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And Now an Interview with Matt Forbeck

February 26, 2012 Leave a comment

(The audio of this interview is available at the bottom of this post!)

12 for `12JR: I am talking to author and game designer Matt Forbeck. Hello, sir!

MF: How are you doing, Jim?

JR: Good, good! Good to have you on here.

MF: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it!

JR: Of your many projects that you’ve got going on, something that I find particularly interesting as a writer is this 12 for 12 project that you’ve got going. For anyone who’s not familiar, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what that is?

MF: Sure. It’s this crazy idea I had last summer. I thought, “Hey, I write pretty quickly. I bet you I could write a novel a month.” (chuckles) Which is like this insane bar bet. And you know, it may have come up at Gen Con, actually last year – the gaming convention.

JR: Oh yeah?

MF: And I looked at it and I thought, you know, I’d love to do that, actually. I think it’d be a lot of fun. I think I could certainly do it. The trouble is that I also have a lot of other gigs that I do as a freelance writer. Like I write the Magic: the Gathering comic book for IDW. And I have a few other things: computer games, toy work, a novel – Carpathia – coming out at the end of the month here from Angry Robot. So I didn’t think I could give all that up and I didn’t want to give all that up, right?

JR: Yeah.

MF: So, I thought, “Let me trim this down a little bit and instead of writing like 80,000 word novels, which is what I usually go for, I’ll try writing 50,000 word novels, which will give me a little bit more breathing room.” And I decided to launch that program back in last November as a Kickstarter and said, “Look, hey guys, I really want to do this but I need to be able to eat so I’d like to basically take preorders for these books. And we’ll do some special editions. There’ll be autographed and hard covers and soft covers and things like that for people who are interested, and you can sign up for a high pledge and get your name in the book or create a character or something like that.” And it did pretty well. It started in November and ended on December 4th and we ended up racking up something over $13,000 for the first three novels. And I’m currently – just about a week and a half ago, launched the second Kickstarter for the second trilogy of novels. And that’s already up just shy of $5000 at the moment, I believe.

JR: That is awesome. As someone who has tried NaNoWriMo and just sitting there – and I’m still at like 30,000 words from last November…

MF: (chuckles)

JR:  …when I saw this project I was like, “Is he insane?!” (chuckles)

MF: Well you know, I’m a full time writer, right? This is my day job. I look at my daily word count and I know I can do this, right? Back before I had a whole bunch of kids as a full-time freelance role-playing game designer I would write regularly 5000 words a day. Since the kids came along they cut into my writing time a little bit so I’m down to about 3000 words a day. But on good days I get to the 5-6,000 words.

JR: That is very cool, and I think anyone who’s aspiring towards being a writer full time is definitely going to try to hit that goal.

MF: Well, now if you’re getting paid by the word, generating more words helps. They all have to be quality words, mind you.

JR: (laughs) That’s true.

MF: They have to be publishable words. But being able to generate them quickly – and after you’ve been doing it for some 10-20 years you do get quite a little bit quicker at it.

Brave New WorldJR: Very cool, very cool. So the first trilogy you already mentioned is already funded.

MF: Yes.

JR: And that was for your Brave New World novels.

MF: Yes.

JR: And why don’t you tell us a little bit about those?

MF: Yeah, that’s based on a role-playing game – not the Aldous Huxley novel. The original quote for Brave New World comes from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” actually, where Miranda, who’s the daughter of the wizard Prospero, sees a man washed up on the shore of their private island – for the first time in her life she’s ever seen anybody but her father. And she looks up at this handsome guy who’s about to become her love interest and she says, “Oh brave new world, that has such people in it.” And I thought that was perfect for a superhero role-playing game. So, back in 1999 I came out with a superhero role-playing game called Brave New World through Pinnacle Entertainment Group and it was later published by Alderac Entertainment Group, or AEG. And it’s been basically lying fallow for the last ten years or so. We did about eight or nine different books in the line and then cut it off. But we’ve had some people over at Reactor 88 Studios working on doing an independent film based on it. And I said, “Geez, you know, we’ve got this good fan base of game players out there and we’ve got a lot of people who are interested in my writing. Let’s see what happens if we cross the streams and combine them for this first set of trilogies.” And so far it seems to be going pretty well. For me it’s a lot of fun because I get to return to this world that I spent a lot of time and effort creating a dozen years ago.

JR: Yeah.

MF: And the fans seem to really be enjoying it so far, too.

JR: Can you actually tell us anything about how the movie’s going?

