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An Interview with
Designer of 'Warriors of Heaven'
TSR's newest planar accessory!
Perkins, Editor of TSR's DUNGEON Adventures magazine and Associate
Editor of DRAGON magazine, wished to work for TSR since he was 12
years old. After writing scores of new adventures, 22 of which have
seen print, Chris obtained his dream by joining the TSR team in
was chosen to be the designer on the AD&D product formally titled
as "Servants of Light: The Celestials." He speaks to us
about this product (now titled Warriors of Heaven) and his own experiences
with Planescape and GenCon in this brief email interview.
skip to PART II: Warriors of Heaven
I: Meet the Designer
did you come to be employed at TSR?
wanted to work for TSR, and specifically for the magazines,
since I was twelve years old. I was a big fan of the DUNGEONS
& DRAGONS® game, and I liked designing my own adventures. (These
early "adventures" are very humbling-it's painfully obvious
now that I had no clue what I was doing.)
the first issue of DUNGEON Adventures was released in 1986,
I was immediately hooked. I started submitting proposals and
adventures for the editors' consideration; my second proposal
evolved into what became my first published work, "Wards of
Witching Ways," which appeared in Issue #11. I was still a teenager
when the adventure was published.
the next ten years, from 1987 to 1997, I wrote scores of new
adventures, twenty-two of which were accepted and published
by the editors of DUNGEON Adventures. By 1995, I had established
myself as a "regular" contributor who could meet deadlines and
turn over relatively clean copy. The editors began to approach
me with special projects.
Whenever TSR released a new campaign setting, I would rush out
and buy the new game, read it, and within a few days, draft
a complete adventure for the editors' perusal. My first PLANESCAPE®
adventure, "Umbra" (Issue #55), was created in this fashion,
as was the magazine's first BIRTHRIGHT® adventure, "Seeking
Bloodsilver" (Issue #59).
In 1995 and 1996, I was invited to Lake Geneva to meet with
the periodicals staff. Like Alice in Wonderland, I was timid
and dumbfounded. I was introduced to people-designers, editors,
art directors, and cartographers-whose work I admired. My second
and third visits to TSR were much more relaxed, and while I
was there the overworked and understaffed periodicals department
put me to good use, letting me sift through piles of articles,
adventures, and fiction submissions. Both
the publisher, Brian Thomsen, and the Editor-in-Chief, Pierce
Watters, seemed to like what I was doing.
Wizards of the Coast, Inc. purchased TSR, Inc. in 1997, the
then-editor of DUNGEON Adventures, Michelle Vuckovich, opted
to remain in the Midwest. When the position was first announced,
did you do before coming to work for TSR?
taught high school English and Mathematics for five years. Although
the bulk of my editing experience stems from reading high school
English essays, I did spend one year working as an editor and
written translator for the Canadian Government in Ottawa, during
which time I also performed in three runway shows as a fashion
model. (I'm not kidding.)
did you get involved with the PLANESCAPE product line?
always enjoyed planar adventures, and I was eager to incorporate
some planar elements into my own campaign. I was completely
blown away by the PLANESCAPE Campaign Setting boxed set. At
the time, there was nothing quite like it, both in terms of
scope and design, and Tony DiTerlizzi's interior art totally
blew me away. The voice and design of the campaign setting was
daring and striking in its originality.
involvement with the setting began with "Umbra" (appearing in
DUNGEON Adventures #55). The first draft of the adventure was
far longer than the editors had anticipated, and I was asked
to trim the 28,000-word adventure to a more manageable 16,000
words. I was not entirely successful; I think the final adventure
came in at 21,000 words, still making it the longest module
ever published in DUNGEON Adventures.
a number of readers hated "Umbra" for being too "campaign specific,"
it apparently went over much better with the TSR staff and PLANESCAPE
fans. The magazine editors liked it enough to encourage me to
write another PLANESCAPE adventure, based on some conceptual
sketches created by artist (and TSR Art Director) Stephen Daniele.
That adventure, "Nemesis," appeared in Issue #60.
