Malcolm and Jon were delighted to be invited onto the Smart Party RPG podcast to talk Cold City and Hot War. Check it out!
We made our RPG Maskwitches of Forgotten Doggerland as an art experiment with an early version of AI. Which very quickly proved itself to be something we were not keen to be involved in: over a very short space of time it moved from an interesting new planet to explore to something else entirely. So we’ve left it behind.
But the Maskwitches game remains good, and we want to remake it with new all handmade artwork, which is well within our powers to achieve. It’ll be a long term project, but that’s ok.
While we will lose some of the especially weird reflexive nature of exploring the deep past through the eyes of something so contemporary and unknown as AI, we feel it’s worth continuing the game in a new direction.
And so here is a candid look at the first outing of the model we’ve made for the cover, a sort of horrific “Girl’s World” from the other side. Enjoy.
Hello. Jon Here.
A few people have asked questions about this topic, and there are some heroes in the sorry tale which I would like to highlight. It also feels like a story that should be told definitively and in one place. So without further ado, the whole sorry tale of our missing Twin Seas pallet, in detail, for your reading pleasure. And once this story is told here, we can point to this post without having to retell the story. ever. again.
(Sign ups are open right now for the KING BEOWULF campaign, which launches on Tuesday 17th October)
When we first set about seriously nailing the aims of BEOWULF Age of Heroes, several themes came out:
To solve a problem for 5e players. We all liked 5e, but we knew “just another 5e book” wasn’t an option for us. It needed to identify something that players struggle with, and provide a solution. For BEOWULF, that’s duet play: the ability to have a satisfying 5e gaming session with one GM and one player. The delight in the voices of playtesters when they realised they need only find one other player to get a BEOWULF game going will stick with us forever!
We also wanted to make use of what we were good at: adapting source material, knowing a bunch about the early medieval period and the deep influences we learned about working on Tolkien games, as well as an aptitude for the kind of art Jon is known for.
KING BEOWULF is no different in this regard. We wanted to identify a problem and present an elegant solution, one which allows players to have more fun, and be more creative than ever before.Continue reading “KING BEOWULF: on playability”
As we close in on the launch day for KING BEOWULF kickstarter, let’s talk some basics!
What is KING BEOWULF?
KING BEOWULF is a supplement for BEOWULF Age of Heroes 5e. It provides rules for your characters to step up from being a wandering, monster-slaying Hero to become a Ruler with their own mythic early-medieval kingdom.
It’ll be a hardcover, full colour book, just like BEOWULF Age of Heroes, and The Trials of the Twin Seas. We’re looking at around 176 pages, but it’s very likely to go over that in both production (every single book we’ve ever made has gone over our estimates, and that’s unlikely to change), and if we’re lucky to unlock some stretch goals on the campaign we’ll add more content to it.
There’s a free preview here.
What is BEOWULF Age of Heroes?
BEOWULF Age of Heroes is an ENnie-nominated setting and rules addition for 5e. It presents rules for play with one player and one GM – “duet play” in the half-remembered story-world of the Early Medieval period. It’s a book packed with setting, rules, monsters, generative tables and more! It’s won critical and popular acclaim for its rules additions like the Portent, the Inspiration Pool, Followers and the Alignment Die. Check out the free pdf introductory scenario The Hermit’s Sanctuary here.
Can I use KING BEOWULF for other 5e settings?
Yes! The rules in KING BEOWULF can be used for any setting. There are of course some setting-specific terms used, and we always weave our rules into the setting – in this case the myths and stories of the Early Medieval setting of BEOWULF. Nonetheless, this is easily adapted to suit your chosen setting, and then you’re good to use KB to run a kingdom anywhere. Just like BEOWULF Age of Heroes, it’s a goldmine of ideas. Arguably the main “thing” KING BEOWULF is giving you is the structure and processes to run a kingdom through the year in a way that’s easy and fun to do.
Do I need BEOWULF Age of Heroes to make use of KING BEOWULF?
It would certainly be useful if you want to play in the Age of Heroes, and build up a Hero character in duet play prior to making the switch to Ruler. But if you’re just looking for ideas to mine for your own setting, then there’s plenty here to dig into without BEOWULF Age of Heroes.
Of course we will have a bundle of all the BEOWULF titles available as part of the kickstarter both in print and in PDF. (And we want to warn everyone that mail ordering 3 hardcover books can get quite pricey, so if you’re excited for BEOWULF, consider grabbing the currently released books right now!)
Running a kingdom? Is this going to have a lot of book keeping?
Our primary goals in development were two-fold: to keep book-keeping to a minimum, and to use systems you’re already familiar with. Rather than track massively detailed aspects of a kingdom, we’ve cooked things down to a manageable and flavourful model, which is easy to grasp, and which won’t require you learn a whole new set of rules.
