Finishing the Kickstarter with 450 backers and at 262% it’s safe to say that “Skald: Against the Black Priory” is a hit. The campaign has been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work, and I’m looking forward to spending more time working on the game again.
The scheduled release for SKALD is June 2020 with physical rewards coming in August 2020. Up to that point there is a lot of work to be done in developing the game and feelies and honestly, I can’t wait!
For backers who payed to get access to the alpha-build, that will be made available in July. I’ll still take a few weeks to polish it a bit so be patient! The alpha-build is in no way representative of the finished product. It serves as a short proof-of-concept and a way to start developing some shared language for discussing the project.
In particular, complex features like character development and advancement will be placeholder systems in this demo.
We already have a pretty good community on Discord and I would like for it to become much larger! Join us on Discord today!
We’re having some pretty great discussions regarding SKALD and game development in general. So if you want a say in how this game turns out, Discord is the place!
Late to the Party?
Didn’t get to back the game? Well, first of all, the actual game and digital assets (manual etc), will be available for sale on Steam and a select few other stores.
As for the feelies, we will do a limited run of big-boxes and zip-lock bags. More information on that will follow.
That’s it for now! Thanks again for all your support and be sure to subscribe to this devlog to stay up to date!
With SKALD: Against the Black Priory entering the final days of a phenomenally successful Kickstarer, it’s time to squeeze in another article discussing game-play features and design.
Last time, we did some exploration into classes and stats. Today, the subject is the application of the classes and stats! In other words: “Combat and Adventuring”!
Just like in the “Classes and Stats” article, let’s start with some design pillars for combat and adventuring:
Respect the players time: SKALD is developed for a modern audience and this means allowing players to pick up the game, play a short session and still have a fun experience. This includes reducing book-keeping by adding features such as a journal system and auto-mapping, avoiding grindy areas of pointless content padding, making combat fast and having a forgiving save system that allows the player to save anywhere.
Allow the player to make informed choices: The game should be mostly transparent in how the rules work and how the characters class, stats and roleplaying choices interact with the world. If information is kept from the player there should be a good reason to do so.
Provide multiple solutions to quests: Quests should be solvable by non-combat means and players should be able to play non combat-oriented characters.
Choices matter: The world should be interactive and react to players choices.
Adventuring in SKALD takes one of fours forms:
Combat (more on that later)
Exploring the environment through the tile-based map
“Choose your own adventure” sequences
You explore the game-world with a party of up to six characters. At the start of the game, you create a single main character and then recruit characters along the way. I’m considering allowing players to create characters at inns as well, to replace the recruitable characters if they wish.
At any given time, a single character leads the party (you can swap any time). It’s the leader’s skills and abilities that are used when interacting with the world so you should take care to have the right leader at any given time.
The SKALD scripting language is quite powerful in allowing me to reference player skills, abilities and previous player choices in the dialogue and the “choose-your-own-adventure” sequences.
Specifically, this gives me a lot of leeway in creating scenes with multiple solutions beyond combat (I’m taking a big leaf from the early Fallout games here). There should be room for all the different classes, and builds, to shine.
In the interest of transparency, I want as few hidden rolls as possible. If, for instance, a dialogue choice gives you the opportunity to use a skill, the game will tell the player so explicitly.
Combat is a staple of fantasy RPGs and SKALD is no exception. The basic combat draws upon inspiration from classics such as Wasteland 1 and Bard’s Tale, tabletop RPGs and other, more modern games.
As combat begins, the game switches from the tile-map to the tactical map. The tactical map consts of a background with the combatants animated upon it.
Combat is resolved in order of initiative until all the combatants on one side is either dead or somehow incapacitated.
Combatants do not move freely around the battlefield and combat is not tile-based. Instead the combatants occupy either the front, or rear rank of their formation. The player is of course, free to reorder the party formation during combat to move characters between the front and rear rank.
In general a melee weapon (excluding spears and pole-arms) can only attack the adjacent enemy rank, whilst ranged weapons and exceptionally long weapons can attack more distant ranks.
For each turn, each combatant can perform a single action (in general). This may be either a normal attack, casting a spell or using an ability. I intend for there to be interactions between different spells and abilities that reward clever planning and an attention to detail.
For now I’m hoping to make combat difficult but not unfair. Party-members are very rarely killed outright in combat. Instead they are knocked out and failure only comes if the entire part is somehow incapacitated. Knocked-out party members come around after combat (albeit at reduced total HP). I’m also playing around with having a sanity score in the game and taking a lot of beatings might impact sanity in the long run.
