Richard Moore, one of JBE’s two editors helmed the development of Deadly Delves: The Gilded Gauntlet, and we are thrilled that it is coming out soon. So I asked him to write a few words as a blog post, sharing his experiences in doing so. I hope you enjoy his recount as I did.
Twelve Labors, Give Or Take
I love collaborative game design projects. I’ve co-run campaigns in my hometown of Raleigh, NC alongside several fantastic groups of game masters and designers, edited and contributed to a few massive third-party Pathfinder adventures, and recently had a chance to work with a great team of designers on Jon Brazer Enterprises’ latest release, The Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium.
In late 2014, while moonlighting on just such a collaborative project for Savage Mojo, I was brainstorming ideas for future Deadly Delves products to propose in 2015. One of my weaknesses as a gamer, perhaps as a result of the era of gaming in which I came of age, is large dungeons full of maddening puzzles and deadly traps. I grew up reading Dungeon Magazine and being enthralled by works such as Rich Baker’s Prism Keep and Andy Miller’s Ex Keraptis Cum Amore (which is itself a cheeky remix of White Plume Mountain), and I’d previously run The Tomb Of Horrors in both D&D 3.5 and 4E, as well as the updated version of The Mud Sorcerer’s Tomb for D&D 3.5. Additionally, one of my favorite products ever produced by Paizo Publishing is the 2007 Gen Con Indy delve Seven Swords Of Sin, a dungeon whose story was outlined by James Sutter with individual rooms designed by other Paizo staff members to see who could come up with the deadliest, most devious trap/monster combos. I desperately wanted to spearhead a project of this nature myself, but I knew that other time constraints and commitments would prevent me from doing it all on my own. So, I pitched the idea to JBE President and Publisher Dale McCoy Jr., and he greenlit it, making me the lead developer for the adventure and clearing me to assemble a team of freelancers.
I had accepted that I couldn’t handle this Herculean task on my own—so instead of tackling twelve labors all on my own (or, well, sixteen as it turned out, considering the room count and the setting designed by Dale), I decided to recruit a little help. One of the perks of living in the Raleigh area is that there is a huge wealth of game design talent here. I’ve heard it said many times by West Coast industry folks that there is something in the water in North Carolina, and there’s some truth to that. I’ve had the pleasure, over the years, of gaming with some stellar people in this area, many of whom you might recognize from their design credits with Paizo or other publishers. So naturally, I immediately reached out to all of them to contribute to what was long dubbed “Project Hercules”. The final product, however, bears a different name: The Gilded Gauntlet.
Our roster of designers for this adventure is an impressive list indeed. Casey Clements designed one of the most devious dungeon rooms I have ever read, and the horrible culmination of that encounter was the inspiration for our cover art image. Charlie Bell’s ingenious attention to detail in his section of this dungeon will leave you looking askance at mirrors for days after playing it. Michael Eshleman designed a room sure to delight both GMs and their players; the victim of this particular room in playtesting was none other than Mike Welham, who roleplays crazed constructs as well as he writes adventure content. Sam Polak (whose PC in playtesting suffered a hilarious existential crisis in the last encounter I mentioned) offered up a middle-finger of a triple threat that combines traps, haunts, and treacherous treasure. Steve Miller turned in what has to be the most complex encounter I’ve ever developed and edited, complete with insanely-detailed AutoCAD maps befitting his professional background as a civil engineer. All of the aforementioned designers are former competitors in Paizo’s RPG Superstar contest. Welham’s design work is well-known to just about everyone who plays Pathfinder, and Miller and Eshleman have both served North Carolina’s Pathfinder Society organized play program as Venture Captains.
Michael Allen has previously freelanced for both Jon Brazer Enterprises and several other companies, including Adventure-A-Week and Kobold Press, and illustrated all of the maps for this adventure in addition to contributing a room design and coming up with the module’s final title (which was one of the things I was sweating most toward the end of development). I had the pleasure of working with Allan Hoffman and Andrew Hoskins on several Savage Mojo products and was thrilled when they signed on to contribute; Andrew is the author of several great pieces of content in Wayfinder Magazine as well as five Pathfinder Society scenarios. Daniel DeStephen is the greenest member of the team; we met on the Paizo messageboards while discussing the Carrion Crown Adventure Path, where his custom monster and NPC builds for that campaign impressed me greatly. Allan’s work was a variation on a classic theme of elemental puzzles that tied in well with other features of the dungeon. Andrew offered up three very short encounters that we included as minor interludes between larger set pieces, but I think you’ll find that awful things come in small packages. Daniel’s submission ties directly into Allan’s—if your players do well in the first encounter, the ones Daniel put together will be (slightly) easier, but no less entertaining.
So just what—besides madness, terror, and oblivion, of course—does The Gilded Gauntlet offer your campaign’s story, you ask? A small city is plagued by problems with poisoned livestock and tainted water supplies, not to mention strange monsters prowling the surrounding lands. Naturally, they hire adventurers to root out the cause of these disturbances. As the PCs investigate, they find a MASSIVE underground complex that houses a great machine—an alchemical wonder fueling a centuries-old global conspiracy woven by a very cunning, and very dangerous, foe…and that person does not want word of what he’s been up to getting out. I could say more, but to give away too much would be to spoil a really big surprise for both the players and the GMs who run this adventure.
Perhaps even more importantly, The Gilded Gauntlet is a meat grinder, but it’s also a portfolio of ready-made puzzle rooms for GMs who are designing dungeons of their own and need something cool and devious to drop into a play session. You could never run this adventure at all, and instead simply pluck out rooms whose themes, denizens, and mechanics match something else you’ve planned for your game group. We hope you’ll use these encounters to amaze and confound your players, challenge their PCs, and maybe take some work off your own plate in the process!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Deadly Delves: The Gilded Gauntlet when it’s released in May 2017!