Swords of the Eastsea

Swords of the Eastsea is, to paraphrase Barbara Tuchman, the Early Modern Age of Europe seen through a distant mirror, in the shape of an RPG. Imagine that there’s a longer history than there is: stories of great heroics, an enemy foul beyond belief, swarms of dragons that once blotted out the sky, the dead walking the earth, a gilded empire founded by men from beyond the seas. And then it was gone, as the age of myth passed and the great deeds were all done and the Old Enemy was defeated. The great faiths of our world arose and all were gone with the Black Death that was far more severe than the Black Death was in our world.

Some of that old age still lingers out in the borderlands: Dwarven holds where dwarves still keep to their own ways, Elven refuges in the deep green woods. Orcs stalk the frontiers, dragons still slumber in the Scandian mountains. There’s wizards who can fly and wizards who can change into animals.

Meanwhile, great galleons explore the oceans of the world, vast armies outfitted with pike and musket march onto the battlefields of Germany as the Swedish Empire makes its bid for dominating the Eastsea. Merchant-adventurers travel everywhere, artists are creating books and sculpture and paintings. The old, medieval age is dead and the Old Empire of the Sacred Kings has been in ruins for two thousand years. It’s the Great Age.

For players, this means that they’ll take the role of adventurers, explorers, vagabonds, sellswords and wizards in this age, to make their mark in the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

[SotE] So why no New World mentioned so far

No one actually asked this yet, but eventually, it’s a question that someone will ask. God forbid, a lot of people asked that about 7th Sea before the 2nd edition of 7th Sea fixed that situation. At this point in development, my plans for a not-American continent are something that fit on a single post-it note, but there are two reasons why I won’t tackle this subject before. Or three.

First is the practical aspect of it. There’s only so much setting material that can be covered within the span of one corebook, and the book is turning out to be rather hefty as it is. You got all of Scandinavia, Northwest Russia, the Baltic region, Poland and Germany to play around in, in real-world terms. The corebook also focused a lot on the inherit conflict that is the Thirty Years War of this fantasy not-Europe.

I could not do it justice either. A whole lot of research went into this initial manuscript, and this was research I knew the basics of. Pre-Columbian America isn’t my field of expertise at all. Ask me about the Thirty Years War or something about pop psychology, I can answer you but Pre-Columbian America, I don’t even know where to start. I need to hit the books before writing and also figure out which books to hit.

Third aspect is in my opinion the most important one. For me, it has been easy to consult local minorities, such as the Saami and the Roma, when it comes to presenting them in a faux-historical context. I am a guy who lives in Finland and I know an exact total of one single person who has any Native American roots at all. So I will need to find Native American writers and consultants to do any justice to them. Too often people (looking at you, Monte Cook Games) forget that minorities are not just window-dressing but real people with a history, a history that shouldn’t be commercialized lightly and not commercialized by mainstream white men either.

That’s all about that.

Well, apart from the fact that I feel that simply writing fake colonial history would be skeevy as all hell.



Posted in Game news, Swords of the Eastsea | Leave a comment

Frances, the Sea Lawyer and the Wrestler of Dragons

Frances was born in England but she did not stay there long. At a young age she signed on as a sailor and spent fifteen years on the high seas, until the English Civil War broke out. She was drafted to the Duke of York’s Royalist navy and upon the defeat of the Royalists, she deserted the Duke’s warship at the first port she could. Which happened to be the port of Trondheim.

She didn’t have much trouble adjusting, already knowing a bit of Norwegian on account of earlier calls to port in Hålogaland and the Southern Freedoms of Norway. For a while, she worked on fishing boats until she got tired of the stink and the cold, and realized she had other talents she could apply while living in Trondheim.

She had always been a great wrestler, on account of wrestling being a typical hobby for sailors to practice either on board or while on shore leave. So, she became a lawyer, because Norse Sea Law demands that the defendant and the accuser settle their differences by wrestling in the sea, and if either party cannot due to advanced age or disabilities wrestle, they are allowed to use a substitute. And that is where Frances came in.

