With less than a week to go, the Kickstarter campaign for 'Codex Nordica' is already a great success. Castles & Crusades fans seem eager for this book and last year's 'Codex Celtarm' was very well received. I had a chance to ask Steve Chenault of Troll Lord Games a few questions about the project and the fundraising efforts.
Me: For those of us who play C&C but haven't committed to this book and missed out on the last one, could you tell us what this book brings to the gaming table for players and game masters alike?
Steve: Codex Nordica brings the Vikings home! This book is chock full of information on the myths and practices of the Norseman…how they lived and what they believed. But what’s really cool about it is that Brian wove those myths into a gaming fabric. In Nordica, there is the whole outline of the myths with new spells woven into a new class, the Seidkona, which ties into the Odin’s Runes stretch level we hit some weeks ago. He’s also put in a score of new monsters direct from the Viking myths.
This book isn’t just a simple regurgitation of the Viking myths. That’s been done again and again. The joy here, in the Codex Nordica, is that the game is woven together with the myths so that you walk away with a really authentic Viking, in sound, belief, in their mannerism. Nordica does exactly what I hoped it would, it makes role playing Vikings feel….Viking.
Me: Some gamers, myself included, have made mention that these books are a bit reminiscent of TSR's old Historical Reference series of sourcebooks published in their Second Edition era. In many other ways, the 'Codex Celtarum' is very different as well. Are you following a similar approach with the 'Codex Nordica' and did the old Historical Reference books influence this work at all?
Steve: No these books came from an idea I had back in 2001 that tied in with my own Codex of Erde (soon to be Codex of Aihrde). In Aihrde there is a fixed mythos, however, part of that mythos is that the various peoples call the gods by different names, the Greeks might call him Zeus, but the Northmen might call him Odin. In Aihrde I stay away from making that concept concrete however, leaving up to the end user, because I know how much gamers like to tinker.
So the idea came to me to create a line of books that explore the history and myths of various peoples, bring out their concepts of sorcery and magic, monsters and so forth and so on so that the users could take what they needed and use in Aihrde or in their own homebrew.
It tied in nicely with my historical background (I have an MA in History and was working on my PhD in those long ago days). But the series fell apart for various reasons and sat quiet for some time.
Until Peter Bradley, our main artist, introduced me to Brian Young, and he already had written such a book on the Celts, I though, well holy stars, this is a done deal.
Me: Steve, If my memory serves correctly, you have studied history extensively and have earned both a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in History. Are there periods in history you prefer and have any of your studies been an influence on these projects?
Steve: My area of study was Europe, 1870-1921, specifically the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This structure spans some 600 years of European history, surviving through a long series of social and cultural changes, largely intact. When you read about the Habsburgs, the ruling family, you can’t help but pick up a deep sense of history, of time.
That more than anything has influenced the direction our products take. This is one reason I was delighted when I read Young’s first manuscript and he had the history of the peoples already in the book. You can’t separate the belief in something from the culture that spawned that belief. If you do, it becomes a hollow echo of what it was and is never as true as you want it to be.
Me: There are a lot of things being offered in this Kickstarter with more added as stretch goals continued to be met. The $49 level is, by far, the most popular option. The book, multiple modules, a poster was great for starters but the wooden runes represent a VERY nice touch. Yet the stretch goal at $18,000 may well be the crown jewel of these stretch goal rewards -- the 'Kings Table' game (aka Hnefatafl). Could you tell us a bit more about that game?
Steve:Davis has wanted to shift us into board games for years and we actually started putting this game together last year, but it was derailed for one reason or the other. But when we were discussing the kickstarter last month it seemed the absolutely perfect time to get this out, the funding would be there, Peter has made the pieces and we have good contacts in that field. It all just seemed to fall together.
It is a stretch on this, not sure we’ll make it, but if we do it’ll be a real shift for TLG, as big as the upcoming Storytellers Thesaurus.
Me: While a great success, the funding seems to have slowed past the $12,000 mark. You've made a call to the fans and backers for suggestions as to what else could be offered and what other types of tiers could be created. How has the response been the response so far?
Steve: I would say the responses that were posted were great. Its really easy to get caught up on our end, focused on this or that. Especially me and Tim. We are very, very book oriented and we sometimes don’t think beyond the leather and paper. Having other people jump in helps shake us out of our rut!
Me: Recently, you've mentioned a desire to continue doing several other books much like what was done with the Celts and the Norse. Is there one in particular you would like to tackle next?
Steve: Codex Germania is already on my desk waiting for a slot at the editors. Brian has begun work on the Codex Slavica…that’s not the right title. So yes, we have more coming.
Me: For those gamers who may not be regular Castles & Crusades fans but do play other similar games, would 'Codex Nordica' be hard to adapt?
Steve: Not at all. C&C is based on the OGL and Dungeons & Dragons. I can’t image any problems with adapting this material to that game or Pathfinder. I think if you moved it to AD&D you would have to change the AC of the monsters, but that is it.
Me: Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers with 'Codex Nordica'?
Steve: I have to say I’m more excited about this series than anything else we’ve done recently…well except for the Codex of Aihrde…as it combines two of my favorite things, gaming and history. If we could figure out how to include smokes and beer I’d be over the top.
Not only do these books establish these myths as perfect gaming tools, but they flesh it out with the story behind them, making a really exceptional book.