• Interview: Monte Cook

    Monte Cook Interview

    2 September 2012

    Dragon*Con, Atlanta, GA

    This interview took place at the Hilton Atlanta’s Crystal Ballroom, on 2 September, 2012, the third day of Dragon*ConClick here for the original audio.

    Sword: Greetings! This is TPK-Online.com, and I am with Monte Cook. If you don’t know who that is, then I’m not going to tell you, and you’re on the wrong website! Monte, I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and talk to me about what’s going on with you, and all that.

    Monte Cook: My pleasure!

    Sword: So, you got the Numenera thing going on. For those who don’t know, they might be on the wrong site as well, but why don’t you tell them a little about that?

    Monte: Well, so, Numenera is a far distant future, post-apocalyptic, science-fantasy game. And what I mean by that is it’s a billion years in the future; Earth is completely different, eight different great civilizations have risen and fallen. And now a ninth civilization is rising, but they live amid the remnants of all these past civilizations, and so there is weird and amazing technology all around them. So, basically, the whole thing is based on Arthur C. Clark’s statement that, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    Sword: So, HE’S the one who said that quote! ‘Cause I’ve been using that quote for years, and I never knew where it came from.

    Monte: *laughs* Yeah.

    Sword: So, what led to the development of Numenera, and developing your own, standalone game?

    Monte: Well, Numenera has a long history. The game system, itself, is something that I started working on twenty years ago, then sort of put on the shelf when I got hired by TSR to work on D&D. So, I stayed kind of with D&D for a very, very long time. But always in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to design a game that was quite a bit different from D&D; much more story-based, character-based, and idea-based.

    Sword: Cool, cool. What about the system? What is it about the system that makes it different from others? ‘Cause I’ve seen other games – I think the Dresden Files, and things of that ilk – do the notation sort of thing; where you don’t have attributes, you have traits.

    Monte: Right.

    Sword: What makes yours different?

    Monte: Well, so, it’s a combination of things. But, for example, one of the things characters can do in Numenera is expend effort that will allow them to manipulate the mechanics that basically allows them to decide – allows players to decide – when an action is really important to them. Right? So they’ll put more effort into those kinds of things. So it gives players the ability to have more control over their own character. But at the same time, kind of backs away from really heavily-detailed mechanics, and tactical combat options, and things like that. Which can be really, really fun, but also tend to slow down play. Because for Numenera, the combat scenes are only part of the story. And so, while they’re exciting and fun, they don’t predominate the way they do in some games.

    Sword: As they shouldn’t. I was just looking on the Kickstarter. You’re currently over $212,000. And you had originally went for, what? $20,000, or so?

    Monte: Yeah, the original goal was $20,000 to get the book published.

    Sword: I’ve seen your tweets, how you’re very excited about that. Anything you’re looking for, stretch goal-wise, that you’re looking to hit, given the recent support?

    Monte: Well, I’m excited that we’ve hit a lot of our stretch goals, which has, in most cases, meant that the book is bigger, and cooler, and color art. But also that we’ve added a number of new products to the product line; we’ve added… there’s three linked adventures, a bestiary, and we’re $8,000 away from adding, basically a tech book, that I’m calling, “Sir Arthur’s Compendium.”

    Sword: Is there anything else that you want to tell, or perhaps hint at, for future stretch goals?

    Monte: I am looking at, y’know, if we really get way up there, we’ll probably do some kind of special edition – bound leather, slip case, cool thing – for people who are really wanting a collector’s item, coffee table kind of book. But that’s gonna be pretty far up there.

    Sword: Now, this may be bordering on a bit of a touchy subject. But with Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, you are probably one of the most recognized names, as far as D&D goes. And I know that you left Wizards of the Coast during your tenure there to help with Next. Since then, what is your take on what is coming out of Next, and what is your opinion on that?

    Monte: Well, so I can’t really talk a lot about that. But what I can say is that I’m in a playtest, and playing the game, and having a good time with it.

    Sword: That’s good. Glad to hear it! *sheepishly* Are you looking for writers for Numenera?

    Monte: *laughs* At this time, no. But who knows what the future might bring?

    Sword: Very cool. Thank you very much. Thank you for meeting with me. This will be up, hopefully, sometime soon after Dragon*Con ends.

    Monte: Ok, yeah. Just send me a link.

    Sword: Of course! And this has been TPK-Online.com. Thank you very much!

    Monte: Thanks!

  • Interview: Eddy Webb & Rich Thomas, White Wolf


    Interview with Eddy Webb & Rich Thomas

    White Wolf Publishing

    This interview took place on Thursday, 16 August, 2012, at Gen Con in Indianapolis.  I had the chance to speak to Eddy Webb & Rich Thomas of White Wolf Publishing, CCP Games.

    Click here for the audio file.

    Sword: Greetings, this is Sword from TPK-Online.com, and I am joined from two individuals from White Wolf. Why don’t we start by you two introducing yourselves?

    Eddy Webb: I’m Eddy Webb.

    Rich Thomas: And I’m Rich Thomas.

