By Anthony “LibrariaNPC” DeMinico, 25 July 2018
Prior to my visit to CharCon earlier this month, I had the pleasure to sit and have a wonderful conversation with Tracy Barnett, an RPG writer, author, one half of Exploding Rogue Studios, and the mind behind The Other Cast. Having a chance to talk to them about their portfolio and upcoming projects was a blast, and I’m really excited to see what happens with their upcoming project: Iron Edda Accelerated!
You’ll find the full hour-long clip later this week, but for now, here are some highlights and abbreviated parts from our discussion!
So who are you, and what to you do?
My name is Tracy Barnett. I am a writer, game designer, and podcaster.
What can you tell us about your projects, and which one you are most proud of?
School Daze was my first, and I did another Kickstarter for a two-player game called One Shot which is about getting the ultimate vengeance against someone that has wronged you. It was kind of a dark mental state at the time.
After that, I wrote Iron Edda, which is sort of the main focus of what we’re gonna talk about today, but I wrote the original version as a stretch goal for someone else’s Kickstarter back in 2013 (Apotheosis Drive X), and it was Creative Commons license so I got to expand that into a full version called War of Metal and Bone.
Then I wrote a novel in that setting as well. And I did the work for Call of Catthulhu. In fact I did two things for that. I adapted one of the original Catthulhu adventures to the new system and I also wrote an Iron Edda riff for cats called Claws of Metal and Bone.
To date, the thing I think I’m the most proud of is my work with Brian Patterson on Karthun. We joined forces as a sort of creative studio called Exploding Rogue Studios back in 2014.
It is a gorgeous book, and Brian nearly killed himself to get all the work done. There’s just so much richness in the setting with his writing and my writing.
I’ve done some other freelance stuff here and there throughout the years. I wrote a Fate World of Adventure called The Agency. I’ve been doing some freelance work for Paizo for Starfinder and, other than that, I do The Other Cast, which as I said before, is an Actual Play RPG podcast.
So what inspired the new edition of Iron Edda?
I wrote the original version for someone else’s Kickstarter (Apotheosis Drive X) and I pitched the idea that I pitched because i wanted to write something as a stretch goal. I didn’t know mecha or anime mecha stuff, it’s not my wheelhouse, and I playing a lot of Skyrim at the time. I started to think about what it would be like to have those big dwarven constructions in those ruins to come up to the surface of Skyrim and what could fight them.
The easy answer was “dragons,” but I didn’t want a dragon riding game. So I started thinking about giants and how it would be a lot cooler if the giants were already dead and you could just summon the bones from the ground, so that was the genesis of the game.
When I expanded that premise from 8k words to the 20k words in War of Metal and Bone, I did a lot more thinking about how this would work in bigger and more grand ways. I knew it worked when I ran it, it worked when people that knew Fate ran it, but it really required you to own a copy of Fate Core and Fate Accelerated, to extrapolate things for your own table.
I knew it was a good idea because every time I ran it people were interested in it, but I don’t think it had a fair shot at getting out there.
What did you love and hate about the original?
I loved that, with it, I was able to make a full and complete game and setting with a setting I didn’t write. The things I really disliked about it probably stem from my inability, at the time, to sort of make something as fully realized as it should be and really put in the effort to say what something is rather than leave it as a blank space for other people to fill in.
I think in the original Iron Edda, I did that too much. I wasn’t prescriptive enough about how things look and should go. I think between some more detail put in to the setting itself and more specifics in that direction and the tightening up of the holdfast creation questions and the really destinies themselves having a lot of setting material and a lot of very specific things baked them solves that problem.
So what are some of the biggest changes between the two editions?
The Destinies are the biggest change, by far. In the original, I had no actual monsters or threats statted out; I was very hand-wavey. With the DFA framework gives you more robust support for more fleshed out NPCs or making full on bad guys.
I statted out Loki for Iron Edda Accelerated. Not because of in the method of Deities and Demigods you are supposed to fight him, but in Norse myth, the gods walk amongst the people. In my one-shots or Iron Edda I’ve run and in campaigns, Loki tends to come up fairy often so I thought “Why Not?” Loki can do some really ridiculous stuff mechanically, but it’s codified and not just GM fiat of here’s what a god can and cannot do . There are things Loki can do and can’t do because rules. That’s a very big change: there are fully fleshed out and codified threats, as well as the information to make your own threats.
Iron Edda Accelerated is a full stand-alone book. It has everything that you need to play and run the game in the book. You get Iron Edda Accelerated and you get everything in there. It’s a little bit shorter than Dresden Files Accelerated is because there’s a ton of setting information that DFA had to include that Iron Edda doesn’t need to. There is more setting information that’s out there, and it’s possible that down the road that will happen in the form of a different book. For now, to play Iron Edda Accelerated, you need that book.
