Clint Black, Pinnacle Entertainment Group

MACE 2009 interview

Hello, Mr. Black.  Thanks for taking the time out for a quick interview.

I’ll play your little game, McClung… for now.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I am the Savage Worlds Core Rules Brand Manager for Pinnacle Entertainment.  That long title basically means I manage anything directly related to the Savage Worlds core rules, and I provide input and advice on many things associated with them.  So I work directly on things like our core rulebook, our Companion products, and help out with setting books and other similar projects.  In addition, I approve and handle all dealings with the publishers who license the Savage Worlds system for their own products.  I also administrate the Pinnacle forums and answer any rules questions that come up there.

How did you get into what you are doing now?

I had written a couple of small things for Pinnacle before the development of Savage Worlds, but mostly, I was just another fan on the mailing list.  At the time, Shane was releasing versions of the system Test Drive (the free version) as it was going through development, and that initial look at the system clicked for me like no other system had.  Based off that limited information, I wrote up some stats for a sci-fi military movie and ran a scenario based on them.  I posted that material to the mailing list, and Shane contacted me the same day to join in the official playtesting of the system.

We knew from the beginning that the core rules would require a “plug-in” to play comic book level superheroes, and after the book was released, I had an idea for creating such rules and using them in a setting where the PCs would be supervillains forced to fight alien invaders.  It was intended to be a fan product, but I didn’t want to step on Shane’s toes if he had a similar product in the works, so I contacted him letting him know what I was planning to do.  This time there was no immediate reply.  In fact, several days passed, which honestly isn’t long for game publishing communications.  The next thing I know, Shane posts on the fan mailing list that he had email problems and could some people contact him again, including the person who submitted the proposal for the supervillain setting.  Sure enough, Shane loved the idea, and (with the work of many others) it eventually became “Necessary Evil,” which I’m proud to say is the first Savage Worlds setting to be reprinted in the Explorer’s Edition format.

From the development of Necessary Evil, my interaction and work with Pinnacle just spread into other projects and ultimately to the point I’m at now.

What attracts you most about Savage Worlds over other systems? 

Savage Worlds was designed with some very specific goals in mind, and I think they just happened to be goals that fit me very well.  One of the main goals was the design of the system for gamers who had jobs, families, and other responsibilities that limited the time for both gaming and prep work for the GM.  I can prep a Savage Worlds game and run an equivalent combat in a fraction of the time it took me with other systems.  I also like the fact that I can pick up one setting book and have everything I need to run a game (including possibly a pre-designed campaign) when I add it to my core rulebook.  But one of my absolute favorite things about the system is that it is designed with mechanics to enhance the fun and excitement; when someone gets the Joker for initiative and you hear that excited, “YES!” that’s a moment I live for in the game.

Now, that said, anyone with Pinnacle is going to tell you that we all play other systems too, and we don’t always choose Savage Worlds over other systems (we do admittedly play it more).  But since Savage Worlds is designed with specific goals, it isn’t going to work for a game that has different goals, and the best thing is to use a system that does.

What is your favorite setting in Savage Worlds system?

Oh, tough question for two reasons.  One, of course, Necessary Evil will always have its own place in my heart, but to be fair, I’m going to go with the work of others.  And two, I have seen and played in settings that both have not been released yet and possibly may never be released, so I have to cross those off too.  I’m going to have to pick two I think; one from among our licensees and one from Pinnacle.  The licensee setting would be RunePunk because I have had the amazing pleasure to play in a campaign that has run for over two years now in that setting.  The Pinnacle setting is a tough call as I (like Shane) am a huge fan of Solomon Kane, but that book is more of a separate licensed RPG with all the rules than a setting book.  For pure setting, I have to go with the classic that brought me in and say Deadlands.

Is there a type of setting that you feel the Savage World lines lacks?

Actually, I think there are quite a few.  Even after six years, the surface has only been scratched in what is possible.  However, I think between Pinnacle, the licensees, and the amazing amount of fan material that has been produced, most people can find a setting they like.  And if they can’t, the fans on the forums are awesome about providing help in creating new settings or converting existing ones.

Tell us a little about what Savage Saturday Night is?

Many years ago there lived a creature who was released from his eternal prison on the Saturday night of a con in the dark and fearful land of… Ohio!

Savage Saturday Night is really just an opportunity for a bunch of gamers who like Savage Worlds (or are just interested in it) to get together on the Saturday night of a con, hang out, have some fun, and play the game.  Now, at the table, the gamer sitting next to you may be another fan, a Savage Worlds game designer, or sometimes even a game designer for another system, but we all share the same love of gaming, and that’s really what Savage Saturday Night is all about.

