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Interview with Jim Thomson

Jim Thomson is the writer of Judge Fool, a time travel superhero setting to be published by the Savage Worlds licensee Plain Brown Wrapper Games.

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

I’m from nowhere. But let me be more specific.

When people ask me where I’m from, I usually say “Alaska” because I spent more of my childhood there than anywhere else. But the truth is that my dad is a wildlife photographer. We traveled the country constantly, and I grew up in the back of the van, reading comics and playing role-playing games with my brothers. So the road is my home town, or the wilderness is. But no specific road and no specific wilderness. We traveled them all.

Around 1979 I cobbled together a version of AD&D from copies of the books that we read bits of in bookstores. I had scribbled the fragments of the rules we’d been able to read down in notebooks that we lugged around with us on the trail. Later I came up with a superhero game that everyone seemed to like a lot more. You might think that wilderness D&D adventures would have been what we liked best. But wilderness adventures were our real life and RPGs are what you do to get away from real life. So superheroes were our thing.

I’m the oldest of eight, so I generally got stuck being the GM and the game designer, too. Roles I seem to still be stuck with today.

When it was time for high school after having been home-schooled for most of my life, I went to live with my grandparents in a wealthy suburb of Chicago. I had come straight from the wilderness and I worried that I was going to be a fish out of water. I particularly feared that role playing games were a weird hobby that no one would find acceptable. But in fact it was the early Eighties, every teenager was into RPGs, good GMs were in demand and being a wilderness kid made you exotic and cool.

All through the Nineties I foolishly hid my nerdy past, pretended not to like role playing games or even to have heard of them. But somewhere around the beginning of the 21st Century, I realized that I had been a moron to stay away from the scene for so long. But even then, by some weird joke of fate I actually started writing RPG books and getting them published years before I returned to playing the games. I am still kicking myself over how much fun I missed.

If there is a moral to this story it’s: Be who you are. Revel in your weirdness.

Describe Judge Fool for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

A crazed, brain-melting cosmic saga that will sweep your player characters off to the far ends of time and space. Take one part superhero comic, one part time travel story, one part psychedelic weirdness, shake until addled, feed it bad drugs and you’ve got Judge Fool.

The Lords of Dust and Silence are coming, eating the future as they draw nearer, and only you know how to stop them before they devour all of reality. You’re going to have to go tumbling across the centuries, zig-zagging up and down the timeways, to intercept them in the Sixty-First Century. All the while their dread minions will be at your heels, and these are far from the only dangers that you’ll face along the way. And you’ll get to punch out a dinosaur!

What works of fiction helped inspire Judge Fool?

I started reading comic books in the late 1970s, right when the whole world went crazy for Star Wars and every comic and Saturday morning cartoon in America suddenly had a space theme. I ate up all of Jim Starlin’s wonderful, lunatic outer space adventures–Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, etc. I thought this was what all superhero comics were supposed to be like! I had no idea that superheroes might spend their time lurking on shadowy rooftops downtown, waiting to beat up muggers. Why would anyone bother to do that when they could go punch out Thanos?

Of course these days I seem to write nothing but “gritty, street-level” stuff when I produce comic book related work (Bedlam City was four hundred pages of that kind of material.) But I never lost my love of Adam Warlock, The Forever People or their groovy, mind-bending cosmic adventures.

So I would say that Judge Fool was influenced by Jack Kirby’s New Gods, Jim Starlin’s aforementioned work for Marvel, Bryan Talbot’s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Terry Gilliam’s movie Time Bandits, Grant Morrison’s weirder and trippier work (Doom Patrol, Marvel Boy, The Invisibles, etc.) with more than a little Doctor Who thrown in.

Is the risk of paradox going to be a significant element in Judge Fool?

There are two points in the story where time paradoxes come into play. One is easy to avoid, and one is critical to the plot. If the time-stream does get damaged thanks to the Player Characters’ actions and reality begins to fray out and fold back on itself, we have some rules for the effects this has. Sorry to be so coy and obscure about the specifics, but I’m afraid if I tell you more details it’s going to wreck some surprises.

Aside from the time travel angle, what aspects of Judge Fool do you believe cause it to stand out from other superhero settings on the RPG market?

Didn’t I mention that you’ll get to punch out a dinosaur? But seriously, the scenario’s fast pace and crazy exotic settings are its most notable features. The PCs are going to get to see some very strange future worlds and some past ones too, and each one is really distinctive and really different from the others. It’s all going to come at the Player Characters very quickly, with lots of narrow escapes and rapid-fire action. (One of the great things about Savage Worlds is that combat gets resolved so fast and easily that you can pack a whole lot of it in.)

Judge Fool also gives the PCs more options for taking individual initiative than a lot of published adventures do. The Player Characters will get to make real choices and the choices that they make are really going to matter.

Many Savage Worlds settings feature what is known as a Plot Point Campaign. Will Judge Fool 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?

Judge Fool is somewhere between a long adventure module and a short campaign. It’s really meant to be a single lengthy and complex adventure that occupies a superhero group for five or six issues of their comic, rather than an entire comic book series. Still, we could easily wind up expanding it into something longer if the first book does well.

