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Interview: T. Julian Bell of Raex Games

T. Julian Bell is the owner, lead game designer, and a writer for Raex Games, a gaming publisher that specializes in RPG table top games, card games, and board games.  The Gamers Codex appreciates him taking time out to talk with us.
First off, tell me a little bit about yourself and your gaming history.
I’ve been playing tabletop RPG’s, board games, and online video games since as far back as I can remember. I’m a huge fan of storytelling. I was hooked to tabletop games full time around 19 when my college roommate introduced me to d&d 3.0. I’ve worked in the film industry and game industry, but left those to do what I love. I think it was just this idea that tabletop games offer another layer. They are just way more fun and the stories never end.
What were the primary inspirations for the game system in Kromore?
The game system was developed over many years of playtesting with a hundred or so testers throughout the US and Canada. I wanted a system that could encompass scifi and fantasy at the same time. I needed a simple system but also one with the ability to allow gamers that like a lot of tinkering those options. Basically it became a balance of what can I offer as many players as possible with keeping the majority as happy as possible. The three action combat system with d4 skills was born out of that labor.
What were the primary inspirations for the setting?
When it came down to packaging a setting, I initially was going to release all the different eras of Kromore separately, but I came to the conclusion that giving the players the keys to the entire universe upfront would be a huge amount of content for them to explore. As it always is with my gaming groups, the GM or as we call it “storyteller” always modified and changed the universe to fit their group’s needs. Kromore’s eras are a perfect canvas for those GM’s and the hundred story arc moments provided in the book are all great hooks from which to launch a campaign.
Did each era have a specific inspiration?
Sure they all are settings that are built around existing archetypes. What make them unique is that they each organically grow from their previous setting on the planet Kromore so all that history still exists as do the weapons, armor, and technologies. What you get are the Three Kingdoms Era, Age of Man, Age of Nations, Steam & Steel, Civil War, and Space Eras.

I’ll break them down a bit more for the readers: Three Kingdoms Era is a fantasy medieval setting. It’s a mix of castles, sword and sorcery, political espionage, and exploration as the globe wages war against one another. That setting is ended by a cataclysmic event known as the star comet. The star comet strikes the 2nd moon of Kromore and reigns down dust and debris for a hundred years causing darkness to cover the planet leading into the reconstruction and rebuilding of cities, history, and society called the Age of Man. I have to say it’s a very Conan-esque time and the hundred years of darkness in between those two eras is a pretty great time to play in as well. Organically, the Age of man era eventually leads into the Age of Nations, a high seas time. This is when Kromorians are starting to rebuild cities throughout the planet and rediscover ancient ones. As technology grows, steam technology is discovered and you get the Steam & Steel era of Steam air ships and giant mechanized robots. Those sort of speak for themself. The Victorian theme lasts until it clashes with the futuristic evolution of social and technological advancements in the Civil War era. This is probably one of my favorite eras as you have that steam victorian feel being edged out by science and space like themes. This then transitions to the Space Era.

All the eras are great to fill that itch any gaming group needs and there are thousands of years to explore within them or create your own settings within. It’s a sandbox setting in a lot of ways where we give you the outline and you go from there.

What are you most proud of in this work?
All of it.
What do you think players will most enjoy about the game?
There is content for every type of player from casual to hardcore. With literally hundreds of character build options and setting story hooks you really have a great book to use as a tool box for any game you run. The majority of time players come up to me and tell me how they created alternate nations and eras within Kromore. I think that is awesome and exactly the point of the book. Be creative and use it as a tool where you feel you need to. There has been a lot of great feedback about the art as well.
What are your future plans for Kromore?
The book just came out in stores this year, so as a solo indy publisher I’m slowly trying to familiarize the audience with Kromore until the moment comes when I can really take it to the level it deserves. This moment involves a larger team than just myself and commissioned artists. I have dozens of expansions planned, but right now it’s about getting the book into players’ hands so they can start to absorb the massive content Kromore provides. I will say I’m already working on the playtest for the second edition that I don’t plan on releasing for several years out, but that book will simply add to the setting from the first one on top of streamlining some of the mechanics to open the game up to an even bigger audience and speed up sessions. If players want to see more Kromore faster they should talk about it with their gaming groups and get their stores to stock it so word can spread! The only way for me to bring more Kromore products is for the community to support it.
 
