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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Fury of the Deep

Magnum Opus Press have just released another brilliant title in their ongoing* rejuvenation of the Dragon Warriors game. This one is Fury of the Deep, a scenario by Jon Reed and Damian May. It’s designed for characters of 4th-6th rank and would fit in neatly as a prequel to some of the adventures in MOP’s forthcoming DW supplement In from the Cold.

The story has the players hired to accompany a merchant’s expedition to the island of Xanthos, lost from civilization for more than a thousand years. On the surface a thrilling adventure through labyrinthine ruins, the insidiously lethal undercurrent being the dark history of greed, vengeance, depravity, power-lust and mythic magic that the characters are destined to uncover.

Fury of the Deep is being published in PDF form only, is priced at $9.95 and you can get it on DriveThruRPG here. Magnum Opus supremo James Wallis is backing it with this offer: “If you can get a review of any Dragon Warriors book published - and that means anywhere from a blog through RPGNow right up to Dragon Magazine and all points in between - then let us know and we will happily give you a free PDF of any other Magnum Opus product.”

More Brymstone campaign characters on Friday in the shape of the dreaded Tobias of Vantery. Be on your best behaviour.

(*I use the term "ongoing" but actually it's just been officially announced that FOTD is the next-to-last of the Magnum Opus DW books. All the more reason to grab 'em while you can!)


  1. Hi Dave,

    Could you cut James and his Magnum Opum press a break on the licensing fees for Dragon Warriors? Then they could stay in print and your IP would get more exposure.

  2. I'm afraid you've been taken in by the rumour mill. James stated on the DragWars group that the Fabled Lands LLP agent had *proposed* an increase in royalties. Other people have incorrectly interpreted his statement as meaning FL LLP had put the royalty up. They didn't, it was just in the course of discussion, and Magnum Opus wasn't making enough money on the books even at the old royalty.

    Oliver and I have no say in the decision-making process about the DW licence - but believe me, if there had been a way to keep the series going then the other Fabled Lands LLP directors would have jumped at it. Royalties were not the issue.

  3. I thought the whole point of Dragon Warriors originally was the books were much cheaper than rival rpg's. Why not come out with a new affordable rpg for today's kids?

  4. For me it's not DW that had legs, but 'Legend'. Scrap the old rules and attach it to a modern system (or systems) with a ready made user base. What's popular nowadays? Savage Worlds, Pathfinder?

  5. Hugh, good point. Jamie and I would love to work on something like that. We came up with a proposal called Renegade, which was a paperback RPG with a simple d6 system, to be accompanied by a bunch of supplements which were like time traveller's guides to Viking, Roman, Aztec times, etc. The supplements thus could be used as either a popular history series or as sourcebooks for the game. So kids (and adults) would learn about those societies by living and role-playing in them.

    Our agent took it around the mainstream publishers and reported there was *zero* interest in role-playing. Rightly or wrongly, publishers see that market as insignificantly small. And a series like Renegade would only work if it's aimed at the mass market through bookstores - it wasn't supposed to compete with GURPS or Dungeons & Dragons or whatever as a "hobby" purchase. Too bad.

    Wayne, my first thought was RuneQuest. I have to admit that when my group tried playing with DW rules recently as an experiment, it just didn't feel like Legend to me. (The warlock, mystic and elementalist all in one party may have been to blame!) RQ would be a good fit imo, but (as Jon Reed pointed out to me on the MOP Google group this weekend) RQ hardly needs another setting. Jon suggested the answer may be to make Legend system-agnostic. Whether that would mean more people willing to dip a toe - who can say? I expect the creaky old DW rules were part of the reason it didn't attract more players, though.

  6. Rather than system agnostic (which doesn't draw on any particular player base) I'd opt for 'system compatible' if possible - provide stats and rules recommendations for the more popular games where licencing allows. Any setting can be system agnostic by simply ignoring the rules and stats as published. :)

  7. I like Wayne's idea. Let's keep the setting material which is golden and stat it for a few popular systems. RQ could be one since Mongoose own it. SW and some variation of D20 would be two other good options. I guess the hardest work would be porting/creating a suitable magic system.

