Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts

Friday, August 12, 2016

Q&A With Author Christa Faust About Peepland From Titan Comics


I was able to get to ask a few questions of iconoclastic novelist Christa Faust about her upcoming noir comic Peepland, to come out from Titan Comics on October 12th. Faust burst onto the fiction scene in the late 90s with the horror/crime/erotic novel Control Freak and then with the collaboration with Poppy Brite on Triads. More recently Faust has explored the noir genre with the Angel Dare mysteries for Hard Case Crime and the Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick mysteries.




The Hard Case Crime mystery fiction imprint is expanding into comics with Titan Comics. One of the first releases will be the autobiographical noir series Peepland, co-authored by Faust.


Dorkland! Blog: What is it about noir that makes it interesting for you as a creator?

Christa Faust: I’ve never been a big fan of “whodunnits.” I’m much more interested in the type of stories I call “whydunnits.” There may be a murder or some other form of crime that drives the plot, but the real story is about the characters involved in or affected by that crime, their inner struggles and the ways in which they come unraveled under pressure. I’ve also never been interested in saintly, flawless heroes and dastardly, irredeemable villains. Noir lets you explore those ambiguous, overlapping gray areas that exist inside of everyone.

DLB: What is it about noir that gives it a lasting appeal to audiences?

CF: I love to read noir for a lot of the same reasons I love to write it. We see our own flaws and foibles reflected in those kinds of gray-shaded characters. We’re living in dark and uncertain times and, for a lot of readers, stories full of darkness and uncertainty feel more authentic and relatable.

DLB: Does noir work better in a "historical" or contemporary milieu?

CF: I don’t see it as an either/or thing, because I like it both ways. The theme of ordinary, flawed characters who get mixed up in criminal endeavors, make bad decisions and get in over their heads is one that has an appeal no matter what the setting. I do think there’s an unfortunate perception that noir all is about fedoras and shadows and seamed stockings and that really needs to be debunked. See, there’s nothing wrong with those things, in fact I’m a huge fan of classic mid-century noir, but those things are ultimately just set dressing. You can write noir in which everybody wears fedoras or tricorn hats or trucker hats, but what matters is what’s going on underneath those hats.


DLB: What were some of the autobiographical elements to Peepland?

CF: I grew up in Hell’s Kitchen on 45th street and 9th avenue, just west of Times Square. I worked in the peep booths back in the late 80s and I always wanted to write about those days because I’d never seen that environment portrayed in a way that accurately reflected my own experience. The character of Roxy is a lot like me at that age, but more than that, Peepland is a love letter to the gritty, sleazy and long gone city that raised me and made me who I am today.

DLB: What would have been the best and worse parts to working a "peep show" booth?

CF: The best part was all the quirky characters and fascinating stories. By the time I left to start working full time as a professional Dominatrix in 1990, I had collected enough inspiration to write a hundred books. The worst part was being subjected to insipid pop music for hours on end. Also, I’m a little claustrophobic so long sessions stuck inside that tiny booth were a bit of a drag.


DLB: What does the voice of a female protagonist bring to noir?

CF: The female characters in so much noir fiction, film or comics exist primarily to arouse lust, require rescue or fuel vengeance on the part of the male protagonists. Always the Femme Fatale or the Lost Angel, but either way we never got to hear her side of the story. I think giving noir a female voice helps to reinvigorate the genre and ultimately broadens the audience. I’m always looking to find ways to appeal both to women who think they don’t like noir and men who think they don’t like female protagonists. I like to lure readers out of their comfort zones, make them question everything, and see the world through a different set of eyes.

DLB: What about Peepland would appeal to comic readers? What would appeal to fans of noir?

CF: I’m a newbie in the comic world, and Peepland is my first comic project, so I don’t really have enough experience yet to say with any kind of authority what does or doesn’t appeal to comic readers. I will say that it’s a very visual story that relies heavily on the evocation of its vintage setting and I hope that Andrea Camerini’s gritty, realistic depiction of the New York City streets where I grew up will appeal to comic fans. And noir fans like me are all about the story, so I know this story is right up their dark alley.


DLB: What part of Peepland are you most interested in seeing the readers react to?

CF: The setting, no doubt. So many young people have only ever known the gentrified, outdoor mall version of Times Square, so I really want to share my own personal memories and experiences with them. I also hope to hear from New Yorkers my own age who will remember and appreciate all the little details, references and in-jokes from that era.

DLB: What challenges are there to telling a story through a comic book that you don't have in a novel?

CF: All the usual stuff, like learning how to think in panels instead of scenes and trying to find ways to translate my vision onto the page in collaboration with an artist, but hardest part for me personally was the dialog. I love listening to people talk and I pick up on regional accents and verbal quirks like a parrot. As a novelist, dialog is my superpower. But I learned pretty quick that you can’t have long, nuanced conversations in comics. One character can say one thing, and then the other can say one thing and the first can maybe say one more very short thing back, but that’s it. You can’t fit a zillion word balloons into one panel and you can’t have panel after panel of talking heads. You need to get the point across in as few words as possible and then move on.

DLB: How different was your process for working with a collaborator?

CF: Of course it was different but in this case, it was absolutely essential. I didn’t have the first clue how to write a comic script before this project and my co-author Gary Phillips (The Rinse, Cowboys) is an old pro. He’s the crafty veteran while I’m the mouthy, impulsive rookie. Plus, a lot of his work deals with the same themes that I wanted to explore in Peepland, such as corruption and gentrification. I just knew he’d be the perfect tag team partner and by working together, we wound up with a much better story than either one of us could have created alone.

DLB: What is next on the agenda?

CF: I’m currently working on the third Angel Dare novel. It’s called The Get Off and is set in the world of rodeo bullfighters. I spent two years traveling around with those guys and getting to know their daily grind. It was a lot like visiting another planet for this New York City girl. When (some days it feels more like if!) I get that one in the can, I’m wide open to take on something new and different. Guess we’ll see…


Times Square, 1986: the home of New York’s red light district where strip clubs, porno theatres and petty crime prevails. 

When a chance encounter for Peepbooth worker Roxy Bell leads to the brutal murder of a public access pornographer, the erotic performer and her punk rock ex-partner Nick Zero soon find themselves under fire from criminals, cops, and the city elite, as they begin to untangle a complex web of corruption leading right to city hall.

Like The Naked City, there are eight million stories in The Deuce. This is one of them.

Be sure to pick up your copy of the first issue of Peepland by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips at your friendly local comic store brought to us by the Hard Case Crime comics from Titan Comics on October 12, 2016.



Friday, July 17, 2015

Sandy Petersen Mini Interview

I had a chance to ask a couple of questions of Sandy Petersen, of Petersen Games's Cthulhu Wars and Call of Cthulhu fame. I'll be seeing him at Gen Con in a couple of weeks, so I will try to talk with him some more there. Mostly I asked him a few questions about Call of Cthulhu, past and present.


Dorkland: What is it about the Cthulhu Mythos, the works of Lovecraft and associated authors that make them so enduring?

Sandy Petersen: He evokes cosmic terror - a different type of fear, and a new style of writing. No one before him even tried.

DL: What is it about the Call of Cthulhu game that makes people so passionate about it?

