Hi everyone! I thought I’d write a short post to give you all a short update on SKALD, show off some excellent art and do some signal boosting for one of my awesome RPG-colleagues (more on that below).
A New Partner: Innovation Norway
Fantastic news: SKALD has been accepted to receive a business-development stipend from the Norwegian governmental org Innovation Norway.
This puts the company in good financial shape, and though I’m still not at the “quit your day-job” level, it means I now have a much greater degree of economic freedom for SKALD and beyond.
A big “thank you” goes out to Aksel Brasøy and Innovation Norway!
The SKALD Beta: Lessons Learned
The first part of the Beta has been out for a few weeks now and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback. I’m hugely relieved to say the feedback is very good and very constructive. It goes to show what an amazingly supportive community SKALD has.
Implementing content is an iterative process: Using the SKALD tools to create content, test the content, evaluate the tools, update the tools. A classic trap for projects like this is painting yourself into a corner with complexity rising to such a degree that it causes the project to become unmanageable. I think we’re doing a very good job in keeping SKALD in the green by spending a LOT of time polishing the content pipeline and our workflows.
Some of the lessons I’ve taken away from producing the first part of the Beta:
Life is too short for bad tools: Spending an hour polishing the implementation tools saves 3 hours down the line.
Automate as much as possible: If you find yourself creating similar content over and over, there might be a room for automation. Even if the time saved seems trivial, it often adds up. Removing “friction” allows you to stay in the zone longer!
Scripting in the narrative content is the secret sauce: It makes the world feel responsive and alive. It’s important that scripting is easy, safe and reliable.
Don’t dwell on a problem if you get stuck or demotivated: There is always another part of the project in need of attention and some of it is bound to be interesting.
The Next Step
The game is being implemented in chronological order and I’m currently working on chapter 1: The Isle of Idra.
The plan is to implement a few of the first areas that players can explore and play around in and then release an updated version of the Beta sometime in June. This will still be available to all backers – we’re not quite at the point where we move to a proper “closed Beta”.
Keep in mind that the priority at this point is to get the narrative down before the “crunch”. This means that for the Beta you’ll have the main narrative rolled out first, then side content, and then feats, spells, equipment etc.
SKALD is going to be a game with a great story set in an interesting and interactive setting so that’s our number 1 priority right now. Just stay posted and good things will be arriving in your inbox before you know it!
Knights of the Chalice 2 is a party-based epic computer role-playing game with turn-based combat for Windows and Mac OS. KotC 2 is inspired by Baldur’s Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Temple of Elemental Evil and Planescape: Torment. Just like the first game, KotC 2 uses the OGL 3.5, the ruleset at the root of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5.
The Kickstarter campaign will support the creation of future KotC 2 adventure modules, improve the game’s graphics and facilitate the addition of new character classes and other features.
The first KotC 2 adventure module, Augury of Chaos, and the KotC 2 module and campaign editor for Windows and Mac OS will be released to Kickstarter backers as soon as the campaign ends.
In KotC 2: Augury of Chaos, your Heroic Party confronts a group of Evil Fanatics allied with various Demons and Fiendish Dragons. Blast your enemies with more than 700 spells, bull-rush them into spike pits, trick them with your superior guile, or crush them with your enchanted greatsword! See them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women, as your valiant party progresses all the way from level 1 to level 21.
The time is finally here: I happy to announce that the first tiny piece of the Beta build is finally up!
It’s short and sweet and consists of the games prologue. It should take about 15-20 minutes to play through and you can consider it an interactive trailer of sorts . It also should give you a pretty good idea of where the game is going.
How do I get it?
If you’re a backer: Just use the itch.io link you got for the Alpha demo. It should take you right to the game’s Itch page and there you should find the Beta build easy as pie. If you’ve lost your link, get in touch with me and I’ll hook you up.
Beta 1.0.0 is for all backers and a handful of friends of the community. As beta-development proceeds, backers of KNIGHT-tier and higher will get a brand new key so they can follow the closed beta development.
Feedback and reaching out
By far, my preferred way of getting feedback in the demo is via the Discord-channel. We have sub-channels set up for that express purpose and keeping things in one place makes it a lot easier for me to review.
Beyond that you can always reach me at contact(at)skaldrpg.com or on twitter.
