It’s time to talk about booty. No, not the kind that Bubba Sparxxx claims is rockin’ everywhere, but the kind that shows up when your party’s barbarian finally opens the chest with his key that’s shaped like a 30-pound maul. Treasure and loot is a common staple in Dungeons and Dragons, and after my recent interview with Flannel Gary of Many-Sided Dice, I am proud to divulge details of Gary’s upcoming Kickstarter project: Lost Artifacts of Greyghast!
What’s in it?
In its basic form, the Lost Artifacts of Greyghast is a compendium of magic items… a lot of items. The book itself, when it comes to fruition, will be one of the largest supplemental books in current publication, perhaps superseding 400 pages. But if you’re expecting the next +3 Longsword of HP-Slashing, look elsewhere. The magic items in this tome are meant to bind campaigns, open PC’s minds, and pepper a story with lore that will be told around many adventuring campfires.
“In D&D, everyone tells a war story,” Gary says, “The underlying skeleton of the story is the mechanical bonus—a clutch dice roll or a circumstantial class ability, for example—but the real story is how scared they were, how unlikely they thought they’d win, or how badly something screwed up. It’s narrative. Flavor makes a bad game good and a good game great.” With that final sentence, Gary sets the tone for everything that Lost Artifacts of Greyghast has to offer.
Let’s look at one of the items that caught my attention, which Gary then expanded on: The Worms of Purgation. My eyes are immediately drawn to the squirming mass of teeth being plucked from an arcane jar. I then look to the first lines of text, detailing the aftermath of a battle against a witch’s horde of minions—several soldiers are dead, and the lieutenant is slowly dying from a curse. The party’s warlock offers relief to the curse in the form of small, wormy monsters that, when eaten, will hasten a cure.
As if this opening hook wasn’t enough, there is an origin story to how the worm monsters came into existence. PC’s can learn this origin story by making certain checks—gaining advantages based on their classes or backgrounds, which synchronize with the item’s flavor and rewards the PC’s for roleplay-based choices in their character creation.
The worm monsters, like many items in this new supplement, are here to expand a story—to bring narrative elements into any world in the D&D universe. “Several names of deities or places in the artifacts’ origins are omitted,” Gary says, “to let dungeon masters place the item in any world they’re running, and if dungeon masters want to make up their own origin stories (or use none at all) they’re free to take that initiative. Use some of it, none of it, or all of it.”
The items themselves, as mentioned before, aren’t meant to be the next power weapon. Gary says, “Third edition Dungeons and Dragons had a very piece-by-piece way of putting together a magical weapon. Bonuses such as +1 modifiers and vorpal attributes had a cost system that we don’t want to incorporate. The Artifacts of Greyghast aren’t supposed to be game-ending attachments, but narrative-driving embellishments that can come in handy. The most powerful bonus we have to a weapon is a +3, partially because magically enhanced weapons have a much greater impact in 5E than in 3E. Armor classes in 3E could exceed 30, but you don’t see that in 5E, which keeps its numbers tight. These are items to expand the story, build the campaign, and become incorporated into the greater narrative. Some bonuses you get by passing the item onto someone else, such as a magical tome we are about to introduce: you attune it, you use it, but the catch is that if you can leave it somewhere and not influence it at all, the moment someone else attunes to it (regardless when) you get a +1 Charisma bonus. It represents how a PC might eventually need to let go of a magic item, but once someone else finds it, the PC gets a bonus for ‘helping the book’ on its way.”
Building the Project
The manuscript is finished and the layout is all set. All that Gary asks for is funding to crank out artwork for the hundreds of artifact entries. Regarding the Kickstarter itself, Gary specified having only one stretch goal that, if met, will allow them to use full color artwork instead of low-cost black and white. “I want to keep it simple for people who are new to backing Kickstarter projects. Sometimes a project can have so many stretch goals that the completion date is pushed back so far that it becomes an annoyance, and to be honest, all we need is the art.”
Keeping simplicity in mind, Gary has a blanket shipping cost for the physical copies of the book
, which is already included in the backer pledge. He had two options with this self-publishing adventure, “I could have taken orders for the books, had them printed at a manufacturer, had them mailed back to me, then had them shipped out individually—a process which eats up more time and money, or I can pass the savings onto the buyer by using DriveThruRPG’s print-on-demand model. DriveThruRPG has manufacturing plants in both the USA and Europe, which almost eliminates super high intercontinental shipping as well as allowing books to be made and printed to order. I’m also not at risk of sitting on boxes upon boxes of books because I ordered too many than I needed.”
What has surprised Gary in his Kickstarter venture is the amount of overbacking the project is receiving, meaning people who donate more money than their backer award requests. “This caught us off guard, but it has allowed us to drop the final price of our stretch goal from $40,000 to $35,000. If anything, seeing people donate extra for this product shows just how giving the community is—what better way to show our thanks at Many-Sided Dice than by reducing the stretch goal?” Gary attributes these overbacking funds to his two rules of business, “One, everything is a function of cost, value, and service—the pledge is high, but you are getting what you want. Two, people do business with who they like. So long as you’re honest with people and treat them right, people will respond to that.”
In the End
Many-Sided Dice’s rising entry is going to be more than a chart of numbers and bonuses for a head, chest, or arm slotted item. If you’re only looking for quick stats or bonuses without all the lore—you’ll find it here, but that’s just a sprinkle of what the Lost Artifacts of Greyghast have to offer. Within this book are hundreds of narrative expansions, worldbuilding bricks, and questlines that can be used to jumpstart any adventure in any world. So let’s go create some war stories!