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From the Desk of the Animancer, Feb 18th, 2021: Corwyn Catacombs v2!

Hey folks! Welcome to another issue of From The Desk of the Animancer.

I hope you all had a safe and happy festive break, whatever you celebrate, and that 2021’s gotten off to a good start for you all. Last we spoke was back in November when we released Green Lineages, you can read that issue here. This column (series?) is basically a dev diary for what’s going on behind the scenes here, so given it’s been a while since we spoke I wanted to update you on what’s been going on!

Corwyn Catacombs Revision

The last issue focused on Green Lineages, but I did also mention the incoming revision to The Corwyn Catacombs which I’m pleased to announce is now live! Here are the headline changes:

Revised Monsters

This is probably the most notable change, but the revised version of Corwyn features unique statblocks for every monster that appears in the adventure now. Largely, that means stats for both the goblins and their bugbear chieftain (now you don’t need to reference the SRD or another book, it’s all in the adventure), but I’ve also reworked the final villain as a legendary monster using my new legendary monster design. If you’ve watched certain episodes of Chronicles (namely the confrontations with the Pretender, Morganth the Green, or the Astrals in the Citadel of the Moon), that design might be familiar to you.

My new design focuses on expanding the legendary monster template rather than redesigning it, so it’s easy to run it using standard rules if you wish, but here’s what it entails:

  • Legendary resistances scale with the number of heroes the monster faces, rather than being a static 3.
  • A legendary turn replaces the traditional implementation of legendary actions, where the monster acts and chooses one of a handful of more dramatic abilities.
  • The monster has legendary reactions it can take against specific triggers, maintaining the action economy balancing that legendary actions normally provide. This is where the backwards-compatibility comes in, by removing the triggers and ignoring the rest, you have effectively a standard legendary monster.
  • The monster has death throes – specific actions or events that trigger as it reaches hit point thresholds. These are maybe my favourite addition to the formula, giving a fight against a legendary monster a dramatic arc and a narrative structure.

I’ve spent a lot of time iterating on this design and having deployed it in my own games, I feel it creates the sort of encounters I want when going up against a legendary bad guy. They feel a lot more legendary now! I may still make revisions to the formula going forward but I’m satisfied with where it’s at now and excited to share it with people. You’re of course free to use as much or as little of those features as you wish, but it’s my hope you’ll find the design inspiring and engaging to use. Hearing people’s feedback on this will be really interesting, as it’s one of my favourite changes in the revision!

Most times I’ve run the adventure the heroes have elected to negotiate with the goblins rather than fight them so you may not find a call to use those statblocks in this adventure, but maybe they’ll find use in other sessions!

Premade Characters

Probably the second biggest addition, and one of those that took the most time, is the inclusion of five premade characters! With these five characters, the adventure now has everything you need for a session, as long as you have access to the Basic Rules, which I’m very happy about. I wanted Corwyn to work as a great introduction to the game for new players and new GMs, and with these premades and the new monsters I think it’s going to fulfil that brief well.

Premades took a while, for a few reasons:

  • I needed to make a bespoke Animancer character sheet for them.
  • They needed to use OGL-compliant classes and subclasses, which tend to be the most ‘vanilla’ options. I wanted to make sure the characters were interesting and exciting despite that. I’m pretty satisfied that they are!
  • Only one background is Open Content, so they all needed custom backgrounds.

As you can see, those reasons all stemmed from the OGL that we publish under. The OGL is great and I think it’s a fantastic resource for creators, but it can present some issues when compared to the DM’s Guild. Nevertheless, we’ve overcome all those issues, and the final result is really pleasing to me. As a first foray into premades, stuff like the new character sheet was a problem that only needs overcome once as well, so any future characters should be easier to produce.

I’m really proud of our character sheet, you can have a look at it below.

Image of the new Animancer character sheet for 5E, depicting Banir, the Warrior of the Wastes!
This is the sheet for Banir, the WARRIOR OF THE WASTES, one of the five premades in the adventure.

Fantasy Grounds Conversion

The uptick in remote play in 2020, as well as moving to Fantasy Grounds ourselves for Chronicles of Rinn made me realize the power of a converted adventure, so I’ve also prepared the adventure as a Fantasy Grounds module. That’ll be available on the Fantasy Grounds store as soon as the Smiteworks folks process it. I think that also means it’ll be available on Steam, which is a strange feeling.

