Categorized | Features, Interviews

Through the Gates with Onyx Path Publishing

Posted on May 28, 2024 by Flames

At the Gates is a high fantasy tabletop roleplaying game about burgeoning heroes struggling to survive, fighting for what’s right, exploring dangerous places, and saving the world. Onyx Path Publishing is currently running a crowd-funding campaign over at We had a chance to catch up with Danielle Lauzon, creator and lead developer of At the Gates, to talk about the game a bit.

Danielle Lauzon is a freelance writer, developer, and game designer. She’s been working in the tabletop games industry for over 10 years. Having worked on many of the Flames Rising crew’s favorite games, including Hunter: The Vigil, Avatar Legends, They Came from Beneath the Sea!, Witch: Fated Souls, and more.

What were your biggest inspirations for At the Gates?

    I took a lot of inspiration from a lot of places. Sometimes, you don’t even realize something inspired you until you look back on it. I think my biggest inspirations are Final Fantasy 9 and Lufia 2. I know that second one is kinda ???, but I played it again after so many years a few years ago and it was such a great “generic fantasy rpg” that I felt really drawn to the story beats over the setting. I wanted to show those story beats in an RPG.

    What is the Earthbane Cycle and how does it connect with At the Gates?

      The Earthbane Cycle is Onyx Path’s overall name for the series of fantasy games we are making. The first game we made in the series is the World Below, and now At the Gates. All the fantasy games in the Earthbane Cycle are loosely connected in a really broad timeline. We’re talking millennia and eons rather than decades or centuries. It is a cycle, so we made sure that any game could fit anywhere in the cycle, then we planted connections within the games that if you get a chance to read them all, you might see them, but you still might not. And that’s about all I can really say about it, even though *we know* what the actual timeline is.

      If you were pitching the game at a convention, what kind of one-shot demo would you run?

        I think there are two great ways to showcase At the Gates in a single session: 1. Start the characters on a seemingly simple mission only for them to find some kind of world-ending plot that only they can deal with. 2. Put the characters in a position to negotiate with large political powers as they see that nothing is simple, there are no right answers, and maybe picking the best of two bad situations is the only thing they can really do.

        At the Gates Introduction

        What kinds of Characters make for the best stories in At the Gates?

        Unequivocally, the characters in At the Gates are heroes. They might be reluctant heroes, or people who do not yet realize they are heroes, but the game demands people who are comfortable doing the right thing, even when it’s hard.

        Can you give us a list of the character professions in the game?

          Sure! Each profession fills a role within the group, and each one can do more than one thing competently, so two people can play the same profession and have very different experiences.

          – The Diviner is our main support profession. I call them the healer profession a lot, but that’s not exactly right. They have healing capabilities built into their Arts, but they may take a Pillar of magic that is more about crowd control and manipulation than about healing and support. Even if they do take the Pillar that gives them access to healing magic, they may specialize in the death side of things, becoming a powerful necromancer.

          – The Harrier is a damage dealer, skirmisher, scout, spy. They are capable of control, getting access to the same Pillar of magic that would make a diviner a controller. Their Arts center around taking movement opportunities and getting into places they shouldn’t be, making them excellent at breaking and entering and sneaking around.

          – The Mage can be either a damage dealer or a physical support character. They are the only ones with access to the Pillar of magic that grants elemental control, and that can be used for a variety of things from setting people on fire, to creating barriers. They excel at controlling the battlefield, and are good at investigations and exploration.

          – The Warlord is both a support tank character and a leader. They excel in supporting their allies with shields, healing, and giving the damage dealers more actions. They have the same Pillar of magic that give diviners their healing capabilities, which means they can also raise undead to fight by their side.

          – The Warrior is a damage dealer with some tanking on the side. Outside of combat, they are great at crafting, intimidation, and making people do what they want. While warlords are the true leader profession, warriors are a close second.

          Can you tell us about some of your favorite Antagonists or other perils characters in At the Gates might encounter?

            There are so many good antagonists in this game, it’s hard to pick just one. I’ve tried to answer this question before, and I think the most iconic, and thereby my favorite, antagonists are laughing dews. They are just little funny slime creatures that want to have fun and play pranks. And that’s such a great type of antagonist, where the problem is annoying, but also kind of cute. As far as true perils, I find the Outlands and the things warped by the Void are the most dangerous creatures the characters can face. Well, other than the threat that normal people pose to each other.

