The RPGBOT.Podcast is celebrating 1 year and 100,000 downloads!

RPGBOT.News – Matthew Whitby on the Tome of Silence and Getting Published on DMsGuild

Show Notes

In this episode of RPGBOT.News, we talk to Matthew Whitby. We discuss Matt’s newly-released adventure Tome of Silence, his podcast Dungeon Master’s Guild House, and how to get started on DMsGuild.

If you’ve enjoyed the show, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, and rate us on Spotify or your favorite podcast app. It’s a quick, free way to support the podcast, and helps us reach new listeners.

Materials Referenced in this Episode

Transcript

Randall 

Now what’s funny is we returned with a second ago. Occasionally my brain explodes. And now it’s happening,

Matthew Whitby 

I thought everyone was having fun there for a second.

Randall 

Welcome to RPGBOT,news. I’m Randall James and with me is Tyler Kamstra.

Tyler 

Hi, everybody.

Randall 

 And Random Powell.

Random 

Good afternoon.

Randall 

And today we have a special guest coming to us all the way from England, Matt Whitby.

Matthew Whitby 

Hello. Yeah, so, Yeah, I’m Matthew Whitby. I am tabletop RPG creator. I’ve been publishing on the DMsGuild for about two, three years now. I’m also a DMsGuild Herald and the host of the Dungeon Master’s Guild House podcast. So, yeah, from one podcast space to another. Other than that, I’ve kind of more recently I’ve just released one of my newest adventures that I’m quite pleased about. The, the Tome of Silence: the Attack of the Actual Sound Devourers, which was the kind of inspiration of just kind of… I’d like to call it schlock, but just old-fashioned action films of you know, the “it came from the deeps” and all things like that, with some spooky horrors and everything and guides. Yeah, that’s, that’s me, really.

Randall 

It absolutely leaps off the page that way too, which is fantastic. Tyler, what are we going to do today?

Tyler 

Well, we’re going to talk about Matt and some of his work. We’re going to talk about DMsGuild and how to get started with publishing there. And we’re going to talk about the Dungeon Master’s Guild House podcast, which Matt runs.

Randall 

Nice, awesome. Matt, you have what I think it’s 33 different publications on DMsGuild?

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah, I mean, looking on like the website, it says like 50 plus, but a lot of those are like Fantasy Ground conversions, which kind of, you know, boosts, which is, again, always a really nice way to kind of research numbers and seem like I have doubled the number of adventures. But yeah, no, yeah, I placed like, 33 or so. And I’ve kind of been churning through bit by bit over the last two years. And it’s been, it’s been a wild ride.

Randall 

And then Tome of Silence has come out in the past few weeks.

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah, literally, I think Tues… Well, I don’t I don’t wanna date it too much. But yeah, it came out in January, end of January.

Randall 

2022. For those people in the future.

Yeah, it actually came out in the future. That’s how advanced it is. Yeah, it was, it was. It was an interesting one. It was, I kind of wanted to, I just finished reading through the Candlekeep Mysteries. And it kind of struck me as kind of a series of very kind of contained adventures. I thought, you know, I’ll give it a crack. I’ll write one of my own. And there was like two kinds of points of inspiration. One was like, Okay, well, how do I keep it kind of contained in kind of a small form adventure? And secondly, it was actually inspiration from critical role. Because within season two, while the Mighty Nein they’re in this was at the this happy fun ball, which is like a series of, you know, advanced dungeons and weird rooms, they’re going to this place called, like, I think it’s like the Prison of Soot, where it’s this room where there’s like ash, or like, soot kind of hanging in the air that kind of punishes casters or spell casters. And the party were just very adept in kind of getting past this challenge, that it wasn’t really super explored. So I was like, Okay, well, for one shot, I think it’s quite entertaining to kind of play the idea of like, forcing the entire party to be silent, or to kind of navigate through a space as quietly as possible. And then it was going and playing around with the idea of like, okay, well, what is is there a space of silence? Which came up with like the you know, it’s the hushed monastery. There’s a whole kind of group of individuals who kind of worship this god of silence. You know, a tying in with the Forgotten Realms lore and all that. And then I was like, well you know what, it it would be fun to go there but we need like a monster. We need a threat. We need like, you know, a hook or something. And that’s when the kind of like the concept for the actual sound devourers came in. And Lore Evans, who is the the kind of artist behind it, just just knocked out the park. I gave them you know, a bunch of kind of inspirations behind it. And they they came back with the sneaky sneaky snake boy that is on the front cover.

