Why The Calteeryn Is So Important In Vrahode

It’s probably not a surprise that the Calteeryn is kind of a big deal in Vrahode: The Calteeryn Ascension.

But what does it mean to be the prophesied character? What does that look like in the game?

In this episode, Vrhode writer, Shawn Allen Dressler, and Vrahode creator, Jeff Irving both talk about the Calteeryn, their unique powers, how the gameplay of Vrahode will feel, and even how loot works.

Shawn is a published fantasy author known for his series, The Five. He and Jeff work together as a team to develop the campaign book for Vrahode. In this podcast, you can learn how that works.

Vrahode will be coming to Kickstarter most likely in quarter four of 2023. When that campaign goes live, you will not only be able to buy the core game, Vrahode: The Calteeryn Ascension, but its three expansions as well.

Learn more about Vrahode on the websiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

You can find Shawn Allen Dressler on Facebook and Instagram.

01:06 What is the Calteeryn that you guys keep hinting at?
03:21 How is the Calteeryn chosen?
05:30 Interesting ways the Calteeryn works mechanically
07:55 How the Calteeryn’s powers work
10:03 Villages in Vrahode
17:27 Everybody loves Corbwalder
19:37 The rest mechanic & keeping realism in the game (in a fun way)
21:42 How Vrahode accommodates just about every play style
25:18 Gear and loot in Vrahode
30:52 The challenge of keeping loot simple but diverse with some simple assumptions
33:18 Keeping setup time minimal


Brandon Rollins: You guys, I feel like teasing now. You’re teasing me.

Jeff Irving: Did you smell that, Brandon? call that sarcasm. 

Brandon Rollins: Sarcasm. 

Jeff Irving: My name is Jeff Irving, and this is the Vrahode Tavern Podcast. I am 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.

We’re also joined today by campaign book writer Shawn Allen Dressler. Brandon, what is our topic for today?

Brandon Rollins: All right, so on the last couple of episodes, we’ve had Shawn on to talk about all things that go into writing campaign books. And there’s a lot that goes into that. But there is one question that I’ve been wondering about honestly for the last several episodes, and that is, what exactly is the Calteeryn? And I know that’s kind of a loaded question for this podcast, so I’m just gonna pose that to both of you guys and see what happens.

What is the Calteeryn that you guys keep hinting at?

Jeff Irving: What do you think, Shawn? You wanna take that one?

Shawn Dressler: Yeah, sure. I’ll start. Um, so the Calteeryn is really unlike, um, both from a story and a game mechanic standpoint, Unlike anything I’ve seen in a, in a tabletop game. Um, it is from a story standpoint, the central character. Um, the Calteeryn is this prophecy, uh, of a character to come to Vrahode, to, uh, step in as a hero and save the world from ultimately, uh, subjected to the ultimate evil of the world. And I don’t want to go any farther into that aspect than that, cuz spoilers would ensue. 

But, um, uh, so from a story element, it is a central character as this prophesied one. Uh, from a game mechanic standpoint, it gets really, really interesting because, you know, the game can be played from one to six players, but only one of those players can be the Calteeryn.

And the Calteeryn, mechanically, is significantly different than the other players in one big aspect that is that the Calteeryn, over the course of the game, gains powers that are held by the other races in Vrahode and so right off the bat, you’re introduced to this character and you, you might have a little bit of a shocked reaction when you learn that, um, one of the players in my playing party is gonna be playing something very different than the rest of us.

And we’re gonna have to learn how to work as a group to compliment, uh, each other’s skills, not just in the normal asymmetric way that a lot of tabletop games do, but also in a very unique way in that, um, we are all in a, in a certain way, supportive of the Calteeryn character.

Brandon Rollins: So this asymmetry is built right into the story. Is that right?

Shawn Dressler: It absolutely is. It, it’s built into the story, um, as much as it’s built into the mechanics of the game. 

How is the Calteeryn chosen?

Brandon Rollins: So, as far as I understand it, anybody theoretically can be the Calteeryn. So is it chosen at random? Is there some other kind of mechanism that is used to decide who in the party is the chosen one? 