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

Plain Brown Wrapper Games is already producing a companion volume called “Tales of Tomorrow,” but that’s going to be a strictly limited edition book, available only to people who have backed the Kickstarter. It provides additional material on each of the different future eras the PCs will visit during the course of the adventure.

However, if people like Judge Fool, there will be a sequel. And if they like the sequel too, well, there are all kinds of other adventures a group of player characters could have up and down the timestream…

Interview with Chris Birch (Modiphius Games) about Mutant chronicles

First and foremost, tell us a little about yourself, your gaming experience and your writing experience?

I first played D&D at age 9 with my brother, his girlfriend and friends, this is when it was huge. I then found a copy of Steve Jackson’s Ogre in a tiny village shop, loved it! Scratched my head over the ratio combat and then discovered the world of ‘tabletop games.’ I started playing war-games, boardgames, anything I could get my hands on. I’d often not have people to play games with when my brother moved away to university so I’d invent solo rules. Fast forward a few years, I came up with a game system with my friend Stuart Newman and later we went on to design the FATE based Starblazer Adventures which was so much fun and SO exhausting! I then co-wrote Legends of Anglerre with a fantastic team including Sarah Newton.

How much of the original rules system are you preserving? How much is new? Will it be backward compatible?

We’ve taken the 6 stats and expanded to 8, we’ve kept the d20 (albeit with a new core system), hit locations and the awesome life path character generation (although you can also point buy your character too). Otherwise it’s a fresh new system designed for fast cinematic play, lots of cool gear and spaceships – that’s something new for example. In the 2nd Ed it was a heavily combat-focused game and now we’re adding in the ability to control spaceships. There’s corporations, social skills, lifestyle, allegiances and much more.

Are you advancing the timeline of the setting or keeping it about the same time?

We’re winding the clock back 700 years to when the Dark Symmetry, a malign foul corrupting force, is released and infects computer systems and equipment leading to the downfall of the modern age. This allows you to have adventures during the collapse of technology, as it turns on man, literally! Exploration and investigation of strange cults and rumoured creatures, leading up to the first great war with the Dark Legion. Alternatively you can wind forward 700 years and play in the same timeline as the original RPG. It’s up to you and you get all the information you need on both timelines in the core book.

What about Mutant Chronicles attracts you?

The over-the-top exaggerated heroic action, the dark noir styling, the diesel-punk vibe, the brightly coloured iconic art by Paul Bonner

You are calling Mutant Chronicles a “dieselpunk sci-fi RPG.” This is first time I have seen it referenced in that way. When Mutant Chronicles first came out, those type of terms – “steampunk” and “dieselpunk” – were not all that common. So is this a reinvention of the property to fit a more modern genre or was Mutant Chronicles “dieselpunk” before it was cool to call it so – a game before its time, perhaps?

I think it was actually diesel punk ‘style’ back then, the term just wasn’t really in use. I still love the ‘techno-fantasy’ term too as it really tells you about the vibe of the setting, the cool gear, the madness of the Dark Legion and the epic adventure!

Do you think the comparisons to Warhammer 40K are fair? What makes it different from that property?

It’s set in a more recognizable time, with more familiar factions. At the time characters were exaggerated but Mutant Chronicles made the massive shoulder pads their ‘thing.’ It’s what identifies it and makes it so cool.

What are you most proud of in this work?

I was a big fan in the 90’s; I owned many of the games, so bringing together such a talented team to work on the game and bring it back fresh and ready for action is what I’m proud of.

What did you think of the Mutant Chronicles movie?

It’s a Hollywood movie. It’s a miracle that there’s a multi-million dollar movie with the Mutant Chronicles name, with the same characters, the same corporate names even if the story is not what fans wanted. The styling is a pretty good representation of Imperial and Capitol, so overall I think it did a great job of promoting the brand to a massive audience. We’ve had tons of people sign up who said they saw the film first and so have gone on to discover our awesome gaming world. Just go and watch a few D&D films and see how bad it really could have been 🙂

What is in the immediate future for Mutant Chronicles after your Kickstarter?

Get the core book finished, get the Guides and Campaigns finished, get them out to backers! There’ll be a lot of merchandise to produce, lots of writers and artists to manage, and that’s all part of making it happen. We’re just so excited to see the new system taking shape and we’re already planning a long line of additional products to expand the range.

Mutant Chronicles was not only an RPG, but there was a collectible card game, a miniature wargame, board games, video games, novels, and comic books. It was a pretty extensive property. Do you see or are there plans for Modiphius getting involved in any of the other areas?

Who knows! It depends on the success of the kickstarter, as we’re obviously going to be pretty busy, but once you’re designing one set of products it’s not hard to expand into another similar product.

Thank you for your time and good luck with Mutant Chronicles. We look forward to reviewing it.

Thanks!

Interview with Casey Hayes of Team Badass Productions

Casey Hayes is the founder of Team Badass Productions. Their first project is Bump in the Night.

