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10: Heckna - Ashley Warren
Episode 1026th October 2020 • Making a Monster • Lucas Zellers
00:00:00 00:16:57

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Ashley Warren, lead writer for the Heckna carnival horror campaign setting, introduces us to Heckna himself, the post-human clown king of the Revelia.

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Meet my guest Ashley Warren:

https://www.scribemind.com/

https://twitter.com/ashleynhwarren

https://hitpointpress.com/

https://www.storytellingcollective.com/

Music: "Jolly Jamboree" by Mint Potion, courtesy of Hit Point Press

Transcripts

Ashley Warren:

Before you is a wondrous vibrant carnival.

Ashley Warren:

Sweethearts stroll hand in hand, munching on delectable treats.

Ashley Warren:

A glittering Ferris wheel rotates nearby.

Ashley Warren:

Strangely-dressed clowns roam through the crowds.

Ashley Warren:

There are many tents, most emblazoned with colorful signage and the distance.

Ashley Warren:

A huge castle looms over the carnival.

Ashley Warren:

Large letters spell out "Heckna's Funhouse" over the

Ashley Warren:

facade of a clown's face.

Ashley Warren:

His face is painted in an enthusiastic expression, eyes wide and mouth open.

Ashley Warren:

Although painted, the clown's eyes seem to follow you everywhere.

Ashley Warren:

And as you look into the crowd, the very same figure whose face you

Ashley Warren:

just saw emblazoned on the front of this building approaches you.

Ashley Warren:

Hecka himself is coming through the crowd of the Revelia.

Ashley Warren:

And what you see is a tall figure, bedecked in very festive, ornate garb.

Ashley Warren:

He wears a version of a jester's hat with these kinds of colorful, appendage-like

Ashley Warren:

pieces of fabric protruding out and his face is not a normal humanoid face

Ashley Warren:

with normal skin and normal features.

Ashley Warren:

What you see is a very mask-like face and through this mask, he is still able

Ashley Warren:

to convey expressions and the expression and that he conveys to you is one

Ashley Warren:

of joy and a little bit of mischief.

Lucas:

Alrighty.

Ashley Warren:

My name is Ashley Warren, and I'm a writer,

Ashley Warren:

narrative designer, educator.

Ashley Warren:

I've worked on lots of projects and the tabletop RPG industry.

Ashley Warren:

Most notably the Uncaged Anthology and Rime of the Frostmaiden, the

Ashley Warren:

recent Wizards of the Coast hardcover release, and Heckna, which is

Ashley Warren:

what we'll be talking about today,

Lucas:

When I conceived the show, your name was at the top of my list, because

Lucas:

I've been on the DM's Guild since 2018.

Lucas:

That top-selling bar has had "Uncaged" smack in the

Lucas:

middle of the top 10 for ages.

Ashley Warren:

The uncaged anthology is a series of adventure anthologies, all

Ashley Warren:

for Dungeons and Dragons Fifth edition.

Ashley Warren:

Each adventure subverts the tropes surrounding a female creature from

Ashley Warren:

mythology or folklore and the anthology was created by more than a hundred artists

Ashley Warren:

and writers from around the world all of whom have a passion for monsters.

Ashley Warren:

So I feel like this is, this podcast is a good fit for me

Ashley Warren:

as someone who loves monsters.

Ashley Warren:

I didn't pick something Uncaged-related for our topic today.

Ashley Warren:

What I thought would be best is to talk about Heckna from

Ashley Warren:

the recent, Heckna Kickstarter,

Lucas:

Oh, I had no idea.

Lucas:

You were involved with that.

Ashley Warren:

Yeah.

Ashley Warren:

So I'm technically, my title is lead writer, I've been working on

Ashley Warren:

that for pretty much the whole year.

Ashley Warren:

So I thought it would be fun to talk about the titular character Heckna

Ashley Warren:

because he is his own monster and has his own monster design that

Ashley Warren:

we've put a lot of thought into.

Ashley Warren:

the one thing I can't probably do yet since the book isn't out is to talk too

Ashley Warren:

much about the specific stats, but I can talk a little bit about the features that

Ashley Warren:

he has as a monster and things like that.

Ashley Warren:

Heckna is in many ways your typical evil clown, but there's

Ashley Warren:

a lot that makes them different.

Ashley Warren:

I mean, it's different than an NPC, which Heckna also is, but

Ashley Warren:

yeah, Heckna is a full creature.

Ashley Warren:

He's the villain of the book.

Ashley Warren:

So the goal is that characters encounter him and potentially defeat him,

Ashley Warren:

Characters can encounter him at any point.

Ashley Warren:

It's very similar to Curse of Strahd, where you can encounter

Ashley Warren:

Strahd fairly early in the campaign, and a lot of people do.

