About this project
12/19/2013 - We have added new products to our currently available items at Drive Thru RPG and RPGNow.
...is a world of dark fantasy adventure on the Scalding Seas. In the verdant forests, deep in the acrid mines and through the jungles, plains and mountains of great, unexplored vistas. Whether part of the elven culture, or striving and contending against it, the lifecycle of the Elves touches everyone in some way. Yet there are rumors in the West of a great change. Whispers of the prophecy of the Forest King, once considered sacrilege to even mention, have surfaced again. Without full control and domination of society—and fragmented as they are—the Vyrden can no longer quash the whispers and stifle the cults.
The Product at a Glance:
ElfWood is a tabletop roleplaying setting book. If you're completely new to tabletop roleplaying games, a "setting book" is a book that details a particular setting. In the case of ElfWood, it details a large section of a new and exciting world called "Lakates".
The product is a book – electronic, softback and hardback versions – that details the world in text and pictures. We anticipate it to clock in around 250 pages. The exact page count and internal content are dependent on reaching certain stretch goals, but we're confident that we can claim approximately 250 pages of material.
ElfWood is focused on a specific game system – Sixcess (a D6-based dice-pool mechanic) – but can be easily converted to any game system. We at Harsh Realities are of the opinion that the game system is only a tool to help resolve events and that the setting, the people in the setting, the events in the setting, are the keys to bringing a world alive. And that’s what ElfWood is all about: immersing the players in a fantastic world that is both familiar and alien.
- 250+ pages with full-color illustration
- 3 formats available (electronic, softback, hardback)
- 10+ races (more with stretch goals)
- 2+ full adventures (more with stretch goals)
- 25+ adventure hooks (more with stretch goals)
- 25+ NPCs and Villains (more with stretch goals)
- 50+ entries in the Bestiary (more with stretch goals)
- Set in the renaissance with flintlocks, muskets, windjammers and early steam
- A fantasy world with a decidedly nautical spin
- Robin Laws
- Eddy Webb
- John Goff
- Cynthia Celeste Miller
- Joseph Wolf
- Nick and Liz Valentino
- Joe DeMarco
- Lauren Merz
- Liz Arnold
- Jeffery Morton
- Kimberlee Slaughter-Morton
- Bob Brinkman
- Michael Doss
- Ben Rogers
- Scott Harshbarger
- Maria Jose Barros
- Danny Cruz
- Scott Harshbarger
- Rick Hershey
- Paolo Libunao
- Evgeni Maloshenkov
- Daniel Wood
We also invite you to look at our website for future projects: Harsh Realities, LLC
A receive "Q&A" session in an online chatroom was conducted with us. Here is the transcript, if you would like some additional details about ElfWood:
ElfWood History Video
The question has been put to us several times: What makes ElfWood a different or better fantasy than all the other fantasy products out there?
We would be fools if we thought that it was “better than everything” – because that is a totally subjective viewpoint. Is Coke “better” than Pepsi? Is Ford “better” than Chevy? It's all subjective.
The point is simple: We can’t claim it’s “better” – because “better” is completely subjective. What we can claim is that it is NEW and it is UNIQUE and it takes a fresh perspective and a fresh viewpoint on the old, tired fantasy tropes. Harsh Realities focuses on "wonky" game settings that are twisted versions of long established game tropes.
"One of the most unique fantasy settings I've ever played!" - Vera Moore, Gen Con 2013
What do I get for my Pledge?
Each Pledge Tier (or "Backer Level") provides its own package of goodies. You can pledge at any level equal to the amount you pledge or less. (i.e. you can pledge at $30 and pick a $25 Pledge Tier)
Add-Ons may also be selected and add to the total Pledge amount. If you want a $10 Add-On, then pledge at least $10 more than the price of the Tier that you want. Just before the project ships, a survey will be sent out to gather details about your Add-Ons.
Below is a summary of all the Pledge Tiers for your convenience:
What are the Add-Ons?
What are the Stretch Goals?
Our primary intent is to increase the budget for artwork. We currently have some artwork already commissioned – and it’s really great stuff! You can see some of the examples here, on our website and on our Facebook page. These are just the tip of the iceberg! We’ve already begun to commission the talent for the core art needs. As the stretch goals are reached, we shall further detail our vision of Lakates, in order to provide an even more expansive visual resource for players and GMs alike.
