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Winning DM Interviews

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Winning DM Interviews

Spookiest Room Challenge 2010


In October, three DMs set out to create the spookiest room in a haunted house. They used RoA's powerful Stage Manager System (SMS) and the DM Placeable Attitude Adjuster (Pepper). The Pepper gives DMs the ability to precisely position placeables in game. Placeables can be moved in all three axes, down to 0.1 meter accuracy. The SMS allows DMs to save set-ups in game outside of the Toolset. These dynamic tools were developed by RoA scripter Malishara.


With the DM Spookiest Room Challenge RoA DMs were assigned rooms in a haunted house to decorate. Player characters toured the haunted house in DMed sessions. Later the players voted for their favorite room. Athena Meter and Mykkal tied for first place. Running a close second place was Flamecrow. I interviewed the two first place DMs. Prior to each interview, I include a small description of their respective rooms.


Athena Meter

A Glorious End



RoA's resident graphic artist Madam Bloodbath, as Athena is affectionately called, created a room featuring her original RoA diety, Glory. When player characters entered the haunted house, they stepped from a portal into a foggy hall, its walls and floor smeared with blood. Bones littered the floor. Rainbow colors scintillated from behind the nearest door, enticing characters to open that door. When they opened the door a lush, green forest greeted them. A path beckoned them inside. The promised rainbow swept up and out of the room. However, as one walked the path it soon became apparent that the burgeoning life was a tease. After a few steps the forest thinned and plants grew stunted. The path led to a desert bereft of all life. Glory, a stunningly beautiful girl child, stood at the center of death.


  • Where did you get your start in role play games?
    Athena: I started role playing in high school, I wanted to play in grade school but the boys would not let me *pouts* When my little brother was old enough to be interested. I learned to play with him and his friends. After college I met others my age and played with them. Then I worked at TSR and got to play with the game designers as well. RoA reminded me a lot of PnP D&D and that is one of my favorite aspects to this day.
  • What led you to become a DM on Realms of Annakolia?
    Athena: I love to tell stories. I thought perhaps as a DM I could facilitate story telling more effectively. Flamecrow was my mentor through the DM program and he has taught me so very much. As have all the DMs I have had the opportunity to observe and assist. I thank my lucky stars that I found RoA. I can not begin to count all the hours of pleasure I have gotten over the years from both playing and DMing.
  • Where do you find inspiration for your in-game designs?
    Athena: I am inspired by so very many things. Books, movies, TV in some cases. But beyond that some of my characters are very much like people I know *grins* Not that I would ever share that with them. A lot of my games are not linear, and the answer is not always as clear to figure out as it may have seemed in the beginning. I like to make people think. Perhaps even do a bit of soul searching. Black and white is so much easier to deal with than the shades of grey. However, how a character deals with the shades of grey is what, I think, defines them. And hopefully, helps them to grow.
  • How long did it take you to make your room?
    Athena: You are asking me a TIME question??? *crumb* I did not know there were going to be hard questions. I did it in a little more than an evening. However, long that is.
  • What did you find the most challenging about designing your room?
    Athena: Well... I am not sure. I think I was reaching for an abstract and trying to make it tangible.. I was not sure if I would be able communicate my message or not. It's like designing a diorama. I wanted the entrance of the room to be lush and beautiful, just like so many parts of RoA are. Then I wanted the back of the room to be... well... dead. As Glory walks the plant life around her withers and dies. Without plants, animals die, people die, civilizations die... leaving only debris from what once was... on a dessert of nothingness. I am not sure if I succeeded in portraying that. But that was what I was going for.
  • Without revealing any spoilers, what in-game design project are you planning next?
    Athena: Well, I was toying with the idea of running a Fairy game for a few younger players... I still have plans for an Amazon game, but that is taking some time to set up. Of course my main game ideas are based around Glory and her story.
  • What name do you prefer we give your winning room?
    Athena: I would call that room "A Glorious End". As that is One potential outcome, if Glory is not resolved. (Not that I would ever allow that to happen, but it gives the characters some incentive *grins*)

Athena decorated a second room, a party gone wrong. Countless balloons and birthday cake contrasted with broken toys and a horrific clown.

