Free League announces Dragonbane, the translation of Swedish RPG classic Drakar och Demoner

Today Free League announced an English version of Drakar och Demoner, the seminal fantasy RPG in Sweden. The original dwarfed D&D in the Scandinavian market during the 80s and remains massively popular still in this day.
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A new edition of Sweden's first RPG Drakar och Demoner, finally in English after 40 years – the Kickstarter begins August 30
We are thrilled to announce the Dragonbane RPG, a brand new edition of Sweden's first and biggest tabletop roleplaying game Drakar och Demoner, now to be published in English for the first time.

Dragonbane / Drakar och Demoner is coming to Kickstarter August 30.
Sign up here to be notified the moment the campaign starts:

Drakar och Demoner was originally launched in Sweden in 1982. Now, we celebrate its 40th anniversary with a brand new and reimagined edition, with one foot firmly planted in the heritage of decades of Swedish gaming and the other in the modern and innovative game design for which Free League is known worldwide.

There has been talk about the "Swedish invasion" in the RPG world in the last few years, with award-winning titles like Mutant: Year Zero, Tales From the Loop, Symbaroum, Forbidden Lands, and MÖRK BORG. Drakar och Demoner is the game that started it all. And now, for the first time, the game will also be available to an international audience, under the English title Dragonbane.

Drakar och Demoner / Dragonbane has art by acclaimed illustrator Johan Egerkrans (Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying and art books Vaesen, Norse Gods, The Undead, Dragons) and lead game design by Tomas Härenstam (Mutant: Year Zero, Forbidden Lands, ALIEN RPG, Twilight: 2000 4th Edition, and the upcoming Blade Runner RPG). The team of contributing writers include the elite of the Swedish tabletop RPG industry as well as acclaimed historical fiction author Niklas Natt och Dag (1793 The Wolf and the Watchman).

For a glimpse at the fantasy odyssey to come, check out the artwork from the upcoming core boxed set in this newsletter. More details about Drakar och Demoner / Dragonbane will be shared via our social media accounts throughout the weeks leading up to launch.

Drakar och Demoner / Dragonbane is a classic fantasy RPG full of magic, mystery, and adventure. This new edition is designed from the ground up to facilitate fast and furious play, with very little prep time and adventures that are a breeze to run.

Although a toolbox allowing you to tell fantasy stories of all kinds, Drakar och Demoner / Dragonbane is a game with room for laughs at the table and even a pinch of sillyness at times – while at the same time offering brutal challenges for your adventurers.

We call this playstyle "mirth and mayhem roleplaying" – great for long campaigns but also perfect for a one-shot if you just want to have some quick fun at the table for a night. The core set will include at least one complete adventure and we hope to unlock many more as stretch goals, offering a complete campaign to play even in the core game set.
 

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EllisEthel

Explorer
Free League have supported every product line properly so how many fantasy games they publish doesn’t bother me.

I’m guessing they have bought the internal art of the Ruin Masters game along with the licence…as that looks like the same artist who is illustrating Dragonbane/D&D. Very cool style. Vaesen looks tremendous.

As to system…a skill based fantasy game, off the bones of BRP using a d20 like Pendragon. Great.

My only worry is they overplay the ‘mirth’ part of the advertising. I don’t want a joke game where having to be silly is baked in…rarely works out well.
 

aramis erak

Legend
And that doesn't even inude Norway or Denmark!
Oh, come now, at least one each from other Norse descendant cultures should be there.
I fround references to Draug ... but not in Norwegian... Hmm... maybe not.
Perhaps the Norse-descendent languages mostly publish in English?
«grins, ducks, hustles away quietly»
 

