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Demonweb Q&A

So, I promised some questions and answers about Expedition to the Demonweb Pits, and I figured it couldn't hurt to actually, you know, deliver on that.

sadrx asks:
1) The structure is very flexible and eminently customizable. Could you elaborate on exactly what this entails and how you went about it in the first place?
Um, did I say that? The structure is flexible in that the encounters in the first half can be swapped around in their sequence, and players can pursue the leads that interest them most. In the second half, as the Spider Queen draws them into her web, things get more tightly plotted. Basically, the opening is a bit of a planar and Sigilian treasure hunt, as the party needs certain things and certain information to succeed in the second half.

2) I have the foggy notion this is a sort of 'Return to' adventure. Maybe I'm mistaken (as I cant recall the exact 1e or 2e adventure), but if so, what sort of instructions did you get from Wizards in regards to how your new adventure should 'follow in the footsteps of' its predecessor?
I was told not to follow in the footsteps very much, as they did not want to repeat the "errors" of Q1. Giant mechanical spiders were explicitly off the table. I have a soft spot for that adventure, but looking at it from the distance of 20 years, the best things about it are the introduction of Lolth and the yochlol, rather than any great adventure design. It has lots of good "bits", not much else. The giants and drow series were both much better, not to mention things like Tomb of Horrors.

mouseferatu asks:
3) I'm not going to ask specific questions, but as I still hope to be in on one of the Expedition to... products myself, I'd love to hear anything you have to say about the specific process, and how it differed (if at all) from other
A) ...generic WotC writing gigs, and

Well, it used the new format, so encounters are both very tightly scripted and sometimes padded to make them fit the format. It's got all the plusses and minuses of the old MC loose-leaf: very standardized, easy to DM, with little flexibility for unusual encounter types, and no flexibility for meeting more than two monster types at once (and ideally, only one). NPCs don't fit the format well, either. The format's success depends on whether DMs prefer it to the old style; they pay more per encounter, and it's minis-centric, but it's easier at the table to just flip open a page and run it.

What else about process? It's all a bit of a blur, but I can say with confidence that it got much, much, much more time in development and editing than other WotC projects I've done. I'm still unclear on why that is, actually. I was initially told there would be an in-house playtest, and then that didn't happen (so I organized my own, in some haste and with much gratitude to the playtest group that stepped up). Development was.... strange in other ways. What seemed to me to be the best playtest recommendation was not adopted. I'm too far removed from WotC current processes to say any more than that. You'd have to ask the developer.

It differed in that more text was demanded more quickly than usual, and my own writing process amounted to "Write 2000 words per day, hell or high water". It's not a pace I can usually sustain for more than a short time.

B) ...the writing of other, more traditional adventures.
Hm. Well, it's a planar adventure, so it's looser and wilder, with more infinite hallways, mirror universes, demon lord aspects, world-spanning trees, and tri-dimensional demonic cities than the average adventure. I got to play with things I haven't really touched since the 90s.

At the same time, I was writing a planar installment of "Savage Tide", so there's some inevitable overlap. Since they two are for entirely different levels (the "Savage Tide" planar piece is pitched around 17th level!), the audience won't be playing through the Abyss twice in close succession, but there's some sly nods to EttDWP in "Enemies of my Enemy". We'll see if the final piece retains them, or they got cut.

matt_ruff asks:
4) Is this a remake of the old Queen of the Demonweb Pits — which I remember loving — or a whole new beast?
It's a loving update with a whole new plot. I'm a fan of the old thing (see above), but it doesn't hold up in the new, minis-and-mechanics world of 3rd Edition D&D. So I rebuilt things based on Monte Cook's version of the Demonweb (from "The Harrowing", Dungeon 84), from Planes of Chaos (2nd Edition), and all the other sources that came after Q1 but that expanded that part of the shared universe. I wanted to keep the best bits while telling a new story, all under an extremely tight deadline.

Whether I succeeded — and whether the art, new monsters, and gameplay are as evocative as the original — is not for me to judge.

sucros asks:
5) The planescape campaign setting was pretty... different... from other existing campaign settings at the time (or at now, for that matter). How much free reign were you given to be a bit odd for this book?
Oddness was encouraged, though I decided to keep a lot of it outside the Abyssal sections. The editor was the astoundign Michele Carter, who was the main editor of the Planescape line back in the day, so you know it was in the best of hands for retaining and promoting the Planescape twists in it. However, this book contains no Planescape cant.