Greetings SKALD-fans! I’m currently doing a lot of world building and design on the magic-systems and users of the SKALDiverse (more to follow). In that regard I wrote a very short fiction about what it feels like to cast a high-level spell that I though I’d share with you.
For next week I plan to do a world-building article about the different “courts” of mages and probably a project update as well.
As always, feel free to join our discord or follow me on Twitter if you want to engage more closely with the project.
Stay safe and have a great day – AL
Her voice was hoarse from exertion, but the thin line of soldiers that surrounded her obeyed without hesitation. The guards’ polished, silver-inlaid armor and crested helms marked them as among the finest soldiery of the Constellation.
Alryna grabbed the officer by his pauldron and bellowed into his ear over the din of battle.
“We must buy more time for the garrison! I need two minutes. Your men must hold!”
The man’s face grew ashen. She held his gaze, unwavering, until he set his jaw and nodded determinedly. The line would hold – it had to.
Two sharp notes sounded from the officer’s flute. The signal pierced the low rumble of heavy, marching feet and snarling beasts that surrounded the beleaguered rearguard. Reacting instinctively, the soldiers adjusted their left flank.
Alryna unclasped her cloak, and the rich, crimson fabric was whisked away by the canyon’s howling wind. She adjusted the cords of her mage-harness and closed her eyes as another wave of flesh-eaters smashed into the thin, silver battle-line.
As she drew a breath, the chaos of battle grew muffled: as though perceived from deep beneath calm waters. Becoming a battle-magos took years of training – and it had been hard for Alryna – but she had persevered and now the shadows of her doubt had been almost completely washed away by the raging force of the Reticulum. Almost.
Here it came! The now-familiar feeling: first like brushing a finger over an enraged and icy river; then the sudden shift of perspective as if stepping off an unseen ledge in the darkness or feeling your mind expand in that instance when you fall asleep and begin to dream.
Then the stench of charred hair and flesh flooded the battlefield – wait – not yet! These were pre-memories! The Reticulum felt unpredictable and dangerous: Like a wounded beast.
A storm brewed – not one of rain or lightning – but a maelstrom of heavy light and thrumming harmonics that refracted into unnamable colors. And Alryna at its eye – willing the maelstrom of Reticular energy to infuse her very being.
The chains of her harness began to crackle, the energy arcing towards the silver plated armor of the men around her. Common men would flee in horror at the touch of that terrible light – burning them without heat. Even the hardiest of veteran would relent under the maddening howls that rose during great manifestations of the Reticulum.
But these were not ordinary men. They were elite legionaries, handpicked to fight alongside, or even against, those who wielded the forces of the Reticulum. And so they did not break. Not as rank upon rank of flesh-eaters had their flesh scoured by Reticular light. And they did not break, chanting their hypno-indoctrinated litanies as the howls drove the flesh-eaters insane with fear.
Though Alryna could no longer feel her legs, she was aware of the ground shaking. She stood now at the threshold, her self-hood slowly peeling away like white petals of the orchids that grew in the Imperial Gardens. Suddenly there was a lull in the carnage. The enemy’s charge faltered. A brief moment of respite, perhaps? Alryna knew better than to hope – no, this was the eternal doubt – but her steel heart would not yield.
“Hold the line!” She forced the order from behind grinding teeth. She could only hope the officer heard her over the din of chants and wails.
Their foe began to reorganise. The flesh-eaters who had fled from the first charge were trampled to death by the onrush of fresh monstrosities. The thin, silver line could not hold them back. But she hoped they could slow them down.
“HOLD!” She cried again. As much a prayer as a command – she needed more time. Three sharp notes from the officers pipe signaled the assault and the dozen remaining silver ghosts charged against the oncoming horde. A hopeless charge but Alryna would spend the precious seconds their lives bought well. She cried out in pain and rage, and the sky turned inside out.
For a brief glimpse she saw golden spires rise above lush primordial forests.
The ragged column of men had retreated well beyond the canyon. Now, they stopped in their tracks as the ground heaved. The captain’s horse reared in panic and a second later he saw a blinding flash cut through the canyon far behind them, like a rend in the sky. He gasped in awe as the canyon walls shrugged and then crashed down into the valley, causing another violent tremor. His stunned men cowered in terror.
