The clock is counting down on Kickstarter for The Lost Citadel — Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Roleplaying. Thanks to our amazing backers, we fully funded in 24 hours, and have been knocking down stretch goal after stretch goal.
Today’s RRT is by guest artist Andrew Law, who decided to share some insight into the process of creating his incredible map artwork for The Lost Citadel! Our Kickstarter has just one week left, if you’re a fan of 5th edition, you should really do yourself a favor and check it out now!
I’ve created hundreds of images during my professional career as a cartographer, but none excite and terrify more than the opening act: drafting the first map for a new setting.
Y’see, the first map is special. It sets the tone and mood for everything that comes after. It will be referenced, and re-referenced many times over by both the creators of the setting and the consumers, so it stands as an oft-trod gateway into the new world that many will come to know and love.
In short, I’m not just creating a map, I’m also introducing an entire setting with a single image.
No pressure, then.
Fortunately for me, The Lost Citadel has a wonderfully detailed writers’ bible that brings the setting, for all the Dead haunt its every corner, alive. So, there was already a wealth of detail to inspire me. All I had to do was draw it.
With all that in mind, I prepared to draft the first map. To begin, I referred to the design brief and did my best to conceive of something that would fully represent as much of The Lost Citadel as possible.
So, what did I have to create?
My brief boiled down to three basic requirements:
1) Create a vertical/portrait map with the same dimensions as the Freeport city poster.
2) Depict the outer city of Redoubt, some buildings of the inner city, and point to other important locations off-map.
3) The style should draw from various Middle Ages to Renaissance sources from East to West, but match none exactly, to best represent the artistic style of the current inhabitants of Redoubt.
That all sounded good. In addition, I worked with a fourth design goal of my own in mind, to help channel my creativity:
4) The map will illustrate some of the setting’s core concepts and historical details, in order support the existing world-building and introduce readers to The Lost Citadel.
And, now knowing what was required, I set to work.
To begin, I first sketched the area to be mapped. It was immediately obvious the city, plus the volcano behind it, would fill a broadly squarish area. This being the case, I’d need extra material to fill the top and bottom of the final image.
The bottom section was easy to resolve — a nice big title plate emblazoned with something like ‘THE CITY OF REDOUBT’ would likely do, perhaps illuminated with some in-game detail — but the top was a little more problematic. What should go there?
To answer, I had a good think about the setting, and what would allow me to add some of the details from the writers’ bible directly to the map. Eventually, I went with what I felt was the obvious answer: I decided to continue the map up into the sky, providing an opportunity to draw some of the setting’s celestial details as well as its terrestrial.
So, with that decided, I sketched it all out then began work on the detail.
Map in the Middle
After completing the preliminary sketches, I developed the central area of the image: the map of the city, the volcano, and the extras surrounding these.
The map itself was created in a simple style reminiscent of many Middle Age maps from the East and West, but without some of the goofier attempts at perspective or scaling often on display in such older cartography. As a nod to these medieval sources, I presented almost all towers and buildings as front elevations, hinting at a simplicity of artistic capability, but drew the surrounding city walls with a little more sophistication to ensure the image didn’t look too abstract. I then set about filling in all the details between, making space for all the outer city’s fields and primary districts. I then drew the inner city, which I presented as a crowded pile, with a small proportion of the many buildings on display. More information concerning the Inner City will come with the next map for The Lost Citadel, one that was unlocked as a poster when the Kickstarter reached its 29K stretch goal, so I wasn’t concerned about the lack of precise detail here.
Outside the city walls, it’s all ‘no-man’s land’ and ‘here be dragons’ (well, the Dead). All manner of dead things are drawn beyond the walls, mirroring the sea beasts of ancient ocean maps, and the dragons/monsters from similar land maps. They demonstrate the ignorance of the artist in question as to what actually lies beyond the walls, and the ignorance of people as a whole concerning the Dead and what they are. This ignorance is reinforced by the map depicting nothing beyond the eyesight of those who walk the walls; i.e.: this is a map of all that is left of the known world to the inhabitants of Redoubt, which is pretty bleak given the small area shown.
