Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Five or So Questions with James D'Amato on Dungeon Dome

I have an interview today with James D'Amato from ONE SHOT who is talking about his current project, Dungeon Dome, which is currently on Kickstarter. Dungeon Dome is an unusual project - an actual play project with... gladiators? Let James tell us more!


Tell me a little about Dungeon Dome! What excites you about it?

The Dungeon Dome is a new actual play project that I'm hoping to produce through Kickstarter. The basic Idea is D&D meets professional wrestling. Players take on the role of fantasy gladiators fighting for wealth and glory in an arena full of deadly traps.

There is a lot that excites me about this project. Actual Play is rapidly becoming a major part of the RPG landscape. Shows like The Adventure Zone, Critical Role, and to a lesser extent my own ONE SHOT have shown that you can indeed export the experience of RPGs to a mass audience. So far, actual play games have been traditional, just putting a mic or camera in front of a normal game. I've reached a point with my audience where I feel comfortable messing with the formula.

The Dungeon Dome is the type of campaign that wouldn't really work without an audience. The players are disconnected, the story is primarily moved through one type of play, PVP is usually only fun for the winning parties, and the only person playing who experiences the whole thing is the DM. With an audience, these disconnected stories play out in a way that other people can experience. Having people observe play heightens the drama inherent to combat. The PVP element is fun win or lose because in wrestling a lose can be as beneficial to a character as a win. I can also use competitive challenges that would feel out of place in a traditional game.

I'm also folding in mechanics that allow the audience to actively participate in the game. By cheering on the team they support that can grant that team special abilities to use in the game. This is a chance for me to experiment with the form of observed play, a style I think we will see more of in design over the next few years.

Also, on a more personal note, if The Dungeon Dome funds, it will allow me to pursue game design and performance gaming full time. That would be rad!

How have you developed the initial project - setting, concept, and so on?

I drew inspiration from a few places. Primarily the WWE and Yuri on Ice.

For the past few years I have been lightly getting back into wrestling. I watched a little when I was 10, but I wasn't a die hard fan, eventually I grew out of it. However, a lot of the podcasters I listen to are huge wrestling fans, and there are a surprising number of wrestling fans in nerdy spaces. More accurately it surprised me initially. Now the parallels between wrestling, superhero comics, LARP, and improv are glaringly obvious to me. I guess I was pretty mired in the perception of wrestling as "low art" which is really stupid.

Anyway, after watching some matches I saw a lot of things that I could appreciate, and a lot of things that frustrated me. There is still a lot of old fashioned misogyny and toxic masculinity in big company wrestling. To the point that I can't really watch it regularly. I see that it has merit, and understand what people enjoy, but there is a lot that grates on me. I also don't see enough of the kind of theatrical experimentation in televised wrestling. Like, Lucha Underground comes really close but I want really wild storytelling. I want to see Shakespeare plays told through wrestling matches. Mainstream wrestling, understandably, was not going to do that.

Competition is one of the main levers in traditional games. Crunch games really show off the wargaming DNA in RPGs, and war gaming is really competitive. People who know my work know I don't feature a ton of tactical, crunchy games. I think ONE SHOT, for the most part, doesn't lend itself to those games. Yuri on Ice, among other things, is a really good sports story. You love almost everyone in it, they are all driven and fierce, and in the end only one of them can win. Even as a written thing it had beautiful, surprising highs and lows. It was so good it made me long for competition drama at the table.

The Dungeon Dome became a way for me to explore competitive games, sports narratives, and the things I like in wrestling.

One final note, after I started work on this I discovered X Crawl through the podcast. It was another attempt at arena Dungeon Punk competition. It was neat there there were similar ideas in game design. We're in slightly different places but I want to give them a nod.

What tech will you be using to bring Dungeon Dome to the people in accessible ways?

ONE SHOT has a production studio in Chicago outfitted with a four camera setup, good audio equipment, and decent lighting. I think we have one of the best-looking setups on twitch, at least for the space we can afford. I really wanted to have solid audio quality be cause it was important to me that folks be able to hear us clearly. We're exporting all of our episodes to backers as podcasts as well, so folk how prefer/need to listen don't need to bother with video files.

