Where New Monsters Come From

September 24, 2020
The Pathfinder Bestiary and Pathfinder Bestiary 2 have a ton of great monsters in them. There are old standbys, like giants and golems and froghemoths and stuff, and there are Paizo creations like goblin dogs, reefclaws, and sinspawn. But there are also plenty of brand-new critters in there as well, like the ostrich-like cauthooj and the limb-ripping mukradi. Where do these monsters come from? 

The alphabet.

I'm not just being glib. If you look at the placement of these new monsters--all of which are just 1 page long--they show up right before a "spread," or a monster entry that spans 2 facing pages. Since monster entries don't break across pages (unless the entry is 2 spreads or more), that means there would be a blank page right in front of a spread sometimes. If two creatures don't like up alphabetically to fill that blank page (like the way hydra and hyena come together in a spread before the kobolds spread), then a new creature needs to go into that slot. And it needs to fit, alphabetically.

That might be why they have such strange names; they need to fit in a certain alphabetical spot. But strange names are fun, too.

Look through these books and you'll see it. Some examples:

Baomal is right before the barghest spread. 
Cauthooj is right before the cave worm spread. 
Elananx is right before the elemental spread. 
Gimmerling is right before the gnoll spread. 
Gogiteth is right before the golem spread. 
Grikkitog is right before the grim reaper spread. 
Guthallath is right before the hag spread. 
Krooth is right before the lamia spread. 

And that's only halfway through one of these Bestiaries. 

This doesn't make those monsters any less awesome, but it shows that "how it lays out in book form" is a hard driver of creative content.
 

The Bland Background Makes the Heroes Shine

September 21, 2020
I was talking to another freelancer recently. She was populating a settlement in something she's writing and was asking how two unusual ancestries might interact with each other. I didn't know, but I saw a larger issue and asked how many of the NPCs were human. She said not many, because there are so many interesting ancestries available, and asked how many should be human.

My answer? Just about all of the NPCs should be human. Definitely at least 50 percent. Maybe more like 90 percent. This h...
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Will of PCs

September 15, 2020
I talked recently about removing "the" from your writing to avoid "othering" certain groups, but this is only one of several words I search for when tightening up some text. Here are three more:

Will: RPG writing is in present tense. You don't say, "the count will reveal his plan to the party," or "if the party stops fighting, the ogres will listen to what they have to say." Put these in present tense: "the count reveals his plan to the party," "if the party stops fighting, the ogres listen to...
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The Bricks You Need

September 10, 2020
I'm writing another Starfinder Adventure Path adventure. It's not announced yet, but I don't think I'm doing the company any harm by saying I'm writing for them again. I don't think anyone is betting that Starfinder is going to quit doing Adventure Paths, or that they're going to quit arranging for and assigning them behind the scenes, before a public announcement. So I can't yet say what it is, I can say I'm writing a Starfinder adventure.

I just turned in my milestone--about half my total wo...
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More CUP Updates

September 2, 2020
I wrote recently, right here, about Paizo updating its Community Use Policy (or CUP). This is the policy that lets fans use their rules and their intellectual property, so long as the end user isn't charged for them. Functionally, it's about giving guidelines and comfort to creators of fan-made websites and videos (and other content, but this seems to be their new thrust).

They've made some further changes to it, although the specifics are tucked into a forum post. I want to walk through these...
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Avoid the "The"

August 27, 2020
Here's a quick tip today: I've been learning a lot recently about the phenomenon of "othering," which is setting a specific group apart because of its differences, almost always to treat them badly or dismiss their opinions or values. This is particularly damaging when applied to real-world people, because it's been used to justify all kinds of odious abuses (to ethnic minorities, to the physically or mentally disabled, and so on). Language that "others" is subtle but pervasive.

Here's a trick...
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The Opposite of Balanced Isn't Balanced

August 25, 2020
I'm doing some freelance writing for an upcoming Pathfinder Second Edition book that is going to have lots and lots of spells in it. My assignment is to write lots and lots of spells.

Although I have plenty of neat and thematic new spell ideas, I like to look over existing spells not only to make sure I'm not reinventing the wheel, but to see whether any of them spark any further ideas. I thought I had found a particularly good design space in creating an aggressive opposite of the longstandin...
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Paizo Updates the CUP

August 12, 2020
Paizo has two overall licenses for people to use:

The Compatibility License allows you to make products that use their rules and charge money for them; you can't generally use their intellectual property (proper names, etc.). Those of us producing 3PP (Third-Party Press) materials, like Run Amok Games, use this license. 

The Community Use Policy (or CUP) outlines how you can use their rules and their intellectual property for fan-made stuff. You get to use their intellectual property and even s...
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Six Sentence NPCs

August 7, 2020
Including NPCs in a game seems easy: you just slap a name on a stat block and you're done. This is Gobgor the goblin, who fights the heroes. This is Shopkor the shopkeeper, who sells stuff to the heroes.

