In 1997, TSR published Polyhedron #126, and therein ran a one page advertisement for the “RPGA Network Adventure Design Contest `97”. The RPGA was a part of TSR that concentrated on producing and running adventures for the company’s game lines at conventions, both locally and nationally. They maintained the ongoing Living Campaigns (after which this blog derives its name), as well a more one shot adventures. The purpose of the contest was to generate some new encounters for the voracious fans of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and I took them up on the challenge. However, there were some preliminary rules to which submissions had to adhere:
– First, the submission needed to be for any game the RPGA Network supported. This one was easy. I was so enraptured by the Planescape setting at that time (and still am) that I knew immediately that was my setting of choice. It also helped that there was only a single official Planescape adventure available for RPGA sanctioned tournaments at that time, named “The Poison Pen”, so I figured the setting’s fans would be thankful for any addition to the campaign.
– Pre-generated characters were not required, but welcomed. I read that to mean that the extra effort spent in creating player characters would give my submission an edge, so I made some. Eight of them to be exact, members of the Damage Control Company.
– Submissions had to include six “encounters”. Basically an “encounter” is a major storyline event that progresses the adventure. What the encounters were was up to the author, but had to include at least one each of the four “types”.
– A non-hostile encounter that requires negotiation.
– A trap or dilemma.
– A battle/combat.
– An obstacle.
The encounters could be a blend of any of those four types, but evidence of those types had to be plainly visible. My solution? I went the over-achiever route and included eight encounters, two of each type.
There were some final technical requirements such as double spaced, one inch margins (which I abided), not exceeding 32 pages (which I bent — the adventure was 32 pages exactly but the player characters were additional pages) and no fancy fonts (which I broke — how could I not use the iconic Exocet font in a Planescape product?)
I filled out the release form included on the page, sent the manuscript in duplicate, postmarked before the deadline, and then waited to hear back…
…and waited even more. The winner was to be announced the April 1998 issue of Polyhedron, but nothing was printed. Eventually Gen Con 98 rolled around that August and since I was going anyway, I made a distinct intention to ask the head of the RPGA himself about the status. All I got out was a hurried inquiry as he brushed past me and responded “We’re getting to it…”
More than a bit nonplussed, I went on to have one of the most incredible, and sadly last, Gen Con experiences of my life. Time passed, and I’d given up hope of hearing back from the RPGA, assuming they had alerted the winners and the silence meant I was not one of them. It faded from my memory, filed away under yet another good try that came to naught.
Then suddenly in 1999, I got a package in the mail from WotC. Inside, I was greeted with:
Turns out the Powers That Be had finally gotten around to judging the contest, and I’d won! Not only that, but the adventure was going to be run as the Origin’s Game Fair 2000 Team Event, which meant splitting it into two sections. They asked for some revisions (which I’ll get into another time), and I sent back the revised adventure quickly.
The adventure itself was only run once to my knowledge, at Origins. I don’t believe the RPGA ever put it up for sanctioned play, or if they did I missed ordering it. I’ve never gotten any feedback from players that participated in the event or the Dungeon Masters that ran the module. I did run the game locally once, at All The Fun Stuff, as part of my Open Cage campaign. But other than that, I have no idea if anyone out there actually enjoyed the game.
It’s now 15 years since I wrote the adventure. I had planned to make two sequels, with the NPCs growing older between each. Unfortunately, after finally finding out this first adventure was accepted, the Planescape setting was cancelled. Fan attempts at converting the setting to 3E always seemed to either fall apart or wildly miss the mark. It is just as well the WotC has made their products hostile to Planescape since then, as it leaves me with an intact multiverse to play with…