11. Living and breathing the Rituals of Choice adventure path I know how close one gets to one’s work, how do you handle input for something like as Coliseum Morpheuon? How do you plan to handle patron criticism?
So far, all of the input has been slap-my-head-awesome "why-didn't-I-think-of that?" coolness; working with the RiP folks has really brought out the best and cut the dross on my work. As to working directly with patrons (something that I'm itching to get to do!) I'm going to treat it just like working with my players when I'm building up a new campaign: it's their game & my setting, and the more info they can give me on what they want to play, the better I can work it into the adventure.
Some of my favorite moments in gaming have been those weird times when a player INSISTS that they want to play a grimlock paladin of freedom, a half-air elemental drow soulknife or a resurrected/reincarnated 1000-year-old saint with Halfling rules subbed in for playing a six-year old kid. I never would have thought of it, but it always ends up being an awesome part of the campaign!
12. Describe your best moment so far working on Coliseum Morpheuon?
The coolest stuff so far, still deep in the initial planning stages, has been brainstorming-up the feel and the reality of the Khan of Nightmares and the various Tests of the Coliseum; I want every mystery & challenge of this adventure (physical or social) to be memorable and unique, like something out of Neil Gaiman'sSandman crossed with Tim Schafer's Psychonauts. I'm really proud of the Well of Star-Chasing test, and the Capture the Mast game is, I hope, going to be legendary.
13. What do you feel was the most ingenious part of Coliseum Morpheuon that you have devised so far?
Ha-ha! Well, I don't want to reveal too much, but I've put a lot of work into making the Khan of Nightmares a dynamic and interesting villain - I don't want him to be another BBEG, designed just to be steam-rolled in the last encounter by the PCs and forgotten. I mean, obviously, he's evil. But he's the sort of evil a party can work with, I think. As to the sprawling Chimeric Amphitheatre where the adventure takes place, I'm really proud of the side-stuff: the wandering characters and the bars & brothels and the sub-plot stories of travelers in the realms of Dream. Of course, I'm also very pleased with the Khan's servitor race, the shifting Hounds of Ill-Tidings; I can't wait to get them a few pages of interesting descriptive text!
14. What specific design choice are you most happy with, and why?
Good question! Honestly, the choice to place the adventure in the realm of Dream has been both the coolest & most nail-biting decision that I've made so far; I've fielded more than a few concerns from fans & potential patrons that the ending of the adventure would be "And then you wake up!"
Rest assured: your characters will actually physically go to the realm of Dreams, and you can actually die there; the rules are more open-ended, however, for a lot of what I'm allowed to do in designing encounters and challenges.
15. Which design element was the hardest to figure out, and why?
One thing that I really wanted to do, from the beginning, was make this game very divergent from traditional, Tolkien-style fantasy; I'm a real sucker for Asian-themed work (like Jade Oath) and for Arabian Nights-flavored adventures (as those who've read my Half-Giants article from Kobold Ecologies or my Hell of Eternal Thirst set-piece from Legacy of Fire can attest), and I could have gone steam-punk or all-anime crazy, but I want to make this game accessible to folks who've fallen in love with Forgotten Realms or similar European-themed games. At the end of the day, balancing the gonzo with the gritty is always a challenge for me, and I'm proud to say that I think we've struck a balance.
16. What have you learned about design and especially designing for patronage projects so far?
I've always said that I'm not really an adventure-designer, down at the core of my being. I'm not even really a "writer", in the hard-core grammar-nerd sense - I'm just a storyteller, like a thousand storytellers before me, stretching back to long, long before we had writing or dice. Now, I'm getting better at design, and it's fascinating to see where I am now, as a creator, vs. where I was a year ago. If there's one thing I've learned about design from this experience, it's to trust my people: the wonderful folks at RiP, the patrons, and all the folks who'll have a hand in helping me to make a really, really awesome adventure.
17. (Patron question) Do you have any intial thoughts on new races, dream creature templates, or sorcerer bloodlines?
Oh, definitely! While I can't say too much about them because of the NDA, I'm a huge fan of the sorcerer bloodlines as they appear in the final version of the Pathfinder RPG rules; just from flipping through the Wayfinder Fanzine from PaizoCon, it's obvious that I'm not the only one looking to poke at the system and maybe design something new. Of course, I want to put some new races & templates into play. As they say, part of what made Planescape so interesting was tieflings and aasimar and other unusual races; I can't wait to work with some of the patrons to build a few new playable critters for this!
18. What are the initial obstacles that Coliseum Morpheuon must overcome? How did you surmount them?
The first is just getting the new rules down pat. As was revealed at PaizoCon, the new rulebook is over 570 pages, and there are big changes even from the Beta of the rules - check out the Game Previews on the Paizo Blog HERE: and you'll see that they've made EVERYTHING a little cooler! I've made combing the Pathfinder rules my full-time job at this point, making scratched-in notes about what sorts of things I can use & what I want to add - new feats, new bloodlines, new ... well, new all-sorts-of-stuff! When patrons sit down with hard-cover copies of the Pathfinder RPG & Coliseum Morpheuon, I want them to be able to game with the least amount of total prep time - and that's an obstacle that I'm determined to overcome.
19. We have a long history of extradimensional fantasy in the RPG industry how do you decided what has become cliché and what is a valuable trope to explore?
That's probably the hardest question of all, honestly. What I want to re-create is the wonder and grandeur that I felt the first time that I cracked open the Planescape boxed set & breathed in the fumes of alien wind racing across forgotten ruins beneath unknown stars. That was a heady moment for me, and one that I think generations of gamers have sought again and again. Giving the PCs a new and wild universe to kick around in - but one that's usable, as a GM - is the ultimate challenge. To me, it's the little story-driven contradictions that make an otherwise infinite realm fun, whether it's adding a post-modern element to a stone-age society or a weirdly gregarious streak to a creature made out of cosmic horror. There's an old line that people look up into the sky at night, and what they see is the stars - not the infinite, unfathomable blackness between, but the tiny incongruities that speckle it. A villain who is all darkness, or a dimension made of all chaos ... that's uninteresting. In an extra-dimensional fantasy game, people remember (and respond to) the things that surprise them - but without breaking their suspension of disbelief. I think that there IS a "wrong" way to do it, after all. Never one to point fingers, I'll just note that adventures involving all-knowing, all-powerful good-guy NPCs or unstoppably-evil villains trapped just outside of reality are growing stale in anything but the hands of masters. My goal is to keep the story personal and player-focused while making the universe expansive enough to feel new even when the adventure is over.
20. Are you happy with the progress of Coliseum Morpheuon so far?
I'm overjoyed - we hit 32% of our goal within 5 days, and we're now (as of press time!) right at the 46% mark. This thing will be rocking and rolling before you know it! As to the adventure itself, well ... I wish that there were more hours in the day, to be perfectly honest. We're kicking along at an impressive pace, but I don't want this adventure to be anything less than the best darn project that we (that's me, the amazing RiP team and my beloved patrons!) can build!
You can find Part 3 of the interview HERE