The Executioner's Daughter

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Oh, hey! It's been a little quiet around here, hasn't it? That's because I've been writing like CRAZY! I just released my fifth title for DMs Guild, The Executioner's Daughter. This is a solo adventure and I had a blast writing it; I feel like solo adventures really suit my passion for short stories and narrative RPGs. Here's a bit more about this title.

The Executioner's Daughter was originally a short story I wrote while in Barcelona last year. It was inspired by Barcelona's Gothic Quarter, the Spanish Inquisition, and St. Jordi's Day, which is a legend about a knight saving a princess from a dragon. I combined these three sources of inspiration to create this story and put my own feminist twist on it. 

Because this is a solo adventure, I wanted to give the player a rich narrative. The main character in this story is a young woman named Domenica, whose fate is ultimately up to the player. Domenica is a devout follower of the God of Dragons, Bahamut, and this drives many of her motivations. Domenica lives in Soldra, a city that was once frequently attacked by dragons who had been displaced when the city was first settled. The city's first priest established a sacrificial ceremony, in which a virgin woman was offered to the dragons in exchange for Soldra's safety. Decades later, the ceremony has become an annual tradition. Domenica's father, Soldra's Executioner, serves the King and condemns those who try to stop the ceremony. But when the ceremony doesn't go as planned, Domenica, and the player, have hard choices to make. 

 Moodboard for  The Executioner's Daughter .

Moodboard for The Executioner's Daughter.

The Executioner's Daughter is the first installment in a trilogy entitled Tribunal. Each story is about a woman scorned by society for different reasons and is ultimately put to the test; the player is pulled into their narrative and can choose what part to play. The second and third installments are titled The Resurrectionist and The Wolf Oracle, also derivations of short stories I've already written. Each installment is a standalone adventure but there are a few tie-ins; they all take place in the same area (which is actually all based in Emberez so this whole collection will be included in A Requiem of Wings).  

The response to this story has been incredible. I've never experienced anything quite like it! I'm going to get real with you for a moment: I almost didn't release this story. I was concerned that it was too weird, too niche, and not what people want from a D&D adventure. Because this story is special to me, I knew I'd be putting my heart on the line. I'm wasn't so much concerned with criticism — that's a natural and expected part of writing for an audience! — but more people just being like, "What the f*&! is this nonsense?" Boy, was I wrong! I am so glad I went with my gut. It's been so rewarding to see players connect with this story and with Domenica. I feel really strongly about this story and the other two installments of Tribunal; this trilogy comes from a more personal place than my other work and that it's resonating with others feels wonderful.

You can get The Executioner's Daughter for free on DMs Guild! Hope you enjoy participating in Domenica's story. 

Labyrinth of Thorns

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My third original title for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition was released last week. Labyrinth of Thorns is about — you guessed it! — a labyrinth. I wanted to write a story for Valentine's Day because I absolutely LOVE Valentine's Day, and the familiar symbols associated with the holiday make for fun storytelling.

Labyrinth of Thorns is set in a city called St. Valentine, which exists within a demiplane called Emberez. Emberez is embroiled in a long-lasting war between celestials and demons, and that larger narrative arc plays a role in this standalone module. My first one-shot, A Night of Masks and Monsters, is also set in Emberez, and both of these stories are part of a full campaign called A Requiem of Wings. Emberez is loosely inspired by old European cities; West Emberez is very Mediterranean — Italy/Greece — and East Emberez is eastern European, evocative of Czechia and parts of Russia. This campaign is a way for me to explore my heritage, since I am Italian on my mom's side and Russian-Jewish on my dad's.

St. Valentine, specifically, is very much a fantasy version of Florence, a city known for its incredible food and wine. I was in Florence last year (on my birthday! best day ever) and just swooned over all of the gorgeous architecture and art. I die over medieval and gothic cities so I wanted to write something that felt both pleasant and mystical. 

