One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air: An Interview with the Creators

PJ Coffey of Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk, EN Publishing’s Level Up: Advanced Fifth Edition, and Homebrew and Hacking has a new project: One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air. I’ve spoken to PJ about their previous projects (here and here), but I wanted to learn more about their dragons and biplanes project for Level Up. For the interview, PJ brought along Adam Donovan of Roguelike Games to talk about the project and share some exclusive details.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Thanks for talking with me about your next project. What is One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air?
: Hey Egg, fantastic to speak to you again! Your column really helps keep me current with what's coming out in the world of TTRPGs and I can't thank you enough for that! So: as you will guess from just the title alone, this book is about investigating modes of travel by land, sea and air. I've teamed up with Adam Donovan who I worked with on Dragons Vs Biplanes to produce an exciting 8th level adventure. As you know, I'm pretty heavily focused on the real CRUNCH of making Advanced Fifth Edition (A5e) as exciting and breaking the chains that hold a lot of people back. Adam is bringing a lot of fantastic cream into the game, what a lot of people would normally call “Fluff”, but me? I know how I like MY hot chocolate! ;)

EGG: From the table of contents, there are vehicles for land, water, air, and more. What can players and GMs expect in terms of vehicles?
: As you and your readers know, in A5e we've got 14 vehicles in the main book (15 if you count the Wing Suit from the SRD.) What we've decided to do is at least DOUBLE that number.
ADAM DONOVAN (AD): That's right! We’ve got a great selection of vehicles in the book, covering everything from the historical to the fantastical. This is A5e of course, so those two aren’t mutually exclusive! Sure, you can have a reliable and practical medieval cart and that works great for a low-magic setting, but our vehicles have been designed to be customizable so that same cart in a magical setting could well come with a few mystical…. Modifications.
PJ: Oh man alive! In addition to weird steampunk, gearpunk, dieselpunk stylings like locomotives, dirigibles, ornithopters, mechapods, and a submersible. (Don't get that confused with the submarine in the Dungeon Delver's Guide, they're complementary beasts, not replacements!) We've ALSO got a whole chapter of adaptations for spells, and magic items!, to be used as custom modifications to vehicles to make them really sing. It's a simple adaptation of the A5e crafting system, but I think you'll be pleased at how easy it is to use.

EGG: Are you planning tokens or deck plans? If so, who is drafting them?
: We're working with Alex Connolly from Acid Concepts, he's doing both the tokens in full colour and half tone drawings throughout the book. He's already produced one absolutely fantastic cover of a mighty red dragon soaring and jetting flame against pirouetting biplanes in an awesome aerial battle! As an exclusive to you Egg, we'll be aiming to get a brand new cover for the stretch goal, something to get people EVEN MORE EXCITED as soon as they see the book.
AD: Yeah, Alex’s work is stellar. We had the opportunity to work with him on our recent Dragons vs Biplanes adventure and its been a pleasure to do so again. As an avid VTT user myself I can’t wait to see people getting their hands on his gorgeous vehicle tokens.
PJ: For the art fans, I searched out Alex after seeing his work on Salvage Union, which is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous. If you love the style then check out [here].

EGG: Does this book contain rules for vehicle piloting and combat?
: A5e has an existing ruleset for using vehicles in piloting and combat. The work we're doing is an extension that will feel natural and sensible to Narrators and game runners.
AD: Vehicles don’t get a lot of love in ttrpg’s. Most of the time they’re relegated to set-dressing or a ‘fade-to-black’ transition between adventure hubs. ‘One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air’ not only brings extended vehicle stat blocks and modifications, but also chase and combat rules – it turns the vehicles almost into characters themselves!
PJ: It's a fine balance to strike. On the one hand, we want to help make vehicles part of the homebrewed, and other worlds with a technological bent, so to do that, we've provided monster style stat blocks, that way when you've been running the game for 6h and a question pops up, you can look and see exactly what you're looking for really easily. The chase rules are an extension of Advanced Fifth Edition and lean more heavily into theatre of the mind, we like our games cinematic and if the dwarf always dies because they can't out-run a goblin? Fie we say! Fie! The combat rules are in a similar vein, we've kept the framework light but robust, depending on what your PCs do, we can provide a DC and a mechanical effect that they can achieve whilst still leaving lots of room for description and hijinx! As an unexpected bonus, playtesting has revealed that this can let martial characters have another way to get some spotlight at higher levels. We weren't intending it, but actually being able to do amazing things with vehicles DOES seem like the sort of things high level martials should have fun with! :)

