Apr 202014
 

jolly_rogersBy Paco Garcia Jaen

Recently I almost got into a conversation about piracy with someone in Google+ who claimed several things I find totally idiotic:

  • Piracy is a great way of publicity.
  • People download illegal movies, music, etc. for many reasons and not because they save money or “because they can.”
  • I download so I can see the game and then decide if I want to buy it or not.
  • It should be legal to copy and distribute the books you buy.
  • Culture should be freely available.

There were more, but those were all the needed ones to get my blood boil. However there was one that truly got me angry. Angry enough that I left the conversation before I said something someone else might regret:

  • “As far as I’m concern the games industry can go bust and I wouldn’t care.”

I believe the gaming hobby has a healthy future ahead. Very healthy. And I believe that because I can see companies becoming more and more professional. And whether people like it or not, Kickstarter and crowd funding are helping a lot. Tons of people are learning what it takes to release a game and that even the launch of a PDF product is a costly affair, both in time, money and resources, not to mention the stress of having to deal with deadlines and feedback.

But we have assholes out there that don’t care. And they think it’s OK to download illegal copies of books.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are assholes in every hobby and every industry, so that’s not new. However that doesn’t mean they don’t damage the industry and the hobby. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call them out for what they are: Parasites. Sucking and consuming from a hobby without giving anything in return.

And no, “great publicity” doesn’t cut it. The only publicity you generate when you promote something by means of piracy is that you’re a douchebag.

Admittedly I am somewhat biased because I know a lot of people in the gaming industry and some of those people I love very much, so I don’t want anyone to do anything that hurt them. Not everyone is as privileged as I am and we care less for things and people we don’t know enough about.

Which doesn’t justify the pirate behaviour.

I haven’t downloaded anything illegal for many, many years, but I have downloaded some stuff in the past. So I am no saint (as I doubt anyone out there can claim to be) but I try to be responsible.

Disagreeing with someone’s price is not “having no other choice” though. If you think a PDF is too highly priced at $20 then don’t buy it. Buy another game for the amount of money you want to spend, but don’t download it illegally.

When you do that, you’re just being petulant and puerile with an attitude of “I want it, I want it I want it and I’m gonna get it regardless.” You are a parasite. Get out of my hobby please.

Actually no… just get off my hobby. Scrap the please. You don’t deserve it.

Downloading the book before you buy to check it out is total crap. There are tons of people out there who write reviews and most publishers give away a chapter so you can take a look before you buy. Feeble, feeble and stupid excuse.

I tell you what. I am going to go to your home and help myself to your food in the fridge so then I can go and buy it in the supermarket if I like it. Yes, of course I’ll replenish your fridge. If I like what I eat and end up buying it, of course!

I agree that culture should be freely available. This is why you have libraries. When you go to the theatre to watch a Shakespeare play you’re not just watching the play he wrote, you’re also watching and paying for the production you can see.

You want free Shakespeare? The library has it. You want a free performance of a Shakespeare play? Do it yourself. Either that or pay the actors and actresses, producers, light technitians… They deserve to be paid for their job.

Just like the game author, designer, layout artist, editor, printers… See why the free culture bit is bullshit?

No? You can’t see it… ah… that’d be because you’re an idiot. Get off my hobby!

And then we have the assholes who simply don’t care.

I’m not going to try to convince them to change their minds. They’re way too stupid for that. And they’re worthless. Yes, sorry human. You’re worthless.

Because anyone who tells me “I don’t care about the livelihoods of the people who work in a whole industry” is a worthless human being.

Get off my planet. Seriously… this Earth would be a lot better off without you. And if you’re reading this and feeling the indignation, explain to me why I should feel differently about you than you feel about the people who write or create the game you enjoy.

No. Exactly. I don’t care if you go to hell either.

So go to hell, and pirate from there.

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Feb 232014
 

destiny-quest-196x300By Jonathan Hicks

I’m delighted to welcome Michael Ward; gamer, author of the best selling DestinyQuest game books and all-round decent guy.

