Kratas: The City of Thieves Interview

After several weeks of "development", I am proud to present you all an interview that was held between me, Delano Lopez (main author of the upcoming Kratas sourcebook), Steven J. Black, Eike-Christian Bertram and Carsten Damm from RedBrick Limited.

Kratas: The City of Thieves, your first sourcebook about a big city in Barsaive, I hope there will come other descriptions of cities of course, but why did you choose Kratas?

Delano Lopez: I have always thought Kratas was one of the most interesting locales in Barsaive because it embodies many of the darker aspects of the game world that distinguished Earthdawn from any generic fantasy setting—the city itself is a giant breached kaer, it is the center of espionage and mercenaries in the province, it is regularly visited by scorchers, it is both rowdy and mysterious. Heck, it even has a blood-elf in residence and an especially nasty one at that. Kratas is a great example of the unique aspects of Earthdawn—rebuilding civilization among the post-apocalyptic, anarchy, in the ruins of the fortress city. It also has some iconic characters, like Garlthik and Vistrosh to work with. Adventures need danger, and Kratas is one of the most dangerous places in Barsaive. Playing the scoundrels is often more fun than the knight in shining armor, and writing this was like playing the bad guy, or at least moreover, much of the classic works of fantasy had thieves of one sort or another as their protagonists—Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Conan, the Stainless Steel Rat (okay, Sci-fi), etc.—even Bilbo was hired as a "burglar". Kratas is a whole city of such characters, at each other’s throats and backs.

Who or how many people were involved to make the book?

Steven J. Black: As mentioned above, the primary writer was Delano Lopez. Editors include our usual team: Eike-Christian Bertram, Carsten Damm, Josh Harrison, James D. Flowers, Lars Heitmann, Jason U. Wallace, Donovan Winch, Hank Woon and myself. Artists include Kathy Schad, David Wright, and Damien Coltice; who did a good number of new drawings (including the cover) in addition to the licensed artwork we use. Kathy and Carsten are also in charge of layout. So I count thirteen people. 13, a frightening number!

I know that a special edition of the german Foliant des Abenteurers, “In den Schatten Kratas” exists—was the book influenced by this project?

Delano Lopez: I do not read German, unfortunately, so I was not influenced by it at all. Two smaller sections were translated into English and integrated into my manuscript (see Eike’s answer, below), and was a great addition.
For inspiration, I first poured through all of the published FASA first edition material for any mentions of Kratas, Garlthik, etc, both for inspiration and to make sure I did not contradict any of the established gameworld. I was also influenced by classic fantasy works mentioned above, and, like any writer, by some real world experiences. The Dinganni plains were modeled somewhat on the "Llano Estacado" or "Staked Plains" of my childhood home in west Texas. Much of the feel of city was inspired by my time living in the cities of Guatemala City and Managua, where crime is much more rampant than the US, and the citizens are rebuilding after devastating civil wars, much like the citizens of Barsaive rebuilding after the Scourge, but not as extreme, of course. My conception of the gangs was in part based on anthropology field work I did years ago in the US with street gangs (long story). I also relied on plenty of historical readings about pre-industrial cities, etc, as well. Then I added the Earthdawn elements of magic and fantasy, of course.
Eike-Christian Bertram: Kratas: the City of Thieves includes two short sections on Kratan locations that Kathy developed for the very first draft of the german Kratas fanwork many years back and that she wanted to see in Kratas: The City of Thieves. Other than that, I don't think so. To not be influenced, I chose to not get involved into the development of the german Kratas book (despite being involved in the other Foliant des Abenteurers fanzine issues, same as Carsten and Lars), and haven't even read the book just to be on the safe side. I read the first drafts some years ago, though.

You already posted some teasers about Kratas to give us a foretaste of the content. Can you give us an overview about the content of Kratas: The City of Thieves?