Ideally, I want to have some sort of replay transcript, but this might have to be a down the road priority. It bothers me that hearing impaired listeners don't have access to so much of what we do. Stuff like subtitles and transcripts are a priority if we go far enough over our funding.

Elaborate a little on your reasons for liking actual play. What are your personal reasons for liking it, and your reasons as a creator? How do you think it's influencing the heart of games?

Actual play excites me for so many reasons. The best way to grow the roleplaying hobby has always been to show people how much fun it is. The problem has always been that the experience of an RPG is difficult to show off. Games usually serve smaller groups, and explaining them has a "you had to be there" element for a lot of people. With actual play, people can actually be there. It's experiencing RPGs second hand, but you still get to experience them. It completely changes the way the hobby grows.

On a personal and somewhat selfish level, games are the form of artistic expression that works best for me. I have Dyslexia and ADD as a result, I write very slowly. On top of that, just about everything I produce takes a lot of editing. I love storytelling, but writing has a major prohibitive barrier for me. A ton of traditional storytelling mediums require heavy writing: novels, films, TV, plays, ect. For someone in my position, that sucks.

Stories in games flow naturally for me. The improvisational nature of gaming drops all of those barriers. The performance aspect plays to one of my other strengths. At the table I feel confident and excited, it feels effortless. At times it feels like my ADD is an asset more than a liability. Actual play means that a games are viable performance space. Thanks to actual play my creative outlet is a career. I cannot express how huge that is.

How do you handle tone and support players when it comes to content in a game that's effectively live? What happens when there is a "no"?

This is something that Kat (my best friend and business partner) and I have talked about this. Right now the plan is to just have an X Card. So far we haven't run into X Card issues. The Dungeon Dome falls into a much more cartoony depiction of violence and triggering subjects. However you never know. Like, if a player has a phobia and a monster exhibits qualities of that phobia we'll be in a tough spot. Especially if the monster is audience submitted. Thankfully games are flexible, so you can make changes on the fly.

For those who are curious, if an X Card shows up, we will say we have an X Card and explain what it means to the stream. Normally, you don't do this. You don't call attention to that sort of thing to protect the player. ONE SHOT is in a different position than normal games though. People look up to the network as community leaders. So If we get an X Card I want to show the audience how it is used. I want players advocating for X Card at their tables to be able to point to us and say "ONE SHOT does it." We won't force people to tell us why we need to change what we are changing, just show of that it is happening and the method we're using to organize it.

Last thing - tell me about these audience participation mechanics. How do they work? Just how much can one person influence the game?

Boy howdy this is a good question! The Dungeon Dome is part performance, part live playtest. I fully expect The way The Dungeon Dome operates episode 1 of season one to be different than the way it works episode 15. We will testing out, adding, and changing audience participation mechanics throughout Season 1 if we fund.

Right now we have a few ways we know the audience can influence the story:

Backers can buy the right to directly collaborate with me on monsters, traps, items, and NPCs that will show up in The Dungeon Dome and directly affect matches, the overall story, and the game's world.

During streams the audience can grant the team or performer they support Inspiration (a D&D 5e mechanic.) Normally inspiration is something the DM awards, but I have taken it completely out of my hands. I won't be able to do it even if I want to.

In The Dungeon Dome games I ran before the Kickstarter, folks did this by spamming the chat with team hashtags. Now we are Twitch Affiliates, so we have access to Bits and Cheer. These are a gamified currency Twitch uses to allow a viewing audience to tip streamers. For The Dungeon Dome it could be a more effective and noticeable way for folks to influence the stream live.

Also in the pre-KS Dungeon Dome if a character dropped below 0 HP the audience could vote whether that character succeeded or failed on their Death Save. 3 failures would kill a character permanently. The audience still has this power and I think it's pretty buck wild how much this could change the story.

That's what we know. I fully expect to create more avenues for interaction but I need to experiment in order to find them.