Sandy: I think much of the appeal is that it is contrarian by nature. In other RPGs, you seek out combat. In CoC, you avoid it. In other RPGs, you adventure.  In CoC, you solve mysteriies. In other RPGs, you acquire powerful weapons and items. In CoC, you find musty old books that are dangerous even to read. In other RPGs, your character gets stronger over time. In CoC, your character gets less stable and in many ways weaker. I have no problem with the other RPGs - but there are plenty of them around. If you want something different, then CoC is it - it does almost everything "wrong" from a normal RPG and I think that's what its fans love.

DL: When you first designed Call of Cthulhu, did you think that there would still be so much interest in it after all of this time?

Sandy: When I designed Call of Cthulhu almost no one  even knew who Lovecraft was. I thought it would an obscure cult game that would sell maybe a thousand copies and vanish.

DL: What would you like to see for the future of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition?

Sandy: I want to see an awesome campaign with scenarios set in the Cthulhu Wars world, after the Great Old Ones have returned!

DL: What non-Chaosium games are interesting you currently?

Sandy: Well most obviously my own games, from Petersen Games - Gods War, Cthulhu Wars, Orcs Must Die! the boardgame, Dicenstein, and Theomachy. But probably you meant what games that I didn't work on, in which case I just played Terra Mystica and had a great time.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Neon Sanctum RPG Kickstarter Interview with Adam Waite


A little over a week ago the Kickstarter for Neon Sanctum, an RPG set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world, launched and it's already nearing the half-way point of its funding goal with around three weeks left to go. We here at Dorkland have managed to sit down with Adam Waite of Grenade Punch Games, developers of Neon Sanctum, for a little interview about the game and its Kickstarter.


Dorkland!: How has the Kickstarter been for you, so far? What have you learned that you wish you could share with your past self?

Adam Waite: We did a LOT of research prior to the Kickstarter, so we knew roughly what to expect. I’m not sure we expected that there would be so many other great games out this month. Neon Sanctum is up against some stiff competition!

DL: Most RPGs tend to stick with just a book as their material, which makes publishing them more straightforward. What are some of the unique challenges you're facing by publishing cards (and other materials)?

AW: Clearly, the printing and shipping of a game include cards, dice and battle maps with a rulebook too is more expensive than a book. But we’ve worked hard to get some good deals. Also, once you include dice in the game it automatically qualifies it as a game eligible for VAT if sold by retailers. That also means you have to start thinking about CE marking and try to find a printer who’ll ensure your game qualifies for CE marking if you’re marketing it to under 14s.

DL: What do the cards bring to the gameplay that wouldn’t be there otherwise? Can players use Neon Sanctum without cards?

AW: The cards make the game far more accessible than a traditional RPG, but they’re core to the game – you couldn’t play Neon Sanctum without cards. We use mechanics that you couldn’t do without easily without cards, things like shuffling for initiative. Also the way players use cards mean that they cycle between their hand and cooldown decks. This brings a resource management style mechanic to the game that is unique and constantly provides the players with interesting choices.

DL: Tabletop RPGs have been played online (through various clients and means) more frequently over the years. Could Neon Sanctum be played online? If so, how might they and, if not, are there any plans to allow fans to do so in the future?

AW: Yes! In fact we’ve been doing some demonstrations via Tabletop Simulator for people interested in the game. We weren’t sure if these would be popular, but over 70 people tuned in to our first one. In addition we’re offering a free app for character creation to aid the physical game.

DL: How does Neon Sanctum's setting differ from other cyberpunk settings? What might cyberpunk fans find familiar?

AW: Neon Sanctum is set in a unique world where the post apocalypse and cyberpunk collide. It’s set a couple of hundred years after a huge war, humanity was on the very brink of defeat when they found a final solution. It ended the war in a single stroke, but it also turned most of the world into uninhabitable dead zones. This forced the few humans who survived to look for new places to settle. Two hundred years one of these settlements has turned into Neon City a huge cyberpunk metropolis surrounded by mutant and bandit filled wastes.

The world obviously takes inspiration from films such as Blade Runner, Dredd and Ghost in the Shell as well as games such as videogames such as Shadowrun Returns and The Last of Us. The idea was to pick up where many movies and games end – how do humans survive once the world has been rebuilt from an apocalypse? And at what cost?

DL: Why should people buy and support Neon Sanctum? Why should they play it?

AW: People should buy and play Neon Sanctum because it’s great fun to play, accessible, and it’s something a little different. It may be a card game but it is also a really great RPG with full character customisation and advancement. The game has had some fantastic reviews so far, and as of three days in we’ve hit 34% of our target.

DL: What plans do you have for the future of Neon Sanctum?

AW: At the moment we are totally focused on the kickstarter, we do have some great stretch goals however. Things like more items, NPCs and even skill cards. The game is really modular so you could add in new cards really easily, so the scope for expansions is endless.

DL: Lastly, what has been a stand-out moment for you while playing Neon Sanctum?

AW: We always have a great time playing the game. Some recent moments include the group being so paranoid that they threw away a briefcase of a certain drug that they needed because they convinced themselves it was a bomb. Also we had a Pegasus character once leap onto the cockpit of a dropship and kill the pilot through the windscreen.


We would like to thank Adam for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him and Grenade Punch Games the best with their ongoing Kickstarter. If you'd like to know more about Neon Sanctum, be sure to check out the Kickstarter page and its website.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem Kickstarter and Interview

There's a new adventure module being Kickstarted that fans of Lamentations of the Flame Princess (and other OSR games) should look into: The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem by Red Moon Medicine Show. The 24-page module is already written and (with backing) will sport artwork and cartography (with keyed locations). The setting seems to fall into the weird-fantasy/Gothic variety and you can check out the background story on the Kickstarter page.


At the time of this writing, the project has just shy of two weeks left and is on the verge of funding. Which, for adventure modules, is quite good. It's easy to see why it's doing well in a quick run-down of the Kickstarter page (as I like to do): the video is interesting -- the information it does present is all visual and gives a glimpse of what you (or your party) may be in for; key information is bold and easy to notice -- it's easy to skim the page and learn everything quickly; the funding goal is very reasonable; and there are a good spread of pledge levels -- including some that are very easy to get in on. Also, the image that the title is on is pretty sweet.

As an added bonus I had the chance to ask Clint Krause (of Red Moon Medicine Show) some questions about The Stygian Garden and its Kickstarter:

Dorkland!: This is at least your second Kickstarter. What did you learn from the first project that you've applied to this one?

Clint Krause: When we did the Kickstarter for Don’t Walk in Winter Wood, there was still a lot of creative work to be done once the project had funded. For example, we added a bunch of scenarios and other stuff as stretch goals. I found that I had a very hard time working creatively under the pressure of a fully funded campaign. My normal writing process is very slow and plodding with lots of tinkering and revision and re-imagining. The pressure created by our success made it very difficult to write that extra stuff. It came out okay (actually, one of those bonus scenarios has become my favorite scenario for the game), but I definitely learned a lesson. When we do a Kickstarter now, it’s important to me that all of the major creative work is done and all that remains is finishing work. It’s much less stressful that way.

DL!: This Kickstarter project is a little different from most in that the bulk of the material is already finished (sans art and maps) and there are no stretch goals. Why go this route? What are the benefits for you and for the backers?

CK: This ties into the previous question, but the idea is that this is essentially just a pre-order for the book. By now, everybody who uses Kickstarter has probably been burned by some unscrupulous creator and I don’t want that to ever happen with our projects. I want to deliver and do it in a timely way. Delays are inevitable, but it helps tremendously if the lion’s share of the work is already done.

