Coffee? Check. Music? Check. 6.52am? -sobs- It’s pretty hot up here in North-West England (like “WARNING! HEATWAVE!” hot) so I’ve been sleeping with windows open. Being on the edge of the Peak District is great as we’re literally a few minutes’ walk from the start of the hills, however it does mean things like being woken up at 4am by the sounds of cows. That’s what happened this morning and once I’m half awake, that’s it. Usually I’d blame the early morning on getting up during the wee hours to write as we’ve been pretty busy in that area; and conveniently, that’s what this post is about (how about THAT for a nice link-through to the topic at hand?)
Other than the persistent Twitter spam we’ve not really been visible the last few months but things have been ticking away nicely behind the scenes. The biggest change has been us revising the core rules of the table-top system. On working through the first full draft of the rulebook from 2000 it rapidly became apparent that we were skirting around fantasy heartbreaker territory. We’d cherry-picked elements from a number of systems we liked (AD&D and Rolemaster/MERP to name a couple of the key culprits) and slid them into place side-by-side with the live-action rules. This felt very contrived to both of us (ah, the wisdom of age…) and there simply wasn’t any sense of connection between the two systems. So, whilst we didn’t quite throw everything out of the window we have spent a lot of time over the last couple of months tweaking, revising, crunching numbers, testing and revising some more. What we have now is a mechanic that sits nicely on top of both table-top and LARP rules and bridges the two. Sure, there are rules that are very specific to both systems; for example, we use attack tables for the table-top game and LARP, by its very nature, uses a damage-call system; however the underlying engine (to abuse a word from my day job as a code monkey) works across both styles of play. Listing some of the key changes we’ve made:
- We’ve rewritten the dice roll mechanic. Instead of a flat d20-based system, Wyldlands now uses a dice pool mechanic with an average, starting character having a 3d6 pool. This is a roll-above system where a player totals the results of the roll of their pool. Opposed rolls, competing rolls and the like are standard fare and modifiers simply add or remove dice, resulting in a pretty fast resolution mechanic. This also introduces the idea of “d-notation” which is an example of the seamless cross-over between LARP and table-top; 3d would indicate 3 dice to roll in the table-top system and +3d (typically indicating damage) in the LARP system.
- We’ve rebalanced the combat system using the LARP rules as our baseline (they were play-tested solidly for two years; we’re happy they work). The change to the dice mechanic made an already dangerous combat system downright lethal, so James has been tweaking the weapon attack tables. In addition, he’s also ripped out around a third of the weapons as they were either superfluous fluff or meaningless in our Celtic Iron Age game world (yes scimitar, we’re looking at you). He’s also been busy with some of the art assets in this area as you can see from our Twitter feed.
- As well as revising the combat system, we’ve yanked out our Rolemaster-inspired weapon critical system and replaced it with what we’re calling Heroic Feats. We’ll reveal more later, but essentially it’s a “write your own critical” mechanic. It probably sounds unbalanced and dangerous? It’s certainly dangerous but it adds a strategic layer to battle and importantly, it drives narrative. We like narrative.
- Full-colour maps for Shadows over Dun Carrach, the basic adventure that is included with the rulebook. James has also revisited the maps of Erin, Alba, Cymru and Albion.
- Full-colour concept art of each of the races in the game, including a revamp of our Gnome race to bring them closer to their faerie heritage and…well, you wouldn’t want to meet one under the wrong circumstances, let’s put it that way…
- A new attribute system that spans both LARP and table-top and that ties into the dice pool mechanic. We’ve also added optional rules for determining the success of actions in LARP games quickly and in a way that mirrors the table-top game.
- Addition of a lengthy background system that sits somewhere between a traditional point-spend system to tailor your character and get a few extra perks and a full-blown life-path system. This is still very much a work in progress but is high on the list of priorities on the design road map.
The quite literal “what next” is for me to finish the second draft edit of the combat chapter and the revised mechanics and then we’re going to be starting closed play-testing in the next couple of weeks. We have a number of gamers we’ve tested with before and who are local so to begin with, we’ll be looking at finding a quiet, understanding pub and running through combat scenario after combat scenario. As I’ve mentioned, I write software by day and whilst our team isn’t completely Agile, we’re strong believers in rapid iterations of test and revise. We’re going to be taking the same approach for Wyldlands and I’m comfortable it’s going to work well. Once we’re happy with things, we’ll likely consider adding in new play-testers to our focus group. We’ve had some interest already so if you’d like to add your name to the list then get in touch. After this next, immediate step we’re looking at working through the following areas of the rulebook:
- Expand on the racial descriptions and the callings and in particular the character creation section where we need to add more perks to the various race/calling combinations.
- Ongoing toil on the art assets!
- Finish writing up the magic and spell lists and rewrite sections of the rulebook; in particular ritual magic, enchanting and magical crafting.
- Flesh out the lore and world. The cosmology has undergone revision (though not changed) so this needs expanding upon.
- Continue work on a running piece of fiction which helps guide you through the rulebook. You’ll meet meet Niamh and her children, follow them on their journey through the Wyldlands and learn more about the nature of Wyld Magic and how it shapes the land. Finding themselves sheltering from a magical storm at the start of the story and accompanied by the mysterious old man they call Great-father Crow, they discover all is not as it seems at the heart of the storm.
I’m going to aim to write a state of the game post each month from this point onwards. I say “aim” because, typically things get in the way and milestones move. Such is the way of things. On which note, before signing off (and grabbing another coffee!) I’ll answer a few questions we’ve been asked over the last few months.
Q: When will Wyldlands be finished?
A: The short answer: when it’s ready. The long answer: when we’re happy with it and it’s ready. We started writing the game some fifteen years ago and had a lot of fun doing so but it’s always been a labour of love for the two of us. We’re close friends, we’re very like-minded and we work incredibly well together. This is of great benefit to our small team and it means each of us can happily plough on with our work without having to feel the need to keep an eye on the other one. It also means we respect one another’s need to sometimes not work on the rulebook. We’ve waited over a decade to find the right time to finish what we started and we’re in no rush. We want to publish something we can be proud of that (hopefully!) you folks will pick up, read and enjoy and we’re not ready to commit to delivering you anything less.
Q: Will you be crowd-funding the game?
It’s something we’ve discussed at length and the answer is a very tentative “yes”. This goes hand-in-hand with the answer to the previous question: we’re dedicated to getting 95% of the rulebook written and polished and if/when we do crowd-fund the resources needed to finish the game, it will be with a view to adding that final polish and to cover costs such as printing and copy-editing. We resolutely refuse to start any kind of campaign to raise funds for a product that you won’t see for a year after the campaign has finished. It’s not how we roll.
Q: I’m an artist/writer/editor/tester. Can I help in any way?
Sure you can – just not yet. It may sound precious but we work well as the team we are – for now. That’s not to say we’re going to covet the game and don’t intend to get feedback from open play-testers, but we’re not quite ready to take other people on-board just yet. That said, we’re not stupid enough to think we’re not going to need help at some point so if you think you can help or just want yourself adding to the list of interested parties, drop us a line.
Until next time!