GTM #205 - Through the Breach Second Edition
by Wyrd Miniatures

Leo Buscaglia once said that “change is the end result of all true learning.”

Since I was brought on to manage Through the Breach shortly after its initial release, I’ve learned a great deal about the system, its players, and what they want from the game. As Mr. Buscaglia predicted, that learning has led to some changes for Through the Breach.

Some of those changes have already been seen in the game’s supplemental books, such as Into the Steam and Under Quarantine. Others have been felt in errata that clarified confusing passages or fixed misbehaving rules. There was a lot of dirt covering the hidden gem at the heart of the system, and though our later releases did a good job of clearing that dirt away to reveal an amazing game, that dirt made a bit of a mess on the metaphorical floor. Eventually, I realized that it was time to bust out the broom and do some cleaning.

That’s more or less the intention behind the Second Edition of Through the Breach. All of the errata issued since the game’s initial release has been incorporated into the core rules, and we’ve cleaned up and rewritten the rules that didn’t work as well as they should have.

First of all, it’s important to note that Second Edition of Through the Breach is a rules cleanup, rather than a rules change. If your players already play Through the Breach, then they won’t have to relearn the rules; some of the details may have been improved, but the core of the game remains unchanged.

One of the priorities I had when writing the Second Edition rules was ensuring that our existing rules supplements – Into the Steam, Under Quarantine, and Into the Bayou – would be fully compatible with the game’s new edition. I’m an avid roleplayer, and one of the worst feelings is showing up to a game excited about a character concept, only to learn that a new edition has rendered that concept unplayable. Thus, I made certain that, no matter what else happened, a player would be able to show up to a Second Edition game of Through the Breach with any of our published supplements in hand and not only be able to play the game, but to play without having to shuffle through pages of errata notes or clarifications.

This compatibility also helps out gamemasters. All of the Penny Dreadful adventures that we’ve published – such as Northern Aggression, A Night in Rottenburg, and Nythera – can be played through by Second Edition players without any reworking required on the part of their gamemaster.

With that in mind, there have been some notable changes to the rules. For instance, all of the character classes, or Pursuits, in the supplemental books have a “Rank 0” Talent that a player gains as soon as they start progressing down that path. This proved to be a big hit among players, as it let them feel like they were playing as a Necromancer or an Infiltrator right from the moment their character decided to follow that path. The core Pursuits in the original Fated Almanac, however, lacked these “Rank 0” Talents, which often caused characters who followed those Pursuits to feel like they were lagging behind their companions.

To address this, I went through and gave “Rank 0” Talents to each of the core Pursuits. This also let me adjust and tighten the focus of these Pursuits to fill in some of the pitfalls that might otherwise ensnare new players.

For instance, the Tinkerer Pursuit deals with the creation and maintenance of animated machines called Constructs. In First Edition, a Tinkerer had the option of starting the game with two spells, but if one of those spells wasn’t the Animate Construct spell, then most of the Tinkerer’s Construct-related abilities would end up being somewhat useless. In Second Edition, a Tinkerer gains the Animate Construct spell right from the start, ensuring that the character is always able to use their Construct-related abilities… and that a new player won’t unknowingly make a choice that will lead to frustration a few sessions down the road.

Another concern was the speed at which players were able to defeat their enemies. While later supplements provided stronger opponents for players to confront, groups that only used the Fatemaster’s Almanac often found themselves outpacing their opponents about midway through a campaign.

I’ve sharpened the teeth of these adversaries in two specific ways.

Firstly, I added a “Fate Point” system that would allow more important characters a greater range of options in battle. This allows “boss” characters to keep pace with player characters and ensures that when the time finally comes to throw down with the villain of a story, it will be a tense, edge-of-your-seat encounter that will keep the players engaged and coming back for more.

Secondly, the people and creatures in the Fatemaster’s Almanac have been reworked with an eye toward ensuring that they’re interesting and compelling opponents. The number of entries has increased from seventy-six to ninety-two, and the quality of the creatures has been dramatically expanded. In Second Edition, I’ve made certain that the bestiary contains characters and creatures that are more appropriate opponents for an adventuring group, such as Arcanist smugglers, hulking simulacrums, and shackled spirits.

At this point, you may have noticed that I’ve referenced both the Fated Almanac and the Fatemaster’s Almanac. With Second Edition, we’ve combined these two books into a single book: the Core Rules. This makes the buy-in price point more affordable for starting groups and ensures that all the rules for Through the Breach are together in a single place.

Moreover, we’re making sure that it will be a book that stores and players will both be proud to display on their shelves: as a hardcover book with three tassel bookmarks and over four-hundred pages, it will definitely draw the eye. One of the things I really appreciate in a roleplaying book is a sturdy cover, as it really helps to keep a book together through years of toting it around in backpacks and satchels.

Not all of those pages are devoted entirely to rules, however! If you’ve ever been to our official forums, you might notice that our fans are always asking about the history of Malifaux (and, in turn, the history of our version of Earth). We’ve always been a bit coy with the details, spreading breadcrumbs around and revealing bits and pieces of the past through our stories and sourcebooks. That’s all well and good, but for a roleplaying game, it’s often better to pull back that curtain so that players can know about the world that their characters grew up in.

To that end, I’ve ensured that the Core Rules will contain the most comprehensive history of the Malifaux world to date, from the ancient days of the Malifaux people through the Tyrant War and the eventual downfall of their people. It goes into the various portals that have appeared between the two worlds throughout history and then goes on to describe the state of the two worlds in the current game year, 1907. This ensures that the Core Rules will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in the lore and history of Malifaux, even if they don’t consider themselves to be a roleplayer.

In summary, I’m very excited for the Second Edition of Through the Breach. As a company, we’re committed to ensuring that stores can offer the best games possible to their players, and the Core Rules will certainly hit that mark.