In the story, characters travel to a labyrinth through the back of a bakery called Dante's Casa di Dolci. Dante's wife, Simonetta, was kidnapped by the keeper of the labyrinth, so the characters must go find her. The character of Dante is somewhat inspired by my grandfather, Paul, who was so very handsome. (And my mom makes an appearance in the story! She is the NPC named Paula, who is a florist in St. Valentine.) Since this story is so Italian, it only made sense to include members of my family.

  Florentine chocolates... which definitely contained magical properties. 

Florentine chocolates... which definitely contained magical properties. 

I've been fascinated by mazes and labyrinths since I was a kid. Something about getting lost among hedges just seems so appealing to me. I pulled inspiration from Greek and Roman mythology, so I picked specific creatures and places that the players may encounter, including a harpy, a satyr, and a river of lost souls (a nod to the River Styx). The players will fight a three-headed beast called a chimera, which is a pretty obvious reference to Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards the underworld. I love choosing creatures for my stories; that's usually where I start, by just looking through the Monster Manual

In a review of my one-shot, DM_Dango spoke kindly of the detail I include in describing the setting and scenery, and that made me happy since I always try to make the atmospheres of my stories very immersive. Here's the moodboard I made before writing; as you can tell, I was going for something lush and moody and sinister while also beautiful.

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You can get Labyrinth of Thorns on DMs Guild. Hope you enjoy exploring the labyrinth of St. Valentine!

Sleeping Giant Mountain

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I'm so excited that my new original adventure, Sleeping Giant Mountain, was released earlier this week! The response has been so amazing so far and I can't wait to hear how people explore Kaiva!

This story was really different than anything I've written before. I tend to write very character-driven stories, and there's only ONE character in Sleeping Giant Mountain (to be fair, she is a super rad woman named Silja.) I start each campaign with a question: what kind of adventure do I want to play? I think the best stories begin with our own desires. So, I wanted to write something that was very focused on exploration that still had a very distinct atmosphere. Here's an early moodboard I made for it:

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The story is about a race of elemental giants who have been banished to wild abandoned planet called Kaiva and have remained in stasis for centuries, thanks to a lich's curse. An archaeologist named Silja has spent her life studying the giants and wants the giants to be awakened so they can claim Kaiva as their home. To get to Kaiva, characters must step through a portal that has appeared in the Forgotten Realms. I was initially inspired by this portal depicted in this piece of art by Andrei Pintea:

 
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Giants are fascinating to me, and I was inspired by the mountain range in Forgotten Realms called "Spine of the World." What if the spine wasn't a metaphor, but once belonged to an actual giant? From there I came up with some lore for the backstory.

Beyond that, the story is a pretty straightforward quest — go into a mountain and break a curse by defeating the enemies who protect it. Rather than having an elaborate system of traps, I thought it'd be fun to just use the natural challenges of a mountain, such as slippery ice, dark tunnels, and treacherous ledges.

I enjoy writing stories in which mountains play an important role. I live in Northern Nevada and I absolutely love the Sierra Nevada mountains; I see them every single day and they never fail to inspire awe. 

My favorite part of this adventure is the unique mechanic I created for it called prismatic flux. At the start of the quest, each character is given a gemstone found around the perimeter of the portal.

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The gemstones have magical properties that trigger a "prismatic flux," impacting the story in different ways and aiding the characters through encounters and challenges. Because this is such an elemental story, I thought gemstones were a fun way to capture that and reward players with a unique item. (Clearly I have crystals and gems on the brain, because minerals play a huge role in my upcoming full campaign, The Fractures.)

Sleeping Giant Mountain is the first in a quadrant I'm calling the Giants of Kaiva series. The next installment probably won't be out for a few months since I have some other projects coming out before then, but I am excited to explore all of Kaiva's lore and diverse ecosystems. For now, you can experience Kaiva by downloading the free one-shot or listening to my playlist below!

Download Sleeping Giant Mountain