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Project Black Flag Update: Sticking To Our Principles

Project Black Flag Update: Sticking To Our Principles

An iron clad warrior shouts in fury on a battle field raising the black flag.
Special thanks to William O’Brien for the Project Black Flag inspired art. (Man of War, William O’Brien)

We want to start by saying thank you for all the outpouring of love and support this last week. Project Black Flag is sailing new waters toward its next destination, and we aim to continue to update you weekly.

Special thanks to William O’Brien for staying up all night listening to Manowar and painting our feelings into this beautiful piece of art. William painted the image shown here out of passion for Project Black Flag and what it stands for in our community.

We know you’ve got questions, and we’ve got some answers!

What exactly is Project Black Flag?

Project Black Flag is the code name for an upcoming Kobold Press new core fantasy RPG system, available to any publisher or creator who accepts the terms of the soon-to-be-released Open RPG Creative License (ORC). This new open, perpetual, and irrevocable Open RPG Creative License (ORC) was announced on January 12, 2023, and will be shared with the community soon.

Kobold Press expects to support both print and digital formats for Project Black Flag’s final release, and Deep Magic (both volumes) will be forward-compatible with the Project Black Flag rule system.

What about the Open part?

Project Black Flag will support Open RPG Content under the Open RPG Creative License, usable by anyone. Open Content will be released after playtests conclude.

When are the playtests coming?

We aim to release the first phase of the Black Flag Playtest Pack in February 2023. To receive information on the playtest process, please fill out the form here.

More phases of Project Black Flag playtesting will roll out over the next few months as we build to a Kickstarter. Your review and comments will help shape the game’s final form.

How do I playtest in person?

Gen Con 2023 is right around the corner, and we need volunteer GMs to help us with our first convention playtests of Project Black Flag. To volunteer for GMing and even earn convention badges or accommodations for Gen Con 2023, sign up today

Who is working on it?

Celeste Conowitch, our Senior Game Designer, is the lead on game design for this new fantasy RPG. She has been working on Project Black Flag behind the scenes since the summer of 2022. Additional designers and developers are currently engaged with the project, as well as several partners from the community. We will have more announcements on the creative team and project partners soon.

How can I support Project Black Flag now?

We know you are excited to raise the Black Flag and support open gaming! Though Project Black Flag is in the early stages, you can support our ongoing efforts for an open Core Fantasy RPG system and the ORC today. 

As of today, the Project Black Flag logo is available on various merchandise at our Tee Public store!

In addition, over at the Kobold Press store, every purchase of a printed product will include a free Project Black Flag sticker while supplies last.

As with any new system, there will be a lot of playtesting, and we need your help! Sign up to playtest the new Project Black Flag once it’s available!

77 thoughts on “Project Black Flag Update: Sticking To Our Principles”

    1. You know that the cover from Molly Hatchet – The Warriors of Southern Rock also looks like it. I am partial to Molly Hatchet.

    2. Frank A. Overton

      Dear sirs, madame, and otherwise;

      If it would please you, kindly do include a open license to an “ORCcompatible” logo, if the one on the t-shirt is not CC, GNU, open, free as in both speech and beer, etc? If would pleaseyou to respond such, if it is intended for such, if it wouldn’t be too troublesome, please give an explanation of that in the license or your next post?

      Graciously yours,

    3. My go-to for inspiration there is Sons of Odin and Hand of Doom. Together, they get me in the mood for antagonists serving the god of war in my homebrew setting… who is simply called “Kreig”.

      1. Scrivener of Doom

        For me, metric doesn’t work with fantasy. If you want that primitive, backwards feel of pseudo-medieval times, imperial measurements are the way to go.

        I would love to see real English spelling used, however. :)

        1. As a compromise between modern metric and historical imperial I propose historical German measures, specifically for lengths:
          Punkt (point) = 1/72th Zoll
          Linie (line) = 1/12th Zoll
          Finger = 1/24th Elle
          Zoll (inch) = 1/10th Fuß
          Fuß (foot) = 1/2 Elle
          Elle = 50-85cm
          Lachter = 6 Fuß + 8 Zoll
          Etmal = Distance a ship sails during 1 day

          And for numbers:
          Paar (2)
          Wurf (5)
          Dutzend (12)
          Großes Dutzend (13)
          Hocke (15 Große Dutzend)

          If you combine the two, I‘m sure sufficient historical atmosphere will develop ;-).

  1. Looking forward to a new open standard TTRPG that’s easily convertible from use with 5E content. That keeps everyone’s previous investments in 3rd party 5E content still usable. I also hope it has optional rules that allow it to be played in the popular OSR style format. One game system that unites both houses by being flexible enough to do both gaming styles and has huge 3rd party support by being an open gaming standard. I wish you guys all the best and I will see you at GenCon this year!

    1. If we are posting a wish list, I would like to get all of my content into one location (easily and without selling a kidney or my soul to a perpetual subscription demon). I would like to see all the spells, feats, abilities and so on in one early searchable volume. So you have you player’s guide, and then introduce the wizard supplement “Zarinda’s 101 Ways to make a Dead Ranger.” There is quickly some way to add these PDF pages to my Player’s Guide book (and replace a couple) so everything is easy to find. The same would apply to errata.