Fifteen successful trials (and seven dead adversaries) later, she had made quite a reputation for herself which made finding future cases a lot harder, since most people preferred to settle out of court whenever she was representing a client. So, she decided to leave Trondheim behind and travelled to the far northern reaches of Hålogaland. On the road she met an old traveller who told her tales of the ancient heroes who fought dragons hand to hand. This was absolutely something she had to try, so she went up into the Scandian mountains to find a dragon. She did find one, but it was barely a kitten, about the size of her hand.

These days, most dragons don’t grow to full size. Her dragon, Emmy, only became about as big as a pony. Frances trained Emmy to be a wrestling dragon, only for show though because Frances grew fond of Emmy when raising her.

Now, Frances and Emmy travel all over the region to put on shows where they wrestle and Emmy breathes fire for the spectacle of it. She has even performed for the court of the Prince of Novgorod and the annual midsummer feast of the Lords of War. Turns out that if you know how to wrestle with a dragon, you never have to put in a honest day’s work ever again.



Posted in Setting and fluff, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

[SotE] Successor States of the Old Empire

The Old Empire fell over a thousand years ago, but it still lives on in two nations of Irminsul, a western and and eastern one.

The Domain of Noviodunum

In the northern parts of Gaul lies the Domain of Noviodunum, which alone managed to defend its borders against Frankish invaders even after Rome and Ravenna had fallen. The Great Dux Syargius managed to defeat the Frankish king Clovis in battle and with the aid of troops from the Visigothic kingdom of Gascogne, fought the Franks to a standstill. Of course, the Franks ended up dominating most of Gaul but Noviodunum managed to keep itself intact and played the diplomatic game well enough to ensure that it still exists alongside the rest of the Frankish nations: Burgundy, English Gascony and Aquitaine.

The Domain is led by a hereditary Dux, or Duke. According to traditions, the Dux serves the Emperor, but so far, there has not been any Emperor convincing enough for the Dux to bend their knee.

Frankish culture and language did over time gain acceptance in the Domain, though some traditions and titles from the Old Empire have been kept alive in the Domain. For instance, the chancellor of the Domain is known as the Consul Provisoriam, or Provisional Consul. Likewise, the council of state is known as the Senatus Provisoriam. During extremely formal occasions, public officials and lords wear togas, though day-to-day most wear standard Continental clothing: breeches and waistcoats are the order of the day.

The Domain is administered to by various officials who have hereditary positions. Though the original Domain did not actually have any, Prefects have been appointed to oversee the various provinces of the Domain. The Domain still has serfdom.

About seven hundred years or so back, Norsemen invaded the Domain, but were bought off by Dux Guy III, who agreed to give them land along the Northwestern coast of the English Channel. Nowadays, this province is known as Normandie. Over time, the Norsemen integrated rather well, though the fact that a Normand lord conquered England brought friction between the Dux and the Normans.

The Komnenian Empire

When the Old Empire fell in the west, in the East it thrived though over the centuries it kept losing territory to foreign invasions. The greatest Emperors came from the Komnenian line, especially Emperor Alexios I who managed to fight the Ottomans to a standstill and recover lost lands in Anatolia, temporarily halting the decay of the Empire. Two hundred years later, the Empire was tottering at the brink of collapse, when the Great Mortality wiped out more than two thirds of the entire population, the Ottoman invaders threatened the Imperial City of Constantinople itself and the Empire was locked in civil war between various heirs to the throne.

At that moment, the long-dead daughter of Alexios I, Anna Komnene, awoke in her tomb, marched to the Imperial Palace and declared herself Empress. She managed to end the civil wars, rebuild the imperial administration and negotiate a lasting peace with the Ottomans.

It also turned out that she, despite looking every bit like a living breathing person, was immortal and had powers that ordinary humans don’t have. A palace coup a hundred years later by jealous Palailogos usurpers managed to imprison her and blind her, but she walked through the walls of her jail cell, rallied loyalists to her banners and seized power again. She replaced her gouged-out eyes with emeralds.

