Branching, jagged antlers line this ink-black salamander’s back from head to tail. Acrid fumes pour from its mouth between rows of needle-like teeth.
Onyare CR 5
CE Large outsider (chaotic, demon, evil, extraplanar)
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +6
AC 18, touch 11, flat-footed 16 (+2 Dex, +7 natural, –1 size)
hp 51 (6d10+18)
Fort +5, Ref +7, Will +6
DR 5/cold iron or good; Immune electricity, poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10, fire 10; SR 16
Speed 30 ft., swim 30 ft.
Melee bite +10 (1d8+5), gore +10 (1d8+5 plus horn seeds)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks breath weapon (every 1d4 rounds, 15 ft. cone, 6d6 acid damage, Reflex half DC 15)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 6th, concentration +7)
At will—greater teleport (self plus 50 lbs. of objects only), scare (DC 13)
1/day—haunting mists (Ultimate Magic, DC 13), summon (level 3, 1d3 dretches at 40%)
Str 20, Dex 15, Con 17, Int 6, Wis 9, Cha 12
Base Atk +6; CMB +12; CMD 24 (cannot be tripped)
Feats Improved Initiative, Lunge, Power Attack
Skills Perception +10, Sense Motive +10, Stealth +11, Survival +7, Swim +19; Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth, +8 Swim
Languages Abyssal, Celestial, Draconic; telepathy 100 ft.
SQ aquatic adaptation
Organization solitary or pair
Aquatic Adaptation (Ex) An onyare can breathe underwater indefinitely and can freely use its breath weapon and other abilities while underwater.
Horn Seeds (Ex) When an onyare hits a creature with its gore attack, tips of its antlers break off and begin growing in the target’s body as bony, antler-like nodules. Damage caused by the horn seeds cannot be magically or naturally healed until the bony growths are removed, which requires a DC 15 Heal check and deals 3d8 points of damage to the target. For every 5 by which the Heal check exceeds the DC, reduce the damage by 1d8 (minimum 0). Outsiders with the chaotic subtype are immune to this effect. This is a disease effect. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Horn Seeds (Ex) Gore—injury; save Fort DC 15, onset 1 day, frequency 1 day, effect 1d4 Dex and 1 Con damage, cure 2 consecutive saves.
Cunning and cruel, onyares are horned demons that lurk in the lakes and tarns of abyssal swamplands. Constantly adapting to the needs of their environment, Onyares grow and shed primitive, gaunt limbs in a matter of minutes – effective for overland travel between mires, but too weak for combat. Onyares instead rely on their needle-sharp teeth and corrosive breath, but their most infamous weapon is their antlers, which break off into victims and form horn-like growths that impede movement and drain vitality. Each antler is a fast-growing shard of primordial chaos that consumes normal flesh and sprouts new branches. An onyare constantly sheds damaged or dead antlers, using the broken points to decorate its lair and mark the edges of its territory.
An onyare is between 8 and 11 feet long, weigh roughly 400 pounds, and can possess up to 5 primitive limbs at any given time. They form from mortal souls who thrived in mass hysteria, exploiting panic and tragedy for entertainment or personal gain. They delight in using their spell-like abilities to frighten intruders, giving chase as they flee in terror. They are often summoned to the Material Plane to serve as guardians for hidden lairs and vaults within the marshes, though their restless, chaotic nature often leads them to abandon their posts and stalk the wilderness for mortals to torment.
Written by Nicholas Wasko
Artwork by Zul Fadhli Kamarrudin
Edited by William Ward
Before I purchased my first miniature, my concept of tabletop RPG “bling” was best evidenced by my collection of gaming accessories. With a total value of $4.62, this collection consisted of four items: an 80-page college bound spiral notebook, with several pages of unfinished homework in the front; a yellow #2 pencil, with a complete set of dental imprints; and a set of polyhedral dice, minus the d12. It was with this paltry arsenal that I marched– uphill both ways, to the best of my recollection – into my earliest gaming sessions.
Perhaps this is why the sudden acquisition of 162 unpainted miniatures came as such a shock.
Finding oneself buried in an avalanche of miniatures isn’t an overnight phenomenon. Having traded my collection of Magic the Gathering cards – their value today, I don’t care to think about – for a box full of tattered rule books and modules, the concept of using miniatures didn’t exist for me until 1991. That was the year I purchased the Dungeons & Dragons Black Box (my first store-bought RPG). Filled with a collection of stand up paper miniatures and a full-color map, it was somewhat of a short-lived revelation. While it provided some opportunities for tactical combat, it had limited use beyond a few short sessions.
While my first encounter with miniatures was lackluster, my second was awe-inspiring. Delivered into my subconscious through a full-page advertisement in Dragon magazine, this was the first time that I had heard of Dwarven Forge (Master Maze at the time). Fortunately for me at the time, painted resin terrain wasn’t something that I could purchase, even irresponsibly (despite a generous on-and-off allowance). The advertisement faded from my memory well before I had disposable income to waste (That’s a figure of speech. It isn’t a waste, it is awesome.).