Steven J. Black: As revealed in my 7 Sands blog, the total number of chapters was 22 at my last count, with 18 chapters focusing on flavor text and 4 specifically focused on game information. The flavor text goes into great detail about the many sections of the town both above and underground, the way the many gangs interact with each other and especially the Force of the Eye, the way Kratas and the Force of the Eye interacts with merchants and nobles from other city-states in Barsaive, as well as the general area around Kratas including Daiche. The game information includes literally a hundred plus gamemaster characters in the book, from Garlthik One-Eye to the small time gang leaders of Kratas. And for those who like to have a quick glance of the major gamemaster characters in Kratas, there is going to be a quick Character Index similar to what was presented in Nations of Barsaive, Volume One. There is a large chapter about the Secret Societies of Barsaive and how they operate in and around Kratas. There are also sections on New Creatures, New Magical Treasures, New Goods and Services, and even new Game Information on new Discipline specializations and new talent knacks.
Eike-Christian Bertram: Adding a couple of details: The bulk of the book is the description of Kratas. Next to the Gangs of Kratas chapter that really covers a lot more than the Force of the Eye or Brocher's Brood, there are chapters for each of Kratas' neighborhoods, where Delano managed to give each section of the city its very own flair and possibilities for adventuring. Kratas has no reason to hide behind other Earthdawn sourcebooks detailing cities or areas (the ones we revise in our Nations of Barsaive series).

What about the history and the arisal of Kratas, is it even known how Kratas evolved? Will this question be solved clearly in the book?

Delano Lopez: There is an extensive section on the history and development of Kratas, showing how certain neighborhoods evolved, and how the city changed rulers over the centuries. The book traces the history of the city from pre-history through all the major events of Barsaive's past. There are even some indications of what happened to Kratas during the Scourge. It is fairly clear what happened to Kratas, but like with much of the world of Earthdawn, what is accepted as the true history but most of its inhabitants and what actually happened, may diverge. If I seem coy in my response, it is because some additional information about the city's past may be discovered by playing one of the Kratas Shards...

Do you offer a lot of adventure hooks throughout the book like FASA did in the Throal sourcebook or how do you implement adventure ideas? Because you didn’t mention a stand-alone adventure section.

Eike-Christian Bertram: There will be hooks, but there will also be a Adventures in Kratas chapter, containing a number of adventure frameworks as well as ideas for adventures and campaigns set in Kratas. With each book that covers a location, no matter if we revise an old one or develop a new one such as Kratas: The City of Thieves, we try to give you a few of these frameworks as well as quick overviews over the most important types of campaigns, and sometimes overviews over “themes” important to the location. Although it is rather obvious what Kratas’ themes are, so they are not necessary in this case—Delano did an excellent job showing the gritty face of Kratas in the city’s description.

Which chapter are you especially proud of?

Delano Lopez: I am proud of the whole thing of course, and grateful to the hard work that all of the rest of the team put in to improve it. If I had to chose some favorites, the Gangs of Kratas, the Secret Societies, the Stables and the Safe Hearths and, of course, the (upcoming) Shards set in Kratas.
Steven J. Black: For me, the Gangs of Kratas chapter was surely the longest to complete and the most satisfying.
Eike-Christian Bertram: I got to go with the Game Information chapters, where I invested most of my time. As Delano handed in his draft a while back, even before the Compendiums went to print, Kratas wasn't up to date on the rules. As the rules sections had to be revised anyway, we decided to expand them quite a bit. As you would expect, there are a lot of goodies for Thief adepts to be found, but we thought it would be nice to cover what members of other Disciplines can do in Kratas or while working in the honorable trade of thievery. You'll find at least one knack for each of the Disciplines in Kratas: The City of Thieves, for example. And they aren't about the nicer aspects of the Disciplines (I received a talking to from my peers on a daily basis during development because some of them were just too nasty. Or so they said. :)). You'll also find a number of Discipline specializations befitting Kratas in the book, and we developed a new way to present them to players and gamemasters, hopefully increasing their usability by adding more options, descriptions, and additional skill choices.

Kratas Shards, sounds nice. Are you already working on them? May we get a small insight, what the scenarios will be about?

Delano Lopez: The three Shards are already written, and are going through the editing process now. I don't want to spoil any of the plot, so rather than giving specifics of the objectives, I'll describe the mood of each one. I tried for each one to emphasize a different aspect of Kratas' character. The first is a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure, where, apropos of Kratas, the object is to pull off a theft with style. The second is about skullduggery and backstabbing, involving the politics of the gangs of Kratas—I was going for a film noir kind of feel. The last one deals with the darker and secretive elements at work in Kratas, so let's just say it is very, very dark.

Could you describe that new way to introduce the new Discipline specializations, what did you change to the old system introducing them?