6) I'm always interested in how two authors work together on a project like this. How was the labor divided between you and Gwendolyn?
A fairly standard approach, we split the work along section lines. Gwendolyn did the first drow encounter (on the Prime plane), the Beastlands, and the new prestige classes. Plus at least one of the demon lords, IIRC. I wrote the various Abyss enounters, including the Demonweb, Zelatar, and others, plus Yggdrasil, the new monsters, the new magic, the Sigil encounters, and the connecting pieces.

If it seems like my list is longer, well, that's correct. But we both contributed. As best as I can tell, WotC's policy that its in-house designers contribute some (occasionally quite small) portion to every hardback book they publish. I'm not sure that gains them much, but it certainly means that there's someone from the "home office" who has seen the work and approved it before it goes to development.

Thanks for your questions!

Comments

( 8 sutras — Your wisdom )
sadrx
Apr. 5th, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)
Heh. Sorry. The quote is from the WotC product info page for the adventure.
sadrx
Apr. 5th, 2007 02:36 am (UTC)
P.S. The time you take to go into detail on things like this in your LJ is much appreciated.
razzelmire
Apr. 18th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC)
Wild Hunter!?
So I finished reading through Expedition to the Demonweb Pits and I have to say, great job! But I've come across a strange creature on page 49, a Wild Hunter.

I looked through a personal file of mine where I keep tabs on monsters produced by WotC/Paizo for 3E and I didn't find it anywhere. So I figured it was brand new. However, there's no description for it in the Appendix section of the book.

Strange.

So I looked on page 41 where they talk about the encounter with it and then read the encounter itself on page 49. There's absolutely no description of it, no picture, nothing. Just a vague mention of it being humanoid and that it rides a megaloceros and attacks the PCs in the Beastlands.

So I study the entry for the Wild Hunter. No entry states what book it's from. And I don't even recognize it by memory (and I have a keen memory when it comes to which creatures exist and don't exist in 3E).
So what and where did this creature come from? Is it a new creature from Monster Manual V!?
the_monkey_king
Apr. 19th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
Re: Wild Hunter!?
The wild hunter is statted out on page 49, as you say, but Gwendolyn wrote it, so I can't really say what it's supposed to look like.

OTOH, I seem to recall that there was some art ... Yep, there's some unused art from MMIV that was supposed to go with it. Apparently, the Hasbro folks decided against using it.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 19th, 2007 04:11 am (UTC)
Re: Wild Hunter!?
Strange about not letting you guys use it. In fact, you say art from MMIV? Was the wild hunter originally intended for MMIV but didn't make it in there?

Could you talk to Gwendolyn for more information on this? I would like to know because I am a fan of placing more fey creatures in my games and this creature looks interesting.
the_monkey_king
Apr. 19th, 2007 04:27 am (UTC)
Re: Wild Hunter!?
It's not so much a matter of letting anyone use it (Hasbro owns the rights, I'd guess). They just decided not to, for whatever reason. I agree it sounds like an interesting creature, and a picture would be nice.

You'd have to ask gkestrel for the image. She works at Hasbro and has access to art, art directors, and the like.
richgreen01
Apr. 29th, 2007 10:04 am (UTC)
Drow letter
Hi Wolf,
I'm about a third of the way through reading Expedition... and am really enjoying it (it's bringing back a lot of PS memories) but I have a question. Who wrote the letter to Lithara in Chapter 1? It's not clear and I think the PCs may well use spells or take Lithara alive and charm her to find out more.
Thanks!
the_monkey_king
Apr. 29th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Drow letter
It's part of Rule of Three's stirring of the pot, and could be written either by him (in which case, questioning Lithara changes things quite a bit) or by one of the drow whom he has duped (in which case, the "source here" confirming things is Ro3). That drow would likely be someone like the captain on page 55.

OTOH, there's no reason that Lithara has to know who wrote the message. Her demon carries notes for her, and the drow network of spies and agents may be heavily compartmentalized with "need to know."
( 8 sutras — Your wisdom )

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