How has the reception been thus far?
There are a lot of games out there to compete with, but when I get feedback from someone who has taken the time to crack the book open and play some games the responses are great. I don’t have the marketing budget the bigger companies have so it’s entirely a player promoted product beyond what I can do at conventions and through social media. The hardcover book is almost sold out, but it was a small print release of only around 1000 units this past February. The digital version and modules are selling well and players should expect more products coming in 2017. People can pick up the book and talk about how pretty it looks and how much content they can see, but they won’t realize the massive amount the book offers till they start to play it. I couldn’t be more happy with the feedback from the game so far.

Interview with Duncan Davis of Sherwood Games

To start off, tell us about yourself and your history in gaming.

Hello everyone! My name is Duncan Davis and I am a game designer. During the day, I am a Ph. D. Chemical Engineer at North Carolina State University. I work with polymer origami. I am the second of five children and have been playing games like Bridge, Magic the Gathering, and Acquire since I was six years old. I grew up in Rhode Island – the smallest state with the biggest imagination!

Describe Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart is a fast-paced role selection robot building game. Seize control of the Coal Heart and siphon the health of your enemies. Will you stand as the last unbroken champion, or will you fall to the wayside with the rest of the junkyard?

What other games helped inspire Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart?

Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart was inspired by the main mechanic in the game Puerto Rico. It is a role selection, resource management game about building your own little agricultural island nation. I thought that its role selection mechanic would make for a very different feeling fighting game. Role selection means each turn, you get to pick a role that lets everyone do something but for being the one that picked it, you get a perk. I knew I wanted the combatants to upgrade and improve over the course of the game, so robots made perfect sense. Using the expectations inherent in a Robot game, the mechanics of Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart are easy to understand and play wonderfully.

What aspects of Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart do you believe cause it to stand out from other role selection games on the tabletop game market?

Robots stands out from other role selection games because there is a high level of player interaction and the ability to directly impact other players. Most role selection games fall into the Euro game category, but Robots feels more like a hybrid between Euro and American games.

If Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart proves to be successful, are there any expansions you would like to release?

We have an expansion for Robots (pending its success). In the expansion, a bigger threat is looming over the world and the Robots must team up to defeat the newest threat. It transforms the game into a co-op game with various villains for the players to fight against. It adds new parts to each robot and an alternate Coal Heart! The playtesting for the expansion has been quite fun!

Interview with Jason Marker of Melior Via

To start off, tell us about yourself and your history in gaming.

Sure thing. My name is Jason Marker. I’m a freelance writer and game designer from Detroit, Michigan. When I’m not writing I’m a stay-at-home dad caring for my two young daughters, play in a guerrilla/punk rock brass band, work as a tour guide in Detroit, and collect and restore old motorcycles. I have a pretty busy schedule.

As for gaming, I’ve been playing RPGs for thirty years now. I started, like most gamers of a certain age, with the Dungeons & Dragons basic red box set. I came of age in the late 80s and early 90s, which were a kind of golden age for RPGs. If you can think of a game that was popular, then I played it or ran it or both. Everything from AD&D to Cyberpunk, Toon to Vampire: the Masquerade (and all the other WoD settings)–if it had to do with RPGs I was playing it.

I’ve been working in the industry on and off since 1999. I started freelancing, mostly with Palladium Books, while I pursued other careers–first as a chef, then in advertising as a commercial photographer. In 2007, I got a gig as a staff writer at Palladium, where I helped bring the Robotech RPG back to market. In 2009 I went freelance again and got picked up by Fantasy Flight doing first the Warhammer 40K RPG and then Star Wars (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, Force and Destiny). In addition to that I’ve done work for Wyrd (Malifaux RPG), Catalyst (Shadowrun 4) and some other, smaller houses. I also helped produce Accursed with John Dunn and Ross Watson through Melior Via. Now I’m doing The Thin Blue Line (TBL) and I’m not sure what’s next.

Describe The Thin Blue Line for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

It’s Hill Street Blues meets The X-Files. Overworked and underpaid cops in a run-down Detroit police precinct battle the supernatural as their minds erode from psychic powers and constant exposure to paranormal elements.

What works of fiction helped inspire The Thin Blue Line?

TV cop shows and horror stories, mostly. When I developed TBL I was a serious Law and Order fan, and I’ve loved police procedurals and PI shows forever – anything from Hill Street Blues to Magnum, PI to The Wire to Homicide to The Rockford Files. I loved mystery-type shows too, like The Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories (I am seriously showing my age here). As for horror stories, it was a lot of H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, with a smattering of Stephen King and even some William Gibson (there are some stories in the Johnny Mnemonic collection that are straight-up horror with a veneer of Gibsonian cyberpunk).

What is it about Detroit and its Corktown neighborhood that led you to choose it as the central location for The Thin Blue Line?

