Monday, June 17, 2013

Comic Writer Cullen Bunn: My Life As A Gamer

Some of the regular comic readers who follow Dorkland! may recognize Cullen Bunn from his comic writing comic books for Oni Press (The Sixth Gun, Helheim, The Damned, and The Tooth) and Marvel Comics (Fearless Defenders, Deadpool Killustrated, Venom, Wolverine, and Spider-Man: Season One), but what you may not know is that he is also a long time tabletop RPG gamer. A recent tweet that he made on his Twitter stream caused me to contact him and ask him a few questions about his gaming. These are the answers that he made.

With what game did you get started down the path of tabletop RPGs? About how old were you when you started?

I’m pretty sure it was Dungeons and Dragons. When I was in second grade, a friend of mine brought his older brother’s copy of Tomb of Horrors to school. At lunch, we poured over the art book that was included in the module. There was so much imagination in those pages… and I was hooked. Tomb of Horrors, Barrier Peaks, Castle Amber… those were some of the first adventures I played… and I loved them. I didn’t live really close to a lot of gamers, so I started playing these single-player RPGS from Heritage Games. They came with miniatures, paints, and a little adventure booklet. Cleric’s Quest was the one I most remember.

Later, I joined a D&D club at the local library, where I played great adventures like The Lost City, Against the Giants, and Descent into the Depths of the Earth.

We played on the school bus in the afternoons and during lunch. Whenever we could find some time.
As I got a little older, we played once a week at my house, and we started breaking into games other than D&D… notably Villains and Vigilantes, Star Frontiers, Twilight 2000, and homegrown games like a Transformers game we came up with called Robots and Renegades. I remember that one quite fondly.

I got out of gaming for a few years, but around the time Dark Sun was popular, I was drawn back into it. I had a steady group of gamers for a while after that, but for the last several years my gaming has been sporadic at best. Recently, I started talking to some folks about getting a new regular game going, but we’ll see how that goes.

What are some of your favorite games?

There are a number of games that I really like from a game system or game world standpoint, but most of my favorite games are tied directly to campaigns or even a single night of gaming that really stood out for me. Dungeons and Dragons (Basic and Expert, Advanced, 2nd edition, and 3.5), Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Villains and Vigilantes, GURPS (in particular the Horror, Space, and Vampire settings), Dark Conspiracy, Vampire: the Masquerade, Deadlands, QAGS, and (my all-time favorite) Call of Cthulhu.

What is the ongoing appeal of tabletop RPGs for you?

At their best, role-playing games can be great exercises in collaborative storytelling. My favorite games are the ones where everyone is really engaged in telling a great story and building interesting characters, regardless of rolling dice and the rules and such. Sure, there’s an appeal to rolling dice and bashing monsters, but that’s not my favorite aspect of gaming. If mechanics and the like were the only appeal, I’d stick with card games or board games. Also, getting together with friends for a few hours every couple of weeks is always fun.

Are you primarily a GM or a Player? Which do you prefer?

I much prefer being a GM. There are only a couple of other players (primarily with Call of Cthulhu, Dark Conspiracy, and D&D) who have GM’d a game that I enjoyed. Maybe I’m too much of a control freak.

How is comic writing different from making up stuff for a game? How do the two processes compliment each other for you?

I don’t know that there’s a lot of crossover for me, especially because I don’t seem to have much time for gaming right now. Sometimes, working on a game can be a nice break from outlining a comic. And if I’m experiencing writer’s block, a little gaming can sometimes help break those barriers. (I think focusing on another type of story can get the wheels turning on other projects.) For most of my RPG games, though, I have an initial rough outline of what’s happening in the world, and then I just let the players derail it.

If you could write a comic adaptation of any RPG, what would it be and why?

There’s such a broad range. I think Dungeons and Dragons could be rip-roaring fun. I believe a Vampire: the Masquerade comic could be a good, moody, intrigue-heavy book. Gamma World or Dark Conspiracy… or maybe even something like Nightbane or Whispering Vault… might also be a blast from a sheer craziness standpoint.

If you have one of your comics adapted to an RPG, which would it be and why?

I think The Sixth Gun is the best fantasy comic that role-players could buy from a sheer “idea vault” point of view… and I’d love to see an RPG based on that book. If it ever happened, I’d love to see the rulebook as a resource and guidebook to the world of The Sixth Gun, something gamers and non-gamers could enjoy.