Scarred Lands: Dead Man's Rust (5e): An Interview With Travis Legge

Travis Legge, Scarred Lands (5e) line developer at Onyx Path Publishing, talks about their latest Kickstarter, Scarred Lands: Dead Man’s Rust. At different points in his career, Travis shared where he was in relation to Scarred Lands (here and here), so I’m glad to continue to check in on his growth with this newest project. This time we discuss the adventure, how the line has evolved from d20 to 5e, and OPP’s thoughts on delivery timelines.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Travis, we’ve talked before, often about Scarred Lands. Let’s keep that tradition going. Let me start by asking the basics about the latest Kickstarter, what is Dead Man’s Rust?
: Dead Man’s Rust is a campaign suitable for new or existing characters that takes place throughout the Hornsaw Forest region of central Ghelspad. The story opens in the city of Leoni where the adventurers meet an aging Broadreach dwarf named Dradoki Bronzeleaf, who is looking for a group to escort him to the Broadreach Horizon, the last pristine region of the Hornsaw Forest, so that he can live out his final days among his people. When the party arrives in the Broadreach Horizon, they discover a foul mystery. A century of hollow legionnaires, dispatched to the area from the Gleaming Valley on a diplomatic mission, has seen several of their members go missing. Their leader, Rivana, seeks help locating her missing soldiers. The investigation takes the party across the Hornsaw Forest and reveals an emerging threat in the form of a magical plague called Legionnaire’s Rust that could spell total destruction for the hollow legionnaires and their hollow knight progenitors. The quest to end this terrible plague leads the adventurers to the cities of the Gleaming Valley and ultimately into the foul necropolis of the necromancers of Glivid-Autel. Each area the campaign passes through is presented as a detailed sandbox filled with threats, story hooks, NPCs, and potential rewards. Aside from events that are directly attached to the core plot, Dead Man’s Rust provides a robust sandbox offering elements that can drive gameplay for countless hours at the table. The book offers a core, linear campaign nestled in a thoroughly developed and flavorful environment unlike anything seen previously in 5e.

EGG: For those that don’t know, what is the pitch for Scarred Lands?
: Scarred Lands is like taking an issue of Heavy Metal magazine and slamming it into D&D. There was an apocalyptic conflict between titans and gods in recent memory. The gods declared victory a mere 150 years ago, and the world is very much scarred as a result of this conflict. The Hornsaw Forest is such a corrupted, dangerous area precisely because a titan fell there. As Mormo, the Mother of Serpents, was ripped to shreds, her blood seeped into the animals, plants, and the earth itself in the forest. This is but one example of how the Titanswar created a dangerous and exciting world where adventurers might simply try to eke out a modest living and survive, or might rise to beat back the darkness, changing a small corner of the world for the better.

EGG: This campaign covers levels 1 to 10, why cap it at that point?
: The levels 1 to 10 recommended in Dead Man’s Rust refer specifically to the core events of the campaign. A group can begin at first level with the Night of Chronicles in Leoni, the suggested starting point in Chapter One. Following the linear investigations and core elements of the story should find the characters at level 10 by the time the plot surrounding Legionnaire’s Rust is resolved, and victory (or defeat) declared. However, the resources in this book are far from exhausted at that level. There are enemies, plot hooks, threats, and potential rewards in Dead Man’s Rust that can easily sustain gameplay in the area far beyond level 10 and well into the upper tier of play. The book is also designed to accommodate characters of higher level entering at various points, providing on ramps for existing groups to become involved in the events of Dead Man’s Rust. If you have an existing Scarred Lands campaign with players already at higher levels, we offer ways to get them on board and provide appropriate challenge as they enjoy the tale.

EGG: What new monsters, subclasses, and magic can players expect?
: Dead Man’s Rust offers three new subclasses. The Path of the Ragewitch barbarian channels natural magic through their rage. The Arcane Tradition: Animation wizard is a master of creating, controlling, and destroying the undead. The Arcane Tradition: Prodigalist wizard is a master summoner who can command a menagerie of familiars, gaining unique and unprecedented ability from their summoned allies. Rangers and others with access to the Favored Terrain feature gain access to the Titan-Scarred favored terrain, which applies to any area that has been steeped in titanic corruption and taint. Players also have access to new racial options. Dead Man’s Rust introduces Broadreach elves who are native to the Hornsaw Forest, and who are tormented by their connection to that land. A new race, the Wretched Redeemed are introduced. These are sentient, willful undead who have arisen in the wake of Glivid-Autel’s foul experiments. Lastly, events in the campaign provide the opportunity to birth another new race: the Hollow Elves, who grant a second lease on life to a Broadreach clan thought to be extinct. Canonically, the hollow elves do not exist at the campaign’s open, and their inclusion is one of the many opportunities that the players have to make lasting change in the Scarred Lands through their choices and actions. As for monsters, antagonists and NPCs, there are more than 80 new stat blocks included in Dead Man’s Rust, which range from specialist NPC humanoids like Blacksmiths and Artisans to the gruesome gestalt undead used by the necromancers of Glivid-Autel such as the Nuckelavee Jouster or the Rot Cube, to massive threats such as the hags who lead the Dar al Annot, or the Scourge of Lyria, a foul Woodwrack Dragon born of the misery and suffering in the Hornsaw.

