Freelancer Interview: Adam Roy

Over the last few months we’ve twice had an opportunity to learn a bit more about Christina Stiles, the lead designer on Open Design’s Journeys to the West project, as well as learning more about the project itself. And I love getting those peeks behind the curtain on new, exciting gaming projects.

So I’m happy to say that Adam Roy, long-time gamer with a history of contributing to RPG projects as an editor, writer, and playtester for companies and sites you may have heard of like White Wolf, Green Ronin, Kobold Quarterly, and Open Design… You have heard of them, haven’t you? 🙂

Now he’s helping out Christina on Journeys at Open Design and even more on the way… And he was kind enough to answer a few questions!

Q: First, thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions! You’ve been involved in the Journeys to the West project with Christina Stiles and the rest of the crew at Open Design in the last few months. How’s that going?

My pleasure, Brian. The project is going very well; thank you for asking. The types of islands, cities, NPCs, monsters and adventures for Journeys to the West have been decided upon, and are in the process of being written up by the Open Design patrons that successfully pitched them. The idea behind this anthology is that any DM can use the islands, creatures or adventures as stand-alone elements in their campaign, or they can combine some or all of them into a larger, seafaring campaign. An awesome campaign that is chock full of pirates, sea monsters, and mysterious islands with lost temples and hidden treasures! What’s not to like?

Q: I really enjoyed your article about the Behtu at and heard from Christina that you’re working on expanding on that “monster vibe.” Any hints as to what that has led to?

Thanks! We have received a lot of positive feedback about the Behtu as a monster race, as well as their demonic lord and master, Mechuiti. Apparently, there is a soft spot in the black hearts of many a DM for a race of fiendish, sorcerous cannibal pygmies. The online article is definitely not the last time
we will see the Behtu. They may make some small appearances in Journeys, and we are looking at a possible article or series of related articles in the print version of Kobold Quarterly that expand the lore surrounding the Behtu and Mechuiti.

I am also working on a proposal for a project for Open Design that could be said to have a “monster vibe”…but more on that later, after it is finalized, approved and officially announced.

Q: You’ve been helping out with a number of Open Design projects over the years. What’s been your favorite moment so far?

Oh, boy, there have been any number of them. There was holding the first published copy of Streets of Zobeck in my hands. There was also getting positive feedback and amazing notes from the great developer Brandon Hodge on my first big Open Design freelance project, The Player’s Guide to the Wasted West (part of the Midgard setting – forthcoming). Another is whenever I start a new Open Design project, and I see all the familiar names and faces of my old friends, favorite patrons and great freelancers signing onto the boards – that’s always exciting.

Q: As a long-time gamer, what first attracted you to the hobby? What was your first gaming experience like?

As a child, my brother and I and all our friends were always playing “War” in the backyard: the climbing bars would become a submarine and we would pretend to sink Nazi battleships, etc.

So when an older kid, sort of the “Eddie Haskell” of the block, introduced us to the first boxed set of D&D as well as TFT’s Advanced Melee, we were hooked. I was usually the DM, for the customary reason that everyone else wanted to be players. Our first games, like most young players, didn’t get much past the “hit the orc and take his pie” level of play. Sometimes I would innovate and there would be two orcs…with funny hats…and a birthday cake. My brother loved birthday cake.

There is a bit of a funny story that my parent’s still tell, about when I was thirteen or so: the local TV station had “Saturday Kung Fu Theater”, where they would show all those cheesy and/or classic kung fu movies from the fifties, sixties and seventies. One day the four of us turned it on in the middle of the program, and we were trying to figure out where and when the movie was supposed to be set.

Suddenly, this one character whips out a weighted chain and starts disarming swordsmen left and right. My brother and I turn to each other and say, almost in chorus. “Oh, that’s a manriki-gusari !!! That means that this movie is set in Japan between the 13th and 15th centuries!” Our parents turned to us, mouths agape, and asked how the heck we could possibly know that bit of obscure Asian history. We simply said “D&D”. That was the day when our parents decided letting us play D&D might actually be beneficial to our mental development.

Q: And now as a long-time contributor to various projects, what was the first product you ever contributed to and were recognized in the credits for? How long did it take from when you started editing, play testing, and writing before you achieved that first credit?

It took a few years, but mostly because I came to it gradually, almost accidentally. I had been gaming casually for years, and had started to meet some industry people through conventions and LARPing. Most importantly, I met Teeuwyn Woodruff, who was working for Wizards of the Coast at the time. As a gaming friend, I was the occasional sounding board for Teeuwyn when she would start brainstorming a project. Most importantly, she introduced me to her then co-worker, Wolfgang Baur, who has become my great friend of the last two decades or so. Originally the youngest editor of the legendary Dragon magazine, he has famously gone on to invent the award-winning Patron system of game design that is the basis of his Open Design group. He is also the publisher of the even more award-winning Kobold Quarterly magazine and website. I did some playtesting on various OGL projects for Wolfgang, such as The Book of Roguish Luck for Green Ronin. If I remember correctly, the Roguish Luck book was my first official industry credit. If I had worked at it more diligently, or joined a Patron project sooner, I am sure more writing credits would have happened earlier.

