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Friday, 22 September 2017

Latest news on Fabled Lands book 7

The internet is buzzing (quietly) with gossip about the forthcoming Fabled Lands book, The Serpent King's Domain. But why make do with hearsay when you can get it straight from the horse's mouth? So here's the author, Paul Gresty, with another update...


Working on a series like Fabled Lands, a moment occasionally comes along that makes you squeal in fanboy (or fangirl) delight. One of those 'squeal' moments came early on for me, in the planning stages of The Serpent King's Domain, when Dave and Jamie opened up their treasure trove of notes of what they'd originally had in mind for the second half of the series. Being able to freely quiz Dave and Jamie regarding their thoughts on, say, the inhabitants of The Desert of Bones, or the theology of Chrysoprais – that's pretty squeal-inducing too. Working with Dave and Jamie to explore and develop these unknown quarters of their great big sandpit has been enormously fascinating, and a huge amount of fun.

But then there's also the flip side to that. There's the gruntwork that's involved in writing a book. Checking punctuation. Checking that every paragraph number that should be in bold text actually is in bold text. Verifying there are no broken 'turn to X' links in the book – for the second time, because you're afraid that a software gremlin has made a change you didn't intend it to. As fun as this work is overall, these are the tasks that make you want to repeatedly bang your head against the wall just to hold the tedium at bay. And, because that's the stage we're currently at, they've been pretty frequent of late.

The good news: the text of The Serpent King's Domain is finished, done, finalised. So too are Russ Nicholson's interior images, and Dave is now diligently slaving away on the final page layout for the book. We're reserving the right for any last-minute minor changes – alterations to the difficulty numbers of tests; things that won't hugely impact the number or length of lines of text in the book. But for all intents and purposes, yes, we're done. As I write this update, I'm also writing the book's back-cover blurb in another window on my computer. That's the point we're at, now.

The only thing we don't yet have is the final cover for the book. But that's moving along too. Kev Jenkins recently sent us an updated image for the cover, now in full colour. It's not absolutely finished yet – but it looks really, really great. I'm looking forward to the moment when we can finally unveil it.

So what comes next? On the creative side of things, Russ still has to do a few direct commissions for high-level backers; we've been talking with the people concerned about that. But that aside, the creative element is pretty much done. Once Dave has finished the page layout, and once we have the final cover, everything is passed across to Megara Entertainment, whose Kickstarter campaign it was and who will handle printing and shipping. There are a handful of smaller miscellaneous project rewards to deal with as well – the artbook PDF, the high-resolution map file, the cross-promotion with The Good, The Bad and The Undead. Megara will shortly be handling those too.

And that's it. Printing and shipping will surely take a while, but after that, we'll be done. With this seventh book in the Fabled Lands series, at least.

As always, thank you, our supportive backers, for helping and allowing us to reach this point.

- Paul Gresty

52 comments:

  1. Earlier this week on Facebook, someone asked when the second series of Firefly would be out. I told them on the same day as Half-Life 3 came out.

    After someone else jokingly told me I would go to hell for that, I said that I'd been waiting 20 years for the last six books of a twelve book series... and thanks to Kickstarter and you good people, book seven is nearly here!

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    1. Plenty of shows I like have been cancelled, James -- Aquarius, Vinyl, Journeyman, to name but three. And when there were rumours of a sequel to Outcast I began to think seriously of upgrading to a full-on gaming PC. So I know just how you feel.

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  2. So, pretty much the ball's mostly in Megara's court. Hopefully, there won't be any big problems, though I understand that Megara invested pretty heavily in a digital card game whose Kickerstarter is going poorly at the moment:

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/57119387/champions-of-megara-digital-collectible-card-game?ref=profile_created

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    1. I'm not in a position to comment on Megara's business. The only role Jamie and I had in the Kickstarter was as observers to ensure that the writer and artists would be compensated as specified in the campaign description (that famous, or some would say infamous, art meter).

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    2. I just got and completed a supplementary survey from Megara regarding the cross-promotional map with The Good, The Bad and The Undead as well as what name I wanted to be thanked as and what personalition I wanted with any author/artist signature. So, I'd say that whatever other situations are occurring, it's likely that FL 7 is on track for printing/delivery.

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    3. Good to hear. And Ashton Saylor was asking about fonts on Facebook, so it sounds like TGTB&TU is also on track.

