In our Dungeons & Dragons games we talk about heroic adventure and playing the heroes who make it so. Through our characters we get opportunities to face incredible danger, take extraordinary risks and stand up in the face of adversity in ways we can’t necessarily do in our real lives. But we can also learn from our characters and, as much as they might represent a facet of our own personality, we can reflect some of their heroism too. Harper’s Tale: An Adventure Path for DnD 5e demonstrates this duality perfectly. The story, and the story of the story, behind the project currently on the path to funding through Indiegogo, represents everything that’s awesome about D&D. In every way, it will be a wonderful addition to any gamer’s collection.
Harper’s Tale is a story of real heroism
I didn’t know game designer Matt Corley or his daughter Harper, but she instantly became a hero to me through Harper’s Tale. Harper was diagnosed with leukemia on Feb. 2, 2019. The only thing harder than receiving a diagnosis like that is being the parent of a child who does. On the Indiegogo page, Matt explains how Friends of Kids with Cancer, a nonprofit organization offering programs and support to children with cancer, helped give the family their First Good Day.
Harper is in remission now, and like the very best qualities of the heroes we play in our D&D games, she wants to give back to those who helped her and in turn help so many others who are battling cancer.
It’s a curious thing, how those of us who are hurting the most can put aside our own struggles and become a source of strength for those around us. Because Harper is a genuine gamer and writer, she’s created an adventure path for D&D 5E along with her dad and an epic team of creators from the D&D community.
I had a chance to ask Matt a few questions about how Harper’s Tale came together and what it means for the D&D community and Harper herself. Quotes you’ll see throughout this article are from that Q&A.
“I’ve worked with Ben, Brian, Jeff, and Don before and I knew almost everyone else via Twitter. The folks we’ve chosen are all very, very talented, but just as importantly we have a great mix of genders, ages, backgrounds, perspectives, and ethnicity. That was very, very important to me and to Harper. Every single person on the team has been touched by cancer in their own way, and every single person jumped to help. I started working on this in February and had the first writers on board before Harp was discharged. The final writers and editors were locked in by April and we started working.”
All net proceeds of the crowdfunding will be donated to Friends of Kids with Cancer.
In addition, the IP will belong to Harper to use however she sees fit.
Adventure path for D&D 5E
A mysterious plague afflicts the adventurers’ homeland, and through 10 connected adventures the heroes can do something about it.
Harper’s Tale is written by Harper and her dad, and a team of old and new pros help them bring their story of hope and adventure to gaming tables around the world. There’s dangerous creatures to face, mysteries to unravel and treasure to discover, all in the very best traditions of D&D. But Harper’s Tale is also about inclusivity, and hearing the voices of those who aren’t heard enough.
“The project came from a few things. When she was diagnosed I was wrapping up the first book I published on my own, Lamp’s Light Sanitarium, and also finishing up Ghoul Island, an AP I wrote for Petersen Games. I sat in the hospital with her writing and talking, and wanted to get her mind off things and to be honest mine as well. I saw a picture of Joe Manganiello playing for kids at Pittsburgh Children’s hospital too. Our very first idea was to use the map of the hospital and its grounds to create a dungeon. We talked about what do with it and then we started looking at Dyson Logos’ maps and she saw one for an Arch-druid’s hideout. That’s when it started to really grow, and Dyson’s maps shaped quite a bit of the story.”
I have not seen any of the content that will be included in Harper’s Tale, but I strongly suspect this adventure path is going to be totally awesome. Two things in particular lead me to believe this.
First off, the adventure is meant to be accessible for players as young as 10. To me this translates to a story path without violence as the primary problem resolution. I’m sure there’s nasty critters to overcome. But I’m willing to bet — especially with this creative team — there will be many more situations where nonviolent means of success are baked into the adventure.
“The direction I gave everyone in Harper’s Tale is that it should be possible for virtually every adventure to be completed without combat, and they should all involve puzzles/investigation. That said, there are parallel paths and a group can absolutely hack and slash their way through it all too, but they’ll miss out on a lot of the nuances and context. The Big Bad for instance isn’t actually evil. He’s just driven to save someone he loves and will do anything to achieve that.”
The second thing is also speculation, but the story described on the Indiegogo page about hope and overcoming a sickness, with an enemy whose complex motivations might culminate in a redemption story, sounds like it draws inspiration from Harper’s own tale. Trying to understand her own situation, and maybe approach it through the games and stories she loves to create, seems like a therapeutic thing to me. At any rate, the way the climax is described on its own sounds like a great dramatic conflict, and that makes any D&D game better.
During the quest, Matt explained, adventurers will follow an adventure path not unlike a real-world approach to curing an illness. Carefully gathering very specific objects in particular ways and refining ingredients to create treatments, performing clinical trials, and partnering with others to help heal and improve the quality of life for those suffering from illness — all of these sound sound like truly heroic deeds to me.
Help Friends of Kids with Cancer
The D&D community is constantly illustrating positivity and support for each other, whether it’s encouraging one another to take care of our health, offering kind words of comfort, or simply telling each other we can do it — whatever the “it” we struggle with might be.
Supporting Harper’s Tale checks all those boxes. With the donation to Friends of Kids with Cancer, you’re helping create more good days for children in treatment. That right there is reason enough.
But because of Harper’s love of D&D and desire to help others, you get a totally awesome D&D adventure path created through the work of a spectacular team of writers, artists and designers.
And, because the team came together because of Harper and the story she wanted to tell, they’re making sure she controls the IP for her future. I mean, come on! That’s incredibly cool. The D&D community hopes our hobby continues for a long, long time and that means encouraging and inspiring younger generations to participate and enjoy games as much as we do. I can’t wait to see how Harper’s Tale grows and evolves under Harper’s direction.
But right now, I just couldn’t be happier and more proud to support Harper’s Tale through Indiegogo. If something I enjoy can also help more heroes like Harper through Friends of Kids with Cancer, it’s a no-brainer. I cannot wait to explore Harper’s Tale and you should check it out on Indiegogo here right now to discover the support level that works best for you.
If you’re unable to pledge financial support for Harper’s Tale: An Adventure Path for DnD 5e, sharing the campaign through social media is also a tremendous help to spread the word.
One last thing I asked Matt is what Harper wants other kids to know who are going through similar situations. Despite Harper’s sentiment that this is the hardest question ever, she does have something to share
“You can still do a lot of things and you should do them. Don’t get sucked into your iPad.”
Well put, Harper. I think I’d like to play some D&D with my friends, now. I hope we can be as heroic in our game as you are in real life.
Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, worldbuilding, or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy, he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.