Justice’s Guide to the DMs Guild

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Every once and awhile, I receive a notification from an aspiring game designer asking for advice. The tabletop community is brimming with avid game masters, players, and worldbuilders eager to share their creations. With a few DMs Guild best sellers to my name, folks often ask me about publishing on the DMs Guild.

These questions are always humbling—after all, I still consider myself an aspiring game designer at heart! Not long ago, I was firing off applications to Wizards of the Coast for any job I could get. “Maybe if I can nab a janitor position,” I thought, “I could tack an adventure on a bulletin board near Chris Perkins’ office, a la the chalkboard scene in Good Will Hunting.” I could have benefited from some entry-level advice for sure.

Over the past few years, the DMs Guild has blossomed from a budding platform into an active community, home to some of the best third party content that D&D 5th Edition has to offer. Currently, the DMs Guild is the only platform where you can directly benefit from the sale of original content featuring official D&D properties such as the Forgotten Realms, Strahd Von Zarovich, or Acererak’s mad shredding skillz. On top of that, the DMs Guild Adepts program includes some of the best and brightest D&D creators in the industry, and brand manager Lysa Penrose has put in countless hours working to make the Guild a more inclusive, positive, and welcoming space.

Throughout my time on the Guild (that’s what the cool kids call it), I’ve learned many valuable TTRPG lessons. Some of them came easily, taught to me by friends, mentors, and generous peers, while others were the products of hard work or failure. I’m a big proponent of paying things forward, so I’ve created this article as a sort of landing page for new creators.


Before I begin, I wanted to list a few helpful resources.

Getting Started on the DMs Guild. This article by James Introcaso helped me when I first dipped my toes into the waters of the Guild, and I’m sure it will help you. James is the creator of Roll20’s Burn Bryte, Managing Editor at MCDM, and credited on several official D&D hardcovers. “Getting Started on the DMs Guild” breaks down the major beats of the creative process, from concept to a published product. Be sure to read James’ article if you need an overview of the TTRPG writing process.

Getting Started on the DMs Guild. Yes, this article has the same name as the one above! But this one is a more support-driven article written by the folks at DMs Guild and OBS. Think of it as a checklist to review at least once before you begin your project. Review it again before you go to publish—the last thing you want is your product taken down on release day because you forgot the DMs Guild Logo!

D&D House Style Guides. These free resources, written by members of the Dungeons & Dragons creative team, are designed to help you write content that’s in-line with official D&D standards. Though there are some slight formatting variations between official publications, these resources are absolutely essential if you want to emulate D&D 5th Edition style in your work. I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with these resources. While it’s okay to deviate from them, DMs Guild customers expect some degree of consistency. If your work is drastically different from what they’ve come to expect in 5th Edition, your audience may struggle to incorporate it in their games.

RPG Writer Workshop. This digital academy was created by Ashley Warren, a TTRPG titan whose credits include Hekna!, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden and the critically acclaimed Uncaged Anthology series. In addition to the very popular Write Your First Adventure course, the RPG Writer Workshop has a poppin’ Discord channel where you can connect and learn with other creators.

Becoming a D&D Designer. I was on this panel with D&D heroes Celeste Conowich, Lysa Penrose, and Ashley Warren for D&D Celebration 2020. I can testify that I would have personally benefited from this panel early on! You’ll see some of its information echoed in the article below.

First, Write the Thing

So, you’ve got an idea, and you want to publish it on the DMs Guild. That’s great! Your creations deserve to see the light of day. The first step is to write the thing.

This article isn’t about writing—I’m assuming you can handle that part! What makes writing “good” is subjective, but my writing has improved from following insightful creators like Teos Abadia, M.T. Black, James Haeck, Sly Flourish, Hannah Rose, and Shawn Merwin. I’ve also learned a lot by working with my partner in crime, Anthony Joyce, on several projects. Ultimately, your writing style is impacted by the subject matter of your supplement, your personal preferences, and the audience for which you’re writing.

General DMs Guild Writing Tips

Okay, so I lied. I can’t just throw you into the deep end like that! Here are a few quick tips for writing your first DMs Guild Supplement.

  • A Bigger Audience. Writing for the DMs Guild is not the same as writing for your home game. Cast a wide net that gives Dungeon Masters and players the tools to approach a scenario in a variety of ways. Don’t tell stories. Give tools.
  • Collaborate. Unless your project is small, I highly recommend working with at least one other writer. The experience will make both of you better creators. You’ll think of things that other collaborators don’t and vice versa, and the idea generation phase—which might just be my favorite part—is a lot better when you can pitch your ideas with someone else before they hit the page.
  • Hire an Editor. You think finding a typo in your Tweet is bad? How about discovering twenty of them a week after you’ve released!

The Three Pillars of DMs Guild Supplements

Just like a D&D session, you can break down any given DMs Guild project into three categories.

  • Writing & Editing
  • Artwork
  • Graphic Design

Let’s talk about editing first.


Remember when I said hire an editor? I wasn’t joking. Editors are like blacksmiths, removing impurities from your writing and giving your words the cutting edge that lets the pen rival the sword. Even if you’re just writing for fun, I strongly recommend that you hire an editor. They are well worth the investment.