We’ve kept our stretch goals at what we consider to be a “good challenge” level for now. However, we have wonderful plans if ElfWood is well-received on Kickstarter. ElfWood’s world of Lakates is a big place and ElfWood really only touches on a small portion of this immense world. There are many places it can be expanded and enhanced. There are so many more people and cultures that you haven’t an inkling about—but we do! We have the whole backstory. And it’s ready to go! It just depends on how many people ask for it.
When we reach the following Backer counts, the items will be added to the project:
ElfWood: the Product
We started the ElfWood project with a goal of answering the questions that typical fantasy products “hand wave” (i.e. “blatantly ignore”).
Why do the elves love the forest and the trees? Oh, sure, if you studied ancient Norse mythology you’d understand that they are actually nature spirits of the trees. But that is as far from modern fantasy tropes as your iPhone is from morse code radio transmissions. In ElfWood, the elves love the trees and the forests because they are born from the trees and when they die, their heart grows into a tree, which merges and melds with the other trees and produces fruits and nuts – which produce the next generation of Elf. Elves love the trees because they ARE the trees!
Why do dwarves love to dig and mine? And does it even make any kind of sense that a dwarf would carry an axe (a tool used for chopping down trees) when he lives in a mine? Shouldn’t that be a pick or a shovel? But I digress… Why do they dig? And what’s up with the fact that we never (or extremely rarely) see dwarven women? As it was said in a recent movie: there are no dwarven women and dwarves just “spring from the ground”. And so it is the case with the Dwarg in ElfWood. They are not split into male and female. They are entirely male. Lakates is their mother and they all spring from her depths. They love minerals and mining because this is how they reproduce.
What of the Orcs? Traditional fantasy (i.e. Tolkien) posits that orcs are “corrupted elves” that were brought low by dark magic of evil beings. Seems like another hand wave to us. So, we thought through what connection the orcs would have to the elves and what sort of evil would bring about an orc. During the elven civil war between the Vyrden (Forest) and Stygian (Dark) elves, many of the elves were slain and their corpses were left on the battlefield. Dark, twisted and thorny trees grew from the heartseeds of those slain elves. And those thorny trees bore fruit – and the orcs were born.
That is just a taste of some of what ElfWood has to offer. A new perspective on the realm of fantasy. There is so much more – living ships, blood elves, ratlings, bisonmen, blighted humans surviving a massive diaspora, seas turned scalding when something was released from the Shadowlands behind the veil, magic powered by the lifeforce in blood, pirates, flintlocks, dwarg steamships, and a world on the brink of war.
The World at a Glance: ElfWood
The world of Lakates is robust and full of life, which only serves to obscure the deepening shadows and arcana. The dominant culture is that of the forest elves—the Vyrden. Fragmented from within, the Vyrden struggle with the Stygian, their dark elf brethren, and the growing presence of the Sanguine—the blood elves. The purity and cultural power of the Vyrden is under assault as their living ElfWood ships ply the seas, occasionally clashing with the metal and steam kapukka ships of the Dwarg.
Recent developments between the Vyrden and the Dwarg have led to conflict—both economic, philosophic—and the world hangs on the precipice of open military conflict. The once thriving maritime dominance of the Vyrden faces competition from the ever growing Dwarg merchant marine. Where the Vyrden bring treasures of forest and fern, the Dwarg bring their machines—acrid, smelly and foul.
Humans were nearly devastated by a magical virus that swept their communities centuries ago, reducing them to wandering tribes and drift-colonies on the Scalding Seas. Tribal and insular, they have struggled back from their holocaust and trade openly with the ships and coastal cities that ring the Scalding Seas. Humans take the risks and explore the seas more readily and have grown into a power all their own.
It is the Humans who brought the Taurim to Vyridia—the Vyrden Isles. Massive, powerful, displaying a peaceful calm that belies the ravening beast lurking below the surface, Taurim have found their way into nearly every aspect of seafaring. Whether they are cargo-handlers or marines, Taurim cast a large shadow. Their simple ways and cultural honor have earned them as much respect as their might and physical prowess.