We didn’t do stretch goals for this project because we didn’t need them. Kickstarter is a very flexible tool and there’s no need for every single project to be a big fucking cash grab. It can also be a very focused in-and-out sort of thing. That’s what we’re going for.

DL!: Are the print copies going to be print-on-demand or from a print run and why that choice, for you, over the other?

CK: The print copies will be POD through Lightning Source/OBS. We’re doing fulfillment ourselves though (even though it’s more expensive that way). Cas and I have learned that we really like doing fulfillment on our projects. It lets us add a personal touch to the packages and make sure that our backers get a premium experience. After the backer copies are all distributed, the book will become available POD on drivethrurpg/rpgnow.

Right now POD works best for us on most projects. We don’t generally have the volume of sales that would justify large print runs. If I were to do a run of something, it would be because I wanted to do something specific with the physical book that I could not do through POD.

DL!: What are some of the inspirations that went into the adventure module?

CK: I was inspired to get into OSR publishing by The Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine by Logan Knight and Deep Carbon Observatory by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess. After reading those, I felt like I could really have some fun with a project like this.

The Stygian Garden was inspired by a bunch of different things. My first thought was that it would be cool to do something like an underground version of the Winchester Mystery House. I was also thinking of Bothwell Lodge near Sedalia, Missouri, which I visited many times as a kid. 

I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection between extreme wealth and fringe spirituality. There’s this great quote from the architect Robert Stacy-Judd. He said "architecture consists of frozen symbols, which can be thawed into a palatable language where measures and motifs are words and sentences."  When those frozen symbols are inspired by an eccentric viewpoint on the supernatural, the resulting “words and sentences” often tell an interesting, unnerving story.

The module also owes a debt to classics like X2 Castle Amber and House of Strahd. The song Unforgiven II by Metallica provided some imagery. The films As Above, So Below and The Taking of Deborah Logan were fresh on my mind at the time.

DL!: The adventure is for OSR titles of all natures, but you specifically mention Lamentations of the Flame Princess. How does this adventure fit with what Lamentations is about?

CK: Well, first of all LotFP is the game I’m running on a regular basis. The module is taken directly from my campaign. I think LotFP is a wonderful articulation of the classic game. As a brand, LotFP has set a precedent for creepy, atmospheric, location-based modules. The Stygian Garden harkens back to James Raggi’s earlier modules like Death Frost Doom and Hammers of the God. There are still traditional fantasy elements (elves and dwarves and stuff), but they are set loose in an eerie, dangerous environment.  It ends up playing like a slow burn horror film.

DL!: There seems to be a horticultural theme (going by the background and, well, the name) in the adventure. Why is that? What kind of role does it play in the adventure, if any?

CK: Plant-based imagery is wonderful to work with. Plants are creepy in that they are so prevalent yet so alien and they eat us when we die. These things are tied deeply into our subconscious. The module also features a number of valuable and useful plants that can be recovered by crafty adventurers. This led my players to start their own unusual garden.

DL!: Lastly, if you were to stumble across a Stygian Rose -- what would you do with it?

CK: Cas told me I should have it studied and duplicated so it could benefit a lot of people, but I wouldn’t be that forward thinking. I would probably put it in a safe and keep it until someone close to me died. Then, at the funeral, I’d leap onto the coffin while shouting “wait for it! wait for it!” and shove the thing in the cadaver’s mouth. Hopefully, the stories about the rose are true and it’d be one hell of a magic trick.

We here at Dorkland! would like to thank Clint for taking the time to answer our questions and if you would like to know more about The Stygian Garden be sure to check out its Kickstarter (still running) and Red Moon Medicine Show's website.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Dorkland Interview -- Amazing Adventures RPG with Jason Vey


The Amazing Adventures RPG Kickstarter is entering its last week of funding. Troll Lord Games' SIEGE engine-powered pulpy RPG has already met and surpassed its funding goal and is starring down another stretch goal. During this busy period, we here at Dorkland! got a chance to sit down with Jason Vey, author of Amazing Adventures, for an interview.

Dorkland!: You're no stranger to Kickstarter -- what have you done differently, if anything, this time around? What do you feel has really been key to your quick funding?

Jason Vey: Honestly, this is the second Kickstarter I personally have been involved with, but the last one was for a different company which pretty much handled everything. On this one, the Trolls are keeping me very involved, asking for ideas to help push it, having me help with the marketing, answering comments from supporters, and the like.

DL: Apart from the hardcover edition of the book(s), what else is the Kickstarter aiming to do for Amazing Adventures? What all might be of interest to current owners of the softcover edition?

JV: Well, this isn't just getting the book in hardcover. We're doing a complete cover-to-cover edit of the core rules. That means incorporating errata, expanding and clarifying things, adding a few additional options, giving a character class or two a facelift, and re-expressing the rules so that they read more in line with Castles & Crusades, to increase compatibility between the two games.

DL: What are some of the inspirations behind Amazing Adventures? What kind of pulp can potential players expect?

JV: What I wanted to do with this game was provide a framework to model ANY sort of pulp. If you want to do an Indiana Jones type game, the rules are there. If the Rocketeer or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow are more your bag, you can do it. If you dig The Shadow, there's rules for that type of character. If H.P. Lovecraft is more your thing, we've got Lovecraftian horrors and a madness system in there. If you're into Philip Marlowe hardboiled detective noir, go for it. My inspiration for this was not pulp in the strict, two-fisted way many games portray it, but pulp in terms of every sub-genre that appeared from the Dime Novels of the 1880s all the way through the sci-fi of the 50s and into the movies and stories that were inspired by them today.

DL: What seperates Amazing Adventures from other pulpy RPGs?

JV: Like I said, I think it's the breadth of possibilities. Most pulp games focus on high-flying, two-fisted adventure and neglect the horror, noir and sci-fi elements of pulp to a certain degree. This isn't true in all cases, but certainly there's a lean towards two-gun heroes in pulp RPGs. I wanted AA to be more broad in scope than that.

DL: What might interest fans of pulp stories that are not currently avid gamers? How easily might they be brought into Amazing Adventures?

JV: The SIEGE engine that powers Amazing Adventures and Castles & Crusades is so easy to use that it's an ideal engine for new gamers. The system is easy to grasp, fast and fun to play, and gets out of the way to let you focus on the game. I think most fans of pulp dream of telling their own stories of horror, weirdness, adventure, noir, sci-fi, or whatever their preferred sub-genre is. Role playing allows them to do exactly that, and Amazing Adventures is a perfect means by which they can get into the hobby and give it a try.

DL: Amazing Adventures has guidelines on how to run a pulp game -- how in-depth are they? How much background does a potential player need to run or play, if they have little to no experience with pulp?

JV: The book contains everything you need to get up and running, and in the second printing, I'm expanding the Game Master section even further for extra detail in structuring and running a pulp game. With the core book alone you have everything you need. The Manual of Monsters and Companion books, however, will blow the doors off the system and take it to unbelievable levels by greatly expanding what's already there and giving you new rules for everything from sub-genre emulation to expanded vehicle rules to mystic locations and even live action rules. I'm really excited to get the second printing and sourcebooks out there and see what people think!

DL: Lastly, what are some of the most 'amazing' moments you have had with Amazing Adventures? The kind of moments that really highlight why people should buy and play this game.