Shawn Dressler: Yeah. So there’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that we have to beg from our, from our players at that moment when they choose who among the party is the actual Calteeryn. Now the, the story begins and you become introduced to this Calteeryn character who, who does have a bit of a backstory. And so whoever chooses who, whoever’s chosen to, to function to serve as the Calteeryn, and this prophesied one within the party essentially is adopting that backstory because we just, we need a central character, of course.

And so the Calteeryn is that central character. And so in that moment, the players get to choose however they want. I think we give a few suggestions about how they might, but if there’s six people sitting around the table, they get to decide who’s gonna be the Calteeryn. It could be any one of them. Any gender, any race.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah. That’s really interesting how that works. So I, I mean, it’s kind of like, it can be, it really can be anyone. It can be an an Athak-uul, it can be a Cautuuk. It can can be anybody, even if you wouldn’t think that they would be. 

Shawn Dressler: That’s correct. 

Brandon Rollins: And so does that create kind of interesting tensions in the story as well? 

Shawn Dressler: It does, it does. And this is consistent in so many, um, both tabletop and video game adventure role playing games where, because the game developers don’t know who, what you’re gonna choose as your name, your race, your gender, they have to write the story in such a way that there are aspects of it that are generic that would apply no matter what you fill in into those blanks.

And we, you know, we’re no different. We haven’t found the magic pill to to avoid that. And, uh, the only other real option is to curate everything and tell people what their name and race and gender are. And we just don’t want to do that to the players. There’s a reason it’s role playing. We want them to choose that.

Interesting ways the Calteeryn works mechanically

Jeff Irving: What do you think about the Calteeryn mechanically, Shawn? Do you feel like, I mean, obviously we’re, we’re adding, we’re adding powers. The win condition of the core box is to fulfill this prophecy, is to help Calteeryn and fulfill the prophecy and be, and actually become Calteeryn.

So we’ve, we’ve got that happening as a win condition, but the process under which we’re taking this, this prophesied one, we’re adding, we’re adding abilities, but we’re also making this character the target, kind of the target of, of enemies. We’re increasing the pressure on this and so it almost makes, it makes the supporting cast even more important because it’s their job to try to help keep this, this prophesied one alive so that they can all enjoy the win condition.

Shawn Dressler: Totally. There’s so many elements of that that I think are exciting. 

Jeff Irving: Like tower defense. what I mean? It’s almost like one of those It’s like tower defense game.

Shawn Dressler: Yeah. It’s almost like the Calteeryn is a moving tower in one aspect and another aspect, it’s almost like an escort game, where you’re escorting the Calteeryn through the game to fulfill the win condition. Yet at the same time, this is the most powerful escort you’ve ever been with because, uh, he has powers that you, he or she, he has powers that you don’t have.

Not only that, but in a, in a normal asymmetric game or in a, a, a, a, I’ll call it a, a usual asymmetric game, all of the various abilities tend to compliment each other in a way that you could make different choices and leave any one of them out and find a way to compensate for it. You can’t leave the Calteeryn out, and so you have to build your party around this character, and so in a certain way, Everybody in the party is a support character to the Calteeryn.

Even the tank is a support character to the, to the Calteeryn, which I think really… 

Jeff Irving: Calteeryn might even end up being the tank,

Shawn Dressler: That’s true. 

Jeff Irving: So…

Brandon Rollins: Well, that’s that’s a point. It could be anything. 

Jeff Irving: Yeah.

Shawn Dressler: That’s right. And so it just, to me, it, it, it adds a wrinkle that is, is gonna send its waves through the whole game and how you would think about assembling a party, how you would think about managing your progression throughout the game in a way that I’ve never seen a game do. 

Jeff Irving: Yeah. 

How the Calteeryn’s powers work

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, so I am curious how does it work for the Calteeryn and to have powers that are held by other characters in the game?

Shawn Dressler: Yeah. And so without getting too bogged down into minutia of mechanics, essentially there are 10 created races in this world. And each of these races operates, um, in part, uh, with a, with a power system that is called ruhl, R U H L. And what this ruhl, uh, does within each of the races respectively, is it, it essentially allows them to, um, have unique abilities that other races don’t have, and we call them, mechanically, racial abilities.

Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm 

Shawn Dressler: When the Calteeryn learns, um, to master the ruhl of another particular race, what they gain is that race’s racial abilities. So as you progress through the game? 