MF: Yeah. It’s currently on hiatus. We got a proof of concept video made which is about five to eight minutes long – I forget. It depends on which edit you look at. And basically the first eight pages of the role playing game are a comic book, and we took those and filmed those. And then we have a screenplay that follows it off after that and tells you what’s going to happen in the world. But we filmed the proof of concept hoping to go out and find funding for the rest of the movie. The problem is that being an over-the-top, high-action role-playing game with superheroes in it, this is not a cheap movie to make, right? (chuckles)

JR: (chuckles) Yeah, I can imagine.

MF: So, you know, we went back to the – well I mean we actually are now working on a couple of different movies, one of which is InSpectres, which is based on the role-playing game by Jared Sorensen.

JR: That is such an awesome game.

MF: Yeah!

JR: I really enjoy it.

MF: Oh, we got a kick out of it. We love that stuff. I love Jared’s stuff from way back, actually. And so we have a screenplay that I and a guy named Jeff Dohm worked on that actually was shot last year and is currently in post-production, so that’ll be out some time later this year. And the idea there again is to prove to people with money that we have a team of people who can make these kind of movies and make them do well. And then hopefully use that as a means of leveraging funding out of people so we can make a bigger movie later on.

JR: Excellent. I wish you the best of luck with that because I really want to see these movies! (chuckles)

MF:  The InSpectres one is a boatload of fun and I honestly think this kind of slacker ghostbuster thing is a lot easier to shoot on a shoestring budget than you would expect.

Shotguns & SorceryJR: Let’s move on to your second trilogy, which is – as of this recording – still being funded.

MF: Yes.

JR: So the Kickstarter is still open for it. That’s the Shotguns & Sorcery novels. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about those?

MF: Yeah, people have until March 11th to get in on this Kickstarter. And just go to kickstarter.com or go to my web site at forbeck.com and you can find out about it. But it’s based on a setting called Shotguns & Sorcery that I originally developed as, again, a role-playing game setting for Mongoose Publishing back in about 2001. But then my wife got pregnant with quadruplets and that kind of shattered everything to hell as far as getting that done. (chuckles) So I never actually got very far beyond the notes and selling it to Mongoose. And the rights reverted back to me. I said, “Geez, I’ve had this idea sitting around for a long time. I’d love to get back to this! It’s a lot of fun.” It’s kind of this noir-ish fantasy setting in this city called the Dragon City which is on the coast of this continent that’s basically overtaken by undead and other types of zombies. The city basically has a dragon emperor who controls the entire place and protects the people from the dead. But it’s striated – as you go up the mountain you get more and more powerful people. Like the orcs live at the bottom and the humans and the halflings live about a quarter of the way up, then you have the dwarves, then you have the elves, and then you have the dragon, who sits up top. So it’s got this great Chandler-esque, Hammett-esque kind of noir going on, but in a fantasy setting, right?

JR: Yeah, that is very cool. I really love that mashup. I was actually just last night – I was looking at Goblintown Justice, the short story that you’ve put out.

MF: Yes, that’s available for free for anybody who wants to read it, of course.

JR: As soon as I got to the part where you’re using flying carpets as taxis, I was totally sold on it.

MF: Yeah, I think that’s such a great image, you know.

JR: Yeah!

MF: It’s like I can flag down a flying carpet, you know. “Oh! Yeah, okay!” Suddenly you know exactly where you are – even if you’ve never seen this before.

JR: I love both genres and just the whole mixing of them – the sweet and sour effect – is very cool there, I really like that.

MF: Thank you.

JR: So folks again have until March 11th if they want to get in on that.

MF: The way it works is – what I did was I set a very low goal for the first book in the trilogy and then we try to see if we can hit stretch goals where we can unlock the second and third books in the trilogy. So right now we shattered the first one very quickly, I think in 32 hours. And now we’re stretching out to see if we can get the second book unlocked and then the third book unlocked. And usually this has me chewing my nails right until the last second. (laughs)

JR: (laughs)

MF: But it’s good fun and you know, usually what happens is you have this big spike at the beginning, and then it kind of levels out in the middle. And then in the last week everybody says, “Oh! Oh! Oh! I’ve got to do that or I’m going to forget it!” And then it spikes up again. And you know, the trouble of course is during that middle period you’re always sitting there going, “I hope the spike comes! I hope the spike comes!”

JR: (laughs) Yeah, totally! Totally. Well, let us hope that that happens! Can you tell us anything about the remaining two trilogies you have planned?