JV: Man, it's the players and characters that make the game. Some of my favorite moments have actually been con adventures I've run. I'll never forget a group I ran that had a vampire trying to get an ancient bible of an evil cult away from the PCs, and one of the players was playing Marie Laveau. Her strategy was to start stabbing the book and running around in circles while the vampire chased her and everyone else took pot shots at it! That probably doesn't read quite as funny as it played out, but trust me: there were tears of laughter in the eyes of everyone at the table.

We also, in the same group, had Bucky Newson, the Gadgeteer, try on a lie detector he'd designed, only to have it fail spectacularly to the amusement of everyone present.

There were moments of great heroism as well, like when a group's raider, Tennessee O'Malley, went toe to toe alone against an angry Succubus...and not only survived, but sent her on the run.

Some of these things are actually made possible by the character customization rules in Amazing Adventures. Unlike most class-and-level systems, we incorporate the ability to customize your character class with things like backgrounds, knowledge skills, and Generic Class Abilities, which you swap out with standard class abilities to make your character different and unique from other characters of the same class. In addition, Fate Points are a mechanic that's fairly well known, which we incorporate to allow for turning failure into success, or success into wild heroics.

I could gush about the game for pages and pages. I'm really proud of this game, probably moreso than anything I've done in my 15 years in the industry. But my hope is that people will take a look and fall in love with it for themselves. Even if you're not a fan of class-and-level systems, I think Amazing Adventures may be an exception, due to the incremental way the SIEGE engine scales.

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We here at Dorkland! would like to thank Jason for his time in answering our questions. For more book-stabbing and lie detector mishaps, be sure to check out the Amazing Adventures RPG Kickstarter page and Troll Lord Games' website!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Top Five Most Viewed RPG Videos


Periodically I go through my YouTube channel (you can find a link to the right) and see what videos are the ones that people are watching. It is always interesting to see what people want to watch on my channel. Following are the five (in order) with the most viewings.

1) Dorkland Roundtable with Zak Smith

A couple of years ago I launched an experiment in interviewing gaming people via the wonders of the (then new) technology of G+ Hangouts on the Air. I did these for a couple of reasons: to put faces and voices to the names that so many of us have seen on books over the years, and to help humanize gaming creators as well. When people are used to interacting with people through the text of books, or social media, they can start to see those people as just that text. Sometimes seeing a game designer or publisher in their home, or office, shows that they aren't all that different from the rest of us.

Zak is a controversial figure for some, but he made for an interesting interview subject. Someday, I think that I would like to tackle interviewing him again.


2) The Great Cyberpunk 2020 Adventure Ep. 1

I love Cyberpunk 2020. I found the game while I was in college, back in the day when a lot of the elements of the game were still science fictional. It is a great game, and it has given me a lot of fun over the years. I ran a few episodes of it for some G+ people before scheduling fell apart. We took on the game as a sort of retro experience, much like playing Old School D&D. We didn't try to change or update the game, we just went for it. The group become a ring of "art terrorists" fighting against the corporations of the "future." It was a fun game while it lasted.



3) Dorkland Roundtable with James Maliszewski

I enjoyed this interview, even if I still can't pronounce James' last name properly. We talked a lot about our experiences as gamers back in the early days of the hobby. Both of us being about the same age, and having started gaming at about the same time, it was interesting to see how our experiences compared and contrasted. This was probably the last interview with James before all of the controversy around Dwimmermount. I know that's mostly why people have been watching the interview. There is still some good stuff in there, and it is an interview that I am proud of having done.


4) Masks of Nyarlathotep: Episode 1

I love Call of Cthulhu. One of the things that I had never had a chance to do was to run one of the big "megacampaigns" for the game. This was my hope. Sadly, scheduling caused the game to quickly fall apart. We still had a good time with this session. This session shows off the reasons that I enjoy the Call of Cthulhu game. One day I will run this campaign in its entirety. Hopefully.


5) Rifts Episode 1

Ah, Rifts. I've been a fan of Palladium games since I found a copy of Ninjas and Superspies back while I was in college. I have a lot of their games, but the one thing that I have never had a chance to run has been Rifts. Things blew up fast, but that's cool because that is what Rifts is supposed to be. I would run Rifts again, definitely. Every time I see a new book for it, it makes me want to run the thing. We almost went for another Rifts game as the interim before we start playing D&D 5e, but Call of Cthulhu won out instead. Surprising, but it is a fun game.


Really, I am surprised that the actual play videos have been as popular as they have been. None of us really expected that people would want to watch any of us sitting around playing role-playing games by Google Plus Hangouts. I have always been surprised that my Dorkland Roundtable with Monte Cook wasn't more popular. It does make me realize that I need to do more vblog posts on my YouTube channel, however.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Dorkland Interview -- The Supervillain Handbook


A little while back I had a short article on Fainting Goat Games' The Super Villain Handbook -- a book for the Icons RPG -- and its Facebook page where you can see loads of material and give feedback directly to the developers. Today I bring you an interview I had with Jason Tondro of Fainting Goat Games about The Super Villain Handbook and its future.

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Dorkland!: What kind of feedback are you looking for and why?

Jason Tondro: People can contribute to the book in many ways. Sometimes this is simple: I can always use more examples of a particular archetype. For example, as I write this, I just posted the "Power Corrupted" archetype. Now, obvious examples include Phoenix and Parallax. But maybe there are other great examples I've not thought of, but which you have.

Also, I like to start each entry with a good quote from the comics. So in this case, I had a lot of great Dark Phoenix quotes to pick from. But sometimes these quotes are harder to find, and fans have their own favorites. That's a great help to me.

Many contributors have helped by reminding me of stories common to a given archetype. At the heart of this book, we are asking "What stories do we tell with these villains?" So when a reader chimes in with a great story which we have seen in the comics, or a new one which a GM would find helpful, that's gold.

DL: Why a Facebook group?

JT: Because I'm an academic as well as a comic nerd, I have a lot of academics and comic nerds on my friends list. I knew that, if I posted these archetypes on FB, some very smart people would respond. And they have! I have a built-in audience of People Smarter Than Me.  It's worked perfectly.

DL: Why place your villains in the public domain?

JT: So, this was an idea which grew out of another decision. The SVH is not a "setting book", but when you're making villains, it often helps to place those characters together in a setting. In addition, there are several villain archetypes which totally depend on a hero. For example, an Evil Twin villain makes no sense if the reader doesn't know the hero whom the villain is the Evil Twin of.

So I knew I'd have to make some setting decisions. And while I was thinking about it, I considered using public domain heroes for the setting. Like, what if our Evil Twin was based off of Amazing Man or Airman or someone like that.

That led to the idea that, hey, if the heroes are all public domain, why don't we make the whole setting public domain too? And Mike Lafferty, our publisher, totally stepped up to that challenge and said, sure, yes. Not only will our characters be public domain, the art depicting them will be too. And this became the unifying theme of the setting, which we are calling the Youniverse, because everything in it belongs to you.

This has the additional benefit of introducing public domain characters like Dracula and Sherlock Holmes into the setting, and it's hard to go wrong with those two guys.

DL: What are some of the sources of inspiration behind your villains? Anything that stands out in particular?

