17
Nov

Creator Spotlight | An Interview with The Furtive Goblin and The Lawful Neutral (Bridgetown)

Bridgetown

In the realm of tabletop roleplaying games, few settings capture the unique blend of pastoral charm and liminal unease as effectively as Bridgetown from Technical Grimoire. This never-ending, ever-crumbling bridge straddling the boundaries between realms has become a popular destination for adventurers seeking a taste of the extraordinary.

Behind the imaginative tapestry of Bridgetown lies a team of creative minds who have poured their passion and expertise into crafting this enchanting world. We had the privilege of interviewing the Lead Writers of Bridgetown – The Furtive Goblin and The Lawful Neutral (John Gregory) – to delve into their inspirations, design philosophies, and hopes for the future of Bridgetown.

In this interview, we’ll explore the genesis of Bridgetown, the unique challenges of designing a setting that defies conventional boundaries, and the team’s vision for the game’s future. Prepare to embark on a journey through the ever-shifting landscapes of Bridgetown, where the ordinary meets the extraordinary, and the boundaries between worlds are as fluid as the river that flows beneath the ever-present bridge.

What makes Bridgetown different from other TTRPGs?

Bridgetown is a campaign setting for Troika! which seeks to exchange its default gonzo science-fantasy flavor for something different. It’s a game set in an impossible location–a never-ending Bridge–that is caught somewhere in between rustic folklore, Boschian fever dream, and dystopian punk, with a little sprinkle of hobo culture for good measure.

The Furtive Goblin

Bridgetown is a setting and resource book that goes along with the very inspiring Troika! system, which itself was inspired by old school Fighting Fantasy. Troika! overall has done an amazing job at inspiring weird and psychedelic settings that range from science-fantasy to cottagecore to genres I’ve not even got a name for. Bridgetown itself is what we’re calling a Liminal Pastoral setting–somewhere between wandering across Ghibli landscapes, living on Old London Bridge, and being stuck in The Backrooms. It is a weird world caught between infinities on every side, yet it is homey.

The Lawful Neutral

What are some of the challenges you faced while designing Bridgetown?

We (TLN and I) had a lot of ideas to start off. We spent almost an entire week just doing an idea jam while looking up images of old medieval bridges. Way too many ideas to fit into a single product and still get away with calling it a zine. We had to hone our focus to be more narrow and bridge-like. Fortunately, our team was way better at making us do that than we were at first.

The Furtive Goblin

Really, once Furtive Goblin and I got onto the Bridgetown writing train, the main challenge was knowing when to stop. We came to David/Technical Grimoire with pages and pages of ideas for what was originally going to be a little twenty page zine. With the help of David giving us reasonable restrictions and Hannah, our editor, taming our writing, we were able to go from a complete mess of materials to an actual functional Bridge(town.) That all said, another part that we considered a design challenge was “How do we make a setting interesting that is literally only 50 people wide East/West and infinite North/South?” We thought that it could feel constricting or railroad-y, but our playtesters really felt like the space restrictions actually made for interesting challenges and gave them a good impetus for continuing to journey onward.

The Lawful Neutral

How did you playtest Bridgetown?

TLN and I took a hands-off approach to playtesting, and let David run several games with playtesters that he organized. This ensured there was little to no influence from us as the writers on how the players interpreted the text. It also led David to make some really fun and interesting calls as a referee that helped shape how the rest of Bridgetown was written, alongside all the player feedback we received.

The Furtive Goblin

Our playtesting was done by a combination of several very fun sessions run by David as well as a pair of live plays on Twitch! Instead of personally running or playing in it ourselves, Furtive Goblin and I listened in on the sessions and paid attention to what did and didn’t work, what folks were excited about, and where we could tweak parts to be more clear. One of the major changes to come out of it was the original fundamental premise. We had planned for folks to be playing a character that is ultimately looking for a place to settle down and make their Home, allowing the character to retire and someone new from the location to adventure from there. However our playtesters had so much fun with their initial characters that they simply wished to keep on journeying! 

The Lawful Neutral

What are some of your favorite features of Bridgetown?

