The Knacker

Game- and monster-designer Jacob Rodgers spills the beans on The Knacker, and on how it was created to fit with the 5e setting…

You always need someone to blame, I suppose. In Welsh and Cornish lore (not to mention Pennsylvania and the west coast of America), (tommy)knockers are semi-helpful spirits or fey creatures that steal tools and food, but also warn of the impending collapse of mining tunnels with their strange knocking sounds. During development, we decided to call our creatures Knackers, using an older spelling and not wanting to step on any toes, especially those belonging to Mr. Stephen E. King.

Stories of miners arguing with management about the presence and well-being of the Knackers inspired the introductory fiction, and also pointed at a source of conflict — apparently Knackers and dwarves don’t get along. That kind of makes sense, as they’re both well-known miners and diggers, so there might be some sort of competition there.

We also learn about the Knackers and their tendency to help expand mines. But we also learn that they’re somewhat obsessive about their work and, if left alone, tend to create structural weaknesses and tunnels that go nowhere. In other words, the next time you need to explain a non-logical dungeon design to your players, just blame the Knackers.

One section that every Handimonster will include is the Tactics section — we find that it’s not always super obvious what the best combat options are for a given creature and we want to let you know what was in our heads as we designed their features and actions. So not only do we learn about how the Knackers use their environment as a weapon, we’re also reminded about their darkvision and their tendency to attack dwarves above all other targets.

Knacker pencil sketch by Scott Purdy

To find out more, the Knacker is the current FREE monster over at our Handimonsters Patreon page.

Discover more about the creature, and about how you can get brand new, original 5e beasties, to add to your campaign! 

Something Big Has Arrived – Handimonsters Are Here!

A Brand New Patreon for Your 5e Game!

The Knacker

Crafted by an experienced team of 5e game designers, graphic designers, and artists, Handimonsters is a brand new PATREON providing you with a steady stream of completely original, never-before-seen beasties.

Every month, thar be monsters! There will be free monsters, monsters for patrons, and even more monsters for the higher tiers. And not just monsters – they’ll have Virtual Table Top tokens, top-down tokens, paper minis and art cards.

And, even better, every single ghostie, ghoulie and long leggerty beastie will come with a beautiful and original piece of art, plus an inspirational description, just bursting with tabletop ideas.

And you can grab your first monster, FREE!

The Glass Spider

Meant For Play

We love monsters that work. Our Handimonsters aren’t just numbers, lists of stats and hit points (though they have those, too). Every creature comes with its own lore, a real story, and a different and unique feature, tying in with the 5e rules.

Individually designed by the Handiwork team, they all have hooks (occasionally literally), so you can add them to your plot, campaign and game world. They’re made to inspire (and to terrify) GMs and players both.

Handimonsters Logo

So, How Does It Work?

Each month, depending on your tier, you will get up to four brand new monsters, complete with artwork and information. And, since we email the .pdfs direct to you, your players won’t have seen them – no more sneaky flicking through the manual – and you’ll have every opportunity to surprise and terrify.

Your Handimonsters will be ready to fit to every dungeon, castle and outdoor adventure… and your PCs will have no idea what you’ve got in store!

The Bogbug

Suitable to Every Budget

We really want Handimonsters to work for everyone – so, each month, we’ll give one monster away for free.

Go to the PATREON page, or to www.handimonsters.com, and we will take you through the tiers, explain how it works, and how you can subscribe. And you can grab your FREE monster!

Handimonsters, bringing the magic of discovery back to your tabletop.

Handimonsters Montage

Friday News Update – December 4th

Happy Friday, and our December Daily Deals have begun!

Every day, over on our Social channels, we’re offering a discount on one of our gorgeous gaming products. Today, (December 4th), it’s £2 OFF the price of our TUMBLING BROCH COMPACT DICE TRAY – and we’ll have lots of other offers throughout the month.

Tumbling Broch Snow Compact Dice Tray

Follow us to find out more:

Twitter @GamesHandiwork

Facebook @HandiworkGames

Insta @HandiworkGames

Please note: these offers will continue over the Christmas period, and right up ‘til the end of the month. If you’d like to order something, please make a note of our FINAL POSTING DATES.

In BEOWULF news, our Crowd Ox Late Pledges have finally closed. But fear not, brave warrior! All is not lost – we will be adding everything BEOWULF to our shop, and very soon.

