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An all Dwarven RPG in which you create, defend and fight for the honor of your own unique Clan
509 backers pledged $35,038 to help bring this project to life.

Recent updates


Six Months Later

Posted by Mike Nystul (Creator)

Greeting backers! This is Andrew Shields, lead designer, reporting in.

I became lead designer six months ago. What has happened since then?

  • Two rounds of playtesting. In the first, I ran for a number of different groups. In the second, I was a player, and someone else ran the game. That's eleven games across four groups, with play reports for each game.
  • Two rounds of revision. The game keeps improving and getting more focused and more flexible with every round.
  • Professional editing. Brent Newhall has offered his editing services to make Book I much tighter and shinier. That edit is done and in my hands to implement.
  • Art. First I was going to go without art, but David Okum offered his artwork for the book. I've found some other art to go with it, enough to put art back in. His energetic characters and amazing seals will put a touch of visual class in this project.
  • Nameplate. And I think it looks pretty great.
  • Professional layout and design. I'm still finalizing the arrangements, but I think we'll have professional layout and design for both Book I and Book II. This is really exciting! We may even get a logo.
  • Design blog. You can follow the most current news here.

We also have progress on elements for Book II.

  • Worldbuilding. High level backers have given great input into worldbuilding, and I'm making an updated gazetteer. I have a draft of a new map, too. We've been talking things over on a forum, and I've got lots of new raw material to shape into an inspirational setting.
  • DungeonWords and WilderWords. I talked with Tim Ballew, who is willing to let us include these evocative word sets in the book to go with the GM-less play.
  • Contents. I've done a lot of thinking about what will go in the book, and there is initial design of several great elements that will bring the game world to life and make the GM's job easier and more satisfying.
  • Deck of Legends. I've made a great deck of cards designed to help groups tell stories from the clan's past, as part of the ongoing group-based world-building after the clan is built. This deck will be available after Book I comes out, to provide another round of interest in the project and to give players another great tool. Other group-based world-building elements will be in Book II, so the magic of working together to make the world isn't gone after the clan is built.

To sum up, things are moving along. Working with others means adapting timelines, so some things will take longer. We are in no rush, and having the best game we can have is important. I am pretty pleased with how far we've come.

Want to Play?

I conclude this update with an offer. I now have the technology to game online! Axes and Anvils is in a very playable state. It is also ideally suited to online play. So, I'm offering you the chance to try it out! If you have the technology (web cam, microphone, good internet connection, and G+ account) you are invited to play Axes and Anvils with me online. You can find me here

When I get enough people and we can set a time, then we'll make a clan for the online players! After that, everyone who plays online can defend the honor of the online clan. I will have information on the clan available in google docs, so if other people want to run games for the online clan, they can do that too!

The game is fully playable, I'm just polishing it now. I hope a number of you are interested enough to pursue this opportunity. 

That's it for now! When we get further along towards the layout process, I'll be double-checking names to make sure the credit for backers is accurate in the book. Until then, I'll keep working on this game, and maybe seeing some of you across the virtual gaming table.

Editing and Worldbuilding

Posted by Mike Nystul (Creator)

For backers only. If you're a backer of this project, please log in to read this post.


Posted by Mike Nystul (Creator)

Greetings backers! This is lead designer Andrew Shields with an update.

The December playtest went well. I learned a lot about what Axes and Anvils can do, and what issues needed some further attention. I am confident that the changes resulting from the playtest will make this game even better.

I was particularly impressed by how smoothly the rules worked, and how they faded into the background. There was a way to roll for things when you needed to roll for things, and training really defined the characters in cool ways. Simplicity and diversity really do fit together well in this game.

I even had a couple backers contact me to say they are really excited by the potential in this game! Getting that excitement back is a big part of what makes this version awesome.


Between now and May I will work with the backers on the world and culture in the setting. I will also get Book I updated with changes inspired by the December playtest.

