About this project
Hey there, Kickstarter. It's Mike Selinker of Lone Shark Games. My friends Mike "Gabe" Krahulik and Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game lead developer Chad Brown and Lords of Waterdeep co-designer Rodney Thompson, and the whole crew at Penny Arcade and Lone Shark have come together to make a new kind of game. Thornwatch is a graphic novel adventure that bridges the gap between RPGs and board games, the first of three interlocking games in the Eyrewood Adventures line.
Through the game’s unique choose-your-own-adventure structure, players get the experience of an RPG without having to spend lengthy prep time. Thornwatch is a game that can be pulled off the shelf for 60 minutes of fun, or can be a game that provides 2+ hours of epic adventure. It is a visually arresting game, unlike anything we’ve ever made before. When you play Thornwatch, you are inside a story of your own making.
We present to you: Thornwatch.
Thornwatch bestows upon one player the role of the Judge, who enacts the will of the Judging Wood. Each other player plays a Thornwatch character: the Blade, Briarlock, Greenheart, Guard, Sage, or Warden. The game begins with the Judge selecting a storyboard in which the Thornwatch manifest before a tree adorned with a knot of thorny brambles, surrounded by conflict. If the players overcome this first challenge, the Judge offers choices that lead to new storyboards and further adventure.
The game takes place on one of many maps that display forests, swamps, and villages of the Eyrewood. The pawns lay flat, as if the heroes, enemies, and denizens of the forest are characters in a set of comic book panels.
The core engine is the momentum system. This system tracks turn order and monster health, encourages teamwork, and creates dynamic combat with priorities that change turn-by-turn and round-by-round.
The Thornwatch players each have decks of cards which give them skills and actions, as well as playmats and trait cards to show their unique outlook on the world. They roll custom dice including hero dice gained by manifesting their traits. Each session Thornwatch players have an opportunity to gain knots, which grant their wearer a bonus, regardless of which Thornwatch they choose to manifest in a particular session.
We designed this campaign with two types of momentum goals: enriching the community and enhancing the game. You can see these goals in our momentum track, with rotated cards showing goals we've achieved.
Already achieved: Each game gets 2 PAX Australia 2016 and 2 PAX South stories, an 8-page comic, and a Briarlock deck, pawns, and mat. We've also unlocked a website with a knot-tying guide, a lore website, and a PDF of Mike Krahulik's original Card Warriorz notebook.
- 4000 Backers: Each game gets an Eyrewood survival guide.
- 4500 Backers: Each game gets 2 PAX East 2017 storyboards.
- 5000 Backers: Each game gets enemy pawns and cards for custom adventures.
- 5500 Backers: Each game gets 2 PAX West 2017 storyboards.
- 6000 Backers: Each game gets 12 scar cards.
- 6500 Backers: Each game gets 4 more storyboards.
- 7000 Backers: Each game gets 18 more terrain cards.
- 40 Songs: Tweet songs and poems to #Thornwatch and unlock a digital album of Eyrewood songs.
- 7500 Backers: Each game comes with a free expansion, including 4 more "corrupted" characters, for only an additional $5 shipping.
Magic. And also game components.
At the $78 Summon the Thornwatch level, you'll receive the Thornwatch game. This currently contains:
- 24 double-sided chipboard map tiles
- 15 storyboards (made of 400 GSM heavy cardstock)
- 6 Thornwatch decks of 30 cards each
- 30 momentum cards
- 50 wound cards
- 8 custom dice, including 2 hero dice
- 7 cardstock playmats
- more than 100 chipboard hero, denizen, and enemy pawns
- 24 trait cards
- 30 terrain cards
- 20 enemy and denizen cards
- 24 chipboard ebb tokens
- 16 chipboard objective tokens
- illustrated rulebook
We also have levels that include additional rewards, like this exclusive Thornwatch Pinny Arcade pin. For those not in the know, Pinny Arcade is a wildly popular set of collectible pins that are traded at the PAX conventions. This pin is available only to backers and will never be available again.
This beautiful and ornate wooden box, made by Dapper Devil, was created just for the Thornwatch game. The box can be yours at either of the Walk in the Wood levels.
The Walk in the Woods level also comes with these beautiful, upgraded player pawns by Dapper Devil. You can also buy a complete set of 12 upgraded pawns by adding $30 to any pledge for a game.
The player pawns are made of 1/8" thick clear acrylic, and have a felt back to provide a smooth gliding feel when moved. Viewed from the front, the art has a pleasing depth to it, as if being viewed through glass.
There are also levels for those who would like their box signed by all of the designers, or would be interested in a signed and framed uncut sheet of art cards. Check them all out to the right.
Thornwatch is a collaboration between Lone Shark Games And Penny Arcade. Penny Arcade’s founders Mike “Gabe” Krahulik and Jerry “Tycho” Holkins have delivered mirth to the Internet three times a week for 18 years, and somehow found the time to start a worldwide charity for kids (Child’s Play) and four festivals for game players of all persuasions (PAX). In 2009 they created a single-page comic called “May We Die In The Forest,” introducing The Lookouts, a troop of boys, guided by a Lookout Master, in a dangerous and magical forest. Over the years the forest gained a name, The Eyrewood.
