Writer Spotlight: David Shugars

Like Robyn, I’m here dancing on my own with David Shugars of The Demon Collective, Vol. 1, to talk about his adventure Hush, RPGs in general, and the future of GMDK.


DAVID: This is weird. Introduce yourself.

DAVID: I’m David Shugars. I’m a 27-year old nonbinary writer, graphic designer, and the legal founder of GMDK.

That’s an interesting name. What’s the meaning behind it?

Well, David is biblical, there was this guy…

You know what I mean.

Yeah, yeah. So, ages ago (like July 2018) Mabel Harper organized a discord server for collaborators on her big vampire book. We had talked via G+ before, but that was our first real collaboration. It’s also where I met Comrade, Camilla, Fiona, and the magnanimous Sean McCoy, who was a real guiding force in my decision to get into publishing.

Anyways, the name. So, the discord was called “A Server Full of Demons” because Mabel’s blog was called A Blog Full of Demons. As we were the only ones in the server, that made us demons. As the channel grew and talk began branching out beyond the vampire project, “Good morning, demonkind” became a sort of regular greeting: you wake up, say good morning, and chat about gay RPG things in between working on whatever else you had going on. “Good morning, demonkind” eventually got shortened to GMDK, because we can’t read, and also it’s phonetically “GM Decay” which is sort of what we’re going with in this whole endeavor: breaking down the standard RPG tropes and conventions to make newer, cooler stuff.

Brilliant. What are you doing for this project?

Well, my adventure is called “Hush.” It’s a dungeon-crawl through an ancient dwarven library filled with ghosts, awful bugs, and a very hungry caterp-er, basilisk. It’s something I’ve been working on for a while–one of the very first adventures I ever wrote, I had planned it for an old campaign, but we never got around to playing it at the time.

It started with wanting to make a module that was more “survival horror” than what was on the market. Problem was, it’s really hard to do horror when PCs have limitless resources and prep time, and I didn’t want to have them all beaten up and thrown into a pit without their weapons either.

Reasonable; that seems like a very lazy way to start an adventure, much less a campaign spanning levels 1-15.

I don’t understand that last point, but it doesn’t matter. So, if you can’t take away the PCs time, you can’t take away their agency, and you can’t take away their equipment, what do you do? You take away their senses. Hush is about crawling through a dark maze, deaf and nearly blind, while being hunted by a creature that you cannot and must not look at. It’s a classic negadungeon: the winning move is not to play. Good luck convincing PCs of that, though.

You’re also doing the layout and design for the book, right? What’s the plan with that?

Zines are cool in that you can break every rule of design and still be on-brand. I won’t be doing that, though, because I like my books to be readable. Instead, I’m working closely with Lauren Bryce (our terrific artist) to coordinate the art and design in ways that looks good and scans better. The book is black and white, in the most literal sense: Laurens’ work is heavy and relies on stippling to provide shading, so there’s no actual gray anywhere. It’s gonna be breathtaking.

The Pale Grubs infest every corner of the library, and now they’re in your browser! oooooh~

The Kickstarter has been a great success, and it’s looking like you’ll hit 600% by the end of the funding period. This gives me hope for the future of GMDK, do you feel the same way?

I do, David.

Is there anything you can tell us about upcoming projects that lovers of The Demon Collective might be interested in?

Our editor, Fiona Geist, is working on two of her own adventures right now, illustrated by Joan-Rose Gordon and Evlyn Moreau, respectively. I’ll be publishing an English translation of Vivien Feasson’s post-apocalyptic story game, Liberté, likely sometime in July. Scrap Princess and I have been working on PlaneScrap for nearly two years now, so if you’re looking for dimension-hopping weirdness, stay tuned for more of that.

Oh, and Vol. 2 of the Demon Collective is all but assured. Maybe we’ll do a single megadungeon this time, with each person designing a floor. Or perhaps a big hexmap with each person designing factions that control certain areas. Either way, there’s clearly a market for collaborative content, and I’m happy to corner it until someone better decides to muscle me out.

I’m sorry

David Shugars is on twitter. You can read his blog posts here, where you’re already at.

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