In addition to these semi-mythical undead creatures, some ruins and basic geographical detail was added. Also, five hands were then depicted pointing to distant locations (at the four corners of the central map and another at the bottom of the image below the title plate).
That all done, it was time to turn to what lay above the city and the volcano: the heavens.
Drawing the heavens provided an opportunity to depict the two moons of the setting — that’s the moons that are used in the ‘O’ of The Lost Citadel’s logo, if you hadn’t noticed, so I felt it was an important addition. Also, to support one of the central conceits of The Lost Citadel, I associated both moons with the Dead and drew them as skulls. This made sense as the moons are most visible at night, a time of danger, when it’s harder to see the Dead creeping around.
Contrasting with this, I drew the sun rising over the central volcano — and, in turn, the city itself — as a symbol of life and hope, with golden rays reaching out in all directions. This sun hints to the new dawn of civilisation that Redoubt could be should it survive. To strengthen this imagery, I gave the sun a human face as humanity is currently in control of Redoubt, suggesting any potential ‘dawn’ is largely in the hands of the city’s human rulers. Also, for those looking for a bleaker reading here, the sun rising over the volcano also winks at a possible future eruption, which would be cataclysmic in so many ways…
To frame the sun and moons, I drew the heavens as a great arc filled with stars, implying the in-setting artist who created the map knows the world is a globe — or, at the very least, has copied this detail from an earlier source. I chose to do this to show that for all the old civilization has come to an end with the rising of the Dead, some of the high knowledge it gathered still, in some form or another, endures – after all, the time before the Dead rose is still within living memory of some of the city’s eldest inhabitants. So, for all the truth of the world as a sphere surrounded by celestial objects is undoubtedly unimportant to the shoulder-to-shoulder common folk scraping out the barest of survivals within Redoubt’s high walls, older truths are still present in the city’s few examples of art, and such lore is possibly not lost to all scholars.
That done, I added some clouds to the top corners and was ready to move on. Next up, the bottom of the image, and the titles.
The title plate was both the easiest and hardest section to create. First, it’s just a few words bunched together, so what could be simpler? But I wanted it to be more than that – to recall the illuminated letters of many Middle Age documents – so I decided to go a little farther. After some thought, I figured depicting one of the key events in the history of Redoubt – when the Dwarfs who built the city were enslaved – was essential, and I also thought it important to weave the Dead directly into the lettering in some fashion. So, I set to work drawing the capital ‘R’ of Redoubt with a whole bunch of extra details.
If you take a look in the hollow of the ‘R’ you will find a small illumination. There I drew a collared Ghûl (the dog-like creature), a crowned Human in purple robes, a servile brown-clad Elf, and a defeated Dwarf being chained. This is an illustration of the aforementioned enslavement of the Dwarfs, and also stands as a quick guide to the four, sentient species inhabiting the city. I then turned to the letter itself, and drew a skeleton turning its back on the life illustrated within the R (and the word Redoubt as a whole), showing how the Dead were antagonistic to the city and life as a whole. Further, I cut the skeleton off at the legs to stand as a metaphor for the city’s ability to stop the Dead in its tracks (no legs, no ability to progress), but not defeat it, for the skeleton’s back is still strong and its ‘eyes’ sharp. Further, the skeleton is incorporated directly into the capital letter to hint the city itself has the Dead within, which is a very real danger that all fear.
Beneath the text, a brief note to the renaming of the city to ‘Redoubt’ is also marked with the following: ‘Named by the Accord of the Last Redoubt’. This provides a reference to another key historical event for the city, when the old Dwarf name for Redoubt – Elldimek – was abandoned by its new human rulers. Lastly concerning the title, the continent name is also marked for the reader’s information: ‘Last Citadel of Zileska’.
That all done, it was time to turn to the image as a whole and finish it off.
Firstly, I drew a border to compliment the central map, and then set to work scuffing it up a little, to give the impression of use and age.
