Two new releases for BEOWULF

We have two new releases for BEOWULF Age of Heroes today!

Follower Cards Boxed Set

With the ENnie Award-nominated BEOWULF we’ve adapted 5e to work perfectly with one player and one GM. As part of our rules additions come Followers. Every Hero has a band of trusted companions that offer more abilities and opportunities to overcome the Monsters of The Whale Road.

The main BEOWULF rulebook comes with example blank follower cards, and you can download them here on the handiwork site. But we love a box of stuff, and so we put together the Follower Cards Boxed Set.

Inside the handsome craft cardboard box, you’ll find approximately 50, professionally printed Follower cards. They’re A5 in size, on sturdy paper stock with a mat finish to ensure ease of writing up your followers.

On the flip side there’s a helpful slice of Follower rules reminders and references, as well as a tracker for the Engaged condition – Followers in BEOWULF can tie up enemies in the background, allowing the solo Hero to focus on the main enemies. If the Hero doesn’t pull them back, they last 3 rounds before needing to take death saves.

Also included are 40 round, 38mm stickers of BEOWULF portraits, allowing you to personalise your follower cards with a face! There are ten individual designs, and you’ll get 4 of each.

Whale Road Poster
We’re also opening up pre-orders for The Whale Road Poster! This lovely map appears across a spread in the BEOWULF rulebook, but we wanted to give it the format it deserves.

This A2 poster is printed on very heavy stock – it’s 350gsm, which is the heaviest poster stock that printers can produce. The art is matt laminated so that it looks it’s very best.

We were planning on releasing this poster today. However when we took delivery of the posters we discovered they didn’t meet our high standards, so we’re having them reprinted. We’ve decided to offer them as a pre-order so that BEOWULF fans can combine shipping. If you chose to get both we’ll send them to you together as soon as we get the new improved posters! They’re now anticipated to arrive in October.

Grab both new releases exclusively at our web store now!:

Inspiration Tokens from a Saxon Atlantis?

In modern day Suffolk lies the town of Dunwich. It’s a small place today but many centuries ago, it was a thriving Saxon settlement of some five thousand souls. But Dunwich’s prosperity was not to last. It was lost to the sea – the whole place swallowed up in a mighty flood.

Whether the inhabitants had drawn the wrath of the God of the Book in their dealings with the heathen northmen, fallen foul of the attentions of some Monster of the sea, or whether Woden himself was displeased by their conversion to the ways of the new faith is unknown. 

But Dunwich was drowned, and lost to memory.

After a millennia beneath the brackish sea marsh a small minding of this lost settlement has come to light: a single hoard of coins, weathered green by their time beneath the water. A portion of this remnant of the Saxon Atlantis can now be yours and aid the telling of your tales in the Age of Heroes. BEOWULF Dunwich coins are available for but a short time, and they are in strictly limited supply. On the 7th of September they return beneath the waves.

(It’s a great tale, but these coins are not really from Dunwich. And we’ve taken heinous liberties with the story of Dunwich, lost to storms in the 13th and 14th centuries. Our “Dunwich Coins” are limited edition BEOWULF inspiration tokens, designed by Handiwork Games’ Paul Bourne, made by Campaign Coins, and hand customised by artist Jon Hodgson)

ENnies Focus: a|state Nicely, Done

We’re delighted to have received two ENnie nominations this year, for BEOWULF Age of Heroes in Best Electronic Book, and a|state Nicely, Done for best free product.

You can vote here until the 27th of August.

Today we’re taking a look at some of what you’ll find in Nicely, Done for a|state.

Nicely, Done is an introductory adventure for the new edition of a|state, which we recently kickstarted with great success. a|state bring numerous developments to the Forged in the Dark ruleset, making your group of characters’ ability to care just as important as their ability to fight or sneak or steal.

The book opens with a series of spreads about the setting of The City. Since the PDF is free, the best place to see this is in the PDF itself. But we’ll run through some of the highlights.

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ENnies focus: BEOWULF Age of Heroes

We’re delighted to have received two ENnie nominations this year, for BEOWULF Age of Heroes in Best Electronic Book, and a|state Nicely, Done for best free product.

You can vote here until the 27th of August.

Today we’re taking a look at some of what you’ll find in BEOWULF Age of Heroes.

