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Friday, 1 July 2016

The Woods: Secrets of Shandisholm- Pre-orders now live!

Secrets of Shandisholm pre-orders are now LIVE over at and

I've become aware over the last few weeks that having spent 6 months writing the book I somehow expect everyone else to know it intimately... so I got a friend who has only heard me mention it to ask some things they'd want to know. Here are my replies, an introduction to the world of The Woods:

What’s this Woods thing about then?
The Woods is Oakbound Studio’s fantasy world, a world based in the myths, legends and folklore of the Celtic people. Secrets of Shandisholm is the first sourcebook set in this world and explores the lowland regions of the Mortal Realm.

What’s this Mortal Realm like?
This part of the Mortal Realm is very much like Britain in the Bronze Age and early Iron Age. It is a place of enormous and dense woodland, barren heath, fens and downs crowned with monolithic stones. The inhabitants of the Mortal Realm are the Tuatha, a human-like people whose lives are governed by superstitions and beliefs about the little people who live in the forests around them.

Only these aren’t mere Wives’ Tales….

A long time ago the Myeri and the Fae found a way into the Mortal Realm. The Myeri came from the seas, fleeing some ancient horror which had pursued them across the Void from their own homeland. The Fae were drawn to the Mortal Realm by the great power possessed by the Myeri. The Fae are a beautiful and proud race, and also cruel beyond belief. They placed an enchantment over the Myeri, took their power and cast them into the desolate fens and swamps. Then the Fae turned their attentions towards the other inhabitants of this land they had discovered.

The Fine Folk, as the Tuatha called the Fae, do nothing for themselves. They live in luxury, surrounded and served by countless slaves they have taken from the many realms they have conquered. These slaves they brought to the Mortal realm to build their palaces, mine for rich minerals and gemstones, weave their clothing and forge their jewels and armour. In the Tuatha, however, the Fae recognised something of their own qualities and the people of the Mortal Realm were not subjected to slavery. Instead they were nurtured as pets, almost as children, living alongside the Fae in their great cities. But over time the Fae realised the Tuatha were more like them than they could have imagined. The mortals learnt cruelty and violence fast and the Fae fled from the Mortal Realm in fear of the beings they had created. Their servants they left behind to fend for themselves. And so it came to be that the secluded, hidden parts of the Mortal Realm were populated by weird and mystical creatures from myriad other realms, trapped and far from home.

As civilisation fell apart around the Tuatha they reverted to a primitive state, abandoning the cities of the Fae and rebuilding ancient homesteads. Their memories faded and the stories became twisted with time so that now they barely remember the Fae. But still their paths cross those of the stranded folk, former servants of the Fae, some of whom are kindly, many who are not.

And that’s all in the book is it?
Yes, that’s the beginning anyway. Then there’s an explanation of the region around Shandisholm, the principle Tuatha settlement in the lowlands, a study of the nature of the Fae and Myeri, a comprehensive bestiary of folk and animals (native and other-worldly), a bunch of scenarios, a full adventure, some modelling guides and the SystemMech rules.

Ah yes, the SystemMech rules, tell us about those.
We’ll have a more in-depth look later in the month, but if you want you can download the core rules right now at and see for yourself. It’s a tabletop roleplay game, that is, it is miniatures-based and narrative-focussed. Each game tells a small part of the story. SystemMech is quite different to other RPGs as it uses no dice rolls or card drawing. Each model has a Decisiveness value which determines when in the turn they activate and a Stamina value which determines how much they can do, then players choose from the action tables what combination of actions they want the model to take. Some actions are more effective if others have been performed first, or if the model can’t be seen doing them for example, so you have to think ahead a bit to make your actions effective. Everything is tied to five core aspects of your characters (Wisdom, Perception, Courage, Agility and Strength) so it’s quite ‘realistic’ in terms of how well an individual can perform.

And lastly, something a lot of people have commented on, the cover?
Ah yes, the wonderful Alan Lee Fomorian painting. It’s a favourite of mine and so I got in touch with Alan to see if it would be possible to use it, to my amazement he said yes! He’s such a nice guy. The painting was used on the cover of a book of Irish folktales by Michael Scott, whose retelling of the Fomorian myth I drew on heavily in creating the Myeri.

This character has appeared in fantasy gaming before though?
Yes indeed. I believe he and the story were also part of the basis for Games Workshop’s Fimir race, which sadly didn’t develop very far. My first miniature gaming experience was playing Heroquest as a child and the Fimir were my favourite monsters so the Myeri are definitely a bit of a tribute to them. They’re very different as a race though (as we’ll see next Friday) being a blend of the Skeksis and Mystics from The Dark Crystal, the Irish Fomorians and Polynesian tribes and myths.

I look forward to seeing more.
We’ll be looking through the book every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in July. If anyone has specific questions leave them in the comments below and I'll try and answer them when we get to the appropriate section.


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