For anyone that is not already aware, which means you either weren’t a backer to the Companion’s Kickstarter or you missed the email, the Companions are finalized and uploaded to the web store. Coupon codes have sent out to backers and assigned to the web store accounts reviewed in the surveys. I know a few people had some issues, but as far as I’m aware, those either have been or are being addressed (overall I’ve been told this has been one of the smoother campaigns as far as the coupons are concerned). This was covered in the email, but just to reiterate, if you’re having problems with your coupon codes, please reach out using the Kickstarter Contact Form; this has been set up to optimize things for us on the back end to organize and track issues, and helps us get to everyone faster. As for the printed books, we’ve got the files sent to the printers, and they need to go through processing to generate the physical product and get shipped out. We’re well on the way, but printing books does take time, so patience is appreciated.
On the subject of the Companions, I wanted to use this post to talk a bit about some of the backer comments and suggestions we received. Firstly, I want to express appreciation for all those who took the time to review the preliminary documents and write out their comments. We can write and discuss amongst ourselves until the next Awakening, but until we get things out into the hands of the public, there’s still a bubble effect in play, and your comments help us to see how certain things are going to be perceived and interpreted, giving us a chance to adjust as needed before the final version comes out. There were quite a few items we did make changes to, as well as several we did not, and a few items that were just great comments to see included. This is the chance to go over these and review some of these and go over why we’ve done things the way we have.
Starting things off is the comments from the Player’s Companion:
“Not sure if this was intentional but the common turn of the phrase I am familiar with is ‘It’s not what you know but who you know’. Also I googled it and apparently that phrase comes from the early 1900s so maybe not!”
For reference, the text in the book reads “… because it’s not what you know but whom.” First, kudos for actually taking the time to research the history of the phrase. In this case, this is one where we took a phrase that is perhaps a bit too modern for the era, but mixed up the language slightly so that it better fits the tone. Even though this is a small one, I wanted to highlight it, as a lot of the work that goes into writing these books and getting them to sound right is a balancing act between language used in the modern era and what is used in the Victorian era. On the one hand, we want to give a decent immersion factor, especially for in-character writing, but also to some extent for just general text. At the same time, we also want to make sure what is written can be both read and understood easily by a modern audience. We can toss in enough Victorian phrases to make sure our writing is afternoonified and bang up to the elephant, but if the average person can’t umble-cum-stumble what’s being said, all the saucebox waggling and butter upon bacon we put down is just blathering like a bubbly-jock (don’t feel bad if you need to look those up). We have a bit of an advantage here, as our setting is alternate history with a lot of changes, both technological and social, moving around in the time period, so we can sweep a few things under the rug (which is yet another phrase that needs its historical context considered).
“For the Big Game Hunter Abilities is there a reason why the wording sometimes starts with ‘The Character” and other times starts with ‘The Big Game Hunter”?”
This question came up in a few places going through the Professions chapters, so I thought it was worth addressing. The primary intention here is to differentiate between generic enhancements for a character (such as stat increases) that could be dropped in to most any Profession, and special abilities that are specifically tied to the them of that particular Profession. Yes, this departs slightly from the format in the original Player’s Guide. The reasoning for it is that, previously, we did not have the tool box opened yet for you to be able to modify or create all new Professions. That has changed with these books. We want you to be able to use the existing Professions as examples and sometimes templates when doing your own customizations, and be able to see relatively quickly what’s a generic buff and what is particular for that Profession. This is the intended format for things going forward.
“I really like the explanation of the Military Officer story progression across Tier. It would be cool to see that described for all the Professions now that we have all the way up to Master detailed.”
The main constraint preventing this previously has simply been space. Any sort of chapters explaining a class or profession in a game are always going to be very word heavy with mechanics and statistics, which doesn’t always leave a lot of narrative room. I do want to see these ideas expanded out further as we move forward with new books that don’t have as many Professions to cover, which should leave us with more room to expand out the narrative more. I’m also considering books down the line that will look at certain aspects of the game world that could go back and fill in some of that narrative on previous material. For example, we’ve had in the possible book notes for a while now to create one that details the Great Game, going over industrial espionage and basically all the other elements that get done in the shadows in order to avoid the scrutiny of the Gentleman’s Code. This would give us a chance to do a deeper dive on Dodgers, Fiddlers, Byrons, and all the other criminal Professions to expand upon them further. When exactly these sort of books would come out hasn’t been worked out yet, but if that is something you’d like to see, please make that opinion known.
“Contact named Batman? Really?”