    Sword: …And why don’t you tell us what you do?

    Eddy: Right now, I’m Content Designer for the World of Darkness MMO at CCP.

    Rich: And I’m Creative Director at White Wolf and Onyx Path Publishing.

    Sword: So, first I’d like to talk to you guys about the New World of Darkness. You guys have Mummy coming out in September. Why don’t you guys tell me a little bit about that?

    Rich: Well, Eddy, it was originally your idea. I’ll pitch that to you.

    Eddy: Fair enough. Mummy, originally, was an idea that Rich & I talked about. We wanted to get back to doing new World of Darkness, new New World of Darkness lines, and one of the things we found was that people seem to gravitate to remixes of classic games that we had worked on. So…

    Rich: There’s a lot of love there for, “How are we going to reimagine it?”

    Eddy: Right, exactly. And that’s one of things that seems to be really exciting is that people like going, “How is this similar but different?” And so, pretty quickly, we gravitated to an idea of doing a new take on Mummy. Particularly because one thing we like doing with New World of Darkness is getting back to that classic movie monster idea of things; Werewolf is much more of a classic take on werewolves, and Mage is much more of the mythic form of mages. And so, when I first made the pitch for Mummy, I was like, “I wanna get back to movie mummies.” Because the previous version of mummies were very much not those. I want to talk, y’know, these are ancient beings waking up, and being attracted to items of power, and curses, and other elements…

    *interrupted by wait staff, where Rich orders a Captain & Coke*

    Eddy: …And so, when I first put the pitch together, one of the things we talked about was how we can do that within the paradigm of New World of Darkness. And during the course of that, Colin Suleiman came to us, and he had a different pitch, but a lot of the notes and ideas of that pitch were very similar to some of the stuff we talked about.

    Rich: They really dovetailed nicely. That was sort of one of those, “We’re going this direction,” and in addition, Colin had these ideas that actually kept flowing in the same direction we were already going. So it was like, “This is, yeah, this is very good.”

    Eddy: Right. And certainly, there were a couple points that we spent a lot of time talking through to kind of synthesize what he was bringing – a really fantastic Middle Eastern sensibility, and a kind of, “Gothic Necromancy,” as he calls it – that aesthetic & flavor that was missing from the original pitch. And so, during the course of things, as things shook out, ultimately I ended up just handing the whole line off to Colin to develop. I wasn’t able to pick it up. But everything I’ve been seeing since then really seems like he’s keen to hit those key points & ideas of the original.

    Sword: Hit those original points of view on some of them.

    Rich: And I think of the greatest things about it is Colin, of course, has a crack team writing professionals – writing assassins – for the book, who he can have working on each of the supplements, as well, as a complete unit. One of the things he references back to a lot is Orpheus, which was our limited series, the very first limited series we did right before we went into the, “Gehenna Mode,” & everything. And that idea of having something that you can pick up the main book and just play with it, but each supplement is giving you more, & more, & more options and ideas, and continuing, sort of, the themes all the way through. So it’s a true limited series where, y’know, it’ be much richer if you pick up everything that goes into it.

    Sword: One of the other things I saw was another callback from the Old World of Darkness: Demon, that you’ve announced. Is there anything you can tell me about that?

    Rich: Well, what limited things I could tell you about that, as we look at it, and as we will parse out more information as it comes up through the year, is to really look at what really makes sense in the World of Darkness, in terms of Demons. And we’ve got sort of the mythic (and I’m using it in the broadest sense) of demons in different cultures and different religions and things. Which we certainly went down a lot of that with Demon: the Fallen. But there are other places that we could be playing with, and other ways you can take those exact same themes, and really work with them within the New World of Darkness. And I don’t think it’s a… pretty sure we didn’t even mention this, already, that there’s going to be a level of continuity between the Chronicle of the God Machine for New World of Darkness, which comes out a couple, three months before Demon: the Whatever It’s Going to Be, and there’s definitely a link between those two. So, I think on a lot of levels, it’s going to be a very interesting & new – it was a very exciting pitch. Russ Bailey pitched his idea for it. And it gave me the same tingle I got when [Ethan Skemp] pitched Changeling: the Lost. “Oh, that’s how…But our stuff is there…Also! Oh, that’s a neat spin!”

    Eddy: And actually, it’s been great that it came from Russell, because for year in the company, Russell’s always kind of brought back up things, like y’know, “Demon: the Fallen had these different elements in it that worked.”

    Rich: It’s his second favorite game.

    Eddy: Yeah, he really was a big fan of Demon: the Fallen, and he always felt that Demon: the Fallen was kind of… you could see the proto-New World of Darkness design philosophy in Demon: the Fallen.

    Rich: We were definitely evolving towards it.

    Eddy: And actually, he originally pitched Demon when we were talking about doing Mummy – at least the idea of floating Demon. And we ultimately decided to go with Mummy, I think it was because Mummy seemed like a more natural fit at that time (it’s hard to articulate). But certainly, it was in the back of his head, and for him to kind of write that stuff down that we’ve been vaguely talking about for years, and really see it fleshed out, ended up being really, really exciting, and I think it’s gonna be a really cool game when it’s finally done.