There are three types of editing:

  • Proofreading. The most basic form of editing. A proofreader reviews a document and identifies mistakes such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting.
  • Copyediting. A copyeditor analyzes a document in terms of grammar, spelling, flow, and syntax. In addition to correcting errors and inconsistencies, a copyeditor may recommend slight changes to improve a sentence or paragraph. On the DMs Guild, this may also involve them reviewing your work for adherence to the D&D House Style Guide.
  • Developmental Editing. A developmental editor reviews your project as a whole. They look at the big picture, examining your work in terms of structure, style, content, pacing, and/or value. Think of a developmental editor as a sculptor, reshaping your work to be more in line with your vision.

The Cost of Editing

Prices vary between editors, but services are generally priced based on the degree of involvement. Proofreading is relatively inexpensive (I’ve seen anywhere from 1-3 cents per word for the DMs Guild) when compared to copyediting (3-6 cents per word), while developmental editing can rival rates for consulting or sensitivity reading (10 cents or higher). The longer your project is, the more you need to budget for editing. As a brief disclaimer, industry-standard rates are often higher than on the DMs Guild.


You’re probably going to need some artwork, even if it’s just for the cover page! Tables, bullets, and other design elements can help break up a wall of text, but including a striking piece of artwork every few pages keeps readers from getting fatigued.

You don’t have to commission a single piece of artwork for your DMs Guild supplements. If you’re willing to do some legwork, you can source art without breaking the bank or underpaying artists. Here are some tips for cutting the costs on art assets:

  • D&D Creator Resources. Unless you’re a DMs Guild Adept, you can’t replicate official art in your products. However, the DMs Guild does contain a few collections of artwork in their DMs Guild Creator Resources, which you can find on the Logo and Artwork Questions page. You should also just give this page a review in general. It’s all good stuff. There are some great pieces in the Creator Resources, but you’re going to have to do a little hunting; last I checked, the pieces didn’t have any established naming convention.
  • Stock Art. There are several artists on the DriveThruRPG who publish stock art at a highly discounted rate compared to industry standard. Here’s a link to the stock art page. The trade-off is that other creators can also access this license, and other products are likely to have the same piece you bought within their pages or maybe even on the cover. Don’t let that dissuade you, though. Industry-standard covers can run you anywhere from $300-1,000 depending on the individual artist and their rates.
  • Game Assets. Some companies market to app developers, bundling assets aimed at fantasy-themed smartphone games. Preparing to write some magic items? Look at game asset websites like Rexxard. They make tons of assets for books, monsters, spells, and potions that you can drop into your project for just a few bucks. And of course, whenever possible, you can always write your content around the artwork you have.
  • Licensing Art. I’ve seen a few very successful products on the DMs Guild utilize licensed art. An artist may work on a piece for practice, pleasure, or another project with non-exclusive rights to their work. If it fits, you can always reach out to the artist—politely and professionally—and inquire whether any pieces are available for a one-time license for your supplement. Pick a few candidates from their portfolio and have them ready when you reach out. Some artists’ rates may depend on the piece you’re licensing, or they might offer bundle pricing if you license multiple pieces.

If you do decide to commission artwork for your products, my recommendation is to start with the cover and go from there. Especially around official D&D releases, the DMs Guild is flooded with new content, and a stand-out cover can help set your product apart from the rest. You don’t have to commission a full-page cover, either. A half-page cover with good graphic design, like I had for the Mithral-best-selling Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contracts, works just as well!


Once you’ve got everything ready to go—your work has been written, playtested, and edited, and your artwork has been chosen—it’s time to go to layout. Finding a good layout artist who’s available can be a challenge, so be on the lookout for designers early on.

Layout artists vary in pricing, depending on their experience, rates, and the complexity of your project. A layout artist may charge anywhere from $5-10 a page or more for DMs Guild work, possibly including a flat project fee. Some prefer to work for a royalty share, asking for 5-10% of a project’s sales revenues. Again, industry-standard rates for layout and/or graphic design may exceed those listed in this article.

Can’t find or afford a layout artist/graphic designer? Here are a few ways you can do it yourself.

  • GM Binder and NaturalCrit’s Homebrewery let you format your products based on a simple, predetermined style. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you understand each interface’s capabilities and associated dialogue, it’s smooth sailing. My very first title, Heart Hunt, used one of these programs.
  • What if I told you that you could lay your entire product out in Microsoft Word? Well, you can! It’s a bit of a pain, but you can plug in page assets and artwork, export them to PDFs, and even include familiar page textures as image backgrounds. You might not know it, but there are several best-selling DMs Guild projects whose layouts were done in Microsoft Word.

    A good friend of mine and talented editor, Laura Hirsbrunner, created a Simple 5E Template for Microsoft Word to make such layouts a breeze. Yes, there are instructions.

The Final Stretch

Your project is finally complete. You wrote the thing, then an editor revised your words. You sourced artwork, and gave that to a layout artist. Congratulations! You’ve earned a short rest. After that, it’s time to finish strong.

Pricing Your Product

A lot of creators struggle when it comes to pricing their work. Please don’t work for free. The more free and underpriced products there are on the market, the less creators get paid. Worse, consumers start to expect them as the norm, passing up on otherwise spectacular products in favor of underpriced alternatives. Help us legitimize the tabletop industry by promoting fair pay.

Price Per Page

Joe Raso recently put together a price breakdown of the Top 100 products on the DMs Guild for 2020, comparing his results to a similar analysis from the previous year. Looking at Joe’s data, products with 100 pages or less sit around 15-20 cents per page in terms of price, increasing above that when you have less than 30 pages. Based on this, you could price your 50-page supplement anywhere between $7.50-10 or more. If your supplement small—I’m talking 10 pages or less—the data is less reliable, but I’d recommend charging anywhere between $1-5.

