Apocrypha, Phoenix and Dreams


It was just a dream. Yet you can still smell the blood of the night watchman. You can still hear the raven’s whispers and feel the silver blade catching on bone. It was just a dream, but you knew he had to die and you had to kill him. It was just a dream. So why are your bedsheets covered in blood?

- Artwork from Rich Ellis & Grace Allison for Phoenix: Dawn Command; text from the Apocrypha Adventure Card Game.

I’ve always been fascinated by dreams and the idea of dreams intersecting with reality. The first piece of RPG work I had published was “Dreaming on the Verge of Strife” in Forgotten Lives by Atlas Games (a sourcebook for the RPG Over The Edge). This piece introduced a conspiracy of people who had no dreams of their own, instead inhabiting the dreams of others when they slept and engaging in subliminal manipulation… essentially Inception, though predating it by a decade. Following that I developed an MMORPG called VR1 Crossroads, a game about warring conspiracies fighting over an intersection between dream and reality. I first explored this idea in the d20 system with my section on Oneiromancy in Occult Lore. When I created Eberron I presented the plane of Dal Quor as the place where mortal spirits go when they dream… along with the Dreaming Dark and the Quori, the malevolent native spirits of that plane.

VR1 Crossroads was cancelled in beta due to Dilbertesque office politics. Eberron is currently in limbo, though I hope this is only temporary. And so I’ve started my own company Twogether Studios and I’m finally creating a game and world entirely of my own… Phoenix: Dawn Command. The connection between dreams and reality isn’t so clear-cut in Phoenix as in those other games, and yet the influence is still there. Phoenix is set in a world where nightmares are becoming real, and it is up to you to learn why this is happening and how it can be stopped. And of course Phoenix itself is a dream of mine – a new setting that I can support as fully as time and interest allow. As I write this, we’re very close to funding the project: I hope you’ll check it out.

But Phoenix isn’t the only card-driven game on Kickstarter I’m working on this month! I’m proud to say that I’m one of the guest writers on Apocrypha, in line to write the – surprise! – Book of the Dreamer memories. Here’s Mike Selinker’s overview of the Book…

The Book of the Dreamers introduces the Novem Nebuchadnezzar, whose sorcerers are unlocking their subconsciousnesses and loosing them on the world. What you see as nightmares, they see as weapons. When you are asleep, they mess with your brain; when you are awake, your brain messes with your reality. But it is Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams that are the most concerning. When he dreams of gold, the price of gold goes up. When he dreams of massive trees, forests tend to come down. So don’t sleep, and you’ve got a chance.

Mike Selinker is one of the most brilliant designers I’ve had a chance to work with, and Apocrypha is an epic project with an amazing team behind it… and I love any chance to explore the influence of dreams on a setting.

Apocrypha and Phoenix are very different products (something Mike and I discussed on the Side Project podcast). Phoenix is a story-driven RPG. It relies on a GM to create the foundation of a story and to fill in the empty spaces of the world – to control the challenges, describe the surroundings and play all the roles aside from those of the player characters. It uses cards in place of dice to determine whether a player can succeed at an action, and this provides players with a degree of narrative control over the story. By contrast, Apocrypha is a game where the cards shape the story and the world. You don’t need a GM, and you use dice to determine if your actions succeed or fail. Apocrypha is a game you could play by yourself, while Phoenix is driven by a story you create together. Beyond that, Apocrypha is set in the modern day in a disturbing reflection of the world we know… while Phoenix is a world of swords and sorcery, which we’ll continue to develop over time. While they are both games about supernatural conflict and both use cards, they are very different games.

I hope you’ll take a look at both Phoenix and Apocrypha – I’m excited to be working on both of them!

And if you act quickly, you can catch Mike and the Loneshark team on Reddit doing an IAMA interview (starting at 12:30 PST on 4/22/15)!





Creating A Phoenix: Shepherd

EPSON MFP imageThe Phoenix: Dawn Command kickstarter continues to move closer to our goal. A few new developments: The OneShot Podcast has posted the second half of the game I ran for the OneShot crew and Will Hindmarch. And if you haven’t already seen it, playtester Rich Malena put together a great video that explains the Skill system. Meanwhile, we’ll have a video of a game session up soon, and I’m continuing to profile the characters that appear in that session.

