Posts Tagged ‘James Haeck’

I’m going to write a post that is self-indulgent. I guess that’s true about every post on this blog in one way or another, but this blog post is going to be a story in which I am the central character, which is a little unusual for this site. Usually it’s some crazy monster, magic item, piece of advice, or game mechanic that takes center stage. If you hadn’t guessed from the title, this post will tell you how I became a somewhat, kinda, sorta, maybe, known creator in the world of tabletop roleplaying games.

I’m writing this post because several people have asked me how I “made it” in the industry. To be honest, I’m not sure I have “made it” at least by the modern definition. I’ve got a full-time gig outside the industry as a TV commercial writer/producer (which I really love). That being said, I do get paid to work on some pretty great projects in the industry and I am doing more in this space than I dared to dream, so in some ways I guess I have “made it” in this industry. At least made it further than I expected.

Still I thought sharing my story might be helpful for anyone out there interested in a freelance RPG design career, but I will say that my path is unique and involves a lot of luck, so I’m not sure it can be replicated. I was inspired to share thanks in part to the requests I got, but also by a recent episode of the Down with D&D podcast in which designers and podcasters Shawn Merwin and Chris Sniezak shared their own stories. Definitely check out the episode because they have great stories and a lot of amazing advice.

The Tome Show

In Fall of 2013 I was listening to a lot of podcasts and playing tons of D&D with my friends on Roll20. The D&D Next playtest was in full swing and I devoured every piece of D&D news I could find. One of my favorite programs was the News Desk on The Tome Show, but it only came out once a month. I searched for other D&D news podcasts, but most were actual plays, none with D&D news. I remember telling my then-girlfriend, now-wife, Bonnie, that I wanted to listen to a weekly show that covered the latest D&D news in-depth. I told her there was no show out there like it (that I knew of) and Bonnie said, “Why don’t you make it?”

What did I have to lose by giving it a shot? I already knew how to edit audio… but I didn’t know how to book guests, build an audience, or even submit a podcast feed to iTunes. At the time I was listening to backlogs of the now-defunct D&D advice podcast Critical Hits hosted by Mike Shea of Sly Flourish. At the end of each podcast he gave our his contact information, including email, and encouraged folks with questions to reach out. I emailed Mike, thanking him for his awesome contributions to the community and asked for advice on starting a podcast. I soon realized how gracious he truly was. The man gave me 600 words of free advice and told me if I wanted more I should contact Jeff Greiner, the creator and owner of the aforementioned Tome Show podcast.

Already a subscriber to Jeff’s show, I eagerly went to him for advice next. Jeff asked me to pitch him my idea and without even knowing it was coming he offered me a chance to do my show on the Tome Show’s feed, immediately hitting a large audience of subscribers! I admit, this is some pure, amazing luck. Thus my first public RPG-related creation was born: The Round Table podcast. Special thanks to Rudy Basso, Alex Basso, Greg Blair, and Vegas Lancaster for making those first several episodes with me and encouraging me to keep making the show in those first weeks. Extra special thanks to Sam Dillon for actually getting all those episodes on the air. After several months of consistent output, Jeff told me (after I asked a few times) that he trusted me enough to revive the Gamer to Gamer franchise on the network and I started interviewing professionals in the industry. (Shoutout to my first interviewee on that show, Wolfgang Baur!)

Takeaways:

  • Listen to your partner.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for advice.
  • Be gracious and grateful. People remember how you treat them. Also everyone deserves to be treated like a human.
  • Seize opportunities when luck offers them.
  • Be consistent with you work and don’t be afraid to ask for more after you’ve proven yourself.

The Blog

I was three episodes into The Round Table and seeing thousands of people listening to the show when I decided I should probably use the podcast as a platform to promote something I always wanted to do, but had been too lazy to start – a blog about homebrew design. I had a lot of time on my hands, since Bonnie was on a two-week business trip, so rather than play video games every night (which was my normal MO when she was gone before the blog and podcast), I used the time to create this site. I made a commitment to write two articles a week. To keep myself accountable, I started shouting the site out on the podcast, knowing that I would need to keep it stocked with content if people were going to show up.

The blog’s audience growth was slow, but steady. I started with less than 10 views a day, but as I kept updating it consistently and shouting out new posts to various social media groups and message boards, the views crept up. Now on days when I don’t post something new, I get about 500 hits in a day, but it took me three years to get here.

Takeaways:

  • Sometimes you need to put video games and Netflix aside to work on rewarding, fun, creative projects.
  • The best way to build and audience is put out consistent, well-crafted content that you enjoy making.
  • Hold yourself accountable for getting your own projects done. No one else will.

