Seas of Vodari Kickstarter Interview with Shawn Ellsworth of Tribality
  • Seas of Vodari Kickstarter Interview with Shawn Ellsworth of Tribality


    When the owner of an ENnie Award-nominated site like Tribality reached out to share a nautical-themed D&D 5e project they have on Kickstarter, I had questions. To hear that a publisher like Tribality is on the same wavelength as Wizards of the Coast and planning a book dedicated to 5e and the sea, I wanted to know more. What started as curiosity became an interview about Seas of Vodair, a 5e campaign setting on Kickstarter that ends tomorrow (Friday, April 12 2019 1:53 PM EDT).



    Egg Embry (EGG): Give me the Seas of Vodari pitch you'd give a fan that is unsure about D&D at sea.

    Shawn Ellsworth (SE):
    The Seas of Vodari is a swashbuckling and sorcery campaign setting with a focus on treasure hunts, fighting sea monsters, exploration, and battling cutthroat pirates. The setting is also well-suited to running campaigns in its large port cities, with swashbuckling heroes getting mixed up with fierce rivals, notorious crime syndicates, feuding nobles, and scheming politicians. What I love about seafaring campaigns is that they make routine gameplay like wilderness travel or big boss battles new again since you are now facing them on the high seas.

    EGG: Lets talk about D&Ds Ghosts of Saltmarsh. Did you know Wizards of the Coast was planning something nautical when you conceived of this? Does their book have any impact on your plans?

    SE:
    We originally planned to run a late January or mid-February 2019 Kickstarter for Seas of Vodari. We first began to get serious about the project March 2018 when we released my Naval Combat rules for 5E. Around that time, I had also begun to expand on my player's guide I had created for my own Seas of Vodari campaign.

    As you may know, we've done a lot with Naval Combat and pirate stuff in our PDFs. When I saw the Naval Combat UA from WotC, I started to think they might be doing a biomes book, another Xanathar type book with naval rules in the DM options, or even an adventure on the Sword Coast with sailing rules (like running an inn in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist), but I never thought we'd see a full nautical adventure book in the first half of 2019.

    The announcement of Ghosts of Saltmarsh put our plans on hold for a month and nearly cancelled our project. I talked with Brandes Stoddard, who is on the project, and we agreed that there was likely room for a book that didn't overlap. We had always planned our book to be more of a campaign guide for a gunpowder seafaring world with lots of players options and a starter adventure. So, we pulled out the naval combat and ship roles and forged on with what we think will be a pretty fun book for GMs and players.

    I have no idea if the Ghosts of Saltmarsh will help or hurt this Kickstarter campaign. I can tell you we never were looking to go against or benefit from a nautical book from WotC. I really hope the community sees this as a planned book that will help any GM run fun swashbuckling adventures versus us jumping on the pirate bandwagon.

    EGG: You developed your 5e Naval Combat rules, and you've read the UA direction. Where were they similar? What are some of the areas that yours focuses on more than WotC's?

    SE:
    The reason I created my Naval Combat rules was to create lightweight and narrative focused rules, where everyone from the captain to the cleric has something special to do during combat. For most players I have played with, running simulation sea battles is not why they are at the table. I think the UA rules have done a good job on keeping the rules lightweight and making sure everyone has something to do. In general, my rules have a longer page count, so they are a little more in-depth and we added in some additional stuff like gunpowder and cannons, sea chases and more. It will be interesting to see what their final rules look like.

    EGG: Who is the creative team on this?

    SE:
    The current creative team is listed here. It will slightly expand if and when funding goals are met.

    • Shawn Ellsworth - Project Lead
    • Brandes Stoddard - Game Designer & Writer
    • Michael Long - Writer
    • Mark Cookman - Writer
    • Dave Jumaquio - Graphic Design & Layout Artist
    • Ara Ararauna - Character Design & Illustration

    EGG: One of the members of your team, Mark Cookman, "is the captain of a 36' sailboat that he lives aboard with his family." How has having someone that is that invested in seafaring improved this project?

    SE:
    I wanted Mark on the team since he backs up all of his amazing pirate and seafaring ideas with the practical knowledge that comes from being a real sailor. I live in a house but come from a family of sailors. When my parents retired, they circumnavigated the world on their 56' sailboat for nearly a decade. I think having people who have actually sailed on the team really helps with the small details.

    EGG: The map of the world looks like a cross between the Blood Sea of Istar and Earthsea with islands ringing a... well, instead of me guessing, let me ask you to describe the physical world.

    SE:
    My original goal in creating Vodari was to replace overland wilderness travel between points of light with sailing trips. Random encounters and chats around the campfire became something new for my gaming group and I was hooked. Dragonlance, Pathfinder's Skull & Shackles, Earthsea, and pretty much anything in the genre has one, or both, of an archipelago of islands and a big maelstrom. Vodari is no different, but I tied the storm into the main creation story of a shattered world created in a war between the sister gods. I also didn't want to make a world of just pirate islands, so I tried to have each major island provide its own theme. This allows for voyages of discovery from island to island, like you see in sci-fi tv shows as they jump from world to world. You can easily switch genres for a few sessions by visiting gothic Razan, steampunkish Xolen, snowy Nordaan, or the fey jungles of Aubori.

    EGG: Are the islands peopled with unique societies? Are they analogs or nods to other cultures?

