War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus is a 2016 ENnie Nominee!

ENnies 2016 Nominee
The 2016 ENnie Awards nominees were just announced and War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus has made the list in four categories:

  • Best Art, Interior
  • Best Family Game
  • Best Rules
  • Product of the Year

It’s up against high-quality, popular releases but it’s so nice to be on the list. (Now I know that at least four people read it!)  ^_^

I am so very fortunate that on my first professional writing gig in the role-playing world, Evil Hat Productions let me create a book the way I wanted to, with the support of their fantastic knowledge and staff resources. It doesn’t get any better!


War of Ashes RPG: Icy Sounds

iPhoneDock-01Edmund gave me a speaker dock station for my phone a few days ago, so I now have my Agaptus playlist in the background while I prepare my two War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus adventures for next weekend’s Big Bad Con: Jean Sibelius (Finlandia, The Tempest), Edvard Grieg (Peer Gynt Suite), Camille Saint-Saëns (Le Carnaval des animaux), Paul Dukas (L’Apprenti sorcier), Sergei Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf), Danny Elfman (Music for a Darkened Theatre), etc.

The two adventures are Ice, Ice, Baby and Curse of Agaptus, and will both be released as downloadable content on Evil Hat Productions’ website in the not-too-distant future.

Edit: Here is the Agaptus playlist on Spotify if you want to peruse it.

War of Ashes RPG: Diorama…

When Edmund starts painting miniatures for War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus, this results:


From this:


Credits:  Photo © Edmund Metheny 2015, used with permission; end pages art © ZombieSmith and Evil Hat Productions 2015, used with permission but my photo doesn’t do it justice.

War of Ashes RPG: The Troops

WoA_minis-KuldZombieSmith have supplied us with a bunch of War of Ashes miniatures in addition to the ones we owned, so little metal creatures are now covering the game table. Edmund has been painting up a storm so I can field bad guys in my two War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus games at Big Bad Con.  They’re not finished yet, but they’re coming along nicely!  Shown here: the voracious Kuld, pre-shading and highlights phases.

Credits:  Photos © Edmund Metheny 2015, used with permission.


War of Ashes RPG: It’s Here!

The ThingYes, I’m finally holding a real book in my hands.  That’s my very own stack of books, at EndGame, freshly arrived from Evil Hat Productions’ printer: War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus.  Dang, it’s real!  I’m real!

Luscious matte-finish hardcover, full-colour printing on thick glossy paper, glorious end sheets.  It’s so wonderful to be on a project where the whole team excels. I’m awed by:

  • Karen Twelves‘ editing and way, way more: she identified the correct “voices” for various portions of the book, tied this into a coherent text, reorganized it several times as we answered the playtest feedback, hunted for typos and cross-references, selected appropriate images from the pre-existing pictures from ZombieSmith, and wrote extensive art notes for new pieces.  In all this, we worked on multiple sections in parallel and the only time we had a version control problem was my fault.
  • Dale Horstman‘s beautiful layout that brought out the art while conveying mood, his choice of images where we had not provided instructions, his skill at visually distinguishing the different types of text (instruction, narration, examples, fiction, etc.), his extensive work to showcase art pieces in the best way possible, his patience with our edits and changes, and his attention to detail.  He also did “invisible” work, such as making sure all those hyperlinks worked properly in the PDF version, and preparing the layout for a smooth transition to ePub.
  • Edmund Metheny‘s micro-fiction, coming to my rescue when I was too exhausted, mentally and physically, to write it.  His little bits of dialogue are funny and zippy, they are short enough that they don’t interrupt the “gamer” reading, they convey a whole lot of flavour and background info in small bites, and they make the characters come alive.
  • Mike Olson‘s help with the conflict rules, and particularly his ideas on using zones more intensively.  I think the playtesters generally loved this rule sub-set, and it’s completely portable to other Fate games.
  • Sean Nittner and Stephen Bajza‘s excellent project management, unexpected in the world of gaming.
  • Sean also acted as creative director, and he was always there with a good idea when I was stomped. To his particular credit: the cycle of approaches in the Froth rules, and reminding me of the usefulness of invoking aspects for effect.  There were tons of other things, but these two bits right there had important ripples in the book.
  • Plus we had an all-star team with all the specialized tasks: Jessica Banks (proofreading), Krista White (indexing), Carrie Harris (marketing and tie-in fiction), Rob Donohue, Leonard Balsera, and Brian Endgard (internal reviewers), Twyla Campbell (playtest survey consultant), Josh Qualtieri, Anthony Brown and the artists at ZombieSmith (art and concept), and of course the business savvy and long-term vision of Chris Hanrahan and Fred Hicks.  (Also, Fred decided to switch from a softcover to hardcover book, which I think the art and graphic design totally deserved.  Thanks, Fred!)

