Archive for the ‘In English’ Category

James Edward Raggi IV im Kamingespräch (Englisch)

Mai 13, 2012

Bangrim takes some questions and asks the mastermind of Lamentations of the flame princess (LotfP) and also the Random esoteric creature Generator, James Edward Raggi IV, some of them. The translated version of this interview will follow soon.

Bangrim: Would you like to introduce yourself and Lotfp to our reader?

James Edward Raggi IV: I’m nobody, no reason to waste time with that.

LotFP is an awesome RPG publishing putting out all sorts of cool stuff. Rules, settings, adventures. You like traditional games? You like fantasy? Horror? You like unrestrained creativity that doesn’t think the audience is made up of fragile children? Check out LotFP’s releases.

Bangrim: How did you get in touch with the RPG community in the first place?

James Raggi: My mother originally introduced me to D&D back in 83 or 84 because she wanted an excuse to paint the little metal figures. From there it was a matter of finding out which of my friends gave a crap about books and dice and character sheets and dungeons and all the things that come with codified make-believe.

In high school I first connected with gamers outside of my own group, and then in the early 00s I discovered the internet and RPG.net and Dragonsfoot and since then I’ve been marveling at how utterly wrong and crazy everyone else is.

In 2008 I released my first RPG book and started my blog to transform the world more to my liking.

Bangrim: How did you come up with the idea of moving from the US to finland and start a rpg company there?

James Raggi: A woman pulled me to Finland, and women kept me there.

Finnish women are better looking and easier than American women. They react favorably to old and fat and broke foreigners, even when there’s no common language. My advice to everyone is live someplace where the locals will do you and get away from places where they won’t.

Starting the RPG company was pretty much my only choice other than cleaning metro station toilets. That’s one reason why LotFP succeeds – it has to. There is no Plan B.

Bangrim: Which RPGs do you play beside Lotfp?

James Raggi: I don’t get the chance to play very much. I’m not very good at Finnish so it would be rude to show up to someone else’s game and demand they speak my language. The last non-LotFP RPG I think I actually got to play was Maid. I’d like to play the new Marvel thing and Call or Trail of Cthulhu .

I do like board games and (non CCG) card games.

Bangrim: Can you really make your living with “old school” or lets better say “weird fantasy” RPGs?

James Raggi: I truly believe one /can/, although admittedly I’m only doing so now because of a very understanding wife. But the business is profitable, suffering mostly from a slow product release schedule, which is why I’m trying to get some adventures pre-funded so I can get top people working on them and get a real catalog going at a brisk pace.

Bangrim: What are your thoughts on the whole “old school” scene?

James Raggi: On one hand it has a lot of creative people and it’s really exciting being a part of this group of people that’s taking stuff that’s old and making new and exciting things with it and having this past-to-future continuity going on.

On the other hand there’s this section of the old school scene that seems more about revering the actual past and wishing it was 1980, like old school was some sort of religion or something. They’re a drag.

Bangrim: Whats your impression of this whole „Crowdfounding“ stuff?

James Raggi: I’m extremely jealous of the Order of the Stick and Ogre people.

A few times over the past few months I’ve thought things are getting a bit too crowded and too many people are starting stuff up and basically it’s just me whining about competition. But it’s always been that way; RPGNow has always had a ton of new releases every single day. Distributor catalogs have new stuff ever frickin week. Crowdfunding isn’t introducting new competition, it’s just another avenue that the competition uses.

But the thoughts about “competition” don’t last long. Hundreds of RPG publishers existed before LotFP started and hundreds more will start up after LotFP disappears. LotFP isn’t successful because of a lack of alternatives, LotFP is successful because out of this giant mountain of RPG releases, LotFP’s books stand out as being just that damn good. So bring on the 348923749823498 new games and releases. If they’re better than LotFP releases then the gaming world has gained something great, and if they’re not as good as LotFP then they make me look that much better in comparison.

Bangrim: You financed two adventures, at the moment you try to finance a big project and also big companys like White Wolf financed their stuff by Crowdfounding.How will it affect RPGs and the “RPG Industry” , especially LotFP?

James Raggi: I think it’s going to make life easier for publishers who already have an established audience (prefund ALL THE THINGS!) and make things difficult for unknown designers.

Word of mouth is important for the success of small publishers and you have to be willing to sacrifice a bit to make your vision real. I fear some people who would have taken the financial risk to produce a good product before will attempt to crowdfund their idea, get discouraged when it doesn’t fund (or limit their vision according to a pre-funded budget), and we’ll miss out on things we should have.

In my own experience, only 5% of Death Frost Doom’s sales happened in the first 30 days it was available. Only 13% of Vornheim’s sales to date happened in the first 30 days. Good things will sell over time, so making your big project’s future depends on pre-selling stuff within a small timeframe… I’d say don’t risk it. Just do it.

Now I’ve got one crowdfunding campaign under my belt, another ongoing, and another planned. But I don’t think I’ll again crowdfund a project I was going to do anyway, unless it was to try to fund ridiculously extravagant production upgrades. However, trying to fund projects that I would not do otherwise (for example releasing a hardcover version of the rules I’m already selling in a box set) or could not afford to do otherwise (hire top names to write adventures for my game), that is a perfectly legitimate reason to do a crowdfunding campaign and I think I’ll continue to do that.

Bangrim: You published Stuff from Zak S., your Hardcover Project features a lot of reknown Writers, but there must be someone you still want to work with?

