The Gods are Dead! – An interview with Ragnarok author, Tim Korkelewski

Tim Korkelewski is the author of Ragnarok, the hit fantasy skirmish game that’s the latest hardback release from Osprey Games.  TTGUK roving reporter – and fellow Osprey Games author – Robey Jenkins (Horizon Wars) caught up with Tim to find out more.

Give us a potted wargames biography of Tim, Tim.

I grew up with games and worked REALLY HARD to make it a profession.

I cut my teeth on helping rules development and balance with Malifaux, particularly Malifaux 2.0, Dark Age by CMON, Wrath of Kings by CMON (not to mention a lot of their other games, which is easy when you work there), Warzone Resurrection, lots of various RPG designs, Blood & Plunder, and many others.

Ragnarok is my first solo project, outside of art, payout, and printing.

So, give me the Ragnarok elevator pitch.

OK.  Ragnarok is a skirmish game based in an alternate telling of the Viking Ragnarok.  Instead of the war of the gods vs the Jotuun, Nidhoggr broke free from The World Tree after feeding on the corpses that washed up on the river Nastrond, giving him enough strength to burst forth from the roots and fly into The Abyss.

Ragnarok is lavishly illustrated with evocative images of fantasy viking warriors and their enemies
“Someone get this man a Stratocaster!”

In doing so, the World Tree collapsed on its side, smashing the realms together.  Asgard, being at the top, exploded upon impact, killing every single Aesir.

The survivors of The Shattering are trying to make a go at it in what is left of the worlds.  Those valiant enough are able to tap into the lingering energy of the dead Aesir and use it to become the new Aesir

I’ve seen it described as “Heavy Metal Wargaming”. Were you inspired by Scandinavian heavy metal?

Very much inspired by Scandinavian Heavy Metal.

I wanted to make a game that didn’t just “roll, hit, deal damage, remove model”.

I wanted something that felt awesome when you performed your actions, even if you were on the receiving end of a savage beating.

Can you briefly explain the Morpheus engine that underlies the games mechanics?

Sure.  The Morpheus Engine uses 2d6 for most results with a d8 used in special instances, such as finding the scatter direction of a Blast attack.

The core principle of the Morpheus Engine is a bell curve with 2d6 with some very basic math.

The goal in most cases is to roll 7 or better (the average of 2d6).

You subtract the Opposed Stat Value of your opponent’s model from the Active Stat Value of yours. If the result is zero, then a 7+ will hit.

However, if you are better by one, then a 6+ will hit, and so on.

That also flips.  If your opponent’s Stat is better by one, then you will need an 8+ to hit.

I get it. The other key feature is something called “godspark”. How does this fit in?

Godspark is unique to Ragnarok.  The energies of the Dead Aesir are there for the War Clans (your forces) to harness.  Godspark is used to fuel the Various God Powers that your War Clan members learn along the way.

Following with Norse Myth of being rewarded for “being awesome”, Godspark is generated by rolling higher than your Target Number.

For example, if you need a 7 to hit someone in combat and roll at 10, then you will generate 3 Godspark to add to your pool.

Do you invoke the different gods of the dead Aesir in the game for different effects?

Absolutely.  There are 15 Aesir featured in the Core book, each with two God Powers, giving the players access to 30 God Powers

Ah, like a resource pool. How would you then use it?

When using Godspark, you will pay the base cost of the God Power plus any Boosts you wish to make from your Godspark pool

Boosts are cool ways that you can amplify the various God Powers by giving them more damage, more range, amplifying their area of effect, etc.

Godspark can be used for other abilities coming up in the expansions, but I will keep those secret…for now…

Can you give me an example of a God Power and how it might be boosted?

Sure.  To use an easier one, Odin’s God Power of Wanderlust starts with a base Cost of 8 Godspark with the ability to Teleport in any direction 4 inches, allowing you to leave combat without having to disengage from a fight, cross dangerous chasms, and the like.  For every additional Godspark that you spend on Wanderlust past the base cost, your Teleport increases by one inch.

So, moving away from mechanics and turning instead to miniatures, what sort of number of miniatures would you need for a typical game?

For your starting War Clan, you will need a Jarl and 6-11 additional human viking miniatures.  Your War Clans start as human, but as you defeat Encounter Models, the monsters you fight can be hired into your War Clan, to a maximum of 20 models

A lot of people ask if they can make a Dwarf or Elf War Clan right from the start.  The answer is no.