You’re gaining all of these powers that are very specific to, um, the, the various cultures of the world of Vrahode. So for instance, if you are maybe a Cautuuk, uh, player who has taken on the role of Calteeryn, well, you already have the katu racial abilities, um, but you don’t have the Athak-uul, the Mynoc, the Drelrhune, the Sahrhune, the Chorne et cetera.

Um, and so as you collect them, you essentially become this master of all cultures. 

Jeff Irving: Really great job on the pronunciation too, by the way, Shawn. You just nailed those. 

Shawn Dressler: I think these words quite often, 

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, I, I’m still working on my pronunciation. That’s actually one of the subplots of this podcast is me continuously pronouncing things less incorrectly as we go on. 

Yeah, so I, I mean, we’re naturally talking about the Calteeryn kind of leads us into talking about gameplay. So, uh, one other thing I wanted to ask about is what kind of, what specific gameplay mechanics that you can talk about. Are you excited to see people play on the table? 

Villages in Vrahode  

Shawn Dressler: Yeah, man, there’s a list of them. So one thing that is super exciting to me that I haven’t seen, I don’t think I’ve seen it in a tabletop game, if I have, it’s been very, very simplistic, is our village function. So villages, main villages in this game serve a lot of different purposes. If you are a player who is coming from more of a video game RPG standpoint, oftentimes you might be a little disappointed with how little villages play a role in games as checkpoints, as places to get quests, as places to purchase and gather and re and, um, regenerate yourself as places to interact with NPCs and in, in Vrahode, we’ve crafted a village function and structure that I think is gonna be pretty exciting, uh, to a lot of people who, who may be, have been hoping that this would be done really well in a table time game.

I know I’m really excited to play it and I’m writing it… 

Jeff Irving: It is a late add.

Shawn Dressler: It is, it’s…

Jeff Irving: Isn’t something that we, I mean, we have so many modes of play in the series that, you know, you, you try to think about keeping the game fairly streamlined and simple because that’s what we’ve kind of aired on every time we’ve had a choice between realism and, and simplicity as we’ve tried to keep things streamlined and simple.

Uh, but this, this just, I mean, this mode just kind of screamed at us and said, Hey, you’ve gotta do justice to this. And yeah, so it’s gonna be fun.

Shawn Dressler: Yeah. 

Brandon Rollins: made you make the decision to add that at the last minute? Was it not the last minute, but what, when made you decide to add it at this point? Did you just feel like it was a glaring omission in the story, or did you feel like it was just a missed opportunity to add some strategic play in there? 

Jeff Irving: For, for me, it didn’t really have anything about story as much as sh, when I mentioned this, uh, concept of adding this kind of, kind of viability to the villages. Shawn really liked the idea and he kind of took it and ran with it. And so we ended up with, you know, multiple functions and, and what else, Shawn?

We, we got, I mean, they’re basically like a hub of activity now. 

Shawn Dressler: Absolutely, they function like a real village. There’s your local tavern and inn, there’s your, uh, commission board to get quests. Um, there’s merchants where you can go and trade. It just, it creates this place in the world where you feel like you are actually in the world. And, uh, to me it’s the kind of thing that roots me in a game.

It makes me feel present in the game. And because I can imagine myself just sitting there in the tavern, um, when I read the story intro to the innkeeper, and I feel like I’m right there with them. Um, and I, and I wanna speak to that decision too a little bit more from a general sense and how we’ve approached building the game from the beginning.

And this is really just one example of what has happened several times where any time there is an aspect of the game that we feel like either isn’t fully developed or just isn’t, uh, hold, you know, carrying its weight. A central question that we keep asking ourselves is, how can we make this function more fun?

How can we make it add more game value? And the village function was really, for a while, it was just dots and labels on a map. Um, and now it’s grown to so much more. It’s a place that you can return to. It’s a place that, um, takes on a real sense of being a place in the world. And yeah, I just think it’s gonna be super exciting, for people to, to dig in. 

Brandon Rollins: Yeah. It makes the whole place feel more lived in. 

Jeff Irving: I, I, yeah, And I, I think we’ve done, we’ve kind of had this kind of iterative process with each game play mode. And I, to me, you asked Shawn, or you asked us both, but Shawn answered earlier about what he was excited about, you know, in, in, in seeing people play, which part of the game. And, uh, you know, to me it’s the fact that we have these unique play modes and these, these, that the game isn’t just one way to play.