This is in the contacts list for the Armour Officer. This is not a name, but is actually a title of the time period, having started in use in the mid 1700’s. A Batman is a soldier that is assigned to a commissioned officer as their direct assistant/servant. The term came about because this solder was also assigned to take care of the officer’s “bat-horse”, or pack animal that carried the officer’s kit. The officer themselves would have a totally separate animal to carry them around, bred and groomed just as much for show as for function. Of course, the military in 1879 is starting to move into motorized transportation, so the term will eventually fall out of favor, but at the moment there’s still enough of a prevalence of horses in the military that it remains in use.
“For skill knacks I think it would make more sense if it was organized by Skill instead of in alphabetical order. I’m more interested in what I can get for the skills I already have.”
Many people are going to have different preferences as far as how they’d like their information organized. With our current system, organizing alphabetically by the entry is what is easiest for our layout team to be able to handle. This also makes it easiest for us to make sure all the material we have prepared for the book actually copies over. If I could, I’d give you a cross reference for every possible means of organization on all the chapters like this that have lists of information like skills, knacks, and spells, but it’s just not feasible to fit that in the book right now. We’ll chalk it up for an item for a later document reference document (which would also give us the advantage of being able to reference between multiple books).
“Really happy Ada Lovelace made it into the book!”
As the primary author on the Engine chapters and mechanics (even before becoming Line Developer), and as someone who works in IT for my day job, it was always my intention to make sure Ada Lovelace was included in the books once we got to cover programming. For anyone who isn’t aware, she was a real world historical figure that actually did perform the feats of mathematics needed to program the Engine of Babbage’s design. The history on her as presented in our book is almost entirely unchanged from the real world accounts, largely because it didn’t need to be. Her work and life are inspiring enough just as they are, especially considering that many of the principles she outlines for programming the real Analytical Engine are used in the basis for computer programming even in the modern day.
“** Does this mean the Tier cannot be adjusted any more after it is bought down?”
This is in reference to the spell creation mechanics. In a nut shell, yes. The Tier of the spell is the primary factor that controls when it becomes accessible to magicians to use, thus making it extremely important as a balancing factor. As such, lowering the Tier needs to have considerable effort put in behind it, and should be done as the very last step calculating your design points, unless you need to do something simple like add more Strain on to give yourself enough points to account for the Tier decrease cost.
“C/C’s must spend their Ready Cash twice a month to maintain their lifestyle. Characters maintaining a household must spend Ready Cash 3 times a month, leaving them with only 1 week’s worth of Ready cash each month”
“Might be good to clarify there that characters that aren’t maintaining a household pay 2 weeks income to maintain their lifestyle, while those that are maintaining a household pay 3. Meaning most people can access ready cash two out of four weeks in a month, and wealthier people can only access ready cash one week out of four.”
Two comments on the same item, but approaching from slightly different angles, so I decided to include them both. This is a tricky one. I don’t disagree with the point about the wording of the mechanic being a bit confusing with the points brought up. The main issue here was that I didn’t see a clean way to be able to clarify it without also needing to update a lot of the supporting text to remain consistent, to the point where it probably would have also thrown off our layout. I didn’t feel the confusion on this one mechanic was quite bad enough to warrant delaying things further in order to clean it up. An annoyance, yes, but one that production demands that we live with for the time being. These sort of situations are what errata are for.
“It is odd to have fae stat blocks in the player book. but they are cool.”
Putting the Fae in the Player’s Companion was largely a choice determined by page count balance, which in turn was determined by printing costs. This chapter was also a late addition made after I took over as Line Developer, replacing another chapter that I didn’t feel was consistent with the direction I want to take the story line at this particular point (that chapter is in our archive and will likely have pieces of it sprinkled through out products going forward as it becomes relevant for the story). If I could do it all over again from scratch and have the chapter planned from the get-go, I’d probably put it in the Game Master’s Companion, but as it is, compared to the other chapters that book contains, this is probably the least problematic to have in the Player’s. Folk lore about the Fae would be prevalent enough for the time period that most player characters would be able to get their hands on it, though of course those reports will likely also be so varied and contradicting that they may not be able to make total sense out of it (just as the Fae intend). Really the only part intended only for Game Masters is the stat blocks, and it wouldn’t make sense to split the chapter up just to have those in the Game Master’s Companion. Much like the Fae themselves, the chapter will make its home where there is space, and keep itself content with being a little bit weird compared to its surroundings.
This post has gone on a bit longer than I intended, so I’m going to split this up into a two-parter and cover the commentary for the Game Master’s Companion separately. Until then, I hope these notes have helped to cover some of the discrepancies, or at least provided some further points of interest in the thought behind how things are developed. As always, feel free to post in Discord if you have other comments or questions you’d like to have addressed.