It came by Royal Mail. How unusual, I am not certain I have ever received anything via Royal Mail. I can’t help but imagine an elderly (but impeccably dressed) woman, postage stamper in hand, giving the parcel a parade wave as it passes by on conveyor “This one is for the colonies!” she says, as one of her coterie of snappily-dressed courtiers steps forward, mailbag in hand. “See that it gets there”, she commands.
Yes, Your Majesty.
But an even bigger treat awaited inside. “The Stormreach Campaign”, by Quijonn Dragonfist, a 300-page epic book that is half leveling plan, half fan fiction, and entirely unbelievable until seen. Seriously. You have heard about this book on the forums, and on DDOCast, and on DDO Players. But you really cannot grasp the immensity and scale of the project until you hold the book in your hands.
Imagine a coffee table book, high quality, glossy cover, perfectly cut glossy pages. Now, fill that coffee table book with (well-written) text, pictures, and experience charts, all about DDO.
Now make it 320 pages long.
It weighs … five pounds? As soon as you see it, you immediately are struck by the amount of effort that went into it. The whole thing is simply unimaginable, there are no words, you have to actually see it.
Oh. My. God.
And I have one. Because for whatever reason, Quijonn Dragonfist, A.K.A. Deadlock, chose to gift me with one, mailed to me at his expense from the U.K. And I love it. But I had to understand it. The thing is SO BIG! Why would anyone do this?
I had to know, and there is only one way to find out: ask the guy. And so I did.
DDOGamer: Why did you do this?
Quijonn: Entirely my own amusement.
I’ve been playing the game since just after beta and I’ve saw the game develop through the old modules and then further years of updates. Having gone through a number of alts and a number of TR’s, there was always the question of which quests to do and how that could all fit into a cohesive narrative. As there didn’t seem to be a narrative that tied the whole thing together, I decided to write one.
The other motivation was that I felt that a number of the great storylines and lore were glossed over. Eberron as a campaign world is rich in lore and the developers have dedicated a huge amount of time to embrace that and bring it to the DDO playerbase. The nature of the game is that most people might read NPC dialogue the first time they run through content, but I felt that many didn’t and they were missing out on something that could enrich their gaming experience.
DDOGamer: How long did it take you?
Quijonn: The whole thing about 18 months from start to finish, but the actual playtesting and bulk of the work took about a year to put together.
The bulk of the initial writing was done over a 3 or 4 month period, then I won a substantial work contract for my business that ate up the bulk of my spare time. When I picked it back up again, there were a number of bits that I wasn’t entirely happy with so different chapters went through a bit of rewriting and editing. The first draft was finished after 6 months and that’s when we put the Monday Marauders group together on Ghallanda to playtest it. That saw a number of tweaks and a lot of detail being added, such as Monster Manual XP and favour rewards. Playtesting also gave me the opportunity to take screenshots to help support the text.
Some chapters went through a number of iterations, but eventually I committed to stop being distracted by other things and finally finish it and get it published. One of my guildies who was also part of the Monday Marauders group offered to help with the proof reading and some editorial critique, so together we finished it off. So it took a while, but it would probably still be sitting in a draft format if it wasn’t for that extra motivational push by the group.
DDOGamer: What exactly is a “Campaign book”? How would you imagine other players using this book?
Quijonn: I remember old D&D campaign modules where you had quests detailed with the old-school maps, NPC details, location descriptions, set piece events and unique monster stats.
When I thought of how we could create an overarching campaign, I didn’t want to go into the detail of specific quest maps so took it up a level to the sort of DM narration that you would do to set the scene for a quest and how you would wrap up the end a P&P session where a quest or storyarc was concluded. By collecting the quests into a chronological order, I could wrap them in a chapter that would make up a session for the Monday Marauders while exploring some additional NPC motivations for how we’ve become involved in those quests.
As to how others use it, I’m happy if they just read it and enjoy the narrative. If it makes someone ponder whether the Coin Lords are really the “good guys”, or makes someone stop and think for a second about the Threnal storyline then that’s just a bonus.
When we ran our static group, we went through the chapters in order, we limited the plat that people started with and played by strict untwink rules where they could buy from vendors and pawn shops but not the AH. At the end of each chapter where the storyline warranted it, I would let everyone know that we were allowed “extra loot” which could either be something from their TR cache, or I would craft them something, or they could buy one thing from the AH provided they had the plat to do it on their character. So we used it to supplement the standard loot which we knew from past experience would become more and more useful when you start getting into the higher level quests where playing untwink rules starts to bite. That’s how we used it, but like all things D&D related, I’d encourage people to use it any way they like, adopt bits they like and ignore others to suit themselves.
