#RPG #AprilTTRPGmaker – Spelunking in an Ideological Septic Tank

Introduce Yourself
Hi, I’m Grim. I’m an ageing gothabilly, a 20 year veteran of the RPG Industry and I freelance and self-publish. My company is Postmortem Studios.

Describe your work
Stylised and exploratory games that are focussed mostly on genre emulation. I’m neither entirely in the storygame camp nor the traditional game camp. System matters and I like to either choose or create a system best suited to the game in question.

Key to your making process?
Inspiration, whatever grabs my attention at the time. The things that interest me. That can come from films, television, comics, politics, conversation.

Favourite type of game scenario
Dramatic, high stakes, slow build up.

Character or Worldbuilding?
If I’m creating games, then obviously worldbuilding is the primary focus. Characters are for players.

Long or Short RPG texts?
Whatever’s appropriate. I tend to think these unnecessarily huge books are unnecessary. Efficient text, appropriate to what’s required, seems like the best way to go.

How to increase accessibility?
Profit margins are so low that there isn’t really a way to increase accessibility. I am currently recording an audiobook of the 5e SRD, but it’s not exactly setting the world on fire. Generally speaking RPGs are already massively accessible. They’re cost-effective as a form of entertainment, so long as you can read and do basic mathematics you can play and they’re customisable by default.

Favourite Collaberators
I prefer to do everything myself. I’ve had bad experiences with collaberations. Diluted vision, over-enthusiastic editing and being overridden by another participant.

How do your games distribute power amongst the players?
I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about.

How are your games dismantling colonialism?
The colonial era ended in the mid-to-late 20th century, depending how you define it and what you consider a colony. My games can’t dismantle something that no longer exists, plus – they’re games. They couldn’t anyway. Colonial era fiction and tropes are excellent sources of inspiration for games though, conflict, adventure, exploration. I wouldn’t want to cut myself off from such a rich source of storytelling.

Shoutout an underloved Creator
Venger Satanis has an outlook to games that’s somewhat similar to mine and he gets a lot of unnecessary hate for being such a chill dude.

How to make a work inclusive?
I don’t think a work has to be inclusive, the focus should be on maing a good story. In trying to make games appeal to everyone, or include everyone, you can get a lack of focus and games can become homeogenous, interchangable and dull. Ironically the indie games scene which is often thought of as more inclusive, often has very tightly focussed games that aren’t at all inclusive. Night Witches, for example, is only women. Only soviet women. Only WWII. As mentioned earlier, RPGs are – by their very nature – inclusive and customisable, which is why they’ve always had a very diverse fanbase, albeit with a predominance of nerdy men.

TL;DR – RPG design doesn’t have to be inclusive, it doesn’t necessarily make for better games. People can play things other than themselves – and should. That’s the whole point.

Participate in Streamed Games?
It can be difficult due to timezones and commitment issues, but I do run them. WFRP at the moment.

How are your game mechanics and characters intersectional?
They’re not? Intersectionality descends into oppression olympics and I can’t see how game mechanics or character generation would have any crossover with intersectionality. Intersectionality would inevitably mean a dilution and dispersal of story tropes, and if I wanted to make a political point it would undermine it. The closest I get is Privilege Check, which is designed to demonstrate the flaws in intersectionality.

Favourite Tropes to Subvert?
My work’s mostly more about expressing those tropes. They’re a powerful set of storytelling tools and undermining them all the time can backfire (see The Last Jedi). The closest I get is, I suppose, trying to challenge people to examine their presuppositions, as in The Little Grey Book.

How does your environment inform your work?
I live in an idyllic countryside setting, close to the landscapes that inspired Tolkien, Lewis and Adams (Watership Down). So my work rebels as a reaction to that by tending to the post-apocalyptic, the urban, the horrific. I don’t tend to like traditional fantasy or the glamourisation of the agrarian life.

How does your identity inform your work?
I don’t really know what’s meant here. ‘Identity’ seems to mean something different to me than it would seem to to the author of this challenge. Sexuality, gender, race, these aren’t things I regard as identity. Identity – to me – is more what you do than who you are. I find the other approach rather bigoted and judgemental. My work is influenced by some of my innate traits, but that’s different to identity. I self-identify as a rebel, a libertine and a challenger of orthodoxy and that influences much more.

What are some underlying messages in your work?
Individualism, cooperation, mutualism, voluntarism, anti-identitarianism, creativity, sexuality, freedom, free-thinking.

Favourite themes to explore?
Sexuality, ethics, alternative cultures and assumptions, the primacy of fun.

A game you want to make that you think no-one would play?
Well I thought that about Gor, but it has been rather popular. I kind of think nobody will want to play Actual Fucking Monsters when it comes out, because it’s a game you always lose, but we’ll see.

What external factors do you struggle with to create?
An increasingly intolerant, authoritarian and censorious social atmosphere that insists on everything being ‘woke’, and the constant attacks, lies and misrepresentations from that sphere. I mean, just look at these questions!

How are you working to improve the RPG industry?
Resisting the incursions of censorious authoritarians, just as I did during the Satanic and Vampire Panics.

Mentoring/Being Mentored by?
I mentor a few people, I offer paid consultations for new indie RPG makers.

Favourite RPG thing to create?
The setting.

A rad diversity consultant?
No such animal. Pointless parasites.

Favourite Online Community?
My Discord.

