Kingdoms & Warfare Kickstarter - Late Pledges

Created by Matt Colville & MCDM Productions

Kingdoms & Warfare is a 5th Edition supplement for managing kingdoms, playing organizations, and waging war. This page is for anyone who missed the campaign but still wants to back the Kingdoms & Warfare project; it includes all the non-exclusive products we successfully funded during our Kickstarter. Fulfillment will happen at the same time we ship out Kickstarter Backer rewards.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Editing & Layout
2 months ago – Fri, Apr 16, 2021 at 12:38:39 AM

In spite of shutting down the MCDM office for over a year and sending everyone home, and a year of COVID fear and several months cycling between productivity and terror, anxiety and depression...the manuscript for Kingdoms & Warfare is with the editors! This is a huge milestone for this project. It means we’re almost done!

Also, I have my first dose of the Moderna vaccine! If you live in California and haven’t gotten your first shot yet, you can use https://myturn.ca.gov/. On April 15, everyone 16 and over will be eligible!

So the future is looking incredibly bright in spite of what was a truly harrowing year. Now let’s talk about Kingdoms & Warfare!

The book is broken up into five sections; Organizations (including Intrigue), Warfare, New Items, New Monsters, and the Adventure. Each of those sections goes through the same thirteen stages of development before the book goes to the printer. Here’s what that looks like;

This is just a quick and dirty progress tracker I threw together so everyone on the team would be able to communicate about the state of production. We’re setting up JIRA to make it easier for us to manage stuff like this in the future.

You’ll see that Stage I is Outline, but that step can’t be started until the core design is done. In other words; once we figured out the rules for what an Organization was, how it worked, and how organizations interacted with each other, then we could design a couple of Orgs and use the rules to test them. Did Intrigue work, do Domain skills work, do the Defense Levels work?

That was R&D and R&D lasted...I dunno like 9 months across all the different systems. At the end of R&D we had two or three organizations prototyped and tested, and all the rules for Intrigue tested, and at that point we could outline all the other Orgs in the book (8 player Orgs, 16 NPC Realms).

Same thing with Warfare, months of prototyping and testing which led to a system that seemed fun and robust with a handful of units. Once that R&D was done, we could then design all the other units.

The difference between Organizations & Intrigue vs Warfare, is that once Organizations & Intrigue was prototyped and tested, we contracted other designers to work on the rest. Whereas I was responsible for writing and designing all the Warfare rules and units. That’s what I’ve been working on for the last six or seven months; designing and polishing Warfare while other designers take the core design of Organizations and Intrigue and flesh it out.

Each stage requires some writing or review on my part, and that meant I was a “blocker” on progress. But I’ve wrapped all that up! Now I spend my day just going over feedback from our editors.

For me, this is a huge milestone. The manuscript I’ve been slaving over for the last year is in a Fair Draft state. Which means you could read the entire thing from beginning to end and it would make sense. All of it has been tested and all of it is currently in editing.

If you want the straight dope on the systems inside, check out two of the previous kickstarter updates.

Design Part One: Organizations & Intrigue

Design Part Two: Warfare

The only thing I think has changed since I wrote those is: we no longer propose a scenario where you run Round 1 of Combat and then Round 1 of Warfare, and then Round 2 of combat, etc…

I always thought that was a lot, and knew it might not work. Well, none of the testers were able to make it work, they liked Warfare, and they liked Combat with the Domain Powers, but both at the same time was too much and they kept forgetting abilities. I figured; if these folks, who are SUPER well educated on these systems and have run DOZENS of battles already can’t make it work...then it just doesn’t work. :D

Now there’s more advice in the book for using your army during an adventure, or during downtime, and we still propose the best and most epic use of Warfare is at the end of an adventure as part of the big finale where your PCs fight the Enemy Boss while your armies clash at the same time, but now the book expects you to play out the Battle first, determine a winner, then run the combat.

They both happen at the same time, but we resolve one, then the other. Much like how your characters all politely take turns in combat, even though in reality it’s a huge scrum with everyone acting simultaneously. And we have rules for how winning the battle provides a Morale Surge to your characters during the combat. Or to the boss! They could win the battle!

This removes the MOST complex and daunting use-case and I think will make using these rules in your game a lot easier. It also helps us focus on other ways to use your army in a game.

Getting The Book Across The Finish Line

Ok so the systems have been designed and tested, the manuscript has been written and revised based on testing and is now in the hands of our editors. What’s next?

Well, the editors will spend another couple of weeks editing Warfare and the Adventure, and while that’s happening, James and I go over all the editors’ notes and decide which changes to accept and which to reject. That’ll all get finished this month.

Then the manuscript is done! And it goes to our layout artist, Gordon McAlpin who’s already done a lot of work updating the Strongholds & Followers trade dress.

“Trade dress” means “the rules for how a book looks.” What font do we use for body text? For headers? What do tables look like? What do sidebars look like? Do images have borders? Where do page numbers go? Do pages have borders? What kinds of margins does everything have?

This can all be done without any final text, you just use placeholder text. Once my department delivers all the final text to Gordon, and Jason’s department delivers all the final art, Gordon can dump it all into the layout, which is called “flowing the text.”