    Sword: I’m actually really kind of looking forward to that, myself. Is there anything in the New World [of Darkness] that you want/can talk about?

    Rich: Well, y’know, we have the schedule up, at least through this time next year. And I think the Chronicle of the God King, and the Chronicle of the Strix, are going to be two very interesting books, very much. Matt McFarland is developing God Machine, and Russ is developing Strix. They have very strong ideas about what they want to do with those particular things. Because in a lot of ways for them, this is their opportunity to, kind of, do a second edition for New World of Darkness, and for Requiem. So there’s going to be a lot of, “Running this story allows you to plays these rules this way, and also we’ve cleaned this up, and also there’s this thing that I always wanted to put in, but I didn’t get a chance.” I think there’s going to be great stuff in there for everybody.

    Eddy: And for Russell, we talked a little about the, kind of he and I, on the side, about the Strix Chronicles, because Danse Macabre was certainly some of his attempt to try to move Requiem into its own vibe and its own channel and its own identity. And I think he wants to do even more of that with the Strix Chronicles; a key to make Vampire: the Requiem be its own unique entity in all of our properties.

    Rich: And I am really looking forward to it. The intention is that these two books are just incredibly fun to read. Just like, “Yes, bring the ideas into your game. Take the whole thing and use it as your chronicle. Or take pieces of it. But really, no matter what, everybody, however they’re gonna use it, we’re gonna make sure that they just love reading through this stuff. That there’s just all kinds of rich story elements in there.

    Sword: Cool. Now we’ll move onto Classic World of Darkness. I saw at your booth that you had materials for Werewolf: the Apocalypse. Why don’t you talk about that for a bit?
    Rich: Just a very rough layout of where it currently is, and there’s probably a lot of things that’ll change in that layout as we fuss around with it. But just to give people an idea of how it’s coming together, particularly the tribes, because, “Everyone wants to know about their favorite tribe, and how’s it comin’.” And for the first time, combining that with the actual art that Steve Prescott did, which is so evocative. It’s really beautiful. So I think there’s – and also there’s a Ron Spencer piece, one of full pages that no one’s seen before.

    Sword: Oh, really?
    Eddy: Yeah, it’s really gorgeous.

    Rich: So if anybody wants to come by the booth and check that out, that’d be awesome. I don’t know when this… When does this go down?

    Sword: Probably the week following [Gen Con].

    Rich: Oh, ok. So, too late! You weren’t able to see it.

    Sword: Go to Gen Con! Then you’ll see it.

    Eddy: *laugh* Right, had you been here, you would’ve seen it! And this is another one of those books, that we have been developing for, that I had started working on the development of the book, and ended up handing it off. In this case, it was really a no-brainer, because I sat down with Bill Bridges & Ethan Skemp very very early on, and I said, “You guys know this line better than anybody. You’ve lived inside the skin of it. So, help me understand what’s cool about it.” And then really, it was just me taking the stuff we had talked about from the Vampire 20th experience and applying it to get that same kind of ethos and “picking up the book & finding everything you loved about that game in there.” So, Bill, Ethan, and I & Rich, spent a number of meetings kind of talking it through, and boiling it down to something we could parse out to freelancers. Then Ethan picked up the ball, and actually ended up developing the book fully –

    Rich: And Bill…

    Eddy: Yeah, Bill helped out, too. And also, Bill & I picked up some writing duties on that book. So after Ethan did development with it, Bill & I stepped back and started actually contributing word count to it, because we were both really excited about it, and wanted to have a bit of contribution to how the whole thing panned out. But that has been really interesting, because what is cool about Apocalypse is not what’s cool about Masquerade. And that’s one thing I was very adamant about when I talked to them, was that, “We should do what was cool about V20 – the core essence of it –

    Rich: Distilled.

    Eddy: Right. But it should not be, “We’re doing V20 again and putting Werewolf on it.” The decisions we made on V20 should not be the decisions we make for W20.

    Rich: Some of them will be. Right? Because they’re good decisions across the line. But others are very specific to that line.

    Eddy: And that was the thing. Y’know. The idea of making it metaplot-agnostic. That was something that carried through. The idea that any point that you loved Apocalypse, you should be able to pick up this book and play that. Things like the Silent Striders are now back in this book, making sure they’re available. The Lost Tribes; there’s like bits and references to them. But on the flip side, some the rules that were decided on and what not, the rules specific to V20. If they make sense for Werewolf, that’s fantastic. But if not, take the rules that were the really the best thing to give you the optimal Apocalypse experience, and apply those. Don’t feel like you’re beholden to decisions that we (Justin & I) made for Masquerade.

    Rich: And much like V20, it is all about recreating the love for whatever stage of Apocalypse that you came in on – y’know, 1st, 2nd, or Revised Edition – and just immersing yourself in that all over again. Kind of the distilled essence of what Apocalypse is. It looks great to me.