Then Dwarven Forge had their first Kickstarter campaign.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to purchase two “Dream Toys” from my childhood. The first was a high-end Traxxis radio-controlled car. The second was Dwarven Forge terrain. Since I didn’t own any miniatures at the time, the second came with an (extremely) bourgeois, (embarrassingly) first-world problem… which brings me back to the sudden acquisition of 162 unpainted miniatures, and the fact that I’ll need to learn how to paint miniatures.
Since the Reaper Bones 2 Kickstarter is responsible for the sudden influx of of miniatures (that’s right, it is Reaper’s fault, not mine), I’ll be starting with advice from their website on supplies, and painting advice from someone who survived the first Bones Kickstarter. I’ll be compiling a collection of other resources, from tutorials to painting services, from the perspective of a complete beginner here as I attempt to paint, purchase, or otherwise procure a collection of miniatures for my Dwarven Forge terrain.
The cracks and fissures in the mottled brown hide of this bipedal, serpentine dragon weep seemingly endless streams of sand. The air around its spade-shaped head ripples with intense heat.
Linnorm, Dune CR 12
CE Gargantuan dragon
Init +4; Senses darkvision 120 ft., low-light vision, scent, true seeing; Perception +21
AC 27, touch 10, flat-footed 23 (+4 Dex, +17 natural, -4 size)
hp 161 (14d12+70); regeneration 10 (cold iron)
Fort +14, Ref +15, Will +13
Defensive Abilities freedom of movement; DR 15/cold iron; Immune curse effects, fire, mind-affecting effects, paralysis, poison, sleep; SR 23
Speed 40 ft., burrow 40 ft., fly 100 ft. (average)
Melee bite +21 (2d8+10/19-20 plus poison), 2 claws +20 (1d8+10), tail +15 (2d6+5 plus grab)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 20 ft.
Special Attacks breath weapon, constrict (tail, 2d6+15), death curse
Str 30, Dex 19, Con 20, Int 5, Wis 18, Cha 21
Base Atk +14; CMB +28 (+32 grapple); CMD 42 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Combat Reflexes, Flyby Attack, Improved Critical (bite), Improved Vital Strike, Lightning Reflexes, Vital Strike, Weapon Focus (bite)
Skills Fly +15, Perception +21, Survival +21
Languages Aklo, Draconic, Sylvan
Environment warm deserts
Breath Weapon (Su) Once every 1d4 rounds, a dune linnorm can breathe a 120-foot line of superheated wind, dealing 14d8 points of fire damage to all creatures in the area (Reflex DC 22 halves). If the ground is covered in sand, the heat turns the sand in the area into long shards of glass pointed away from the linnorm. This area is affected as per the spike stones spell (Reflex DC 22, Perception DC 30 to notice), except that creatures damaged by the glass also take 1d8 points of fire damage. The glass turns brittle and collapses back into sand after 1 hour. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Death Curse (Su) When a creature slays a dune linnorm, the slayer is affected by the curse of the wastes. Curse of the Wastes: save Will DC 22; effect creature functions as being in severe heat (see the “Heat Dangers” section in Chapter 13 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook) at all times (unless the actual temperature is hotter), and cannot benefit from endure elements or other magical protection from heat. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Freedom of Movement (Ex) A dune linnorm is under the constant effect of freedom of movement, as per the spell of the same name. This effect cannot be dispelled.
Poison (Ex) Bite—injury; save Fort DC 22; frequency 1/round for 10 rounds; effect 2d6 fire damage and 1d3 Con drain; cure 2 consecutive saves. The save DC is Constitution-based.
True Seeing (Ex) A dune linnorm has constant true seeing, as per the spell of the same name.
While most linnorms inhabit the frigid mountains of the far north, the fearsome dune linnorms dwell in southern deserts, steppes, and other regions of intense heat. The massive dragons claim vast tracts of wasteland as their territories, devastating the already fragile ecosystems with their voracious appetites and aggressive dispositions. Their limited food supplies leave them smaller and weaker than their northern cousins, but many times more irritable thanks to their near-constant hunger.
While a dune linnorm’s presence frequently spells disaster for nearby tribes of humanoids, exceptionally resourceful or powerful individuals can salvage boons from the dragons’ lairs. Dune linnorms’ fey dispositions instinctively draw them to ley lines and other sites of potent natural magic hidden in the wastes, meaning their homes are often riddled with magical treasures and supernatural fonts of food and water, which allow the ravenous dragons to survive. Crafty desert-dwellers can capitalize on these resources, although they risk provoking the mighty liners, who swiftly and ruthlessly investigate any perceived violations of their privacy.
Written by Christoper Wasko
Artwork by Zul Fadhli Kamarrudin
Edited by William Ward
Press Release: Outland Entertainment Releases Arcane Focus: Secrets of Sensory Magic for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUMMARY: Outland Entertainment LLC releases Arcane Focus: Secrets of Sensory Magic, a supplement for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
FEBRUARY 12, 2015, KANSAS, UNITED STATES — Outland Entertainment LLC is pleased to announce the release of Arcane Focus: Secrets of Sensory Magic, the first in a series of supplements for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
Arcane Focus: Secrets of Sensory Magic is a collection of new options for the use of divination magic at the gaming table. Taking a different approach to the school of divination, it focuses on an all-new sensory school, a focused arcane school (See the “Focused Arcane School” section in Chapter 2 of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide) that views knowledge “as bits of information acquired through one’s perception of the world, inextricably linked to the senses that absorb the information and interpret its significance.” Arcane Focus: Secrets of Sensory Magic features design work from RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 finisher, Christopher Wasko; and, Here be Monsters design contest winner, Nicholas Wasko.