The Ottoman Republic was in peace given all of Anatolia, except for the coastal city of Smyrna. Empress Anna I has declared that her Empire is now indivisible, but she will never attempt to seize territory from any of her neighbors through force. The entirety of the Balkans, including Greece, Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria belongs either to the Empire or petty lords loyal to the Empire, such as the Germanic kings of Siebenbürgen in Transylvania. The Crimean peninsula has been restored to the Empire through a treaty with Genoa. The most important islands in the Mediterranean are under imperial rule, such as Crete, Rhodes, Cyprus and Sicily. The ancient Imperial city of Rome was seized by Imperial regiments when the last High Priest of the God Forgotten died in the late stages of the Great Mortality and no successor was chosen.

While the Komnenian Empire is a successful and a stable nation, it often finds itself at odds with the Hohenthal Emperors who’d like to extend their power southward. It is also distinctly more agrarian and less powerful than many other nations but most nations do not have an immortal god-empress as their head of state. However, the Empire has the distinct advantage of a magical spy service, the Emerald Eyes, who remove one or both of their eyes to see far beyond human capacity.

As for Anna Komnene herself: seven hundred years later, she still does not know why she came back from the dead. She wants to serve her people and her Empire, remembering that it was her first thought when she rose from her tomb. A lonely figure who stalks the empty halls of her father’s palace at night, she would like to know what is the purpose of it all.


Posted in Setting and fluff | Leave a comment

[SotE] So what do I do in this game anyway

It’s a very relevant question. In my opinion, players and gamemasters need something solid to look at and not just an abstract thing, so we’ll include adventures to set the tone. Here’s a synopsis for one.

The Fogde and the Bandits

A Helsinge merchant prince, Stor-Sven Järneklov, wants to get his hands on a shipment of Dwarven ales for his upcoming party, but the sale of Dwarven ale east of the river Uskela has been banned by the provincial governor. He and his son Lill-Sven have been trying to hire both sea- and land route smugglers to run a cargo, but no luck: the Fogdes have caught every last cargo.

Stor-Sven ups the ante: anyone who runs a shipment of Dwarven ale can make a bet with him. If they can do it inside three days, they will get ten thousand silverthalers. If they don’t make the run, they get nothing.

Here’s where the players enter the picture. They’ll need to get from Helsinge to the village of Salo, get their hands on a wagonload of dwarven ale, and run it back to Helsinge without getting caught by the patrols out on the Kingsroad.

Of course, when they come across a hitchhiking young Englishman dressed in finery, who has fled his own wedding after he realized that the bride wasn’t what he was promised, that’s where their problems start. Because the father of the bride is Count Bielke, head of the Fogdes of the province of Nyland. Now the heat is truly on them. Can they make the run in time or will they end up getting caught?

Posted in Swords of the Eastsea | 2 Comments

[SotE] A Song of Elfgame and PSU, and stuff about ethnicity

So, time for another blog update, since my main computer’s PSU died and I gotta wait until Wednesday to get a new one. My Ubuntu shitbox allows me to browse the net but I can’t actually write anything on this since for some reason OpenOffice will eat anything you write in it.

The setting material is done. Some bits and pieces might get filled in during the first round of editing, but that’s done. The core rules are done too. Some minor subsystems need to get filled out. Some dry-run playtesting has been going on.

Actually I wanted to talk about the non-humans in the setting, because by now you might have heard about the Change.org petition against Monte Cook Games and their game The Strange. Read the petition yourself because the issue about representing an actual minority in a game is pretty well presented there.

One of the most awkward and shitty things is using the traditional nonhuman races (dwarves, orcs, elves) as a stand-in for actual minorities. Swords of the Eastsea is not doing that. The dwarves, the elves and the orcs are a completely different thing and represent nothing or no one that has existed in the real world. Furthermore, since there’s a few real-life minorities which will be touched upon in the game setting, such as the Saami and the Roma, I’ll be talking with people from those groups to figure things out. I don’t want to write another WoD: Gypsies.