Encouraged by my earlier work, the RPGA® Network asked me to
design a three-round AD&D Open tournament based on the PLANESCAPE®
Campaign Setting. The result was a titanic trilogy of adventures
collectively titled "Cutters." At close to 75,000 words, it's
the longest thing I've ever written, and probably the best thing
I've written as a freelancer. TSR was in financial turmoil at
the time, so I wrote the adventure for free. The "Cutters" trilogy
is mostly set in Sigil and takes place prior to the events chronicled
in Faction War. The plot involves heroes from various factions
working together to achieve a common goal-preventing the return
of a not-quite-dead faction called the Incanterium. It's a matter
of personal pride that I was able to incorporate over one-third
of the NPCs from the Uncaged: Faces of Sigil accessory into
the "Cutters" trilogy. I also found room to include the Lady
of Pain in one climactic scene.
"Cutters" was my last project before being hired by Wizards
of the Coast as the editor of DUNGEON Adventures. My first freelance
project after joining the TSR family was "The Manxome Foe,"
an RPGA ADVENTURER'S GUILD™ module based on the PLANESCAPE campaign;
the adventure was later included in the TSR JAM 1999 product.
That adventure was written in two days, but I hope that doesn't
show. I rather liked the idea of using the jabberwock-it's such
a whimsical and unearthly creature.I was also intrigued by the
challenge of setting an adventure in the Upper Planes, just
to prove that interesting stuff can and does happen there!
next planar project, tentatively titled "Needle in the Eye,"
is another ADVENTURER'S GUILD module for the RPGA. The adventure
will support the upcoming Guide to Hell accessory (written by
staff designer Chris Pramas), due out later this year.
you think we may see "Cutters" in print someday, as an actual
Planescape product? Has this been considered by TSR or the RPGA?
will not appear as a future PLANESCAPE® product. At the end
of Faction War, the factions (at least, the surviving ones)
are banished from Sigil. Since "Cutters" is based in Sigil and
features numerous factions, it no longer "fits" the current
PLANESCAPE timeline. It's conceivable that it might appear in
an electronic format someday, but there are no immediate plans
to make this happen.
in particular attracts you so strongly to the PLANESCAPE setting?
Slavicsek (Director of Roleplaying Games R&D) said it best:
The PLANESCAPE setting really brings out the best in its designers.
isn't an idea that's too wacky or "out of place" for the setting,
and there is nothing banal or dull about the Outer Planes. Capturing
the essence and "edge" of the PLANESCAPE multiverse is fairly
easy once one gets over the immensity of the campaign setting.
It's wonderfully liberating and deceptively easy.
a designer, I enjoy the chance to describe places that could
exist nowhere else and create encounters that raise the bar
on players' expectations. I also admire the diversity of locations
within the PLANESCAPE campaign; an adventure set in Sigil has
an entirely different "feel" from an adventure that takes place
in the Abyss.
sources of inspiration do you think influence your work (music,
art, myth, etc.)?
and music are strong influences on my work. I love architecture,
and I enjoy drawing maps. Most of my structural maps are based
on sound architectural principles, but I like blending architectural
styles and bending the rules when it suits the personality of
the building or location.
always listen to music when I write, soundtracks in particular.
When writing PLANESCAPE material, I listen to soundtracks from
Edward Scissorhands, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dark City, and the
On the more vocal side, I derive inspiration from Nine Inch
Nails, The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, Garbage, New Order,
The Cranberries, Julee Cruise, Radiohead, and The Offspring,
among others. All of these artists have influenced my work in
one way or the other.
you visited many PLANESCAPE-related fan sites such as Mimir.net?