Detroit is an old, old city. It’s also a super weird city. When the French showed up in 1701, there was a huge mound complex along the river, similar to other mound complexes like you see at Shiloh and along the Mississippi river. So, of course, they demolished the mounds, threw the bones in the river, and used the dirt for fill for their new fort. Behavior like that gets you a haunted city. We’ve also had three-hundred odd years of catastrophe, disaster, wild success, and abject failure, which breeds a lot of strong emotions and really fiery, resilient people. I mean, we’ve got our own harbinger of doom in Le Nain Rouge. There’s little I could make up about Detroit that is weirder than the truth.

As for why Corktown?  Well, it just sort of happened. Corktown is Detroit’s Irish neighborhood, and it’s also the oldest extant neighborhood in the city. I needed a good place to set the players when I was developing the game, and Corktown was as good a place as any. I was spending a lot of my time in Corktown during initial development (I still hang out there a lot as a bunch of my friends and bandmates live in the neighborhood), and it has an Old Detroit flavor that I felt suited the setting really well.

What aspects of The Thin Blue Line do you believe cause it to stand out from other paranormal investigation and urban fantasy settings on the RPG market?

Well, first and foremost is the setting. The Thin Blue Line is tied very closely to Detroit. The city itself is almost an NPC. The city, its people, and the land it is built upon are all super important to the game. Using a real city only slightly tweaked for narrative purposes and tying it closely to the game is pretty unique among game settings, I think.

We’ve also worked hard to make the paranormal parts of the game unique. We’ve developed a TBL-specific style of psychic powers, and our take on the paranormal is a little different than most games. TBL isn’t an urban fantasy game. It’s a gritty police procedural game with paranormal elements. To that end, there aren’t a lot of traditional urban fantasy monsters. There are no vampires in Detroit, no werewolves living downriver, no zombies in the Packard Plant. The paranormal in the game is less well defined and more “Spirits” (land spirits, city spirits, ghosts, etc.) than serious fantasy monsters.

Many Savage Worlds settings feature what is known as a Plot Point Campaign. Will The Thin Blue Line have one, either in the main setting book or a future supplement? If so, are there any details about it you’re willing to reveal at this time?

At this time we are not making any announcements for a plot-point campaign. The Thin Blue Line is more a monster of the week/police procedural kind of game. You can run long campaigns, and there is a larger, high-level backstory at work in the setting, but it’s tailored toward investigating specific crimes, dealing with the perpetrators, and moving on to the next.

If The Thin Blue Line proves to be successful, are there any additional supplements you would like to publish for the setting?

Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, shall we?

Interview with Ether Dev

Ether Wars is the new game being Kickstarted by Ether Dev.

Provide a brief description of Ether Wars.

Ether Wars is not something easy to describe. It’s a new concept of board game that mixes things rarely or never mixed before into an abstract strategy with a deep sci-fi and fantasy space theme.  It also has a new dice troop system that combines abstract strategy with probability as well as inspiration not only from board games but from video games.

The result of the mix (and lots of testing and modifications) is a game of strategy in which each player represents a unique species who fight each other using a wide range of possibilities to acquire the power of the Ether. To win, you have to anticipate the intentions of the other players, surprise them, and count with the favor of the gods. It is a truly new experience in the strategy board game world.

The tagline on your Kickstarter page says that Ether Wars is, “An RTS videogame experience translated to the tabletop.” How so?

It’s a rather strange story of how we started with board games. We played more video games during years, but we rediscovered this world after coming back to our city and started to understand better the magic of playing face to face, with the players being the ones who interiorize the rules and not a machine.

Because of this we wanted to translate our video game experiences to such media, creating something different and fresh, and disrupting a bit in the board games development. Some of the game genres that we used to play were real-time strategy (RTS) games, like StarCraft, Command and Conquer, Warcraft and Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games, like League of Legends. Because that was the objective, we still maintain that it is the principal point of our creation.

We must say that Ether Wars is not a video game, and therefore it is not an RTS or a MOBA in a strict way. We take a lot of our inspiration from them and tried to create a similar experience on the board, merging those ideas with the board game mechanics we enjoy from other board games. Those mechanics will be more easily recognizable for the board game community, but Ether Wars is not represented by any of them separately.

What aspects of Ether Wars do you believe cause it to stand out from other worker placement games on the tabletop game market?