I did this because I presumed the map’s original creator drafted the image a few decades in the past. This allowed the map to be worn, reflecting the recycling of all things in Redoubt, a fact of life in the over-crowded city where every resource is precious. So, I spent some time creating a tired, worn, bloodied, folded-up on itself finish for the whole image, all standing as a metaphor for the people of Redoubt themselves, who are not in the best of shape.
Then I added clouds and skulls to the four corners. These represent the four winds blowing death at the city, reinforcing the idea that the Dead come from all sides, and that the curse of the Dead is everywhere, nicely subverting more typical Breath of Life imagery.
I then revisited the entire map and added extra labels where required. To do this, I used three languages (at least) to show the multiculturalism of the depicted city.
The first language I used was English. This stands in for the most common language in the city, a tongue of Venmir origin (the Venmir are one of the Human tribes). This is used for the title plate, all the important labels, and the very simple poetry concerning the winds I added to the four corners.
The next language on the map also uses Latin letters, and is presented as a higher/older version of Venmir (from Angati origin – another Human tribe). It is used to show the sunrise at the top of the map – Svitanus: ‘Sunrise’ – and to drop a reference to Elldimek, the old name for Redoubt, at the bottom of the image – Malnova Elldimek ripozas kun la Mortin: ‘Old Elldimek lies with the Dead’.
Lastly, one or more languages are deployed with characters with a strong Eastern influence (Tibetan and similar), with two paragraphs at the bottom of the map beneath the title plate, and several labels elsewhere. The exact meaning of these is left to others to decide.
And, then, after a tweak or two more, it was finished, and I sent the final image over to Green Ronin.
So, after all that, I dearly hope you like the end result. It was a joy to create.
Now I’m looking forward to later in the year, as I’m enormously excited to be drafting the detailed plan map of the inner city of Redoubt.
Andrew Law, June 26th, 2017
Jaym Gates, Nicole Lindroos, and CA Suleiman sat down together at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, and talked about The Lost Citadel, answering some questions backers have posted to the Kickstarter project page while they were at it. Hal Mangold caught it all on video, so we can all watch and enjoy.
In other news from the City of Redoubt, we have unlocked the Double-Sided Poster Map stretch goal, and are on our way to achieving System Hack: AGE, in which we hire Gary Astleford to create a system conversion document so you can adventure in The Lost Citadel using our Adventure Game Engine as featured in Fantasy AGE, Dragon Age, Titansgrave, and more!
If you’d like to learn more about The Lost Citadel before (or after) backing, check out these free previews!
- “The Bone-Shaker’s Daughter,” a short story by Mercedes M. Yardley
- “Requiem, In Bells,” a short story by Ari Marmell
- Example race: The Ghûl
As always, thank you so much to all our backers (and future backers)!
Sometimes, as we juggle our various projects, we mention several things at once, and sometimes one link doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. In case you missed it, you can download two really great short stories from Tales of the Lost Citadel for free, and get a glimpse into the setting of our current Kickstarter campaign, The Lost Citadel RPG.
And in case you’ve missed this, too, please check out our Kickstarter campaign for The Lost Citadel RPG, and consider backing.
So, at the beginning of May, we announced we’re going to produce the World of Lazarus, a guide to roleplaying in Greg Rucka’s SF-feudal Lazarus comic series. We noted it would be a setting for the Modern AGE roleplaying game.
Yes, this means we’re making a Modern AGE game. We said so in a sort of soft, sneaky way, but today, we’re going to dig into what that means.
Modern AGE uses the Adventure Game Engine to power stories set in the “modern era,” a period we’ve designated as running from the 18th or 19th century, through the present day, and into the near future. That means guns and computers, transoceanic empires and raucous democracies, and the Cold War and beyond, into the great geopolitical realignments of our time. But it also means urban fantasy, psychic powers, conspiracies and all the speculative and strange sources that fuel modern stories.
The Adventure Game Engine is the system you first saw in the Dragon Age roleplaying game. You witnessed its evolution into Fantasy AGE with Wil Wheaton’s Titansgrave setting, and into Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy. Modern AGE might be thought of as a counterpart to Fantasy AGE, but if you’re familiar with one of these games, the rest will come easily. Modern AGE adds some new things to the system, and revises a few solid concepts to make them easier to use.