It’ll be available on its own and also bundled with the conversion of Green Lineages. I converted Green Lineages a while ago, but $5 is the minimum order amount in the Fantasy Grounds store, double the PDF price, and offering it at that price point didn’t feel alright. I don’t think it’s necessarily unreasonable to have different pricing structures for different formats, but not at double the price. If you’re just looking for Green Lineages as a Fantasy Grounds module, I’m afraid you’re somewhat out of luck but with future releases I’ll look at further bundles with it.

I may look at conversions for other formats like Roll20 in the future, but I don’t have the same level of experience with those programs as I do with Fantasy Grounds. Sound off in the comments if there’s a format you’d be particularly keen to see it in, and I’ll look into it.

Revisions and Expansions

There’s also been a lot of general revision and expansion in the main adventure text. The adventure itself is relatively unchanged, but I revised some of the setup regarding the goblins and their relationship with Hector to make the goblins more sympathetic, putting it more in line with how I’ve run the adventure recently. I ran it for a charity stream back in December where you see a lot of the changes in action if you’re interested.

There’s also a new NPC in town – the addition of Fives the guard expands the Aetherrail station in v2! Fives is an old and faulty aetherforged tasked with watching over the station and checking tickets, and he only speaks in sentences of five words, he’s pretty fun. A lot of folks suggested they were disappointed the Aetherrail station didn’t have much else going on, so Fives is there now and I think he’s a good addition.

Another revision came from Izzy, who’s done a new cover piece that I’m super stoked about! Izzy did all the art in Corwyn and does most of the art we see on Chronicles too. I love seeing her pieces continue to improve and I think the new cover is a great fit!

The new cover for The Corwyn Catacombs, a five eyed humanoid with pale skin looking at the viewer.
Wow! Isn’t he creepy? Thanks Izzy! You can check out her other work here!

New Layout

The whole adventure has also had a new layout and touch-up, and I’m really happy with how the adventure looks now. We’ve gone for a chunkier font and a spiffy new blue colour scheme, plus I’ve learned how InDesign works a bit better now! Most of these new styles went into Green Lineages too but I’ve iterated on them a little further and I think it looks a lot nicer than v1. Hopefully you agree!

An image of a spread in Corwyn. The spread is domianted by art of a signpost, and text flows on the lefthand page.
Here’s one of my favourite spreads in the adventure! I love the signpost Izzy did for v1 but it didn’t have much space to shine originally. Now it does!

Conclusion

That’s about the size of the changes, I think. I’m happy with where the adventure is at now and want to move on to other things, so I think this is the last major revision you’ll see. I’ll still be adjusting grammar, typos, text flow etc, and there may be a need to adjust statblocks depending on feedback once they’re in the wider world, but I’ve conducted my own testing and I’m happy with where the encounters are at.

Speaking of feedback, I’ve set up a feedback form to gather information from people who run the adventure about how they got on. If you play the revision and have thoughts (or even just want to help me understand how people use the adventure), I’d appreciate you filling it out. I do read and consider all the feedback I get, and as you can see I act on a lot of it too.

I already have my next (next two, actually!) planned release at first draft status and that’s my main focus now the Corwyn revision is live. No formal announcements just yet, but there’ll be another of these when I’ve more to talk about. I’m really excited about what’s in the pipeline this year, I’m hoping folks will enjoy it as much as I have.

The PDF version of The Corwyn Catacombs is available on our store and on DriveThruRPG and itch.io. The Fantasy Grounds module will be available on the Smiteworks store and on Steam (I think) in due course (I’ll update this when it is, so check back regularly).

Thanks for all your support thus far, and be sure to let me know what you think of the adventure when you pick it up. I’ve nothing concrete to announce regarding our next release, but I’ve got a variety of projects in various stages of completion and as soon as I have something to announce you’ll see it in this column. Until then, you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook, subscribe to our mailing list down below or come by our Discord server. Chronicles will continue streaming on Twitch, and I’ll make any other pertinent announcements here on the blog.

Over and out,

Jake

1 thought on “From the Desk of the Animancer, Feb 18th, 2021: Corwyn Catacombs v2!”

  1. Pingback: From The Desk Of The Animancer, March 28th, 2021: The Animancer Character Sheet For Fifth Edition | Animancer

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