Andrea Rocci

Explorer
(He's made it feel very contemporary despite it's early roots in a way Chaosium can only dream about..)
Dunno what's your beef with Chaosium' but this came across as an unnecessary quip. Especially because, looking at their design choices with RQG, they're not even remotely trying to feel contemporary. They're just doing their own thing (with gorgeous art).
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
more...
  1. Symbaroum
  2. Forbidden Lands
  3. The One Ring 2E
  4. Mörk Borg,
Vaesen, Tales from the Loop, and Things from the Flood are essentially fantasy as well, but not classic fantasy.
The Free League is also the distributor of the Swedish fantasy-game Sagospelet Äventyr (they also have space-version and is getting a horror-version as well. All of them is made for younger children). The creator of the game first started independently, then for a while was a co-owner of Eloso Förlag (who has made the Swedish version of Call of Cthulhu), but later split and joined Free League instead, and had the game moved to their line. If I understood it correctly, this was due to the creator getting a job at Free League as an actual employee.

They also distribute a number of other smaller games in Swedish. Such as Oktoberlandet, Svärd och Svartkonst. Both of which are sort of fantasy.
 

aramis erak

Legend
The Free League is also the distributor of the Swedish fantasy-game Sagospelet Äventyr (they also have space-version and is getting a horror-version as well. All of them is made for younger children). The creator of the game first started independently, then for a while was a co-owner of Eloso Förlag (who has made the Swedish version of Call of Cthulhu), but later split and joined Free League instead, and had the game moved to their line. If I understood it correctly, this was due to the creator getting a job at Free League as an actual employee.

They also distribute a number of other smaller games in Swedish. Such as Oktoberlandet, Svärd och Svartkonst. Both of which are sort of fantasy.
They're starting to sound like the Swedish version of pre-Hasbro WotC...

Still, I'm liking what I've run of their games.

  • Despite only a short run of Vaesen, I still feel it was a worthwhile purchase. I got 3 of the 5 played, each taking at least 2 sessions of around 4 hours. 5p plus me... so 144 hours, that's less than my threshold of $2 per person per hour.
  • A several month campaign of T2K 4 was well worth the KS participation. 3-6 players, 14 weeks or so, 3.5 hour sessions...
  • Alien got a trio of 4+ month campaigns (one of which was a cinematic - Destroyer of Worlds), plus two runs of Chariot (1 each FTF and online, both 3 sessions)... definitely worth the preorder price. Looking forward to the next expansion...
  • Have yet to run MYZ, Forbidden Lands, Tales from the Loop. But the hours of reading alone have been worth the PDF bundles they were in.
  • Not looking to run Mörk Borg, but may wind up playing it. Grabbed the free no-art version. Reading time has been amusing, so worth more well than I paid.
  • Looking forward to running Blade Runner...
  • Coriolis I plan on running once I again have a group not playing in a public venue; the religious aspects could be problematic. Still, the hours of reading "paid for" the bundle.

TOR2E, I don't like the changes. It's the only FL product where I've truly been disappointed with the game. I'll keep the dead tree in shrink... when I run, it will be 1E. Maybe with the 2e travel system.

I don't know if I'll be getting Dragonbane. But, given FL's standards for fluff, if it hits a bundle, I'll be seeing if I can grab it.
 

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
I'm interested in the pre-Free League version of this game. Apparently the rights were sold in 2021. I would be interested in playing the various systems it's had throughout its editions. As I'm not a fan the Free League system I'll be giving this a pass. Apparently, the "old" version of this game still exists as Ruin Masters for those interested and those who can read Swedish.
 

Ruin Masters also exists in English. But it seems it was pulled from DTRPG (I still have it in my library, but the product page is gone). There should be copies floating around in print, though.
 


Maggan

Writer of The Bitter Reach
I'm interested in the pre-Free League version of this game. Apparently the rights were sold in 2021. I would be interested in playing the various systems it's had throughout its editions. As I'm not a fan the Free League system I'll be giving this a pass. Apparently, the "old" version of this game still exists as Ruin Masters for those interested and those who can read Swedish.

The original version was a translation of Basic Roleplaying and Magic World, so if you can find those you can get a taste at how the first rpg in Swedish played.

This system will not be Year Zero-engine, btw.
 

Maggan

Writer of The Bitter Reach
A short aside.

The first edition of Drakar och Demoner was released in 1982. Since then three publishers have had the game in their stable of games (Target Games, Riotminds and now Free League).