The past year has taught us that the DMs Guild can sustain higher prices without having to justify them with hundreds of pages of content. With new TTRPG books dropping every day, there’s a growing market for compact, high-quality supplements. Take Heavyarms’ Armorer’s Handbook, for example, a fantastic Adamantine-best-selling product. It has a price point of $9.95, but just 28 pages of content! If you’ve read the supplement, however, you know that it’s worth every penny.

Benchmark Pricing

You can also price your supplement based on similar products on the market. When looking for a benchmark product, consider your supplement in terms of production value, genre, type (such as adventures, magic item supplements, variant rules, etc.), page count, and audience size. Try to refine your search to supplements released in the last year.

Budget-Based Pricing

You can also price your project based on your budget. Assuming you’re the only contributor receiving royalties, you’ll get 50% of every sale. How many sales are you predicting? What price point do you need to offer to break even? For example, if you spent $50 on your supplement, and you price it at $5, you’ll need 20 sales to break even. After that, it’s all profit!

Publishing to the DMs Guild

The Resources links above include instructions on preparing your title for publishing. At minimum, make sure your project checks the following boxes:

  • You either own, licensed, or have obtained permission to use all of the content in your title, and you’ve credited creators wherever appropriate for any work contained therein. This includes both artwork and writing.
  • You’ve stuck the DMs Guild logo from the Logo and Artwork Content page on your cover and in the thumbnail, and no other branding logos are on your cover.
  • Your content uses the D&D 5th Edition ruleset. 
  • You’re using approved settings (if applicable, setting neutral is okay), such as the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Ravenloft, or Ravnica. Reminder: You cannot publish your own settings on the DMs Guild. Check out the DriveThruRPG for that.
  • You’ve included the legal text found here on your credits page: Ownership and License (OGL) Questions page
  • You have read and understand the DMs Guild Community Content Agreement.

If you’ve got all that, publish that thang! Then, it’s time to tell the world about your title.

Marketing & Advertising

Once you’ve got a finished product in your hands—or at least something to generate hype prior to release day—it’s time to advertise it. This is arguably one of the most important yet ambiguous aspects of any TTRPG project. Every day, beautiful products go unnoticed simply because customers don’t know they exist.

Here are a few tips for marketing and advertising your supplement.

  • Write Out Your Unique Selling Proposition. Ew, you got business in my TTRPGs! Don’t worry. A unique selling proposition (USP) is a just fancy marketing term that answers the question, “What makes your product special, and why should your customers care about it?” Understanding this will help you when posting about your product.
  • Create An Attractive Product Page. Tell potential customers what they’re getting in your supplement. Keep it focused and concise.
  • Know Your Audience. Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit all have different kinds of D&D audiences. The more your post matches the “vibe” associated with each platform, the more likely it is to gain traction.
  • Keep Promoting. Your product will continue to gain sales after any release day buzz has died down, albeit at a slower pace.
  • Pay It Forward. No one wants to follow an ad account. Early on, someone told me that for every self promotion post, there should be 2-5 where you’re offering original content, insights, or engaging with other creators. TTRPGs are a team sport! Celebrate other creators—you might just work with them one day!

Manage Your Expectations

My last recommendation is to manage your expectations. Most products on the DMs Guild don’t sell more than a handful of copies in their first week, let alone the first couple of months. Unless you have an established audience elsewhere, your first project will probably fall in line with that trend. Rest assured, you’re not alone.

Everyone has an underperforming project eventually, and it stings every time. What matters is that you keep creating.

My first two projects, Heart Hunt and Oath of the Aesir, didn’t sell very many copies. It wasn’t until my third project, Devil’s Advocate, that I really felt like I found my stride. Even if you have a stand-out project, there’s no guarantee that you’ll maintain that trend—in fact, you almost certainly won’t. Three months after releasing Devil’s Advocate, I put out my milk-themed carnival horror adventure, Step Right Up. Guess what? It still hasn’t broken even!

There’s a saying in the DMs Guild community that most supplements have a “long tail.” Regardless of where your product peaks when you release it, you’ll still sell a copy or two every so often. It might not seem like much at first—a sale every week or two, maybe a couple in one week and none in others. But over time, you’ll notice that those sales add up. As you keep creating, that single sale in your first week suddenly becomes sixty sales in your first year, and you’re the proud new recipient of a copper bestseller metal.  

We all fail sometimes, but with each setback comes new knowledge and opportunity. Failure hasn’t stopped me from creating—it won’t stop you, either.

Like this article? Consider supporting me by buying one of my products on the DMs Guild, such as Darkhold: Secrets of the Zhentarim or Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion. If you’re running Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, consider picking up an alternative introductory adventure to the campaign, Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contractsor Baldur’s Gate: City Encounters.

You can also follow me on Twitter at @justicearman or sign up for my email list, the Gjallarhorn, for exclusive updates, playtest opportunities, and discounts.

Writing Tabletop Prophecies

Towards the end of 2018, my home game was wrapping up Storm King’s Thunder when I noticed a precipice before me. My players were in love with their characters, and they wanted to go the distance. They wanted their characters to reach epic levels and, as a result, tell appropriately epic stories. To battle waves of giants without NPC assistance. To wield legendary magic items with names and history from adventurers’ past. To travel beyond the material plane in defense of the entire realms.

This was uncharted territory for me as a Dungeon Master. I was going to have to write and run a high-level game, rather than spice up the existing framework in a published adventure.