  8. re RQ. I think there's a general feeling that RQII lacks an accessible setting. Glorantha and Eternal Champion are very much acquired tastes. Clockwork and Deus Vult are very much niche settings as I guess will be Wraith Recon. I personally think that something like Legend could be a really good fit. Then again, I'm not a business guru, just a player.

  9. Actually, Rudd, I think the magic would be the easiest part to create in a form that plugs into other rules, seeing as "real" Legend magic bears no resemblance to the old DW rules.

    Wayne, the Ordo Draconis guys were prescient in providing dual stats. Maybe they'll build on that in future issues, if it continues.

    Bruce - as I say, I like RQ and think it's a good fit, but I think it'd have to take shape as a fan project first before any publisher would believe Legend has the potential to make them money.

  10. RQ for Legend - that would be a winner!

  11. Hi Dave

    "I think the magic would be the easiest part to create in a form that plugs into other rules, seeing as "real" Legend magic bears no resemblance to the old DW rules."

    I'm hoping to see a blog post on this. :)

  12. I've always considered brevity a virtue.

    I would really enjoy a series of articles on the magic of Legend and appropriate mechanics.

  13. That was one of the things I was hoping Frazer and the rest of the DW team would work into the Jewelspider book. Well, I guess it'll have to be blog posts instead... I'll mention it to my muse and see if she sends me any inspiration.

  14. I also support the idea of keeping Legend and making it work with other systems. Though I feel that RQ in most incarnations is a little too complex to be the base system. MRQ II is supposed to be streamlined/simplified but I haven't looked at it in enough detail to be sure.

    My suggestions would be:
    - Barbarians of Lemuria (magic system is a lot more appopriate in its basic conception, it would need a fair bit of work to prepare the specifics)

    - Savage Worlds (it has to be said, though, that SW seems to get into bed with any setting that buys it a Martini, to some extend this might bewilder people or smack of desperation)

    - Pathfinder (NOT that simple but well known and played by people who tend to like traditional-ish FRP settings)

  15. See how out of touch I am, Cameron - I didn't even know there was a Lemuria game. Is that based on Lin Carter's Thongor books? Presumably it'd be a good fit to Abraxas... Not that I have any more time to work on Abraxas than I do on DW :-)

  16. Dave, thanks for being so forthcoming about what is happening with DW. Personally, I think FATE would be a terrific fit for Legend, as you can do anything with it at varying degrees of complexity. Some questions for you, if you don't mind:
    - is there a chance you might design an RPG for Legend and market it yourself in pdf form? It seems to me that a 'minority interest' thing like DW/Legend would fit well in the pdf market, rather than hardcover books, etc.
    - RuneQuest is an open license property, which means you can use its rules. Bottom line: RQ has a built-in fanbase that is eager for a setting that isn't the wacky Glorantha. Legend could fill a void.
    - any idea of what will happen to the stuff that was in the pipe (and already written) for DW, such as the Player's Book? Does MOP own that stuff?
    - I would also love to see a series of blog posts that defines Legend magic, and how you deal with it in your own games. That way I could translate it to DW for an article in Ordo Draconis. Hint hint hint...

  17. "See how out of touch I am, Cameron - I didn't even know there was a Lemuria game. Is that based on Lin Carter's Thongor books? Presumably it'd be a good fit to Abraxas... Not that I have any more time to work on Abraxas than I do on DW :-) "

    The current version of BoL is basically the Thongor setting with the serial numbers filed off. I works well for most sword and sorcery settings. I really like it but as is may be a little high powered for Legened.

    It's a nice neat skill system. You choose careers like galidiator, sailor etc and set a value in that career. If a situation come up whee that career might apply you add the value as a bonus to the roll.