Probably my favorite thing that’s different is that I like the way how Dresden Files Accelerated handles stress boxes. Having stress boxes work as hit points makes combat a lot faster and more fluid.
Is there new tech involved we can file off the serial numbers for and use for something else?
It’s something that was seen in the previous edition of Iron Edda which I got from another Fate game that I’m not sure was published called Dragon Riders, and that was holdfast creation.
I combine that with aspects that have types for all five aspects, and I think that speeds up character and setting creation in a real and meaningful way. By taking city creation and turning it into a set of questions that people can come up with whatever responses they want to it, you get a lot of setting information from the question itself. Now you have to answer or subvert those as you wish, as the player. So you’ve got that, and then by not just having the high concept and the trouble mapped out, then having a sacred item important to you, then having a group aspect that works kind of like a bond in Dungeon World where you have a direct connection to another of your party members.
It makes that first session setup a lot faster. It means I can take partially pregenerated characters into a convention where I’ve got just the conditions and stunts written down. All the Aspects are blank and all the Approaches are blank, and we can do all that setup for four or five players in an hour to ninety minutes. It compresses Session Zero to a shorter amount of time. With people who know how to play Fate, you can have that whole setup done in an hour or less. I don’t see this in many Fate games, or even a ton of games in general.
What do you think is the biggest selling point for this version of Iron Edda?
I think the biggest selling point is that upfront pitch of what it says on the tin.
“Rangarok happened in the form of fifty foot tall metal dwarven destroyers rising out of the ground and humanity is like ‘Oh god oh gods what do we do!” And Loki says ‘Hey, I have this thing that I totally didn’t steal from the dwarves that will let you take the spirits of your bravest warriors and bond them to bones of dead giants and you can treat this like your personal Pacific Rim.’”
Writer’s note: seeing all of the streamlined changes is also a HUGE selling point.
When can we be expecting this?
The Kickstarter is slated for late July (July 24th; live as of this writing). The text is done, the core game is 100% done and written, and there will be a Kickstarter Backer preview, the entire thing. You’ll get to go jump in right away if you want to.
Is there anything else you want to touch base on regarding other projects?
I’m working on a couple of other games right now. I’m working on a game called Valkyries for Galileo Games that is a Fate-based game about female non-binary gender-queer freedom fighters. Sorta how Iron Edda is my love letter to Skyrim, this game is my love letter to the the Borderlands franchise. I want to see some of what that franchise does replicated in the tabletop space. It will feature cards pretty heavily, the ability to swap gear out quickly, and that gear will be crafted as stunts.
The other game is called Terraform, which is a two-phase game. In the first phase, you are left behind on Earth as all of the elite have headed off to orbital cryo stations to terraform Earth to fix all the things that they broke. You have to survive that process because you were left behind. You play through that and jump ahead about six generations. You survived and carry on what traditions or what you did from the previous world, and everyone in the stations are waking up and coming “home.” You have to then deal with that and what that new world looks like.
Podcasting wise, I’m back into getting The Other Cast up and running.
Where can our listeners find you?
You can find me on Twitter, primarily. My handle is @TheOtherTracy, and the podcast is @TheOtherCast. If you want to support what I’m doing, you can find Exploding Rogue on DriveThruRPG and buy all of the games there. You can support The Other Cast at Patreon.
Any shoutouts you want to make?
The first is a political one. Please call your representatives. There’s a lot of really out there and ridiculous stuff going on right now. If you don’t like what you’re seeing in terms of Supreme Court nominations or detainment of refugees by ICE or any other number of heinous things this administration is doing, go to 5calls.org, look at the issues, call your representatives and leave a voicemail. It’s scary but it’s necessary.
The other is more positive. One of my favorite podcasts is the Neo Scum podcast. It’s on The One Shot Network. It’s a Shadowrun actual play that is equal part dick jokes and toilet humor mixed with characters who really love and support each other even though they are all damaged in a variety of ways.
Any last words?
If you can take time during the day to take a small break and care for yourself, do it. Glass of water, stretch, meditate. We only have so many processor cycles to spare, and if you are trying to run at 100% all the time, you are going to burn out and you are worth more than that.
==So What’s Next For The NPC?==
As briefly mentioned above, the Kickstarter for Iron Edda Accelerated is live, and I am putting my money where my mouth is and backing the game. Once I have a copy of the game in hand, I’ll be sure to read it and give you a quick review about how it looks in the coming weeks. There are plenty of other games arriving on my doorstep that I am working on, and I hope to get a number of reviews out there to all of you in the near future!