“I met Chris and Nick through Freelance Forge, a discussion forum for active and prospective RPG freelancers, where the pairs propensity for winning practice contests has become a running joke.” says William Ward, Director of Games at Outland Entertainment. “I feel fortunate that the Wasko brothers were able to collaborate on our first product for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.”
The Arcane Focus: Secrets of Sensory Magic is available in PDF from Paizo.com and DriveThruRPG.com.
For more work from Christopher Wasko and Nicholas Wasko check out our Creatures of the Outlands Series. You can see Nicholas Wasko’s winning entry for the Here be Monsters contest at A Sword for Hire.
An iridescent carapace covers this tiny creature, with two bulbous, three-pupiled eyes in front and a spine-like tail protruding behind. Four pairs of pincer-tipped legs fidget incessantly beneath its shell. Its entire body shimmers, as if surrounded by unstable energy.
Illimulid CR 3
N Tiny magical beast
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +1
AC 18, touch 15, flat-footed 15 (+3 Dex, +3 natural, +2 size)
hp 22 (3d10+6)
Fort +5, Ref +6, Will +2
Speed 10 ft.
Melee touch +8 (attach)
Ranged force bolt +8 (1d3)
Space 2-1/2 ft.; Reach 0 ft.
Special Attacks dweomer leap, parasitic casting
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 3rd)
Str 3, Dex 17, Con 14, Int 1, Wis 12, Cha 16
Base Atk +3; CMB +4 (+12 grapple when attached); CMD 10 (26 vs. trip)
Feats Skill Focus (Use Magic Device), Weapon Finesse
Skills Stealth +15, Use Magic Device +8
Environment any urban or underground
Organization solitary, pair, or colony (3-12)
Dweomer Leap (Su) An illimulid that is targeted by a spell or within a spell’s area of effect can teleport into the caster’s square as an immediate action, effectively appearing mid-leap and aimed toward the caster. This ability takes effect whether or not the spell overcomes the illimulid’s spell resistance. The illimulid can immediately make a touch attack against the spell’s caster. This ability does not provoke an attack of opportunity.
Force Bolt (Sp) As a standard action an illimulid can fire a bolt of force at any foe within 30 ft. as a ranged attack. Each bolt deals 1d3 points of force damage. An illimulid’s force bolt can be blocked by a shield spell.
Parasitic Casting (Su) An illimulid that is attached to a spellcaster at the beginning of its turn can make a special Use Magic Device check against DC 11 + caster level. If successful, the illimulid activates one of the caster’s spells, as if she had cast the spell with the illimulid as the target or the center of the effect. The activated spell is chosen randomly from the caster’s prepared spells or spells known. Harmful spells activated by this effect always fail to overcome the illimulid’s spell resistance. Spells with a range of personal affect the illimulid instead of the caster. If the Use Magic Device check exceeds the caster’s Will save by 5 or more, an additional spell is activated.
The bane of all magic users, illimulids (colloquially called “magekiller crabs”) were named for their ability to hijack magical energies. Despite their meek appearance, these seemingly harmless creatures become dangerous when they latch onto a victim and start firing spells at point blank.
Terrestrial cousins of horseshoe crabs, illimulids eat mosses, fungi, and carrion, and shelter in cramped spaces to escape predators. Females lay hundreds of eggs at a time, but must siphon energy from magical discharges to prime them for fertilization. As a result, these typically docile creatures become active in the presence of spellcasters, scrolls, wands, and other magic items, triggering spell effects in order to quicken as many eggs as possible. Their preferred habitats and aggressive pursuit of spellcasters makes infestations a major problem in magical communities.
Armies opposed by mages sometimes outfit their platoons with caged illimulids, which can use their dweomer leap to ambush long-range spellcasters and wreak havoc behind enemy lines. Some soldiers tell tales of illimulids specially bred for war, immune to certain forms of magic and bearing pincers that can rip through armor.
Written by Nicholas Wasko
Artwork by Zul Fadhli Kamarrudin
Edited by William Ward
This sleek spider has a hide like a polished mirror, and eight pinpricks of light for eyes.
Solar Spider CR 4
N Medium magical beast
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +6
AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed14 (+3 Dex, +4 natural)
hp 42 (5d10+15)
Fort +7, Ref +7, Will +3
Defensive Abilities reflective hide; Immune mind-affecting effects; Resist fire 20
Speed 30 ft., climb 30 ft.
Melee bite +7 (2d6+3 plus poison)
Special Attacks sun snare
Str 14, Dex 17, Con 16, Int –, Wis 15, Cha 14
Base Atk +5; CMB +7; CMD 20 (32 vs. trip)
Skills Climb +19, Perception +6; Racial Modifiers +16 Climb, +4 Perception
SQ light climbing
Environment warm desert or plains
Organization solitary, pair, or colony (3-8)
Light Climbing (Su) Solar spiders use their Dexterity modifiers for their Climb skill, rather than Strength. When in areas of bright light, solar spiders can climb on imperceptible strands of light, using their climb speed as a fly speed with perfect maneuverability. The solar spider uses its Climb skill rather than its Fly skill to determine its ability to execute flying maneuvers, with no additional bonuses for maneuverability.