We’re also delighted to add artist Jan Pospisil to our BEOWULF family. Jan has been working on some amazing illustrations for us. How glorious is this Thunor? (It’s his Saxon name, smarty!)

Thunor by Jan Pospisil

And finally… the countdown is ALMOST OVER. The Something Big is ALMOST UPON US.

What could it be? Does it have claws? Teeth? Laval red eyes? Or does it just want tea and crumpets and nice sit down? 

All will be revealed… VERY SOON…

Something Big is Coming!

Find our gaming treasures at Handiwork Games.

Find gift merch and more at Redbubble.

Find a|state and other RPG goodies, at DriveThru – where else?

And please do follow us on YouTube, and sign up for our (spam-free, promise) newsletter here!

Friday News Update – November 27th

THIS IS NOT A BLACK FRIDAY NEWS UPDATE.

Really – no Black Friday spiel, just a lot of gaming goodies.

But first up, a huge thank you to Colinomicon and the crew for their live play-though of our a|state Primer, ‘Nicely, Done’. They really enjoyed their time in The City, and if you’d like to join them, you can find their adventures on YouTube.

You can also add a touch of The City’s dystopia to your office meetings – with our a|state Zoom backgrounds!

a|state Zoom Background

Or, if you’re in a more monstrous frame of mind – we have Beowulf ones, as well!

Beowulf Zoom Background

We also have a BIG ANNOUCEMENT coming VERY SOON. I know we’ve hinted about this before… but it IS coming, it IS big, and it IS something you’ll want for your next 5e campaign.

Whatever the dragon, the dungeon, the DM, or the daring delver… this one is just for you…

Something Big Is Coming…

Watch this space for more info, or follow us on our Socials:

Twitter @GamesHandiwork

Facebook @HandiworkGames

Insta @HandiworkGames

And (of course) Christmas is getting close! If you’ve got your tree up already, then you need some great gaming gifts for the rest of your Questing Party. For the rogue? Map tiles. For the wizard? Dice. For the cleric? Iconic jewellery. For the fighter? Well, there’s a little BEOWULF in all of us…

Beowulf Dice Trays

And in the subject of BEOWULF, this is the VERY LAST CALL – make sure you get that Late Pledge in on Crowd Ox. We are shutting the longhouse doors next week!

Beowulf Late Pledge

Find our gaming treasures at Handiwork Games – and don’t miss our last posting dates!

Find gift merch and more at Redbubble.

And find our a|state primer, and other RPG goodies, at DriveThru – where else?

And please do follow us on YouTube, and sign up for our (spam-free, promise) newsletter here!

Friday News Update – November 20th

The countdown to Christmas begins, at Handiwork Games!

We have a whole dragon’s hoard of gaming goodies and gifts – ideal for you, for your family, for your friends, and for your fellow adventurers. From dice to dungeon tiles, from maps, both physical and digital, to merchandise, and all of it offering top-notch art…  there’s treasure to suit every party member. Including the dragon.

Have a browse at our shop.

And please keep an eye on our final posting dates – we wouldn’t want you to miss out!

Dice Trays

And – as we’ve been promising – some shots of our new den. Jon and the team have been working very had to get everything shifted in time for those lovely Christmas orders, and – we’re done! Our hardworking elves (cough) have finally explored their new home! 

New Office!

For all you a|state players, don’t forget – this Sunday, at 7pm EST (midnight GMT) you can escape to The City. Join the live, single mission play-though of our Primer, as our intrepid team of adventurers uncover what’s really been ‘Nicely, Done’. 

Bookmark the link: twitch.tv/colinomicon.

(Don’t worry if it’s a bit late – we’ll let you know where to tune in!)

Nicely, Done play through

We’ve also got some news. Big news. Big, big news. It’s under wraps at the moment (sorry), but Something Is Coming and it’s something we’re VERY excited about. If you’re not yet following us on our Socials, now might be  really good time to join the conversation… 

Instagram @handiworkgames

Facebook @handiworkgames

Twitter @gameshandiwork

Beowulf Notebook

Find our gaming treasures at Handiwork Games.

Find gift merch and more at Redbubble.

And find our a|state primer, and other RPG goodies, at DriveThru – where else?

Print Books

And please do follow us on YouTube, and sign up for our (spam-free, promise) newsletter here!

Friday News Update – November 13th

Happy Friday 13th– and lucky for some!