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

Right now, I’m a recent college graduate in English looking to continue on for an M.Ed to work in university administration. Meanwhile, however, I’ve been designing tabletop games in one form or another since I was very young. I started with role playing games my sophomore year of college, and I’ve been running games for my group ever since. Bump in the Night is my first big project, however.

Describe Bump in the Night for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

A game about rookie paranormal investigators trying to establish themselves into a legitimate organization.

What works of fiction helped inspire Bump in the Night?

One of my playtesters enthusiastically refers to the game as “Ghostfacers: the RPG,” so Supernatural is a pretty big influence. I also ended up watching a lot of ghost hunting TV shows while researching the game, particularly Destination Truth and The Dead Files. Lastly, several movies and TV series worked their way into becoming major influences, particularly The Exorcist and the Paranormal Activity series to get more inspiration for the horror aspects of the game, and the anime series Ghost Hunt for inspiration on how investigation can be incorporated into a major part of a game’s plot.

What sort of presence will traits such as magic, psychic abilities, and weird science have in the game?

Scientific and supernatural abilities will both be present in the game, although how much of each is present is up to the GM and players. A major mechanic in the game is the Agency Goal, a statement of purpose the group chooses when they form into a group. This means that a group that chooses an Agency Goal dedicated to uncovering hoaxes is going to be facing way less of the supernatural than a group of exorcists with an Agency Goal of helping people who have been possessed. Furthermore, PCs can be scientists, spiritualists, and mediums, but a spiritualist’s ritual magic can mess with scientific equipment should they be too overt. On a similar note, a medium can see and speak with spirits, but cannot make them appear. So a medium can speak with a ghost all they want, but to a video camera, it will just look like the medium is talking to the air.

What aspects of Bump in the Night do you believe cause it to stand out from other paranormal investigation settings on the RPG market?

When I first started working on Bump, around about the second day of working on it after the initial idea flurry, I looked into what other games I could find on the subject of ghost hunting. In the end, other than Core games like FATE Core or GURPS which can run theoretically anything, the only things I could really find were the WoD Hunter and Call/Trail of Cthulhu. This presented sort of an interesting division; one game was about investigating the supernatural and shooting it, while the other revolved around the inevitability of character death and investigation and research leading down paths of insanity or worse. I wanted to make a game that served as a happy medium between the two, a game with room for horror aspects, but one that focused primarily on investigation, thinking, and working out issues peacefully.

One of the other things that I hope sets Bump apart from other RPGs is the organization aspect. The players’ Agency is a big part of how they operate, and the Agency has the potential to become an independent character in its own right. (My original playtest group even ended up designing a unique logo for their Agency.) Lastly, I tried to make the rules to Bump as player-friendly as possible, ensuring that players of all skill levels could enjoy the game.

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

Providing funding is successful, the big expansion I want to work on is an expansion for playing young characters, more in the vein of Scooby Doo or Gravity Falls than ghost hunting shows and horror movies. Smaller supplements include splat books on specific threats and challenges, possibly expanding into more supernatural phenomena beyond ghosts; A splat about cryptids, one about aliens, and one about miscellaneous world mythology difficult to fit in other places, are possible examples.

Interview with Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games

Eloy Lasanta is owner of Third Eye Games. Their latest setting is AMP: Year One.

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

I’ve been gaming since 1993 (wow, that makes me feel old) and started my days with RIFTS. I was fairly loyal and played that for years (in addition to pretty much anything else Palladium put out, including Heroes Unlimited). I moved on to White Wolf games and played a lot of Kindred of the East and Changeling: The Dreaming (both under appreciated games, in my opinion). In between all of that, I’ve played a slew of other games like D&D, Hollow Earth Expedition and Fates Worse Than Death, just to name a few. I’m kind of a game-hopper, always trying to find the new game I can try and integrate into my brain and possibly carry over lessons to other games I may play.

Describe AMP: Year One for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

Sure! AMP: Year One is a ten-one supers RPG about regular people suddenly developing powers in the modern day and how they handle this change in their life. Do they continue on like nothing has happened? Do they use their powers for personal gain? Or do they attempt acts of heroism? Their new life is full of danger and hard choices.

Oh, what’s the system like? It’s simple, logical, flexible and approachable, without it having so many choices that players become deer in the headlights. All checks are reduced down to a roll of a 1d20 + a combination of Skills and other modifiers against a Target Number, meet or beat to succeed. Easy to learn and implement and great for new players or those new to supers RPGs.

What works of fiction helped inspire AMP: Year One?

I’d be remise if I didn’t mention X-men, first and foremost. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the movies, cartoons or comics, X-Men is a huge influence on the feel and ideas of AMP: Year One. People with powers that make them feel like freaks (and sometimes turn them into them) and the danger of letting anyone find out what you truly are are two ideas that resonate a lot within our setting. A couple of other obvious influences are both Heroes, by Tim Kring, and Alphas, by Zak Penn, who I bet were also influenced by X-Men. The movie Push, starring Chris Evans, was another that really influences how the world was setup and how AMPs relate to each other.

