In the shadow of empires, an epic saga of ambition and desire! In an arid badlands, the hill people hunger. Your neighbors have grain, cattle, gold. You have horses and spears, courage and ambition. Together with those you love and hate, you will remake history—or die. With the Hillfolk roleplaying game, you and your group weave an epic, ongoing saga of high-stakes interpersonal conflict that grows richer with every session. Its DramaSystem rules engine, from acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws, takes the basic structure of interpersonal conflict underlying fiction, movies and television and brings it to the world of roleplaying. This simple framework brings your creativity to the fore and keep a surprising, emotionally compelling narrative constantly on the move. As you build your story, you mold and shape the Hillfolk setting to fit its needs. Do you entangle yourself with the seductions of your wealthy cousins to the north? Do you do battle with the fearsome sea people to the west? Or do you conquer the scattered badlands tribes to forge a new empire of your own? Detailed play style notes show you how to make the most of DramaSystem’s new tools. Once you’ve mastered DramaSystem’s nuances, you’ll hunger […]More...
—Walter White, Breaking Bad
Every month the DramaSystem Series Pitch of the Month Club brings you a new and unique series pitch for the Hillfolk RPG. For December, Jesse Scoble draws you into the dark and violent world of border drug trafficking with Narcocorrido.
Here, narcotraficantes and the Border Patrol circle each other on the imaginary line that separates North and South, probing for weakness under the merciless sun. Assassins are made the heroes of pop ballad narcocorridos, and most fame and fortune ends with a buzzard circling a shallow grave.
Mi trabajo y valor me ha costado
Manejar los contactos que tengo
Muchos quieren escalar mi altura
Nomas miro que se van callendo
Han querido arañar mi corona
Los que intentan se han ido muriendo.
—Los Tigres Del Norte, “Jefe De Jefes”
Narcocorrido’s main cast centers around one of the principal groups tied up with the border:
- A law enforcement group such as Border Patrol or Mexican Federales
- A criminal element such as La EME (the Mexican Mafia), Los Zetas, or the Sinaloa Cartel
- Coyote smugglers
- An independent operator such as Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg
- A “Light Up the Border” citizens’ militia
Subscribe today and download Narcocorrido along with November’s pitch No Crowns, where the struggles of democracy and free market capitalism erupt in a high fantasy world of magic and steel.
Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of our Hillfolk Kickstarter backers, we are able to bring you the DramaSystem Series Pitch of the Month Club – 2000+ words of setting material written by a stellar cast including John Wick, John Kovalic and Hal Mangold.
Each month from November through to November you will get a new pitch – new subscribers will get all pitches to date.
If you are a backer, you should have received a voucher for your free subscription. Email support if not.
1. No Crowns
Sean Patrick Fannon (Shaintar, Star Wars: Edge of Darkness) unleashes the struggles of democracy and free market capitalism in a high fantasy world. Discover the answer amid the greed, passion, and power plays of No Crowns.
Jesse Scoble (Wizard101, Game of Thrones d20) sings a narcocorrido for you on The Devil’s Highway: narco traficantes and border patrol circle each other in the canyons and deserts between North and South.
3. Honor Among Thieves
John Wick (Legend of the Five Rings, Seventh Sea, Houses of the Blooded) steps into a world of sorcerers, crowded cities, corrupt nobles, eldritch assassins and big payoffs in Honor Among Thieves. In a world where everything is illegal, everything is a crime, and it only pays to be a thief.
4. Hold the Chain
By Matthew McFarland. You are the entertainment in the gladiatorial arena of a steam-powered flying city on the brink of revolution.
Rob Wieland (Shadowrun, Star Wars Saga Edition) shows you his jazz hands in Encore, following the dreamers, has-beens and never-will-be’s who make up the cast of a touring jukebox musical.
6. Iron Tsar
ASH LAW (The Reliquary) cranks up Iron Tsar: engineers battle zombies in the Imperial court of a magical 1920s Russia.
7. Sheep’s Clothing
Jerome Larre (Qin, Tenga) takes you inside the Sheep’s Clothing of a tranquil bedroom community for cops—as a massive Internal Affairs bust threatens dozens of its key citizens.
8. Art and Murder
By Robin D. Laws. In a post-scarcity economy, there remain only two routes to status: Art and Murder. As guardians of the Great Museum, you struggle to protect the world’s cultural patrimony from outside marauders—and your own ambitions.
Raven Daegmorgan (Orx) sails the black tides of the cosmos in Niflgap. As the universe dies, you, the fractious Norse gods, set forth in starships from lonesome Midgaard, hoping to find salvation in the void where armies of the hungry dead writhe endless beneath black suns.
