Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Five or So Questions on Faerie Fire

Hi all! Today I have an interview with Shannon Campbell from Astrolago Press about the new bestiary currently on Kickstarter, Faerie Fire, which is compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Shannon is the creator alongside Dillon MacPherson and Malcolm Wilson. The Kickstarter runs until the morning of February 7, 2018. Check out Shannon's answers below!


The Conglomadog by Kory Bing
Tell me a little about Faerie Fire. What excites you about it?

Faerie Fire is a collaboration between myself and two of my gamemasters: Dillon MacPherson and Malcolm Wilson. The three of us are friends and colleagues and we're all very passionate about tabletop gaming--we're active homebrewers, Dillon and Malcolm especially. 

There's loads of things that excite me tremendously about Faerie Fire: the fact that it's full of items and creatures that the three of us have enjoyed so much in our own campaigns, and now we get to share them with everyone; the list of incredible illustrators that I'm so grateful to have had the chance to work with; and the fact that it's entirely up to our own creative vision what goes in the book. AND THE AESTHETIC IS KEY. I'm super stoked to get to work on such a vibrant, colourful project. We wanted to make a really wild book that felt a little bit sexy, a little bit dangerous--but at the same time super inclusive.

What was the inspiration for Faerie Fire, and how did you start compiling and creating all of this content together?

To start, a lot of it was homebrew we had developed for our own campaig
ns. Dillon and Malcolm have known each other for a decade and as they were both game designers and avid game masters, they were constantly developing and exchanging new content. They'd always wanted to make a tabletop compendium of their own, and the success in recent years of similar projects spurred them on. I'm a writer and narrative designer in video games but I've also had experience as an editor on various print publications--including Bones of the Coast, a Kickstarter-funded comics anthology I helmed in 2016, and The Underground: A Sam & Fuzzy RPG, a tabletop system & setting I edited a couple of years ago.

Right away it seemed clear to me that we should do something aggressive and bold--that it wasn't enough to just produce content that was the same flavour as the vanilla stuff already widely available. We were spending a lot of time in the fairy realm in a campaign that Malcolm was GMing and it seemed like there was a lot of content there to explore and develop--and it quickly became clear that anything we made for the Wilds would be anything but vanilla.

Pox and Pilfer by Amy T. Falcone

Why did you choose to use 5e as your base? Is any of the material flexible to use in other systems, even just the flavor?

Dillon and Malcolm have been playing for 10 years but I only came onto tabletop games with D&D 4th edition, which I played for about a year before 5e came out. After that I went through a handful of systems--but I kept coming back to 5e. I like long-form storytelling and character-driven stories, and 5e is just the right combination of intuitive and versatile--and it's so, so homebrew friendly. Pretty much every 5e campaign I played ended up having homebrew added before too long: custom player races and classes, new magic items, weird hybrid monsters--and everyone I played with was always happy to go off book. 5e feels like a robust and elegant toolset.

One of the things we'd really like to do with Faerie Fire is make it Fate-compliant as well (I'm a huge fan of Fate Accelerated)--whether this is done as a stretch goal, or as a side hobby over the next year, is hard to say. We think that the style and aesthetic of Faerie Fire would readily fit into a lot of systems and worlds--though the mechanics would obviously need to be adapted a little. And, of course, the fast-paced, glamorous, brilliant setting of Faerie Fire would make it a perfect fit for one of my favourite impromptu systems: All Outta Bubblegum.

How did you choose artists for the project to capture the aesthetic you were looking for? What was your search like?

I come from a comics background, and for five years I ran a curated comics festival called VanCAF that put me in touch with a large network of artists, so I quickly compiled a shortlist of talent that I thought would be a great fit for the project. We had an open submissions process, as well, where artists could pitch monster ideas for us to collaborate on--but in the end we only selected a handful of artists that way.

