Will Wildsea break you or set you free?
Let's talk with the creators of one of the most interesting RPGs to come out in years
Just in case you missed it, here’s my video review of The Wildsea. The interview starts just below the thumbnail here.
Okay, let’s do twenty questions here.
1. Who are you, what is Mythworks and what’s your relation to it?
FELIX: I’m Felix Isaacs, writer and designer of The Wildsea. I suppose I’m not a part of Mythworks itself, though I do seem to write a lot for them (and I sign the occasional contract)!
RAY: Hi, I’m Ray Chou, one the founders of Mythworks (formerly Mythopoeia) and CEO. Mythworks is a publisher of Original Stories and Original Worlds, primarily through comics and games. We started in 2014 when my partner Vince and I kickstarted our first comic, Skies of Fire. We kept making comics through Kickstarter and eventually found our way to RPGs through a small project called The Love Balloon for ZineQuest 3, and then eventually The Wildsea in 2020.
2. Where did Wildsea first appear in your life and what did that look like?
FELIX: I was living and working in Japan when the first ideas for the Wildsea started developing, somewhere at the back of my mind. I’d written various TRPG-related stuff over the years but none of it really went anywhere outside of my own home games, each was a one-and-done affair for a specific game or campaign. I never really thought of myself as a writer, more of an enthusiast and forever-GM.
But after a couple of years of almost complete isolation from any developments in the industry, and with a gaming group willing to try out some weirder ideas, I started putting a system together that had the kind of narrative thrust that (at the time) I hadn’t seen from anything else. I tried a few settings out for it until long hours of sitting in an office paid off - with trees on one side of me and the sea on the other, the two things sort of merged together in my head. I haven’t seen a setting like that, I thought to myself, and I bet I could do some fun things with it.
Well, that was about six, maybe seven years ago now? And I like to think I have!
RAY: So during the early part of the pandemic I really got into RPGs in a big way, including exploring all sorts of internet communities for the hobby. That summer, I saw Felix post for playtesters in a newly formed subreddit. He had a lot of very enthusiastic responses and a solid quickstart ruleset that instantly looked familiar to me as having Blades in the Dark DNA. I eventually got into a playtest, had a ball, and didn’t think too much of it. That is, until a few weeks later Felix messaged me asking if I was Ray Chou, writer of Glow, one of our comics. I was indeed! Turns out Felix was one of our original backers and a huge fan who was partially inspired by Glow to create The Wildsea! That seemed fortuitous to me, so when he started asking me questions about crowdfunding, I took the opportunity to ask if he needed a publisher. That’s how things got started!
3. The artwork for Wildsea is the first thing that hits you when you first see it. Who is responsible for all of the artwork in the core rulebook?
FELIX: The Core Wildsea book is pretty big, about 370 pages if I remember it right, and we tried to go for a ratio of one piece of art every two to three pages. That’s… Well, it was a lot of art, but we actually kept the art team pretty small for the sake of consistency, with each artist working on a specific element. Characters were created by Omercan Cirit, which is the lion’s share of the illustrations in the core book - he’s an absolute powerhouse when it comes to creation, and he’s been working with me on the Wildsea for about six years now.
Environmental art was done, for the most part, by Pierre Demet, who was also there from very early on. He moved on after completing the core book, but his influence is still very much there in the new one. Our creatures artist was one of the last on the team, Shmeckerel - I actually found her entirely by chance, after reading an article about an axolotl-style dragon and being really impressed by the visuals. I got in touch, and a couple of weeks later she was doing her first wildsea test piece! Backgrounds and base layouts were put together by BlueTwoDays, another person who is far too creative for me to comprehend (he wrote and illustrated Parseling while contributing to the Wildsea, which is a level of constant work I just can’t get my head around).
We also had some environmental work done for us by Mon, some ships designs by Heru… Both of them had a small presence in the core book but are much more visible in the expansion.