JT: I'm really making a conscious effort on this project to make our artists partners in the creative process. One of the things I've learned about myself is that, while I'm very confident in my ability to write an engaging, compelling villain, I'm not always as good at the visual design of that villain. Sometimes I get a good idea, but often I end up falling back on "he's a guy in a trench coat" or something. And there's a place for the Trenchcoat Brigade, but a little goes a long way, and let's face it, those characters are boring to draw. Artists cry at the missed opportunity.

So this time, as we approach the villains, I'm giving the artist first crack. Not all the time. Sometimes I have a specific character in mind and I'm sure he or she is perfect. But if I don't have anything in mind, I let the artist do what he or she does best: visual design. And so Jacob Blackmon, who has done a lot of our art so far, comes to me with an image and maybe a name, and I take that and create the backstory and specifics. My job is to make that visual concept dramatically compelling. And because these artists are really good at what they do, that part of my job is very easy!

DL: Why 40 villain archtypes? Will we see more in the future? From reader feedback?

JT: It's possible. I had to stop somewhere. Archetypes are by their nature kind of fluid. Other writers would have organized this book very differently. But I felt I had something to say about each of the archetypes in this book, and that was the most important factor. There are other archetypes I am not including, but I wasn't always sure I had that much to say about them. Some archetypes are included inside others. For example, if I'm talking about Psycho villains like the Joker, who in modern stories are murderous and lethal, there's a related archetype which is still crazy, but in a more harmless way. He's goofy and comical, rather than psychotic. I call these guys Lunatics. And I didn't give them a separate entry, because I wasn't sure I had much to say about them which I couldn't say in the Psycho entry, which is where they now appear.

With 40 archetypes, the Deluxe Edition of this book is already going to be at least 160 pages. That's a big undertaking. I'm very satisfied with it's scale.

DL: Lastly, will the Super Villain Handbook make its way to a crowd-funding platform in the near future? What are the plans for its release?

JT: Mike can answer this more definitively than I, but yes, we are Kickstarter-bound. Anyone who contributes to the KS will get the Starter Edition immediately. That will detail all 40 archetypes -- how they work in comics, what their common traits and stories are -- and will have 40 stat blocks for Icons. When the KS concludes, we will move on the Deluxe Edition, which will add 40 fully developed NPC villains who are part of the Youniverse, each with art. And that will double the size of the book, at least.

I hope that helps, and thank you so much for your interest in the SVH! Join us on our FB page or at Fainting Goat.

******

We here at Dorkland! would like to thank Jason for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him and Fainting Goat Games the best of luck with their future crowd-funding (which, as of this post, may not be far away).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Drinking Quest: Trilogy Kickstarter Interview with Jason Anarchy


The Kickstarter for Drinking Quest: Trilogy Edition, the game that mixes tabletop RPGs and drinking, is in its final few days. The project has already cleared its funding goal and several stretch goals. We here at Dorkland had a chance to sit down with Jason Anarchy, creator of Drinking Quest, to interview him about the project.

Dorkland!: How has the Kickstarter experience been for you so far? What have you learned that might help other new Kickstarters?

Jason Anarchy: No matter how good your plan is, you can’t plan enough. Also it’s a ton of work, it should be a very busy 30 days of your life.

And don’t get greedy, put your product out there at the lowest cost you can offer it.

DL: Why the shift from 3D6 to D4, D6, D8, apart from added complexity? Is added complexity good for a drinking game?

JA: Added complexity and range WITHOUT adding a single new rule or anything that the players need to think about. I was always very careful what rules and features make it into the game and what don’t. This is a great change that makes for more interesting battles and weapons trees.

DL: How much bigger are the new cards than the older ones? Why the change there?

JA: About 25%. I wanted a bit more room for art and text. Every Drinking Quest card is loaded with content and honestly I needed the space.

Every card has original art, a scenario for the player and a ridiculous narration from the cards (which act as the GM). Plus there are no duplicates. It’s looking good for the stretch goals so it would be 216 full colour cards, with hilarious artwork and story with no repeats.

DL: What are some of the 'smaller improvements'?

JA: Things like combinability. That was always requested with previous games and it could be one unofficially. Now if you want you can do a mash-up game and have up to 12 players.

I’ve also streamlined it in a way where all 12 heroes can be playable in any of the three games so there is even more variation there.

The Instructions are now colour and a lot nicer. (It was just a black and white insert before)

And then the new box and character sheets are much better as well.

DL: How much drinking is there in this drinking game? How much of the game is actual gaming?

JA: It plays like a stripped down Dungeons and Dragons. You have a character sheet, you roll dice, you fight monsters, you find treasure… but when your character dies in the game you have to chug your drink!

Each game has four “quests” with the cards acting as the GM. They start off easier and get harder as the game goes on.

You’ll encounter different monsters and Saving Throw events. When you pick up a monster card the person to your right controls the monster and it’s a one-on-one FIGHT TO THE DEATH.  If you win, you get the coins and points and move on and if you lose you chug your drink immediately.

Now HOW MUCH drinking is in the game? A pretty reasonable amount. There is a one chug per quest limit which stops everything from turning into a pass-out-ten-minutes kind of drinking game. (If you have to chug a second time per quest, you do 3 swigs as an acceptable substitute)

So playing a full game (going through all four quests in one of the games) averages about 2 or 3 chugs over 2 or 3 hours (per person).

If you’re not drinking there are also alternate rules to accommodate you.

And it is an actual game, the person at the end who has the most points wins. The person with the least amount of points loses (but they also chugged the most so they’re probably not having a bad time)

It’s 100% gaming with a occasional chugs to add to the tension of the gameplay.

DL: You mention non-drinking rules also being included -- what does DQ hold for people who are not drinkers? Why should they be buying the game?

JA: The Drinking meets RPG feature could be a pretty shallow gimmick. The plan was to incorporate that well and combine the genres as best I could. So that’s the hook that gets people playing.

From there the reason they keep playing is that it’s a really strong comedy RPG. There really isn’t anything that plays like it on the market.

It’s a really fun story that’s told in loose puzzle pieces like Lost or Pulp Fiction. Each quest is always randomized so you figure different story pieces out at different times.

Also the humour is a little smarter and more layered than most people expect. It’s more Arrested Development than Two and a Half Men.

DL: What is an experience that you've had while playing DQ that has really highlighted the game and the reason to play it? What is so great about it that people should be buying it and playing it?

JA: First of all, it delivers on the promise. It combines the genres well. The gameplay isn’t a super deep weekend filling experience… it’s casual, easy to learn and extremely fun!

There have been multiple nights where I’ve been with a group trying a brand new game and we spent the whole night learning the rules but didn’t play the game!

With Drinking Quest it’s super fast to get going particularly if you have a working knowledge of RPG basics already.

I’ve been designing games since childhood and into adulthood. Gaming with your friends and having a few drinks is great social lubricant and an even better way to keep groups of friends together as an adult.

I would always design game systems that took the broad strokes from bigger RPGs and cut out all of the micromanaging so you could just have a good time.

I also wanted to have a game where players could drop in and out… keep the same group of adults showing up once a week is a tough thing to do!

I’ve spent 10,000+ hours designing and testing game systems and with Drinking Quest I wanted to bring my flavour of casual, funny and rules-light role-playing to the masses.

The first three games have been hits and I’m pushing the new Trilogy Edition as much as possible to get the best version out there I can make.

