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An Interview with Nord Games

This summer we caught up with the folks at Nord Games during Origins Game Fair. We've reviewed some of their great products, and wanted to see what else they have coming down the line. We're looking forward to seeing them at Gamehole con in Madison, WI this coming weekend. If you're attending, be sure to drop by the Nord Games booth and say hello.

Geeks A Gogo: So, a few months back, we reviewed your book, Ultimate NPC Skullduggery. We really loved how it helps DMs run their game. What are some similar products that you have?

Nord Games: So the Ultimate MPC skullduggery was the first in our NPC books for our game Masters tool box set and what's nice about those is you get 30 fully fleshed out and PCs and 30 generic NPCs in the back that you could implement in your games. It was really successful, and so we also created our ultimate NPCs warfare book, which is very similar but now has NPCs tailored to wartime settings. So you'll find people that would be in war tents or on the battlefield that you could implement into your games. And what I really like about those is that you have the backstory for those NPCs as well. So if you want NPCs that have history together or who have past connections, you can implement not just the characters but their origins in their connections as well to make things more interesting. We have two NPC books so far, but we also have the Ultimate Bestiary. So if you like those NPCs you might also like the origins and history and variations we have on beasts as well. So that beast book is available and we recently kickstarted the new Ultimate Dreaded Accursed, which is all undead beings, which will be out next year. So we're very, very excited about that. And we've got little sneak previews of that on social media as well. So you get to see the art as it comes in and hear the all the stories about what goes into making the book.

Geeks A Gogo: Nord Games offers a lot of different card decks for use during game play. What does this bring to the game?

Nord Games: It really brings a nice variation and a lot of role play opportunity for your players, both for beginning dungeon masters and experienced dungeon masters. For example, with our treasure decks you can roll on a table, as in the back of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and you might get a plus one sword, and that's great. Most dungeon masters can can make a description of it on the fly. However, our cards give you a full description. So, for instance, you may find a scroll that is bound with leather and burnt on the edges and in parentheses, you'll see this is a level three Wizard scroll, which you can then implement as a spell of fireball or a different level spell if you want. We have other decks also that bring great variety, such as our wandering monsters that are tailored to environments, for example underground deck and dungeon decks. If you're in a dungeon and you need some monsters you can pick the CR that's appropriate for your party or once again, roll a random encounter where a level one party may come across a level six encounter. Do you run? Do you stay? Do you fight? That's a great choice for players to make because you don't get that a lot since most adventures are tailored to a given CR for their level. I really like personally, the variety that the cards give you for different encounter levels because it really makes your players think more than just, “Oh, I know we're gonna be able to probably beat this. It's within our challenge rating.”

And what I also love about the decks is that they're tactile and I love that DND is theater of the mine and you're inventing things. But what I also love is to see players get excited to see a stack of treasure on the table, and they're looking at it and going, “Oh, I want to see what's inside!”, and it makes them want adventure in the dungeon and try a little more to get a card. But they can hold, which is a physical representation of what they're getting and anything physical you can give your players without putting more stress on you. As a GM, I think it's such a valuable resource to include.

Geeks A Gogo: Okay, so you guys offer a series of adventure books. What do you do to make it easy for DMs to incorporate these into their campaign?

Nord Games: One of the main things that I love about our adventures is that this story is inclusive, and is not tailored for one specific setting in D&D. So you can pop any of our adventures into a campaign that you've made, or you can pop it into one of the actual D&D adventure books. So if you're playing Salt Marsh, if you're going into Waterdeep, you can use our adventures in those campaigns, and it fits in at any level, so you can incorporate those things with your party and watch them adventure through a side quest that you didn't have to put together entirely. And it adds so many creative elements, like one of our adventures is Artifices of Quartztoil Tower, and that one incorporates some amazing Automatons that are powered by a mysterious force that just end up charging into town. And it creates a lot of intrigue and mystery, and there's investigation and there's exploration, and it adds so many fun elements that you was a DM get to build off. And so what we like about making it more accessible for people is that we provide a baseline story with things that you can latch on to whatever you like. You can run with it.

So it's nice to have those options available and not just role-playing wise. On the complete flip side of that, we tailor it mechanically to any level. We call these lines of VDAs, which are variable difficulty adventures. When you use our book when you're in the middle of a check, for example, a wisdom save. It will give you a 12/14/16—a low tier, middle tier, high tier with varying effects. All the work's done for you if you come across a creature in the back. There's are appendices that have the monster's stats at different levels. We make it easy for new players who have never done this and can run it right out of the book to veteran players who just do not have the time to prep a game. They, you know, stat something up for their level, and it makes a great drop-in adventure in the middle of your own campaign.

