This week we checked in with Daniel and Sam at Deep Dark Designs and spoke to them about there upcoming Kickstarter Campaign Thunder of the Thorn | D&D 5th Edition Adventure!
Thunder of the Thorn is an action packed 128-page 5th Edition adventure module that delves into the Ragweed Tumble, A deep woodlands filled with wonder and mystery. Strange events are afoot within the tumble’s opaque borders and heroes are needed if the forest is going to survive the storm ahead!
Q: Tell us a little bit about the team that makes up DeepDark Designs?
A: Sam and I run the business together. We’re also brothers and we work and live together too, so since founding DeepDark Designs we’ve been spending something like 12-16 hours a day with each other. I guess we’re quite fortunate that we get along in that regard or else it really wouldn’t be very much fun. As you might expect, we’re both quite similar in some regards, and very different in others. One thing we do share in common though is a love for tabletop roleplaying games. We’ve both been playing stuff like D&D, World of Darkness, Pathfinder, and the various FFG Star Wars RPGs (plus many others systems besides) for more than a decade now. Usually, we play most of those things together. It’s quite convenient because I tend to play as a game master, while Sam is quite averse to running the show and almost never wants to pick up that mantle.
Q: You are about to launch your newest Kickstarter campaign entitled Thunder of the Thorn, what day do you launch and how long do fans have to get their pledges in?
A: With our previous Kickstarters, we ran both of those for 30+ days. However, this time around we decided to keep it lean and go for something much shorter and more focused. We’re going for just 17 days this time, kicking off on Friday the 15th of March and running until Monday the 1st of April. I should say, the fact that things wrap up on April Fool’s Day is actually just a hilarious coincidence. We haven’t gotten anything planned, though I imagine we may give it some thought over the course of the Kickstarter.
Q: What was the initial concept for Thunder of the Thorn Adventure? And how does it differ from your previous adventures?
A: It’s funny you should ask about the adventure’s initial concept, that’s actually something we talk about a little bit in the book’s foreword. One of the biggest things that really shifted is the fact that the goblins depicted in it went from being the primary antagonists (for all the usual reasons that goblins are always the bad guys), to them actually having reasonably good intentions and being a little bit more nuanced. That decision may sound small, but when you see it in the light of the book itself, it’s actually what faciliated the introduction of the more serious, pernicious, and existential threat that’s explored in the adventure.
In terms of what’s different about Thunder of the Thorn compared to our previous adventures, I think there’s several components. For a start, it’s bigger, more ambitious, and much more polished. But probably the biggest thing for us though is that it’s a more focused experience. I know you’ve played through one of our previous adventures, Legendary Adventures: Harrowing Heights. The resolution to that adventure was hugely ‘open’, almost to the extent that we basically said to GMs, ‘look, here’s a bunch of ideas for how to wrap things up, go with what works for you’. That approach was fine for that adventure, but for this one, we wanted to provide a fleshed-out, fully-featured dungeon you could run through that ended with a big and satisfying battle. That’s not to say that Thunder of the Thorn is super linear, but this one is loaded so that there’s lots and lots to see and do during the earlier sections of the adventure and then, at a certain point, you get into a more traditional dungeon experience. It’s different, but we feel like there’s space for both approaches and that this one really works well here.
Q: Where did the inspiration behind Yori Brewbark come from and what’s the deal with his chicken?
A: Yori’s the brewmaster of the village that features in the adventure, Raggers Hollow. Initially, we thought that it would be really great to have the forest where the adventure’s set, the Ragweed Tumble, feature some unusual roots and plants. We figured that alone would be enough to attract a dwarf to the area with aspirations of opening up his own brewery and taproom. We actually designed a menu for the Raggers Tipple, Yori’s place of business. Funnily enough, when I conceptualised that piece, the chicken wasn’t a part of the character or the brief. However, there was room to modify things visually so Sam incorporated it into the brief that went to the artist, Kieran. When the initial sketches came back, I thought that Kieran had come up with the chicken. I loved it and decided to run with it. It wasn’t an important detail where it had come from so it wasn’t until awhile later that I found out it was Sam’s idea. By then, I’d already come up with the idea that something was a bit off about the chicken. You’re right about that by the way, that’s definitely something that’s hinted at in the adventure. However, I couldn’t tell you what. As designers we try to give GMs as much context and as many answers as possible, so that they’re empowered to run with our take on things or adapt or replace things to present their own. But, in the case of Lint, Yori’s chicken, given the confusion and misunderstanding, I felt like Lint was never my creation exactly to being with. So, in light of that, I decided that it wouldn’t be right for us to tell GMs what’s really going on there. I’m looking forward to hearing if it ever comes up in anyone’s game and if any campaigns get derailed by it somehow.
Q: The artwork is fantastic in this module, how did you go about approaching an artist with your concept and what process is involved when bringing your ideas to life on paper?