Perhaps you’d like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Ha! This is the part where I wish I lived an exciting and outrageous life, filled with extreme sports and hobbies, and at least one exotic pet. Sadly, I’m pretty boring. I spend most of my life in my dressing gown, Arthur Dent style, sat in front of a computer – swearing occasionally, shaking my fist, cackling maniacally, but mostly just frowning in a constipated fashion and willing words of wisdom to appear on the screen.

I’ve always been a geek –and now I’m a middle-aged geek, embracing the highs and lows of mid-life crisis. Whereas most males deal with it through fast cars (and probably fast women), I er… embrace it through middle-age spread and writing the occasional gamebook. I win obviously. Ahem.

Tell us about your gaming history – what got you into the wonderful world of roleplaying, wargaming and adventure books?

Well, as I mention on my site, Dungeons & Dragons was the event that really sucked me into the hobby. I had glimpsed the metal miniatures and was always curious of the ‘game’ that lurked behind it all, but it seemed like something mysterious and underground – the type of thing to be Michael J Ward author picwhispered in shadowed corners, usually by older kids who looked a little bit scary. It wasn’t until I saw the movie ET: The Extra Terrestrial, that I got my first glimpse of what a D&D session was like – and when I left the cinema, I was determined to get involved.

Of course, at the same time, the first Fighting Fantasy books were being released – and these were incredibly new and exciting. I remember the book clubs we used to have at school, where someone from outside would bring in a sort of portable rack that was opened up to reveal the books for sale. Cue a class of screaming kids (gripping their spending money in sweaty fists) rushing forward, elbowing and kicking to get the best ones before anyone else. In those days, I was but a puny mortal (before I developed my special abilities and put extra points into brawn and vitality) so I had no chance of getting to the front. But I always remember one time, when the dust settled and the “best books” had been taken, I finally reached the book rack to scrutinise what was left – and there was ‘The Warlock of Firetop Mountain’ by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. It was meant to be. I grabbed it excitedly – the cover screaming at me ‘FANTASY GEEKNESS!’. Once my friends realised what the books were all about (‘Wow, you roll dice and stuff!’) then I suddenly became Mr Popular pretty quickly! Fear my skills, fools!

Seriously, at that time, there was nothing else around quite like those books – and computer games were still pretty much in the stone age, so for the first time we got the chance to imagine a fantastic adventure where we were the hero and got to make exciting choices. Gaming bliss!

517LADGhaTL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The DestinyQuest books are incredibly popular so tell us more about how you came up with the idea?

Well, my love of role-playing games was soon surpassed by another, more compulsive passion, which was computer gaming. I was lucky in some ways to grow up at an exciting and innovative time when games consoles (like the Atari 2600) were just being launched, and then computers came onto the scene (the ZX Spectrum, C64, BBC, Amiga etc.). Each new platform brought with it incredible new gaming opportunities. I’ve always stuck with the hobby, from Pac-Man through to the latest MMORPGS like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2.

I got pretty addicted to online gaming and that got me thinking about how I could replicate that online RPG feel in a book. I guess the gamebook format that I grew up with was an obvious connection there too. I already had a completed manuscript (for a kids’ book) doing the rounds with my agent, so I was kind of twiddling my thumbs. Time and again I kept coming back to the idea of an MMO experience in book form.

So I set about roughing out a system and writing some quests. I came at it as something just for fun. If no-one else reads it, who cares – I just wanted to create something I could play myself and have a laugh with. But as I carried on writing, I realised it was evolving into something quite exciting – something that I felt could be commercial.

What makes DestinyQuest different, if anything, from other gamebooks?

Traditional gamebooks tend to have a basic combat system. You roll dice, apply damage and just hope that your rolls are high enough to win. There is no real strategy – and the opponents don’t have much personality other than being a bunch of numbers. With DestinyQuest I wanted the combat to be much more dynamic – almost as if you were bashing buttons and selecting abilities in a computer game. I wanted opponents to have their own ‘battle scripts’ if you like – so that you were forced to react to their abilities, identifying their strengths and weaknesses.