And it smells good!

Smells good! Pretty pictures It has pages! It's in a real store!

P.S.: Of course, as soon as I opened the book I started thinking “Oh, I could have done better here!” etc.  But when I play it, this is a miniatures-based role-playing game I enjoy. I’m also pretty pleased with the game-master tools I provided in there.  I hope you’ll like the book.

War of Ashes RPG: In Layout!


Oh, how I want to show you the beautiful layout that Dale Horstman is creating for War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus! But I want to wait until I get the go-ahead—he deserves a chance to show his finished product, not just a draft. This book is going to look so good!

Credits:  Art © ZombieSmith 2014, used with permission.

War of Ashes RPG: Social Conflict with Miniatures!

War of Ashes RPG: Playtesting social conflict

This is what happens when we mix miniatures with Fate’s social combat mechanics: here is a snapshot of today’s playtest session of the War of Ashes RPG I’m writing for Evil Hat Productions. With Sean Nittner, his lovely daughters, and Karen Twelves.

Photo:  Photo Sophie Lagacé 2015.

Fine-Tuning the War of Ashes RPG


We’re at the late fine-tuning phase on the War of Ashes RPG for Evil Hat Productions. Open playtest is great for for identifying issues, but it’s slow. When you’re at the point of making small incremental changes to refine a solution, internal playtest is faster and easier. So poor Edmund was wrangled into being game-master for the dev team: Creative Director Sean Nittner, Editor Karen Twelves, and Sean’s lovely daughters, plus me. I had a couple of packs of ZombieSmith’s Atronian miniatures (the models shown above, except mine aren’t painted yet.) Mara  wanted to play a “good” Kuld so Edmund got a guldul rider mini for her (concept sketch shown below.) The Kuld smelled of mac and cheese, by the way, so that’s what we called her. I played the Vidaar champion Vala the Loud; I used the Froth rules when fighting a Kuld horde but attracted the attention of the gods.

Kuld Guldul Rider

Ylark in armourLet’s just say that the marking event that flavoured the whole episode was a rain of ylark — large oxen-like cattle beast like the one showed here, sans armour… Sean’s Elvorix travelling preacher Semela Aeditus ix Atronia co Brambletown got herself elected as mayor of Brambletown, while Karen’s militant atheist Jaarl warrior Lele was trying to convince Brambletown to use the stones from the temple to build a wall around the town. But too late: the Kuld hordes (not Mac, the dangerous ones) were on our doorstep! Fortunately, Mac and the Elvorix alchemist Ficca Bibulus had fortified our meagre defences with a wall of ice. Will this suffice? Tune in next time to learn more…

This gave us a chance to test a number of changes. We’re very happy with the zones rules written by Mike Olson, so these remain unchanged; and we’ve  considerably streamlined the Froth rules, for the better. In fact, now we want to make Froth usable for more actions! Manoeuvres seem to work well, but I have some work to do to give magic more oompf. So it was an enjoyable and productive afternoon!

Credits:  Art © ZombieSmith 2014, used with permission.

War of Ashes RPG: So Close!


So the reason I have not had time to write for this blog is I’ve been addressing alpha playtest feedback on the War of Ashes RPG for Evil Hat Productions. We’ve had a few incredibly productive dev meetings, and we’re quite happy with the way the game is coming together. Addressing playtest comments has made it better, more consistent, clearer. I’ve been writing frantically, with the help of editor Karen Twelves, rules maven Mike Olson, and project manager Sean Nittner. And with all the great ideas generated, we have lots of material left over for Web extras when the game comes out.

We’re going to have a beta playtest, and the application form is open on the Evil Hat site: http://www.evilhat.com/home/war-of-ashes/ —Squee! you can also see the cover mock-up and read the official status details!

Playtest applications are open until July 6. Try the new, improved version and tell us if we got it right or need more improvement!

Credits:  Art © ZombieSmith 2014, used with permission.

War of Ashes RPG: Game on!


I just went through two playtest sessions of the War of Ashes RPG for Evil Hat Productions: one tabletop game this weekend and one Skype-based session with a different group. So far, a few rough edges rules-wise but everyone is having a blast with ZombieSmith’s setting. I thought I’d share our set up at the end of our Skype game: using the whiteboard app Vyew.com, the grey boxes are zones, the yellow ones are aspects we created in play. The three little markers are our characters. (Click on the image to see bigger version.)

Credits:  Art for the markers © ZombieSmith 2013, used with permission.