May-June. I want more playtesting groups than my home group. Also, in my home group I will have people who are not me running the game, so I can experience it as a player. The playtest will look at the rules, and also the supplemental material in the bigger book.

November. Axes and Anvils will be released, both the player’s book (Book I) and the bigger version including setting and adventure material (Book II.)


Mike doesn’t have any money. I don’t have any money either. I’ve got one volunteer who has submitted some art, and I’ve got my own digital pen. Also, I will be looking through free art to see if I can find good matches to illustrate the book.

Can we use Jeff Laubstien’s art that has already been done for the project? At this point I don’t know.

I am the game designer, but I don’t have a company and I did not take on obligations for purchasing art for the game. I think it will be a great game, but we will have to use our imaginations for visuals.


At this point my plan is to have two versions of each book. One version will be an “at cost” print on demand version of Book I and Book II. This will be available to backers.

The other version will have a mark-up and will be available to the public.


I need questions. More specifically, I need backers who are willing to comb through the playtest book (or its immediate successor) and look at everything, then ask me questions about whether something is on purpose, whether something might not work, whether that was a typo, whether it might be better to do something different there, and so on.

Some people have helped me with eyes on the basic rules, and that has made a great difference. There is also the matter of all the upgrades and all the magic and all the EVERYTHING that needs more scrutiny. If you are willing to help, drop me a line at

That’s all for now! I will be back in February with another update. In the meantime, feel free to follow along on the development blog if you want more from Axes and Anvils before then.

December 2014 Playtest is GO!

Posted by Mike Nystul (Creator)

For backers only. If you're a backer of this project, please log in to read this post.

New Designer

Posted by Mike Nystul (Creator)

It has been a tough couple of years.

At this time, I am attempting to pull my life together and get to a level of stability with my health and my finances. I am also trying to make good on the Kickstarter projects that I owe my backers. Trying to do all this at once is hard on my focus and my morale. In the end, the only way I will ever be able to complete my Kickstarter obligations is if I get to a point where I have more discretionary time, income, and energy.

I need to concentrate on getting my own life together. However, I do not want to completely suspend progress with Axes and Anvils until I can give it more attention. I have brought Andrew Shields on to get the Axes and Anvils project to the next level of development. He will take the draft that was developed for playtesting and released in July 2013, and continue work on it with his own design style. The foundational concepts and design goals that inspired my vision of Axes and Anvils will be the base for Andrew’s work on the project, and I will still offer feedback and advice.

On the project home page, I laid out my plan for the game. These principles will guide Andrew as he continues the work on Axes and Anvils. These are the criteria we will use to judge the game’s success:

What can you expect?

Dwarfiness: Everything about the game is intended to put players into the right frame of mind to play dwarves. It is a celebration of all things Dwarf from what a Dwarf's beard says about him to what the deal is with Dwarven women.

Simplicity: Because this is a niche game many people will turn to for a "pick up and play" experience the system has to be simple and character creation has to be fast and fun. It is possible to create a Dwarven clan and a full party of 4 to 6 player characters in under an hour.

Cooperation: Whenever possible the game places more value on "we" than "me". Your party works together to solve whatever problems face their clan. The combat system is also structured around team play. Work together and victory shall be yours - fight alone and face an ignominious defeat.

The design is axiomatic, meaning a few simple rules drive everything instead of having a special case rule for every situation that could arise. Character development is based on the idea that you start simply and add depth as the campaign unfolds, which allows players to get started quickly and learn any complexities they may add as they go along.

A key concept is that the Dwarven Clan is treated as a character unto itself. As you develop as individuals the Clan for which you fight will gain respect and wealth. Your Clanhome will also expand to suit your needs. This gives an Axes and Anvils campaign a focus that many games lack right out of the gate.

This decision has not been easy for me. However, I believe that bringing Andrew back on the project is what is best for everyone at this time.

At this point it is too soon to project out reliable timelines. There will be an update at the end of November that will have a lot more information.

For now, please join me in welcoming Andrew Shields as designer on Axes and Anvils!