During a few weeks of real-world downtime between sessions, I solicited feedback from my players with a Campaign Refresher survey. I analyzed the results of the survey while stringing together a campaign outline spanning levels 12-20. The final confrontation would pit the characters against the ancient kraken Slarkathrel in the depths of the elemental plane of water!

A week later, I trashed that outline and started a new one. Why? Well, thanks to the survey, I finally knew what my players wanted. They liked the elements of the campaign that I’d added. They enjoyed the Norse mythology I’d mixed in, and they enjoyed one of the side villains in particular: Cantu, the Pale Sorcerer, a goliath trying to unite the tribes of the Frozenfar. Most importantly, they wanted to have choices, and they wanted those choices to matter.

In an effort to give weight to the choices they’d made, I flipped back through my notes, thinking about the consequences of their actions (or inaction).

  • What changed while the characters were off fighting the BBEG from Storm King’s Thunder?
  • What happened to towns that the characters saved after they left? What about the ones that they ignored?
  • How would the fire giant kingdom respond to characters killing a member of the royal family?
  • Where was Cantu, and how much had he achieved after nearly three months without the character’s heroic interruptions?

It all started coming together. I knew what Cantu had accomplished. I decided how King Snurre Ironbelly would react in the Hall of the Fire Giants. I filled my notes with possible dramatic scenes. However, without a book to guide me, I wanted something constant to keep the party from going off the rails, something they could reference as the campaign unfolded before them.

I decided to write a prophecy.

Are Prophecies Railroading?

Before we talk about prophecies, we should talk about railroading. In movies and television, prophecies are often depicted as a pre-determined pathway of events that will befall a character. I think of the three hags (aka the Fates) in Disney’s Hercules, predicting the alignment of the planets “in precisely eighteen years’ time.” All of the events come to pass, including Hades’ failure when Hercules intervenes. How do you work this into the table without railroading?

Fates: What's the Matter with Everything? | Disney hercules ...

It’s no surprise that some players grimace at the thought of a prophecy driving their campaign. In some stories, prophecies are quite literally set in stone. This is in direct conflict with the underlying philosophy of TTRPGs. We want to have choices, and we want those choices to matter. Wouldn’t this be a bad fantasy trope to implement in tabletop RPGs?

You’re Probably Already Railroading Your Players

While I certainly believe that some group out there is doing it, I have never seen a completely improvisational campaign. To some extent, every D&D campaign is on rails, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When I sit down to prepare for a session, I’m making assumptions about future events, trying to anticipate the characters’ actions and frame possible events around them. The tracks might diverge, or the players may get off at one stop and board an entirely different train, but I’m always planning.

Published adventures have rails. Session outlines have rails. My campaigns certainly have rails. In fact, when I made an attempt to provide a completely sandbox game, my players told me they didn’t like it as much because they weren’t sure what to do — there was too much choice!

Good Railroading

Dungeon Masters must strike a balance between narrative and agency. On the one hand, a game that is entirely plot-driven deprives players of agency. On the other hand, putting all of narrative on the players can lead to aimless wandering in an endless sandbox. With devoted and creative players, the latter could be rewarding (if you like this, you might check out the collaborative storytelling system in the Apocalypse World RPG), but every table is different. Ultimately, your game depends on the experience desired by your players.

I believe that Chris Perkins, the lead adventure designer for D&D, said it best in his “The Invisible Railroad” article for his DM Experience column at Wizards of the Coast:

Although I think it’s possible to run a campaign that is 100 percent driven by the players, I’m not the kind of Dungeon Master who can relinquish narrative control to the point where I’m simply reacting to the players’ desires and “winging it” week after week. I like coming up with adventure ideas and stringing them together to form a cohesive arc that unfolds over multiple levels. When I plan out an adventure, I usually have a good idea where, when, and how it will end—assuming the heroes don’t get sidetracked or TPK’ed en route. I like to call it my invisible railroad.

– Chris Perkins, The DM Experience (9/22/2011)

The goal of the invisible railroad is not to assert control over players. It’s to guide them to moments you’ve worked to make more rewarding than those imagined on the fly. Dungeon Masters create NPCs with secret connections who might betray the PCs in a future session. We try to line up pivotal moments of the campaign in fantastic locations rather than having the villain stabbed in the back while on a grocery run. We place the legendary item in the most interesting room of the dungeon instead of in the grasp of a skeleton near the entrance. We steer the players back to point B because we hope that it will be fun and memorable than the alternative.

Bad Railroading

Bad railroading confines player choice without subtlety. The players are in a story-train on a set of tracks built by the DM, who’s planned all the stops with no possible change in course. There are few options, if any, and if a player takes an alternative route, there is no satisfying reward. Everything is designed to funnel back into some overarching plot determined by the DM. The players lose agency, their actions have little impact, and the game feels meaningless. It’s like handing you the second Wii-mote in Super Mario Galaxy while your older sibling plays as Mario. Sure, you can collect star bits, but you’re not really doing anything. The feature mostly there to entertain younger children. (I’m sorry to any adults who enjoy collecting star bits with the second Wii-mote.)

Writing Good Prophecies

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about how write a great prophecy. I’ll show you the prophecy I wrote for my last campaign, and then I’ll offer some tips to keep in mind when writing your own.

The Prophecy of Everlasting Ice was inspired by 1) the frost giant plot in Storm King’s Thunder and 2) the one-hundred-year winter preceding Ragnarok in Norse mythology known as Fimbulwinter. I split the prophecy in two halves of a frost giant tapestry.