What is your impression of them?
don't frequent many fan sites, but I have visited Mimir.net
on two occasions. Although I have little to compare it to, I
found the site easy to navigate, visitor friendly, and up to
of my own opinions of past PLANESCAPE products differ from the
product reviews presented on the Mimir.net site, although we
do share a heartfelt adoration for the Uncaged: Faces of Sigil
accessory (in my opinion, the best PLANESCAPE product, followed
closely by The Factol's Manifesto!)
was your first Gen Con experience? What was it like?
don't remember much from my first experience at GEN CON. I had
never attended a gaming convention before, and I was completely
overwhelmed and overstimulated. I remember leaving with a car
trunk full of game product. I also remember the VISA bill-absolutely
are you looking forward to at this year's Gen Con?
of the Coast has a big announcement planned for Friday at noon-our
chance to reveal cool stuff planned for 2000 and solicit feedback
from the fans.
I'm also looking forward to seeing the new TSR/Wizards of the
Coast castle. I'm also hoping to participate in more games this
year. Our schedules are lighter than last year, so we'll have
more time for fun stuff like gaming and roleplaying.
your many tasks working for TSR Periodicals, and, now, preparing
for Gen Con, do you ever get a chance to role-play
me, roleplaying is like sleeping or eating - it's essential.
If I go more than a few days without roleplaying, I start to
feel miserable. Therefore, I roleplay at least once a week,
usually in the evenings.
I like participating in long-running campaigns, but I appreciate
short one- or two-session games as well.
at TSR is not like working in a factory or a fast food restaurant;
you never get bored or tired of the product. Roleplaying is
both our lives and our livelihood, and there is a lot of playtesting
going on during the day and in the evenings. I can't think of
anyone at TSR who isn't involved in a campaign of one sort of
For two years, I participated in a campaign run by PLANESCAPE
maestro Monte Cook; not many people can say that. I've also
roleplayed with Michele Carter and Bruce Cordell; not many people
can say that, either.
I am currently DMing an ongoing campaign for a group that includes
Sean Reynolds, Jeff Quick, Duane Maxwell, Dave Gross, and Stan!
Whenever I sit down to plan the next game session, I know I
have to deliver the goods. These guys are all designers and
editors, after all! When I first began the campaign, I was a
bit intimidated. I wasn't sure whether I could keep them entertained.
I didn't realize was that these people could amuse themselves
for days in the Elemental Plane of Vacuum-that's just the way
it true the TSR Castle at the Gen Con Exhibit Hall is constructed
by Krynn tinker gnomes?
I understand the gnomes have rigged the new castle with pit traps
and deadfalls. The next time a gamer talks to me about his 97th-level
half-drow paladin/assassin, I'll I have to do is pull a lever
Editor would like to thank Chris for giving up some of his precious
time before GenCon to chat with us.
To learn more about Warriors of Heaven, scroll down to Part
II or Top
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An Interview with
Designer of 'Warriors of Heaven'
TSR's newest planar accessory!
II: Warriors of Heaven
slated for producing as a much anticipated 64-page Planescape
product, TSR will release a 96-page Core supplement in September.
Designed to give the chant about celestials to both planars
and primes, readers will find a whole lot more! Designer Chris
Perkins lanns us the dark:
can you tell us about the fabled Warriors of Heaven?
most recent PLANESCAPE experience is Warriors of Heaven, which
began as a 64-page product titled Servants of Light: The Celestials.
Early in its conception, the product was intended as a companion
to the Faces of Evil: The Fiends accessory. At some point,
it was decided by the TSR Brand Team to market the accessory
as a core AD&D product instead of a PLANESCAPE product, knowing
that the material would appeal to more than just PLANESCAPE
Brand Team also wanted a "sexier" title for the product, and
several names were batted around.
there a reason why the title "Warriors of Heaven" seemed to
fit the bill? Does the product focus on the militant aspects
of Celestial life?
product allows players to create celestial characters, presumably
so they can take the fiends to task. The original title, Servants
of Light: The Celestials, sounded too gentle. The name of the
product changed three or four times before the Brand Team settled
on the more aggressive Warriors of Heaven title (which, not
coincidentally, mirrors the title of the follow-up product A
Guide to Hell).
