Hey Ray I've been playing further your Realm series and have completed the West side and am working on the South side (this darn temple of elemental evil is giving me trouble lol) and a couple questions popped into my head. This isn't so much a gameplay question as it is a general one related to your games. I noticed you add stuff to your games that isn't in the modules (for example the entire lower dungeons of the lost city or the trip to the Raven's Ruin). How did you go about doing this? Just educated guesswork?
Hey! Glad you've been enjoying yourself! Temple was a bear to make. When I look back on making those designs, Temple of the Elemental Evil is the one that I keep coming back to and thinking, How the hell did I do that?
I hope you enjoy it all the way through! I still remember being surprised that my original conception of ToEE was so wrong. There's a real structure to the dungeon, and also to what's going on in there. A more modern publication would have included flow charts of the temple's organization, or some other visual breakdown that helped us as readers figure out who was at the top, and who were his minions and adversaries. It's all in there, but I didn't find it until I went through, line by line, typing all that beautiful prose into FRUA...
As far as what I would add, my self-imposed rule was this: Everything in the module stays in the module, word-for-word, usually including typos. But where the module falls short, I got to be creative. I've been a DM my entire life; all my friends came to me through different gaming groups, and all my gaming groups melded into the same larger group that's been with me since middle school. So, restraining the urge to add new stuff everywhere was tough. So, I kept it down to those moments where the module says, "The party must travel into the deadly Burning Hills to find the hideout."
My eyes would perk up at that, because the module starts at the door of the hideout. And yet...deadly
Burning Hills, you say???
Another example was in Harvest of Chaos. One option for entering Haradraith's Keep was to sneak around the mountainside and climb down from above. But there was no detail on the mountains, really. And I'd always wanted to use a fogwarden...
So, mainly, I didn't let myself get creative until the module let me get creative...
My final question is where did you get all the artwork for your games?? I especially like the colored artwork you put into your games that were black and white in the modules. Did you color those yourself?
I am noooooooooooooooooooooooo artist. A handful of those old pictures were things that I did, like tavern picture in Assault on Raven's Ruin. But 95% of the artwork that shows up in the Realm is stuff that I downloaded from different sites in the years before I found the UA Mailing List, the precursor to these forums. There were sites at CalTech and Berkeley, and they were amazing! Most of that stuff is uploaded at Rosedragon now.
What really inspired the Realm was finding all these resources, from the art to the hacks, to everything else...and then also the incredible people on the mailing list. I wanted to contribute, but I know my shortcomings. I might be able to tell a good story, but I certainly can't make two pixels look good beside each other, and I definitely don't know how to make FRUA think that studded leather armor should exist when it wasn't there in the first place. I set out to use EVERYTHING that the FRUA Community had made available.
Unfortunately, that desire to showcase everything has resulted in some not-so-flattering feedback regarding some ill-conceived font choices, color schemes, musical selections, clashing art styles, and so forth. All deserved, I might had. The Realm is more of a potpourri than a work of art...
The few things I did make were made in Neopaint or an old trial version of PaintShopPro. That trial version was updated on me, against my will, and I never found the original version again. The new version did away with the specific features that I used. To this day...well, just last week, I have been using Neopaint, though. Its a wonderful little program.
This last question is gameplay related: do you implement the random encounters from the modules into your FRUA games? I seem to walk around a lot and do not run into any creatures besides the ones you are supposed to encounter.
I do, and I don't.
I don't load random combats into a game that never stop coming. HUGE pet peeve. I replayed Secret of the Silver Blades last year. I killed, literally, hundreds
of 12th-level clerics. That's several worlds' worth of those guys. And larger quantities of minotaurs and griffons (or hippogriffs? I blocked the memory). It was nonsense, and I got incredibly sick of it.
I try hard to keep that sort of crazy out of the games that I run, and also out of my FRUA games.
So, for instance, when you go to The Hill in Horror on the Hill (Eastlands), there are tons of random encounters. Most of them are things like, "You hear a rustling sound. A deer darts off into the forest," which happen only once. There are combats, too, of course, but balanced with everything else and generally single-shot events, too. I put effort into making it interesting for a while, but also within reason. I also get frustrated when I'm lost in a game, and all I need to do is get back to Point A from Point C, and all those fights are waiting for me again
on my way back through.
I know that it's ironic that I'm trying to avoid that kind of redundancy when my number one criticism is that I never mark room descriptions to fire only once, but...hey...foibles, right? I mean, I also hate wandering through a bland FRUA dungeon after all the room descriptions have fired, and now every room looks the same and there are no reminders of what my characters are supposed to be seeing...
Thanks for the interest! Always happy to talk gaming!
(And sorry if I totally talked your ear off!)