4. Wildsea is a game that draws from many sources. Citing the Influences section on page 3, there’s Belly of the Beast, Blades in the Dark, Heart: The City Beneath, 13th Age, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, as well as the show Firefly and the Bas Lag trilogy of novels by China Mieville. What are some ways that you made sure that the game was more than just some Frankenstein’s monster of a game? What was the design process of the actual rules like for you?
FELIX: The process was a weird mix of easy and terrifying - easy, because when I got most of the groundwork laid down I hadn’t played any games other than DnD 3.5/4, Pathfinder 1E and a whole boatload of Call of Cthulhu, terrifying for the very same reason. I didn’t know how to put a game together that let narrative take the helm while still having useful rules that didn’t need to be pushed aside to make that happen, and I had absolutely NO idea that a lot of the problems I was facing had been solved, or at least addressed, by the PBTA and indie boom of the 2010s.
But that all changed when I heard a one-shot of Belly of the Beast, a fantastic game by Sigil Stone Publishing. It was completely different in terms of rules to anything I’d ever seen, and it sent me down a rabbit hole for weeks. I didn’t read, for the most part - I watched, and listened, to actual play content for games I’d never heard of. I heard people solve the kind of mechanical problems I was still grappling with and tried to work backwards from what I was hearing. And it worked, I think - the Wildsea is mechanically familiar to people who have played Blades in the Dark, or Fate, or Heart, but I’d never played any of them when it was written (something that’s still true for FATE and Blades, though I have a gnoll I love that’s still down in the depths of the Heart somewhere).
So I guess the main way was ‘don’t read other people’s rules’, for the most part, and work on replicating the outcomes I wanted instead. I broke my own rule there once, in the end - once I understood the dice spread for BiTD, I realised that the 6/54/321 spread solved a lot of my problems when it came to rolling, and the new mechanics I was already using (Cut, Twists etc) fitted right into it. So thanks, Blades!
The other big thing that tied it all together was actually playing Sunless Sea, and Fallen London. I got really into the Storynexus creation tools that Failbetter hosted for free online (now sadly defunct, I think), and a lot of the bits that new players think would have been influenced by FATE or PBTA games actually came from there, the reinterpretation of web browser and video game structures as the core o a TRPG.
Finally (this is a long answer, sorry), playtesters set me right whenever I screwed something up. I had a very vocal group, which I’m really thankful for, so whenever something felt like it didn’t quite fit they were quick to let me know.
RAY: Sometimes I like to send things I like RPG-wise Felix’s way. I can say that when it came to designing the look and feel of the book - especially from a layout perspective - we looked specifically at Heart: The City Beneath, City of Mists, and Cortex Prime as inspiration / key examples. I also showed Felix Ultraviolet Grasslands when he was working on how to scope the Reach sections, encouraging him to create I guess what some call anti-canon or story seeds instead of just written setting material.
5. I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity when it comes to playtesting. How did you find such good playtesters who could help you hone the mechanics of Wildsea?
RAY: I’ll let Felix speak to the early versions, but once we hit Kickstarter we actually had quite a robust playtesting program! We created two separate feedback surveys - one for Players and one for Fireflies - recording everything from tone of the game to player game backgrounds and of course more mechanic specific questions. It was really interesting getting concrete data on a game and did help us identify some particularly tricky areas where we ended up revising, like the skill names which went through a major revision from Playtest B to C. Overall though, I’d say the large open playtest we had during and after the Kickstarter campaign didn’t change too much from the direction Felix was going in overall, instead affirming that we were on the right track.
FELIX: Definitely, which was a relief. I think what I’ll mention here is that a lot of the earliest playtesters found us through an appreciation for the setting, and a lot of my earliest playtest stuff was actually focused on ‘do these mechanics feel right for the tone of the setting’, which I think really helped in the long run.
6. I’ve been truly smitten by a number of rules and mechanics in Wildsea, some of which are expressed as little more than an off-hand sentence but which are to me groundshaking innovations. I’m going to list a few here, and ask some questions about each.
Tracks (p.38): these are the beating heart of the rules of Wildsea and there’s almost too much to discuss. They act as timers, multi-purpose point pools, health meters, etc. But what did these start off as in the development and how did they evolve into their final form?