MF: Well, I can tell you a little bit. The fourth one I’m not quite sure about yet. I’m actually contemplating a set of thrillers for the next one that are more modern-day stuff. And for the fourth one I’m thinking either science fiction or maybe some combination of three individual one-shot books. So I’m going back and forth between them. Those are still a little bit off for me. Actually I have a really good idea for the thrillers that’s going to set them apart from everything else but I’m not quite ready to announce it yet.

CarpathiaJR: Cool, well we’re looking forward to that, then. And just looking over your Coming Soon list on your web site here, you’ve got – to put it mildly – quite a few plates in the air.

MF: Yeah.

JR: But I noticed that you have here – and you also mentioned that at the end of the month you’ve got a novel called Carpathia coming out. What’s that about?

MF: The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is coming up on April 15th and the ship that picks up the survivors of the Titanic was called the Carpathia. And the Carpathia, of course, is also named after a set of mountains that ring part of Transylvania and is actually the mountain range in which Castle Dracula sits. So the connection here is: what happens if the ship that picks up the Titanic survivors is actually full of vampires on their way back to Europe?

JR: (laughs) That’s awesome.

MF: What kind of hell comes out of that? (chuckles)

JR: (laughs) I think that qualifies as irony.

MF: (laughs) Yeah, I mean my publisher is like, “The lucky ones went down with the ship.”

JR: (laughs) Yeah.

MF: You want to be respectful because this is a real disaster, right? I mean, it’s been 100 years, so that means we can play with it a little bit. But I mean there were a lot of people who died in this, but I’m taking care to be very respectful of the actual real-life individuals. And I concoct a lot of – obviously – fabricated vampires and such to battle it out with each other. So it’s good fun.

JR: That’s excellent. Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we go?

MF: Well, I do also have the Magic: the Gathering comic book I’m doing for IDW, and that’s coming out. The next issue will be on February 29th.

JR: Is that based in like their core world or is there a separate world?

MF: It kind of jumps around. It starts out in Ravnica. They don’t have really one core world, but the first issue starts out in Ravnica and from there it goes to Innistrad, which is where the current block is. It’s a kind of horror-themed block. And from there – I shouldn’t probably reveal where it’s going to go from there quite yet.

JR: Okay.

Matt ForbeckMF: But it’s a four-issue miniseries for that. And then they just announced that we’re going to be doing a second four-issue miniseries starting in the month after that.

JR: That sounds like a lot of fun.

MF: Yeah, let’s hope we can keep rolling on with them.

JR: Well, now if folks want to find you online – you and your various projects – where should they go?

MF: Go to forbeck.com. That’s F-O-R-B-E-C-K dot com. And I try to keep it updated fairly regularly.

JR: I’ve been there. There is a lot of stuff on there and it is all very awesome. Thanks very much for talking to us!

MF: Thanks for talking to me, Jim. I really appreciate it!

JR: Thank you, take care.

MF: You too.

Click below to hear the interview:
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And Now an Interview with Eloy Lasanta

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

(The audio of this interview is available at the bottom of this post!)

JR: I am tThird Eye Gamesalking to Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games and we’re going to be talking about his game Part-Time Gods. Welcome, sir!

EL: Hello everyone!

JR: First off, for anyone who might not be familiar, tell us a little bit about the game Part-Time Gods.

EL: The game Part-Time Gods is where you play characters who are just regular people who have been imbued with the powers of gods. And you are given this huge amount of divine responsibility that you then must go and enact. And there’s a certain amount of juggling that has to be done – as in, you have to juggle your real life versus your divine responsibilities, and going and trying to obtain power is actually the same thing as leaving your mortal life behind. And it’s a fun kind of balancing game that Part-Time Gods has become.

JR: Let’s talk a little bit about the Source. What’s that?

EL: The Source – oh, the Source is the entity within the setting that has released the energy that then produces what a god actually is. Way back in the day the gods actually sealed it away and found a way to kind of siphon its power and it has now recently erupted again and it’s trying to escape. And that’s why now, in the game, there’s a big surge of a lot more gods popping up in the modern day – very suddenly, and it’s because the Source is trying to come back. So you might just be walking down the street – all of a sudden, you get hit with this immense power and you find out that you’re the God of Sidewalks or whatever. And then all of a sudden you have this giant Cyclops coming after you at that point and it’s like, “Wait! What’s going on here?!” And it’s very much about that. It’s very much about a regular person – what if a regular person was put in these types of situations?

