By Michael Penny
This epic tabletop RPG campaign takes places in the mystical land of Orin Rakatha, a land ravaged by abhorrent creatures, warring nations and powerful magic. Where the only sanctuary can be found within magical sentient towers that the people band together to live within. To survive they must comply with the laws of the Mystics that rule the lands, overcome the ever-changing landscape and maintain enough wealth and power to retain the sanctuary of their tower; which protects them from the cleansing mists.
Q. Orin Rakatha is your LARP so what's the Kickstarter for?
Fundamentally we are putting this Kickstarter together to purchase two key elements, firstly and most importantly we need art; cover art, maps and internal art to make the content sing out. Whilst we are not short of stories we have no artwork and we really want the art to reflect the great story-lines and character concepts we have. Next we need to fund the digital type-setting of the written work so its ready to go to the printers; with up 260+ pages in the initial goals this is something that really needs to go to a professional. One of the great dualities of Kickstarter is that backers really want 'product' and so a large part of funding is also likely to get swallowed up by physical printing and postage costs.
Q. Why go system neutral? Surely you had some/one system in mind when you imagine the game being played as a tabletop RPG?
Of course we started out playing Dungeons & Dragons (1st edition mind!) and that's where we imagined the content being played out on the table top; it's what inspired us to move into LARP in the first place. But we also recognise that time has moved on and there are a very broad range of systems out there that are popular. Whilst we are writing Orin Rakatha from a system neutral basis, from what we would call a story-tellers perspective, we will also be including stats for Pathfinder, the OGL content and we would also love to include FATE and Savage Worlds (more on these in later updates of the Kickstarter Campaign)
Q. Are LARPers going to get to see their characters in print?
Yes very much so, both those that played characters and those that were the crew (the monsters or the bad-guys); what's really great about this is that the characters are seen through the eyes of many people, lots of people have stories to tell about meeting them or their accomplishments or acts of greatness (or infamy) This gives the key protagonists depth and history that would only normally come from a massive novel. We are also offering pledges that allow those characters to be immortalised not only in print but also in artwork and even in 3d (via mini-figs)
Q. There's no shortage of Kickstarters for tabletop players. What makes Orin Rakatha stand out as a project worth backing?
How difficult it is to sing your own praises! We really think what we have is unique, we have one of the UK's if not the worlds longest running live action roleplaying campaign that has remained within the same world for 27 years, this has created a unique story. The great number of people that have over the years contributed in some way is massive, and maximum credit to them all! The world itself is 'different' mainly because we went out of our way in the beginning to write a world that was able to challenge a concept called 'suspension of dis-belief'; that is during a live action play you want to minimise the number of things the player has to 'avoid seeing because they aren't real' So things like horses don't exist on Orin Rakatha (as none of our LARPers ever turned up to an event riding one) so we created a concept of travel in the world that allowed journeys to be flexible and not necessarily need methods of rapid transportation. We also couldn't persuade 5000 friends to come along and play an army of orcs (although we would have liked to) so we wrote a 'law' of the land that prevented groups of more than 20 travelling together; and whilst this means that your characters won't take part in an 'epic battle with 1000's of combatants' it does mean that the actions of adventurers really make a difference on the socio-economic landscape of Orin Rakatha. It means that a standard sized party of table top adventurers ARE an army on Orin Rakatha.
Q. The Kickstarter talks about a semi-sentient land? How does that work?
So without giving away too much; the whole land is created and in some way managed by what are called 'mystics' they provide shelter on the land in towers and control the cleansing mists, which clear the land of the fallen and manage the flora and fauna. To live on Orin Rakatha you must adhere to the laws of the lands. The physical land, and the magic that underpins it are all linked and the power of the people that walk across it influences what they meet on the land, paths are changed and routes divided to manage the balance. Have you ever wondered why when you are part of a low-level group of adventurers that you don't constantly get over-run by much more powerful monsters? On Orin Rakatha the land manages its resources to ensure that it meets what it considers to be a threat (the players) with its best matched resource - so the wandering monsters and groups of protagonists are directed by the land itself. Why the Mystics do this is unknown ;0)
Q. What are your favourite parts of Orin Rakatha?
For me it has to be the lands and towers around an area called the Ikarthian Triangle, this is made of of 3 towers; one was destroyed long ago (and some of its history is revealed in our first module Burning Night) and remains haunted by its once inhabitants the Ikarthian people; who were all tragically slain in the same moment (the whole tower of 1000's of people all at the same time), and of the other two I really love the Labyrinth of Xenos a tower of enchanters that create golems and clockwork constructs to carry out their will and whom are all linked to a single consciousness. This triangle of towers is one of the few places on Orin Rakatha where the open land is protected from the mists and it is also therefore a hub for the undesirables that have now tower sanctuary to call their home.