Tied in with the dynamic combat, I also wanted to provide full-customisation of your hero. So instead of rolling some stats at the start of your adventure and that was it, I wanted to bring in the computer RPG experience of collecting items as you progress and then having these items boost your hero and give them abilities. Obviously, all this was a complete nightmare to balance (there was much swearing and shaking of fists) but I got there in the end.

Why did you decide to have a go at writing a new generation of adventure gamebooks?

I think it was probably a pretty crazy idea. At the time, gamebooks were considered dead in the water. There were a few FF titles getting released but nothing that was mainstream. This was also before the explosion of Apps, so really no-one was even thinking gamebooks. I stuck at it because I was convinced there was still a market – those vets like me who grew up with gamebooks, but also a new generation of computer gamers who may be eager to experience books that were more interactive.

I met with a lot of opposition. So much so that I ended up self-publishing. Thankfully, I was lucky and the book sold well – and I do have to thank the gaming and blog community for embracing the book and help spread the word. That success won me the attention of a mainstream publisher who decided to take a punt on the series. So far, so good – but still a rocky road.

What were your inspirations/influences?

My main inspiration was World of Warcraft. It was such a huge part of my life at the time and kind of occupied most of my waking thoughts! I also loved action-orientated RPGS such as Diablo and Titan Quest. I’m a fan of most genres of gaming, if I’m being honest, and I think all of those influences got distilled into the DQ game experience.

LegionofShadowDid you create a specific world for the adventures to take place in, and will we see more of it?

Yes, I did create a source document that outlines the history of the world. One interesting thing that I frequently see misquoted is that Valeron (the setting for the early books) is the name of the world. It isn’t. Valeron is just a kingdom – one part of a much greater whole.

I try not to overload the books with too much exposition of the world, I prefer to keep them action-based and filter in the ‘history’ when it is needed. With each book, I feel like I am opening up the world a little more, showing more of the broader canvass. If there are further books in the series, then more pieces of the puzzle will be revealed. I really want to explore Mordland, for example, (an area only briefly mentioned in the first books), which is very cool. Time will tell!

A lot of work must go into creating one of these books, more than producing a straightforward story – what’s your plan of attack when writing one?

They certainly are incredibly complicated and time-consuming, which miffs me a little bit when the mainstream press turns their noses up at interactive fiction as something ‘just for the kids’. These books are monumental projects.

I suppose I start by deciding on the environments (or zones, if you like) and marrying that to the story I want to tell. Then it is a matter of breaking down the story into the individual quests. I write each quest in a separate document then compile them together as each is completed into a ‘master document’, which has all the numbers and links.

What do you see as the future for DestinyQuest? More books? Computer games? Maybe even a tabletop roleplaying game?

I have lots of ideas for things I would love to do. The thing is, to reach that point of having spin-offs, you probably need quite a huge player base. I don’t think I have quite achieved that yet. If the books continue to be successful and reach new markets, then who knows.

At the very least, I would love to finish the series (which is six books – originally seven, but one is now superfluous to the overall story). I do have ideas roughed out for interactive spin-offs and a customisable card game (played too much Hearthstone to resist, sorry!) but nothing concrete. Always open to offers!

If you could sit down with several friends and play a tabletop RPG right at this very moment, what would it be and why?

At the moment it would be the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game by Paizo. A friend of mine recommended it to me last year (I was sort of aware of Pathfinder but had never given it a go). He urged me to try it because it was ‘a bit like DestinyQuest’. In some ways it is – you have individual quests broken up into locations, and guide a hero (or party of heroes) through the challenges, equipping them with better and better gear as you do so. It is very addictive, both as a solo game and played with friends. I highly recommend!

Are there any other projects you are working on, or is DestinyQuest a full-time thing?