Developing the game, it’s been important to me to stick with the A.G.E. system’s core concepts: ease of play, strong tools for character development, and most of all, stunts.
Stunts and Areas of Interest
Stunts are the system’s “killer app;” where other games often struggle to integrate special actions and exceptional results, the A.G.E. system uses stunts to make them emerge during play. Modern AGE introduces some new stunts, but we also recognize the decision paralysis that can happen when doubles hit the table. That’s why we’ve designated go-to core stunts and places stunts into shorter, focused lists.
Putting stunts into categories means thinking about what characters do during the game. Accordingly, we’ve mapped out three core areas of interest: action, exploration and social play. Action encompasses combat, chases and other physical challenges. Exploration combines its counterpart in Fantasy AGE with investigation. Social play develops the “roleplaying” category, acknowledging that modern games often require heroes to present themselves properly in all the scenarios thrown up by complex contemporary cultures.
The three areas of interest act as a focus throughout Modern AGE’s design, not just stunts. Heroes with abilities covering all three can take on nearly any challenge the GM cares to throw at them.
Character and Genre Modes
Fantasy AGE presents broad classes, archetypes in that genre, and provides advancement options that allow you to lock in more specific elements over time. Modern era games don’t have the same archetypes, however, and don’t need the same niche protection vital to the feel of fantasy adventure gaming. So, we’ve gone classless. After developing a background, a profession and a drive that pushes your hero out of obscurity and into the story, you’ll select ability advancements, talents and specializations freely.
In some games, a private eye is someone who uses a car, camera and laptop to find evidence for divorces and lawsuits, while in others, they’re a two-fisted, iron-chinned stalwart with a talent for getting tangled in murders. The difference? Genre. Not all modern games feature the same degree of realism, so we’ve included specific rules modes to fit the stories you want to play through. The three basic modes are gritty, for stories where violence is unforgiving, pulp, where a battered hero can, say, claw their way out of danger, and cinematic, where protagonists achieve the competence often reserves for fantasy heroes and the most outrageous action games. These modes affect character toughness and stunt access, and guide advice you’ll read throughout the book.
In upcoming columns, I’ll talk more about Modern AGE’s design foundations, and the details that make them work. Until then, let me ask you something: What clicks for you about the Adventure Game Engine RPGs you’ve played? What do you want to see down the line? I’m developing it even as we speak, and things are getting locked in, but I’d love to read your conversations–and ever so sneakily, have you spread the word that Modern AGE is coming . . .
And in a Further Manipulative Move
. . . oh wait. It’s not all about me. While you should indeed talk about Modern AGE until it’s a breakfast cereal, I have been reminded that our Kickstarter for The Lost Citadel — Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Roleplaying is in full swing. I was actually one of the authors in the short story collection that inaugurated this shared world, which we’re transforming into a setting for 5th Edition roleplaying. But if you’re an Adventure Game Engine fan, know this: If we hit $32,500, we’ll unlock the A.G.E System Hack, which converts the Dead-bound Zileska setting to A.G.E family games.
And if you’re curious about the setting and stories of The Lost Citadel, we have a sample short story available for FREE on our website. Check out Requiem, In Bells, by Ari Marmell.
When CA Suleiman and I discussed running a talent search in the lead-up to this project, we had high hopes for the number and quality of the submissions we would get and even though reading and evaluating those submissions in the couple of weeks between the submissions period and the Kickstarter itself was no small amount of extra work it was totally worth it!
As I said to everyone who submitted to our search: It was an absolute honor to be on the receiving end of such creative and lovingly crafted submissions. I was thrilled to see submissions coming in from around the world, from people with writing experience as journalists, novelists, comics writers, and narrative designers. We saw submissions from students of game design, hobbyists, GMs, LARPer, and roleplayers. It was a rich and competitive field and making the choice for who would be finalists was truly difficult.
After stripping the submissions and doing blind readings of the material, we narrowed the list down to five finalists before we moved on to choosing our winner. Or, in this case, WINNERS because when we got down to the final two our judges literally could not choose one over the other… which is what led us to choose TWO winners to put on the Lost Citadel project: Kate Baker and Anna Landin.