The Work

So how did I finally get paid for some game design? Well my first jobs came from EN5ider and Johnn Four‘s Roleplaying Tips and they came about quite differently.

I had a year of blogging and podcasting under my belt when I saw EN5ider was just starting up. I saw a post on EN World calling for article submissions, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I had been rejected before by Dungeon and Dragon magazines and by the Adventurers League, but I didn’t let that discourage me. Editor James Haeck accepted of my pitch! Give Chase was born… after careful outlining, planning, proof-reading and revising, and revising again once I got notes from James. I made sure to hit each deadline and to listen to the editor’s feedback, incorporating it into the article, rather than rejecting what was said. James and I worked well together and I’ve written a few more articles for EN5ider since then.

Roleplaying Tips came about in a much different way. World Builder Blog was a regular contributor to the monthly RPG Blog Carnival and through that Johnn noticed my work, he reached out to me and asked if I would write an article for his newsletter that gave worldbuilding lessons. I’d be paid for the work and I could repost it here on the blog. That’s a great deal, so of course I said yes. Johnn and I have worked together on a few projects since, including a massive adventure that should be coming soon!

It was about another year before I got to do work for more people. In that time the DMs Guild launched. I already had a heaping helping of fifth edition content on this blog, so I put some of that into PDFs (without having ever done layout). The reputation I had built for myself on the blog and podcast helped get my products some buzz and a few became best-sellers. That’s when things really started to pick up.

The Adventurers League asked me to write an adventure for them and Shawn Merwin asked me to write another for Baldman Games. Roll20’s owners (who I met after applying for their game master job, which I did not get but did give me a chance to make connections with these very cool people) asked me to create their introductory fifth edition adventure, The Master’s Vault. Since then I’ve worked on a few other projects, but those are going to stay secret for now. Many of them are people I have met at conventions.

You know the rest of the tale. I’ve continued to create and since left the Tome Show to create my own podcast network with Rudy Basso. What’s in store for the future? Only time shall tell!

Takeaways:

  • Keep submitting to open calls. Rejection happens! That’s ok. Don’t take it personally and keep pitching.
  • Be an active part of the community.
  • Write, revise, proofread, and hit your deadlines. People will want to work with you again.
  • Create, create, create for yourself before someone asks you to do it for them. You’ll learn your craft and build a library of content to show off or even sell.
  • Go to conventions. Meet your heroes, ask them for advice. This industry is smaller than you think and people are super approachable and awesome.

Luck and Hard Work

I clearly owe a lot of people many thanks. I could not have made it to even where I am today without them. My timing worked out and I was very lucky, but I also created some of my own luck by working hard. Hopefully this story helps some of you out there!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with Liz TheisDave GibsonJames Haeck, and Chris Sniezak to compare, contrast, and review the Dungeons and Dragons actual play series Dice, Camera, ActionForce Grey: Giant Hunters, and Acquisitions Incorporated: The Series. Then it’s an interview with game designer Chris Harris to discuss his rune magic chapter of Kobold Press‘ Deep Magic for fifth edition. This podcast was recorded on July 3 and 24, 2016.


Please rate and review The Tome Show on iTunes. It takes 30 seconds and helps us a bunch!





Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with Alex Basso and Round Table newbies Dan Elwell and Daniel Franco to discuss the free PDF that brings the Zendikar campaign setting from Magic: The Gathering into fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons rules. Then we chat about the announcement of the Acquisitions Incorporated series and the rise of actual play series and podcasts. After the panel, it’s an interview with game designer James Haeck about the new Kobold Press product he authored for the DMs Guild – Gem Dragons of Faerun. This podcast was recorded on May 4 and 5, 2016.




Please rate and review The Tome Show on iTunes. It takes 30 seconds and helps us a bunch!

Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Have Spellbook, Will Travel and Gamer to Gamer, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Hey everyone! I just released another new product on the DMs Guild. Greater & Elder Elementals is now available as a pay what you want product! This product features Huge-sized greater (CR 8) and Gargantuan-sized elder (CR 12) elementals for your game. These larger higher level elementals existed in older editions of the game. I took it upon myself to convert them for fifth edition D&D. It was very easy to do, but if you want to save yourself some time, go ahead and download the PDF for free. You can grab my other pay what you want products while you’re there – 15 New Backgrounds, Catastrophic Dragons, and Archons. Do me a favor. Please check them out and rate them! Honestly good feedback is worth more than some cashola at the moment, so please download them for free if you like and let me know what you think!

Greater&ElderElementals_Introcaso_20160201_Cover

This free PDF on the DMs Guild is also an excuse to talk about my latest article in EN5ider!