What aspects of AMP: Year One do you believe cause it to stand out from other supers settings on the RPG market?

I think one thing that makes AMP: Year One stand out is how rooted it is. There aren’t any alien invasions or robots around every corner. It’s more about how AMP’s relate to each other in a harsh world, as well as the very real threat of humanity. Some may think “but an AMP has superpowers and they can beat up anyone,” but that becomes less the case when mob rule sets in. Humans are scary.

It is also very much about the existence of new beings with powers today. Not based in a world where heroes and villains have run around destroying public property for decades. I think it takes wiping the slate clean and starting fresh to make something that truly stands out, and that’s what AMP: Year One does. It takes away any preconceived notions of what you thought a supers RPG should be and replaces it with a new amazing experience.

If AMP: Year One proves to be successful, are there any additional supplements you would like to publish for the setting?

I’m happy to announce that AMP: Year One has already hit it’s funding goal on Kickstarter, which is pretty amazing. Not only do we have stretch goals to make this corebook as awesome as possible, but we have a five year series planned for the AMP line. AMP: Year Two, obviously following Year One. Each one introduces a new piece of the continuing story, additional powers and character options, and a slew of fun! AMP: Year Two is already in development as we speak.

Interview with Bob Kelly and Aerjen Tamminga of Heresy Research Labs

Bob Kelly is CEO of Heresy Research Labs. Along with Aerjen Tamminga, their first game will be Los Cthuluchadores: Elder Things in the Wrestling Ring.

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

Bob: In high school, I used to work at War Games West in Albuquerque and tried my hands at everything I could find. I always enjoyed the freakier games that daunted others. To date, I’m the only GM I know who ran a Kult game outside of a con. From there, I’ve had more than a few attempts at being 100% in game development – both board and computer. I’ve never met an RPG which I didn’t provide my own twist or a board game that I didn’t want a house rule. Once I moved to Boston, things really started shaping up for me (with the GameMakersGuild.com) and other opportunities.

Aerjen: I’ve loved playing games and being part of the gaming community for as long as I can remember. I first started out designing games when I went to college and around that time I founded a board gaming club in Amsterdam. When I moved to the US about two years ago, I became a member of the Game Makers Guild and really enjoyed playtesting the games of other designers and getting feedback on my own designs. When I became a co-producer for the Boston Festival of Indie Games and organizer for the Game Makers Guild, I realized that this hobby of mine is more than just a thing on the side. Since last year I’ve started collaborating with other great designers (like Bob) and have been working on getting my games published. Los Cthuluchadores: Elder Things in the Wrestling Ring is the first of many projects.

What sort of mad inspiration struck you to combine luchadores with the Cthulhu Mythos?

Bob: A fun game and a bad pun. I was playing Guacamelee and thought, “There’s not a lot of avocados in this game.” I started playing around with puns and ran into Los Cthuluchadores… and after a few attempts at summarizing the game, Aerjen and I discovered the tag, “Elder Things in the Wrestling Ring” and from there, the ideas were pretty well-defined.

Aerjen: I have to give all the credit to Bob for this one. When he asked me to become a co-designer for his game, he had already come up with the theme. I thought (and still do) that it was hilarious and since I have come to know Bob as a great guy, I was happy to come on board.

The Kickstarter page indicates that the game plays for up to four. Are four-player games going to be tag team or free for all?

Bob: We have rules for both! There’s 3 and 4-player free-for-all, but my favorite is the 4-player tag team.

Aerjen: Like Bob says, we have rules for both variants. Only my favorite is the 4-player free-for-all. The insanity that ensues when taunting with 4 players, must be like what it feels like when Cthulhu kisses your soul.

The Elder Sign design in the game differs from both the star and tree versions people normally associate with the term. Where did it come from?

Bob: The eye-in-star elder sign is famously copyrighted – and justifiably so – so I didn’t want to go down that route. And I love the tree version, but it just doesn’t have enough pizazz for a Cthulhu meets Spandex game. And… I love Blue Oyster Cult. Buck Dharma and the band has a hook-and-cross symbol which follows them around. I made our own version combined with the formal tree version. Aerjen asked me to “roughen” the design so that it looked like a…

Aerjen: Let me finish that sentence… bit more like something that a caveman could have scribbled on a piece of rock.

The origami playing pieces are quite a unique concept. How did that come to be?

Bob: I have the best designer on my team – Lisa Corkum; we were playing around with flat counters and she just folded one up and dropped it on the table – from there crushing your opponents became REAL. She also designed the board from Aztec/Mayan combined symbology – and since some of the Cthulhu Mythos stories had a tie in to Latin America, it was a great fit.

Aerjen: Quick tip for the readers: you can really give your Cthuluchadores some extra spunk by playing around with the tentacles. I try and give each one I fold it’s own character.

The possibility of expansions is hinted at. Are there any details you’re willing to reveal at this time?