Thanks so much to James for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed reading and that you'll check out Dungeon Dome on Kickstarter today!

note: Thoughty is on hiatus until probably July 31, 2017. Hopefully this interview, and past ones, are enough to re-read if you miss me. <3

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Patreon Spotlight - Caitlynn Belle

Today I've got a spotlight on a Patreon that is super great and super weird. It's also very sexy! 

Caitlynn Belle is a designer that some people might be familiar with, as her game A Real Game won IGDN Game of the Year in 2016. She has a Patreon to fund her work, as well as a website dedicated to her public releases. Her products are innovative and unusual, and approach topics not everyone might be used to. Curious about what those might be? Read more below!


Caitie herself!

So, would you mind giving me a brief pitch for your Patreon? Tell me about some of your creations.

My Patreon is what I use to fund my endeavors and gather attention for the games I make: a lot of great people there give me incredible feedback and promote my games, and the financial support I get helps take some of the stress off my living requirements, so all in all Patreon is what's keeping my work going right now! I create small, short-ish games about sex, kink, communication, and connecting to others.

My game "A Real Game" won an award at GenCon! That and Our Radios are Dying are probably what people know of me best. It's a game about taking an actual printed copy of the game and interacting with the pages, sometimes transforming or modifying them, as the game itself becomes sentient and speaks to you, unsure of its right to exist. It's certainly gained the most attention, with a lot of different interpretations, which is always interesting to see!

Our Radios are Dying is a game about two space lesbians who got separated from their spaceship and are now drifting through space with only an hour left before they die. They have nothing else to do but talk about their relationship and their problems and who they are. You play it by sitting on rolling office chairs and actually spinning and floating around on them, as if moving through space, and I quite like it.

Kirigami Dominatrix Display Simulator is a game about domme-ing a sheet of paper. You take on the role of an alien dominatrix and do kinky things to the paper using common stationary tools, using this to immerse yourself in and symbolize BDSM play. I think it's my most clever game, and it's informed a lot of the rest of what I do.
Screenshot from inside Kirigami Dominatrix Display Simulator.
I've read Kirigami Dominatrix Display Simulator, and it's a freaking fantastic game. I loved the design, and the use of paper and scissors and other modification of the paper is a gorgeous idea. It also includes some extra rules on how to simulate BDSM and orgasms in other games, which I loved, and it's one of the most innovative and respectful games I've seen involving sex.

Tell me a little about your process for creating games. Do you brainstorm? Do you use any specific techniques? Is it pure Caitie goodness? How do you do it?

Typically I think of something I wish I saw in games or a particularly trope or idea I want to fiddle with, and I'll just keep that idea floating around in the back of my head. At the same time, I'll think of characters or situations or plots that I like and keep those floating around in the back of my head as well. At some point, there's a marriage, and then I make a game!

Sometimes two ideas click instantly, sometimes it takes forever. There's stuff on my computer that's been waiting years to get used, and maybe it never well. Eventually they work though, and I write out what I think is the best part of that system, slowly building up ideas while daydreaming at work. Then once I have it written out, I mercilessly edit and cut everything I can until it's distilled down into what I think is the simplest and most fun version of that idea possible.
One of her better known games, bugfuck, is about bugs fucking. Like, for real. It's amazing.

What is your background in games? How did you become a designer?

I grew up around people that were roleplaying and I never understood it, but I always wanted to figure it out and play. I did a little bit in middle school, but then sort of got into it proper in high school. I kept trying different games and different ways to play because I got bored after a while of just playing only one game, and so I got experienced with different mechanics and different playstyles. As I played with more people and as I started to dig into the indie publishing scene, I tried to make houserules that I wished were in the games I played - and then eventually after years of that, I had a more defined sense of how I liked to roleplay, but didn't find very many games that experimented with it, so I made my own!

What helps you decide the medium to use for your games, the mechanics, and so on?