10. Promised Land
By Caias Ward (Strike Force 7, Noumenon) In a far-future religion based on enlightenment through genetic engineering and organic technology, a squad of young cadets struggles with their commanders, their fellow cadets, the outside universe and crises of faith.
11. Terminal X
Hal Mangold (Atomic Overmind, Green Ronin) loses your luggage in Terminal X: A fractious circle of modern sorcerers wage a subtle turf war within one of the world’s busiest airports, while fending off occult forces threatening to erode the very source of their power.
12. Campus Desk
John Kovalic (Dork Tower, Munchkin) returns to ink-spattered halcyon days with Campus Desk: students behind the Daily Forward, newspaper of Wisconsin State University, figure out life, love, and burying the lede.
Hail, raiders of the Gen Con high country! To celebrate the launch of Hillfolk and its companion volume Blood on the Snow, we’ve arranged two signing events at the Pelgrane Press booth. We have so many contributors at the show that we’re going to be splitting our signers into two bunches.
On Thurs Aug 15th at 3 pm swing by to grab autographs from such tentatively scheduled luminaries as Jennifer Brozek, Steve Dempsey, Dave Gross, Rob Heinsoo, Ryan Macklin, Michelle Nephew and illustrator Rachel A. Kahn.
Then come back on Sun Aug 18th at 11 am for the cuneiform stylings of Keith Baker, Emily Care Boss, Steven S. Long, TS Luikart, Andy Peregrine, Wade Rockett and Pedro Ziviani.
The Pelgrane Booth has moved to bigger digs this year, and is now #101, across from our fine pals at Paizo.
I’ll be there for both events, and around the booth for much of the rest of the time. As always I’ll be happy to deface any of my books, new or old, for you.
Many other contributors are at the show but unable to make this event. This will not prevent you from suavely bushwhacking and/or waylaying them as they perform their duties at booths elsewhere on the exhibit hall floor.
Kickstarter backers will recall that they can arrange ahead of time to pick up their books at the show. And of course there will be copies on sale for those of you who did not join us for the campaign back in October.
A DramaSystem Companion Kick your mastery of Robin D. Laws’ DramaSystem, the roleplaying game of epic interpersonal conflict, into high gear, with this essential companion volume. A fervent crowd of backers demanded it, and here it is — an imagination-stretching compendium of DramaSystem insights and ideas. Blood on the Snow contains: LARP rules from Emily Care Boss. Take the drama off the couch and up onto its feet with two live action applications. Play richer and bolder live characters than ever before. DramaSystem MasterClass. A fierce vanguard of early adopters expands the margins of the game. Unlock its prequel potential. Free your scene calling. Tune to single session play. Also by popular demand, we present a veritable deluge of character, setting and genre from 33 top gaming talents, from the gurus of today to the shapers of tomorrow. Dive with dolphins, flee genetic persecution, or rule a fantasy city. Explore histories alternate and accurate. Find out how DramaSystem provides the ideal vehicle for science fiction’s idea-driven tradition. Series Pitch creators include John Rogers, Mark Rein•Hagen, John Kovalic, David L. Pulver, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Lester Smith, Greg Stolze, Paula Dempsey, and James L. Sutter. You’ll need Hillfolk, the original book of DramaSystem […]More...
Christian is very close to being finished with the layout for Hillfolk, and it’s really capturing the feel of the game. We’ve also had a picture from the printers of one of the bags for the Hillfolk tokens. Here are some initial mock-ups of how the books, the cards and the bag will look.
I am very pleased to report that editorial for the core Hillfolk book has been completed. The last submissions are in, edited, and proofed, and the text and illustrations are now in the hands of graphic design supremo Christian Knutsson. That final straggler of a Series Pitch is now in hand at last. Barring unforeseen calamity, that means that Blood in the Snow should be ready for layout by the time Christian has finished with the core text. He estimates that layout will take three weeks. After we sign off on the layout, we’re looking at an eight week turnaround for printing.
We will fulfill electronic editions as soon as layout is ready, so everyone will have the PDFs in hand even as the presses are rolling on the print copies.
So raise your cups of mead, raiders. The snows of an overlong winter have delayed us, but we have finally equipped our forces. We now ride off into the badlands, to claim our victory.
If you missed the Kickstarter but want to jump on board now, stay tuned for pre-order details.
And here, apropos of nothing in the first paragraph, is John Kovalic’s illustration for his Blood on the Snow Series Pitch, “The Dagon Bar and Grille,” which brings to DramaSystem the vibe of an animated sitcom. Plus tentacles, natch.