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EGG: This is related to Dragons vs Biplanes, a free adventure, correct? How are they related?
While writing DvB we knew our biplanes would be as much the stars of the show as our draconic antagonist and the NPCs the players would meet along the way. The adventure gives players a taste of what they can expect with the vehicles we’re presenting in this book. Though the ones in our adventure are ‘stock’ biplanes without any enhancements, its still a fun and formidable fighting machine that a pilot and gunner can get all kinds of entertainment from. Plus if the players complete the adventure, they get to keep their biplanes and that opens brand new doors of adventure.
PJ: The feedback we've received has been very positive! One Narrator told us that after they'd done our adventure they were straight into expedition to the barrier peaks and frankly, that's high praise indeed!

EGG: This is for both 5e and Advanced Fifth Edition, yes? What can fans of Advanced Fifth expect?
: All the things that they have had with A5e to date! The book is scheduled to be ready nearly as soon as the kickstarter is finished, and we'll begin shipping as soon as funds and surveys have cleared! In addition, whilst we very much lean into a “rulings not rules” philosophy to give Narrators freedom, you can definitely adopt the A5e rules to let you have airship battles in an intuitive fashion and don't just have to rely on doing yet another battle at close range. In the playtest we had a Warden, riding a pteranodon launch an assault on
AD: I’m still very new to A5e myself, but the rules for vehicles in the Adventurers Guide already consist of more comprehensive detail than the WotC Players Handbook. Those rules included in A5e acted as a point of inspiration and a framework for us to build upon, and we wanted to give players and narrators all the tools they could want to makes their daily drivers into some serious kit to be proud of.

EGG: You’ve been a part of EN Publishing’s Level Up: Advanced Fifth Edition and you’ve talked about One D&D with Morrus and Jessica Hancock, what are your thoughts on the One D&D playtest materials so far?
: I've absolutely loved working with Morrus and Jessica Hancock and the Morrus' Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk remains one of the highlights of my week with over two years of weekly episodes, interviews and news. Watching the expansion into has been amazing! In a very real sense without Advanced Fifth Edition, I would not bother with game design for the general public. It's very flattering to read One D&D's new take on heritages and hopefully they'll take the feedback they've received and work to improve more. It's an extremely difficult task to be able to separate culture and heritage for example, if you don't have a framework for that. In Advanced Fifth Edition, a human raised by Dwarvish Miners (or vice versa!) is trivial to do and has mechanical support already. If you asked 30 designers for basic you'd get 30 to 40 different answers, that's not their fault, it's how the base game is set up. In any case, I strongly encourage people to read and give feedback about their work to help shape the market leader into what they want to see.

EGG: Beyond One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air, what else are you working on?
: Well assuming this Kickstarter works well... I am in talks to help bring a couple of new settings to Advanced Fifth Edition. With the extremely generous SRD of A5e you have a much better and broader starting point to work from as Adam identifies. This means that we can do really wild and interesting things with this design and it's only getting bigger! There have been five 3rd party books for A5e this year alone and as people hear about it I'm confident that the audience of people will grow. A5e offers Narrators and Designers a LOT of freedom to do a LOT of clever things and has an amazingly supportive and enthusiastic community.
AD: A5e is actually one of the two systems I’m designing in, as all the advanced and expanded rules that A5e has to offer means I’m not having to reinvent the wheel every time I come up against a missing game mechanic. Its hard work, but it’s fun! Currently I’m working on a dual-system gothic-horror rpg setting that is a love letter to all my favourite stories growing up: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, Dracula, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, with a sprinkling of Penny Dreadful stories and Cosmic Horror overtones.

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EGG: Thanks for taking the time to talk. Where can fans learn more about your work?
: Same as always! Listen to the podcast, follow me on Twitter (@coffmeister) although TTRPGs are only one of the things I talk about and [Homebrew and Hacking].
AD: Thanks for having us. I’ve got a smaller library of work but that’ll be changing soon! You can find one of my projects, Uprising: Escape from Uraz-Kal over on Dungeon Master’s Guild, and I also co-wrote Dragons vs Biplanes with Peter which can be found on that site as well.

One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air from Homebrew and Hacking
  • “High Octane Adventuring for Fifth Edition and Advanced Fifth Edition! Easy to use and see vehicle rules and tokens for your games!”
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