In Sweden we have an eternal lively discussion about how many different versions there are, and some claim that this version will be the 11th. But it's a bit more complex than that ... :D
 

nyvinter

Explorer
Dunno what's your beef with Chaosium' but this came across as an unnecessary quip. Especially because, looking at their design choices with RQG, they're not even remotely trying to feel contemporary. They're just doing their own thing (with gorgeous art).
Not really a beef and I didn't mean to come across harsh, but they did call RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha "cutting edge of roleplay design" in 2019 while dismissing games with mechanics that came out after the 90s. And while I do like their games, they're not that modernised. And I'm really happy some people have been trying to modernize it because I like BRP.


aramis erak: I think we see things very differently then. For me if all the fantasy games use the same rules, then what's the point? The rules inform the play and I'd have a hard time justify to myself to make a "new" fantasy game that still use the same rules as lots of other — otherwise why not just do a setting book?
 
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Mezuka

Hero
Ruin Masters also exists in English. But it seems it was pulled from DTRPG (I still have it in my library, but the product page is gone). There should be copies floating around in print, though.
Ruin Masters was sold to CMON by Riot Minds. That is why it is no longer on DTRPG. We have to wait and see what CMON does with it.
 

Staffan

Legend
I'm interested in the pre-Free League version of this game. Apparently the rights were sold in 2021. I would be interested in playing the various systems it's had throughout its editions. As I'm not a fan the Free League system I'll be giving this a pass. Apparently, the "old" version of this game still exists as Ruin Masters for those interested and those who can read Swedish.
Looking at the Kickstarter page for Ruin Masters, it seems to have very little to do with classic Drakar och Demoner. Looking at the game's history, we have:

  • 1982: First edition, blue box. Pretty straight translation of Basic Roleplaying + Magic World from Worlds of Wonder.
  • 1984: Second edition, first one with Elric/Stormbringer on the cover. Rewritten from the ground up, but still mostly the same actual system.
  • 1985: Edition 2.1. Almost exactly the same as 2, but with errata applied and one skill (gambling) added. Different intro adventure included.
    • Also 1985, the rules expansion Drakar och Demoner Expert which greatly altered the game. The skill list was vastly increased, and instead of just choosing 5 proficient and 3 expert skills you got to buy skills with a big pool of experience points, with different skills costing different amounts per point. The combat system was expanded with hit locations, and the magic system was greatly expanded with magic schools as explained in an earlier post. You also had rules for Heroes, advanced-level characters who had Hero Points you could either use to auto-succeed on a roll (with the cost dependent on your skill), buy Hero Abilities, or increase your stats. Another big difference was that task resolution was now handled with a d20 instead of d100. For most purposes, this became the default rules, with only a few things later released for the basic rules.
    • In 1987, the rule expansion Drakar och Demoner Samuraj was released, because it was the late 80s and Japan was awesome. This was basically the Expert rules but adapted to a fantasy Japan setting with different magic rules. Other than that it was mostly the same, with a big rules quirk. Like Expert, you bought skills on a 1-20ish scale, but then you converted that value to a percentile by multiplying it with 4-7 depending on the stat the skill was based on.
  • 1987: Edition 3. Again, mostly the same as 2, but with some rules rewritten for clarity. I think the only rule change was that the Size attribute was rolled on 2D6+6 for humans instead of 3D6. But the book was given a general facelift.
  • 1991: Edition 4. This was a major change. The character creation system was completely revamped, and turned into a mostly character point-based system á la GURPS, but with some random aspects. For example, for special abilities, social status, starting money, and handedness you'd spend points, and then roll on a table and add the points spent. You also bought attributes with points and then modified them for your race, instead of rolling based on race. Professions got a slightly bigger role, both because each profession got a special ability, and because professions affected skill costs. Skills were divided into three groups: basic skills (which were cheap and everyone had a basic chance of 1-5 in, depending on stat), secondary skills (everything else, expensive, no basic chance), and professional skills (selected from a list based on your profession, otherwise secondary skills that became cheaper and got a basic chance). Other than character creation, the actual rules were fairly similar to the Expert rules.
    • There were some production issues with the 1991 edition. For one thing, the rules for drugs, herbs and poisons hadn't been included – the game had three different skills for dealing with them, but they forgot to include the actual rules. The rules were added in a magazine article, and it turned out that they were exactly the same as from Samuraj, except renamed. This was a little bit of an issue, because that meant that they worked on the old "economy" in-game, while the 1991 version greatly increased both the amount of money you started with and the money things would cost. So if a consumable would cost, say, 100 silver in the old rules, that was a significant chunk of money. But in the new rules, it was no big deal.
    • Another interesting bug was that the GMing chapter was basically lifted straight out of another game they had published in 1989 – to the point where they even referenced some game-specific things like Metropolice (instead of town guards).
    • Not really a production issue, but the supplements for the 1991 version greatly amped up the Kewlness Quotient in the game. Since this was the early 90s, a series of splatbooks was released, each of which upped the power level of the game. 80s Drakar och Demoner had been fairly down-to-earth, but 90s Drakar och Demoner was getting more and more AWSUM!. This would come to a head in 1994.
  • 1994: Edition 5. Again, a major change. Previous editions had defaulted to some sort of implied standard fantasy setting, much like D&D does for the most part. There was also a published setting, Ereb Altor, but the setting material was at least partially kept apart from the rules material (though they weren't kept strictly apart). This was now relegated to history, and for the first time Drakar och Demoner was directly connected to a setting. And what a setting: the city of Chronopia. The game nearly exclusively focused on the gigantic city of Chronopia, and had a rather extensive setting chapter in the core book. The city clearly took a lot of inspiration from Games Workshop, but there are also traces of places like Sigil in there. Character creation was similar to '91, except with different races and professions. Oh, and instead of professions getting a list of skills from which they should choose 12 to be profession skills, they just got a more or less fixed list of 10 (although in some cases there were alternatives, e.g. IIRC a Traveler could choose Survival or Seamanship). Other than that, the actual rules were more or less the same as 1991.
    • First printing was in softback, with low-quality binding. Later printings were in hardback.
    • Supplemental material was also directly written to fit in Chronopia. Material kept being published until 1998. At some point, it was revealed that Chronopia was on the same planet as the previous setting, but much later and on the other side of the world. In 1999, Äventyrsspel/Target Games went bankrupt and was reconstructed into the company that would eventually become Paradox Interactive, and the rights to Drakar och Demoner was placed in a separate company.
  • 2000: Edition 6, the first released by Riotminds. Again, the game was strongly connected to a specific setting, this time the nordic-flavored Trudvang. The rules were quite different from what had been seen before, adding class/level elements and deprecating skills. This was, to say the least, controversial, and some of the changes were walked back in rule expansions that were later incorporated in the 2003 7th edition. After that they did another version just called Drakar och Demoner Trudvang in 2006, and a 30th anniversary edition in 2012.
  • 2016: Edition 10? This version was kickstarted as a retro edition (without Trudvang), but with some changes from the 1987 version. I haven't played or read it, but my understanding is that it hasn't been very popular. Also, a friend of mine supported the kickstarter at one of those levels where you get a special thanks in the credits... and then they misspelled his name. So there's that.
 

Ethawyn

Explorer
We'll see. From where I'm sitting, it seems likely that the main point is to release a new Swedish version co-inciding with the 40th anniversary. But since Free League are international these days, they likely figured that they might as well release it in English as well. They'll be able to use the same development work, the same art, mostly the same design/layout stuff, and just incur relatively minor translation costs while opening up a much larger market.