I’ve chosen to go with this decision because I don’t want combat to prompt constant save-scumming. I would rather you survive most combats but have to make decisions of how far into a dungeon you can push your luck and then having to plan how to get back to a safe port with an injured party. I feel it will make for more memorable gameplay in the end.
Finally, combat has an auto-resolve feature that can be used to resolve full rounds of combat allowing players to blow through easier encounters or finishing combats quickly once they have them “locked down”.
That’s it for now!
This is a work in progress and it might look very different a year from now.
The SKALD Kickstarter has reached its third stretch-goal and we’re now adding a third major area to the game: Urban carnage in the the city of Adler’s Helm!
Even better: We get to have a go at a fourth stretch-goal (140.000 NOK / 16.000 USD)! And so, without further ado:
To celebrate SKALDs tabletop RPG background, we’re already making an awesome manual and campaign-guide for SKALD: Against the Black Priory!
The manual will explain the rules and gameplay, whilst the campaign guide will serve as an introduction to the SKALD universe with an emphasis on the Gallian Empire and the Island of Idra with its locations and surroundings.
If we make our fourth stretch goal, we get to be a lot more ambitious with the manual / campaign guide! We planned to ship with approx. the equivalent of 3 pages of illustrations. If we make the mark, we’ll up that to the equivalent of 6 pages in a 32+ page manual! This means we get to flesh out the city of Adler’s Helm as well as add hand-drawn maps for locations and a fully illustrated bestiary of monsters!
Furthermore this also means we can afford to pay a professional editor to give the book the polish it deserves!
The goal has always been for the campaign guide to serve as a hint booklet but ALSO allow you to use the setting in a tabletop RPG campaign (after all, the Imperator edition ships with custom dice)! Reaching this goal will allow us to make the campaign guide all the more AWESOME!
We also hope to be able to feature some fan fiction in the booklet so if you would like to write short pieces of fiction set in the SKALD universe, you might want to keep an ear to the ground (for instance by subscribing to this devlog)!
In SKALD: Against the Black Priory you create a single character and then recruit the rest of the party as you go. The game uses classes, numerical stats and feats combined with level based advancement to flesh out its characters. Creating a robust and balanced system for character development is challenging (and immensely rewarding) and I’m going to take my time getting it right.
As with any design task, it’s always a good idea to set down a few basic pillars and goals to guide the work ahead.
The primary goal for the character system might be something like:
“Character creation and development allows players to express themselves creatively whilst making interesting mechanical choices concerning their character.”
In other words: A player should be able to envision a character (within the games setting) and then create and play that character in-game.
For design-pillars I’ve chosen these for now:
Balance: Each class should be equally playable. There should be no “dump-stats” or skills. The game should accommodate a wide range of builds and each ability should have something to offer each class.
Transparency: The player should have access (preferably in-game) to all the information required to make meaningful decisions when making, and developing, a character.
Narrative Impact: The choices the players make in character creation should matter in-game. There must be plenty of opportunities to use skills and abilities, and your class should matter in the narrative.
Scalability: The level system should have no “hard” upper level cap. That is, no upper level limit beyond which the system breaks. That’s not to say that the system won’t have a “sweet spot” level-range, within which play is particularly enjoyable. It just means that the system is not mechanically upward limited.
At the moment I’m working with five ability scores:
Strength: Physical strength and brawn. Affects your ability to do melee damage and your skill in athletics (jumping, climbing, swimming etc.).
Agility: Speed, reflexes and finesse is determined by agility. Affects dodging, initiative, hit-chance and fine-motor skills like thievery.
Fortitude: Physical and mental toughness. Affects willpower, hit points and resistances.
Intellect: Mental faculties. Affects several skills as well as spell-casting. Might also affect how many skill-points you get and perhaps an XP-bonus.
Presence: A measure of your attention to your surroundings and your place within them. Affects your ability to interact with people and animals as well as your perception and attention to detail. Also affects leadership.
There is a tendency for “physical” abilities to become overly powerful (especially at lower levels) in RPGs due to combat being prevalent, with the mental abilities becoming dump-stats for many character builds.
As a result I chose to go with five abilities as opposed to the more typical six. I find that three physical and two “mental” abilities seem more balanced whilst still allowing for a range of expression. Furthermore it’s a easier to make each ability relevant to every class with fewer abilities.
Post character creation, ability scores advance very slowly.
I want SKALD: Against the Black Priory to feature basic classes that are recognizable enough to provide a foundation upon which to build the character you want.
Beyond that I want a lot of flexibility as the game progresses with few (if any) class-exclusive skills or feats. Classes should encourage certain builds, but I like the idea of not imposing too many limitations.
