Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Interview with Steven D. Russell

Today on Emerson's Bookshelf we're talking with Steven D. Russell, the wordsmith of record for A Witch's Choice, which is the point of the spear for Rite Publishing's new adventure path, The Rituals of Choice, an ambitious undertaking of enjoyable proportions that uses Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved. Welcome, Steven, and thank you for taking part in this interview. I'm pretty excited to talk about A Witch's Choice, and share it with those who've not had a chance to see its development.


So, an adventure path for Arcana Evolved? 
The design actually functions in three different ways. One as standalone episodes, two as campaign arcs of 5 adventures each, and finally you have the adventure path as a whole, 1
st to 25th level.  The adventures all embrace the tropes and themes (Oaths, Ceremonies, Choice, Contrast, Opposition, Complex Races/Classes, Evolution, DM Empowerment and Tailor Made Characters) that make Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved such a great variant OGL system, though one of the patrons is working on a 3.5 conversion document.  


What started that fire under you?

What really set the house on fire was Wolfgang Baur's Open Design Seminar at Gencon where Bill Collins and I got to talking about how Open Design worked (he had been working on Empire of the Ghouls and 6 Arabian Nights.)  After that Bill Collins became the developer of the Jade Oath Patronage Project, and I set about work on The Rituals of Choice Adventure Path starting with our first adventure “A Witch's Choice”.

What was the easiest part of the project for you?
Working with the patrons, "A Witch's Choice" is my best work to date. I would not have been able to reach such a high level of quality in design and production without their feedback.

The hardest?
Knowing when to stop tweaking, when I had crossed the line between designing and fiddling, here again the patrons, a really great editor (Perry Grosshans), and the play testing really made all the difference.

What are you most proud of in A Witch's Choice?
Its quality, from how the patrons pushed my design skills to a greater height, to the glorious full color cartography Jonathan Roberts created, to the evocative cover art by Ryan Barger, and finally the wonderful full color interior artwork of Eric Lofgren and Richard Biggs Jr. A small PDF and PoD company like Rite Publishing could never have attained this level of quality without the patronage business model.

Is there anything that was a last minute addition to the project or promotion that was new or interesting? 

A number of things, the to scale battle maps available at Gamer-Printshop.com and Jonathan Roberts created a to scale Pdf map packs for the patrons so they could print the maps themselves. A suggestion led to a handout that displays the benefits the PCs acquire picking their groups hook, and finally a member even created promotional video for us.

Now you jumped on the patronage bandwagon, a movement near and dear to my heart, how's it treated you?

Amazingly, I had Bill Collins to fall back on when I had questions about the process. In practice I set up my outline for the entire path and allowed patrons to change anything that did not change that outline, and this led to an entirely new patron designed encounter "The Mire of Lost Souls" by Jesse Butler, along with an accompanying map by Jonathan Roberts. 

What do you think of it, overall, for both the Rituals of Choice line and for Lands of the Jade oath?

Well almost every future project we do will be a Patronage Project, it has worked that well.

I am very proud of the fact that for each individual adventure in the Rituals of Choice standard patronage only costs $10.00, compared to the standard $30.00 of any other patronage project out there.

 Jade Oath is a very different animal and the project would not have even been possible without this business model. There is the breath taking Wayne Anthony Reynold’s cover, the density of Frank Carr's material, and the quality of Bill Collins development and editing.  Plus as art director I get to enjoy the wonderful interior artwork Kurt Taylor, Jeff Ward, and Amanda Webb are creating for Jade Oath.  

Now patronage is opened up for the next adventure in the series, To Kill, or Not To Kill, right?

Yes, we are 95% toward our threshold goal as of this writing. To Kill or Not To Kill is a monster hunt/murder mystery; I have already posted the general outline, the summery, and the first two encounters for the patrons who have already signed up.  



I did something a little different this time though if you join as a Senior Patron you will get access to both "A Witch's Choice" and "To Kill or Not To Kill" Then we created a Path Patronage that gives you access to the outline of the adventure path, and its development plus a discount on future patronage in the series. 

What's next for you? For Rite Publishing? Exciting new projects or avenues?


Patrons willing, I will be hard at work on The Rituals of Choice for quite some time,  Rite Publishing will be releasing more in its Monsters Evolved and Items Evolved series of small Pdfs, and work will continue to go forward toward Jade Oath’s release before Gencon.


We have two new projects on the horizon one is a Litorian racial patronage project by Clay Fleischer (6 Arabian Nights), Soren Thustrup (Vault of the Iron Overlord, Circle of Rites), Bill Collins (Tales of Zobeck), Hans Cummings (Atala's Tale), and hopefully Robert Emerson that we are looking at launching around May 1st. This one will be wide open to patron pitches and input more so than any other project we have done, as the only thing we are limited by is Clay Fleischer’s original outline. For those who don’t know Litorians are a race introduced in both Arcana Evolved and later in Ptolus, we will be focusing on their life on the Plains where the Rituals of Choice take place so you can use them with the adventures or as a standalone product.


I have another patronage project that Rite Publishing is planning that will be Pathfinder Compatible, but if you want to know more about that you will have to listen to the Atomic Array Podcast on May 22nd.



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