James Raggi: My hardcover crowdfunding project features a lot of renowned writers that I will work with if – if – their adventures fund. I want to actually work with them instead of just hopefully potentially working with them.

Bangrim: In the last years a lot of “Beginner” Stuff was published. Everyone wanted to create a Box or a game that tried to get People to play RPGs. I think Lotfp is one of the best systems out there for people who want to start playing RPGs. Was this intended?

James Raggi: Nope. Complete accident.

Bangrim: Do you think that RPG books or boxes especially designed for “beginners” will attract new players? Is this a good idea or do you think that a good rpg is enough to attract new players?

James Raggi: I don’t think that “stuff for beginners” attracts new gamers, but they make it a lot easier for the interested newcomer to get started.

Bangrim: LotFP is a good System, but you didn’t wrote a Setting. Everything is in the hand of the Referee. Why?

James Raggi: I want the game to be bigger and have more possibilities than how I use it myself.

Bangrim: You visited the SPIEL and RPC in Germany. What were your impressions?

James Raggi: I’m still too small an operation to properly take advantage of those conventions. I’m a small operation with just a few releases in print. I can make do with a single table, but these conventions offer as a standard presentation space a 10 square meter booth. Way too much! Conventions are an important promotional tool to get through to active gamers who aren’t yet familiar with my stuff. If I can’t fill out and dress a full booth properly I’m going to look bush league compared to the larger established companies, and that just might be death when I’m trying to promote professional products with professional prices that are supposed to favorably compare with those of the larger established companies.

We’re not making assembly-line toasters here. RPG books don’t do anything and aren’t supposed to do anything. Their only purpose is to inspire YOU to do things.

Presentation and perception are very important in convincing people that this is something they should pay money for.

Bangrim: You live in Finland, visited Germany and the rest of Europe and you were born in the USA. When you compare these countries: what are the biggest differences – with regard of rpgs?

James Raggi: With regards to RPGs? Pretty much none. I’ve discovered that no matter where I go in this world, two types of people are the same everywhere: Role-players and metalheads.

There are slight differences (the traditional entry game in Germany was Das Schwarze Auge, Sweden had Drakar och Demoner, etc) but the look of the gamers, the games they play, the arguments they make (I even got a lecture about “Role-Playing vs Roll-Playing” at GothCon in Sweden last month!), they’re all the same.

Bangrim: What tips you have for young aspiring authors who want to write a RPG?

James Raggi: Nobody gives a shit. Really. The RPG hobby and industry is absolutely flooded with thousands of creative and talented people all desperate for attention and maybe a few bucks.

To make people give a shit, you have to do two things:

Ignore the audience. What they want doesn’t matter. Present something to the world that represents YOUR passions and YOUR energy and everything YOU ever wanted. System, setting, all of that is irrelevant on its own. Your belief and your enthusiasm is what people will respond to, so you damn well better do something that you can believe in and be enthusiastic about.

Cut no corners. This doesn’t mean break the bank (that will result in heartbreak for a newcomer), but make sure everything you can do is actually done. Lay off your amusement of choice for a bit and get a quality cover done. Have someone actually proofread the thing and get somebody skilled to lay it out. Make sure it’s something you’ll be proud to pull off the bookshelf in 5 or 10 or 20 years when your RPG writing career is over.

Bangrim: Recently you started your own “webshow” “Because Fuck You, That’s Why”. What was the reason to say “I’ll do a webshow” ?

James Raggi: I’d watch other video blogs and think “That’s boring! I could be much better than that!” So I started. Now I’m another in a pile of boring video bloggers on Youtube but it’s a fun thing to do now and again. Plus this one marketing guy I know says it’s a good idea to have visibility in a number of different social media channels. It helps LotFP seem more ubiquitous and therefore important, or something like that.

I’ll keep it up as long as it’s fun and only put a video up when I think I have something to say, so it should work out fine.

Bangrim: On which LotFP projects are you working at the moment?

James Raggi: I’m finishing up the production of The Monolith from beyond Space and Time (the wildest, trippiest adventure ever), The God that Crawls (a dungeon chase!), and Green Devil Face #5 (random stuff).

After that it’ll be managing whatever gets funded from the current crowdfunding campaign, moving forward with a couple of adventures written by other people, and then deciding what my next big project is going to be.

Bangrim: A year ago you announced that LotFP will publish Exquisite Corpses. No news since then, will it still be published?

James Raggi: That’s up to Stefan Poag. I’d made some suggestions for changing the presentation of the book (I wasn’t attempting a straight reprint of the edition he’d already done), he agreed, but making that happen is a fair bit of work. He’s got a life and gets to choose his priorities. It’s not going to be a better book if he’s pressured, and I’ve got other things to work on too, so I don’t worry about it.

Bangrim: Before you started LotFP you wrote a Metal Fanzine. How much did Metal influence you when you wrote LotFP?

James Raggi: It influenced me very much. In metal there’s a real culture of being able to do absolutely anything (from hippie funk to Nazi noise) and part of metal’s appeal is being the music of “outsiders” (except in Finland where bands dress up like dinosaurs and play metal for small children – look up Hevisaurus) so even if you are on the “outside” of the metal mainstream you’ll connect with part of the most loyal and rabid fanbase there is.