  • From where did you take your inspiration for the "killer klown" room and NPC?
    Athena: Both my husband and my daughter think clowns are very creepy. So, I decided to make a clown that was more goth than bozo. And give it a nice sword and glowing eyes. I think the heart shaped balloons was the perfect background for the bloody massacre.
  • Of the two rooms you designed, which one is your favorite and why?
    Athena: I think the Glorious End was more subtle. That "could" very well be the end of the world. As she absorbs all the life from around her... everything she touches... begins to die or rot. However, those who have not had the pleasure of meeting her, won't understand just how special she is. The Killer Klown room is far more obvious and spooky as no one expects such horror from a child's birthday party.
  • Finally, what we're all curious to know, is your house full of balloons? ;)
    Athena: *laughs* I used to get at least a hundred helium balloons for Megan's birthday party every year. (I'd get a tank and fill them myself.) The whole great room would be filled with them. The children LOVED them and would play with them all day. I think balloons are very festive and fun. They are the perfect juxtaposition for a horrifyingly, bloody massacre of children. Which did not happen at Megan's birthday parties, by the way.



Doctor Bloodroot's Apartment



Real life horticulturist Mykkal/Mike festooned the door to Doctor Bloodroot's Apartment with autumn-colored ivy. The door opened to a room that would make any gardener proud. A jungle of plump, ripe pumpkins, giant gourds, and leafy ivy flourished. Just a few steps into the room the source of all this luxuriant plant life became clear. Characters found a gruesome scene, blood pooled beside a stack of corpses. A little pigmy worked his sharp knife on a body collecting fresh blood to add to his horrific cache of plant food.


  • Where did I get my start?
    I lightly dabbled with D&D games in high school but never got into it seriously, so I don't have a PnP background like many of our players do. After college and starting the real life jobs, a friend recommended NWN. I bought and played that until I completed all the expansion sets. It then sat unplayed on my computer for a year until I started exploring the on-line servers. The first one I came across was RoA. I haven't ever left.
  • How did I become a DM?
    The easy answer is, Barry let me. (thank you, thank you, thank you). One of the reasons I asked to become a DM was my realization I had a story to tell and it could only be told as a DM.
  • Where does my inspiration for designs come from?
    I have no clue. Set ups have always been a huge part of my games. I can spend hours setting placeables in order to help tell a story. I am so thankful for Malishara's stage manager widget. I wish I had it years ago!
  • How long did it take?
    About 2 to 3 hours.
  • Most challenging?
    I purposely kept it simple. But I added a bunch of detail (proper placement of Lizard Folk nDangly-things, stacking pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns so they all face inwards, customized text on books in the bookshelf, etc.) that I'm afraid is often overlooked as players charge through!
  • Latest projects?
    In the Horselord campaign, the Riders are visiting many areas which have been visited by the players as other PCs. They know OOC where the bad guys usually are, etc. I'm mixing it up on them. My goal is to have their visit as a Horselord to be unique with redesigns of the areas (using the stage manager widget) and spawning of different (and made-over) encounters. It won't be the same visit to the Witch King it usually is!


My final questions for Mykkal related to his interior designs for Annakol Sunbird Manor Apartments.

  • How many apartments have you designed? From the couple I've seen, you have designed them with themes. Please, tell us a few of those themes?
    Mykkal: Without actually counting, I think I've done about a dozen designs. Some are very unique. Others are variations of a previous design. Most of the time I've designed them with the inspiration from players on the server. "What type of room would so-and-so live in?" would be running through my mind. These wouldn't even be my characters but characters of other players on the server. I also did a few over-the-top rooms just to get the creative juices flowing.
  • Do you have a favorite?
    Mykkal: I don't have a favorite room at this time, but I do have a favorite placeable series at this moment: the lizard folk series. The danglies, the pots, the oversized fruit are so interesting and organic!!! I found them while decorating a room for Sunbird manor and used them throughout the haunted house design. The detail each of these placeables has is amazing. Players really need to stop and zoom in to appreciate them fully. (is that like stopping to smell the roses?)
  • When Sunbird Manor opens to player characters, are you available to help players put custom touches to apartments?
    Mykkal: I'm willing to help players with their designs. However, work and going back to school has really put a crimp on my availability lately.


With that, my interviews concluded. RoA DMs do some dazzling work. As Mykkal so aptly put it, "Players really need to stop and zoom in to appreciate them fully." Yes, Mykkal that is stopping to smell the roses. No doubt we will see more of amazing work from Athena, Mykkal, and the other Realms of Annakolia DMs.


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