Wolfspell—a tabletop roleplaying game printed in the liner notes of a trifold record album jacket.
Originally published in 2013 in issue 2 of the ezine Worlds Without Master, Wolfspell is a sword & sorcery game about adventurers who have transformed themselves into wolves in order to complete some dire quest. The game plays like a proggy metal concept album and demands a physical form to match.
How does Wolfspell work?
You gather with friends and create your adventurers, or match adventurers from another game to the archetypes provided.
- Who among you has tested their sword-arm against many who now wait to mete vengeance upon them in the afterlife?
- Who is witness to stranger worlds than most—the arcane and preternatural are to them as wolves and weather are to the farmer?
- Who is most at home when they sleep roofless and hunt their fare far from civilization?
Then choose your spell:
- Have you become wolves because the augurs dictate that only fang and claw will rend your destiny?
- Do relics of an ancient cult plundered from an old queen’s tomb carry with them a savage curse that can only be cleansed in distant holy fires?
- Or is this a family thing?
Whatever spell you choose, your immediate fate is the same. You discard your human husks and lope forth into the world as a wolves! Tell us of your coat, your size, your scent and your voice.
You are wolves of human blood. When asked to roll, you will always roll both a Blood Die and a Wolf Die. Note which is higher. This will tell you whether your wolf is guided by human knowledge and experience or by bestial instinct. The Blood Die represents the capabilities of human thought: from shaping the world around you as a farmer plows the field or a smithy forges a sword, to throwing yourself heedlessly into your task as an explorer sails past the sight of shore or a rover charges into the fray. The Wolf Die represents the advantages of lupine instincts, knowing where and how to hunt prey, and the safety of the pack.
The dice will limit your options to the side of you in ascendance, but as you behave more like a wolf, your Feral score will grow, increasing the might of your Wolf Die, turning you into a more capable wolf. But will you be able to return to human form when it's all over? Will you even want to?
What form does Wolfspell take?
Back in 2013, when I was first working on issue 2 of Worlds Without Master, I wrote a short story called “One Winter’s Due.” It was a tale of feuds, familial debt, oath-odds, and sorcery that led two sisters to turn themselves into wolves to untangle it all. I found the premise so irresistibly gameable that he had to design Wolfspell for the very same issue.
When issue 2 of Worlds Without Master was published, the story “One Winter’s Due” was accompanied by Shel Kahn’s lush and wondrous illustrations of the sister wolves and their adventure. Thus a destiny was born. When it came time for Wolfspell to step out on its own, I would have no other illustrator.
Playing the game has the grand, epic feel of a concept album. With a word count around 2,000, it was tight enough to fit in the liner notes of an old gatefold LP jacket. Wolfspell is a trifold LP jacket that folds out into a single 3-foot by 1-foot panel of wolf metal art—a towering spectacle of a roleplaying game.
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