Twists (p.42): When you roll any doubles, an unexpected outcome emerges as a result. But the very special feature in my opinion is that only other players and the GM actually brainstorm the twist itself, and it should be an either neutral or positive twist for the most part. Why not allow the player themself to come up with the twist?
FELIX: Tracks started off as… Well, Tracks! It was the Fallen London inspiration there, the idea of iterative success, or measured progress (some of which is seen, some of which unseen, some of which you don’t even know about until you’ve made enough of it for something to happen). With FL a lot of this stuff is handled behind the scenes, but I wanted a system that could adapt to whatever situation the players and Firefly were facing, in terms of length, visibility etc. They were one of the mechanics that just felt right from the word go - originally intended only to handle narrative progression, I soon realised that they worked for health tracking as well (or the closest the Wildse gets to it), and that was one of the big early changes that set the game going in the right direction.
As for twists, they were made to address a feeling I’d had too many times at the gaming table over the years. As a player, when the action isn’t focused on you, too often you tend to fade into the background a little (especially in crunchier games). Having any situation, any roll, hold the possibility of bringing you right back into the action, not as a character but as a giver of ideas and shaper of narrative, keeps people invested in the wider story and the immediate happenings. It also helps spread some of the roles traditionally reserved for the GM around the table, letting them get a taste of reacting to the unexpected just like the players do, and roll with the punches a little. Finally it helps with the low-prep/no-prep aspect of play - you can plan for the world, but not so much for the story. That way a lot of what happens is a surprise to everyone.
RAY: I personally houserule twists at my table to only happen on the highest result. That actually made its way to the end of the book in the “Alternative Rules” section. For me, I do like when Twists are a little less frequent so I found a way to make them so and of course tried to get Felix to adapt it for the core game, but alas I only rolled a Conflict on my Sway :P
Cuts (p.43): Difficulty modulation in Wildsea is handled in part by “cuts,” wherein one or more of the highest dice rolled are removed from the roll. I’ve never seen difficulty handled this way and I’m wondering if you worked out the math for this approach or how this came about.
RAY: Of all the mechanics in The Wildsea, Cut is maybe my favorite. It’s just such an elegant way to enforce difficulty or positioning, and having players roll the same amount of dice but taking them away just has a different feel from just taking away from the pool.
FELIX: It came out of necessity - people love rolling dice, but the results spread was too high if you were moderately skilled to make anything feel that dangerous. I experimented with a lot of different ways of altering this (such as changing results spread based on skills, removing dice from a pool before rolls, deferring dice for the future), but I’m no mathematician - I kept chopping and changing until things felt right, and then the community did the maths for me (thanks, wildsailors!) and found out that I’d just sort of stumbled on something cool. I was going at it for the narrative feel, the idea of a success being snatched away rather than a simple failure, and that’s what Cut represents for me. Once you see the die you’re taking away, you know how close you were or whether it was a doomed situation from the start, and that adds an extra layer to the way people describe things. When you roll fewer dice you tend to feel like you’re onto a loser from the start, but Cut has a kind of cruel hope to it which makes the disasters understandable and the unexpected triumphs all the sweeter. I’ve never seen players happier at a Wildsea table than when they roll five dice, cut three, and still manage some kind of success. The first time that happened I knew that I was keeping that iteration of the mechanic, and luckily the maths worked out in my favour too.
Death of a PC (p.52, 57): “You’ll never die before you’re ready.” I am a very big fan of maintaining the story over serving the rolls of the dice. In this one statement I think Wildsea identifies itself as a certain kind of game. It goes on to say “Damage may mount up, injuries may compound, but death on the wildsea is a narrative event, not a mechanical one.” What have been the implications in your play experience of removing hard death mechanics from the game?
RAY: I’ve had PCs bite the dust two times in my tables on The Wildsea. Each was a choice by the player, but one that was informed heavily by the circumstances of the fiction. Basically, we rolled a bunch of disasters, things got worse and worse, Aspects were depleted, injuries were mounting, and it just gets to a point where it really does make sense for a player to eat it. In one case it was something heroic, and in the other it was a bit more grim. Both times though it made sense in the fiction and was presented as a choice that the players took.