The “Weather” table including flocks of awful birds dropping feces like a hailstorm is definitely a crowning achievement of Bridgetown, and gaming in general. In seriousness though, I love that we managed to build a sort of natural ecology into the Bridge, with all the critters and weirdos that entails. The book has some of my favorite backgrounds in all of Troika! Ghost hivemind golems (Stone Keenings) and Brummie-accented sewer trolls are pretty high up there.

The Furtive Goblin

The certainly colorful locations and NPCs, many of whom are inspired by our own personal game experiences. Each span and district of the Bridge has its own unique flavor which we hope is inspiring to anyone who decides to walk it. You could take pretty much any setting or genre, mix it with a little weird, and set it down onto the Bridge. And if you ever get tired of it, all you have to do is jump off the side and see what strange new world you land in!

The Lawful Neutral

What are your hopes for the future of Bridgetown?

I can realistically see us working on Bridgetown for a few more years, whether it’s in the form of adventures or fun new ideas for backgrounds and locations. One early idea we put on hold was designing a Bridge generator that you can use to create randomized districts filled with events, landmarks, etc. on the fly. We went with individually crafted locations instead, and I think that was vital to nailing the themes and atmosphere of Bridgetown. But I still think that generator would be the perfect capstone for the IP, as a way of giving it over to the players once we’ve said our piece. As endless as the Bridge is, I don’t think we’ll be churning out endless amounts of content. It needs to be allowed to breathe.

The Furtive Goblin

Furtive Goblin and I are still writing more and more for it and we think it would be great fun to have expansion zines come out for it over time. I’d personally love to hear from folks about any sessions they run and how they put their own unique spins on it. One of the ideas we were not able to fit fully into the book but we encourage people to consider– each of the infinitely tall Piles/Pillars that the Bridge sits on could be hollowed out to throw any dungeon you might want in there. We might get out something in the near future giving some fun examples for this.

The Lawful Neutral

Can you talk about the pastoral and liminal aspects of Bridgetown?

“Pastoral” as a concept is a huge beast that encompasses thousands of years of literature, poetry, and music, but for Bridgetown we used it in the sense of the idealization of the rustic and the rural; the shepherd wandering with their flock. It kind of takes a sarcastic or ironic bent here, because the Bridge is anything but cozy and rural. It is literally liminal, in that a bridge is a thing meant to connect two locations that don’t exist in this scenario. But it’s also liminal in the sense of a lack of belonging. It’s a game of punks and wanderers looking for something that their tiny sliver of infinity didn’t provide them.

The Furtive Goblin

Take the story of the Billy Goats Gruff. On one side there are the barren hills from which our three Goats come from and on the other are the heavenly Fat Pastures that they wish to reach. In between there is a bridge and a troll. This is an idealized pastoral landscape that the Billy Goats live in, but the story takes place on a bridge–a liminal place that is neither here nor there, it is the place in between here and there. In Bridgetown, the Bridge is all there is. The Bridge and the promise of the Fat Pastures. It is where the hope of a rural but uncomplicate life is shadowed by this strange, unforgiving landscape where people of all walks survive the best they can. There is probably some sort of allegory for Purgatory in there if someone wanted to run with that.

The Lawful Neutral

How does the provisions-based economy work in Bridgetown?

Food-as-money is one of many ways business can be conducted on the Bridge. Commerce inside a neighborhood is as simple as hashing out agreements and giving gifts between people you’ve known your whole life, but anywhere else on the Bridge you’re a stranger whose word is only as good as the goods and skills you possess. And no matter where you go, everybody needs to eat (except maybe Stone Keenings). So provisions are an obvious and practical medium for trade, with the added bonus of not having to deal with turnpike guilds.

The Furtive Goblin

When your world has a 50-man wide boundary, you have to make due as much as possible with the space and resources you have for there is scarcity everywhere. The Tower Aristocrats and the Turnpike Guild try to impose local currencies–but these are more or less like the script that mining companies imposed, useless outside of their immediately controlled areas. And so the name of inter-district trade is all about bartering. Iron from the Cable Mines traded for produce from The Squeeze, artifacts pulled up from The Great Excavation traded for clean water sourced from the Wyld Bridge. Among the motley folks who call the Bridge home, needs often outweigh wants so a loaf of good gitless bread can get you a long way.