The core of Thornwatch was developed by Krahulik as a way to fix the problems he saw in his home RPG campaign: folks not paying attention during other players’ turns, the fussiness of tracking individual hit points, lengthy prep time, and the difficulty of adjusting when a player can’t show up for a particular game. He tinkered with his solution, a card-based RPG called Card Warriorz (with a Z!), until it became something that actually was worth playing. Jerry had the idea to set the game in the world of one of Penny Arcade’s most popular side-stories, and Thornwatch was born.
It soon became apparent that while they had the basis for a great game, Penny Arcade did not have the resources to bring it all together. That’s about when Lone Shark Games moved in (to Penny Arcade’s office building). Its president, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and Betrayal at House on the Hill developer Mike Selinker, asked—well, kinda demanded—to see the new game Krahulik and Holkins were constantly talking about. After Mike saw the game he immediately said “we have to make this. Together.” He brought Pathfinder Adventure Card Game lead developer Chad Brown and D&D 5th Edition and Lords of Waterdeep co-designer Rodney Thompson onto the design team. And thus began a furious year of development.
Together the quintet of designers powered through iteration after iteration after iteration of the game, assisted with development from Mike Fehlauer and Kiko Villasenor from Penny Arcade, and additional development support from the rest of the Sharks (Aviva Schecterson, Elisa Teague, Gaby Weidling, Keith Richmond, Liz Spain, Paul Peterson, and Tanis O’Connor). The coolest element has been the integration of Penny Arcade’s deep understanding of comic art and story with Lone Shark’s grasp of game mechanics. At every question, someone used their unique skill set to create an answer no one had seen before.
You’ll also see the fine work of our teammates Marie Poole, Shane Steed, Brian Sunter, and Tara Theoharis on this campaign, as well as the videographic wizardry of Van Alan, Dabe Alan, Mike Astle, Nacime Khemis, and Joshua Price. To make the best game for you, we brought an army.
The Eyrewood is about discovery, wonder, mystery, courage, and sacrifice. It is a conscious magical forest that covers (as best anyone can tell) the whole of the world. Its great canopy conceals countless wonders and dangers. It teems with life; fantastical beasts, ancient monsters and creatures beyond description. People also call the Eyrewood home and their villages dot the wood like islands in a great sea. The Eyrewood never quite stays where you leave it; that is, save the Birch tree, which is clever, and remembers. As a "place," this Judging Wood is a dangerous, constantly shifting realm which the word "wild" doesn't begin to describe.
The forest is beset by a malevolent force called the ebb, which corrupts and transforms the creatures of the Eyrewood. There are three groups of protectors against this bane: the Lookouts, a cadre of young cadets that are trained as youth in the ways of monsters; the Daughters, proud druids who carve out enclaves of land that obey their very commands; and the Thornwatch, who … well, they bear a very special purpose indeed.
Keepers of an ancient pact, the Thornwatch are a cadre of willful ghosts, with peerless mystic and martial traditions. They are summoned by tying certain knots of thorny brambles around the trunk of a birch tree; bound by blood.
Villagers are warned about calling the Thornwatch, even as the Eyrewood presents them with challenges beyond their ability. There are tales of malformed, violent, or dangerous Thornwatch, summoned perhaps by a bad knot, or to a sick tree; perhaps that is the source of the warnings.
The villagers have heard the warnings since they were children: "tie ye no knots in the frost-haunted wood." But still, in a moment of fear or anger, they call them. The Thornwatch heed that call.
When summoned, the Thornwatch incarnate in various forms; men and women are among their number, and others besides. They are the Blade, fast and true of aim; the Greenheart, master of the healing arts; the Guard, protector of all, the Sage, clever at forest magic; and the Warden, marshal of combat lore.
Thornwatch is expansive, and it has the potential to change how you play games—and even how you look when you play games.
A cornerstone of this principle is knots. When you are victorious in a Thornwatch adventure, you—not your character, you—gain a specific knot. The type of knot is important:
There are as many knots as there are threats, and there are more threats than the villages can handle. As you protect the forest, you will acquire these knots, and they will change your gameplay. You can see an example of that in the print-and-play, where gaining the Knot of Wings can allow you to start your next game with a hero die already active—if you have the knot tied on your person. You can tie on the drawstrings of your favorite hoodie, or to the straps of your backpack. Each knot will be different, many gained at special events such as the PAX conventions. When you come to play, come in the way of the woods.
We encourage cosplay of our characters, creation of songs and poems, fan-drawn artwork, and all other creative efforts. All of this will be rewarded by our team when we see it—especially during this campaign, when we will select the best creations and post them for the world to see.
When they are summoned, the Thornwatch bring hope where there is only fear. But that is not all that is known of the Thornwatch. They bear a secret so dark, so troubling, that it can only be spoken of in the Book of Riddles. One of these riddles is well-known: It is this Riddle of Thorns.