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  3. I've been waiting for this day since I played the app years ago. Are you going to kick-start the rest of the books?

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    1. I think we will run a Kickstarter campaign for book 8, at least, since it ties in so closely to The Serpent King's Domain -- which also means that Paul has plenty of notes and ideas for it already. After that... it depends if interest holds up. I'd be pleasantly surprised if Kickstarter could take us through to book 12, but one step at a time, eh?

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    2. There might be a bit of a short-cut to book 9 if you guys wanted to clean up, edit and rework that fan-written edition of it. The thing has 770 sections. It needs illustrations and cover art, of course. I'll say that even with possessing the .PDF I love an official published copy of it.

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    3. We'd have to build in some quests that tie in with books 7 and 8 also, but that's an idea.

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    4. Given that Book 7 is effectively done, you'd probably need to do it by doing much the same thing as the fan author has done - by paying off certain codewords from earlier books. In his Book 9 he pays off Evil and Exultant as I mentioned before. He also pays off Evony. He allows you to get Ink for Book 6. Finally, he even pays off Aklar from back in Book 1.

      I've come to use one of his House rules as well. He caps the adds to Defense from Rank at 12.

      Speaking of Defense, I'd like to revisit the situation of the Jade Defender. I think the +3 Combat part should only add to offensive Combat, not to Defense.

      I say this because we're effectively changing/clarifying the rules for Weapons and Defense for Book 7. Back in Book 6 if you duel with one of those crazy bridge-defending female samurai, you have the option to trade weapons with her. If you do, you get a Cursed Sword Combat -2 that reduces your ability to attack and defend. However, once she gets your weapon, you are instructed to add that Weapon's Combat bonus (if any) to her Combat and Defense stats. Presumably, you would instead only add the Weapon's bonus to her Combat statistic in the wake of the rules "claraification."

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    5. I'll pass that over to Paul, as he's currently in the process of finalising book 7 -- though with the caveat that I've now done the page layout, so no change can be made that would mess with the line length.

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    6. Yup, I'd say that you can disregard any reference to Defence when talking about weapons (except in specific cases like the Jade Defender, which exceptionally add to Defence).

      So, with the woman defending the bridge in FL6, if you trade weapons with her, you would suffer a -2 to COMBAT, and she would receive a bonus to COMBAT depending on the weapon you give her. None of this would apply to Defence.

      ... Except, of course, if you give her the Jade Defender. She'd get a bonus to COMBAT and Defence from that.

      That's how I'd call it, anyway. Of course, if you play the books differently, I'm not going to show up with a troupe of Expungers just to enforce things...

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  4. Couple of questions for you guys.

    1) will I be able to buy book 7 as a PDF at any point?

    2) more randomly, were FL ever translated to other languages? I'm learning Spanish and it'd be amazing to be able to relax (well, die repeatedly) with the game whilst practicing!

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    1. We have no plans for a PDF release at this stage, but we are looking into doing the books as apps.

      FL is currently being translated into Italian ( http://www.caponatameccanica.com/fabled-lands/ ). And we'd be very happy to see a Spanish version too!

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    2. Dave - how do you do the codewords in Italian? Do they have to scratch their head and find a bunch of fairly relevant words that happen to start with the letter A, B, C etc?

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    3. I guess so. You'd have to ask the translators at Edizioni Librarsi: http://www.edizionilibrarsi.it/books. What did the German translators do?

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    4. Thanks for the info Dave. Well if it ever comes up, do use me as anecdotal evidence for fans who would love to pay for a PDF (and specifically can't buy it in paper because they're living in Spain and may already have too much stuff to eventually bring back to the UK in their luggage!).

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  5. Hi Dave, with Christmas on its way, any chance you might be willing to write up a fabled lands mini adventure to escape from hell? (this is via the unfortunate "the Furies Descend" roll from book 3 that send you to book 12 with no other way out!)

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    1. I'm getting very worried about all the mentions of Christmas. Somebody on Facebook was saying she was waiting for her train when a Christmas announcement came over the tannoy. She responded exactly as I would have done, with a bit of expressive Anglo-Saxon.

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    2. For all the talk from certain religious conservatives about the "War on Christmas," no one mentions the War By Christmas. I speak, of course, of the bloody, vicious, relentless campaign waged by Christmas to conquer the whole of the calendar. Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November), Guy Fawkes Day (Remember, remember the 5th of November) and Halloween have already fallen, and the decoration armies are even now within sight of Labor Day (the first Monday in September).

