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Gabe / on Fri, Aug 15 2014 at 1:10 pm


We’re preparing the Thornwatch playtest adventure for PAX Prime and it’s going really well. At PAX East we had people play the game, but it was really just a combat scenario. It was designed to test our card mechanics and our Momentum deck which manages initiative as well as monster damage. It was a great test and we got a lot of really useful feedback. Now with PAX prime coming up we’re ready to show off a more complete picture of what playing Thornwatch will really be like.

(The map is only about half drawn but they’re still having fun!)

The adventure we bring to PAX Prime will show off how we incorporate story into Thornwatch. This isn’t Dungeons and Dragons. It’s not an open world where you can go off the rails and do whatever you want. These are focused adventures that have a distinct beginning, middle and end. Players have the ability to affect the story but they do it through play. We’ve designed the stories so that the decisions players make during an encounter will determine how the story unfolds. Do you protect the NPC who summoned you even though it will make the fight more difficult? Do you use your cards to power your own attacks or sacrifice them to counter some environmental effect? You’re always playing, you’re always using your cards and maneuvering your character on the board but how you do that and the choices you make will change the fight for everyone and ultimately determine how the story plays out.

(click on this one for the big picture. This is a good example of how Thornwatch maps are designed to feel like comic book pages you play inside. The cards in a row there are the Momentum Deck, the Judge (GM) uses that to track turns and also manage monster health.)

PAX Prime will be our chance to show off not just how this system works but how it feeds into character progression. There are no levels in Thornwatch. You start the game as a bad ass capable of kicking ridiculous amounts of ass. You are a member of the Thornwatch, you’re already awesome. There is no gear, there are no items. Thornwatch members do not kill a skeleton and then check and see if its sword is better than the sword they have. Your character does progress though. Thornwatch members do not collect gear but they do collect “experiences” and those experiences are what shape your character and in terms of game mechanics, they are what modify your character’s deck.

After playing Thornwatch for a while your deck will be a sort of diary. It will be a reminder of your victories and your defeats. The scars and boons of past fights doled out based on the decisions you made will live in your deck and change the way you play. All of this is what we are finally ready to show off this year at PAX Prime and I am so fucking excited for you to see it.

(Thornwatch takes place in the Eyrewood so you’ll see lots of familiar faces like Lookouts and even Daughters of the Eyrewood!)

We have been testing this thing like crazy and the game is in a really great place right now. Last night’s playtest with folks who had not played the game since PAX East was a real high point for those of us on the Thornwatch dev team. Kiko recorded a quick video on his camera showing the players going through part of the final encounter. They are playing on a map that is only half done. The tokens are placeholders and the terrain isn’t even drawn in, BUT it works!

Watching people get this into something you’ve worked so hard to design is just incredible. It’s one thing to see them having fun, it’s another to seem them so invested in a puzzle you’ve poured your heart into. This adventure we’re bringing to PAX Prime is finally a real slice of what Thornwatch will actually look like when it’s finished. It’s a complex series of encounters with (what we hope is) a cool story and I hope if you are coming to PAX you’ll get a chance to check it out.

(Players will need to work together and combine their skills to overcome many of the games obstacles.)

Getting this game made and in people’s hands is going to be a big task for us. We’re nearing the home stretch in terms of design and now we need to start thinking about what the audience for a Thornwatch game looks like. If you’re interested in Thornwatch and you’d like to stay up to date on its development, it would really help us if you subscribed to the mailing list. There is a handy little box at the bottom of the official page that makes it super easy to get signed up. I promise not to flood you with bullshit mails. Once or twice a month you will get a behind the scenes look at the development process and a peek into my Thornwatch sketchbook. I know signing up for mailing lists isn’t the coolest thing to do but like I said, it would help us a lot and we will try to make it worth your while.

-Gabe out

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