The Lawful Neutral

What are some examples of Keystone Spells and Troll-Croak magic?

The magic wielded by Stonewrights–basically stonemason wizards–pulls latent energy out of the Bridge and the stone that constitutes it. Thus they require magical keystones to power their spells. Do this too recklessly, and the Bridge begins to erode and fall apart around you. A perfect example of this is Stone to Soil, which turns rock into dirt- ideally for gardening, but nefarious uses exist too. Troll magic comes from the gut, so to speak. Their spells cost Stamina like in classic Troika!, and reflect the ancient shamanic traditions of the sewer trolls. An example is Inoculate, which renders someone immune to a single disease- handy to have when you spend so much time in sewer water.

The Furtive Goblin

So the biggest differences between the two types of magic here is who uses it. Stonewrights are, by and large, humans who use the energy of the Bridge itself to cast their magics–they bend and manipulate the natural forces of the bridge to their whims. This is why some are Bolsterers, who work to maintain a balance and preserve the Bridge, and some are Eroders, who siphon magic from the Bridge without thought of consequence. When a human dies, their soul is often interred into Keystones to preserve the magical energy of the Bridge itself. A very basic Stonewright spell is Word on the Street, where they essentially commune with the Bridge itself for the local gossip. Trolls, on the other hand, are connected body and soul to the Bridge without the need of Keystones–when they pass away they turn back to the stone from which they were born. Thus, their magic comes from within, allowing their croaking songs channel the Bridge through them directly. A very direct example is Yaulp, which takes the echoing nature of the Bridge’s sewers and amplifies it into a concussive shout that can be heard a mile away. 

The Lawful Neutral

What are some of the weirdest birds and weather events in Bridgetown?

Scrapper Herons are four-eyed nightmares with serrated beaks that can rip through metal. You don’t want to be well-armed when one of those starts building a nest. You can’t get much weirder than Under-Things on the Bridge. The Under is a soup of cloudy, rarified reality that the Bridge sits on top of, and once in a while it belches forth Things made out of roiling matter and concept. They’re childlike and curious about the Bridge, which is bad news when their mere presence can kill you or drive you batty. My favorite is the Slavering Under-Thing that understands through taste, and leaves a lot of scandalized Bridgers in its wake.

The Furtive Goblin

My favorite bird is Bosch’s Echo-Babbler, a massive bird hiding in its thick shell and using it to crush unwary targets then slurp them up with an elephantine hummingbird tongue–but that’s the beauty of the Awful Birds. Look at some Bosch or some Zdzisław Beksiński then combine it with a bird and you’ve got yourself an Awful Bird for any scenario. The Weather on the Bridge is more like “Whether” whether we’re going to have rain or a few hundred mouse-sized Coblins paragliding down to stab and steal. While the table of Spells run amok is really absolutely fun, my personal favorite Weather is this: “Scent of Home: A wind blows, carrying with it a smell somehow both unfamiliar and nostalgic, a sweet promise of new beginnings and old dreams fulfilled. A wind like this blew the day you left home.”

The Lawful Neutral

Can you tell us more about the Stone Soup Campaign?

Despite being an introductory quest, Stone Soup was one of the last things we added during development. It’s more TLN’s baby than mine, which makes sense since he’s already worked on at least one other food RPG, Gourmet Street. Stone Soup is essentially a road trip where your map is a list of esoteric recipes and abstract ingredients for the bizarre stuff you can cook up using this totally-not-horribly-cursed cauldron with a magical keystone embedded in it.