    Eddy: Yeah, I mean, I’m really liking how it’s shaping up, so far.

    Sword: I’ve got some friends who will just eat that up.

    Rich: We’re hoping that probably, fingers crossed, by the time you hear this, folks out there in Hearing Land, that the Kickstarter should’ve started up for it. It should be a lot of fun.

    Sword: Is there any news on Mage20?

    Eddy: Well, Ryan Macklin is actually working on the missing Technocracy convention books. There were three books that were scheduled that never got done. So Ryan Macklin of “Dresden Files” fame –

    Rich: Four. There were four books.

    Eddy: Ok, “X Number” of convention books –

    Rich: I mean, there’s literally four. There are five conventions, and one of them was published. So there’s four.

    Eddy: I don’t keep track of this shit! *laugh*

    Rich: “Math, man! It’s math! I’m a writer!”

    Eddy: I don’t do numbers!

    Sword: Math are hard.

    Eddy: Fair enough. There were four convention books, and something that, I know, Rich had talked about very early on when we started doing Classic World of Darkness books, and we realized that V20 was a big thing, was finishing some of those obligations, and so the convention books quickly rose to the top. And finding the right person to shepherd those and make sure they were the highest quality they could be. And right around the same time, Ryan Macklin had been posting on his blog various entries about, “This is how the Technocracy would look today.” And kind of free wheeling his ideas. And Rich goes, “This is amazing stuff. We really need to bring him onto the project.” And so we talked to him, and clearly he’s done a lot of work on his own. So we ultimately gave him a shot, developing those books, and getting those out the door. So, certainly there are new Ascension materials coming out.

    Rich: That’s Eddy’s way of obfuscating the question.

    Eddy: Right. *laugh* Technically speaking, there are Mage support materials, and they’re new… it may or may not represent the 20th anniversary.

    Rich: So, again, as we’ve said, depending on if we continue the audience response that we had through V20 through Werewolf20, then we will definitely do Mage20. If, on the other hand, everyone who’s told me that they love Werewolf, and will buy multiple copies of Werewolf20, were liars, and instead, people just go, “Ugh! We don’t even want this!” Then it starts to sound like maybe there’s seven guys who really love Mage.

    Eddy: Certainly

    Sword: So it’s on the readers and the listeners; their integrity is on the line whether this comes to fruition.

    Eddy: That’s exactly it. And I mean, certainly, one thing that’s been interesting is that a lot of people have been talking to me and to Rich about, “Hey, we really want Mage 20th.” And it’s been awesome. And I know we would both love to do it.

    Rich: Absolutely.

    Eddy: We’ve talked to a lot of writers and developers and artists who are like, “Yes, we would love to do Mage 20th.” But the reality come down to it, it’s a financial decision.

    Rich: Those are big, expensive books to do. And you really do need a minimum number of books, which is one of the conundrums we illustrated with the Kickstarters; we have to have a certain amount of this, we have to be able to pay for this giant, deluxe books, because they’re fancy. Fancy cover treatments, the whole deal. It’s not just, “Hey, just make a book.”

    Eddy: Exactly. And so, when we did Vampire 20th, very much it was a case where we’re doing one book and that’s it. And then it’s like, “Oh, ok. That did really well. So we’ll do a few more things.” And right before Gen Con last year, we got the go ahead to do Werewolf20 because we saw the strength of interest.

    Rich: The night before I left for Gen Con.

    Eddy: Yeah. We were adding slides to our Power presentation at the last minute.

    Rich: “Eddy! We got the Ok! Put this in there!” And he’s like, “Ok, I’m getting it! I’m getting it!” *while imitating typing on a keyboard*

    Eddy: Exactly. Like Rich says, if the fan response continues as it has been, and it continues to make financial sense, odds are really good for a Mage20. But I’ve been very coy about saying we’re doing it, because I don’t want to disappoint people. I don’t want to set false expectations. That’s why I’ve never said we’re doing it. I’ve been very careful even saying we’re likely to do it. I’ve always been saying, “We’d love to if we could.” And same as with, say for example, Mind’s Eye Theatre 20th, as people have been talking about it as well. If that makes sense, if that’s something that can happen, that’d be fantastic. But I don’t want to say we’re totally doing that until it makes business sense.

    Sword: Right. So one of the things you and I [Eddy] talked about earlier, and wanted to get your [Rich] perspective, as well. From my perspective, I couldn’t really tell much of a difference between how Masquerade feels and how Requiem feels. So, V20 was something that I was intrigued by, but in a skeptical kind of way.

    Rich: Are you now a believer?

    Sword: Well, I have my own reasons, and I can get into those in a second. But what is the difference, both from a play style and from a design style, between Masquerade and Requiem?

    Rich: Well, I think the difference, and I think this is one of the huge success reasons for Masquerade, is that you have this incredibly rich and detailed world that just, layers & layers of secrets and things that were piled on over the years that it takes a particular kind of genius to keep track of at this point –

    Eddy: Or a really good PDF search function. *laugh* There’s a lot!