KING BEOWULF presents the idea of your kingdom as a character in its own right. It has a class, ability scores, skills, gains XP, and a new ability score, Prosperity. All of which means you’ll be using rules you’re already familiar with, at an entirely new scale. You’ll be recording some things you go, but no more than your average 5e character.
The process of creating your kingdom takes the form of a special adventure which both fills in your Kingdom sheet, as well as providing the in-game bridge to this new type of play. You’ll play through the process of discovering with what kind of kingdom you’ll start your rule.
Are there mass battle rules?
Yes! With some options on how you choose to tackle battles. By default, you’ll creating the story of the battle with a series of skill checks, leveraging your various advisors and aspects of your kingdom that help you in a battle. There are additionally other options too for more direct combat between kingdoms.
Can we use KING BEOWULF for our multi-player game or is it only for duet play?
You can totally use KING BEOWULF for multiplayer games, and there’s a section in the book about that, just as there is in BEOWULF Age of Heroes. You’ll have several options on how to approach it, whether your players share rulership, or one player is the overall ruler with the others taking prominent roles within the kingdom.
What’s actually in the KING BEOWULF book?
- Founding/inheriting/conquering a kingdom and thereby filling out your Kingdom sheet
- Everything needed to create your Kingdom as a character – classes, levels, XP, skills in the form of advisors and more!
- Building your Meadhall
- Running your kingdom through each year, with four seasonal festivals
- Expanding and developing your kingdom with loads of creative details to describe its nature and improvement
- Things that happen to your kingdom
- Gathering information in the state of the world around your kingdom
- How your neighbours react to your decisions and actions with actions of their own
- Monsters at a scale to truly threaten your kingdom
- Kingdom adventures
Plus lots of advice:
- For GMs and players on making the switch from wandering Hero to Ruler with power and responsibilities.
- Naming your kingdom
- For creating and running kingdom adventures
There’s loads more details to explore – this book has been a long time in development!
What is “a kingdom adventure?”
When you’re playing regular 5e, your character moves through a series of locations and events. With a kingdom adventure, a series of events move through the location of your kingdom. It’s a different way to play and an exciting twist on a regular adventure.
Development of this idea has been a truly fascinating task – taking the norms of a 5e adventure and what your character does, and scaling it up to allow a scenario structure that allows events to move through your kingdom. It’s been really interesting, and we hope you really enjoy reading the results of the develpment process.
If my Hero character becomes a Ruler can I still do regular adventures?
Yes! You can still head out in your ship like you always did. There might be a cost to your kingdom if you’re away too long though!
The book contains a lot of help and guidance about when events require the Kingdom sheet and when your character might step in and take a personal interest, and use their own character sheet. Mostly this is a matter of scale and scope. Some things just can’t be handled by a lone Hero.
How far along is the project in terms of completion?
All the rules and procedures are designed and tested. A large proportion of the final text is written, but not all. We have a lot of art made, but want to make more.
We’re now at the point where it’s time to seek your help finding the rest of the book. As you may have heard, we were hit with some serious setbacks during our last BEOWULF campaign, when all the books for US backers, along with a bunch of other books, were stolen. That’s still being investigated by law enforcement, but it’s been a tough blow to endure. We replaced all the books and resent them to US backers at our own expense. Usually we reinvest everything beyond our wages back into the next book’s development. That’s proved very tough this time around, so we need your help!
When will the book come out?
If we’re lucky enough to fund, we’re aiming to have the PDF done in the first quarter of 2024, to give ourselves plenty of time to finish it and polish it. As ever we want to make a glorious celebration of art and meticulously researched gaming content. So we’re giving ourselves time to do it.
The book will then need to be printed, and hopefully delivered in the first half of 2024. Which sounds like the distant future, but in fact is scarily close!
Helmets shown in the photographs are by the marvellous Wyrmwick Creations. Fuller brooch recreation is by Glitterbeards Viking Crafts.
Art is really important to us at Handiwork Games. Most of us “on the team” are actually primarily visual artists although we wear many hats and do a lot of other jobs too!
When it came to the cover of the upcoming KING BEOWULF we wanted something that “felt” part of a series of images. It doesn’t need to be too “on the nose” in that regard. We don’t want to be repetitive or confusing. But it needs to feel like part of a series of books.