  18. Bill, I don't have the time to write a Legend RPG - nor Abraxas neither (though maybe I should check out BoL, thanks Rudd). I was hoping Frazer Payne would be involved in the Jewelspider book, seeing as how he is in my gaming group, but he's busy with the Paragon RPG and Jewelspider isn't likely to happen now anyway.

    When Oliver and I retire we may tinker with the Ophis material but that's a decade or two away yet, so don't hold your breath!

    I will think about some blog posts - bite-sized chunks means I can fit it in around other stuff.

    Wrt the Players' Book and other stuff - it is owned by either MOP or the individual designers. I'm sure they'll find a home for it. Although half the DW community seems to imagine Fabled Lands LLP is some evil corporation, the directors will actually be quite happy to give DW fans the nod to do this kind of thing, I'm sure.

  19. This is a link to the free version of BoL.

    The commercial version is more polished.

  20. Thanks, Rudd - I'll try the free, and if I like it I'll buy the full. Hmm, as a business model it could catch on :)

  21. How about Chaosium's 'Basic Roleplaying' as a system for Legend?

  22. I haven't seen it, Joakim, though I assume it's kind of a stripped-down RuneQuest? As is Pendragon, sort of, when you get down to the basic skills mechanics.

    I'd personally rather use RQ for our own Legend games than GURPS - or rather, our 7-stat variant of same. But I'd never get everyone to change over now.

  23. Hi,

    Can make a couple of suggestions?

    MRQ2 is not an open licence game, that would have to be negotiated with them. Matt Sprange is an approachable guy and can be negotiated with. But this might cost extra.

    However OpenQuest by D101 Games is an open licence version of the first Mongoose Ruleset that has been much simplified and is very easy to convert to the Legend Setting. For one thing hit locations have been removed, skills simplified and character creation is extremelly simple.
    The magic could be modified to suit your needs easily. It uses the three magic concept of Avalon Hills RQ3. Newt is also a very approachable guy, you can download the rules mechanics for free from his website.

    BRP is great, but Legend would be easily lost within the morass of Chaosiums fan printing catalogue. However Charlie Crank, is a lovely guy and worth a chat to.

    I must confess I have worked for all of these companies at one time or another (Jon Hodgson is also a D101 regular).

    There is also a lot of mileage in producing Legend as a system free book. Moon Design who hold the Glorantha and Heroquest Licences produce their setting books with an absolute minimum of rules mechanics (HQ as an engine leads to this). We know that many people play our setttings with other mechanics, but this allows creativity to flow.
    Mongoose initially released Gloranthan the Second Age as systemless, as did Greg Stafford when he did Glorantha:Introduction to the Hero Wars. Legend is definetly the big attraction for many fans.

    I love Dragon Warriors, it was my second game behind RQ and opened my eyes to worlds beyond Glorantha. I bought all the new books, I contributed to the wiki and the fan sites, but I constantly felt that the rules were too shallow for the setting, although I have had hell of a lot of fun with them. When I demoed DW to young players at ConQuest in Derby this year it was a fun game, but the mechanics were poorly received and this saddened me. I even ran the game for Loz Whittaker the author MRQ2 and Mark Galeotti one of the Heroquest developers we had a blast, but all of us perpetually wanted to tweak the rules.

    I find it sad to see Legend rise again and then fall so quickly and hope that it is not lost. I was one of the guys keeping a torch alight for this game and setting ans will miss it dearly. But I would love to see it rise again, perhaps reincarnated.

    Simon Bray
    Art Director Moon Design Publication.

  24. Simon, I don't claim to know anything about what is selling in the roleplaying market today, but it does seem to me that with Legend and DW you've got a setting and a set of rules that are pulling in different directions.

    Legend is quite a sophisticated milieu - not to all tastes, certainly, but as I described it in the 2nd edition foreword, it's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, not Eragon. I think it could find a pretty respectable following.

    But then there is DW itself, which was only ever intended as a set of entry-level rules. And those rules are clearly not up to the job of representing Legend - in fact, cover very little except for combat and magic.