The software you use will instantly parse everything you drop in, and that will very quickly get you about 80% of the way done with the layout. If you looked at the book from sufficiently far away at this point, it would look done. Unfortunately, the software isn’t smart enough to also make sure everything looks good. That’s the other 20% and it takes 90% of the time. :D

Flowing the text is the process of figuring out...ok, where exactly does this piece of art go? We know it goes with this piece of text, but where on the page should it go? There is no correct answer, it’s an artistic process.

Same thing with tables and sidebars. Then you get stuff like...the text can flow in such a way where the last word in a paragraph wraps around to the next line and that line, with only ONE WORD ON IT, causes all the paragraphs after to shift down one line and that can cause the last paragraph from one section, to wrap onto the next page where a new section immediately begins.

This looks ugly, and it doesn’t just look ugly, it makes the book harder to read. So Gordon futzs with everything, monkeying with the “widow and orphan control” and the leading (the distance between two lines of text, pronounced like the metal: lead), tracking (the distance between two words) and kerning (the distance between two letters) to get paragraphs to all land on the page in such a way to make sure everything is readable, but also that the pages look good, that new sections begin at the top of the page, without the text getting so small and scrunched up that you can’t read it.

It’s a process. :D And we’re lucky to work with folks who know their stuff.

Once Gordon finishes flowing the text and art...the PDF is done! That is the document we send to our printer in Canada and they run off some unbound test printings called Galleys which we proofread to make sure stuff like...the margins are actually falling where we thought they would, the colors look the same on the page as they did in our monitors.

This was something I had to do WAY BACK in 1997 and back then we had these special sensors with suction cups on that stuck to your monitor so the layout program we used could FORCE the colors to be correct. Do they still have those little suction cup thingies? I cherish my ignorance on the subject. :D

No matter how diligent we are about everything up to this point, we always find something in the Galleys that needs revision, so this process can continue for a week or two as we send the printer a new PDF, they print new galleys and FedEx them to us, we review them, and make revisions to the PDF.

Once we’ve signed off on the galleys...the book goes to print! At this point, the PDF is truly “done” because it’s been through all the changes above and you will get your PDF. Given our current schedule; finishing editing, reviewing editing, layout, reviewing the layout, and finally preflight (preparing the manuscript for print including reviewing the galley proofs) you should get your PDF in July.

This is three months later than we planned but...literally nothing about 2020 went according to plan, so I personally still feel incredibly good about this.

We probably could have got this book done earlier if I just cared a lot less about the quality of the product. Each system in this book had primitive versions done early in 2020, but it was important to me that we take the time to make the best versions of this book and that meant extensive testing and iteration and that cost time.

My attitude was; our backers are paying for a product, not a date, and I want to give them the best product possible. Were it not for Covid, I think we could have done both.

It takes 4 weeks to print all the books and then they must be packed up and shipped. This adds more time, but since our printer is in Canada and not CHINA we don’t have to wait for it to float across the pacific on a slow boat.

Then...you get your physical products! We believe this puts delivery squarely in Q3 although exactly when it’s too early to say. When we know more, you’ll know more.

What About Everything Else?!

Well most of the minis are done, meaning they’ve been manufactured and packed into boxes with labels. Like this!

Relg!!

A couple of minis are currently being cast, the rest are sitting around waiting for boxes or labels.

All the units in the Special Unit Deck have been designed and tested, the entire deck has been laid out, all the cards designed and we just sent it to the printer!

The DM Screen is the last piece of the puzzle and not coincidentally the easiest, all the tables on the inside have been collected and the EPIC art on the front is done, we’re just waiting to lay it out, then it’ll go off to the printer!

And that’s it! From here on out, no more updates about how the design is changing, it’s all about editing, layout, manufacturing and then shipping!

We’re all incredibly excited to get this product and all these amazing MINIS with their quite excellent monster design into your hands. We think it’ll have a big impact on your game!

-Matt

Update #14: Progress on the Manuscript
5 months ago – Wed, Jan 13, 2021 at 11:08:34 PM

Hey folks! It looks like we had an old update pinned, so folks coming to check in on the project missed the two BIG updates we did on the design of the book, but that’s fixed now. If you missed those, you can read them here. It’s a lot!

Update #12: Design Update, Part One: Organizations
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mattcolville/kingdoms-warfare-and-more-minis/posts/3002949

Update #13: Design Update: Warfare
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mattcolville/kingdoms-warfare-and-more-minis/posts/3003519

It’s 2021! The year we deliver this Kickstarter! Most of the design & writing is done, we’ve got a ton of art in progress, the minis have all been modeled and prototyped, so let’s talk about where we are right now.

The Necromancer's Tower, one of Saxton's allies from the Regent of Bedegar Adventure.

DESIGN & PLAYTESTING UPDATE

We simplified the Domain rules a lot. Last update we talked about each Domain having powers and schemes and stratagems and special actions but that ended up being way too much.

This happens a lot; you start off with complexity that you feel grants the system robustness but then once it’s written you look back on it with fresh eyes and think “Wait, do we really need all this? Is there an easier way?”

So now each Domain grants its officers access to two powers in combat (same as before) and four actions during Intrigue and that’s it. One of those actions is always “raise a unique, special unit” for war. This is powerful, robust, simple, and still lets us customize domains a lot.

We have a first draft for all 8 PC Organizations, all three of the specializations for each org, and 16 unique NPC Realms. This will be a major focus of testing over the next month. We used some of the realms and orgs for the Intrigue testing, so we know the basic ideas behind all this work, now we just need to set the testers loose on the whole shebang.