Then the stench of charred hair and flesh flooded the battlefield and the men began retching.
He had been terrified of her from the moment she arrived. Terrified of what she represented. Now they were alone. Even if they managed to hold the city until reinforcements arrived, the High Court would surely scapegoat him for the loss of the priceless Battle-Magos. But that would have to wait. She had bought them time to take that chance, and he swore to reserve his final blessing for that terrible woman in the crimson cloak.
He tore his eyes from the distant carnage: “Make haste for the city-walls!”
I’m a bit late with this one. I apologize for this but believe me when I say this is not because I’ve been lazy! Quite the contrary, the development currently has a lot of momentum and the game is evolving at a pace where it’s hard to even sit down and take a snapshot of it!
So with that being said, it’s time to dig in!
The game has gained a ton of new features. I’ve implemented basic stealth, jumping from ledges, improved combat auto-resolving, added more features to the auto map (though it’s still an unfinished feature) and added a bunch of quality-of-life improvements and bug-fixes.
I’ve done a lot of work under the hood in terms of how maps are made – allowing for a lot more complex maps to be made. Even more interestingly, I’m currently working hard on getting a dedicated non-Unity based tool for creating game content. Not only will this be invaluable to actually making the game’s content (the actual plot and maps); it will also lay the foundation for a map-, and game editor for you players.
As you can see I’ve also made combats even more fancy with bigger backgrounds as well as added lots of particle effects and movement to make combats more visually appealing.
The project has also arrived at the point where I’ve started to commission assets that will go in the final game! This means stunning pixel art, fantastic music and amazing writing! I can’t wait to show it off!
The Road Ahead
The original road-map called for the game to enter beta development around January of 2020. I’ve been behind schedule on this goal, and I would say the game is in closed beta right now! This means I’m creating and testing the workflows that will take tons of content and actually put it into the game.
The first sliver of the beta (for backers who are getting beta access) will be out in about a month I hope. This will contain only the prologue of the game and content will then be added successively as it gets produced.
This is another reason I’ve held back on the beta release: I really don’t want to fatigue you guys yet. Once beta testing begins for real, I’m 100% counting on the community for extensive play-testing.
As for the final release I’m gunning for September. I’m fairly certain I can finish the game by then but there is some uncertainty in regards to the physical rewards. This is due to the unfolding COVID-19 crisis and how it is affecting the logistics of physical goods production and distribution. But fear not: You will get both the game and the feelies in good time!
If you wanna engage with me more closely or just hang out with our excellent community be sure to join the Discord today!
It’s back to making SKALD for me! Stay safe and have a great day!
I’m really happy to announce version 2.0.0 of the alpha demo. This one goes out to all backers of the project and you can use your Itch.io key to download it!
Version 2.0.0 does a major overhaul of the user interface and user experience. Mostly this comes down to making the game more “visual” as well as improving mouse controlls. This does, however come at the expense of polish. There’s a few rough edges in the demo now as it eases into it’s new look but I’ll be sure to iron them out with patches over the coming days.
Polish the alpha demo based on feedback. The Alpha is available to all backers.
Once the Alpha is solid, I’ll make a “vertical slice”. This means a very short “slice” of the game that resembles the finished product. This is to stress test all the features before going to beta. The “vertical slice” will be available to backers for the Freeman tier and up.
After this we move to the beta stage. This means I’ll start stuffing all the actual content into the engine as we flesh out the final product. Beta-testing is available to backers of the Knight tier and up.
The last time we spoke you implored me to assist you in your study of pre-Imperial history. I refused then. Please forgive me: I acted only with regards to your safety and health. In this age, truth itself has become a precious commodity, and even an Imperial scholar such as myself, must be wary. Some things are simply too terrible to bear, yet too dangerous to speak off.
However, things are now afoot that makes me realize I must share what I know lest they be lost forever. The “smiling man” came to me again! Dressed as a beggar. Nay – a fool! And you would think of him as such with that moronic, terrible grin. But he knows things. Things no man should know. And he asks questions no man should know to ask.
Baldwin, I am not well. My mind is not what it was. The dreams are worse than ever and my thoughts don’t feel like my own anymore.
Enclosed are my notes on the subjects you requested. Have tried as best I can to give an accurate outline but I find I do not even trust my own mind anymore. Make of it what you will, and burn the notes afterwards lest they fall into the wrong hands.
