Monday, June 24, 2013

Writer and Artist Jim Zub: My Life As A Gamer

Being the writer of comics like Skullkickers and the Pathfinder adaptation from Dynamite Comics, it probably shouldn't surprise anyone that Jim Zub is a gamer. Jim Zub is a writer, artist and art instructor based in Toronto, Canada. Over the past ten years he’s worked for a diverse array of publishing, movie and video game clients including Disney, Warner Bros., Capcom, Hasbro, Bandai-Namco and Mattel. He is also a project manager for UDON Entertainment (which a few of you should probably know about).

He took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for me about his life as a gamer.

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

My brother and I received the classic D&D Basic ‘Red Box’ when I was around 8 years old and he was 12. Our older cousins got us hooked on D&D and we played voraciously, even though the rules were really confusing to us at times. We didn’t realize there was a difference between D&D and AD&D at first, so we were mixing and matching rule books and modules from both systems. We figured it out eventually.

What are some of your favorite games?

I’ve been playing RPGs for almost 30 years and have gone through all sorts of phases where a particular game really hit the spot. A few high points, old and new: D&D, Call of Cthulhu, TMNT and Other Strangeness, Robotech, Vampire the Masquerade, Feng Shui, Adventure! and Pathfinder.

What is the ongoing appeal of tabletop RPGs for you?

I love the collaborative storytelling nature of it. Everyone at the table is going to contribute to the story and we don’t know exactly where it’ll go but we’re all involved. There’s a wonderful spontaneity to it. With the right group just about any game system or setting can be enjoyable and entertaining.

Are you primarily a GM or a Player? Which do you prefer?
Since high school I’ve primarily been the GM. I like managing the world and NPCs that whirl around the cast, rolling with the players’ choices and expectations.

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

Running a good tabletop game is about balancing player needs and everyone’s entertainment, while writing comics is about creating a more cohesive plot and dramatic pacing. They both involve a lot of creativity, but GMing a game isn’t just about one story or a singular narrative voice.

Playing and running games has taught me a lot about how characters interact and made it far easier for me to “get into character”. I imagine characters in a scene, I know their motivations and I’m able to generate dialogue that reflects their personality.

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

Dungeons & Dragons obviously springs to mind. The name carries such powerful nostalgia for me and gamers at large. Having a D&D story in my repertoire would be pretty great. If it could be a comic story set in the kooky Planescape campaign setting, even better.

I’d also be thrilled to push outside of people’s expectations of my work and do something darker like Call of Cthulhu or Vampire the Masquerade. They’re both great properties with atmospheric and emotional intensity.

If you have one of your comics adapted to an RPG, which would it be and why?
Skullkickers is the natural choice, of course. It’s my love letter to RPGs and sword & sorcery that marinates itself in the pulp fantasy tropes I learned from tabletop gaming. It would complete some sort of cosmic cycle of game-comic-game that would probably tear a hole in the fabric of our reality.