The flip side of that is the metal crowd is rabid, picky, and critical and no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, there will be tons of people ready to tear you down and let everyone know you suck because if your niche-of-a-niche band gets any traction there will be 100 more coming just like it because fans become bands; metal is a folk movement. The overall economic picture is small so there really is competition for spots on tours and festivals, and hype for bands you don’t like means less for bands you do – and everyone’s aware of the economics of small-type musicians and how difficult it is to finance tours and all the fun stuff that makes touring and recording possible.

And nobody “respectable” will ever acknowledge that you even exist just because it’s metal.

Does any of this sound familiar to role-players?

It’s very liberating creatively to know ahead of time that most people will hate what you do so you might as well make it as personally satisfying as possible. And that’s what you should do anyway because people will sniff out a crowd-chasing poseur every time… and the other big reason the fanbase is rabid, picky, and critical is because they’ve been burned and burned and burned by substandard product created by former favorites who had no respect for their audience too many times.

Bangrim: You said Metal influenced you, but is there any RPG that influenced you very much? (In the terms of good or unusual mix of genres, great setting or just a mindblowing idea)

James Raggi: D&D (Mentzer and AD&D versions) and Warhammer FRPG (1st edition) were by far the biggest influences on what I do now. I’ve played a lot of good games, but the more original the game is or the more detailed the setting, the less likely I am going to use anything from it in my own work. I’ll take more generic ideas from others and then add my stuff on top of that.

Bangrim: In the LotFP Referee Book you explain which stuff should be in a good adventure. Which adventure, not written or published by you, would you consider great ?

James Raggi: Death on the Reik.

Bangrim: Thanks for the Interview. Anything you want to say to our readers?

James Raggi: The current thing I’m promoting is the LotFP Hardcover and Adventures crowdfunding campaign.

At the very least you’re going to get a world-class hardcover (with a new edit and layout), and if you’re feeling generous we might just get some creepy adventures from the biggest names in gaming today.

Otherwise, check out Vornheim and Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown and all the adventures. It’s good stuff.

Interview with Goodman Games – Part 2: And the rest

März 5, 2012

Second part of the interview with Joseph Goodman and Harley Stroh. The first part you will find here, the translation of the German part one there. Part 2 in German will follow today evening.

Argamae: What was the initial spark for Goodman Games? What was your reason to establish a roleplaying company?

Joseph: Well, let me answer one step before that. My brother and I created an independent magazine for Warhammer 40,000 many years ago. We did that because we played the game constantly and had amassed a wealth of material that we had created. Goodman Games was similar: I’ve always worked on games, I’ve always written quite a bit, and frankly it’s in my blood. If it hadn’t been Goodman Games it would have been some other gaming project.

Argamae: How did you get onboard with Goodman Games, Harley?

Harley: After college, my home gaming group parted ways. Some of us got married, others moved away for work, and I quickly found myself without anyone to run games for. Even though I didn’t have a gaming group, I still missed running games, so I wrote an adventure for one of my old friends and sent it to his new group. That adventure turned out to be my first DCC, Legacy of the Savage Kings.

Argamae: What is your general position towards the old school movement and the many games and blogs that flourish in its wake?

Harley: I’m a big fan of the OSR, retroclones and the old-school blogs. These are gamers that design, write and publish for the sheer love of the game. Their passion is inspiring and true to the origins of role playing games.

Joseph: I think the OSR is a good thing. I hope that it continues to be a positive force, and the occasional argument doesn’t overwhelm the community. This is a group of fans united by a common interest, and enjoying the opportunities for digital publishing in the sandbox of one’s youth. Let’s enjoy our common interests and keep promoting them.

Argamae: What Goodman Games product lines are you primarily involved with?

Harley: I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to a number of the lines. I’ve written for the 3.5 and 4e Dungeon Crawl Classics, written the first adventures for the Master Dungeon line, and the first adventure for Age of Cthulhu. But now my work is primarily focused on writing adventures for our upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG.

Argamae: Apart from your own products what other roleplaying games do fancy the most?

Joseph: I play a lot of games but most of my RPG activity is centered round DCC RPG and other variants of D&D. In the broader pool of games I’m a big fan of Euro board games, particularly Puerto Rico, Carcassonne, and others of that ilk. I love Star Wars miniatures and Risk 2210 AD. Lately I’ve been playing Bananagrams and Gobblet a lot with my family. My favorite convention is GaryCon, in large part because of the heavy emphasis on open gaming. Last year I played a lot of DCC RPG and then a LOT of board games down in the open gaming area — it was great fun.

Harley: I’m a big fan of the Warhammer universe, though I’ve never had the time to collect or play any of their war games. I’m still on the hunt for a clean, elegant system war game that I can play with my old gaming crew in an afternoon.

Argamae: How many TPKs did you experience in your own gaming groups?

Harley: While there is always the risk of a TPK, I don’t like seeing them at the table … the game is supposed to be fun after all. But yes, while playtesting new adventures, I usually have at least 1 TPK per module. We had some terrible ones early on, with double digit character deaths in some of the 0-level DCCs.

Joseph: Quite a few, actually. The lower levels of DCC RPG involve a lot of character deaths and the occasional TPK. But a TPK shouldn’t be the end of your game. If all the characters die, send them to Hell or one of the outer planes, where their souls then have to fight their way back to the material plane. DCC RPG is about that kind of adventure – quests and journeys to raise your character’s power level, not simply rules.

Argamae: Which was the most memorable monster you ever encountered in one of your roleplaying sessions?