Farewell dear friend,
Principal Scholar of History, Imperial College at Vaaul
The Dawn of History
Our world is old. Much older that they would have you believe. In fact, it can be said that our Empire is but a flicker in the great fire of history. Empires have risen and fallen before and they will do so again.
The dreaming oracles of Shaddu-Wa tell of beings that sometimes whisper in their dreams: Ancient beings who the oracles call the altheryn*.
The oracles talk of visions of how the altheryn were already ancient when they found our world. How they constructed their marvelous, white towers. How they bent the very fabric of space and time to their will.
How, in their folly, they drew the attention of nightmares and madness given form: The Hashitan Titans, the Sleeping Old Ones, the Ur-Dragons. Whatever the name, it was chaos incarnate and it had come for the altheryn across gulfs of space and time.
* We would call them “starstriders”.
The War of TITAns
Perhaps the oracles had grown addled by their love of the poppy. But there are other sources as well: Certain tablets of immeasurable age, found on the plains of Vahari, that are covered in images both fascinating and terrifying.
I have seen them myself: They show the altheryn, tall, ivory-skinned beings with terrible black eyes, waging war with beasts too grotesque for words. Behemoths of pure chaos that tore down their white cities, ground their bones to dust and feasted on their souls.
Alygon of Yrr* once claimed to have preformed a ritual so powerful, it tore her mind out of time. She claimed to have seen with her own inner-eye how the altheryn retreated through great gateways to lands beyond the stars and how the High King of the starstriders remained behind to seal the gateways from the titans.
She also tells of how, when the writhing mass of chaos fell upon the High King, his death unleashed so much energy that it lay the mountains low and created the reticulum itself: An intricate, magical lacework that enveloped the world and drove the titans back into the voids **.
*Alygon of Yrr was driven quite mad by the experience and we must be careful in placing too much trust in her accounts.
** The reticulum is also the source of all Imperial magic as we know it.
The First Age: THe long dark
Following the altheryan exodus, millennia passed: Ice-ages came and went and continents shifted. How many lesser races and empires rose and fell one can only speculate.
What is know, is that at some point, humankind arose into a warm and damp world covered by jungles and ruled by the cruel lizard-like saurans.
Humans was hunted for food and sport by the saurans and were forced to cower the polar regions where it was too cold for the saurans to follow them. It was through the crucible of the saurans reign of terror that the great human tribes formed in the First Age.
Mastering steel and magic, the first great kings and queens of men led their people in the first great war – driving the saurans from the land and establishing the Second Age.
The Second Age: Rise of an Empire
The Second Age marks a period of expansion for humankind. Spreading from continent to continent, petty kings and warlords fought, conquered and built.
Though it was an age of growth, it was also an age of mysticism, ignorance and war. The strong enslaved the weak and the ground ran red with blood. The cruelty of the men of the Second Age had come to rival that of the saurans they had driven from the land only centuries before.
Into the chaos of the second age, a child was born. Some will have it that he was born to three mothers or that he was descendant from the stars or perhaps that he was the last descendant of a lost line of kings dating back to the first age*. No matter his origin, the boy was named Gallian.
Whether he studied the arcane arts or simply was gifted from birth, the boy grew to become a wizard of immense power. The young man also had an uncanny charisma that drew people to him.
Fanatical followers quickly flocked around Gallian, and it was not long before he drew the ire of the petty wizard-kings and warlords of the region. Whether he ever wanted it or not, destiny was thrust upon the would-be Emperor.
The struggle that followed is well documented in the Imperial canon and though heretical tongues may have differing views, we all know the result: The founding of the Gallian Empire and ushering in of the Third Age.
* Heretics will have it that he was born in a field to simple goat-farmers. They would be flayed for claiming as much.
THe Third Age: The Gallian Empire
With the foundation of the Gallian Empire came a period of unparalleled stability, growth and prosperity. The so called “Gallian Miracles” turned deserts into farmland and glaciers into gardens. Imperial armies conquered all of the known world and the Empire spanned continents. All at the behest of the magnificent Gallian the Great.