Here’s a list of all the player organizations and npc realms, including their subtypes. We may change some of the names but that’s it.

Player Organizations:

Adventuring Party

  • Explorer's Society 
  • Mercenary Company 
  • Misfit Heroes

Underworld Syndicate

  • Thieves' Guild 
  • Assassins' College 
  • Spy Network

Mystic Circle

  • Arcane Order 
  • Secret Cabal 
  • Theatrical Troupe

Nature Pact

  • Barbarian Tribe
  • Druid Circle
  • Hunter Conclave

Religious Order

  • Hidden Cult
  • Holy Church 
  • Monastic Order

Martial Regiment

  • City Watch 
  • Knightly Order
  • Military Squad

Noble Court (A kingdom!)

  • Court of War 
  • Political Administration
  • Regent State

Mercantile Guild

  • Monopoly
  • Pirate Band
  • Trade Guild
     

NPC Realms

Unlike PC Orgs, these do not have a specialization. Each of them is already an org + a specialization. We wanted to pick a broad spectrum of realms that would cover stuff most GM’s need then also throw in stuff that’s more niche, more boutique that might inspire you and result in adventures featuring new kinds of enemies.

A Hag Coven plots and schemes!
  • Despotic Regime
  • Draconic Tyranny
  • Dwarven Thanedom
  • Fey Court
  • Giant Jarldom (i.e. a jarldom of giants, not a really big jarldom)
  • Gnomish Kingdom
  • Goblinoid Coalition
  • Hag Coven
  • Infernal Echelon
  • Medusean Tyranny
  • Orc Clan
  • Planar Marauders
  • Reptilian Band
  • Undead Dominion
  • Undersea Colony
  • World Below City-state
     
An Undersea Colony plotting from the inhuman depths!

We have first drafts of all of these, some of them I wrote and designed, but most were done by our freelancers. All of them are unique and cool and when I read them, I want to use them or run them. I really think this framework will change how we think of PC parties and enemies. I already want to run adventures against a Medusean Tyranny or a Hag Coven!

Warfare

Imagine a flock of Armored Chimerae flying into battle! All numbers are subject to change based on testing.

There are currently 133 warfare units split between the core book and the Unit Deck, all have been designed. We may have to move that number up or down a few units, as our printer informs us that cards go best into decks at certain numbers. But it’s only a few either way.

Each of six ancestries (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Goblinoids, Orcs, Undead) each get nine units; a combination of basic units (infantry, artillery, cavalry, levies) and advanced units (aerial units, siege engines, named units).

Then each Domain can raise a unique unit if it chooses to during an Intrigue. And then the Special Unit Deck has between 50 and 60 units across a wide spectrum of species, including kobolds and drow and dragons and golems. Gnolls, demons, devils, OOOZES (well, one ooze unit). All sorts of stuff, way too many to list.

The Adventure

Tace the Wizard, an ally who can help you against Saxton's army...if you can find him.

I wrote a 3,000 word outline and we brought in freelancer Teos Abadia to write it. He already delivered his first draft and I’ve gone over it and provided feedback.

The adventure is mostly about the heroes defending their new stronghold and the town of Gravesford, which we first visited in Strongholds & Followers, from Lord Saxton and his army.

This requires them to travel around Bedegar and negotiate with the local Realms, trying to get allies. It’s a series of vignettes that can be done in any order. Some of the local realms are predisposed to help, some are neutral, and some are enemy realms aligned with Saxton. Intrigue is all about the actions your organisation takes and how you can use diplomacy and espionage to build alliances and raise an army to stop Saxton and overthrow his unjust rule...or die in the attempt!

Three New Courts & Minis

The book also includes (mostly because people really liked them in S&F and we're making minis for them!) three new courts you can use when rolling for Concordance. The Court of Decay (an undead court), the Court of Seven Cities (a court of Devils) and the Court of the Deep (a court of demons who live at the bottom of the Timescape).

All of these new monsters have been designed, they all have finished art and all their miniatures have been 3D modeled and prototyped and are in various stages of production.

Many of these monsters (like the ENTIRE Court of Decay) are Action-oriented, but some come in two versions: a normal version and an action-oriented version. Like the Devils. Sryz, the Count of Naraka, is a Steel Devil, so we give you stats for a generic steel devil and present Sryz as a unique, action-oriented villain. Value for money! :D

To Sum Up: First Draft

Goblin Sketches!
A Confederation of Goblins!

Domains, Warfare, the Adventure, all the Units, all the new Monsters. Most of the new Items. All of these are done and now just need testing. We’ve been testing the core warfare rules and units for the last year, but each component—Organizations, specializations, NPC Realms, etc.— also needs love to ensure balance and playability and that’s our focus right now.

There’s still some connective tissue I need to write. Right now the document is mostly “Here’s how this works,” but we also need language introducing everything in more general terms. We’ll also have a big glossary up front you can use to familiarize yourself with all the new terms in the book.

We hope to finish the Fair Draft of the manuscript by the end of January at which point we still have testing, revisions, editing, proofing, and layout. Then printing! Testing will continue right up until we go to press probably. We can always change a number at the last second to bring something closer into balance and if not, we can update the PDF and everyone who ordered the K&W book or PDF will get an email to download the latest version.

Hopefully this all sounds like good news to everyone? I’m incredibly proud of this content, and cannot wait to see how people use it.

We still want to do a big art update soon, but the art team is super busy. I’ll harangue them and get you folks something soon!

