Eldritch Realms featured on Arcane Connection Podcast

Eldritch Realms is featured on this week’s Arcane Connection podcast, which is a podcast primarily about the great fantasy RPG Ars Magica. Hosts (and  Eldritch Realms co-authors) CJ Romer and Tom Nowell interview me for about half an hour about the game: what it’s like, how we got here, and where it’s headed. Give a listen!

Feedback is welcome; if you have any questions or comments you can post them on this blog or use the Contact form.

Life in Elizabethan England: A Compendium of Common Knowledge

I found a lovely web site called Life in Elizabethan England: A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603, subtitled Elizabethan Commonplaces for Writers, Actors, and Re-Enactors. Just the thing for creating a sense of atmosphere in your Eldritch Realms games! Many thanks to the author, Maggie Pierce Secara, for sharing her work online. The site is also available as a book.

2017 Year-End Update on Eldritch Realms

Here we are at the end of another year. It’s time for me to start communicating more often and in more detail about Eldritch Realms. We have a long way yet to go before we schedule the Kickstarter campaign — I can’t yet predict when that will be — but make no mistake, we have made a lot of progress this year. Read on for details.

Continue reading “2017 Year-End Update on Eldritch Realms”

Double, Double, toil and trouble…

When I posted the 2016 year-end update on Eldritch Realms, I mentioned we were working on the magic rules and they were “firming up.” Frankly, I thought writing the magic rules would be a two or three-month job. It’s hasn’t been. If one thing has been consistent, it that’s the design of the magic system has been one step backward followed by two steps forward. That’s the “toil.”

The “trouble” has been Real Life affecting the development team. I chose to find a new job and that took quite a lot of my time and energy in the springtime. Two developers had real-life concerns pressing enough that they’ve had to leave the project entirely. (We’re still on excellent terms and we hope they’ll have the time to contribute as playtesters.) There have been other personal emergencies of lesser magnitude.

Where that leaves us is at least four months behind the schedule I had planned for 2017. We’ll be working on the rough draft of the rules through the end of the calendar year. I’ll take about a month to collate and lightly edit that rough draft, and then the first round of external playtesting will begin in February 2018. Beyond that, I am reluctant to speculate, but I will say we will be ready for a broader playtest in the summer and I’ll be running some playtest sessions at GenCon 2018.

As to the Kickstarter, that will go live when the rules are finished, tested, and I am confident of their quality. I’m managing the project in such a way that the biggest risks of delays is before the Kickstarter goes live. Before I ask backers to contribute money to publishing this game, we at Shewstone Publishing have to convince ourselves that it will be the best game we can make.

Nothing worthwhile comes without difficulty. Thanks for following us through our early ups and downs.


Varieties of Magic in Eldritch Realms

Big news today! My co-authors and I have settled on the sorts of magic that will be in the Eldritch Realms core book. Eldritch Realms is set in Renaissance England, so our priority is to include magic that one encounters in history books about the period. (If you are not familiar with Eldritch Realms yet, it’s the roleplaying game of Elizabethan fantasy that we’re developing — check out the introduction).

Without further ado, here is what the rules will cover:


https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f4/Azoth-Fouth_woodcut.jpg?resize=203%2C226&ssl=1Alchemy is the magic of transforming things to a higher state: of purification, refinement, and transcendence. While alchemy employs the paraphernalia of what a modern person would call “chemistry,”  in Eldritch Realms, it is definitely magic. Alchemy is capable of wondrous effects: potions of flight and of invisibility, enchanted armor and weapons, and prophecy through symbolic visions. The ultimate goal of alchemy is to transform the alchemist himself into a a physically, mentally, and spiritually superior person. Alchemy is strongest at spells of health and healing, at making various enchanted tools and weapons, and at granting people extraordinary abilities.


The stars influence the fates of men and women, but Renaissance thinkers also strongly believed in individual free will. The predictions of astrology are therefore never perfect, but they can reveal hidden forces at work in the world or foreshadow that a seemingly unremarkable person has a great destiny. In addition to forecasting the future, a magician-astrologer knows how to imbue the power of the stars and planets into talismans that can help a person find fame, wealth, even love; and can protect against both earthly enemies and supernatural curses.