For nearly a century he ruled, first among the great wizards. Then, as Imperial orthodoxy will have it, without warning Galling the Great disappeared. The canon will say he transcended his human form and rose to the stars in a flash of light.*
Following the disappearance of Gallian the Great, the Empire has seen seven Emperors. For two millennia they have guided the Empire: some competently, others less so. Though non could rival the power of Gallian himself, they were all spell-casters of formidable power, drawn from the Emperor’s ruling council of High Wizards. They were the “husk lords” of the Empire.
It is posited in the great Edun-Wahit texts on the nature of magic, that all magic in the Empire (or the world for that sake) flows from the altheryan reticulum: The magical lattice that drove the Hasithan titans from the world. There can be no doubt that the Empire’s dependency on the reticulum is like that of a babe to its mothers teat.
Drawing their power from the reticulum, mages can call forth fire and arcane energies, they may bind flesh or bend mind. Mere conjurers tricks! The Edun-Wahits will warn that the reticulum offers even more arcane mysteries: It is not simply a construct that exists in space, but also in multiple dimensions of time. Drawing deeply from the reticulum a magic-user may experience prescience and even the gift of an unnaturally long life.
Have you noticed how the Emperors have longer and longer reigns? Gallian the Great ruled for nearly a century. Arrion the Gray has ruled for nearly five centuries.
* Before he was burned alive, Brendon of Othar, former Imperial Chamberlain, claimed that the Emperor was meditating in the garden of the Imperial palace when “one moment he was there, the other he was not”.
The Final Imperial COnclave
They will burn me alive for writing this, so I beg of you: Read no further! Throw these notes in the fire – It is the ramblings of a mad man! Carry on your life as if you never knew me and enjoy what worldly pleasures your home and family can offer you!
If you must read on, this is what I have shall pay so dearly for: Every seven years the High-Wizards convened with the Emperor himself in a great conclave. Sealing themselves in the Imperial Palace for seven days and seven nights they convende and when they re-emerged, the course for the Empire would be laid out for the following seven years.
But there is more. There say there were rituals. Rituals older than Gallian himself, spoken in the ancient sauren tongue on those conclaves! The saurens understood how the reticulum “blessed” those who drew deeply from it – the long life it offered.
You too must remember the Great Rending 13 years ago? When great tremors toppled castles and giant waves crashed into cities all across the Empire? A common, but powerful earthquake the scholars said. It took my sweet Caryna from us, killed thousands, yet no one will talk about how those sensitive to such things suffered unnaturally gruesome nightmares for months afterwards. For some of us, the nightmares persist to this day!
And the Miracles are failing too! The Cloudspires of Aldon spew black smoke now and the Canals of Garomma flood with foul ichor instead of water! They say even the great Forges have gone out. Deserts are returning, crops fail and hundreds of thousands flee their homes to avoid famine. Worse yet: It does not flow the way it should anymore. The magic! It has become dangerous and unpredictable and the disturbance only seems to worsening.
I have done the calculations Baldwin: The day of the Great Rending fell on the last day of the last Imperial Conclave. Don’t you see: They must have torn it! The High-Wizards, in their greed, must have drunken too deeply from the reticulum! Gallian bless us, now they stir in the dark. The smell of terror has awoken them!
In fact, I fear they are already here.
My Lord High Wizard,
The above letter was intercepted en route to a certain Baldwin of Hawkwind in the Freymark Hinterlands. Due to the “sensitive” nature of the letters content I found it best to inform your excellence of its existence.
The author was found dead by his own hand (self-immolation), and I have dispatched agents to track down, and deal with, the letter’s would-be recipient post haste.
Senseless ramblings of a mad man no doubt, but I feel it is still prudent to strike swift and hard in such cases.
For me writing posts like these is a nice way of fleshing out the setting for the upcoming game. Thus, everything I write is a work in progress and prone to change down the line. I’ll try to keep it spoiler free and I’ll keep the big plot twists to myself.
I don’t allow the use of the SKALD universe and setting in other commercial products. However, I would love it if anyone used it in their own homebrew tabletop RPG campaigns! If you want to discuss the setting with me directly, join us on the SKALD Discord!
The following is a macro-level overview of the greater region in which “SKALD: Against the Black Priory” is set. I also recommend having a look at this post about the Gallian Empire before reading on.