It’s, it, it’s, we’ve broken this big epic game into simple bite size chunks by, by having different mode. And, you know, traveling through the Overlands has a rhythm. It has a, it’s its own mode. And when, when you get tired in the Overlands, the time you have to take to rest and recharge your batteries, if you’re not in one of these wonderful villages we just talked about, well rest out on the road, is its own mode.

It, it, it has a different rhythm to it as you try to heal everyone up to full, well, you have different perils that can happen while you’re resting. You can try to set a watch to prevent ambush and you can try to do these things, but you’re all a bunch of weary travelers, and so trying to keep the person on watch awake is a challenge.

But, but you know, that’s just a couple examples of how these modes take what might otherwise be this big kind of overwhelming glob of rules. And it bakes, it bakes the world down into these manageable bite size cookies that are each one. They taste different. And you know, and they’re, I think, I think they’re really, I mean, of course play testing’s gonna help us adjust and, and get the nuances right, but I really think they’re, it’s gonna make the game really, really fun.

Shawn Dressler: Totally agree. Totally agree. And I, and I that it’s also gonna be a game where people who have very different style of tabletop gaming that they enjoy are all gonna be able to find that aspect of Vrahode or aspects of Vrahode, modes of play within Vrahode that they really enjoy. And, you know, we’ve tried to make it in such a way that if you are a more story focused player, we have a mode for that.

If you are a more, uh, procedural, you just wanna play by yourself and solo some quest, we have a mode for that. If you really love challenging asymmetric, uh, play and you play with a party all the time, we have a mode for that. And I just, I, I think that, um, Jeff’s, Jeff’s point is a good one that it. It’s broken into these pieces and that are, um, really easy to wrap your mind around, take a long time to master, but are rewarding from beginning to end. I also wanna say that I’m super excited about how we’re going to introduce those modes and Jeff spoiled this a little bit earlier, but that’s okay. We’re not gonna get into it. 

Jeff Irving: I think I, I think I pulled up, I think I pulled up short on spoiling but you, you go ahead. You go ahead Shawn. Spoil away.

Shawn Dressler: He did. But I’m gonna also pull up short, I’m only gonna say because it’s already been mentioned a little bit, that I’m really excited for the players to meet Corbwalder and all that he is to this world. And I’m gonna stop right there. 

Everybody loves Corbwalder

Brandon Rollins: Well

Jeff Irving: I had to run through the trash can. Did you say Corbwalder?

Shawn Dressler: I did. 

Jeff Irving: No, I think I, I think we can, I honestly think it’s okay to talk in a general sense about how we’re trying to welcome players into this game system. And I, I don’t, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with kind of keeping it at that kind of conversation, that kind of level.

Shawn Dressler: Yeah. Yeah. Well, 

Brandon Rollins: Could comfortably talk about the first hour of the game and not feel like that’s too spoiler. 

Shawn Dressler: Yeah.

Jeff Irving: Yeah, go ahead, Shawn. I mean, kind of just, just do, just address it in a general sense about how, Cause the… we both felt pretty, I think we both felt pretty satisfied about this idea, this concept.

Shawn Dressler: Yeah, totally. And I, I think a lot of games do some version of this. What I think we’ve, we’ve tried to do is make the game. Uh, such that the moment you open the book, you are in the game. And so even the process of selecting what type of game mode you wanna to start with is part of the game. It’s part of the immersion into the game.

And Corbwalder among other, uh, roles, plays a part in helping you to choose what game mode you’re gonna play. Corbwalder is actually the proprietor of a very famous, um, in and tavern in Central Renduur in Vrahode. And um, what I’ll say about him is that he is much more than he seems. 

Jeff Irving: That’s not too spoilery.

Shawn Dressler: No, I don’t think so.

Jeff Irving: No, that’s, uh, that’s acceptable spoilage.

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, and I have a feeling that just by the merit of being the bartender, one of the central bars in the whole world of Vrahode, like he’s gotta be privy to a lot of information. So he is going to be a good kind of guide when you’re getting into the game. 

Shawn Dressler: He is, he is. He is, uh, very knowledgeable.

Brandon Rollins: You guys, I feel like teasing now. You’re teasing me.