Phoenixes are divided into six schools. These are tied to the nature of your previous death and the lessons you learn from it. Your first death – the one that occurs before the game begins, when you first return as a Phoenix – provides you with a set of core abilities and skills. Over the course of a career you may die many different sorts of deaths and learn lessons from multiple schools, but those core abilities will always be the foundation of your character. Thus, when I say “Durant Phoenix” I mean a Phoenix who’s first death was Durant.

The heart of the Durant school is Survival. The Durant is a strong melee combatant who specializes in defense and shrugging off damage. While athletic and durable, the Durant is also trained in leadership and the arts of war; the Durant is the member of the wing best suited to commanding groups of mortal soldiers. Durant lessons focus on durability, defense of self and others, and enhanced leadership; other lessons and traits key off the Durant’s health, so a Durant is strongest when uninjured. Taken together, the Durant is one of the simpler schools to play and a good choice for a someone who’s not quite sure about Phoenix’s approach to character death. While outliving other characters can sometimes leave the Durant lagging behind other Phoenixes in pure power, some Durant lessons take advantage of this. The Durant Bond lesson allows your Durant to take the core powers of any member of your wing who dies and use them until your ally is reborn… so if you end up being the last one alive, you’ll have an arsenal of lessons to work with.

Today we’re looking at Shepherd, the Durant Phoenix. What I’m showing you here is a pre-generated character that I’m using in demo sessions; normally the questions posed below are entirely open-ended as opposed to being multiple choice. Shepherd is a fairly straightforward, heroic character – but you can certainly have a Durant with a darker outlook on life.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 3.08.42 PMShepherd’s story is a simple one. Ilona is where the Empire began, a fertile region with an ancient civilization. Shepherd began as, surprise, a shepherd and died defending her village. The traits she’s selected focus on courage, determination and the military training she’s gained in the Crucible. She’s a very team-oriented character; Commander and Absolute Conviction both allow her give allies a boost to their actions, and Seasoned Veteran lets her leap in front of an attack meant for one of her wingmates. Meanwhile, Valiant allows her to add her Health Levels to an attack, providing an incentive to avoid injury.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 3.08.50 PMShepherd organized a village militia and successfully beat back a threat, only to die due to the wounds she’d suffered. She is determined to uncover the mystery of the Dread and avenge those who have suffered, and she cares about the entire Empire. As such, this Shepherd will likely trumpet the virtues of the Empire and Dawn Command… whereas a Shepherd who only cared about her village could be more critical of the Empire and blame it for failing to defend her people from the Dread.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 3.09.32 PMMany characters have deep fears that speak to their pasts or their deaths… but hey, some people just don’t like bugs. And that’s OK.

In upcoming posts I’ll look at the last member of this wing – the Devoted Phoenix Drake – and provide more information about the world of Phoenix.

New Videos and Online Seminars

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 9.06.43 AMThere’s lots of things in the works at the moment, but the biggest thing in my life right now is Phoenix: Dawn Command. I’ve been working on this RPG for over a year, and now we’re closing in on our goal on Kickstarter. Needless to say, I’m thrilled about this. Phoenix uses a number of innovative mechanics – including a card-based resolution system and the fact that death is how your character grows stronger – but beyond that, it’s a fully formed RPG and a new setting that I love. I look forward to getting to delve deeper into this world myself… and just like Eberron, I look forward to seeing what other people do with this world once they have their hands on it. To be clear, while Phoenix uses cards, it’s a game where you can create your own adventures and threats.

Anyhow: There’s a few new places to get information on Phoenix. Playtester Rich Malena has just posted a new video that walks you through one of the core mechanics of the game, showing how cards are used to resolve non-combat challenges. Rich is working with early prototype materials, so this is not what the final game will look like! In addition to this, Twogether Studios is putting together a gameplay video so you can actually see what Phoenix looks like in action; that should be out in a few days. It uses Elegy and Wolf, and I’ll be blogging about the remaining two characters over the course of the week.

photo(78)In addition to this, I’m currently posting on an AMA thread on ENWorld. If you have any questions about Phoenix – or Eberron, or Gloom – this is a great place for questions.