Nomadic bands of M’raak—a dark and terrible blending of Orc and Stygian—travel about the world, trading, thieving, and selling themselves as mercenaries and bodyguards. Treated better than Humans by their Vyrden cousins—but still limited to the glass walls and ceilings defined by proper Vyrden culture—the M’raak have become everyday fixtures in nearly every trading community.
Lurking in the deep, dark shadows of the mysterious forests, the Drey prey upon Vyrden elves - especially the fruit-children. From their hives, the Queens send their drones to capture the ElfWood fruit. The Queens are addicted and dependent on the vibrant life found within the heart of the fruit. Some Drey reject their culture—and some are outcast. These lone, diminutive figures scrape by on whatever they can scrounge. For all their small size, they are fast and vicious. Never underestimate them!
All the while, the ratlike Kague scheme in their warrens. They work the jobs that no one else wants. How many lurk in the sewers and trash heaps? How many scheme in the dark shadows? Servants and sneaks, dirty and filthy, they hear the whispers and gather the secrets. But to what end?
ElfWood is a world of high fantasy adventure on the Scalding Seas, in the verdant forests, deep in the acrid mines and through the jungles, plains and mountains of great, unexplored vistas. Whether part of the Vyrden culture, or striving and contending against it, the lifecycle of the Elves touches everyone in some way. Yet there are rumors in the West of a great change. Whispers of the prophecy of the Forest King, once considered sacrilege to even mention, have surfaced again. Without full control and domination of society—and fragmented as they are—the Vyrden can no longer quash the whispers and stifle the cults.
Magic is strong in the blood of the people and the miniscule shards that pervade the world. The purity of magic has faded and with it the veil that separates the Shadowrealm from everyday reality. The Sanguine have brought forth abominations that threaten the balance. But they were not the first to create abominable things. Just ask the next Windsorman that you see.
Based on the Sixcess Core-Mechanic
ElfWood is a gameworld, not a system. It showcases the might and majesty, the beauty and darkness, the societies and the cultures – and the nefarious, shadowy underbelly – of Lakates. The world is rich and full of life, and all the things that prey upon that life. The current culture spans thousands of years, and there were older cultures lost in the ancient histories and legends.
We used the Sixcess core-mechanic to bring this world to life. Although stats and mechanical references tie it to the Sixcess core-mechanic, it is easily converted to any system. The system does not define the world. Rather, ElfWood breathes life into whatever game system is used. (We encourage you to try Sixcess Core, which you can receive as part of a pledge on this kickstarter or pick up separately - it is available immediately here: Sixcess Core.
Our intent is to provide online support allowing ElfWood to be used by whatever system you prefer. Just remember that we are not experts in every system and are not intent on perfectly emulating the Sixcess core-mechanic in conversions. Each system that uses ElfWood should have its own flavor in how the world is presented.
If you want to try ElfWood in its native mechanic, however, we’re more than happy to help you out!
How does Sixcess play?
The Sixcess (6S) core-mechanic is a universal system for role playing games of any genre. It is a d6 dice-pool system. Typically dice-pools range from 4-10 dice—it is rare for more than 10 dice to be tossed in a single roll. It is easy to learn for all ages, for new and experienced role-players. Sixcess plays quickly to allow for maximum role-playing story elements, and yet is nuanced enough to satisfy the crunchiest of dice crunchers out there.
Sixcess is based around a pairing of Attribute and Skill ranks to provide the dice-pool. Each die that meets or beats a defined Target Number is considered a “Sixcess”. Sixcesses are broken into two types: Ticks and Marks. Marks are the best results and provide an extra (or “exploding”) die to be added to the test. This allows for even the lowest skills and weakest attributes to have a chance for glorious success. It also means that pushover opponents can become lethal assailants with the toss of a die!
Sixcess also incorporates a system for the players to take over the action from the GM to craft and mold the world in their own way. This is called “Dissonance” and every player has a “DISk” to activate this capability. Some of the Tiers provide official DISks for you and your players to use.
“Extremely easy to pick up and play.” Gregory S. Stines, GenCon 2012
“It was really simple to learn, so we could jump right into things.” Jeremiah Heady, GenCon 2012
Is it better for small or large groups?
