After the Core

A trap that many indie game publishers can fall into: planning for the core book and little else. A tight laser like focus on completing the core book is important in the early stages – the game can’t start until it’s out – but overlooking “what next” can leave a team rudderless once that milestone is accomplished. Or, it can force the developers to have to start the process all over again as they ramp up for the next book, causing delays in necessary expansion material to keep the game going. The years between causes reduced player interest and lost opportunities.

With Aes, we’re trying to be mindful of that trap. The core book is our main focus right now – most of the content we choose to develop is intended for it. But only “most.” We’ve deliberately seeded material for expansions in our alpha book so it can be tested, especially when it’s a novel system or mechanic. That will reduce the gap between the core book and expansion material.

What do we have planned after the core book? Plenty! Obviously, all plans are subject to change since these are the very early stages. Having the future in mind as we write helps us decided what to leave in and what to put to one side: we know there will be other books that can contain all the nitty gritty details that a starting player may not need right away. Here’s a breakdown of what the future after the core book is done will look like.

Book Size

First, we intend for there to be several categories of books based on their page count. Not every release is going to be as big as the core! Here’s how the sizes are classified:

  1. <24 pages – PDF only
  2. 24 – 64 pages – Small book
  3. 65 – 128 – Medium book
  4. 128 – 200 – Large book
  5. 200+ – Core book

Having these sizes lets us determine how much content we want to include in a given release and lets us outline and plan page counts in advance. That kind of structure is very handy for tracking progress and editing!

Intended Releases

At this point, we have an idea of major releases we want to have. Small PDF releases will be determined later as content is written. Who knows what kind of fun add-on we might think of 2 years from now? For right now, these are the spine of Aes – the books that will forward the story and build the world.

Each of the four major nations will get their own large book. Their working titles, in intended publication order:

  1. Aeneam: The Shining Brass
  2. Ayaziwa: The Expanding Wild
  3. Zahnrad: The Grinding Cog
  4. Zhengqi: The Rising Steam

Each of these four books will add core content to the world, with a balance of both lore and new player content, such as faculties and talents. There is already content in the alpha book that will be used in each of these four releases.

Additionally, each of the four books will be the start of a “development cycle” that will focus on that region of the world and the surroundings. For example, the first planned adventure for Aes – Junkyard Wars – will be set in Aeneam. When the Ayaziwa book is released, we have another adventure – Ayaziwan Monster Hunters – ready for release in conjunction there.

The Aeneam cycle, being first, is the one we have planned most in depth. It will be accompanied by medium books that focus on its bordering nations: Zupcanik, Aruyr, Zhuknarod, and Tanso. A large book is planned for Daizhong, a key city-state on the same continent. There are also small books planned for several of Aeneam’s major cities, such as Laton, Ottone, Denarius, and others. These setting pieces will provide players and Invisible Hands with greater depth for planning games in these environments.

Parallel to geographic centered releases will be material for the various kindred. Just as D&D releases source books for their races, so we plan to have books expanding on adaptations and lore for each kindred. Kindred source books will range from medium to large.

In several instances, books on nations and kindred will overlap. The Aruyr Hegemony book for the Aeneam cycle will double as the touzulei source book. The Zhuknarod book will expand on the feichong. Most of the nation, city, and other country books will expand on humans.

We will integrate kindred source books into the cycle where they make the most sense. The Aeneam cycle will include touzulei and feichong info. Ayaziwa will see the release of source books for the baihu and zhuque, since those are the two main kindred of that continent. Zahnrad will have the tishli source book (likely to be rated mature due to the very heavy themes involved there). Lastly, the qinglong are explored in the Zhengqi cycle.

The last kind of release are those focused on events, both historical and current. For example, the Scrub Wars and Zupcanik’s attack on Aeneam are pivotal historical moments for Aeneam. Providing source materials outlining the campaigns and key figures can be useful to Invisible Hands who want to set games in those periods. Zahnrad’s invasion and occupation of northern Ayaziwa likewise provides an interesting setting. These sorts of releases are likely to range from small to medium and will be lower priority than those above.

Going Forward

The core book is obviously our top priority. We’ll begin winnowing out the expansion material in version 8, trimming the alpha tester down and starting the process of transitioning the alpha into the beta. Once the core is released, the Aeneam cycle will begin immediately.