They're probably not expecting it to knock D&D off the RPG throne, and I'd actually be surprised if it outsells their own Symbaroum on the international market, but it's a fair bit of profit for a low cost.
Interestingly, when Free League first announced they'd picked up DoD, they were adamant that it was only for their Swedish market. I kept seeing people begging them to bring it out in English and they kept saying no, but clearly they must have heard enough requests to persuade them to try.

more...
  1. Symbaroum
  2. Forbidden Lands
  3. The One Ring 2E
  4. Mörk Borg,
Vaesen, Tales from the Loop, and Things from the Flood are essentially fantasy as well, but not classic fantasy.
It seems like Free League's philosophy on this is that as long as the systems are different it's not a problem for them. Each of these, whether made or just published by Free League, is a separate rule system with a distinct flavor. I'd guess they're thinking Dragonsbane will be the same, though it's interesting to me that both it and Symbaroum are D20 roll under.

You could also add Ruins of Symbaroum and the announced Lord of the Rings RPG into the mix since they're a different ruleset than Symbaroum and TOR.

Anyway, for my part I'll be picking it up for the Johan Egerkrans alone.

One Ring and Mörk Borg are both games where they're the publisher/distributor, not the creators.

Not quite... that's true for MB, but The One Ring is designed by Sophisticated Games but the writing, layout, art, etc. are all Free League and its Free League branded on the spine. It's definitely sold as one of their games. But even with MB I still see a lot of confusion with people asking Free League questions about it and them repeating "We just publish and distribute it," so I don't think it makes that much of a difference to the consumer.

But as I said above, I think the system and setting differences are enough to justify the different games. I also think that outside of the 5E ecosystem a lot of the market these days is driven by addicts like me who will buy every new game from their favorite publisher just to have it even though they'll never actually play it...
 

Andrea Rocci

Explorer
Not really a beef and I didn't mean to come across harsh, but they did call RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha "cutting edge of roleplay design" in 2019 while dismissing games with mechanics that came out after the 90s. And while I do like their games, they're not that modernised. And I'm really happy some people have been trying to modernize it because I like BRP.
Understood. If they called RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha "cutting edge" they used the wrong word. To me it is rather a labor of love, showing that you can create a rich, immersive game that really works on the table by using tools that were around circa 1985. This is what they did. But sometimes they would get defensive when people say "why you did not innovate" this or that.
As for me, I can enjoy a lot RQG and still be super curious to see what Free League are doing with DoD. Really excited 😀.
 

Staffan

Legend
It seems like Free League's philosophy on this is that as long as the systems are different it's not a problem for them. Each of these, whether made or just published by Free League, is a separate rule system with a distinct flavor. I'd guess they're thinking Dragonsbane will be the same, though it's interesting to me that both it and Symbaroum are D20 roll under.
Another Free League specialty is that in many cases, they don't sell games. They sell campaigns. This goes back to their predecessor company Järnringen and their Mutant: Undergångens Arvtagare game. To a large degree, the point of M:UA was the Undergångens Arvtagare (Heirs of the Apocalypse) campaign. The same with Coriolis which is built around Mercy of the Icons, and Symbaroum around the Throne of Thorns. MYZ and its associated variants doesn't have a separate campaign, but rather it is built straight into the box. At some point, these campaigns will be done, and then the game itself will likely enter maintenance mode where stuff may or may not be reprinted, but it won't see much development.
 


Ethawyn

Explorer
1500x1500_0a3f3fa65eabf7954d2cd72509250e1440699bf213054330e2448908.jpg

So, the ducks... Can you tell me about them? This one from the new edition looks rather cool!
There might be more of a story, but what I know is that because RuneQuest was an early popular game in Sweden and RuneQuest has ducks, ducks became a running thing in Swedish rpgs. There's even a bonus/gag duck race in Symbaroum.
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
There might be more of a story, but what I know is that because RuneQuest was an early popular game in Sweden and RuneQuest has ducks, ducks became a running thing in Swedish rpgs. There's even a bonus/gag duck race in Symbaroum.

Actually RuneQuest was never that big here as far as I understand it. Yes, Eloso förlag is making a Swedish translation of it (They were the ones that did a Swedish Version of Call of Cthulhu earlier)

You also have humanoid ducks in Kopparhavets Hjältar, which is a spiritual successor to Drakar och Demoner.
 

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