Creating a Monster - Ben Counter on Farwander

In Osprey Games

Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago: Farwander is a full length novel set in the mysterious Lost Isles. In this blog, author Ben Counter talks about the creation of Scaraveyla, the cruel shipwreck Goddess and main villain for the novel.

Getting the chance to write a Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago novel was a big opportunity for several different reasons. It was the chance to work with a new background, with a very new type of story. The Ghost Archipelago called for rollicking adventure with a dose of seaborne swashbuckling, lost civilisations, dinosaurs, pirates, and lots of derring-do, a refreshing change from what I had written before. But another opportunity came not from what Ghost Archipelago contained, but what it didn’t have yet.

On the tabletop, warbands fight one another - the antagonist of the game is each player’s opponent. When it came to coming up with an adversary for our hero, the rogueish swordsman Farwander, I realised there was room to invent a force for evil in the background. Farwander could have faced an evil Heritor and their warband, but that would have been a little too much like narrating a campaign of Ghost Archipelago – fun enough, but it wouldn’t really illuminate the reader to anything they hadn’t seen already. Instead, I seized the chance to make up a new villain to haunt the Ghost Archipelago.

As any salty tar knows, the sea is a cruel mistress. In the Ghost Archipelago, this is literally true, in the form of Scaraveyla, the Kraken Queen and Drowner of Men. She represents everything that sailors fear about the sea – its black depths, its tentacled monstrosities, and above all its utter indifference to human life. As I was working out the various tribulations of Farwander and the route he took through the mistbound Ghost Archipelago, Scaraveyla also took shape. I decided early on the would be female, but not beautiful or seductive – instead, she became a hideous abomination who ruled over a vast realm of sunken ships and drowned souls.

Her cult was a particularly horrible and savage bunch, to contrast with the varied band of foul-mouthed but generally good people that Farwander falls in with. Coming up with an entire malevolent religion gave me the chance to indulge my imagination in making it as gross and creepy as possible. Tentacles! Madness! Magic! Scarification! Sea monsters! It was entirely too much fun to come up with a monstrous bad guy to put the dashing Farwander through his swashbuckling paces.

Scaraveyla and her cult gave me more than just an antagonist. They provided a way to say something about the Ghost Archipelago setting as a whole. The mysterious islands are enticing and fantastical, but they are also dangerous – not least because they are surrounded by fathomless, pitiless and monster-infested ocean. To get anywhere in the setting, Heritors and would-be treasure hunters have to deal with the ocean. Superstitious sailors personify such a dangerous and important element of their existence, and come up with all sort of ways to placate and bargain with it. Out of this need arises the Kraken Queen, Goddess of Shipwrecks, perhaps something that has always been there, perhaps coming about because of so many people’s need to believe in her.

Working on Farwander was a hugely enjoyable experience and the chance to contribute to the Ghost Archipelago setting was one I seized very eagerly. I hope that Scaraveyla will come to haunt your tabletops, just as she has the dreams of every sailor who points his prow towards the mysteries of the Ghost Archipelago.

Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago: Farwander is a swashbuckling adventure set in the Lost Isles. Order your copy today!

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