The main aspect is that Ether Wars is not strictly a worker placement game; worker placement is just one of the core mechanics in the game, but is not enough to describe Ether Wars. The workers are also soldiers. The players can attack each other directly and indirectly, and extraction is only a tool to win the Ether and gain advantages for your strategy, not a victory requirement. Worker placement is just part of the mix, the jam on the cheesecake, so to speak.

If Ether Wars proves to be successful, are there any expansions you would like to release?

Ether Wars truly has a lot of replay value. There’s always a different experience depending on several factors, including the players involved. However, we have thought on many possibilities for future developments. We’ve already worked on some possibilities for expansion material, such as new species, new resources, new cards, and even an up-to-six-players game expansion.

Interview with Burning Games

Burning Games is a new company whose first RPG will be Faith: The Sci-fi RPG.

To start off, tell us about yourself and your history in gaming.

We are a group of friends who have been playing all kinds of games since we were twelve. We have always talked about making games, and we have made several of them to play with our friends. Last year we decided to try to publish our first game, Faith.

Describe Faith for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

Faith is a sci-fi RPG that uses no pen and no paper. It is played with custom poker cards instead of dice. Players choose cards from their hand, thus being able to manage their luck and resources. The gear and NPCs also come in beautifully illustrated cards with all the game information needed to use them.

What works of fiction helped inspire Faith?

Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Saga, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Hyperion, Elysium, District 9 and many others.

One of the key elements of Faith is that gods are both real and actively (though not directly) involved in the affairs of their worshippers. As this is something more commonly associated with the fantasy genre, what prompted you to apply this to a science fiction setting?

We wanted our sci-fi to be as consistent with actual science as possible.  In fact, many elements from the setting are inspired by our science and engineering backgrounds and from the help of an astrophysicist from the Imperial College. However, we did want to keep the interest that comes from supernatural elements such as divine powers.

What other aspects of Faith do you believe cause it to stand out from other science fiction settings on the RPG market?

The Gods of Faith represent moral paths and reward players whose character plays accordingly – taking this theme and implementing it into the gameplay.

The universe is controlled by two species that coexist in a state of permanent cold war. Aware of the consequences a direct confrontation would bring them both, they compete for resources and try to collapse each other’s economy through fierce commerce and black ops operations.

Humanity is the underdog, a species with no society of its own, they are mercenaries and low level workers only appreciated for their physical strength and their desperation for living one day more.

If Faith proves to be successful, are there any additional supplements you would like to publish for the setting?

Indeed! We have plans to release additional gear, more powerful NPCs, rules and components for spaceships and harsh environments… However, all of that is dependent on the success of our current Kickstarter campaign.

Interview with April & Kevin Cox, of KnA Games

April & Kevin Cox make up KnA Games and are currently Kickstarting a board game, Space Movers. They took a few minutes of their time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

Thank you April & Kevin Cox for taking the time to answer a few questions. Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming experience.

We are a couple of reluctant adults that remain kids at heart. For fun, we love to watch movies and play games. Kevin probably has about 10 more years of gaming experience, but we’ve been playing board games together for over 20 years. He grew up playing games like Stop Thief and Dark Tower. I grew up playing Monopoly and Life. He introduced me to Magic and Eurorails in the early 90’s and I was hooked!

How did the Space Movers come about ?

Space Movers is something we began working on about 3 years ago. Kevin initially came up with the idea of the theme and basic structure of the game. Over a couple of years we spent a little time developing the game. Late last year we learned about Kickstarter and went into high gear polishing the game so that we could release it this year.

Could you give us a brief description of the game and why you are so passionate about it.

Space Movers is a cooperative adventure that incorporates story, strategy and balance. You work as a crew to complete 5 objectives to win the game. During play you will have to deliver cargo from planet to planet to gain resources that allow you to keep flying. There are several other things you have to juggle during gameplay, like events that can alter the rules of the game and the evil UO that will chase you across the system in an effort to interrogate one of the crew members. Space Movers is the type of game that has you feeling like you have complete control in the beginning and like you’re barely hanging on by the end!

Honestly, we are passionate about the game because we really believe it is good. Not that we can take all the credit for that. Since we began demoing the game over the summer, we have had great feedback that has resulted in changes to improve the game tremendously.

How does the comic book tie into the game?

The comic gives you a backstory for the characters and helps you to connect to them. We developed a small bio for each of the characters to help us determine what their special abilities would be in the game. That led to the idea of doing a more complete story that explained why the characters ended up together on the Liberty. The added benefit is that you feel as if you know these characters and inevitably identify with one or more of them, even though you’ve never met them before.

The art for the game and comics is phenomenal. Who does the art and what inspires it?