FELIX: I’ll keep this one short and sweet - a character dying can be a momentous event that you remember, or it can feel like a cheap trick or streak of bad luck that has you then locked out of the thing you enjoyed while everyone around you keeps having fun. Death as a narrative event rather than a mechanical one avoids this almost entirely - it doesn’t matter how the dice fall, it should always be a player’s choice as to when they say goodbye to something they’ve made.
Action Economy (p.53): There is no turn order and no initiative. Players just describe a combat scene any way they see fit. I’ll just quote the book again here: “It’s not the length of an action that matters in combat, it’s whether you got to do something you enjoyed.” I think on paper this is absolutely brilliant, but… where has this approach shined brightest and where has it not worked as intended?
FELIX: This is one of those things that some people get instantly and others need a bit of coaching in. For me it made sense - the earliest versions of the Wildsea used action and reaction points to measure out what a character could do, but it slowed play down massively. People weren’t thinking about what they wanted to do, but what they could do, what they were allowed to do, and for a hobby that’s played 90% in the theatre of the mind that always felt a bit weird to me. I’d actually played in a few online games of Pathfinder at around the same time where I’d literally fallen asleep waiting for a combat turn, because I knew that whatever happened it would be about fifteen/twenty minutes away, at best, thanks to initiative order. To me that’s not drama, or flow, that’s a game of patience. In that intervening time there would be things to listen to, but nothing that happened would possibly engage my character in the moment.
It shines when people use it to the fullest (bit of a cop out answer, I know, but it’s true). When you pass someone Focus and realise that they’ve stopped asking ‘Can I…’ and started saying ‘I’m going to…’, and the actions they describe are things that other players at the table get invested in, or can use as a springboard. And the GM has the option of the Focus Tracker too, as a mechanic, which you can keep visible if you have a table where action economy is a thing people find hard to shake.
And another cop out - I can’t think of a situation where it hasn’t worked as intended, not that I’ve seen (and I’ve played this game a lot). That’s not to say it’s perfect though, let me make that clear! There are a ton of games and rules it just wouldn’t work for, that need a stricter approach to time or order. But it’s perfect for the tone the Wildsea aims for and the mechanics it involves.
Or, maybe not quite perfect - I’ve had moments as the Firefly where I know that something in the world is about to happen, such as a creature using a particular ability, but the players are riffing off of each other and you don’t want to interrupt that flow. That can take a bit of getting used to, I think.
Damage Types (p.55): Okay, I want to be less than 100% positive here and ask you about a little pocket of mechanics that I thought might possibly be a bridge too far in terms of complexity. There are 12 distinct damage types in the game, and with those types comes the ability to assign Weakness, Resistance and Immunity for each type to characters. To me, these types jumped out as maybe adding a tad too much complexity to a game that otherwise heavily prioritizes narrative momentum and a story-first exchange. How has the Damage Types aspect of the game proven to be good?
FELIX: Ha, you’re allowed to not be all sunshine and rainbows. Damage types are one of the things that get bandied around as a fly in the ointment quite a lot by the community, and if I were lucky enough to make a Wildsea 2 they’d definitely get some changing.
When I was learning to become a teacher it was drilled into me that if one student messed up a task, you help them, but if multiple students messed up you made sure to go over it with the entire class again because the likelihood is you skewed up your instructions. I think that principle applies here too, in essence. I’ve had players and readers and playtesters pick apart almost every bit of the game, but no other system has had the same level of consistent questioning as damage types. That probably means that’s the bit I screwed up.
On the one hand, it’s not a list you have to remember. You just need to know what you deal and what hurts you less (which for most characters is nothing, or maybe one or two particular types). On the other hand the GM does need to have a good handle on it, and it doesn’t increase the design space as much as 2020 me thought it would. It still works well enough… But ‘well enough’ isn’t quite ‘well’.
But what makes me feel a lot better about it is that the community can’t agree on a version they all think is universally better either.
