Fumble RPG inspired by shonen and mecha is now on Kickstarter, Knights of the Round: Academy. Let's interview its author, Claudio Serena, to find out more!

These days you have surely heard of Knights of the Round: Academy, or at least you have seen the ad on Facebook.
For those still wondering, Knights of the Round: Academy (KotR: A) is a roleplaying game about young boys / girls piloting mecha in a pilot academy. Set in a world inspired by the Arthurian cycle and Irish mythology, this title takes up the themes and mood of the anime and manga shonen. The souls dedicated to the vein are particularly significant ideas real robot, Of which Gundam is the main example.
To know some more information on Knights of the Round: Academy, on its sources of inspiration and on its themes, we interviewed its creator, Claudio Serena.

What Knights of the Round: Academy, who wrote it and how is the Kickstarter going?

But let's start with a very quick overview of this role-playing game, so as to frame it briefly.
Knights of the Round: Academy it was created by Claudio Serena di Fumble RPG, and is co-produced by MS Editions.
Fumble GDR is the same Italian ludic reality that also gave birth to Not The End, awarded Role-playing Game of the Year 2020 and recently also translated into English. Let's not forget, though, that the Fumble team has also created titles like Klothos, Monogatari, Gattai! e German Democratic Republic. Furthermore, from this September Fumble also distributes the new title of Helios Pu, Trench 1917, a hack of Kaiser 1451.

Currently, Knights of the Round: Academy is unfolding its crowfunding on Kickstarter. With the support of over 600 backers, this title has now exceeded € 40.000.
His Kickstarter is entirely in English, but you can read the translation on this site. From there, you can also download the game's free quickstart.

Illustration of a Knight from the Knights of the Round: Academy quickstart
Illustration of a Knight from the quickstart of Knights of the Round: Academy

How did the idea of Knights of the Round: Academy?

The idea came at the end of a campaign of Not the End on our Discord server, where I had just played the scenario Knights of the Round that I wrote for the game. After the campaign, after about ten sessions in full lockdown, I threw down what at the time was a small hack di Not the End to add some very tight spin mechanics to the anime I wanted to see played. From there, within a month, the 6 pages of the hack had become a stand-alone 160-page game.
Let's say that the stimulus came because, as always, I had not yet found a game that made me play something (in this case the shonen anime) as I wanted.

This is not your first mecha game, but you have also created Gattai!. What it takes Knights of the Round: Academy da Gattai! and how does it differ from your first mecha title?

Gattai! shares with KotR: A exactly what NtE shares with KotR: A, that is, the idea that numbers are not necessary to describe a character, and that different types of narration give rise to very different games.

KotR: But it is very different from Gattai !, as mechanics, as spirit and in general as themes.
1) Gattai! it is made explicitly for one-shot play. Or at least a series of one-shots linked together on a very abstract level. Instead, Knights of the Round: Academy gives its best in a campaign of a few months, in which all the Freshmen have the opportunity to be explored and to grow.

2) Gattai! it's a Monster of the Week, in the sense that each Session revolves around a single monster to be defeated and does so with a fixed canvas. Instead, KotR: a, while maintaining the idea of ​​Episode, it has no fixed canvases and in many sessions there are not even monsters or opponents to defeat, unless we are talking about school exams

3) In Gattai! the characters never grow up, they never change. Instead, Knights of the Round: Academy makes the growth and exploration of one's past the central points of the game

One thing that, however, in the end the two games have in common, and that many reference souls also have in common with them, is that the mecha are just an excuse to talk about something else, in this case about one's past and overcoming one's own. limits.

The Knights of the Round: Academy temporary character sheet, from the quickstart
The temporary character sheet of Knights of the Round: Academy, from the quickstart

Other mecha role-playing games, such as Lancer o Beam Saber, they influenced Knights of the Round: Academy?

I definitely did research to understand what I meant with this game, but the influence very often has been on what NOT to do with the game I was writing. As much as you appreciate Beam Saber and for how long Lancer have some very interesting ideas, their focus was far from what interested me.
In general, looking at other mecha games as well, the things I wanted to keep away from were the parts that were too “mecha”. In the sense that what I was looking for was in no way to replicate a certain sense of realism in using robots. So there are no weapon tables, ballistic details, or armor that gives resistances in Knights of the Round: Academy.