A: We were quite fortunate when it came to approaching this one in the sense that we were working with all three artists involved in it already. It’s great when you work with the same artists over and over because you really do develop a bit of a short hand with them. That’s especially useful when it comes to actually getting your ideas brought to life on paper because you know how to capture the imagination of the artist better, and that’s usually a good thing. We try to tailor our briefs to really match the artist who’ll be working on them. For example, the artist who designed our landscape environmental illustrations with this one doesn’t speak English as her first language. As a result of that, she finds really verbose or erudite briefs difficult to follow. She does, however, reallly get the idea of emotions and how colour and lighting play into that. So, with her, we might suggest that we want to see a ‘cold and austere riverbank in the throes of winter’ with just a few extra sentences for context. That doesn’t take too many words to say, but it does convey a great sense of the scene we’re asking for. Likewise, some artists like for us to be very specific about our requirements for an illustration, while others prefer a bit more freedom to be able to realise their own ideas and bring those to the table. There’s generally a way to get what we need out of a piece as a publisher while working with an artist and understanding their needs as well.
Q: The Mushimen Minuteman… Man made out of mushroom or mushroom made out of man?
A: I suppose tecnically both. You’d have to dissect one to know for sure though. What are the toad guys in Mario made out of? Does anyone know?
Q: Kickstarter campaigns often offer rewards if certain stretch goals are met, can we expect any stretch goals from DeepDark Designs during this campaign. If so, what can we expect to see?
A: You can. We’ve got a few things planned at the moment. I won’t spoil things too much, but we’d like to add some new player options to Thunder of the Thorn, get the book into hardback, and also release some free smaller standalone PDFs that add a little bit of context and lore to the adventure. Generally though, we’re not huge fans of providing stretch goals that significantly change the nature of the core thing being funded because, well, we’ve seen situations with something like Star Citizen where so much gets promised that the project bloats and changes into something that a lot of the original backers didn’t necessarily ask for, and it takes significantly longer to develop as a result. In our case, we want to priorize ‘enhancing’ the adventure, by making it hardback instead of softback for example; and ‘supplementing’ the adventure, by adding little side PDFs; rather than ‘expanding’ the adventure a lot and risking delays in fulfilling it to backers.
Q: What book formats can fans expect to receive from the Kickstarter? Are you offering different pledge levels so that we can choose between hardback, softback, or PDF versions of the adventure?
A: I guess I’ve touched on this a little bit above, but we’re going to offer Thunder of the Thorn in softback initially, and then upgrade pledges to hardback versions depending on how we do with stretch goals. We’ll also offer the adventure digitally, with rewards providing Standard, Printer-Friendly, and also an Accessibility version as PDFs. We don’t believe in charging for PDFs if you’ve bought the adventure physically, so we bundle them in with any physical purchase.
Q: Dungeons & Dragons is one of the biggest influences in the TTRPG community and we here at The Guilded Dragons have played your previous Adventure titled Harrowing Heights using the D&D system. Do you have any other TTRPG system suggestions our audience could also use alongside your campaigns?
A: I suppose, arguably, you could convert pretty much any adventure to work in just about any system, if you were prepared to put the work in. Realistically though, it would probably be easiest to convert our adventures into other D20 systems. So, you’d have an easier time with something like Pathfinder or older editions of D&D. In the future, we’d like very much to be able to offer our products for other systems though. We’re definitely keeping a close eye on Pathfinder 2 for that exact reason.
Q: What other great things can we expect to see from DeepDark Designs this year?
A: Without wanting to give too much away, we’ve got a lot of plans. It’s really just having the time to implement a lot of them that we wrestle with. I don’t know if you’ve seen the two free 5th Edition classes we released last year or not, but we’ve got another 3 of those in the pipeline. We’re also pretty far along with something that would complement the next official D&D release quite nicely so hopefully we’ll be able to get that out around the time it drops. I definitely don’t think this is the last time you’ll see us on Kickstarter this year. Though, I think the next couple of projects we’ll focus on will be smaller than Thunder of the Thorn. We’re cooking something up for next year that’ll dwarf it though so hopefully we don’t run into any problems with that.
Q: Where can people reach you?
A: We’re on facebook and we can be messaged through Kickstarter if backers have questions related to their pledges. Generally though, I’d recommend catching us on Instagram (instagram.com/deepdarkdesigns) or by reaching out to me directly at email@example.com.
Q.Anything else you wish to add?
A: Just really to thank you for having us on and also everyone who’s read along this far. We’re very passionate about what we do, and it’s great to be able to open up about it and share that with others–whether that means them backing our Kickstarter, acquiring one of our adventures or supplements, or it means answering a few questions about what we do. All the best, happy gaming everyone!
If you would like to help support Daniel & Sam with their Kickstarter Campaign then click the link below