by Phillip Lewis
Play diplomats, generals, champions, sorcerers, and spies who build a new society in the shadow of a powerful empire.
About this project
In the spring, we finished the western keep. It was ready for trade by summertime. We received wheat from the Sunriders in exchange for mana drawn from the Obsidian Wood. In the fall, the Empire laid siege. We were prepared. Many died, but the keep held. Now it is winter and we plan. We will take Dusk’s Ayrie. Strengthen our bonds with the Sunriders. Finish the mana forge. We will not rest. We have seen what the Autarch is capable of. And when summer arrives again, we march…
Wrath of the Autarch is a tabletop kingdom building game. The players create a society over the course of the campaign, called the Stronghold. One player controls the schemes of the Autarch, the ruler of an empire which opposes the Stronghold. The other players control important leaders and heroes from the Stronghold. The campaign ends when either the Autarch is stopped or the Stronghold falls.
Troupe Style Play
In Wrath of the Autarch, the Stronghold players create a variety of influential heroes and leaders at the start of the campaign. These characters might be diplomats, councilors, generals, champions, sorcerers, or spies.
The campaign is played over a series of sessions. Each session of play highlights one season of time, focusing in on one important mission the Stronghold players wish to accomplish. The Stronghold players choose which characters to use based on the type of mission they undertake.
Troupe style play provides lots of variety – in one season, the Stronghold players might smooth over a diplomatic dispute with an ally. In another, spies might infiltrate an Imperial military outpost, stealing sensitive plans.
Because WotA is troupe-based and episodic, the campaign doesn’t grind to a halt if a player can’t make it one session.
Wrath of the Autarch is inspired by 4X video games like Civilization and Crusader Kings, where you build an empire and manage its domain. WotA combines the social elements of tabletop roleplaying games with some of the strategy seen in 4X video games, streamlining the minutiae that video games do well.
Each session, one Stronghold player takes the spotlight. They choose the mission, help assemble the team, and build developments.
Developments are improvements for the Stronghold. They might be physical structures: a keep or a mana forge, but they also might be technological or cultural improvements: arts and entertainment, infantry tactics, trade routes.
These developments help all of the heroes and leaders from the Stronghold. But they are costly. They require resources from the surrounding lands – obtained through either exploration or trade. It is impossible to build them all, so tough choices must be made by the players, balancing the long term strategic needs of the Stronghold with the short term crises that can come up.
Is this a roleplaying game?
Wrath of the Autarch has many traits found in roleplaying games. Players control characters which change and grow over time. Scenes are set and a narrative is told. It is played over a number of linked sessions. The game is influenced by the Fate Core roleplaying game, and uses many of the same concepts.
However, it also shares many design trends more commonly found in boardgames. There is a very definite end to the game – when either the Stronghold or the Empire collapse. There is an asymmetric competition between the Autarch player and the Stronghold players. Players take turns, and on their turns they choose from a handful of options. There is no gamemaster. All players contribute to the unfolding narrative.
Wrath of the Autarch uses mini-games for building developments, creating scenes, and engaging in warfare, diplomacy, infiltration, and skirmish. These mini-games have been influenced by trends in modern boardgame design.
What do I need to play?
You need lots of six sided dice (about 25) of a variety of colors. Shadowrun players are set!
You also need either the Deck of Fate (this is the preferred way to play) or four Fate dice. The Deck of Fate is made by Evil Hat Productions, and can be purchased at drivethrurpg, Amazon, or directly from Evil Hat. Fate dice are available from the same outlets.
Notecards are used frequently in the mini-games to represent zones (physical areas). They’re also really nice to have for writing down aspects and keeping track of stress. Finally, tokens or markers of some sort to represent characters are needed for the mini-games.
No other supplements or books are needed to play the campaign.
The book is a 250-page 8.5″ X 11″ hard cover, with a full color cover and black and white interior. It’s possible the final product will have a little more than 250 pages, but that’s what we’re aiming for. It features full cover color artwork done by Doug Kovacs.
CC-BY: The conflict mini-games (diplomacy, infiltration, skirmish, warfare), the trading rules, as well as the challenge phase rules will all be released under an SRD using the CC-BY license.
I’m using kickstarter to raise funds to pay for editing, layout, and art. The amount of money raised will determine how much art can find its way into the book. I’m a big fan of great art – and I’d love to make this book look beautiful!
If the kickstarter succeeds, this fall will be spent editing the document and preparing it for layout. I’m hoping to spend the winter finishing art and finalizing the layout. The printing will happen this spring, and I’m hoping to have a finished product by summer 2016.
Early Draft: By backing, you will also get access to an early draft version of the rules as it moves through the development process.
Deck of Fate
If you order a physical copy of the book, you can add on a Deck of Fate for $15. Just increase your pledge amount by $15 for each Deck of Fate you want. At the end of the kickstarter, I’ll send out a survey for you to indicate what the additional money is for.
