Last year I got the opportunity of a lifetime – to write and work for one of my favorite roleplaying games publisher. Trudvang Adventures is a 5E conversion of the Nordic fantasy game Trudvang Chronicles and will be published later this year.
I’ve been an avid roleplayer since I was 14 years old, for almost 30 years. A friend of mine introduced me to AD&D and invited me to join their weekly group. The members of this first group became lifelong friends of mine, even though most of them have stopped playing roleplaying games. Through roleplaying games I was exposed to new literature, authors I had never-before heard of, board- and strategy games and culture that was starkly different from the one I grew up in. I had until then been a part of the sports-crew in my school, but this truly opened a new world for me.
I am still playing roleplaying games twice a week, with three different groups and loving every minute of it. Now I share my hobby with my two sons and we have our own gaming room, where we get together, play roleplaying games, board games and paint miniatures, all of which means alot to me (and hopefully them as well) since we get to spend some quality time together.
A few years ago I discovered, while browsing Kickstarter, a campaign for a translated Swedish game, Trudvang Chronicles, a game that looked quite interesting. Just by browsing the campaign page it was obvious that the designers had put so much love into the game, they had awesome artists, such as the great Paul Bonner, and the setting was really interesting. The extra topping for me was the fact that it was a Nordic fantasy, inspired by Scandinavian myths and legends, the Sagas, Beowulf, Kalevala and so on, literature I am quite familiar with. Needless to say, I was sold.
Runes of Memory
Once I received the books, I read them through and through. I was awestruck by the setting, it had everything I was looking for in a fantasy setting. A friend of mine ran Wildheart for one of the groups I am in and it was simply awesome! The atmosphere, the game, it was a breath of fresh air to me. The moment we finished, I starting planning my own campaign – Runes of Memory. When we were halfway through my campaign, one of the players in the group proposed that I contacted Riotminds and see if they would like to publish Runes of Memory.
Truth be told, as many game masters I’ve often wondered if my modules are worth publishing. I have a few up for sale on DMsGuild, but since English isn’t my first language, I’ve never really given it a real thought if any roleplaying games publisher would be interested in my work. Anyway, a bit flattered by my friends faith in my narratives, I decided to give it a go and sent a short summary to Riotminds, the publishers of Trudvang Chronicles.
I was really happy to hear that they were interested in publishing my module and proposed that it would be a part of their next Kickstarter campaign, which was for the Muspelheim sourcebook. The campaign was a great success and crushed every stretch goal, including having my module, Runes of Memory, printed as a hardback. To put it short, a dream come true!
Converting an already great game
More than a year ago, followed by the success of the Muspelheim Kickstarter campaign, Riotminds asked if I could help them out and convert Trudvang Chronicles for 5E. They, as many small roleplaying games publishers, are well aware of the dominance 5E holds in this market. Last year over 50 million roleplayers were playing 5E games, which is a market that I believe is really hard to ignore. Riotminds weren’t the first company to decide to convert their already successful games for 5E and they won’t be the last.
I was really interested in this work, since I am a huge fan of Trudvang and I believe that this would introduce the setting to a whole new group of roleplayers. Needless to say, I was more than willing to do my part.
The first tests we did were simple, just use the standard 5E classes and mechanics but used Trudvang as setting. Truth be told, it didn’t feel right and at first I felt as if I had failed in some way. After all, I was really enthusiastic about this project and convinced that Trudvang would work just as perfectly as a 5E setting as a setting for Trudvang Chronicles.
I sat down with the players in the group and after a long and a very good discussion, we set down a few goals. To reach these goals, in order to make Trudvang come alive as a 5E setting, we needed to do more than just use the 5E ruleset, we needed to convey the atmosphere and the spirit of Trudvang. We needed to do more, to make sure that everything that Trudvang stands for was available as a 5E game.
As development began to pick up pace and playtesting started to deliver more and better information, we noticed two things. First of all, player characters in 5E were more closer to demigods in Trudvang, rather than ordinary people performing heroic deeds. Secondly, alignment and derived features and spells kept getting in the way.
After some consideration, playtesting and discussions about the first problem we came up with three ideas, to make rest more important and harder to get, to have wounds or hit point loss have detrimental effect on a creature’s ability to fight or push on, and to have make fear become a more vibrant part of the game. The first part was the easiest one, simply remove spells and features that grant “free” or save rest, and to make the rest account for more and thus harder to attain.
The second part was a bit trickier, since that entailed alot of playtesting and balancing. The Wound Track is the fruit of that labour. When the player characters sustain damage that exceeds a certain threshold, it has a detrimental effect on their abilities, similar to exhaustion.
The final part, the effect of fear – something that is a rather large part of Trudvang Chronicles – was something we had some problems with. After all, there are the Fightened condition in 5E and rules for Madness, that can be found in the 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide. We ran many tests and finally ended up with mechanics that layer fear, horror and madness – which in turn affects both the player characters abilities and their chance to rest.
The Kickstarter Campaign
Once we were happy with how the development was processing the Kickstarter campaign was set into motion. We developed a few archetypes and converted a great Trudvang module, Wurmtongue, which was free to download. The module contained a few pre-made characters as well, and introduced the added 5E rules for Trudvang Adventures.
The Kickstarter was a success, almost 3000 backers, which I was really grateful for, since this has proven to be a great and helpful group of enthusiatic Trudvang players. There were many great stretch goals, all of which were reached, including a novel by Steven Saville and a beautiful art book.
Once the Kickstarter campaign was over, we started out converting spells, fully developing archetypes, ancestries, cultures and so on. And man, looking back, the hours upon hours that we poured into the project. Playtest upon playtest, making sure that we were getting closer to out inital goal, to capture the spirit and atmosphere of Trudvang Chronicles.
When we felt confident that we were getting close to home, we released a beta version of the game for our backers. As it turned out, our view of the game was spoiled, we held it too close, so to speak, and we were biased by our own work. Luckily, our backers showed what a great group of people they are and sent us over 1000 comments, ideas, thoughts and proofing suggestions. We also had an ongoing discussion with backers and players through Kickstarter and Discord, which were both helpful and insightful.
Now, more than a year since the Kickstarter campaign launched, we are getting ready to send the files off to the printers. Trudvang Adventures is a good game and I am really happy and thankful to have been a part of if.
What I learned
This has been such a great journey. I have learned so much, not only about Trudvang or roleplaying games, but also about the value of a good team, of listening, and trying out ideas before ruling them out. This has been so much more work than I had even imagined when we first started out, but it is rewarding to be able to work on something like this, your favorite hobby and something you truly care for.
To have a group of people that share your passion and are willing to criticize and bring in their own ideas is priceless. My ideas weren’t the best ones and sometimes not good at all, and to have someone to tell you that, forcing you to reconsider and try out other ideas, is something that I was really grateful for. To have the support of the backers and experience what a great community can do for a game like this, I think that alone can never be measured or priced. If the backers only knew how many of their ideas we incorporated into the game…
Last, but not least, to have a wife who understands the driving need and enthusiasm of her nerdy husband is not granted. All the nights she went to sleep alone, since I was pouring over books, rewriting texts or pondering spells. All the times I forgot to pick up things at the shop, to take our kids to doctor, or something like that, because my focus was somewhere else. To have one such as her is more than I could have ever asked for.
Trudvang Adventures is due to be published this year by Riotminds and I am really looking forward to it and the next steps on this journey.