Conpulsion in Edinburgh: Talks and more!

This coming weekend (March 30-31st) it’s Conpulsion in Edinburgh, Scotland, and we will be there with our stall, as well as taking part in a bunch of talks. We have a long history with Conpulsion, even before Handiwork Games was a thing, so it’s always a delight to be in attendance and to be able to contribute to the show!

Innovation in Games Design
Saturday 13:15—13:45:
With: Tanya Floaker and Jon Hodgson

A panel looking at how you can innovate in games design to create better and more playable games, with insights from two experienced designers and publishers.
Jon Hodgson is a games designer, artist and writer, as well as the owner of Handiwork Games.
Tanya Floaker is a games designer active in the indie gaming scene and has successfully crowdfunded several innovative RPG projects.

See and https://floaker.itch

History and Gaming
Saturday 12:15—12:45
With: Aleksandra Brokman and Malcolm Craig

A panel about projects exploring gaming history and applying multimedia approaches from two celebrated ENnie-nominated games designers with strong links to Conpulsion.
Malcolm Craig, acclaimed author of a|stateCold City and Hot War who is now a senior lecturer in history at Liverpool John Moores University. Malcolm is working with Handiwork Games as an integral part of his research work into the history of nuclear war in roleplaying games.
Aleksandra Brokman, acclaimed author of Wise Women and host of the Lamias actual play stream, has a series of Vampire the Masquerade essays on YouTube deep diving into the evolution of clans over the editions of the game.

See and and

History in Games/Games in History: Live!
Saturday 14:15—15:00
With: Jon Hodgson and Malcolm Craig

Come and be part of a live recording of the History in Games/Games in History podcast. Not only listen to Jon and Malcolm like you can on the internet, but see them live and ask them questions too.
Dr Malcolm Craig is a senior lecturer in history at Liverpool John Moores University.
Jon Hodgson is a games designer, artist and writer, as well as the owner of Handiwork Games.
Together they fight crime talk about history in games and games in history!


20 years of a|state: Ask Me Anything
Sunday 13:15—14:00:
With: Malcolm Craig and Paul Bourne

Malcolm Craig and Paul Bourne, the creators of a|state, launched the first edition upon the world at Conpulsion 2004. Now available in a beautiful, full-colour Second Edition, Conpulsion 2024 gives you the chance to ask them anything about the game and their reflections of a|state’s 20 years.


Get your tickets for Conpulsion in Edinburgh here:

The Loss of the Trials of the Twin Seas Pallet

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.

Continue reading “The Loss of the Trials of the Twin Seas Pallet”

KING BEOWULF: on playability

(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”

King Beowulf Questions

As we close in on the launch day for KING BEOWULF kickstarter, let’s talk some basics!


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?

Rules for:

  • 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
  • Trading
  • Raiding
  • Exploring
  • 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.

KING BEOWULF – the cover

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.


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!

BEOWULF at Bundle of Holding!

We’re delighted to announce that Bundle of Holding has an amazing deal on BEOWULF PDFs.

For just US$9.95 you get all six titles in the Beowulf Collection (retail value $44).

The collection comprises:
• The core BEOWULF Age of Heroes setting book
Four adventures:
The Elfshot
Horror at Herrogate
Seven Stones,
The Witches and the Wyrm;
• the beautiful Beowulf Art Book.

This bundle supports Direct Relief, a charity providing protective gear and critical care medications to health workers around the world, especially targeting Covid 19. Certainly an important and worthy cause.

The Bundle is only active for a short time, so get it while you can!

KING BEOWULF Table of Contents

Here’s an exclusive first look at the table of contents for KING BEOWULF, by Jacob Rodgers.

This is a work in progress, and subject to change. And of course you’ll see we haven’t slotted in page numbers yet. That’s still to come. Click the image to enlarge:


“Then Beowulf came as king this broad
realm to wield; and he ruled it well
fifty winters, a wise old prince,
warding his land, until One began
in the dark of night, a Dragon, to rage.

KING BEOWULF is the high level, realm ruling supplement for BEOWULF: Age of Heroes. Penned by BEOWULF co-creator Jacob Rodgers, in KING BEOWULF your Hero will move beyond the role of wandering mender of wrongs, and you’ll establish your own realm, just like the older Beowulf of the poem. Rather than followers you’ll gather advisors, build alliances, battle even bigger monsters, and resolve threats to your kingdom!

KING BEOWULF is coming to Kicktarter in 2023.


BEOWULF Blog: Monsters, Part One

Today we are looking at the Monsters section of the BEOWULF: Age of Heroes rulebook. This is the last chapter before the Appendices but it’s a big one so we might split it apart.

The first section discusses the subject of enemies is general, including the distinction beteen foes and monsters. In the BEOWULF rules, Monsters with a capital-M are special. They have a feature, Undefeatable, that helps keep them alive until the Hero uses a special weapon, technique or special action that does standard damage to them. This makes Monsters unique in the game and rewards players for social encounters or investigations. A player that pushes past those components of the game in order to roll dice in combat will not be very successful. This is a reflection of the poem… think of Beowulf’s intuition to fight Grendel hand-to-hand and his seeking out of the only magic sword that can defeat his mother.

Continue reading “BEOWULF Blog: Monsters, Part One”

The Three Ogre Brothers

The Three Ogre Brothers was designed to be the sample adventure for BEOWULF: Age of Heroes. Unlike some sample adventures, it is purposefully designed to be repetitive, in order to strongly establish the tropes of BEOWULF adventures and provide opportunities for a Player to experiment with the format. After an initial introduction scene that provides the Hero with enough background information to be confident in the situation, they are introduced to the Ogre Lands and given a fairly direct path to the first ogre brother, or they can travel further inland to meet another of the brothers first.

Continue reading “The Three Ogre Brothers”