May 8, 2023

Stars of the VTT Galaxy: #3 Rughalt

8 min read - Published: a year ago

Welcome to the third edition of our regular Stars of the VTT Galaxy interview series. In this series, we illuminate the already bright stars that make up our community of Bazaar Creators.

We are pleased have had the opportunity to speak with one-half (as he likes to say) of Dragonshorn Studios.

Dragonshorn Studios great adventures are designed and written for both D&D 5th edition, and D&D 3.5 edition, with support for Pathfinder 2nd edition coming to recent adventrues. We proudly present our interview with Rughalt below.

Our sky consists of many stars. Each of them illuminating our planet. As you can guess, the stars are you. Yes, it's you, the great content creators who, in your own unique way, shine on our worlds. Thank you for being part of our heavenly sky and weaving the fabric of our Community.
Let's meet today's star.

Introduce yourself! For those who don’t know what you do, what would you describe yourself as doing for a living?

Rughalt: My name is Antoni Sobkowicz, but on the internet, I have been known as Rughalt for the last… Uh… 20 years? I am one half of a small family publisher Dragonshorn Studios (which has existed for the last 15 years in some shape or form), that does 5e, 3.5e, and Pathfinder adventures, works on 3.5e systems for Foundry VTT and a lot of other small things that make the business tick. In my boring life, I am a programmer that loves all things IT - from hardware to coding to designing software.

What’s one random fact about you?

Rughalt: Hmmm… I can give you TTRPG related one, while I am relatively young (33 at the time of writing), I started playing RPG using original DnD rules from an old photocopied book my dad had from his times abroad (we did not have things like DnD in communist Poland in the 80s).

Did you design the Dragonshorn website yourself? It looks really nice!

Rughalt: Thanks! I used some standard parts (who does not these days), but the site is designed by me. I like pretty websites and I know that the website defines how people look at you in this day and age, so I try to make it look the best I can!

We knew from your website that it was a family business, but hadn't been aware it was going on for the past 15 years. How has the content it's created looked like in that time? What kind of formats (electronic, physical) have you published in, and for what systems?

Rughalt: Haha, the name is 15 years old, we have been publishing TTRPG stuff for only 2 years. Before it was my software projects (which I did a lot). And at the beginning, it was a website covering Baldur's Gate RPG series (and we even released some mods for the game)! I even have screenshots somewhere of how it looked!

How did you get started creating TTRPG content?

Rughalt: It started with my work on the 3.5e system for Foundry VTT… And my wife told me I should try writing and selling adventures I ran with our group! I added 2+2 and decided - I am good at doing Foundry stuff, there is close to 0 premade content for it (we were one of the first premium content providers), and I think my stories are good. So I wrote an encounter pack, whipped out Word, made a Foundry module and pdf… And it clicked!

We know that you got into content creation for Foundry VTT very early into its inception. It was really cool seeing someone make actual paid content for it.

Rughalt: It was kinda crazy. But it sold well and ensured me that this is a thing that may work. We have been steadily producing content ever since, recently expanding to Pathfinder Second Edition alongside DnD. While there were highs and lows, I like where are we now.

Where does the inspiration come from in the work you do? Or perhaps, your “muse”?

Rughalt: Solo adventures with my wife (the better half of the company) and the games we play in our group with my wife, dad, sister, and brother-in-law. I’m fact, all of the adventures we release were play-tested with them in some form!

What are your goals moving forward with your content?

Rughalt: We want to finish our new Kickstarter book The Goddess and the Fox first, and then get to updating our older content to also support Pathfinder. We are not big by any means and have limited capacity, but we aim to finally release a large hardcover book next year too… And get on the store shelves so people can just pick our books up!

Can you tell us something more about those books? Or is it under wraps?

Rughalt: Ah… We want to have all the content that we have in print in LGSs! We are printing some of the newer adventures as zines, and both our Kickstarter books, last year In the Court of the Frozen Queen and the upcoming The Goddess and the Fox (which you can still preorder on BackerKit) are premium softcovers printed adventures!
As for the hardcover book, during the last two years, we wrote over 100 encounters. We want to gather them up, refresh them, spice them with new art and release them as a proper, big book.
But this is a thing for the next year!