Contrary to what people might think, writing is a tough profession – one that doesn’t come anywhere near to paying the bills – so I still take on a lot of freelance projects (I write educational materials for schools). At the moment, freelance work is taking up a lot of my time, but when I get a chance I am scribbling down ideas for DestinyQuest 4. I do have a cool idea for a novel that I would like to write, but I feel – at the moment – it would be “cheating” to ditch DestinyQuest for another project. Ultimately, I guess I am your typical male – chronic at multi-tasking! But, as they say, watch this space. Who knows what the future holds…

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Feb 182014
 

215826084[1]By Jonathan Hicks

It’s a great pleasure to welcome to Farsight Blogger Sarah Newton, the author of the excellent novel and roleplaying game ‘Mindjammer’.

Hello Sarah, and welcome to Farsight Blogger; perhaps you’d like to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me on the blog! Well, I’m a long-time RPGer and a writer of genre fiction. I always say I live in a field in rural Normandy surrounded by farmyard animals – Chris my blues muso husband and I have a wee smallholding and practice a semi-self sufficiency, which lets me spend time gaming and writing, and occasionally wresting sheep. I’m a Brit by birth, and a linguist by training, although I’ve moved about a fair bit; I still make it back to the Mother Country quite regularly for conventions and seeing friends and family.

Tell us about your RPG history – what got you into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying?
I’ve been an RPGer almost as long as I can remember – I got into gaming in the summer of 1980, on the very last day of my first year of secondary school, when I saw another kid showing off a softback copy of the brand new “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook”. I’d discovered Tolkien, Burroughs, and a heap of other fantasy and SF writers a couple of years earlier, and was totally receptive to this mad game where you could explore dungeons and fight monsters and win treasure. I went straight home that afternoon clutching a little paper catalogue from “Games of Liverpool” and spent all my pocket money on a £1.75 postal order to buy “Buffalo Castle”. I didn’t even know it was a solitaire adventure for Tunnels & Trolls – when it came I just made up my own rules and spent the whole summer playing it and talking about it endlessly. I even wrote two or three of my own solo dungeons using my dad’s “Brother” typewriter.

I got the T&T rules a month or two later, then rapidly discovered RuneQuest (2nd edition), Metamorphosis Alpha, Traveller (Black Box), The Fantasy Trip, Arduin, D&D (White Box), C&S (Red Book), then Gamma World, Space Opera, Ringworld, Stormbringer, Cthulhu, and lots more – more or less in that order. I was a total addict from day one – the chance to tell exciting adventure stories with friends as a game was utterly fascinating, as was designing your own worlds. I still have my first ever overland maps from that first summer wrestling with Tunnels & Trolls – enormous great sheets of parchment-like A2, with the dungeon maps and overland maps drawn at the same scale, and the room descriptions written directly on!

What is it about the tabletop RPG hobby that attracts you? What do you enjoy most when playing a game?
I think it’s still the sense of heroic achievement when you tell a story of adventurers succeeding against deadly and impossible odds – that’s what I love in books and movies, and the same goes for games. Sitting around a table, breathless, waiting to see if your characters are even going to survive, let alone succeed, is a real dramatic tension which is utterly compelling. Then on top of that as a GM, being able to describe and create a world that’s fascinating and exciting for the players to explore – there’s something enchanting about that.

You’ve recently released the new edition of the RPG ‘Mindjammer’, a game of ‘Transhuman Science-Fiction Roleplaying in the Far Future’. It appears to be a huge and detailed setting so tell us more about it; what we can expect to find in the universe you’ve created?
Mindjammer is the huge RPG project I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. It’s a complete science-fiction RPG, and a very open setting for playing “21st century” science-fiction – that is, its concepts are very modern, it’s not retro in any sense. It’s a game which reflects our 21st century take on science and science-fiction – hyper-advanced technologies, transhuman evolution, sentient machines (even starships, which you can play as characters), realistic and thoroughly “alien” aliens, planets and star systems which reflect latest theories. It uses the Fate Core engine in a way which you can really customise to your preferences – you can dial up the crunchiness and tech-i-ness if you like, or emphasise the softer and more narrative elements, or seamlessly merge the two. It comes with a default setting – the New Commonality of Humankind – but equally it’s modular, and designed to be used easily with any science-fiction setting, whether your own homebrew, an already published one, or one from your favourite book or movie.