Ashley Warren:

With Heckna it's kind of the same scenario, he's very much present at the

Ashley Warren:

Revelia which is the setting of the book.

Ashley Warren:

The Revelia is his own creation.

Ashley Warren:

So he's inextricably tied to this dark carnival setting.

Ashley Warren:

It's something that he's created, that he's been building for years, and he

Ashley Warren:

is so closely linked to the Revelia.

Ashley Warren:

It can't really exist without him and he can't exist without it.

Ashley Warren:

So he is very much he's ever present in this locale.

Ashley Warren:

His face is on everything, including, posters and the

Ashley Warren:

rides and things like that.

Ashley Warren:

So it is very much Heckna his own domain.

Ashley Warren:

In many ways Heckna and the Revelia setting are classic

Ashley Warren:

clown, classic carnival settings.

Ashley Warren:

We did definitely wanted to hone in on the familiarity of those environments

Ashley Warren:

because there's something that's just so fun about a carnival setting, but what's

Ashley Warren:

fun about a carnival setting is also that you can make it really dark and kind of.

Ashley Warren:

messed up or, you know, you can really like put a lot

Ashley Warren:

of, of your own spin on that.

Ashley Warren:

So in that sense, Heckna is very much an evil clown similar to Pennywise.

Ashley Warren:

Although I will say that my influence for henna is a little

Ashley Warren:

bit more, Tim-Burton-esque.

Ashley Warren:

I am a huge Tim Burton fan.

Ashley Warren:

I'm trying to think of a good word to describe it, just to kind

Ashley Warren:

of general air that both Heckna and Jack Skellington give off.

Ashley Warren:

There are these people that, lots of others look to as leaders.

Ashley Warren:

they are able to amass followers who believe in their vision for something.

Ashley Warren:

So for Jack Skellington, it was like his version of Christmas and for

Ashley Warren:

Heckna it's his version of the Revelia.

Ashley Warren:

And so I really enjoyed that part of Jack Skellington, his character, how he's

Ashley Warren:

able to really get people to, follow his creative vision , as wild as it gets.

Ashley Warren:

And so for Heckna it's that, but ramped up to like 11, it's not

Ashley Warren:

like has no limits on things.

Ashley Warren:

And so he'll do anything to tell a good joke, even though sometimes

Ashley Warren:

what he considers to be a good joke.

Ashley Warren:

No one else considers to be a good joke, which.

Ashley Warren:

I think it's fun for a dungeon master to embody that about heck numb.

Ashley Warren:

and then also I think having that really represents kind of the classic court

Ashley Warren:

jester and especially in appearance, a lot of his actual, costuming and,

Ashley Warren:

and design was inspired by it Venetian carnival masks and kind of classic

Ashley Warren:

Renaissance-era gestures that you would see across Europe in different courts.

Ashley Warren:

And I think that that aesthetic is really fun and, and kind of different from.

Ashley Warren:

The clowns that we see portrayed in a lot of pop culture.

Ashley Warren:

the Heckna aesthetic is a mix of this like classic carnival circus, sideshow-era-type

Ashley Warren:

aesthetic mixed with campy horror flicks.

Ashley Warren:

So there's a lot of like anachronisms in the story as well, which is really fun.

Lucas:

How are they embodied or changed or remixed in the person of Hackney

Lucas:

himself as you've presented him?

Ashley Warren:

He's been very particular about how he chooses to present himself,

Ashley Warren:

which I find really interesting.

Ashley Warren:

And at one point he was a person.

Ashley Warren:

Who he is now is the result of a lot of this twisted magic that

Ashley Warren:

he's kind of sacrificed over the years to make the rebel.

Ashley Warren:

Yeah.

Ashley Warren:

So he's, he's kind of transcended just normal humanity, but I find that

Ashley Warren:

kind of an interesting part of his.

Ashley Warren:

His character.

Ashley Warren:

So I will say that Heckna is certainly driven by nefarious motivations.

Ashley Warren:

It's I think in a way that he reminds me a lot of people on social media

Ashley Warren:

who were always just trying to make a joke, even when it's not the

Ashley Warren:

appropriate time to make a joke.

Ashley Warren:

And that's like, always so incredibly frustrating is when people don't like.

Ashley Warren:

Really take into account, like the tone of something and that's totally a hack now.

Ashley Warren:

He just doesn't really care and he'll just make a joke no matter what.

Ashley Warren:

And that's what makes him both amusing, but also just dangerous is that

Ashley Warren:

nothing really seems to, he doesn't react to things the way that a lot of

Ashley Warren:

normal people would expect to react to things like grotesque situations.

Ashley Warren:

And so I think as a villain, that's what makes him interesting too, to go

Ashley Warren:

up against is that it's not just this cut and dry situation of, Oh, well,

Ashley Warren:

just dispatch the villain and that's it.