Poison (Ex) Bite—injury; save Fort DC 15; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d2 Strength damage and 1 Constitution damage; cure 1 save.
Reflective Hide (Ex) A solar spider’s polished hide is highly reflective. When a solar spider is in normal light, all creatures within 30 feet of it are dazzled. When in bright light, a solar spider’s hide becomes so bright that creatures have difficulty looking directly at it, resulting in a 20% miss chance against all attacks by sight-dependent attackers. Solar spiders are immune to spells and effects that use sunlight as a weapon, such as searing light and sunburst, and they cannot be blinded or dazzled by bright light or patterns.
Sun Snare (Su) A solar spider can throw globs of burning sunlight the way normal spiders throw webs. This ability functions like the web ability (+8 ranged, DC 15, 5 hp), except that a creature struck by a sun snare must also make a DC 15 Fortitude save or be blinded for 1d4 rounds. A creature entangled in a sun snare sheds light like a sunrod, suffers a -40 penalty on Stealth checks, and takes 1d4 points of fire damage per round it is entangled. Solar spiders can only use this ability when they are in normal or bright light.
Found in deserts, wastelands, and other regions infamous for intense sunlight, solar spiders are fully adapted to survive in sun-seared environments. Their reflective hides not only protect them from ultraviolet rays, but also turn the blinding sunlight to their advantage when hunting prey or fending off predators. Their hypersensitive legs can also grasp strands of light unnoticeable to most creatures, allowing them to climb on sunbeams and spin light into adhesive projectiles that rapidly burn those they ensnare.
Despite the spiders’ dangerous abilities and territorial natures, many desert tribes harbor great respect for the radiant creatures. Tribe elders and soothsayers depict the arachnids as servants or manifestations of solar deities, graceful and beautiful from a distance but terrible if encountered up close. Chieftans and shamans commonly wear ceremonial armor or headdresses made from solar spider hide as a status symbol.
Written by Christoper Wasko
Artwork by Zul Fadhli Kamarrudin
Edited by William Ward
Press Release: Outland Entertainment Introduces Creatures of the Outlands Blog Series
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUMMARY: Outland Entertainment LLC introduces bi-monthly blog posts of creature-centric material for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
TOPEKA, KS, NOVEMBER 15, 2015 — Outland Entertainment LLC, a digital publisher, producer and purveyor of fine artwork and fiction, is pleased to announce Creatures of the Outlands, a bimonthly website series of creature-centric material for The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
This bimonthly series, available through the Outland Entertainment’s blog, opens featuring design work from RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 finisher, Christopher Wasko; and, Here be Monsters design contest winner, Nicholas Wasko.
Each entry in the Creatures of the Outlands series features a complete creature, with artwork, for use at your gaming table. For more information visit outlandentertainment.com/blog.
And how about “Matt Forbeck & the Games Universe”? From collectible card games to RPGs, passing through miniatures and board games Matt Forbeck has done it all.
Your love for games started when you were very young, as you’ve shared with us. Could tell us what gave you the definite push towards working on the gaming industry?
I grew up in southern Wisconsin, which meant that I got to meet a lot of the people behind Dungeons & Dragons and other games at an early age. I first met Gary Gygax at a convention in back in 1982, and I went to my first Gen Con —which was at UW-Parkside in those days—later that year. That helped me fall in with the right crowd of people: folks that love games and want to make a living by creating them for other people.
You started working at the Games Workshop, in England, and then continued non-stop, from co-founding your own company – Pinnacle Entertainment Group – to working for Ubisoft last year.
In this journey through the gaming world what obstacles did you face?
In the beginning, I didn’t make much money at it, but I kept going at it anyhow. My girlfriend at the time paid my rent for my birthday and Christmas in my first year of freelancing. But each year it got better and better, and eventually it turned into a career. I kept waiting for it to all wash away, but it never did.
What led you to co-found Pinnacle Entertainment Group?
My pal Shane Hensley flew me and Greg Gorden down to his place in Blackburg, Virginia, to show us Deadlands. He wanted us both on board, whole hog. Greg wasn’t able to join up, but I said that if I went in, I wanted to own part of the company too.
I loved the game from the start, and I had a lot of faith in Shane and the rest of the crew he had built up around him. I had a bit more experience with things like layout and production and sales, and that came in handy too. We made for a fine team from the start.
There’s a big discussion about the lack of women on this particular industry. Do you agree?
I think it’s a problem in many industries, and gaming—whether you’re talking tabletop or video games—is no exception. Part of it stems from the fact that the games industries we know today stem from the war games hobby of the ‘50s and ‘60s, which was dominated almost exclusively by men.
Have you felt any shift in the numbers of female colleagues during the years?
Oh, yes, and I’ve been thrilled to see it happen. We have lots of wonderful women working in games today, in just about every aspect of the industry. When I started out, women were rare at any convention, for instance, but their numbers have grown steadily over the years. We’re still nowhere near parity yet, but I’m pleased to see that when I bring my daughter to shows she feels like she fits right in.
From all the different areas in gaming you have worked so far, can you pick a favorite?