It’s also meant to be very playable – there are guidelines throughout the book for what you can “do” in the game. Many settings are so detailed and complex that they often appear “closed”, like it’s difficult to work out what your characters can do; that’s not Mindjammer. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to ways to play the game and hooks for adventures and campaigns, and you can play all your favourite SF games: military sci-fi, investigative, exploration games, interstellar trading, intrigue and espionage, virtual worlds, alien battles, cyberpunk, and lots more.

Mindjammer’s default setting is the galaxy 15,000 years from now, and a young-but-old and expanding interstellar civilisation called the “New Commonality of Humankind”. For 10,000 years humankind was confined to Old Earth and its solar system, and the handful of worlds close to it which were accessible by slower-than-light travel. It was an ancient, highly advanced, yet ultimately stagnant civilisation. For five millennia it had sent out slower-than-light generation ships and stasis ships to the stars – many vanished without a trace, some sent back signals millennia after they’d left – but no great interstellar civilisation ever arose, and slowly humankind began to stagnate and die.
Then, two hundred years ago, just as the light seemed about to go out, faster-than-light travel was discovered. The Old Commonality set out to the stars – and found countless lost colonies, all waiting to be recontacted and rediscovered. Often massively divergent – evolved away from human norms, or genetically engineered to the hugely alien – these often ancient cultures reacted to the arrival of the New Commonality in a variety of different ways – some with extreme violence at what they perceived as “alien invaders” from a homeworld they had long forgotten had ever existed. And these lost colonies had some very alien ideas – cultural concepts, attitudes, technologies – which disturbed the ancient and somewhat decadent Commonality, and threatened to destabilise it even as it expanded.

Two hundred years later, and that’s the present-day; a Second Age of Space, filled with cultural conflict, outbreaks of violence, surprising new civilisations and rediscovered worlds, and lots of mysteries. The Commonality holds itself together by virtue of the Mindscape, a vast technological shared consciousness and data storage medium like an interstellar internet, to which all Commonality citizens are connected by neural implant. The Mindscape enables a technological form of psionics, and also allows people to upload their memories, and download and “remember” the memories of others – even of dead people, whose memories are stored in the internet. Sentient starships and other synthetics have personalities derived from the memories of dead heroes stored in the Mindscape, and you can play some very unusual characters – including those who are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be human, the “transhumans” and “posthumans” of the New Commonality.

Mindjammer is a standalone Fate Core game, and compatible with all Fate Core products, but it also features hugely expanded rules, including rules for starships, vehicles, and other constructs; organisations, governments, and mega-corporations; and even entire cultures. Your characters can interact with all these; you can rise to command a fleet of sentient starships, lead a world to war, or conduct cultural manipulation missions to defuse dangerous memes and help rediscovered worlds deep in culture shock integrate into the Commonality – and pretty much anything else you can imagine doing in a science-fiction game. The game features new systems for worlds and civilisations, stellar bodies and star systems, and ecosystems and alien lifeforms, including exotic biospheres like the surfaces of neutron stars or the photospheres of red giants. You can easily use these new systems with any other SF RPG.

There’s a lot in it! You can find out more here.

You can order Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game here – the 496-page hardback ships at the end of March, and you can download the PDF immediately today.

It’s been described as a ‘space opera transhuman’ setting; what was the attraction in this particular genre of science fiction?
I love RPGs where characters overcome great obstacles and are transformed by the experience – I love D&D for levelling up, RuneQuest and Glorantha for becoming Rune Lords and Heroes, but I’ve often found those concepts lacking in science-fiction RPGs, even though science-fiction movies and novels are *full* of them. Our immediate future here on Earth in the 21st century is going to be profoundly challenging – we’re approaching the Singularity, we’re early transhumans already, with our links to the global massmind, instantaneous communication, virtual experiences, and soon to be biotech augmentations and self-directed evolution. I think those are really cool issues which you should be able to address in RPGs – and that’s what Mindjammer was conceived to do. Of course you can play more traditional science-fiction games if you want, but the background of Mindjammer is turbulent and chaotic change, cultural conflict, and widespread transhuman evolution – and your characters can be part of that, and even affect how the future of the human race develops.

