I’ve set a goal of this time next year as a release date for Thornwatch. Is that doable? I don’t know but I’m going to work as hard as I can to try and make that happen. So over the next year as I’m working on the game I’m going to share as much of the process with you as I can. I’m gonna start with a basic overview of the game and how it works because honestly I’m not sure I’ve done that yet.
Thornwatch is a tabletop RPG that has a GM running as many as five players through adventures set in the Eyrewood. Player’s choose a character class each with its own unique deck of cards that can be customized as the game progresses.
There are four types of cards that make up each player’s deck. These are SKILL, ATTACK, POWER, and TACTICS cards.
There are six types of SKILL cards in Thornwatch. These cards are used to fuel your character’s attacks and powers. Strength, Vitality, Mind, Spirit, Dexterity, Will. Each class deck uses two skill types so for example the Blade (rogue) deck uses Dexterity and Strength while the Sage (wizard) uses Mind and Will. Here are all of them:
You know the songs and ways of the secret Gods. You have walked alongside the invisible spirits who shape the Eyrewood and you can call upon them to help or harm. You can communicate with the denizens of the wood and sense the motives of beast and human with incredible clarity.
All your life you have been drawn to the study of books and scrolls. You have cultivated a sharp mind and you wield it like a blade. Ancient Puzzles and devious riddles unravel under your gaze. You are perceptive and mindful of your surroundings and no detail escapes your scrutiny.
You value physical prowess above all else. You have spent your life pushing yourself to peak condition and it shows. You may carry a sword but your body is the true weapon. Your strength is a tool that you can use to aid your allies or punish and intimidate your enemies.
You rely on an internal strength that manifests itself as a steadfast determination to succeed. You have pushed yourself the breaking point and then found new reservoirs of power beyond. Your vigilance and discipline in the face of danger makes you an inspiration to your allies on the battlefield.
You are nimble and quick. You have astounding control over your own body and you know its capabilities. You recognize that when pushed, it is the hard bow that breaks and so you bend. You are invisible when you wish to be and a master at getting into things and places closed off to others.
You may be beaten and broken but like the great trees of the Eyrewood you have sent your roots deep and so you are not easily felled. You draw on a well of life that grants you a seemingly endless resilience and ability to survive.
Attack cards deal damage to targets. An attack must have the necessary skill cards attached to it in order to be resolved. I’ll give you another example. In order for the Guard (warrior) to use his Overhead Smash attack card which deals 4 damage he must first attach 2 strength skill cards to it. For the Blade to use his Backstab attack he needs to attach 1 strength and 1 dexterity skill card. Once an attack card is resolved (whether you hit or miss) it is discarded.
These work similar to attack cards except that once they are out and have the appropriate skill cards attached they stay out and provide and on going effect. Example time! The Sage has a Spell of Protection power card. Once he has attached two will skill cards to it he can place a shield on himself or an ally that boosts defense.
These are instant cards that get played from your hand, have an effect and then get discarded. For example the Blade can play a Twist the Knife tactics card that increases his damage after a hit.
A character’s deck will have an average of ten skill cards from their two core skills. The rest of the thirty card deck is made up of attacks, powers and tactics. During your turn you move your character around on the map, play cards from your hand, and resolve attacks. at the end you draw back up to your hand size of five cards.
Monsters deal damage to characters by giving them wound cards. Let’s say you get bit by a wolf. The GM will hand you 3 wound cards that you must then shuffle into your deck. After you get hit by a couple wolves you’ll have a a good number of these wound cards in your deck and you’ll probably start drawing into them. They cannot be discarded so they begin to build up in your hand. Each character has a unique death threshold that dictates how many wound cards they can have in their hand before they are considered to be dead. For example. The Sage can only have three wounds in his hand before he goes down whereas the Guard can have five. It is the job of the Greenheart (healer) to remove wounds from players decks and hands and return them to the GM.
This is the most basic description of the core concepts I can come up with. Individual character decks have very different play styles and customization options. The various monsters you face will sometimes place more than just wound cards in your deck. There are beasts that make you shuffle poison into your deck for example. There are Synergy powers that let you play your skill cards to help your allies during their turn. There are rules for character creation, skill tests and roleplaying. There’s dice rolling, miniatures and maps. It’s a big game and I’ll share more about it as it inches towards completion.
Right now we are entering the “not my friends” playtesting phase. I’m working on building another set of cards so that we can have more than just one playtest going on at a time. We’re getting it into the hands of people who have never seen it before and it’s being run by GM’s who are not me. I’m trying to get the rules and instructions to a point where anyone can pick them up and run the game for their friends. That’s a lot harder than it might sound.
It will be playable at PAX East and I’m gonna try and work out something with Child’s Play as well for people who want to donate and get the opportunity to play it or run it themselves.
finally here are some quick answers to some of the questions I saw on Twitter:
Q: Are there women in the Thornwatch?
A: Yes! I know right now all the art is just dudes but there are women. Women are not allowed in the Lookouts so there are some that leave the village and search out the Thornwatch in order to make a difference in the Eyrewood. There are also other options for Women including a class called Sister of the Eyrweood but I’m not ready to talk about those just yet.
Q:Is it good for casual gamers or do you need to be a hardcore RPG player?
A:I’d say it is great for casual gamers. Your character is a deck of cards. Character creation takes about 5 minutes and you never roll anything higher than a d10.
Q:what are all the classes/characters called/named.
The strong and sturdy Guards are gifted martial warriors.
The Greenhearts draw on the power of the forest to aid their allies.
The deadly Blades strike from the forest’s shadows.
Strange and twisted spell casters who feed on pain
The wise Sages weave powerful spells.
Q:How long is an average game? How young a player do you think can play?
A:Adventures are designed to play out in one night over the course of around 4 hours. The core mechanic should be familiar to any kid who has played the Pokemon TCG. I’d say 9 or 10 and up would be good.
Q:How ready is the game for me to bend rules for storytelling? How much space is there to throw in table-cannon?
A:There’s tons or room and that’s one of my big goals. The Eyrewood is a magically large place with room for whatever stories and creatures you want it to have. I’ll give you my stories to play but you should feel free to go wild.
Q:Is it a CCG or just a few prebuilt decks? If not CCG, how can I fine-tune my strategy?
A:Characters begin with a preconstructed deck. They can earn new cards through adventures and modify their deck to suit their play style.
Q:do you need multiple GM decks for each game?
A:The GM does not use a deck of cards. He has an adventure booklet that gives him all the information about the story as well as all the monsters he needs to run.
Okay that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll try and do a weekly update and let you know how the game is progressing. If people are interested I can also go into my process of designing the game and how/why this all came about.