Ravenloft: Mist Hunters Designer Interview: Claire Hoffman

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! Claire Hoffman is the designer of the third stand-alone adventure in Mist HuntersRMH-03 The Amber Dirge.

Can you share a brief synopsis of the adventure in your own words?

The characters get really fussy instructions to the White Oasis and see if they can find something odd happening... basically Alanik Ray has a gut feeling there is something of import going on there, but not much else to go off of.  Once there, the adventurers explore an isolated village and figure out what is happening there.

What does your writing process look like?

It varies by project, but when working from an outline I generally set up the template with placeholders for where I am supposed to start and the main stops along the way.  

Then I switch to doing research, be it for lore, game mechanics or for geography, and sketching out ideas as I go in a separate document. Lore starts with going to Van Ricthen's and getting to know the domain as a whole, not just the small area I'd be writing in. This time it included a basic Google search for "oasis" to make sure I had a feel for what a real one might be like and what critters might be there ( and aside trip to the Monster Manual to see what beasts could stand in for some of them).

Then I pulled out my copy of The Complete Pyramid because I vaguely remembered there is a section in there that talked about the quarries where the stone was. Once I have location basics, then I sketch out NPCs, who would be the likely ones the characters want to interact with and which ones they need to interact with to figure out what is going on.

Then I put on my headphones and start filling in encounters. Whenever I get stuck, I do mechanical things like stat blocks, item descriptions, or maps.

Did any media influence your Mist Hunters adventure?

The Mummy (1999) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are likely the most direct influences, while Elisabeth Peters's series of historical mystery novels with Amelia Peabody is a more subtle influence.

Is there anything you'd include in a 'director's cut' of this adventure, or anything that didn't make it past editing?

I cut a bit of an additional obstacle/maze  on the way to the final encounter, as there just wasn't time for it and it caused too high a chance of not getting to that important encounter. The rough draft had a different first encounter in the White Oasis -- it made sense to change it, but by removing it a detail became implied instead of stated.

What Domain of Dread (from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft or imagined) would you like most to visit?

None, actually.  None of them have coffee or Diet Coke from what I can tell, and that is what I live on.