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Designing the Kingless Dwarfs

Coming up with the conceptual ideas behind the Kingless Dwarfs has actually been a very challenging part of this project. Between the 3 of us, we have each had our own idea of how we want each Dwarf to look.

Alex lead the way with the design style and lore behind each of the Dwarfs, this gave us some solid direction when coming up with the names and designs for each of the Dwarfs. Together, we worked from a comprehensive spreadsheet containing a whole suite of information on each Dwarf. We wanted to capture as much information as we could from the very beginning. The more information we had the better. Once the names had been decided, we started working on the features of the dwarfs.

We included things like hair colour, age, positions and poses, items they may be holding. Sometimes we even went so far as to include stains on their clothing to keep with the theatrics.

We reviewed and tweaked these design notes until we hit something we were all happy on. More importantly, a design that worked with the character. This is where we handed the notes over to our Designer, Anastas. Anastas works her magic and a few days later presents us with a first sketch. For me, this is the most exciting part of the process, it’s when we really get to see our ideas come to life.

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This now gives us an opportunity to refine the design further. As with Bron Lawbringer, we wanted to change the way he was positioned. It just didn’t feel right having him standing, after all, he’s too drunk for that!

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Once we are all happy with how the sketch is looking, Anastas will then get to work on colouring and adding the card text to the design. At this stage, we add smaller details to the Dwarfs. Some have rips or stains on their clothing, others have gloves tucked away in their pockets. Every card we build have small nuances that if you look for long enough you will find.

Our design process for each Dwarf takes around 5 days to complete, from sketches to full colour. It’s not a quick process, but I think you’ll agree, they look fantastic!

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Sebastian Roberts
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The Origins of Kingless

Kingless began as all projects do, with an idea.

In August 2018I had this idea for a dwarf-themed game which bore no resemblance to Kingless whatsoever, beyond the presence of cards. After a quick think about how it could work, I suggested it to Sebwho responded with instant enthusiasm. I had heard that we are currently in the golden age of independent tabletop game design, what with the internet to connect people and the wonderful power of crowdfunding to bring ideas to life. We knew we wanted Nathan to join us on the projectas we were already working together and he has played more tabletop games than both of us combined.

After an initial brainstorming session for the mechanics, Seb and I thought we had really nailed it. As you probably guessed, we had notand you will see almost nothing from those initial frantic notes in the game todayNathan put us to rights and spent an evening inventing the bones of the fast and approachable game we have today.

Those initial efforts left us with an excellent framework, but we had only just begun. We knew we needed dwarves, events (spells at the time) and items. All of these factors had to have a name and a function to play off of each other, so as to really bring the game to life. After throwing enough ideas at the wall to see what stuck, we got a list of dwarves we were happy with, complete with a name, an identity and a pivotal role in our game.

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I’ve always found naming characters to be challenging, and it turned out to be even harder to name a game. We decided to create a spreadsheet containing a handful of name concepts. We then independently reviewed and added a number rating to themso we could get a final list together. This ended with a clear result for Kingless, but if you look carefully you can see the central theme and the very first reference to the Hammer & Crown.

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With both the name and the game roughed out, we began the long process of playtesting and improving it. As you can imagine, the first playtest was rough with many improvements being done on the fly, and turns were made in between frantic note-taking. By the third playtest, however, Kingless was finally starting to feel like the game we had imagined and fun was being derived from gameplay and not just us laughing at our own hubris.

After many incremental changes, we arrived at version 0.7 for usthis was a milestone. Kingless was now playing how we envisioned, and it was time to open the game up to friends and family.

Sebastian Roberts
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