Kickstarter’s website is not incredibly well-optimized for communication, the comments section is primitive and I try to avoid spamming folks with updates. I also don’t like talking about stuff here unless I’m 90% certain it’s actually going in the book. So we only drop an update when we’ve hit a big milestone like this. But we talk about the development of the book all the time in our livestreams. If you’re curious about the nitty gritty of this process, I strongly encourage you to follow us on twitch (www.twitch.tv/mcdm) and you’ll get an alert when we go live.

We spend at least a couple of hours a week on twitch just hanging out and talking about anything folks are interested in, including the development of K&W. This is good for us because it allows us to go into depth on any subject and answer people’s questions directly, and personally.

Because it’s more informal, there isn’t this sense of “everything Matt says is final.” It’s always a moving target, a snapshot of where we are at any given moment. And you also get a lot of behind the scenes info on the running of MCDM and other nonsense. It’s a lot of fun!

We also do livestreams on Youtube after a Running the Game video and folks ask lots of questions there which sometimes crosses into Kingdoms & Warfare territory.

That’s it for now folks! More updates soon, hopefully a big art update.

Elf sketches for the Fey Court!

Design Update: Warfare
8 months ago – Sat, Oct 31, 2020 at 04:05:40 AM

Warfare

The system we presented in Strongholds & Followers only worked if everyone played along, and it didn’t make a lot of sense. As long as everyone was playing in the spirit of things, it worked fine. But as soon as folks started using it competitively, it broke down. Players could decide not to activate their units, and the entire battle ground to a halt.

Also, folks were ok with the two-roll system, but they didn’t like the fact that they might succeed on an attack roll, fail their power test and therefore “nothing happened.”

Finally, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense! You could have 8 infantry units who were all somehow able to attack a single enemy unit without in any way needing to coordinate their movements.

The current system is now essentially its own game. This was necessary to create a system that was robust enough to support the ways people were using it.

We assume Battles happen rarely. Once per adventure usually. And usually in the final battle, where we expect things to get a little hairy. So using this system shouldn’t be burdensome for those rare scenarios.

But this system is straightforward enough that running a battle, in which each player usually only commands a handful of units, should be pretty easy! And fun!

The biggest change is the fact that the battlefield now has a shape.

This diagram is from a Miro board one of our Supertesters, Pesto Enthusiast, mocked up!

This is the battlefield your war will happen on. The rules assume two sides (there may be options for more, but this is the default and covers most use cases).

As soon as you see this you think “Oh god,” because obviously now instead of an abstract system we’re talking about a game. But in fact I think all these rules make things easier because now units have a position and movement and it’s obvious where everything is and moving and attacking is simple.

Explaining "Who Can Attack Who" in the old system was weird and complex and hard to hold in your head while you were doing everything else. By using a battlefield, constrained to a specific shape with units moving from one square to another, now Warfare works...the same way every other game in the world does and that makes things a lot more straightforward.

Let’s break down this battlefield.

Each side has four Ranks. Your Infantry deploy either in your Vanguard, Rear, or Reserves. Your artillery (including archers and siege weapons) deploy in your Center. Once the battle starts your units can move wherever they want. :D

Units can move one space forward, backward, left or right. They cannot move diagonally. Infantry can attack any adjacent unit along these cardinal directions. Artillery and Aerial units can attack anyone.

Cavalry and Aerial units belong to no rank. Cavalry units can only attack infantry or artillery if they are exposed for which there are rules in the system. Basically, if there’s no other units between your target and the edge of the battlefield, your cavalry can attack them. Imagine the cavalry riding around the battlefield, looking for openings, smashing into any unprotected infantry.

The exception is the Center and the Reserves which are protected from Cavalry and not exposed as long as there are units in your Rear and your Front. Your Front is your Vanguard and the entire enemy side.

So while you may want to ignore your rear and focus on your vanguard, if your enemy has cavalry, you’ll need to put some units in your rear or your archers will get steamrolled. Maybe some levies in the rear to buy time for your archers, or maybe some pikemen with Set For Charge, who can make sure any Cavalry attacking them get a rude surprise.

That’s it. That’s the entire order of battle. I’ve now run this system dozens of times for friends and folks at MCDM, the testers have run it even more. We’ve all found it fun and easy to learn. Let’s look at a unit!

This is a typical human infantry unit. You can see there's a space on the card to write down which character (a PC presumably) "owns" or commands the unit.

The stats are (from left to right): Attack, Defense, Power, Toughness, Command, Morale. The sword represents how many attacks the unit gets, and the star below it, how much damage it does on a successful power test. 

All human units get the Adaptable trait.

Adaptable: This unit has advantage on Morale and Command tests.

And all Infantry units regardless of ancestry get the Follow Up maneuver.

Follow Up: As a reaction to an enemy unit adjacent to this unit breaking or moving out of its space, make a DC 8 Command test. if successful, move into that space. 

This is a basic human unit, you can improve it by buying better equipment for it, so it goes from Light to Medium, to Heavy or Super-heavy. And it can level up  by winning battles, going from Regular to Veteran to Elite and then Super-elite. 

A unit like this is easy to recruit by building a Stronghold or making an Operations check during Intrigue.  But each ancestry also has Special units the DM can award though good roleplaying and inventive use of your Domain skills. Like the Hounds of Dalrath!

Look at these guys! Two attacks! (The sword icon.) Three damage on a successful power test! And they have SCOURGE OF THE WILD.