Basically editing. I slap together a game that I think will accomplish what I want, and after exploring it some, I realize it doesn't do what I want at all, and then I search for what will. The first drafts of most of my games are very traditionally game-y: dice, character sheets, processes. It's by seeing how those ideas don't allow me to achieve the story I want that I open myself up to what does. It's just ruthlessly cutting everything away until I only have the barest idea left.

What do you do to draw in more players and customers?

Oh, I wish I knew. advertise monthly or bi-monthly on social media, I enter a lot of contests, I get hired to do Kickstarter stuff and so on, eventually hoping that people will recognize my name and like what I do and seek me out. I just design a lot and spread out a lot and try to be as visible as I can.

How would you define your "brand" as a designer?

I angle for weird, sad, beautiful, and sexy, pick maybe 2 or 3. It's just stuff I like to see in stories. Strange things and strange stories are fascinating to me and I love seeing games with quirky mechanics and ideas. I like and aim for stories that feature hot sex or heartbreak or life-affirming beauty or just invasive weirdness, so that's what I try to make!


Thanks so much to Caitlynn for the interview and the opportunity to check out her process and work! Up next Caitlynn will be releasing a game in #Feminism 2nd Edition, and has been doing work on a fair number of Kickstarters, so keep an eye out for her name when a new product comes out!

Remember to check out her Patreon to support her work and her website for more games! 

This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs. Tell your friends!

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Turn - Playtesting is Hard, Y'all

This is going to be a little more colloquial than normal, so bear with me. On playtesting in general, I've got some Feels™, but later on in the post there's some more about my recent work on Turn.

I took this of a bison at a local park. :D

On playtesting while designing in general: 

Monkeys on pogo sticks, playtesting is hard. While it is somewhat easier being a player in a playtest for Turn, being a Storyteller is exhausting. Now, it's not the game. It's not the players! I'm just an amateur GM and I struggle a lot with it. In both cases (player & storyteller) in playtests, I'm doing double-or-more duty of storytelling/playing and analyzing the ruleset and how it interacts with the players and itself and how the game functions as a whole oh and also I have to worry about how to fix things and where to clarify wording in the main document and ohmYGOD!

BUT. This is really an important part of the design and development process. Not all games need playtested, but many truly benefit from it, and Turn needs this a lot because it is a complicated game with many interlocking pieces and concepts, and for me, it must be perfect.

And like, here's the deal. I have three major documents in which I maintain Turn's text - two public facing for players (one for internal playtests, one for external playtests), and one private. When I make an update (which I typically do live), I update all of them. I use comments in the private document if I can't make immediate documents, and add identical text when I can to each document.

This is essential for my process. I have memory issues that make even taking brief notes difficult because they may be meaningless to me later, so if it's simple stuff, I change it as soon as possible. I design in-process, on the fly. I can't rely on future Brie. I need to make the game now, not later. So when I say running and playing these playtests are challenging, it is not simply the act of those things, it is those things and actively designing and critiquing my own work.

I have tried to make games without doing this. I can't. When I playtest face to face, if I don't have my tablet at hand, I struggle to fix the things that need updated at a later date. I can play and even storytell, to a degree, while I am making edits. I let players have some chatter while I make notes, or take a quick break. I can roleplay sometimes while I'm trying to determine how a mechanic might impact play, and can sometimes start using it while playing or running instead of waiting to try it later.

I don't know what I will do if I ever do an even bigger, more complicated game than Turn, but this is my reality right now. I wonder if other people experience this. Do you take notes? Do you edit and change rules on the fly? Can you put off changes until later? I don't know how weird this is.


Beast archetype: Otter
In playtesting Turn specifically, I've made some minor changes. The core mechanic has not been adjusted. The secondary and tertiary mechanics and structures, some text and interaction, have been fiddled with. I wanted to just go over some basic stuff.

Firstly, in combat, which I talked about on Twitter this week, I've finalized the basics. Shifters vs. small groups of humans is simple - shifters call the shots entirely. Any degree of violence, any amount of harm - but there are other consequences. For shifters vs. groups of humans (4+), it gets more complicated. Shifters can flee, if they want. They could sacrifice themselves for the good of others. Or... they can kill everyone. Everyone. But, that's all the options they get.

