(Interview has been tweaked slightly for readability)
WC: Hello everyone! This is Billy from the Fandible Podcast Network, and I’m here with Stephen Fleetwood to discuss his new game which he is Kickstarting called Leviathan Rising. Hello, Stephen. How about you introduce yourself a little?
SF: My name’s Stephen Fleetwood, as you said. I am a teacher in England, and I’ve been gaming for essentially all my life, which I started about when I was 12. I’m 36 now. I run games, I run conventions, I’ve run clubs, I’ve done every foolish thing you can do in gaming, I think, and I love Fate! I’m a Fate Evangelist.
WC: Tell us about the game Leviathan Rising. I want to hear about it, I want to hear when the Kickstarter is starting, and I want to hear it all.
SF: So. Leviathan Rising is a game set in an alternate 17th century. It’s about playing rebels who are outcast from society and have found that a corrupt cabal of wizards and nobles are attempting to become gods. These nobles want to control the populations so they can be even more powerful and basically be worse people.
The players are outsiders who are rebelling against these people and have been given great magical power to do it.
I wanted to make this game for a number of reasons. First, I love the 17th century. It’s a change in history. You’ve got rebellions, you’ve got uprisings, everything’s changing. You had your countries just coming together out of the feudal period. Everything’s changing, and that’s really fertile gaming things. Secondly, I wanted a game where the players were incentivized and were good guys fighting against “The Man”.
WC: So I’m guessing – you said you were a teacher – are you a history teacher or just a history buff?
SF: I am a math teacher who spends entirely too much time reading history.
WC: That’s a very interesting combination! It sounds like a fantastic thing, and you’re right! The 17th century is just a beautiful place for that fertile gaming. Things were changing, religion was moving towards science, reason over faith, power of the people was starting to be uttered. It’s a beautiful time. So kudos for picking a good one.
SF: Thank you. I think the time period is desperately unexplored. I mean, I’ve played a lot of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in my time and the empire in that is clearly the Holy Roman Empire in the 17th Century. But I wanted to see a whole setting about that. And it’s just such a fun time to be playing. There’s not a lot of games for it.
WC: I want to go to the Kickstarter. I just want to be sure we announce it now. When does this Kickstarter start? And tell us whatever you want about it.
SF: The Kickstarter starts on the 19th of February. You can look us up as Leviathan Rising on Kickstarter. It will be 20 pounds + shipping for a physical book, and 10 pounds for a PDF.
Obviously, International shipping with everything going on in the world at the moment is up in the air, but we’re doing the best we can to minimize the problems there.
WC: Of course. So you said you were a fan of the Fate system. Was there any other system out there you considered other than Fate or did you start this game thinking Fate was going to be the system of choice, absolutely?
SF: I started thinking about Fate – I did briefly think about making my own, but I think where it’s my first game that I’m getting backed, people like to see something they know works, and Fate works so well for high-end sort of setting. When I started playtesting the idea when I came up with the setting, I ran a game in Fate and everyone had a blast. So I decided not to fix what wasn’t broken.
WC: I know how it goes. When you first start making a game, you think ‘I can make a great system” and then you start and it’s like “oh God no! Oh no. This is really hard!” And Fate makes it so much easier just to use that system and supplement it right in there.
SF: I couldn’t agree more. I’ve collected too many RPGs over my days that have got an amazing setting, and I desperately want to send them to my friends to get them to play it, but the system was so hard to use that I never got anyone to play these games with me. I desperately wanted to avoid that by having a system that did the job well. Like Fate.
WC: Oh yes, Fate has really become one of the universal systems out there.
SF: In my last few years, I have run Shadowrun in Fate. Exalted in Fate. Sauron in Fate. I did this because they’re games that I couldn’t get people to grip the system but I loved the settings.
WC: Let’s get back to Leviathan Rising. You play magical rebels. Whenever I hear there’s a magical setting, I always wonder if there are non-human players. Is this like a Shadowrun situation where there are elves and dwarves and orcs and ogres and all that stuff? Or is it just humans, but they can have magic?
