Introducing Vrahode: Age of Prophecy (Holiday Episode)

Vrahode is going through some changes right now. Lots of them – to product strategy, art, graphic design, costs, and just about everything else you can imagine.

Why? To make sure you can get into this game as easily as possible. That’s where Vrahode: Age of Prophecy comes in. More on that in this episode.

Vrahode will be coming to Kickstarter most likely in late 2024 with its entry level game, Vrahode: Age of Prophecy.

Learn more about Vrahode on the website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.    

Transcript

Jeff Irving: My name is Jeff Irving, and this is the Vrahode Tavern Podcast: Holiday Edition. I’m the creator of the Vrahode Game System. And in this podcast, we’re going to do a deep dive into the lore and gameplay of Vrahode. I’m joined by Brandon Rollins, who will be acting as a stand in for you, asking many of the questions you might be curious about yourself.

Brandon, other than the fact that it’s the holidays, and we haven’t talked in a while, what are you thinking we should cover today?

Brandon Rollins: Oh, man. I mean, there’s a lot to cover, isn’t there?

Because you’ve been busy. You’ve been like, um, Santa’s elves right now.

You’ve been working on this thing a lot, simply because there were a lot of changes that we’ve found would be a good idea to apply. So I want to get into some of that and talk about what that means.

First thing I want to talk about is that you’ve changed up the whole product strategy for Vrahode. And by that, I mean, you’ve gone from like, I think it’s four products to nine. So first I want to talk about what exactly does that look like? And then I want to get into why and how you are making changes.

Jeff Irving: Sure. Well, you know, I’m a, I’m a stubborn old goat and, you know, I’ve had this idea, uh, for the Vrahode Game System in my head for a long time. And so, changes aren’t easy, you know, um, and I’m sure that’s true for any game designer. It’s just, you want to make sure that you try to stay true to the vision you had for, you know, for a game or a game series like we have.

And so, but through all this, you know, I’ve listened to you. I’ve listened to, you know, your team. I’ve listened to Dina’s team. I’ve listened to, you know, all the marketing people involved in the project. I’ve listened to industry professionals and eventually what you, what you arrive at is, okay, there was a few things that we really needed to look at and, you know, you and Maria were harping on me from early on.

You know, you’ve got to get this price down. You’ve got to get the cost down on production. You’ve got to get it down. So that was one that we had to look at, we started to hear some push back from our teams regarding, um, artwork, and I think it had more to do really with the graphic design facet of the game more than the artwork itself.

And so. Over time, hearing from enough people that we needed to kind of revisit the artwork, how it related to each other, you know, and then just to make sure that the graphic design elements of the, of the product weren’t outshining the art itself. That was another one.

The other, the third thing that we really tried to focus on, um, and what led us to this delay and really learning a lot of important lessons was this idea that we’re, you know, we’re a new studio. Um, I’m a new designer. We need to start out with an affordable entry level product that allows people for not a lot of money to experience this game system that we’ve come up with that exists, you know, for the Vrahode Game System and, but, but without a lot of risk. So the entry product that we decided to create is called Age of Prophecy. And so that was, that’s the new product that we’re developing and that will be launching, it looks like right now, tentatively, we’re saying October of 2024. So basically 10 months from now, we’ll be ready to launch Age of Prophecy and that will be under a hundred dollars.

So that’s the new product. So there’s one new product, but the other thing that happened, and this kind of reflects on the idea of cost savings first and foremost is pulling the Harbinger system out of the Vrahode Game System. Um, and, and that, you know, a big part of that was to reduce costs. The other part of it was not everybody that plays the Vrahode Game System will necessarily want to use a 3d terrain system and build multiple level dungeons.

And so we recognized that, you know, because of those two things, cost savings, and because not everyone would necessarily want to use that in play, coupled with the fact that we were getting interest in the Harbinger system from game systems outside of the Vrahode Game System. And so that made it easy because when you have other systems that want to use our system, because one it’s cost effective, it has a one inch grid, you know, which is the standard, you can use it for D&D, you can use it for basically any type of game that utilizes that one inch grid system, which is very common.

