Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Five or So Questions on Iron Edda Accelerated

Hi all! Today I have an interview with Tracy Barnett on Iron Edda Accelerated, which is currently on Kickstarter! I hope you enjoy hearing what they have to say about the project and that you'll give the Kickstarter a look.

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The Iron Edda Accelerated logo on black textured background. The words IRON EDDA are colored orange and red like lava and spitting off bits, and ACCELERATED is in hammered steel color.


Tell me a little about Iron Edda Accelerated. What excites you about it?

Ragnarok occurred in the form of 50 foot-tall, metal dwarven destroyers rising out of the ground. Humanity cried out to the gods for help, and Loki responded. "Here, take this thing (which I totally didn't steal from the dwarves) and use it to bond the spirits of your bravest warriors to the bones of dead giants and y'all can make like Pacific Rim." That's the pitch I've used for Iron Edda since it first came out a few years ago. This new version uses the Fate framework found in Dresden Files Accelerated, meaning that every character is represented by a Destiny, a set of conditions and stunts which define what you can do in the world. It's different than the previous version, and I'm thrilled with the design.

Iron Edda Accelerated represents a huge second chance for me. I Kickstarted the original Iron Edda game (War of Metal and Bone) about four years ago and I was never able to give it the time and attention it deserved. I mean that both as a game, and as a product. Last year around this time, I thought about what I could do to change the future of Iron Edda. I approached Encoded Designs, gave them the full rundown of the issues I'd had getting a marketing push for the original game, and pitched them the idea of a new version. They accepted and we started development. I got a chance to re-do things in a better way, with support from a publisher, rather than doing it all on my own.

Mechanically, this is the version of Iron Edda I've wanted to see all along. It's funny, I was talking with a publishing friend at Origins last week and he was talking about how his games all have a five-year development cycle. I've unintentionally done that with Iron Edda Accelerated. The original draft which became this game was something I started five years ago for someone else's Kickstarter. Now, five years on, I've learned enough about the world and I've improved as a designer to the point where I could make the game what I wanted it to be. That's a lesson I'm going to keep with me.


What's happening mechanically in Iron Edda Accelerated? What are the new fiddly bits?

The fiddly bits are legion with this design change. Fate Core is, in a lot of ways, an open template. You can make a lot of things happen by making new Extras and Stunts, which is what I did in the original Iron Edda. In the framework provided by Dresden Files Accelerated, everything is codified. Your core abilities are described by Conditions. Every condition has a finite number of uses before you have to undertake an action to recover them.

In mechanical terms, that means that you can't, say, summon the bones of the dead giant who is bonded to your soul unless you mark a box of your Summon the Bones condition. In the original Iron Edda, there wasn't anything like that. You called up the giant bones whenever you wanted. In Iron Edda Accelerated, you can do that five times (each time lasting a scene) before you have to indulge in your dead giant's Worldly Desire to be able to recover boxes on your summoning condition track. If you want to push it, you can, but you then mark a condition called Abomination. You get the giant's bones for a scene, then the giant takes over, using your body as it sees fit.

I guess the best way to say it is that everything has teeth now. There's no use of power without a balancing influence or cost which you, as the player, have to be concerned with. Aside from making things mechanically more interesting, this also makes the fiction more interesting. Bonebonded have to content with their giants, Runescrbed with the power that will ultimately consume them, Seers with fate itself. There's a push and pull for every destiny in Iron Edda Accelerated, and that's so much more compelling to play.

That ties directly into your [next] question.


How has your path as a designer influenced the game in big ways - what are some places you can look at this new project and see the changes in you and the design?

When I wrote the first Iron Edda, there was a lot of stuff that I put in the game because it seemed to fit and because it seemed cool. Fate Core includes the idea of success at a cost, so I just left it in the hands of the players and GMs in the world to provide the negative sides of the fiction so playing a Bonebonded or a Seer would be interesting. As the years went by, I began trying to push for more of those complications in the games I ran because I thought it made for interesting fiction at the table.

When I read Dresden Files Accelerated it was around the same time I pitched a new version of Iron Edda to Encoded Designs. Something inside was telling me that the setup of conditions and linked stunts would be a great fit for Iron Edda and every time I've run or played it, that has borne out. I guess that speaks to the other side of experience as a game designer. There's never a point where you need to stop learning. There is, however, a point at which I think it's really valuable to begin to trust your design experience. I won't ever claim I'm the best Fate designer or any BS like that. But I've got over fives years of experience working on Fate designs, and there are some designs that I know will work as I write them, playtest or no. That's a huge thing to realize. So much of design work is fraught with insecurity. It feels really good to have moments where I see something work exactly as I intended it when I wrote it.

As a quick aside, one moment where I knew I'd gotten the flavor of the Seer right was during an online game a few months ago. The player who chose the Seer asked if they could summon a host of the dishonored dead to help them in a fight. There's a stunt written for the Seer which does just that, but the player hadn't seen it. Having someone new to the game and new to the rules ask to do a thing I'd already written was absolutely amazing. That's what I call leveling up.


What was playtesting like with Iron Edda Accelerated? What were some of your better, and more challenging, experiences?

It's funny; I think in a lot of ways I've been playtesting Iron Edda Accelerated ever since I made the first Iron Edda. By that I mean that I learned so much about how the game is supposed to run and how the world is supposed to be reflected from all of the sessions of War of Metal and Bone that I ran over the years. Iron Edda Accelerated is my best effort expression of that.

However, when I ran my first two sessions of the new system at Big Bad Con in 2017, they were near-disastrous. I was jet-lagged and sick, so when I got to the table, working with characters I'd written up on the flight out, everything just seemed off to me. It was like getting into a car you're super familiar with and finding that someone has changed the location of all the controls. I tried to turn on the wipers and the headlights kicked on, y'know? But, those two sessions were necessary for me to learn the new layout and arrangement of things. A couple of months later at Acadecon I ran two of the best sessions of any Iron Edda game I'd ever run. I'd settled into the changes and everything worked the way I expected it to. Some of the mechanics needed tweaking, of course, but the game was what I wanted it to be. That felt good.


When you look at the work you've done, what are some of your favorite pieces of design, fiction, or even just experience had that you want to share with aspiring designers to show how good it can be?

Probably the best experience I've had in regards to gaming, especially running my own game, was at Origins in 2014. I was running the original Iron Edda at Games on Demand and I made the mistake I often made back then: I stayed up way too late, drank too much, and was hungover for my morning slot. I get there, and end up with a group of eight players. Six of them knew each other well and seemed to have good chemistry, so I just decided to roll with it. I explained to them how I was feeling and asked them to really bring it for that session. They did. It was a good, solid session with a lot of political intrigue and an honor duel to determine who the next Jarl would be. End of story, I thought at the time.

The next night, Saturday, I get to Games on Demand and the person organizing the tables asked me if I was okay with seven players. I looked at the table and the same group of six were sitting there, along with a friend of mine. I sat down with them and told them I was happy to see them. They asked me something I've not heard since at a convention: they wanted to keep playing the session from the previous day. They had their character sheets, I had all the notes I'd written, and my friend was happy to make a character to fit the continuing situation.

It was so gratifying to have an entire group of people want to come back and continue the story we'd begun the day before. I've had some amazing game sessions of Iron Edda since then, but nothing has topped that. Yet. I'm open to there being something even more gratifying in the future.

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Thanks so much to Tracy for the interview! I hope you'll all check Iron Edda Accelerated out on Kickstarter today!


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