What do you think makes the Savage Worlds community so connected, so tight, so unique?

I think the design goals had a large part to play in that.  Savage Worlds’ design for a very particular type of gamer in a specific niche worked extremely well, and that meant the majority of the community came into the system with a lot of shared experiences and expectations.  That gives the community an almost pre-existing camaraderie right out of the gate.  I also think Shane’s role can’t be ignored; he is one of the most open, giving, and respectful people I have ever met in my life, much less in the industry.  His attitude of welcoming any gamer to Savage Worlds like an old friend is just contagious.

What do you look forward to most at MACE?

First and foremost, seeing friends I have too rare an opportunity to see whether they are regulars at MACE (or even run it!) or coming for the first time.  And following right on the heels, the gaming itself.  Whether I am running or getting to play, I’ve gotten something from every game I’ve been in at MACE.  And I’d also add that MACE is an awesome way to spend your anniversary!

Do you have any closing thoughts? 

You may have won this time, McClung, but I’ll be back… count on it!

 

Nathan Little, Creator of Posthumous Z

MACE 2009 Interview

Hello Nathan.  Thanks for taking the time for this interview.

No problem. It’s a pleasure.

Tell us a little about your self from a gaming perspective?  What is your gaming background and what do you like to play?

Historically, I’m more of a computer gamer. I’d just started playing a real variety of board games in the last 2 years since I’d returned home from college. I have a great group of friends and we like to get together on weekends and rotate between games like Arkham Horror, Scrabble, or even Warhammer 40k. Mostly though, we do role-playing with a random White Wolf title, BESM, Dark Heresy or a couple I’ve made up.

Tell us about Posthumous Z?  What inspired you to make it?

Posthumous Z, like many inventions, bloomed in the bloody fields of necessity. Our gaming group was in between RPG campaigns, so we’d been playing board games solely for a couple months and getting bitter. With a modest 6 players, games slowed to a tedious crawl. Most games were free for alls, which after a while can breed more than a little animosity. Finally, many promising titles quickly became stale and lost their charm, so our choices of what was even tolerable grew less and less.

Seeing homicide as a foreseeable future, I made Posthumous to address these issues. Posthumous Z is a team based zombie horror game. Half the players are humans and each control a single cliché character, the other half command hordes of themed zombies to eat ‘em. Everything is randomly generated each game: the human characters, zombie themes, even the town’s layout. On top of this, the game is easy to learn and scales magnificently; so whether you have 4 or 10 players you can expect to play through in 2 hours. Now how about that?

How has the reception been to your game at other cons?

Astonishing, really. Once I get the first group to sit down it pretty much snowballs. Either it’s the gameplay of strategy and counter strategy, the look and humor, or the jubilation at a zombie game that celebrates the theme rather than treating it like a marketing gimmick, but people get terribly excited and they frantically recruit more people to play. This makes a lot of racket, so, more random people wander close, wondering what all the shouting’s about, and I sit in the center, the spider to the flies.

Any particular funny Posthumous Z game play memory you’d like to share?

One of the great things about Posthumous Z is that each game is different, and more importantly, memorable. So there’s been a lot, including a giant boss made of 30 corpses fighting a heavily medicated hobo with a guitar, and a game ending horde of flaming zombie midgets. Though if I were to pick one, it’d be the time that my character got downed and my teammate came back for me. I told him just to leave me behind, but he said, “No! I’m going for awesome!” He dragged my limp body through a burning building firing an AK47 at zombie ninjas all the while. We both escaped.

What has amazed you the most while demoing Posthumous at the different cons?

The number of people that would come back to play again surprised me. It’s not uncommon for people to play 3 or 4 times at a con. I’ve seen people quit other games when I’ve shown up, just to play again. I’ve even had other GMs play and then cancel their own games to play again.

Have your playtests at cons produced many changes in the game?

There’s only been a few. I didn’t expect people to throw pipe bombs at their allies to get the zombies off them. I paid for that presumption. Luckily for the con goers and unfortunately for my friends, I did some pretty intense alpha testing. But mostly, it’s been adding aids and minor spelling errors.

What are your future plans with the game and your newly formed company?

The plan is to go forth and be awesome. Continue to show off the game, build up the fans, and keep working on these new projects. Then we’ll see how quickly I can get to a point where I feel justified in buying a top hat and a boat.