Insider 02-04-2016

We started discussing who the heroes would be after our discussions about who would be up to nefarious shenanigans in the next game of the series. Part of the conversation was from the perspective of what would be the most interesting new rules, and the other was considering how the new heroes would contrast with existing ones in the setting. I was looking primarily at the four heroes in The Undercity, but I was also considering heroes from other sources, such as the Iron Kingdoms Unleashed Adventure Kit.

At the top of my list for inclusion was a new ranged fighter. Canice was an interesting challenge while working on The Undercity, and certain aspects of her rules set a baseline for how other heroes would work. I wanted the new primary ranged attacker to feel different from Canice, without simply replacing her as the go-to gunslinger of the team. Since we were exploring the wilder side of the setting in this game, it made perfect sense to use archery instead of more advanced firearms. When considering what kind of archer would be the most different from Canice, there was only one real choice. I went with a male Tharn, taking much of his character concept from the Tharn blood pack. I ended up with Skarg the Voracious. In addition to being a ranged attacker, Skarg acts as a scout for the team and brings the ferocity of his Devourer-worshiping race to the game.

Next on my list for the heroes was a main-line melee character. Gardek and Doorstop share this role in The Undercity, each handling things in their own way. This new character would need to shoulder most of the work on her own—“her” because, along with talking about who the characters were, we had a few discussions to determine which ones would be male or female. The Iron Kingdoms is a realm frequently rocked by conflict and its inhabitants can find themselves fighting for their own survival and the survival of their people. The physiological differences between male and female Tharn necessitated that Skarg be a male, but we had no similar restrictions with this character. The boar-like farrow race is one of my favorite aspects of the Iron Kingdoms setting, and within its tribes the slaughterhousers are some of its most capable fighters. So, when choosing who would be up in the villain’s faces to save the Widower’s Wood, I created Agata. She fights with a pair of bladed gauntlets and a set of abilities that let her stand toe-to-toe with any villain.

With a primary ranged fighter and melee fighter in the party, I started thinking about support. In the more industrialized human nations, mechanics and alchemists keep things functioning, but in the more untamed areas of the world mystic powers often fill this role. The druids of the Circle Orboros are connected to most of the activity in the wilds, and what they aren’t involved in, they observe. This gave us an easy place to put a variety of interesting support abilities, and it gave me the chance to incorporate a magic-user into the game. As I mentioned in the developer diary series for The Undercity, I had skipped putting “real” magic into the game in favor of developing core ideas for how combat worked. After finishing work on the first game, I immediately started working to figure out what magic looked like in the game. This work contributed to Vaskis the Knotkeeper, a mysterious figure who joins the Widower’s Wood party for his own reasons, and it also formed the core of how Eilish works in the Black River Irregulars Heroes expansion.

The last hero we’re going to discuss was also the last to be decided on. I wanted a character who could fill any needed role gaps and would be a natural fit for unique abilities. We briefly considered an elf but decided that Vaskis was the only human-looking hero that we wanted on the team. We also discussed a trollkin or an ogrun, but I felt that having another large hero in addition to Skarg wasn’t the way to go. We were in a meeting talking about a possible swamp gobber bandit when Matt Wilson suggested a “Croak Freedom Fighter.” Everyone agreed that was the perfect fit. Who better to take on the gatormen and bog trogs that were threatening the swampy peace of the Widower’s Wood than another amphibious character? Around the same time, the Croak Raider unit was being worked on for HORDES. Once I saw the gourd-throwing sculpt, Olo the croak hunter was locked into my head. He came together quickly as a support character that could handle the secondary melee fighter role, throwing gourds filled with useful concoctions while also fighting up close and personal with his dagger.

Now that we’ve looked over who the heroes are, next time I’ll go into who they are fighting and then we’ll take a look at why the conflict is happening.
Stay tuned!