Here’s the two hardcover books we have out just now: BEOWULF Age of Heroes, and The Trials of the Twin Seas:
So these are quite greenish in colour, and between them they contain some important stuff from the Age of Heroes:
- The Hero
- The Monster
- The Meadhall
- The Ship
- The Voyage
For KING BEOWULF I (it’s me, Jon! Managing Director/co-creator of BEOWULF Age of Heroes and cover artist) knew I wanted something that continues this thematic stuff, but also bursts out into a new place, which is precisely what the book itself does. (Or will do, should we be lucky to fund on Kickstarter!)
And so this is where we ended up. Let’s talk about it!
The first thing that strikes me is that it’s very orange in comparison to the other covers. That’s giving us that immediate break from the tradition of green, cool-colour covers. We also have the main character coming right out at us.
The hall which appears on all the other covers is burning. The character has stepped through the jaws of some giant beast, while dead bodies litter the ground, and it seems they seem to have work still to do, although these achievements are, dare we say “behind them”?
This is all strongly in line with the theme of the book. You’re stepping up from being a Hero to becoming a Ruler. You have more on your mind than just battling monsters, and the stakes are much higher. It’s not your own body you’re gambling against monsters. It’s everything. It’s your whole kingdom and all the people who live there and trust you to rule well.
With any cover design work I try to be mindful that we’re not necessarily translating exactly what’s in the book. This can be a bone of contention when you’re not the co-author/artist. In my experience authors quite rightly want a lot of accuracy in what is being depicted on the cover of what they regard as “their” book (a phrase I don’t like hearing around RPG production – these books are always a massive team effort, and morally belong to no one person!).
Covers are more of a bridge into the ideas of the book, rather than literal depiction of those actual ideas themselves, and it’s an important aspect to consider.
In this instance there’s some stuff that perhaps isn’t entirely accurate to the themes of KING BEOWULF. It’s unlikely your Ruler will fight a massive, Kingdom-threatening beast themselves. Unless, like Beowulf in the poem, it’s a poetic, doom-laden ending to their story. The book has a lot of advice on the differences between “Hero adventures” and “Kingdom adventures” and adjusting to that different scale of play. But the cover isn’t quite “there”. It’s trying to reel us in ahead of that knowledge.
There’s lots more to say about this cover, and I’ll share the sketches and some progress shots of the painting in a future post. For now you can sign up to be notified of the campaign launch right here.
And remember to grab the free preview here.
About BEOWULF Age of Heroes
One of the oldest recorded stories in Western Europe, Beowulf is the original tale of hero vs. monster – and now a dramatic, 5e setting. BEOWULF Age of Heroes has been crafted for one player and one GM.
Discover a fierce setting of wild seas and savage monsters, of meadhalls and of heirloom swords that bear legendary names. Gain Followers, take Inspiration from unique Portents, and use our specially crafted tokens to guide your voyage along the Whale Road.
About KING BEOWULF
In this upcoming supplement for BEOWULF Age of Heroes you’ll ascend the benches to the treasure seat and become a Ruler, with a kingdom of your own. You decisions will shape the prosperity of your people, the relationships with your kingdom’s neighbours, and decide whether you thrive or starve. Trade, raid, explore and expand your holdings!
It has come to our attention that the goodly folks in the Forged in the Dark community are enjoying The Trouble Engine from a|state Second Edition. We’ve had several requests to make use of this set of mechanics in other published Forged in the Dark Games.
The Trouble Engine was designed from scratch by Morgan Davie for Handiwork Games, and is not part of, nor covered by, the Forged in the Dark license. The Trouble Engine falls under regular copyright and as it stands no one can use it without a specific agreement from us at Handiwork Games.
We feel in the spirit of the Forged in the Dark license, and as a thank you for all the appreciative requests to use it, we would like everyone to be able to use The Trouble Engine in their own published games. We’re making The Trouble Engine SRD available for you to use in your published games. The contents of the SRD are available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license.
There are three simple rules we ask you to follow if you would like to use The Trouble Engine your published game:
1: If you use the Trouble Engine directly, add this line to your credits page:
“This game uses The Trouble Engine designed by Morgan Davie for Handiwork Games and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)”
2: If you create something consciously derived from The Trouble Engine, add this line to your credits page:
“This game uses rules inspired by The Trouble Engine designed by Morgan Davie for Handiwork Games and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)”
We kindly ask that you do not use your own wording to indicate use of this agreement on the credits page – please use the wording provided in order to avoid any confusion.
3: It is very important that you agree not to use any names or information from the setting of The City found in a|state second edition. The place and character names from The City of a|state are not included in this license.
This is an agreement which specifically allows you to use the mechanics of the Trouble Engine in your own setting. The City and a|state remain the sole property of Contested Ground Studios and are not part of this license.
Defining The Trouble Engine
When we say “The Trouble Engine” what precisely do we mean?
