Dave has kindly invited me to write a few words on the Fabled Lands blog to talk about progress on The Serpent King's Domain. If you've been following the Kickstarter backer updates, some of the information here will be familiar – and some will be brand new.
It's been a busy year in Ankon-Konu. The Serpent King's Domain will be longer than any of the Fabled Lands books so far. Currently, the draft of the book is sitting at one-thousand-and-something paragraphs. And we're really into the home stretch now – the random encounters are finished, all the main quests are done; we're at the point where we're fleshing out the cities a little, and adding some of those touches that every Fabled Lands book needs (“How much does it cost to book passage to Smogmaw?”).
It's hard to talk about my progress on Fabled Lands without also mentioning The Frankenstein Wars, another Kickstarter project that took place around the same time, and my other big project of 2016. Both projects are moving steadily towards their conclusion; the deadline for a full draft of both texts is imminent (for more information on TFW, feel free to go check out this project update that recently went online.
Regarding The Serpent King's Domain, one of the jobs that remains is to go back and fill in some of the treasures that the player can discover, and include some new and interesting magic items – things that fit neatly alongside the artefacts that you can discover in the first six books, but that also have a healthy dose of originality as well.
I'll confess that item creation is an area I've found surprisingly challenging. I don't want to make SKD into some sort of arms race – the player's focus shouldn't solely be on picking up super-powered items; nor do I want every player to have the same list of possessions once they've thoroughly explored the book. One tentative idea is to include items that have both advantages and disadvantages, such as:
So, you have an item that grants a great big bonus to THIEVERY – but your SANCTITY will take a hit. Is the gain worth the loss? I'm guessing that some players will think it is, and some won't.373If you possess (XXXXXXX ITEMS TO CONSTRUCT CLOAK) Bellentacq can, quite reluctantly, create a darkling cloak. Such a cloak will grant a +7 bonus to your THIEVERY score while you possess it, but it will also temporarily reduce your SANCTITY score to 1, and prevent your SANCTITY score from rising by any means (including bonuses from other items). Note that you need not actually wear the cloak to receive this effect; so long as it is in your possession these changes to your Ability scores will apply (also note that, of course, leaving this cloak in storage will remove its effect from you). If you ask Bellentacq to carry out this work, remove the requisite items from your Adventure Sheet. In their place note darkling cloak (+7 THIEVERY, SANCTITY temporarily reduced to 1). Should you discard the cloak, or store it somewhere, you lose the bonus to THIEVERY, but your SANCTITY score will return to its normal value. Turn back to 167.
Another way to differentiate equipment lists for different playthroughs might be to include items that have various powers for different professions – which has a handy knock-on effect of helping to distinguish the various professions at higher ranks. For example:
The specific advantage for a Priest character is not enormous here; it's more a distinction that adds flavour rather than one that grants world-shattering power. Certainly, the item should be cheaper, or easier to acquire, than some of the COMBAT +6 weapons that appear in the first books (since that's the maximum bonus it'll have anyway).711The sacrosanct sabre will grant a COMBAT bonus equal to half the wielder's SANCTITY, rounding down, and not including bonuses from items. So, a wielder with a SANCTITY of 11 would use the sabre as a COMBAT +5 weapon. In addition, if a Priest possesses this item, this will allow him or her to have a maximum of two SANCTITY blessings at any one time (rather than the normal maximum of one).
If you keep this item, note the sacrosanct sabre (COMBAT bonus = half SANCTITY) on your Adventure Sheet.
Turn to 488.
For a while I've been thinking about opening a discussion on magic items on the Fabled Lands Facebook group – but then I got angry at the internet and deleted my Facebook account. Regardless, I'll open up that conversation here, instead – what sort of items do people want to see in The Serpent King's Domain? Feel free to chime in in the comments section below, or even to contact me directly by hitting the link.
Really, if people have any ideas for magic items – maybe something that isn't too powerful, that fits in with the jungle-themed setting – I would love, love, love to hear them.
So, to round up: the text is nearing completion. Expect a full first draft around Christmastime – which will then have to go through editing and page layout and whatnot. Regarding artwork, we've been talking to both Kevin Jenkins (cover) and Russ Nicholson (interiors) recently. It's a little soon to make big pronouncements, but that's moving forward as well. I'll tentatively say that project backers will have a book in their hands in the early part of 2017.