That’s hard to say. They’re all lots of fun, each in their own way. I keep returning to RPGs for some reason, so that probably says something. If there was more money in it, I might never have pursued things like collectible games or toys or fiction. I must love it.
What is harder: creating a game world from scratch or contributing to someone else’s work?
It’s much harder to create a world of any kind from scratch. There’s a whole nother layer of work involved, and when I say “layer” I don’t mean “like a cake,” but “like the earth’s crust.”
That said, it’s tremendous fun, especially if you enjoy a fulfilling challenge. I’ve worked on lots of other peoples’ games too, and I’ve loved doing it, but there’s something amazing about stepping up to that blank sheet yourself and putting your own unique mark on it, as daunting as it may seem.
If you were talking to someone who knew nothing about these creative fields, what would you say were the major differences between writing a screenplay and a computer game script?
Physically, they can resemble each other, but structurally they’re nothing alike. For one, a film usually only runs about two hours, whereas games can literally give you hundreds of hours of play. Games often also feature branching storylines—or at least ones engineered to seem to branch and go off in different directions.
For some reason, I often wind up writing game scripts in Excel rather than Word, too, and as any writer can tell you, that’s just not a natural act.
How was it like to take up the role of director with voiceover actors?
I loved it. It’s one thing to write a script and hear the words in your head, and it’s something else entirely to work with an actor to get them in the same mental space to produce work that sounds reasonably close to what you had in mind.
The best part, of course, is how fantastic actors can surprise you. They bring their own interpretations to every line, and seeing how they differ from what you had in mind can be inspiring far more often than frustrating.
Did it make think of maybe moving into directing more audiovisual content?
I’d be happy to. I just don’t have much time to pursue it among all the other work I’m doing. All that said, when the right project comes along, I’ll jump at it.
You’ve won several awards, not just for your work on games, but also for your writing. It might be cliché, but what was the one award you are more happy to have sitting on your shelf?
Honestly, I don’t do it for the awards, and I never have. I don’t do it for any sense of acclaim or fame. I create games, fiction, toys, films, and so on to entertain people.
Now, I don’t mind getting awards for my work—not at all! I’m happy to have them, and the statues that come with them have a proud place on my mantle. If you’re working for recognition, though, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. For me, the work itself is enough. Being able to enjoy that every day means far more to me than collecting a trophy every year or so.
As we’ve talked about before, your Shotguns & Sorcery book series is going to be turned into an RPG by us here at Outland Entertainment.
You first developed S&S as a roleplaying game. How close to that very first version (nearly 14 years ago) do you want the game to be?
I don’t care one bit. That game never got beyond the notes stage, and it represents something I would have written in 2002. It’s a dozen years later, and the world has changed. Tabletop games have changed. Hell, I’ve changed.
This game needs to be a game of its own moment created by this new crew I’m lucky to be working with, not a resuscitated corpse of an idea I had over a decade ago. I actually can’t wait to see what we come up with when we finally get to hold that finished book in our hands.
Now that you have written the short stories and novels, how much has changed on your approach to this I.P.?
I wouldn’t say I’m done with Shotguns & Sorcery, but I’ve told the stories there I wanted to tell most. I have several others in mind, but working on the RPG gives me an excellent chance to step back and firm up the worldbuilding a bit. It’s an opportunity to shine a light into a few corners I might otherwise ignore, and see what turns up there.
I often say that writing is an act of discovery. I may have a solid sense of the story I’m going to tell when I sit down at my keyboard and start to type, but I don’t actually know what it’s going to be until I get those words down. It turns out that the idea and the actuality rarely match up well, but that’s at least half the fun.
Has your connection with the characters changed?
Sure. At first, I only had an inkling of who they were. By now, they’re old friends with whom I’ve had an intense experience, and honestly, I miss them. I’m looking forward to checking back in with them and seeing how Dragon City’s been treating them.
You will be writing the game’s background material. Is there something in specific that you want to add to the setting that wasn’t present in the books?
I have a slew of ideas for the history of Dragon City that doesn’t come out in the books. I regularly wind up on worldbuilding panels at various conventions, and I tell people that it’s doesn’t matter how cool your word is or how much work you put into creating it. If what you’re going on about isn’t pertinent to the story, then you’re just showing off and wasting your readers’ time.
I try to stick to that with my own work, of course, only revealing as much as a story requires. An RPG demands a whole different level of detail, though, and I’m looking forward to building out the parts of the setting that have remained off-camera so far.
What type of stories do you expect gamers will play out with The Shotguns & Sorcery RPG?
I lean toward noirish detective stories myself, but it’s really up to them. I don’t tell people how to have fun. I just point them in a good direction and give them all the tools they need to succeed. It’s up to them from there.
What story would you play out if you could play the game right now?
I’d explore what happens in the wake of End Times in Dragon City, the last of the stories I’ve written for the setting. I leave it wide open from that point on, after a near-apocalypse event, and I’m curious to see what emerges from the city’s rubble.
In the game department, what can we expect to see from you in the near future?
Besides the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG? I actually have a few different things in the works. The one I can talk about is the Titan line from Calliope Games. Ray Wehrs over there asked some of the best tabletop game designers around to create new gateway games from scratch. Besides myself, there’s Rob Daviau, Michael Elliott, James Ernest, Richard Garfield, Seth Johnson, Eric Lang, Mike Mulvihill, Paul Peterson, Mike Selinker, Jordan Weisman, and Zach Weisman.