Mires (p.94): There’s an important concept that each PC has called Mires, which are two-track aspects that represent negative aspects or some kind of baggage that each character carries with them. Negative experiences in the fiction will lead to boxes on the Mire tracks being filled, and when both boxes of any Mire are filled, players are supposed to put that mire “at the forefront of [their] roleplay when possible.” I felt like maybe this could be limiting to a player. How have you seen full Mire tracks work out at the table? Does it tend to straightjacket the player the way I fear it might?
FELIX: I think that would depend on the table. I’m pretty lax with Mires when I play - I’ll enforce a mechanical penalty here or there if characters are looking wobbly, but for the most part I let players handle it themselves. And the Wildsea is all about drama, so I’ve seen people voluntarily cut dice to act against their worst instincts and I’ve seen them revel in those impulses even at personal cost. A lot of the mires are written to make things a character might rely on harder, but not impossible, and that’s to avoid exactly what you mention in that question.
The Wildsea is a big sandbox to play in, in terms of what your character can actually do at any moment. If it helps, think of Mires as pointing out one of the edges of that sandbox. It’s a hard limit, but there’s a lot of sandcastles you can still build before you get there.
I… Think that makes sense?
(I totally cheated by stuffing seven questions into one there.)
FELIX: Well that’s just a pragmatic use of numbered questions :P
8. A challenge that a lot of intrepid GMs who read a lot of RPGs has is getting players onboard with a new setting or a new set of rules. The more innovative the rules and stranger the setting, the harder it is to “on-board” or “read in” the players. In the case of extremely imaginative settings, players would really do best to actually read some of the setting description materials before playing. Do you see Wildsea as posing these challenges for GMs who may have fallen in love with the game and want to actually bring it to their table? How do they tackle that challenge?
RAY: One of the things that stood out to me immediately about the Wildsea was how it sparked the imaginations of so many people. In our short time as a community we already have two fanzines filled with prose, poetry, and art from some very talented people! There’s almost always daily discussions about things pertaining to the world, whether it be its lost histories or biological machinations. It truly is a setting that takes root in the imagination. That said, I do think the on-boarding question is extremely valid, and something that’s been mentioned multiple times from different sources.
We’ve tried our best to address that onboarding through a couple of ways: first, by demonstrating the game to as many people as possible by demoing games online through our discord. Second, we have several actual plays of the game that gives prospective Fireflies an example from which to model. Third, the Dragonfly Sheet and Rules put together by Ryan Khan actually provide a very strong template / flavor menu of things to bring into a game. If you as a Firefly just used that as a prompting board, you’d pretty much get there in terms of what could happen in any given session.
More recently, Felix drafted a Starter Adventure, the One-Armed Scissor, which to a certain extent codifies what a typical session of the Wildsea would be.
It’s an interesting problem to solve, as any table is going to bring with them their preexisting understanding of what an RPG is, for better or worse. My hope and belief is that the Wildsea bridges that gap between traditional games and more indie narrative games in a way that appeals to, say, the typical DnD player, with all of the trappings they might crave and be familiar with, but broadens the boundaries of what they think is possible in these games with the more modern mechanics therein.
FELIX: I hew to a simple thing when it comes to designing a setting - make big pillars, make small details, leave everything in between in question.
The big pillars are easy to understand, to grasp, and they should spark imagination. The sea is made of trees, that’s a big pillar. Flame is almost entirely forbidden. Ships cut through branches to make progress, but those branches grow back incredibly quickly. Mountaintops are islands.
These big pillars help bring people in, because they’re easy to grasp. That’s the entry point.
Then you add small details, ones that only matter if the characters are going to be interacting with them. Are slaughtermelons full of the vindictive souls of drowned sailors, that hold a grudge against those that eat them? Yeah, and if they feature in your game that’s important, but if they don’t then that just doesn’t matter.
And films do it all the time. When you describe Mad Max you talk about guzzoline, about deserts, about a quiet protagonist, about amazing cars. You don’t point out that at one point he uses a chisel, because outside of that moment where it’s plot-relevant that’s not important. And if that chisel comes up again in the story you can go ooh, I remember that! And if it doesn’t you’re not going to miss it.