The Freymark and the Outer Isles
The northernmost province of the Gallian Empire. Independent and rich in natural resources, the region is now being torn apart by conflict as the land-owning Thanes attempt to secede from Imperial dominion. All the while, at the fringes of the region, a terrifying corruption is slowly creeping into the land.
History of the Freymark
Legends say that when the first pre-imperial tribes wandered into the Freymark from the south they found the land free of other humans. Only the ancient and menacing stone ruins found deep in the forests hinted that they might not be the first people to set foot in this land.
As the Gallian Empire arose in the south, the Freymark with it’s grand wilderness and unlimited natural resources quickly became a target for Imperial expansion. Countless unsuccessful attempts to subjugate the people of the north followed over the ensuing centuries, with the result that the Empire adopted a stance of relative self-rule for the region. The Thanes (heads of the local nobility) were formally recognized as kings in their respective territories – answerable only to the Emperor himself in exchange for providing taxes and soldiers for the Imperial armies.
Perhaps the reason for the regions relative independence is that the Imperials were terrified of the deep darkness of the wilderness at the edge of civilization.
Unlike many other parts of the Empire, the Freymark was never the site of the so called Imperial “miracles”: Large scale magical terraforming efforts that turned deserts into gardens and barren wastes into wineries. This also means that as the miracle throughout the Empire collapse, the Freymark remains largely unaffected.
The result is a significant rise in relative wealth as the Freymark is fast sailing up to become the breadbasket of the Empire and a haven for refugees fleeing from the failing ecological “miracles” of the south.
This new-found strategic importance is not lost on the Thanes and their “Freythen” followers (northern nationalists). The people of Freymark see this as an opportunity to establish themselves as a sovreign nation free of the Imperial yoke.
And as the Thanes and the Imperials squabble, something dark is creeping into the lands of the Freymark. Wild magic users are on the rise despite the Empires fervent attempts at purging them and even the ritualized arts of the chartered Imperial mages has grown terrifyingly unpredictable.
Worse still, those who rove deep into the wilds whisper stories of unnatural lights in the sky, strange stone structures and grotesque creatures roaming the land. There are even rumors of unborn children being stolen from their sleeping mothers, and farmers or even whole villages, disappearing without a trace.
It is as if a something is clawing at the sanity of the people of the Freymark. Some would say it’s the threat of war that is taking its toll. Others might suggest that it is in fact this latent, low-grade terror that is causing the surge in political violence in the region.
Geography and Climate
The Freymark is a rugged land where deep fjords give way to wooded hills and steep alpine mountains. The winters are long and dark, and the summers are all too brief. It’s forest teem with bandits, wolves and worse dangers still. Many a fortune-seeker or frontiersman has lost their mind, or life, in the vast wilderness of the Freymark.
The Freymark can be roughly divided into five regions:
A grand bastion of stone and steel, Alder’s Helm is the center of Imperial power in the Freymark. The city is home to roughly 100.000 souls and lies strategically placed between the Mark and the Hinterlands. It’s marvelous, all-year ice-free port, makes it the hub through which all trade in the region flows. It is also the seat of the Imperial ruler of the Freymark: The High Wizard, Othonaric.
Stretching from Adler’s Helm in the north, to the frontier of the Imperial heartlands in the south, the Mark is a series of interconnected dales transversed by the Great Northern Road. The rough hills are dotted with farmsteads raising crops of barley and herds of goats and sheep. The Mark answers directly to the High Wizard of Adler’s Helm himself.
Maintaining control of the Mark is critical to Imperial power in the region since the Great Northern Road provides one of only two lines of communication between Adler’s Helm and the Imperial heartland (the other being by sea).
As a result, the Mark is kept relatively safe by Imperial knights patrolling the highway and the Imperial garrison of Adler’s Helm keeps a watchful eye towards the north and the lands of the Thanes.
North of Adlers Helm, the land grows wild and grand. This is the land ruled over by the Thanes and it is the true northern frontier of the Empire. Fraught with both peril and great opportunity, this is a land that forges strong men and women.
The Thanes keep their holds in the deep mountain valleys, fjords and forests of the Hinterlands, from Adler’s Helm and all the way to the icy glaciers of the northern Skywall.