I’m flattered all to hell just to be on that list. Those folks have made some of my favorite games over the years, and I’ve spend countless hours playing their designs. Calliope is planning a Kickstarter for the series sometime in early 2015, and I’m looking forward to digging into it soon after that.
Thanks, Matt, for taking us on this brief journey to get to know more about you.
Last time we got to know a little bit about who Matt is. Today, were looking to get a further insight into “Matt the writer”.
What was the first thing you ever wrote? Was it a school assignment or something you did on your free time?
Do you mean as a story? It was probably “Food Wars”, a Star Wars parody I wrote in 4th grade. I won a prize for it, and it was, I think, the first time I realized that there might be something to this writing well thing.
You told us you always wanted to be a writer. But when the moment came, did you need someone else uttering “You are a writer.” or did you know it already?
I don’t think that being a writer is a matter of knowing it so much as wanting to do it. I never needed anyone to tell me to write or create or whatever. It’s wonderful to have validation for it after the fact, but the fun of it comes in the work itself.
In 1989, you edited and wrote selections of White Dwarf Magazine (issues #119-123), with emphasis on the two Space Hulk articles. Until then you hadn’t had anything published.
Seeing your words printed for the public to read was an incentive to write more outside the game world?
Actually, the first thing I had in print was a short piece in Polyhedron #9, the newsletter for TSR’s Roleplaying Gamers Association (RPGA). I’d submitted this gadget for a contest for their Top Secret spies roleplaying game, and it came in as first runner-up.
This came out way back in 1982, when I was fourteen years old. I didn’t get paid a dime for it, but it thrilled me to my core. It’s probably the reason I took up writing for RPGs long before I turned my hand to fiction.
In most places the short story “Crocodilopolis”, which was part of the “Strange Tales From the Nile Empire”anthology, from West End Books in 1992, appears as your first published fiction piece.
Would you change anything about it?
Probably, but I wouldn’t. I’m a different person now than when I wrote that story, and I had a wonderful time working on it. Legendary game designer Greg Gorden was my editor on that, and he taught me a lot about the differences between great fiction and great games as I wrote it. I still treasure that lesson to this day.
You now have a more than 25 books available online and these are just the ones on your website, not even counting your participations in anthologies.
Between the fiction and nonfiction do the numbers speak for themselves or would you like to venture more into the nonfiction genre?
I’m probably a bad self-promoter in this way, but I haven’t gotten around to listing all of my books on my site. I’m usually more concerned with doing the work than telling people about it. At the moment, I have 27 novels published, several nonfiction books, and countless games and gaming books.
I enjoy writing nonfiction, as it scratches a different creative itch for me. I had a ball revising The Marvel Encyclopedia for 2014, for instance, and I’m proud of how well it’s selling. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, it hit #5 in all books on Amazon, and just this week, it became my first book to ever crack a Best Sellers list in the New York Times.
The majority of your work has been deemed YA. Do you believe in genres to describe books or do you think we could ditch those labels?
Actually, most of my work is for adults, although I try to write things that people of many ages can read. I’ve written five or six books for younger readers, but the vast majority of my fiction—especially my own original material—fits into the genre category and is mostly read by adults.
All that said, I think J. K. Rowling obliterated the meaning of the YA label, and bully for her. We shouldn’t be afraid to read good stories, no matter if they’re meant for people younger than us or not. As for other genre labels, they serve a purpose for marketing, but creators shouldn’t feel constrained by them. Great stories transcend such things.
There seems to be a dystopian quality to the stories you tell. Do you agree with that?
Maybe. I tend to favor stories with a dark streak through them, and that’s most obvious in books like my Brave New World dystopian superheroes series. Partly that’s because my tastes run that way, but I also find it easier to produce dramatic situations in darker worlds—or at least ones that I find most interesting.
Your work has been translated into 13 languages, which obviously means you have a global fan base. Does that influence your writing in any way?
Not really. I don’t have any control over the translations in the sense that I can’t read them once they’re published. I can’t tell the translator that they’re doing it wrong. I can only cheer them on and hope for the best.
Your body of work has inspired many to approach you to adapt your narratives into other mediums.
Your book series Brave New World: Revolution is being adapted into a TV series. What are most looking for in this project?
Actually, that’s been optioned for a film, but it’s in limbo at the moment while the producers pursue other projects and try to ramp up for the kind of budget a dark supers film needs. I’ve also sold film options for both Amortals and Vegas Knights, though, and I have high hopes for those. I’ve even read a first draft of the script for Amortals, and I’d love to see that book on the silver screen.
The Shotguns & Sorcery book series is going to be turned into an RPG by us, here at Outland Entertainment.
What can you tell new readers about this series?
It’s a fantasy noir series in the sense of what maybe Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy would write if they’d been inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien. It’s set in Dragon City, a metropolis ruled over by the Dragon Emperor, an autocrat who protects his people from the ravening hordes of zombies roaming outside the city’s walls—but at a price.
Is there a favorite character you really enjoyed writing?
