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Monday 7 February 2011

The Serpent King arises

At last we can lift the lid on what's been cooking over at newly formed Serpent King Games, who inherited the Dragon Warriors licence from Magnum Opus Press and are now starting to reveal some of the marvellous plans they've been weaving throughout the dark winter months.

In terms of pedigree, this Serpent King is no itty-bitty grass snake but the kind of adamant-scaled, century-battened, monster wyrm that could send Thor hurtling through a couple of skyscrapers. These guys are an RPG supergroup; they're the Traveling Wilburys of fantasy gaming. SKG is headed up by industry veterans Gareth Hanrahan (lead designer on the new edition of Traveler), Jon Hodgson (art director at Cubicle 7 ), and Ian Sturrock (former Mongoose writer responsible for the Conan and Slaine RPGs) and their line-up of writers includes most of the folk who are responsible for Dragon Warriors' renaissance over the last few years.

All of these guys were on James Wallis's team at Magnum Opus, and he says of them: "I’ve worked with everybody at Serpent King over the last ten years, and they are fiercely talented. Dragon Warriors and the lands of Legend are in the hands of amazing people who are going to take them in some very exciting directions."

Serpent King Games will be keeping all of the current Dragon Warriors books in print and have a juicy slate of new releases lined up. First is the eagerly awaited DW Players' Book, which you'll be able to get your hands on this summer. Following that, there'll be at least two new books this year. I don't have any details on those but expect new scenarios, new professions, new creatures, new items and new magic. With SKG at the helm, 2011 is set to be the best year ever for Dragon Warriors fans.


  1. Funky, funky... Out of curiosity, what's the status of the Dragon Warriors licence in France?

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  3. Considering some of the reactions to recent DW news, I feel like I should look into this world everyone's making such a fuss about... Can you suggest a good publication to introduce me to the game/setting? (I'm not quite ready to spend $80!)

    Also, the choice of title for this post was particularly cruel, given the status of the Fabled Lands series and the title of the first unpublished volume! Ah well, back to waiting.

  4. The Introductory Book is free either from Magnum Opus or DriveThru:

  5. Paul, funny you should ask that. Legend: le Jeu de Rôle is something Jamie and I were discussing over the weekend and it's definitely a project we want to get going this year.

    Mike, I don't really know much about SKG's plans yet. But I see they are inviting comments on their website. It couldn't hurt to ask.

    James, the cruelty was not mine but Ian Sturrock's :) He's the CEO of Serpent King Games, though to be fair he didn't know it was the title of an unpublished FL book when he formed the company.

    As for which DW book to look at - probably one of the scenario books like Sleeping Gods or Prince of Darkness would give the best introduction to the world of Legend. But if you can wait just another month or so, the first of the Fabled Lands RPG books will be out - with more sourcebooks to come, including Ankon-Konu. The Weeping Jungle, the Feathered Lands... Need I say more?

  6. "Dragon Warriors" aka "les Terres de Légende" were published in France by les éditions Gallimard. I suppose they still hold the rights, though the books have remained unpublished since then.

  7. MikePage - Thanks, I'll look into that! Seems like there's quite a following, so I just wanted to give it a chance to grab my attention.

    Dave - Any idea on roughly when they'll have a release date? As soon as there is one, I daresay my RPG schedule will be adjusted around it!
    Also, will there be one core book for the system, plus a sourcebook for each region? Or are the rules so wonderfully simple that they've managed to get them to fit into a single section to be included in each book?

  8. Great news! Do you know if the game and its supplements will be available in PDF?

  9. I'm pretty sure they will, Joakim. Keep an eye on the Greywood site
    for more details.

  10. Olivier, the rights will have reverted from Gallimard by now - though I daresay if anyone at Gallimard phoned us up to talk about renewing them we'd jump at the chance. But the reason for changing the name (should be Légende: le Jeu de Rôle, of course) is to show that it's a translation of the new edition, not original DW.

    James, there'll be a core FL rulebook and then 12 sourcebooks to follow. Hence my advice to save the money you were going to spend on DW, as FL roleplayers can look forward to a lot of material over the next year or two.