    So I agree with you. It probably would make a lot more sense to repackage Legend as a systemless world, as per Jon Reed's suggestion. Judging by my own group, people don't want to take the trouble to learn new rules - hence we almost always use our familiar system (GURPS) even when the games are set in Legend.

    It would nice to think that a system-agnostic version of Legend could sell at least enough copies to be a self-sustaining line, something I think was never going to happen with the DW rules. At any rate, the group of people who would buy system-free Legend probably completely encloses the group who have been buying it with DW rules, as it's hard to imagine a player who dislikes Legend but groks the DW rules. The mind boggles :)

    If it were system-free I might even contribute some material from my own games. I haven't run a game using DW rules for 20+ years, but I've both run and played in Legend campaigns all that time.

  25. Thanks Simon, if we are talking about a /different/ system I think the OpenQuest suggestion is a good one, it had been somewhere at the back of my queue but will go back and look at the polished version.

    I think the system-free idea is also reasonable however I have one concern - how does one represent the "meta-rules" about the relation of PCs to the world and each other. For instance, in DW's default rules it is clear that PCs, for the first few ranks, are only a bit tougher than "normal humans" and thus need to be careful of throwing themselves into any fight they come across. And that magic items are fairly rare and hard to come by. It seems that the "setting book" would need at least a chapter which talked, in a fairly crufty way, about this kind of stuff.

  26. Cameron - I was just pondering that very point. I think it just requires some simple statements of assumptions, such as the comment by Fritz Leiber Jr that inspired Mortal Combat and hence DW: "An experienced warrior might get a tough fight from two half-trained fighters and would be very lucky indeed to beat three."

    But you are right, part of the point of an RPG description of a setting is that it is specific - not "iron armour is tougher than bronze" but "iron armor is 1.6 times more effective at absorbing kinetic energy than the same weight of bronze". So we would need to establish the basic yardsticks of the world, such as hit points range from 6-20 for humans or whatever. I don't think that'd be too hard, though.

    I should stress that this is all theoretical. Fabled Lands LLP have no new publisher lined up for DW as they didn't anticipate Magnum Opus dropping the line. They are looking around, and the best case scenario would be for the current creative team to keep on running out new Legend material, preferably under a publishing aegis that can give it the support it deserves. The more emails sent to jamiet at fabledlands dot net, the quicker that message will hit home ;-)

  27. Dave,
    I am curious as to how long you played DW before moving on to another system. Did you try to houserule DW before doing so?

    Regarding making Legend a systemless product... are you thinking of the model Columbia Games established with Harn back in 1983? That seems to me to be the most obvious comparison. I would LOVE to see that type of support.

  28. Bill, the thing to bear in mind is that DW wasn't designed to be a system we expected people to stick with throughout their gaming lives. The first few books were simple, easy-in rules with all the orcs and halflings and such that the market had come to expect from Fighting Fantasy. With the later books, our plan was to "grow the books up with the readers", so that by book 12 there would have been a far more robust skill-based rules system.

    So our own group jettisoned DW rules pretty fast - it was *never* our main rule system - and we mostly used our Tekumel house system and RuneQuest for many years. The switch to GURPS came in the mid-90s when a lot of my old players dropped out of regular gaming (kids, wives, moving out of London...) and Tim Harford and his new blood group were keen on GURPS - so, with the 7-stat variation described here before, that's what we use now. The one drawback is that Oliver hates GURPS as being too over-complicated (I sometimes have to agree with him) and so he refuses to run games - a great loss! If we still used RQ, I don't think he'd have that problem.

    I'm afraid I can't comment on Columbia and Harn because I don't know anything about it. I'm envisaging a system-agnostic description of characters, etc, that might for example list skills as a rating from 1 (novice) to 10 (grandmaster) and thus players could easily adapt it to their own favourite rules. That would make sense to me, but we have to be practical. If another publisher shows interest in DW, they may well want to tie it to their own system. We'll just have to see what (if anything) develops.