Jeff Irving: Did you smell that, Brandon? call that sarcasm. 

Brandon Rollins: Sarcasm.

The rest mechanic & keeping realism in the game (in a fun way)

Shawn Dressler: Yeah. Yeah. And another thing that I’m excited about, you know, Jeff mentioned the rest mechanic. I wanna take that a little bit further because the rest mechanic, we, we’ve tried and, Brandon, you alluded to this, we’ve tried to make all of the mechanics in the game relate back to both story and some form of realism.

Now we’ve always erred on the side of gameplay value rather than fidgetiness. And so anytime an element of realism threatened to kind of cross that line to just being burdensome, we, we excised it from the game. But everything still is tied back to some element of realism. And so, for instance, what Jeff was talking about earlier is this rest mechanic where you, uh, remove, uh, tiredness in the form of what we call fatigue, uh, from your character.

And the rest mechanic is essentially our campfire. And so we’ve tied it directly, not only to just a system where you, um, maybe roll dice or flip a card and rest, but it’s physical. This game actually has a campfire miniature this game actually has a way for you to be resting, uh, as a part of the gameplay of rest.

And that attention to detail I think is gonna be really immersive and just be another way that the game really draws you in while you’re playing. 

Jeff Irving: Yeah. I, I, I’ll tell you, Shawn, I think, I think if, if there’s a, a, a way to describe our game that’s, that sets it apart, our game series, I should say, is it’s almost like, it’s almost like five or six really fun and different mini games.

Shawn Dressler: Yeah. Yeah. That all work really well together and, uh, contribute and support each other 

Brandon Rollins: Which gives a game kind of a lasting sense of variety and replayability over time. 

How Vrahode accommodates just about every play style

Jeff Irving: Yeah. and hopefully it, it keeps it fresh as you play. I mean, I was gonna ask, you know, Shawn was kind of clicking through the different types of game players and the modes that they would be able to choose and how they would, how they would go about choosing those. I think there’s also, you also have a fair amount of people that just want to hack and slash you know, they just want to, they just wanna kill things.

And you also have people that care a lot about gear. They, they, they want to, they want to kind of gear grind or farm for things. Where do you, where do you find those type of players would be happiest? Within our, within our game system, Shawn, where hack and slash are gonna go. 

Shawn Dressler: Yeah. So I, I think that those players are, are, first of all, I think they’re gonna be happy pretty much anywhere in the game system because we’ve, we’ve crafted the story in such a way that it’s, it’s going to be, um, a. From a, a design standpoint, very visible. So if you want to just move from Quest to Quest to Quest, skip the story and just do the encounters.

There’s nothing stopping you from do that. Now, as a writer, I’m gonna be deeply offended and I’m probably gonna be upset with you, but you can do that. But that being said, we’ve also created game modes that are more hack and slash, you know, dungeon crawl, stay in the action friendly. And so really, um, there, there’s an a, a variety of, you know, there’s sort of a spectrum there.

You know, we’ve got what we call expeditions. Expeditions are series of quests that are much smaller, of course, than the campaign, but they give you a sense of completing a journey without having to, to take on the mammoth, uh, length and duration of the campaign. Right below that, we have what we call missions.

Missions are really just one quest, but they have several encounters and a little bit less story. Uh, separating one encounter from the next so that you can, maybe you can play an entire mission in a day or an afternoon if you’re really motivated. We also have a game mode that we call skirmishes. So skirmishes are like, they’re a little bit like mini missions where you’re really not moving around the map so much at all as you are moving through one particular map region.

Um, and within skirmishes it’s a little bit more rapid fire. It’s a little bit more, um, you know, set you up and go. And so you can pull out the box, set up a skirmish play, and be done in maybe an hour.

Jeff Irving: So that’s like a nice little hack and slash session, I would say.

Shawn Dressler: Yeah, exactly. And you know, for me, I’m, I’m definitely, uh, more story forward. I’m gonna gravitate to the expeditions and the missions and the campaign, but we also have a short form game, uh, mode called Ancient Errands. And Ancient Errands have a bit more of a story thread that runs through them without it being the focus.