Joseph: The spongerhi. I was always the DM in my home group growing up. In my middle school gaming group, I sent the players to an island cavern occupied by the dread spongerhi. It was this gigantic two-headed dragon that would absorb spells cast against it, then use that magic against the caster. Like a sponge – get it? I thought it was very clever when I was in middle school.

Harley: A dracolich, early on in the days of AD&D. In a single surprise round it killed the entire party except for the paladin, who was left with 3 hit points. We rolled initiative for the next round and the paladin won. He pulled out his ring of wishes and wished the entire world back in time, saving the party from certain destruction.

Argamae: What would you say is the focus of the Age of Cthulhu adventures: investigation or combat?

Harley: Investigation. Combat happens when every other option has failed … or when the old professor goes mad.

Joseph: A little of both, as you can probably tell from the adventures

Argamae: How much pulp is okay for Cthulhu? Do you think that Lovecraft’s tales “ticked all the boxes” for classical pulp fiction?

Harley: I enjoy pulp in my Cthulhu, but I know this isn’t to everyone’s taste, which is fine. But, for my own personal sanity, I need to balance the unrelenting horror of an uncaring universe with a bit of levity. Otherwise the grinding hopelessness is just too much.

Joseph: Lovecraft’s fiction is a very specific style that certainly isn’t as dramatic as much of the “classic” pulp fiction. But some of his stories do have their dramatic moments. For example, the final confrontation in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (which I just read recently and have top of mind). Just as there are different styles of play for D&D, I believe there can be different styles of play for Call of Cthulhu, which emphasize different styles of his fiction and different player preferences for game play.

Harley: Lovecraft was the master. He tapped into horror of the present to extract cultural themes that resonate to this day. While I will always prefer Lieber or Howard, there is no denying the mastery of Lovecraft’s works.

Argamae: What inspired you to make Xcrawl and its adventures? How was it received from gaming audiences?

Harley: XCrawl is an amazing game, but it’s not my brainchild. Joseph will have the answer this.

Joseph: I wish I could take credit for Xcrawl, but the genius behind it is my friend Brendan LaSalle. Xcrawl has the best kind of origin story for an RPG: Brendan created the concept as part of his ongoing D&D campaign, more than a decade ago, and the published game is actually the outgrowth of his personal style of play. Xcrawl has built a dedicated fan base and we have no intention of letting them down. My next major project after DCC RPG is Maximum Xcrawl, which is Brendan’s next-generation vision for the game. This will be a Pathfinder-powered version of Xcrawl that streamlines the whole game from start to finish. Brendan has been play testing the Pathfinder version for about two years and submitted the final manuscript to me recently. It’s looking very strong and I think it will be a big hit. Of course I have to get DCC RPG put to bed first, so it will be a year or so before gaming fans get to see Maximum Xcrawl, but it’s something to look forward to and I believe it will be very popular.

Interview with Goodman Games – Part 1: About the DCCs

März 4, 2012

First part of our Interview with Joseph Goodman and Harley Stroh. Second part and German version will follow shortly.

Argamae: Was there a specific reason for making the Dungeon Crawl Classics line? You count among the forerunners of the OSR (old school renaissance) or would you disagree?

Harley: This is one for Joseph. He began the original DCC line before my hiring with the company.)

Joseph: When I published Dungeon Crawl Classics #1: Idylls of the Rat King in 2003, it was one of the only products available – whether commercial or amateur – that could be described as “old school.” As sales took off for the DCC line, it became clear to me that there was a market for a subject I am interested in, which was a specific sort of nostalgic dungeon crawl experience. Five years later, Grognardia first came online, and the OSR began to build solid momentum just as 4E was also being launched. I’m sure I wasn’t the only renaissance gamer excited to find like-minded compatriots in the OSR blogosphere. As I transitioned Goodman Games to publish more 4E modules, I found myself continually interested by projects related to a simpler, faster game experience than what 4E offers. I was also diving deep into Appendix N, and had decided to read every book in the bibliography. Alongside all of these events was my continuing interest in the aesthetics of early D&D and the books of Appendix N – not just the great artists of TSR, who we’re all familiar with, but the generations before them, such as the covers for Weird Tales, the art of Frank R. Paul and Virgil Finlay, and the look of the 1970’s magazines and comics that many of us associate (consciously or not) with our earliest D&D experiences. DCC RPG is a confluence of all these events: the success of the DCC line, the burgeoning market for retro-style products, the gathering momentum of the OSR, my personal interest in a simpler form of D&D, my desire to create a gaming experience that expresses the spirit of adventure that I find in Appendix N, and my interest in a visual experience that conjures up the purest form of D&D reminiscences. In many ways, DCC RPG is the culmination of a journey that began for me nine years ago with the publication of DCC #1. I really feel like everything I have gone through over the last nine years has led me here, at least from a gaming perspective. DCC RPG is the game I’ve always wanted to play – and, in many ways, is the game I always have played, just under different names.

Argamae: What is your favourite DCC module?