The six classes in “Against the Black Priory” are as follows:
Warrior: Soldiers, sell-swords and mercenaries. They excel at combat, dealing large amounts of damage (often to multiple targets).
Rogue: Thieves, assassins and swashbucklers. Rogues are stealthy and excel at using skills to perform tasks. In combat, rogues are more based on maneuvers than soldiers are: backstabbing, flanking, ham-stringing, disarming and all round fighting dirty.
Cleric: The holy men and women of the Empire draw upon their devotion to channel the divine power of their deity. From ascetic monks to armored battle-priests, clerics play different roles on the battlefield: Healers, support-casters or front line fighters.
Wizard: Chartered Imperial Wizards or rogue hedge-mages. Wizards harness the corrupting arcane energies of magic. A wizards magic is powerful and devastating (sometimes to friend and foe alike).
Skald: Part of an ancient, dying tradition, skalds are the wandering bards and storytellers that preserve the lore of the myriad cultures assimilated by the Empire. A life spent roaming the breath of the Empire and beyond, makes the skalds jacks of all trades. They excel at inspiring their allies in combat and bolster their party with both magic and a strong sword arm.
Captain: In “Against the Black Priory”, captains are the smugglers, pirates, merchants and officers of the Northern Isles. As expert sailors, leaders and skilled fighters, they make an invaluable addition to any group adventuring in the north!
Skills are learned and improve over time (whereas abilities are more innate).
The trick with skills is including many enough to provide granularity and range of expression whilst still having few enough that each skill gets screen time!
I’m currently considering the following six skills:
The total score of a skill is calculated by adding up ranks in the skill with the score of one or two ability scores. Ranks are purchased as you gain levels.
Note that the game also contains secondary abilities as well. These include stats like “Base Attack”, “Dodge” and initiative. They may look a bit like skills but they cannot be improved by spending skill points. In stead, they must be improved by using feats.
Feats are selected at certain intervals as you gain levels and allow you to customize you character by adding special talents. Think perks in Fallout. Whilst skills and abilities add numerical values to you character, feats allow you to break rules (in a sense).
Many feats are combat related but there are also other types like adventuring feats (consume less food, ability to swim, more carry capacity) or narrative feats (guild memberships, special allies, access to more equipment etc).
Races and Backgrounds
At this point in development, the SKALD universe is human-centric. Demi-human do exist, but they are few and far between. As such humans will likely be the only race available in “Against the Black Priory”.
As a way of adding more definition to your character however, I intend to offer a selection of backgrounds. The backgrounds offer a small mechanical bonus and will, hopefully, tie in to the narrative as well.
More on that down the line.
That’s it for now!
It’s worth repeating that this is a work in progress and it might look very different a year from now.
This means we get to explore what Lovecraftian horrors lie hidden beneath the eternal ice of the high north: “Mountains of Madness” style!
It also means that it’s time for another stretch goal!
105.000 NOK: The “Captain” Class
SKALD: Against the Black Priory is intended to ship with five “canonical” classes (more on that soon – I promise). If we reach 105.000 NOK I will design a sixth class: “The Captain”. The Captain is a combat based class with strong leadership skills and expert maritime and navigational skills.
This should make for some interesting combat gameplay as the Captain combines his excellent swordsmanship with his keen tactical sense, allowing him to inspire and coordinate the rest of the party.
As a game with a strong maritime component, the Captain should also add plenty of opportunity for adventuring as you explore the game world by sea: Trading, smugling and daring the dangers that inhabit the black depths of the ocean. The game will also include a recruitable NPC with the Captain class. Have an amazing weekend!
SKALD: Against the Black Priory is coming to Mac! Spread the word to the Mac-based CRPG community and have them check out the Kickstarter!
Due to the game engine SKALD is built in I always intended for this, BUT I simply didn’t have time to do my technical due diligence before launching. Now I have, and SKALD is going to be coming to Mac!
This means that all backers will get a choice in the backer survey, choosing between a Windows and a Mac build.
There is one caveat: The ALPHA demo and BETA version will only be available on Windows for now.
The adventure extends beyond the isle of Idra, into the icy hellscape that is the northern polar regions. Its hostile climate, cyclopean ruins and eldritch horrors will test your mettle as you sail into the eternal night of the high north!
The high north will significantly extend the game’s overworld size and will add hours of gameplay intended for higher level characters. I love to dip into source-material like HP Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”, John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, or the brilliant TV-drama “The Terror“. The motif of polar expeditions finding impossibly old things in the ice and going mad has always appealed to me (must be a Norwegian thing).I really want to make this so let’s make sure we reach that 90.000 NOK stretch-goal!