The plan you see above helps us plan for what’s next: we can have developers work on expansion material that won’t be core, but know roughly where in the development cycle it will be. It means there won’t be any frustrating questions of, “When will this thing I wrote be published?” Knowing a rough timeline in advance means everyone can know what the priorities are. And that means we’ll be able to move forward a lot smoother than simply making it up as we go in a mad scramble.

Version 7 “Windup Fisticuffs” – By the Numbers

Aes: Brass Revolution Version 7, “Windup Fisticuffs,” has been released! This version, unlike version 6, was about CONTENT. And the numbers reflect this!

  • Pages: 314
  • Faculties: 246
  • Modifications: 519
  • Testing sessions: 7

With 314 pages, that’s a jump of 88! That’s our largest increase to date. Driving that are the new faculties and mods: 86 new faculties and over 200 new mods. This one version accounts for a third of all faculties currently in the game and close to half of all the mods!

There were three area of content we focused on: adding to existing areas with more ideas thought of from testing (new serums, new contraptions); expanding what was already there (range weapons); and, adding entirely new content.

Version 7 gets its name from the major faculty expansion for unarmed combat combined with the introduction of turngears, one of Aes’s signature crafting categories. Explorer’s who’ve wanted to play monks and brawlers can finally do so! Also finally making an appearance are resonators, another key crafting concept. With these, every major crafting categories except charges (explosives) is represented in the book.

Thanks to the system tweaks of version 6, this content is much more solid than it would have been. Wording has been clarified for several older faculties and mods. Generally, version 7 works better because we took the time to focus on gaps in the system rather than continuing to dump new content.

The system was also expanded with this release with talents and savoir-faire finally entering the game. Talents are an idea that were around since version 1, appearing on even the first character sheets. After going through six different rejected iterations, it was finally decided to make talents the jobs/skills system for Aes. Now, explorers can fill in their back story with what they did before they adventured, while receiving both in-game bonuses and a quick way to generate revenue in the process.

Savoir-faire helps add some much needed nuance to the Flair stat in Aes. Flair has emerged as the most commonly used stat in testing, since it deals with non-combat interactions. Now with more of a structure in place, it’s less easily abused and will help explorers be more creative with their applications.

Version 7 will have several very strong testing sessions. It’s premiere is at Ikkicon. Then, toward the end of January, it’ll be at PAX South and then Ushicon the week after. The goal is for version 8 to be ready for OwlCon in mid-February. That will give version 7 a month-and-a-half testing cycle that includes 4 cons – more cons than previous versions.

We’re going to shift gears slightly on the focus for the next version. We’ve had people want to run sessions and requesting more lore so they can create campaign ideas. Version 8 will therefore be lore focused at first. Version 7 adds some lore, in the form of a write-up on augs, the founding of Aeneam, and introductions to each of the five ideals, but there’s much more detail about the world yet to be revealed. We’re also hoping to begin rounding out crafting categories that only have one or two items out of their total, such as concoctions, haberdashery, and turngears.

Lastly, with the size of this book, we’re starting to hit the limits of what coil binding can accommodate. What we may do is start deciding what material will eventually go on to the core book and what will be spun off into expansions. Then we’ll keep the main book as core content with the expansion material having its own, less fancy, volume (nicknamed “The Expanse”). We’ll track the growth of both if we go this route.

2016 Release Schedule

We like to think ahead and we wanted to share that with you. Here’s a tentative release schedules for Aes: Brass Revolution in 2016. Note that several of these events have not been confirmed yet, so Aes being there isn’t guaranteed.

Version 7

Release: January 1, 2016 at Ikkicon
Expansion Pack 1: January 29 at PAX South
Expansion Pack 2: February 5 at Ushicon (TBD)

Version 8

Release: February 19 at OwlCon
Expansion Pack 1: March 17 at SXSW Gaming (TBD)

Version 9

Release: April 22 at HavenCon

Version 10

Release: June 17 at Comicpalooza (TBD)

The 2-month interval between version 6 and 7 gave us a lot of time to develop and polish things, so sticking to that size interval is something we’ll try and hold to when possible. We may add or remove events as time permits and will update you all when things are determined.