JR: So I guess the primary conflict… well, it’s that you have two different layers of conflict, which – let’s talk about that a second. I find that very interesting that you’ve got both the supernatural conflicts and then the mundane conflicts that you have to deal with. I’m curious how you weave that together in the game.

EL: Well, very… very awesomely, I’d like to think.

JR: It sounds it!

EL: (chuckles) The divine conflicts are mostly between the gods, themselves. So a lot of it is god-on-god. You and your other people in your group – they are the pantheon that rules that area. And a lot of the game is contingent upon the pantheon getting along, maybe doing things to countermand each other – kind of like how gods used to be back in the day. Also other gods coming in to try and take your territory or even if you and your group want to go and try and expand into other gods’ territory, you can do that as well. But the way that the game works and how it kind of interweaves the mundane and the divine is you create what are called Bonds during character creation for your character. And these are the things in their life that link them to their humanity, which link them to being a regular person. And as these things come under fire or get damaged, they then start to take on some of the worst aspects of humanity, basically. And then they start to kind of drift away from being a regular person and more into becoming a god. The reason for this is because it’s more to reflect kind of what the gods of myth all kind of represent. You know, and it was Hera – at one time – was a very motherly deity.

JR: Yeah.

EL: And then she was consumed with jealousy and hatred and all of these things, and these are very real things that can happen to your character – where, you know, it’s no longer the love of your wife that starts to motivate you, it’s the hatred for this thing. And it starts to become a balance of you becoming less caring about the things that a human would care about.

JR: How do you set up the mechanics in a game like this? What are the mechanics like?

EL: The mechanics for this game actually follow the DGS Lite, which is a slightly lighter version than the classic DGS – Dynamic Gaming System – which I created for my other two games, Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. and Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade. And this one is broken down a little bit more, but just like the classic DGS it only uses a single d20 and it uses difficulties from 10, 20, 30 and up to 40. And you can go higher as you get more and more powerful but 40 is usually about the max that a starting character can actually get to. It’s a simple – roll a d20, add your attributes plus skills plus applicable modifiers and see what you roll and then see what happens. It works really nicely and the playtests for Part-Time Gods have come back and everybody’s very happy with the results so far.

JR: Okay, that’s very cool. And part of what I guess I was wondering when you were talking about that was if there was any sort of mechanic that had been put in there specifically to represent that whole balancing act.

EL: You know, when you get your Bonds, you have to have actually built them and they get numbers to represent the strength of the Bond. And these numbers are counterbalanced with the strength of your divine Spark. And the more powerful that your Spark becomes, you’ll eventually have to start giving up some of your Bonds or weakening the ones that you have.

JR: That is very cool. I really like that idea because it’s just so often that you see in RPGs where people seem to have superpowers of some kind with absolutely no consequences for wielding them.

EL: Exactly.

JR: That is very good. So where did you get the idea for this game?

EL: It came from me watching a TV show called Dead Like Me, and I was watching the show I mean, like, “You know, that would be really interesting. What if it wasn’t just grim reapers? What if they were just a collection of gods? What if they were a pantheon who sat in a coffee shop just talking about baseball? It kind of became the idea of these very mundane things where basically being a god isn’t what it’s really cracked up to be.

JR: Yeah.

EL: Being a god is actually more of a hassle than, you know, “I’m a divine person and I ought to go on mythic quests!” No, sometimes it’s like, “You know what, I really would just like to go home and eat dinner with my wife but I can’t do that because I have to go get this goblet from the Fire.”

JR: (laugs) “Sorry, I’m going to be late for dinner, honey. I’m fighting Titans this evening.”

EL: Exactly. That’s kind of where the humor of the game also comes out. Anything that I write has to have at least a little bit of humor. I don’t have it in me to write a completely serious thing. So yeah, it has to have a little bit of humor and that’s kind of the tone that Part-Time Gods is taking.

JR: There have been one or two other games that try to do something similar – I believe Scion is one of the bigger ones – and so the question would be what really separates Part-Time Gods from something like that?

EL: When you play Scion, first of all the power levels get ridiculously wonky as soon as you are not like a starting character. And so, I mean, there’s that. Part-Time GodsThe whole thing about Scion was you aren’t really a regular person. You’re the child of a god and you have to go and you fight things that are just destroying everything and you are super-powerful and you eventually become a god yourself and travel and will join the pantheon and stuff. And Part-Time Gods actually leaves a lot of what you would expect from a quote-unquote “god game” behind and I’m trying to really kind of take a new angle at it. The other game that tried this was Nobilis, but then Nobilis is more of a – like you are a concept. Like you’re not a God of Death, you ARE Death. You’re not a God of Enlightenment, you ARE Enlightenment. And that’s why there’s no dice and whatever.