Scourge of the Wild: This unit has +2 attack vs Orcs, Goblinoids, and Elves.

These guys are going to ruin someone's day. And, of course, we have other ancestries!

I think Jason did a killer job with these unit cards.

This is a basic Elf unit you can recruit if you're an Elf, or if your Domain is allied with the elves. Or you might fight these guys in battle if the Enemy Realm is a Fae Court! 

Elves get the Eternal trait.

Eternal: This unit has advantage on morale tests vs Undead and Infernal Units

They also have Forest as their favored terrain which means they get to be good archers even though they’re in a forest with trees blocking line of sight.

But what does an enemy unit look like?

Hobgoblins! All hobgoblins are Warbred.

Warbred: This unit has advantage on attack tests.

That seems really good. If the design is successful, “Adaptable” won’t seem like a super exciting ability compared to Warbred, but then you play it and you realize that advantage on Morale and Command is basically “You are good at War.” So humans have this low-key ability that just makes them better at warfare in a way other species find annoying.

We have...I dunno how many, over 50 different units already designed. The final product will probably have over 100. Six ancestries are currently supported with a full array of Basic and Special units. Units for Humans and Orcs, Elves and Dwarves, Goblins and Undead. Along with rules for levelling them up and buying them better equipment.

Then there’s another 50 or so Unique covering lots of monsters and other ancestries like Minotaurs or Kobolds. But nothing crazy, no Iron Golems for instance. The general rule for this design is; if it’s a monster your players would want to fight? Then you face it in the Combat. Otherwise it’s legal to be a Special Unit.

If you’re familiar with the Warfare system in Strongholds & Followers, you may not notice an immediate difference here, but let’s go over the whole thing.

Attacking

When you attack another unit, you make a d20 Attack roll against the enemy unit’s Defense. If that roll succeeds, you inflict one casualty and move on to the Power Test. 

Your infantry successfully executed your Attack order, but how strong are they? Are they physically strong enough, is their gear good enough, to really hurt the enemy unit? That’s the Power test, another d20 roll vs the enemy’s Toughness. If this test succeeds, you inflict casualties equal to the damage rating of the unit, which is usually 1. 

When a unit is reduced to half its starting size (usually 3 casualties) it has to make a Morale test or suffer another casualty. This only happens once for each unit. Morale is also a measure of how your army reacts to things like Battle Magic.

Casualties mean deaths, but also the idea that some of the soldiers in this unit might be confused, or disoriented, not know exactly who to attack or even which direction the enemy is. Some soldiers might run screaming from the battle. So there are a few ways to Rally a unit and regain a few casualties in battle.

Command represents how well trained your army is and whether it can execute complex commands, called Maneuvers.

Maneuvers are special actions your units can take instead of attacking. All infantry units, for instance, have the Follow Up maneuver. Any time an adjacent enemy unit leaves its space, either because it moved or it broke or disbanded, one of your infantry units can make a Command test against DC 8 (it’s pretty easy) and, if successful, immediately move into that space.

Infantry have low attack and power, but high defenses.

Artillery have high attack, average power, and low defenses.

Cavalry have average attack and defenses, but high power and inflict two casualties on a successful power test. Cav can only attack exposed units, but they hit hard.

Aerial units combine the best of all of the above!

Martial Training & Battle Magic

Each class gets access to six different abilities, including new traits and maneuvers they train their soldiers in, and special items they can create and distribute in Warfare. They unlock these at a rate of one every other level, starting with one maneuver or item at first level. 

So your 5th-level Barbarian PC has the following three Martial Training abilities…. 

Furious Assault. Your Light Infantry gain +1 movement and inflict +1 damage on a successful attack test.

Mobility Training. Your light infantry can automatically Follow Up and may immediately make an attack against an adjacent enemy unit when they do.

Berserkers. Your infantry automatically succeed at morale tests to become diminished. Your diminished infantry have advantage on Power tests.

I think, if all you know is what I’ve described in this update, you should be able to figure out what these abilities do and why they’re cool. :D The idea is, your Barbarian trained the units you control. The units are just regular soldiers, a Barbarian’s units aren’t “all barbarians” but because they were trained by a Barbarian, they fight like Barbarians.

If we’ve done a good job with these, they should reinforce the core fantasy of the Barbarian. Barbarians favor light armor, melee combat, they like being highly mobile and they get really pissy once they’ve suffered a few casualties.

They’re so bad-ass, they (almost uniquely in the game so far) inflict bonus damage on the Attack test!

We’ve run a bunch of battles with these maneuvers and it’s pretty breathtaking when the Barbarian player goes and activates their Light Infantry and they just chew their way across the battlefield. It is appropriately barbariany. :D

But what if there’s a 5th-level Sorcerer commanding a handful of artillery? Well, unlike a martial class that sorcerer doesn’t spend a lot of time training their troops, that’s not what a spellcaster is about. Instead, they craft special items they hand out to the sergeants commanding their units, like….

Wand of Fire. Target an enemy unit, which must pass a DC 15 Power test or suffer 1 casualty and gain a fire token.

Scroll of Mass Invisibility. Choose a number of allied units equal to your command rating. They become Hidden (enemy units attacking hidden units have disadvantage on attack and power tests) until their next activation.

Scroll of Firestorm. Choose an enemy unit. It must pass a DC 15 Power test or suffer 1d4+2 casualties. If it succeeds it suffers 2 casualties.

