It has been a while since we last delved into the depths of tabletop RPGs and are fortunate enough this time to bring you some firsthand testimony and insight from a designer himself, Andrea Oneglia of Tales for Gamers Publishing (wicked nice name btw) whose efforts are focused on the release of his debut RPG setting Medieval – Tales from Europe which will be hitting Kickstarter soon.
Medieval – Tales from Europe is a historical setting that wants to bring the role players into a bizarre, unpredictable and absurdly real world, soaked in esotericism and full of that fairytale atmosphere that only the Middle Ages can offer, now finally proposed in a classic manner for the world’s most famous role playing game. A low magic system with only one race, the human, and 11 new playable classes will teleport you into the tales of an ancient and tumultuous Europe. Live unbelievable chivalrous adventures mixed with fantastic and supernatural events, marked by typical epic tones and by the satirical and grotesque ones of the folk stories. Keep up to date with the latest released news, explore our contents and support the Kickstarter campaign to receive everything you need to immerse yourself in this amazing story.
What drew me in from the first glance was the artwork I saw in a post he had on a Facebook group we both are members of. I clicked and discovered that Andrea and his team were working on a 5TH Edition Setting set in the Medieval Era which is intended to give players a more immersive and realistic feel. This to me sounded awesome and the further I dug the more I was intrigued and wanted to hear more about it. With information on the project scarce I decided to reach out to the man himself and see what unfolds. Andrea replied promptly and turned out to be a pretty solid guy and upon our request to do a write up agreed with open arms and sent us what he had at the time.
Q1.) So Andrea, tell us a little about yourself? (-short points where are you from, where you grew up etc.)
I was born and raised in Italy, in a small city 20 miles away from Naples, not far from Pompei, surrounded by the sea and by cultural and architectural remains of romans and Etruscan populations. I grew up in a territory rich in history and soaked in mysticism, legends and ancient tales. I grew up with the stories my grandparents used to tell me about the saints and other spiritual beliefs, for example the Jianara (a famous witch who would sneak in your room while you sleep to choke you to death! I’ve never known why!). Most of the time, those stories turned into world war II stories, unfortunately.
Q2) When did you first embark on you journey into the roleplaying games?
The role-playing games came much later in my life, even if the gaming world in general has always been a constant since my childhood (mostly videogames). Another separate hobby of mine was reading and writing, principally science fiction and fantasy. I enjoyed writing stories about interstellar travels, multidimensional existences and a lot about medieval fantasy settings too, things like King Arthur stories or even more unrealistic as Lord of the Rings. At the age of 15 I found out there was a way to combine the two things (games and narrative) and the result was incredible! That’s how I got into the role-playing games world, starting with Dungeons and Dragons (the most popular) and having the chance to explore the others just later. D&D allowed me to bring other people, mostly my friends, into the stories I used to write, to make them see what I see and to make them live the worlds I have created, which was something I have always researched. We from Tales for Gamers Publishing believe in the artistic power these things innately possess and we want to give our contribution in helping others “live” more engaging tales, as the historical ones can be.
Q3) You are a European working in Canada, so have you come across any cultural and business differences since you have moved?
My moving to Canada was a shock I could say. We are talking about a country that turned immigration into one of its main strengths, since it’s a relatively young country that needs young professionals to grow. We can’t really say the same for Italy, where for cultural, geographical and organizational aspects immigration hasn’t been considered as a resource yet. This makes Canada a giant boiling pot where everything ferments, grows and can contribution to a diverse ecosystem. There is space and opportunities for every decent person who feels like making a difference in this world in all the fields, from science to art (there is a huge community of role-players here!). At the same time, being a young country, founded entirely on colonialist politics (that dissolved almost completely what was here before), it doesn’t share the long reaching pasts of a lot of the nation’s back in Europe. Speaking about Quebec at least (where I live), the locals still struggle to find an identity and a link with their past which translates in still keeping today a veiled, and for some traits silly, discord between the French and English cultures on the territory (the two countries who fought for the occupation in the 18th century).
Q4) So what about your setting, Medieval Tales – from Europe (Medieval, Tales from Europe) made you feel confident enough to make the bold step of crowdfunding at this early stage?
The most immediate answer I can offer is: “because I love it!” Because I am the first excited fan of this setting and I like to play it with my friends! Even at the time when the mechanics were unclear, we were already trying (spontaneously, in our game sessions) to build up a more realistic system, more theatrical and less role-standard, more human and less divine, more survival and less chill. I can honestly admit that there is nothing like this around (yet)! Yes, there are medieval settings, some of them quite good, but for one reason or another they didn’t see much success and the gamers community seems still to crave more of it in their gaming. Medieval, Tales from Europe, is also introducing new (or not explored enough!) concepts in the RPGs world (the supernatural and the fear of the unknown, the weapons as ultimate deadly instruments, the concept of ultra-specialized classes), which raised huge interest in the players I shared it with. All these things made me decide to take action, step forward and propose something different to our community of players.
Q5) 11 professions this early seems interesting and from the material you have shown they all vary and will probably feel different. I noticed that you did not shy away from including some interesting yet darker parts of European History including the Surgeon which reminds us of images of the plague. Please tell us about some of the classes and how they differ to a newcomer.
A realistic and historical setting as ours intends to be, needs to start from scratch with the classes. Most of the examples of what we have seen so far appeared inadequate for our purposes. Having the classes boil down to be no more than a fighters, better fighter, other mediocre fighters, but fighters at the end of the day (which, just to be clear, works just fine in some of the amazing and valid RPGs systems we see around, based mainly on combat). With all the respect for those great titles, those classes sounded just wrong for the setting we have started developing. I like to look upon our 11 new classes as actors on a stage, ultra-specialized, very different from one another and, most importantly, irreplaceable! If your party are short an Explorer, the other players need to work harder to compensate some of the benefits the Explorer can provide during travels and still have some needs unmet. Same for the Artist, the Rogue and all the other classes (which are called Professions in this setting). The Surgeon is for sure one of the most interesting actors on our medieval stage! He can provide useful support in sewing the wounds and in restoring your hit points and there will be no one else able to do it in such an efficient way. The Surgeon can be a sneaky danger too if under menace, since he or she knows the body’s weak points, how to damage them or use them during torture. In summary, there is nothing in common in the different Professions except they are all humans with important skills but vulnerable and never perfect; people that try to do one unique important thing: survive!
Q6) Low fantasy as a choice brings a lot with it. You have chosen to limit the playable races to only Human which I think is a pro but I am certain you must have got a few odd looks from some of the folks around the table or at the comic store. Please shed light on the decision and how you feel it will positively impact the game?
A low-fantasy system with only humans came as a crucial choice, even if drastic for some aspects, for the sake of a more realistic setting. This for us is going to add other interesting elements, not remove them as we are trying to be as true to the setting. I will try elaborate with an example. Have you ever thought about how devastating some abilities such as Darkvision (an ability in classic rpgs that allow a character to see in the dark) can be on the narration, on the suspense and the engagement you can have at the table when a character gets into a fully dark catacomb? Why there is even a torch in the starting pack of an adventurer if 70% of the classes can see in the dark and you are never going to light it up in a dungeon (and we could say the same about so many other cool but useless objects)? However, the RPG world is wide and vast, and there are players who love settings where “human issues” can be simply overcome with a snap of fingers. Medieval, Tales from Europe wants to provide an alternative support for those players who seek a more competitive game setting, where you’d better think twice in choosing your equipment if you don’t want to end up alone, frozen to the bones, in a dark cave full of venomous snakes or a bear (deadly situations even for a 20th level character in some cases). Also, these features allow for us to finally branch out for some new kind of stories we can play out around the table, such as the story of Saladin who led the Islamic forces during the Crusades, or the story of Joan of Arc and the Hundred Year war, along with many other historical events that comprise the rich history of Europe. Or those tales between myth and legends such as Robin Hood, King Arthur and Lancelot’s story, and heritage of our European culture, stories that simply need the characters to be human and far fro perfect. Is there another way you can play these scenarios with Dungeons and Dragons without the new features (and the drastic choices) Medieval, Tales from Europe is going to introduce?
Q6.2) In the brief you emailed us you highlighted that Low Magic is different to No Magic and we wanted to give you an opportunity to expand on that for our readers.
When we think about the Middle Ages it suddenly brings up dark images to ones mind such as the esotericism of forbidden doctrines and the use of occult sciences which in the Dark Ages claimed to induce supernatural effects on people and situations (a classic example is the voodoo dolls or the habit of keeping crystals or herbs in the houses to keep the malevolent spirits away). In such a scenario it’s hard to imagine a setting that doesn’t take magic into consideration in some form. At the same time, magic as we know it, described well by the fantasy settings of the past, doesn’t exist in our world and it can’t exist in a realistic setting. That’s why we had to work firstly on the concept of magic we wanted to introduce and then on the game mechanics and how to put it in player’s hands. In Medieval, Tales from Europe magic doesn’t exist, but people might interpret some weird signs and circumstance as such because they believe in it and, most importantly, they fear it! The Arcanist, one of the most magic-like Profession we have introduced, is nothing else than a trickster who is himself convinced of the reality of the effects he creates to be true. Such an insane personality can have a great impact on other people’s minds because he uses fear as a weapon, and he will find out it can be as sharp as a blade. In our setting everything is possible, all the supernatural effects can be realized but only if the character is good enough in influencing people’s mind. How does this translate in game mechanics? There will be no spell list in this new setting. We have introduced (for the first time in a tabletop RPG setting, to our knowledge!) a system where whatever supernatural effect can be created by the player itself, not combining parts or pre-generated words but simply inventing it. The Storyteller will give a score to those effects and the player will need to roll a Charisma check (Influence) to create the right grade of suggestion and make the effect appear real to those who are watching (even if it is not). Some of these tricks can have an effect as real as an arrow in the chest!
Q7) You are obviously intending to run Medieval Tales – From Europe over the Dungeons & Dragons 5 Edition rules set which is the most popular on the market. This is a two part question so sorry Andrea,
- What did you like about 5E and how do you feel you added to it with your setting
- As an independent publisher and creator can you tell us how it is working with an existing rules set and whether it comes with complications?
The 5th Edition is far from being a perfect setting but nothing ever is to be honest. For example, it gives the impression of going easy on players as a RPG system. I feel players are not challenged enough and a lot revolves around the combat with fewer opportunities for diversifying and customizing the characters that it’s previous editions. Even the level progression, according to the Dungeon Master’s Guide should be triggered by an insane amount of combat encounters, primarily. This being said, the system seems to have a pretty strong up-side, which deserved to be use for our setting: it is incredibly widespread (everyone plays it!) and it’s the easiest to learn, an aspect that attracts a lot of new players. As I said previously, we had to adjust some aspects of the 5th edition engine to make it suitable for a realistic setting but we kept intact most of the main backbone. We tried to make the smallest changes possible, preferring to adjust some mechanics instead of outright removing them and forcing players to learn new ones from scratch. The results are far better than what we anticipated with a more challenging and a more interpretative fashion of play compared to the basic 5th edition. Thanks to the Open-Gaming License (OGL) released by Wizard of the Coast in early 2019, the 5th edition rules are free from copyright and everyone can use them, under specific conditions and with the limitation of not including any of the world-settings the company has created for an eventual business idea. Thanks, Wizards!
Q8) Being bilingual yourself I have to ask whether or not you intend to publish in several languages other than English, perhaps Italian, Espanyol or German?
Out first choice was the Italian language, an automatic choice given the nature of content and the south-European flavor of the setting. Plus, Italy is proving lately to be infected with the bug and in Europe is leading in new role players and in new related contents including boardgame publishers. With the recent growth in popularity of boardgames, roleplaying games and the success of movies like the Avengers and shows like Stranger Things the ranks of tabletop rpg fans continue to grow daily in my home country. We decided to also publish in English in order to reach everyone else in the world and give them the chance to get immersed in the fascinating tales of our continent. If Medieval, Tales from Europe is going to be translated in other languages, it depends on many aspects, mostly the Kickstarter campaign outcome.
Q9) The artwork we have managed to see so far are distinct and reminiscent of Fantasy Novel covers in a more modern style. What is your experience and advice when it comes to reaching out to talent whether it be artists or designers, has the internet allowed for more affordable and efficient collaboration?
The power of social media and this recent RPG explosion we are having in Italy allowed me to get in touch with some great artists in the field. I had the fortune to meet the artists and got them involved in this project quite easily. I guess they saw a chance to get some more exposure (they are all still carving out their own path) and at the same time they gave me the honor of using their amazing illustrations for this project, which appear to fit our vision and one for the project! It’s mind boggling how many artists are out there online working on these types creative jobs, whether it is artwork or game-design. I see a great future for such collaborations and partnerships as more and more talent is taking their abilities online.
Q10) The last question is about the Kickstarter and what do backers get? What are you goals, what is the figure and more importantly, what do supporters get who pledge to your campaign?
We expect to see a great Kickstarter campaign in December 2019 which hopefully will turn Medieval, Tales from Europe from ideas into reality. The funds we are asking for will be entirely used in completing the project, to cover the production and shipment costs of the material we offer and the expenses in time and instruments the artists involved in this project need in order to give us their best. In defining the rewards we are going to offer in exchange of the pledges, we based the decision on a simple concept: we want the player to get what they need to start their experience with Medieval, Tales from Europe as soon as they get it in their hands, and nothing more. We believe that less is more, and we want to concentrate the material in useful products, avoiding unused gadgets. Among the rewards there will be the Player’s Guide in PDF and Hardcover format and some others contents including a one-shot adventure, a little guide for the encounters with some crucial enemies stats, famous medieval characters’ sheet, artworks and more. There will be some good deals for the early birds and for those present in our newsletter list. Most important, we will take care of the shipping cost of all the products and once the campaign is over, hopefully with a positive outcome, our backers will not be charged anything more. They will be invited in a private Facebook group where they can follow the different stages of the project, stay in touch with us the producers and just wait for the product to arrive.
Andrea’s story is one shared by many independent creators but too many allow their ideas to remain nothing more than pencil scratches on the back of a character sheet. Andrea has been thinking and working on a setting with a foundation in realism that itself is historically rich and inspiring. Himself investing into getting the artists to help bring these same ideas to life. The dancing blades that harken to the ottoman and Turkish Empires look fierce while the Warrior and Explorer remind you of the Knights of Britain and the voyages of the Spanish Fleet. This Era in European history is rife with conflict, myths, religion and intrigue so splashing in a dab of fantasy adds just enough to make it feel new and worth exploring. This game is different in the best way possible, it is supposed to be different.
We must commend Tales for Gamers Publishing for getting behind their ideas and having a vision they are pursuing. They are doing what designers could never have dreamed of twenty years ago, today they can call their friends and fans to action. Gamers have elevated crowdfunding to where it is legitimately funding bestselling products tabletop to the Xbox store and Tales for Gamers are not taking much risk. By taking their time to build more awareness for their game they can launch a Kickstarter to an interested public and audience. More important it is great to see an Italian creator and publisher aspiring to make his mark internationally with his work. This is a European project that we are certain will find it’s place at tables across the continent. Our job at Nerd Dimension is help however we can because growing up I always dreamed of being part of the industry, work within in and belong to the culture and now I do. Today we can step up and get behind creators like never before and Medieval Tales – From Europe is something that I feel has been missing from the tabletop and with our help Tales for Gamers can remedy it. We would like to salute the valiant efforts of Giovanni Laudante IT specialist of the group, Davide Santonicola the super fan who always is ready to help and last but not least collaborator Maurizio Infante.
We are going to pledge to the campaign and we invite our readers to check out their page and see what it’s about for themselves. Andrea and his team are communicative and are always looking for more people to hear about Medieval Tales so please give them a like and show them some support. I myself have been guilty of scrolling past Kickstarter posts because most of them fail for a reason but I am glad that I checked this one out. Next time you guys are going through your troll page, click on one of those posts if it seems cool because you could be helping that dream come true for somebody.
I was thrilled to cover this and expect us to have Andrea back on, this time he will appear on our podcast which will go back up when our co-host Bakreni returns so make sure you are subscribed and are following our pages to hear how everything went. Until next time reader, role deep and stop trying to pick pocket in the tavern already!