Interview with A Far Off Land Author, Megan Bennett-Burks

The upcoming Fate game, A Far Off Land is a modern take on fairy tales with characters spanning both the magical world and the mundane. This is similar to games like City of Mist and Bloodlines & Black Magic but it hits that nice sweet spot that so many Fate games do. It’s straightforward and accessible for an alternative jaunt but rich enough for a deep campaign if you want to go that route. A Far Off Land is available right now as a pre-order on DriveThru RPG and us Kickstarter backers have already gotten our copies, but I’ve got a sneak preview for all of you right now with the book’s talented author, Megan Bennett-Burks.

Mephit James: To start with, give us the elevator pitch for A Far Off Land. What sorts of stories and characters can people expect to see in this game?

Megan Bennett-Burks: In A Far Off Land players take on the roles of individuals who grew up in a world which is roughly equivalent to our own; they lived relatively ordinary lives as humans. But then they discover that they are demigod-like shapeshifters called the Fated which are creatures of two worlds: the one they were born into, and the fantastic world of the Far Off Land in which fairies, gods, and monsters dwell.

All characters in A Far Off Land belong to an organization which includes their own kind and other fantastic beings. These organizations can serve to provide missions for characters to go on, but the interactions of the various organizations can also provide plenty of drama and intrigue.

A Far Off Land - The Looking Glass
Image © Bennett-Burks Design

MJ: Sounds intense. Well it’s easy to see from the cover that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are strong inspirations for this game. What other books, movies, or stories did you have in mind writing this?

MBB: I’ve read up a lot on ancient religion and folklore, so the various tales of ancient gods and monsters are of course important sources of inspiration. The setting includes a lot out of ancient Egyptian and Norse lore for instance. I love the idea of a multiverse as well, and Planescape is the RPG that probably has influenced me the most as far as that goes, though lots of other games, books, and movies feature a multiverse. Now that I think on it, there might be some sprinkling of inspiration from The Dark Tower series in the Far Off Land too.

MJ: You’re hitting all the right notes with me right now… Tell us a little bit about the Factions and the Courts from the first question. What is their role in the game and in the setting?

MBB: There’s two basic “types” of Organizations that players can join. The Fated Factions are organizations formed by Fated (the dual-world creatures that the player characters become), and are mainly defined by their vision for the two-worlds. For example, the Healers faction believes that the two worlds have been wounded and the Fated exist to heal them, and they engage in all manner of experiments to attempt to do this (which of course doesn’t always go so well).

The Eldritch Courts are what remain of the ancient pantheons, and while they do have Fated members (and find the Fated to be very useful!), they are formed and comprised primarily of magical creatures, including gods, fairies, etc… An example of an Eldritch Court is Court Kemet (preview found here), which is what remains of the ancient Egyptian pantheon.

A Far Off Land - Magical Bazaar
Image © Bennett-Burks Design

MJ: You also have a really interesting magic system in A Far Off Land, an elemental tradition with the standard four elements split between mental magic (Passion) and physical magic (Blood). What were your inspirations for this system and how does it fit into the broader setting?

MBB: Anime was definitely an influence, though Jacob Possin (co-author) can probably comment much more in-depth on that than I can. But, the idea of a character “powering up” appears quite a bit in anime, and is an important aspect of A Far Off Land and how the magic of the player characters works; Dragon Ball is a prime example of this though far from the only one. It does show up in Western animation too though! Just watch He-Man and you’ll see what I mean.

The four elements are nice because they give plenty to work with, and are very familiar to… I think probably all gamers, but easy to expand on, and the book includes ways to add more elements to the basic four as well.

MJ: There are a number of different locations described in the book and a healthy bestiary to encounter. Sources for these range from Lewis Carol and European fantasy fare to H. P. Lovecraft and folklore from around the world. How did you decide which ones made it into the book and which you were going to let people write themselves?

MBB: I really wanted to provide a good mesh of locations from older traditions, along with newer (but public domain) sources, and some which look like they could be right out of mythology but are new. I also wanted each location to be different enough from the others and provide a nice level of diversity. But, honestly, some of it just comes down to me thinking “this sounds really cool!” at the time and just running with what I felt like writing. This goes for creatures too, though with creatures we really wanted to have plenty which were specific to the environments that we detailed in the location section.

A Far Off Land - Ankou
Image © Bennett-Burks Design

MJ: What’s next for A Far Off Land? Any plans for supplements or campaign books?

MBB: We are working on a supplement that will expand on magic. I really wanted to do a PbtA supplement as well, but, didn’t reach that milestone. Not saying that makes it impossible… but right now at least, the magic supplement is the one really in the cards, and that is partly written already.

MJ: Well put me down for a preorder on that one. Lastly, what was your favorite part of the writing and publishing process?

MBB: The creative act of writing… also playtesting, I’ve been fortunate to be able to playtest the rules and several variations of them quite a lot with different groups of people!

Well, I’m grateful to Megan for answering some questions and can’t wait to try out my copy of A Far Off Land as well. Have you checked it out? Any more questions you want to lob Megan’s way? Let me know in the comments!

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