The competition to win one of our nine Woden Coins has closed, and we have contacted the winners. But don’t worry if you didn’t win this time – there will be more competitions in the future. 

Woden Coins

Follow us on our Social channels, and stay updated!

Instagram @handiworkgames

Facebook @handiworkgames

Twitter @gameshandiwork

In more of this week’s news, Jon was a guest over at The Smart Party’s RPG Podcast, talking about The One Ring, BEOWULF, The Forest Dragon, a|state and much more. Thanks to Gaz and the team for a great interview!

Jon Hodgson interview

Back at Handiwork, we had a chat of our own – with top game designer Jacob Rodgers. Co-creator of our BEOWULF intro-adventure The Hermit’s Sanctuary, Jacob told us how he made the adventure work for one player and one GM, how to GM a really good campaign, and he answered that ever-pertient question: how do you make your players follow the adventure, and not go off on a tangent?

Find Jacob’s interview, here.

Jacob Rodgers

Don’t forget: our BEOWULF Late Pledges are ending very soon. Please get those pledges in, anywhere from a single shiny pound, and help us bring the legend to life.

Beowulf Mini

And remember, this Christmas, support your local and indie businesses! Game designers, crafters, bookstores – we can’t give you shiny ads full of tinsel and snowfall, but we can offer you the best in tabletop role-playing goodies, in supplements and adventures and glimpses into other worlds, and in every kind of pretty gaming merch.

Grab your treasures at Handiwork Games.

Find us on Redbubble and DriveThruRPG.

Follow us on Twitter, Insta, Facebook and YouTube, and sign up for our (spam-free, promise) newsletter here!

Role-Playing and BEOWULF: Jacob Rodgers Talks Gaming!

Jacob Rodgers is a writer and designer of role-playing games and more. His credits include material for The One Ring, Adventures in Middle-Earth, WarHammer: Age of Sigmar: Soulbound, The Ruins of Symbaroum and other systems, not to mention BEOWULF: Age of Heroes and The Hermit’s Sanctuary. He lives in Georgia (the US state, not the independent country).

Here, he talks to us about role-playing, about BEOWULF and about how to GM a really good game…

Beowulf: The Hermit’s Sanctuary

What are the core components of a really good RPG?

Any role-playing game has to serve multiple functions over its ‘lifetime’ in the hands of a player. When you first pick it up or download the .pdf, it must impress and inspire you — with its themes, its language, its art, its design (both graphically and system-wise). 

Next, as you begin to read it for that crucial first pass, it must serve as an excellent teacher, providing clear instructions and sufficient examples so that folks can grok the game. Note that this is not just the writing choices, but graphic design can have a huge impact as well. Folks need to be able to visually identify topical breaks, optional rules, worked examples, etc. The recent Cortex Prime, written by friend-of-the-studio Cam Banks, has some fantastic work in this area.

The final function that a rulebook must serve is as a reference for game prep and in-game questions. The first function can be served again by having lots of good examples, random tables, and inspiring artwork. It’s absolutely fantastic to have an illustration provide the seed of an adventure and then to provide the tools to flesh out that seed and turn it into something ready to run. Fortunately for us, BEOWULF has a fairly strong structure and one of the chapters steps you through that structure piece by piece, so a GM can take their idea and write an adventure that they know will work in the game. And we will have lots of direct reference material in a separate easy-to-find section in order to make running the game super easy.

BEOWULF: miniatures

For BEOWULF, how closely does the game-path follow the original legends?

Fairly early on we discovered that there’s a repeating pattern to Beowulf, and that pattern shows up in surprising places — for example, the original Scooby-Doo cartoon. And, of course, we shouldn’t be too surprised — after all, Beowulf is one of the oldest bits of English literature we have and established a lot of tropes.

The actual path for both book and RPG is that the hero learns of a place plagued by a Monster, goes there and does some investigation, learns how to deal with the Monster (some secret weakness usually) and then does so. Most of the time they are rewarded for their service, but (and this part didn’t make it to Scooby-Doo) sometimes the Monster is too much for the Hero and they suffer a fatal wound. It’s the very stuff of adventure storytelling, whether literary or gameplay.

When designing the BEOWULF manual, what did you have to consider?

Well, of course, we wanted to keep all of the above in mind, not only the considerations about how the book’s utility to players will change over time but also how to evoke the feeling of the poem and the Migration Era (the poem’s time setting) in the choices we make for art, language and examples.