The Prophecy of Everlasting Ice
If the Ordning is shattered, a King of Ice rises from a lowly tribe. The Isenkong duels the highest Jarl for Thrym’s Favor. As frost dampens flame, Surtur chooses his champion.

On the last day of winter, branches part unscathed. The Heart of the First Flame is pierced by its own sword, sealing the buds of spring with Everlasting Ice. Only warriors endure the winter; those without thick hides perish.

The second half of the prophecy, which was inscribed in glowing blue runes on the petrified hide of a great whale, was given to the main Tier 3 villain, the Isenkong (“Ice King” in giant). This allowed some flexibility if I needed to end up changing something later (shhh, don’t tell my players), but also made for an dramatic reveal when the characters would find it in the lair of the Isenkong, where they discovered that the charismatic frost giant was none other than their old friend Cantu, the Pale Sorcerer – but that’s a story for another time.

Leave Prophecies Open to Interpretation

The best prophecies can be interpreted differently from different viewpoints. They refer to individuals through symbolism or titles. They never give hard dates. Your villain may look at the prophecy and see themselves as the savior it speaks of. This makes your puzzle more exciting. Characters can look for it as meaning, or try to interpret omens as fulfilling certain aspects of its words. One of my players actually printed out the prophecy and kept it on the front of her binder. The party would stop and ask each other if something was fulfilling the prophecy from time to time.

My prophecy was tied to awesome moments I wanted to happen when I was planning the campaign, but ultimately they shook out differently than I thought. I drew an image on the second half of the prophecy that depicted five silhouettes – the same number as party members – fighting the Isenkong. One of them was glowing in flame. Who was that person? When I planned, I hoped that it would be one of the characters. I thought it was going to be the party barbarian, Kav, who was Cantu’s brother, or perhaps maybe the cleric, Bertha. It ended up being the hafling bard! Keeping the prophecy open to interpretation allowed it to be flexible and tell stories with my players, not for them.

At any point, I was prepared to have the players alter the prophecy. The prophecy was the Cantu’s weakness. He clung to it as inspiration. To him, he could not fail for fate was on his side. Every time it looked like Cantu was going to fail, he grew desperate and made mistakes. During Tier 4, the characters showed Cantu that he was wrong about the prophecy. Not only did it break his spirit, it caused him to become a powerful ally against an even greater threat.

The Draconic Prophecy section in Eberron: Rising from the Last War (check out Beadle & Grimm’s Gold Edition here) has some fantastic advice for spinning cryptic prophecies into fantastic adventures. For examples of prophecies in the Forgotten Realms, you can look to the Prophecies of the seer Alaundo, immortalized in the Endless Chant of Candlekeep. (I just might have something coming out related to this soon.)

Surprise Players With New Information

Giving players new information later can give clarity to the prophecy — or turn their world upside down! In my example, I split the prophecy in two. When they received the first half, the events were already in place. Cantu had risen to the Isenkong. But when they ventured into his lair in the Blue Mountain, they discovered the other half of the prophecy, none of which had come to pass. They had a significant chance to alter the course of history. There were thirty days left until the last day of winter.

New information reminds your characters of the prophecy and helps them see it in a new light. It also allows you to add new developments or reconcile something that didn’t quite translate the way you’d hoped at the table. In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the party learns in Wan Shi Tong’s library that they will have an opportunity to stop the fire lord based on the darkest day in fire nation history.

Avatar: The Last Airbender - "The Library" Flashback Review - IGN

Here are some other ways that you can reveal new information about your prophecy:

  • Part of the prophecy is in another language
  • The prophecy is a key to a larger event
  • There is a missing piece of the prophecy — a smudge, a torn page, or an alteration made by the antagonist
  • The characters learn the prophecy was written by a faithless narrator
  • The prophecy is a fake, and the characters are unknowingly carrying out the villain’s scheme for them

Give Prophecies Proper Attention

In the words of Ron Swanson, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” If you choose to give your characters a prophecy, you need to spend time on it. Your players are likely more clever than you give them credit! You don’t want your players to be able to connect the dots right off the bat. They’re going to pore over it, talk about it with each other, and reference it hopefully multiple times over future sessions.

Don’t treat your prophecy like a puzzle. You don’t want it to be something you can “figure out” without key events or details to give it shape. It’s best to structure your prophecy with at least one or two details that the characters don’t know, be they NPCs, locations, events, or something else.

Consider accompanying your prophecy with physical props, designs, or drawings. I provided my players with a handout of the prophecy with burned edges and drawings. That Christmas, one of my players gave me a dice box she made for Secret Santa; it had the prophecy wood-burned into the lid!

Running Good Prophecies

Writing a good prophecy is only half the battle. You have to run it well at the table, too! Just as you gave it proper attention during synthesis, you want to do so at the table.

Remind Players of the Prophecy Often

Writing a good prophecy is only half the battle. You have to run it well at the table, too! Just as you gave it proper attention during synthesis, you want to do so at the table.

Have wise NPCs question the characters about the prophecy. Maybe the prophecy is whispered among stone giants deep in the Underdark, or has become so widespread that it is a common children’s story in a kingdom. Foreshadow events with symbolism. If your prophecy speaks of birds, perhaps the characters see flocks circling them during important moments.