    Rich: Right, but certainly way beyond our capacity as guys who are making this stuff to keep track of it.

    Sword: Ain’t technology grand?

    Eddy: Seriously! I would not have made that book had it not been for PDF.

    Rich: It’s so rich. It’s so immersive. And it’s such a storytelling… it’s designed to tell these stories. Where New World of Darkness was created by some very, very experienced game designers to be a much better engine, if possible. Right. I mean, that was the goal. And then to allow the players to make these storylines their own by taking whatever parts of the things; the sandbox approach. So there’s two very separate design philosophies. There were guys who wanted to tinker with the Classic World of Darkness & Masquerade. But that was not the primary thing. The primary thing was like, “Oh, this is an amazing character, and this story!” Whereas with Requiem, lot of interest and a lot of love in telling really cool stories. But, the primary thing is, “What does the player get to do, or the Storyteller get to do, with this book?” So, one was very much trying to be a really great game, one was trying to present this really cool world. And that would be the two design difference philosophies. And it’s not absolute, obviously.

    Eddy: And one of the things I noticed while I was working on V20, because I had worked on Requiem for a few years, and had gotten under the skin of that, Masquerade’s very much about what’s happening around you. You’re the prince of your city, but there are other princes around. There’s the Camarilla’s Ivory Tower. There’s a sabat on your doorstep. There’s lots of other vampire factions and groups and people that are around you that you have to interact with.

    Rich: And they definitely are there. It’s a consistent.

    Eddy: Right. Whereas in Requiem, you’re the prince of your fiefdom, and no one else matters. And certainly, that was part of the design, as Rich points out, because if you have a toolbox approach, we’re going to focus on the city base, and then whatever’s outside of that is completely up to whatever your chronicle needs. But that isn’t telling that world perception of it. And similarly, the idea of having a matrix style of character creation of Clan & Covenant versus just Clan means that there’s a part of the political structure you’re opting into, and have the characters and players react to you, based on that political choice. Which is something that’s really missing in Masquerade. And that’s another way of it; it’s a good game design decision, because it gives you multiple character options, but it does change how the game plays out. And a lot of my thoughts come from watching the two different live action groups come out of it, because I played Masquerade live action for a long time, and then watching that group try to adapt to Requiem, applying old Masquerade muscles for a number of years – because they spent 15 years playing this particular style – and going, “This game doesn’t seem to work right.” And so, they spent a lot of time thinking about how is this game different, and how is this game similar. And over time, it’s been interesting because a lot of the time, it felt like the players are trying to play Masquerade through the same game. But then when Mind’s Eye Society, the Camarilla, then decided to run Masquerade again simultaneous with Requiem, there has been a really distinct split. About half the population seems to enjoy Requiem, as they now understand it and play it; half of them really like Masquerade. And while there are people who play both, the amount of overlap is pretty small. And certainly, there’s actually been heated discussions about the relative merits of both games.

    Sword: I’ve actually had a couple of those myself. And I remember you had mentioned at one point from one of the Grand Masquerades, either last year or the year before, that it was pretty much an even split of attendance in support of both games.

    Eddy: Absolutely. And one thing that’s been interesting is that when, the whole time we were supporting Requiem exclusively, we’d get this steady stream of people who were like, “I really love Masquerade. You should really bring Masquerade back. You should really bring Masquerade back.” And then we did Vampire 20th, there was a brief period where people were concerned that we were going to stop doing Requiem and start doing Masquerade. And immediately saw at that Grand Masquerade, “We really love Requiem. Please don’t get rid of Requiem.”

    Rich: *in mock response* “We’re not going to. It’s cool.”

    Eddy: Right. And now that we have the Print-on-Demand technology, and we have the fact that we put a book out, and it’s around forever, we could support both games, and each game can become its own unique identity. But it’s only something that, both creatively and also from a community perspective, that everyone’s gotta understand that because, ok, this is how these things differ, and how there’s familiarity between both, but certainly, they’re their own distinct games. And I’ve always kind of envisioned it to more split between Pathfinder and D&D 4e, in that they’re both game about a bunch of adventurers, dressing up in armor, and beating up monsters, but they play it very differently, and they both have very passionate fanbases. But when you sit down and look at where distinctions are, it’s sometimes really hard to put your finger on exactly what it is. I mean, you could say, “Well, I don’t really like healing surges.” But what does that really mean? How does that really change the experience? I think it’s a similar distinction there.

    Sword: Right. Back to my point before. The way that I came into World of Darkness, at least from a running standpoint, was in my D&D group, I had a bunch of people who were talking about Old World of Darkness and their experiences. Some people who loved playing Mage. They loved their Technocrat. One person loved her werewolf, and somebody else who loved Vampire. And my girlfriend who was like, really into Hunter at the time. They pretty much all said simultaneously to me, “You should run that!”

    Rich: “Who me?” *laugh*

    Sword: So me, with my only prior experience being a Vampire LARP that I did in Tech School for two or three weeks, I had no basis for comparison. So I took New World of Darkness and just loved how it was all… I could bring the two mages, the werewolf, the vampire, and the hunter, all together under the same system. It just became an issue of making it make sense in the story.