For shifter-to-shifter combat, I've added an assortment of options based on the beast archetype that the player has. If they have specifically chosen powers on the beast archetype, they may impact the combat. Then, they pick from a Consequences list to apply to their opponent. It worked alright in my first experience with it, though I did end up clarifying some wording.

Second, I had to clarify some elements of the core nature of Turn. Here is an excerpt from the current Turn document explaining the nature of shapeshifters in game and the stories that have freedom to be told:
How Shapeshifters Work
While there are some details players will fine-tune in their game, there are a few items of note for how shifters work in Turn. The most important things to note are that:
  • There is no concrete origin pre-defined. Shifters are not from any real-world cultural, religious, or scientific background. The designer of Turn asks that, unless you are of a particular culture or religion that has shifter backgrounds, you do not use that background for your game. 
  • If there is magic in Turn, it’s unknown and invisible to mundanes. There are also no external entities that hunt shifters, as that would violate the nature of the individual secrets of shifters and the premise of Turn.
  • Shifters are assumed to be effectively invulnerable, and any real injuries heal rapidly enough that it doesn’t matter. They have the natural bodily functions of their human and beast forms, however.
  • Shifters have super strength and super senses appropriate to their available forms - scent, sight, etc.
  • Shifters live the length of their longest lived form, and age at that speed.
Some of this is not like, totally loved by some people, and to be honest, that's whatever for me. No one has to play the game, like the game, or even acknowledge it. It's mine, and this is the game I want to see played. The things that I realized were issues the most are things like: are shifters invulnerable? is there magic? can there be threatening external entities? (yes, maybe, no.)

There are reasons for all of these. Shifters are invulnerable because 1) it's cool, and 2) physical threats, even things like aging, are not the dangers in this game. For the use of magic, sure! If you want to! But visible magic would be the death of all secrets, exposure would be rampant. So yes: magic is cool, but it should not be a function of the world that is free to mundanes.

The last one - the external entities - are because of a deeper issue in Turn that I hope doesn't fall to pieces when it gets wider distribution. Turn is not about external threats - not outside the town. The threats are within the town, those close to the PC shifters. It's about internal threats - themselves, their beasts, their desires and needs. It didn't strike me until someone wanted to include it, though I had considered the possibility very early in conception. But once I saw it, I had a very harsh emotional and thoughtful response, and had to really dig down at the problem.

Another thing that I've run into is people just really not grokking small, rural towns. There are things in small towns, especially USian towns, that are really common, and players have had a little trouble accepting them. The weird one I ran into most recently was the fact that virtually everyone drives in small-town rural US. One player from Scotland stated that he didn't drive at all, and didn't even have a license, and I was startled - this was not a thing I had considered at all! But it's true - especially in places like where I grew up, in small, rural towns, not driving is incredibly rare and also very inconvenient. It was bizarre.

Another I've encountered is some people's very significant resistance towards playing religious characters and an aim to frame religious groups as bad. This is problematic. I'm personally agnostic, but I grew up Brethren, and religion is very common in the US, and can be very passionate in rural places. It's not inherently bad, either. Frankly, having atheists and agnostics, secular people, in small towns like where I grew up? Not common. And people give them a strong side-eye, frankly. So, this is something I'll be covering, along with the infrastructure of many small towns, in some of the additional text for the game.

No red pandas yet. Be patient. They are cute and fuzzy still.
I also have been getting some minor grumps from people that my beasts are too focused on the US, particularly places near where I live, and that I'm not making an effort to expand my game, which, please take this as kindly as it can be said: fuck off. I have spoken before in many different places, including this blog, about my attitude towards writing what you don't know and do know. I have only lived in rural Pennsylvania. I'm writing what I'm familiar with right now.

Also, keep in mind, this game is barely in beta. I have a lot of plans for the future for how I can expand it, make it more accessible and more welcoming to players unlike me and who have different experiences. But holy sweet Cena, stop getting mad because I haven't started writing about small neighborhoods in Canada or rural China. This is a slow process, and you must understand that I am not trying to deny the possibility of those things - I just don't know them, and I do my best to not bullshit my way to telling stories that aren't mine.