Eike-Christian Bertram: Previous editions and products often just dumped a short paragraph with changed talents on you, often never really putting things into context. While the game mechanics remain the same in Kratas: The City of Thieves—a Specialist Discipline exchanges some talents and abilities for others—we have approached them from a different angle. As you can see with the Confidence Trickster Specialist that was the second teaser, we do not jump at changing talents right away. These new Specialists simply become “character concepts,” and we tell you what their typical goals are, what skills they use, and what Disciplines and races fill that role best. Only then do you get a Specialist for the Discipline that is best suited to the task (and sometimes multiple Specialists, for more than one Discipline).
We hope that by showing the most likely possibilities and choices for any one “character concept,” players and gamemasters will find it easier to build their characters, and most importantly do not overlook the most important options. So while the Confidence Trickster is a Specialist Thief, you can use the guidelines to make non-adept tricksters, to turn any Discipline into a trickster by learning skills, or use them during character creation to develop a trickster philosophy that is in-line with a Discipline’s typical philosophy.

How many pages will the sourcebooks have and is a price foreseeable?

Carsten Damm: The book will be about 250 pages, and a little cheaper than Nations of Barsaive, Volume One or the Name-giver’s Compendium. The Kratas Character Codex (see below) contains most of the stats; there was no way to cram all these into the book as well.

Carsten, you mentioned the Kratas Character Codex. I think it’s a great idea to offer such a thing. What can you tell us about this Codex? Will it come out together with the book or earlier?

Carsten Damm: The third teaser is a massive PDF containing about a hundred fully statted gamemaster characters. The characters in the Kratas Character Codex are also described in the sourcebook, but the PDF will feature their game statistics and have some additional portraits.

Did you produce a map for Kratas, like the old sourcebook Throal: The Dwarf Kingdom also offered one?

Delano Lopez: When I first wrote the proposal and outline and sent them to FASA years ago, I had in mind a boxed set like the Parlainth and Skypoint & Vivane ones, with a large, folded map. Obviously, Redbrick's publishing model doesn't allow that, so Kratas only has a double-page map of the city as a whole, showing the location of all the neighborhoods.

Will you make this map free (digitally) available?

Carsten Damm: It’s very likely. I’m aware we had promised to make our new Throal map available after Nations of Barsaive, Volume One was released, but never got around to do so (sorry for that). We’ll probably release them both at the same time.

Last, like always, what is the actual state of the book and I don't get tired of asking: When can we hold it in our hands? This year hopefully!

Carsten Damm: Definitely this year. We’re trying to get this beast finished at the moment, about a year later than we had originally thought. As you know, we don’t rush things because of a self-impended deadline, we rather want to do it right (true to our motto “it’s done when it’s done”). To give you some figure: it took Delano a little over two years to put the book and the associated Shards together, it took us another year to wrestle the book into shape and into our publishing schedule, and it took the team a year to get the development down. The past months were spent on artwork and a special and somewhat darker layout. At the moment, Kathy is working on the last few illustrations before it moves through our internal sanity checking process and out for a set of proofs. Thumbs pressed, we might be able to present it on the Spiel’08 in October.

Thank you all for the interview!

Atlas of Barsaive

"Telarus" has made an Atlas of Barsaive and finally posted it at the Red Brick Earthdawn Forum. To spread it I contacted him and got his permission to do so. So here's this great fanwork from Telarus:


Some places are missing on this map, but as soon as Telarus publishes an update of his map, I'll let you all know.

Fan Projects

I realized that my first try to make a list of free available fanprojects was "incomplete". So I'll post a collection of german (source ardanyan.de) and english fanprojects and free available Ebooks, that represents the "must have works". The problem was to find all the books on the net, because the page of EDPT, where the "Book of Tomorrow" and the "Weapon Project" was provided, is offline since several weeks. Until EDPT will be online again, I'll provide those files via 4Shared. So enjoy my small collection of german and english fanworks.

English


Book of Tomorrow 1.............Book of Tomorrow 2 .............Book of Tomorrow 3

Book of Tomorrow 4...........Book of Tomorrow 5...............Book of Tomorrow 6




Codex Arcanus.....................Herbs and Plants of Barsaive...........Bjados.........................Earthdawn Legends



Book of Arrows..................................Book of Swords.......................Book of Dual Weapons



Wooodland Whispers.......................Dragons

German



FDA Vol.1...............................FDA Vol.2............................FDA Vol.3......................FDA Kratas



Verlorene Sch├Ątze .........Kreaturen der Wildnis............ Woodland Whispers


Ardanyan's Rache....................Zwielicht.....................Das Vergessene Tal


This is not a complete list of fanworks, of course. But the "must have" works are posted. If you know about other very useful fanworks that fit into this collection, be it english, german, polish, french or whatever, leave a comment and link it.