For the purposes of this agreement, “The Trouble Engine” comprises the rules and mechanics which first appeared on pages 148 to 160 of a|state second edition.
To assist you in making use of The Trouble Engine, we have prepared a text document with all the a|state setting material removed: The Trouble Engine System Reference Document. Think of it like the Blades System Reference Document but for The Trouble Engine.
The Trouble Engine SRD contains instances of terms in square brackets, which you will need to adjust for your setting. The terms in square brackets are: [character] and [location]. The precise terms you’ll want to use are likely dependent on your setting.
What Does The Trouble Engine Do?
The Trouble Engine keys into the Forged in the Dark system and allows GMs to steadily generate new problems and difficulties at a pace that reflects the current situation in their game. If you haven’t used it as part of a|state, we highly recommend you see it in context within that game to fully understand it.
The Trouble Engine Logo
You have our permission to use The Trouble Engine logo in your work if you want to. You can download a variety of versions here.
A Note on Copyright Law
We are, of course, aware that game mechanics do not fall under the auspices of copyright law. Only the written expression of a game rule is protected. This means that should you be so inclined you could simply rephrase Morgan’s work and make use of the underlying mechanics without any license or blessing from Handiwork Games. We have no argument with that – that is how copyright works. You could do the same with any game system or mechanic.
With the ethos of licensing, sharing and crediting that underpins Forged in the Dark and its collegiate spirit, we know it saves our fellow designers a lot of time and energy if they know can use our mechanics with permission and without the need to file off any serial numbers.
We very much appreciate how John Harper has shared Forged in the Dark with us, and we want to do what we can to give back to the Forged community.
We also very much look forward to seeing what you can do with The Trouble Engine in your own games!
Thank you for all the emails asking to use The Trouble Engine in your games – we appreciate both the enthusiasm and the respectful manner in which everyone has communicated. We hope you enjoy using The Trouble Engine – please let us know how you get on, and by all means send us a link to what you make with it!
FiveEvil is a set of new roleplaying rules from Handiwork Games, slated for release later this year. FiveEvil is designed to evoke the horror genre via a set of clever twists on the underlying fifth edition ruleset. The primary focus is modern day horror, inspired by the work of Stephen King, and moody, character-driven horror films like The Ritual, The Descent and Jacob’s Ladder, alongside mini-series like Midnight Mass by Mike Flanagan, and the scariest of Twin Peaks episodes.
Rather than seeking out evil in order to vanquish it, or investigating clues to battle malign influence, characters in FiveEvil are regular people trapped in a terrifying situation where fighting isn’t likely to help.
There are also plans afoot to cast a wider net with scenarios set in different eras: a key feature of FiveEvil is the ease with which it creates settings and scenarios woven together.
FiveEvil was created and written by Morgan Davie, features art by Scott Purdy, Jon Hodgson and friends, and boasts graphic design and layout by Paul Bourne.
Morgan Davie, FiveEvil Designer: “I love 5e and I love horror gaming and in FiveEvil we get to push both of them somewhere unprecedented. a|state has shown we love exploring new pathways with beloved game systems, and this one is heading into wild new places. It’s a dream project, and I look forward to giving everyone nightmares.”
Jon Hodgson, Handiwork Games: “Morgan has proved his uniquely powerful and insightful design chops with both a|state and The Three Coins. When he pitched this stripped-back take on 5e, purposefully built to deliver a particular flavour of horror gaming, I was really excited. Having now played it, I can confirm it absolutely delivers on its promise to subvert so many of the expectations in 5th Edition, bringing something really fresh to the gaming table. I love it, and I can’t wait for us to share it!”
Closed play tests are complete, and we will be inviting play testers to the next round of testing soon. A printed book will be funded on kickstarter later this year.
It seems like a busy week for enjoying content around our games!
The latest Yes Indie’d podcast features Paul Beakley, and he has some very kind things to say about a|state: “It is in my opinion the best Forged in the Dark game out right now”.
The a|state chat begins at 43:54, but Paul is a very interesting guy to listen to, so we highly recommend the whole thing. And if you missed his deep dive on a|state, be sure to check that out!
We just released the Original Soundtrack for Maskwitches at DrivethruRPG, so you can now enjoy some very strange and disturbing music along with your very strange and disturbing Mesolithic spirit battlin’.
And stay tuned, Maskwitches fans, we’ll have some exciting news for anyone attending UK Games Expo in less than 3 weeks’ time! (And yes we are exhibiting at Expo, even if the UK Games Expo site thinks otherwise. You’ll find us right next to our friends Nightfall Games.)
Hey! We almost forgot to mention – it’s the GMs Day sale over at DrivethruRPG! You can get loads of our titles at a big discount!