We’ve been working on Exploring Eberron for a long time, but some of you may not know HOW long it’s been! In this guest post, producer Wayne Chang pulls back the curtain…
We all hate that phrase, because it means something we are looking forward to—generally in the Dungeons & Dragons-o-sphere—is delayed. We want it NOW, but that is never an indicator of when.
My name is Wayne, and I am the producer and art director for Keith Baker‘s Exploring Eberron. Many may not know or realize my involvement with the book–Keith’s book, my project–but I wanted to put some behind-the-scenes insights for all the fans waiting so patiently. I’ll also give an update on the status of the book at the end.
The first inkling of Exploring Eberron came about in the fall of 2018. Keith was attending a local convention as a guest and we had a chance to hang out, eat, and chat. We’d been recording Manifest Zone since 2017 and worked on a couple DMs Guild Eberron adventures together, but had never met face-to-face. We talked about a few ideas he had about possible Eberron products–smaller productions like warforged and dragonmarks–and I talked about wanting a physical D&D book with my name in the credits.
It wasn’t until PAX East in 2019, over a couple plates of wings, that we made the decision to really nail down and start on what would publicly be known as “Project: Raptor”. (The name comes from a joke Keith made about 300 pages of dinosaurs.) The premise was to consolidate Keith’s evolving ideas about Eberron over the past 15 years and to expand upon the things he didn’t have the chance to officially write with Wizards of the Coast. I wanted a book of Keith’s Eberron (i.e. Kanon) all in one place and not spread out over years of blogs and correspondences, with pretty pictures to go with. I really wanted to emphasize the “in my Eberron” aspect of Keith’s work and give my good friend a chance to write whatever he wanted.
Our brainstorm document for Eberron Expanded–the original working name for the book–is over 4,000 words for a book we planned on being 160 pages long. We started an imprint–KB Presents–and made project plans regarding the book and launch, including securing permission for print-on-demand. We were excited! On July 23, 2019, one year after the launch of Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, we officially announced Project: Raptor.
This was not an idle time, however. Keith was already busy writing Eberron: Rising from the Last War for Wizards of the Coast, The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance with the McElroy’s, additional projects with Twogether Studios, and family emergencies. I was taking time off with my newborn son and maintaining my brokerage from a distance while on leave. We produced plenty in the background, but every stone unturned brought about new subjects Keith wanted to write about and expand. Other background problems plagued us on the production side: artists missing deadlines or flaking out, layout designer issues (including one layout person who needed to be fired and refused to return their advance), and an ever expanding book that ballooned from the original 160-page estimate as writing progressed.
As the November 2019 launch deadline loomed, we pushed back to December. More problems and emergencies came around, and holidays would slow and stop progress on the book. We knew we were disappointing many fans, but we pushed back the launch date again into 2020. The book kept expanding, pushing well past 200 pages at this point. More art was ordered and more stock art was acquired to punctuate the growing number of pages. All of this brought on more delays, but we pushed through. Even the ENnies nomination deadline came and went, something I had hoped we would hit.
Some people have wondered what kind of testing and vetting the book has received. Since the fall of 2019, a select group of playtesters has reviewed mechanics, text, and also fact-checked sources for us. This group carries the confidence of not only the production team, but are also experts in the field of Eberron lore. I will not reveal their names here, but they have our utmost thanks as well as credits in Exploring Eberron. I say “production team” because this project grew beyond just Keith and myself to include a multi-talented editor/layout/designer, as well as an additional designer. Some might be aware of the former, but both their identities will remain hidden for a little while longer. I joked once that I could put together an Exploring Eberron: Unabridged by stringing together chat messages between all of us–it would likely be longer than the book itself!
So, where is Exploring Eberron? The process for each chapter is: text, questions and feedback, response, editing, layout, review. The majority of art assets are already completed, additional art and resources might be required in the layout phase. As of the writing of this article, the raw text of the book is nearly done and down to the last 20 pages or so. Post production takes a while and we will not skip anything that may reduce the quality or polish on the book. After review is signed off, we will send the final documents to DMs Guild for approval. A hardcover is ordered and review begins again, this time looking for physical discrepancies. Once all that is done, we can launch. We cannot accurately give a timeline for everything you see above, which can take a month or two, but we are getting closer to a predictable estimate. I promised to be as transparent as possible when I can.
Exploring Eberron is over 240 pages in length, has over 50 pieces of custom and exclusive art, and has consumed over a year of our lives. It has cost blood, sweat, and tears–as well as conventional time and money–but working on the book has brought me great pride and amusement. We know you are waiting (im)patiently for it and our goal to exceed your expectations. So stick with us a little longer, you’re in for quite a book…