The Outer Isles
Off the northern mainland lies an archipelago of windswept, gray islands. Though they are far from the rest of the Freymark, the port of Horryn on the isle of Idra is strategically situated between Adler’s Helm and outlying Imperial holdings. Serving as a hub for shipping and trade, the port connects the Freymark to a greater network of trade routes.
The islands are therefore considered part of the domain of the High Wizard in Adler’s Helms and is ruled in his stead by an Imperial governor.
At one point the islands were home to several prosperous fishing villages and ports. As of late, these have been reduced to a scant handful and the islanders grow poor and desperate.
The Skywall and beyond
To the north of the Hinterlands, a near impassable wall of glacial ice marks the far northern end of the Freymark. Known as the Skywall, the icy ramparts conceal a platau upon which, no citizens of the Empire has set foot.
Many are the fabeled tales of what lies beyond the Skywall: From peaks that reach impossible heights to giant ice-covered cities. What is certain however, is that the changing climate is causing the Skywall to melt. Each year new rivers form as ice and water is carried towards the sea from the crumbling glaciers.
Politics and Economy
Though it may seem a harsh and unforgiving place, the Freymark is also a land of plenty: fjords teem with fish, the hills are full of ore and the forests are full of timber and game. It’s said that northern ore and coal fuel the Imperial forges.
In fact, the unlimited natural resources and endless tracts of land were always a prime motivator for Imperial encroachment into the Freymark.
Despite being an early addition to the Empire, the central Imperial court has never held much direct control over the Freymark.
Particularly in the vast Hinterlands, the Thanes have a long tradition of relative autonomy with relatively little interference from the High Wizard of Adler’s Helm. Imperial influence has instead been maintained by political manipulation, strict trade monopolies and frequent penal expeditions rather that an established military presence far beyond the walls of Adler’s Helm.
Now, as the Empire begins to crumble, the rich natural resources of the north are finding their way to new ports and providing an influx of wealth and political power to the holds of the Thanes.
Combining a newfound internal unity with their rich holds and well-equipped armies, the Thanes now stand poised to challenge the Empire itself for control of their ancestral lands and untethering the Freymark from the dying Empire.
Fearing that the secession of Freymark would be disastrous for the Empire, the Emperors fist tightens around the province as armies are mustered to march north and suppress the fledgling uprising. Taxes are collected even more fiercely and any sign of rebellion in loyalist areas are met with swift Imperial justice.
The vast expanse of the Freymark has always been a land of opportunity, fresh starts and potential wealth. Citizens from all corners of the Empire have heard it’s siren song and as a result the people of the Freymark are a diverse lot.
What they have in common however, is a spirit of industriousness, self-reliance and independence forged by the harsh environment of the north. Be they soldiers, farmers, woodsmen, merchants or sailors the people of Freymark are hard-working and no-nonsense.
As the Thane uprising escalates, the people of the Freymark are increasingly forced to pick sides between the Imperial loyalists and the rebellious “Freythen”.
Factions of the Freymark
The Gallian EMpire
The Imperial ruler of the Freymark is the High Wizard, Othonaric. He rules from the Imperial Citadel in Adler’s Helm and answers only to the Emperor himself.
Though he has lived an unnaturally long life, the high Wizard is secretive in the extreme and little is know about him. His total disappearance from public life lately, has even led to rumors that he is in fact dead and has been so for years.
The Imperial garrison in Alder’s Helm is well trained and equipped but relatively small. If it comes to war it will not be able to hold the city for long against the armies of the Thanes. The city also has a contingent of the “Order of the Silver Knights”: An elite knightly order tasked with exterminating wild and unchartered magic-user.
Though Imperial support is vaning in the Freymark, there are still large groups of loyalists in Adler’s Helm, and to a degree, in the Mark. The loyalists believe that the Freymark must remain part of the Empire and that the Thanes’ uprising is an act of high treason.
THANES and The Freythen
The Thanes of the Freymark have united under the banner of Queen Erryan of Hawkwind. She rose to become first among the Thanes following a short but bloddy internal power struggle and has begun using the title “Queen of the Freymark”
What internal animosity may have existed between the Thanes, has put aside (for now) as their holds in the Hinterland have begun preparing for the coming war of independence.
The Thanes have broad support among the population of the north from the political movement known as the “Freythen”. Freythen are nationalists who see the Empire as an oppressive, occupying force who must be driven out so Freymark can gain sovereignty.