Randall 

Yeah. The creepy looking.

Random 

It feels very much like, what if a Naga but worse?

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah!

Random 

So I read through the whole module, I guess I would call it, the preview very generously, there available to just peruse, and I absolutely loved it. It just immediately from a mechanical standpoint, I picked out of all of the classes going to run that, sorcerers are just going to get wrecked.

Matthew Whitby 

Sorry, so um, so in one of the play testings, if again, I was doing like a place with a Sorcerer, who happened to also have Subtle Spell.

Random 

Okay.

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah. Bards, on the other hand, they’re not going to have a good time.

Random 

That’s true. Yeah. But it definitely occurred to me, like, the like your Wizard, your Cleric, your Druid who can prepare daily and can, you know, say, Ah, all right, well, I need to go and choose some spells that don’t have verbal components to make my life easier. I have to say the feel of everything. The progression. I had a great time reading it and I think that it would be a great thing to play.

Matthew Whitby 

Ah, thank you very much.

Randall 

Yeah, it was really interesting to me. So we actually just just did a show, talking about VSM for spells, and like how important these components are, and the fact that a lot of people in their games skip considering the implications of, you know, having verbal, having a somatic. I say that to say, like, this seems like, Okay, if we want to enforce it, let’s play this module. And let’s really think about what’s going to happen when we go to, when we go to be verbal.

Matthew Whitby 

I think one of the things, especially as I was coming up with it is is that I was, I am worried that like, if you have an entire campaign of this, it would be insufferable. No, no one would be having fun. But that’s why it kind of sits perfectly as like a one shot. It’s an adventure that, you know, you kind of go through once and I don’t know, maybe learn a little bit things more about the crunchy mechanics of okay, well, now, I need to need to be as quiet as possible. How do I kind of navigate space without having to, you know, make a sound or anything?

Randall 

And I do also ,like, I thought it was great that you also introduced items that relieved the burden of not being able to use verbal components. Which, I guess maybe we should say, so what makes it the Hushed Monastery? Why do Why do our adventures have to be so quiet in there?

Matthew Whitby 

So it’s kind of always fun when I kind of come up with like a concept of like, okay, well, how do I kind of, you know, situate within the kind of existing Forgotten Realms lore. And I was looking through the kind of deities and Eldath, she stood out as the the deity of tranquil gardens and kind of, like, a very kind of druidic style. And I was like, Okay, well, there’s kind of space in there, because they’re also known as kind of like, I think the hushed one or, you know, just, I think if we take a, I don’t know, like a follower, or like a sect of their religion, who just take it to the nth degree. And rather than focus on all the other sides of Eldath, they go, we think, you know, the best way to kind of service or, you know, following our deity it is to live in utter silence. So they find this little this little mountain, which is like a, I’m gonna mispronounce it, anauric chamberr?

Randall 

Anechoic.

Matthew Whitby 

But basically, it’s the chamber, at the very heart of this mountain that has little to no sound. And I think what when you walk into it in real life, you hear, you could hear your blood pumping, you hear your, like, your heart. And from there, they’ve just kind of formed this whole hushed monastery, which and through, bit by bit, they decided that, okay, well, we want to kind of politely enforce this kind of silence among it. So they have these kinds of runic vows of silence throughout the chamber that kind of have been enchanted into the walls, that if anyone speaks, then depending on where it is, within the monastery has different severity, like within like the metal where people eat and stuff, you feel like a little bit queasy. Within some of the other chambers, you feel like, you know, a little bit stunned, but within the very heart of the chamber, it can be kind of debilitating to kind of, you know, speak in any way, shape, or form. And this silence is kind of what allowed the natural sound devourers to kind of venture theor way in. There’s also kind of like a another deity at play, but you know, there’s a lot going on.