You also wrote the popular Mindjammer novel. What came first in your mind, the novel or the game?
It’s a bit of a cop-out, but the setting came first. I was writing the Chronicles of Future Earth setting, which is a very, very far future science-fantasy setting, originally published by Chaosium in 2011 but which will have a 2nd edition shortly, and I was wondering about its backstory – how the human race left Earth, spread to the stars, and just what happened. Mindjammer as a setting came out of that brainstorming, then completely took over and became its own thing. Now, maybe Mindjammer is the distant past of Chronicles, or maybe Chronicles is one possible future of Mindjammer – I don’t know myself, but I love that they’re independent things with lives of their own.

The Mindjammer novel and its two sequels and the short story anthologies still to come are examples of the sorts of amazing events that can happen in the Commonality. I’m not trying to write a canon history in them; when you play Mindjammer, the Commonality is yours, and you take it where you want. The Mindjammer novels are just my version, but I think they’re also a good way to get a feel for the setting – to see the adventures your characters can have. And the novel’s characters appear as pregens in the game – you can download their character sheets at www.mindjammer.com right now!

What more can we expect to see from the Mindjammer RPG in the future?
All being well, plenty. As long as there’s appetite, I have a lot of products in the works – a pipeline long enough to keep me busy for several years! There are scenarios, Commonality atlases, setting and sourcebooks, and so on. We’re not intending any rules splats as such – Mindjammer is a very complete RPG already, and contains everything you need to play – but people have already been asking for more equipment and starship books, for example, so that’s certainly on the cards. In the immediate future we’re planning to release three independent scenarios: Hearts & Minds, a cultural operations scenario; Occam’s Razor, a rescue mission to a vast sentient “bioship”; and The City People, an exploration and contact mission with some *very* alien aliens. Lots more to come!

The tabletop roleplaying hobby has been through a lot changes over the years and it seems that its death-knell is always sounded when newer hobbies come along, such as collectible card games and online computer games. It still seems to be able to hold it’s own, though – what do you see happening to the hobby in the future? What changes, if any, do you think will have to be made to ensure its survival?
I think we’re in a new Golden Age for RPGs – the hobby is thriving, although changing rapidly. Self-publishing, digital distribution, cheaper printing, crowdfunding, and a mature fan base means that there are some top quality games out there. I think we’ll see the continued development of online tabletop gaming, with things like Roll20, Infrno, and the 3D Virtual Tabletop becoming increasingly sophisticated. Plus there are lots of possibilities for using things like Google Glass, the Oculus Rift headset, and even the Epoc brainwave reader headset for all kinds of neat applications. I think at some point too there’ll be a fusion of online gaming and LARPing, with RPGs becoming online frameworks for virtual world games. But I don’t see tabletop RPGing disappearing anytime soon – as long as we’re writing, playing, and GMing, I think it has a great future!

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Feb 112014
 

Mutant-ChroniclesBy Jonathan Hicks

Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Chris Birch of Modiphius Entertainment, the guys who’ll be bringing us the 3rd Edition of the Mutant Chronicles roleplaying game.

Perhaps you’d like to tell us a little bit about yourself?
I used to work in music booking tours for bands, then organising big electronic music events before moving on to video games marketing and finally clothing, I had a t-shirt company making cool tees based on video games called Joystick Junkies before I left to start Modiphius.

Tell us about your RPG history – what got you into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying?
I’ve been a gamer all my life since my intro to D&D age 9 and Steve Jackson’s Ogre game shortly afterwards. It was both my brothers that got in to RPG’s at different times, and introduced me to D&D and Metamorphosis Alpha. I then got my elder brother in to war-games from about 11 was always dreaming up rules for war-games and RPGs. Actually I still remember the first day playing soldiers when I suggested we roll dice instead of just knowing soldiers over as a kid.

