Jon and the team have been working (almost) round the clock to get this finally done, and we’re over the moon with the result. Thank you to all our lovely backers for waiting, and a special thanks to those of you who said you wanted to wait, because you knew the finished product would be worth it.
We hope it is. Please do share it with us – your reactions, your likes and your games. We’d love to know how you do, as you travel the Whale Road.
The formal launch of BEOWULF: Age of Heroes will take place on Feb 16th– look out for the full book on DriveThru. We’ll also have pre-order links in the Games Handiwork store, where you can discover our Beowulf merch. Find our Inspiration coins and real metal minis, plus the map tiles and dice trays to really bring your campaign to life!
And we have a FREE Handimonster this week! Head on over to handimonsters.com to meet the spell-thief: a whisper, a rumour, a lingering shadow, a creature incomplete. He comes with full stats, and with all his background, plus gorgeous artwork and suggestions for scenarios. And top tier backers get all the extras.
On the subject of gorgeous artwork, you may have seen Ralph Horsley’s exquisite book, ‘An Art Adventure’, his career retrospective. We’re delighted to say that this backed on Kickstarter in 27 minutes flat. You can still pledge, and it’s well worth it!
You can also follow the further adventures of a|state on Twitch every Monday. Join the intrepid band of characters from ‘Nicely, Done’ as they venture out into more of The City. This isn’t the official second edition – not yet – but it’s a great taster. So thank you to GM Colin for making this happen!
To keep up with, Beowulf, Handimonsters, a|state and everything else, please follow us on our Socials:
Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about BEOWULF, and about the imminent arrival of the .pdf…
…but not as much about the story behind the game, or about the detail and attention that have gone into making it happen.
Lots of this can be found on the BEOWULF page on our website. There, we talk about how we’ve used and adapted the 5e system – including character classes, abilities, alignments, and equipment.
But we also talk about the things that make BEOWULF unique, and about how we’ve tied the game to the original poem.
Things like the ‘Portent’. Before Beowulf goes to face Grendel, he asks permission of King Hygelac, and seeks out omens of the road ahead. In the game, we represent this with a series of random rolls, each generating the next part of your hero’s journey. These Portent rolls tie in with the 5e inspiration rules – they may favour the hero, bringing them inspiration tokens, or they may give those tokens to the monster, which brings a very dark omen indeed. They also give the GM some strong ideas and imagery, which can be woven back into the story. However the Portents turn out, they map your hero’s adventure, and show them the road ahead.
We have beautiful, specially crafted tokens just for this purpose. For those of you that missed the Kickstarter, these should be available to pre-order next month. They’re made by Campaign Coins, and they’re a really gorgeous prop.
There’s also our use of ‘Followers’. Our game is specially designed for ‘duet play’, one PC and one GM (though it can be played with a group), making it not only true to the poem, but the perfect game for a new player, or to play at home. And this means, like faithful Wiglaf, your hero will have followers!
While those followers may only turn up rarely in the story, they’re always in the background. And in a duet game, where there’s less engine noise and no need to ‘take turns’, they offer huge potential for personal role-playing, dramatic interactions and ‘theatre-of-the-mind’ scenario development. They support your hero in times of tension, and they offer the GM a good way of feeding information or clues. If you’re playing with a larger group, the followers may not get quite as much air-time, but they can still be fun to have around!
Like our tokens, we’ve made special Beowulf minis – all eight pre-generated heroes plus one monster – which will be arriving on our website very soon.
If you’d rather not wait, then please have a look at the intro-adventure, the Hermit’s Sanctuary, on DriveThruRPG.
And you can find out more about Beowulf, and how it all goes together at Handiwork Games.
And – a quick and cheeky footnote! If you’re an a|state fan, please be aware that our printers are discontinuing the staple-bound copies of the intro adventure, Nicely, Done. Instead, copies will be in ‘perfect bound’ format – but that does mean the stapled versions will soon become very rare!