Finally: One of the advanced backer levels for Phoenix is the Shrouded Phoenix level, which gets you access to a series of online seminars with myself and co-creator Dan Garrison. I wanted to provide a little more information about these, so you can decide if it’s interesting. While the pledge level only mentions three sessions, there will actually be four – two general-interest sessions before the game is released, and two Phoenix sessions afterwards. Each one will have a handout summarizing the main points – and people will have an opportunity to send in questions ahead of time. The seminars are:

Seminar #1: Creating Worlds

Creating a setting is an important step whether you’re developing an RPG, a computer game or a work of fiction. But where do you begin? Where do you find inspiration? How much information is too much information, and should you avoid well-established tropes or embrace them? Eberron creator Keith Baker will cover these subjects and more in this two-hour workshop on creating worlds.

Seminar #2: At The Table

Between them, Keith Baker and Dan Garrison have decades of experience as game masters. In this one-hour session they share their tips on adventure design and practical advice for GMs.

Seminar #3: Advice For Marshals

Once Phoenix: Dawn Command is released, creators Keith Baker and Dan Garrison will host a one-hour session offering advice to Phoenix GMs. The session will cover how to get the most out of the system, background on the world, and advice on creating your own adventures and challenges in Phoenix.

Seminar #4: Advice For Players

This one-hour session covers the unique aspects of Phoenix: Dawn Command from the player perspective, looking at character creation, developing ties to the setting, tactics, teamwork, the value of each life and more!




Creating A Phoenix: Wolf

EPSON MFP imageIn Phoenix: Dawn Command (now funding on Kickstarter) you normally build your character from the ground up, choosing your School, your Traits, and your lessons. You answer questions about your character: Who were you in your first life? How did you die? What gave you the strength to come back? You can watch a video overview of this process here. However, we also provide a set of pregenerated character in case you want to get started right away. Each of these character provides a glimpse into different aspects of the world. Over the next few days I’m going look at a wing of Phoenixes, and these characters will be featured in the gameplay video we’re releasing later in the campaign.

Yesterday I presented Elegy, the Shrouded Phoenix. Today we’re looking at the Bitter Phoenix, Wolf. Each School is defined by the nature of a death and the lessons you take away from it. The Bitter died in failure, and they are driven by vengeance. The Bitter gains strength from being wounded, and a Bitter is most powerful when close to death.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 9.02.48 AMThe Bitter school is driven by aggression and force. Wolf’s Endless Rage allows him to enter a berserk state that increases his power at the cost of his defense. His Reckless Trait lets him ignore defense entirely to launch a strike at a would-be attacker. His other Traits – which aren’t innately tied to his School – still reflect his aggressive nature. This list doesn’t include the core lessons common to all Bitter Phoenixes, so there’s a little more to a character than you see here.

Wolf comes from Skavia, the northern region of the Empire, but there’s a twist: when Wolf died, the Empire didn’t exist. Phoenixes gain their powers in a spiritual limbo known as the Crucible, and time has no meaning there. Wolf died hundreds of years before the current events of the game, and he is now returning to a new world. This is noteworthy because the old Skavi people use to make bargains with the supernatural beings known as the Fallen Folk. The Phoenixes drove the Fallen from Skavia when they brought it into the Empire, and abolished these traditions. To most people in the modern age the Fallen are merely legends; but Wolf knows the reality.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 9.11.40 AMOur Wolf is fairly straightforward. He was a mighty warrior in the past, but underestimated the Phoenixes. Shamed by his defeat, he seeks to die a truly worthy death… which is a good match for his Reckless and Death Wish Traits. But he still cares about his homeland, and he won’t let it be consumed by the Dread.

This Wolf has avoided any sort of connection to the Fallen Folk. Another Wolf could have played up that angle, in which case they’d need to work out the details with the GM. Again, in the modern world the Fallen are simply legends; the idea of an unfulfilled bargain could make for an interesting long-term story hook.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 9.16.42 AMWolf is a fierce warrior, but everyone’s afraid of something. Our Wolf didn’t have any dealings with the Fallen, so he takes the Phoenix who slew him as his greatest fear. Meanwhile, he finds a connection with Elegy.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 9.18.56 AMThe Skavi have a tradition of masks, which was particularly important in Wolf’s time; you never want the Fallen Folk to know your face. His Talon is his default weapon.

