Welcome to the first Lasting Tales designer diary! I’m Mark Latham, lead designer on Lasting Tales. Previously I’ve worked on a whole host of tabletop games, often dealing with popular franchises, from The Walking Dead to The Elder Scrolls. I cut my teeth in the industry at Games Workshop, and I have a huge passion for fantasy games, particularly narrative driven skirmishes.
I think of Lasting Tales almost as a dungeon-crawler game, but with skirmish mechanics – it’s very much a mash-up of those two gaming genres. It’s not a traditional skirmish game, in the sense that it pits two players against each other, each controlling a warband. Instead, players work together (or solo) against the scenario, with a simple AI mechanic controlling the enemies.
In this game, Heroes go on adventures, battling monsters over modelled 3D terrain, searching for treasure and gaining experience and skill along the way. In the build-up to the game, we’ve used the term ‘old-school’ a lot, and I think that’s fair – we’ve really tried to capture the flavour of those big-box fantasy games from our youths, and hopefully the sheer joy we felt at playing those games will shine through Lasting Tales.
Ways to Play
People who are familiar with my past work will know that I’m big on campaign systems and narrative-driven play. So although Lasting Tales can absolutely be used to play pick-up games (or ‘one-shot Adventures’), it comes into its own with the campaign system. Here, you guide your hero on an epic quest, or ‘Tale’, advancing from level 1 through 10 in true RPG style.
Even Tales have two variants. The core of the Tales rules – and the way most people will play, I think – is the randomly generated narrative. You pick your Level 1 Heroes, play an adventure, then use a whole bunch of options and charts between games so your Hero can advance. You check injuries, recruit followers, decide if you want to travel to another town, roll on a big events table to see what happens in that town, and so on.
The other way to play Tales is with a narrative campaign – these are scripted storylines, much like an RPG campaign, where all of those random rolls are curated, and your Heroes move towards the completion of an epic quest. There’s one of these narratives in the core book, and if they prove popular I’m sure there’ll be more to come.
The game is designed for 1-5 players, with each player controlling a Hero (if you have fewer players, you can control more than one Hero if you like). Together, the heroes form a Party. There are six pre-generated Level 1 Heroes in the book, so you can get playing right away. However, we know players will want to make their own Heroes using the models in their collections, and that’s where the character creation rules come in.
There are ten classes and five races in the core book, with no restrictions - that's a lot of combinations! Elf barbarians, Halfling fighters, Half-Orc paladins… you name it. Whatever model you want to use, we should have you covered.
Heroes have a basic stat-line or ‘profile’, and the race and class options you choose modify that profile, and provide a special rule that makes them play differently to their fellows on the tabletop. The more games you play, the more experience you earn, which you can then spend to level up. Each time a Hero levels, they gain some randomly rolled advances – either stat increases, or special abilities. This ensures that no two play-throughs are ever the same – even if you play the same Hero type twice, they can still develop in very different ways.
Of course, a Hero is measured by the quality of their opponents, and that’s where Adversaries come in. We wanted to give players absolute freedom to use whatever monsters and bad guys they have in their miniatures collection, or to theme their adventure however they see fit. To that end, I’ve written a system that allows players to pick an Adversary Force any way they like, as long as it roughly balances to the power level of the Party. To make matters a bit easier, every model in Blacklist Games' own Fantasy Series 1 and 2 has rules in the book – from the lowliest Kobold to the mightiest Dragon – and as the variety there is pretty huge, we’ve covered off most bases!
When Adversaries activate, they follow a simple sequence depending on their broad type – either Melee or Ranged. But this behaviour can be modified by special abilities or scenario rules, adding an element of unpredictability.
In the game, you set up for an adventure, the Party explores, makes its attacks, searches for treasure, interacts with objectives, etc. Then you check to see if an unexpected event occurs (like a wandering monster, called a ‘Lurker’, appearing in play to join the fun), then the Adversaries take their turn. It sounds simple, but the sheer number of adventures in the book, plus the wealth of random events and Hero advances, means that the game has endless variety and a lot of depth.
One thing we were determined about right from the start of the design process was that this was going to be a self-contained rulebook, with a core system based on rolling normal six-sided dice. Partly, this was to hit that old-school feeling of nostalgia, but really it’s because cards, custom dice and proprietary game aids can be a little prohibitive to some people – we didn’t want to put any barriers in people’s way. You have some minis, a rulebook and some regular dice that you have around the house, and you can play.
The basic Test system is 2D6 + a specified characteristic. Let’s say you want to climb a wall. Roll 2D6 and add your Agility. If the total is 10 or more, you pass. When you get into a combat or spellcasting situation, you also add an extra D6 of a different colour to the roll – this is a Critical die. If you succeed and the Critical die scores a 6, something really good happens. If you fail and the Critical die scores a 1, something bad happens – but the hero becomes so determined to compensate for their failure that they gain a bonus on their next test.
So that’s the basics covered. We haven’t even got onto the important role Fate plays in the fortunes of your Heroes. We'll cover that next time when we take a closer look at character creation! Until then, remember you can sign up to be notified when Lasting Tales launches on Kickstarter on March 30! Also, make sure to sign up for more Lasting Tales updates and previews!