We’ve taken a short break over Christmas and New Year, but we’re back, we’re beautiful, and we’ve got all sorts of new projects on the go…
First up: Handimonsters! This week’s 5e monster is FREE over at our Patreon page – go have a nose at the Quicksilver Troll. He’s fast, he’s clever, he’s an alchemical creation, and he’s ready-and-waiting for your campaign.
You can also discover the Glass Spider, the Blazedog and the Bog Bug, our Patreon patron the Knacker, plus a host of additional content. And if you sign up to our top tier, there are all sorts of extras!
In BEOWULF news, the first part of the book has now gone to our Kickstarter and Crowd Ox backers. Thank you, all of you, for your support on this – the BEOWULF project is very close to our hearts and we’re over the moon with the finished product. We’ve had some really positive feedback, as well – Pandatheist calls it ‘the best hack of 5e ever made’. Which is fantastic to hear!
If you weren’t a backer – fear not! All of our BEOWULF treasures, including the manual, the coins and the compass, and the real metal minis, will be available for order on the website very soon.
Speaking of a|state – the second edition is looking absolutely incredible! Offering gorgeous new artwork and layouts from Paul Bourne, the setting includes a fascinating mix of technologies, of places and peoples, and of towering, crumbling concrete. And the game is very much character-driven, giving you the chance to defy The City’s oppressive powers, and to explore and defend your hard-won corner of territory.
While you wait, you can grab the free primer and intro adventure, Nicely, Done.
What a year, eh? Jon here, with my look back at 2020 at Handiwork Games.
It is always useful to reflect on the year gone by, so here are my thoughts on what we’ve done in year two, 2020. (It’s sort of year two. More like 18 months but let’s call it year two for easy maths and a good story!)
The headline is (predictably) that while Covid has put plans on a slightly different footing than expected, we’re doing really well.
Year one accounts came in and I was flabbergasted by our turnover. With my head firmly in projects at the time, I genuinely had no idea we’d done as well as we did in 2019, and that shook me into taking the accounts a bit more seriously! The day-to-day can be a procession of fires to put out and rocks to roll uphill. It’s easy to lose sight of just how much we’ve achieved as a team.
Things we did in 2020:
Map tiles 2 Kickstarter. Map Tiles was an unexpected project we just tried out to see what would happen, thinking it might fund, and the two Kickstarters to date have raised about £40k, and Map Tiles have become “a thing”. They’re very popular on our web store: Dungeon tiles in particular have proved to be a really good seller. Shamefully they’re out of stock right now! We’ll need to fix that in January!
We faced some Map Tiles challenges early on in the pandemic with printers closing, and shipping becoming briefly impossible. However, I take heart that these were only physical delivery delays, rather than delays in making the things on our side. Shipping delays seem to increasingly be a fact of life, and we’ll need to account for that heading forward.
It was great to find a UK printer to complement our US side of things. I’ve been very happy with Drivethrucards, and they’re incredibly helpful to us. But the Atlantic is not kind when it comes to shipping, so being able to print on both sides of the ocean is a win. Thanks to working with a UK printer on Map Tiles 2, we also have a printer for our miniatures boxes (which turned out really well!) and future games. Nice!
Speaking of Map Tiles, one of the first things we did in lockdown was refocus on providing tools for online play. If we had to be stuck inside, then some useful virtual scenery seemed like a cool thing to provide.
We delivered the Creature Collection for Onyx Path. I’m really proud of that book. It’s a great collection of some high-quality content from a solid team. I’ll be forever grateful to Rich at Onyx Path for letting us loose on the book. It really allowed us to flex what we can do.
We did tons of other stuff as a studio in 2020, much of which has to remain unsung – some secret things forever!
The Hermit’s Sanctuary for BEOWULF came out as a free pdf and then by popular request a print book. It was nominated for two ENnies which was truly unexpected and really welcome. We didn’t win any, but for once I can genuinely say that didn’t really matter. Being “there” was amazing. And the timing for the BEOWULF Kickstarter was impeccable.