These items are temporary and lose their magic at the end of the battle, which helps keep your campaign from exploding with wands and scrolls.

Each item is unique. Wands can be used every round and must be distributed to Artillery or Aerial units. Scrolls are one-use and we don’t know which unit has which scroll until they use it. The drone flying over the battlefield is too far away, the individual soldiers too small to tell which sergeant has which scroll. But once they use it, you can tell!

It’s worth nothing, any time an enemy unit is affected by Battle Magic, it must make a Morale Test. The common soldiers, who were maybe only recently peasants, don’t like magic, it freaks them out. More experienced soldiers are sophisticated and have higher morale. They know what to expect once spells start slinging.

If you compare these first three Sorcerer abilities with the three Barbarian abilities, they should all be straightforward and thematic. The Barbarian’s abilities affect all their light infantry, their special abilities last throughout the entire battle and make them better fighters.

Whereas the Sorcerer’s battle magic is more devastating (a Scroll of Firestorm can vaporize an entire unit!) but are one-use. Flashier, more damaging, but limited use.

We have 78 such abilities already designed and in various states of testing, including 6 abilities for the Illrigger!

Victory and Defeat

There are more rules than this obviously...but not many! At the beginning of each turn, if a rank has no units in it, it collapses and the ranks that were in front and behind become adjacent. The battlefield shrinks over time as the armies close in on each other. This helps keep infantry relevant since they don’t have to march as far to reach the enemy as the battle progresses.

The final rules will also cover the Tide of Battle where the combat between the heroes and the villain will affect the armies they command, and the armies clashing can affect the combat between the characters. This creates dynamic synergies between the two and make it feel like the combat and the battle are all part of one big conflict. Also, I just unironically used the phrase “dynamic synergies” but dammit it’s the proper term for this! I stand by my decision.

At the end of every turn, after all units have activated, you check to see if one side has twice as many points left as the other. If not, you keep fighting! If so, whoever has the larger army has won and the enemy must Retreat (a maneuver that determines whether you suffer any more casualties getting your units to safety) so they can live to fight another day.

You might wish your units would suicide themselves (undead units would obviously be ok with this if they are sufficiently mindless) but their commanders are not being mind controlled and will not recklessly waste the lives of their soldiers.

That’s it! I mean that’s...that’s most of the rules! We have already used these rules a lot and played lots of battles and even when we were just using the basic units, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, no maneuvers or battle magic or special units, it was fun. It was a lot of fun! Jason, our art director, quickly realized the potential of the Follow Up maneuver and used it to set traps for my infantry! And I fell for it! Once… :D

We imagine the default way folks will use Warfare will be during the Final Battle of an adventure. You play one round of Combat, then stop and play one round of Warfare. Each character usually only controls a handful of units, three would be a lot for your first battle.

So while it may seem like a lot, having three units move and make a handful of rolls is pretty easy and it happens fast. And it provides just a ton of fantastic opportunities for the players and the GM to narrate events, a resounding clash of arms!

Like the Domain system, this system won’t be for everyone. I’ve played some fantastic miniature wargames that would be great for handling epic battles like we imagine happening in our campaigns, but none of them are simple enough to use during a 5E game.

You may find this system is too much, it’s too extra. I respect that. But for me, and hopefully some of you, this is exactly what I want for my games. It can be used as its own system, or dropped in the final battle, or deployed whenever the adventure calls for it. The battle for a bridge across a gaping chasm! The battle for control of a city as the units fight over each neighborhood!

If you want to watch me and Jason, our Art Director, actually playing this system, you can see it in this Twitch Stream.

https://www.twitch.tv/videos/746124131?t=0h11m13s

It's me, live, going over a pre-recorded video of me and Jason using Warfare. We ran a lot of battles, but I only recorded two: one with just basic units and no maneuvers or battle magic, then another one WITH some maneuvers and battle magic and even the simplest battle was fun!

The system has been refined further, mostly just tweaking stats, but you get a good sense of it in that livestream. 

Anyway I hope you like it. I’ve worked...incredibly hard on this and I’m excited as hell. I think these two systems, either together or apart, can really change the kinds of games GMs can run.

There’s still a lot of writing left to do, as well as testing, but the core design is now finished. All that’s left is iteration.

Design Update, Part One: Organizations
8 months ago – Fri, Oct 30, 2020 at 01:12:52 AM

It’s been a while folks, but I felt it was important that the stuff we show you, the backers, is the real deal. Not one hypothetical way it might work, but the actual real design of the book, and that meant we had to wait until stuff had been tested and iterated on and was close to final. And that’s where we are, so let’s dig in!

We’ve spent the last 9 months or so just in R&D with our testers, iterating on the design of both the Kingdoms half of the book and the Warfare half and both are now robust enough that I think it’s safe to share without either undergoing any major revisions. The details of any specific ability or chart may change as we continue testing, but some version of everything in this post will be in the final book.

The Disclaimer

Before we dig in I want to set expectations. The idea of running an organization, ruling a kingdom or operating a thieves’ guild in a fantasy world is hugely complex. It’s so complex you could easily make a game with so much detail that it would require a computer to run it, and I think we can all imagine a game like that.

But this is a supplement for 5E, already a complex game. You are already running a campaign or playing a character with a lot of options, so any system for running kingdoms and organizations has to be simple enough to sit on top of that, but at the same time robust enough to present a lot of options, and be relevant to the players. Players should see these new options and think “I want those.” “I want to do that." But the system has to be simple enough not to overwhelm everyone.