Circletriangle.gifThe world teems with invisible spirits, but whether these are angels, demons, faeries, or something else altogether, no mortal can tell. Conjuration is the science of binding and commanding these spirits and thereby harnessing their powers. Through the spirits, a conjurer can levitate into the air, scry on distant places, deflect musket-balls, or summon a tempest. Yet the spirits obey mysterious rules of their own, so every spell has a weakness that can be used to block or unravel it. A conjurer has a close relationship with a familiar spirit, who acts as the magician’s servant and sometime advisor.


Pictures of English History Plate I - Druids, or British Priests.jpg

The magic of the ancient Celtic magicians known as druids still echoes throughout the British Isles. Their magic combines elements of alchemy, astrology, sigils, and conjuration into a hybrid science with a distinctive cultural identity. This is the magic of Merlin from the legend of King Arthur. It excels at shapechanging, illusion, and commanding the elements of nature.


Bewcastle Cross, Plate of Runes.jpgFrom the heirogylphic burial spells on ancient Egyptian scrolls, to the runes of the Anglo-Saxons and Danes who settled in early medieval England, to the theurgic inscriptions of medieval Kabbalah and Dr. John Dee’s “angelic language,” magical writing, diagrams, and glyphs have carried power in many lands and cultures. The science of sigils excels all others at creating protective wards. It is also strong at creating long-lasting blessings

Folk Magic

Radiestezija.jpg Magic is not just for learned experts. Practically every village in Eldritch England has a cunning-man or woman, who tells fortunes, makes charms, finds lost property, and cures sick cattle. Folk magic is a hodgepodge of weak but practical spells derived from more formal kinds of magic, imperfectly copied and then mingled with the lore of local herbs and spirits. Folk magic is too weak weak to be playable on its own (unless you like the idea of playing a more limited wizard), but it can be easily combined with any of the sciences of high magic to broaden a wizard’s powers.

Eldritch Realms Will Use the Fate Core Engine

Fate Core System cover
Fate Core System cover

I’m overdue for an update on Eldritch Realms development, so I’ll try to make one that is a bit more substantial. I’m pleased to announce that Eldritch Realms game mechanics will be based on Fate Core!

The design team put a lot of thought into this decision, starting with asking the question, should we use an open game engine or create a new
one from scratch? We looked at several RPG rules engines, some open, and one proprietary. We pretty quickly came to the conclusion that the game will provide a better experience for the players if we base it on an established game engine instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. When we finally get the manuscript finished (remember, 2018 is the target) and launch the Kickstarter, we want our backers to have confidence the game is built on a solid foundation.

You can get a PDF or e-book of Fate Core rules by paying what you want, or you can browse an HTML version of the Fate System Reference Document for free online. To be clear, Eldritch Realms will be a stand-alone game containing everything you need between one set of covers. You will not need a copy of the Fate Core System to play — all the rules will be copied into our rule book, edited to fit our writing style and presentation, with new examples and explanatory text. This is all perfectly legal because Fate Core is licensed under the Open Game License.

Continue reading “Eldritch Realms Will Use the Fate Core Engine”

2016 Year-End Update on Eldritch Realms

Eldritch Realms has taken enough shape that I can start to talk about the production schedule.

The magic rules are firming up. Designing a new magic system out of whole cloth takes time — especially since magic is the centerpiece of this game. I am confident we have a solid foundation in place. Since I have a background with the classic RPG Ars Magica, I want to emphasize that Eldritch Realms‘ magic system is not like Ars Magica. It’s based on the period writings of Renaissance magicians, about whom we know quite a lot (thank you, Mr. Gutenberg!). There are several different styles of magic, which I call “sciences” — used in the archaic sense to mean any organized field of study, not necessarily one as rigorous and formal as what we today call “science.” The three primary sciences are astrology, alchemy, and conjuration. If you want an idea of what a powerful wizard (not a beginning player character!) can do in Eldritch Realms, take a look at Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

A Scene from Act I, Scene 2 (Ferdinand courting Miranda) of Shakespeare's
Illustration by William Hogarth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The whole year of 2017 will be devoted to development. We’re aiming for a closed, invitation-only alpha playtest in the fall of 2017. After that we will revise, hold more public playtests, and repeat for at least half of 2018. Since I am eager to get a paycheck from this game before I have kids and send them to college, I will do my level best to make sure the Kickstarter to produce this game launches before the end of 2018.