We spent a great deal of time designing, writing and making art for BEOWULF. And when we took to Kickstarter, it hit my “happy” number (insider info: £30k was the minimum for acceptable funds, £40k was “happy”, £50k was “awesome”). We got well into awesome with late pledges, and we’re a whisker off 1000 backers. That’ll do!
We made miniatures! How cool is that? I’m still somewhat amazed we achieved this, but it all came together so nicely. It is great to be working with old friends on this. I’m really happy we made everything in the UK too.
Of course we still enjoy working with colleagues further afield. We had a really great time working with our friends at Campaign Coins in 2020. Mark and Andre are so madly supportive, and I love working with them. We’ve made some truly gorgeous things and I can’t wait to ship them in this coming new year. The BEOWULF tokens and compass are really gorgeous, and represent exactly what I want us to be producing.
We also helped out some friends behind the scenes, and that felt good. There’s a loose little grouping of companies in the UK who just help each other out when they can and all ships are definitely rising as a result. And I really like the people involved. A special shout out to Fil, Paul and David of All Rolled Up/Just Crunch Games. We’ve done loads of projects with these folks and it’s always a pleasure, whichever direction the help is flowing.
We did the Slay the Spire livestream on Steam, and it was amazing seeing our company name on the front page of Steam! Thanks so much to Tomas for inviting me, and Anthony for being so cool.
That opportunity came about because of the BEOWULF Kickstarter, and it’s very reassuring to see some other people working in related fields recognise what we’re doing. I also did a bunch of podcasts, and I must make time to do more. I love it, actually. It’s a nice way to break out of working invisibly on stuff, and I sometimes forget there’s a lot to talk about.
We started work on a 5e setting we haven’t announced yet, with a partner company. We’ll get to work on that in earnest in the new year but it’s already looking pretty cool!
We’re also helping long time friend and colleague Ralph Horsley with his art book. More on that in 2021!
We’ve been working on the new edition of a|state. There’s a really great team on that one and it’s really coming together. We released “Nicely, Done” as a free PDF and lovely print book that includes a gorgeous primer to the setting. A new round of a|state playtest will happen in the new year, with the new edition itself is almost entirely complete. There’s still a bit of artwork needed. Bit of extra setting stuff. But it’s “there” at the core as a playable new edition. It’s been a very smooth process, and I’ve been delighted to be in a solely admiring, occasionally overseeing role.
We worked with two projects that use games to involve the community in history and environmental issues. Covid scuppered the first, with no chance of doing workshops in the community, but the second has advanced to the next stage of funding.
Similarly, we attended no events this year. That was a challenge, given how much we’d invested in stock and equipment for shows for 2020. We were fighting fit and ready to go for a super convention season. Which never happened. Ah well.
On a vastly more positive note, we brought Danie on board to help with marketing and social media. That’s worked out really well, and if you’re reading the his you’ll have seen lots of Danie’s work online. It’s been incredibly helpful to have another brain able to focus on social media and marketing. And one with so much experience!
We also moved from my now-way-too-small home office to a much larger garden office, which includes dedicated areas for stock storage and mail order processing, as well as a photography booth, reference library and creative work areas.
Moving everything was hard work, and getting it built in the first place was a trial for us and the builders during a global pandemic. But it’s done, we’re in and I love it. It’s brilliant.
In December we launched Handimonsters. This is a subscription service that offers new monsters every week, along with something free each month. Based on prior experience, that won’t hit its stride as a patreon for a couple of months – the back catalogue patrons gain access to is currently building to a nice collection of stuff. From a process perspective that’s been great. Absolutely zero drama in that project.
Right at the end of the year we sent out the first chunk of BEOWULF to backers. It’s been very well received, which is lovely. You just never know how things will fare once they head out into the wide world, but BEOWULF has been an absolute labour of love, and that seems to be communicating.
We managed, through some amazing timing and me managing to be extra brave, to secure a foreword from Maria Dahvana Headley, who’s so hot right now in the world of Beowulf translation. I’m still a bit boggled by that too. What an honour.