    Rich: Very good point. It was one of the things that was one of the major design philosophies was, also, while we’re doing this, each of these game lines –

    Eddy: It needs to be an actual World of Darkness, not, “These different games lines that make references to each other.”

    Rich: And the fact that, really, like Mage: The Ascension was never design to work with Hunter: The Reckoning. I mean, we would just make it; we would make the game, and we would make it as cool as we could make it. And actually, more back to what you were saying about Werewolf20.

    Eddy: Right. Exactly. The intention with the 20th Anniversary Editions is that it needs to be its own unique experience, because that’s what they were before. So rather than try, because people have asked, “Are they going to be compatible?” There may be a PDF later shows you, how to help you with that. But they’re not going to be designed like that, because they were never designed like that. So let’s go back to that kind of core aesthetic of, “The Werewolf game is the Werewolf game, and it does Werewolf things.” Whereas New World of Darkness does this thing well. Why do what this other game is doing really well? Let Werewolf: the Apocalypse be its own thing, and not try to make it into that New World of Darkness aesthetic.

    Sword: Yeah, they’d all brought stories like, “Yeah, somebody had tried to meld the games in previous editions, and it never worked well.” I would say that my experience with it has worked surprisingly well, so that’s always good.

    Eddy: Fantastic! I’m glad to hear that.

    Rich: Cool!

    Sword: So I want to move onto Exalted. I saw Exalted 3rd Edtion.

    Rich: THREE!

    Sword: So what can you tell me about that?

    Rich: So, yeah, there’s gonna be this third edition. *laugh* No, it’s actually really exciting. For a really long time, [we've] been concerned about Exalted, and where it had evolved to, and evolved in a sort of mutational level of evolution, and had things it didn’t need, and stuff that was working against itself, and things were hammered on to try and help it.

    Eddy: Like “game design Promethean.”

    Sword: Promethean is silly, I think. Just thought you ought to know.

    Rich: And really when you look back on Exalted to begin with, a lot of what the original design intentions were had kind of naturally shifted or moved away from things. So, everybody who was talking about, “This is broken, we have to fix it,” looked at it and said, “You’re right, but there’s no real – I don’t believe there’s any way to fix it without another edition.” So what we basically tried to do for a while was just let it kind of roll for a little bit, and we lucked into, “The ink monkeys,” (and I say that in air quotes, because they don’t necessarily need to be labeled that way, but everybody knows what I’m talking about).

    Sword: And also, they’re not monkeys.

    Eddy & Rich: Well, that’s not true.

    Sword: Well, then!

    Rich: Yeah, I’m pretty sure Holden has a tail. He’s a New World monkey, and John’s an Old World monkey. Anyway, they were able to come on and try to do as many fixes that they possibly could, which was phenomenal with the scroll of errata and everything, in an attempt to at least make it so that there were…things were being addressed. But we know that, end of the day, we really needed a new edition. And it just, it was the right combination of what we’re doing with the new schedule and the business model, and these guys being ready to dive right into it. So like it was at Grand Masquerade last year, we said, “Hey, guys! You wouldn’t be interested in doing another edition?” And after they got up off the floor and put their tongues back in their mouths with lust and joy, we started talking about what we could possibly do. And weirdly enough, around the same period (I don’t know if it was shortly before or shortly after), I reached out to Geoff Garbowski on Facebook. He happened to come up in one of those Facebook things, yknow, where they tell you, “Hey, you should talk to this guy!” Well, I really should!

    Eddy: Thank you, Facebook!

    Sword: Facebook actually worked, for once?!

    Eddy: Yes! It can go away now, it’s done. *this statement was awkwardly timed, as at that moment, a waitress came over to our table, heard that, and walked away*

    Rich: And he just happened to mention in passing that he wasn’t up on where it has gotten, but his understanding was that there should be some changes, and he’s had some ideas for another edition in his head. It was just like, alright, this seems to be, kind of, synchronistically coming together, so let’s see if these guys can all work together. And fortunately, they seem to be really enjoying the repartee, and going back and forth with ideas. So, yeah. The writing team’s are together. They’ve done preliminary – ’cause they were already thinking about how we do the combat differently. I mean, they’ve identified what needed to get new work done to it. So they were already in playtesting with a bunch of that stuff. I think it’s gonna be great. We have reached out, for an art director, to Maria Cabarto, who was the art director at Mayfair Games, at Wizards of the Coast, at Vertigo, and who art directed and laid out the Halo graphic novel, which won a whole breadth load of awards. She’s a phenomenal professional, and she’s going to be art directing and laying out the book. Oh, and Cthulhutech she did. So, we’re not going to turn our back on a lot of things that everybody really love about Exalted, but we really want to get back to those things, and kind of give it the tone and the feel was the intention a few years ago.