Draft introduction for Eldritch Realms

Hot off my keyboard, I have a first draft of the introduction to Eldritch Realms.  This will no doubt be revised and may end up being rewritten entirely. That said, here is what I have to say about the upcoming game.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

--William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, scene 5
The Alchemist by Sir William Fettes Douglas, 19th cent. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The Alchemist by Sir William Fettes Douglas, 19th cent.

The European Renaissance was a golden age of magic. Alongside the blossoming of art, mathematics, and natural philosophy was a corresponding flourishing of astrology, alchemy, and mysticism. Queen Elizabeth I of England (reigned 1558-1603) had, for many years, a court magician: not a mere entertainer, but a serious adviser named Dr. John Dee. Alchemy was not merely a quest to turn lead into gold, but the noble science of transforming matter, which was hoped to cure sickness and perhaps even extend the human lifespan. Astrology was a required subject at medical school so doctors could diagnose patients’ ailments from their horoscopes. Yet magic was not just for the elite: astrological almanacs were best-selling books, second only to the Bible in popularity.

We now know that natural philosophy, which modern people call simply “science,” was the branch of knowledge that would bear fruit, while the branch called “magic” ultimately proved barren. What if it had been the other way around? What if, in an imaginary world, it was magic that contained the keys of truth and gave mankind mastery over nature?

This is the world of Eldritch Realms: a world of historical fantasy where the magical lore of Renaissance Europe is basically accurate. The stars do guide people’s fates. Conjurers can call spirits to project images of distant places into a crystal ball. A host of invisible spirits, good and evil, swarm through the world and can be commanded by those who know their names and the proper rituals.

The world of Eldritch Realms has all the perils and villains of historical Europe — tyrannical barons, conspiracies against the Crown, war, rebellion, fanatical witch-hunters, corrupt businessmen and officials, highwaymen and pirates — with an added layer of the supernatural. Rival wizards scheme to steal your magical secrets. Fallen sorcerers become the pawns of evil spirits in their subtle and wicked games. Werewolves prowl the moors and forests. Vengeful ghosts torment the living. Faerie princes lure mortals into their hollow hills, never to be seen again. Eldritch England is a place of wonders and perils, ripe for adventure!

This book contains all the information you need to create adventure stories in Eldritch England, our fantastical version of Britain during Elizabeth I’s reign. Your character is a wizard, one of the very few who possess the cleverness, dedication, and strength of character necessary to work magic. If she knows the right spells, she can wield the powers of legend: to turn invisible, spy upon distant places with a crystal ball, to become nearly invulnerable in battle or even to forecast the future. The story you create will be partly about how your character chooses to wield this great power. Together with your friends, you decide how your character’s destiny unfolds!

I would love to hear your feedback on this. Please use the comments to share your thoughts!

October update on Eldritch Realms

The development team and I are continuing work on the magic system. This, of course, will be the defining rules section of the game, so it’s important to get it right. Where we stand is that we have a roughed-out framework for how magic generally works and are starting into the details of creating spells.

Everything is still subject to change. I can say with confidence that the design of the magic system is inspired by historical (alleged) magicians such as Christian Rosenkruetz, Paracelsus, and Doctor John Dee. These are magicians of the intellectual tradition of European magic called Hermeticism, which shares a name, but little else, with the high-fantasy magic portrayed in the great RPG Ars Magica. So Eldritch Realms is inspired by (historical) Hermeticism, but I want it to also be inclusive of other kinds of magic from different places and times. If I get the design right, you’ll be able to play a folk magician or a Turkish mystic and have just as fun and interesting a game as if you had played an Hermetic “magus”.

On an unrelated note, I read The Elizabethan Underworld by Gāmini Salgādo last month as part of my research for Eldritch Realms. It’s an accessible and interesting book full of inspiration for any GM. It’s definitely going on the list of recommended reading in the back of Eldritch Realms.