Which is a good segue to another point. Historically, the Early Modern period was a period that was in many ways far more international than the early 20th century. Remember, nationalism as we knew it didn’t exist, so other things counted more than someone’s ethnicity. For instance, in Stockholm, over half the city council was for a long time German. Going from this, the baseline in Swords of the Eastsea is roughly as follows: wherever you go, there’s always going to be a majority group but existing alongside them, there’s significant numbers of people from other places and other ethnicities. One state which the base game will touch on briefly is the Empire of the Maghreb, an important state in North Africa that has wide-reaching commercial interests elsewhere. So people from Maghreb can be found almost anywhere. One of the important commercial products of North Africa is salt, and anyone who wishes to fish and sell their catch needs it, so every major port in the north has some traders from the Maghreb.

Likewise, Somali people have made their way into the north through the river trade routes that run from the Black Sea and are an accepted part of the Karelian communities. Likewise, soldiers from the Ottoman Republic frequently seek service in Novgorod and the Polish-Livlandian Commonwealth.

I like it, and hope you like it too.

Edit: Oh yeah someone totally gave me the idea that the setting should have cat people, like Skyrim. If I have Sumerians in the Baltic, I probably can do cat people too.

Posted in Swords of the Eastsea | 2 Comments

Everything Is Political And Yet Another Update

In a rather hilarious turn, or not, a game designer by the name of Ryan M. Danks decided to post some really weird anti-muslim screeds on G+. Then, after me and a bunch of other people brought that up, he did one of those “sorry-but-not-sorry” dances, claiming that there’s a smear campaign against him. Sorry Ryan, four or five people deciding that your opinions suck isn’t a smear campaign.

But that of it. A whole bunch of people say that you should not bring politics into gaming, but just roll the dice and have fun. That is actually a political choice in itself: to allow people to be bigots without letting it affect your own personal choices.

This isn’t one of those complex issues such as “can I buy any electronics without supporting coltan mining in inhumane conditions” but a rather straightforward issue: do you buy a toy or not? As for me, I’m not going to buy anything with Ryan M. Danks name on it, same as I would not buy anything with Skarka, Tarnowski, Zak Smith or Mearls in the credits. Games just aren’t that important. If you think this sucks, don’t buy my game in the future.

As to the game project, it’s still ongoing though I’ve been slacking with the blog too much. We hit a slight hitch with pre-KS art stuff and until the art is done, the project is sort of in a holding pattern. I’m doing cleanup of the ruleset and writing out the last bits and pieces that are missing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

[SotE/Fiction warning]: The Big Dig

This was truly a no man’s land. To the south lay the Great Wood of Tavast, to the west, the empty plains of Ostrobothnia. Among the sparse pine and birch trees, the company had made their camp, near the vast ruin they were supposed to be excavating. It was the end of August, and it seemed like the sun had died. Every day, a grey gloom hung over the miserable wood and the diggers.

Anttoni Robertinpoika was tired. Sure, whoever had sponsored this particular expedition had paid them well, even without including his salary from the Academy of Turku. Still, it was the fourth week of the dig, and there seemed to be no end in sight. And the nights were getting colder.

The Wild was never really his element. He was a city lad, born and bred. Of course, the newly minted position of Expedition Head at the archeological institute at the Academy fitted him well, since it was a steady job and most of the time, he didn’t have to travel too far.

Darkness was setting, so he made his way over to the great pit the digging team had dug, telling them to call it a night. Walking straight to the big tent where dinner was served, he helped himself to a mug of bitter, not really feeling hungry. The bitter did help, but not much.

Hardestadt, the actual archeologist on the expedition approached him, his hands still covered in dirt.

“Might I have a word with you, Anttoni? Outside.” Anttoni shrugged and walked outside. No stars were in sight.

“So Anttoni, did you ever wonder about this particular dig?”

“Not particulary. Someone pays, we dig. I do hate this place, though. It’s like this wood was abandoned before the God was Forgotten.”