Wolf is ready for action… Bitter, vengeful action. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at his opposite number: the Durant Shepherd.






Creating A Phoenix: Elegy


EPSON MFP imageI stared down the character sheet in front of me. There were no numbers, no dice rolls and modifiers. There were a list of traits, a name, a class… and questions. Weighty questions. – Playtester Morgan Hillsman

Phoenix: Dawn Command is a roleplaying game in which you play a champion who’s returned from death to try to save your world from a host of nightmares. When you play long-term, you build a character from the ground up, selecting your School and your Traits and then answering questions about this process. Rich Malena has created an excellent video that walks you through character creation, and you can see how that works here. However, when you’re playing your first session or playing a one-shot you may not have time to go through this process, or you may feel that you don’t know enough about the world to create your own story. To help with this, we provide a set of pregenerated characters so you can jump right into the game. However, one of the most important elements of Phoenix is having a personal stake in the conflict… so even with our pregens, we want you to answer a few questions. Let’s take a look at Elegy, our iconic Shrouded Phoenix.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 8.03.38 AMLessons and Traits are the things that differentiate Elegy from every other Shrouded Phoenix. Each Trait provides her with a special ability, and the Traits she possesses make her an excellent investigator and assassin. Sneaky enhances her natural stealth, Killer Instincts helps her find weaknesses in an opponent’s defenses, Brilliant Deduction reveals clues, while Seen This Before lets her assist an ally’s action. Psychometry is her unique Shrouded trait, and lets her burn her mystical energy to learn secrets about anything she touches. In addition to these powers, Traits can also enhance any action if you can explain how they are relevant to what you want to do. If the players are trying to understand a mysterious plague that’s overtaken a village, it would help if Elegy had Seen This Before. But assuming that she hasn’t actually seen it during gameplay, it’s up to Elegy’s player to come up with a story about WHERE she’s seen it before. Was it in her first life? Was it during her time in the Crucible, the limbo where she became a Phoenix? You don’t have to tell a story to use a Trait… but if you do, you can get more out of it.

Traits are cards that are in your Action deck, and you can only use them when you draw them. Lessons are ongoing abilities that you can use at any time. Elegy has a base set of Lessons that are common to every Shrouded Phoenix, but not every Shrouded knows Shadow Dancer. This makes Elegy an expert at stealth and lets her play more cards when she attacks from hiding… enhancing her talents as an assassin.

The paragraph that follows is a brief glimpse into the character’s past. When you make a character in Phoenix, the first question is always who you were in your first life – before you died and became a Phoenix. The Empire provides a number of cultures to choose from. Elegy is one of the Shadovar, a traveling people long distrusted because of their tradition of necromancy.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 8.04.10 AMWho were you in your first life? How did you die? Why did you come back? These are the critical questions of Phoenix. You don’t become a Phoenix by chance. If you live a remarkable life and die a meaningful death you have the chance to gain the powers of a Phoenix and return, but it is a long, harsh series of trial. What gives you the strength to make it through those tests? And why is it so important to come back? Returning as a Phoenix means you’ll spend the rest of your lives fighting the Dread; what made this bargain worthwhile for you?

Beyond this, how did you die is important because it is also a question of why are you a Shrouded Phoenix? Your choice of School is based on the reasons for your death and the lessons you take away from it. Shrouded Phoenixes die due to secrets, either in pursuit of secret knowledge of because a secret was revealed. Thus, Elegy’s options all deal with a quest for knowledge. As a Shrouded Phoenix, her investigative powers are dramatically increased.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 8.04.36 AMAs a Phoenix you are part of a Wing – a squad of up to six Phoenixes with a supernatural connection. Once you’re in a Wing you will serve together through all your lives. From the start, we want you to think about your connection to the other members of your Wing. Beyond that, we also want you to think about your fears. Your world is being consumed by horrors. No matter how brave you may be, no one is completely immune to fear. We want you to think about why you fight and who you care about… but we also want to know what gets under your skin.