    SE:
    Vodari is a post-apocalyptical world where a continent was destroyed leaving a ring of islands. United by the need to survive, old hatreds were forgotten, and former enemies stood together to rebuild. Nearly a thousand years later, youll find the population of any settled island to be a diverse tapestry of people and cultural traditions. In Vodari, most people identify with the island or nation they call home. Each island has built their own identity, blending ancient traditions with customs that have grown out of the environment of their new home. Taevara is a theocracy obsessed with hunting pirates to extinction. In Veraci, the merchant houses battle each other for control of valuable shipping routes. In Arushi, rich nobles are protected by faithful musketeers from poverty-stricken peasants. I wanted a world that felt both Caribbean and Mediterranean, so there are plenty of influences from France, the Bahamas, Spain, Venice, and other places in our world.

    EGG: The art is great. The images you've released have a cartoony, cell-shaded quality along with some nicely painted pieces. They feel very open, fun, and inviting. Is that the focus of SoV, fun and thrills as opposed to brooding darkness?

    SE:
    The setting is full of bold heroes, colorful villains, and monsters with a bit of whimsy. I think the art we have shared so far has shown that. Vodari campaigns have more of a Saturday matinee feel, where swashbuckling heroes and other fun character builds can really shine. At the same time, it is a world where control of powerful magic is held by the few, where the line between friend and foe is thin. It's a world full of danger with vile port cities, massive sea monsters, and nature is ready to unleash hurricanes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions at any time. As an exclusive, here is a character concept sketch of Vincente, a vampire pirate captain from the gothic flavored island of Razan.


    EGG: What stretch goal are you most looking forward to unlocking?

    SE:
    Rich Howard is obsessed with all things aquatic. I'm excited to have him on board to work on something exciting, but that stretch goal is still hidden beneath the surface.

    EGG: Where can fans learn more about your campaign and your other projects?

    SE:
    You can check out our idea lab, Tribality.com - a tabletop RPG blog. We also have released quite a few PDFs on our DriveThruRPG store. Finally, visit http://www.seasofvodari.com to learn more about Vodari and back this Kickstarter campaign.

    The Seas of Vodari - Swashbuckling & Sorcery for 5E by Tribality Publishing Ends on Friday, April 12 2019 1:53 PM EDT.

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    Comments 10 Comments
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      This is fantasy swashbuckling, a subgenre now popular thanks "Pirates of the Caribbean Sea", but also this is a transition between Arthurian Fantasy and Gothic Fantasy, I mean, between middle age and industrial revolution, where some warriors wear armour yet, but firearms are used more times, knights vs armor.

      A true challenge of balance of power because gunpowder is too cheap for bulletproof magic defenses.
    1. Aldarc's Avatar
      Aldarc -
      I feel as if I were once again re-living the 3.X era where every setting and their dogs' setting were being published for the current D&D edition and its d20 system.
    1. shawnellsworth's Avatar
      shawnellsworth -
      Egg, thanks for taking the time to interview me. Things have progressed since we talked and we're really happy to be over 400% funded with just over 24 hours to go.
    1. VGmaster9's Avatar
      VGmaster9 -
      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      This is fantasy swashbuckling, a subgenre now popular thanks "Pirates of the Caribbean Sea", but also this is a transition between Arthurian Fantasy and Gothic Fantasy, I mean, between middle age and industrial revolution, where some warriors wear armour yet, but firearms are used more times, knights vs armor.

      A true challenge of balance of power because gunpowder is too cheap for bulletproof magic defenses.
      I personally think it started with 7th Sea in the TTRPG world. But yeah, more swashbuckling fantasy would be nice, among other different periods besides medieval. However, I think in this time period, bows and arrows stopped being used in the more developed civilizations.
    1. thundershot's Avatar
      thundershot -
      Oh. My. God.

      The current world that I run now (which is an alternate reality from the previous world, which ended when 3.5 ended) is based on a cataclysm that happened 1000 years ago (though it was because of a War of the Gods, and the Rakasta were the rulers) and the continent was shattered into islands. I run the official published adventures and find locations for them on the islands as needed. Currently I'm running the Isle of Dread (Goodman Games update) and this book would save me a LOT of work. I may have to work around a few things, but I never made a world map or fleshed out many islands....
    1. Zaukrie's Avatar
      Zaukrie -
      Backed, even though I don't have income right now....I've been working on a series of shipwrecked adventures, this will fit right in.
    1. EthanSental's Avatar
      EthanSental -
      Hi Shawn...having bought the nautical rules and enjoyed them, Im glad enworld did the interview so Id learn about this before it was too late. How solid are we for that November 2019 fulfillment date?
    1. shawnellsworth's Avatar
      shawnellsworth -
      Quote Originally Posted by EthanSental View Post
      Hi Shawn...having bought the nautical rules and enjoyed them, Im glad enworld did the interview so Id learn about this before it was too late. How solid are we for that November 2019 fulfillment date?
      Very solid. And everyone is going to see as much content as we can share in May with our Quickstart Guide.
    1. dwayne's Avatar
      dwayne -
      It was like pulling teeth to get my players any where near a boat, but looks cool
    1. EthanSental's Avatar
      EthanSental -
      Backer 901! Looking forward to it!
    Comments Leave Comment