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:
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.