Throughout the campaign, we will bring you five parts to the Riddle of Thorns. Each of the first four is a puzzle that will get you one line of a four-line poem. You must figure out that line, knowing only the number of words as shown in the blanks at the bottom of each puzzle. Then go to the appropriate webpage and type in that line. If you do so successfully, you will be awarded one of the crests of the Thornwatch, which you may use as your avatar for Facebook, Twitter, or Kickstarter.
The first of these is the Crest of Spring and Salt. When you know the five-word answer, type it in here, using spaces as normal and only lowercase letters, to get your crest.
The next, The Riddle of Summer and Song, can be found in Update #5.
Risks and challenges
We’ve run four successful Kickstarter campaigns, and two of them—the puzzle novel The Maze of Games and its companion audiobook—have come out. Our third, the Apocrypha Adventure Card Game is in its final stages of development and layout, and will be at the printer soon. Our fourth, The Ninth World: A Skillbuilding Game for Numenera, is completed in design and its art is well underway.
In all of those campaigns, we’ve learned the effects of packing our games and books with lots and lots of content that we had not yet designed. These have contributed to delays on three of the four projects. For this one, we decided to go a different route. Our game design is very nearly complete, leaving only development and art—lots of it—for the later stages. These parts are more predictable than design, and so we feel we're on a good track for getting the game out when we expect.
Thornwatch™, Lookouts™, Daughters™, and the Eyrewood™ setting are the property of and copyrighted works of Penny Arcade, Inc. Thornwatch is an officially licensed game, used with permission from Penny Arcade®.
Not yet! But if our suspicions are correct, it shouldn’t be too long between games. (In production time, that means at least a year.)
Most likely, we will make map tiles and story card expansion packs down the road. We will also create online and convention content, many of which are in our momentum track goals.
We’re their downstairs neighbors. Also, we might be responsible for a bunch of games on your shelves. We make games like the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game with Paizo, Betrayal at House on the Hill with Wizards of the Coast, Lords of Vegas with Mayfair, and the winging-its-way-to-backers-right-now Unspeakable Words. We also publish the Kickstarted puzzle novel The Maze of Games and lots of other puzzle projects. We’ve got a murderer’s row of game designers, including Smash Up designer Paul Peterson and Lords of Waterdeep co-designer Rodney Thompson, working on our games.
Pinny Arcade pins are high-quality collectibles. Launched at PAX East 2012, there are now over 200 pins in the collection, featuring characters and icons from video games, tabletop games, webcomics, movies, books, and Penny Arcade. The Thornwatch crest Pinny Arcade pin is a Kickstarter exclusive, and will only be available as part of this campaign.
The Apocrypha Adventure Card Game and The Ninth World: A Skillbuilding Game for Numenera will be the first to come out under the Lone Shark Games label. In the Apocrypha campaign, we nearly tripled the size of the game. As we stated at the end of the campaign and most updates since then, this of course added a lot of development and production time. We are happy to say that this game is within a couple of months of being handed over to the printer. The Ninth World will be heading to the printer very shortly after Apocrypha. With these games close to conclusion, we believe that we can have Thornwatch out to backers in time for PAX West 2017.
After making a splash at PAX West 2016, the science-noir project is in post-production and is moving briskly at Vantage Point Productions. It is scheduled for wide release in early 2017, with a special backers only viewing party at the end of this year.
Sorry, but we do not have any control over any games or Kickstarters that aren’t ours. Whatever the subject, we feel confident that all steps are being taken to honor commitments.
No, we have enough games of our own to put out. But we can’t wait to see your game next to ours on store shelves!
Please email kickstarter at lonesharkgames dot com.
Lone Shark Games CEO Marie Poole and Tara Theoharis of Charisma Consulting. You can find info on her services at gaincharisma.com. They’ll be in the comments, answering your questions each weekday between 10am-6pm Pacific. (Don’t worry, they’ll pop in on the weekends as well!)
The minimum number is two Thornwatch and one Judge. (In theory the Thornwatch could all be played by one player, but generally we recommend one Thornwatch per player.) The maximum is five Thornwatch and one Judge.
It's *real* fast, in a matter of minutes. At PAX West, we gave the game to people cold and saw them demo it without any tutoring. It was awesome.
The only Kickstarter "exclusives" we have on this campaign is the exclusive Pinny Arcade pin. That said, it is very important to us that we make sure our backers, such as yourself, get the recognition you deserve. We do this by giving you added content that we may later release in the form of an expansion.
The Exclusive Pinny Arcade pins are something we added for Pin collectors, however, we really want to make sure the focus of this campaign is on the game, Thornwatch. For this reason, we will not be offering the pins as an add-on.
This is the shipping.
$10 United States
$45 Rest of World
If we reach 7500 backers, all backers of a physical game will be able to add $5 shipping to add a free expansion to their pledge.
Yes, we intend to ship from an EU distribution point.