Max Gibson is the hero of the story, and he’s my favorite by far, which is good because I spent a lot of time in his head. I love a lot of the others too: Yabair (the sneering elf captain of the Imperial Dragon’s Guard), Kai (the gun-toting orc pal with poor impulse control), Moira (the addicted halfling who can’t ever seem to keep out of trouble), and many more.
And how about a special scene or chapter?
I think the opening chapter of “Friends Like These” nails the feeling of the world like a stake through a vampire’s heart. It’s full of world-weary heroes, treachery among friends, and jackbooted thugs, and it’s just what I wanted.
It’s also the first fiction I ever wrote for Shotguns & Sorcery, so it has a special place in my heart.
Perhaps not coincidentally, all backers of the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG Kickstarter get this story for free.
The whole world is set in this fantasy noir environment. What led you to that creative choice?
I grew up reading both Chandler and Tolkien. I love epic fantasy and its amazing worlds, but the grittiness of noir always grabbed me harder. This was my chance to come up with my own cocktail from two of my favorite ingredients. I did my best to make sure it packs a punch.
Besides the series of projects already mentioned on your website, can you give us a small peek at the writing ones under the cryptic slot “all sorts of secret things in various stages of conception or completion”?…
I have lots of projects in the works at any given time, but I also sign many non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with the people and publishers I’m working with. Giving details about those projects before they’re ready to go would be cheating them of their chance to make the biggest splashes.
That said, I do have a science-fiction tie-in novel I’ve been working on that should be announced soon. Stay tuned.
Thank you! And we will talk to you soon to find out a little bit more about your work on the games industry!
You probably know his name from games such Dungeons & Dragons, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Or maybe, if you are a Cypher System fan, you recognize him as a contributor to the Numenera Character Options and Technology Compendium: Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera.
The fact is he has years of experience working on the roleplaying game industry. So let’s try to get a brief insight into his work.
Robert , you have worked as a writer, game designer and developer in the RPG industry. Do you have a favorite role?
I have indeed worn many hats over the last ten years or so. When I started in this business, I had thought I would pursue a writing career, but I found that my love for roleplaying games offered opportunities for me to create worlds in a way that helped others tell stories through the settings, characters, locations, and mechanics I produced. Not long after I got started, I landed a job as a developer for Green Ronin Publishing. As a developer, my job was to work with design to make the rules and story even better and to ensure that the mechanics worked within the larger game system and setting. I started with d20 system products and eventually took on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Since then, I’ve written a novel, designed a few game systems, and created and developed story and mechanical content for a slew of games including three editions of D&D, one edition WFRP, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplay, Witch Hunter: The Invisible World, and more. A favorite role? I don’t have one. Not really. If I do a lot of story design, my appetite for numbers grows and vice versa.
Do they complement each other?
They do, but it’s hard to be good at all three. Many people have just one strong area. A person might be a genius with story but workmanlike when it comes to producing the nuts and bolts of the mechanics. Another might have an eye for broken tech and know how to fix it, but be hard pressed to produce new tech from scratch. I’ve been fortunate in that I have had many opportunities to learn the various aspects of game design, development, and story creation. Each opportunity gives me a chance to test my limits and push past them. And, what I learn as a story creator inspires my mechanical design, which in turn makes me a better developer.
You have written a series of magazine articles on the D&D universe. Were you always a fan of this particular I.P?
I’ve loved Dungeons & Dragons for as long as I have been playing RPGs. I started with D&D and it has been my primary game for most of my gaming experience. Producing content for 3rd Edition and 4th Edition was a great, but being part of the various design teams of the 5th Edition rules was really the high point in my career.
Where you a gamer growing up?
Oh yes and at times to my detriment. Minutes into my first game session, I was hooked. Keep on the Borderlands will remain one of my all time favorite adventures. Playing D&D was just the start, though. It opened the doors onto a whole universe of roleplaying games.
What were you favorite roleplaying games?
When I was young, I had a huge appetite for roleplaying games. We played a lot of D&D, but it was the 80s and my family was not immune to the fear that some dark and sinister force was going to drag me to hell as a result of me using my imagination and sharpening my math skills. Once it was decided that D&D was bad for my eternal soul, I turned to other roleplaying games to scratch my gamer itch. My favorite was Marvel Super Heroes (the FASERIP system), Twilight: 2000, Top Secret, Rolemaster & MERP, and, of course, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (which was a far darker game than D&D ever was).
When did you first decide to work in the gaming universe?
Honestly, it was about five years after I started working in the business. I stumbled into game design. I had finished college after a second go and discovered there was no long list of employers hot to grab an English-Philosophy major in his mid to late-20s. So I worked two jobs. I sold flooring—carpet, hardwood, tile, vinyl, but I was not very good at it as I knew nothing about flooring and had to learn as I went. I also sold liquor, which I did, in fact, know something about. A few months later, I responded to an open call for d20 system sourcebooks and sent in a stack of proposals. The company bought one and then bought another. I began scouring websites for submission information, pestered everyone in the industry for work, and finally built up enough of a resume that I could get steady work, as a freelancer, as a staff developer and designer, and then as a contract designer.
What about references? Do you have any favorite artists that inspire you?