      Easy licensing system to add to your favorite VTT. If I own “101 ways to make a Dead Ranger,” it should be easy to, for a reasonable fee, get that into my VTT, even if I supported my local brick and mortar establishment by purchasing there.

      I want an option that makes subtle magic work without leaving spell casters feeling underpowered. Instead of first level mages flinging firebolts every 6 seconds, have an option where they are still powerful, but it isn’t as flashy and obvious: Hastes, Slows, Charms, Buffs, Debuffs, and so on. Again, I don’t want to make mages underpowered, but I would like a world where powerful magic isn’t glaringly obvious. Combat would need to support hastes and slows effectively (extra/fewer actions granted on your turn?). This isn’t low magic. Its just not a traveling band of murder hobos who can double as a fireworks stand.

      I could go on, but I would be halfway to writing a rulebook myself.

      1. I agree with most of this… It would be nice to have some type of pre-defined community shared conversion tool or chart or something. We can do the work just we need to know the metrics used to establish your numbers!

        Now for wish list stuff, I too would love to be able to import my already purchased products into the popular VTT’s who have signed onto this movement. If were addressing the issues at hand here we need to stop the flagrant double dipping that has been happening from all parties. I own no less than 3 copies of almost every single book I have in physical, PDF, and VTT. This is absurd. *And where applicable I purchase the pocket editions because why wouldnt I want a smaller version… I know Im a monster.

        1- If I buy the Physical I should get both PDF and VTT included. Its a higher price (VTT and Physical items) because of costs but the PDF is free money here you use that to print the physical copy in most cases. VTT is a hard cost due to coding after the fact.
        2- If I buy the Digital version only I should get both PDF and VTT. So i can read this on my favourite throne to prep or grasp the adventure for digital spelunking. (As with above VTT is the only real cost here)

    2. 100% this. I have a massive library of 5e materials, most of which have a Kobold on them, in addition to having a ton of Kobold Press materials on Shard Tabletop VTT. I really do not want to lose the use of all of these materials. Thanks!

      1. Yesss, my monster books, I want to keep them for this new RPG too, I’m excited to see what comed from this project!!

  2. Manowar! Yes! Perfect inspiration music there.

    Super excited for Project Black Flag. Can’t wait for the playtest materials to roll out.

  3. “…since the summer of 2022…”

    So the basis will be an employee’s house rules / 5e hack? Not nessiccarially a bad thing – that’s how Paizo essentially did it.

    I’ve signed on for the playtest as I am winding up a campaign and was going to switch to fantasy anyway – so there is good timing here…

    The Black Flag 5e RPG (BF5e) needs to be recognizably a 5e clone to draw from the dissatisfied 5e player base. Yet there is still lots of room within that design space to streamline and improve what was done with base 5e given 8 years of actual play.

    We will see what direction is chosen come Feb. But I think that it would be a shame just to do a straight clone like PF1e.
    There is an opportunity here to do something special, and that in time, could potentially challenge Pazio for the #2 spot

      1. No need to.

        They just need to drop the Bonus action.

        Fold everything into: Move, Main Action, Reaction, and ‘Free action’
        By having a PC use their reaction for some thigs it makes for more risk/reward decisions. Do I use my reaction to attack with my second weapon, but I can’t roll my save if something comes up later in the round…

        Having the PC’s make practical decisions on their turn like that will make things more interesting during play.

  4. “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

    -H.L. Mencken, Prejudices: First Series

    Watch out WoTC. Your days are numbered.

  5. Is the playtest form simply the mailing list? If we’re already on the main list, does that include us in showing interest for the playtest? Thanks!

    1. I live in the UK and would gladly volunteer to be a DM for Black Flag Playtest there!

      If Kobold Press reads these comments, email me if you want.

  6. If this is going to be a fully open project maybe you could take a queue from open source software projects and do the design and development in the open. Can you just open a GitHub space and start building the game rules as an open wiki?

  7. Thumbs up from Germany! A german translation would be great. Ulisses Games does a very good job in publishing Kobold Products in germany! Send a great bunch of stickers etc. to your distributors, so it can be added to every shop/customer to spread the word.

  8. That art piece may have been inspired by Manowar, but all I keep hesring in my head is “My War” by Black Flag and I’m pumped

  9. Now personally, I don’t think of Manowar with the title (yeah, the painting for sure) but rather Arch Enemy – Under Black Flags We March ;) Otherwise, I just cannot wait!

  10. The black flag sign up is not working. The email and confirm email boxes say that the two answers must be unique? Not letting me submit

  11. Jacqueline LaBarge

    Oh woe to Thee, Oh Hasbro’s false order
    the players as one define the new border
    and we’ ll raise up a system for all
    and then we will dance
    to one mere tyrant’s fall!

