#MayRPGQ2018 Why do you play and make games in the genres and styles that you do?

tumblr_mq8vruIAdi1r18mzfo1_1280Because that’s what I enjoy.

Oh, you want more?

Well, besides the fact that I tend to enjoy complex and well-defined worlds, conspiracies, plots, horror and emotional attachment, there’s the fact that these are hard to engender in a game. ‘Delve into the Dungeon of Prolapse the Underwhelming to fetch The Headpiece of Fring’ is pretty simple, ‘Take the Buttplug of Doom to Mount Snoozemoor’ is longer, but pretty simple. Overthrowing a government, rooting out a secret society, making your neighbourhood a better place or falling in love against the odds and raising a family, running a mercenary company during a conflict between many parties – these are more difficult.

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#MayRPGQ2018 Who do you want to play with more than anything and why?

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Just one person, and you do mean a game, right, not sexy shenanigans?

A lot of people would have said Gary Gygax, up until his death, and to an extent I can agree with that. To see the ur-Dungeon Master’s take on how the games he spawned should be played. Then again, from everything I’ve read and seen, his way of running games is counter to what I consider enjoyable…

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#MayRPGQ2018 Where do you play that most encourages your creative side?

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The beauty of roleplaying games is that where you play doesn’t have to matter that much. The creativity takes place in your mind, in your mutual imagination and so your surroundings don’t much matter. There have been times and places that have been more conducive to effective roleplaying, certainly, and have fed my creative side – especially when it came to LARP.

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#RPG #MayRPGQ2018 In what environment do you most enjoy playing and why?

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I most enjoy playing games in a comfortable environment, amongst my friends. With a group of people you know and can trust you have a freedom to explore and I natural ease around gaming that is conducive to a much more productive and hassle-free session. A nice warm house with a good music system, adjustable lights and easy access to take away food is, now, pretty much a must.

I used to relish playing with new people and strangers, up to a point, anxiety permitting. The atmosphere around conventions and game stores has changed over recent years though in a way that discourages this kind of pick-up-and-play as a way to find new people and make new friends. The mood has become hostile and fraught with danger. Especially for someone like me who has fun with transgression and horror.

A stranger today isn’t so much a potential friend or player, as a potential minefield. Things like ‘X-cards’ can throw a spanner into the best-laid plans and you never know what someone is going to take offence or umbrage at. I am resentful that this has happened in a hobby I have always considered welcoming and open to anyone and everything, but that’s the state of the hobby and society as a whole now.

Where dyed hair and piercings used to mean ‘Cool! One of us!’ now it’s like stripes on a wasp or a poison arrow frog. Warning, stay away!

The more comfort and control you have in your environment and players, the better things seem to go. You have an unspoken social construct, know each other well – and each other’s limits – and I’m especially finding the ability to control and use sound and light to be a boon – as well as easy access to players to a smoking area to minimise disruption!

Access to spirits doesn’t hurt either!

#MayRPGQ2018 What games do you dream about making, but haven’t quite gotten there yet?

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I have so many ideas but am limited by my illness (depression), the amount I can conceivably do as a one-man company and by money. If I had the budget I could hire more, other people to write for me and thereby increase my output. It’s just not something that’s possible though.

I would like to move more into writing for computer games, even small indie ones. The pay is better, even at the lower tier of these products, and the potential for reaching a larger audience is also huge. It’s how I’ve wanted to move my career for some time, but the enquiries and opportunities never quite pan out, or disappear into development hell.

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#MayRPGQ2018 What games have you worked on informally, formally or semi-formally?

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Too many to mention. I have a bibliography somewhere, but I don’t really keep it that up to date. There’s everything I’ve published myself, and then there’s the various other games that I have worked on material for. I’ve had stuff published for Call of Cthulhu, D&D 3rd Edition, D&D 4th Edition (official, not just OGL, but that too) and various other odds and sods over the years.

Tell you what, I’ll take this opportunity to talk about three of my favourite of my own games that I’ve written and since that counts as shilling, I won’t paywall the rest of this article.

Blood!

Blood was a fairly obscure British horror game, very much slapped into the genre of Splatterpunk, the likes of Sean Hutson, the grimier end of Clive Barker, Graham Masterton and so forth. Film wise it very much lurks in B-movie slasher territory, though its gritty nature makes it perfect for survival horror. We played Blood to death throughout the nineties, a grislier counterpart to our high-falutin’ World of Darkness games. It especially led to some really gripping zombie horror games in the Romero tradition. We were the hipsters of zombie horror gaming, we liked it before it was cool. Blood also turned out to be perfect for short, one-shot convention games where nobody had ambitions to survive a full scenario. On the off chance I contacted the original writer and artist and they gave me permission to take the game on for a cut. Since then I’ve continued to publish a second edition of Blood and fully intend to make a more streamlined game for a third edition. There’s just something magical about the way the game plays and the attitude it engenders in Games Masters and players that makes me love it.

Agents of SWING

I love all those old 1960s and 70s adventure shows. The Champions, Gerry Anderson’s various shows, The Saint, The Avengers and so on. The straight-faced campness, the 60s style, all of it blends together nicely so that you could easily imagine many of these shows sharing the same world (many of them were produced by the same companies). This was a good fit for FATE which could allow all sorts of weirdness to exist side by side while still being able to compete with each other. I wove ‘mockbuster’ equivalents to all these wonderful characters into a single organisation (SWING), a private spy agency not dissimilar to – but written before – Kingsman. Turns out pregenerating all those characters was a great idea as it allowed people to jump right into the game and have a great deal of fun. We had a memorable convention game where almost every player was playing Roger Moore, just as different characters (Bond, The Saint, The Persuaders). A lot of fun.

Tales of Gor

Licensing games is fraught with difficulty and this goes double when they’re derived from controversial material. John Norman’s ‘Gorean Chronicles’ are notorious, more so than they perhaps deserve. Where in other pulp-style novels the sexual side is much more implicit (the nudity on Barsoom, the rape and plunder in Conan) in Gor it’s much more explicit, without necessarily going into ‘blow-by-blow’ detail. Gor is a planetary romance style series of books, but with sex and BDSM written right into it. Because of this many have considered it cheap and tawdry or even pornographic – though I don’t gor_slavegirl_alphathink we can call it that with a straight face today. In fact the world-building is extremely good and – through fantasy – it challenges ideas about gender relations, humans in a ‘state of nature’ and many other things. It’s more than just slave girls and chains. I’ve loved it ever since I was gifted the first twenty or so novels and long wanted to create a game around it. Tracking down who to talk to was tough, bracing myself for the inevitable backlash was tough, and bracing myself for the Gorean purist’s complaints was also tough, as was working through a period of particularly bleak depression. At the end of it though I produced a game that I am very proud of, illustrated by renowned fetish artist Michael Manning and which hasn’t elicited quite the backlash I was expecting. I’m very proud of it.

 

#MayRPGQ2018 Who do you like playing games with?

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I do love playing games with my regular group. These days the games and the situation have a bit of a different character to what they used to. It’s different for me to have a small regular group rather than an enormous and ever-changing horde. As we’ve gotten older the regular gaming weekend has become a ‘men’s retreat’ from wives and girlfriends, from family-enforced vegetarianism and so on. A chance to recapture a bit of our youth, eat take away, stay up late and indulge vices from our teens and twenties again. Most of the same group also meets with other friends for regular games, but I live in the sticks and they live in town, so I don’t get to game as much as I would like. I keep meaning to start streaming games but time zones are a bitch…

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