We here at Dorkland! would like to thank Jason for his time in answering our questions and wish him the best with the project. If you would like to know more about Drinking Quest be sure to check out its website, twitter, Facebook or Kickstarter page.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Dorkland Interview with Max Brooks

Max Brooks, the best selling author of World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide, the comic book series Extinction Parade and the riveting historical graphic novel Harlem Hellfighters, sits down with Dorkland! to give us further insight on what makes undead creatures tick, what inspires his creations and a glimpse of what he is working on for the future.

Dorkland!: Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Before we discuss the new chapter of your Zombie vs. Vampires book, Extinction Parade: War, can you give a little background about your inspiration for writing the Extinction Parade single issue comics? What gave you the idea to put vampires into a world filled with zombies?

Max Brooks: I've written a lot about how countries and individual humans would survive a zombie outbreak, but I wanted to focus specifically on the emotional and psychological survival skills. Beyond the guns and blades and bottled water, there’s the mind and heart and without those you have nothing. Humans have proven themselves to be phenomenal survivalists and I believe that talent was earned clawing our way from the middle of the food chain. Our greatest strengths come from compensating for inherent weaknesses. Our problems have made us amazing problem solvers. But where would be if we had natural strengths; claws and fangs and agility and immortality? How soft and arrogant and unprepared for adversity would we be? That’s the problem with vampires. It’s a precarious place at the top of the food chain. I wanted to explore how vulnerable they are to a major crisis (and hopefully whisper a warning to some humans as well).

DL: In the beginning of Extinction Parade, the vampires find the initial chaos of the zombie outbreak to be entertaining and then advantageous. When some of them realize that their human food supply is on the verge of extinction they spring to action. Why are the vampires so unwilling or unable to predict this catastrophe earlier?

Max Brooks: Vampires have no history of adaptation. Why should they? They are apex predators. Life’s been very good to them. In my world humans have never hunted them, so anonymity is just one more supposed advantage.  To make matters worse (or better, at least in the short term), they have a class of human caretakers who do the grunt work and get their hands dirty with all the little details of life. This existence has made them comfortable and complacent. Unlike humans who are always looking over their shoulder, vampires just assume that they’ll be fine.

DL: Without giving away too much of the story, what can readers look forward to enjoying in Extinction Parade: War? Will we see the further development of the vampire characters that were introduced in the single issues?

Max Brooks: Definitely! Each issue will be a journey of self-discovery for vampires, which is in itself hard for a species that’s been too inward looking. Each issue they will have to make choices about HOW to fight the war against the zombies. Will it be more effective to go down the path of innovation, creating new tactics and weapons completely from scratch? Or will they just copy the humans and try to fight like them? They will also have to confront their limitations, both physical and mental. For a species that has never bothered (and never needed) to challenge themselves, this will come as a particularly cold shock. Lastly, they will discover something the world has never seen before, an entire army of nothing but Vampires.

DL: You have written a survival guide for humans to use in the event of a zombie invasion and also the various ways that people might fight against zombies in your work of fiction World War Z. What advantages do vampires have when battling the living dead?

Max Brooks: NONE. Every supposed advantage will turn out to be a disadvantage. Every physical strength will be paid for with a character weakness. As we will see, they are a painfully vulnerable.

DL: If you had to choose between the existence of zombies or vampires in the real world, which would you pick and why?

Max Brooks: Vampires, definitely. Zombies are a true threat to humanity. They are a potential extinction level event. Vampires are just a bunch of blood sucking parasites. Statistically, you’re more likely to be hit by a car than be killed by one of those well-dressed dear-ticks.

DL: Over the past several years there has been an unending stream of books, movies and comics that prominently feature zombies as well as a treasure trove of vampire-centric media. How would you respond to critics who dismiss the theme of the zombie or the vampire as a fad?

Max Brooks: I don’t dismiss them. Maybe they’re right. I have no idea what’s going to be popular and what’s not. I will say that I've been hearing about the zombie ‘fad’ being over since 2004 so go figure. As far as vampires, well, I will say that we don’t see as many vampire movies as a few years ago, but that’s mainly because the bulk of ‘Twilight’ fans have, by now, lost their virginity.

DL: From the different periods in human civilization that you reference in the "Recorded Attacks" chapter of the Zombie Survival Guide to your compellingly written graphic novel The Harlem Hellfighters about a real, heroic black regiment in World War I, you draw from history as an inspiration for your work. How do you go about researching these different histories?

Max Brooks: I’m always devouring history. I've been fascinated by it as long as I can remember. I’m always watching some new documentary or listening to an audio book on my ipad (dyslexia makes reading a challenge so audiobooks are how I compensate).  There’s always so much more to learn, you can never stop.  Specifically with Harlem Hellfighters, my sources were books, documentaries, and even the actual recordings from their regimental band. It’s one thing to read about early WWI jazz, but to listen to it, to hear that tinny voice and rapid beat is a much deeper education.

DL: In some of the other interviews you have given, you mentioned that you write about what interests you. Which of your  other interests could you see potentially influencing your future projects?

Max Brooks: I don’t like to give too much away. I've got a few things in the pipeline, but, right now, I have to finish The Extinction Parade comic series and the screenplay for the movie version The Harlem Hellfighters. That alone are more than enough work for the next 12 months.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dorkland Interview -- The Dangers of Daggermore with Hal Burdick

The Dangers of Daggermore Kickstarter is in its final stretch with just a few days left to go. Hal Burdick, the man behind the project, took some time to sit down with us here at Dorkland! for a short interview on the film, Kickstarter and RPGs.

Dorkland!: How has the Kickstarter project been for you and what, particularly, have you learned from this experience that you feel might help in future projects?

Hal Burdick: I’m reasonably happy with this Kickstarter project. The gaming community is a great one. The community has a lot of passion, a lot of loyalty, and is willing to support new projects. I once read that 33% of all funded Kickstarter projects were game related. I’m just happy that this community was willing to support the making of The Dangers of Daggermore, which is game inspired, but not really a game project.

DL: What kind of setup are you using to film The Dangers of Daggermore?

HB: Kersey Valley Spooky Woods is a haunted attraction near Greensboro, NC. The sets there are ideal for shooting The Dangers of Daggermore. Much of the haunted attraction features dungeon corridors, sewers, and dark alleyways. If they only had a tavern with a sign hanging outside reading “The Affable Adventurer,” it would be a one stop shop for shooting the entire webseries. 

DL: What types of special effects and props will be used, if any? Also, what's your personal favorite special effect or prop and why?

HB: Victoria Singleton has made some great costumes as you can see in the test footage. We got our cool looking weapons from Medieval Collectibles. Joh Harp is the art director of Spooky Woods and does special effects for us. He’s done the special effects for movies like Bombshell Bloodbath; so the effects will have a horror movie feel as well as a fantasy feel with elf’s ears and the regenerating troll monster we plan on having the adventurers fight.

DL: What are the inspirations behind The Dangers of Daggermore? Any particular RPG settings?

HB: Jon Carpenter’s The Thing was a film I ran a few adventurers about in my younger days. The Thing is a doppleganger in that movie, but it had a lot of features of a regenerating troll as well. There’s a classic scene where a head separates itself from its body,  pulls itself along by its tongue, sprouts its own legs, and starts walking across the floor like a spider. Sounds close enough to a regenerating troll to me. We’re paying homage to that with the monster the adventurers fight in the pilot.