Geeks A Gogo: So, do you guys have any plans to publish anything for game systems outside of D&D?

Nord Games: Well, our company focuses mainly on D&D 5th edition as 3rd party publisher. What people may not know about us is our actual first content was a game called Steampunk Time Machine. It is a very great card game that you play as scientists trying to collect many different parts and the first one to get all the parts wins. And you can steal part from other players. And we actually will be doing a second run of that soon in a memory of the artist, who unfortunately had health complications and passed away a few years ago, whom it will be in honor of. We are also planning to expand our lines not just from RPG and tabletop, but to the card and board game industry. We have other plans for card games, one of them I can't talk about currently, but one is called Descent into Madness. It is actually a Cthulhu-themed card game. The cards are Tarot size, and the art is absolutely magnificent on them. It's gorgeous. I got to see the prototype last month.

Nord Games: The next one is a game called a Total Party Kill, where you play as a DM who is very interested in taking a party with a lot of cool stuff. One of the ideas we were throwing around was, the party is at an inn and there is a croissant of choking that gets lodged in a player’s throat on a failed save. And there's a lot of fun stuff going around and then from there. We're actually also looking into possible expansions in terrain, and miniatures were looking to go every which way. So yeah, definitely out looking outside of just RPGs.

Geeks A Gogo: So, tell us about your most recent kickstarter.

Nord Games: So our most recent Kickstarter was the second book in our Ultimate Bestiary line. And it is called Ultimate Bestiary: the Dreaded Acursed. And so that book focuses on all sorts of new creatures that are undead and acursed, just like litches, ghosts, and shadows and all sorts of spooky things that you might want to include in your campaign. And what I really like about those is that our writer or main writer is Rob Stickley, who lives in London. And he has done so much research to try and make sure that these accursed in undead beings are not just the stereotypical ones. You find in D&D, but they also address other cultures. So you might see a Mezo-American style zombie, or you might see things influenced by cultures outside of the normal mythos that's associated with those beings. And so there's a lot of research into their origins, their history, their connections with each other, how to implement them into a campaign. And then we also have undead player options, so that way people can create creatures for their campaign that you can play us, and especially if you're playing a campaign that's like a one-off. It's so much fun to pick up one of those undead characters and just run it for fun. So we're really excited about it. We've got it coming out next year. We've got art like little sneak peeks behind the scenes. We've got some writing. We are so excited about how it's coming out just personally, as a fan of Nord games and also an employee. I can't wait to use it in my campaign.

And if you're really interested in checking us out and you like the Kickstarter and even though it's been fully funded, you can contact us and make we can add you to the Kickstarter so you could be a preorder backer, and you can get the book with the backers as well before it comes out in stores.

Geeks A Gogo: So what are some other ways that you make life easier for DMs who don't have time to prepare a game?

Nord Games: Well, what's great about our product is not only does it enhance the game, but it really cuts down the preparation time, such as we talked about. Our treasure is literally a card in front of you. You can give treasure and it's very descriptive. The monsters can be made CR-appropriate to the party. The critical fail decks add a lot of fun to the game, but what a lot of people don't think about, and this comes from a board game side of things, we have a dungeon tile set that's blank on one side and has rooms and corridors on the other. What I like to do is a GM, if I don't time to prep, is take our tile sets and put them blank side up, and flip them to create a dungeon as I go. I can then fill them with our monster decks, provide you a treasure when you defeat them or in rooms, use the critical hit decks for more flair and flavor. Use our NPC books to populate with possibly another set of party that's there to acquire something. Our Skullduggery book has NPCs connected to guilds. Maybe that guild sent that party and to acquire something. Our next deck line, which is Objects of Intrigue, will be flip a card, and it provides an item or object in that room, such as a mountain of skulls. And they will have either provide an item on some sort of stat bonus or a plot hook for the DM. If it's a neutral card and then you can create more, you go on add on. You need very little imagination to help it grow, but you could use it to just run with it, and you just keep going and going. You can use our monster books to populate with monsters, and it literally it's like taking a game out of a box and just rolling with it, without all the prep work. It comes really from two different angles and helps the GM to just run their own games, but also helps new players, or people don't have time to literally play Dungeons Dragons as a box set, just like their basic box set.

Geeks A Gogo: Awesome. Thank you.

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