We also had to make sure that we were fulfilling our promises to make something that worked for a single GM and a single player, so that the game is always challenging and fun and doesn’t get bogged down if the player is temporarily stumped by the story. That also meant that we had to make decisions about the 5e rules engine. We want the game to be familiar to players who know 5e but we also want to make sure that the rules are at the service of the story and the setting, not the other way around.

BEOWULF: The Hermit’s Sanctuary

Do you have any advice for a GM running the BEOWULF game?

Always be a fan of your player. While the GM should administer the setting and the challenges in a fair and impartial way, it’s always a good idea to cheer on your player when they’re clever or lucky or both. After all, the game is a story in the very framework of the setup (we imagine that every BEOWULF adventure is a scop telling a story about a hero to an interested group of listeners) and most stories are about a Hero overcoming the Monster, not the other way around.

Also, we’ve found that the nature of the game can shift dramatically between players. You can run the same adventure for two different players and, because of both mechanical choices (for example, the Hero’s alignment between the Old Ways, the Church or staying Neutral) and roleplay choices, the adventure might go very differently each time.

Motivating players (making them take the right cues) can sometimes be a struggle. How can you make sure your PCs follow the right plot hooks?

This is something I try to always consider, especially in starter adventures. There are certain clues and tropes that veteran gamers tend to pick up on that newer folks might not identify. (Once while running a completely improv session, the players insisted that I intended them to follow a particular path in the forest. I did not, I was just trying to get across what I saw in my mind’s eye. But that extra bit of description implied to them ‘adventure this way’.) So it can be worth it to break character with newer players and discuss things, especially if they’re playing it too safe. Remind them that they’ve signed up to play a Hero in this game and Heroes take risks.

The other thing that I often do (and admittedly this is something that becomes easier with practice and experience) is to be willing to rearrange the adventure. I’ve relocated entire groups of enemies to put them in contact with the characters, had family members track down the PCs to insist that they take action against a threat, and wildly changed timeframes to make sure something happens where the players can see it. But the best solution? Make the player right. Connect the plot hook to whatever the players have clued in on and make it so that if they pull that string then they make progress in the adventure.

BEOWULF: tokens in handmade oak box

Do you prefer a ‘storyteller’-type GM, or one that lets the players lead the game?

For BEOWULF in particular, one of the excellent parts of it being a duet (1 GM, 1 Player) game is that you can adjust the scale very easily. With only a single player it is very easy for them to be in charge and they can go and do whatever they want. If the player is a bit less active or stumped for a way forward then the storyteller GM component can come forward and you can introduce more elements that drive the player to action.

For other games, I vary my approach. For example, with Ars Magica the characters (especially the wizards) tend to have very strong personal motivations and you can just provide a sandbox for them to experiment within. Other games, like Pendragon, it feels more right to set a quest in front of them and the game’s assumed structure (that the knights have a lord that they are sworn to) makes that easy.

BEOWULF: characters

How would you create – and play – a really convincing PC? What would you think about?

Here’s a deep dark secret — I’m a terrible player. I’ve just spent too much time on the other side of the table and I enjoy GMing so much I’m almost always a forever GM.

That said, when I do get a chance to play, I do try to think about a character’s relationships and context. After all, most everyone has the same basic wants and needs, it’s just a matter of who is around them and their way of social interactions. And that affects how they express those wants and needs.

Jacob Rodgers

Thank you for talking to us! You can find the LATE PLEDGES for BEOWULF: AGE OF HEROES still on Crowd Ox – but time is very short!

Friday News Update – November 6th

Your chance to win a WODEN COIN!

We have a very small number – nine, suitably enough – of what we’re calling Woden Coins.

These are our BEOWULF inspiration tokens. Made from electroplated zinc alloy, they’re good and heavy, all of the shiny, and they make gorgeous props for your game. They’d normally have four red gems…

…but on a Woden Coin, one wyrm’s eye is missing.

Woden Coin

To celebrate the closing of our BEOWULF late pledges, this month, we thought we’d run a prize draw (or three) for you to scoop your very own.

To be in with a chance to win, follow us on our Social channels and comment, tagging a friend!

Instagram @handiworkgames

Facebook @handiworkgames

Twitter @gameshandiwork

Find the T&Cs here.

And just to reiterate, our BEOWULF late pledges are ending very soon! If you’d like to grab the game at Kickstarter prices now is the perfect time.