  11. I guess you answered these questions before, but I'll ask it anyway: What is the main difference between DW and FL? (and I ask this as a experienced DW gamemaster)

  12. The Greywood Publishing link is blocked here, as it is categorized as pornographic material. Is there anything on the website that could give it that descriptor?

  13. Hi Mike - no, it's all just harmless ol' orcs and trolls. I'll let Jamie Wallis at Greywood know.

    Joakim, DW is an "old skool" RPG with lots of different-sided dice and a mid-80s rule system that is simple insofar as it doesn't have skills or cover much outside of combat, magic and stealth. FL is a bang-up-to-date system with streamlined skills covering just about everything a character might want to do.

    The worlds differ greatly. Legend is low-magic, dark 'n' dirty medieval fantasy. Think of how people in the Middle Ages actually perceived their world, with dangerous spirits and goblins lurking on the moors, magic a real if rare force in the world, and faith the only protection for a poor mortal soul. Read about it here:

    Contrast that with the Fabled Lands, which is a high fantasy setting where magic is common, the gods give undeniable blessings to those who can pay, and the politics are Tolkienesque rather than the brutal, bloody realism of Legend.

    When I commented that Legend games usually end in only partial victory for the players and that most DW campaigns are shot through with elements of suffering and tragedy, somebody said, "Who'd want to play that?" And I agree: if your taste runs to carefree, swashbuckling adventure you're going to get on better with Fabled Lands.

    Put it this way: Legend/DW is Aguirre, Flesh + Blood, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Pan's Labyrinth, The Godfather, A Game of Thrones. Fabled Lands is LotR, Merlin, Howl's Moving Castle, Pirates of the Caribbean, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Clash of the Titans.

    Here's my quandry: I prefer playing in Legend but I am emphatically not an old-skooler and probably will get on better with the game mechanics of the FL RPG. What's a boy to do?

  14. "Here's my quandry: I prefer playing in Legend but I am emphatically not an old-skooler and probably will get on better with the game mechanics of the FL RPG. What's a boy to do?"

    Publish DW II. :)

  15. So, in what way is FL a updated system, apart from a more complex/sophisticated skill system?

    Is the FL rule system, with some modifications of course, possible to use in a DW setting, ie the Land of Legend? FL + DW = DW II?

  16. Joakim, I guess you could do that - though actually I'd probably use RuneQuest, as FLRPG may be too magic-heavy to reflect Legend's reality. Though maybe I shouldn't jump the gun there; what I've seen of Shane Garvey's system for the FL RPG looks very flexible, and you could always reserve the greater magic to just NPC wizards and faerie folk.

    Rudd, I'd like to do DW2 one day - see earlier posts, particularly on the idea of a rules-free or rules-lite Jewelspider book. But if that happens it will only be in cooperation with the Serpent King team, who are in the DW driving seat now. And there may not be any demand for Legend without DW anyway - most people's view of Legend comes from rolling all those 8- and 12-sided dice, after all. I'm sure DW fans are going to enjoy what SKG have planned, so there will be no need for DW2 for some years to come.

  17. "And there may not be any demand for Legend without DW anyway - most people's view of Legend comes from rolling all those 8- and 12-sided dice, after all."

    That's just too bad. As if the rules are somewhat holy. There are good and bad rules but in the end its the atmosphere and the skills of the gamemaster that counts. Personally I plant to use the Swedish universal game system Parallell Worlds in my Legend campaigns (I don't think there is an English translation).

    BTW: FL sounds great! Could be a future project for my son and I.

  18. I just want to pull Dave up in that he keeps calling it 'Shane Garvey's system'... I am writing the bulk of the rules, but they wouldn't be what they are without the valuable input of my co-writer Jamie Wallis (who is doing most of the background stuff).

  19. Oh, hey, Shane! Good to know that you keep an eye on these comments too... Any word on a release date for the first book(s), or even a release date of the release date??

  20. Stay tuned, we do have some news on this...

  21. That's right, Shane, and I didn't mean to exclude Jamie, but I thought if I mentioned him too that people would get him confused with James Wallis, seeing as this is a DW post... Can't you get him to change his name to something like... Oh, I don't know; Thomson, for example?