Bob: Absolutely! we have 2 expansions which we’d like to add to the Kickstarter. First is “El Lodo sobre Aztlan” – the Ooze over Aztlan – which supercharges ooze (better attacks and defense) and add surprises like the Folding Chair of Doom! The second is Cultos Innombrables (Unspeakable Cults) which improves that gameplay of the Spectator Arena with your cultists.

Interview with Timothy Brannan

Timothy Brannan is the author of the new Kickstarter published by Christina Stiles, Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock

Hello, Mr.  Brannan.  Thank you for taking the time out to interview with us.

It is my pleasure and thank you for having me here.

First and foremost, tell us a little about yourself, your gaming experience and your writing experience?

Well, like most writers, I can say, “I have been writing my whole life,” but that is not all of it.  I have been playing RPGs since around 1979 when I got a hold of a badly xeroxed copy of the Holmes D&D Basic set.  My first real game came later when I got a copy of the Moldvay D&D Basic set.  I have been playing ever since.  My first attempt at writing was a Healer class that I wrote for myself mostly.  My very first witch class was from around 1986 or so.  I pretty much haven’t stopped writing since.  I have written a number of witch or magic related books. I worked on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, Ghosts of Albion with Amber Benson (who played my favorite witch Tara) and freelancing gigs for a few companies. 

By day I design curriculum for universities. Prior to that I was a Statistics professor.  I live in the suburbs of Chicago with my wife of 19 years and my two sons. They both love playing D&D with their dad!

What is Strange Brew to you?

Strange Brew actually began for me a number of years ago.  I had all this great witch-related material laying around, somewhat literally to my wife’s chagrin.  I have always loved writing about witches, magic and the supernatural, so much so that I had collected three binders full of notes.  I started collecting them together and realized I had hundreds of pages of stuff.   The new witch class came out for Pathfinder and I tried it and I had a lot of fun, but it felt like it was missing some things.  As it turned out I had those things on my hard drives.  Christina and I knew each other from back in the Buffy and early d20 days.  She was looking to update the wonderful Way of the Witch from Citizen Games that she had worked on and came to me.  I turned around and handed her nearly 500 pages worth of materials.  Together we have been going through it all and realized we had something really awesome here.  We have recruited some more help and decided to make the ultimate book for anyone playing any type of witch character for Pathfinder.

This book really is the effort of nearly 13 years worth of writing, editing, play testing and thought.  I am not likely to ever produce something this big and encompassing again.  Everything I know is going into this book somewhere. The DNA of this book is not just d20 but it goes back to that day in 1979 when I first opened up the Monster Manual and knew everything was going to be much more interesting from then on.

What inspired you to write Strange Brew?

I guess to be honest I was less inspired and more driven.  Like I mentioned, I had been collecting material and writing notes for years.  During my 3.x games with my kids I would write notes on how the witch NPCs or PCs dealt with the encounters or situations.  I would read pretty much any modern supernatural book on the market and I would, as my habit, jot notes down on the book mark I was using.  I have binders of notes, and I got a new one last night ready to go.  So all of this information was there, just begging me to do something with it.   Strange Brew won’t be released as much as it will escape from me.

What are you most proud of in this product?

That is hard to say really. There is so much. I love the new spells I have put in there and think they give the witch something above and beyond “wizards with black cats and brooms.”  Honestly, I think my favorite part is the fact that the book is so complete. Everything you need to play a witch is here. No other book is needed.

Why witches?  What attracts you to this subject and role playing them?

That is a very good question.  I was a kid in the 70s and 80s so I was influenced by the big 70s Occult Revival and 80s Satanic Panic.  I thought they were very interesting cultural touch points. Since that was also the time I was playing RPGs the most, I always bundled them together in my mind.  I also watched hundreds of horror movies as a kid, so witches, ghosts, vampires, and all that stuff belonged in my games.  Vampires, ghosts and werewolves were there already, but witches were not.

My favorite characters were always the witches. The Wicked Witch of the West, Maleficent, Angelique (from Dark Shadows) – these were the women that I adored when I was young.  Witches in fantasy are never the helpless maiden. Sure they are often evil, but never helpless. I like strong heroes and heroines. I have never been interested in the giant barbarian with massive thews. Give me the cunning woman, the sly trickster, the occult scholar sitting in his dark study, the captivating and magical girl.

Both Rachel Boston (@rachelboston), of Witches of East End and Katia Winter (@katia_winter), who plays Katrina Crane on Fox’s new Sleepy Hollow, recently tweeted that “Witches are the new Vampires,” and I feel that is true.  Witches have never been more popular. In recent years we had Charmed and now American Horror Story: Coven, Sleepy Hollow, Witches of East End and soon Salem all on TV.  True Blood has had its own witches and we must never forget Willow and Tara from Buffy.

Can we look forward to more tomes such as these?

I know there is a Shaman book in the works from Christina and from my conversations with the author it should be every bit as cool as this book.  For me personally, I have a lot of freelancer projects out there and I would love to do something more with Vampires or Demons.  I love the dark supernatural stuff and, like the witch, I have a ton of material on them.

Thanks again and good luck with your Kickstarter.

Thanks so much! It has certainly been a fun experience.