One I forgot: Earthdawn Down Time System

Throalic coins

A long time ago I discovered a picture of throalic gold, silver and copper coins. I tried to find out who painted those nice coins, but unfortunately I didn't find the webpage anymore, where I downloaded this picture. So if the producer of this picture is out there, please leave a comment or contact me.


The front of the gold coin shows Braza and the back shows a slave with a halo and bursted chains. These coins are often called "Braza" or "Doublesider". I had a look at the EDPC and one-fifth of an ounce is listed there as weight for the gold coin (80 coins to the pound). For european players: one gold piece weights 6.25 g or choose 6 gramm for better calculation.
The silver coin shows on front a portrait of Tav Korelsed and the Council Compact is on its backside, its nicknames are "Tavs" or "Books". The weight of one piece of silver is one quater of an ounce (64 coins to the pound). Again the conversion into the metric system = 7.8 g => 8g.
The copper coin shows on both sides hammer and pickax, they are also called "Hammer" or "Builder". It weights a third of an ounce each. (48 coins to the pound) 10 g in metric system.

I think this is a good tool to show your players, what kind of coins they deal with, when they shake their purse.

If you really want to improve the way your players are dealing with money then have a look at THIS webpage.


Dice Games Pt.2

Shock, an Orc dice game.

„The second and maybe the last report of Eran Rockfinch has reached the library“
Merrox, Master of the Hall of Records

„SHOOOOOK OUT !!!!!!“
Kret’chog Steelthought Orc Cavalryman, winning the game.


I am proud to present the library another dice game, mostly played by Orcs.

I was travelling with a caravan to Travar. The merchant that traded with herbs, had payed three Orc soldiers to protect his goods. Every evening at the camp fire, those three soldiers started to play dices until all members of the caravan went to sleep and they started their guard.

One evening I ate near them to watch what kind of dice game they played. Suddenly one of them (Koltrag Stonetooth) recognized me, jumped up immediately and started to shout at me. I am able to understand their language and replied him that I am surely not the source for Kret’chogs luck. But Koltrag didn’t believe me, so I had to eat alone this evening.

The next evening I started to tell the children one of the most famous Orc stories. Kret’chog Steelthought suddenly screamed that I should speak up, so that he also could listen to my story while playing their game. This evening I told a lot orcish stories and sang one song for the children when they had to go to sleep. I also went to sleep and heard that the soldiers began their surveillance.

The following evenings I was able to convince Koltrag that I can’t bring luck to Kret’chog and so they allowed me to sing a few songs beside them, watching them play.

Finally I learned the rules of the game called „Shock“ and now let me tell you how it is played by most Orcs:

The game is divided in two rounds. In the prelude 13 coins or stones or whatever is used will be spread at the losing players from a pot. In the final round all the stones or coins have to be played at one person, the loser.

Three dices are used and the player to start has three attempts to roll the dices. All the other players after him are allowed to throw the dices as often as the beginner did. The starter is free to choose how often he rolls the dices and even which dices he rolls again.

At the end of the round the player with the worst result receives a number of coins from the pot as given by the result table (see below). The one who lost the round will start the next round.

When all the coins are given out after several rounds, the final starts. The difference between the prelude and the final is the spread of the coins. The player with the best result is allowed to give the player with the worst result coins. How many see below. If you run out of coins you’re out of the final and can’t loose any more. The loser will be the person that received all the coins at the end. There are no winners, only a loser.

I had to watch two evenings until all the results appeared and their value had been mentioned.

There exist four kinds of results:

Shocks: two aces and another number
Thundras: three times the same number
Pathes: three numbers in a row: 3,4,5 and so on
Everything else that is no Shock, Thundra nor Path is seen as the number it represents. For example you throw 6,1,3 it counted as a 631. The highest number represents hundred, second highest tenner and third ones.