“Rovers” is a term used for the increasingly large group of people who shun society to live deep in the wilderness in an attempt to escape the harsh taxation and brewing war.
Whole communities exist, either in small hidden farmsteads or as nomadic groups, subsiding on what nature has to offer whilst waiting for the coming storm to pass. Rovers are considered bandits and outlaws by the Empire and disloyal cowards by the Thanes and perhaps not without good reason: As hunger sets in, some groups of rovers may certainly turn to highway-robbery and theft to survive.
The Tradewind Mercantile League
The Tradewind Mercantile League is a powerful, private merchant league that has taken root in the Empire. Renown for it’s cadre of magically enhanced navigators, excellent ships and private army, the league is said to be powerful enough to rival entire kingdoms, and perhaps, even the Empire itself.
In general the league is distrusted and despised, but the factions of the Freymark are both fully dependent on them: The Empire for shipping supplies into Adler’s Helm and the Thanes for giving their goods a rout onto the greater trade market.
Adventuring in the Freymark
Be it exploring the wilderness and the back-streets of Adler’s Helm, smuggling arms in the Outer Isles or siding with either faction of the Thane uprising, there’s plenty of opportunities for adventure in the Freymark.
The feel of the region should be an area in which the status quo stands on a knifes edge as political tension rises. The players should have a feeling of events unfolding around them and yet they should also feel that interacting with events will have an impact on the conflict.
All the while, there should be a distinct feeling of terror as something dark and terrible is slowly enveloping the region. It should remain mostly unseen and intangible for now and yet be a distinct presence.
I’ll include some adventure hooks to get you started:
The king of foxes
After the power struggle that put Erryan of Hawkwind in charge of the Thane uprising, several of her opponents fled the Hinterlands. One of them is currently hiding in the Mark and has taken up the moniker “the King of Foxes”. He currently leads a band of rovers that has turned to preying on Imperial convoys as highway men.
The Imperials will not tolerate any threat to their overland supplyroutes and the Thanes see that the King of Foxes could be a strategic ally with his guerilla army in potential conflict. Either way, the characters are tasked with tracking him down.
They must not only find the band’s secret hideout, but also get close enough to the King of Foxes that they can either assassinate him or convince him to join in the Thane uprising.
Against the Rocks
A smuggler vessel is lost as it runs aground on a barren rock island in the outer Isles. The ship was carrying cargo essential to the Thane uprising and the heroes must mount a rescue operation. The problem is that even navigating this stretch of ocean is a challenge and the Imperial navy is also out to recover the cargo.
Perhaps the heroes must attempt to bargain with (or burglarize) the Tradewind League to gain access to sea-charts that can help them reach the wreckage before their Imperial counterparts?
No doubt this ends in a showdown at the site of the wreck. As a final twist, the island might not even be completely deserted!
In the ice
Two hundred years ago an Imperial expedition attempted to traverse the Skywall. Two weeks ago a man wanders into a Thane hold and claims to be the last survivor of that expedition. Though he refuses to reveal what they found there, he is convinced he has spent no more than two months in the ice.
Then heavy snow begins to fall, the hold becomes isolated and people start turning up dead.
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This means all of those who missed the Kickstarter now get a chance to back the game and secure either a discounted digital copy or one of the exclusive physical editions.
The campaign goes live sometime between 12 – 15th of November.
How to Back
IndieGOGO is a crowdfunding platform much like Kickstarter and the campaign there will mirror the SKALD Kickstarter campaign in terms of rewards and pricing.
The advantage with the “InDemand” feature is that it allows already successfull projects to fund for an extended period of time. This means that this project will remain open to backers for more than 30 days! However, it won’t be open forever so get it while it’s hot!
After the Rock Paper Shotgun interview, SKALD is getting a lot of attention. I’m getting daily requests from people who want to know how they can support the project and if it’s still possible to get their hands on a physical edition of the game.
This is fantastic and I would love to swell the already awesome community even more!
Adding more funding will also allow me to take more time off of my full-time dayjob. This means that the game will be much more polished at release and that post release features (such as modding support) will arrive much sooner!
I’ll announce the launch of the campaign on all my social media platforms and as long as you follow me on twitter or Discord you’ll get notified. I’ll of course announce it here as well so be sure to subscribe!