The goal of these and all of the other questions is to help the GM develop details that will make a story feel personal to you. You aren’t just fighting the Dread because, hey, monsters; this is personal. This is a game where you may have to lay down your life to protect the things you care about, and we want to know from the start what some of those things are.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 8.05.23 AMWhen you are reborn as a Phoenix, your appearance is essentially about your image of yourself. You might appear exactly as you did when you died, but any aspect of your appearance could change. Age, gender, race, build… anything could change. If you were an old man, do you still think of yourself that way or do you imagine yourself in your prime? If you were a child when you died, are you now the world’s scariest ten-year-old or do you re-imagine yourself in the image of one of your favorite legendary heroes? Aside from your overall appearance, there are two specific things you need to define: your Talon and your uniform.

Phoenix isn’t a game about acquiring loot, because sooner or later you will die and you can’t take it with you. But there are two things that do stay with you, things you carry through the Crucible and on into your next life. Your uniform is the basic clothing and tools you always have with you, the things you need to perform your basic skills; as a Shrouded, Elegy’s uniform can be assumed to include lockpicks and the equipment she uses to investigate. The question here calls on the player to think of something that particularly stands out… a defining element of her uniform.

Your Talon is a unique weapon – a tool you acquired in the Crucible and that you will carry throughout your lives. It is a relic that was used by all of the Phoenixes that have been tied to your particular Flame, but over the course of your lives it will evolve along with you. Thus, rather than finding a more powerful weapon, you will instead invest your Talon with greater power over the course of a campaign.

Phoenixes can use any equipment they can get their hands on. Between supernatural strength and speed a Phoenix can turn almost anything into a weapon, and part of combat is finding ways to use your environment to your advantage. But your uniform and Talon are always with you, and defining them is a way to help visualize your character.

At this point, you’ve got an Action Deck full of cards, a blend of your unique Traits and general actions such as “Strength 3.” You know how you died and what you’re fighting for, and you know the tools you use in that struggle. It’s time to get the story started.

Phoenix: Dawn Command is on Kickstarter right now. In future updates I’ll talk more about both the world and the mechanics of the game. If you have any questions, ask below!





Dragonmarks: Phoenix In Eberron?

I’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund my new RPG, Phoenix: Dawn Command. I don’t have any news at this point about Eberron for 5E, though I still believe that progress is being made on that front. Which means it’s a good time to answer the following question…

How would you adapt Phoenix to work in the Eberron setting? I want to try Phoenix, but I can’t let go of the setting. Is there space in there for Phoenixes?

In Phoenix: Dawn Command you take on the roles of Phoenixes – champions imbued with supernatural power and the ability to return from death up to seven times. Death is actually how a character becomes more powerful; each time you die you learn lessons from your previous life.

The trick is that there’s more to Phoenix than playing a hero with seven lives. The game is set in a fantasy world facing a existential threat: a plague of supernatural horrors that mortal forces cannot overcome, and that have slowly but surely been consuming the known world. Part of creating a character in Phoenix is determining why you fight – what you’ve lost to the Dread, what you still care about – but Phoenix is a game about facing an enigmatic force that could destroy your world. This is part of what makes the seven lives structure work. In Phoenix, you regularly face unknown threats with terrible odds… and quite often it is more important to find a way to accomplish your mission than it is to survive. It is a setting that calls for heroic sacrifice.

So: it’s a trivial matter to insert Phoenixes into Eberron. The question is how you would provide that same sense of urgency that makes Phoenixes feel necessary – and where choosing to sacrifice your life to accomplish a task feels worthwhile.

One possibility would be to amp up the threat posed by the Mourning – to say that the Mourning is expanding, and that terrors are emerging to threaten people on its borders. Meanwhile, Phoenixes are something that first appear after the Day of Mourning; the first Phoenixes could be Cyrans who died in the Mourning, only to return with the power to face this threat. This would reflect the other aspect of Phoenix, which is that the threat is a mystery. As I mention in this post, it’s not just about whether you can fight the Dread, it’s whether you can unlock its secrets.

I could also see a high-tension game set around the Dragonmarked houses. Perhaps the Phoenixes are a creation of the Twelve – a joint project of Vadalis and Jorasco – who have escaped from their creators with knowledge of some sinister plan. Now they are fighting a shadow war against the houses while being constantly hounded by their other secret forces – sort of Dark Angel meets Shadowrun.

The main point of this: there’s more to Phoenix than the death mechanic. I love the Phoenix setting as well. It’s something I’ll reveal more about in the days ahead, and it’s something that is tied around the idea of Phoenixes. So you certainly COULD run Phoenix in Eberron, but I’d check out the new setting first!