Interview with John Dunn of Melior Via

John Dunn is president of the Savage Worlds licensee Melior Via. Their first setting is Accursed.

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

Accursed is a collaborative creation of Ross Watson, Jason Marker, and John Dunn. Each of us have been gaming for more than twenty years, and all of us have been involved in writing for a number of different game companies. Our credits include work on RPG products for Shadowrun, Robotech, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Malifaux: Through the Breach, and the various lines of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay. We initially met through Fantasy Flight Games, when Ross was the line developer for Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay. However, we have now worked on a number of different projects together in other lines and with other companies as well.

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

In Accursed, Hellboy meets Solomon Kane. The game world allows players to take on the roles of characters transformed by curses. They are Dhampir (Half-vampire charming rogues), Golems (living creatures crafted from unliving materials, similar to Frankenstein’s monster), Ophidians (Snake-men), Vargr (werewolves), Mummies, Mongrels (men with bestial limbs and other body parts grafted onto their bodies), Shades (living ghosts), and Revenants (the living dead). The Accursed are this world’s only hope. They must learn to embrace their curse or to fight against it, and find some way to free themselves forever of their Witchmark.

What works of fiction helped inspire Accursed?

Certainly dozens of classic horror works and novels played a major influence, including Dracula and Frankenstein, but those are given. Our Witchbreeds are based on classic movie monsters, and those films certainly factor as a major influence for us. In general, the classic Universal and Hammer Horror monsters are a primary resource. From fiction, Howard’s Solomon Kane stories played a major influence in the way we developed the setting, but Mignola’s Hellboy and classic fairy tales also fed strongly into the type of world that we envisioned. Finally, the Castlevania line of video games provided a look and feel which certainly has some similarities to the world we sought to create and populate.

What aspects of Accursed do you believe cause it to stand out from other fantasy settings on the RPG market?

Accursed is meant to encompass the Fast, Furious, Fun of Savage Worlds, but it also needs to force the players to make challenging decisions for their characters. Characters can become more powerful monsters by embracing that curse or they can attempt to recover their lost humanity by denying it. Gamemasters need to challenge the players with difficult decisions regarding this. As the PCs act in ways that either deny or embrace their curse, Gamemasters respond by developing the monster’s abilities or by restoring elements of their humanity (at the cost of their monstrous abilities). In essence, it becomes a social pressure cooker for the GM, as he challenges the players with tough choices that have campaign defining ramifications. This creates multiple tiers of play, as the characters can embrace dramatic action at the same time as they make hard decisions.

Many Savage Worlds settings feature what is known as a Plot Point Campaign. Will Accursed have one, either in the main setting book or a future supplement?

Yes, the full version includes a Plot Point Campaign in the “Adventures in Morden” chapter.

Are there any additional supplements you intend to publish for Accursed?

Our Kickstarter enabled us to assure the production of a number of different add-on products. Here’s the list:

  • Two poker decks, featuring the main book’s artwork. (Available from DriveThruCards)
  • A set of four 1-sheet adventures, written by Shane Hensley, Sean Preston, Adam Jury, and Colin McComb.
  • An adventure written by Sean Patrick Fannon.
  • An adventure written by Rich Baker.
  • A novella by Richard Lee Byers.
  • A novella by Mel Odom.
  • A sourcebook written by George Ziets and Chris Avellone.

Beyond that, we’d like to eventually create additional sourcebooks and adventures.

Interview of Robert Burke of Robert Burke Games

Hello Robert.  Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. First off, tell us a little about yourself and your career as a game designer?

I’m just a guy who love games and loves to create stuff. Game design is not my career; it’s just a passion that I love. And that’s fine with me.

Not only are you a game designer, but you have a video blog?  Tell us a little bit about that.

I have done some videos that I post on BGG called “When To Play.” It’s nothing serious, but I started doing them only because I think many reviewers don’t tell us much more than what their own personal tastes are. I believe it’s more valuable to tell people what niche a game fits and within what social situations a game can shine. That’s what I’m trying to do with the series, but really I’m just stumbling through the dark and having fun.

You have several game designs under your belt.  Just to name a few – The tile-laying, creature building game, Cartoona, the card game, Battle For Souls, and the storytelling family game, Gnomes: The Great Sweeping of Ammowan.  What do you think this reflects of you as a gamer?

All my games start out as an idea, and each idea springs from some passion I have. For Cartoona, it was my art, for Gnomes, it was story adventures I made up for my kids. Battle For Souls was inspired by my love of art history, the writings of CS Lewis and visits to the Vatican. For me, it has to start with a passion for the theme. Only after a passion spurs an idea do I start to think about mechanics. I am not a designer who will be known for a certain mechanic, or a single theme, or even a single genre. It’s a passion for the theme that leads me where I need to go. That’s why my games are very different from one another. This is not the smartest way to go from a business perspective, because the people who enjoyed my last game may not be the right audience for my next one. But it’s not business success that drives me, it’s a love of the process and a passion for the idea.

You seem to have a knack for interesting family-friendly games.  When you started out, was that in your vision?