It’s, it’s more like a, a web that the, the quests are built from. And they’re the shortest form of quests that we actually have. Um, actually that’s not true. We just added one and it’s probably gonna be even shorter, but 

Jeff Irving: Oh you think the ones in the village are gonna be

Shawn Dressler: I think they might be I think some of them might be from the commission 

Jeff Irving: Yeah, 

Shawn Dressler: But, uh, anyway, all that to say that there’s a huge range of length and sort of in-depthness, uh, to story within and amongst all the, the different Quest types. 

Gear and loot in Vrahode

Jeff Irving: Yeah. And then what about, what about gear? Where, where, where am I gonna, uh uh, where am I gonna satisfy? I’m a gear, I’m a guy that likes to have the good stuff. Where am I gonna go? I think. I think, um, uh, what do you, where would you send them for that sort of thing?

Shawn Dressler: Yeah, so I, you know, I would speak a little bit generally about gear, uh, to start with because a lot of games are really focused on grinding and looting, right? And so you’ll spend a ton of time retreading ground playing the same encounter over and over, or wandering around over and over in the same region.

And you can certainly do that in Vrahode, but we haven’t crafted the game in such a way that you’re going to fill up a thousand, uh, item inventory with lots of minutia that the only value it has is some monetary value in the game. We’ve tried to strip those kinds of very fidgety, low game value add aspects out of the game, and so we focus a lot more on…

The every item has a specific function, and every item is unique. And so, for instance, we don’t really have items that are just for the purpose of selling. That doesn’t exist in the game. Every item is an item that you might want to keep based on what your play style is, what your role and your party is.

And so from a gear standpoint, whether you’re playing the campaign or whether you’re playing one of the many non campaign, uh, modes, you’re gonna have access to rewards both from defeating enemies, from completing quests, from, uh, completing portions of the game that give you access and, and just from, uh, being in the world and drawing what we call exploration cards, uh, that give you access to most of what is available from a, from a gear standpoint, both basic, you know, medium and high level. That being said, we also have, uh, paid really close attention to making sure that the highest value rewards are the ones that, uh, have the highest bar to entry. And so do have a, our, our a completely separate deck.

There are two, two item decks. One that we call just the items deck and the other that we call the special items deck. And as you might guess, the special items deck is gonna be, uh, generally more valuable items that are harder to get. 

Brandon Rollins: Yeah. So if somebody is seeking to just get a whole bunch of loot, they’ll actually have to, It sounds like they’ll have to go to a bunch of different places to kind of pick that up from different kinds of missions and that sort of thing. Just because you can find things all over the game.

Shawn Dressler: You can, you can, but I would say that if there’s one player style that might be disappointed playing this game, it’s the one that wants the Santa Claus bag to fill up with loot because we just don’t, uh, it, it takes away from one of the core principles of how we’ve built this game. And that is that everything has specific value and is, and is essentially a curated item.

And so that’s, that’s the, um, the main premise behind how we’ve structured the inventory mechanic in the game. In this game, we have a finite and quite small inventory. And so part of the challenge of the game, as, as Jeff pointed out to me in a previous call, is it’s you versus your inventory, and what, what he meant by that, and he can correct me if I if I paraphrase him, uh, not very well, is because you have a limited number of slots in your inventory, you, we are always going to be making decisions as we encounter a new item about whether it is more or less valuable than everything else in our inventory. Oftentimes you’re gonna be disappointed, because you’re gonna have to drop an item that you love to keep, an item that you love more. 

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, and I mean, by causing people to do that, it’s like, yeah, you might, you might turn away a few people who are looking for a whole lot of loot, um, just sheer quantity. But I don’t know, there’s a huge benefit to keeping it simple. I mean, there’s the, there’s the kind of, um, the cynical stuff, which is like, oh, keep the cost of printing down and that kind of thing.

But it’s like honestly, having way too much loot and way too many cards to hold and way too much stuff to look at can actually become quite distracting after a while. So forcing people to make these decisions makes them kind of appreciate the loot that they do have and know that nothing in those decks, any of those decks is garbage.

Shawn Dressler: Yeah, exactly. And uh, Jeff could probably give you an exact number. I won’t put him on the spot too, but the, where this game restricts you in the amount of items you can hold at one time, it graciously rewards you in the amount of items that are actually in the game to discover. And something that’s really exciting to me is when I, when I finally get to com to play this complete product, is the progression system from basic to more advanced, uh, items in each category.

