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Thursday, 10 March 2011

The unforgiving muse

Simon Cornish is an artist, animator, RPG designer and writer who was part of the heady company who originally contributed to the launch of UK comic The DFC, soon to be reborn as The Phoenix.* Which was why we happened to meet up at the official unveiling party at David Fickling Books in Oxford last week.

I haven't played in Simon's role-playing world of Tefr yet, but Leo Hartas is a regular and he tells me great things about it, so next time I head over to the West Country to work with Leo on our Mirabilis comic, I'm hoping to join in a session. Tefr by all accounts is a richly detailed setting with (unusually for RPGs) a real theme and story point to it. Luckily I won't have to just plunge in unawares, as Simon has laid out a wealth of great gaming material on his Tefr website. There you can read about the world, get free ebooks of the rule system, or just marvel at Simon's frickin' awesome maps and artwork.

It makes a big difference that Tefr has been created by a skilled writer and artist. The setting isn't just a backcloth for random escapades, it's a classic story-set up with conflict and a problem for the protagonists to deal with. The hook could be the pitch for a movie or ongoing TV show:

You were born into a strange land, a world steeped in history and shaped by ancient strife, a place where rumours of magic and mythical creatures have the ring of truth to them. You'd rather not get involved in such matters; you want to stay home with your family and friends. But you have a problem; they say there is something wrong with you. You have a god's curse upon you, which makes you different: stronger, harder, scarier. Your family and friends no longer want you near them. Some would even want to harm you. If you don't want to become an outcast, your only choice is to join the Kerowan Guild and follow the only profession allowed to those cursed by the gods: become a sword for hire; expendable and despised, but better the jackal than the hare.
Now, I'd like to say that none of the above has anything to do with the fact that Simon is an old friend and Mirabilis fan and he just gave our comic a nice plug on the Fantasy Faction forum. But if you doubt me, hop over to the Tefr site, grab all those freebies and give it a go. It could be just the jolt your role-playing sessions have been looking for.

(* Well, sort of - the new comic is edited by DFC helmsman Ben Sharpe and published by the irrepressible David Fickling, but in fact it's a whole new fabulous beast and nothing to do with Random House's original venture. Just wanted to be clear about that.)


  1. Is it available as proper books or is it just e-books?

  2. There's a print edition you can buy, Anon. (I mean, you can buy it right now, not anon.) But if you want it for free, you have to get the ebook. Why not look at the ebook version first, and if you like that then buy the print edition?

  3. From a cursory glance, the world of Tefr looks rather like a generic fantasy setting, but maybe that's just me.

  4. I have yet to play in it, Hamza, so I can't really comment. But I do like what Leo has told me about player-characters being "touched by the gods". Of course, it could be argued that mutant powers by any name is just a new spin on the X-Men... but that didn't do Heroes any harm in the ratings.

  5. Everything downloaded! Will dip into it tomorrow evening (wife resting her tired body in a sauna severel kilometers away, kids sleeping, a glass of wine...). Look promising - please share your thoughts when possible, Dave.

    And thanks for sharing.

  6. Joakim - what a picture of bliss! I haven't had a glass of wine in 70 days now (my regular 3-month winter geas)... Though I suppose it's better not to admit to the wife that you want her several kilometers away so you can kick back with some roleplaying books :)

  7. Oh, she'll understand. And it's a bliss to have her here too, though in a different way. As things are now, she's back again, fresh as spring, and I´m still reading Tefr. At first glance it looks like an ordinary fantasy rpg but there is someting there, a certain quality I like and will get back to when I´ve read some more (and hopefully tried it out with friends).

  8. I did an interview about writing Mirabilis where I said that sometimes it helped to have my wife off riding her horse so that there's nobody in the house to distract me when I'm really trying to concentrate on the story. Boy, that caused a furore! But really it's because I like to crank the music up to 11 and walk from room to room while I'm acting out all the characters' dialogue. Getting Roz out of the way is more for her sake than mine :)