The vision was for Faerie Fire to be vivid and stylish and bold and glamourous, but I also wanted it to be non-binary and queer. It seemed to me that if we approached it as an art book as well as a supplemental, then it might provide an opportunity for people who have otherwise felt excluded from gaming to discover how incredible these worlds could be. To that end, we wanted to collaborate with diverse creators. My own connections were very LGTBQ+ representative, and feeds like @sffpocartists on Twitter and the #drawingwhileblack and #latinxartists hashtags provided a bounty of skill & talent that made it incredibly easy to discover new names I might not have been introduced to otherwise.

Tell me a little about the design process. How did you flesh out the creatures? What did you do to make sure everything was consistent thematically and mechanically?

The design process was a little bit different from artist to artist--some artists preferred to be assigned a creature, in which case they'd give us some requests (flowers! or feathers!) and tell us what they hated to draw, and we'd build them a custom creature that played to their strengths. Other artists had their own idea for a creature, so we'd get them to run it by us and then cross-reference it to all the other monsters going into the book to make sure that it was unique. We'd send back design notes, if necessary, but otherwise we wanted to give the artists as much autonomy as possible.

Making sure that each monster is unique involves, basically, a lot of spreadsheets. We have cross-references for creature type, whether they're humanoid or not, sentient or not--whether they have damage resistances or vulnerabilities, whether they can be used as a familiar or a mount. The book runs the whole gamut. Dillon and Malcolm design the stat blocks between the two of them and each of them reviews the other's work--I come in at the last to give the final review, whip up the lore, and make sure everything looks hunky dory from there. As the art comes in we review it and, if there's anything that doesn't quite sync up with the lore & stats we've developed, or if the artist has surprised us with something we weren't quite expecting, we'll tweak the written content one last time to make sure it gets the most out of the art and doesn't introduce any confusing inconsistencies.

The book is designed around the a chaotic Fairy plane, home of the fey. While not all the creatures originated there, they've all been affected by it, and that shapes their powers and design. We've also introduced the Plane of the Living Light, a neon-inspired plane that kind of bumps up against the Wilds--those with special sensitivities can see into it, and certain creatures can channel its living energy through them. Everything in the book, therefore, has been touched by one of these two things: either chaotic fey magics, or the pulsing, energizing Living Light.

Because the aesthetic ranges from the cyberpunky Neon Noir to the fun colours and friendly animals of certain beloved 90s stationery, there's a wide range of creatures: some are monstrous, some are sexy, some are friendly--some are just plain weird. Each and every one of them is an original creation.

To finish off, what are a few of your favorite items and creatures in the text, and why?

My favourite probably comes down to two or three different creatures: there's the Kapny (which is going to be drawn by Jemma Salume), dryad-like creatures that live in the husks of trees burned by wildfire; I'm also a huge fan of the Cawillopard (drawn by Desirae Salmark), a tall, giraffe-like creature whose head can't be seen for the weeping willow branches that trail down its neck; it has a symbiotic relationship with glittering spiders that live in its branches. When you're under its expansive canopy, the spiders make it look like the night sky shining above you. Pretty! But also creepy, depending on your particular phobia. And, lastly, I'm a big fan of our "cover girl", Sepal: she's the warden of the fey prison, where all the prisoners are transformed into flowers and shrubs for the duration of their imprisonment. She keeps a disciplined, well-manicured garden, and she's a fierce and cunning member of the fairy nobility; though she mostly prefers to stay out of the various squabbles and underhanded politics of the court, it'd be pretty stupid to underestimate her--she literally grows her own army. Yuko Ota drew Sepal for the cover of the book and the interior illustration of her, as well.

Jesse Turner is drawing all our items as we speak and each time he turns in a new one, it's even more fantastic than the last. I'm most looking forward to seeing the finished art for the Comet's Tail: a magical flail that looks something like a glowing comet, and allows the wielder to cast Minute Meteor. 

The Wayfarer by Jesse Turner


Thanks so much to Shannon for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed it and will check out Faerie Fire, a 5e supplemental on Kickstarter - don't miss out, the Kickstarter ends February 7!

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