The Year Zero Engine (YZE), the award-winning system behind Free League Publishing’s ALIEN RPG, Tales from the Loop, Coriolis, Forbidden Lands, and more, speaks to me as a creator and fan. I backed the Forbidden Lands RPG Kickstarter to get their Open Gaming License (OGL), and I wasn’t the only one. Enter Michael Prescott, the creator behind Trilemma Adventures, and his latest Kickstarter, Trilemma Adventures: The Servants of Memory, creating a bestiary using the Year Zero Engine OGL to give more monsters for your fantasy YZE RPGs.
EGG EMBRY (EGG): Thank you for making time to talk with me. Can you tell me about your Kickstarter, Trilemma Adventures: The Servants of Memory?
MICHAEL PRESCOTT (MICHAEL): Sure! It’s a bestiary of creatures for fantasy RPGs based on the Year Zero Engine, with stats for 117 of the creatures from the Trilemma Adventures series. The stats by lead designer Craig Atkins, along with help from Doug Ruff, Reilly Heijkoop-Logan, and Simon Bokvist.
Last year I published the Trilemma Adventures Compendium Vol I, which just won gold and silver ENnies for best cartography and best adventure. The adventure sites are system neutral, which makes them easier to run in really lightweight systems, but we’ve been busy publishing bestiaries to adapt them to other games that are a little crunchier.
We’ve covered 5e, B/X, and Dungeon World, and Servants of Memory is the Year Zero Engine edition.
You can of course use Servants of Memory to play the Trilemma Adventure sites, but it’s a handy book on its own to add variety to the creatures you throw at your players.
We smashed through all of our stretch goals in short order, so the book will also have encounter tables for a whole variety of terrain types, new spells for Dradkin chimeromancers to use, and stats for some of the cooler magic items mentioned in the compendium.
EGG: What system is this for?
MICHAEL: It’s for fantasy RPGs based on the Year Zero Engine. As you may know, the terms of the OGL prohibit us being more specific!
EGG: Will this act as a bestiary for Forbidden Lands specifically, or any Year Zero Engine powered RPG?
MICHAEL: It definitely works best with YZE fantasy RPGs: not all Year Zero Engine games have quite the same rules. Some of the games are quite close, mechanically, while others are a little further away. In fact, the Twilight: 2000 game apparently gets rid of dice pools entirely in favor of paired polyhedrals.
A big feature of the book, however, is the random table of creature special attacks for combat. Craig has done up more than half of the creatures with a table like this, which adds variety to how monsters act in combat regardless of the system.
EGG: You’ve been successful with Trilemma Adventures projects for 5e, B/X, and system neutral offerings, why jump to a new-to-Trilemma system?
MICHAEL: The roots of the project lie with Craig Atkins, actually. He’s been a big fan of YZE games for years now, having done many monster conversions already. Daniel Tobin got him started converting the Trilemma bestiary creatures over, as fan project. Daniel had to bow out before things really got started, but Craig picked up the banner and ran with it, and brought on the other contributors. By the time he reached out to me, they had done a ton of work already.
EGG: How did this project come about? What made you decide to create this bestiary?
MICHAEL: The decision to publish as a proper book had a few factors. When Craig contacted me, I was just wrapping up the B/X and Dungeon World versions of the bestiaries, so all the pieces were already laid out on the workbench already, so to speak.
The decision to launch it on Kickstarter actually came a bit later, as we were approaching the first draft being complete. Running a Kickstarter is a pile of work, but it also has a big effect on sales, something I could see by contrasting the sales of my Kickstarted compendium and the three straight-to-DriveThruRPG bestiaries that followed it. It was something of an experiment to understand the impact of a measured Kickstarter that didn’t run me into the ground!
But really, while there is some great content for the Year Zero Engine, there isn’t yet a solid fantasy bestiary, so this seemed like a no-brainer project to bring to the game.
EGG: On the Kickstarter page, you have a good group of creators. Most of the bios point out that they play Year Zero Engine RPGs. When putting together the team for this, was being a YZE fan a prerequisite?
MICHAEL: That’s an effect of how the team was found, by putting out the word in YZE online spaces... but yes, familiarity with YZE and how it flows in play is really crucial in adapting creatures to it.
EGG: As far as I know, this is the first major use of the Year Zero Engine OGL. Did you talk with Free League before creating this, or did you take the approach any company would with any other OGL and make great products on your own?
MICHAEL: Craig is a regular in the Year Zero community, and he put us in touch with Free League quite early on. We let them know we wanted to make a fantasy bestiary, and they were quite supportive. Using the OGL was a decision we made well into the project. There are a lot of details to work out in any situation where you’re working with someone else’s brand, and using the OGL has the advantage that the expectations are all laid out in black and white. It’s a solid core and we’re really happy with the results.
EGG: Are you thinking of creating more YZE content after this?
MICHAEL: Craig is unstoppable, I gather he’s already assembled a team to produce stats for a book of rarities and magic!
EGG: Beyond this project, what else are you working on?
MICHAEL: I have a number of smaller games brewing. In particular, I’m dying for a chance to do some revising of Too Good to be True, a quick-play [Powered by the Apocalypse] game about mecha mercenaries. But of course I have more fantasy adventure sites coming up. The next one will be a take on the classic troll bridge, featuring the “marooned soldier” style ogre from the bestiary. That’s part of the long, uphill climb towards compendium volume 2!
EGG: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Where can fans follow your work at?
MICHAEL: Any time! If you want to follow Craig and all his YZE shenanigans, head over to his blog. For me, the best place is my site and blog on Twitter as @fuseboy - but of course, please make your first stop the Kickstarter for Servants of Memory!
Trilemma Adventures: The Servants of Memory from Trilemma Adventures
End Date: Tue, September 1 2020 3:00 PM EDT.
“A bestiary of fantasy monsters for the Year Zero Engine.”
Egg Embry is a freelance tabletop roleplaying game journalist writing for EN World, Knights of the Dinner Table, RPG News, d20 Radio, the Tessera Guild, the Open Gaming Network, the AetherCon Convention Magazine, GAMA’s Around the Table, and more. His areas of focus are RPG crowdfunding projects and RPG reviews as well as interviews with a range of gaming professionals from freelancers to CEOs. Beyond journalism, he dabbles in freelance writing and producing gaming zines for the roleplaying zine-aissance, including POWERED by the DREAMR, a Powered by the Apocalypse RPG zine about living out your dreams within other’s dreams.
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