So Sean Nittner let it leak on Twitter recently that Evil Hat has begun work on the War of Ashes RPG. This will be a fantasy RPG, Fate Accelerated based but with a lot added onto it, including some likely-optional miniatures support. Sophie Lagacé takes the lead on the design and development, tho she won’t be alone. It’s based in the “deadly muppets meet brutal war” setting of Zombiesmith’s War of Ashes: Shieldwall miniatures game — as a design house, Zombiesmith’s aesthetic is best summed up as “grimsical”, which I’ll get into more below. It’s good times.
But why are we doing it? Licenses are hard work, and we’ve tended to avoid them except in some specific circumstances (with the Dresden Files and Atomic Robo). Here are a few of our reasons this time.
The License Came to Us
This is something that’s been common in our limited excursions into licensed RPGs to date: the folks licensing us their settings have been the ones to approach us, rather than the other way around. We like this because it means they already know who we are, how we do business, and what we’re bringing to the party. It also means that we operate on more of a peer relationship with our licensors. It’s an arrangement that emphasizes collaboration, and in our view that produces a stronger, better result. Speaking of which…
Zombiesmith is Awesome
The licensor in this case is Zombiesmith. They’re a group of gamers and Pixar-trained artists who live in Endgame Oakland‘s notional back yard. Regulars at the store. Thanks to their quirky artistic perspective, they make minis like you don’t usually see in that segment of the gaming hobby. Their miniatures games focus on simple rules with tough choices. (Starting to see the resonances there? Sounds a bit Fate-y to me.) And they’re just plain good people. The sort we’d be happy to work with.
“Grimsical” is the term Zombiesmith uses to describe the look and feel of the stuff they do. They take dark, grim, dire topics and themes, and then populate them with whimsical fantasy creatures and events. The result is simply eye-popping. You end up with a lot of classic geek interest areas getting attention, but that’s just the start. The unconventional elements combine with that to create an unusual kind of appeal. Speaking of which…
So, there’s this thing that Zombiesmith noticed when they brought their miniatures game to conventions. With the minis crowd they were used to seeing what you might stereotypically expect: gamers who were primarily dudes. But with their collection of tiny, vicious, muppet-like miniatures waging war on their tabletops, Zombiesmith saw a different demographic show up to check out the game: teenage girls. Older women, too.
At Evil Hat we’re particularly interested in expanding the hobby, and at least anecdotally, what Zombiesmith is achieving with their War of Ashes setting may well be doing exactly that. Pair that setting up with the newcomer-friendly Fate Accelerated build of Fate Core, and we’ll be cooking with gas. Because at the end of the day, a game that diminishes the male-centric bias in our hobby can only make for a stronger, healthier hobby in the long run.
All Ashes is Local
As I mentioned before, the Zombiesmith guys are local to Endgame Oakland, probably my favorite game store in the USA (diminished only by it being, y’know, 3000 miles away from where I live). As we were planning out this new project for Evil Hat, Chris Hanrahan and I asked each other a simple question: what if we tried to make the entire team out of the folks local to Endgame? And thus was born what I’ve been referring to as the “Evil Hat West” crew: the entire War of Ashes RPG team lives in the bay area and can gather together at Endgame throughout the development of the game. To date, Evil Hat has done a lot of its work remotely; this may well be the first time since Rob Donoghue and I created Fate that Evil Hat has managed to field a development team located entirely in the same place (maybe even same time zone, tho there might be a few exceptions there). As Evil Hat works to expand its scope as a company, and the variety of projects it can work on simultaneously, creating this sort of a development team is a pretty big milestone, and we’re excited that the War of Ashes RPG is giving us the opportunity to do it.
So that’s a quick look at our newest project. We’re aiming to have it out the middle of next year (Summer-ish 2014), and you’ll hear more about it as development continues. Let me know if you have any questions!