[09:06] <+Aviv> Hi everyone! I’m Aviv, a freelance illustrator working mainly on tabletop games. I’m in charge of the art side of Up to Four Players, a webcomic about tabletop games and the gamers who game them.
[09:06] <+Aviv> Eran is in charge of the game-design/writing side of it, I’ll let him properly introduce himself.
[09:06] <+Eran> Hello! I’m Eran, and I’ve been playing and GM-ing since I was about 12, in good ole’ Israel. I’m 38 now, and living in London, and for the past 15 years or so I’ve also been working in RPGs, doing translations, reviews, then editing, then designing. Throughout all this time I got the pleasure of having Aviv as a player and as a creative partner, in various,
[09:06] <+Eran> mostly comics, endeavours.
[09:09] <+Aviv> Our current big project is *Crystal Heart*. It started in our webcomic, as a setting our protagonists are playing around their game table.
[09:09] <+Aviv> They seemed to be having a lot of fun with it, and we thought hey, why not everyone? So we’re now making it into an actual setting for Savage Worlds.
[09:10] <+Aviv> (Now on Kickstarter! (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1036008825/crystal-heart-a-colourful-setting-for-savage-world)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1036008825/crystal-heart-a-colourful-setting-for-savage-world )
[09:12] <+Eran> And! If you guys don’t know Savage Worlds, we’ve got you covered. While working on on weekly webcomic, we also occasionally release a short, 2-page comic explaining the rules for various RPGs, including Savage Worlds.
[09:12] <+Eran> (Link: https://www.uptofourplayers.com/savage-worlds-rules/)https://www.uptofourplayers.com/savage-worlds-rules/
[09:20] <~Dan> (Sorry about this, guys. I’ll get the questions started…)
[09:20] <~Dan> What is the premise of the game?
[09:22] <+Aviv> In the world of Crystal Heart, people’s hearts are made of stone. Also in this world, there are ancient artefacts from the Bygone Age, hidden in all kinds of mysterious ruins and undiscovered locations.
[09:24] <+Aviv> An organisation called Syn has figured out a way to take these artefacts, these Crystals, and implant them into people’s chest, replacing their own stony heart. With this Crystal in your chest, you suddenly find yourself with a new array of interesting super powers! …But also your personality and thought pattern might change a little.
[09:25] <+Aviv> As Agents of Syn, player characters are sent to retrieve more Crystals from around the Five Lands. But it’s usually not easy, because when Crystals are in the wild (“Feral Crystals”) their powers manifest in all kinds of strange – often dangerous – ways in the environment around them.
[09:25] <+Aviv> (done)
[09:29] <+Lassek> Something like Roadside Picnic?
[09:30] <+Aviv> I have to confess ignorance on that one.
[09:30] <+Lassek> I mean Stalker 🙂
[09:30] <+Eran> Do you mean the aspect of collecting weird stones that emit weird radiation?
[09:31] <+Lassek> Aye.
[09:32] <+Eran> There’s some resemblance, but imagine that they’re very rare, and each has its own shtick, and also, they’ve been around basically forever and entire ecosystems might exist around them.
[09:33] <+Lassek> I see! Very interesting.
[09:35] <+Eran> Also, there’s a big emphasis on the organised way it’s all handled. The PCs are Agents of an organisation, Syn, which has ties to basically every government, and everyone knows and fears it. So you’re not mercenaries – you’re sort of roving police/archaeologists.
[09:37] <~Dan> What is the tech level of the setting?
[09:39] <+Eran> Varied. Generally speaking, two of the five Lands are on the cusp of an industrial revolution, but while some engineers are inventing awesome things, mass-production is still a ways off. So for example, Fjordstad is the Land of clever, albeit paranoid people, and they have lots of mad scientists and the like. You can get a rifle, but there are probably only
<+Eran> 2-3 people who craft those. Syn has some basic firearms, as well. You can even get a laser gun or something, but there’s only this one engineer who developed it, so you’ll be seeing it in ONE adventure, probably no more.
<~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, Guest76!)
<+Eran> Most other places have Renaissance level tech and social constructs. Mostly.
<~Dan> What is the general mood of the setting? Looks pretty upbeat.
<+Eran> Upbeat is a good description, yep! We also use “light-hearted”. That being said, each Land has its own theme, and we aim to have the adventures that occur in each Land express that theme. So for example, in the webcomic we’re currently in Bogovia, the land of rain and swamps and general awefullness, so while the PCs have fun, all the victories are pyrrhic.
