Interview with Stephen Chenault, CEO of Troll Lord Games about the Codex Nordica Kickstarter

Wow. I can’t believe I’ve been playing Castles & Crusades for almost a decade now. It’s my favorite retro-clone/old school D&D homage. I’ve reviewed over twenty products for the line since September, 2011 and I have no doubt I’ll be continuing on for some time. 2013 might have been the best year ever for the line though. Not only did they have two highly successful Kickstarter projects but they released a ton of great content. In fact, Codex Celtarum won our “Best Old School Renaissance Release” and To Kill a King won our “Best Adventure (Solo) awards in the 2013 Tabletop Gaming Awards. 2014 also looks to be a great year for Castles & Crusades. Not only have they released an amazing sourcebook entitled The Book of Familiars, but they currently have an active Kickstarter for a book entitled Codex Nordica . To help spread the word about this crowdfunding endeavor and to learn more about Codex Nordica itself, I asked Troll Lord Games if someone would be willing to sit down and answer some of my questions. Stephen Chenault, CEO of Troll Lord Games was more than happy to sit down with me and conduct the following interview.

Diehard GameFAN: Codex Nordica is your fifth Castles & Crusades Kickstarter. Sometimes you also do independent crowdfunding projects on your own site, Troll Lord Games. Other times you use more traditional publishing methods. How do you decide how each book gets printed and what are the benefits to each method?

Stephen Chenault : It really depends on how crowded our schedule gets. We try to go easy on the Kickstarter, but we have a great many titles we want to see released. When things get a little crowded, as they are now with Book of Familiars, Storyteller’s Thesaurus, Codex Nordica and the two Haunted Highland books, we use a combination of just releasing them or putting them up on pre-order and Kickstarter.

We’ve found that KS garners the best response, which in turn allows us to offer more options. For instance, the leather editions of books. These are very popular, but very expensive to manufacture, so we need to make sure we get as broad a pool as possible for them. More than that, Kickstarter brings awareness to the individual product and the C&C game itself. We get far more exposure.

When we crowdfund on our own, that’s basically a pre-order. It does well, but tends to stay in the C&C pool. We’re a pretty close community, all sitting at the same table so to speak, and tend to be aware of what releases are coming. So projects get funded but it doesn’t get too much attention outside the Crusade.

The Traditional publishing methods allow for no options, not that are interesting and cost effective. So when we do this, it’s just a release.

Kickstarter is by far the best, for the exposure for the brand and product, but also the options offered to the gamers.

Diehard GameFAN: Codex Nordica is described in the Kickstarter as the sister book to Codex Celtarum. Besides the pantheons, what sort of differences are there between the two books?

Stephen Chenault : I don’t think of these books as a series, but rather sourcebooks for your game or writing or just general interest. Both books are designed about the same, but Celtarum has a whole lot of new spells, which Nordica has, but not in those numbers.

Diehard GameFAN: For those that haven’t picked up Codex Celtarum (and shame on those who haven’t!) what sorts of things can gamers expect to find between the covers of this sourcebook?

Stephen Chenault : An extremely well worked mythology for the Celts. As Brian Young, author of both books, points out we know very little about the Celts, but what we do know he wove into a wonderful mythology that ports anywhere. Beyond that are vast array of monsters, spells and magic. It’s chalk full of stuff for the game, but for me it’s the mythos that are the most interesting. I’ve just finished writing the Codex of Aihrde and all the mythos behind that world setting (over 110,000 words on the mythology alone) so these things fascinate me.

Diehard GameFAN: Your highest pledge level includes a leatherbound copy of the Codex Nordica, similar to what you did with Return to the Haunted Highlands.Can you go into more detail about what this Kickstarter exclusive version of Codex Nordica will be like?

Stephen Chenault: The one of Celtarum was just beautiful. They are leather books. That one was green, with gold foil titling. The book is smythe sewn here in the United States by Walsworth Publishing. I’m thinking this one will be red.

Diehard GameFAN: Although we cover a lot of C&C products here at Diehard GameFAN, there are a lot of people who read the site (and staffers) who have never played the game. What about Castles & Crusades will appeal to someone who has never played it before, especially those who are new to tabletop gaming or “retro-clone” style games?

Stephen Chenault : No matter where you come from, other games or no games at all, you’ll love the ease of play. In the Player’s Handbook there are about six to eight pages that are necessary to read…really less than that…to get the idea of how the game is run. That makes it so easy. I run a group of 8-12 year olds here in Little Rock, and these kids have no time to read anything or care to, but they dive into C&C like old veterans. Why? Because the basic rule is you can TRY anything your imagination can conjure and your mouth can verbalize ;). And they take that to heart, they try almost everything!

But without a doubt, it’s the ease of play.

Diehard GameFAN: Touching on that last questions, currently Codex Nordica has broken two stretch goals, which means backers who pledge at least $49 will get two free adventures with their purchase. What are some adventures you would recommend to gamers to pick as their choices?

Stephen Chenault : For veteran gamers I would go with some of the more obscure adventures we have like Fingers of the Forsaken Hand and Shadows of the Halfling Hall. For new gamers I always direct them to Lion in the Ropes, Assault on Blacktooth Ridge or Mortality of Green. But for fans of Brian Young, he has Goblins of Mount Shadow that will get you rocking. And if you need a crazy old school dungeon crawl, Dark Journey.

Diehard GameFAN: Since we’re on stretch goals, the next one (at the time of printing) are a set of runes. What stretch goals do you have planned beyond that?

Stephen Chenault: We are thinking hard about including a print copy of Jim Ward’s and Anne Brown’s Storyteller’s Thesaurus.

Diehard GameFAN: You have at least one Kickstarter exclusive adventure planned for this campaign. Can you give us a hint as to what it is about?

Stephen Chenault: Look to the sea!

Diehard GameFAN: Once your campaign has ended, what all do you have to do between collecting pledges and getting the book out the door?

Stephen Chenault: For this one, it’s easy. The book is finished, but for the cover and art. So Peter Bradley will put a wrap on that (scheduled for February 17th). As soon as that’s done, we wait for the added content (assuming we make the 10k goal) and send to press. It takes about four weeks after that. So we are hoping late March, early April to have this in people’s hands.

Diehard GameFAN: What other Castles & Crusades releases do you have planned after
this Kickstarter?

Stephen Chenault: The big one is coming. We are looking at 6th printing of the Player’s Handbook, 2nd printing of the Castle Keeper’s Guide and 4th printing of the Monsters & Treasure. We are looking at a combo of all three books in one giant Kickstarter this April/May.

So there you go. All sorts of information about the Codex Nordica Kickstarter and Castles & Crusades in general. Remember the Codex Nordica Kickstarter is still ongoing with roughly two and a half weeks on the clock. If this interview and my previous reviews of C&C products have intrigued you at all, this might be a great place to jump on the bandwagon. For more information about Castles & Crusades, you can always visit Troll Lord Games’ official website or join their Facebook page. Keep checking back here at Diehard GameFAN for more Castles & Crusades coverage.



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