Ashley Warren:

Like, he he's like roped in all of these people to be a part of his world.

Ashley Warren:

And so when you remove Heckna from the world there's impact there.

Ashley Warren:

I think that a lot of the motivations that players may experience when

Ashley Warren:

they're at the rebellion to confront henna is just seeing how he's built the

Ashley Warren:

rebellion and kind of the cost that.

Ashley Warren:

That has required from the people who are part of the rebellion.

Ashley Warren:

So there's a group of party goers who are called the revelers and they, you know,

Ashley Warren:

are found throughout the Revelia, but to really become a true Reveller, you have

Ashley Warren:

to basically give up your identity and you, you just started agreeing to get lost

Ashley Warren:

in the Revelia for eternity potentially.

Ashley Warren:

And also there's the creatures that Heckna has created are not always very pleasant.

Ashley Warren:

And so there's just kind of, even though there's, there's fun to be had.

Ashley Warren:

The Revelia is a dark place.

Ashley Warren:

It's, it's a place where.

Ashley Warren:

There is, you can kind of do whatever you want, but you also lack a lot of free will

Ashley Warren:

you can't just leave once you're there.

Ashley Warren:

And so I think that just the fight to escape or to find a

Ashley Warren:

way out or to help others find a way out is kind of the central.

Ashley Warren:

one of the central themes, of course, like every group may interpret that

Ashley Warren:

differently, but it's very much similar to Curse of Strahd and Ravenloft.

Ashley Warren:

Once you get sucked into a domain, a lot of your motivation becomes

Ashley Warren:

a how to get out of that domain.

Ashley Warren:

there's a lot of reasons to want to confront Heckna and just kind

Ashley Warren:

of witnessing what you do at the rebellious kind of reason itself.

Ashley Warren:

That's not to say that it's all, it's all awful, but it's.

Ashley Warren:

It's not the wondrous place that it pretends to be like beneath that wonder

Ashley Warren:

is a lot of kind of grim activity.

Lucas:

this is also like a master's thesis waiting to happen.

Lucas:

so you can limit the scope of it by talking about just

Lucas:

techno or just the revalue.

Lucas:

what do you think is the relationship between comedy and horror?

Ashley Warren:

I think that there's a huge link between comedy and horror,

Ashley Warren:

because I think both are very subjective.

Ashley Warren:

And I think that sometimes comedy taken to extreme limits

Ashley Warren:

can be someone else's horror.

Ashley Warren:

And I think the things that we find funny.

Ashley Warren:

Sometimes that's, you know, at someone else's expense.

Ashley Warren:

And so I think that it's, it's a complicated relationship, but

Ashley Warren:

I, I personally really enjoy whore that has bits of comedy.

Ashley Warren:

Cause I think it alleviates some of the darker themes and horror, and I like

Ashley Warren:

comedy that, you know, brings in a bit of work because it really makes it.

Ashley Warren:

Not necessarily more powerful, but I think they kind of elevate each other as genres.

Ashley Warren:

that's also why I enjoy fairytales because they kind of hone in on similar

Ashley Warren:

aspects of that, where they have these moments , of levity mixed with

Ashley Warren:

these really dark and grim moments.

Ashley Warren:

what makes Heckna fun is that he's genuinely funny.

Ashley Warren:

I want people to laugh at the table and just be like, wow, like that was.

Ashley Warren:

That was like a bad pun or something like that.

Ashley Warren:

And kind of have those like fun, but cringey moments.

Ashley Warren:

Because I do think that when a villain makes you laugh, that makes them

Ashley Warren:

dangerous too, because they kind of can manipulate your emotions toward them.

Ashley Warren:

Cause I think that comedy can be.

Ashley Warren:

Like the great unifier, like I think when we find things that everyone can find

Ashley Warren:

funny or joyful, that's really powerful.

Ashley Warren:

So when people can manipulate that, that's when things get really scary.

Lucas:

what does Heckna and the Revelia tell us about the world we live in now?

Ashley Warren:

I so many things, honestly, I think that we, especially this year,

Ashley Warren:

during a global pandemic and a lot of complicated things happening in the world.

Ashley Warren:

A lot of us are looking for ways to escape into our favorite,

Ashley Warren:

favorite stories and favorite media.

Ashley Warren:

we want to remember what it's like to be kids and just have fun and just fully

Ashley Warren:

immerse ourselves in a fun environment.

Ashley Warren:

But I think it's also that there's a price to pay for full escapism because we can't

Ashley Warren:

necessarily bury our heads in the sand and ignore important things in the world.

Ashley Warren:

So I think like at this time, And in our lives, a lot of us are trying to find

Ashley Warren:

the balance between how do we, you know, stay informed and connected to what's

Ashley Warren:

happening in the real world while also protecting our mental health and, and

Ashley Warren:

finding fun and joy where we can, so not to get like too high level with it.