I guess that’s my way of explaining why I don’t care about the in-between stuff. We don’t have multiple chisel-based establishing shots leading up to it being used in Fury Road, just like I don’t bother describing how slaughtermelons grow, or what kind of tree they’re harvested from, or how long they take to go rotten. If it matters, players can fill it in when it’s narratively appropriate - if not, nobody’s going to stay up at night wondering about it (at least, I hope not).
So that’s a really roundabout way of saying that for new GMs and players, focus on the big stuff that everyone can grasp. Then focus on some small cool stuff that catches your eye. Ignore what’s in between until you need it, then make creating it part of the game. It lowers the narrative barrier of entry for everyone.
… But everyone should still read the setting chapter, or at least look at the pictures. It’s a cool chapter. :)
9. With regard to an ocean made of treetops, are there any real life examples of a plant or verdant environment that grows so thick that it supports the weight of a person? I’m thinking dense shrubberies and things like that, but maybe you had a particular species of plant in mind when you dreamed this up.
FELIX: I didn’t really - it was mostly thinking about the way lemurs and things can move through the treetops with relative ease, compensating for lighter, springier branches with dexterity and quick reflexes. That, and the idea of frisbees (no, really) - if a normal oak tree can have a frisbee rest happily on top of it, what would an oak tree twenty times the size be able to support? I’m reasonably sure the science of movement through the waves wouldn’t work out in most cases, but treetops are pretty resilient when they’re dense!
10. I only recently discovered the musical album made for Wildsea by Liam P. Vaughn and the collection of songs was as captivating to me as the game itself. How did the partnership with Liam come about and what was the process like in arriving at the creation of those songs?
FELIX: Liam actually found us! He posted what would become our title track in our discord after playing a few games, and I liked it so much I pretty much begged Ray to be able to use it. It has so many of the influences that I listened to while writing already that it just felt immediately right for the world. We’re both big Darren Korb fans, which helps!
Usually Liam works on a rough sketch of something, musically, then sends it my way for some feedback (these sketches are usually based on the description of things in the world, or the art we have for them). I might suggest an additional instrument, a change of tone, but rarely anything major. It actually works really well, and though I never expected I’d be directing music alongside art for the project. It’s an unexpected dimension that I’ve ended up loving.
11. There are tantalizingly few mentions of air adventures in the core rulebook, a glimpse into a world of air sailors and a biome of flying/floating creatures. The upcoming expansion, Storm and Root, offers to unpack that world a bit. Can you tell me what you’re most excited about with the airborne world as revealed in Storm and Root?
FELIX: I quite like the new Scrutiny system, both from a narrative side and a purely mechanical side. It involves using the results lost from Cut to determine how much attention the world pays to you as you travel alone through a hostile sky, which means that it both offers a new dimension to the journey portion of a game when you’re airborne And doesn’t have to introduce additional complexity, running as it does off a previously unused but extant die result. It’s pretty nifty, and I’d love to take the credit for it, but it was actually developed in tandem with Ryan Khan (an incredible microgame designer, and a pretty good friend to boot).
12. Likewise, Storm and Root intends on expanding on submersible craft and on the adventures and perils found below the canopy-scape of the wildsea. What has been the most fun thing to emerge from developing that space for Storm and Root?
FELIX: Ha, exactly the opposite of Scrutiny - the Pressure system, tracking the slow but devastating change of psychological and physical pressure on the ship and crew as they dive into denser and denser areas of the wilds. The effects of it run the gamut from ship damage to mutation to madness, and it was great to bring in some of that old Call of Cthulhu influence to the game. You’ve got to be true to your roots sometimes!
13. One of the big selling points on the Storm and Root Kickstarter is the debut of Wildsea on the Alchemy virtual tabletop. Have you seen or played Wildsea on Alchemy yet? How does it enhance the Wildsea experience for GM and/or players?
FELIX: Ooh, technical stuff! I’m still barely entering the digital age, but Ray should have the scoop on this one!