And with that in mind, I’ll leave you with some of the threats you might encounter in Phoenix!

Challenge Trio

Phoenix Launching

EPSON MFP imageThe Kickstarter for Phoenix Dawn Command is up and running! I’ll be writing more about the setting and the game in future updates, but if you want to know more, here’s a few options.

Last year I did a demo session with The OneShot podcast. It’s using an early prototype of the game, but it still gives you a sense of the game and the world.

Last week my co-designer Dan Garrison and I were on the Going Last podcast where we talked about all things Phoenix.

And Going Last co-host Rich Malena has created an awesome video that takes you through Character Creation In Phoenix Dawn Command!

You can also check out my previous posts about Phoenix, including What’s A Phoenix, Death and Rebirth, and The Story.

And, of course, you can find Phoenix avatars at the Twogether Studios website!

Phoenix Dawn Command: The Story

EPSON MFP imageOur world is under siege. You are among the few who can turn the tide. You have passed through death and returned stronger than before. You are a Phoenix, and you are our last and only hope.

The Dread began three years ago with the rise of the bone legions in the south. Since then it has spread across the known world, a waking nightmare that takes hundreds of horrible forms. Ghosts howl in the night. Skinchangers lurk in the wilds. Fallen soldiers rise to slaughter the living. Entire cities fall to a Chant that turns all who hear it into mindless killers. We don’t know why this is happening. We don’t know how to stop it. All that we know with certainty is that we are fighting a war and we are losing. Over a third of the Empire has been lost to the Dread, and each day brings new horrors.

In this dark time we have one hope: Phoenixes are returning. Every citizen knows tales of the Phoenixes, champions who can face death and return stronger than before. In the centuries following our brutal civil war the Phoenixes have become legends… and now you are one of them. Whoever you were in your first life, you have overcome the challenges of the Crucible and returned to the daylit world with the power to face the forces of the Dread. Go forth. Complete your mission, discover what you can of the enemy, and don’t place too high a value on your own life. Die well and you’ll return stronger than before. Just make certain that you make each death – and each life – count.

This is the basic story behind Phoenix: Dawn Command. The original Phoenixes founded the Empire, and put an end to the dangerous magical practices of the First Age. Following the civil war, the Phoenixes relinquished control of the Empire, and over the generations their numbers dwindled and they became legends. For centuries the world was at peace… and then that came to a sudden and terrible end. No one understands the Dread. No one knows if the undead army advancing inexorably from the south has anything to do with the Chant that has destroyed cities or the vicious beasts ravaging the Fens. As a Phoenix you have the power to face threats no mortal could hope to defeat. But a single victory is worth little if you can’t discover why this is happening.

Phoenix: Dawn Command is driven by this core story. Every character has been touched by the Dread. In character creation you will determine how you died and what gave you the strength to return. What have you lost, and what do you have left to fight for? It’s not a story about searching for treasure; it’s about having seven lives to try and stop the horror that is destroying your world.

Phoenix: Dawn Command is on Kickstarter right now! To get the latest news, follow us at @Twogetherstudio on Twitter or go to Twogetherstudios.com to get on our mailing list. In my next post I’ll talk more about the card-driven mechanics of Phoenix; in previous posts I’ve explained What’s a Phoenix? and looked at the central element of Death and Rebirth.

Also: Dan Garrison and I were on the most recent episode of the Going Last Podcast talking about Phoenix. Take a listen!



Phoenix & Gloom at Emerald City Comicon

I’m going to be at Emerald City Comicon this weekend demoing Gloom and Phoenix: Dawn Command. If you’d like to be in a Phoenix playtest, follow this link to find the available times! Otherwise, you can find me at the following times and places.

SATURDAY, March 28th

11 AM – 2 PM: Gloom, More Gloom and Phoenix. I’ll be in the Board Game demo area in the level 2 corral. Come try the prototypes of Fairy Tale Gloom or Munchkin Gloom, or see what Phoenix is all about.

7 PM – 9 PM: Q&A With Keith Baker. Join me for an informal discussion of Gloom, Eberron and Phoenix: Dawn Command. Bring questions! Or cookies! This is a casual Q&A – you can show up at any point and stay for as long as you want. This event will take place in the Level 3 A/B Lobby (near the back escalators on the third floor).