Ashley Warren:

But I think in a lot of ways, that's kind of what's embodied.

Ashley Warren:

And the rebellion is people who wanted to escape, but they kind of

Ashley Warren:

went too far and now they're lost.

Ashley Warren:

And so I think that getting lost in and things that we.

Ashley Warren:

We kind of depend on in terms of like the art and stories that we love is kind of

Ashley Warren:

a thing that all creatives go through.

Ashley Warren:

Like how, how much of myself to put into this, you know, fictional

Ashley Warren:

story without totally losing myself.

Ashley Warren:

So I think in that way, it's, it's very relatable.

Ashley Warren:

And, I think that when you looked at someone like Hackney, who really doesn't

Ashley Warren:

care about anyone about himself, about what he has created and will continue

Ashley Warren:

to create, no matter how much it hurts other people, like I think that's, that's

Ashley Warren:

kind of like somebody, a good lesson for all creators to keep in mind is.

Ashley Warren:

Is our, is our success and creativity ever like at the expense of someone else.

Ashley Warren:

. I guess that's, that's a long way of saying that.

Ashley Warren:

I think there's a lot of relevancy, but it's also, it's

Ashley Warren:

just another option for people to have, a fun time at their table.

Ashley Warren:

And sometimes that's all a game needs to be.

Lucas:

Is there anything that we've missed?

Lucas:

Anything that you want to make sure we mentioned or cover?

Ashley Warren:

I think that the main thing would be that despite talking

Ashley Warren:

about, horror and, the manipulation that Heckna might inflict on

Ashley Warren:

characters playing through this game.

Ashley Warren:

I do really want to emphasize how important it is to have

Ashley Warren:

safety tools at your table.

Ashley Warren:

I think with a character like Heckna, those things are more important than

Ashley Warren:

ever because it should still be a fun experience for everyone at the

Ashley Warren:

table, including the dungeon master.

Ashley Warren:

And so when you're playing a character like Heckna, who really doesn't have

Ashley Warren:

limits or it doesn't really adhere to, you know, the polite society that

Ashley Warren:

you make sure that you establish what those lines are for your table to

Ashley Warren:

make it fun, because it should be fun.

Ashley Warren:

It should be funny.

Ashley Warren:

You should make lasting memories, but it shouldn't be a campaign

Ashley Warren:

that is hurting anyone's feelings.

Ashley Warren:

So that's really not the point of it.

Ashley Warren:

Even with the, wily villain like Heckna, even Heckna doesn't necessarily

Ashley Warren:

want that as, as evil as he is.

Ashley Warren:

He does.

Ashley Warren:

He still wants you to have fun playing this game.

Ashley Warren:

If you'd like to download the free Heckna playtest for now, you can go to the deck

Ashley Warren:

of many.com and the full heck no book will be available there in early 2021.

Ashley Warren:

it'll be a beautiful hardcover.

Ashley Warren:

They also are doing a special edition hardcover that has

Ashley Warren:

just an incredible cover.

Ashley Warren:

It's like has gold foil on it.

Ashley Warren:

It's so cool.

Ashley Warren:

so yeah, there's going to be lots of hectic.

Ashley Warren:

Gides to get, minis they're making minis.

Ashley Warren:

Yeah.

Ashley Warren:

Headline press hasn't gone on.

Ashley Warren:

They just like have it, all the stuff on lock.

Ashley Warren:

They make the most beautiful products.

Ashley Warren:

So you can find all my work at my website, which is scribed mine.com.

Ashley Warren:

Just the word scribe in mine.

Ashley Warren:

It's mushed together to be one word, and you can follow me on

Ashley Warren:

Twitter at Ashley and H Warren.

Ashley Warren:

And I'd also like to invite you to join the RPG writer workshop community,

Ashley Warren:

which is at RPG writer, workshop.com.

Ashley Warren:

We are running our right, your first adventure workshop in November,

Ashley Warren:

and we have a ton of new courses and programs coming in 2021.

Ashley Warren:

So that's a great place to go to get started in adventure design.

Ashley Warren:

the registration deadline is October 31st, but if you are interested

Ashley Warren:

in taking our other courses that are available year round, we do

Ashley Warren:

have other courses in our catalog.

Ashley Warren:

So there's always something to learn and participate in at any time of year.

Lucas:

Ashley Warren, thank you so much for being on the

Lucas:

show this is really exciting.

Lucas:

I haven't done an evil clown yet.

Lucas:

I knew I was going to, at some point, I'm glad had this one.

Ashley Warren:

Well, I'm, I'm glad to have introduced evil

Ashley Warren:

clowns to your podcast catalog.