This is a broad enough problem that no solution could please everyone. You may have a very specific idea how a domain-management solution for 5E should work and maybe you imagine a game where the GM manages dozens of different kingdoms, each with different resources, surpluses, deficits. This barony has too much copper and so trades with this other duchy for their surplus wood. But that would be a game unto itself, and as a GM, I’m already running a pretty complex game.

My goal, therefore, is to develop a set of rules that is robust, that presents a lot of mechanical options for players and GMs, but which is easy enough to run while I’m running 5E and I think we have done that. But, as with everything, your mileage may vary.

On with the show…

Organizations

The Underworld Syndicate

This book introduces a new level of play; Domain-level play. The heroes’ domain is called an Organization and the villain’s domain is an Enemy Realm. NPC domains can be either organization or realm.

There are many different PC organizations in the book, and each has three specializations. For instance, an Underworld Syndicate is an organization with three different specializations; Assassins’ College, Spy Network, or Thieves’ Guild. You choose a specialization when you found your organization.

There are eight organizations each with three specializations, so that’s 24 different kinds of orgs just for players. A Kingdom in this system is just a high level Noble Court, one of the 8 different organizations.

Meanwhile on the other side of the screen, there are 16 more NPC Realms. These are self-contained without specializations and cover everything from Giant Jarldoms (a jarldom of giants, not a REALLY BIG jarldom) to Deep Sea Colonies, Draconic Tyrannies and Undead Kingdoms. Some NPC realms are specific to one ancestry, like a Fae Court or a Dwarven Thanedom!

When you see the complete list it should be easy to figure out, regardless of what adventure you’re running, what kind of Enemy Realm your villain is in charge of. We want you to be able to use these rules in the game you’re already running, without having to start a new campaign.

The heroes are the officers in their new organization. If you’re dropping these rules into your existing campaign your organization is probably some version of an Adventuring Guild. Maybe a Mercenary Company or an Explorers’ Society.

Adventuring

This system assumes that the adventure you’re in the middle of has some kind of Villain or Villains. They and their lieutenants and agents become an Enemy Realm using these rules, and there’s going to be some kind of climactic final battle between the heroes and the villains. This should cover most experiences with 5E.

But your characters now have an organization to lead which means while you’re adventuring your organization is using its skills to carry out your orders. We don’t get too into the details of how exactly your organization knows what you want it to do; whenever your characters get back to civilization they dash off orders and generally your NPC lieutenants know what your goals and intentions are, and can carry them out faithfully while you’re down in a dungeon. :D

Eventually your adventuring brings you into contact with the adventure’s villain or their agents, and this means your organization and their organization are now aware of each other...and the world isn’t big enough for the both of you!

Intrigue

Conflict between two domains is called an Intrigue. Imagine your organization’s agents going out into the world and doing research on the villain’s past to uncover their secrets, sending emissaries to other realms to see which side they’ll be on in the final battle, sending your spies to try to sabotage the enemy’s operations. All the while, of course, the villain is doing the same thing to you! This is an Intrigue.

In the sample adventure, The Regent of Bedegar, the heroes have just taken over Castle Rend in the middle of a forest. The nearby noble, Lord Saxton is a villain and an usurper. He views the heroes in their new forest fastness as a threat and so vows to crush them. Classic!

Thanks to the heroes’ new Organization and its agents and allies, they know Lord Saxton is planning to raise an army and lay siege to their new fortress.

This is the beginning of the Intrigue. Each domain is aware of the other, and each is working to make sure when they finally meet, the battle happens on their terms.

Meanwhile, the heroes are still adventuring! They’re talking to the Elves and asking for aid against Saxton. The Elves say they have no love for the usurper, but their troops are all busy defending their northern border against a Black Dragon. “Hmmm...a black dragon you say?”

Now you’re doing all the same stuff you’d be doing in a normal 5E game, but there’s this added political layer to it. You’re fighting a Black Dragon to help the elves, so the elves will lend you aid in your battle against Lord Saxton.

While you’re collecting allies and aid, your domain takes actions using its skills and abilities, as is Lord Saxton’s Despotic Regime (an enemy realm!). The intrigue ends when your heroes face off against the villain and the results of the intrigue determine the conditions of the battle and which bonuses each side gets in combat and battle.

That’s all pretty high-level and may be hard to picture, so let’s take a look at a sample Organization; the Underworld Syndicate, specifically a Thieves’ Guild.

The Party Sheet

A Party Sheet

Yeah! Look at this! This is the Party Sheet! Each specialization has one, it lists all your abilities and also has a little development track to help you when you level up and improve your domain.

You can see the Org has four skills; Diplomacy, Espionage, Lore, and Operations. It also has three defenses, Communications, Resolve, and Resources.

You can use your org skills the same way you use your character skills. Outside of intrigue, you can have your agents negotiate with nearby realms (diplomacy) or dig into another realm’s secrets (espionage), you can research deep history or obscure magical knowledge (lore) or do mundane things like build roads or cultivate farmland (operations).

During Intrigue your domain gets a number of actions based on its level. A domain action uses a skill and targets either a listed DC or another realm’s defenses. If you’re negotiating with the Elves to get their help against Lord Saxton, the DC for your Diplomacy test is set by the Attitude of the NPC Realm.