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    3. Yep. My theory is that Thanksgiving and Guy Fawkes used to serve the same function in regard to Christmas as Jupiter does to comets, hoovering them safely away from Earth. But now, as you say, those bastions have fallen and we have nothing to protect us except invective and violence. Time to set up the Antixma movement.

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  6. Do Brits celebrate Thanksgiving Day? I always figure you guys treated as "Thank God Those Religious Fanatic Pilgrims Are Gone" Day. Sort of the way I figure you "celebrate" July 4 as "Good Riddance, You Bloody Colonials" Day.

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    1. Actually thanksgiving days as a concept long predate the US version. Guy Fawkes Night is just one example of a thanksgiving day (see Observance of 5th November Act 1605) though Black Friday is increasingly becoming a UK tradition now as retailers see another chance to make some pre-Christmas money. As for July 4... you should come to London sometime. It can seem as if there are more Yanks celebrating it here than back in the States :-)

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  7. Along with the "Game of Thrones" parody on South Park, one of the best skewerings of Black Friday came on Teen Titans Go! https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=27&v=eG1xgJeu-sM

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  8. Latest news: Paul has proofread and signed off on the interior file for the book. That has now been uploaded to Createspace (both 8x10 and 5x8 inch editions) so we're just waiting for Kev's cover and what is called, for historical reasons, the back cover blurb. Once we have those I could in theory hit "publish" and the book would be on sale the next day. However, we need to wait till the backers have received their hardcover edition from Megara first. As soon as that happens, you'll be able to buy the paperback(s).

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    1. The map and starting characters for Book 7 can be found here:

      http://www.sparkfurnace.com/fabled-lands/fl-extras/

      If you buy the large format version of the paperback you'll get a different set of starting characters based on our top backers.

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  9. Any idea when Kev will finish the cover or how long it usually takes to print the hardcovers? Is November a reasonable shipment estimate?

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  10. Honestly, I'd give it until December or probably January given that we are heading into the dreaded holiday season. If it comes earlier, that'll be a pleasant surprise. It's just going to take as long as it takes.

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  11. John's right. Remember that Megara have to set up the copies for printing, collect shipping preferences from around 500 backers, and then individually send those copies on their way. I would have liked to get the paperbacks onto Amazon in time for Christmas, which we could have done except that it's only right that the backers should get their hardcovers before that happens,

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    1. Speaking as a backer, I'd be cool with the paperbacks coming earlier. I plan to buy one once they come out. The Hardcover will like set on my shelf. The paperback will be the one I'll actively play 'til it falls to pieces. At which point I'll buy it again.

      That said, we've been waiting on this since the Kickstarter concluded in August of 2015. And for close to 20 years prior to that for some people. I can wait a couple-three more months to make sure it's all done properly and correctly.

      Remember a fully successful campaign and deliver helps set up Book 8,9,etc. There's now a realistic chance that we'll see the original Fabled Lands vision taken to completion.

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    2. Yeah... that two-year delay (and counting). The problem is that Kickstarters for print books don't yield much "profit" to spend on the content. Neither Paul (the writer) nor Richard (the editor) was paid more than they'd have got for stacking shelves at the 7-11, in fact Fabled Lands LLP had to pay on top of the takings from the KS campaign to ensure Paul got even that. And Kev reduced his fee massively as a favour. So it has ended up being a labour of love, and thus we can't rush anybody. To get more books out on a more timely basis, we need to find a solution to that. Thinking caps on, everyone...

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    3. I didn't find out about the kickstarter in time to back it, but if I did I would the following 'as a backer...': you should absolutely get the books out before xmas if you can! I don't know how much better that would be financially - probably quite a lot? - but even if only a little, what Fabled Lands fan would prefer you all to get less money for the endeavour of giving us what we wanted? Was there a firm promise that backers get it first? If so and breaking that promise unilaterally feels too much, what about polling backers to confirm the obvious - that they'd be fine not holding you to that promise if it means even a slightly brighter future for FL and for you guys?

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    4. Contacting 500 backers to ask their opinion would take a while. It's not really going to make a lot of difference to sales revenue from the paperbacks either way, because those 500 backers are probably a substantial fraction of the customers who would otherwise buy the books. But I'm sure the paperbacks will be out before too long.