Throw in a Catalyst

You can also add a catalyst to your prophecy. This is someone or something that accelerates the prophecy’s events, bringing them to the forefront of the story. You might consider incorporating a catalyst after a major side quest or character arc to get the characters back “on track.”

A catalyst could be someone who wants the prophecy to happen. Maybe they benefit from its completion, but bear no ties to the villain. Perhaps the catalyst is someone who wants to obstruct the prophecy, but in some way they inadvertently accomplish one of its tenants. The catalyst could also be an event, such the solar eclipse deadline imposed on Aang and his companions in Avatar: the Last Airbender.

Prophecies can have a place in tabletop roleplaying games, but we have to be careful as game masters that plot doesn’t eclipse player agency. Whether this article has inspired you to include a prophecy in your campaign, I hope you’ve found my advice valuable.

Like this article? Consider supporting me by buying one of my products on the DMs Guild, such as Darkhold: Secrets of the Zhentarim or Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion. If you’re running Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, consider picking up an alternative introductory adventure to the campaign, Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contractsor Baldur’s Gate: City Encounters.

You can also follow me on Twitter at @justicearman or sign up for my email list, the Gjallarhorn, for exclusive updates, playtest opportunities, and discounts.

Projects, People, and Platinum Editions!

Hey everyone!

A lot of exciting things have been happening, and I’m long overdue for a blog post. I can’t tell you how strange and amazing this year has been. I’ve got to catch you up on new releases, GameHole Con, and some cool stuff from Beadle & Grimm’s, where I have been officially employed!!!

So dust off that drinking horn, grab some mead, and let me tell you what new lands I’ve visited this year.

DMs Guild Releases

I’ve had a few releases since I last mentioned one on my blog. One is actually releasing tomorrow, November 11th!

Baldur’s Gate: The Fall of Elturel

Anthony Joyce and I have new release coming out tomorrow: Baldur’s Gate: The Fall of Elturel. It’s an alternative, two-hour introductory adventure to Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. When BGDIA dropped, a lot of creators on the Twitterverse didn’t like some parts of the Baldur’s Gate portion of the campaign. In particular, this line in chapter 1 rubbed people the wrong way (emphasis mine):

“Captain Zodge won’t accept any refusal of his offer. The Flaming Fist is empowered to draft adventurers in times of emergency. He can execute them on the spot for refusing to help, though he would rather they accept.”

It’s a bit polarizing, and I can see why. If this is someone’s first time DMing – though I would recommend starting with the Essentials Kit or the recently re-released Tyranny of Dragons campaign over this one – it could set an unfortunate precedent of punishing the characters when the don’t do what the DM wants. I hope most DMs choose to work around it should the characters refuse, as this line is mostly to cement the Flaming Fist as a violent mercenary company with a militant structure. Despite this little bump, BGDIA just might be my favorite official D&D hardcover to date!

The main reason Anthony and I created Baldur’s Gate: The Fall of Elturel was to invest the characters in the inciting event of the campaign – Elturel’s sudden and horrific downfall. Don’t worry, you didn’t just read a major spoiler. Players find this out in the first 10 minutes. With some beautiful design work by Gordon McAlpin, DMs who run this introductory adventure can make Elturel’s fall more personal to the characters (and their players).

I also got to write some fun backgrounds for this project: the Flaming Fist, the Hellriders, and the Order of the Gauntlet. I tried to make it so the background features felt distinct and useful. I’m looking forward to hearing about characters with the Flaming Fist background using their feature to make arrests in Baldur’s Gate.

You can buy Baldur’s Gate: The Fall of Elturel for $5.95 by clicking the button below.

Step Right Up

Last month, I released Step Right Up, a milk-themed carnival horror adventure. I put a lot into this twisted adventure, and I’m awfully pleased with how it turned out. I put it out in time for Halloween, but the adventure can be inserted into your campaign year-round.

This dairy disaster has a ton of fun stuff in it. In addition to countless milk puns and a few gag-worthy descriptions involving cottage cheese, there’s 10 new monsters. Most of the monsters tie into the dairy theme, such as the chuckling milk clown (art by Jack Kaiser) or the terrifying abolover.

Before the actual adventure begins, however, you’ll see some important sections. The first is about respecting boundaries with tabletop horror, which is extremely important given the genre. The next gives tips for running effective horror by using Ash Law’s Trajectory of Fear.

Evegeny M also did artwork for most of the magic items, such as this putrid plushie. My favorite, however, is definitely the clown shoes, as they allow a player to pull random items out of thin air – banana peels, seltzer water, even pies!

What really makes this adventure special is something that I tried out for the first time in Hellbound Heists (see below), which I expanded on in this adventure: the carnival in this horror adventure is completely modular. There are 14 attractions – including a sideshow with 5 variants – from which the Dungeon Master can build the perfect carnival to challenge or interest their players. With so many attractions in the adventure, you won’t get to see them all, but you can always play it again with a different set!

The Hall of Illusions. There’s even an Ames Room (H4)!

What’s even cooler is each attraction contains a “sweet” and “spoiled” version. During Part 1 of the adventure, the characters get to attend a completely innocent carnival, but during Part 2 – well, I won’t spoil it for you. I did all the maps in the adventure, too, which I found both personally gratifying and only a little bit pitiful.

Of course, I cannot downplay the incredible cover by Gwen Bassett (www.gwendybee.com), the three location pieces by Detoria Art, and the fantastic layout by Anna Urbanek (www.doubleproficiency.com). Seriously, it’s awesome.