Note that this is only for backers who have ordered a physical copy of the book!
If you would like more physical copies of the book, increase your pledge amount by $35 for each additional copy you want. Again, this is only for backers who have already pledged for a physical copy of the book!
After the kickstarter, indicate in the survey what the additional money is for.
At the base level, I’ll be able to pay for editing, layout, and the initial wave of 15 interior pieces of art. All of the PDF rewards will be made available to backers at any tier.
UNLOCKED! $6,000: Schemes of the Autarch! Threats are random events that make life difficult for the Stronghold. A number of them are included in the core book. At this level, I’ll create a PDF called Schemes of the Autarch with an additional threat mission. It will be delivered as a free PDF to all backers! I will also commission two new pieces of interior art!
LOCKED $7,000: More schemes and threats! Schemes of the Autarch will now contain two threats! Two more pieces of interior art will be commissioned!
LOCKED $8,000: Schemes of the Autarch 2: Scheme Harder! At this level, I’ll write 1,000 words for a Wrath of the Autarch strategy guide, and include it in Schemes of the Autarch! As well as two more pieces of art!
LOCKED $9,000: Schemes of the Autarch 3: The Schemening! Two more pieces of art will be added to the book, and Schemes of the Autarch will now contain three threats and an essay!
LOCKED $10,000: Threat Five Pack! At $10,000, Schemes of the Autarch will now contain five threats as well as the strategy essay! At this tier, I will commission a total of ten new pieces of art!
LOCKED $14,000: Threat Ten Pack! At this level, Schemes of the Autarch will contain ten threats as well as the strategy guide! I will commission 16 pieces of interior art!
LOCKED $15,000: Color Back Cover! I will commission color art for the back cover.
LOCKED $30,000: Hacker’s Guide! At this level, I’ll write a guide picking apart the insides of Wrath of the Autarch. I’ll elaborate on how all the pieces fit together, giving guidance on adapting these pieces for different styles of play (traditional gamemaster, no end game, other settings). Consider this the extended designer’s notes for WotA. I’ll deliver this as a free PDF to all backers.
Following are some previews of the different sheets used in the game. It’s possible these will be altered in minor ways prior to finding their way into the finished product.
The Stronghold players create 10 characters at the beginning of the campaign (these characters form the troupe mentioned above). If some of these characters suffer hardships, and become unavailable for some number of seasons, it could impact the strategic direction of the Stronghold.
The Stronghold sheet tracks the key aspects for the Stronghold (Wrath, Rule, Culture, Belief, History) as well as all the resources from regions the Stronghold controls. At the beginning of each season, the spotlight player rolls one six sided die for each type of resource controlled. These are used for trading and building developments.
The faction sheet tracks the current disposition for each of the five minor factions in the game. The higher the disposition, the better the trade rates that the faction will accept when dealing resources (each faction wants a certain type of resource and provides a certain type of resource).
The Session of Play
Following is a high level overview of what one session of play looks like. There are links to more in depth tutorials for more information.
Choose Spotlight Player – A rotating player each session takes on the responsibilities for building developments, choosing a mission, and having their hero take on a more central role.
Build Developments – The spotlight player gathers and trades resources, feeds the populace, and then uses the resource dice to build developments. Developments can help all of the characters from the Stronghold.
Tutorial: Building Developments
Choose Mission – The spotlight player chooses a mission for the heroes to undertake. The mission choices are alliance (improve disposition with other factions for purposes of trade and protection), conquest (gain new regions), assassination, sabotage, or dealing with threats and schemes.
Choose Heroes – Each player chooses one hero to take on the mission. For each season of downtime that a hero has had since the last mission they were on, they may work to advance skills.
Challenges – Players take turns setting up challenge scenes. The difficulty and theme of each challenge scene depends on the particular mission type. If the challenges take too long to complete, the conflict can become much harder for the Stronghold players.
Tutorial: Challenge Phase
Conflict – There are four types of conflicts used by WotA: diplomacy, infiltration, skirmish, and warfare. The particular type of conflict depends on the mission. Conflicts use similar action types, but each have their own flavor and tactical options. The Autarch player takes on an adversarial role during the conflicts, trying to stop the heroes from succeeding at their goal.
Mission Results – The results of the mission, either success or failure, are applied to the Stronghold. This could result in stability gain or loss, regions of land changing hands, improved trade relationships, or threats.
New Threats and Schemes – Threats can occur randomly in regions and factions. There are many types of threats: bandits, spies, uprisings, diplomatic issues. Furthermore, the Autarch player may unleash schemes that pose even more danger for the Stronghold.
Is this a Fate Core game?