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EGG: This property continues to grow from its d20 roots. How much of this line is adapting those original works versus creating new content?
: That’s a very interesting question. In a sense, I see the two as almost inseparable. The first 5e release, the Scarred Lands Player’s Guide, introduced new playable races and made some relatively radical shifts in terms of player options with the introduction of the Redeemed, a group of races who served the titans during the war, but have since surrendered and joined the divine races in peaceful, if occasionally tense, coexistence. However, each of these races were presented in the d20 era as antagonists. The Scarred Lands Player’s Guide also introduced the hollow legionnaires, which are a playable race created for 5e. The inclusion of the hollow legionnaires moves the setting forward by introducing the spiritual children of the hollow knights, creatures introduced in the first Creature Collection. In many ways, the new material for 5e is focused on building on the narrative foundations established in the d20 releases. From a strict game design perspective, our guiding star is to make sure that everything we introduce for 5e forwards the feel of the environment and is rooted in the current state of the world of the Scarred Lands. This includes some fairly direct adaptations of prestige classes from the d20 era into subclasses for 5e, but also in wholly new subclasses, created to incorporate the form and feel of earlier player options without concern for direct mechanical conversion. The same applies to race, spell, and creature design.

EGG: Scarred Lands is the project that led you from freelancer to line developer. You’ve written a great deal and read more, of all of the Scarred Lands past and present, what are some of your favorite pieces?
: The hollow legionnaires are one of my favorite elements of the setting, which is exactly why I wanted to place them front and center in Dead Man’s Rust, but also why I wanted to threaten them with destruction and extinction. I think that imperiling your favorites is a good creative driver. I am also quite fond of the various gods and demigods in the setting, the relationships between them, and the impact those relationships have on the people of the Scarred Lands. With the gods being so directly present in the world, there is less room for confusion or ambiguity in their followers. Most people on Scarn are polytheists. They pray to Tanil before a hunt, Chardun before a fight (or Vangal, if you’re nasty), and Enkili before a dice game. However, those who dedicate themselves to a single god in service as clerics or lay worshipers are often what we might call extremists, precisely because they have a very clear picture of their deity’s wants and commandments. To me the story opportunities and conflicts that presents are very exciting.

EGG: When I featured Dead Man’s Rust in my RPG roundup, its delivery date received a number of comments. What is expected to deliver in what timeframe?
: The text of the campaign is completed, though it is still in editing, and we will doubtlessly incorporate feedback from players as the book is calcified into its final form. Throughout the Kickstarter that text is being released to backers in weekly updates. We are taking great care to ensure that whatever campaign elements are introduced functionally, you can back the Kickstarter today and start your campaign immediately. The projected delivery date for the completed PDF is July of 2022 with hardcovers delivered in March of 2023. I am well aware that this seems like a very long time, but the past several years (and Kickstarters from the years prior) have taught that it is much better to set a distant date that can weather setbacks, than to set a closer date and miss the deadline. Onyx Path aims to under-promise and over-deliver with Kickstarters, and with the unpredictable nature of the world in 2020, setting those dates out far enough to withstand unforeseen setbacks just seems like the best and most honest approach. I will say that I will be doing everything in my power to deliver as early as possible, but I am 100% in support of the philosophy of avoiding promises that we cannot keep, whether due to internal delay or external calamity.

EGG: Thanks for sharing the thoughts behind OPP’s process. As you said, as soon as a fan backs this project, they get parts of the script and, in the end, the whole rough draft. How close to the finished copy is this draft?
: Aside from typos that editing will undoubtedly reveal, this is the completed text. It will be refined, clarified, cleaned up, and if necessary, tweaked as editing and layout occur, but this is pretty much what you will see in the final book. We like to estimate it around 95% done, which seems pretty fair to me.

EGG: Beyond this project, what else are you working on?
: From a development standpoint, I am wrapping up the collected editions of Yugman’s Guide to Ghelspad and Vigil Watch for Scarred Lands. I also got to oversee the creation and release of Frostlands of Fenrilik, which introduces the continent of Fenrilik for Scarred Lands. Fenrilik is the northernmost continent, called the Roof of the World by the people of Scarn, and presents a thoroughly dangerous and exciting survival and exploration driven tundra environment as well as a network of underground tunnels and caves filled with danger and opportunity. Frostlands of Fenrilik was released via Slarecian Vault and is designed specifically to enable and encourage other creators to make their own products for release under that program and expand the setting. I am also working on M20 Technocracy Reloaded and the various materials associated with that book, which has been spectacular. Mage has always been the World of Darkness game that most resonated with me, so being able to steer that ship has been a true gift. As an author, I have had the incredible honor and pleasure to do a lot of writing on Storypath material this year. I am one of the authors on Trinity Continuum: Adventure! which was a real bucket list item for me. I’ve also gotten to work on several forthcoming supplements for Trinity Continuum: Aeon, Scion, and They Came from Beneath the Sea! Beyond Storypath, I have been working on the forthcoming Squeaks in the Deep for Realms of Pugmire, which was one of the most challenging, but also one of the most rewarding writing jobs I have ever had. In addition to writing and development work, I am the programming coordinator for the Onyx Path Twitch channel, so I am always working on scheduling shows, introducing new content, and looking for streamers to partner with to get Onyx Path’s games in front of audiences.

EGG: As I do each time, I want to say thanks for talking with me. Where can fans find your work?
: Thank you so much for having me. You can find me everywhere on the internet @TravisLegge, on Patreon, where I offer sneak peeks, behind the scenes glimpses, and exclusive content, you can find games from my company, Aegis Studios on DriveThruRPG and if you search for my name at Dungeon Masters Guild, Storytellers Vault or DriveThruRPG, you can find my various community content releases.

Dead Man's Rust - a mega-adventure for Scarred Lands 5E from Onyx Path Publishing
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Egg Embry

Egg Embry

Silver Griffin

I understand the sentiment. Unfortunately, we only have so much Scarred Lands budget to go around, and we need to focus where the sales are, which has been 5e. I am excited to see what folks might bring to the table for conversions though!
That makes sense. I hope that someone does decide to do conversions. They will have my money. Thanks for the answers though, I appreciate it.

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