  12. I’m here for this! Yes! I love love love D&D. It is part of my life and always will be. In the past from Gygax, to TSR, to WOTC has changed hands over time. Now the singular ruler will transition to a meritocracy of creators. Let the cream rise to the top! I’m here to support all creative endeavors and the future of our gaming worlds. It will still be Dungeons & Dragons, not matter what form the rules take and where we go for our awesome tools & materials. Here’s to a brighter future!

  13. I’m very interested in seeing what you guys produce! i fear it’ll be too close to D&D5e for me to want to play it but one can always hope :)

  14. @Kobold Press. I wish there was a Project Black Flag wallpaper, Like the one above or like the TeePublic shirts for sale with the Kobold Press logo and flag. I am sure many would change their desktop wallpapers to it, I know I will!

  15. Do I still need to sign up for playtest information if I have an account on the site? It tells me I have to use a different email address.

  16. My only concern is ALL the physical books that I’ve bought and Kickstarters that I’ve backed from you that are for 5th edition and their compatibility with your new system. I ran a Midgard campaign for nearly 2 years, which my group loved and want to continue some day. I’m anxious to see the new system and scared to death at the same time as to how much work I may have to do to convert them all to the new system. It’s a scary time for us all and I don’t envy the work that you have to do and have done to separate yourselves from WOTC. Obviously, I’m going to be all over anything that you release, but I’m not looking forward to having to re-purchase the same book for the new system.

    If there is a LARGE variance between the systems, will there be some sort of free to low cost upgrade system, at least for PDF’s purchased directly from your site or redeemed via Kickstarter, where we would receive the same book, converted by you, in our library on this site?

    I appreciate you all and look forward to working with you in the future.

  17. I have been dissatisfied with D&D for quite a while and it very much comes down to player options.
    For so many editions it has come across as “you want to play an elf? Well– here are the best racial bonuses, the best array of classes with the highest level limits, and the most benefits in terms of monster reactions”!!

    Meanwhile if you wanted to play an Orc, the entire game system conspires to punish you for the thought to even cross your mind.

    D&D started with a system where if you rolled really high basic attributes, you could access classes that were far and away better than anything a regular character could do. If you rolled really shitty basic attributes, you were stuck with pretty much useless Thief class.

    I guess what I want to get at is that you try to make everything cool when you approach races and classes. Instead of simply stopping at “Orcs are tough” maybe go on to “Orcs can survive in terrible environments, can eat just about anything and are resistant to environmental effects”.

    1. There haven’t been level limits based on race since 2E. This is the same with the better classes, such as the Paladin. You needed some fairly exceptional rolls just to become a Paladin, but you could only be human and you had a much tougher EXP progression table. So the fighter would be a few levels higher than you once you’d been adventuring for a bit. It took 2751 exp for a paladin to reach 2nd level versus 2001 for the fighter, and that amount doubled with every level. Thieves required a 13 Dexterity in the same way that Fighters required a 13 strength. Also, if you had a minimum score in an ability, it would limit your options in AD&D (here or lower, and the character can only be a —)

      Now, that all changed 25 years ago, and longer if you were making house rules. If you haven’t bought into a new system in a quarter of a century, it seems unlikely that this is your year now. Even in 2E, Tieflings could eat raw meat and bone, and even survive off nothing more than campfire ashes.

      If you want equal Orcs, invest in 3E, 3.5E, 4E, 5E, PF, PF2 or a myriad of other games published since the years started with a ‘2.’ IF you want Orcs who are better than all the other PC races, just house rule them. Gaming has moved towards making everything more the same rather than more different. This helps prevent min/maxing, but it does take some of the flavor out. I do not know a generic way to fix that. Punishing min/max has to be done at the GM level or the rules have to work better to prevent specialization.

  18. Hey …

    As we capitalize on this unique opportunity to move the world away from 5ed and toward a new ruleset – I know there will be a ton of pressure to develop said ruleset in a manner that minimizes difficulty porting old projects to new rules. I’ve heard it discussed that the original SRD can just be scrubbed of trademarked IP, and an almost identical ruleset can be published with little or no risk of legal repercussions which would then allow conversion of old 5ed compatible material to new black flag format with little (or no) effort.

    Lots of people will want this – please don’t do this

    Please evaluate the oversimplified nature of 5ed and take this opportunity to come up with a ruleset that addresses some of 5ed’s many flaws. Come up with something new

    For example:
    One of my players hates 5ed healing – and rightly so. There is no reason to heal in 5ed unless and until a character hits 0 h.p. In addition, the healing provided in 5ed is drastically underpowered when compared to destructive spells of the same level. Mechanistically, this works for 5ed but is annoyingly unrealistic. New mechanics that address this should be considered.

    Another complaint is how martial classes are underwhelming and quickly outstripped by casters. Don’t get me started on bards – singer/songwriters who know arcana better than mages? Tools and kits with questionable relevance to gameplay; inspired by MMORPGs with no clear mechanics initially, and eventual poorly executed add-on rules. One “pillar” (combat) with well defined if simplistic rules and mechanics, and two other pillars that are nebulously defined and addressed with a painfully simplistic d20 roll from a short list of skills.

    We can build something better – I have suggestions

    Just my 2 cp

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