As ever, pulling this ad hoc list together I’m reminded why I was pretty tired at the end of the working year. But looking back for the first time in a little while, it’s heartening to see how much we’ve done! There are some notable absences from this review – Hellenistika is something we get asked about a lot. It’s going to be one of those projects that happens when it happens because you just can’t rush magic.
We have two new Forest Dragon games ready to print. We just need some time to tell people about them, and maybe do a cheeky Kickstarter to gather the faithful once again. Both Hellenistika and FD games are still very close to our hearts, even if they don’t have news headlines to share from 2020.
Overall, we have faced the same challenges as any company in startup in 2020, and it certainly hasn’t all been a bed of roses. There’s been plenty of sleepless nights along the way, and we’ve made our fair share of missteps. Such is life! Looking back on what could so easily have been a disastrous year, I think our whole team can be very proud of what we’ve achieved, and we’re coming into 2021 with a lot of… “2020 experience” under our belt.
And so, from everyone at Handiwork Games, I’d like to wish you a very happy new year, and hope that 2021 brings good things for all of us.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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!
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’.
(Don’t worry if it’s a bit late – we’ll let you know where to tune in!)
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…
Some spooooooky deals at Hauntiwork Games… click the image for Hallowe’en bargains!
£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.
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.
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 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!
Morgan Davie is one of the writers of a|state, and has popped in to tell us little about the new edition, and about the brand new primer, ‘Nicely, Done’, now available from DriveThruRPG.
Hi Morgue, and we’re very pleased to talk you, here at Handiwork Games!
Can you tell us a little about the cult RPG hit a|state? Is it fantasy or SF, utopia or dystopia?
I recently described a|state to a friend as “electro-punk anti-Thatcher dirty humanist SF” which demonstrates the futility of assigning it a simple label! It presents a dystopian science fiction vision, but more grimy than grim, sad and angry and loaded with black humour.
What is The City, and why is it a good place to start?
The City isn’t just a good place to start, it’s the only place you can possibly be, for it is cut off from the rest of the world. Residents can see the stars when the fog clears at night, and they can send out machines to collect raw materials from the world around them, but none of them can leave. Everyone is trapped in The City, desperately trying to find enough security to sleep easy. That’s where the characters come in: their corner of The City is under threat, and it’s up to them to stand up and fight back!
Who are some of your favourite characters/NPCs?
A|state doesn’t strongly emphasise pre-established characters. Each group will populate their own corner of The City with unique characters and there’s nothing more important than that! However, if I had to pick a favourite it would be Janus Kripitsch, the Lostfinder of Mire End, a generous soul determined to help those in need in return for a hot meal or two. (Janus is also a pre-generated character in Nicely, Done, the a|state Primer adventure!)
What kind of PCs would suit the environment? Are there character classes, as such, or can a player build something of their own?
Characters in a|state are built around seven archetypes called “playbooks”, but it’s easy to tilt any of them into whatever form you like. The archetypes are useful starting points, not straitjackets! The seven playbook options are: a community stalwart (e.g. an activist), a technical expert (e.g. a creator of clockwork computers), a warrior (e.g. a deadly ghostfighter), a wayfarer and explorer (e.g. a lostfinder), a smooth operator (e.g. a fixer), a wastrel (e.g. a thief), or a master persuaded (e.g. a journalist).
There are many different types and styles of RPG. Would you describe this one as adventure-based, story-based, or something else?
This game is all about a situation. The characters are known troublemakers, working together to keep the local community safe from outside forces. There are plenty of adventurous missions, where the characters take incredible risks as they take the fight directly to the dangerous powers arrayed against them. These are interspersed with periods of downtime where the characters pursue their personal goals, mix with local NPCs, and try to burn off the great stress of their shared purpose.
Would you need previous RPG experience to be able to play the game/primer?
a|state is a Forged in the Dark game, complete in the book. Anyone can pick it up and work out how to play, no prior RPG experience needed.
The primer, however, is just a taster and assumes the person running the game knows how Forged in the Dark games work.
And finally, tell us what your very favourite thing is about a|state! What are you proudest of?