Randall 

Well, and so you give these items, so that adventurers coming in, like okay, you need to speak occasionally, or you might need to use one or two spells. And so I’m going to give you a few freebies, but certainly not your whole spell list at the… or your spell slots at the level that you expect these adventurers to be. One other thing I want to call out because we keep talking about spell casting, there is an expectation even that you ought to have your players at the table communicating without words. So the RP opportunity of like, how do… I need you to do something. How do I communicate that I need you to do something? Did we carry pencil and paper into this dungeon? I don’t know.

Random 

I just have to say, suddenly everyone who has optimized deciding I’m taking drow sign language feels immensely justified,

Matthew Whitby 

There’s one person that knows theives’ cant, and I was like, I’m sorry, I don’t I don’t I don’t know what you’re saying. I just I never took that lesson.

Tyler 

Did drow sign language, make it into fifth edition, or did we..

Random 

It sure did.

Tyler 

That’s great. Yeah. And there’s a lot of races that have telepathy that might help as well. But yeah, for your typical like, humans, dwarves, elves, etc, this is definitely going to be a challenge. So, Matt, the adventure is about 25 pages long. And you’ve described it as a one shot. Roughly, how many hours do you think it would take to play through this thing?

Matthew Whitby 

So in kind of the playtesting, we did, it sits nicely in the three to four hours kind of range. And obviously, that kind of a lot dictates kind of On Pace. Some parties are like, you know, upon seeing the signs saying that beyond this point, you must be silent, they’d like, let’s take a little bit of time, like in this room that we can talk to kind of work things out. And you know, I think that’s kind of, if you kind of explore the whole monastery that kind of expands time, but that’s kind of why I have those items kind of… they’re kind of placed, kind of out and kind of off the beaten path. Because I think a good part of like my design strategy is you can’t really predict what kind of composition a party is coming in. And to at least have, you know, solutions kind of baked in with the adventure as well. It means that given enough time, everyone should be up to, you know, make it through without everyone horrifically dying.

Randall 

One of the things I’ll say that I really liked about this setup, the adventure, it is written as a one shot, but you do give ideas and hooks for how to come into it, if you’re just integrating this into a campaign you’re playing. And also how to get out of it. I don’t want to spoil anything for folks who might play it. But there, there is an opportunity for the enterprising DM to pick this up and say, I’m going to use this to actually set up maybe a next stage of what’s happening. And I thought that was really brilliant. I liked that in the writing.

Matthew Whitby 

I think it kind of comes across in in some of my other things as well, because I think with adventures on the DMsGuild, aren’t necessarily the most best-selling products comparatively. But making it as easy as possible for the DM to just take it in and insert it within their home game. And to you know, expands out into a whole kind of campaign, great. If not, you know, it is what it is.

Randall 

So you you bring up DMsGuild, let’s talk about it a little bit. So you said you’ve been publishing a DMsGuild? I think you said two three years?

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah. Yeah. I think was it coming up, yeah, I think I think about August or July is gonna be my third year anniversary.

Randall 

Okay. And then you also, you talked about you have your artists

Matthew Whitby 

Lore.

Randall 

Oh, excuse me.

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah, no.

Randall 

And then you have other folks who are working with you as well.

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah. So basically, depending on like the project, I’ve kind of bounced around. I think it’s pretty consistent that whatever I work on, it’s always gonna have an editor. That’s rule number one is hire editor. They’re worth their weight in gold. And, and yeah, I’ve had the kind of, the privilege kind of work with a bunch of different people, and sometimes it kind of shapes. So with, what is it, the Tome of Silence, I had the pleasure to work with them Scabriel, who also edited the Longsaddle Gazeteer. Again, I’m thankful that, you know, she has agreed to work with me two projects back to bank and hasn’t like I’m done! Your words. There’s too much. I can’t fix all of these.

Randall 

I can’t do this anymore. I want 110%, let’s do it. Yeah. When you first got started writing for DMsGuild, were you using an editor? Or is this a lesson you learned the hard way along the way?