When we asked Kate what her reaction to the announcement was, she said, “I couldn’t believe it when the results were announced; I had to keep refreshing the page to make sure my name was really on there! With the first few people I messaged about it, all that I could manage to say was, ‘Eeeeee!’ I have since regained the ability to put coherent words together, but I am still incredibly excited to get to be a part of this project.”
Anna’s response was similar. “I was overwhelmed—and overjoyed!—to find out that I’d won. It’s an incredible honour to be chosen, knowing how much greatness there is to be found in the tabletop community. I’m thankful for the opportunity, and I mean to do my best to rise to the challenge.”
Make no mistake, folks, the fact that you have backed this project with so much enthusiasm from day one is the factor that allows us to make this move, to have this property we’re launching that in turn requires an adventure (and the authors to design it). I look forward to seeing how far we can take The Lost Citadel and I doubly look forward to getting down to work with Anna and Kate.
Kate Baker played her first tabletop RPG about five years ago, and immediately fell in love with the hobby. Now she loves introducing new people to gaming! She got interested in writing her own RPG content about a year and a half ago. By day, she’s a mild-mannered engineer. She lives with her husband and a very silly hound dog.
Anna Landin is a Swedish comic artist, illustrator, storyteller, and builder of imaginary worlds. Currently engaged as the artist for the Rusty Quill Gaming Podcast, her work has also been published in the Enough Space for Everyone Else anthology, and can be found on covers for the horror-fantasy webcomic I, Necromancer. When not day-dreaming about the imaginary geography of unreal worlds and drinking more tea than any one person rightly should, she can be found collecting dice, drawing witches, or working on her own webcomic, Grassblades.
Now funding on Kickstarter, The Lost Citadel is a roleplaying game of post-apocalyptic fantasy, with rules adapted from the Fifth Edition of the World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game. We would appreciate it if you’d check out the campaign and back it if you’re so inclined, and we’d love it if you were to share the above image, and a link to the campaign, on your social media pages.
Critical Role fans, you have questions about the release of the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting book. So many questions! Rather than answer hundreds of tweets individually, I’m just going to lay out exactly what is going to happen with the book and when. Gather your party, because we are venturing forth!
The Basics: Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting is a 144-page hardback sourcebook. Matt Mercer wrote it himself, with assistance from James Haeck and development by Green Ronin’s own Joseph Carriker. The book is full color throughout and features terrific art, as well as an awesome poster map by master cartographer Andy Law. The MSRP is $34.95 for the printed book.
Release Date: The book debuts on August 17 at GenCon. Note that it is NOT a GenCon exclusive! If you can’t make it to the show, you can still get the book from us, your local game retailer, and other sources. It should be in stores in the US and Canada by the end of August, and other countries in September.
Pre-Order and PDF: We will open up pre-orders in mid-July. We have a program called Pre-Order Plus that we use for most of our releases. Here’s how it works. If you order the physical book directly from us or from a participating brick and mortar retail store, you can get a PDF of the book immediately for only $5 more instead of its usual cost of $18.95. You’ll be able to buy the PDF separately at its regular price at this stage if you only want the electronic version.
If your local game store is not part of the Pre-Order Plus program, they can contract our sales team and sign up for the newsletter at this link: https://greenronin.com/retailer-support/.
Note that while we do sell into the book trade—so you can find our games on Amazon and other online vendors—the Pre-Order Plus program is only available through our online store and participating brick and mortar retail stores. (By brick and mortar, we mean stores that have a physical location, not online only sellers.)
GenCon Pickup: You will be able to pre-order the book, take advantage of the Pre-Order Plus program, and pick it up at GenCon. This will guarantee that a book will be waiting for you at our booth on August 17. There will be a special item in our online store for this when we open the pre-orders. Make sure you read the details at that time.
Shipping: We charge the actual costs of shipping. If you live overseas, this can, we know, be expensive. We do sell to international game distributors, so our best advice if shipping is too excessive for a direct order is to try to get your local game store to bring the book in. Stores in other countries can participate in the Pre-Order Plus program as well.
