Interview: Newest Stage From the Creators of Dragonlance, Skyraiders of Abarax

The husband and wife team, Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman, have brought some of the most beloved worlds of Dungeons & Dragons to life. That includes Barovia and its iconic ruler, Strahd von Zarovich, and the world of Krynn, the setting for Dragonlance. Now the Hickmans have a new project called Skyraiders of Abarax, a unique scenario with a set of rules based on the fifth edition of D&D. The project hits Kickstarter on October 12, and Polygon may exclusively reveal some of the first details.

In the center of the stage is a single huge island called Abarax (pronounced AH-buh-rox). More than 200 years ago, Abarax was a penal colony, but mysterious circumstances freed its prisoners. The Hickmans liken it to a species from post-apocalyptic Australia, but geographically it is much smaller.

When the colony collapsed, its captives were freed and killed or made alliances with their guardians. But all who live there today are descendants of that original colony. No one is native, and they were all brought to Abarax from distant lands, for many different reasons.

“This island was used [as a penal colony] not just for one nation, but for several, ”said Laura Hickman.

“Everything [the current residents] they have stories about their home countries in very distant places, “added Tracy Hickman,” that may or may not have been true. But it is the dream that sustains them, in terms of leaving this place and finding their way back home. “

A wide landscape showing floating boats in the foreground.  Large flaming braziers sit in the aft section.  The sky is golden, the sea glassy.  An imposing city rises in the background.

Image: Skyraiders LLC

Closing his path is a treacherous sea. Their only hope: magical flying ships, called aeronautics, which have only recently been designed in reverse, probably from the abandoned ones left by another still nameless power. Laura Hickman calls them Abarax’s “10 times cooler factor”.

The first images shown on social media show the airships with huge metal containers on the back, like magical braziers with flames rising from the surface. The ships are powered by something called a dragon sylph, but Laura Hickman and Tracy Hickman are still being cautious about what exactly that magical thing is.

The map is titled Costa de Erinyes, and the sea is called Aguas de Giliu.  There is a faint blue dragon flying through the air.

Just a part of a larger map of Abarax.
Image: Skyraiders LLC

However, it is the timeline that is so interesting. Two centuries of freedom may seem like a long time, but in the realm of high fantasy, it’s the blink of an eye. Expect the political systems in your environment to be varied, unruly, and stark.

A kind of Venn diagram, showing how humanoid creatures are classified by level of sensitivity and magical ability.

Skyraiders of Abarax will have many well-known D&D races, but they will have very different characteristics and capabilities.
Image: Skyraiders LLC

I pressed Laura Hickman and Tracy Hickman for more details. Why is the sea so treacherous? What is the Dragon Sylph and how will players get the most? Who are the ruling parties in Abarax and how will they affect the players at the table? Expect the answers to some of those questions to come in the run-up to your crowdfunding campaign … but not all.

There’s a mystery at the core of this new setup, and the lack of clarity from its designers is a feature, not a bug. That’s where the Skyraiders techs come in.

Working alongside Laura Hickman and Tracy Hickman is another married couple. Joe Bourrie is a veteran game designer with a background at Electronic Arts and The Void, where he worked on Star Wars and Ghostbusters-themed VR experiences alongside Tracy Hickman. Kim Bourrie also worked at Electronic Arts, and at Fortnite. They both have Kickstarter experience: Joe with his Syncoplay-Retro game display stands with branding and Kim with 3D printed dice towers and other accessories for board games. Together, the couple have already raised more than $ 340,000 from backers in four projects.

“Joe and I are huge Kickstarter fans too,” said Tracy Hickman, who ran her own successful campaign for a board game in 2016.

Joe Bourrie is currently working on the game’s mysterious “Living Tome System”. To hear him say it, it should look and feel a bit like a companion app, something similar to what you would use to play games. XCOM: the board game or Descent: Legends of Darkness. But the more he described it, the less sense those comparisons made.

“In fact, I don’t like to think of this as a companion app,” said Joe Bourrie. “It is an integral part of the experience, not only for the players but also for the DJ. There are many things that are quite difficult to do at a table. We can’t reveal all of our secrets right now, but imagine things as hidden information. That is quite difficult to do when everyone is sitting around a table talking to each other. “

The Living Tome system will make it easier for hidden information to pass through, Joe Bourrie promised. He said the goal is not to have players sitting there with their noses buried in their phones all night. Kim Bourrie said the app will be an “extension” of the gaming experience. The masters of the game “will also be able to play,” he added.

“They may be discovering some things for themselves,” said Joe Bourrie. “They may be playing a bit by having access to an application that knows a little more than they do.” Game masters who don’t want to use the app won’t have to. However, he said that doing so would leave out some of the magic.

Expect to hear more about Skyraiders of Abarax in the run-up to the October 12 launch of their Kickstarter campaign, which will feature multiple books as well as 3D printable files for custom accessories. You can also subscribe to a newsletter at the establishment official website.

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