    *one final interruption, where I pay for drinks. Protip: if I interview you, I’ll likely buy your drink*

    Rich: So, yeah. So that’s the intention. I hesitate to get into any like, “Oh, we’re definitely gonna be doing this,” because this is such a thing in motion right now, that anything I say right now probably wouldn’t be true.

    Sword: Could be wrong tomorrow.

    Rich: But I’m going to be sketching up some signature characters when I get back.

    Eddy: Oh, nice!

    Rich: I got the descriptions for those, and we hit those descriptions with hammers.

    Eddy: They tell you how wrong you are.

    Rich: Eh, they try, but I’m drawing it.

    Eddy: *laugh* I didn’t say they were going to succeed. I just said they’re going to tell you how wrong you are.

    Rich: But, no, I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

    Sword: So, one of the things that, by your job title answers, but World of Darkness Online. Is that still on?

    Eddy: It’s absolutely still on. It never stopped being on. Certainly, CCP’s gone through a number of challenges the past year, especially in October. But it’s still going forward. We still have a great team of people that we moved to a new office, and we’re going full speed ahead. And we’re gonna be doing a release of our latest demo to just the whole company and a couple of, “Friends & Family,” type of thing later on this month. Beyond that, I can’t say, but it’s been really exciting to work on it, and I’ve been really enjoying my experience the past few years helping to build that.

    Sword: That’s great to hear! Is there anything else that either of you would like to mention, like to talk about?

    Rich: I don’t think so. I think we’re rolling along pretty well. There should be some interesting panels tomorrow (we’re talking today, this is Thursday, the first Thursday of Gen Con). And Friday will be a couple panels; “What’s Up With White Wolf?” and, “What is the Onyx Path?” And I think you may enjoy those as well.

    Eddy: And certainly, I think we’ll probably do what we did last year, was to get those presentations up on DriveThruRPG, so that way, you can download the Power Point presentations and read those as well.

    Rich: And if you wanted to reach back to us after this, and maybe ask a couple additional questions or something, please feel free.

    Sword: And how can they get in touch with you?

    Rich: They can get it touch with me: RichT@TheOnyxPath.com

    Eddy: And I’m Eddy@CCPGames.com

    Sword: Thank you very much. Thank you for meeting with me. And I hope you have fun with the rest of the con.

    Rich: Thanks. You, too, man.


  • I Left My Heart in Indianapolis

    It’s Saturday. Gen Con is behind us. I’m still sore from the combined 27 hours I spent in the car. And I wouldn’t change any of it if I could.

    The Ale of Destiny


    Starting on Wednesday, the con quickly ramped up, leading off with the touted “Ale of Destiny Tapping Party,” (a good, not great, dark ale), though I heard rumors that the party was far too crowded for the amount of turnout they ended up having, and only had the fancy-schmancy beer on one tap. Regardless, sitting there with Marissa, one of my favorite people in the world, sipping a decent drink was a pretty good way to end the 13 hour trek getting there.


    Thursday began with me fighting through the crowd to meet up with Marissa, as we were the only two representatives for Blue Kabuto, makers of Cookie Fu. We had a tiny corner of Troll Lord’s booth, which we occupied as a favor to Grandmaster, so that BK would have some sort of presence at this year’s Gen Con. We did our best with the tools available, though she was more successful than myself (and to be honest, I’m not surprised; I’d rather buy from her than me, as well).

    I caught up with Lar, Sohmer, & Becker sometime around 1100, as well as Jennie Breeden & Alina Pete. They all had this pretty massive two-by-four booth space, which is pretty impressive, given the outright cost of individual spots. I would unfortunately be unable to join them for their fancy Fogo de Chao dinner that weekend, but I was still able to chat & hang out with them otherwise.

    In the afternoon, I had my interview with Eddy Webb & Rich Thomas as to the current goings on at White Wolf these days. Once I get the transcript of that interview, I’ll get that posted.

    The dealer room closes, and I prepare for the first session of Castles & Chemo. It wasn’t until ten after 6 did I realize that the maps I spent a good few hours printing were still in the back of my car, parked in front of Marissa’s house several miles away. I luckily had my battle mat with me, but no markers. And wouldn’t you know it? Downtown Indianapolis was suffering a dry erase shortage. I ended up having to shell out $30 for a board game I’ll likely never play so I’d have a way to get the maps. It ended up working out in the end; the payers had fun, and will hopefully make their way to the Facebook page, and who knows? I might see them in years following. With a night of Rock Band, I cap out the day.


    Friday started off as I once again had fight the crowds to meet up with Marissa. She had the luxury of an Exhibitor badge, allowing her to use the super secret exhibitor entrance, while I felt like a pauper with only my attendee badge. We had a slow day in the booth, which Steve of Troll Lord told us was normal.

    After a quick lunch, it was time for Castles & Chemo II. Almost a full turnout, to include a father-son pair who had no experience with D&D, but were intrigued by the premise of using a tabletop game for charity. It goes off without a hitch (except when we ran long for time), when two strange and awesome things happened.