And so we looked at it and said, “Hey, let’s, let’s pull the Harbinger components and artwork and all that. Let’s pull that out of the Vrahode Game System and make four Harbinger sets out of it.”

And, and so the original four products became eight because of that. So, and then, then once you add in the entry, the entry point product, Age of Prophecy, you have nine total products.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, at this point, I think it’d be helpful to just kind of summarize, it’s like you have discovered there’s a bunch of stuff that you found out about the aesthetics of games, about supply chain costs and other, other considerations like price point that have affected how you’ve wanted to present this game to the world for the first time.

Now, the core, like, world of Vrahode, all that stuff, that hasn’t changed. Just the way that you’re going about introducing people to it has. So, now what we’ve got from the sound of it is that you’ve got Age of Prophecy. You’re starting out with that. Just gives people a very simple entry level introduction to the world.

Then all those original games, the core box and it’s three expansions. Those are split into two. So you’ve got core box and the Harbinger that goes along with it. Expansion one and the Harbinger that goes along with it. Um, so that people have a lot more control over what their experience is like, how much they want to spend and, and, and how they choose to get into Vrahode.

Jeff Irving: Absolutely. Oh, yeah. No, this, this makes it, um, much more kind of, yeah, it makes your experience with Vrahode more customizable and, you know, if you want that, which I, I mean, the, the, the Harbinger 3D Train System was really the catalyst for this, um, for the Vrahode Game System. It came first and so it’s an amazing system.

I, I obviously am going to encourage all Vrahode Game System players to get the Harbinger sets and use it in their Vrahode Game System. Um, and, and it’s not just because it allows you to build, um, multi level dungeons. But it also, we’re going to be including in each of the Harbinger sets, a mini campaign, we’re going to be including exclusive miniatures.

There’ll be like three minions and a boss and a card that goes with the minions and a card that goes with the boss. Um, and that’ll be included in each set. So you’re going to have a whole other campaign that you can do. With each Harbinger set with new minis that you haven’t seen in the Vrahode Game System.

And so that’s our way to incentivize the Vrahode Game System players into the Harbinger without increasing the cost of those sets so that people that want to use Harbinger in other game systems don’t have to necessarily buy into the core box and the three expansions of the game system. So that was the whole, you know, the whole reasoning behind pulling it out.

And I think it does do a good job of allowing you to customize your Vrahode Game System experience, but also to get out the Harbinger, if you just want to use it elsewhere.

Brandon Rollins: Mm hmm. And this will let people get into the game for under a hundred dollars.

Jeff Irving: Yeah, well, well, especially when you look at the intro, um, the Age of Prophecy, what we’re going to do is a mix of miniatures and standees to, we’re going to, all the heroes will be miniatures. The boss at the end of the Age of Prophecy will be a very large miniature, but everything else in the middle will be standees.

Which I know a lot of people really love standees. I’m not a huge fan of standees myself, but I really like our standees that we’re doing in, in the game. Our artwork translates very well into standees and we have two different sizes. So if you have really large creatures, they’re going to have larger standees and they’re going to have a bigger presence on your table.

So I just, I really like what we’re doing. We’re also using for that entry level product. We’re also using Lenny Scheider who is quite famous as the artist that did all of the map work in Darkest Dungeon board game by Mythic. And his style is really, It’s just easy to spot his work.

It’s a, it’s a very distinctive style. It looks like everything was drawn with a quill pen and it’s, I mean, it’s beautiful. I cannot wait to show off a little bit of it as we progress through our campaign book.

Brandon Rollins: Hmm. Yeah. And, and where are the new Harbinger sets looking like now that they’ve been split out into different boxes?

Jeff Irving: The nice thing about the Harbinger system and pulling it apart and making it separate sets from the Vrahode Game System is that I did it, I tried really hard early on, and it had to do with cost, to try to divvy up the, the Harbinger pieces pretty evenly in, in the core box and the three expansions. So, you know, as you, let’s say you’re interested in buying just one piece of the Harbinger, um, set, you know, it’s going to give you plenty of rooms and halls, stairs and artwork for that, but each, each set is a little different.

