Adventure Scents: An Interview with Jennifer Howlett
I recently had a chance to have a chat with Jennifer Howlett, Author, Game Designer, Purveyor of Unusual Scents. She is the creator of Adventure Scents a wonderful concept where you have theme specific scents you can use in gaming, cosplaying, reading events. She is also the author of a very creative cookbook which I also review called Cooking with Dice. Have a look for my review of the beads as well as the book. I asked her a few questions on how she had the idea and how she created the scents. Her answers were quite remarkable!
- How did you come by the idea to create scents?
My husband and I were playing Pathfinder with our two children and were trying to make it a really fun and engaging campaign. Our kids are both avid video-gamers so we were looking for ways to make the tabletop RPG really engaging and immersive for them. We had the works: maps, miniatures, music, and models. We even found fantasy art to help set the scene and sound effects to enhance the mood. And we thought it would be fun to add some scents too. I assumed that we could find some zombie-scented candles out there somewhere, but I was a bit disappointed by the options available. We didn’t want to go adventuring in a field of linen or a vat of vanilla pudding. We wanted scents that would match REAL adventure locations. So I decided to create some!
After looking at a lot of options for formats, I decided to produce scentable beads in a jar. These don’t require heat or fire to activate and are safe to use in a variety of environments. And best of all, they won’t leave the room permanently smelling like a Putrid Sewer – you can just close the lid on a jar of scents and the scent will go away quickly. The beads can also be placed in our scentable lockets for your enjoyment or to accent a costume.
- How does one find those particular scents such as blood, rotten vegetation, dust…?
I’ve done a lot of research on fragrance oils, looking for the perfect base scents to use in our blends. I have several hundred samples of fragrance oils from different wholesale companies that I’ve experimented with. We’ve narrowed those down to a smaller number that we can blend together to create our scents. Sometimes we find that an unexpected fragrance oils is a good fit – as when we discovered a “Gym Socks” oil that provided us with the decaying flesh note in our Moldy Crypt scent.
- What is your ultimate goal with Adventure Scents? Scents for theme parks for example?
My ultimate goal is to make the games you play at home more fun and immersive. We do work with a lot of Escape rooms, large scale LARPS, and other event hosts, but we focus most of our efforts on individual gamers and other awesome geeky-types. I do, however, plan to continue to take on additional products in the genre of multi sensory gaming, such as Cooking with Dice, in the future.
- I can see so many usages for the scents, do you have plans to expand the range?
We don’t have any plans to increase the number of scents we sell regularly (because my garage is stuffed full of fragrance oils and scented beads as it is), but we do plan to offer up Limited Time Only scents on occasion. We’ll be offering a few of these at GenCon this year. If any of those take off, we might add them to our current line. Some of the scents we’re currently experimenting with are: Swimming Pool, Press Room, Citrus Grove, Bed and Breakfast, Sanatorium, and Fast Food Joint.
- The book is also wonderful, how did you come by the idea to create it?
I came up with the idea of the cookbook, because I was looking for a way to incorporate the final neglected scent – taste – into tabletop RPGs. I watch an embarrassing number of cooking competition shows and was looking for a cooking game that I could do at home, possibly with my family. I couldn’t find anything that looked very interested, so I started brainstorming how you could squish together the best parts of a classic tabletop RPG with the best parts of a cookbook, and sprinkle it with a bit of Top/Iron/Master Chef magic. I picked acid cooking as the theme for the first book, because I thought that the challenge of cooking (mostly) without using heat or flame to transform ingredients sounded pretty fun. We had a lot of success with our Kickstarter and will be fulfilling in August. As soon as we’re done, we’ll have the book up for sale on our websites (Adventure Scents and Cooking With Dice).
- Are there any other books in the works?
I’ve got a lot of ideas for future books in the Cooking with Dice series, but I just started a new job, so it’s been slow going lately. Thankfully, my 12-year-old daughter, Evelyn, has taken the reigns and is working on a Cooking with Dice book for kids and by kids, called Kidnapped. It will teach kids how to independently make a variety of cool things in the kitchen without needing to use a knife or the oven/stove, giving them a chance to roll the dice to add their own unique spin on each dish. I’ll be helping her to play-test her formulas and incorporate the game elements from the Cooking with Dice system.
- Will you be attending any conventions this year? Where can people find you on social media?
We’ll be hosting a sniffing station at GenCon in August in Indianapolis, followed by the Indiana Toy and Comic Expo in our hometown of Bloomington. We’ll have all of our scents available there for you to sniff, and a limited supply of Cooking with Dice: The Acid Test. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @adventurescents and @cookingwithdice to keep up with our activities.
- We all know just how closely smell is related to memory, is your idea to also use the scents to create memories?
I believe that scent ties very strongly in with memory. When people try out our scents, they often speak about a memory that has been triggered (a grandfather’s pipe, a carnival in their hometown, a camping trip, going fishing with their dad, a basement at their old home, etc.). This can be a powerful tool in the hands of a creative Game Master!
- What is next for Adventure Scents?
We’re trying to use our products to make the world a better place, and would especially like to find ways to get our products in the hands of more teachers. Adding scents can bring a history, science, or language arts curriculum to life! (Educators should contact us directly for discounts).
- What can you suggest people to try if they don’t yet know how this works?
If you’ve never tried Adventure Scents, come visit us at our sniffing station at a convention if you can. You’ll be able to try out all 60 of our current scents and find out which ones you can’t get enough of. If that isn’t possible for you, you can try one of our multipack samplers: we offer small pouches of our scented beads for you to try at an affordable price.