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  12. I already suggested the idea of selling water-marked PDFs alongside the paperbacks. Fabled Lands is basically an RPG universe. Put out the RPG rules and that Sokara book along with the various game-books (including The Keep of the Lich Lord) and put them up as PDFs and Print-on-Demand on Drivethrurpg.com

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    1. Unfortunately the RPG fizzled out before it could get very far. But if Greywood Publishing is still in existence they could do something with it on Kickstarter. (They own the game rights.) The trouble is that revenue from the RPG and Keep of the Lich Lord wouldn't even fund one tenth of a new FL book.

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  13. Yep, it still exists. http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/2377/Greywood-Publishing

    The point of the PDFs to me is that once they're set up and linked to PoD, you don't have to do much of anything else. People will buy them, download them, ect with no further need for you to do stuff.

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  14. I'm really torn with how I feel about the new book given the delays, and even whether I should comment on it. Obviously I'm excited to read the book, but that's diminished over the months of waiting, and judging by some of the KS comments posted since 2015 I think frustration has set in for others too.

    That might just be a communication problem, as updates weren't always regular. And I certainly don't blame Paul personally for the reasons you outline above Dave (labours of love don't necessarily put bread on the table, after all).

    But 2 years for a single book feels too long, and I worry has deflated some of the excitement around the series being revived when the KS launched.

    So being honest, as much as I love FL, love Paul, love Dave (I own most things you've each professionally published), I'd prefer you each committed to things that interest you and remunerate you appropriately for your efforts. Particularly with a sandbox series like FL, I fear 2 years per title will see it peter out before 12 is even in sight.

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    1. The only reason this thing is being done is that it interests them. It's not like they're Daniel Craig holding their noses to go back for another bite at the Bond apple. If they didn't love the idea of continuing this series, it wouldn't have continued.

      That said, the time and effort they spend on it has to be worth it. And for the most part, even with the Kickstarter being as phenomenally successful as it was, it isn't. All of the people involved in this can make more money more reliably by doing almost anything else. So, we get the dregs of their professional time because ultimately that's what we paid to get.

      If you want it faster you have to pay for it. And you'll have to convince enough other people to also pay for it. Maybe at $200-$300 a book, with a minimum of 500-1000 books, FL8 might get done in 9 months to a year. Are you willing to plunk down $300 a book? I'm not either. So, I'm willing to pay what I did to eventually get something instead of complaining about the whole thing and ultimately nothing, because enough complaints will absolutely cause the series to peter out.

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    2. Michael, you're saying exactly what I've been thinking. The reality is that Kickstarter backing would sap away over five more books, especially as each would take a year or two to deliver. And it's not even like there's an unfinished story that people are waiting to see the end of. That there *is* no story is the series USP. Fabled Lands is perfectly playable as it is, each book just opens up a bit more of the world and some more adventures.

      I've said all along that if FL is to continue it can't just rely on the enthusiasm of a few fans. It needs to be a commercial series with high enough sales to justify professional effort in production. These days, that means as apps. If FL were successful in that form, the print books could still be produced alongside, like doing a special vinyl pressing of a new album to reward the aficionados. Inkle and Failbetter have shown that gamebooks can work brilliantly in digital form, but simply porting the book onto a phone isn't enough. So we continue to look for a developer who understands that.

      (Historical trivia: we could have licensed FL to Inkle back around 2011. Unfortunately the app rights were tied up at the time. Who knows whether it would have happened, but if it had then we'd probably have book 12 done by now.)

      I must just add that the lack of updates isn't Paul's fault. Only the owner of a Kickstarter page can issue updates, and in this case that was Megara Entertainment. Backers have only seen the tip of the iceberg of effort that Paul, and Richard Hetley too, have put into the book. And Paul has copious notes for book 8, so we should probably figure out a way to get him writing that one before too long. But we do need something better than Kickstarter, not least because I think Kickstarter's strength lies in funding completely new projects rather than mobilising fans to fund old favourites. If I ever get personally involved in a Kickstarter it'll be for something like that.

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    3. I don’t know how much of a minority I’m in, but I’ve been really pleased with the whole Kickstarter. The amount of care and attention to detail that has been put into the book has only made me more excited to see the results. It doesn’t really matter to me whether the original books were published in 1996 or 1998 – it matters how much I enjoy them, how deeply I can get immersed in them, and how long that experience lasts before they run out.

