From Funnel to Freebooters

Long time, no update. Busy busy busy, etc.

In the hours not consumed by my day job, I’ve been editing and laying out the main rulebook for Stonetop, Jeremy Strandberg’s bespoke Iron-Age fantasy RPG that ties adventuring to community-building. Currently, the main book clocks in at 250+ pages, and Jeremy is cranking away at the remaining few chapters. We’ll be kickstarting the whole thing once all of the content is in place and a substantial portion of the art has been commissioned.

Speaking of which, this past month Jeremy and I both got very excited because, after searching for an artist for over a year, we found the right person for the job. Her name is Lucie Arnoux, and here’s a spriggan-y taste of the work she’s starting to turn in:

I think my favorite part of the indie self-publishing thing is hiring artists, giving them fairly simple directions (“he’s a small mischievous humanoid of fae origin, I imagine him made of wicker”), and then being surprised and delighted by what they turn in. Lucie is doing a wonderful job, and Stonetop is going to look great thanks to her.

In other news, I’m sorry to report that Tales From the Sodden Reach, our online Freebooters campaign, has ended with a whimper. It didn’t really even end, it just dropped off into the ether, thanks to the (expected) challenges of coordinating the schedules of busy folks across different time zones. I’m actually quite sad, since I was  really looking forward to seeing if the PCs could safely escort a herd of crystal-encrusted cattle back to civilization, and there were a number of fun surprises waiting for them in the wings…

Farewell shaggy valuisa, we hardly knew ye. (drawing by Jan Burger)

The good news is that I just started a new campaign, which I’m calling From Funnel to Freebooters. We’re playtesting the new “funnel” rules for the 2nd edition of Freebooters on the Frontier, wherein a bunch of level-0 villagers get in over their heads, and the survivors (if any) go on to become full-fledged level-1 characters. Our first session was just villager and settlement generation, and you can see it here:

I’m super-excited to see how this turns out, and afraid for the villagers. I already care about them too much.

One thing we tried this first session was to draw a collaborative map using the Zoom whiteboard tools. They were a little wonky, but it worked out okay and got the job done. Here’s what we came up with in-game:

Of course that would not suffice for me in the long run, so during my prep time I translated our scribbles into this:

For those following along at home, I’m adapting the adventure Legends Are Made, Not Born, by Chris Doyle to give these villagers a run for their silver pieces. It’s got a classic feel, and like all Goodman Games adventures it has nice variety, good internal logic, and the potential to become very deadly. By asking a bunch of framing questions near the end of this first session, I was able to customize the content to suit these first steps of collaborative world-building. I had never done that before, and I think it worked quite well to make this pre-published adventure feel like a natural extension of our (vaguely Finnish) setting.

Finally, I won the Vermont Book Award this past weekend. Did not see that coming.

7 thoughts on “From Funnel to Freebooters

  1. It’s great to see the updates! I’m excited for both Stonetop and Freebooters. And congrats on the award… a timely reminder that I wanted to pick up Berlin.

  2. Congrats on the award!

    Also can’t wait for Stonetop and FotF2e.

    What were the framing questions you asked? And how did you incorporate the answers?

    1. Thanks, Chris.

      The original adventure has an ogre extorting supplies from a (pre-written) village, escalating the extortion, and then eventually abducting villagers away to his cave, which gives the PCs motivation to pursue. Among the things he takes from the village are live sheep and ale, and the villagers poison the last batch of ale in hopes of weakening or killing the creature.

      I wanted everyone to create their home village together, so I chose questions that would make the details of the setup specific to my players. I’m traveling right now, so I don’t have my notes on me, but the ones I ended up asking were:

      * What livestock do the villagers tend in numbers?
      * What alcoholic drink do the locals brew or distill in quantity?
      * What cave-dwelling creature has been extorting livestock, alcohol, and other supplies from the village on a monthly basis?
      * What did this creature destroy, or who did it kill, that convinced the villagers to meet its demands?
      * Last month when it came, it added shiny things (valuables) to its list of demands. What did the villagers turn over?
      * What poison did you add to the alcoholic beverage before the creature took it away?
      * Which two villagers did the creature abduct?

      These gave me lots of details that I’ll be able to integrate easily. The goats sub in for the sheep, the alcohol and valuables and poison now have localized backstories, the creature itself is a beast of the players’ own creation, and the abducted villagers have personal connection to the PCs. Combined with the Finnish spin we put on the setting, the adventure is now going to feel much more like a natural outgrowth of our collaborative worldbuilding.

  3. Hey this might be a little askance of the appropriate avenue for this but here goes. I’m someone whose recently been caught by the earnest and evocative setting writing tied to very grounding mechanics in the stonetop rpg. So after scrubbing the g+ archives for all I could glean I’ve started a campaign with some friends which is going super well!

    Wondering if there’s a place to find the collated most basic materials as I’ve had a little trouble sorting through the revisions. Either way I’ll keep an eye out for the kickstarter. Lovin that gritty yet whimsical art by the way.

    Keep it up and good work!

    1. Hi Michael — Thanks for the comments. I’m glad to hear you’re getting into Stonetop! I’ll pass your note along to Jeremy (the designer) — he’s in charge of the playtest materials.

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