Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Interview - Ed Jowett of Shades of Vengeance

Shades of Vengeance is a roleplaying games company that has already given us the ERA games, such as the sci-fi Era: The Consortium and the post apocalyptic Era: Survival. Their newest game is Era: The Empowered, a game of superheroes and the world they inhabit, and - as of this blog post - it's running on Kickstarter now.

I had a chat with Ed Jowett of Shades of Vengeance about the new game.

Welcome to Farsight Blogger, Ed! Tell us something about your gaming history; how did you get into the hobby, and how did you get into the business side of things?

Thanks very much!

I had played before, but I really got into the hobby when I went to university! I joined the indoor gaming society and quickly became one of the regular GMs in the mix. I ran a lot of Paranoia in those days, along with various other things, from Firefly to World of Darkness. There's a tradition at Durham University in the society that we run a 24-hour game each year. 6 GMs create a setting and world, along with a campaign to explore it. The previous year had been fantasy so it was decided to be Sci-Fi.

I worked very hard on that setting, creating two types of alien race, complete with weaknesses, and fleshing out the majority of the setting from the concept of "Firefly", which was where it started. The game went very well, and I stopped playing for several years after that, because I started working.

About a year later, I was really missing it, so I got a group of friends and family together and revisited that campaign. It went extraordinarily well, and my brother asked me to write down the rules so he could run the next campaign.

That really kicked things off, because I spoke with a friend in Canada about it, showed him what I'd written, and he convinced me to publish it.

The rest is history: I've now published 7 RPG game lines (several of which has expansions), comics, card games and more - 38 products in total, so far!

Your newest project is Era: The Empowered, a superhero roleplaying game. Tell us more about the game and the setting.

Era: The Empowered is a special kind of superhero game.

It's based around a timeline which contains the various stages of a superhero world - from being the very first superheroes the world has seen to forming groups like the Avengers, to recruiting sidekicks and a more "Young Justice" feel, to facing extra-terrestrial threats on a scale unimagined by even the most pessimistic individual. You can encounter the troops of Atlantis, face down the Assassins Guild, or anything else you're used to in terms of the stories which we're able to experience through movies, tv series and animated styles in recent years.

In this game, you choose the time period you want to play in, meaning it's every kind of superhero game in one - you don't need to homebrew settings to play something else.

The game itself is based on our critically acclaimed Era d10 Rule Set with some special modifications to allow for superpowers. You can build any superpower you like in this system, using our "power tree" method, and ensure that everyone is balanced. You can also, if you want to add more powers, give your character a second or third power tree!

How did this come about, and what was the attraction to the superhero genre?

I've loved the superhero genre for years, but I've also been working with Johnathan Lewis since I started creating games. He's worked in the comic industry for some time and Era: The Empowered was actually the game I had planned for development second, once Era: The Consortium was complete. We worked together on the storyline, him from the storytelling perspective and me from the universe creation angle.

Back then, I did create the Rulebook Primer, which offered the rules but no equipment. Although I had the mechanics sorted out in my mind, I felt I needed to playtest creation a lot more. Other projects got in the way sometimes, but I never stopped working on Era: The Empowered. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a big inspiration to me on this project - it's the kind of storytelling I aspire to!

I'm happy to have finally got to the point where completing the Core Rulebook is in sight, although there's much more to come!

What makes this superhero game different from the others available?

As I explained earlier, the timeline approach to the history allows people to play any kind of superhero game they like. Most games give you a specific scenario - you're the first hero, or you're the third generation of heroes in a world which has become used to them.

This game doesn't: it gives you the chance to play any or all of these types of setting, by following with a timeline from the moment of emergence to the point where the world looks like it's about to end.

The story actually goes on beyond that, into parallel universes, but that's a tale for another book...!

You've also got fully illustrated comics available. How do these tie into the game?

The comics describe adventures of some of the major characters in the Empowered universe.

Lacuna and Penumbra have both had this treatment, and Blue-Shift is on Kickstarter now!

We've chosen these characters because they are the ones we offer for play in the example sessions we run, as well as being major figures in the general storyline. In short, they expand the universe further through a medium which suits superheroes nicely!

How will the game be supported in the future? Can we expect to see sourcebooks, adventures and campaigns?

Absolutely! In fact, we've already been supporting it with sessions on our Patreon.

As I indicated earlier, the Core Rulebook provides a timeline, but it doesn't finish the story entirely. In the best comic traditions, there is an ending, but things may happen beyond that!

I've also set up the first Source Book as a stretch goal - Golden Age Heroes! The slightly cheesy feel from the 60's with colourful characters and terrible puns will be upon us if we reach that!

Dice and Stuff are also supporting us with another entry in the Cowl Cops series. The first 5 podcast episodes are here.

What else do you have in the works? What else can we expect to see from Shades of Vengeance?

I have loads more in development, as always.

You can expect to see our first licensed property this year - the Battlecruiser Alamo series of books by Richard Tongue is being brought to life through the Era d10 Rule Set. We're also working on several more large games, not least Era: The Chosen, our latest entry for the era universe, which we expect to release in October!

It's a busy time for us, but we're rising to the challenge as we find more and more people who are interested in our work. I can't say how inspiring it is!