Hardestadt snorted. “Ever been on a dig where you are escorted by fifty dragoons, paid for by the Lords of War? Those elven bastards. I’d bet you that they’re the ones funding this. And I don’t like this.”

“Why?” Anttoni asked.

“Well. Most of the time when we dig, we have something in mind. For instance, are these rocks actually a wall from an Old Empire-era building, which might mean something, historically. This time around, we got a map. A map that says there’s a vault somewhere in this particular bit of ruin. To me, it feels more like a looting expedition. And there’s the thing with the dragoons.”

“What thing?”

“Oh by — Anttoni, you are sometimes too thick. Why would we have fifty dragoons around the dig if there wasn’t something dangerous down there? There’s no one living in these lands, and we do not need fifty dragoons to deal with an orc raid or an owlbear. This is what bothers me.”

“All right, Hardestadt. I get it. And I do agree now. It’s this damned place that makes me feel like I can’t think at all. As Expedition Head, I’d say we do like this: lets give it until the end of the week, if we find nothing — which by now I hope we don’t — we bugger off back to the coast and head back to the Academy. It’s not as if we ever paid a refund.”

Hardestadt nodded and grabbed the mug of bitter and took a swig. “Yes, let’s do that.”

It was the last day of the dig. Anttoni was sitting on a large stone, shivering from the cold, looking down into the pit. So far, his prognosis had been true. The only thing they had found next to the old ruined wall that seemed to go deep into the earth was rubble. Hardestadt was down in the pit, supervising the diggers with a pipe in his hand. Anttoni drifted off into thought for a bit. Shutting this down was, by all means, justifiable. There wasn’t enough provisions anyway to continue, and the Academy did want to turn a profit with these sponsored digs. Then he heard a sound.

“Oh, bugger.” said Hardestadt. Anttoni looked down again and froze.

A part of the wall had collapsed, revealing a large stone slab of green stone. Into the green stone, someone had cut a relief. It portrayed a large creature with far too many arms and legs and eyes, rising out from a crack in the earth. It seemed like it was moving, ever so slowly.

One of the dragoons saw it and shouted to the other dragoons. The long elven captain spoke.

“All right, open that up.” Her tone was, to put it mildly, extremely worrying.

“No. I know what that is.” said Hardestadt, who was backing away.

“Very well. We will do it ourselves.” When she said this, the dragoons started unslinging their muskets, cocking them in a manner that didn’t leave much to debate. “You, stay here.”

Hardestadt didn’t pay her much mind, but quickly ascended a ladder out of the pit and jogged to Anttoni. The diggers seemed confused at this turn of events.

“Anttoni. We need to run.”

“But… The dig? We don’t have provisions. We don’t have horses, the dragoons are guarding them.” Anttoni blubbered, confused.

“Don’t matter. As soon as the elves don’t look our way, we take off. I fear you’ll find out soon why.” Hardestadt turned away, muttering something while looking at the sky.

There was a crack from the pit. Hardestadt took off running, running full tilt into the woods. A scream made Anttoni turn his head for a briefest moment, and he strongly wished that he didn’t. He saw a metal-colored wave engulf the elf captain, a thing that seemed to consist mostly of blades and eyes. He ran.

He soon caught up with Hardestadt who was steadily running towards the west. They heard more screams.

“What in the world was that?” Anttoni yelled, even if his lungs felt like bursting.

“There’s no name for them! A Weapon of the Old Enemy!” Hardestadt shouted.


“Indeed! Now shut up and keep running!”

And so they ran, over hills, streams and bogs. Every time they hazarded to look behind them, they saw that the thing was following them at a steady pace. Pure panic kept them from stopping, even if Anttoni felt like he wanted to just die from the exhaustion, but he couldn’t stop running.

Finally, the run ended. Their path was cut by a steep gorge. And the thing from the pit was still following them, they could hear the trees snapping like twigs in it’s path.

“Guess this is it then.” Hardestadt said. Anttoni tried to nod since he was too exhausted to speak. His lungs and legs felt like they had been set on dragon-fire. He tried to collect his thoughts but made no headway. He was going to die, either at the bottom of that gorge, or by whatever thing the monster would do to him.

Suddenly, a great flapping of wings. Anttoni felt himself being seized by large claws and hoisted into the air. If he wasn’t too exhausted to do so, he would have remembered that he had a fear of heights. Maybe a minute later, he heard Hardestadt shout.

“I didn’t think it was going to work! The Eagles came when I called! A Norseman woman taught me the spell!” Anttoni waved his hand in response. He was out of breath and out of things to say, for once in his life. He heard the Eagles sing, and with the song of the Eagles driving away the terror of the monster, he fell asleep, carried west by the easterly wind under the Eagle’s wings.

Posted in Swords of the Eastsea | Leave a comment

[SotE] Into The Wild: The Wolfheart

Essentially, this started off as a translation issue: one of our magic schools was based on a phenomena from Finnish folklore called “metsänpeitto“, which roughly translates to “covered by the woods.” A phenomena usually attributed to supernatural beings, who make you go lost in the woods, sometimes forever. But there’s not a real word for that in English, for obvious reasons. The wizards of Karelia have special woods magic, different the ones the Wizards of the Green have.  The Green wizards work with plants, these people work with the woods themselves.

So, we debated it yesterday with Artemis a bit.  We settled on “Wolfheart”, to expand the concept of Metsänpeitto a bit. Essentially, it’s the primeval forest that exists both in our world and in the worlds beyond: the place where the Wolf, the Bear, the Elk, the Lynx and the Fox come from. Capitalization is important here, because it’s about what those things represent, not just what they are in our world.

Since everywhere where there is a tree, a trace of the Wolfheart can be found, these wizards can manipulate the Wolfheart and step into it at will. It’s a frightening place and not a very safe one at that. It gives them powers over those five animals, and powers derived from them. So, you have a certain form of travel you can use and a handful of powers that are inspired by those animals.

The Wolfheart also hides a secret from a distant age. It’s where the Old Gods of Karelia went to die, but they’re not quite gone still.

And as a companion thing to the Wizard School, there’s a discipline used for travelling overland that’s very much in vogue in Karelia, since it’s all about avoiding the Wolfheart that might come over you when you lose yourself. It’s a discipline that essentially is about knowing where you are all the time, even when you don’t.

Posted in Swords of the Eastsea | 2 Comments

The One Ring reviews and some other things

Hi followers,

I started a project with GamerXP to review the entire product line for one of my favorite roleplaying games, The One Ring. The first review is now up and you can see it here. I’ll be doing one product per week for them, so remember to check GamerXP out every week. They’re cool people.

In other news, on friday me and my head illustrator Ruska Berghäll will be sitting down to figure out the maps to SotE. So, things are moving forward though ever so slowly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

[SotE] Scales and scope in elfgames

One of my personal pet peeves in game design is assuming that everything should be about the player characters. This has probably been a reaction to metaplot-heavy games where characters only bear witness for Important Non-Player Characters.

However, I personally like the idea more that there’s always forces beyond anyone’s individual ability that actually change the world. Economic forces, military forces and so on. This puts the character on a level where they can affect local goings-on a lot but the bigger picture is always operating on it’s own. So, more about the Seven Samurai than something like Pacific Rim. One of my favorite concepts is the tagline from the RPG Godlike which says “You are larger than life, but the war (WW2) is larger than you.” You are influencing events, but at the end of the day you are just one of the best duellists in Denmark or the best fire magician.

One reason for this approach is that going for larger scopes is often hard on the GM: how do you come up with a string of events that allows four or five people to win a war by themselves? Large scopes also lose sight of the people in the events.

That doesn’t say that there can’t be some epic stuff going on. But at their peak, player characters are people that have inhuman skills and magical powers, more Beowulf or Gandalf than King Arthur, who ends up changing the course of history mostly by himself.

Posted in Swords of the Eastsea | Leave a comment