Please note that the contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.
Tonight is my last night in the United States of America. Tomorrow I fly out as part of the Peace Corps with the eventual destination of Georgia. On the eve of this new journey, I wanted to reflect upon the journey of Krendel. How did it come to be?
The greatest influence on Krendel, indeed its very foundation, is Dungeons and Dragons; though, you might not recognize it. During the era of 2nd edition AD&D I became enamored with the options they started publishing.
The first key option was actually in the Dungeon Master's Guide. Very early in that book there is a quantified table for building your own class using the components that you find in all the classes. It wasn't terribly balanced, but it was a lot of fun and decently flexible.
Then the handbooks rolled in. They provided a lot of kits for classes, centering on the tailoring of existing classes. They didn't have a big impact on me, but the Priest's handbook did with its section regarding the various faiths and showing how each faith could be expressed in a mechanically different manner. It wasn't perfect, but it was good inspiration.
Things really came together with Player's Options: Skills and Powers and Player's Options: Spells and Magic. Finally, you could fully tailor your class, spending points for features and earning points you gained as you went up levels to further show the growth in your class. Proficiency (Skills) were also bought with these points. So you had to make judgment calls as to character growth. Still, something was missing.
While an undergrad at UPenn, I created the "Book of Krendel". It was really just a merging of all the Player's Options books into a single, classes system. Player species were treated the same way, and it had some of the custom species I still use. The name Krendel is a made up word, and it was the name for the fantasy world that my campaign took place in.
The Krendel world has been remade a few times thanks to hard drives dying. It got a major face lift in my downtime before law school when I started writing new rules, rather than basing it off of AD&D. However, I was still a math obsessed Bioengineering grad, so I was of course using a d100. It also got a complete make over a few years later when I fell in with the scoundrel we know and love as Kelly Berger.
Kelly was (and still is) working in his Incarna system. We hit it off real well and I started helping him with it. Looking back, I can easily say that this was the most positive period of creative collaboration. Even when we disagreed, we listened to each other, and even tried out each other's ideas.
For instance, Incarna uses an action point system to gauge when things happen in a round. You get 6 AP (at one time 60). You do your action, mark off the AP and then act again when the AP number is up. Well, I turned this into a real time combat system. No rounds! Since Incarna also uses active defense, this made for truly awesome duels, but when you start trying to track more combatants it got bogged down real fast (poor GMs...). It didn't matter that we made a time track to help, well, track, everyone. Not to mention combining actions like running and shooting. None the less, we gave it a thorough work over before discarding it.
Kelly's take on faith also really left its mark on me. The community and belief aspect were direct inspirations for me. They were combined with the purchasable specific spheres of clerical magic of the Player's Options books to get the foundation of Krendel's faith system.
Incarna also re-introduced me die and chart resolution. Roll a percentile die and look up your result on a chart to determine your degree of success. I'd seen this before, but it had been a long time since I worked with it. I rally liked that how well you rolled on your die determined how well you did, rather than needing to roll again. Of course, I didn't like the idea of always looking up what I rolled on a chart, even with the chart on the character sheet.
I worked with Kelly long enough that I adapted the world of Krendel to the Incarna system, which really meant giving the species a complete make over. When we parted it was for life reasons. Things were just going crazy on both ends. Somewhere in there he got married, and I was in law school. Incarna development got suspended. Incarna has since restarted, and I'm proud to have left my mark on it, but its also changed quite a bit from when i last worked on it. You should check it out if you have time.
Speaking of time, on my own time I started playing with things. I fell in love with the idea of a single die resolution system. Of course my first formula was much more complicated than it is now, but it gave such beautiful mathematical curves...
There were a lot of iterations. A lot. Its apparently 100 MB of word files, plus notebooks.
The core mechanic, how many actions you got, and whether defense would remain passive or become active went through a debate process, some tests, and eventually got a major workout one evening where I ran people through the same scenario over and over with different mechanics.
From the beginning, characters used attributes, skills, traits, and powers because that's just how its done. That's how most games did them any way, well most of the ones I played anyhow (even if they didn't use those terms). As the mechanics got refined, attributes got merged into traits. They just weren't doing enough any more to be their own thing since I kept simplifying the system and the various effects they had got moved or dropped. I still laugh at the play test session I introduced them at. Kelly was there; so were Larry, Mario, and Sarah. The first three balked at the idea. Kelly was especially vehement that changing attributes into traits with descriptors (how they are now) was a horrible move. By the end of the play test they all loved it.
Skills began as a list of 20+ and eventually got whittled down. Believe it or not, once upon a time, Armor Use was a skill, not a power. Piloting was also a separate skill at one point. Those were far too niche.
