If you have not heard of LoreSmyth, then you need to. They are a new and upcoming contributor of content for “the most popular roleplaying game in the world “(Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition). Their first product (which has blown me away) is “The Claws of Madness”, an adventure for four 1st to 3rd Level adventurers. To see my full spoiler free review of it, check it out HERE
Anyhow, I have had the privilege to speak with the founder of LoreSmyth (Chris Van Der Linden) and have been given some insight into what he is cooking up for us in 2017.
So Chris, tell us a little about yourself
My name is Chris and I live in the Netherlands. I’ve been a fan of roleplaying and tabletop (Warhammer especially) games since my teenage years. I studied graphic design, marketing and photography and always envisioned having a job in a marketing studio. However around 2005 my best friend suggested we start a gaming company and we rolled into starting our own company. 10 years (and several companies) later I am still an “entrepreneur” and I have a lot of experience working with a lot of staff, developing and releasing products. I also love making music and play the drums, a bit of singing and recording my own stuff in the garage.
How long have you been playing tabletop RPG’s? Any memorable moments that inspired you to become a writer of modules?
I’ve played AD&D mainly from about 16 to 25 years old. When I started running my own businesses it ended up a bit more in the background, but I always remained interested in it. I also played Magic the Gathering a lot with friends and it definitely shaped my affection for gameplay, fantasy and the product aesthetic that comes with RPG products.
We started playing with the original version of the Forgotten Realms with the Dalelands book. I think it was with the Tower of Ashaba and Elminster. We played for hours at a time without even rolling a dice. We didn’t understand the rules at all in the beginning, but we had a ton of fun! The products I remember vividly from playing myself is the 3.5e adventures such as The Sunless Citadel, Speaker In Dreams and The Forge of Fury. In fact when I started LoreSmyth, I very much based my product look and structuring on these books. I even went as far as to keep the interior illustrations in line art/one color to give it that old-school feeling. Nowadays all the artwork is super flashy, but part of me still leans towards those old school books.
What made you move to creating LoreSmyth?
Well I love “creating”, so aside from making music and painting there’s always been a part of me that wanted to create a roleplaying adventure. Part for the nostalgic feel and part to challenge myself. I had never written before, let alone develop a role-playing adventure which is much more difficult because players can do anything they want to disrupt your wonderful plans. So I just started and showed my draft around to a few people. They liked it and motivated me to release it. I decided to hire a professional artist (George Stratulat) for the cover artwork and Kickstarted the project, which funded over 170% to my surprise. I learned a lot from the whole process, especially just how much work writing, developing, play-testing, editing, re-writing a product is. Writing some for your weekly group is totally different than developing a published release. I’ve easily spent upwards of 500 hours on Claws of Madness and $1800, paying for artwork, illustrations, editing, and fulfillment. Even recouping your initial investment often hard, (We invest some private money too cause Kickstarter is not always cutting it) let alone making some profit. This is a hard reality for small indie publishers who try to get the ball rolling.
What has been your positive experiences in the process of releasing your first product “The Claws of Madness”?
The adventure has been received very well and it’s become Silver Best Seller on DriveThruRPG quickly. Many players and GM’s have messaged me how much they love the adventure, certain characters and events in the story. Some even said “It’s easily the best product I’ve Kickstarted in years”. That’s high praise, and certainly much more positive than I expected. I am very thankful for the positive reception and it has opened the doors to new products to come.
A lot of players are already waiting for the sequel to Claws, continuing the story of the mysterious Hand of Narkul. I also want to take this chance to thank people like Benoit de Bernardy (from Goblin-Stone.com) and Richie Kenyon who’ve been invaluable in getting our first product launched. Without them I would probably have rage-quit halfway through writing, it’s like running a marathon uphill. I can relate to many who struggle to get their first product out. It’s not easy spending hours alone in front of your laptop writing and re-writing while your friends are out getting drunk or playing games (or both haha!).
What challenges have you come across?
I found the writing part incredibly difficult. Just structuring a great story with interesting events and characters that allow for different kinds of players/classes to shine, is quite difficult. Then there’s the added challenge of fitting it into a easy-to-follow 32 page book, and leave some room for flavor, illustrations and sidebars. I have a lot of experience when it comes to product development, release and promotion, so that’s what went fairly smoothly, although fulfilment of the first Kickstarter went a little overdue. I’m now looking into hiring talented freelance writers to contribute to our products so I can focus on my own strengths. Hopefully this also increases the amount of products we can put out in a year.
What is 2017 bringing for fans of your work?
We have several things under development. Some really just in their early stages of toying around with novel ideas. Others are actually being
written as we speak. One of these is a GM book called “Remarkable Inns & Their Drinks” which is going to be a fantastic (and fun) book describing renowned Inns and their history, characters, and unique touches. Each can be dropped into an existing game world easily, and offers a ton of things for the GM such as story hooks, interesting NPC’s and novel new gameplay rules such as the chances of getting into a fight, or buying valuable clandestine information. The Kickstarter for this is aimed to start around March.
Next to this book we are scheduling development for a standalone adventure book to see release around August this year. We are in the planning phase so not much details to share just yet. We’re also looking into possibly releasing some smaller, pay-what-you-like products, for which we might give young writers a chance to show their talent.
Lastly, we have also been working on “The Flight of Vorden” which is the sequel to “Claws of Madness”.
It picks up right where the heroes left off after Claws, and has an interesting plot swing right from the start. The stakes are high and the book deepens the history of the mysterious Narkul and introduces the heroes to the wealthy aristocratic family Vorden, who turn out to play a vital role in it all. Due to the complexity of the story (estimated to play out over 3 to 5 adventure books) this one might take until the end of this year to see its release. It will be worth the wait hopefully for those who’ve enjoyed the story set in motion in Claws.
All in all, it sounds like a fantastic upcoming year for LoreSmyth and for Dungeons and Dragons fans.