<~Dan> What are the themes of the other lands?
<+Aviv> We also see a classic Crystal Heart campaign a little like a good episodic TV show: you start with several “Crystal of the week” sessions, where Agents are sent to do routine Crystal-retrieval, but as the plot progresses, the players (and their characters) learn about things beneath the surface.
<+Aviv> That’s a pretty good spot to start veering off the light-heartedness and get some serious plot development and more serious themes. Of course it can still all be fun pulpy action while also learning about the Bigger Picture!
<~Dan> (be right back, guys)
<+Eran> Fjordstad is about ingenuity, progress and survival. Maseia is about spiritualism and freedom, both physically and in society. Zingama is all about nationalism, politics and scheming. And the Islands are about whatever – there’s many of them, they’re all different.
<+Aviv> Until Dan returns, I’ll ask a question! Eran – what’s your favourite new bit of mechanic in Crystal Heart?
<+Eran> Ahhhh, a good one Aviv! I’m not sure. Probably the Crystals themselves, it took several tries to get them right. I would have LOVED to make some richer mechanics for handling Syn as an organisation, and tracking resources and the like, but that’s what they call “over-developing” – there’s no need for those things to have a fun Crystal Heart adventure.
<+Eran> What about you, Aviv? What is the thing you most looking forward to draw, in the setting book?
<+Aviv> I’m a character artist at heart, so I’m definitely looking forward to drawing the people of the Five Lands – all the fun, weird, suspicious, friendly, over-friendly, interesting folk you might run into when going on missions.
<+Aviv> In the Kickstarter we had a limited number of pledge levels that let backers come up with ideas for their own Agents, and I really enjoy designing characters based on people’s ideas and descriptions.
<+Aviv> Dan, you can have the reins back now =)
<~Dan> Can you describe the sorts of superpowers the Crystals provide?
<~Dan> (Thank you. Things are settling down at work now. 🙂 )
<+Aviv> The Crystals you can find are really varied. They come in 5 Ranks, like the Ranks in Savage Worlds, so Novice Crystals give you a few (usually 2-5) fairly basic powers, while Heroic Crystals can really make insane things happen. But the powers themselves are entirely dependant on the theme of the specific Crystal.
<+Aviv> To take an example from the Starter Set we’ve released,
<+Aviv> The Theme of the Crystal “Good Fellow” is all about receiving mental signals, so one of its powers is Mind Reading, and another is Divination – you’re so in tune with the world around you that you actually get an idea about what’s going on with no physical clues.
<+Aviv> “Infuse” is all about infusing things with life energy. One of its powers is Healing (makes sense), and another is Havoc – you infuse the area around you with SO MUCH life energy that everything start jumping and dancing around.
<~Dan> Caffeine attack!!
<+Eran> There’s a thing in Savage Worlds called “trappings”, and it basically means “the in-world rationale for what’s happening”. So for example, there’s only one official Savage Worlds power to shoot things from afar – Bolt – but the trappings you give it determines how to interpret what goes on. And ice shard is different from three ethereal laughing skulls;
<+Eran> they both deal 2d6 damage, but the first can also maybe slow someone, and the second probably doesn’t work on soul-less things.
<~Dan> So are all the Crystals unique?
<+Eran> So we give each Crystal a theme, which is basically the same as trappings. If you have a Crystal with theme X, you can do X-sort of things. You get several powers, usually 2-3, but you can also try to do thing outside of the powers’ scope, as long as it’s within the theme (and you need to spend a resource called Benny).
<+Eran> Yes, each is unique. Although you might get a Crystal that’s about ignition and another that’s about flames, and they’re similiar – but not exact.
<~Dan> Is there a magic system, or are all supernatural powers based on the Crystals?
<+Eran> We have a rule in the game – all “supernatural” things always come from Crystals, there’s no other source. And also, they’re not really supernatural – it’s natural science, simply yet not understood.
<~Dan> So what are “monsters” like in this setting?
<+Eran> Awesome question. There are three types of adversaries: People (who use and misuse Crystals, and also shards [which are broken Crystals]), weird animals (giant moles, a swarm of meat-eating rodents) and Crystal-tainted stuff (something that got twisted or changed by a Crystal, like maybe a flame elemental, or a giant mole that’s also invisible now)
<~Dan> So the “weird animals” are “natural”, I take it?
<~Dan> How does taint from a Crystal take place?
<+Aviv> A lot of them are inspired by things in our world, but…slightly different. Because GOODNESS there are weird flora and fauna in the real world.