The reason being is because Dwarves and Elves are mystical beings.  They are not a mundane, Tolkein-esque race of folk that you just simply encounter on your travels.

28mm historical viking miniatures as well as the more fantastical type of viking.
Ragnarok accommodates viking miniatures of all stripes, strictly historical or more fantastical

But can you recruit them into your War Clan as the game goes along?

Absolutely! In doing so, you also unlock their special equipment for the rest of your War Clan.

So other than elves and dwarves, what other monsters might your Clan encounter?

There are 67 unique Encounter Model types within the Core Book.

As mentioned, there are Dwarves, Elves, Giants, Hags, Demons, Trolls, Wolves, Bears, and many other mundane and fantastic creatures

These are like random encounters that interfere with a battle between Clans?

Yes, however, you and the other players get to determine what creatures can potentially be encountered.

There are six Encounter Model slots that may be filled for each game.  If there are two players, each player will fill three of those slots.  Their choices may repeat themselves.  So, for example, you REALLY wanted to encounter a Dire Wolf, your three choices for the Encounter Chart would be 1: Dire Wolf, 2: Dire Wolf, 3: Dire Wolf

As dictated by your Miniatures collection, I assume?

Correct.

And, back to miniatures, are there particular ranges you recommend for the game?

It is “miniatures agnostic” so you may use what you like, however, I have had a lot of sponsors for the game that I cannot thank enough.

Feel free to give us some name checks!

Bronze Age Miniatures, Reaper, Footsore Miniatures, Bad Squiddo, Bombshell Miniatures, Victrix, and Red Box Games just to name a few

Some great names, there. I particularly love Red Box’s Viking warriors for their dynamic character.

I always tell people to lean toward the “Rule of Cool” for the game.

You’ve already mentioned the possibility of expansions. Osprey don’t have a great track record of supporting their games, long term. Are you looking to self-publish?

Down the road, yes. I already have some projects in the works that will be self-published or are being grabbed up by other publishers.

Through Osprey, I will have 3 total books for Ragnarok: the core rulebook, Book Two: The Vanir, and Book Three: The Abyss.

Can you give us a hint about what will appear in Books Two and Three?

Sure!  Books Two and Three will feature more God Powers, more Scenarios, more Secondary Objectives, more Encounter Model types, more Magical and Legendary items, and more options.

Specifically, Book Two will finally give the options for Mounted Combat and Sailing.  Both books will also feature a new threat: Avatars.

And do they have a release date scheduled?

Ragnarok Book Two: The Vanir is set to release December/January.  Book Three will follow 4-6 months after that.

Ragnarok Book 2: The Vanir will include new scenarios, options and opponents for your warband.
Preliminary cover design

What’s this I hear about something called Skull & Brimstone?

It’s a fantasy pirate game I’m still working on that Osprey will also be publishing.

You will form your crew and set sail to become the master of the Dread Seas.

I have been describing it as a combination of Pirates of the Caribbean, Moana, and Pirates of Dark Water.  The race is open, so you can have Orc crews if you wanted or Goblin, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, etc.

Is there a release date, yet?

Not yet.  Finishing that one by October.  Then I start work on the two expansions for it as well.

Is it also based on the Morpheus Engine?

Yes, it also uses the Morpheus Engine.

And going back to Scandinavian heavy metal, are there any bands you recommend for musical accompaniment to Ragnarok?

Amon Amarth already have a copy of the game and love it, so they are an easy choice.  Others are Tyr, Kampfar, Manowar, and Enslaved are a good start to get your blood pumping.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about trying to break into game design?

Write EVERYTHING down, good or bad.  Then test everything.  Be open to constructive criticism on your work.

I have had a lot of ideas that sounded great on paper until they were implemented in the game.  Playtesting and getting feedback is key to ANY kind of a game’s development.

Too right! Last of all, then, I know you’re also a martial arts enthusiast, so…

Haha!  I was wondering if that topic would come up.

Reverse roundhouse to the head, elbow to the throat or knee to the groin?

Elbow to the throat is the most effective.  Most people have a tendency to think a groin strike will immediately incapacitate someone.  That is incorrect.  With adrenaline going and a typical pain response time, that will leave an attacker a full 5-10 seconds to assault you until the pain of a groin strike kicks in and even then they may not stop fighting.

Thanks, Tim!

And as a crashing power chord echoes out across the desolate wastes of a shattered Midgard, I look up, but Tim has gone. In the distance I hear the raucous shout of a lone crow...

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