Each realm, including yours, also has three Readiness levels that describe how prepared you are for the upcoming combat or war. Each Readiness level grants your benefits in combat or battle.

You can use your actions to raise your Readiness or lower the enemy’s Readiness. You can make an Operations test to raise new units, but you may want to make an Espionage test first to see which units the enemy has! You can also use your Diplomacy to recruit Allied Units from local NPC Realms.

If you’re trying to sabotage Lord Saxton’s plans using your Espionage, you choose a Defense and make a roll. Success lowers one of Lord Saxton’s Readiness levels which means he and his lieutenants or soldiers begin the final combat with a penalty.

Which skill you use, which defense you target, and which readiness level you raise or lower is up to you. The goal is to let the players be creative. As long as the GM agrees their plan is reasonable, they can try it. But the GM might feel like, based on what the heroes are trying, this action would target the enemy’s Resolve rather than Communications, for instance. The players invent a plan, but the GM gives feedback on what they think is reasonable.

Customizing Your Org

As you can see, the bottom of the sheet starts with some values already printed on the sheet for each skill and defense based on what that Organization is good at, and how that Specialization modifies things. An Underworld Syndicate is good at Espionage! But a Thieves’ Guild is a kind of Underworld Syndicate that’s also good at Operations.

After you choose your organization, the players each get a certain number of Development Points to spend customizing their organization. You literally pass the sheet around the table, with each player using one point to mark off one box, until all players have spent all their points.

This is the beginning of feeling like an organization. Like a team. You may not all agree on how to spend your points! You have to cooperate, communicate, and maybe compromise. Yes, you may argue about whether your Knightly Order should be better at Diplomacy or Lore. You may not agree. That’s part of the point. One way or the other, you have to work together. :D

Schemes & Stratagems

Each org gets two abilities that help it during Intrigue and these are called Schemes along with two abilities that help it during Warfare, called Stratagems. You get one Scheme and one Stratagem from your org and one from your specialization.

Schemes and stratagems are fun abilities that not only give you more options, but also help make your org feel unique and reinforce the fantasy of “we are a thieves’ guild” or “we are an arcane order.”

But I think the star of the show is the new Powers you get!

Powers

Powers are the benefits your characters get for running an organization. They represent the idea that you’re no longer a disparate group of random weirdos, you are now a team and gain special benefits because you’ve been working together and training together and you’ve learned all sorts of cool tricks and ways to synergize your abilities.

Imagine the X-Men and all the crazy tricks and tactics they’ve developed together that none of them could do alone. The Fastball Special. Or the Fellowship of the Ring learning how to work together in ways they couldn’t do without practice adventuring together. These are your Organization Powers.

Each officer gets a die, the Power Die. The size of the die is determined by the level (aka the size) of your organization.

At the start of the final battle with the leader of the Enemy Realm (aka the villain of this adventure, or the miniboss of this chapter) all the officers in your org roll their Power Die and place the die, with its result showing, in the Power Pool on the Party Sheet.

Then, during the final battle, any officer can use these dice on their turn to perform the listed action. Some powers use one die, or several. Some use all the dice!

Of course, the villains’ realm also has powers! If you use these rules, the final battles of your adventures feature more...pyrotechnics. :D

Special Actions

Each org may also get one or more special actions, things only your domain can do. Usually this is about raising unique units. Only a Thieves’ Guild can raise The Crew for instance, a unit of fighters, thieves, bandits, and brawlers.

Resolving Intrigue

The intrigue ends after both domains have taken all their actions and prepare for the Final Battle which is probably a normal Boss Fight, just with cool powers and probably a battle happening at the same time.

Each domain has three categories of Readiness, their War Readiness, their Combat Readiness, and the Intel they’ve gathered. Over the course of the intrigue you’re using your actions to boost your readiness, and lower your enemies. Each Readiness level grants bonuses to the combat or the battle but they are undergoing a revision right now and I want the testers to try out the new Readiness levels before I share them.

Each of these systems is designed to be optional. You could plunder this book and only use the Powers, so now your party has these cool new abilities, but you have to communicate and work together to get the maximum value from them.

Or you could just use the Org Skills and Defenses and run a game very like a normal 5E game, but with added political sophistication thanks to these rules.

Likewise, the Warfare system is designed to be used parallel to the Final Battle of an adventure, but we’ve designed and tested it to make it fun and robust to use to fight a war all by itself! Speaking of which....

Warfare

Actually, this update is already long enough so let’s cover Warfare....tomorrow!

Tomorrow’s update will cover the new Warfare system which is...it’s a lot of fun. At least, we’re enjoying it internally, we’ve already run dozens of battles between us with different armies and it’s pretty robust. Stay Tuned!

We're Locking and Charging All Pledges Today!
11 months ago – Tue, Jul 21, 2020 at 09:53:39 PM

Hey everyone, Anna here! Hope y'all had a good weekend :)

Pledge Lockdown & Charges

Today at 5:00PM PDT (UTC-7) we're locking BackerKit and then charging all outstanding balances (for most of you, this is just the shipping cost if your pledge contained physical rewards; if you included Add-Ons or changed your pledge, that would impact your balance). Please take one last look at the payment method you have on file to confirm that's still the card you want to be charged! If you don't have your link to access your pledge manager page, follow this URL and put in your Kickstarter email address:

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I think that's it; thanks to everyone for your amazing support of the team, and joining us on this journey! :D