A Night of Masks and Monsters

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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.

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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!

Download A Night of Masks and Monsters

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2017 Wrap-Up, and Looking Ahead

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2017 was quite a year! I'm so grateful for everything I was able to experience this year. As kind of a year-end wrap-up, I thought it'd be fun to compile all the writing I did this year and see what the data says. So, I put everything I wrote — short stories (published and unpublished), RPG adventures, in-progress novels, the entirety of The Citizen's Guide to Research, published articles, etc. — into a Scrivener doc. 

The Data

  • Words: 211,669
  • Characters: 1,226,809
  • Most-used word: "The"
  • Least-used word: "Prisoner"

I think I'm going to make this a yearly practice. It's so rewarding to see everything I've written in one place, and having distinct memories of writing each word. I'm so glad I chose to make writing a bigger part of my life again this year! And I'm grateful to all of my friends and family who provided support and encouragement along the way.

There were so many projects I enjoyed writing this year, but I have to say my personal favorites were projects I recently finished: a short science-fiction story called Breathing Room, and my first RPG adventure. A Night of Masks and Monsters

Looking ahead to 2018

Some projects I have on the agenda for next year!

The Fractures

I'm bursting with excitement about 2018 writing. My main project for the first part of the year is the full RPG campaign I've started called The Fractures. This is different than anything I've ever created, and I can't wait to share more with you soon!

SLEEPING GIANT MOUNTAIN (originally titled To the Heart of the Mountain)

This is a new original one-shot adventure that will be out in the coming weeks! Writing one-shots is quickly becoming a passion of mine. It's endlessly fun to create a contained adventure, and see how players interact with your world and characters. 

Badlands (working title)

Earlier this year I began writing a short story anthology, tentatively titled Badlands. I realized that all of the short stories I was writing had a similar theme of women being shaped by their environments. I'm aiming for a late spring release for Badlands. Two of the stories in Badlands are available to read here: The Soapmaker and Motherland.  

Breathing Room, The Gamemakers, etc...

I've been shopping around some recent pieces of work that I hope will find homes sometime this year! I love having full control over the writing I create, but one of my goals this year is to get back into the world of literary journals. So, I will hopefully have some non-journalistic bylines to share in the coming months. :)   


The new year lays open before us. What stories will unfold? Can't wait to find out!

NaNoWriMo Final Check-In

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Oh hello! Guess who never did any NaNoWriMo check-ins after my first one?

I don't feel too bad about that, because:

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So I guess spending less time writing blog posts is OK, all things considering. :)

However, I didn't "finish" my novel. I don't feel like 50K words is enough for most novels, truthfully (many industry standards are closer to the 80K mark). I actually only wrote 30K words toward my novel. But throughout the course of the month, I wrote around 80,000 words. I'm considering that a personal win.

Here's the breakdown:

  • 30K for Daughters of Fortuna (in progress);
  • 20K for additional chapters of The Gamemakers, the novel I wrote during last year's NaNoWriMo, actually completing this manuscript;
  • 10K for a role-play module I wrote in one weekend (details to come since I'll be sharing it here!);
  • 5K for freelance writing projects;
  • 15K for a few miscellaneous projects, including a short story for an anthology and chapters of an ongoing D&D story I've been writing for my friends.

For me, the best part of NaNoWriMo is making writing into a habit. Writing a book in one month is certainly possible, but I tend to feel that an actual book is best written over the course of several months or even years. It's very easy to get discouraged early on, so I like to just aim for writing as much as I can. 80,000 words that I wrote now exist, and they didn't a month ago. Plus, I have some completed pieces now to show for it.

Hope you all had a productive and exciting month! I have some fun stuff to share with you soon -- some role-play modules to download, a short story anthology, and perhaps more?