Interview: T. Julian Bell of Raex Games
T. Julian Bell is the owner, lead game designer, and a writer for Raex Games, a gaming publisher that specializes in RPG table top games, card games, and board games. The Gamers Codex appreciates him taking time out to talk with us.
First off, tell me a little bit about yourself and your gaming history.
I’ve been playing tabletop RPG’s, board games, and online video games since as far back as I can remember. I’m a huge fan of storytelling. I was hooked to tabletop games full time around 19 when my college roommate introduced me to d&d 3.0. I’ve worked in the film industry and game industry, but left those to do what I love. I think it was just this idea that tabletop games offer another layer. They are just way more fun and the stories never end.
What were the primary inspirations for the game system in Kromore?
The game system was developed over many years of playtesting with a hundred or so testers throughout the US and Canada. I wanted a system that could encompass scifi and fantasy at the same time. I needed a simple system but also one with the ability to allow gamers that like a lot of tinkering those options. Basically it became a balance of what can I offer as many players as possible with keeping the majority as happy as possible. The three action combat system with d4 skills was born out of that labor.
What were the primary inspirations for the setting?
When it came down to packaging a setting, I initially was going to release all the different eras of Kromore separately, but I came to the conclusion that giving the players the keys to the entire universe upfront would be a huge amount of content for them to explore. As it always is with my gaming groups, the GM or as we call it “storyteller” always modified and changed the universe to fit their group’s needs. Kromore’s eras are a perfect canvas for those GM’s and the hundred story arc moments provided in the book are all great hooks from which to launch a campaign.
Did each era have a specific inspiration?
Sure they all are settings that are built around existing archetypes. What make them unique is that they each organically grow from their previous setting on the planet Kromore so all that history still exists as do the weapons, armor, and technologies. What you get are the Three Kingdoms Era, Age of Man, Age of Nations, Steam & Steel, Civil War, and Space Eras.
I’ll break them down a bit more for the readers: Three Kingdoms Era is a fantasy medieval setting. It’s a mix of castles, sword and sorcery, political espionage, and exploration as the globe wages war against one another. That setting is ended by a cataclysmic event known as the star comet. The star comet strikes the 2nd moon of Kromore and reigns down dust and debris for a hundred years causing darkness to cover the planet leading into the reconstruction and rebuilding of cities, history, and society called the Age of Man. I have to say it’s a very Conan-esque time and the hundred years of darkness in between those two eras is a pretty great time to play in as well. Organically, the Age of man era eventually leads into the Age of Nations, a high seas time. This is when Kromorians are starting to rebuild cities throughout the planet and rediscover ancient ones. As technology grows, steam technology is discovered and you get the Steam & Steel era of Steam air ships and giant mechanized robots. Those sort of speak for themself. The Victorian theme lasts until it clashes with the futuristic evolution of social and technological advancements in the Civil War era. This is probably one of my favorite eras as you have that steam victorian feel being edged out by science and space like themes. This then transitions to the Space Era.
All the eras are great to fill that itch any gaming group needs and there are thousands of years to explore within them or create your own settings within. It’s a sandbox setting in a lot of ways where we give you the outline and you go from there.
What are you most proud of in this work?
All of it.
What do you think players will most enjoy about the game?
There is content for every type of player from casual to hardcore. With literally hundreds of character build options and setting story hooks you really have a great book to use as a tool box for any game you run. The majority of time players come up to me and tell me how they created alternate nations and eras within Kromore. I think that is awesome and exactly the point of the book. Be creative and use it as a tool where you feel you need to. There has been a lot of great feedback about the art as well.
What are your future plans for Kromore?
The book just came out in stores this year, so as a solo indy publisher I’m slowly trying to familiarize the audience with Kromore until the moment comes when I can really take it to the level it deserves. This moment involves a larger team than just myself and commissioned artists. I have dozens of expansions planned, but right now it’s about getting the book into players’ hands so they can start to absorb the massive content Kromore provides. I will say I’m already working on the playtest for the second edition that I don’t plan on releasing for several years out, but that book will simply add to the setting from the first one on top of streamlining some of the mechanics to open the game up to an even bigger audience and speed up sessions. If players want to see more Kromore faster they should talk about it with their gaming groups and get their stores to stock it so word can spread! The only way for me to bring more Kromore products is for the community to support it.
How has the reception been thus far?
There are a lot of games out there to compete with, but when I get feedback from someone who has taken the time to crack the book open and play some games the responses are great. I don’t have the marketing budget the bigger companies have so it’s entirely a player promoted product beyond what I can do at conventions and through social media. The hardcover book is almost sold out, but it was a small print release of only around 1000 units this past February. The digital version and modules are selling well and players should expect more products coming in 2017. People can pick up the book and talk about how pretty it looks and how much content they can see, but they won’t realize the massive amount the book offers till they start to play it. I couldn’t be more happy with the feedback from the game so far.