Interview with Lou Agresta

Roleplaying and board games reviews, podcasts, videos and interviews

By Thilo Graf

Hello everybody, Endzeitgeist speaking once again, this time not with a review, but with an interview on Lou Agresta’s new project:

IronGM[1]Endzeitgeist: So, Lou, what have you up your sleeve? You’ve been involved with Iron GM – so to kick this off, what about you tell the part of the audience that does not know it yet, what Iron GM exactly is?

Louis Agresta: Well first let me say it is not just my project. I’m doing this with Rone Barton and Ed Healy, but like the homepage says, Iron GM turns our favourite past-time, rpgs, into competitive sport, big show style. But what that really means is: This is a contest where you pit your GM moxie against a table of strangers and against other GMs. The truly hot part about Iron GM, though, is the raw energy that suddenly appears at the tables.

Endzeitgeist: Raw energy? So I gather that Iron GM is a rather different experience from your standard con-game?

Louis Agresta: Yeah, most tournaments are a bunch of gamers crouched over a table – Iron GM is hooting and yelling and fist pumps and people shouting “BANZAI!”

Endzeitgeist: Sounds like a blast!

Louis Agresta: It is. The contest really brings out the fury to game like nothing else.

Endzeitgeist: Do we get to see one of my con-favourites, the active school of DMing, complete with sword-swooshes, DMs jumping around and roaring like crazy?

Louis Agresta: Even more so than usual. Everyone is trying to make the game into a movie at the table, but with all the interaction. Have you ever seen a player so excited by their game that they stood up on a chair and pumped both hands in the air while bellowing until red in the face?

Endzeitgeist: Damn, why don’t we poor European sods get to experience stuff like that? So, where and when can we experience that fun and may I ask where the finals are?

Louis Agresta: Sure. The grand daddy final is (of course) at Gen Con every year in Indianapolis

Endzeitgeist: The promised land of gaming… That means there are local tournaments, too.

Louis Agresta: Yep, we’ve just now started expanding. Our first regional tournament is in Las Vegas at Neoncon, Nov.4th -7th. We always try do Saturday at High Noon…

Endzeitgeist: As befitting a showdown of these proportions.

Louis Agresta: Exactly. We’ve got two more cons we’ll announce later in November, we’re talking to about 12 total. We’ve even had cons calling us and drawn some international interest…

Endzeitgeist: Nice! Maybe I’ll yet get to attend the contest in the future. So…why would a GM want sign up for Iron GM?

Louis Agresta: A GM wants to prove they’re Iron for a few reasons: The first is, if you don’t, well, what are you? The wet noodle GM? *chuckles* Seriously, though, apart from the bragging-rights and the fame? Every regional sends the victor, all expenses paid, to compete at Gen Con.

Endzeitgeist: A free trip to Gen Con? SWEET!

Louis Agresta: A free trip to Gen Con Indy 2011… air fare, hotel and a 4 day pass. And at Neoncon, for example, the top 3 competitors will be splitting a gamer dream chest worth over $6,000 US in prizes…

Endzeitgeist: Wow…that’s a LOT of material…

Louis Agresta: Yep. White Wolf, Margaret Weiss, SGG, Gaming Paper, d20 Pro, and so on and so on – many great companies provide prizes. For details, as always, you can check the Iron GM site or Facebook page.

Endzeitgeist: Ok, I get why DMs would participate, but why would players come to play in the games? Do you have any incentives for potential players?

Louis Agresta: Incentives? Of course. We’re giving prizes to players, just for being there…

But the best thing is probably that the players are judges. It’s the players who get to decide who is truly Iron. More importantly, the GMs get juiced to deliver the best game they ever ran, and the players get to have that game. I can’t call it a guarantee, but… as gamers we deserve the best. Iron GM tries to make sure we get it.

Endzeitgeist: You mentioned the energy and the show-element at Iron GM – could you give examples of the show elements?

Louis Agresta: At Iron GM it’s about the GMs and getting the game of a lifetime, but we also put on a show. For example, our shows include intermission contests for players. Right now we do Monster Charades (we had Adam Daigle up on a chair miming an Invisible Stalker and someone in the audience nailed it in seconds).

Endzeitgeist: As long as the monster to mime is not the mimic…

Louis Agresta: Mimic *laughs* gotta use that. We also do “Dragon Calling” – like pig or husband calling, but you have to try to make the sound of a dragon in heat…

Endzeitgeist: A dragon in heat? I wish I had heard that… *laughs* Wait. How does a dragon sound when it is in heat? I just had this picture of my petite lady on a chair trying to roar like a dragon and nearly fell off my chair…

Louis Agresta: Nice! Last Iron GM, the hotel made the mistake of putting a wedding reception right outside our game hall. No lie. Not smart.

Endzeitgeist: Were they gamers?

Louis Agresta: Nope.

Endzeitgeist: They probably still are telling their family and friends about all the weird-behaving people…

Louis Agresta: Oh yeah, and then I came out in my orange tux and top hat to apologize.

Endzeitgeist: The legendary orange Tuxedo of Doom?

Louis Agresta: It was crazy.

Endzeitgeist: What impresses you the most in your Iron GM-experience?

Louis Agresta: Hard to say, with Gamer Olympics (the intermission) I’m continually impressed with how sharp and creative our players are, e.g. Adam Daigle’s invisible stalker. I mean really? The guy got it in literally 3 seconds. We all turned and stared.