Joseph: DCC #71: The 13th Skull, which I wrote for DCC RPG. I’m cheating a little bit by picking one of my own modules here! That way I don’t have to pick which of the many fine DCC authors I like the most. The 13th Skull is a module I wrote and ran during DCC RPG playtests. I’ve run the adventure many times and it both reads and plays very well. I also really like how the cover art turned out; my friend Doug Kovacs has been doing the cover illustrations for DCC RPG modules and he did an inspiring job on this one. Thirteen generations ago, the ambitious first Duke of Magnussen made a fell pact with an unknown power, who asked for but one thing in return: the thirteenth daughter born to a Magnussen duke. Now, generations hence, the daughter of Duke Magnussen XIII is stolen away by a hooded executioner riding a leathery beast. As it wings back across the city walls to drop behind the Duke’s mountain-top keep, all who watch know it alights in the Magnussen family crypts, where the devilish secrets of thirteen generations have been buried and forgotten – until now…

Harley: With over fifty adventures, it is hard to choose a favorite. However, DCC 17, Legacy of the Savage Kings remains very close to my heart. It was the first DCC I wrote for Goodman Games, and in many ways it remains the best.

Argamae: Did you ever encounter unexpected problems when bringing the DCCs from 3e to 4E? Such as?

Harley: The biggest surprise was the success and utility of the character builder and the digital tools. The inability of third party publishers to contribute to the digital content of 4e proved to be a great challenge. Products that were hugely successful in 3e and 3.5 were suddenly obsolete under 4e. While WotC’s digital initiative has encountered a number of hurdles in its roll out, it also proved to be a game changer for third party publishers.

Joseph: Yes, quite a few. As I’m sure many fans recall, Wizards of the Coast offered a 4E license, known as the GSL, and there were many twists and turns in that process. I gained a lot of publisher XP during that time.

Argamae: What formats for the DCC line do you plan for the future? For example, will there be more 2$ modules or another DCC with a soundtrack CD?

Joseph: Lately I find myself gravitating toward short adventures that can be read by the GM in a couple hours, and then provide a couple sessions’ worth of play experience. Call it my personal preference if you’d like, or perhaps the hallmark of being an older gamer with family, but that’s the style of game I personally find easiest to run, and I think it’s a style of publishing that offers the lowest barriers to entry. Based on that, I’m steering the DCC line toward shorter adventure modules – in the 16 to 24 page range. Ironically, because DCC RPG uses such a concise stats format, a 16 page module under DCC RPG rules gives about as much play time as a much longer module under other editions of the rules. The Free RPG Day adventures will continue to grow more interesting, as this year’s Free RPG Day adventure will launch an adventure design contest that will reward readers both financially and creatively – and give a lucky fan the chance to put his adventure in front of several thousand gamers as the next year’s Free RPG Day module.

Argamae: What is your target audience for the upcoming DCC roleplaying game?

Joseph: Joseph Goodman is my target audience. I have said this before and I’ll say this again: I’m writing this game for me. It’s the game I’ve always wanted to play. Hopefully a few other folks will like it as well.

Argamae: What’s your recipe for an original and entertaining dungeon design? How do you get about?

Harley: Ideally, I want the players (and their characters) to overcome impossible odds, and to have an epic adventure that they will remember for years to come. To often, as DM and judges, we dial back our expectations, running trivial adventures early on and saving the epic adventures for the end of a campaign. But Beowulf didn’t have any “trivial” adventures. Whether level 1 or level 20, every adventure should be breath taking and memorable.

Joseph: Every writer has a different process, so I can only describe what works for me. And I must be clear that the process for publishing an entertaining module is very different from the process of writing one. Now, that said, my own writing process is a mix of strong visuals, lots of inspiration, and percolation time. I read extensively, including fiction (lots of Appendix N lately), comics, and art books. Typically I am “hit” with cool ideas for scenes or encounters, and I jot them in a notebook that has lots of random scribbles in it. Over time some of the scenes seem to connect to each other, and then I come up with a plot that connects them. Once I have an idea for the basic plot, I usually spend a long time getting the title right. Then and only then do I sit down to write it. After that comes the most important part: play testing. Many well-written modules don’t play that well, and vice versa; play testing is a requirement to really learn if a module gives not just a good reading experience but also a good playing experience. It’s easy for writers to forget that the players never see anything in the module – all the players know about the writer’s words are how the GM paraphrases them. You as the adventure writer have to give the GM strong, simple visual descriptions that can bring your scenes to life in his descriptions to the players. Playtesting is key to understanding if these scenes come across right, and to gauge the flow of the adventure’s encounters. I guess that’s a long-winded explanation but hopefully it makes sense.

Argamae: Are there any inquiries for foreign language editions of the DCC RPG yet? Is it reasonable to expect another German edition?

Joseph: There have been some inquiries. I would say that something’s definitely possible. If there are parties out there interested in a foreign language edition – either as a fan or as a publisher – they should get in contact with me.

Argamae: Did you ever receive direct feedback from a German DCC?

Harley: I haven’t been fortunate enough to receive feedback from a German language DCC, but I would love to hear some! We can always stand to improve our games

Joseph: Only in English!

Argamae: Did you approach Monte Cook for DCC #50 or did he approach you?

Harley: Joseph lined this one up. He can tell the tale. Although, I’m proud to share that Monte played in our DCC tournament the very next GenCon!

Joseph: Hmm, I’m trying to recollect. I think I approached him. But as I recall he was already a fan of the series and was interested in working on it. DCC #50 is still one of my favorite modules — the rotating map is awesome.

Argamae: Are there any plans to re-issue older DCCs (from 3e/4e) for the new DCC RPG?