BEOWULF is a supplement and setting for 5e, which centres around duet play – one GM and one player. It presents a host of new rules to facilitate that, including the Hero class, Followers, the defeated condition, and a wealth of setting material. It’s all wrapped up with a ton of beautiful atmospheric art and layout.

Today we’re looking at some selected spreads from the book.

First up, we have a foreword by star of all things Beowulf, Maria Dahvana Headley. Maria was kind enough to provide us with an introduction to our book, since we share some themes, and clearly a subject matter. The foreword is a great read all on it’s own:

Next up, let’s look at the map. BEOWULF’s setting of “The Whale Road” is a highly flexible place. Based on the myths and stories of the people we commonly refer to as the historical Anglo-Saxons, this is a highly modifiable, unreliable map. Each adventure takes place just where the Hero needs to be, every Hero has their own ship, and we don’t spend a lot of time tracking distance travelled. But a map that shows the reader the scope of the lands known to the characters in the game is certainly useful for inspiration, and a useful bridge into the setting for us moderns.

From BEOWULF Age of Heroes:

On Maps
A good look at a modern day map of the North and Baltic seas is highly recommended for inspiration. The boundless archipelagos of islands that throng these waters are very inspiring. It is rightly called the Mediterranean of the North! If we mentally remove all modern national boundaries, and consider the possibilities of countless fiefdoms, the avenues for adventure are endless!

The people of the Whale Road have no clear idea of geography in the way we do in the modern world. They lack satellites and planes, and indeed accurate means of measuring distance. They navigate by the stars and by lodestones, and with information handed down over generations, knowledge kept safe in place names rather than in bird’s eye view maps.

And so it is we can explore a shifting, unreliable geography without fear of contradicting any tyrannical map. The mysterious island fiefdoms in need of a hero’s help are always right where they need to be.

The Whale Road is measured less by miles and more by the skill of the sailor, and the craft of the shipwright, and the needle of the sailmaker. A sailor of average skill might cross from one point to another in three days. A famed Hero, deft in the ways of sail and swell, might be able to shave that travel time to just a single day and night. This is something to be encouraged. Heroic voyages are best not measured by modern day means nor modern ideas.

Next up, here’s one of our favourite spreads from the book. It just looks so crisp in the flesh. The compressed jpeg here doesn’t really do it justice. BEOWULF Age of Heroes presents a raft of unique backgrounds for your Hero characters. Noble’s Blood is probably the most traditional and most like “Prince BEOWULF”. There are many others, including Adrift, Avenger, Chosen One, Foundling and more!

BEOWULF also presents the unique Hero class, that enables duet play – one GM and one player, which is at the heart of the supplement. There are subclasses built around each ability score. In this spread we see the Council Caller and the Honey-Tongued. There’s also two of our favourite pre-generated characters – Blaedswith, the Karelian Amulet Witch (now appearing in Campaign Coins Twitch stream!) and Ibn Uthman, who routinely wins any popularity contest among BEOWULF fans. You may recognise his inspiration from either The Travels of Ibn Fadlan or the movie based upon those travels, The Thirteenth Warrior, which brings Ibn Fadlan into the world of the Beowulf poem.

Perhaps because we’re known for our artwork, we hear a lot about the art in BEOWULF. But there’s so much more to the book. There’s a whole appendix of really useful tools for the GM and player, enabling you to create backstories for Monsters, tables to generate the appearance of background NPCs, useful setting appropriate names and more. Don’t tell anyone, but while BEOWULF superficially appears to be about monster slaying, really it’s about the human beings that surround the monster, and how they relate to it, and the Hero who appears to save them.

The Hero needs some skill at arms to defeat the inevitable beast at the heart of a BEOWULF story, but without some smarts and people skills they won’t get far in unravelling how to defeat it.

The Foreground NPC Generator provides a system for generating an interconnecting web of NPCs in which to hide the clues of how the Monster can be defeated:

You can buy BEOWULF in PDF here, and order the book here. It’s also available from selected stockists.
You can vote in the ENnies here until the 27th of August. BEOWULF is nominated in Best Electronic Book and we’d really appreciate your vote!