The challenge of keeping loot simple but diverse with some simple assumptions

Jeff Irving: Yeah, I would, I, I would say that, you know, part of our, part of our challenge in, in the game to me is that we kind of have a three pronged approach. And, and like Shawn mentioned, it’s, it’s almost like you against your inventory because your inventory really doesn’t have monetary value. We have, you know, the, the, the things that you aren’t equipping that sit in your inventory have a function and they have a value, which is a barter value because we have a barter system, since we don’t have minted coinage.

And so is the value in, in a barter situation, higher or lower than the functional value of that, of having that. And the wonderful thing we do to try to streamline play, is we assume an awful lot. In other words, if you have a, if you have a torch in your inventory, we assume when it’s dark, you’re gonna light the darn thing.

We’re not gonna make say, Oh, and I light my torch. Um, it plays into the math. Some people are gonna care about that particular battle, the math that occurs within your inventory. Some people are gonna be more focused on the way the world challenges you, because that’s another prong of, of the challenge in our world, is you against the environment.

It’s a harsh world. And then the, of course, the primary. Challenge is always gonna be you versus the physical enemies that you face. But in our, in our world, we, we’ve downplayed money, we’ve, we’ve downplayed having, you know, thousands and thousands of pieces of coinage in your pocket. We’ve downplayed, um, having, you know, dozens and dozens and pieces of, pieces of thing in, you know, in your inventory.

And we’ve tried to make it a more about the functional kind of three prong challenges that an adventurer would face, um, in a primitive world. And that’s it. It’s, we have this kind of primitive world that you’re, you’re, you’re in. It’s wild, it’s untamed. And we throw in a dash of kind of like Darkest Dungeon challenge level, you know, with, with making it three pronged.

So you may, you may be handling one of the three challenges extremely well, but if you let one of the other two suffer, you’re, you’re ultimately gonna be, you’re gonna be dead pretty quick,

Brandon Rollins: Streamlining a lot of those rules and having those assumptions makes the game, in my opinion, or it sounds like it’s gonna make the game quite a bit more accessible, which is gonna mean that it’s actually going to get tabled quite a bit more too. 

Jeff Irving: That’s the goal.

Keeping setup time minimal

Shawn Dressler: Yeah, exactly. There’s a, there’s a, a low bar to entry for setup, and that to me, as a person who probably plays twice as much, uh, video game RPG than I do tabletop, that’s one of the biggest things that, that pushes me away from a lot of games is I just don’t have the time, uh, to spend an hour setting up a game just to get going, or a half a day learning how to play it.

And so we’ve really tried to strip out all of the non-value add elements of the game.

Jeff Irving: Yeah, I think you’re right too. Especially on setup. I feel like, uh, you know this, you’re gonna get to the table. I mean, you could, we could probably sit down, two or three players, open the box and be playing, be in a quest within five or 10 minutes.

Shawn Dressler: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, and this is not unique, I don’t want to claim that we’ve invented this, but we’ve also designed the tutorial session section of the campaign mode to be interactive. It’s not a just, we’re gonna provide both a, a way to learn the rules by playing the game and a complete rule book for you to have at your, at your at your side. 

Brandon Rollins: Yeah, I, I think, yeah, these are all good considerations. Just anything to make it easier to get people to start playing, cuz we’re all busy. It’s like any, any massive rule book is gonna be automatically intimidating. 

Shawn Dressler: Yeah, absolutely. 

Jeff Irving: The way Shawn introduces the, the long form version of the rules within the campaign is brilliant and it’s, it is great, um, for introducing people to all the rules, but, but over time and buried in, buried in quests and in an interesting way. And then mine is just the completely, you know, the opposite end of that.

It’s just give people the least amount of verbiage to describe each facet of gameplay, shake and bake, no nonsense for those people that want to hit the ground running and just play. And, I, I, I, I’m the kind of person that I would definitely start with a concise, uh, form of rules just to get in and try to start figuring out whether I like the game or not.

And then I’m gonna eventually wander in and I’ll probably reread that long form of rules in the campaign as I go through that as well. But I, I I, I always like to get a game to the table pretty quick when I get a new game just to see how intimidating the rules are. And I think that’s where it’s gonna be wonderful is that it’s gonna be this refreshing kind of like, “Whoa, this isn’t so bad,” kind of thing.