This passion for designing game ideas continued but I never had a vehicle to use it, until about 10 years ago I thought of developing an RPG based on the Starblazer comics from the UK (black and white, cool colour covers, a whole story in 70 pages from the 1980′s). I published it through Cubicle 7, then co-wrote Legends of Anglerre with Sarah Newton. I always wanted to do something to do with weird war ever since I read Sergeant Rock as a kid and had been thinking of doing a Kickstarter project with World War 2 and Cthulhu.

I’d also been wanting to add ‘Cthulhu’ to games of Flames of War my friends and I were playing and suddenly ‘Achtung! Cthulhu’ was born. Sarah Newton had a great plot for a campaign in a Cthulhu based WW2 campaign so we teamed up to offer that as the first release under Achtung! Cthulhu and Modiphius Entertainment was born. Of course once we did the Kickstarter a year later following several successful releases the company launched full time and I left my old job to focus on tabletop adventures!

What is it about the tabletop RPG hobby that attracts you? What do you enjoy most when playing a game?
The passion you find in people who are designing, making or playing the games, the sheer wonder and excitement around each cool new game we have, the opportunity to create amazing new worlds of adventure and see them come to life in people’s minds. I love playing challenging unbalanced games where the odds are against me – I love a war-game where I ‘might’ just win if I do exactly the right thing. There’s something about facing impossible odds and seeing your strategies win through. Equally I love throwing a great dinner party and introducing people to roleplaying games for the first time.

So tell us more about the Mutant Chronicles Third Edition roleplaying game; what’s your history with the license?
I first played the RPG in the 1990′s, I’d discovered the Blood Berets Boardgame set in the same universe and then the Doom Trooper card game (that was in 16 languages). So the Third Edition is a complete revamp – we’re taken the long history from the old books, filled in the gaps, developed a deeper plot and backstory to explain everything, mad more sense of some of the awesome clues and plot hooks left hanging in the 90′s and brought the rules system up to date with a brand new cinematic game system.

All the good stuff is there like the awesome world, the cool character life path creation system, plus we’re adding new things like spaceship travel and combat for the first time, a conversion system to the Warzone skirmish system (that re-launched last year) and much more. We’ve really expanded the incredible storyline so there’s so much more to discover now.

What was the attraction in giving this particular universe new life and another chance?
It was a fresh, crazy, mad for it gaming world that drew you in with the awesome looking art. Having played it and loved it in the 90′s and offered the chance to bring it to life again I knew I had to do it, and with Kickstarter and the ability to find all the old and new fans it was a fantastic opportunity to share the experience of the Dark Legion invasion with everyone again.

Will we see many changes from the previous editions?
We’re offering an extended time period – now you can play in the first days after the outbreak of the Dark Symmetry with investigative style missions as well as the full blown 1st and 2nd Corporate War and the 1st and 2nd Dark Legion invasion – this gives GM’s and players SO much storyline to explore.
The rules will be more cinematic, wider ranging (allowing spaceships, your own corporations, allegiances, and much more) and allowing the GM to really introducing fantastic dramatic scenes and let the player’s do the kind of things you’ve always imagined they should in Mutant Chronicles.

What more can we expect to see from Mutant Chronicles in the future?
We’re planning a big range include all the books that were out before plus three big campaigns and other guides, merchandising, RPG figures from Prodos Games and much more.

The tabletop roleplaying hobby has been through a lot changes over the years and it seems that its death-knell is always sounded when newer hobbies come along, such as collectible card games and online computer games. It still seems to be able to hold it’s own, though – what do you see happening to the hobby in the future? What changes, if any, do you think will have to be made to ensure its survival?
Like all industries retail is shrinking, stores are closing – it’s the same in fashion, music, gaming – so businesses have to find new ways to reach their customers, new products that compete better, that give their fans exactly what the fans want. At the same time it’s getting easier for anyone to put great quality games out – what with print on demand, Kickstarter and the rise of 3D Printers so it’s a great time to be a gamer!