Joseph: I have no plans to re-issue older DCC modules for DCC RPG. DCC RPG has many core concepts related to maintaining a distinctive spirit of adventure in the game, and earlier DCC modules did not follow those rules. One of my biggest goals with the game is to give players the same experience they had when they were young and discovering D&D for the first time. One of the best ways to do this is to create a sense of mystery and surprise – to leave the players constantly unsure of their opponents. Remember when a beholder was a mysterious opponent that you had no idea how to beat? DCC RPG has an extremely simple stat system for monsters, and encourages new monsters in every encounter. It also relies heavily on an Appendix N style of adventure, which is present in some 3E/4E modules but not all. I think that gamers who enjoyed our DCC modules in prior editions will enjoy the DCC RPG modules even more. There are very few publishers who can say they’ve published nearly 100 adventure modules and learned the lessons from that. I have the luxury to make such a claim, and I believe the new line of DCC RPG adventures will represent a style of adventure – and an ease of use and a beauty of presentation – that really is the best I’ve published in more than ten years of publishing.

Argamae: With the 2$ modules, the compilation “The Adventure Begins” and the 0-level-DCCs did you intend to reach newcomers to the hobby?

Harley: The hope is always to lower the hurdle for new gamers. Gamers that might not otherwise buy a DCC might find it hard to turn away a $2 DCC. And if it happens to bring in new gamers, all the better!

Joseph: Yes. All of those efforts helped tremendously, as did Free RPG Day, which was my idea; I co-created Free RPG Day with Aldo Ghiozzi of Impressions Marketing, which runs the event now. There’s a time and place for every opportunity, and those were all good initiatives at the right time and place to help expand the reach of the DCC line to both newcomers and established gamers.

Argamae: Could you explain briefly the process of making a DCC module (from the initial concept to the final version)? Can you remember a specific DCC module where this was especially tricky?

Harley: Any adventure begins with a pitch: a short synopsis that highlights the strengths of an adventure. Once an adventure receives the green light, the author designs the adventure and sketches any of the maps. Once the first draft is complete, we send it off to be playtested, either by the author, or – ideally – by strangers. The feedback from the playtests inform any revisions and corrections. Once the final draft is submitted the adventure is edited, and then sent off to layout and cartography. At the same time, we are commissioning artwork. Once the art and final maps are complete, the entire package is reviewed by proofreaders and editors for accuracy, before being sent off to print.

Joseph: DCC modules get made in one of two ways: either I pitch one to a writer, or they pitch an idea to me. When I first concepted the DCC line, I wrote down a list of every adventure I wanted to publish: “pirate adventure,” “dragon adventure,” “Egypt adventure,” etc. Over the course of several years I commissioned every adventure concept on this list from different writers. Of course they take it beyond the basic concept and turn it into something both good to read and fun to play. Right now I have a similar list of module ideas for DCC RPG, which is more inspired by Appendix N and its antecedents. My friend Harley Stroh, adventure writer extraordinaire, is writing the “giant brain” adventure right now — the “giant brain” image is a staple of pulp sci-fi (and sometimes horror and fantasy as well), and it would make an awesome cover image and a terrifying opponent if done right. Of course it has to be done in a way that makes sense for a fantasy RPG, and Harley can do that. On the other hand, some authors pitch me on ideas for their modules, and sometimes these make it to print. Once the author and I have agreed on a concept, the author turns in a map and encounter outline. We discuss the outline, then he goes into writing and play testing. As for where it gets tricky, well, writers are creative folks and sometimes they like to push the envelope. DCC #51: Castle Whiterock was actually commissioned as a much shorter module — 96 pages, if I remember correctly. The writers really got into it, and it ended up being 761 pages…

Harley: All in all, it is a very involved process, where any one step can hold up the entire release. The trickiest DCC, in terms of process, had to be our epic megadungeon, Whiterock Castle. While the adventure was in development for years, it fell to Joseph to kickstart the adventure into reality. A group of authors and editors met in Las Vegas, we were lined out the plan for Whiterock over the course of the weekend. Each member of the team was given specific deadlines, tasks and assignments, and each person was essential to ensuring that the box set be completed on time. By the end of the weekend we were all joking that if any single person got hurt or sick, we would miss our due date. It was a joke, but the joke was founded in reality: if any one person missed their goals, Whiterock would have missed its deadline and not made it to GenCon.

Argamae: How are the playtests conducted? Do you have fixed test groups or could anyone approach you for becoming a playtester?

Harley: While we do have playtest groups that we rely upon, the best playtesters are always strangers. We always welcome new playtesters, although it can be hard for groups to make time to try out DCCs when they are also running home campaigns. This is why so many of our DCCs are playtested at conventions.

Joseph: Anyone can approach me. For DCC RPG, I ran many games myself to make sure everything went smoothly. I wrote 3 of the first 8 DCC RPG modules, and I’ve played each of them at least a half-dozen times, if not more. Running the same adventure so many times is interesting…eventually I get bored and start changing stuff on the fly. But sometimes the players make interesting in-game decisions and it suddenly seems fresh again. Anyway, back on topic, other parties also ran play tests of the first-generation DCC RPG modules, including some of the outside play testing groups that helped me make sure everything was balanced. And of course all modules written by an outside author have to be play tested by that author and his own group.

Argamae: Did you read all of the DCCs yourself?

Harley: I pride myself in reading every DCC that comes out.

Joseph: Yes. There have been times when I’ve had dedicated line editors who do more of the, shall we say, “narrowing of the candidates” for me. Over the years I’ve gone back and forth between how much I’ve relied on line editors versus my own engagement. For DCC RPG to be “right” I knew I had to be personally engaged very heavily, so I have been personally involved in all aspects of the DCC RPG modules.