Wrath of the Autarch is a nephew of Fate (particularly the science fiction Fate game Diaspora), but it diverges in some key areas. Many parts will look familiar to the Fate player: aspects, stress tracks, skills, and the standard four actions (attack, defend, overcome, and create advantage).
However, because Wrath of the Autarch has no gamemaster, these actions are not as freeform. There is an action economy that limits how they can be used. There are also a few different kinds of aspects (campaign, mission, and minor advantage) that can be created. These different aspects have varying levels of importance throughout the campaign.
Skill advancement is handled differently – while skills start in a pyramid similar to Fate Core, they are not bound to that pyramid over the course of the campaign. Furthermore, skills are advanced through use in difficult situations. Stunts are tied to skill levels. There are extras – relationships, assets, Stronghold developments – that further diverge from Fate Core.
Finally, the attack action has been modified slightly in service to the action economy of WotA. All that said, if you play Fate Core, it’s easy to use the mini-games (diplomacy, skirmish, warfare, and infiltration) as is. The many characters, leaders, factions, missions, and backgrounds in WotA can also be used with minimal conversion. The way narrative challenges are structured would take more work to convert, but it could be used as a different mode of play for times when a gamemaster isn’t desired.
Phil Lewis – Phil Lewis got his start in gaming with Zork on the Commodore 64. Since first being eaten by a grue, he has played many different video games, tabletop role-playing games, and boardgames. Now he owns Ziapelta Games, a method for transforming time and money into tabletop role-playing games. His work has been published in the Fate Codex. By day he is a software engineer, by night he is a husband and father, and by very early morning he is a game designer.
Amanda Valentine – Amanda Valentine is a freelance RPG editor and developer. Her work includes The Dresden Files RPG, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Fate Accelerated Edition, Little Wizards, The Fate Codex, and many others. She also edits fiction. She blogs sporadically at ayvalentine.com about editing, parenting, and gaming. At reads4tweens.com she writes spoilerific book reviews for adults who care about what the kids in their lives are reading. You can find her on Twitter as @ayvalentine and @reads4tweens.
Nathan Paoletta – Nathan D. Paoletta is an independent graphic and layout artist, game designer and self-publisher living in Chicago, IL. In addition to making games and helping others make theirs, he also talks about game design on the Design Games podcast. Find out more at ndpdesign.com and designgamespodcast.com
Doug Kovacs – Doug Kovacs grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, playing with Star Wars figures, then GI-Joe, and later graduating to Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs (which he continues to play to this day). He drew his way through high school, avoiding involvement in most things but art class, where he cultivated a love for all forms of painting. At 16 he thought he invented cubism, but then realized he was wrong. In 1996 he received a BA from Columbia College Chicago; however, over four years of school it was never mentioned that the internet and digital media might completely change the world. Then they did. He has since adjusted, and has worked on varied projects including interior mural painting, collectible trading card illustration, roleplaying game illustration, concept art, T-shirt design, and for many clients, both public and private. Check out http://dougkovacs.com/ for more art and information.
Eric Quigley – Eric Quigley has been a freelance illustrator in the pen and paper RPG industry for the past four years. In 2010 he graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Communication Arts and Illustration program after receiving an education from the likes of Sterling Hundley, Jorge Benitez, Tin Salamunic, and many more. Originally he carved out a small space in the fantasy genre, but has since moved to horror, sci-fi, and even children’s art through a variety of artistic styles. These days he works entirely in the digital medium to allow his workflow to be flexible and to quickly and easily take clients’ notes into consideration on his preliminary works (plus, he just can’t be bothered to sharpen those darn pencils!).
Mr. Quigley has done a couple hundred professional illustrations in his time. His clients have included Monte Cook Games, Evil Hat Productions, DwD Studios, Jason Richards Productions, Alice Entertainment, The Alderac Entertainment Group, Hero Forge Games, Inkwell Ideas, Rite Publishing, and many more.
Alyssa Maynard – Alyssa Maynard is a freelance illustrator based in Boston, MA. When she’s not cramping her art hand, she’s fawning over history. Check out alyssamaynard.com and alyssasketches.tumblr.com for more of her work.
Jonny Gray – Jonny Gray is a freelance illustrator from Derby, UK. Check out Jonny’s art at http://jonnywrgray.tumblr.com/
Risks and challenges
This is my first project, so I’ve taken some steps to help ensure success. I purposely limited the stretch goals to manageable content which won’t delay the book or create added fulfillment difficulties. The stretch goals are all PDF content or art for the core book. The unedited beta rules for the game are complete.
I’ve also assembled a very talented team of professionals to help work on it. Amanda Valentine, Nathan Paoletta, and Doug Kovacs are veterans of the role-playing game publishing industry, and will work to keep the project on track.
Finally, I’m a member of the Indie Games Developers Network, a great resource and support network for independent game developers. There is a large amount of knowledge shared among the network, and I’ve made much use of it in helping to deliver this project.