It's been very challenging and very revealing, showing me both ignorance on my part, the part of players, and areas where I frankly just need more time and experimentation. But the core of the game stands strong, and I am still passionate about the future of Turn.

Thank you for reading! <3

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Six Tweet RPG: Place of Purpose

I gave writing a game in six tweets a shot yesterday. It's below!


Place of Purpose

Take a coin, paper, pen. Write words & numbers, 1-5: fight, cry, love, sleep, run. Write again 6-10: need, want, hate, ache, hurt.

Write a name, job, home, purpose. Answer: Old or young? Strong or weak? Alive or dead? Alone or together? Interpret as desired.

Draw a map, simple’s fine. Mark home, mark place of purpose. Line from one to the other & mark four risks. You name the challenge.

Write your story from risk to risk. Who do you meet? Name them. Why are they there? Write this. At each risk, flip the coin twice.

The path from risk to risk is yours, but the coin chooses one each 1-5 & 6-10, & tells you what you encounter. Write how you fail.

You continue after failure to your place of purpose. When you arrive, flip the coin twice. Write how your purpose is fulfilled.

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Throwback Game: Walk With Me

I wrote this on G+ a long while ago and it was talked about on The Gauntlet. Just wanted to have it for posterity or whatever.


Walk With Me

2 person apocalyptic RPG set in isolation

It is dark. You have no one else. You have nowhere to go. It is cold. There is little food, and there are predators at every turn. Beastly monsters have taken your home, so you must leave your sanctuary to find food and find a new shelter. If you don't find food soon, you will need to make a choice. Your path is perilous. You start to walk.

Both players start with six dice, representing your soul and your life.

You roll dice every time you need to survive.

Every time you feel lonely or afraid you steal one of the other people's dice.

Whoever has no dice first is the one that kills the other. Their dice are restored to full, and they can find a new companion.

The walk never ends.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Looksee into The Dark Eye and The Warring Kingdoms

Today I have an interview with Philipp Neitzel who contacted me about a supplement on Kickstarter for The Dark Eye [TDE], The Warring Kingdoms, from the publisher Ulisses Spiele. I was intrigued because The Dark Eye isn't something I've seen much about. This supplement to The Dark Eye follows up their Ennie-nominated setting, The Dark Eye: Aventuria Almanac. It sounds like a great project and I hope you enjoy reading what Philipp has to say!


Tell me a little about The Warring Kingdoms. What excites you about it?

The Warring Kingdoms Nostria and Andergast are part of The Dark Eye’s core setting, the continent Aventuria. They are two smaller realms caught in a hateful struggle that has been going on for generations. Taking a toll on the countries, depriving them of economic and social growth. Neither Nostria nor Andergast are in the focus of sweeping metaplot events or the plans of bigger realms. They are very much focused on each other. The setting very much is a down to earth approach to fantasy, going for a middle ages feel. It feels grounded, lived in and true to life and human experience. It is a setting where nature, history and magic have their own mysteries and where war has a real cost. But without going grim dark with it. There is room to be heroic and for good people to succeed in the end, even if not everything is black and white and there is room for moral choices to be made. This medieval fantasy feel is showing in the artwork and the text, making Nostria and Andergast into specific places and not just pastiche.

There are a lot of elements and plothooks in the setting that I am really excited about. Like the city of Nostria ravaged by a plague a few years ago and in decline since, with empty rows of houses that serve as home to gangs of criminals. The labyrinthine castle above the city home to the educated Queen Yolande, trying to be a wise ruler to her backwards country. The storm swept coast, where free farmers are holding back the sea by building dykes. Something that speaks to the northern German in me. The deep and endless forests and what might lurk within, places where nature makes all manmade borders obsolete and the woods themselves are the true sovereign of the land.

