As the Ravenloft: Mist Hunters series of adventures are published, we'll be chatting with the designers to learn more about their writing process, their experiences working in the Domains of Dread, and more! First up are Ma'at Crook and Amy Lynn Dzura, designers of the first adventure in Mist Hunters, RMH-EP-01 The Grand Masquerade.
Can you share a brief synopsis of the adventure in your own words?
Amy: The first part of the adventure sees the characters attending a magnificent ball, the Duchess Saidra D'Honaire's grand masquerade, which might feel a little like high school. The residents of Dementlieu pretend to be cooler than they actually are, and there's a mixture of fear and drama in the air as everyone tries to impress each other and the Duchess. After that, the characters participate in a city-wide scavenger hunt before investigating the last-known location of the individual they're looking for.
What Domain of Dread (from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft or imagined) would you find fun to visit?
Ma'at: I’d like to hang out in Barovia after Strahd is finally gone for good or works to stop being an abusive stalker. I imagine it could be like hanging out with the Classic Monsters on set, doing the mundane things someone does when they aren't filming, or scaring the pants off an audience. So, on a quiet day in Barovia, Tatyana and Ezmerelda invite us over for a no-fuss BBQ in an isolated castle balanced precariously on a cliff. Vasilka and a few villagers from Krezk sip tea, listening to Doru, the young vampire, talk about his stamp collection and all the domains he’ll visit. We step in and out of an endless conversation between Baba Lysaga and wereravens, passionately ranking the best thrift, consignment, junk, and antique shops. The most horrifying event comes at the end of the night when the only food left is a mayo-overwhelmed coleslaw. That’s the kind of surreal calm I’d like to participate in at this very moment.
What media influenced you?
Ma'at: To write The Grand Masquerade, Amy and I watched Masque of the Red Death with Vincent Price together online. And I rewatched Labyrinth, as well. The constant unease underlying the celebrations and charismatically flawed characters were both influences we drew from the movies.
Is there anything you'd include in a 'director's cut' of this adventure, or anything that didn't make it past editing?
Amy: There's a library in Port-à-Lucine that the characters may decide to visit, and as someone who loves wandering book stacks for hours, I toyed with the idea of the bookshelves becoming a maze that the characters need to navigate and escape. The problem is... mazes are hard to write, and hard to execute well at a table, especially in a timed event like an Epic.
I researched by reading advice published by DMs and adventure authors, and studying mazes designed by other folks (and the reviews of how they played in real life), and I knew I wasn't quite going to be able to make it work. Given infinite time and resources, I'd like to see if I can navigate the challenge of creating something that players, DMs, and I might be happy with.
What's your writing process look like?
Ma'at: I like to start by brainstorming fun, scary, exciting ideas. If I get stuck in my brainstorming session, I roll my story dice and see what ideas spark.
Next, an outline helps me organize my ideas and start thinking about how those encounters and plots might link to each other. It helps me visualize if my timing works; the more complicated and fuller I make a scene, the more likely I need to let go of some ideas (save them for something else). Amy and I talked a lot during these stages, which made it more exciting for me. Two brains can come up with some fun ideas that one brain wouldn't expect.
We then worked together on one template, tidying up and fleshing out our ideas into readable text. And we worked together on the module for editing (pre-playtesting, post-playtesting, and post-premiere edits). Being able to track changes and work simultaneously online is an upgrade to collaboration that I wish existed ages ago.
If your pet was an NPC, what class would they be?
Ma'at: Kenku, Granny, Ruckus, Floppy, TUnO (the Unnamed One), Cinco, and Newton are Palahens of the Pecking Order. Once a day, they Lay on Nests, which gives them something like a goodberry that, when eaten, restores a total number of hit points egg-qual to their level times 5. And with their Channel Divanity, they turn poultry-geists.
Our chickens in the yard.
Our chickens, Newton (behind) and Kenku (foreground), lying in the yard together.
Where on social media can people find you?
Do you have a question you'd like us to ask the Ravenloft: Mist Hunters designers? Submit it to us in the Adventurers League channels on the D&D Discord server, send it via email, or tweet us at @DnD_AdvLeague.