What made you create the content for classic systems like 3.5e, in addition to 5e?

Rughalt: I am an old fart, one can say. When I really got into the RPG hobby and wanted to move outside the original D&D, the book that was available in Polish was 3rd edition. I fell in love with the system and I am running it to date. That, plus the fact that I am the dev behind 3.5e for Foundry VTT made the decision a no-brainer.

What are some major issues you’ve experienced with?

Rughalt: It depends. I think the biggest hurdle was with getting comfortable enough with publishing. It’s hard. I still sometimes feel I release crap. But then I remember that it’s just me striving to be WotC on a budget. Outside writing, the worst time I remember was recent, that damn cash grabs OGL fiasco. It put all my business to a standstill and drained my strength and health.

What is the favorite adventure you’ve created?

Rughalt: In the Court of the Frozen Queen, where heroes discover the truth behind the appearance of the Ice Queen in the village of Fairhaven. It’s a mini-campaign with a final act that can be run in multiple ways depending on what characters are discovered and who they befriend. And it’s set up in a cold north, a setting I love to write stuff for.
(The inspiration for the adventure came, by the way, when listening to one of King Crimson's songs…. You can guess which one).😃

You made Legacies of the Dragon, a system-agnostic framework for writing adventures. What made you want to create this framework? What are your goals with it?

Rughalt: Mostly my own needs. When writing adventures for multiple systems you need to write them in a way that will be generic enough yet specific enough that they can be easily adapted. Then the OGL fiasco came and I just decided to write the rules up in a booklet that people can use… But I still do this mostly for myself and my content.

Last year was particularly successful for you, by all appearances. You ran a successful Kickstarter and were at your first convention as a publisher. And recently, you've talked of taking this full-time. What do you attribute to your recent success?

Rughalt: Going full-time unfortunately seems a long way away from me! However, I think our (relative) success is because we tend to focus on quality instead of quantity and it starts to pay off. We treat each release as seriously as Kickstarter one - we commission art and work with the editor. In the end, we prefer to have some things in the oven longer so they turn out just right.

Can you tell us a few sentences about that convention you had last year?

Rughalt: It's a local convention - Warszawskie Dni Fantastyki (Warsaw Fantasy Days), which seems to be mostly general fantasy/anime focused, but it turns out there are a lot of people who play RPGs there! We made some friends, we sold some paper adventures, and the convention went well enough that we recently were on another edition of this con... And are planning on going again in the autumn!

Do you have any exclusives to share with us?🙂 About an upcoming adventure or something similar?

Rughalt: We are soon launching an adventure series based on Slavic mythos. It will be full of leshys, mamunas, and vjescis, and we hope to bring Polish artists on board to share more of our Slavic roots with people from around the world.

Do you have anything you want to say to the greater TTRPG/VTT community?

Rughalt: Remember to have fun and share the fun. No matter if you are a player, GM, or creator. Have fun... And check out our adventures while you are at it!

That's a cheesy line, isn't it?🙂

A recent con showed me that people too much think "It's not for me, I don't have anyone to play with". They forget or don't know, that you need just two people that want to have fun playing RPGs.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into Foundry VTT content creation?

Rughalt: With V11 coming, which will have tools for creators, and Adventure Documents already in, making content modules is easier than ever, so there is no better time to start prepping your content. And, that may sound weird but... Remember that things can be patched in 5 minutes, so just publish your stuff. If you do Foundry content, when you spot that something is wrong you can fix it easily, unlike some other platforms.

What are your plans in general for the future as an RPG creator?

Rughalt: Keep having fun with it and sharing the stories with people. I am in a fortunate position that I can do this without worrying about tomorrow, so I want to focus on the fun aspect. If it means I will release less stuff, or forego some of my plans, so be it. If I don't have fun doing RPG stuff, I would rather not do it at all.

It was very nice talking to you! Thanks for your insight and your time, and good luck with all your plans!

Rughalt: Thanks for having me! Geezer thanks you too!😀

Geezer emote, pictured above.

You can find links to Rughalt's work at Dragonshorn Studios, including his newsletter and Bazaar page by clicking on the images below:

Dragonshorn's Studios Creator Page on The Forge