Kevin did the graphic design for the game board, game box and the cards. All the illustration of the characters and ships in the comic and the game were done by Jon Hrubesch. And phenomenal is a great way to describe his talent! We have been so fortunate to have him involved in this project.

What do you feel separates it from other cooperative games of its nature?

Probably the most unique thing about Space Movers is the dice mechanic that is used to complete skill checks. Each player controls a die specific to their character. To complete skill checks, dice are rolled one at a time on a roll mat inside the game box lid. Multiple players can be involved in each check and they are able to try and change the result of previously rolled dice.

What do you see for the future of Space Movers?

The possibilities for expansions are endless. We will be releasing more Objective card sets and Random Objectives like we have in the initial game, along with more roll mats. We would like to also release an expansion with miniatures for the ships and characters. Eventually we hope to release a new game with a new location for our crew to explore along with another comic book to continue their story.

Interview with Duncan Davis, Sherwood Games

Duncan Davis of Sherwood Games is currently Kickstarting a card game, Missing Link.  He took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming experience.

Hello everyone! My name is Duncan Davis and I am a game designer. During the day, I am a Ph. D. Chemical Engineer at North Carolina State University. I work with polymer origami (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjfhfqAv1mI). I am the 2nd of 5 children and have been playing games like Bridge, Magic the Gathering, and Acquire since I was 6 years old. I grow up in Rhode Island – the smallest state with the biggest imagination!

How did Missing Link come about?

Missing Link came about because I once took a physiology exam to test creativity and one of the questions was to come up with as many ways to use a brick in a given amount of time. I had a lot of fun with the question and tweaked the idea a bit to turn it into a group deduction game.

Could you give us a brief description of the game and why you are so passionate about it? 

The active player draws two objects from the deck, reveals one object, and keeps the other one hidden. That player provides hints to help the other players guess the name of the hidden object. The trick is that all the hints must be true about both of the objects.

For example: If you had an apple card and a skyscraper card, you might reveal the skyscraper and and say “Both objects are associated with New York,” “These are both bigger than a strawberry,” etc. When someone shouts out APPLE! They get one card and you keep the other. The first player to get to 7 cards wins.

Each card is a one-word, physical object. This helps because people always have physical characteristics to work with – you can always compare size. The active player has 2 minutes to get another player to guess the hidden object (although new players get to wave this time limit).

What do you feel separates it from other party games of its nature?

Missing Link makes you think in a very different way than any other game on the market. You are restricted in what you can say in a very interesting way and many times you have to take a few turns before you get a handle on the game. One of the goals I have as a designer is to make fun games that secretly teach you something important without the player realizing. Missing Link does this beautifully because it helps players become more creative. By making you think in a new way and compare things with nothing in common, you have to be creative with your hints. A Wack on the Side of the Head is my basis for making this claim – if you are interested in creativity, I highly suggest you read it (it is a quick read)!
What do you see for the future of Missing Link?

If Missing Link does well, I plan on releasing a ‘dirty’ expansion focused more on adults. I think that players will have a blast trying to compare objects that are more risqué then an apple and an elephant.