SUNDAY, March 29

2 PM: Prototyping Tabletop Games. Do you have an idea for a card or board game, but you don’t know how to make it? This workshop will discuss prototyping tools and techniques.

I hope I’ll see you there!

Phoenix Dawn Command: What’s A Phoenix?

Phoenix: Dawn Command is a card-based roleplaying game I’m developing with Twogether Studios and my friend Daniel Garrison. The game is on Kickstarter right now; if you’d like to stay on top of the last developments, get on our mailing list or follow @Twogetherstudio on Twitter.

Shrouded PhoenixThe world of Phoenix: Dawn Command is under siege by a host of horrors. An unstoppable legion of fallen soldiers advances across the south. Werewolves and skinchangers prey on the unwary. Entire cities have fallen to a chant that turns all who hear it into mindless killers. Any nightmare you can imagine could be part of the Dread. Mortal soldiers are no match for most of these threats. But for the first time in centuries, Phoenixes are returning.

The Phoenixes are champions imbued with supernatural power. But no one is born a Phoenix. If you lead a remarkable life and die a meaningful death, your spirit can be drawn to a limbo called the Crucible. Here you go through a gauntlet of physical and spiritual trials that will test you to your limits and beyond. Time moves differently in the Crucible than it does in the Daylit World, and you could spend decades proving yourself in these trials. If you make it through, you are bound to a source of mystical power – your flame- and reborn in the Grand Aerie as a Phoenix.

Phoenixes are divided into six schools. These reflect the lessons you have learned from your life and your death, and determine the sorts of powers that you possess.

  • Devoted Phoenixes died for others, and their keyword is sacrifice. The Devoted are healers and mediators with the ability to strengthen their allies and their Wings.
  • Durant Phoenixes died because they weren’t tough enough, and their keyword is survival. Military leaders and athletes, Durant Phoenixes specialize in defending their allies; they are the hardest Phoenixes to kill.
  • Elemental Phoenixes died for duty, and their keyword is power. They can channel destructive forces of fire and storm, and can burn their own life force to power their deadly attacks.
  • Forceful Phoenixes died because they weren’t fast enough or because they faced obstacles they couldn’t overcome; their keyword is motion. Unmatched scouts and martial artists, Forceful Phoenixes strike with blinding speed and precision.
  • Shrouded Phoenixes died because of secrets, and their keyword is mystery. Sages and spies, the Shrouded excel both at striking from the shadows and uncovering hidden things.
  • Bitter Phoenixes died as failures, and their keyword is vengeance. These fearsome warriors turn injuries into strength, and are at their best when close to death.

I’ll look at each school in more detail in future posts. The critical thing is that the first thing you have to do when you’re creating a character in Phoenix: Dawn Command is to determine how you died, who you were before, and what gave you the strength to make it through the Crucible and return. Because you may have spent years or decades in the Crucible, you could have been anyone in your first life. You could have been a soldier, a schoolteacher or even a child. Whoever you were to begin with, by the time you make it through the Crucible you are one of the most dangerous people in the Empire. One other question in character generation is what do you look like? When you are reborn, your physical appearance is tied to your self-image; how do you see yourself? Race, gender, age and any other details could change… and could change again each time you are reborn, as your concept of who you are evolves. As a Phoenix you possess supernatural physical power that’s not limited by your physical body… so your Bitter could be an old man or a little girl and still tear your enemies apart.

A critical aspect of being a Phoenix is that your power isn’t unlimited. You have a pool of mystical energy you use when you perform superhuman feats, and when that power runs out you die. So you can do amazing things… but you need to choose the right moment to spend that power.

When you die, this process repeats itself. You are drawn back to the Crucible to learn new lessons… represented by new cards that are added to you deck. And once again, the critical question is always why you died. Not how… it doesn’t matter if you were burnt to ashes or torn apart. The question is why. Did you die to protect others? Did you die because you weren’t strong enough? Did you simply fail? It’s not simply that death makes you stronger – it’s that your powers reflect the lessons you’ve learned from each life and each death.

In future posts I’ll go into more detail about the world of Phoenix, the nature of gameplay and the six schools. Until then, get on our mailing list or follow @Twogetherstudio on Twitter for the latest news!