Q. Who are the most scary bad guys?
Scary bad guys on Orin Rakatha come very much in two forms, scary stats and just scary! I think that's what's great about them, sure there are some bad guys who have awesome stats that even the highest level parties will be afraid of; but the really scary ones are the ones that don't need to use their stats to be scary, their previous deeds, influence and knowledge is what makes them really scary! But if I were to pick out some names I'd say; Xelios the Hive Mind - High Enchanter of the Labryinthe of Xenos, Helm Brighthand - Judge Knight of Shadowsmeet, Kerni Oakrot - Druid of the Forest of Unshed Tears and The Oppawang - are the ones that have put the frighteners up me in the past!
Q. Where are the most dangerous areas of the land?
Anywhere close to the central island, surrounded by Rainbow Lake; which is where the Mystics are reputed to live and every year the leaders of each tower must make a journey across the lake to pledge their status (the combined power of their adventuring people) to prove to the Mystics that they are worthy to retain their tower. This perimeter is patrolled by the Shadowsfall; the Mystics enforcers of the laws of Orin Rakatha - best not get in their bad books. Also the mountains around the outside of Orin Rakatha whilst largely impregnable have one or two passes; one famous for danger is the Pass of Jade at whose base lies the tower of the Knights of Halmadons Heights; questing knights who use Orin Rakatha as their base to explore other worlds. The Pass of Jade is said to be one of the only places you can leave Orin Rakatha on foot, other routes require some form of magical transportation.
Q. How can you cull, cut and trim 27 years of gameplay into just one book?
So the short answer is we're not; the initial release of books will give people a wide understanding of the lands themselves, the people, the creatures the locations from both a GM's and Players perspective and also the first module. The source books will have plenty of material if you want to write your own campaign within the world and we will release modules as the demand comes for them (we have a few lined up for the Kickstarter stretch goals and many more for the future). The GM's Guide and Players Handbook are based around 5 years into our campaign; now from that point GM's could just 'go their own way' (and frankly that would be great!) but we also hope they will continue supporting our products as release them and we aim to do this rapidly enough to keep up with GM's and players demand.
Q: The effort to formalize Orin Rakatha into a published sourcebook has clearly been a long time in the making. What prompted you guys to want to take this step?
A: In our video we quote 'we are getting a bit too old to chase the Trolls' and it's not unlinked that a few of the team mark their half a century this year. So much of what we have done over the years has been saved in different formats and some even before we all had computers and with the current part of the campaign coming to an end this was a good time to collate all the information so why not go one step further and make it into something that everyone could benefit from but also something that everyone who had done our LARP adventures since 1986 could have as a keepsake and reminder of what they were part of.
Q: You describe the world of Orin Rakatha as fantasy, but it feels a bit…let’s call it grittier than traditional high fantasy. If you had to apply a genre to this campaign setting, what would you call it?
A: So there are elves, orcs, wizards, goblins, warriors and priests so it is in one way a traditional high fantasy setting but we do agree that it has a gritty more real edge to it, fundamentally this comes from the way the story was written, so firstly in the more traditional sense the story was written down by the referee organising the LARP events, but what defines Orin Rakatha is the nature of the story development, in that it has been played out and the story developed by hundreds of people both taking part in events and writing and developing the plot as it went along. So as we commute this into the books you'll get the flavour of a number of peoples perspectives on the story. So in short it's a high fantasy campaign but with a real edge!
Q: What would claim were your most significant influences during the creation of Orin Rakatha?
A: The team and the players of Heroquest LARP developed as the fantasy genre developed in the UK, early on it was 'Dungeons & Dragons' & 'Lord of the Rings' and it's moved over the years as the fantasy genre has developed and become more accessible to everyone. But the single most significant influence during the creation of Orin Rakatha has been our players; most GM's will know this secret - the players come up with all the best plot ;0)
Q: Building a world that is truly system agnostic is quite a feat. Did you find that challenging? Enjoyable? Both? Also, did you feel the world worked equally well with all systems?
A: We've been faced with similar challenges over the years to constantly keep the hundreds of adventures we ran interesting and whilst always adding something new every time we have managed to adapt everyones ideas to fit into the world as a whole. We feel that any games master will be able to fit an interesting and exciting world like ours into their own game(s). We are at our core story tellers, which comes from our LARP heritage, but we are also hard-core gamers and writing from the story aspect and then looking back as to how to add the 'mechanic' has been both enjoyable and challenging; the clash between fluff and crunch (and frankly which one different people think is most important) is one that we hope we'll meet evenly. Currently we are working on Pathfinder & Fate direct compatibility; the former being the one we are most familiar with but the latter, being new to us, has been most enjoyable when we've been considering how to incorporate. We are also currently reviewing a couple of other systems including Savage Worlds. One thing we want to make sure is that the stats and mechanics don't get in the way of the story so we'll be deploying appendices / separate reference charts to ensure they don't get in the way of each other.