5 Questions with Michael Lawson, MACE 2014 GM of Brain Case Trophies Events!

Tell us a little about yourself and your experience in gaming?
Hello! My name is Michael Lawson. I am 48 years old and I currently live in the Atlanta Metro Area. I am originally from the Detroit/Ann Arbor area and that’s where I started gaming in… oh, 1980 or so. AD&D, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Top Secret – all the TSR games from back in the day. Other games include Traveller and Space Opera. And Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. I guess that makes it about 34 years of gaming. Still having fun!
What is Novus Ordo Seclorum?  How did you get involved?
Novus Ordo Seclorum is a Chicago based group of gamers who have been bringing their “A”-game to Gen Con since 1985. My first Novus round was back in Milwaukee, the last year Gen Con was in Milwaukee (2001?). The experience forever changed me and showed me what horror role-playing was all about – or what it could be. Every year after that event (held in the locker room of the ice arena where the RPGA games were held, across from the main convention hall!), I have tried my best to get into their games. And it’s hard to do considering there are more people who want to play than open slots. They run the Cthulhu Masters tournament, and in some years, a Novus Round (both elimination style tournaments, where 1 or 2 players from each session advance to the next round, until there is a final round and a winner proclaimed). Other Novus games come up occasionally that are not run tourney-style. I can tell you this, if you see one, get a ticket if you can. You will have great fun and role-play with some of the best RPG’ers out there! I got to the point where the only games I go to play at Gen Con are Novus rounds. For me, others just don’t compare… with the exception of the “You Too Can Cthulhu” games. They’re run by folks from Minneapolis/St. Paul MN who have ran the Masters a time or two as well. The year before last, I made it to the finals for the Masters. Awesome fun, but the Mi-Go Brain Case Trophy still eludes me! Last year I tried my hand at helping out to run the Novus games. I realized how much hard work it is! I think going forward, I will play Novus rounds at GenCon, and that is why I’ve started to look for events like MACE, where I can run a CoC game and to help “pay it forward”. By that I mean, take what I have learned on how and why Novus rounds are such a blast, and try to create a similar experience for other players. Above all, it has to be fun for everyone.
How would you describe the perfect game for you as a player?
Perfect game? I’ll say it again: it has to be fun for everyone at the table. Then, I suppose the best games I’ve been in is where the players are able to carry the story forward. A GM can stage the scene, but the particular script is best when it comes from each player as their character. The perfect game for me is one where the story takes on a life of its own… and becomes a shared collective experience for players as well as the GM. Each player stays in character 100% of the time (because they want to and just are in character, 1st person) and table-talk and meta-gaming is kept to a minimum. You know you’ve been in a great role playing game when everyone stays at the table, talking about their shared experience, their characters, the story… it just is apparent when the game has transcended and become more of an experience then an event at a convention. Atmosphere, props… music… anything that helps to craft that experience goes a long way in helping with the suspension of belief which is I believe is core to “my perfect game as a player”.
What makes the Lovecraftian Horror most appealing to you?
Good question. I guess it has to do with how precarious our existence is… how chaotic, random, cold and indifferent the universe is, in my opinion. Despite all our technology and hubris, we really don’t know what’s out there, do we? Or what the “true nature” of reality is. People say, “Every thing happens for a reason”. Malarkey. Most everything is the result of an innumerable number of events that came before it that set things in motion… in combination with even more random factors that simply happen for no reason. Lovecraftian horror admits to the reader the truth that our minds and our capability of understanding the true nature of the Universe – is limited. Very limited. As a protagonist in a Call of Cthulhu scenario – at the game table, or as a character in a story – characters most often start out as “regular” people… who for various reasons, get caught up in some horrible fate that gives them insight into this “horror of knowing” and/or glimpses of some awful “thing which should not be”. Characters become “tainted” by this knowledge and most often pay a price for it. Remember, Call of Cthulhu is the only game I know of where you can have a great time and still see your character go insane, die… or worse…
What other games are you involved with?
Sadly, since moving to Atlanta I don’t get to play much (hint: I’m always on the look out for a good group of RPG’ers to play with in the Atlanta area!). Other games I like to play: Pathfinder. Hated DND 4. Excited to try DND 5, I hear they fixed it. Traveller is a classic game I still enjoy. I’ll try any role-playing game. My buddy in Atlanta is teaching me to play StarFleet Battles (a board game – I probably got the name wrong). “Are you a werewolf” is fun. I just bought the card game “Gloom” at GenCon – hoping to get my family to play as they don’t enjoy role-playing like I do. I can say I’ve had some of the best time gaming ever in LARPS at cons. I’ve also had the worst time ever playing in LARPS at cons… so I know they can be very fun… you just have to know which ones to sign up for. Oh! One of the best RPG games I have ever played campaign style (non-con, regular weekend schedule with friends) was a Star Wars game, which is no longer in print. I have come to learn there have been several versions of Star Wars RPG… wish I could remember the exact name/version of that one! The game system was awesome and I was so surprised at how well the game mechanics for being a Jedi worked. It was fun! I want to play again. I have to say one of the biggest reasons I love classic Call of Cthulhu is the game system. Its so light-weight, it doesn’t get in the way… and puts the emphasis on role-playing, and of course, having fun.

Interview with Eloy Lasanta, creator of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2nd Ed.

Interview with Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games, and Kickstarter for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2nd Ed.
Hello, Mr. Lasanta.  Thanks for taking the time to interview with us again and spotlighting your Kickstarter, Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2e.

Thanks for having me!

How did the Kickstarter for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2e come about?

Well, we released the first edition of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. (API) almost six years ago. While the game line has been successful and is still picking up new fans all the time (mostly from conventions), we at Third Eye Games decided it was time to update the system to the caliber of our current design philosophy. Along with that, we decided to advance the timeline of the setting a bit as well and pump it full of  more awesomeness. It took a lot of thought to really decide if API would receive a second edition, but in the end we’re VERY happy with the stellar version of the game we’ll be releasing soon after the Kickstarter.