Endzeitgeist: What about players and DMs from the same home-group joining the contest? What are the rules for constellations like that?

Louis Agresta: On the rules: while you can play with your friends, you of course can’t ref your friends. Plus, we assign tables randomly by orange hat pick.

Endzeitgeist: The new artefact “The Orange Hat of Doom” – do you dare put your hand in it?

Louis Agresta: Exactly. Doooom!

Endzeitgeist: So, what is the default rule-set for Iron GM?

Louis Agresta: The default for Iron GM is 3.5 OGL.

Endzeitgeist: So would it also be possible to play e.g. CoC, Storyteller or GURPS at the table?

Louis Agresta: If the table unanimously agrees you can play a different system. But it has to be unanimous.

Endzeitgeist: I was also shooting for perhaps an elaboration of genres…

Louis Agresta: Oh, I see. Well, the only truly important thing is that the players love it. But we are constrained to give monsters from 3.5 OGL.

Endzeitgeist: I know that GMs need to incorporate 3 keywords as guideline for their adventures…

Louis Agresta: Yep, last year the ingredients were: “Bodak, Banishment and Boudoir” and an almost- top-3 GM wound up doing a 3.5 space adventure. Don’t ask me how.

Endzeitgeist: That sounds cool –when not even sky, but creativity is the limit.

Louis Agresta: Seriously. That dude also dresses like a butcher and splashes himself in blood every year (fake blood)…

Endzeitgeist: Woah, that sounds really like something I’d like to witness first-hand…

Louis Agresta: Also the concept of three words comes up in two ways: first, there are the 3 ingredients. GMs get one hour to make an adventure in a limited amount of time. Second, they are only allowed to SAY three words to their players before they must be utterly silent – until the adventure starts one hour later.

Endzeitgeist: That’s a tough limit.

Louis Agresta: As a result everyone scribbles notes and invents sign language, desperate to communicate. Lots of desperate energy, gesticulating and rushing and very fun…

Endzeitgeist: I love the smell of desperation in the morning…

Louis Agresta: Hmmm, maybe we should allow GMs to speak if they stand on one foot, but their sentence is over if their foot touches the ground? Gotta think about that one…

Endzeitgeist: Too easy for guys who do Yoga like me…

Louis Agresta: True. Perhaps they should stand on their heads… spinning?

Endzeitgeist: Breakdance-DMing? Sounds awesome and hilarious!

Louis Agresta: Yes *evil laughter*

Louis Agresta: Another interesting dynamic is that players are not always the GMs friends…Sometimes they try to mess with the GMs adventure concept…sort of a ”You think you’re Iron? Try this on for size…”

Endzeitgeist: I know I’m Iron. 😉 Could you give us an example?

Louis Agresta: Ok, the GM says ‘mounted desert fighters’. An hour later the players come back with ‘halfling elephant-riding sand pirates’. That GM took third, by the way.

Endzeitgeist: Ostriches, desert rhino wranglers, transvestite half-orc beauty pageant rejects – who are angry… The possibilities to be sadistic player are endless… Are there other cool customs that are unique or cool?

Louis Agresta: Well, every time you roll a natural 20, your whole table shouts “Baaaaanzai!” and we hang a necklace of multicolored d6s around your neck. And throw plushie d20s at you. Run a game through THAT wet noodle GMs.

Endzeitgeist: And keep the atmosphere…

Louis Agresta: This event is very loud.

Endzeitgeist: Sound like at total blast and a party! So, where can we check whether Iron GM comes to a location near us? And what can we do to help Iron GM conquer a convention near our hometown?

Louis Agresta: Sure, excellent questions. Right now you can check to hear the latest and learn about the next event. We’ve also caged some computer elves and are franticly whipping them to build our website, where we’ll post the convention schedule. In the meantime: If you have a convention near you that you think would be great to have Iron GM be at, just contact us at We’ll contact the con. So if you also know the decision maker at the con and point us their way, that’s helpful.

Endzeitgeist: Writing e-mails or snail-mail to the con might also help to show the demand…

Lou Agresta: Absolutely. Demand Iron GM! I like that. *chuckles*

Endzeitgeist: Aggressive Expansion befitting of the title. Nice! Once they are done with the site, will there be a newsletter or something like that to keep us informed?

Louis Agresta: I believe so on the newsletter. Depends how many elves survive the site build…

Endzeitgeist: Expand like hell so Europeans like me get Iron GM cons near them. Is there something more in the works? Anything you’re particularly looking forward to?

Louis Agresta: Well. We’ll have to have a follow up announcement because we’re cooking up something Iron GM for someone in addition to conventions. We’re just not ready to reveal that yet. Also, the prizes keep getting bigger so I’m almost scared to see what it’ll be this coming Gen Con…

Endzeitgeist: I’d love to see the prizes one day first-hand and participate… So go forth and participate in this contest! Any projects apart from Iron GM in the works?

Louis Agresta: Rone, Ed and I are launching an Iron GM podcast interviewing people your favorite game designers think are the best GMs – and trying to get their secrets from them.

Endzeitgeist: More podcasts by Rone & Ed? That’s always great news! I’m looking forward to hearing it! Thank you for doing this interview with me and all the best for Iron GM!

Louis Agresta: Thanks Endzeitgeist

Endzeitgeist: Thank you for doing this interview with me.

Louis Agresta: Peace & prosperity to you. Bye.

Endzeitgeist: Bye bye.


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