So if you, let’s say you just wanted the entire Harbinger, you know, all the Harbinger sets and that’s it, well, you can buy those in a bundle at a discount. So, so like the first set is an orange set, it has kind of a lot of the rooms and halls are, are, are kind of in an orange palette.

So they look nice together. Um, the second set is, is red. It’s, it’s in red tones. The third set is, is in purple tones. And the last set is in aqua tones. And so if you build a huge dungeon using all of your Harbinger stuff, um, you can still, you can still see enough of a difference in the coloration of the rooms and halls to get them separated back out into their respective sets, but together they look amazing.

I mean, the dungeons look colorful, there’s torch lights everywhere. And so, I mean, if you were, let’s say you’re a GM and you’re running a D&D campaign and you let your players into the room and show them what they’re about to explore. Their jaws are going to drop because it’s just that impressive on the table.

And the, I think the best part for me as a designer is I’m bringing this to players at a price point that is way below what’s out there. You know, I’m talking about the really expensive resin sets like Dwarven Forge and all of those guys. Our stuff is just designed to do one thing well, and that’s three dimensional dungeon building with multiple levels.

You know, we’re, we’re giving you full color vinyl artwork to affix, to the top of all the rooms and halls. So you don’t have to paint them. You just affix the vinyl labels and off you go. And so I think it’s going to be a real big hit. I think there’s going to be a lot of people that not only want to use it in other game systems and purchase it from us, but I can definitely see, um, some interest in, um, in licensing, uh, the Harbinger system, um, so that other people can then, um, make it themselves or at least, um, get access to all the STL files and then just be able to fix their own artwork for their own games.

So, because the price point. You know, because it is such a simple modular system, um, it, it keeps the cost way down.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah. And it’s something you can definitely take outside of, um, just the Vrahode games. This is something that can be ported to, ported or used as part of any number of franchises.

Jeff Irving: Yeah, as long as it uses a 1 inch grid system, which is most. You’re good. Um, there are some board game systems out there where they’re not really staying true to grids anymore. They’re breaking off into like just areas that are randomly shaped and some are larger, some are smaller, but we decided to stick with a one inch grid in our system.

And I think the Harbinger because of that, the Harbinger does have that kind of broader appeal.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, definitely. Um, now, can you tell me a little bit more about Age of Prophecy?

Jeff Irving: Yeah. So Age of Prophecy is going to happen in the, in the, in the history of the world, in the, in the timeline, the core box, which is called Calteeryn Ascension. So this is basically, the, the turning of an age is happening on Vrahode, which is our, the world, you know, if you saying Vrahode is just like saying Earth, you know, everything, all the adventures, all the enemies, heroes, and everything exists within the world of Vrahode.

And so every hundred spans, which is about the equivalent of a year on Vrahode or so a comet comes around called Tabuul’s Tail and it ushers in and out the ages. So an age is ending and the Age of Prophecy is beginning on road and what it portends is the birth of Calteeryn, is this prophesied figure in, in the lore of our world that is, is foretold to be born in one of the races and bring about salvation from oppressors, you know, in the world.

And so what we, what we have is the heroes of the game come together to try to divine the truth behind this omen in the sky of Tabuul’s Tail, this comet coming through. And so they set out on a journey to, to find out if Calteeryn has been born and to which race, um, Calteeryn has been born into. Um, and so that, that is really the kind of the, the campaign, the thrust of the campaign for the entry level product.

So like I said, the heroes will be miniatures, really cool miniatures. The boss and at the end will be a miniature. And I think I’m really true, I’m really considering going ahead and making ink wash standard. In other words, when you buy this game, you don’t pay any extra, but all of the miniatures, the heroes and the boss at the end will already have a really nice ink wash effect, um, or sundrop or whatever you want to call it.

Different companies call it something different, but it’s just, it’s just a wash that enhances the contrast on the miniature. So if you’re not a person that wants to spend time painting miniatures, it’s still going to look finished and it’s going to look really cool. And you’re going to be able to see every detail on your hero or on that big evil enemy that you face at the end.