Beowulf: Age of Heroes

Now’s also the perfect time to have a look at our BEOWULF intro-adventure, The Hermit’s Sanctuary. Nominated for two ENnie Awards, this has been specially adapted for one player and one GM, meaning it’s the perfect place to get a game going.

Enjoy a new (old) adventure, based on one of the most timeless tales of all. 

The Hermit’s Sanctuary

And – IT’S A SIGN!!!

Yes, we have moved office, meaning we have dedicated spaces for creative work, storing stock and processing your orders! Jon put up a magical sign this week, guaranteed* to keep dragons and bandits out, and our treasures safe from harm.

*We think. We haven’t seen a dragon yet. Or any bandits, come to that.

And a quick reminder that we’ve got some awesome settings for your next Zoom call. Journey to The City with our a|state backgrounds, two of them animated. Pay what you like, over at DriveThruRPG.

a|state Zoom Backgrounds

Grab your treasures at Handiwork Games.

Find us on Redbubble and DriveThruRPG.

Follow us on Twitter, Insta, Facebook and YouTube, and sign up for our (spam-free, promise) newsletter here!

Woden Coin Competition

We have a very small number – nine, suitably enough – of what we’re calling ‘Woden Coins‘.

These are our BEOWULF inspiration tokens. Made from electroplated zinc alloy, they’re good and heavy, all of the shiny, and make gorgeous props for your game. And they’d normally have four red gems…

…but on a Woden Coin, one wyrm’s eye is missing!


Out of more than a thousand coins, these nine must be pretty special.

So, to celebrate the closing of our BEOWULF late pledges, this month, we thought we’d run prize draw (or three), for you to scoop your very own.

Head to our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to be in with your chances to win!

The boring bit: terms and conditions

NINE individual prizes are available for this competition, each consisting of a single WODEN coin. You may enter ONCE on each of our Social sites:

On Twitter @GamesHandiwork

On Instagram @handiworkgames

On Facebook @handiworkgames

To enter, please make sure you have fulfilled the listed criteria – you must be following us on the platform in question, and you must share/tag as outlined.

The prizes are as advertised, there will be no cash alternative. 

This competition is not open to the employees of Games Handiwork, or to their families.

Entries from competition sites or other automated mail systems will be deleted. 

We will draw NINE winners, THREE for each platform, on Thursday 12th November 14:00 UK time.

You MAY enter this competition if you are outside the UK.

No correspondence will be entered into.

Friday News Update – October 30th

Some spooooooky deals at Hauntiwork Games… click the image for Hallowe’en bargains!

Spooky Deals at Hauntiwork Games!

£2 OFF Spooky Map Tiles – Evil Forest Tiles, Backstreets Tiles, Dystopian SF Tiles and Moorland Ruin Tiles.

£5 OFF Autumn Battle Mats – Autumn Battle Mat 36″ Gridded, and Autumn Battle Mat 36″ Ungridded 

£2 OFF Spooky Dice Trays – Horse Devil Square Dice Tray, and Barrow King Compact Dice Tray

Sunday’s also the last day for our battle-mat-and-dice-tray bundle. You can grab one of our three-foot-square tabletop mats, either with or without grid, alongside a matching dice tray, at a bargain price. We know your mates possibly won’t be round for a while, but where there’s dice, there’s hope, as the saying goes.

Autumn Battle Mat and Forgotten Tower Mars Dice Tray

And, with that in mind, please don’t forget that our Map Tiles come in digital, as well as physical form. We supply them in .jpg format, for use on Virtual Table Tops, so you can head out on adventure. And you don’t have to either a) leave the house, or b) share your snacks.

Gridded Hillfort Tiles

We’re delighted to say that our a|state primer, ‘Nicely, Done’, originally released for AlbaCon, has done so well that we’ve released it as a print book. Written by game creators Morgan Davie and Malcolm Craig, with artwork by Jon Hodgson, Paul Bourne, Gregor Hutton and Scotty Purdy, it’s truly a thing of gaming beauty. 

And you can grab yours from DriveThruRPG.

And in BEOWULF news, Jon was asked to give a school talk, this week – about the legend, about how it was changed into a game, and about how the game works for one player and one GM. This too, is on YouTube, and well worth the watch!

Grab your treasures at Handiwork Games.

Find us on Redbubble and DriveThruRPG.

Follow us on Twitter, Insta, Facebook and YouTube, and sign up for our (spam-free, promise) newsletter here!