No. Cartoona came from my art. I have painted these cartoon creatures for decades. And they have always been done with an automatic drawing technique. I developed a vocabulary of different creature body parts, so when I draw a creature, I don’t think about what I will draw, I just put together different parts from this “alphabet” I have created. Cartoona was a way for me to make a game so people could experience creating cartoon creatures like I do. You never know what you will get, and sometimes they make you smile. The art and the mechanics just lent themselves to being a family game. I did not set out to make a family game; it became one as I developed it. Gnomes is a family game because I developed it for my own kids. It started as a way to inspire their imaginations and grew into a story that I wanted to share. Again, it was not planned, but rather evolved into what it is. I don’t ever want to force my designs, I want them to emerge.

Tell us a little but about your effort with Arkham Horror designer, Richard Launius – Draco Magi?  How was it working with Richard?

 Working with Richard has been great. He’s a game design veteran who has taught me a ton. We met at Dice Tower Con 1, but really hit it off at Gnomecon in Savannah. I had a card game I was working on at Gnomecon that grew from my love of dragons, and it was a good abstract strategy game. The goal was to make it a simple game with deep strategy. A brain burner. Richard played it and liked it, but he said something that was an epiphany for me. He said, “Robert, the mechanic is solid, but I don’t feel like dragons are fighting.” And you know what, he was right. Now, I understood this was a true legendary designer of thematic games, so I took that comment to heart. I had gotten away from what inspired this game, DRAGONS, and instead was focusing on proving I could make a “smart” strategy game. So, Richard and I spoke at length, I gave him a prototype and we have been working on it together ever since.  The collaboration has done wonders for the game and for my growth as a designer. I can tell you this, every part of the game is driven by the theme now, and you really get the sense of dragons fighting. And we did not have to give up the strategic elements to do so.

Tell us a little about your latest project, The Offensive Band Name Generator?

Well music is a HUGE passion for me. I’ve played in bands and I have been writing a playlist column for Yahoo! Music for years. I also just signed on with Beats Music, which is Dr. Dre’s new streaming music service. I will be providing them with curated playlists. So music is a big part of my life. The Offensive Band Name Generator (OBNG) is a party game that evolved out of games I’ve played with band mates where we would come up with band names to fit some theme. Again, the passion sparked the idea, and the idea forged the game. It’s a riot to play, but is for mature audiences only.

The Offensive Band Name Generator seems to be a slight departure from your other games.  Further diversification?

No. All my games are a departure from my other games because it’s the idea that rises to the top that I work on, and I never know where the next one is coming from.

What is in your future plans?

Get the OBNG and Draco Magi published and then onto some new passions. Maybe my favorite book? It’s a great one, but I won’t say just yet.

This year, you are attending MACE in Charlotte, NC.  What do you look forward to the most at MACE this year?

I always look forward to playing games and meeting fellow gamers! I can’t wait to spend some time at a Con in my own back yard!

Interview with Matthew J. Hanson, The Abstract Dungeon Kickstarter

Matthew J. Hanson is the creator of  The Fastest RPG I’ve Ever Played- The Abstract Dungeon.  Matthew took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

Tell us a little about yourself, Matthew.

I’ve been playing roleplaying games since my brother got the Mentzer Dungeons and Dragons Red Box for his birthday sometime in the 80s, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I started designing for RPGs around 2004 and have written for Dragon Magazine, Kobold Press, Green Ronin, EN Publishing and others. Then in 2011 I decided I wanted to take the plunge and start my own company, so I launched Sneak Attack Press. We started by publishing supplements for Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Mutants & Masterminds, and Savage Worlds. Now we’re excited to be producing our own system.

How did this game come about and could you give us a brief synopsis of the game?

Abstract Dungeon came about because one of my friends and I were discussing how we wanted a game that played much faster so that we could get through all the stories we wanted to tell. That’s where the impetus of Abstract Dungeon began. We succeeded in making a game that plays faster than anything I know of because it uses a dice-pool resource-management system rather than the traditional rolling to hit and deal damage. We started using it for the fantasy genre because that’s what we’re mostly playing; the system can be used with just about any genre, though.

Because of the dice-pool system, Abstract Dungeon is also extremely flexible and encourages creative story-telling over number crunching. I’ve seen people play everything from the traditional dwarven berserker to a skeletal tailor.

What do you see for the future of The Abstract Dungeon

After the Core Book, we plan to follow up with more support.  Some of this support is currently stretch goals for the Kickstarter project, like PDFs for additional character options and a print and PDF mega adventure where the PCs reclaim a ruined keep and explore monster infested territory beyond the edge of civilization.

After that we are exploring possibilities for other supplements like monster or treasure books, and other genre books like Abstract Space.

Thanks, Matthew, for you time.  Abstract Dungeon’s Kickstarter is ending this Sunday, 9/15/13.  Please check it out and support it.

Interview with James Barbery of Glove & Goggle Labs

James Barbery is the founder of the new Savage Worlds licensee Glove & Goggle Labs. His first setting will be Ronin: Chrome & Shadows.