Brandon Rollins: That does sound cool. Now, will, will it resemble what you had with the, with the original, with the game in its original iteration where you have like procedural play and exploration and all that stuff?

Jeff Irving: No, what, what in order to, in order to reduce costs, what happens is in our game system, when you start with the big core box and the big expansions, it’s a very card driven game so that it takes the place of a GM, right?

So you can play procedurally kind of sandboxesque without a GM, um, in, in the entry level product, everything is going to be in a campaign. So what, what our goal is for this is to get you immersed into the intricate lore. The rich textures of the world of Vrahode in this story in a campaign.

So it’s a campaign game and the heroes, there’s four heroes that are pre selected for you, to play, in this first one. In the core box, we open it up to 12 heroes. And we also give you the option to create custom heroes in the first core box. There are six modes of play in the entry level product, there is one mode of play, but, but our goal here is to introduce you to the game system and as many of the mechanics that our game system offers as possible.

In other words, the experience that you will have playing the entry level product, which is Age of Prophecy, our goal is to show you all of the mechanics or almost all of the mechanics you can expect in the, in the full system.

And we’re going to launch Age of Prophecy next October, but then every six months after that, we’re going to be doing Kickstarters. The first one after the entry level product will be the core box and the first Harbinger set, then it’ll be the first expansion to the core box. And the second Harbinger set, and then six months later, it’ll be the second expansion and the third Harbinger set.

And six months later, it’ll finally be the third expansion and the fourth Harbinger set. So we’re going to keep that rhythm going for you and the excitement also, because as you play through these, you’re going to want something new and we’re going to give it, we’re going to give it to you every six months.

Brandon Rollins: if you follow that plan, if my math is right, that’ll take you from your first campaign in roughly October of next year, if everything goes according to plan, to like, what, 2028 with two campaigns a year?

Jeff Irving: Think mid 2027.

Brandon Rollins: Wow. Yeah, I mean, that’s a, this is, that’s the whole idea though, is just to kind of take all the, the game that previously existed and give it to people at a pace which they can enjoy and savor and also afford as well.

Jeff Irving: That’s it. That’s absolutely right. And I would say that, uh, in addition to spreading it out this way, it’s, it’s. We can hit this timeline because the only thing that’s still in development at this point is the entry level product. The eight products that follow it are done. The assets are done. The writing’s finishing up.

I mean, and most companies that try to do what we’re doing can’t keep that pace. They may say they want to do that, but there’s always delays. But when you have the first, when you have eight products done, all you’re doing is finishing the first product, which is derived from the later products, the rule system, everything is derived from it.

Then you can look at that timeline and truly say, Hey, yes, we can deliver on this.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, I, I mean, like, so much of the work is done and has been for a long time. It’s just a matter of like, there’s the business side, there’s product strategy, marketing strategy, pricing strategy, all that stuff. And then there’s just simple game experience. It’s just like formatting it to the way to it can be, uh, enjoyed.

Jeff Irving: Absolutely that. And then, like you said, the way. It’s, we’ve got it stretched out into five kickstarters. It’s, it’s easier to market it that way. It’s easier for people to wrap their head around. Okay. What is this? It’s not too much. It doesn’t overwhelm them, you know? And it, it also allows you to do things in an affordable way over time.

And I think, I mean, I think what we’ll do is. Kickstarter for the entry product, then Gamefound for the entry product, but probably all the Kickstarters after the entry product will just be on Gamefound. And the main reason for that is this. Kickstarter and they may add this soon. Um, I like stretch pay.

I like the way Gamefound has added stretch pay. It allows you on a budget to be able to put a little bit in every month or whatever you want to do so that until your stuff’s paid off, you’re, you know. And so we felt like we definitely wanted to offer stretch pay with our, with our later Kickstarters because they can get a bit pricey, especially if you’re trying to drop all that money at once.

So the stretch pay will be really helpful for people to be able to afford what we’re doing.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, especially since Gamefound probably is going to be more popular in the next year or two than it is now, and it’s already big enough to support many large campaigns. It’s just still getting to a point where it’s going to be, it’s probably going to eventually get close enough to where Kickstarter is in terms of board game stuff, simply because it’s made for that.