Um, if people choose to go with, with the short form rules, but then for those people, um, that go into the campaign and, and do it the way Shawn has written it, it, I I, what I love about it is it’s almost like it could be your very first kind of epic fantasy, dungeon crawl, adventure game that you’re playing, but Shawn has explained it in such a way that it just, it’s simple.

You know? It’s, it’s, it’s easy to understand and it draws you right into the story. And so I think we’re kind of smacking ’em from both sides that, And it’s gonna, I think it’ll be, I think it’ll be well received cuz it is a very different approach than I’ve seen

Shawn Dressler: Yeah.

Yeah. me too. I, I’ve, I’ve seen some hybrid versions of this, but I’ve never really seen both in the same box. And I think that, that it really speaks to, again, the inclusiveness that we’re trying to use, uh, in this game to, to let it be accessible to everyone. Um, you know, another thing that I am really excited about is how all the different game modes tie together, even though they’re separate.

Something we’ve, we’ve tried really hard to do is to not have content that sits over here in a corner and doesn’t relate to the rest of the content. And so whether you’re playing an expedition, a mission, an ancient errand, a commission board, quest, uh, the full campaign mode skirmish… All those quests are not only existing within the world of Vrahode at, in a specific place, but they’re also involving characters that you might have run into before in a different place, um, and involve elements of story that relate to and sometimes explain things that you might not have fully understood while playing a quest in a different mode of play.

And so I think what, you know, what we’ve tried to do is make the whole game supportive of. In a way that if you are the kind of player who just really loves, uh, like, uh, Jeff was mentioning earlier, more of a hack and slash style, and maybe you get through all of those types of quests and say, You know what?

I just really enjoy this game. I’m gonna go back and I’m gonna play the campaign mode. Well, you’re gonna find yourself smiling because you’re gonna be, be, uh, running into familiar faces, in familiar places, in familiar stories, and maybe even understanding better the quests that you just completed. 

Brandon Rollins: Well, that’s cool. That’s gonna make people want to come back again and again to make sure that they got all the details they didn’t catch the first time around. 

Jeff Irving: Mm-hmm.

Shawn Dressler: I will definitely say this game is a completionist, uh, treasure trove. 

Jeff Irving: Oh, oh yeah, definitely. And the other thing too, one of the, one of the last pieces of the puzzle we’re, we’re working on presently, and this is even after adding the village, uh, mechanic to the game series, is this idea of giving people a simple way to choose their difficulty level. And some, some people want to play and be part of a story and they don’t mind combat, but they sure don’t want combat getting in the way of the story.

And, and we’re lucky that we have Shawn to create a story that’s rich enough that we’re gonna have, we’re gonna have a fair chunk of people gravitating that way. They’re gonna want to, they’re gonna want to just go through this campaign and really be completionist in it and see what happens. You know, what, what happens at the end when Calteeryn fulfills the prophecy?

And so, but then for those hack and slashers, for those people that that love Red Hook’s Darkest Dungeon PC game, and loved basically just trying to keep a walking meat sack alive, we, we, we want to be able to scale the difficulty to satisfy those people. And so we’re in kind of the early iterations of designing this, um, difficulty chart and ways that you can add and take away some of the, some of the, the challenges that exist within combat, within adventure.

Whether that’s the quantity of enemies, the frequency of enemies, the difficulty of enemies, um, and I think. If we can find a way through enough iteration of this kind of table we have to make it really simple. I think it’s gonna add another, it’s just gonna show people in an, and yet another way how much care we’ve tried to put into this thing, to making it a very, very viable game system that deserves to have content creators create their own quests within it.

Brandon Rollins: Absolutely. 

Jeff Irving: So that’s my hope.

Brandon Rollins: I think that is a good note to end on, uh, because we are coming up on time so that… Honestly, there’s a lot that we can cover in future episodes. So, um, why don’t you take us out on this one?

Jeff Irving: Thank you for listening to the Vrahode Tavern podcast. If you enjoyed this show, take a moment to subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts. If you’re on Apple Podcasts, please leave a five star review.

It helps more than you. 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, and Instagram, where we are @Vrahode. Thank you again for listening. We really appreciate it. Keep an eye out for our next episode in two weeks.

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