As for setting, I have a gaming website called World of Atlas which features my home world that I game mastered for 20 years. Daggermore is set on this world. The key feature of the world is that Atlas is a real being holding up the world on his mountain. The campaign started with characters that lived on his mountain who then ventured out on a mission to save the world from Chaos who had come to destroy both Atlas and the world he held up. I’m thinking of making the world open source and OGL so that anyone can create adventures for it. I know I am frustrated by the fact that all the great adventures my friends created for our gaming group upon Greyhawk can’t be published by us or played by anyone else. 

The website also features tools for those who can’t play as much D&D as they’d like anymore due to real life intrusions.  Though I love Skyrim and Lord of the Rings Online, I also love the freedom that adventuring in an unbounded RPG setting gives you. The goal for the site is to create a never ending need for new adventure modules.  I don’t need another gaming system – that’s a solved problem. I want more adventures so that I can create characters that tell their own story through the adventures they have.

DL: Why have such a focus on RPGs and their tropes -- why not focus on fantasy, in-general?

HB: A fantasy film is like sex.  When it’s good, it’s really good.  When it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.  I pretty much watch any fantasy film I can get my hands on.  The stuff from Arrowstorm Entertainment, Dead Gentleman productions, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Sword and The Sorcerer, Soloman Kane, Game of Thrones -- The Guild even counts at some level.  There can’t be too many.

That said the ones that have focused on RPGs have either been funny and campy or pretty mediocre.  The three Dungeons and Dragons films had potential and good moments in each, but none of them brought out the paranoid claustrophobic fear that I think adventuring in a dungeon would bring.  The best movie for this is actually an offbeat horror film called The Descent.  It’s about a group of female spelunkers that encounter ghouls in the uncharted caves they were exploring.  Good stuff.  They just needed to be in armor, leathers, or robes covered in moons and stars complete with a pointy floppy hat.

DL: What will fans of RPGs find particularly interesting in The Dangers of Daggermore?

HB: Hopefully, the old school tradition of it. My first gaming experience happened when there was little more than Space Invaders in the video arcades. The drip of water from ceilings, the listening at a wooden door set in the wall of a long stone corridor, the anticipation of the monster growling behind it, all stimulated distinct images in my mind as I played. Now, I’m just trying to recreate my mind’s eye for others to partake in the same experience that so captivated my imagination in those early days.

DL: What will there be in the film for film buffs, especially if they have little to no experience with RPGs?

HB: The Dangers of Daggermore is not intended for art-house aficionados, nor as a primer for learning how to play the game. Our intended audience is gamers and lovers of fantasy and horror films. We’re using the conventions of the genres to bring the game to life. Intense situations, misdirection, lightning quick decision making, and monsters that threaten more than just your life. As I tell the others, this is not a film looking to bring the character side out of D&D; this is a film looking to bring the D&D out of the characters. 

DL: Why choose the Knight, Elf and Wizard?

HB: Partially, it’s due to the acting talent available. Gabrielle Boni makes a great elf, Brandon McClean makes a noble knight (though he could have been a bard), and James Filanowski is an actual magician. 

The script was written with these archetypes as the names of the character to highlight the fact that this is a film about exploring a dungeon more than about the characters themselves. That said, the actors have found depth to their characters, motivations for entering such a dangerous place, and ways to incorporate these backgrounds into the actions they take in the face of danger.

There is a little vagueness to these character concepts as well, which enables flexibility to how we tell the story, given the budget we’re able to shoot with. Is Knight a paladin or a fighter? Is Elf a ranger/rogue/ or arcane archer? How high a level is wizard, a prestidigitator or a mage?

DL: Why have a dungeon instead of another typical (or atypical) RPG location?

HB: Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and Conan the Barbarian have all done wilderness adventures well.  Peter Jackson did large underground spaces like Moria or Goblin Town, well. They haven’t done dungeons.  None of the three Dungeons and Dragons movies have done a dungeon either. What do those guys have against dungeons?  I mean, it’s in the title of their movie!

In addition to The Descent, I think Indiana Jones films were good for bringing out aspects of delving into a dungeon. The Well of Souls is the place the characters seek in Daggermore and the name is a nod to Raiders. I bet Spielberg would have loved D&D growing up.

My favorite part of ET when I first saw it was the guys gaming at the kitchen table and ordering pizza. No joke. Spielberg deftly brought out the essence of playing D&D in such a brief scene.  Boy, I wish he’d just go full bore one last time on a D&D film. I’d camp out for that one.

DL: Combat encounters are common in RPGs but so are social encounters. What kind of social aspects, if any, will there be in the film?

HB: The gathering of the party is an interesting aspect of the film. Wizard needs a team to enter Daggermore with him, he’d never survive alone, but none would be foolhardy enough to join him unless they had reasons to enter the dungeon themselves. If we are fortunate enough to expand the film to a webseries then those mysteries will be revealed and the social interactions between the characters will deepen.

DL: Lastly, what is your favorite aspect of The Dangers of Daggermore -- at any stage of the project -- and why? What do you feel really makes this film stand out?

HB: Though it may take a nerd, a geek, or a dork to realize it, dungeons are cool!!!

We here at Dorkland would like to thank Hal for his time and wish him the best with The Dangers of Daggermore. If you would like to know more about the project (or would like to show it some support) be sure to check out its Kickstarter page -- in its last few days!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dorkland Interview -- Orin Rakatha Kickstarter with Mike Penny

Orin Rakatha, the RPG setting with a long and storied background as a U.K.-based LARP, is in its final couple of days of Kickstarter -- and, as of this writing, it only needs a few more quid to reach the funding goal! Despite the busy final stretch, one of the developers, Mike Penny, sat down with us here at Dorkland! to answer some questions we had about Orin Rakatha.

Dorkland!: First up, how has the Kickstarter experience been for you so far? What do you feel you have done especially well? What might or would you change?

Mike Penny: I’ve been a fan of Kickstarter for a year or so, have backed a couple dozen projects and have like I am sure many people thought ‘I could do that’. Well now we are most of the way through and it does look like we will have made it but it’s been a bumpy ride and I have much more sympathy for those successful / unsuccessful Kickstarters I have watched. It has been an immensely exciting project but somewhat all consuming, there’s been some high and low points; the highs have to be the fantastic support we have received I think the lows have been ‘no comments’: we’ve had hardly any comments / questions which I was looking forward to!

The most challenging part has been creation of traffic, Kickstarter is a great platform but you don’t get pledges from them, almost all of our pledges have been via social media links; the best advice I got very early in our campaign was ‘in crowd-funding the crowd comes before the fund for a very important reason’ meaning build your own crowd first; which we did go out in earnest to create from an early stage and it has proved to be successful.

As for changing something not sure I would, lots of people have said that our initial campaign and video were too ‘amateur’ and I agree, we aren’t video of typesetting professionals and our Kickstarter was very much about getting the funding for these professionals for the end product but saying that if we come back to Kickstarter I think we would get some seed funding first for such things on the campaign as it does seem to be ‘expected’

Overall a very positive experience I feel and the support has been tremendous.

DL: How did Orin Rakatha come to be, all those years ago?