      It all depends on the final product, of course, but based on what I’ve seen so far I’d probably pledge more for the next one. Admittedly that’s no use if most backers have lost interest along the way. But at least if you’re having doubts I can say that the perception that this has taken too long is not universal.

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    4. Well, your patience will soon be rewarded, Tristan. I sent the PDF of the book interior to Megara yesterday. As soon as Kevin Jenkins lets them have the cover, copies can be printed and winging their way to backers.

      Even if the book had only taken 6 months to get ready (and btw the average production time for the FL books back in the '90s was 9-12 months) I think it would have been unrealistic to expect Kickstarters to fund us up to book 12. But let's not worry about that, as FL players will soon have another 1200 sections of adventure material -- enough to be going on with for a while.

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  15. I feel there have been adequate updates along the way. When you have such talent as Kevin Jenkins, Paul Gresty, Russ Nicholson, and the modern-day book bandits Morris and Thomson at the helm; great things happen.

    Everyone has lives to live, other projects to work on, and so on. I have been "geeking out" the entire time. Fabled Lands: The Serpent King's Domain is actually being released!

    My inner 12 year-old thinks back to when Dave's agent said he would put me in touch with him. Got an email back shortly thereafter. Had some great advice that helped shift gears away from my rough past, and I can't thank these chaps enough.

    I will always support these projects, especially seeing the Fabled Lands series to its completion.

    Cheers to everyone involved!

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    1. Thanks, Mike. In all of this talk of crowdfunding and marketing, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that the creative team (and Paul especially) have produced a real epic feast for FL gamers. If we do go on to do book 8, they're the people we want for it. I wouldn't even swap them for Joss Whedon, JJ Abrams & Vince Gilligan!

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  16. I completely agree regarding apps being the logical solution to audience Dave, and either yourself or Paul would be a gift to any developer looking to produce a narrative-based game. And that's really my point - I'd rather see the fruits of that, knowing you'd also receive what you're worth.

    If Paul would get more out of another (excellent) Metahuman Inc game, then he can pursue that with my blessing.

    As for "complaining", well I was aiming for honesty. :) I've been one of the very few cheering the project along on the KS updates, so I'm certainly not trying to be negative.

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    1. I know that, Michael -- and I'd far rather hear your honest and considered opinion any day. In the same spirit, I ought to add that creating a good narrative-based game isn't just a case of taking a gamebook and putting it in app form. Ideally it should be designed for the medium. So the Winter's Rage app I abortively began work on with Leo Hartas and his coder friend Royston (described a year or two back on this blog) would have been a much more interesting kind of interactive story. Still, spilt milk and all that.

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    2. The link to that post btw - though I'm sure you remember it anyway:

      http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/gamebooks-value-of-doing-it-with.html

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  17. I have a question regarding the fabled lands books. Can ranks be gained infinitely or are they capped at ten? The rules can be read both ways. Thanks, Seth

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    1. I'm going to throw that one over to Paul and Jamie. I don't recall there being a rank cap, but it's been a long time...

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    2. There's no rank cap, even though the books only list titles up to 10th Rank. And 10th Rank isn't so high, in fact - if you're starting in one of the later books (or if you're pounding on bandits or pirates to level up fast), there are enough levelling-up opportunities to go past 10th Rank without too many problems.

      Though it's true that the combat system does break down a little when the player's Defence gets really high, because of Rank effects. I've seen house rules that cap the Defence bonus given by Rank, and that's not a bad idea. Certainly, it's something that we'll need to look at in future books.

      Incidentally, the spirit combats in The Serpent King's Domain are one way of making the playing field a little more level for high-rank players. Rank doesn't give any bonus to Defence, there; the only advantage high-rank players get is that they can go into the fight with higher Stamina.

      Also, incidentally, there's one area in The Serpent King's Domain that specifically checks whether the player is 14th Rank or higher...

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    3. I wonder if we originally intended to cap it at 10th rank (which would stop characters from getting invincible in a fight) but failed to make that explicit? Who knows? Anyway, we'll go with the ruling that there is no rank limit.

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  18. Thank you! I was wondering because I have always played with a cap at tenth rank, and when I started to play the fan made book 9, it had a lot of areas where higher than tenth rank was required. Not too much of a problem because I'm probably at rank 20 something or other. Thank you again, Seth

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