It is funny how things go in cycles. I am working on a Pathfinder-rules version of the “Shadowsworn” class that I believe first appeared in the “Roguish” book, and it may pop up in one of the forthcoming Midgard supplements.

Q: If you were starting out in today’s RPG market, where would you start?

Absolutely I would start by joining an Open Design Patron project. It is like an intense game-design boot camp, a months-long game design seminar, and a master class in designing games from Wolfgang, and other game design luminaries, all rolled into one. Best of all, at the end of the project you get a cool, shiny game supplement that you can say you contributed to, in some combination of cash, design or even just rules nitpicking. There is a place for every kind of gamer and would be game-designer in every Open Design project.

Also, if you want to enter the industry with a splash, or at least see what kind of writing and design gets ahead in this industry, there are a number of contests you can enter. The most famous is Paizo’s annual RPG Superstar Contest, but is always running contests as well.

My friend Adam Daigle won the first “King of the Monsters” contest at two or three years ago, moved on to writing a number of successful freelance projects, and is now joining Paizo’s design staff full-time starting this month. There are two contests being judged and voted on right now at the website: “Seize the Tin Crown” for writing, and an art contest. Check them out!

Q: What skills are “must have” for anyone who is getting started with freelancing?

To quote every editor and developer I have ever worked for, met, or even heard of, the three most important skills for a freelancer are: punctuality, punctuality and punctuality. Imagine a publisher, editor or developer who has two freelancers she can give some work to: the first is a journeyman author, whose work is solid, if unremarkable, but always meets deadlines; the other writer is J.R.R. Tolkien and Gary Gygax re-incarnated, but whose turnovers are always between three weeks late and never. Who do you think is going to get the next available assignment? Editors and publishers have deadlines to meet. In order for them to meet those, you need to meet yours as the writer.

Also, be well read. Read everything you can get your hands on, whether it be history, mythology, current events, technology reviews, whatever. You never know where you will get your next great idea from, and you will always have ideas tucked away for later when you need them most. There never was a great writer that wasn’t first a voracious reader. Last time I counted, I average about 800 pages a week of reading.

Also, as a quick Kobold plug, I can’t recommend the Kobold Guide to Board Game Design and the Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design enough, especially if you are thinking of writing, editing or publishing any kind of game: RPG-, board-, video- or otherwise. They are chock full of insightful design essays and lessons from game industry luminaries like Mike Selinker, Dale Yu and Richard Garfield. I have them on my writing bookshelf, right next to my game rulebooks and handbooks, and they are very well-thumbed. They help freelancers avoid (and/or fix) the most common writing and design problems, from meeting deadlines to having your wife or other “first reader” point out your most egregious design errors (something else I can’t recommend enough).

Q: What is the “Humanoid Anti-Defamation League” all about? Can anybody join?

Tuskers Unite! That is actually an old joke between Wolfgang and I, dating back to the 3rd Edition of D&D. Half-Orcs were the only humanoid PC race that had a net negative adjustment to their ability scores (-2), instead of the +2 that the perky elves and annoying halflings and gnomes all received. I was going to get some sort of letter/email-writing effort together to demand that Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams rewrite this terrible wrong being done to tusked humanoids. Obviously, it never got very far. Someday I will get around to selling memberships, printing t-shirts and creating an awesome, tusk-filled website…that’s the
trouble with being a chaotic humanoid, I guess.

Q: Do you have any good roleplaying stories you’d like to share?

I have already shared a couple above, but one other that I always remember involves going to one of my first gaming conventions when I was about sixteen. One of the sessions I played centered around the player characters storming a defensive position at the top of a steep hill. The players at the table consisted of about five teenagers…and a twenty-eight year old active duty Green Beret officer.

We let him take the lead, did what he told us, and overran the position in about four minutes of game time. We finished a four-hour game in about twenty minutes. I seem to remember a stunned and over-awed DM awarding us triple points for style and efficiency….

Q: And finally, what is the one question you didn’t get asked that you would like to answer?

Well, as a parent, I have to admit I am a little disappointed you didn’t ask me about my best freelance project to date: my two boys, Jason (six) and Alex (eight)…also known and Boomer the Half-Orc and Xander the Gunslinger. Yep, we start the RPG indoctrination pretty early in the Roy household…Our motto is: “Raising the next generation of geeks since 2003.”


Huge thanks go to Adam for answering my questions and I wish him all the best with Journeys to the West and all the other projects he has in the hopper!

For more about Journeys, check out! And be sure to keep an eye out for Adam Roy’s name in the credits for any books you may have picked up or are on the horizon…!

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4 comments to Freelancer Interview: Adam Roy

  • I really love the Open Design Projects and one day I hope to participate. I think lots of gamers are looking for ways that they can get their ideas out there to the market. I love that we are passing our geek down to our children. Imagine teaching reading, writing, math, and problem solving to our kids at a young age. Now I come off my soapbox. Thanks for the great interview.

  • James Thomas

    The Kobold Courier led me to your website. Glad I visited. Great getting to know Adam Roy better through this interview! Thanks!

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