Dragonbane: An Interview with Tomas Härenstam

Dragonbane is a fantasy RPG filled with demons, dragons, goblins, and undead and the wizards, elves, and other fantasy heroes who face off against them. It is fast playing with brutal combat but also some laughs. Dragonbane is on Kickstarter now and a free Quickstart is available. Tomas Härenstam of Free League was kind enough to talk to me about this newly updated RPG.


Charles Dunwoody (CD): Free League has several fantasy RPGs including The One Ring (and a forthcoming D&D version: The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying for 5E), Symbaroum (also with a D&D version: Ruins of Symbaroum), and Forbidden Lands. What prompted you to bring this game with an updated game engine back and now available to English speakers as well?
Tomas Härenstam(TH) : Drakar och Demoner
is the classic RPG in Sweden, and originally we only intended to release it in Swedish. But after we announced the new edition about a year ago, we got plenty of interest from our international audience as well. And once we actually started working on the game design, we slowly started to feel that this game will be too good to just keep to the Swedish market. So we decided to add an English edition to the Kickstarter, just to see how it goes. And it went pretty well!

CD: For those unfamiliar with the game, what is the setting and base mechanics of play?
TH: Drakar och Demoner
has always been a broad and fairly classical fantasy RPG - but with a twist of silliness at times, like talking ducks! We have decided to focus a little extra on that, making Dragonbane a game for good laughs at the table - but suspense as well, of course. Mechanically, Drakar och Demoner has its origins in the rulesets of early RuneQuest, and there are still some remnants of that in this game, 40 years later. It's a skill-based roll under system, but using a D20 instead of D100.

CD: Does Dragonbane support long term play as well as one shots? How long might campaigns run?
The game is well suited for quick oneshots and convention play, but longer campaigns are certainly supported as well. The core set itself will include 8-9 adventures, connected into a longer campaign that can run for a dozen sessions or more.

CD: Dragonbane is described as mirth and mayhem. What does that mean in regards to the rules and setting?
As mentioned before, there are some comical elements to the setting, like ducks and other anthropomorphic animals. The rules lean more toward the "mayhem" side of the tagline I think, designed for fast and brutal play that never bogs down.


CD: Mallards (duck people with attitude) are an option to play and they have tempers. How do they fit into the setting?
The mallards/ducks have been part of the Drakar och Demoner since the early 80s. They have at times been a divisive element, subject to intense debates. In the end, we strongly felt that the ducks are a part of what makes Drakar och Demoner/Dragonbane stand out among other fantasy RPGs.

CD: Monsters always hit in combat. I’ve never seen that mechanic in an RPG before. Why the decision to always have monsters hit and are new players surprised at how the rule works?
There was some surprise at that, yes, especially among Swedish players familiar with earlier editions. The decision came from the overall design goal to make combat fast and dangerous - especially against monsters! We wanted to remove unnecessary dice rolls that just increase the "whiff factor". There is still enough randomness there, as monsters attack using a table of random attacks, never doing the same thing twice in a row.

CD: What are the three types of magic in the game and are there magic items?
In the core game, there are three schools of magic - elementalism, animism, and mentalism. More might be added in later expansions. Yes, indeed there are magic items!

CD: What extras are offered in the kickstarter for Dragonbane?
The only really Kickstarter exclusive item is the deluxe cloth map of the Misty Vale setting, painted by Francesca Baerald. It's a beauty!

CD: Where can fans go to find Free League’s work?
Right now, the best place is the Kickstarter for Dragonbane! At other times, try freeleaguepublishing.com.

CD: Any final comments you’d like to share with the readers of EN World?
Come join the Dragonbane campaign before it's too late! You won't regret it!
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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

Von Ether

Over at the Dragonbane discord, the speculation is that since Forbidden Lands was an YZ homage to Dragons and Demons (and two monsters have the identical names for their special attacks in Forbidden Lands and the DB Quickstart), then FL monster list is a good place to start.

Here are the FL monster list minus a couple that are setting specific:
Abyss Worm
Death Knight
Giant Squid
Gray Bear
Sea Serpent
Strangling Vine

I am not always D&D biggest fan, but since they devote a whole book to monsters, one does get spoiled for their sheer number of critters. This is a solid start for monster here but I wish there were a few more.
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