MP: Our Live Action Roleplaying campaign started on a world called Murandir; for a while at the time (and this is almost 30 years ago) we had a permanent fixed site for our adventures and most of the LARP games took place there. When the time came to give back the lease on the permanent site and look to the future the decision was made to write a new world to mark this change.
There was also a want to create a world that worked perfectly for the LARP environment, addressing a challenge that we call ‘Suspension of Disbelief’ in that when we LARP we want to minimize the number of times that we have to accept something ‘as it is’ because we cannot physically create it in the real world (something which table-top is not limited by). So we wrote a world that had rules supporting the concept; one of the easiest methods of describing this is via the ‘Laws of Orin Rakatha’, there is an actual law on the lands described as follows: “The Law of Gathering: The people shall not travel the land in groups larger than twenty individuals”, the LARP reason for this is although we might want to we could stage enormous battles every other weekend, our LARP events had 10-15 players and a similar number of crew (monsters) so we wrote a law that made sense of this in-character. The cool thing about transference of these laws to the RPG is that this means that the most powerful unit on the world of Orin Rakatha is the ‘adventuring party’ and here they become the armies of the towers of people they represent.  I’ll cover a bit more about this in the question about sentience below.

The original spark of Orin Rakatha came from a fairly small tight knit group but the development over the years has been handled by a large team of referees and like all the best campaigns but on the tabletop or not by huge input from the players and crew.

DL: What are some of the challenges with bringing a setting with such a long history to print?

MP: The two biggest challenges we are firstly living up to the expectations of those people that have actually been in the world of Orin Rakatha, there are now words with which you can replace a live experience (but we do feel that these live experiences will create, colour and infuse our words) and frankly we want to make sure that those people feel its great, as they will be our harshest critics, get it right for them and we feel it will work for the wider audience.

Secondly the volume of the editing task we have to undertake, there is a lot of stuff to compound into words suitable for a book, and a lot of it was created prior to all the common sharing mechanisms we take for granted today. We haven’t underestimated this task hence why there are 6 of us on the team and we’ve allowed enough time in our plan to do the primary edit (and re-write where needed as not everything fits from LARP to RPG) to meet our current delivery targets.

DL: What unique benefits or challenges, if any, are there in bringing Orin Rakatha back from the LARP to the tabletop?

MP: A fringe benefit to us is that as the campaign has developed over such a long time, there has never been one steward of the history and it has never been collected into one place, this will re-energise our LARP world as much as it will launch the RPG product. As for challenges on top of the ‘we already have a lot of people to impress’ I think it will sit around ‘crunch’ or the stats and rules not covered by the story element, as we can’t directly transfer the LARP stats to the RPG (as the LARP has it’s own unique rule set); so we do have to re-stat everything to suit a couple of the key existing fantasy campaign rules sets, we are currently targeting Pathfinder, the OGL direct, Fate and potential Savage Worlds; this is the area with the largest amount of work we have to do ourselves but we are experienced gamers and are looking forward to it!

DL: Orin Rakatha is a fantasy setting and there is a bit of info about it on the Kickstarter page, but how does it really differentiate itself from existing fantasy settings? What would get existing fantasy-game players psyched up about it?

MP: For me it’s simple to answer this, characterization and plot! This is a long story-line and the characters have actually been played by real people and been ‘experienced’ by hundreds of others. It’s a bit like re-writing a major fantasy novel, after you’ve seen the film but also asked all the audience what they thought about both the book and the film.

DL: 'Sentience' is something mentioned in the description of the game -- what are these semi-sentient lands and sentient towers?

MP: So I am not going to give too much away here! But simply put the land is alive and controlled in a mystical way, it responds to the actions of others to uphold the laws.

The structures in which each of the groups of peoples (small nations) live are called towers and these towers are linked to the mystical power that controls the land, protect the people from the mists that transform the land and also are unique in their own way, in that they are larger on the insider than they appear and have internal climate (which is where all food production and mundane activities take place), you cannot harm a person within a tower nor can you lay siege to them. They are a completely safe haven; but to retain a tower your people must have sufficient power and wealth to do so, this is measured together and known as ‘status’ on Orin Rakatha; so they must send out ‘adventuring groups’ to maintain their status (or in game terms gain xp and gold!) I said I’d talk some more here about how Orin Rakatha came to be; one of the elements we wanted a ‘reason’ for under the ‘suspension of disbelief’ was to answer this question ‘When adventuring as a low level party how come we hardly ever meet monsters that are much higher level than we are? And when we meet some lower level monsters or ones that we out-number how come they just don’t take one look at our cool armour and magic weapons and run away?’ So here the sentient nature of the land actually ‘responds’ to effectively marshal not only its own forces but also the opposing sides of towered people so that much of the time they meet others of a similar rank or level (not always GM’s!) The Mystics achieve this by the pathways being physically changed to redirect those that are travelling across the lands to ‘meet’ in a particular way. The nature of random encounters are also influenced by the lands sentience, many of the indigenous creatures have a simple culture and believe in reincarnation to such an extent that they are actually willing to fight against greater more powerful odds because they will be ‘brought back by the mists as a more powerful creature’

DL: What are some of the inspirations behind Orin Rakatha?

MP: The team and the players of Heroquest LARP developed as the fantasy genre developed in the UK, early on it was 'Dungeons & Dragons' & 'Lord of the Rings' and it's moved over the years as the fantasy genre has developed and become more accessible to everyone. But the single most significant influence during the creation of Orin Rakatha has been our players; most GM's will know this secret - the players come up with all the best plot ;0)

DL: Who or what were the Ikarthians?

MP: The Ikarthians are, or more correctly were, one of the towered people of Orin Rakatha (as described earlier all the towers are akin to a small nation of a few thousand people); they are part of the pre-history of the world (in that they date from a time prior to the player character history) and were in a traumatic incident all destroyed in a single heart-beat. You’ll find out more about them in the starter module ‘Burning Night’ and if we meet our stretch targets the campaign module ‘The Shadow of the Ikarthians’ will reveal all their story).

 DL: The art on the Kickstarter page (which I quite enjoy) seems to give off a bit of a grimdark vibe -- what exactly is the tone of the setting and how is it expressed?

MP: So there are elves, orcs, wizards, goblins, warriors and priests so it is in one way a traditional high fantasy setting but we do agree that it has a gritty more real edge to it, fundamentally this comes from the way the story was written, so firstly in the more traditional sense the story was written down by the referee organizing the LARP events, but what defines Orin Rakatha is the nature of the story development, in that it has been played out and the story developed by hundreds of people both taking part in events and writing and developing the plot as it went along. So as we commute this into the books you'll get the flavour of a number of peoples perspectives on the story. So in short it's a high fantasy campaign but with a real edge!

DL: Lastly, what is your favorite part of Orin Rakatha and why?

MP: For me it has to be the lands and towers around an area called the Ikarthian Triangle, this is made of of 3 towers; one was destroyed long ago (and some of its history is revealed in our first module Burning Night) and remains haunted by its once inhabitants the Ikarthian people; who were all tragically slain in the same moment (the whole tower of 1000's of people all at the same time), and of the other two I really love the Labyrinth of Xenos a tower of enchanters that create golems and clockwork constructs to carry out their will and whom are all linked to a single consciousness. This triangle of towers is one of the few places on Orin Rakatha where the open land is protected from the mists and it is also therefore a hub for the undesirables that have now tower sanctuary to call their home.


We here at Dorkland would like to thank Mike for his time in answering these questions and if you would like to know more about Orin Rakatha please check out their Kickstarter page -- only a couple of days left on it!