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Gabe / on Wed, Feb 26 2014 at 10:21 am

Thornwatch Update

This is the year that Thornwatch goes from being a hobby that I play with my friends to a game you all can go to the store and buy. That means I need help and that means letting people in on the creation process which so far has been…messy. There was a point during a game a few weeks ago when we decided we needed to alter a word on some of the cards. I said that was gonna take me a while and Mike fehlauer helpfully suggested I just use the “find and replace” command. It dawned on me then that he assumed I had done the smart thing and created all these cards in some sort of easily editable program like Excel or Word. I laughed and watched his face drop as I explained that each of these cards is a multi layered Photoshop file with dozens of layers representing various iterations and ideas. Everyone at the table looked at me like I was insane. “We need to see your files” they said.

I think and work in drawings and so that’s how this game has been designed. It’s not the best way obviously, but it’s the only way I can do it. Now I have a little team of people helping me though and thank God for them. Mike Fehlauer has taken the role of project manager and is determined to use his unique combination of business acumen and encyclopedic knowledge of all things tabletop to bring Thornwatch to stores. Jamie is like the professional organizer they bring into a Hoarder’s house. She saw my “design doc” and immediately set to work creating a massive spreadsheet full of color coded tasks and dropdowns. I find it terrifying.

The result of their help is obvious though. Thornwatch has progressed further in the last couple months with their help then it ever did in the two years I labored on it alone. In the last handful of playtests the game has really come into its own and today it feels like a real game rather than a collection of my goofy ideas. We just recorded the Thornwatch playtest podcast that will be available for Kickstarter backers soon and Jamie snapped a couple pictures. You can see that what used to be random bits from other games and hastily printed cards is actually starting to look like a real game.

(click for big)

There are a couple things you’ll notice in these pics that you might be curious about. First, yes the map is a giant comic book page. The adventures you play in Thornwatch are delivered via comics with the maps designed right into the artwork. Panels around the edges point out key elements of the scene and can even contain puzzles and clues about the situation.

You’ll also see that characters are represented with cardboard standups while we’re using tokens for monsters. We are finally starting to get an idea of what Thornwatch will actually look like and I’m really excited.

Maybe you’re excited too? If you are I have some good news for you. The big news is that Thornwatch will be playable at PAX East. I don’t mean what’s happened in previous years where I showed up at a restaurant in the middle of the night with a shoebox full of stuff. I’m talking about its own space full of game masters at multiple tables running the game for hours. This is a huge step for us and I am equal parts nervous and thrilled. The other cool news is that we are getting very close to opening up public testing in general and we’re going to start with Seattle. If you live in the area and you’d like to be involved with testing Thornwatch please send an email to

-Gabe out

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