IndieCon this year has been a rather successful one for Intrepid Histories and marks an important milestone in it’s development… but a little background first.
In August I brought the game to IndieMeet in London and, just before I pitched it, I got into a conversation that inspired me to throw out half the rules and replaced them with a system based on Kishōtenketsu.
This is a 4 scene structure that creates unexpected plots, without requiring conflict, which seemed like a good fit for a game with a lot of exploration. We still had plenty of conflict, but that was fine and the resulting story was certainly interesting.
The only problem was that I already had 4 more scenarios written in the old system… and they needed updating and testing again.
So roll on IndieCon and 4 hopeful sign up sheets for slots 1, 2, 3 and 4. Uptake for playtests at IndieMeet had been rather slow, apparently because the historical nature of the games made people think they needed to know their history or that they would be rather dry (neither of which are the case). Luckily that didn’t seem to stop people at IndieCon and I soon had 4 full games…
Slot 1: The Lost Yuezhi
It is 2nd century BCE, on a flat earth where dragons pull the strings of mortals, and Chinese explorer Zhang Qian is charged with leading an expedition to find a lost tribe, the Yuezhi, to help fight the Ziongnu (precursors to the Mongols).
Unfortunately he is poisoned by an assassin at the start of the journey and his hedonistic and incompetent servant Lee must take his place, aided by a magical potion of strength.
Meanwhile the crown prince of the Yuezhi, Jian, comes of age and is cast out into the desert to complete 4 trials to prove his worth as a new emperor.
After a series of battles and misadventures, Lee and Jian meet, fight together and become like brothers, Dragons are consulted and manipulate, a seer’s warnings are ignored, and Zhang Qian and the Empress of the Yuezhi meet, get into a fight and both die.
Luckily, as the Ziongnu army descend upon the Chinese and Yuezhi Jian and Lee turn up, unite the two sides and defeat the Ziongnu. Jian takes his place as emperor and with Lee and the mysterious “Fourth Brother” set forth on a campaign to unite the whole world in peace.
Slot 2: Magellan’s Circumnavigation
Notorious womaniser Ferdinand Magellan leaves Spain to sail around the world, partly for the glory and partly to escape the husbands and fathers of his many lady friends, but even before the expedition leaves the Atlantic it faces supply shortages and a mutiny. It’s greatest trials, however, are found along the Pacific rim.
First the Incas, who possess sea faring technology comparable to that of Europe and prove to be no push over. Eventually the Spanish are forced to accept this fact and broker a deal for safe passage and ship repair. It ends in tragedy when a Pox the Spanish brought with them wipes out a great number of the Incan people.
Secondly at Mactan (now the Philippines), they meet a hyper advanced civilization of philosopher-mathematicians that have grown beyond violence and previously hid themselves from the world in a cloaked pyramid. Presuming that a civilisation with ships as capable as the Spanish must also have grown beyond violence, they reveal themselves, but their gestures of peace are misinterpreted and a bloodbath ensues.
One of the Mactan tries (and fails) to enlighten them, despite their violent ways and helps them escape, but not before Magellan dies.
His first mate Elcano takes over the expedition, returns to Spain, and after convincing the King and inquisition that they have not been corrupted by their journeys, are hailed as heroes.
Finally, to this day, the Mactan still wait for a time when we will renounce violence and they can reveal themselves again.
Slot 3: The Ripper
You kind of had to be there…
A conspiracy in Steampunk London with vampires. Everyone was spying on someone, every victim had a different killer – including someone who was framed for a murder they did commit, the surgeon was reanimating corpses and the detective on the case was also a vampire hunter with a suit of steam powered armour.
The press still managed to link the murders and print a story about “The Ripper” on the front page.
It ended with “The Count” (a vampire), the Pope and the goddess Kali sitting around a table saying “that was fun, let’s do it again sometime”.
…but it made sense at the time and was a lot of fun.
Slot 4: The 2nd Punic War
The Roman gods walk among them while Carthage has killed their own gods with the help of powerful sorceresses. Plus, Matriarchy is the norm.
Into this arena steps Hannibal, general of the Carthaginians (having managed to break through the glass ceiling), who braves the Alps and the wrath of the goddess Minerva to spend several long years fighting in Italy itself, a fight that takes place both on the battlefield and among the spies employed by both sides.
He has no time to complete his task however as he is recalled to defend Carthage itself from Scipia Africanus, the demi-god daughter of Minerva and the general leading Rome’s legions in Africa. An unstoppable force (with Pegasus cavalry) that only grows stronger as it goes, impressing the locals to fight for them.
Hannibal’s return trip is marked by disaster as his elephants, lead by the mighty One-Tusk, revolt against their human masters. Returning to Carthage too late the capital falls, his wife dead and daughter taken away in chains.
He lives out his days as a farmer on the outskirts of the dust patch that was once the city, taking his food to market on the back of a donkey because, after all, “you can’t trust anything larger than a donkey”.
So, what does this all mean for Intrepid Histories? Well, I had 4 good games in a row and didn’t tweak the rules once! That means that it’s done… although obviously not quite. To do are:
- 1-3 more scenarios.
- Writing it up.
- Find an editor.
- Making sure the book is usable (i.e. you can run it without me there to say how).
So playtesting is basically over (apart from a run through of each new scenario) and I’m confident I have a game that’s worthy of being put into print and sold to people.
P.S. I also wrote and tested a new RP poem called ‘Thule’, about groups of people discovering a remote island. That also went well and it’s going into the back of the book (like ‘Showdown at the Falling Blossoms’ in Intrepid).