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Feb 042014
 

Death_Mark_NovelBy Paco Garcia Jaen

A while ago I had a conversation with my mate Neal Freeman about D&D novels. Although I disagree with him, I can understand why he thinks that way. I have read all the Dark Sun novels published – some have stuck to my feeble memory better than others – and I must admit that they weren’t masterpieces.

For me they were decent and they served to illustrate and give some sort of context to the settings in which we used to play. I think it’s fair to say they were naive and lacked the gritty darkness that we didn’t have a problem instigating in our own games. Whereas we didn’t have a problem describing the horrible effects of battle and death, the novels were a bit more, how to say this… on the Disney side of life. They were more innocent. Tamer.

I was expecting the same when I started Death Mark yesterday. However, and just after 50 pages into the book, I have found myself many times thinking “can you say that!?” and “oh… bloody hell he’s an asshole!”

And I like it!

Then I thought who the author is. I don’t know the man other than the posts Facebook allows me to see, but one thing I can tell by those posts: Robert J Schwalb is talented, uncompromising, and brutally honest with both the setting he’s writing about, Dark Sun, and the reader. There’s no padding, no cushioning and certainly no Disney veneer.

His writing is fearless.

And I couldn’t help myself but wonder why we can read now this type of writing. Why is it that now we can truly come face to face with the reality of our imaginary worlds and our not so imaginary tabletop adventures.

I think the main answer is that the authors have grown older and more experienced. Not just more experienced in the writing craft, but more experienced in the self confidence that it takes to approach a book with this honesty and daring attitude of “this is what it is, deal with it!” that we haven’t seen in many other Dungeons & Dragons books.

My biggest criticism of this book after 50 pages? It’s not a hardback tome and I didn’t find it in my local book store.

Schwalb proves, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that compelling writing creates compelling situations that put D&D settings at a par with any other setting from more recognised and acclaimed authors.

Now the million book pages question: How do we get that word out and help bring those game to the forefront of fantasy book charts? Because that is where they belong.

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Jan 192014
 

0-arch-enemy-flagge-logo-1359378681[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

One interesting – in the worst possible sense of the word – thing about role players (though this extends to any hobby, of course) is the ability that spans internationally of reviewers ranting about things that we consider to be bad as if they actually are, without taking into account the subjective nature of taste.

Thus games become “rubbish” and they are “bad games” and there is no way to instil sort of open minded conversation. The game is bad, or rubbish. Or worse.

When that comes from a regular player, I don’t care. We are all entitled to our opinions. However when that sort of attitude comes from a reviewer, I take issue with it.

Reviewers, even those of us who do it for a hobby, have a responsibility to be constructive in our criticism. Not because we are not entitled to dislike something, or to voice it, but because what we say can hurt a designer, a company. We don’t have the right to do that and we lose the right to be thoughtless and careless about our opinions.

More and more I am hearing opinions that slander games based purely on peripheral aspects of the game: The new version is not like the old version, thus the game is bad. The game costs too much, so it is garbage. The game does things we don’t like, so the game is crap even if those things we dislike add a new dimension and depth to the game. The game uses custom dice and suddenly the game came straight off Hell’s printing machines.

And all that without a single acknowledgement of any of the positive aspects of the game.
More often than not this happens because the game hasn’t lived up to expectations, not because the game is bad. We create this vision in our head of what the game should be like, and if it’s not like that vision, we slander the game and reject it as faulty. As “bad”.

Well reviewers, if you do that, you’re both a bad reviewer and hurting our hobby. And you should stop.

What for you is just fun – writing or videoing a review – for someone else is their work. Their livelihood. When you mock a product and other people without the ability or training to think critically listen or read that review, they could decide not to buy the game for the wrong reasons. Someone could lose on sales, which are thin on the ground at best of times, just because you can’t be bothered to look at the game dispassionately.

That’s not fun. That’s far from fun.

The hobby you so claim to like and love? Well, bullshit to that. You, thoughtless and careless reviewer, are the worst enemy gaming has.

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