How do you market your work?
Who on Earth has a marketing budget in this industry? Blog posts, social media, word of mouth and obliging moral entrepreneurs.

What tools help you create?
Critics 😛

Exciting 2019 RPG trends?
Boutique games perhaps? I’m not sure exactly in what way that’s exciting, it could be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s interesting at least.

If you were in charge of the RPG industry, what would you change?
Even more robust pushback against the moral entrepreneurs and their gatekeeping. RPGs should be open and available to everyone, but no individual game has to be for everyone.

#AprilTTRPGmaker Top tips and advice?

kill-bill-kung-fu-masterI’m going to assume this is advice for people who want to make their own games, rather than advice for players or games masters.

The best advice I can give is ‘don’t’. There’s a reason so many games get dubbed ‘fantasy heartbreakers’. Also I don’t want the competition!

The market IS flooded with a lot of material from a lot of very small companies.

More seriously though…

  • Do it for you, not with the expectation of making money.
  • Have a new idea that you love.
  • Keep in mind that people will second guess everything that you do.
  • Remember that once you release a game, it’s no longer yours. People will do things to it and with it. Unspeakable things.
  • You’re almost bound to be criticised for some sort of *ism, whatever your motivation or intent.
  • The future is digital and online.
  • Get good advice (hint, I consult for a reasonable fee and you can get a lot of good advice in a relatively short period of time).
  • A lot of what makes success in any industry is networking.
  • You are your brand.
  • Social Media is all important.
  • Video > Text

#AprilTTRPGmaker Your community?

b72a27f74a6da9794b87085c37582927--the-devils-rejects-rob-zombieWhat constitutes my community? Is it my audience? The people I talk to most regularly? My usual gaming group? My patrons on Patreon?

I don’t really even know what would constitute ‘my community’! I have pages for my company and for me on Facebook. I’ve got communities on G+ but nothing is hugely active. So I guess to talk about my community I have to talk about who my audience is.

  • My community has a sense of humour, frequently a dark sense of humour.
  • My community cares more about fun than about politics, even though my material is frequently political (just it tends to be implicitly so, rather than explicitly so).
  • My community is neither wedded to the ‘new school’ Indie style, nor traditional roleplaying.
  • My community likes trying new and different things.
  • My community is less squeamish about sex and violence than most.
  • My community is interested in transgression and controversial topics.
  • My community appreciates that my work has ‘layers’.
  • My community cares passionately about the hobby, protecting and improving it.

#AprilTTRPGmaker Favourite interview?

Probably this one. Years back, but it’s showing what I’ve consistently tried to do ever since. To reach across this ‘SJW’ divide and create understanding. No progress has, however, been made. The divisions remain, there’s nobody on the other side really willing to listen – whether it’s in tabletop, video games, fiction writing or anything else.

#AprilTTRPGmaker Feature a TTRPG designer

tumblr_m7q21tXbvq1qzb1rlo1_500I admire, and am envious of, the success of James Raggi. His Lamentations of the Flame Princess is ‘just’ a D&D retro-clone, but he has made it phenomenally successful, purely on the basis of presentation, creativity, thematics, mood, marketing and investing in the art.

The fixation on a single game is also something I find amazing. I always flit from one idea and one game to another. To devote so much time and effort to a single game, and support for it, is an ‘outside context problem’.

Raggi also has the same ‘fuck you’ attitude to people who have issues with what he does, seemingly giving even less of a shit than I do that anyone’s offended or upset. He’s also unafraid to work with people who feel the same. The criticism at least seems to affect him less as well.

All of this, at least to me, is admirable. Even if I’ve never been a particular D&D fan.

#AprilTTRPGmaker Blogs? Streams? Podcasts?

imageAll the information you might need is found in the sidebars of this blog.

This is my main blog/news channel for information about what I’m up to, but you can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vero, Snapchat, Minds, Gab and just about anything else you care to think of.

My Youtube isn’t just gaming stuff, but commentary, computer games, current events, some skits and whatever takes my fancy.

I have a steemit blog, which at the moment is ‘classic’ posts from this blog, but will have new material in good time.

I have Patreon and Makersupport for those who want to financially support me and get access to some discounts and – in the near future – exclusive material and access.

There’s possible, potential streams and other things coming up, but everything is – obviously – contingent on my health.

#AprilTTRPGmaker Most notable achievement?

650x650_ffe407df6a0fcc141ac32dba951b067f24ee132033993dd422da68bdThere are two kinds of achievement I suppose. The ones that are publicly acknowledged and the ones you regard as personal achievements. Public acknowledgement in any industry is tricky. You have to hold the right positions, know the right people, work for the right companies, have the right reputation and so on. The Hugo Awards have been mired in controversy over this point for some time.

Publicly then, I can only really point to winning an Origins Award for The Munchkin’s Guide to Powergaming – which wasn’t bad for the first thing I ever produced professionally and has had such a profound, broad impact on gaming and gaming culture. My ‘bad’ reputation is also something of an achievement I suppose, it demonstrated to me who my real friends were and acts as a useful filter for finding people who think for themselves gor_slavegirl_alphaor go with the herd. I got it by sticking to my principles and beliefs, which is more of a personal achievement.

In terms of personal achievements, there’s that first professional break, writing for Wizards of the Coast, starting my own company with £500 and multiplying that money many, many times over. Several small-scale hits are under my belt and I’ve negotiated rights to old games, and to producing gaming material for Gor. All things of which I’m proud to one degree or another.