What are the major changes to Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. from 1st edition to 2nd edition?

Oh, I already started to touch on this in the last question. Essentially, we’ve taken the framework that existed mechanically for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. and rebuilt it. So, it’s essentially the same game, but fine-tuned to really deliver the best API experience that it can. Instead of generic Passions, we’ve now got company specific Reasons. Instead of lists of Skills and different skills working different ways, we’ve streamlined the mechanics so it all plays smoothly. Instead of hyper-strategic combat, we’ve reduced it to what will give the most strategy without as much math. Every decision made for API has been to make the gameplay better and root out the things that may have complicated the first edition.
Best part is that all of the new things we’ve created for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2nd Ed (API2E) will also be converted to Savage Worlds, so that our Savage fans can integrate these new additions into their games as well!
Beyond the elevator pitch, how would you describe Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. to a person that has never heard of it?
The elevator pitch, of course, being: “Action Horror RPG with a twist of humor.” It basically takes all my favorite things from media like Men in Black, Hellboy, Ghost Busters or Buffy the Vampire Slayer and mashes it all into a single RPG which is full of monsters to slay, negotiations to be made and laughs to be had in-between. You can play as one of 20 different races, from humans to giant fish demons to slime creatures. This game isn’t just about taking out bad guys, though. Sometimes, it’s just to maintain the piece or whatever else the company needs you to do (on a budget). There are a lot of different approaches to staying in the black, and it’s up to the agents to pick the correct route that will please the company the most.
What inspired you to create the world of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc.? 

Great question! I was honestly looking for a kind of game like this to play that appealed to my mechanical sensibilities. The closest was the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, which was great but carried a lot of baggage along with it that either made it harder to find players or to play outside of the established plot when you could. So, i started from scratch and took it a step further… “What if you were enlisted to help fight against and regulate demons on Earth, but what if it wasn’t a government thing? What if it was a company who also had to stay in business?” Then Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. was born (of course, that was a placeholder name that the playtesters loved, so we kept it).

Among other things, I think it was also my inability to run anything without a little bit of horror in it. The “twist of humor” part of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. is just as important as the action or the horror parts, because it adds the kind of levity and fun into the game (and the setting) that I love. There are a lot of games out there to take themselves way too seriously, and API isn’t one of them. I wanted more than just “the latest dark monster hunting game.” I wanted something that was unique and really filled a niche that I could feel proud to put my name on.

What are you most proud of with respect to Apocalypse Prevention, Inc.?

I think I’m most proud of API’s longevity. Six years of sales is not by accident. I’ve seen a lot of games be released and then go out to pasture and not so for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. I think it strikes a chord with fans of twists on pop culture monsters and general humor hidden underneath all the horror of the game line. Along with the original corebook, we’ve released 5 sourcebooks for API (API Worldwide: Canada, Demon Codex: Lochs, API Worldwide: Europe, Demon Codex: Spectrals and API Worldwide: South America), each adding to the world in new and crazy ways. That’s why the current Kickstarter has goals to update these sourcebooks to both the new 2E rules, as well as Savage Worlds. It’s out biggest undertaking with a Kickstarter we’ve ever done, and I think Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. deserves the honor, being our first and long-running game line.

What is in the future for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. once this Kickstarter gets funded?

Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. will continue beyond the Kickstarter. After we get all of the current sourcebooks updated to both the API2E and Savage Worlds systems, it’ll be about continuing the game line with both systems going forward as well. The next book in the line, which already has a lot of material written for it, will be Demon Codex: Burners with API Worldwide: Japan to follow close behind. There are a lot of great things in API’s future once this Kickstarter is done.

Assuming you find time to play, what are you playing these days?

I do play on occasion, usually card/board games that I get to play with my kids. Been playing a lot of Sentinels of the Multiverse in that respect. Been playing some of the Firefly RPG from Margaret Weis Productions, which is pretty awesome, and I may be joining a group soon to play some 5E (haven’t gotten the chance to play that one yet). So, I’m doing pretty well with playing lately (which is a lot more gaming than I’ve gotten in the last year).

Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us.  Good luck with your Kickstarter.

Thanks a lot, Ron!

Interview with Steven T. Helt, writer for Cross Of Fire Saga Adventure Path

Steven T. Helt is Paizo’s RPG Superstar for 2013 and the project coordinator and a writer for Cross Of Fire Saga Adventure Path for the Pathfinder RPG.  Steven took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

 Thank you Steven for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Thanks, Ron. I’m grateful for the chance to talk about this project. It has been a fun experience….if a little creepy.

Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming experience, Steven.

I played my first session of AD&D back in 5th grade. A friend’s brother ran us through Queen of the Demonweb Pits. We were massacred but I was hooked. I started designing adventures and running my own scenarios in middle school, but never thought of it as more than a hobby until my mid 30s. I won the Iron GM world championship twice and really got a taste for writing and design as I improved my game behind the screen. I’ve been playing and running RPGs for 32 years.

Since I won RPG Superstar in 2013, I have put together a writing group of fantastic design minds. We’re working to build a reputation as the guys who design things players and GMs salivate over. Fortunately, the publishers we’ve worked with have said very pleasant things and we are already scheduled for a lot of releases with different companies over the next couple of years.

I pitched an offer to develop the Cross of Fire Saga Adventure Path for Louis, crafted the plot from his framework, and now we have a really excellent cast finishing their drafts so our backers know they have already-finished adventures waiting for them when the KS campaign concludes.

How did the Cross Of Fire Saga come about and could you give us a brief description of the Adventure Path?

Louis asked us to write each of the adventures just after we committed to a few other large projects. To make sure he still got what he needed on time, I offered to join the project as author/developer and find him authors with known names who could pick up the writing task that the Four Horsemen couldn’t commit to. Of course, Pestilence is superhuman, so he signed on for a full adventure by himself. But we also got Victoria Jaczko (RPG Superstar 2014), Scott Fernandez (Paizo contributor and Superstar finalist), Jeff Lee, who has designed for several companies, and our third Horseman Dan Dillon. Dan is a crucail addition for the CoF backers becuase when it comes to traps and adventure inspired by dangerous old-school games, Dan is…well….vicious.

Cross of Fire is the first adventure path for the larger Obsidian Apocalypse setting templates. In Jeff Lee’s intro adventure, the players are transported to Abaddon—a harsh realm of post-apocalyptic horror. Their best chance to get home is to follow the lead of a vagabond mystic—someone the PCs can’t fully trust, but at the same time is obviously motivated to help them. Travel in Abaddon is hard, even for high level characters, so across the hard terrain and harder people of the land, the PCs work to locate the missing elements they need to unite in the saga’s conclusion in order to return home. Unfortunately, they have enemies that seek to manipulate them and at any given time their allies aren’t much better. Cross of Fire is gritty and violent and tells a unique horror story the whole way through.

The plot for the saga is something I am really proud of. We’re big fans of turning tropes on their heads, so you can’t take anything for granted. We also have a knack for breathing life into the Maguffin so everything has a detailed story and purpose. The things you need to achieve victory in the Cross of Fire finale have a life of their own and are as dangerous to the PCs as they are to the PCs’ nemesis.

What is it about the Ravenloft and Dark Sun settings that inspired the setting? And what about Abaddon do you think will pull players in?  What makes it unique?

For me, those two settings had defining art and a very specific feel. I think what’s great about working with Louis is you know you’re going to get quality art. The setting material for Obsidian Apocalypse is built around templates, so you can actually sort of choose the post-poc campaign your group wants. Maybe you want a setting where undeath spreads across the world. Obsidian Apocalypse gives you material to focus the horror in that direction. In the Cross of Fire adventures, we’ve blended elements of Lovecraftian horror from beyond, wickedly powerful undead, and the unparalleled cruelty of mortal races pushed to the brink for survival. Some of the most amazing moments in this saga come from less supernatural threats. Just communities very low on hope and trust, and already pushed well past the point of showing charity to strangers.

Great settings have a certain voice but also have some flexibility in that voice, and I think Raveloft was like that and carries into Abaddon for Pathfinder players.

What do you see for the future of Cross Of Fire Saga

Obviously that’s in the hands of Louis and the backers. I will say this: Cross of Fire deserves to be backed at a very high level. It’s not very often that you see a group of designers include two RPG Superstars, a Superstar finalist, and three Iron GMs. The authors of these adventures haven’t been afraid to tackle some difficult material and have honestly knocked it out of the park. If you want to see more adventures designed by teams of well-known freelancers, this is the Kickstarter campaign that will make that happen.

One other thing: the Four Horsemen have always pledged a little extra free content for everything we write. Backers of Cross of Fire will get more options, maybe even another adventure, if they fund us at a higher level, and we won’t charge Louis or the backers at all for that extra content. Give us your trust, and we will give you an adventure path you will never forget.

Thanks, Steven T. Helt, for you time.  Cross Of Fire Saga Kickstarter is opens this Wednesday, 10/1/14.  Please check it out and back it.