Chris Parker was kind enough to answer some questions regarding the new RPG Game Lionheart. The game looks to be a fresh step in the RPG field and should be a delight to fans everywhere.
Chris Parker, Producer, Black Isle Studios
GVK: What is the backstory and inspiration behind the game?
CP: The inspiration for the game came during discussions between Lars Brubaker, the CEO of Reflexive Entertainment, and Feargus Urquhart, the President of Black Isle Studios. They felt that Reflexive was in a good position to work with Black Isle to create an RPG using their Velocity Engine and from this Lionheart was born.
It was soon decided that it would be a SPECIAL system role-playing game (meaning it uses the SPECIAL character advancement system that was used in Fallout 1 and 2) but that it would use a high fantasy setting. It didn’t take much time for this idea to settle on an alternate Earth and the rest is (divergent) history.
The primary idea behind the game is that in 1192 an event called the Disjunction occured, which spilled magic and magical spirits out upon our planet, drastically changing Earth forever. However, almost as if fate had a will of her own, the major events in the world of Lionheart are similar to the events in our own history.
Unfortunately, there is a large amount of immediate back story that has to do with the plot of the game itself which I cannot share with you. I will say that the game starts some four hundred years later and begins in the city of Nueva Barcelona, which is built upon the destroyed city of Barcelona. Spain is preparing to set the Spanish Armada to sail against England, England is occupying much of northern France, and the Inquisition is strangling much of the continent with its fervid quest to eradicate all magic and magical beings. Into this mess the player is cast, a descendent of Richard, and with new powers that they never knew they had.
GVK: Can you discuss the alternate reality setting of the game and how it came to be?
CP: Almost since the products original concept, we knew that it would be set in an alternate reality Earth. I am not completely sure where that idea came from, but it was based on the idea that since Fallout featured Earth blown up in the 50s by a nuclear holocaust, we should maybe feature Europe blown up in the middle ages. It was more of a mental exercise at first, but the more we played with it, the more interesting it started to sound.
Pretty soon we decided that the event was a magical catacalysm that occured around 1490, leaving around 100 years for growing pains and the introduction of new player races. But then very early this year we all agreed some design elements were somewhat lacking, and decided to refocus the story. Eric Dallaire and Ion Hardie at Reflexive decided to trigger the newly named Disjunction farther back in the Third Crusade and to change around some of the characters and areas. From there we deconstructed real history and created the current backstory of the game.
GVK: What other Historical Divergences are there in the game?
CP: The most important divergence is the Disjunction which is the event that has actually caused the changes on Earth. The following is an account by Eric Dallaire, the lead writer at Reflexive:
In the year 1192, Richard the Lionheart, King of England, ventured across Europe during the Third Crusade. Taking the counsel of a trusted advisor, Richard gathered together several holy relics while the Middle Eastern city of Acre was under siege. When Richard took Acre from the Muslims, he was advised to bring the relics and put 3,000 captured Muslims to death. Unaware of the consequences, Richard complied, believing his actions would help his cause. Instead of bringing down the divine power he was promised, Richard’s actions invoked the Disjunction, a ritual that brought magic into the world. The fabric of reality was briefly torn, allowing a short but devastating influx of magic and spiritkind to be unleashed across the Earth. Richard turned to his former enemies and made a pact with the Muslims to battle the oncoming hordes of dark creatures. Although Richard and the Muslim leader Saladin succeeded in stopping the Disjunction, magic had already escaped into the world. The two great leaders decided to divide the relics and each entrusted their respective knight orders to protect them for all time.
Beyond that there are tons of historical references but almost all are divergences. For example we have characters like Galileo and Cortes in the world, but their stories are only eerily similar to their histories on Earth.
GVK: The Third Crusade is often called “The Children’s Crusade” does the games Third Crusade reflect this?
CP: The Third Crusade isn’t actually depicted in the game at all because the story is set some 400 years after it occurred. We say that everything that occurred during the crusade leading up to the siege of the city of Acre is by all accounts the same. During the siege of Acre many things occurred just slightly different from historical accounts, including the ending of the Siege in 1192 (later than usually noted) and the slaughtering of 3000 prisoners at that time (historically, this happened after the siege when King Richard became frustrated with Saladin). This event, along with several other occurances, began the Disjunction. This was the magical equivalent of all hell breaking loose, so imagine that everything after that was completely different.
GVK: The random generator allows thousands of different weapons. What sort are available and are they open to any species? Has this created any nightmares with balancing?