[English] Stephen Michael Sechi (Talislanta)

Dezember 27, 2011

Welcome international readers. Bangrim interviewed Stephen Michael Sechi, the Designer of Talislanta, for our blog. For all readers who are interested in, here is the englisch original, the german translation you can find here. If you`re interested to read more from german blogs in english, look for the Blog collector Teutonic blogging

<< How did you get in touch with the RPG community in the first place? >>

I started playing RPGs back around 1983> A younger cousin from Seattle kept pestering me to play this new game called D&D. I was busy playing in a band and kept putting him off, until one day I finally gave in and tried it. I loved the game immediately, went out and bought the first D&D hardcover books, and started pestering some of my friends to play. I soon began designing my own characters, creatures, etc, and after a couple of years I decided to try to start a game company with two friends. That was Bard Games.

<< In which RPG projects were you involved? >>

The first version of Bard Games published three supplements designed to be used with a variety of RPGs (Compleat Alchemist, Spell Cast, and Adventurer), and the Atlantean trilogy of RPG books. The company then changed hands twice – I sold my interest in BG, but then bought it back about 6 months later, at which point we began publishing the Talislanta books. When we closed BG a few years later, I licensed the rights to Talislanta to WotC, then later to Shooting Iron Games and still later to Morrigian Press. I also did a little freelance writing afterwards for other companies, and wrote adventure modules for Cyberpunk and Over the Edge.

 << Are you currently involved in a project? >>

Music projects, yes – after  BG folded, I got back into music and since then have worked as a composer, producer, and sound designer. No RPG projects right now, though I have a couple of ideas that I may still want to explore someday, if I ever get the time. The music business has been keeping me pretty busy the past few years (knocking on wood), so I don’t know.

In my “spare time” (haha) I am working on one game-related project, but it’s not a paper RPG. It’s actually an idea for a video game, and we have a small group of artists and composers who are contributing ideas in their spare time. In fact, if any of your readers are good 3-D modelers/artists and want to join in, just let me know. :)

<< Which was your favourite project? >>

Talislanta, by far. I enjoyed that game, and in particular the game setting, the most.

 << Are there any unfinished projects that were never finished? >.

Not really. Just some bits and pieces, and a few folders full of notes and rrandom ideas.

<< Are you still a active Roleplay gamer? >>

No, I haven’t had time to play RPGs in quite awhile. I do play a few video games – Madden Football, and my current obsession, Battlefield Bad Company 2. Love those tanks. :)
 
<< What do you think about the nowadays RPG Community and the Gaming Industry? >>

I’m out of the loop, and don’t know much about it these days. Based on what I’ve heard from others in the industry, sales have really declined from the days when I was in it. Which I think is a shame, because I still love RPGs and think they’re the most creative form of gaming.
 
<< In the 80s you were the president of “Bard Games”. How did that happen? >>

I formed the company with two friends, each of us putting up the grand sum of $600. Since I wrote most of the stuff and was most involved in things, I became president.
 
<< Which influences you had for Talislanta? >>

My biggest influences were the fantasy novels of Jack Vance, James Branch Cabell, Clark Ashton Smith, as well as Lovecraft’s Dreamlands of Unknown Kadath, Howard’s Conan, Elric, and The Travels of Marco Polo.
 
<< The History of Talislanta was stamped by a lot Publisher Changes. When you look back do you regret something or do you just think Talislanta did very well? >>

I think Talislanta did very well, especially considering it was produced independently and really never had a very big budget. The game has been translated into German, French, and Italian, had its own line of miniature figurines, and was published in 5 editions over the course of 25 + years. I’d say that was pretty good. :)

 << Talislanta.com offers every Talislanta Book for free. Why did you decide to make everything available? >>

Because over the past 10 years or so I’ve been lucky to have made a good living in music, and because I wanted to give something back to Talislana fans. They put up with a lot over the years, as Talislanta changed hands from one publisher to another – some good, and some very bad. I had two offers to do another edition, but I turned them down. Instead, I wanted to give all the old books away for free. I’n glad I did – the reception has been really terrific. Since Talislanta went free, over 85,000 people have been to talislanta.com to download free PDF books and other materials. That’s pretty cool.

<< Is the “Artwork” Book by Khepera Publishing still “work in progress” ? Any News on that? Are you involved in this project ? >>

Last time I spoke to Jerry of Khepera the project was still on, but there have been delays. I need to get in touch with him again soon to see where things stand. Thanks for reminding me! :)

 << Are their any plans making the Talislanta Books available on Print On Demand Sites? >>

No, I didn’t want to go that route. Free PDFs only.

<< Talislanta has a small but loyal fan community. There are still people who write a lot of things that can be used in a game. Are you happy that your creation has such a good community? >>

I’ve said this many times, but I mean it – Talislanta fans are the best. They’ve stayed with the game through many publisher changes and many editions, and they’re among the most loyal and creative people I know. Talislanta, and talislanta.com, would not have been possible without them. If I ever do another RPG, it would be for them.
 