You can check it out here: Step Right Up

Hellbound Heists

Hellbound Heists is an adventure collection project led by Bryan Holmes that released in September in both print and PDF on the DMs Guild. This 280-page monster of a product features a devilish heist in each of the Nine Hells, with a focus on Tier 3 and 4 content.

This was my first collaboration on the guild, and it was an extremely positive experience. Bryan did a great job leading this project. Not only do I regularly reach out to him on discord, I’ve actually worked with some of the creators on additional projects since that have yet to be released!

My contribution to this collection was “6:66 to Mephistar,” a 17th-level train heist set in Cania, the Eighth Hell. Cania is a frigid wasteland ruled by none other than the Cold Lord himself, Mephistopheles. Most of the adventure takes place on the Canian Hellfire Limited.

The black behemoth can be customized with several different cars. My favorite? The Memory Car. It features a trio of mind flayers and a pool of memories that characters can accidentally absorb should they interact with them too aggressively. Your character may exit this car with a famous baker’s apple crumble recipe or a vivid recounting of your half-orc son’s coming of age ceremony!

Writing Tier 4 content was challenging, no doubt. But bouncing ideas off some of the best creators in the bizz made it an enjoyable challenge.

Here’s a link: Hellbound Heists

GameHole Con 2019

Last week I returned from GameHole Con, where I was working for a company called Beadle & Grimm’s, or B&G as all the cool kids call it. Beadle and Grimm’s makes awesome, immersive boxed sets of official D&D products that make it easy for you to run a high-quality game without all the prep work and crafting. I first saw Beadle & Grimm’s at Gen Con in 2018 and was instantly in love with their yet-to-be-released Platinum Edition of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.

Long story short, I am now working for them! I can’t tell you how surreal it feels. Working on D&D products in any capacity was a 5-year plan for me. The owners of Beadle & Grimm’s are passionate gamers who have been playing for 20 years. They want to bring people together with these experiences, but they recognize we’ve all got busy lives. I’m lucky to be a part of their young company, and extremely grateful for this opportunity to contribute to a product that I was a believer in from day one. Not to mention the awesome team! Bill, Charlie, Jason, Jon, Matt, Mikaela, and Paul have been incredibly welcoming and supportive.

Meeting Cool Peeps

At GameHole Con, I talked with a lot of awesome creators. I felt a bit awkward at times introducing myself, but everyone was kind and accepting. Surprisingly, I didn’t get star struck or speak in tounges. I got to meet Ashley Warren, Chris Lindsay, Elisa Teague, Travis Legge, Chad Lensche, Jeff Stevens, Satine Pheonix, Shawn Merwin, Todd Kenrick, Zoltar from Sage Advice, some of our awesome booth neighbors at Wyrmwood – Mike Mearls even signed my PHB! Special shoutout to James Introcaso for being especially welcoming and helping me out when I was looking a little out of place at a party!

I got to see some beautiful snow and loved the weather. Texas has made me a little soft when it comes to the cold, but I’ve missed snow since I left Utah. I felt very appropriate dressed as Volo trudging through the snow on Halloween. Maybe we’re due for a 5e version of Volo’s Guide to the North?

Also, I got to check out Alex’s awesome Game Hole above the Free House Pub in Madison. It was insane. There was such great D&D history in that room, including Ed Greenwood’s original hand-drawn Forgotten Realms map!!!

B&G Platinum Edition: Descent into Avernus

I received my Platinum Edition of Descent into Avernus the other day from Beadle & Grimm’s. They are still going out, so if you haven’t gotten yours yet, hang in there! I did a breakdown of most of the major components in this Twitter thread, but be warned – there be spoilers ahead, matey. If you’re playing in this campaign, I’d advise you to stay away. However, it’s extremely cool and I can’t stop you, obviously.

That’s about it! And I see you’ve finished your drinking horn. Just in time.

Thanks for tuning in. Maybe we should do this more often. I’ve seen people asking about getting started on the DMs Guild on Twitter, D&D has been releasing some great Unearthed Arcana, and I’ve got some small design ideas that maybe are better suited here as a blog post instead of a small DMs Guild product of their own.

If you’d like to be notified of future releases, you can sign up for my email list, the Gjallarhorn, by clicking the button below.

Until next time!

Like this article? Consider supporting me by buying one of my products on the DMs Guild, such as Darkhold: Secrets of the Zhentarim or Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion. If you’re running Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, consider picking up an alternative introductory adventure to the campaign, Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contractsor Baldur’s Gate: City Encounters.

You can also follow me on Twitter at @justicearman or sign up for my email list, the Gjallarhorn, for exclusive updates, playtest opportunities, and discounts.

Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Going Gold!

Update: Devil’s Advocate is currently a MITHRAL (over 2,500 copies sold) best seller!

When I released my first Norse-themed subclass, the Oath of the Aesir, I put a post here on my website. Somehow, I forgot to do the same for Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contracts. It could have been all the excitement (and anxiety) I was feeling at the time of its release. Perhaps it was because the release was the week before Gen Con 2019 – more on that in a future post. Seeing as NorseDM.com functions functions as my digital portfolio… better late than never, right?

Devilish Ambitions

When I began writing Devil’s Advocate, I had a few goals.

1. Have a great first product for my portfolio. In my eyes, my previous two DMs Guild offerings don’t really count. Heart Hunt was a small adventure that I put on the Guild mainly because I had so much of it already typed up in OneNote; it was really just my digital notes for our annual spooky one shot. I had no idea anyone would enjoy my writing, let alone pay me for it.