Q: ‘Where Worlds Collide’ is the tagline for the project and ostensibly speaks to the respective realms of tabletop and LARPing. Many gamers have a strong preference as to whether they LARP or play on a tabletop. How is it that Orin Rakatha is able to bridge that proverbial gap and appeal to both demographics?
A: The 'Where Worlds Collide' tagline covers two aspects of what we are doing; firstly yes its a side nod to our LARP / RPG heritage but mainly it's about the people who populate the world of Orin Rakatha having journeyed there from othere worlds or planes of exisitence – using d&d as an example each tower of inhabitants comes from their own prime material plane; this is why it should be easy for a games master to incorporate their world into ours. As an example lets say your own campaign in whatever system you were currently using was coming to an end and you were looking to move to something new – you could have your party of adventurers release some ancient power artefact or enemy who causes some form of world ending situation. Your players along with a mix of survivors find a method to escape to Orin Rakatha and have to adjust to the new world it laws etc. This would give you limitless ideas and adventures the players could go on. And whilst there are those that only LARP and those that only play Table-top there are a large number in the middle: but the Kickstarter is a Table-top RPG product and we are definitely targeting that market. Although plenty of LARPers also play around the table, we are getting more and more into that bracket - it gets your knees in the end all that running through forests ;0)
Q: The characterization seems to be the core strength of Orin Rakatha and a play testing pool of over 1000 participants must have given you all plenty of characters to work with. Did you have any favorite concepts that came out of that process?
A: All of them and too many to list, as if you miss one we'd be in trouble with them – Many of our mini campaigns affected more than one of the non-player character (NPC) towers and some encompassed the whole world – adventures lasted from a few hours, to a few days to campaigns lasting several years. At the core of the player character facing aspect of game is the concept of 'Fortunes Keep' or the three towers of the Kern Valley Alliance; which is one of our favourite aspects. I am sure Games Masters in the past, like us, have wrestled with the concept of how to encourage 'team-play' and rationalise 'joining together' between characters of very different alignments and beliefs; just why does the paladin adventure with the rogue, the goodly cleric with the sorcerer of the dark arts; the list goes on. Well all our players wanted to do this so in the very early days we adopted a triumvirate allegiance between three groups; The White Retreat (those that follow the light), The Valley Tower (those that follow the balance) & Wolfhold (those that follow the dark arts) and we wrote a code of conduct for them in that they would strive to work together on Orin Rakatha (in our previous LARP world most of them had been sworn enemies) for their own 'greater good'. This allows a fantastic mix of adventuring party make up without the need for complex overlapping or contradictory reasons as to why they would adventure together (not that there is ever complete harmony!)
Q: You are all very experienced gamers, but can Orin Rakatha appeal to a new player?
A: Absolutely! We aren't lording loads of experience; we are writing a campaign world that will work just as well for new GM's and players as it will for those that have been around the table top for a couple of decades. At this core is a new world setting that new players might want to start a brand new journey in or experienced players may want to drop in and out of or just use parts of for their existing campaign.
Q: Is there anything that readers should know about that isn’t on the Kickstarter page? Is there anything that a gamers may be surprised by if they tried to play in Orin Rakatha for the first time?
A: The laws that govern Orin Rakatha and the way Orin Rakatha works is unique so yes they will be in for a few suprises because it isnt like other worlds and this should be fun for new and experienced players alike. Much of how this has happened was to redress some of issues we saw in early LARP's but which translate very well to the table top and for us remove some of the 'why doesn't this happen' questions when considering armies, over-ranked monsters and 'player-centric' plots; Orin Rakatha's mechanic provides answers to these. Without giving away too much; the whole land is created and in some way managed by what are called 'mystics' they provide shelter on the land in towers and control the cleansing mists, which clear the land of the fallen and manage the flora and fauna. To live on Orin Rakatha you must adhere to the laws of the lands. The physical land, and the magic that underpins it are all linked and the power of the people that walk across it influences what they meet on the land, paths are changed and routes divided to manage the balance. Have you ever wondered why when you are part of a low-level group of adventurers that you don't constantly get over-run by much more powerful monsters? On Orin Rakatha the land manages its resources to ensure that it meets what it considers to be a threat (the players) with its best matched resource - so the wandering monsters and groups of protagonists are directed by the land itself.
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