Jeff Irving: Yep. No, it’s, it, there’s a lot less noise. You know, on Gamefound, it’s easier to find products, game, game products on Gamefound that it is on Kickstarter sometimes just the way things are, or there’s, you know, it’s just focused on games. So, but we really feel like we need to do both for the entry product.

And then we feel like at that point, people will track us down. You know, people, people will find us on game.

Brandon Rollins: hmm. Yeah, and I think that makes sense. So, if somebody misses the first Kickstarter, will they still be able to get everything?

Jeff Irving: Yes, definitely. I’ll like, uh, first Kickstarter is age of prophecy, you know, it’s under a hundred bucks. We’re not asking you to, you know, to open your wallets much. We just want you, we want you, we want you to, um, grow to trust us and also experience, you know, what we’re telling you is true that this is, this is more fun than some of the stuff you’re playing, right?

This is, this is worth, um, your time and your investment. So we’re going to prove it to you with the entry product. Six months later, we’re going to do it. We’re going to roll out the big core box. It’s going to be a little, it’s going to be pricier and the first Harbinger set. So then people will be able to get the core box and the Harbinger set that goes with it, if they wish as an all in, or they can come and just do the Harbinger set.

And they don’t have to wait long to get more of either, right? Because six months later, it’s going to be expansion one and Harbinger two. So your sets will be able to grow, whether you’re in the Vrahode Game System channel, or you’re in the Harbinger channel, or you want to do the all ends. You’re going to get that in both.

Now, I think it’s important to note, in addition to the campaigns you get in the Harbinger sets, the exclusive miniatures and the cards, another thing that we do give our Vrahode Game System players is we give them a couple of mechanics that aren’t available if you don’t have Harbinger. So let’s say you and I are exploring a region and we both pay a fatigue to kind of scour that region and look for Hovels & Hideouts.

Well, we, we, each, each one of us pays a fatigue. Each one of us gets one, uh, on a, on a dot on a modifier die to find it. So if we both pay fatigue, we need to get a one or a two. On that role to find a hovel and hideout. So the hovels and hideouts are constructed using Harbinger pieces in the broad game system.

So that’s another way you’re going to get a little bit different kind of mechanic added to the, to the game system is by, by getting that Harbinger set.

Brandon Rollins: Mm hmm. Yeah, and that gives a good, that gives people a good incentive to get both of them.

Jeff Irving: I think so because it’s what it is, is it’s a way for you to explore the underlands without the risk of having to complete an entire dungeon. It’s just little bitty bite sized chunks, um, with the underland mechanics. So you can go in, try to kill a couple of things, get some good loot and get out. If you get into trouble, you know, if your life gets too low.

Um, so yeah, I think it’ll be a fun, a fun new mechanic that you get. Um, added to your games by virtue of trying the Harbinger. So, well.

Brandon Rollins: Um, is there anything else you want to tell folks that you’ve been working on for the last couple of months?

Jeff Irving: We finished up, uh, we finished up conventions. We wrapped, we wrapped up the convention season, our fifth convention was BGG Con in Dallas. And that was basically just us kind of starting to pivot. And let people know that we’re going to be taking a break from cons for about six months while we design and develop Age of Prophecy.

But also it allowed us to play version 3.5 of the rule system, the broad game system rules and make some last minute tweaks because the rule system for the four game series will be distilled down to provide us. The slightly simplified rules for the entry point product, Age of Prophecy. And so we felt like this was a great opportunity for us to listen to players one more time and see if there was any fun left to uncover, you know, or anything that they felt was cumbersome.

Um, and really it plays great. The challenge level is finally. Um, based on the new cards, the challenge level is finally where I always hoped it would be. And that was one of the things that I really wanted to prove and, uh, me and a friend were playing a demo and we had two Niveus Adders and a Thunderhorn on, on a plains map.

And we literally had to run. We had to run, we had to run from the battle because we were both so close to death and that’s the way, that’s the challenge level I wanted. I really, really wanted, um, there to be times when you just, you can’t win. And, and so now that I have the, the challenge level of the game where I want it, um, I think the excitement level was really high, um, combat’s playing really quick.