My third published Epic Threats article, “Epic Threats: Elementals,” is currently available through EN World EN5ider. Morrus, EN World King, and his team are awesome and have been putting out great fifth edition content and they have a whole catalogue of stuff still to come. I definitely recommend you check out the work over there. My other articles, “Give Chase,” “Get Sick,” “Epic Threats: NPCs,” and “Epic Threats: Goblinoids and Orcs,” are available over there as well and ready to make chases in your game awesome. This latest article has a new and improved Wizards of the Coast style monster stat block!

I’ve been running a fifth edition game for almost a year and it’s clear to me that there aren’t enough high challenge rating monsters to provide me with the variety of combat encounters I like to have at my disposal. Yes, bounded accuracy lets me use the old standbys far after the PCs’ level is much higher than the bugbear’s CR. I just need to keep adding bugbears… but combat with a lot of baddies is slow and can become a grind. That’s not the kind of variety I’m looking for.

That’s why I submitted a series of monster articles to EN World EN5ideran online magazine which publishes content for the fifth edition of the world’s most popular tabletop roleplaying game. The first of those articles, “Epic Threats: High Level NPCs,” presents five new NPCs with challenge ratings of 11 and above to add to your game. The second, “Epic Threats: Goblinoids and Orcs,” provides five more baddies to bring into your high level games! These are (obviously) of the more goblin and orc variety. The latest and last article, “Epic Threats: Elementals,” gives you some awesome high level elementals (the Steam, Storm, Smoke, Sand, Mud, and Magma varieties).

I have to say, if you’re playing fifth edition and craving more content, EN5ider is a great place to get it. I’m not just saying that because I’ve now written for them five times. You get one short adventure a month plus another three articles with advice on running chases, new diseasesnew druid circles, creating puzzles, and so much more. You get all that for $2 a month. If you don’t want the adventure, you can still score the articles for $1 a month. That’s less than a bottle of water in most places. The articles are of a great quality and EN World creator, Russ Morrissey, writes several of the best. You can grab some sample articles and an adventure for free so check it out.

I also have to give a super special shoutout to EN5ider editor, James J. Haeck. He’s brilliant, creative, and a blast to work with. Every letter that man touches becomes better for it and this series of articles would be a lot worse without his hard work.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Just a quick post here to let you all know that my third published Epic Threats article, “Epic Threats: Elementals,” is currently available through EN World EN5ider. Morrus, EN World King, and his team are awesome and have been putting out great fifth edition content and they have a whole catalogue of stuff still to come. I definitely recommend you check out the work over there. My other articles, “Give Chase,” “Get Sick,” “Epic Threats: NPCs,” and “Epic Threats: Goblinoids and Orcs,” are available over there as well and ready to make chases in your game awesome. This latest article has a new and improved Wizards of the Coast style monster stat block!

I’ve been running a fifth edition game for almost a year and it’s clear to me that there aren’t enough high challenge rating monsters to provide me with the variety of combat encounters I like to have at my disposal. Yes, bounded accuracy lets me use the old standbys far after the PCs’ level is much higher than the bugbear’s CR. I just need to keep adding bugbears… but combat with a lot of baddies is slow and can become a grind. That’s not the kind of variety I’m looking for.

That’s why I submitted a series of monster articles to EN World EN5ideran online magazine which publishes content for the fifth edition of the world’s most popular tabletop roleplaying game. The first of those articles, “Epic Threats: High Level NPCs,” presents five new NPCs with challenge ratings of 11 and above to add to your game. The second, “Epic Threats: Goblinoids and Orcs,” provides five more baddies to bring into your high level games! These are (obviously) of the more goblin and orc variety. The latest and last article, “Epic Threats: Elementals,” gives you some awesome high level elementals (the Steam, Storm, Smoke, Sand, Mud, and Magma varieties).

On Tuesday I’ll be posting a companion piece to go with the article on this blog so stay tuned!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with James Haeck, Scott Dyer, and Round Table newbie Neal Powell to discuss the latest Unearthed Arcana article “Kits of Old,” which introduces new playtest bard colleges and fighter archetypes for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons. Then it’s an interview with Rob Bowes of Lone Wolf Development to discuss the integration of Pathfinder and Realm Works and the (strong) possibility of bringing Dungeons and Dragons to Realm Works and Hero Lab. This podcast was recorded on January 7 and 10, 2016.


 


Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps a boat load!

Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I am a lucky man! My series, “Epic Threats,” just had its second installment published in EN World’s EN5ider Magazine. “Epic Threats” is a series which fills out bestiary ranks with more high challenge rating fifth edition monsters. I’ve found in the upper echelons of the game that there aren’t enough threats to give my PCs the variety of challenges and creature I like, so I made a few of my own, submitted them to EN5ider and they’re being published! You can read my first installment in the series, “Epic Threats: NPCs,” and the second installment, “Epic Threats: Goblinoids and Orcs,” by subscribing to EN5ider for as little as $1 a month through Patreon.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 5.58.23 PM

I have to say, if you’re playing fifth edition and craving more content, EN5ider is a great place to get it. I’m not just saying that because I’ve now written for them three times. You get one short adventure a month plus another three articles with advice on running chases, new diseasesnew druid circles, creating puzzles, and so much more. You get all that for $2 a month. If you don’t want the adventure, you can still score the articles for $1 a month. That’s less than a bottle of water in most places. The articles are of a great quality and EN World creator, Russ Morrissey, writes several of the best. You can grab some sample articles and an adventure for free so check it out.

I also have to give a super special shoutout to EN5ider editor, James J. Haeck. He’s brilliant, creative, and a blast to work with. Every letter that man touches becomes better for it and this series of articles would be a lot worse without his hard work.

Whenever I have an article come out in EN5ider I like to write a companion blog post to help promote the article. You can checkout the companion piece I wrote for “Epic Threats: NPCs,” “Get Sick,” and, “Give Chase.” Now it’s time to present a companion piece for, “Epic Threats: Goblinoids and Orcs.” The article gives you five new monsters to throw at your PCs, CR 14 – 20. I’m going to show you a CR 12 orc I wrote that I didn’t submit with the article so I could tease you here on the blog.

Orc Punisher

Orc punishers are burning with divine fires inside of them which are fueled by pain. Every piece of steel, arrow, and spell they suffer grows their savage fury until they erupt with radiant energy which sears their hated foes.

Orc Punisher

Medium humanoid (orc), chaotic evil

Armor Class 15 (studded leather)

Hit Points 190 (20d8 + 100)

Speed 30 ft.

STR

DEX

CON

INT

WIS

CHA

22 (+6)

16 (+3)

20 (+5)

10 (+0)

12 (+1)

8 (-1)

Saving Throws Strength +10, Con +9, Wis +5

Damage Resistance radiant

Skills Athletics +10, Intimidation +3

Senses passive Perception 11

Languages Common, Orc

Challenge 12 (8,400 XP)

Aggressive. As a bonus action, the orc can move up to its speed toward a hostile creature that it can see.

Charging Advantage. If the orc moves at least 10 feet it has advantage on all attack rolls made before the end of its turn.

Eye for an EyeWhenever the orc takes damage, it gains a number of punishing points equal to the damage taken. These points are cumulative and the orc can have a maximum of 50 punishing points. These points disappear when the orc takes a short rest.

When the orc hits a target with a melee attack, it can choose to spend any number of punishing points. The number of points the orc spends equal the number of bonus radiant damage points dealt by the attack.

Actions

Multiattack. The orc makes four attacks.

Greataxe. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d12 + 6) slashing damage.

Javelin. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d6 + 6) piercing damage.

Blinding Burst. The orc spends 20 punishing points and releases a burst of radiant energy in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on itself. Hostile creatures within the sphere must succeed on a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or take 15 points of radiant damage and become blinded until the end of the orc’s next turn. Allies in the sphere heal 5 hit points.

Fey Step. The orc spends 5 punishing points to cast fey step.

PDF

Would you like this monster in a PDF along with all the other fifth edition D&D baddies I’ve designed? Grab them below.

Orc Punisher

All Monsters

If you don’t want to grab them now, but decide you want the PDFs at a future date, head on over to the Free Game Resources section of this site where the documents will live along with magic items, backgroundsD&D fifth edition rules modulesspellsadventures, and more created by yours truly.

Of course as a bonus this bad boy is elligible to be another submission to this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, which I am hosting here on World Builder Blog. The theme is “Homebrew Holiday Gifts,” and I’m asking bloggers everywhere to share their RPG creations for their favorite systems with me. At the end of the month I’ll make a list linking all participating blog posts so everyone can checkout the fine homebrew creations in one place.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!


I sit down with James HaeckCraig Haasis, Andrew Kane, and Alex Basso to discuss the free D&D Expeditions adventure Shackles of Blood, featured in this month’s issue of Dragon+. Then I talk to Robert Brookes about his ongoing kickstarter for the Aethera Campaign Setting. This podcast was recorded on November 5 and 10, 2015.

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with Dave Gibson, James Haeck, and Craig Haasis to discuss the closure of the Wizards of the Coast community forums. This podcast was recorded on October 7, 2015.


Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps a boat load!


Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!


I sit down with James Haeck, Topher Kohan, and John Fischer to talk about the recently announced Dungeons and Dragons movie. This podcast was recorded on August 18, 2015.

Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps a boat load!

Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!