I'm not going to get into naming NPCs well; I'm actually not very good at it. But there are easy steps to make any NPC evocative and useful at the table. This is particularly important when you're writing adventures, because the NPCs need to be simple (because some GMs and players will blithel...
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Paizo Licenses, Very Quickly

July 28, 2020
I was explaining the differences between the two licenses Paizo offers to a friend of mine the other day, and I thought a quick summary of them would be helpful.

The Compatibility License is for professional publishers who want to make money from their products. This lets you use the Pathfinder (or Starfinder, which has its own similar license) rules and claim compatibility with the game. You don't get to use any intellectual property (or, properly, "Product Identity") in them. So you can writ...
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Sandbox Adventures in Pathfinder 2E and D&D 5E

July 21, 2020
There are not a lot of rules similarities between Pathfinder Second Edition and Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, but I've recently noticed one very significant similarity when designing adventures for each system.

They both usually handle sandbox adventures very well--with certain limits.

I've talked about sandbox adventures before; they're the kind of adventures where the heroes can go anywhere they want in a large area and follow up on whichever leads strike their fancy. It's a lot of choice...
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How the Adventure Went Down

July 14, 2020
I posted last Friday about how I was going to write a 5,000-word adventure over the weekend. How did it go? Somewhere right between "okay" and "good." Here's the rundown.

As I mentioned, I knew that the introduction would be about 500 words (it's 430) and the final ambush encounter would be about 1,000 words (it's 1,130). On Saturday, I wrote all of that, then I started writing in more detail about the ogre keep. (Remember, the middle part of my adventure was divided up into "ogre keep" and "s...
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A 5,000 Word Adventure This Weekend

July 10, 2020
Happy Friday! This weekend, I'm writing a 5,000-word adventure. It's for a really neat project, and I'm collaborating with some fun people. I thought it might be helpful to let you know my process. Rather than, "eh, it'll get done this weekend," I'm being quite rigorous about preparation and planning the execution. Here's how I'll do it.

Understand the Parameters. I already know the adventure is for 5,000 words, is for Pathfinder Second Edition, and is fundamentally about attacking a caravan o...
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Podcasting Your Games, Legally Speaking

July 8, 2020
Here's a slight deviation from my standard "so you're an RPG writer" advice, but it touches on the two pillars of my professional life: gaming and the law.

There's been a big push in actual-play podcasting in the last few years. I'm even part of one myself (it's an awesome Starfinder campaign, and you can find our episodes here). With more people meeting virtually, I've heard more people considering recording and uploading their games as actual-play podcasts. This is fun, and the tech availabl...
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Another Adventure Path Kicks Off!

June 27, 2020
I've just finished an important work project, although it's something I can't talk much about just yet. We've announced our upcoming three-part Adventure Paths: the dungeon-themed Abomination Vaults Adventure Path, which I'm developing, and the martial-arts-tournament-themed Fists of the Ruby Phoenix Adventure Path, which my friend and coworker Patrick is developing. As will surprise no one, I've been hard at work putting together the outline for the Adventure Path after that one, which we ha...
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Into the Dungeon!

June 24, 2020
I recently contributed to an awesome project that is Kickstarting now. The Book of Dungeon Encounters is a collection of system-neutral dungeon encounters you can drop into any dungeon setting. If you like creepy, cool, fun, puzzling, or challenging dungeon encounters, don't miss out on this! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/philipreed/the-book-of-dungeon-encounters-for-use-with-fantasy-rpgs/
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Stumbling Blocks for New Adventure Authors

June 22, 2020
An online-only PaizoCon had a few wrinkles, but one of the best parts was being able to set up an "Ask Me Anything" thread for anyone to drop in and ask me questions about what I do. One question I received from Andrew Mullen strikes me as a great question a lot of people probably have:

What's the biggest—or what're the co-biggest—stumbling blocks you see from new adventure authors?

And here's my (mostly unedited) response to that:

Erratic party assumptions! Too many new writers assume all p...

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How I Develop, 3 of 3: What I Do to Your Words

June 9, 2020

Professionally, I’m a game developer. I focus on developing adventures. That means outlining adventures and assigning writing to freelancers, checking freelancers’ milestones, and developing the freelancer’s text before sending it to the editors. Let’s break those three things down! Finally, the development.

This is the bulk of my job. I’m taking turnover text that you, the freelancer, give to me, and I’m giving it a thorough edit, called a development edit (to distinguish it from ...


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How I Develop, Part 2 of 3: Your Milestone

May 28, 2020

Professionally, I’m a game developer. I focus on developing adventures. That means outlining adventures and assigning writing to freelancers, checking freelancers’ milestones, and developing the freelancer’s text before sending it to the editors. Let’s break those three things down! Second, the milestone.

What A Milestone Is. A milestone is a check-in point where I’ve asked you, the freelancer, to turn in about half your word count. This is to make sure you’re on track, and to make...


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How I Develop, Part 1 of 3: Forging the Outline

May 25, 2020

Professionally, I’m a game developer. I focus on developing adventures. That means outlining adventures and assigning writing to freelancers, checking freelancers’ milestones, and developing the freelancer’s text before sending it to the editors. Let’s break those three things down! First, the outline. 

