Pinned Interview with the Background Team Head and Deputy Head

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  • Interview with the Background Team Head and Deputy Head

    Dear community,

    today we're happy to take a look behind the scenes of the Background team, through an interview with @Scottish Knight and @thedarkfourth.

    The topic will be a closed one, but you can eventually comment here.


    "Background-driven rules design" is the policy T9A established at the outset. Can you explain what it means to you?

    “Background-driven” is an important principle for the project. It means that we start from our own foundations, and so the work of the Background Team is to prepare those foundations. It’s a tricky balancing act at times - we need to find the best compromise between the expectations of the community, past themes associated with factions and also introducing enough new content to form part of the new setting.

    So, our role is to initially create the frameworks for each faction. Their core identity - for which we draw upon real world cultural inspiration, fantasy principles, concepts and tropes, and then our own creativity to add the spark.

    From there, we work with the rules and design teams during each faction’s army book creation to ensure that the book as designed reflects the culture, while still being engaging on the table. This can mean adjusting elements of the design, or elements of the background, all while staying true to the faction’s core identity.

    Finally, we take the information which we have created and adjusted, and communicate it to the community. Through publications and the 9th Scroll, we aim to build up faction-focused content, and interactions between the factions, to construct the full complexity of a world spanning fantasy setting.

    How does the BGT work internally?

    Within the BGT we have a variety of roles, divided up among our members.

    The largest role is that of faction lead - either one or two of our writers takes up a lead role for the factions which are being redesigned. They serve as a link between the BGT and the relevant Task Team, providing input and feeding back suggestions to the BGT, along with any issues to be readdressed.

    Alongside that, we also have a number of smaller projects at any one time, developing individual parts of the background across the whole setting. That could include maps and timelines, or it could relate to elements of culture and religion. These take time to develop, but they allow us to add depth to a faction when it is portrayed.

    Finally, but very importantly, we have the job of writing. Whenever a new publication is due, a lead writer will be responsible for some of the work. However, we all pitch in to provide support, and to supply a variety of writing styles, concepts and items for inclusion. By this process, we aim to showcase the breadth of the setting and the room for storytelling within it.

    The writing process involves multiple stages of review, both for the consistency of the background and for writing quality. We have created internal guidelines for this process and for the written material: they include making sure that all material is both informative and compelling, that we try to be concise and use narrative to be engaging. Because we want to ensure a high standard of written materials, it does mean that we usually can’t rush out background work whenever we like. We also try to ensure our publications are supported by art and layout teams, which can add additional time requirements.

    How does the worldbuilding process work? Can you address the main principles and aims behind it?

    There are a few principles we try and bear in mind while developing the details of the T9A setting:

    • Coherency - We should not be driven by simple “rule of cool” - we need to consider how a change or a concept impacts on the other elements of our setting before deciding to include it. We also consider underlying principles of the world - particularly high-level concepts like magic and gods.
    • Room for players - We don’t want to define every part of the world, or every part of each nation within it. We aim not to provide excessive detail where it’s not necessary, preferring to leave scope for players to create their own stories within the world.
    • Balance - that doesn’t mean each faction must be equal, or that they all need to do the same thing. But T9A is built on 16 core factions, and we want to make each of them feel vibrant and filled with potential. So we avoid tropes which rely on dying empires or unstoppable superpowers - even if there may be a history of deterioration, each faction has the potential for growth and future success.

    What are the skills needed for joining the BG team?

    A heart of gold, infinite time and patience of a saint! But seriously…

    • Communication - our primary job is to communicate, so it is essential to have a good standard of English communication.
    • Writing quality - particularly for any published material, we look for people whose work is at a high standard, and the ability to produce quality work without requiring significant rewriting or editing.
    • Specialist knowledge - between us, we encompass a lot of different skills sets and areas of knowledge, especially history and culture, in addition to law, archeology, linguistics, architecture, naval history and much more. Occasionally we will take on people with specific knowledge to assist us with developing the setting in these areas.
    • Patience - mentioned in jest, but patience is important. Worldbuilding is not a quick process, and while we are hoping now to start sharing more quickly the fruits of our labours, at times there can be a big gap between working on something and seeing it shared.

    We know there is a new approach to BG in the LABs. Can you explain what we're going to see for the new books?

    The new army book design process created new challenges for the BGT - and new opportunities too. With the drive to publish quickly, and the need for Art to have time to create, we looked at alternative means of passing on background details during the process, and came up with this 4 step process to contribute to the LABs.

    1. Faction Supplement - this will ideally be available before work has started in earnest on each LAB. It will explain the nature of each faction, along with major cultural components the LAB Task Team will be working with during the redesign. Essentially it will serve as a concise reference document for each faction, and will initially be published with little or no artwork.
    2. Background explainers - if necessary, we want to provide short pieces to accompany the release of a LAB in beta, to help explain the concepts behind new units or rules.
    3. Historical Epic - as we have done for DL and ID, we want to continue to release stand-alone stories published in parallel to a LAB. This is a text which incorporates themes or elements from a faction’s history, using real world literature as inspiration.
    4. Gold LAB - when the LAB turns Gold, fixing the new rules design in place, we will have created content to form part of a full book. This will include individual unit articles, giving some context about their role, along with a longer narrative showcasing the faction as a whole. These will be coupled with the new design and dedicated artwork to create a finished book.

    We already saw several background pieces in the FBRB and in the Scroll. How many of them are fully official, and will we see changes?

    The original Full Rulebook is a little out of date now, so we are in the process of updating this and tidying up anything which is outdated. Most of the original fluff will be unchanged, but new extracts will be added. Once this is released, it should provide an introduction to the setting and form part of an interesting book.

    In most Scrolls, we also have a variety of background materials. Some are contributed by the community. Others are written by BGT members, including the recurring Ask The Sage segment. Anything which is official to the background should be marked with our official stamp.

    Thanks to everyone for their ongoing engagement, and look out for great new material coming your way soon!

    Edward and John,

    Head and Deputy Head of the Background Team

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    A jackal, O Karna, residing in the forest in the midst of hares regardeth himself a lion till he actually sees a lion.

    Armies of Fluff: because narration is important - a blog about fluffing your army.
    Armies of Fluff: repository of my unofficial short stories and excerpts

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