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AMA (Thurs April 30): Wolfgang Baur (Kobold Press, TSR, DUNGEON Magazine, D&D 5E Tyranny of Dragons, Advanced Races Compendium)

Monkey King

Explorer
Game designer and publisher. My best-known recent credits are with Kobold Press, WotC's Tyranny of Dragons adventures for D&D 5th Edition, Pathfinder, and the Midgard Campaign Setting.

My older designs include work for 3E and 2E D&D from WotC and TSR, such Frostburn, Planescape, Al-Qadim, and adventures for Dungeon Magazine, as well as Rise of the Runelords and the Kobold Guides to Game Design.

Coming soon on Kickstarter is Advanced Races Compendium for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game -- a book that gives players everything they need to play a monstrous, planar, undead, or underworld adventurer in Pathfinder. Kobold Press is working with RPG Superstar Steven Helt, Pathfinder Society developer Alistair Riggs, and superstar reviewer Endzeitgeist to sharpen and improve all of the new races from the successful Advanced Races PDF series. Full development, review, revisions, minor tweaks: every race is getting some love. Its pages are packed with PC racial feats, traits, spells, bloodlines, gear, magic items, archetypes and more for: Gearforged, Lizardfolk, Kobold, Ravenfolk, Shadow Fey, Tiefling, Tosculi (waspfolk), Aasimar, Centaur, Darakhul, Derro, Dragonkin, Lamia, Gnoll, Werelion.

This AMA will take place throughout the day on Thursday 30th April. Ask Me Anything! Among the “anythings”, I can talk about the upcoming Kickstarter, Kobold Press in general, and the new edition of D&D.
 
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meomwt

First Post
OK, I'll pitch in while it's quiet.

Good day, Wolfgang, how are you?

What were the difficulties of designing Tyranny of Dragons at the time that the Fifth Edition ruleset was being finalised?

Which adventure - of the many excellent adventures you have designed - is the one which you are most proud of?
And which published adventure that you didn't have a hand in designing is your favourite of all time.

Thanks for taking part in this AMA!
 

Astrosicebear

First Post
Happy Avenger's day, Wolfgang! (Who's not super excited, amiright?!)

What would you like to see WoTC do to 5th edition in regards to three facets? - you as a player, you as a game designer/writer, and you as a businessman?
 

Azgulor

Adventurer
Hi, Wolfgang. I hope you’re doing well.

Setting aside the obvious choice of Zobeck, what area of the Midgard Campaign Setting is your favorite? What part of the Southlands is your favorite? (If you can say.) I don’t mean to ask you to pick a favorite amongst your children but I’m curious which regions appeal to you most as a GM.

In the Kobold Guide to Magic, you talk about issues with teleport and ways you’ve modified it in your home campaigns. As a GM, do you find that to be a contentious decision with your players? Do you have to “sell it” to them?

Best of luck with the Advanced Races kickstarter and keep the Midgard/PF goodness coming!

Thanks
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I'm curious about how the adventures for 5E are produced. Did you guys furnish WotC with a final, completed product, or did they put the finishing touches on it? How much oversight was there?
 

Azgulor

Adventurer
One of the tenets of the Midgard setting is that it's a dark fantasy setting of deep magic - I hope that I got that right. How do you evoke dark fantasy and deep magic in your games? Why do you feel the distinction is important vs. traditional high fantasy? Finally, any chance of a Kobold's Guide to Dark Fantasy? :)
 

Endroren

Explorer
I'd love to hear your thoughts on what makes an appealing Kickstarter for a game product. Do you have any secrets or words of wisdom for other Kickstarter game publishers?
 

Will Doyle

Explorer
Do you see any role for print magazines in the future of the hobby? What did your time with Dungeon/Dragon magazine and Kobold Quarterly teach you about running RPG periodicals? Is there any hope for KQ returning?
 

Monkey King

Explorer
Good morning, everyone! I've got my coffee and am almost ready to dive into the questions.

I'm going to be popping in and out of the thread all day, but I like the questions so far.
 

CubeB

First Post
Hello Wolfgang!

I'm a huge fan of Kobold Press's products for 13th Age, especially Deep Magic.
I'm currently using the 13th Age edition of the Midgard Beastiary for my game, which has an excellent section on many of the races in the Advanced Race Compendium. However, the 13th Age edition of Deep Magic was so good that I was wondering if you had plans for a 13th Age Advanced Race Guide as well. I know the mechanics are different, but I'd love to see how these new races would adapt to 13th Age's more narratively focused style.
 

Monkey King

Explorer
What were the difficulties of designing Tyranny of Dragons at the time that the Fifth Edition ruleset was being finalised?

Which adventure - of the many excellent adventures you have designed - is the one which you are most proud of?
And which published adventure that you didn't have a hand in designing is your favourite of all time.

Well, the Tyranny of Dragons adventure design started when there was no Monster Manual, and for me, that was a major difficulty. Both Steve Winter and I know the monsters available in a general sense, but at least for me, adventure design often begins with a trip to the Monster Manual for inspiration, for useful details, or combinations of creatures that might make a good encounter. That just wasn't available when we were working on Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

My favorite that I've designed is a tough one. I think Courts of the Shadow Fey wins that, because it has memorable NPCs, a few good twists, and an environment that doesn't get a lot of attention in fantasy RPGs.

My favorite adventure by someone else is probably "Horror on the Orient Express" for Call of Cthulhu. That has a lot to do with how I experienced it as a player. It was the first adventure I played in when I joined TSR, and the game master was David "Zeb" Cook, and my fellow players included Jeff Grubb, Dale Donovan, and Steven Schend, among others. It was extremely well-written, the players were all extremely sharp, and Zeb kept us on the edge of our seats for a full year of sessions.
 

