Pathfinder fans, resulting in winner Steven Helt, whose Pathfinder Module,¬†Tears at Bitter Manor, is due out January 2014.


Round One is now open for design submissions of magical “Wondrous Items”, and the contest concludes in March 2014. Winners will be announced on April 1, 2014. For more information or to submit an entry, visit¬†


The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is the world’s best-selling tabletop RPG, in which players take on the role of brave adventurers fighting to survive in a world beset by magic and evil. The Pathfinder RPG is currently translated into multiple languages, and the vibrant Pathfinder universe has been licensed for comic book series, graphic novels, miniatures, plush toys, apparel, and is being developed into a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game.