The Furtive Goblin

Stone soup arose out of a need to tie everything together and give folks a sort of impetus for travel if they didn’t already have one. There is nothing like giving folks a powerful, strange, non-completely-understood magical item from day one and telling them to run with it. It also encourages folks to look around at everything they encounter in Bridgetown, consider what might be an ingredient, what might hold deeper metaphysical meaning/power. A major inspiration for what counted as ingredients in Stone Soup came from Gleipnir, the rope that binds Fenrir. The Breath of Fish, the sound of a Cat’s footfall, the roots of mountains etc.So those mushrooms that the Troll Sewer Working is carrying is an ingredient, but so too could be the secret name of the Undercrone or the passed along memory of the taste of the Candy-Cobbled Streets.

The Lawful Neutral

What do you think makes Bridgetown a good TTRPG for one-shots?

The Bridge is divided up into locations and gatehouses that each offer a unique feel and plenty of fuel for referees. You could blow through a whole town or a dungeon in a single session this way, if you want them to be bit-sized. You can also build the Bridge “tall” and put way more emphasis on a single place for multiple sessions. Or you could get so absorbed in a single event or NPC that that spirals out into an unexpected emergent story that then dominates the entire session, as our playtesters managed to do a few times!

The Furtive Goblin

Bridgetown is not only great for one shots because our awesome publisher literally made a free One Shot generating resource on his website, but the very distinctive flavor of each district makes it very easy to move from set piece to set piece without significant travel times or lead up normally involved in a large campaign. In the playtests we were generally able to get through three to four districts in a single session–but at the same time there is enough happening in each district that one could spend multiple sessions in a single one if the referee and the players feel so inclined.

The Lawful Neutral

What advice would you give to someone who is new to Bridgetown?

Embrace that feeling of being a drifter who rolls into town and shakes everything up a little. Give yourself over to whimsy, and see where your feet wind up taking you. It’s an endless world out there, and one place is just as good as the next.

The Furtive Goblin

Have fun with it and go with the flow. Bridgetown isn’t necessarily about a specific victory condition, it isn’t necessarily about defeating monsters or gaining treasure. Bridgetown is about enjoying the journey and living the world, it is about trolls who want fair working conditions and nomadic goatfolk for whom life is an eternal pilgrimage. It is about tiny boschian goblin-things who alternately want to stab big folks and live comfortably inside their walls. It is about being a ten foot tall rock monster who wants, more than anything else, to find a place to truly rest. In short, it is the same advice I’d give to any player–play the world.

The Lawful Neutral

What’s the most creative thing you’ve seen a player or GM do with Bridgetown?

Early on in the playtest, our Stone Keening character effectively no-selled a potentially very hairy encounter by absorbing an angry, out-of-control magical experiment into itself, giving the spirits the experiment was made out of a chance to cool down in a safe space. It also had the side benefit of righteously pissing off the mad doctor who was behind it.

The Furtive Goblin

In one of my favorite playtests a group of Coblins and a Stone Keening worked together to bind, rejuvenate and give a sort of metaphysical birth to long lost souls using their combined connections with the Bridge and interactions with a particular strange stone you’ll find in Craterton. But that is only one of a dozen such stories I could tell about how we’ve seen players take our basic prompts and turn them into so so much more.

The Lawful Neutral

What might fans look forward to in the future from you?

More Bridgetown! It might take a while to get a sequel/extension book squared away, but the team plans to have another Bridgetown book out sometime next year. We left way too many neat ideas on the cutting room floor not to. As for me personally, I am mostly focusing on my blog and the occasional book contribution or playtest.

The Furtive Goblin

I am right now between books so I’m largely self producing mini generator zines for folks to have fun with. Magical Miscreants, a Witch/Wizard generator, and Gobs Galore, a goblin generator, are my latest ones on Itch. However, Furtive Goblin and I hope to produce more Bridgetown content with Technical Grimore in 2024 as well as getting our greedy writing fingers into some more projects. Keep an eye out!

The Lawful Neutral

You can find more about Technical Grimoire on their website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Discord. The Furtive Goblin and The Lawful Neutral can both be found on Twitter.

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
Petrified Articles
Categories
© Copyright 2010-2023 Words In The Dark. All rights reserved. Created by Dream-Theme — premium wordpress themes. Proudly powered by WordPress.