The number of coins that every result represents:

Shocks: for shocks the third number decides how many coins you’ll receive or you’ll get rid of.
Shock and two: 1, 1, 2 -> two coins
Shock and three: 1, 1, 3 -> three coins
Shock and four: 1, 1, 4 -> four coins
Shock and five: 1, 1 5 -> five coins
Shock and six: 1, 1, 6 -> six coins

All Thundras represent three coins

All Pathes represent two coins

If a player wins with something else than the results mentioned one coin is moved.

Shock out

If you throw a 1, 1, 1 all your coins will be removed and you can’t loose anymore. If you throw the Shock out at the prelude all the remaining coins will be given to the loser of the actual round.

Special rules

Kretchog told me that there exist special rules that are used by some orcs, that play this game, they (Kretchog, Koltrag and Muron) also use them. If you throw two 6, you’re allowed to turn one of them into a 1, but you’ll have to roll the other 6 again. If you throw three 6, you can turn two of them into 1 but the third must be rolled again. That means if you throw three 6ers with your third try you’re not allowed to turn them into one because you can’t roll the third any more.

I’ll give you an example of a round we played:

Kretchog, Koltrag and me played, Muron was watching the camp.
Kretchog starts and rolls 6,5,2. He says its enough and passes the dices to me. I throw 3,4,5 and laugh, that means I’ll get rid of my last two coins with the Thundra. Koltrag has also one try to throw over my Thundra. He rolls and shouts Shoock 4, damn it. I see 1, 1, 4 with one throw! Koltrag gives Kretchog four coins and has one left. I got two left and Kretchog has 10 coins.

Next round Kretchog starts again he rolls three times and at the end he has a Shock 3. Koltrag who lost this round receives 3 coins.

Koltrag starts and throws first 6,5,2. He puts the 2 and the 5 back. Rolls again and has a 6 and a 1. For his third throw he takes one 6 back and rolls with full risk. The dice shows a 1 and Koltrag screams SHOOOCK 6. I see 1, 1, 6. Damn that Orc.

I start, at the end of my third throw I see Shock 6, not enough. Kretchog told me one evening, that „WIT(h) is SHIT“.

Kretchog's turn, he throws at his first throw 6, 6 , 3. He turns one of the two 6 into 1 and rolls the six and the three again. 1, 4.... Shock 4 not enough, but one throw left. He rolls long and serious, mumbles into his beard and rolls the dice.......................
SHOOOOOOOCK OUT (1, 1, 1)...............................................then Murons head landed in the camp fire.......................

Dice Games Pt.1

I translated the following report about a dice game from German into English. It was originally posted on the website of Zeitalter der Legenden. All the German readers can find the original German version over HERE.

Doubling

„From a report of Eran Rockfinch travelling Troubadour and Adventurer“
Merrox, Master of the Hall of Records

Everywhere in Barsaive you’ll always find pubs and taverns where dubious players are gambling for silver and even more. So let me tell you of a game named „Doubling“. It was back then in Jerris, when I was sitting beside the fire and was watching two adventurers, playing dices at a small table. One of them was an ordinary human, which clothes had seen better days. The other player was a dwarf, kinda tall for its race.

Each of them threw one dice, the human starting first. He was the „Caller“, how I found out later, whereas his bearded companion had the role of the „Doubler“.

The „Caller“ throws first and then the „Doubler“ has to throw the same number like the „Caller“. He has as many attempts like the number of the „Caller“ showed.
Example: The dwarf has thrown a 3, so the human has three attempts to throw a 3 too.

Is the „Doubling“ successful, the „Doubler“ receives the stake and the roles are switched. If the „Doubler“ is not successful, the pool goes to the „Caller“ who also starts again.

That was the way those two were playing a while, their bets varied each round and the dwarf had to take out silver pieces several times. The stack of the human was growing and growing.

They recognized my interest and the silent human offered me a seat to join them. He told me that „Doubling“ can also be played in groups. I wanted to decline the offer as I thought of being short of cash, but it could also become more than less. So I joined them.

The rules for multiple players are extended. If two or more players are able to „Double“, then the player with the fewest attempts wins. Is this amount also the same, the stack stays in the pot and a new round starts.

After a few hours of playing I can dissuade everybody from playing „Doubling“. I lost my whole travel silver, the dices didn’t want to role my way. Perhaps it was the table that always shook when the silent human was „Calling“ and throwing a 1. Unfortunately I realized that the next day........

„Little dice bring good luck and get fast my silver back!“
Wibbles Windling Troubadour

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