SKALD: Against the Black Priory Interview

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:TBA
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Successfully Kickstarted earlier this year, SKALD: Against the Black Priory is described as a dark fantasy RPG featuring modern design combined with a classic 8-bit look and feel. And going by its promotional videos and Kickstarter updates, the game looks like something with a lot of potential. It's also being primarily developed by a single individual who goes by AL online.

Having a strong vision and then tirelessly working on realizing it with little outside help is highly commendable, so we figured we owed it to ourselves to contact AL and ask him a few questions about his intriguing project.

GameBanshee: Hi. From my understanding, Scape-IT is a more or less one-man studio from Norway. When I think “old-school RPGs,” my mind rarely jumps to Norway, and I'm ashamed to admit that I know next to nothing about the genre's history in your neck of the woods. So, could you talk a bit about how one grows up to become a role-playing enthusiast in Norway?

AL of Scape-IT: The history of pen-and-paper roleplaying and CRPGs in Norway in the late 80s / early 90s, is probably pretty similar to most other places in the world. Both were well established, if somewhat obscure, hobbies by the early 90s and as tabletop RPGs dipped a bit in popularity, computer gaming came into mainstream pop culture in Norway just as anywhere else by the mid 90s.

I grew up with computers and early consoles, so CRPGs came natural to my friends and me.

I don’t really know that there were certain games or platforms that were particularly popular in Norway, but I grew up on a steady CRPG diet of games such as the Ultimas, the Might and Magic series, the Gold Box games, Fallout and the Baldur’s Gate series.

I grew up in the Norwegian arctic in a very rural area and my road to the tabletop RPG hobby was a bit more winding. I remember hearing tales from friends who had visited family down south and been introduced to this esoteric, almost incomprehensible, game where you told stories and rolled dice and no one really ever won. Remember: this is pre internet.

Bit by bit I managed to piece together a rudimentary understanding of what a roleplaying game was, and by age 12 I had written my own rules system based on me flipping through a “Rolemaster” book in a bookstore whilst visiting a larger city.

Long story short, from then on, I pretty much ran RPG campaigns until I graduated from university.

GB: When and how did you decide to sit down and actually start working on your game?

AL: In late 2017 I realized that I had a great foundation for making a tile- and turn based RPG and I started doing some exploratory design that would eventually lead to me committing to the pixelated, retro look and feel of “SKALD: Against the Black Priory”.

GB: When did Kickstarter enter the picture?

AL: I spent a lot of time interacting with RPG fans and devs on Twitter whilst writing the SKALD engine and I kept getting good feedback. That made me confident that I had a viable product on hand and I decided to commit to making it the best it could be by getting some funding. That’s where the Kickstarter came in.

GB: SKALD is quite a catchy title, but what does it mean exactly? Is it a play on a Nordic Bard's Tale? If so, your website mentions that the game's setting was inspired by the Roman Empire. How does it all fit together?

AL: “SKALD” is the name of the game-engine and brand. I’m thinking games made with the engine and in the SKALD universe will all have names like “SKALD: [name]”.

The name is short, catchy and recognizably Scandinavian. And with a Skald being a kind of Viking storyteller I feel it’s a pretty good fit for a brand name for a Norwegian RPG.

GB: One of your Kickstarter updates mentions that the game will be split into three acts. What does this mean for SKALD's structure and what can we expect from the core gameplay loop? Will it be a focused story-driven experience, or something more free-form and exploration-based?

AL: “SKALD: Against the Black Priory” will be split up over three acts that take you to different parts of the game world. I intend for the players to have a lot of freedom to explore and adventure freely, but the game world will open up more and more as you progress thorough the acts. This game takes place in an area of the game world that’s a bit analogous to the North Sea and the islands therein.

You’ll start off on an island in the first act and then get access to a ship by the second act. Finally you’ll have gained enough skill and experience to lead an expedition into the high north and the games grim finale.

I want a game world and mechanics that encourage exploration and I love the idea of players needing to plan for expedition-style forays into the darker corners of the world.