DDOGamer: Assuming there is such a person (and apologies for the personally intrusive nature of this question) did your spouse/roommate/significant other support you in this or wish you’d spend your priorities on something else?
Quijonn: My wife’s used to me sitting with a set of headphones on questing and hearing one half of some fairly bizarre conversations.
The bulk of the work I did from home during the day, which is one of many benefits of the type of work that I do that I can create a fair amount of free time for myself. When I asked her if she wanted to proof read it and give me some editorial feedback, she did that thing where she looked at me for a few long moments running through in her head the debates and disagreements that would follow. When she answered “It’s probably best if you get one of online your friends to do that.” I had to grin and agree. At the same time as finishing the campaign book, I did a lot of landscaping and built a bar in my back garden (http://imageshack.com/a/img905/3451/CBksEI.jpg) so I did manage to fit a few other things at the same time.
DDOGamer: There seems to have been quite a bit of money put into this too, money that you do not seem to be trying to recover through fees or book sales. Why?
Quijonn: I’ve been very successful in the decisions that I’ve made over the years and I now own a successful consultancy firm that affords me the luxury of a lot of free time to enjoy myself.
Having had the work/life balance out of kilter for years during my late 20’s and early 30’s, I’m happy in my early 40’s to be doing work that I’m recognised for and work that I enjoy – and I’m fortunate enough that I don’t have any money pressures that limit what I choose to do. I’d already decided that I wanted a hardback copy of the book myself and offered the rest of the Monday Marauders a copy by way of thanks for their input over the year of playtesting.
If you’re going to do something then there’s no point doing it by halves, so I got a small print run professionally printed and bound. Once I thought about that, it then seemed natural to offer others a copy by way of thanks for the work that they had done for the DDO community.
DDOGamer: Why did you make the PDF available for free? Were you planning to monetize it? If so, what changed your plan?
Quijonn: I thought about a Kickstarter where people could get the PDF for free or pay an amount to get a printed copy posted to them, but once you start looking into it and the practicalities of it when you don’t actually know what quantities your print run would be then it gets a bit messy.
Also, I don’t own the copyright on any of the screenshot images that I use or the storylines that I’ve adopted and modified in the campaign. I had a word with Jerry fairly early in the process and came to the conclusion that avoiding any form of monetisation would be a whole lot easier. If people do want to print it themselves then provided they don’t try and monetise it or pass it off as their own work then I’m happy for them to do that. At the end of the day, I’d rather that it’s available free and more people are able to enjoy it than try and make a coin from it and it only reaches a handful of people.
DDOGamer: I note that you’ve started a web site based on this same material. How is that going?
Quijonn: It’s good fun.
While putting the chapters together, I did a lot of research into the history and lore of Eberron and Stormreach. A lot of that gets lost when you have to put it down into the narrative, so the blog allows me to take a topic and explore it in more detail than I was able to cover in the campaign book. Or in places, to pull together some of the over-arching storylines that cross a number of chapters.
The website allows me to add more background to things or explore specific topics that spring to mind. The whole Xorian storyline and our involvement with the Gatekeepers is something in particular that I can’t help going on about. Happy to take suggestions from people if there’s anything that they want me to discuss in the blog.
DDOGamer: How do you feel about the reception that the book has garnered?
Quijonn: I’m really pleased with it.
I was happy with the book as a Word document on my PC and enjoyed reading the chapter narratives. But when it actually comes to putting it out for others to see then it’s natural to have a moment’s hesitation where you wonder if anyone else will be interested. I make my living as a consultant rather than a writer so once I reminded myself of that, I just got on with getting the thing published. When I first made it available through Dropbox, I was sitting questing a few hours later and had an admin email from Dropbox informing me that my free account had exceeded it’s bandwith limit. I did a quick mental calculation and had a “holy ****” moment when I realised that people were actually downloading the PDF.
So I upgraded the Dropbox account and went back to questing. We’re currently sitting at over 5000 downloads which to me is crazy. If even a small percentage of those people enjoyed it then it’s been totally worthwhile. I do have to thank others in the community like yourself for the positive coverage. If that helps make people aware of the campaign book, and they enjoy the chapters as I’ve put them together and it helps compliment their DDO experience then so much the better.
I should include a couple of links:
And now for the best part of this: there is one copy left. Only one, as far as I know, as 25 were printed and they are all in the hands of those who participated in the book’s construction or are among a lucky few who Quijonn chose to include in an act of largesse. Like me.
All but one. The very last copy of the Stormreach Campaign. Sitting on Quijonn’s desk right now, ready for the Royal Mail, waiting to be shipped to one fortunate DDOGamer reader.
Like you. You can win it. Yes you.
Check back tomorrow for the details.
🙂 😀 🙂