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah, I think it’s funny. It’s a lesson that I learned firsthand. And then in kind of, like speaking with other designers on the podcast, it’s, it’s it’s a lesson that so many people learn a little bit later down the line. But I think it’s it’s kind of understandable, because when you’re releasing your first stuff on the DMsGuild, I think there’s that kind of hesitancy about like, oh, it’s not super polished, it’s not, you know, it’s just, I’m just kind of putting up there, that you kind of hesitate to go to get more people involved. I think, you know, it’s that kind of aspect of collaboration. It all kind of feeds into the final product and kind of makes everything better for the better words, you know?

Randall 

No, that makes good sense. I will ask, too, so you talked about using an artist when I looked through Tome of Silence’s I didn’t know that you included, I noticed, excuse me, that you included some maps. Do you, like, draw out a concept for the map and then bring it to somebody and say “how do we make this pretty?” Like, what’s your process for actually building a map in your products?

Matthew Whitby 

So, again, in the past, there’s been a number of ventures where I’ve kind of like, draw my map from the ground up. For Tome of Silence, it was actually I used, so Dyson logos who does a lot of maps, or was it the Wizards of the Coast hardcovers and stuff, they have a fantastic resource, which is a collection of like, commercial, like for free commercial license maps. And because of the scope of Tome of Silence, I was thinking, you know, I just kind of, you know, I kind of went through their current collection maps, I was like, You know what, with a little bit of tweaking this, this could be perfect. And really see the kind of tweaks I need to do was just kind of adjust the paths. Because before there was, you know, there was a tunnel that led straight to the final room. And I was like, maybe maybe that we shouldn’t have that. Maybe we should try and get them through, you know, some of the other places first. But in other things like when I was writing, what was it, Volo’s Guide to Getting Murdered.

Randall 

That is a fantastic title, by the way.

Matthew Whitby 

I just I just have a personal vendetta against them. The adventure is set within one of the walking statues of Waterdeep. And there’s no previous map of that and there’s not anything close. So I just kind of like okay, well, let’s… it’s, I forget the name, I think it’s the eagle or the hawk. Either way, it’s it’s the bird man that has like an entire, like, apartment structure on the inside. I worked out what, you know, they’re like this or something like that. I was like, Okay, well, if I divide them into chunks. That’s the rough shape of their torso. But yeah, it’s a lot of doodling and then kind of iterative of like, working with the kind of like, I quite like Dyson Logos. So when I was making my maps, I do my best to kind of you know, intimidate… er, not intimidate. Imitate I’m not very intimidating.

Randall 

Role for imitation.

Tyler 

Dyson Logos does really good maps. Pretty sure his website is still up, but not super active. But if you, if you’ve ever seen the maps with, like, the cross hatching around the edges of the map that’s pretty, pretty distinct Logos style. A lot of people refer to that as “Dysonizing.” I tried to do that in the game with Random once a while ago, and he asked why he was giving his map hair. So apparently I need practice.

Randall 

You’ll get it one day. We’ll keep trying.

Random 

Speaking of DMsGuild, I was just curious, like, you sort of talked about picking up an artist over time, picking a mapping over time. What made you decide in the first place, I have something that I think the internet needs and decide to publish there?

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah, it was basically… kind of close to about about four years ago, I was just kind of, it’s a classic case, that kind of happened a lot. I was kind of running my own game, I had this whole kind of town kind of developed, which was like, it’s, well Cravenhome, which is like my first set of products. And yeah, over time I was doing like a lot of kind of prep. And then it’s kind of that natural jump worth a lot of people have, like I’ve been doing during a lot of prep. It’s not gonna be that much more prep to kind of get it in, you know, a vaguely publishable unedited format. And yeah, that was pretty much it. And then, you know, after that, it was kind of… well, okay, so, first mission is I submitted it onto the DMsGuild, I got a very polite message from someone going, Hey, you, you need to put the DMsGuild logo on the front cover. That’s one of the one of the rules. And I was like, oh, no, oh, no, so quickly mad dash away to go and it’s like, you know, fix the cover. And I’m going to resubmit itself. And then that was kind of like my gateway into the community of someone, you know, politely correcting me. And then, yeah, I kinda like… the rest of kinda history. It’s just… once I realized I could, I just kpey going. Yeah, I just kept on.