You bet. When I was much younger and much more deluded about my talents, I thought I would pursue art as a career. Though I never did chase that fantasy down, I remain interested in it and am always excited to see how people interpret the game worlds, stories, and characters in paintings and illustrations. Some of my favorites include Russ Nicholson (his illustrations set the tone for so many of my D&D games), John Blanche (his work is quintessential Warhammer), and Ralph Horsley for the astonishing detail he put into the covers of Tome of Corruption and Tome of Salvation. Two artists I have recently worked with have also impressed the hell out of me. Ivan Dixon did a few interiors for Shadow of the Demon Lord. I’ll be sharing these pieces soon. Also, Svetoslav Petrov knocked the cover out of the park. I knew I wanted to use him when I saw the cover for Green Ronin’s new Advanced Bestiary.
How does it feel to create gaming experiences for such well-known brands such as Dungeons & Dragons and A Song of Ice and Fire RPG? Is there a different pressure?
Working on established brands is tricky and, yes, there’s tons of pressure. But the stress you feel working on D&D is a lot different from the stress experienced working with a literary source such as Game of Thrones, Thieves’ World or The Black Company. Hell, there are huge differences in adding content to an existing game and re-interpreting a game for a new edition.
Adaptations are a lot like coloring books. You can make the pictures whatever color you want but you have to stay inside the lines. A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying could have used any engine and could have focused on any part of the world of Westeros. That’s coloring in the lines. The game could not, however, invent new lands, alter the history by injecting characters of our own creation into the timeline, feature space ships, mutants, or lightsabers. All those things are well outside the lines.
The pressure from building a new edition of D&D was infinitely worse. When you buy a copy of a Game of Thrones, you may own the physical copy of the book and own your experience reading it, but that’s it. You don’t own the world. You don’t decide what the characters do. And you don’t determine what happens next. When it comes to RPGs, the audience takes ownership of the game, much like a person owns a hammer or a blender or a set of paints. They use the game as a creative tool. When you monkey with the game’s tools, whether those tools are established bits of story or how the mechanics work, people get upset. For this reason, it’s wise to be conservative in your design and yet the audience also expects something new. After all, they’ve bought D&D already. Probably several times. They want something new but not something radically different. You can introduce something sexy, but it has to fit. On seeing it, a readers should feel like the thing has always been there or, if hasn’t, that it should have been. We know what happens when a design team forgets this: we get an edition war.
From all the projects you’ve been a part of is there one that stood out for some reason?
D&D for sure. It was such a huge undertaking, so massive in scope, and so fraught with perils that I’m still recovering. This isn’t to say that the experience was bad. It was hard. It was the hardest thing I’ve done. Until my new game, that is.
You have won several awards over the last 10 years. What was the most gratifying one?
Gosh. I am gratified by any and all recognition. I was especially proud when Grimm, a supplement for the d20 system, won an ENnie. It was my first big award and it validated my work in a big way.
Earlier this year, you founded Schwalb Entertainment, LLC. What led you to take that step?
For me, it was the next logical step in my career. By the end of 2013, it was clear D&D work for me was winding down. I could dive back into freelancing or carve out a place for myself. Since I’ve already paid my dues in the freelancing trenches, I figured it was time to strike out on my own. It’s a terrifying place to be in, but if it isn’t scary, it’s not worth doing it.
You are now preparing to launch your own RPG: Shadow of the Demon Lord, an all-new horror fantasy roleplaying game, that will be launching its Kickstarter campaign in the spring of 2015.
When did you first come up with the idea for this game?
I’ve had elements of the design in my head for years and years, some going all the way back to when I was much, much younger. The older I get, the less time I have to prepare or play. I love RPGs, but I just can’t commit to a 2-year campaign let alone a 5-year campaign. If my gaming group meets once a month, I want this to be ok. If I miss a week, I don’t want to ruin the story because my character wasn’t there. I suspect lots of people are in the same situation. These desires that drove the design and I decided to go for it, for real, to scrape the ideas out of my head and put them in a book, early this year.
What do you think gamers will love most about it?
Two things. The game’s tone is distinctly mine—disturbing, a little offensive, and a little funny (just a little). The other is the low barrier to entry. I wanted to create a game anyone could play without having to do much in the way of hard work. This game delivers that experience. You could play Demon Lord with your grandma, if you want to play a game that’s chock full of demons, dark magic, and madness.
How about you? What are most looking forward to?
Three things. Pushing the button to send the final files to the printer, cracking open the first box and pulling out a final book, and running an actual game rather than running a play test. Four years of play testing, between Demon Lord and D&D, I’m overdue for a regular game.
You will be collaborating with us here at Outland Entertainment, to help integrate the Cypher System seamlessly with The Shotguns and Sorcery RPG setting.
What attracted you most about the project?
Matt Forbeck and I have been friends for years and I’ve always wanted to collaborate with him on a project. This was my chance. Plus, I know the Cypher System. It’s flexible enough to accommodate just about any kind of story.
What are you most looking forward to delving into?
I really enjoy the process of realizing story through the game mechanics. I want to help fans of the Shotguns & Sorcery novels and stories create their own compelling characters and expand the world Matt created around their tables. I can’t wait to dive into the guts of the world and pull out the glistening bits of awesome that will come to life in the book’s pages. Monsters, cyphers and artifacts, cool stories and neat locations, and so much more.
Thank you Robert for shedding some light on your work.
You’re very welcome!