RAY: I’ve played with the demo Alchemy has on their website but I haven’t had a chance to play the Wildsea on it yet. Support for Virtual Tabletops is one of our most requested features, but it really takes a lot of time and money to program those things. So, partnering with Alchemy is a good way for us to be able to offer support - by sharing our content for them for their crowdfunding launch, we in turn get to be supported by an up and coming VTT. As for enhancing, I think Alchemy has a very user-interface first approach to its design without being too intrusive with extra features. Fundamentally, it will provide for native rules support, screen sharing, voice, and dice rolling using the assets we’ve shared with the team over there.
14. As mentioned above, Wildsea has garnered a dedicated and very creative following who have created a vast amount of third-party materials. Is there a repository for these, or a directory of some sort? And in light of the increased awareness of 3rd party licenses and standard reference documents (SRDs), do you have anything like that in mind for Wildsea?
FELIX: I’m actually working on the SRD today, hoping to get it into a usable state by the end of the week. A lot of fans don’t technically need it, to be honest - they seem to have a better grasp of the rules than I do a good chunk of the time - but it lets us enter the world of licensing as well, which is something people have been very keen on for a while.
RAY: To add on to what Felix said, we’ve been talking about two licenses - one for the Wild Words Engine SRD that would be completely open, and another 3rd Party Wildsea license that would be slightly less open. I think that the longevity of any TTRPG depends on the health of its community, and we want to support play and creation in our community as much as we can. To that end, we’ve talked about perhaps letting creators receive up to $30,000 in gross royalty free, and then taking something like 20% after that, and providing many of the layout templates, guidelines, and maybe a limited amount of the other art we have in exchange, along with attribution. For the Wild Words SRD, we want to create an easily indexable and searchable website that contains the rules to be as easy to use as possible. All of this is still up in the air though and we’ll be working out details in the weeks to come.
15. Why is the digital edition of Wildsea sold on Itch.io but not DrivethruRPG?
RAY: Honestly, we just haven’t gotten a DrivethruRPG page up yet. Specifically though, I gave the go-ahead to Felix before we wrapped production to put up the digital game on his Itch page first so he could receive all the profits from digital sales while we were still printing and setting up distribution of the game. We’ve since added digital copies to the Mythworks website and DrivethruRPG is up next.
16. When I listen to the first track of Liam P. Vaughn’s Songs of the Lignin Tide, “Thrash Tangle Sink,” I get a very vivid vision of a prestige television original series intro ala True Detective or The Last of Us. Have you ever dreamt of optioning Wildsea for TV? What is the greatest thing that could happen with the Wildsea IP for you?
FELIX: TV? I don’t think that’s crossed my mind before, as fun as it would be. But I’d absolutely LOVE to take the wilds into the realm of both comics and video games, two enduring loves of mine. I think the world, and to an extent the existing mechanical set-up, would actually work really well with a computer handling some calculations, and the setting is (through no fault of my own, all props to the artists here) gorgeous.
RAY: Not the greatest thing, but Felix and I have been talking about doing a comic in the near future…
17. What is the most violent or terrifying moment you’ve ever experienced playing or running Wildsea?
FELIX: I tend to have leviathans deal Burn to tracks (marks that are extremely hard to get rid of, not being able to be removed by the usual methods of healing), and in one of the early games featuring Old Ornail (a massive leviathan squirrel that people seem to love), a tzelicrae player took enough burn to completely fill one of their tracks. They were already in a pretty precarious situation, so I let them describe the outcome - in their words, they were ‘shaken like a ragdoll’, spilling spiders out onto the waves, dropped back onto the deck of their ship as a nearly-empty silken skin with the majority of their hive-minded ‘body’ lost forever. It would have been harsh if I did it to them, but they did it to themselves because they wanted the fiction to match the mechanics, and I was mighty impressed.