I work with a lot of internal stakeholders to come up with a project outline that I give to my freelancers. Because I work on the Pathfinder Adventure Path line, the projects I’m outl...


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What Actual Feedback Looks Like

May 22, 2020
So, I wanted to talk about how feedback a developer gives you as a freelancer is going to range from the exceptionally specific to the exceptionally general. I know when I give feedback, this is nearly always the case. And I thought an example would be helpful, but I don't feel comfortable sharing the feedback I've given to others. Instead, here's some feedback I got myself!

Back in 2013 / 2014, I wrote The Choking Tower, the third adventure in the Iron Gods Adventure Path. James Jacobs gave m...
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What Makes a Good Milestone

May 19, 2020
If you're writing for RPGs, it's pretty likely you'll get asked to turn over a "milestone" about halfway through the process. This is basically a midpoint check-in, where you show you've got about half the word count completed. But a milestone can and should be a greater opportunity for that for you, the freelancer, to interface with your developer. What makes a good milestone?

* Word Count. What is "about half" of your word count? Anywhere near 50 percent is fine, so long as it's showing good...
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That's So Platinum

May 14, 2020
I was looking over a conversation about the "metal levels" on DriveThruRPG, the most significant site for digital RPG sales. These levels (Copper, Silver, Gold, and so on) correspond with sales: higher sales get rarer metals.

I've felt lucky if some of my third party press products even get Copper rated, but I was surprised to find that I actually have three Platinum products! All three adventures I wrote for the D&D Adventurer's League campaign (Beneath the Fetid Chelimber, The Seer, and Quel...
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Another Solo Adventure!

May 13, 2020
I've released my next solo adventure, a conversion to my popular Night of the Skulltaker for solo play. You can get it right here!
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Bells and Whistles

May 12, 2020
As an adventure writer, I like to think that the story comes first, and is the most vital thing I'm providing. Sure, there are monsters, but you can go get those stats in a monster book (whether a Monster Manual, a Bestiary, or an Alien Archive). The same with traps; something in the core rulebook is something you can look up yourself. Maps are often really important to tell the story, but you can draw those out yourself, or print the ones I include in the adventure. You've got all the tokens...
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When Results By 10 Aren't Enough

May 6, 2020
In Pathfinder First Edition, it was pretty common to see results broken up by 5s. Failed to climb that wall? If you failed by 5 or more, you'll fall. Failed to disable a trap? If you failed by 5 or more, you accidentally set it off. I saw plenty of tables, such as for information gathered while investigating something, that came in units of 5: If you got a result of 15 or higher on your Perception/Diplomacy/whatever, you learned X. If you got a 20 or higher, you also learned Y. If you got a 2...
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The Duskwalker's Gift, by Ken Melvoin-Berg

May 5, 2020
In what might be the first piece of fan fiction my works have ever received, here's a short story about Tarklo Dirge, the protagonist of The Duskwalker's Due, the solo adventure you can get right here. It's by my good friend Ken Melvoin-Berg and it's a lot of fun!

The Duskwalker’s Gift by Ken Melvoin-Berg


Hunting is what I was born for, literally. I was born again in this body of Tarklo Dirge and given a mission: hunt the undead to restore the balance of life and death. I was getting a smile ...


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Words Coming Up Short? Dos and Don'ts

April 25, 2020

A coworker of mine recently lamented that she was nearly finished with an adventure she was writing, but it was still under her target word count by a large margin. Although over-writing seems more common than under-writing, it’s important to know a few techniques to get those last several words you need down on paper. My friend Luis and I took turns coming up with Very Bad Ideas and Very Good Ideas about what do in that situation. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader which side I ...


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Solo Play for Pathfinder Second Edition

April 23, 2020
My solo Pathfinder adventure, The Duskwalker's Due, has proven to be a bit hit, so I'm designing a few more solo adventures. I thought this might be the case, so I planned by preparing a fairly generic "here's how to play a Pathfinder solo adventure" section near the beginning of that adventure. With light tweaks, it can go into any solo adventure. Even into yours! If you want to take this language and make it your own, do so! In these strange times, more solo adventures can be a big help.

Pla...


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Night of the Skulltaker, First Edition Style!

April 23, 2020
I've already updated a few of my Pathfinder First Edition adventures to Pathfinder Second Edition, including Teeth of the Storm and The Six Griffon's Haunt (updated to Ghosts of Sparwell Lodge). Now I just did it backwards!

My recent Night of the Skulltaker was concepted and written for Pathfinder Second Edition. But when I saw someone online asking if a 1E version would be available, I looked it over carefully and realized a conversion wouldn't be very difficult. So I put that together, and n...
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About Me


I'm Ron Lundeen, developer for Paizo, Inc., active gamer, and RPG freelancer. I've recently had products in print for Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Raging Swan, Open Design, Headless Hydra Games, and Rite Publishing. I'm still taking freelance writing assignments, but also focusing on writing for Run Amok Games.


 

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