Aeryn’s Archives: Vault of the Dragon Kings
Posted on December 5, 2019
by Aeryn Rudel
This is the first in a series of posts where I’ll talk about the projects I’ve written and worked on over my professional career, from fiction to RPGs to tabletop war-gaming stuff. I’ll try to add insights into how the project came together and maybe an amusing anecdote or two. Anyway, with over 400 writing, editing, and development credits, we could be at this a while, but I’ll try to restrict my posts to the more interesting projects. 🙂
Let’s kick things off with my very first professional job in the tabletop gaming industry way back in 2005: Dungeon Crawl Classics #30: Vault of the Dragon Kings.
For the uninitiated, what you have here is a module or adventure for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. This is not an adventure produced by the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast, but a third party product created under license by Goodman Games. The lead writer on this one was Jason Little, and my role was as a stat editor and monster creator (I was credited under Stat Blocks & Creature Development and Additional Writing & Development). This essentially means I checked a lot of math and created some monsters for the adventure. That’s not the interesting part of this gig, though. How I got it is.
When Wizards of the Coast released the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons (often just called 3E) back in 2000, they created a version of the game that was more versatile than any before it. The rules let you build characters and monsters in a clearly defined way that allowed for endless customization. In addition, they opened up the game to third party publishers to produce material through something called the Open Gaming License (or OGL). I won’t go into the specifics because it’s mostly a bunch of math and legalese and stuff, but this new system sparked a creative fire in me. So I started making monsters, mostly by taking existing D&D critters and upgrading them with the new rules system. I also wrote little backstories for my creations and posted them on a popular Dungeons & Dragons message board. In some ways it was similar to fan fiction, though the OGL made it more commercially viable. (I also actually wrote fan fiction, but that’s a story for another day).
My creations earned me a small following from D&D players who frequented that message boards, and a few of those folks turned out to be publishers as well. One of them, Joseph Goodman of Goodman Games, liked what he saw and reached out to see if I’d be willing to work on a module in his very popular Dungeon Crawl Classics series. Needless to say I was thrilled for the opportunity, and thus began my career in tabletop gaming. Better yet, it also started a great professional relationship that’s lasted nearly fifteen years, and I still do the occasional job for Goodman Games to this day.
Oh, for you old school gamers, you might recognize the cover artist on this one. Yep, that’s a piece by the incomparable Erol Otus.
If you’d like to check out this module up close and personal, it’s still available through Goodman Games via the link below (or the giant cover illustration above):
DCC #30: Vault of the Dragon Kings
Seems like a bit of a new direction for your blog? I like it!
To me, writing (fiction) for tabletop and video games is one of the most interesting, modern genres(?) and I’d love to read more about your experiences here.
Looking forward to it!
Yeah, I haven’t covered my tabletop career much on the blog, but it definitely shaped me as a writer. This series will also cover fiction, and will generally be a way for me to point folks at the stuff I’ve worked on over the years with an anecdote or two. 🙂
Having just landed my first small time gig on the tabletop writing scene i’m excited to read more from someone as talented and experienced as you! Awesome post!
Congrats on the gig. May it be the first of many. 🙂
Thanks for the follow.