A couple weeks ago, I released A Night of Masks and Monsters, my first original one-shot adventure for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. I first wrote this story back in November, and since then, I've been writing RPGs non-stop!
After playing D&D regularly for a year, I was ready to create my own stories. Writing an RPG is totally different than writing other forms of fiction. It's less about creating beautiful prose (although that's part of it!) and more about establishing a unique world and atmosphere with which players can interact. As someone who writes stories with mood/atmosphere in mind, writing RPGs has been a great way for me to approach this in a new way.
Inspiration for the story
A Night of Masks and Monsters was inspired by my October trip to Italy. This was my second visit to Italy, the country where my maternal family originates, and I was so inspired by the mysticism of Rome, Florence, and Venice. While in Venice, I perused shop after shop with wall-to-wall displays of masks. I have always loved the artistry of Venetian masks (and I have comedy/tragedy masks tattooed on my shoulder) and wanted to write a story prominently featuring masks.
This idea reminded me of one of my absolutely favorite book series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which is about a war between seraphim and chimera. A scene in the book features a masquerade, and while in Italy, I saw no shortage of art featuring the eternal tension between angels and demons. The story kind of unfolded into something weird and new and cool after that, so I ran with it! (I did name two of the NPCs, Karou and Akiva, after the two main DOSAB characters. It's an homage to the series.)
A Night of Masks and Monsters is a one-shot, contained in a larger world I'm expanding into a full campaign later this year. It takes place in the fictional demiplane of Ibrido (Italian for "hybrid") which is a Venice-esque city built on multiple islands. The player's characters have been invited to a lavish party at the Castel di Maschera (Italian for "mask"), hosted by the Marquis di Maschera, Prospero (a name taken from my favorite Shakespeare play, The Tempest, as well as from Mask of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe). Upon entering the party, each player is given a unique mask modeled after an animal. The players learn early on that each mask has magical properties, both good and bad. Without spoiling too much, a larger adventure unfolds. I tried to marry a "murder mystery" with a "masquerade" and add some surreal, mystical elements to it.
This story will become the starter leveling quest in the main campaign, which centers on a centuries-long war between celestials and demons. This campaign, titled A Requiem of Wings, takes place in a mystical realm loosely inspired by Gothic and Baroque Europe. There are some fun ideas in this that I'm excited to explore, such as a common thread of incense; mischievous deities who tug at the fate strings of life and death; and some new takes on familiar western and eastern European mythos (inspired by my own Italian and Russian heritage).
In the meantime, you can get A Night of Masks and Monsters for free on DMsGuild.com. I hope you enjoy the story, and be sure to let me know what you think!