Friday, July 24, 2015

The Secret History of the Wizardarium

Last month was the one year anniversary of the publication of Wizardarium of Calabraxis. I'm happy that a non-zero number of people have run it. I guess I'm kinda depressed that a lot of people said they would just rip things out of it (if it doesn't make you want to run it, I've failed somehow). But I thought I would commemorate my own vanity project by telling you some details about its birth.

The seeds for Wizardarium were sewn in a dungeon I had to come up with because my players found a map in Tegel Manor (a classic Judges Guild module). I drew up a map and peopled it with some odd things. At one point a player-- I think it was +John Da Silva Pola that gets the blame--  said, "Did you make this? It's kinda cool." +Jez Gordon was actually there too, but I'd be surprised if either of them remembers it.
Mmm. Precious attention. I must get more. 
From that dungeon, a monster which was basically just a re-skinned Spectator (beholder) guarding a vault, would hold onto my imagination. I played it as polite (it was lawful) and at some point decided to bring that archetype back.  There was also a talking skull that kinda got reincarnated into Wizardarium as well.
Anyhoo, things really got underway when Goodman Games ran its mystery dungeon contest. I redrew portions of +Doug Kovacs's map. See the original mystery map here. I ended up drawing the below map:
Forgive the jaggedness, this was drawn too large and compiled from 3 scans

You might notice that I re-incarnated the spectator as a similar monster. It further mutated later. All the basic areas that ended up in the final product are here, but in really different positions. I also didn't change their contents that much. The shape-change panel, the talking skulls room, the vault and the time-travel device are all in there. Doug's eye monster is what inspired me to bring the spectator back, and the pendant at the feet of his monster became the time fobber. The thing he drew in 2 became the monolith and then I had to people it with apemen because monolith.

I wrote up the whole thing and broke the contest rules (willfully, so great was my bravaddo) by writing too much and sent it in. I of course didn't win, but I was well into letting my players at it at that point and someone said it was fun.
Yesssss! Attention. It makes me thrive!

Well, the logical next step for someone that bases their fragile ego on the opinions of others is to publish it themself. Which I eventually did. Here is the next map mutation on the way to that goal:
Sorry for the little dots, this would take hours to clean up in photoshop.
It's a lot better than the first map, and I prefer its statue and skull rooms to this day, but it was a little confusing, so I ultimately ended up redrawing it again. But I think you could actually use this one if you wanted.

So after a while I sent it off to get the old Goodman approval (while sweating because I had no idea how similar my eye monster was to the eye monsters in the module that actually won the contest) to publish it as a 3rd party and the rest is history.

I decided to price it at $1.95 because that is the price I used to pay for Spawn comics as a kid. Thanks to the price (and sales prices), I've managed to stay in the top ten of the DCC category (on the RPGnow version of the site) for a whole year. I hope people feel like even that small price was worth it.

Why charge at all? Because of some advice the Joker gave in The Dark Knight. Meh, you gotta have a rule from somewhere I guess.

The Future- ur- ur...

My next product will also be one that started when I had to draw a map (that's the 3rd one for those of you counting). In the case of the upcoming Shmelerak's Tomb, I was trying to draw a map to match an old Jennell Jaquays dungeon. The one in the magazine I found it in was horrible, and the text was also a mess, but I was determined to figure it out. Even as I drew it, I started to change details to suit my tastes and then I was just like, I might as well remake this whole thing. So it's quite the homage dungeon this time around. Hardcore Jaquays fans will see her influence on it, but it's definitely to my sensibilities and design. Still, I guess the point of this whole post is if you try to adapt something or start from a point shown by someone else, you can surprise yourself with how creative you get.
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