SF: It’s just humans and most of the setting is low magic. I didn’t want to include non-human races because it’s an extra thing to think about what the setting is trying to do. I wanted it to be about people rebelling and fighting for their rights, and I didn’t want to get sidetracked into alien life and other races rights and anything like that. I wanted to keep a tight focus on what I was looking at.
WC: That actually excites me just a little bit more. I’ve always liked historical reimaginings. And I really think this is an interesting play on that. So tell us more about this wizard group that is controlling the populace. What’s their story?
SF: Right, so the Peerage is what they’re called because every villain group needs to have a sinister sounding name. While the setting has always been magical, for a long time, magic was removed by a group of in-setting wizards who lived in the equivalent of Istanbul, or Constantinople, but recently got removed. Which meant magic returned to the setting. Most people, however, can only handle ritual magic, and the Peerage worked out some of the old rituals, which were used to make priest-kings in days of old, work again. So they’re funding archeology, so the archeological revolution comes about a century and a half early in this setting, to dig up the old rituals. I wanted to give the players reason to go to, y’know, Egypt or the Fertile Crescent and be looking around things there, trying to make sure another ritual doesn’t fall into the Peerage’s hands.
WC: What I like about this is that when you first said you were playing a bunch of outsiders fighting the upper class, I almost felt that it was going to be very contained to a city like Paris or London. But it sounds like with these wizards going out for these rituals, it’s very much a global game. You could be a local fighting in the sewers or catacombs of France, but you could also go to Egypt in order to stop this ritual from being discovered.
SF: The idea behind it is I wanted the players to be able to go off and do other things. In general, the characters are high powered, and they’re meant to be one of the elite few in the rebellion. So this lends them to being sent to wherever they need to go.
I really want the characters to be protagonists – important to the setting, important to the rebellion. I don’t want them to be going and hunting rats in the swamp if that makes sense.
WC: It makes complete sense, you want them to feel important.
SF: Yes. Which again ties in with Fate. It doesn’t do “not being important characters” very well. So might as well lean into the system.
WC: The Kickstarter itself. When does it end? Does it run for 60 days? 30 days?
SF: It’s running for 30 days.
WC: So do you have any plans for Stretch Goals? What is your goal for this game?
SF: First, I want to get a product out that’s nice. My stretch goals will be paying for extra art, because art’s super expensive. If we can get enough for hardcover, ‘cause everyone likes a hardcover book, that be great. I am also going to be writing for digital release a series of scenarios and a book of villains.
WC: You said you’ve run scenarios before with your friends, can you tell us what was the most entertaining scene that has happened in this game that you think really defines Leviathan Rising?
SF: Okay this was in a convention playtest I ran. This was far into the scenario. They found out the Peerage had been kidnapping a village’s worth of people for a ritual, and they found out where this ritual was going to happen.
So they go to this village where this ritual is taking place. And they find everyone is standing with a priest on a platform and he’s leading them all in a chant, everyone in the village. There are a number of people prepared to be sacrificed, there are a number of soldiers, and a noble on a dias behind all that. So I ended up with a scene where one character was having a fiery rant with the priest who was leading the ritual to try and distract the population and get them on his side, while another character was sneaking back to try and release the captives, and ended up with an enormous fight scene where all of the characters ended up using their powers and having a running battle with musketmen, crossing swords with a noble on top of a dias, while another one desperately tried to rescue a bunch of people who were set to be sacrificed. All against the time until the ritual actually kicked off when they had to break it.
WC: Ooh. I’m excited! Hopefully, they succeeded?
SF: They did! In two of the three times I’ve run it.
WC: I’m digging this. This sounds like a fantastic setting, and as you said, Fate seems to be the perfect system for this. I’m very excited and I can guarantee you have at least Fandible throwing some money towards this Kickstarter. You’ve convinced me!
Any last thing you want to tell people about this system, this setting, about you, about the world in general?
SF: Just to remind everyone to have a look at the Kickstarter. I also want to say that we all need more games, and if you have a great idea, get it out for the rest of us to see and play. I love to see people’s games, and I like to play new things.
WC: Thank you, Stephen. It was a pleasure talking to you, and I hope to see Leviathan Rising funded quickly!
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