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

I started playing tabletop RPGs when I was twelve years old. My first experience was with Twilight 2000. I have loved RPGs ever since, and I feel certain that those early post-apocalyptic experiences have tinted my gaming career as I examined what it meant to survive and how that survival can move and reshape the line of what you consider to be right or wrong.

My first experiences with the cyberpunk genre, and GMing as well, were only a few years later. The concepts involved and the questions revolving around the theme of what defines humanity reshaped my view of the world. In fact, I’m certain that it has influenced my professional career—I’m working on a doctorate in the medical sciences—as well as my interests in technology and science of all forms.

As far as my accomplishments as a writer, this is my first serious professional project. I have been writing stories and forging game worlds for decades to entertain my gaming groups and for my own personal edification. In fact, that’s how Ronin began as well, but I have found myself absolutely driven to develop this setting.

Describe Ronin: Chrome & Shadows for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

Ronin: Chrome & Shadows is a dystopian future in which enormous sprawling metroplexes sit within vast wastelands full of engineered super-predators and aggressive plant life designed by the corporations to help win the wars that ravaged the globe a half century before, following the massive solar storms known as the Big Black and the limited nuclear exchanges during the Week of Flames.

Within these walled cities, the corporations must maintain alliances in order to keep enough resources dedicated to their common defense. That’s where the Ronin come in; deniable freelancers that do the dirty work of whatever company or syndicate will pay them.

Outside the walls, raiders and scavengers struggle to survive amid the rubble of the old world, and most of those within the metroplexes are doing little better. The privileged few that have gained corporate citizenship live well by comparison, but the smart money went orbital decades ago.

What works of fiction helped inspire Ronin: Chrome & Shadows?

In no particular order:

The written works of William Gibson (esp. Neuromancer), Neal Stephenson (esp. Snowcrash), Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, the Judge Dredd comics and many other comics, novels and short stories.

Innumerable movies and shows including Bladerunner, Johnny Mneumonic, Hackers, Mad Max, Eli, The Fifth Element, Metropolis (Fritz Lang and Rintaro alike), Alien, The Matrix, 12 Monkeys, THX 1138, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Gattacca, AI, The Terminator, Equilibrium, Minority Report, Vanilla Sky, Tron, War Games, Strange Days, Aeon Flux, Dredd, Robocop, The Lawnmower Man, Soylent Green

Some of the movies are double-dipping as they are based on works of some of the written works mentioned, but they all have their own little nooks and crannies deserving a mention in their own right. I’m sure I missed a few, but that list seems adequate to the task.

What aspects of Ronin: Chrome & Shadows do you believe cause it to stand out from other cyberpunk settings on the RPG market?

First and foremost, the post-apocalyptic elements are more pronounced than many cyberpunk settings. In an already dark genre, Ronin tends toward the darker end of the spectrum. While many cyberpunk settings have events in their past that caused devastation or reshaped the world to some degree, Ronin is defined by the cataclysmic events that have pushed the world to the brink.

For instance, the plant super symbiote known as GAMMA that was designed to create the aggressive plant life I mentioned earlier has recently mutated and started to infect animals and people. These outbreaks are rare, even in the outlands, but they are spreading. The corporations tell the people that GAMMA is not a threat, but behind the scenes they are scrambling to find a way to stop the spread of this new strain before it’s too late.

That is just a quick example, but every aspect of the history folds back in on itself in some way to make the dystopian future found in Ronin a little darker, a bit bleaker. That’s not to say there’s no hope anywhere, but those faint glimmers are hard to see with your head bowed and your boots in the mud.

I have also gone to painstaking efforts to make the rules, especially with regard to hacking and cybernetics, as streamlined as possible without sacrificing any of the cyberpunk texture and grit. There are still customizable hacking rigs, comprehensive cyberware packages and tons of weapons to tinker with, but they are all designed to stay true to Savage Worlds and keep the game play Fast! Furious! and Fun! I have even created a resource management system to keep the tension of running out of supplies in the outlands without the need for extensive gear lists unless you want them.

In short, I feel that the mechanics in Ronin are able to handle the intricacies of cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic game play while remaining lightweight and staying out of the way so the story can be told.

Many Savage Worlds settings feature what is known as a Plot Point Campaign. Will Ronin: Chrome & Shadows 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?

Ronin will feature a Plot Point Adventure campaign in the core book. I have some broad strokes that tie into the events that have created the world of 2081. However, some of our pledge levels allow backers to buy into the story line and inject major NPCs. As such, the campaign is still largely a work in progress as it adapts and grows with these inputs.

If Ronin: Chrome & Shadows proves to be successful, are there any additional supplements you would like to publish for the setting?

Absolutely. I have already been working on some basic concepts and material for sourcebooks that will go into more detail on the virtual world, the outlands, the metroplexes, and orbital stations. While each of these topics is discussed in some detail in the core book, there just isn’t room to examine each of these subjects at the level of resolution I would like. The order in which these books appear will depend entirely on what our fans want most, but all of them will be dependent on a successful kickstarter for the core book.