  22. Delighted to see the DW torch passing on so swiftly, and especially to a company with such familiar and worthy names involved. Looking froward to seeing the Players Guide...

    As a brief aside, speaking as an old grognard and RQ fan, had any further thoughts re the Invaders & Ancient material you revealed you had rediscovered a year or so back?


    Nick Middleton

  23. Hi Nick, if SKG run out of material they would be welcome to do something with the Invaders & Ancients material. But I think they will figure on Legend having some mileage in it for a while yet. Some of I&A has seen the light of day already (scenarios here; also "The Lone & Level Sands" in In From the Cold) and we'll keep looking for ways to bring it to a wider audience.

  24. Dave (or anyone else for that matter who can help me!), if I may ask for some clarity around your comments please relating to Fabled Lands. Apologies in advance if I have missed this elsewhere in the blogs! There is mention of the first of the 'Fabled Lands RPG books' coming out in a month or so... this must be different to the current Fabled Lands books that are in print, but how so? Also there is mention of '12 sourcebooks' and 'Ankon-Konu'... does this mean we are a step closer (if so quicker than I had envisaged which is great!) to seeing the completion of the Fabled Lands series from 1 to 12? Or is this Fabled Lands RPG a different beast entirely? Thanks!

  25. Yes and no, Colin!

    The Fabled Lands RPG books refer to a set of sourcebooks for a tabletop role-playing game (similar to the Dragon Warriors game mentioned in Dave's post, or perhaps more famously, the Dungeons & Dragons franchise).
    This game will be set in the world mapped out by the Fabled Lands gamebooks, with one 'sourcebook' of settings and scenarios for each volume in the gamebook series.

    So while the series of RPG sourcebooks will eventually include the as-yet unpublished areas of the Fabled Lands world, I can't see them coming out before the gamebooks themselves... Though perhaps Dave will correct me on that one :)

  26. Intriguing comment there Dave! - The Lone and Level Sands is in from the cold? Is it ok if I ask you to elaborate on that one?

  27. As soon as I typed that, Alberto, I realized I should have added some explanation. "The Lone and Level Sands" was a scenario based in the world of Ophis that Oliver and I originally created for Games Workshop's Questworld project and later repurposed as a new Dragon Warriors campaign setting to be called Invaders & Ancients. The scenario was by Oliver Johnson and ran in White Dwarf in the early 1980s. (See lots of posts last year about the rediscovered Ophis material.)

    That L&LS was no relation to the FL book of the same title. Blame Percy Bysshe Shelley for providing a line that every desert-set RPG or gamebook ends up using :)

  28. Colin, here is the original post about the FL rpg
    though James has explained it all there anyway.

    James, I'm not sure what kind of publishing schedule Greywood have planned, but they are so efficient that you could well see those sourcebooks appearing before the gamebooks.

  29. That's great news. It appears that waiting has finally paid off for many DW afficiandos, myself included.

    Also, on an unrelated note, Dave, I thought I'd ask you a few questions regarding Professor M.R. Barker and Tekumel.

    First of all, I read somewhere that M.A.R. Barker was a Professor of a South Asian (India, Pakistan etc.)related-subject in a University in the US. Is this true?

    Secondly, although I know very little of Prof. Barker's world, I also read that Tekumel is mainly based off of South American and Middle-eastern/South Asian cultures. As a long-time fan, would you agree?

    Lastly, I've heard that the initials MAR stand for Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman, and that the Professor is a Muslim. I thought that was rather interesting. As far as you know, is this true?

  30. Hi Hamza, somehow I missed your questions before and only just saw them. Yes, Professor Barker was born "Phil Barker" (which is how his friends know him) but he converted to Islam and took the official name you mention there.

    His chair was at the University of Minnesota - I'm pretty sure he's retired now but, like army officers, professors kept the honorary title.

    As for Tekumel being based on Mayan, Indian, Thai culture, etc - well, those are certainly influences, but it's really an original construct. (What Professor Tolkien called a "subcreation".)