<+Eran> As Aviv mentioned before, when a Crystal’s in the wild, it’s “feral”, its energy and whatnot “radiating” all around. So if there’s a Crystal of sharpness at the bottom of a pool, it’s very likely the fish are going to be really sharp.
<~Dan> And I assume you don’t mean “clever”. 🙂
<+Aviv> Possibly that too!
<~Dan> So folks who use Crystals are actually making the world safer, in a way?
<+Aviv> That’s the cool thing about trappings, or the Crystal’s theme. I totally see how a sharpness Crystal can also mean sharp thinking, or excellent focus.
<+Aviv> Or being a very good dresser 🙂
* ~Dan chuckles
<~Dan> …Not so much?
<+Aviv> It very much depends on the Crystal, the environment, the person who took it, the person who uses it, and the organisation behind it all 🙂 So many question marks!
<~Dan> Heh. Gotcha.
<~Dan> (Howdy, Agamemnon2!)
<~Dan> Going back to critters for a moment, how large is your bestiary (assuming there is one)?
<+Eran> Yes, we’ll have one. It’s still hard to say, but it probably won’t be super-huge. It’s part of the setting book, which is supposed to be about 200 pages all in all, and most of them should be devoted to other stuff. The bestiary will focus on providing enough unusual things to give you inspiration in creating your own; SW has enough critters and stuff you can
<+Eran> import into CH by claiming it’s the fault of this or that Crystal.
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> While I’m gone: What appealed to you about Savage Worlds?
<+Eran> Personally, how easy it is to design for. That is, it’s streamlined, straightforward, and very much in line with our style already.
<+Aviv> As a player I love Savage Worlds because it does what it advertises: Fast, Furious Fun. A lot of its mechanic is about creating that pulpy adventure feeling, and that’s very much what we’re going for.
<+Aviv> We also started Crystal Heart in a webcomic about roleplaying games, where it was important for us to show the mechanics being played around the table. Savage Worlds’ exploding dice, bennies and cards-based initiative, to name a few, make very good visuals.
<+Aviv> Speaking of exploding dice – DICE EXPLODE!! That’s the thing I like best about the system. Every unlikely attempt at doing something has the potential to succeed against all odds, in that fun Indiana Jones Han Solo spirit.
<+Aviv> (I’m thinking Savage Worlds was written for Harrison Ford)
<~Dan> Back, sorry!
<~Dan> So you retroactively decided that the players in the comic were playing Savage Worlds all along?
<+Aviv> The players have been playing it in Savage Worlds from day 1. We decided on the system and the setting when we set out to do the webcomic.
<+Aviv> Reading the comic from the beginning is actually a good way to learn the basics of Savage Worlds.
<~Dan> Huh. Now that’s interesting. Had you considered making the RPG a reality from the get-go?
<+Eran> Sort of. We had the basic principles of Crystal Heart since around 2005, when we envisioned and played it, and I’ve been trying to make it into a game on and off. A few years back I thought it’ll be a good Savage Worlds conversion, so when we sat down to create the storyline, we chose the combination of CH and SW. It was sort of natural to see it develop into
<+Eran> a setting, seperate form the comic.
<~Dan> Is this your first attempt to get an RPG published?
<~Dan> (Howdy, Saurbaum!)
<+Eran> Well, it’s complicated. But sort of, yeah – it’s the first fully developed thing we’ve done, a complete book for an existing system.
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> Cool! I wish you great success. 🙂
<~Dan> In the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
<+Eran> Thank you! Well, technically, we’re already funded, so we’re now looking for ever greater success.
<+Eran> Only that, if it wasn’t mentioned before, the webcomic is available for free on (Link: http://www.uptofourplayers.com,)www.uptofourplayers.com, as well as the RPG rules summaries we created. We also go to various conventions in the UK, with printed copies and all the things we offer in the “Fan” pledge level in the KS, and we’re always happy to discuss things with visitors.
<+Aviv> (We’re at Dragonmeet tomorrow, for any UK chatroom visitors)
<~Dan> Speaking of discussing things, I hope you’ll always feel welcome to come here and hang out with us. 🙂
<~Dan> (Quick reminder to folks: Gratuities are welcome at (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/ 😀 )
<+Aviv> Thank you for inviting us! 🙂
<~Dan> Thanks for putting up with my sporadic availability. 🙂
<~Dan> Now, if you’ll give me just a moment, I’ll get the log posted and link you. 🙂