BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is a roleplaying game inspired by the ancient epic poem Beowulf.
As gamers and designers reading and enjoying the poem, we quickly realised it focused on Beowulf’s struggles against the various Monsters he faced and his relationships with the folk that he met, such as Unferth, who was at first critical of the hero but then gave him his magical sword to hunt Grendel’s mother, and Wiglaf, his loyal follower.
So we decided that the game should focus on a single hero, with a gamemaster providing the challenges and details of the world. This style of game is often known as duet and can be an excellent way to introduce new players, still be able to play when a larger group can’t get together or have a home game with a significant other, sibling or other family member. We made the decision long before the current pandemic threatened the world, but we’re glad to offer another tool to help combat the isolation and stress of these times.
The game BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is built on the foundation of the fifth edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game, commonly called 5e. The strength and balance of this game engine allows us to make some very precise tweaks to produce epic adventures for a singular Hero. The development team are 5e experts, with prior projects such as the award-winning Adventures in Middle-earth™ to their names. We’re very comfortable in adapting a literary world to a game setting.
When Beowulf goes to Denmark in search of Grendel, he takes with him his Followers to aid him. These Followers only occasionally make an appearance within the story, but we can assume they’re always there, helping Beowulf out. Similarly, we have created rules for Followers so that the Player’s Hero character can have much needed support, while still enjoying the spotlight.
A Hero’s followers are always there in the background, ready to enter an encounter when an appropriate gift is called for. They also provide a useful, friendly conduit for when the GM might need to deliver a hint about the next course of action to the player.
When you’re playing a duet game, there is a singular focus on one player character, meaning that you can engage with them in a deeper way than you can with bigger games. The nature of the Hero sets the tone for the whole campaign. This makes it easy to explore choices like the Hero’s alignment (whether with the Church, the Old Ways or carefully Neutral) in a changing world, the way they choose to enact the role of the hero, and their relationships with NPCs.
Since the singular Player and their Followers are always the star of the show, we also provide rules for journaling the ‘off-screen’ activities of the Followers and Hero and reward the Player for investing into the game world. While the GM creates adventures for the next session, the Player can use our new rules and guidelines to invest in their character and followers between sessions.
With one player, there’s less pressure to “take your turn” so that other player’s can take theirs. You can spend a little bit longer on your choices, and we’ve capitalised on this for duet play, adding engaging choices and options for the single player. We love 5e’s inspiration economy, and we’ve built on that for BEOWULF, with duet play in mind.
Using 5e also means that the Monsters and other enemies that the Hero faces can use the regular 5e challenge scale, meaning you can use them in other games and settings if you like. And if you’re a confident 5e player, you can easily bring in things from other 5e settings
If you’re excited about BEOWULF but have a larger group ready to hand, we also offer rules and suggestions for playing the game with more than one Hero.
BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is coming soon to Kickstarter. You can check out the system by downloading our free preview, the Hermit’s Sanctuary at drivethrurpg.com