If it’s mid-April it must be time for another Hillfolk progress report. Here’s where the project stands.
I am still awaiting submissions from three Series Pitch writers. Once those are in I’ll be know how the actual word count compares to the goal. This will allow me to edit two other pitches that came in over the requested length, because I’ll then know how much of these I have to cut.
That’s the work of a few days. Once everything’s in and proofed, layout will take about three weeks. We can’t assume that Christian can immediately clear his schedule of other projects when I drop the manuscripts on him, so there’s an indeterminate amount of time there. Once he’s able to start work, we can estimate a hard release date. Turnaround from layout to print is eight weeks. Then the shipping starts.
So our current timeframe looks like [waiting for final submissions] + approximately 1 week final editing + [deck-clearing for Christian] + 3 weeks layout + 8 weeks printing.
Absent a hard release date, let me see what else I have up my sleeve…? How about the long-teased identity of Hillfolk’s mystery contributor?
That would be Ed Greenwood, whose pitch “For Queen or Country” mixes espionage and faery folk in Elizabethan England. Ed surprised me with this over-the-transom submission of piracy, subversion and the Horned Man. This will appear in the main Hillfolk book. The illustration is by Aaron Acevedo. Looks like the original inspiration for Tinkerbell preferred Tudor-era court dress to a miniskirt made of leaves.
I’ve had a lost of requests for an actual play series to introduce people to Hillfolk and DramaSystem and have kicked around various ways of making this happen. Turns out all I had to was to wait for the NYERD Podcast to take care of it for me. And they found a great twist, too—rounding up a player group made up of experienced actors who have never roleplayed before. The series kicks off with a fab character creation session that really captures the creative process that emerges as a group finds their concepts and builds a web of relationships. The group’s actorly training kicks in as they zero in on strong choices providing plenty of grist for drama.
Also, kudos to the team for a well-recorded show, not an easy thing in Actual Play.
After a brief break to complete another commitment, I am once again at work assembling Hillfolk. Here’s an update for backers and future buyers.
All of the key art for Hillfolk and its companion volume, Blood on the Snow, is now in. We’ll need a few spot illos for the LARP and Master Class sections of the latter, but I have an ingenious plan for that and it shouldn’t impact the schedule. This project not only allows for, but requires, a range of illustration styles as great as the range of settings you can bring to life in DramaSystem. So you’ll see a much greater visual variety in these books than any one RPG project would normally accommodate, from line drawing to digital manipulation to painted work to photo collage. At right appears Aaron Acevedo’s evocative illustration for Lester Smith’s ghostly series pitch, “The Spirit Is Willing.”
As of this writing, I have 96% of the text for the core book in hand, and 93% of Blood on the Snow. Almost all of this has already been copy-edited. Two pitches from each book have yet to come in. These include pieces from key names I greedily wish to keep in the books, rather than shifting them to the Pitch of the Month Club. Two of the submitted pitches exceed the standard length; I can run them in extended form if outstanding submissions remain in the wind too long. A fun pitch from an aforementioned and unannounced gaming guru also grants me flexibility to shift the line-up if need be.
I’ve been discussing with graphic designer Christian Knutsson how to handle the presentation of the two books. He’ll be creating two layout styles for us: the Hillfolk theme previewed during the Kickstarter, and a more generic DramaSystem look for the series pitches in the main book. The latter will also appear throughout Blood on the Snow. Christian has valiantly agreed to go above and beyond his original commitment to complete both books for us and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.
When we launched the Kickstarter, for a 128-page book from a team of five people, I estimated an April delivery date. I had hoped, against all logic, that we could stick to that after stretch goals expanded the project to two books of twice that size, and a team of approximately eighty contributors. (Eighty? Good grief!) Reality has now set in, and I’ll get a revised publication date out to you when we have one nailed completely down. I don’t want to issue a series of guess dates and then keep having to revise them, so please bear with us as we finalize our duck alignment.
People have been asking how they might support the project now that the Kickstarter has closed. We’ve suspended orders for the moment, in order to concentrate on making the books. When we draw nearer to the final release date, we’ll open a new round of pre-orders for those who missed the crowdfund. Watch this space for further announcements.
- 13th Age
- Ashen Stars
- Dying Earth and Gaean Reach
- Fear Itself
- Hillfolk Core Rulebook
- Blood on the Snow
- Series Pitch of the Month
- All Releases
- Ken Writes About Stuff
- Mutant City Blues
- Night's Black Agents
- Owl Hoot Trail
- Page XX
- The Esoterrorists
- Trail of Cthulhu
- The Birds The Birds
- All Updates