Personally I also like how The Warring Kingdoms as a setting allows us to examine accepted fantasy tropes. There is a lot that sounds very familiar here. A feudal order, knights, kingdoms in endless conflict. But the way it is portraited [portrayed] and rooted in the setting gives it weight and allows to ask questions. The feudal order is just as playable from the peasant perspective and what it means for them. The wars take their toll, yeomen are recruited to fight, farms and castles are damaged. Conquered villagers have to swear fealty to a new liege. But there also is an emotional cost. The inherited hate and prejudice after generations of fighting, even if in the borderlands only the rulers are changing and cultures are mixing. Where often picking a site in the conflict would be the only way to go, striving for peace, however uneasy it might be, and an understanding between cultures is portraited [portrayed] as just as viable as becoming a war hero. War itself is, unsurprisingly with a title like The Warring Kingdoms, one of the big themes. It will never be truly won or over. The war is as much a force of nature and creeping background threat as a sandbox to play in. But to give a heroic fantasy aspect to it there is a totemistic aspect to the war as well. An ancient quarrel between Animal Kings, the firstborn of their species and a mythic Root of Hatred the players can engage and appease. But even if they succeed there still is the resentment of generations at war, looping back again and grounding it in human experience.

Another trope that gets examined is gender roles in the tropes of medieval fantasy. Aventuria as a setting has been explicitly equal rights since it’s development in the 80s. Allowing for female fighters, rulers and artisans on the same footing as their male counterparts. Andergast however is one of the few patriarchies on the continent. Which culturally isolates them from their neighbors. By putting them next to and in conflict with Nostria it put “medieval” gender roles in contrast with a emancipated society and shows their injustice. But without painting every Andergastan as an evil cliché. It is an aspect of their culture, that is hard to unlearn and without contact to others not often question. Cultures are an important part of a The Dark Eye character and have weight in the rules on equal footing with their species and profession. So you are not a human fighter but an Andergastan Forest Knight and the Warring Kingdoms gives this culture weight and a setting to use it in.

As a supplement, how does The Warring Kingdoms integrate into The Dark Eye? What makes it unique beyond other settings and supplements?

With Nostria and Andergast focused on each other and the region providing a lot self-contained of hooks and conflicts while on the surface level fitting the European flavored take on a medieval fantasy setting, The Warring Kingdoms work well as the first regional supplement. Before this we had the core rules and the Aventurian Almanac, describing the whole continent, in less detail for each of the regions of course. With The Warring Kingdoms we are zooming in on this two realms and the setting they provide. They are not only geographically in the same place but united by narrative themes and a similar feel. You will just need the corebook and to a lesser extend the Almanac to get full enjoyment from The Warring Kingdoms, everything that you need to know and all rules to play in the setting are collected in the setting supplement. But the setting book is not the only thing that we offer. In the Kickstarter it comes with a adventure modules for the region and playing into the themes. New Bonds and Ancient Quarrel for example is about securing an uneasy peace, starting with a political marriage. We also provide a novella and a comic set in the Warring Kingdoms and, if our backers are generous, a soundtrack album. So there is material to engage with the setting in a lot of ways. The setting book being the core and working on it’s own. So within The Dark Eye you are getting a lovingly detailed and ready to play setting.

I would say the european, specifically german perspective on a grounded, sometimes fairytale like medieval fantasy setting. Written by people who just need to walk a few steps to get a view on a real life castle. We are inspired by different landscapes, our own culture and history, when writing fantasy and I think it shows in a lot of small details.

more below the cut!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Five or So Questions with Glynn Seal on The Midderlands

Hi all! I found this cool setting and bestiary while scrolling through G+, and the word "bestiary" drew me in (I'm a sucker for them!). MonkeyBlood Design has some sweet looking stuff on their website and The Midderlands, which is currently on Kickstarter, looks pretty nifty! See what Glynn had to say below!

(Note: While The Midderlands contains a setting as well, most of the pictures are of the beastiary. I like monsters. Deal.)


Groat. I love it.

Tell me a little about The Midderlands. What excites you about it?

