Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today! We first spoke about your work and world back in 2020, but some especially exciting things have taken shape in the intervening years. Tell us what’s been building in the realm of Strangehollow?

Hi Cory! Thank you for inviting me to Muddy Colors again, but firstly, I must say HOW is it already 4 years ago? Since 2020 there has been a third Strangehollow book, ‘Seas Of Strangehollow’ which was a lot of fun to make, expanding the number creatures from the previous two books. Lots of sea beasties and coast-dwelling creatures can be found in it. Since that book I have been wondering if I could make it into a game somehow, or create a game based on Strangehollow at least, but didn’t know where to start.

It turns out someone else was having the same thought! Jason and Mikey from Accidental Cyclops approached me and asked if I would be interested in collaborating with them to make Strangehollow into a game. Initially we were wondering whether to craft something completely new with its own mechanics etc, but we pretty quickly decided to base it within the already well known DnD 5e system. Mikey and Jason both have years of experience with DnD and had had their own very successful Kickstarter called The Real Thing a couple of years ago.

How was it bringing other creative voices into your world?

This has been a surreal thing to let other people join in with my precious Strangehollow! I have had to let go quite a lot, especially as if I micro managed too much, the writers and designers will be stifled, just as when an artist is stifled with too detailed a brief! (I hope that I am succeeding in this task of not over managing!)

It’s only when others are invited in that I realise how many rules there are in the world, and most of these rules have developed organically and not consciously at all as I made each of the books. One thing I’m very keen on is to keep Strangehollow ‘human free’ – it really is a vast and challenging wilderness and there are no people living in it, except for a sprinkling of magical folk like lone witches or wizards. It has expanded to include some small settlements on the outskirts and coast which I was reluctant to do at first, but I’m now very excited about the idea!

Jason and Mikey are very sensitive to the fact that Strangehollow is my ‘baby’ as it were, so they always run stuff by me and so far it has been a really great experience.

From what I hear, the writing team behind the project comprise a number of well-known names in the TTRPG and Dungeons and Dragons world. Who’s involved and where have we seen or heard their work before?

The team is very exciting! I am not a DnD player myself (though I have illustrated quite a few cards for various games in the past), so I have been learning all about it as we go along, but the folks we’ve got on board will be familiar to anyone who loves DnD! Jason and Mikey have managed to entice Shawn Merwin, Ed Greenwood, Erin Roberts, James Haeck, Elisa Teague, Bryan CP Steele, and Dael Kingsmill into our team.

I’m particularly excited to see what Ed Greenwood comes up with as I am aware of his amazing history with DnD, not least creating the base DnD world, Forgotten Realms! I’m also looking forward to the writing from Erin (Pathfinder: Lost Omens Travel Guide and Hunter: The Reckoning) and James (Critical Role, Ghostfire Gaming, Kobold Press) – all of them of course, but it’s so exciting seeing my world through the minds of other creatives.

How much of your art for Strangehollow are you bringing to the game? Tell us about what new work can players look forward to seeing?

There will be lots of familiar creatures being fleshed out from the preceding three books, but I’m in the process of designing and creating more for the game. The cover creature is brand new and very much in line with my usual ‘looks quite cute, but hang-on-a-minute, maybe it will eat me’ vibe that I am very fond of! It has yet to be named too, one of the most fun parts! I also can share the Swamp Troll here that I’ve not shared anywhere else yet. Overall there will be well over 60 illustrations by me. We are thinking up new ideas for creatures and characters all the time and we have at least 10 new paintings of creatures to come.

We have also brought in Arturo AKA Nerdymaps to illustrate a map of Strangehollow – It’s been really fun seeing my very rough map sketch come to life through Arturo’s skills. I had to create a rough map for myself so that I could visualise where everything is when I was writing and hopefully this will be a really fun addition to those who have followed along my Strangehollow journey.

What sets this game apart and what do you hope players get out of the experience?

First of all the art. The world I’ve created has a unique feel, I am always trying to capture the feeling I had as a child, when I believed there really were magical creatures and distil that down into Strangehollow. I also want it to feel like it could have been a real place. I’ve heard folks describe it as whimsical nostalgia like in storybooks they read as kids, but there is also an underlying sense of peril, despite how some of the critters may appear. I’ve always enjoyed a creature which looks harmless but is actually deadly or at least, not benign (probably Jim Henson’s Labyrinth’s fault there! – SO obsessed as a kid).

On top of all that, there will be a thorough treatment of the creatures with tons of detail, ecology and interesting new abilities that will make them challenging beyond just combat. We also have dozens of new character options such as classes, subclasses, feats, spells and more!

Also being able to make something unique, with people who value human creativity and have not fallen foul to the plagiarism machine (Ai image or word generation), I am hoping we can inspire younger artists and writers to do the same.  Support human artists and writers – create, don’t scrape!

When does the project launch and where can people find out more about it?

The launch will be early spring and you can find out more about it and pre-register at this link.