Traits got shuffled about more than once; at some point I decided that if it was an optional positive trait and not tied to attributes or training, then it should be a power that you can purchase later. So things like erudite became powers.
Powers began as distinct trees (e.g. you'd take the armsman branch and learn benefits 1-5 in order). At some point I decided that was dumb and canned the idea for the more free form approach I have now. For the longest time powers had advanced training (unlock more benefits for having related powers), but that was unnecessary complication.
From the beginning, all of the power methods included in the books were planned; though, they did change over time and they might not have been recognized as a power method. For instance, faith originally had another practice (hymns), but it was dropped for simplification (you can still totally do that yourself though!). Other power methods I've thought up since I've compartmentalized as ideas for down the road, and they may wind up being styles instead. For instance, should using magic tattoos be its own method or an Arcane style?
- Artifice was clearly inspired by Diablo.
- Alchemy was clearly influenced by Witcher, but several of the central bits were already there.
- Arcane is the most straight forward. It was based on the division of Magic among the Houses of the Krendel fantasy world.
- Faith, as you've read, was influenced by 2nd ed AD&D and Incarna, presenting itself as something of a combination.
- Focus was the last to be written. It was always envisioned as the wushu power set where your personality is evidenced in your powers. Also, Biotics, because I'm a big Mass Effect fan, and they really are pretty similar. Why was it written last? Because I kept getting distracted.
- Implants was a bit tricky in that I wanted powers, not just the implanted equipment. It seemed a bit odd when I presented it, but I think that the release of Deus Ex helped people grok it more.
- Imprints was originally just a very long type of mutation and used to create creatures. At some point I asked "why isn't this actually a power method?" It suddenly made more sense.
- Nanoswarms was always there as the science version of Arcane. It was originally just an Arcane style, but Arcane was much more versatile. Where you can argue that nanoswarms can do mental magics by inducing chemical changes and forcing neurons to fire, that seemed a stretch. Instead it was reworked and given a focus on energy.
- Psychic was the one I dreaded the most. I never liked psionics. In thinking about how I could justify making this method to myself, I reminded myself of seances and spiritualism (the mentalism style) and of Dune and Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (the psychotropy style). Suddenly, I was sold!
- Resonance was the most beastly of the bunch. I had so many ideas for what to do with sound beyond just "song version of this spell". I number of the ideas were discarded to make it streamlined, if that word can be applied. It still came out OK, but part of me wonders if it wouldn't have been better served by breaking it up into two methods: one that focused on shouts and one that focused on songs/chants.
It is almost weird to think that the bulk of the time was spent in refinement of the core mechanics and the central character facets. Compared to that writing the powers was easy. It was just a matter of accounting for all the changes.
As you can imagine, all this fiddling also lent itself to the creation of all the optional rules. It was easy to flip some switches on and others off.
The next step in the journey, which actually happened alongside some of the above, was really giving it a kick in the butt. This happened in August 2014 when Jeff Brown was advertising on G+ that he was looking for work as a digital / concept artist. Once I contacted him and put my money where my mouth was there was little turning back.
Time proved my worst enemy or best ally. Before I hired Jeff I had applied to the Peace Corps. I received my invite to join them in December, which suddenly gave me a time table to wrap things up.
The original editor I was looking at had to leave the country due to an expired visa, but Evan (play tester and owner of Games & Gizmos) introduced me to Jenn, who in turn introduced me to Sean for layout. Ed jumped in and offered to index when he found out what I was doing. Larry also lent his skills designing the page widgets and volume templates to help the look of the pages. The rest is the finished product.
One final note before my lack of sleep totally takes me (though by the rambling nature of this post you may think it already has), I strongly considered Kickstarter. Had I more time I would have gone that route. I see it as a good advertising tool and for getting guaranteed pre-orders. I did not need it though because I saved money for this project. I could have done the Kickstarter earlier, but I wanted the product mostly ready to go. I'm still waiting for some Kickstarters that I backed more than a couple years ago, and I didn't want to do that to anyone in case something came up. So I missed an opportunity with Kickstarter. Oh well, maybe next time!
Oh, and that setting that started it all. Its still around; though, funny enough, I have not fully updated it to the actual Krendel system. A lot of how it fits together is in my head, and I would have worked it all up if I had time for a book 3. For now though, I am content with letting it rest and wait for me. If non-play testers harass me, I may be convinced to post one of its mythic histories in this blog.
I'm not sure how much time I'll have to devote to new material for Krendel after tonight. I'll be on the other side of the planet after all, and I'll be quite busy, but who knows! For now though, the journey with Krendel is on pause, and a new journey with the Peace Corps has begun.