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Scarred Lands: Desert of Lost Relics Design Diary

Posted on September 5, 2019 by Billzilla

When I started out running a D&D-based game for friends a few months ago, I was thinking about converting the adventure into something I could publish on the Slarecian Vault, Onyx Path’s community content site for the Scarred Lands. I talked about that game back in March, in this blog post over on my website.

After my game wrapped, I put the finishing touches on the write-up, and turned it over to the person who was managing the project: Travis Legge. Travis and I first met at Madison, Wisconsin-based GameholeCon last year (I think – maybe we’d met before and I just forgot) and talked about a project wherein multiple people would each contribute a chapter to an extended D&D campaign using the Scarred Lands setting. I was intrigued, but also had concerns. Collaborative work takes a lot of communication to pull off successfully, and a solid guiding hand to keep things moving and make sure all the strings line up, or at least connect, to keep the storyline flowing.

I started devouring all the background material I could find quickly on the Scarred Lands, and discovered loads of interesting leads I felt I could use. Perhaps the biggest one was that titans were tied to the world of Scarn; they did not rely on worshippers or followers to maintain their powers. As long as Scarn existed, so did they. This meant that most of the titans, who were killed and/or dismembered by their former servants, the gods, weren’t actually dead.

The campaign starts off with characters going to meet a wizard, whose tower goes up in flames just as they arrive. This was a side affect of Mesos’s Bane. Mesos was the titan who spawned most of the magic on Scarn, and was the first titan neutralized by the gods to begin their war against the titans. Mesos’s Bane is that magic, now that Mesos is indisposed, had become more random, with often unpredictable side-effects. So the explosion was caused by Mesos’s Bane, but leads the characters to discover the main plot thread and the necromancer’s plans. My adventure involves the characters trying to jump ahead of the necromancer, acquiring relics she needs for her ritual, thus either spoiling or delaying her success.

The entire series runs for 10 chapters, running the gamut from levels one to 15, and also includes 8 side quests at several stages to help fill in the leveling gaps needed to bridge a couple of adventures. The first adventure, A Mishap of Ill Portent, can be found HERE. All chapters and side quests are available on Drive Thru RPG in the Slarecian Vault under the heading Vengeance of the Shunned. A handy checklist also exists to help DMs keep track of what they’ve run so far, and what else is available here.

I regret to say that, despite having a clear understanding of how important communication was, I was terrible at it in this case. Part of my problem was not being proactive about checking the online co-working site that had been established, thus missing several messages from people before and after me in the progression, asking what I needed or what the end conditions were so they could pick up the threads from there. Being professionals, they got along fine without my input, moving on and turning in excellent work. I regret my utter failure to collaborate properly with my fellow designers, but am glad to see it doesn’t appear to have affected the finished products.

My chapter–Desert of Lost Relics–has been up since early July. Sales have been steady, though not great. As I brooded over the disappointing sales, I came to the realization that, on this particular project, money wasn’t as important to me. Essentially, I got to run a game for my friends for about a month’s worth of weekly sessions, and they seemed to enjoy themselves. That I’m getting a dollar here and there as people pick up a copy is a bonus. I certainly had fun running it, and the players’ valuable input caused me to make a few improvements as we went along.

That’s not a great way to run a business, but in this case, it’s enough. Sure, I hope to make some more money from ongoing sales of this adventure, but I’m content with having had the experience and from the little bit of money that’s come in so far. The campaign is drawing quite a bit of attention from the outside world: my hope is that players will start playing through the campaign and discover how richly detailed and varied the Scarred Lands setting is. It has a ton of cool monsters, and because it uses the D&D 5E rules, it’s easy to port your favorite characters over to the setting.


    I have more projects in the works for the Scarred Lands and for D&D, and I hope to be able to announce some new publications soon as being available. In the mean time, my first Scarred Lands adventure, Consumed, has been available since April, and is a one-shot adventure, perfect for running at conventions, as a pick-up game, or to fill a gap in an existing campaign with a fun side-quest.

    I’ve enjoyed writing for the Scarred Lands; the variety and versatility of the setting holds great appeal. I’m also very pleased with how Desert of Lost Relics turned out, thanks in no small part to Anne Gregersen’s beautiful cartography – she turned my chicken-scratch maps into something amazing. I’ve become familiar enough now with how D&D 5E works over the last year that I think maybe I’ll give contributing to D&D’s community content site, the DM’s Guild, a try next.

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