I dunno, I just, I feel really good about, um, where we are now and that we’ve, you know, finally wrapped up. Cons for the year now, next year, obviously, we’ll, we’ll want to be starting up doing some conventions prior to launch. Once we have a full prototype of the entry point product. So, you know, probably July or August.

We’ll be back out there again, um, doing at least, hopefully at least three conventions prior to our October launch. And, and that should be the full, yeah, that’ll be the full prototype of the game. So you’ll be playing, what you’ll be backing, hopefully in October.

Brandon Rollins: When do you think you’ll have that full prototype?

Jeff Irving: Well, if we’re going to start in July, that’s going to be the ouch point, you know, is trying to get everything ready so that we have a full working prototype. And I think we can do it.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah. Yeah. That sounds reasonable. Honestly, you might be able to beat that.

Jeff Irving: It’s possible. It’s very possible. We can beat it. And I know the factory. I know game land. Our manufacturing partner is absolutely ready to get the quoting done on that entry, uh, entry product. And, you know, I’ve already sent them all the standees, you know, of course, the hero art is done. Our writer, Sean Dressler and Lenny Scheider, uh, are working through the campaign book, building those spreads that you’re going to adventure through.

So yeah, I feel like we’re on pace and, um, should not be a problem to hit July with a full prototype and, and do a few cons and hopefully get some people at the table and really get some play in. So.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah. That sounds like something to look forward to.

I know this is a huge pivot and a ton of work.

Jeff Irving: I mean, it’s been humbling for me, you know, I mean, I’m, I’m new to the industry. I’ve always been a gamer, but I’m new to the industry. So I’ve had to listen to people like you and Maria. I’ve had to listen to Dina’s teams. I’ve had to listen to not only that, but our, our localization people like Michael Raftopolous with M.O.B. Vanguard.

You know, the, these are the people that want, you know, you guys and Michael, you guys are the people that want us to succeed. And so we just have to, we have to listen and adjust accordingly and try to give this game system the best chance it has at success.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, and I, I think you’ve done a lot of good work on that because, um, people forget, you know, gamers, um, who have never actually done anything like this, don’t know from firsthand experience just how absolutely hard it is to let go of something that you put a lot of work on because of market factors and experience things and other stuff like that, but it’s necessary and it goes into just about every great game that’s out there.

It started as something else, but it’s that it’s the process of changing that ultimately ends up, um, making the things that people really, really love.

Jeff Irving: Well, I, I, you know, I think people are going to recognize, at its heart, it’s a, it’s a passion project.

And I think, I think they’re going to see that in the depth of the lore. I think they’re going to see that in those quality of life tweaks that happened at the end of the development cycle, because, you know, you can get rules hammered into place that work, but it takes over 300 play tests, you know, upwards.

To, to really get to the heart of a rule until it feels like it’s well lubricated, it feels right among the other rules of a system and things just kind of, when you have enough quality of life tweaks, things just kind of tend to kind of cohese, you know, they, they, they pull together and they flow well.

The other thing is you’ve got to get rid of the dumb rules. You can’t, you can’t get too connected to rules that don’t work, you know? And so like we’ve, towards the end here, we’ve eliminated a lot of rules that didn’t add to the fun, they just added tedium. And so, so the game is playing really quick and there’s just a lot of, there’s just a lot of stuff now that is resolved that it worked before.

But it works better now. It just, it truly, the game is truly playing well. And I’m proud of that.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah. Yeah. That’s really good to hear.

All right. So I guess on that note, do you want to go ahead and take us out?

Jeff Irving: Sure. Thank you for listening to the Vrahode Tavern Podcast Holiday Episode. If you enjoyed this show, take a moment and subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts. If you’re on Apple Podcasts, please leave a five star review. It helps more than, you know. You can learn more about Vrahode on Vrahode.com.

That’s V R A H O D E. com. Link in the show notes. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit, where we’re Vrahode. Well, we’re at Vrahode on Instagram and we’re on Reddit at r/ Vrahode. Thank you again for listening. We really appreciate it. Keep an eye out for our next episode here in a few weeks.

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