Volume 2 Retrospective

Hello Again! David here. How’s your day going? Well, I hope!

I’ve been getting a lot different types of questions Antilia and the story we wove in Volume 2.  So I decided to do a little retrospective on this story and how we got to that finale.

So, before we go anything further, here’s your warning – MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! Spoilers about the world, the party, the story, and pretty much all the major notes from Volume 2. So continue at your own risk!

Still here? Great. Let’s do this.

I came up w/the idea for Antilia because how could we follow such a heavy metal, over the top, spectacle driven world such as Locnar?  By jerking the steering wheel in the opposite direction and going post apoc. I’ve become a big fan of the genre over the past 10 years (with games like Fallout or Horizon Zero Dawn and books like the Wool trilogy, it’s hard not to).  So I came up with a question to answer – what would a world look like after armageddon that previously was technologically advanced built upon magic?

And from there? We worked backwards. I started with the vibe of the current world I wanted to see them play in (harsh, unforgiving, scarce) then figured out pre-fall Antilia (very cyberpunk-esque with hints of Blade Runner type technology powered by magical sources).  The fall, the fallout from the fall, and the difficulty for a world to survive between the two work themselves out from there, and <insert Desperado’s story/role> – voila! We have a timeline.

I wanted to give Val and Sylo an open sandbox world to play in, so I set them up in Boomtown and let them dictate how the world around them looked from there. To show the ways people were affected by the loss of technology, even generations later, I introduced the Fracts. To show the very few examples of tech that had been resurrected and used to keep the area alive – enter The Silver Comet.  And to contrast the dusty, dying world – travel to the Arcos and meet Greenthumb, an Ent we see die. An species goes extinct to give Sylo the ability to use magic here. Val sacrifices part of her own livelihood and physical being to gain the ability to fight w/Void Guard and not worry about weapon degradation.

From here? Two big things left we wanted included: a red herring (of sorts) midpoint boss who tied together the threat at large we’ve seen just off camera so far, and to expand the party once more.  

So I came up w/the High Sherrif – a tropesy power driven madman who decided to make this world his personal plaything, assembling a powerful crew of 4 captains around him and taking whatever he wanted.  He was a fantastic villain, an immediate to all the countryside with plenty of firsthand recounts of the terror him and his posse exacted as they wished. But more importantly, his downfall would unearth the actual big boss of Volume 2, the Desperado, while simultaneously FINALLY giving the lore and pulling back the curtain to what’s happening at large.  

Sylo and Val are targeted. They must be eradicated. A powerful group, the Hadriatic Order, has extreme magical resources and means, and they’re after the for some unknown reason (and later we learn in side quest they’re tied to the destruction we’ve glimpsed in the Library).  So with the downfall of a bad guy that nearly takes Val and Zil with him, we learn of the at large trouble brewing and see that the Desperado (a local myth) is real and a very real threat.

Fun fact – if you go relisten to Vol2, the Desperado never once attacked the party. In the final battle, the entire time engaged, he is simply trying to escape the four.

But the Desperado was built as the bogeyman in the shadows, every myth is based of some kernel of truth, and learning that things happen in the background that the world may not know of yet have direct implications.  More importantly, he was built as a protector of the world who viewed the party as invaders. And after we learned about his past, we witnessed how invaders killed this world, his wife, and he was forced by the Hadriatic Order themselves to bring destruction against his will.  The last survivor of the elven race and observer of all that history – the Desperado’s story was that of good intentions and working towards protecting something you love. I really enjoyed the resulting conflict that’s come up between Zil and Kolvar because of it, the moral gray area and the fact that it wasn’t unanimous they truly wanted to kill him in the end.  That’s why his real name was given – if you notice for example, when Zil speaks favorably of him as a misguided soul, she calls him Atreide Ylla, but if Sylo or Kolvar refer to him more as a villain, he’s called the Desperado. So there’s a lot of conflict that stems from it, and THAT was my goal – make a villain that isn’t clear cut evil, that leaves you thinking and talking, and that approached his actions as if he truly believed he was the hero.  

Because guess what, it’s 100% in part thanks to him that the party saved the world and restored magic.

It was also interesting because we started Vol2 with only Val and Sylo, but we knew we wanted to expand our table.  So the first half of the vol I planned the story out and we went through it w/only those two, but working in the background to find a new player.  And then we found two! Joe and Elizabeth, two incredibly wonderful human beings who brought their brand new characters – Zil and Kolvar Ironspire to life, immediately gelling with the party and adding a new dynamic that complemented Sylo’s insanity and Val’s literal fighter approach perfectly.  

It was important to me they felt welcomed and took ownership on the world and story, so I retooled some of my plans for the High Sheriff and Desperado showdowns to be specifically tied to each of them.  So we gave Kolvar the spotlight w/the High Sheriff (his origin meeting him on that night, him knowing Dend and its history, even him having the killing shot and poking through the downed astral ship). From there we played more heavily on Zil’s half elven background leading to the Desperado, learning about her father being the one who clued Barnag to this world and her wondering if there was a change Ylla was her father.  And they were fantastic, their approaches to the final few episodes (a cannonball run of nonstop events starting with the party and culminating in the explosion) simply were fantastic on every level.

And this brings me to Val.  Tiffany, Chelsea, and I knew ahead of time that Val would leave the party at the end of the volume (a tightly guarded secret nobody else knew about, even when starting to plan for Vol 3).  The story for her finding Mimi and taking true ownership, wanting to stay before was laid out from the very first episode. Word of her greeted them upon arrival, she had to earn Mimi’s trust (this woman only respectfully whispered about) before they could meet, a businesswoman and then later revealed pike wielder and head of an underground resistance, Chelsea breathed life into Mimi that was truly captivating.  The final game we were all emotional, and Joe and Elizabeth did NOT know ahead of time, so they were genuinely caught off guard. But I’m proud of the love letter we gave Val and her new life with Mimi. And that’s why, slowly but surely, I assembled her a brand new adventuring party in Boomtown (like the Druid Pop, the Magelord, or even the Ranger Dunesurfers) and an adventuring hook I hinted at all the way back in the 3rd episode of volume 2 – her helping to defend against the Ascendancy now that magic has been restored.  So Val has a good life, a good family, and a good story to look forward, no matter how many tears we had that day.

And I leave you with that.  I set out to make a story about a dead world and the resilience of those fighting to make the most of it regardless of how many times they’re knocked down.  Life gets hard, but I wanted to show there’s always hope, and surrounding yourself with good people will always make that hope stronger. Good stories make you feel things, and that doesn’t always mean happy.  I purposefully wanted to release episodes that made you as a listener sad or angry or annoyed or update, the High Sheriff with no regards for anything but his own comfort and power, or the unexpected kidnapping during a very sweet Val and Mimi moment at the party.  Even ending with the bomb explosion and you left wondering what happened. Ever tear and laugh, smile and angry shout….thank you. Because I hope you enjoyed that ride and, most importantly, I hope it made the payoff that much more sweet.

Now guess what?  Time for Volume 3, which is going to be just as nuts.  And on top of that? Volume 3 Side Quest…where I’m back in the GM seat AND we have a new party we’ve not seen yet at all. We’re barreling through a macrostory and I genuinely cannot wait for you to see what’s next…

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