<< Beside working as a Author you also composed music. Tell us about it.>>

About 12-13 years ago I got back into music and began composing for various music libraries. Since then I’ve produced something like 200 CDs in various styles, from 1970’s-style Funk (my favorite) to reggae and even Nu Metal. About 5-6 years ago, I began writing and producing sample CDs for Big Fish Audio, and recently I began producing virtual instruments for their subsidiary, Vir2. I also started getting into sound design, which I find very interesting. I now have my own recording studio, which is almost overflowing with a collection of drums that I got from from Japan, China, and Africa. If any of your readers would like to hear some examples of my composing and sound design work, they can find some audio demos here:

http://www.bigfishaudio.com/detail.html?512175

http://www.bigfishaudio.com/detail.html?511859

http://www.bigfishaudio.com/detail.html?513821

http://www.bigfishaudio.com/detail.html?1;16;1:::::::::Symphonic%20Manoeuvres%202:1586

The last one is a project for 60-piece orchestra that we recorded in Prague. That was pretty cool. :)
 
<< You also created 3 (I’m not sure about it?!) Soundtracks especially for Talislanta. Any chances you make them available on Talislanta.com? >>

Those are some of the earliest recording that I did. The quality is mainly pretty poor, as I had almost no equipment back then – just an Ensoniq sampler. I’m not eager to promote this older material, but I think it’s available on the website.
 
<< Do you have any favourite RPG anectode ? >>

I have a few, and some of them are pretty wild. But instead of gossiping, I would instead rather take the opportunity to praise three people who really helped us get into the game business back in 1983. The first was Scott Bizar of FGU, who took the better part of a day to sit down with me and my two Bard Games partners and answer any question we had about the business. For a competitor, I though that was an extremely kidn and generous thing to do. he other two were Danny and Mike of The Compleat Strategist, which IMO is the world’s greatest game store. Back when we were starting Bard Games, they told us they would order our first book as soon as it came out. They encouraged us to get into the business, and were always available to provide advice. And some really good RPG anecdotes that I can’t repeat here. :)

<< What tips you have for young aspiring authors who want to write a RPG? >>
 
Hmmm… good question. I guess I’d say that even though the RPG biz is down, if you love RPGs and love writing, do it. You may or may not make a lot of money doing it, but you will have a great time doing it and also learn a lot about writing, games, and business in general. I certainly did.
 
<< How did you start to write a RPG? I mean of course you have a idea in the start, but what do you do first? Is it all just a flow and you don’t need to think or is it somehow “really” hard work? >>

I started writing the game setting, creating places, creatures, people, histories, etc. I had been doing this anyway as a GM, creating my own stuff to add to my (at the time) D&D campaign. The best ideas became the seeds I used to create Talislanta. If I remember correctly, it took me about 5-65 weeks to write the first Talislanta book (Chronicles) and create design sketches of all the most important peoples and creatures. It was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed that time.
 
<< Which problems problems you encountered running Bard Games? >>

For the first few years, Bard did surprisingly well for a small company. But when we needed to expand our operation a couple of key mistakes were made. This ended up costing us a lot of money, and we had to close the company.
 
<< The Sound Demos on bigfishaudio.com are very wide range and you also said that you did a lot of things, but is there still something you really want to do? >>

I’d really like to do the music for a video game. I think that would be fun.

 << You already mentioned the foreign editions of Talislanta and one of them is still in print. They still produce new books. Are you involved in the french version or do they work completly on their own? >>

They work completely on their own. As part of our licensing agreement, I used to insist on approval for all the Talislanta licensed books. But I let Ludopathes do what they wanted to with Talislanta, and it seems to have worked pretty well for them.

<< There are a few books that are NOT on Talislanta.com, some of them were released and others never were finished. The Cyclopedias 2 to 6 were released, but you weren’t involved. Why? >>

Let’s just say there was some disagreements that convinced me it would be better to just drop those books completely from the product line.

<< – How do you like the D20 Version of Talislanta? >>

I never played it, so I really can’t say.

 << – Talislanta is a world full of magic, old civilations and phantastic machinery. Did you ever thought of taking Talislanta to the outer Space? ( like spelljammer) >>

Yes! In fact, there was a product that I worked on for awhile called Ominverse that was about this subject, Unfortunately, as I was working on it, Spelljammer came out. so I abandoned it.

<< – Why did you choose that the Talislanta rule system is build on archetypes? Why didn’t you implement a more free way to create Characteres (like in the D20 version) >>

I though that the world setting was already very complex, and figured it might be easier for people to get into the game if I provided pre-geerated characters-types for them. There are so many different races and peoples in Talislanta, I just thought it would be too difficult for new players.

<< – If you could live on Talislanta, where would it be? >>

Hahaha! Good question! I think Cymril or Altan would be nice, or maybe old Archaeus.
 
<< – To which of your creations  (creatures,  characters or even regions…doesn’t matter) you have special relationship?  >>

I like many of them, but if I had to choose a few favorites I would say Ariane, Xambrian wizard hunters, Thralls, and Jaka. My favorite characters were the old Archaen magicians, like Koraq, Viridian, and Arkpn. I though they were interesting personalities.
 
<< – Did you ever had the opportunity to take Talislanta away from the RPG area and bring it into something different like a book, a board game or a computer game? >>

I wrote some Talislanta short stories, which were published by WotC back in the 1990s, and year ago I took a couple of stabs at writing a Talislanta novel. I still hope someday to do a Talislanta graphic novel or comic book, and if the opportunity ever some up I would love to do a Talislanta video game. If you know anyone who’d like to create a Talislanta video game, let me know – I’ll write the music. :)

<< Thanks for the Interview Steve>>

Thanks for interviewing me! And thanks to any of your readers who ever played Talislanta or any of Bard Games’ other books. I always very much appreciated their support.


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