It’s just exciting to be working on a|state! The original vision of The City presented by its creators Malcolm Craig and Paul Bourne took my breath away back in 2004. It feels great that we can return to it now, and make it come alive more vividly than ever!
Thank you very much for stopping to talk to us!
You can find out all about our a|state primer – here!
In this week’s news: Scarred Lands goes out to backers!
Backers of our Scarred Lands campaign, your Creature Collections are now winging their way! In true Monster Manual/Fiend Folio tradition, this book of beasties contains the 5e stats for such wonders as the Berserker Wasp, The Bitter Tree, the Dream Shadow and the Marrow Knight. And our favourite quest dispenser, the Sage Camel.
All coming soon, to a postbox near you.
Last night, we were delighted to see our own Jon Hodgson taking part in Steam’s DIGITAL TABLETOP FEST. Jon was chatting to top game designer Anthony Giovannetti, as Anthony played through the smash hit Slay The Spire. If you missed it don’t worry, we’ll have the link very soon!
If you love a bit of DriveThruRPG, our a|state primer, Nicely, Done is their top choice of FREE .pdf download this week. The setting is incredible, the artwork amazing, and the adventure complete. You’ll need the basic rules for Forged in the Dark, but otherwise, THE CITY is ready and waiting – you only have to lose yourself.
And let us take you back… back… back… back to the world of The Forest Dragon. Designed by nine-year-old Rory, and winner of two Awards upon its release, The Forest Dragon is a creative and fun, family card game that takes you to a world of adventure. Find Swords, Coins and other treasures, find Sticks and Acorns and helpful characters to set you on your way. But beware The Forest Dragon!
And, while we know that we’re not supposed to mention Christmas ’til Hallowe’en is over… if you <are> thinking about gifts, we’ve got a whole merchant-load of gaming-related goodies, great for keeping you and yours entertained. And not only for the festive season!
First up, BIG NEWS: we will be taking part in Steam’s DIGITAL TABLETOP FEST! Join Jon, chatting to top game designer Anthony Giovannetti, as Anthony plays through the smash hit Slay The Spire. Our event takes place at 11pm UK time, on October 22nd, but the Fest will be going on all week.
In BEOWULF news, our Award-nominated intro-adventure, released last week as a print book, is coming soon with an original sketch from Jon Hodgson. We know that quite a few of you had been asking about this, so we’ll fed Jon all the tea and make him start drawing.
The results, as you can see, should be pretty spectacular!
We’ve also had our first look at out gorgeous, real oak display boxes for the BEOWULF tokens and compass coin. These will go on our site very soon, and we should be offering them both with and without the shinies. And big thank you to D Taylor Woodworking for a beautiful job!
In MORE news, our a|state primer, originally released to attendees at AlbaCon, is now available to download from DriveThruRPG. The .pdf is free, the artwork beautiful, the setting rich with nuance and character. Let us take you to The City, and to the introductory mission ‘Nicely, Done’. You’ll need the Forged in the Dark system to play the scenario – but all other info is included. And hey, it could just be time to take that urban vacation…
While you’re packing – so to speak – do come find us on REDBUBBLE. We have lots of tees, homewares, merch and other treasures, from Beowulf to The Forest Dragon, all just waiting to be liberated. They make perfect and original gifts, for others and for yourself. (Go on, you deserve it, you know you do).
And DON’T miss it – the battle-mat and dice-tray bundle is not going to be available for much longer! Our battle mats are three feet square (seriously, they’re huge), and in a variety of atmospheric shades. They come with or without grids, and every one comes with a matching dice tray, so you can control your manoeuvres, and your maths rocks, all at the same time.
Or, if you don’t fancy the mat, try the map. Our second batch of map tiles feature floor plans for both utopian and dystopian SF scenarios, plus all sorts of features from hillforts to moors to evil forests (hey, who doesn’t love an evil forest?). They come in packs of thirty, double-sided, and can take you and your party on any adventure you can dream up.
Handiwork Games – helping you get out the house, without, y’know, actually leaving the house…