Morgan Davie on factions in a|state

a|state second edition is kickstarting now! We funded in 78 minutes and we’re now blowing through stretch goals which expand the book and give you free PDF adventures!

a|state second edition is powered by a custom iteration of the Forged in the Dark rules. Developer Morgan Davie talks about factions within the game:

Let’s talk backing factions in a|state! (This is a juicy one because you’re about to get an exclusive look at something that isn’t included in the preview rules hat every backer gets access to…)

Every troublemaker has a special relationship with one faction, called their backing faction. This means the alliance of troublemakers brings together a whole set of different priorities and interests. They all want to save the corner, and they all want the alliance to succeed, but they want other things too. That can sometimes make things tricky! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

As a troublemaker, why do you want a backing faction anyway? What do you get from them? To start with, they keep you going. If you ever lose your backing faction you’ll need to start working hard just to get by. But you don’t need to worry about that, right? Why would you ever lose their support? It will never happen to you, and you might as well cross those rules right out of the book, right? 🙂

You can also tap the backing faction for favours. They can loan you equipment or cohorts, let you use their claims, help you gather information, even assist on your action rolls. Thanks, backing faction!

Of course, this relationship is a two-way street. The backing faction will sometimes tap you for favours. Often these will be small jobs you can fit in around your troublemaking life: check in on some friends of the faction, put up some posters around the corner, give a speech at an important wedding.

But sometimes the favours will be more substantial. We call those Hidden Agendas. When you get a hidden agenda, the backing faction is asking you to do something significant for them. Every agenda has a clock ticking down, so you can’t put it off too long. Maybe they want you to cause some trouble for a rival, or secure some new resource for their exclusive use. How will you get this done? That’s up to you. Just find a way. And sometimes those hidden agendas aren’t just quiet jobs to help your backing faction; sometimes they are actively aimed at the backing factions of other troublemakers. What are you going to do when your backing faction tells you to find blackmail material on one of your fellow troublemakers, “just in case”?

Trust between troublemakers is an important part of the game. The backing factions ensure that nothing is ever easy in the fight for your corner. The City is a complex place, and you will have some tricky decisions to make. Watch your back, and place your trust wisely.

a|state second edition is kickstarting now!

Jon Hodgson – a|state and The Three Coins

We asked Jon some questions about a|state, which is fully funded and blowing through stretch goals right now on Kickstarter.

Hi Jon, so you’re basically the person in charge of Handiwork Games – what brought you to a|state?
Hello! Yes! It’s a roundabout story that goes back many years, which includes some amazing coincidences and crossings of paths! So way back in the early 2000s, hanging out at, I became aware of this Scottish game developer called Contested Ground Studios. They had a very slick website, and presented a really interesting and weird game called “a|state”. I liked how gutsy they appeared, and how different what they were doing seemed to be – it seemed really high end, and I can recall wondering who these mysterious people were.

a|state first edition
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a|state Kickstarter Launches Today!

The Brit-indie classic, dystopian SF RPG, a|state, updated for 2021 with a unique iteration of John Harper’s Forged in the Dark rules set goes live on Kickstarter today!

The game features amazing and inspiring art by Paul Bourne, Jon Hodgson and Scott Purdy, an evocative updated setting by Malcolm Craig, and wonderful rules work by Morgan Davie and Gregor Hutton.

The game is written, the art and design are done. We need your help to see how much better we can make it in print.

The Kickstarter goes live at 5pm today (UK time):

Morgan Davie on System, a|state and Vomit

a|state second edition is coming to Kickstarter on Tuesday July 27th. Jon recently interrupted Morgan Davie’s work on the new edition to ask him some questions about the system, having already bothered Malcolm about the setting last week.

Yo Morgue. 

Kia ora Jon! 

Let’s get right to it:

So you’re in charge of the system side of things on a|state. Tell us about Forged in the Dark games. Why are they good? And if I’ve never played one, what is it like?

Continue reading “Morgan Davie on System, a|state and Vomit”

Malcolm Craig on the Joy and Pain of a|state

Malcolm Craig, co-creator of a|state, took some time to chat to Jon about the game and his background in RPGs. To those in the know, it was a pleasant surprise to see Malcolm back working on a game, since he’d formally retired from RPG work to concentrate on his career as a lecturer in history. Somehow Handiwork, with the help of Gregor Hutton and Morgan Davie, managed to lure him back to revisit his very first game, a|state.

Jon: You’ve written a bunch of RPG games. What do you like about rpgs in particular?

Continue reading “Malcolm Craig on the Joy and Pain of a|state”