    First, one of the players of this session approached me. He was from the United Kingdom, and was curious about organizing a similar event up for the UK-equivalent of the American Cancer Society. I was astounded. To think that this concept has not only not been attempted, but was engaging enough for people to want to do their own through me was something I couldn’t have even imagined when I started putting it together last year.

    Second, as I cleaned up, a girl from another table approached me. “Do you accept just donations?” she asked. When I tell her that I do, she reaches into her pocket and hands me a wad of cash. She then proceeds to tell me that the reason she didn’t attend Gen Con last year was because her mother had died of cancer around that time. I was touched (still am; writing this part brings a tear to my eye). With a hug, I thank her for her donation, and offer her my condolences. It was at that point that I knew Castles & Chemo needed to become a nonprofit organization.

    Day begets night, and I find myself with Marissa & our friend, Justin, at a You Don’t Know Jack tournament. I didn’t enter (I was too lazy to go buy generics for the event), but they did, along with several of our friends. At this point, I learn that a bunch of my friends are the ultra-competitive type, making me thankful that I didn’t compete. Several rounds pass, & Marissa is in the finals. As the Jack Attack finished, she is declared the winner, and is awarded a badge for next year’s Gen Con. Jealous, but happy that it was her that won, we get some late night food to close the night out.


    The day runs as the rest, only with the added surprise of volunteering with Wizards of the Coast & getting an interview set up with Erik Boyer for the following day. The night came with a meetup with people from Giant in the Playground, and Justin finding out that the second Jack! tournament was for a badge to a different con.


    This was a special day. On that day, seven years ago, I was given the news that I had acute lymphocytic leukemia. News that would irrevocably shape my adult life. Given that, I dressed for the occasion. It was a point of conversation as I made my rounds of goodbyes to people, including Lar. He had a personal friend who recently dealt with breast cancer, and when a fan of his asked for info about Castles & Chemo, he asked for it as well. Hopefully, I might be able to work with him for a future event.

    The interview with Erik Boyer went well, other than the awkward angle on the first part. I also managed to arrange for a meeting with Shelly & Marcella from WotC about Castles & Chemo.

    Sales-wise, we did pretty well, doubling our total for the con in that one day. As the hall closed up, we had a conversation with Grandmaster about how things went, where to improve, and so on.

    That night, as I prepared to leave, I finally got up the nerve to do something that people have literally been waiting years for me to do. Gathering up my nerve, I told Marissa, my best friend for years, that I love her.

    So, all in all, Gen Con 2012 was a success. Only 360 more days until next year!

  • TPK-Online: ConnectiCon 2012

    Here are a few things I saw at ConnectiCon 2012

  • Castles & Chemo II: Post Mortem

    When I first thought about doing something charitable with my time, I never thought that Castles & Chemo would be the end result. Oh, sure, the thought of using my favorite hobby was certainly a big part of the concept, but until last year, the idea was rather amorphous. Things like a marathon DMing spree, selling adventures for charity, & similar ideas were tossed around (and may be worked into future C&C endeavors), but no matter how I thought of it, it all seemed too complicated.

    Somewhere along the line, I received a package from Meetup.com, through a partnership with Wizards of the Coast. Since I was running a meetup group that was running the D&D Encounter program, they sent me a bunch of merch to be distributed at the meetup. Staring at the stuff, I was puzzled as to what to do with all of it.

    Then it hit me. I’ll hold a fundraiser and give them out as prizes! But for what? Just having a raffle for $30 books didn’t seem like enough.

    Then it hit me again. I’ll write an adventure, and people who pay to be a part of the raffle can play it!

    That was the format that eventually won out. As I worked on it, the raffle part began to give way to the adventure. But I was nervous about the whole thing; no one had done anything similar to this before (according to my contact at the American Cancer Society), so I had no idea how much of a success it’d be.

    Here I am, second year in a row, writing a post mortem of the event.

    When I got home after the event, I sat down to count the donations, and was stunned. Not only did we break last year’s total, we more than doubled it! We ended up raising $1,894, with more than two-thirds of that money coming in from the event alone. And money is still trickling in from the online donations. To think that this crazy idea of mine would go on to raise so much money is almost beyond comprehension. I am overwhelmed with the amount of support the whole endeavor has gotten, from organizational support from Mutual of Omaha, prize support from Meetup.com, operational support from Battlegrounds Gaming and GamingETC, to other support from people I can’t officially name (though I hope she knows how much I appreciate her help ^_-). I am downright humbled to know that so many people wanted to help.

    Once again, I’ll be doing encores at Gen Con on Thursday & Friday. Though they’re close to sold out, you’re more than welcome to stop by and talk shop, hang out, & watch the adventure(s) being run. And who knows? I might be convinced to run unscheduled sessions wherever we can find a table (Circle Center Mall, anyone?).

    I would like to thank everyone who came out to the event. I would also like to thank my volunteers and corporate sponsors for helping make this event as big as it is.

    What a Wonderful World!

  • Gen Con 2011: Post Mortem

    A more detailed post will come, but in the interim, enjoy my weird art.I really need better methods of editing. >_>