I was given two months to design a product that not
only expanded on existing material regarding the inhabitants
of the Upper Planes but also enabled players to create celestial
characters and DMs to run celestial campaigns. I remember
two months of absolute hell when I was editing two magazines
during the day, designing an ALTERNITY® adventure (Planet
of Darkness) in the evenings, and writing Warriors of Heaven
on weekends! Nevertheless, I'm pleased with the way Warriors
of Heaven turned out.
did it turn out? From what perspective is the product written?
of Heaven is a core AD&D® product and does not embrace the
narrative style of most PLANESCAPE products.
cant is mostly absent, although I think I managed to slip
the occasional "basher" and "leatherhead" past the editors!
I miss are the pull-quotes; they made PLANESCAPE products
even more fun to read! The next planar product, A Guide to
Hell uses a narrative style similar to Warriors of Heaven.
It, too, is designed as a core AD&D product.
did the supplement get increased from 64 to 96 pages?
who has edited my work knows that I almost always overwrite.
By the time I had finished detailing the various celestial
PC races (aasimon, aasimar, archons, asuras, eladrins, guardinals)
and the politics of the Upper Planes, I had all but exhausted
my word count for Warriors of Heaven. Nevertheless,
I designed additional chapters detailing celestial spells
and magical items. I also designed six ready-to-use celestial
original plan was to post this "bonus" material on the official
TSR website (www.tsr.com),
but the Brand Team thought the material important enough to
incorporate into the product, thereby increasing its size
to 96 pages.
The notion of a "web-enhanced product" stuck in everyone's
mind, though. AD&D Category Manager Keith Strohm asked me
to provide some extra "goodies" for the TSR website in support
of the product.
When the product releases in September, it will be the first
Web-Enhanced roleplaying game accessory produced by TSR. Fans
of the product can download a chapter detailing the quesar
as a player character race. (The quesar first appeared as
monsters in the PLANES OF CONFLICT Boxed Set.) Fans can also
download a full-blown adventure designed for celestial PCs
titled "Devil's Deal." The adventure features two of the NPCs
detailed in Warriors of Heaven and takes place on Phlegethos,
the fourth layer of Baator.
This is exciting news! Can you tell us more about how this will
really. In the case of Warriors of Heaven, I am responsible
for providing the web-enhanced material, but I have no insight
or input into how this information will be presented or how
this process might impact other products.
talk on the Planescape Mailing List revolved around the astonishingly
powerful stats of such creatures as the Aasimon.
than seek to change these stats, many compelling stories for
why these stats and powers exist were generated by the List
struck me as just the sort of problem that designers must
face: confronting cannon and past designer's work.
much was this a difficulty in designing Warriors of Heaven?
of Heaven remains very true to the existing PLANESCAPE line.
So much had been written about celestials in past products
that I found it difficult to put my own "spin" on it. I've
added a lot of material to the existing stuff, hopefully without
compromising what's been written before.
much intellectual freedom were you allowed to alter cannon based
on your interpretation of past products?
were times when I felt more like a conductor than a composer.
The music and the orchestra had already been created; my
job was to bring the various instrumental pieces together
and create harmony.
My hope is that readers will see the celestials presented
in a fresh and exciting way. What I liked most about working
on the product was the chance to give celestials the same
attention given to fiends in earlier products.
Keith Strohm approached me with the project, he had only
one directive: Make the celestials fun, for both players
and DMs. Most of my effort went into trying to fulfill this
of the Celestial races have mythological and/or religious counterparts.
To what extent did traditional sources of real-world myth and
religion influence your writing?
we get the chant on the rumored 'holy wars' between good-aligned
pantheons, as hinted at in passages of the Planescape Monstrous
Sigil, and its small populace of fallen and unique celestials,
get any detail in relation to the Celestials of the Upper
also thinks of the popular fallen celestials of the Lower
product does not discuss Sigil in any depth. Fallen celestials
are discussed in the Warriors of Heaven product, and at least
one fallen celestial is featured prominently in A Guide to Hell.
Note: stay tuned as we try to uncover more chant of this
product and the future of Planescape at the GenCon Planescape
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