Monkey King

Explorer
What would you like to see WoTC do to 5th edition in regards to three facets? - you as a player, you as a game designer/writer, and you as a businessman?

As a player, I'm pretty satisfied with what we've seen so far. There's not much else I gotta have, though of course some new options for the core classes are always welcome. Wouldn't mind a second setting beside the Realms.

As a game designer and writer.... I'd really like to have a second Monster Manual. And an even larger set of pregen humanoid NPCs, something like Paizo's NPC Codex.

As a publisher and businessman, I want the OGL in some form, or a direct license from Wizards for particular books. I have both an adventure and a sourcebook I'd love to publish.
 


Monkey King

Explorer
Setting aside the obvious choice of Zobeck, what area of the Midgard Campaign Setting is your favorite? What part of the Southlands is your favorite? (If you can say.) I don’t mean to ask you to pick a favorite amongst your children but I’m curious which regions appeal to you most as a GM.

In the Kobold Guide to Magic, you talk about issues with teleport and ways you’ve modified it in your home campaigns. As a GM, do you find that to be a contentious decision with your players? Do you have to “sell it” to them?

Hi Azgulor, thanks for your questions!

For my favorite Midgard region besides Zobeck... Yeah, it is exactly like picking among your children. I love Morgau & Doresh for the undead horror of it, but convincing players to send characters there is a bit of a challenge. I'm also extremely happy with adventure opportunities among the Cantons of the Ironcrags: things like the Halls of the Mountain King or the Peculiar Alchemist of Alpentor combine that stoic dwarven attitude of "Oh, nothing to see, no trouble here" with an undercurrent of "Argh, kill it, geddit offa me!" It's like Switzerland with mutant ogres and really weird hermit-compounds. I love it.

For the Southlands, it might seem like the grand and powerful river-nation of Nuria Natal would be the favorite (or Per-Bastet, the City of Cats with magical catslide alleys). Those are great, but as a campaign starting point I prefer the plucky little sultanate of Siwal, a free city that relies on trade and is surrounded by larger neighbors. Rather like a Zobeck of the sands. Small but fierce, as it were.

The lack of teleport in the home game of Midgard is sort of long-established, and the existence of shadow roads and various transporting portals means that a journey does not always mean a 2,000 mile wilderness adventure. It might just mean bribing or slaying some portal guardians. I have not had to sell to my players, but then, a lot of my Midgard players are long, long, long-time RPG folks. They're pretty resilient and find ways to get their revenge with other magical manipulations.

That's it for now, I'll answer a few more in a bit.
 

Zarithar

Adventurer
Good morning Wolfgang. Do you have any upcoming projects planned for 5th Edition? I would love to see a Southlands bestiary conversion for 5e just as an example.

Thank you!
 

vandaexpress

First Post
Currently running Hoard and prepping to run Rise of Tiamat, love both of them. Thanks for stopping by and producing such great adventures. I have a couple fairly lengthy questions, feel free to address only part or all of each question, I tend to ramble ;)

1. You probably get this one a lot, but how would you recommend one start cracking into the game/monster/adventure design industry? I'm a traditionally published author (though it's definitely not my main source of income), as are my parents; the two of them have branched out into self-publishing on Amazon and do quite well for themselves in that regard. I love D&D and would love to get involved in building for it, but I have no idea how the game publishing industry works compared to traditional publishing/self-publishing. I'm noticing that kickstarter seems to be a big part of this industry with getting products off the ground. Any other key differences I should be aware of, advice, or resources you'd recommend I check out? Obviously I'd like to build out D&D stuff, but given the lack of OGL, I'm guessing that plan is DOA...

2. How do you handle building/balancing/playtesting encounters? Do you have general guidelines you follow? Do you just have a bunch of pre-gen characters that you throw into a party and run combat a few rounds to see if it feels right? Or do you run the encounter multiple times with different party builds? I spend a decent chunk of time playtesting my boss fights to make sure they feel right, but I test them using my party's characters. Do you find that there is a massive difference in 5e in regards to what parties can handle based on party composition? Or do you just pretty much test with one party and find the difficulty is about the same regardless, thanks to things like bounded accuracy?

3. Has there ever been a time where you built an encounter, and in testing it, found it surprisingly more difficult than you initially anticipated? Either due to a particular mechanic being much more powerful in play than on paper, or an environmental effect crippling the party more than you expected?
 

plancktum

First Post
Hi,

I loved DMing Tyranny of Dragons :)
And here is a question considering pre-written adventures in general:
As a game designer you design adventures which are intended to be played by other people. Do you have any advise on how to make running a pre-written adventure/campaign more "easy", i.e. with less prep-work?

Thank you very much :)
 

Milke

First Post
(Sorry if you've been asked this; I'm currently on my phone and scrolling is hard)
1) Besides Midgard, what is your favorite ever campaign setting?
2) Don't you think my friend Steve Helt is just a bit kooky?
 

Auriel

First Post
Do you see any role for print magazines in the future of the hobby? What did your time with Dungeon/Dragon magazine and Kobold Quarterly teach you about running RPG periodicals? Is there any hope for KQ returning?

God, KQ coming back would be a dream come true. I'm not even an active player right now, but I still love it to death and reread old issues every once in a while.
 

Donny Rhye

First Post
Since Forgotten Realms was mentioned what city in the realms are you most fond of? Also what region are you most likely to run an adventure in? Any chance you have a brief example of something realms you enjoyed experiencing at the table?
Loved Horde of the Dragon Queen. Wanted to thank you for writing that amazing adventure.
 

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