Oath of the Aesir was a lot of fun to write, but it’s just a few pages. Is anyone really going to look at my portfolio and say, “Hey, this guy wrote a Norse subclass. That’s never been done before. Hire him!” Probably not. So, with my first “real” product, I wanted to come out of the gate swinging.

2. Pay livable wages. Devil’s Advocate was not cheap. It cost me $666 to produce. That’s not a joke, by the way. The total came out to $664 all-told, but I’m counting the .5mm pen I used to draw that Mephistopheles spot art. This bumps the total to a truly hellish figure.

Good art isn’t cheap. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have to adjust my budget during the project timeline. But I wasn’t about to haggle with artists or offer to pay them in “exposure” like we’ve all seen online by now. Wonderful artists like Gwen Bassett (who did the cover art) have spent countless hours honing their skills. I chose these artists because of their style and ability, and I paid them fair rates.

It’s unusual for a project of this size to have a budget above $100, let alone $600, on the DMs Guild. I’m sure some people will look at the product and think, This cost $666? I could’ve made this for half that. And honestly? I don’t blame them. I simply don’t have the skillset to do something like this alone. My art is in this book, though it’s not particularly good.

Also, I straight can’t do layout. Anna Urbanek did a wonderful job. In the future, I’d like to move away from traditional WOTC-style layouts. I’m sure that there are many talented designers just waiting to do some fantastic, original layouts, rather than simply reusing their standard template.

3. Get that electrum medal, dammit! At the time of release, I had one product with a silver medal (Heart Hunt). My philosophy with fitness is that the only person that you should compare yourself to is you. So I wanted to do a little bit better than last time.

Pick of the Week!

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I had to rub my eyes when I saw this.

The day I released Devil’s Advocate, I was very anxious. Whether it was by luck or the infernal bargain I had signed with Asmodeus, there wasn’t some amazing, 200+ page POD product from an esteemed DMs Guild author releasing on the same day. Somehow, I ended up Pick of the Week on the DMs Guild Newsletter! It gave me a fantastic bump in sales.

Many friends graciously shared my work on social media. DM Dango did a review of Devil’s Advocate on his Youtube. And the Saturday after release, I got an article on ComicBook.com written by Christian Hoffer! Again, these helped bump my sales significantly.

Devil’s Advocate hit copper on its first day and silver on its second – something that took Heart Hunt over six months to do! I had a bit of impostor syndrome there for a bit. Do I deserve this? I thought. By the end of the first week, I had reached my goal of the illustrious electrum that I so craved. Then, while walking the Exhibit Hall at Gen Con 2019…

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I surpassed my goal!

Look at me Mom! Gold medal! Not only did I break even, I doubled my original investment. This means that I can put these earnings towards future projects with beautiful art, original layouts, and livable wages.

What Did You Learn?

This product taught me a few things. First, I learned about managing expectations. While I started to sweat as sales were coming in, my #1 goal was to build something great for my portfolio. I felt like I did that before Devil’s Advocate ever hit the DMs Guild.

Secondly, I learned not to shy away from a bigger budget. Though I recognize that not everyone has the funds to invest into their products. I don’t have any kids, and I have a very, very supportive spouse. The original art and layout I included in Devil’s Advocate was worth every single penny, even if it had never recouped its costs.

Marketing for the DMs Guild is tough. I think my growing follower base on D&D Twitter – which has been quite the wholesome and supportive place, thankfully – helped a lot. I think the infernal contract giveaway gave the product a good boost with people who would not have otherwise stopped to examine it. Similarly, managing social media requires constant diligence. I’ve started using Hootesuite to schedule posts when I’m either asleep or busy (even though my Facebook game is trash).

Finally, this entire process was fun. Creating something from nothing is extremely rewarding. I enjoyed watching my little devilish baby go from taking its first steps to earning a gold star. I look forward to the many DMs Guild babies I will birth. May they go on to do great things.

Progressive Products on the DMs Guild

I’d like to increase representation in future products. I love the cover of Devil’s Advocate not only because of the dynamic lighting from the contract, but because it features a female devil that isn’t a succubus. She’s clothed. She has character to her. And look at that big 80’s hair! Wonderful.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to include artwork featuring diverse characters. As I discover more artists and designers, I’d like to do the same with my teams. If you are a minority creator or know one, please reach out to me via my Contact page.

What Are You Writing?


Right now, I’m finishing up a huge collaboration of Nine Hell-themed adventures lead by Bryan Holmes called Hellbound Heists. My adventure is a Tier 4 train robbery set in the 8th layer of Hell, Cania. It’s been a blast. Not only am I writing on this project, but I’ve also done a fair bit of editing. In addition, it features a few of my illustrations and a bit of B&W cartography. It’s going to be one hell of a product.

What else, what else… Oh! This month, I’ll be releasing a sorcerous origin tied to the Norns. Get those knitting needles ready. It’s time to entwine the fates!

I’m also working on one super-secret project and starting a couple of other collaborations towards the end of this month that are currently mummified (under wraps).

Like this article? Consider supporting me by buying one of my products on the DMs Guild, such as Darkhold: Secrets of the Zhentarim or Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion. If you’re running Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, consider picking up an alternative introductory adventure to the campaign, Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contractsor Baldur’s Gate: City Encounters.

You can also follow me on Twitter at @justicearman or sign up for my email list, the Gjallarhorn, for exclusive updates, playtest opportunities, and discounts.