Randall 

Did you have, did you have success with your first publication? Or was it the second or third? Or fifth or 10th? Or 50th?

Matthew Whitby 

That’s a really good question. I honestly, I think it was… I, I guess I would define, like the first success probably like Volo’s Guide to Getting Murdered, which was like a kind of yeah, pretty, like relatively big success for me. But then prior to that, I had the chance to kind of work on like a, kind of like a bundle of like, collaborations. So there was like, you know, the cursed cost the series, you know, there was I feel bad. It’s like, I’m tring to juggle like, 30, 33 projects. But no, it was, it was it was it was again, I was kind of blown away by you know, the open arms and people like, you canjoin this project, just you know, you can write some stuff. And yeah, I think with with with Volo, Volo’s Guide to Getting Murdered. That was the first one where I was like, wpw, it turns out all people hate Volo as much as I do. This is…

Randall 

And so at what point during this, did you then say, okay, you know what we need to do? In addition to publishing on DMsGuild, we need to have DM’s Guild House.

Matthew Whitby 

Oh, so it was it was more of like a… I saw it was while kind of being within the community. There was kind of previously, there were like a number of kind of podcasts who kind of sat within the space, but they had either kind of like, died down or, you know, they kind of stepped away. And the DMsGuild didn’t really have anything. So it’s more of a case of like, I can, I can natter a little bit, I can have a chat. And mostly kind of like for purely selfish reasons. I kind of wanted to chat to cool, cool designers and cool people and

Randall 

We don’t know anything about that. That’s not our thing at all.

Matthew Whitby 

You know, just kind of, you know, classic case of like, you know, I think Christmas has just passed. I bought myself a camera. I sat in my bedroom. You know, I mentioned I think I managed to get JVC Perry, another fellow Brit to sit down and chat about, I think it was Called From the Depths and their kind of adventures and all that. And yeah, just just kept doing it. And finally afterwards I just the other day, I’ve recorded my… was it two year anniversary? So yeah, I’ve almost been doing it as long as I’ve been publishing stuff. So.

Tyler 

So two years on the podcast. How many episodes have you done that?

Matthew Whitby 

So that would be 104.

Tyler 

Wow, you… one a week for two years straight? Well done!

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah. Okay, so I… two of those episodes are just me solo just because of scheduling issues. And I count those.

Randall 

Okay, but I want to be clear. Two out of 104, you had to do by yourself. For 102 episodes, that means you have to get somebody to come talk to you.

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah, yeah. And I I’ve been I’ve been very fortunate where I’ve kind of, again, just because of… I don’t know, I’ve tried to go out of my way to try and make sure it’s always always new guests as much as possible, because… There’s too many talented people.

Randall 

But that’s even harder. You’re saying you’ve had like 102 unique guests?

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah. Okay, so I keep adding, like, qualifiers. But for the two year anniversary special. I’ve done like a roundtable. So I’ve brought some people back from, you know, a blast from the past. Everyone comes back and I’m… Yeah, no, yeah. And just I can proudly say 100+ unique guests, yes.

Randall 

That’s, that’s fantastic. And so, tell folks, maybe for folks who aren’t familiar, what kind of things are you talking about on the podcast? What’s the typical episode look like?

Matthew Whitby 

Yeah, so the kind of the, the conceit of the whole kind of episode and everything is just, it’s individual’s kind of creative process. I try and get people from, you know, who do monster companions, do kind of edit editors, adventure designers. I do have like, again, as an adventure designer myself, I do have a preference. So you know, every now and then there’s like, I asked a lot of adventure designers. But it seems like you know, what is their favorite part of the process? What lessons have they learned in, you know, like the journey? Again, a lot of it comes back as hire an editor. Or you know, just just release more more content, you know, there’s a bunch of good lessons to kind of come up again and again. But no, it’s always kind of interesting inside of like, you know, where they draw the inspiration from. And yeah, just like a deep dive into, you know, what they’ve done before what they’re kind of working on at the moment.