So that’s the skinny! To keep up on news about our Critical Role and other releases, bookmark this website or follow us on Twitter at @GreenRoninPub or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GreenRonin. Watch for the pre-order going live in mid-July!
As we’re closing in on the finish line for Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, I’m putting the finishing touches on the chapter that deals with the heroes of the land. Part and parcel of that hero experience is, of course, magic items, and Tal’Dorei has some very cool things to offer, in the form of Vestiges of Divergence.
For those not in the know, the Vestiges are holdovers from a powerful magical era. When found, their power is subdued, after long years slumbering. But as the hero accomplishes more and greater tasks, the magic of the Vestiges stirs and begins to rise, allowing heroes to advance these items first to awakened status and finally to exalted status through the performance of great feats or personal development.
For today’s post, I’m going to share with you the Pyremaul, a massive hammer filled with potent elemental power.
Weapon (maul), legendary (requires attunement)
Forged from deep red iron, this massive hammer houses an ever-burning gemstone of orange flame. You have a +1 bonus to attack rolls made with this weapon. When you hit with an attack using this weapon, the target takes an additional 1d6 fire damage.
You can choose to have this weapon shed bright light in a 30 foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet. If you kill a creature with an attack using this weapon, the corpse is immolated, turning to ash.
When a character awakens Pyremaul, apply the following changes to the item’s traits:
- Increase the bonus to attack rolls to a +2.
- Increase the additional fire damage inflicted by a hit to 2d6.
- When you score a critical hit with this weapon, the target must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
When a character exalts Pyremaul, apply the following changes to the item’s traits:
- Increase the bonus to attack rolls to a +3.
- Increase the additional fire damage inflicted by a hit to 3d6.
- When you score a critical hit with this weapon, the target must succeed on a DC 17 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. The target also suffers an additional 3d6 fire damage from the critical hit.
(It should be noted that this item is currently in-development, and this draft may not reflect its final description.)
Well, folks, it’s the big day. Thank you all for understanding when we pushed the launch date for the Lost Citadel Talent Search by a day in order to let the Sentinels of Earth Prime Kickstarter have a little time to have its own launch all to itself.
Here’s where we get to the nuts and bolts of the submissions portion of our talent search! This is just one part of Green Ronin’s larger and ongoing diversity initiative. In this specific case, we’re interested in hearing from women-identified and non-binary individuals with a passion for dark fantasy. What we’d like to see are writing samples that illustrate a grasp of the elements typically involved in RPGs: rules design, world-building/setting write-ups, character profiles, and fiction vignettes, as well as writing that aims to hybridize these elements. Familiarity with the Lost Citadel property is not a requirement at this stage.
We will be accepting your submissions from today until May 15th and the winner will be announced to the public as part of our Lost Citadel Kickstarter on June 6th.
- Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 total words.
- Submissions should be sent with an introductory email that includes your name and contact information; during the evaluation stage we will be stripping the submissions of identifying information and assigning each a code number as part of a blind reading so they can be judged without regard to name, existing reputation (or lack thereof), or anything other than the quality of the work.
- Submissions should be saved as a document file and sent as an email attachment to email@example.com. Don’t worry about heavy formatting, tone-appropriate font choices, or other stylistic flourishes.
While the setting is dark fantasy and its core expression will be in 5E, you are NOT required to adhere to those specifics in your submissions. We welcome submissions featuring mechanics from any edition, or those for our in-house system (AGE), or even those featuring other popular systems you feel might be dark fantasy-appropriate.
Keep in mind that this is not a math test disguised as a talent search. While submitting a well constructed Pathfinder stat block may be acceptable, it doesn’t go very far toward showcasing one’s talent and/or ability as a writer, only one’s ability to do math. Remember, the idea is to make a strong impression with your writing.
By submitting your work for evaluation, you represent that you are the sole author of the material being submitted, agree that Green Ronin and its agents have the right to read your submissions for the purposes of this search, and acknowledge that Green Ronin is under no obligation to use, buy, license, or adapt your talent search submission for any other use.