CP: The different races of playable characters offer different role-playing options but aren’t significantly different when it comes to weapon use, so yes, they are available to all of the races. Weapons come in a lot of different types, from a basic sword to ranged weapons like a bow. These are all broken out into the skill categories one-handed melee, two-handed melee, and ranged. I imagine we might have a magic weapon or two that might be race specific, like a sword that favors demokin for some reason, but I don’t recall seeing any. No promises though.
The random weapon generators look at the power level of the character and compare this to a ‘goodness’ level that they are supposed to be producing and then uses weighted tables to produce a weapon of appropriate power. It hasn’t seemed to cause any balancing headaches so far, but we’ll see.
GVK: What are some of the skills available to players?
CP: As I mentioned above, there are weapon skills like one-handed, two-handed, and ranged. But you don’t have to fight every monster you see, you could sneak around them or maybe cast a spell like cripple enemy, which is also a skill. Some are non-encounter related, like barter, which just gets you better prices from the store.
GVK: What are the 4 different races and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
CP: The most basic race is the Pureblood Human whose bloodline was untouched by the disjunction. They are the most common and are considered average in all things. Most organizations in the public eye are run by Pureblood humans and they also tend to group up and persecute the other races.
The Demokin are humans whose bloodline were affected by or contains a fiendish or impish spirit. While this influence has no bearing on the ‘goodness’ of the person, they do sometimes take on small noticeable traits such as tiny horns or snake tongues. Usually a Demokin can hide these traits and mix with pureblood society. The influence of the spirit has made the Demokin more magical, but is usually of slighter build than an average human.
The Feralkin are humans whose bloodline has seen the presence of an animal or beast spirit. Feralkin are larger, stronger, and have greater endurance than pureblood humans. Unfortunately, their increased size comes with many possible physical traits that tend to make them stand out in a crowd. Feralkin are perhaps the most persecuted of all humankind.
The Sylvant are humans whose bloodlines have been influenced by elemental spirits. Sylvants tend to show great magical and mental capability, but suffer from a decrease in both strength and stature when compared to normal humans.
GVK: What sort of spells are available? How about the Perks?
CP: There are three magic types in Lionheart. Tribal magic comes from the earth and nature and tends to involve animals, summonings, and life forces. Thought magic is elemental in nature and is mostly used to blow stuff up with electricity, fire, and cold. Divine magic is a representation of the character’s diety on Earth and is used to primarily for protection and banishment. All told there are around 60 different spells for the player to choose from.
There are a lot of perks. We started by going through the Perk lists from Fallouts 1 and 2 as well as Tactics. We picked ones we liked and tinkered with them, and then we added a few of our own. Finally, since we wanted to have a higher-level limit, we created a number of “uber” Perks that you can only attain at very high level. Some of those are pretty cool.
GVK: Describe how the Multiplay format of the game works and what formats are included?
CP: The single player game involves just a single character that is joined by companions off and on throughout the course of the game. The multiplayer game is almost exactly the same, except that your companions are whomever you choose to hook up with. The game dynamically adjusts difficulty based on a number of factors, so there shouldn’t ever be a problem with balance.
GVK: What Traits are available?
CP: There are actually two types of Traits in the game, generic and Racial. Generic Traits that are similar to those found in previous SPECIAL games. Racial Traits aren’t all that much different from other traits except you must take them and the list you can pick from is determined by race.
Here is a sample Trait:
Renaissance Man: You’ve admired the arts, discussed politics and philosophy, and explored new ways of thinking, but all your enlightened ways don’t mean much in a fight. You gain a +1 to Intelligence but a –10% One-Handed and Two-Handed Melee and a –3 Armor Class. Feralkin may not take this trait.
Note that we haven’t balanced these yet, so it might get some tinkering still.
GVK: What sort of foes will players encounter?
CP: The player is going to see everything from giants to undead to goblins. I think the current model count for monsters and NPCs is over a hundred. The difficulty of these opponents’ scales with the power level of the character or party they are fighting against always. So not only will there be a lot of different looking bad guys to fight against, you’ll always have a challenge.
GVK: What technologies will be available to the players?
CP: Technologies aren’t of any focus in Lionheart. In fact, much of what should be the beginning of the Renaissance has been stalled due to all the changes that have occurred on Earth. You will be witness to some miracles of technology, but even most of these ‘machines’ are somehow fueled by magic.
GVK: Will the game be available on any consoles?
CP: There aren’t currently any plans to put Lionheart on anything except a PC.