            Warped creatures by the Void? What can you tell us about them?

              The Void is filled with the exact opposite forces from Gaia and the world. Where Gaia is filled with the magics of the elements, people, soul, dreams, and life and death, the Void is filled with primordial magics of chaos, creation, and entropy. When those things come together, chaos explodes into random effects, mutations, and uncontrolled growth. The flora and fauna warp and shift in Outlands (the place where the Void clashes with Gaia), and Void warped creatures are the result of being in those forces too long. We even have a status effect for people who spend too long there that causes their magic to go wild.

              Daemons on the other hand are creatures directly from the Void. No one knows if they are native, or what, but they embody those primordial magics. They are alien to Gaians, with different morphology, morals, and ways of acting.

              What can you tell us about the creative team on this book?

                I picked a great team for this book. I’m not going to reveal what parts each person wrote, but they are free to do so if they wish. I tried to pick folks I knew were into this kind of game (high fantasy, inspired by video games). I didn’t have to look far. David Castro is always a go to for fantasy, as they have been working with DnD material well before we ever hired them. Chant Evans was similarly an easy pick as they have a great deal of expertise. Monica Speca is my partner in systems crimes, and of course I asked her to work on this. Steffie deVaan is always such a great author, I always want her on everything I make. John Burke, Kim Godwin, Claire Weaver, Michele Masala, and Matthew Dawkins all came along for the ride and brought their own unique perspectives to the game in ways that I can’t thank them enough for.

                There are several previews of At the Gates out now, what can you tell us about them?

                  I’m thrilled that people are getting a chance to look through all the setting material and character creation. I always feel like character creation says a lot about a game. What kind of little creature can I make to play with? What limiters does the game put on my original content, and what does it encourage me to make? I love Storypath’s Path system, because it gives general guidelines for the kinds of things that are important to characters, and asks the player to fill in all the little details. We try to make our Paths read like adjectives or descriptors. You have a Heritage that describes where you’re from, and a Perk from that heritage that helps describe your cultural influences. Then an Upbringing that describes what environment you were raised in. Then a Profession that describes how you’ve branched out on your own. Together, these tell a story of who you are and where you’re going.

                  I especially love the Advanced Profession Paths we created, coming up with a way to show progress in your chosen profession above and beyond the normal way of just spending experience. These modify your existing abilities and ramp them up to 11. Here’s an excerpt for the special advantage the Champion Advanced Profession (for Warriors) grants when you learn it.

                  Advantage: Killing Stroke

                  Your movements are a whirlwind of confusion and deception, making it challenging for your opponents to anticipate your strikes. As a result, your foes in close combat suffer a +1 difficulty to defense actions. Additionally, you impose a Minor Complication to anyone attempting to disengage with you. If they fail to buy it off, you may deal one damage.

                  At the Gates Art

                  At the Gates is currently funding on Backerket. What can you tell us about this campaign?

                    So far, I have been blown away by the response to this game. As of writing this, we are just over 900 backers and have knocked out multiple stretch goals. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see everyone’s joy and enthusiasm for the game, and the backers have been so kind with their praise. The campaign ends on June 6th, and I’ll be traveling that day. So I really hope that we get a little backer train going so I can watch it close out when I get home.

                    What kinds of stretch goals are you hoping for in the current campaign?

                      I came up with *so much stuff* I wanted to offer for this campaign that I’m not certain we’ll see it all. We are already going to be making a companion book and we’ll have stretch goals to add new material to it, such as new daemons, new minigames, and some cool artifacts with back stories. We also have some physical addons that I wanted to offer immediately, but it just wasn’t possible at our base funding level. So, we’re offering them as stretch goals. I don’t want to give away too much, but there will be pins.

                      * * *

                      The At The Gates Core Rulebook is funding now over at! Support this game now to check out the manuscript previews and help fund stretch goal content.

                      You can also get an introduction to At The Gates over at DriveThruRPG by checking out the Ashcan Edition, available now in PDF and Softcover.

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