Sixcess scales nicely to any size group. Smaller groups that stick together tend to play a little faster—but this is true of nearly any gaming experience. Larger groups can accomplish more and give a larger, more “epic” feel, but they don’t hamper gameplay at all nor overbalance the mechanic.
“Very simple to learn, good for beginners and experienced alike.” Jordan Cline, GenCon 2012
One of the hallmarks of ElfWood (and the Sixcess core-mechanic) is the flexibility. Players can use and manipulate the world (and the rules of the mechanic) to give their characters bonuses. You are not constrained to a narrowly defined corridor of character development. You can grow and enhance your character in any way that you choose.
Characters can be made in any combination of abilities that are desired. There are no classes and no levels. Gameworld-specific details may provide Backgrounds, Edges, Flaws or Qualities that nuance your choices, but there are no mechanical restrictions. If you want to play a Dwarg raised by Vyrden, you can. Exotic backgrounds are entirely feasible.
Sixcess provides a plethora of Backgrounds, Edges, Flaws and Qualities to breathe life into the character. Some have a mechanical effect; some simply enhance the roleplaying of the character. It’s completely open-ended and up to the GM and players to use as they see fit.
“Fun game. Rules are easy to learn and very flexible.” Patricia Biel, GenCon 2012
ElfWood is coming out. That’s all there is to it. It was extremely well-received in demos at various conventions. We ran 45+ events at Gen Con 2012 and 85+ events at GenCon 2013.
ElfWood shall be printed. Depending on what stretch goal we reach depends on the extras that we can offer—whether electronic, softcover, hardcover or color hardcover, the stretch goals affect everyone.
ElfWood is initially targeted at a 225 - 250 page gameworld with beautiful illustration by some of the finest names in the industry. As additional stretch goals are reached, the page count grows—so does the number and quality of the illustrations.
How Far Along is ElfWood?
ElfWood has been developed and playtested for the last five years. It is nearly ready to publish. We need to flesh out a few details, convert notes to text and include the artwork that brings it to life. Basically, we need to transition the book from "notes on a page" to "a beautiful, illustrated product".
There are many unexplored places in ElfWood—ancient civilizations that have faded long ago, seas that have yet to be sailed, coasts that have yet to be mapped. All these are the planned supplements to the world - and depending on how well the kickstarter goes, may become additional stretch goals.
The ElfWood Soundtrack - On the Scalding Sea
How Can You Help?
Obviously, support the Kickstarter. Your pledge helps us to make a more beautiful product with more content available. If you want to do more, then spread the word. Share your interest in this vibrant world with others. Get them involved and supporting it. If you want to help out more, there are several other ways—you can buy into the add-ons that let you work with our developers to define an element of the world. Or, you can even talk to the developers about becoming a playtester, freelance writer or freelance artist.
Risks and challenges
Primary Risk: That the product may be delayed. Short of a death amongst the developers, total global economic collapse, a zombie apocalypse, the second coming of Christ or global thermonuclear war, there is just no way the product is not going to make it. It's the timing that is more of a risk.
What we've done to mitigate those risks is to "pre-pay" and "pre-engage" with freelancers (artists, writers, editors) to have as much of the product done or in progress as possible before even starting the kickstarter.
As Kickstarter says, the point of the kickstarter is not to provide all your funding, it is only to provide a "kickstart" to your funding process. With that in mind, we have already invested considerable time and money into the project before even considering kickstarting it. This means the product is most of the way completed already. We just need some funds to help finish it.
We selected the date because we want the book ready and available -- in hand -- so we can premier it at Origins Game Fair in June.
Status on Promised Sands: Promised Sands and ElfWood utilize two completely different teams of people. Resources are not shared between them. We brought on a Line Developer to push ElfWood while we finish Promised Sands. There is no overlap of resources used between the two projects, so there is no impact whatsoever between Promised Sands and ElfWood.
Additionally, we're ahead of schedule and foresee no issues making our expected Promised Sands release date in February. We had originally tried for a Christmas release, but wisely chose to give ourselves an extra two months -- which turned out to be a good thing because we had a shift in editing needs that extended our expectations into January. We're still solidly on target for a February completion. All the artwork will be in hand by December 15, editing completed by December 31. Layout begins in early January and is anticipated to take 14 - 25 days (which gives us plenty of time to make a February 2014 delivery date).Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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