From reading the quickstart, Knights of the Round: Academy it seems like a game heavily focused on the emotions of the characters, and therefore on how war, school, growth and other people affect them deeply. During the playtest of the game, what were the most touching experiences you have played?

Very difficult question, I try to sum it all up with three particularly touching events:

1) In the very first campaign, one of the Freshmen was a sidhe, a shapeshifter capable of transforming into any animal. It was decided by playing that the sidhe taboo, that is, those who can only transform into the creatures they have killed, are always a twin of another sidhe. Skipping ahead a few sessions, it turns out that one of the villains of the campaign was the twin sister of the Freshman. Thus, the latter found herself having to decide whether to defeat her sister, who had by now lost the light of reason, or whether to try to bring her back.

2) During our main campaign in the podcast, one of the Freshmen gave up remembering the love she felt for another Freshman she didn't reciprocate, as a price to pay to an ancient spirit who wouldn't otherwise help the group. The most touching thing was that the other Marticola didn't realize anything, but obviously all the people at the table knew what had happened.

3) Last touching thing in a different way is that the villains are always very heartfelt, precisely because a lot of feelings are staged. And during the demos, even those who are defeated by the villains make them satisfied, because they know they are fully committed. However, some groups have managed to scar the face of Mor Dread, the most hateful canonical character in the whole manual. And this was always a huge satisfaction

Knights of the Round: Academy shot pattern, from the quickstart
Shooting scheme of Knights of the Round: Academy, from the quickstart

Many different inspirations and themes coexist in this game. In your experience, how do they coexist and interact in a long campaign? In a one-shot or a short campaign, on the other hand, is it preferable to narrow the focus on a specific topic?

As I said above, Knights of the Round: Academy it gives its best in the countryside, because there is a way to explore different themes and genres based on what interests the group. That said, even in the one-shots you can get a great idea of ​​all the different parts that make up the game. This happens partly thanks to the resource spending mechanics, and partly thanks to the setting, which is still a school for teenagers who want to pilot robots.

The Romance section emphasizes the importance of all players, whose Freshmen are involved in Romance, agree that they want to see their characters in these situations. Since the game can potentially also deal with sensitive issues, what security systems have you implemented?

The chapter on Affinity (Romance is the name they previously had, but it will be changed to include more types of relationships!), For now, provides the more classic techniques, like the rest of the game. A Zero Session with a Declaration of Intent, Lines and Veils and above all an invitation to speak and make it explicit that we do not want to explore a particular topic.
In addition to this, Marta Palvarini will write an addendum about Affinity. This addendum has been unlocked as a social Stretch Goal, and we will therefore be able to see different aspects of the Affinity in more detail.

How does the experience with Not The End influenced Knights of the Round: Academy?

Well, NtE and KotR: A share a lot of philosophical aspects of game design, which are actually quite prevalent in all of our games by now.
But the thing that most influenced KotR: A was probably the seminal idea of ​​how to write content. In fact, each page of NtE is self-contained. If you notice, the text never continues as a stream of consciousness from page to page. Knights of the Round: Academy has taken this concept even further.
Sure, it helped me write the whole game during a pandemic, thinking about online consumption and then forcing me to write concepts that fit on a single page. If something was longer, it meant that it could be atomized better for easier digestion.

What were the main sources of inspiration for the illustrations? In particular, who illustrated the work how did they face the difficulty of mecha design?

The inspirations came from the huge number of souls I watch.
I have a document of several dozen pages with references for the characters representing Stirpi and Job. I shared it with those who took care of the illustrations, who luckily already took care of his mecha design.
In addition to the illustrations that we have made and some stock illustrations that we have used mainly in the playtest phases, the manual will also be enriched by the illustrations of the Crawling Chaos Games. This, in fact, has kindly granted us the images of their robot game that they had launched years ago on Kickstarter. It is a veritable mine of famous mecha quotes of all kinds.

Illustration from the quickstart of Knights of the Round: Academy
Illustration from the quickstart of Knights of the Round: Academy

Some conclusive words

We thank Claudio very much for this great interview.
Knights of the Round: Academy is definitely a title that was missing in the Italian play scene. Mecha RPGs are few and far between, and this certainly has something new to say compared to those that already exist overseas.
Certainly, KotR: A it caters to a more specific target than stocks such as Not The End, however, it seems able to tell a great number of different stories, both in the topics and in the tones.
For my part, I think that Knights of the Round: Academy it will end up on the list of RPGs that I absolutely must try in the next months.