The Midderlands is an OSR mini setting and bestiary for Swords & Wizardy although as with all retro clones, it'll work interchangeably with minimal effort.

The setting itself is based on the area in England where I live, the Midlands. The idea of taking this area and turning it into a more twisted, darker fantasy-land excited me. I could take landmarks and towns and run riot.

All that said, the idea of the book started as I was drawing weird creatures. I thought it would be good if they lived in and around where I lived, kind of like the Spiderwick Chronicles by Terlizzi. The idea evolved from there.

Tell me about weird creatures! Bestiaries and monster manuals are a favorite of mine. What will we see spilling forth from the pages?

The book contains a bestiary section which contains 25 new monsters. These include the Muckulus, Oorgthrax, Mud Cow, Thorned Briarling, Six-headed Sewer Gripe, Mawling and Nobblin to name a few. Each of the 25, also have a pre-generated NPC. Of these 25, 18 have defined race-classes that you can play. Now don’t get me wrong, some of these are bonkers but they have a lot of fun gaming potential. Some favourite monsters are the Conus Ogre that feeds on electricity, and the Six-headed Sewer Gripe with its decapitation attacks. Edwin Nagy has done a great job of adding flesh to the bones of the monsters. I would give him the art, tell him some things I wanted it to do/be like – and he would create these monsters of wonder.

Slitherling by Jim Magnusson.
What sort of elements are you bringing to your home of the Midlands to make it darker, to find a deeper root?

I wanted an undercurrent of something chthonic, dark and unknown going on beneath the earth. The spinning core deep below the land is made of Gloomium – a green substance which leaks to the top and taints things. The sky is green-hued and fires burn with green flames and such. There are black-clad folk about and their intent is shadowy. I don’t elaborate too much on stuff, allowing the gamemaster to take it where he wants to go with it – to fit their own agenda, or campaign ideas. I just wanted to create enough “game-juice” to give the feeling that there is untoward stuff going on.

fishy fishy fishy oh
How do you find inspiration for different monsters and game elements?

I’m never quite sure where the inspiration was coming from. I spend lots of time going through G+ and some people post some great art. In terms of the monsters whatever appeared on the page as I drew it. The drawing of the head happened first. Once I had all the heads, I created a set of headless bodies. I then printed them all out and matched up heads and bodies till I got something cool. Then I would come up with a concept and send it to Edwin for stats.

The setting just kind of fell out. A good example is that there is a ruined windmill on my way into RL work. I decided to add that the location section as Bognock Windmill. Many RL landmarks were harmed in the making of this book.

What are you doing to make The Midderlands accessible for multiple systems (OSR to Pathfinder, even) - freedom from mechanical trappings is one thing, so what in the setting makes it work for more than one system?

As it’s written for Swords & Wizardry Complete, it is easily moved to other retroclones. S&WC is generally single saving throw and doesn’t use Morale so there is a tweak needed to use in LotFP. Most OSR folk can pick this stuff up and go on the fly.

Pathfinder, D&D5E and DCC would be a little more tricky in terms of stats, but The Midderlands is not intended to be overly complicated. The setting contains no real stat stuff at all – so that can be taken and used anywhere. Other than the bestiary stats, there are magic items and oddities that can easily be used in other non-OSR systems. As an example, a Wodensblade is a +1 longsword, +3 vs green-skinned creatures. That kind of thing can be used pretty much anywhere 😊. Spells are referred to such as Charm Person, so that will be understood in most systems. Monster stats will need a little more work for non-OSR systems.

So far, the support for the Kickstarter has been fantastic, given the ambitious funding total. I want the book content and production quality to be something people get in their hands and go “whoa, this is so cool!!”, so I’d rather fund something memorable than a PoD offering if I can. That does have a cost though. We are almost half-funded at this stage and still over 20 days to go, so it’s very-promising and myself and the team are massively lucky to have such great support.

Thank you for your hosting hospitality, great questions and for your interest in the project!

#themidderlands 😊


Thanks so much to Glynn for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed reading and that you'll check out The Midderlands on Kickstarter, and remember to share the post around!

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