Randall 

Yeah. Are there, are there common… so you talking about hiring a editor, and that makes perfect sense to me. What are some common tools that you feel like every time you talk to somebody, this is a tool that folks talk about, this is what people recommend?

Matthew Whitby 

There’s not so much in the way of tools, just because I think it clearly clearly comes across that the… there, I guess, this is a cop out. But everyone has such a very unique and kind of diverse, creative prossess kind of approach things. You know, every now and then I bumped to people who are very much like me, and in kind of the, in fighting the kind of blank page problem. They’re, like, big, they love to create kind of big skeletons. There’s other people who are like, I just focus on one scene, and that kind of, you know, I kind of get that all out or, or some people just like I do one monster every day, you know, I do one encounter every day, you know, and that’s how I kind of like build up catalogs of products. But also kind of always keep coming up is sometimes it’s layout stuff, in terms of like, you know, that there’s I know that homebrewery has came up once or twice. So those kind of tools, it’s kind of nice, nice ways for people who aren’t art savvy to literally get borderline, you know, like a WotC-style layouts. Things like Inkarnate for like maps, which is which is nice little big resource. Yeah, as well as that on the DMsGuild. The DMsGuild has a lot of really nice templates. So my name is Laura Hurst Brunner did a Word template. And it’s yeah, it’s kind of like a fantastical temple template where you could just use Word. Google Docs is amazing, but you do need to be careful about its… what is it, its spellcheck? Because it’s not as robust as Word. So a lot of my, like, project things is I write in Google Docs, because that way editors can come over and in and, you know, paint that my page in red. But before I before I do, I just kind of run it over to two words to kind of fix bits and bobs and take out all the U’s that me as an English person I will try and cram in.

Randall 

That’s funny, my office actually in Slack, we we prefer the U’s, which confuses me, because I don’t know anybody in the office who is British. Anyway, I’m constantly being told that I’m spelling this incorrectly.

Matthew Whitby 

It’s catching on, finally!

Randall 

Or Slack has been bribed. I don’t know how this has happened. Yeah, yeah. I mean, you bring up a Homebrewery and Inkarnate. Like, those are fantastic tools. And I’ve been using Homebrewerya lot lately for, like, my own structuring, because it’s very satisfying to like, start with a tool like that, and feel like I’m immediately having success. And it’s like, this looks real. You know, I’ve had my kids come up and look over my shoulder. It’s like, Oh, what is that? It’s like, well, it’s something that I’m writing. You know. One of us is proud. You can guess which one. So yeah, we’ll include links in the show notes for those tools if anybody listening at home is saying it’s like, oh, I think I’d like to take a look at Inkarnate to make some apps.

Tyler 

Yeah. Inkarnate’s a solid tool. And a Homebrewery has been a staple of homebrew stuff for years at this point, very solid, very simple to use. Definitely check those out. And yeah, we’ll have links in the show notes.

Randall 

All right. Well, Matt, thank you very much for coming on with us. We’ve definitely enjoyed it. Any parting words you want to share with listeners at home?

Matthew Whitby 

Other than that? Yeah, no, the the Time of Silence is up in the DMsGuild. What is it… I was about to say, I think it’s $3.95. I had to do the conversion rate in my head.

Random 

That metric currency you’ve got.

Matthew Whitby 

But no, other than that, yeah, you can follow up follow me at @WhitbyWrites. Yes, I can spell as well as if you just search for the Dungeon Master’s Guild House on YouTube. Or if you follow me Twitter, you can find my podcast and everything like that. But other than that, no, I think. Thank you so much for having me on. It’s been a pleasure.

Randall 

No absolutely, it’s been fantastic. And we’ll include, like, all of that… all of the “How to Find Matt”s in the show notes as well. So if you’re listening right now, feel free to find it. Click through and yeah, follow him on Twitter. What are you doing right now? Alright, thanks a lot folks. We will see you next time.

Tyler 

This is the awkward part at the end of the episode where we wait for someone to say something funny so that Dan can stick it in after the outro.

Matthew Whitby 

Oh yeah, we call this like “an explosion happened.” Or like, you know a dog came in on the skateboard.

Randall 

Ah! Why are you doing that to me?

No Responses

Leave a Reply