RAY: There’s a lot of weird stuff in the Wildsea. For straight up terrifying, I like to throw the Bloodmaw Pirates (p. 256), a marauding band of cannibalistic, ritualistic flesh eaters that I play and voice like the abominations from Warcraft. Instead of telegraphic violence though, I like to present them as a merry band of carousers just looking to feast. Of course, if the party partakes in what the Marauders have to offer, they’ll suddenly get an aching hunger deep in the pit of their stomach…
18. What is the most profound or poignant moment?
FELIX: Ah, I’m going to cheat a bit here and do a moment from real life.
When we were running games at Gencon in 2022, we had a load of comments about how we’d nailed representation in the art. That made me extremely happy, and the artists too - I think it’s one of the reasons that the Wildsea has such a wonderful, vocal, and diverse community, because from the very earliest sketches we tried our best to represent the kinds of people that are traditionally left out of most fantasy game art, and there is something nice about being able to imagine yourself in the world. We probably still have a way to go - perfection is pretty much impossible, after all - but having people come up to the table, leaf through the book and then take the time to point that out, I think that shows we’re on the right track.
RAY: Similarly, I loved pointing out to Felix all of the people in the industry who came by and picked up a copy of The Wildsea at Gen Con.
“That’s Corey Pondsmith!”
“Who?” “R. Talsorian - Cyberpunk.”
“Oh. Well. That’s good, innit?”
“That group in the black polos? They’re from Asmodee. Judging from the way they talked, probably high-ups.”
“Big board game company.”
“Oh. Well. That’s good, innit?”
FELIX: Yeah, I'm pretty disconnected from the actual industry side of things, if I’m honest. I try, but there’s a lot to keep up with, and it’s hard to shake the Wildsea out of my head long enough to get new information in.
I just write the words, essentially. :P
19. What is some advice you can give creators about how to build a world in a way that it can be wildly imaginative yet still coherent and usable in a game?
FELIX: The more people have to remember, the more they’ll forget. Nothing slows play like having to check the book, not for a mechanic, but for a bit of lore. Craft a few pillars, big things that are easy to grasp - it doesn’t matter how weird they are as long as they’re big enough to stick in the memory, and concise enough to be explained in a sentence.
Then get into the fun stuff, all of the small details and weirdnesses and cool little facts that breathe life into a world. And tie them to mechanics, to skills, to abilities! That way they’re there on a character sheet if they’re relevant, and if they’re not on a character sheet people don’t really need to remember them. It’s much easier to grab a bit of lore from the character sheet than it is from the book.
All that stuff in the middle? Hint, suggest, throw rumours out there, but don’t make it concrete. Players are a creative bunch, and when they have boundaries to create within and little details to work from, you’ll probably be surprised at how much of the world they’ll fill in on their own!
Obviously this approach doesn’t work for everyone, but I can’t imagine making a setting in any other way now.
20. What is in store for Mythworks besides Storm and Root this year?
On the games side, we’re about to fulfill CBR+PNK: Augmented Edition and debut it at Gen Con this year. Around that time (July-August) we’ll also be bringing a new hardcover edition of Mikey Hamm’s Slugblaster to crowdfunding this summer. We’re super excited about that - Slugblaster is a game about teenagers skating on hoverboards causing all sorts of shenanigans in the multiverse. It shares a lot of the same mechanical DNA with the other games we publish.
On the comics side, we’ll be launching a new series called Sansha & Blanco about two dogs, one of which yearns for a freedom the other can’t comprehend. We’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con with completed editions of our dieselpunk airship story Skies of Fire which we’re currently printing as well.
So, lots of great stuff in the works!
Wildsea Core Rulebook
Buy The Wildsea in print from the Mythworks website:
Buy The Wildsea in digital from Itch.io: https://felixisaacs.itch.io/thewildsea
Download the free quickstart: https://felixisaacs.itch.io/the-wildsea-free-basic-rules
Expansion: Storm and Root
Back the Kickstarter now: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stormandroot/the-wildsea-storm-and-root/description
The Wildsea Discord: https://discord.gg/ZuNQEvs
Tik Tok: https://firstname.lastname@example.org
Wildsea Actual Plays
The Wildsea: Fallen Stars Episode 1:
The Wildsea Actual Play: The Rattling Roar:
Wildsea: The Seven Walls- Episode 1: