War of Metal and Bone is an RPG with an great elevator pitch: it's a war between dwarves, using massive metal golems and warriors soul-bonded to giant skeletons. The game also takes advantage of the many open source game systems used by popular indie RPGs today.
Lead designer Tracy Barnett explained how War of Metal and Bone works and how the world of Iron Edda was developed. The RPG has already met its initial Kickstarter goal, but stretch goals could unlock dozens of variants using game systems like Pathfinder, Gumshoe, Savage Worlds, and 13th Age.
io9: Let's start by talking about the world of Iron Edda. What kind of a fantasy world is this? What kinds of stories will players tell and experience when they play it?
Tracy Barnett: The world of Iron Edda is heavily based in Norse mythology. The game focuses on a Ragnarok where the dwarves have risen up in giant metal constructs to destroy humanity. The humans are fighting back by bonding the souls of warriors to the bones of dead giants. In addition, I want anyone who sits down at the game table to find a space for themselves in the game. So we're talking about epic adventures featuring characters of diverse backgrounds fighting to preserve the world they love. It's both epic in scope, and personal in experience.
What RPG system is War of Metal and Bone being developed for?
TB: War of Metal and Bone is being developed for Fate Core. Well, with some Fate Accelerated, and some of my own twists thrown in. Fate does an amazing job telling a variety of personal and epic stories. With the rules I'm adding, things like handling giant scale things in the same combat scene as human scale things are pretty easy, and a hell of a lot of fun.
In addition, I've got stretch goals lined up for nearly every system that you can think of with an open or easy-to-obtain license. Each book has a different author behind it, and will offer a different take on the same themes. Rather than use mostly the same text save for the rules in each book, every system is its own, unique game. Pathfinder is very different from Savage Worlds, which is in turn different from things like Pendragon and Dungeon World. I think that by keeping the core concepts that make each game an Iron Edda game, but letting each author express their take on those concepts in a way that makes each system sing, well, that's some hotness right there.
In addition to the systems, there are also a number of setting books planned that will enhance and expand upon the setting set forth in War of Metal and Bone. Each of those has a different author as well.
Open source game systems aren't new in the RPG world, but they seem to be experiencing a sort of golden age at the moment. What do you think is driving that? What are some of the advantages that open source brings to designers and gamers?
TB: I think it reinforces an instinct that RPG players already have, which is to tinker, hack, rework, and modify. When a system is open, it gives more opportunities for publication, sharing without worrying about things like Cease and Desist notices, and it gives people a chance to build on prior in a meaningful way. A game like Dungeon World wouldn't exist without Apocalypse World being open to license. Similarly, I never would have had the chance to take on this project.
What does the name Iron Edda mean?
TB: It's a callback to some of the most complete documentation of Norse mythology that we have: the Poetic and the Prose Eddas, written by Snorri Sturluson in the 1200s. I wanted a name that would evoke both the Norse myth that I drew from, and the changes I was making to make it an epic fantasy setting.
Where did this idea come from? Did it start out as your personal campaign world?
TB: The game was born from a smaller version of the idea that I wrote for Machine Age Productions' mecha game, Apotheosis Drive X. They did a bunch of alternate settings and when I wanted to pitch an idea, I tried to think of what sort of setting I knew best. The answer was fantasy. And when considering how to get mechs, of a sort, into the game, I thought about the dwarven ruins in Skyrim. In Skyrim, Bethesda blended Norse myth and an existing world in a very cool way. I thought, maybe arrogantly, that I'd try something similar. Turns out that it was a workable idea and one that people seem to really dig.
What are some of the challenges of working with so many different writers on different aspects of the same project?
TB: I think that the biggest challenge will be making sure that the books all present as part of a cohesive whole. This is especially true for the setting books that will all reference and use material from the core book. I'm blessed to have John Adamus as my editor/project manager. John is not only an excellent editor, but he's also very good at working with multiple people across multiple books. I think having someone that I can trust like that is key. I have my own work to finish on the core book. As well, editing isn't my strong suit, so if I tried to keep the tone and content consistent, it would be a lot more difficult.
It all comes down to one important thing: Hire people you trust to do the stuff you hire them to do. It sounds simplistic, but if I didn't know and trust each and every person that I have working on the huge number of stretch goals I have lined up then this project would have no chance of succeeding. But the group I've assembled is amazing. It's because of them that I think the project will be a success.