JR: More sort of anthropomorphic personifications rather than gods.

EL: Yeah, yeah. Like it gets kind of weird. And what I tried to do is I read up on both of the games and I’m trying to hit a nice balance between the two. When I say that you can be the god of fill-in-the-blank, you really can.

JR: Whenever I actually get around to playing this game I now have a terrible urge to play the God of Fill-In-the-Blank.

EL: “I am the God of Mad Libs!”

JR: Yes! “I can take any concept and replace it with another concept!”

EL: You know, if I was actually going to be the God of Mad Libs I would just make it sound like you’re saying ridiculous things.

JR: Yes, exactly!

EL: And you have no clue you’re saying it, but everyone else is hearing you saying ridiculous things.

JR: That would be so cool.

EL: It would be hilarious. I try and gear people away from that sort of thing when in the character creation (chuckles).

JR: (chuckles)

EL: You know, there really should not be a Goddess of Cheese or Jeff, the God of Tacos. There really shouldn’t be these types of things. Gods should be like big, mythic, flashy things. You know, like you really don’t need a God of Sidewalks.

JR: Well, the sidewalks aren’t going to go on existing by themselves, are they?!

EL: I mean it’s gonna happen, but I’m just saying… (chuckles)

JR: (laughs)

EL: I try to give people a way…

JR: Doing what tiny amount of damage control you can get in at this point?

EL: Exactly. I also give tons of examples so I try to cover all my bases and – giving lots and lots of examples of different things that you can do with the power sets and stuff like that. So, I’m hoping it goes off well.

JR: One of the interesting things about this project is the way that you’re funding it. You actually have set up a Kickstarter campaign for it. So what led you to decide you wanted to do that?

EL: You know, I actually hadn’t heard about Kickstarter until a friend of mine actually mentioned it and they said, “I saw this kickstarter for Do.” And I’m like, “What’s a kickstarter?” So, they sent me a link to this game called Do and it’s pretty cool, and I went ahead and contributed to that and I started thinking about what I could do. And I like the setup. It reminds me of back in the day when the kings would become a patron to an artist and would take an artist under their wing and pay their room and board and make sure that they had all the materials they had and everything. Then like the king gets to say, “I found this artist and look at all of the wonderful things that I have allowed him to do!” It kind of reminds me of that, only instead of a nobleman, it’s all of the fans. All of the fans get to let me make a game for them. It’s a really fun concept and a fun way of approaching it versus the, “I’m going to release a game and I hope people like it.” You know, it’s more of a, “Hey, here’s what I’m doing! If you are interested in this type of thing, preorder.” Because basically I’m using it as a preorder but I’m also giving lots of incentives, T-shirts, stuff like that. Trying to make sure that anybody who does give to the kickstarter is gonna get their money’s worth for helping up front.

JR: It’s an interesting thing because you feel kind of like you’re a part of the project…

EL: Yeah!

JR: …when you contribute to it.

EL: And I’ve even gone through and I’ve started taking some chances on a couple of smaller projects to see if they go through. You know, and that’s kind of the thing, is – Kickstarter isn’t guaranteed. If you don’t make enough money then…

JR: Yeah.

EL: …it all kind of falls through and then whatever. But if you hit your goal, then it’s awesome!

JR: As of this recording, you’ve still got a bit over a month left if anyone wants to go on and contribute to this project. I think it’s really cool and I’m looking forward to playing it – I really want to play this game. So I really encourage folks to do that. Before we sign off here and we give information for people who want to go and check that out, is there anything else that you’ve got going on you want to give any quick little plugs for?

EL: Yeah, most definitely! The newest sourcebook for Wu Xing: the Ninja Crusade, my second game line of warring clans of ninja, just dropped its first sourcebook and it already has a 10 out of 10 review. So if you guys are waiting for a review, it’s got a perfect review on RPGnet so yay! Just got that today – so happy about that. And the newest sourcebook for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc., which is Demon Codex: Spectrals just dropped a couple of months ago. And it’s getting also very good reviews, so if you’re a fan of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc., don’t forget to go get that thing.

JR: Cool, awesome. I actually have some friends in a gaming group that I think are wanting to try out API sometime soon, so there may be more of that happening.

EL: (chuckles) Well, and we’rEloy Lasantae also working on an API: Savage Worlds Edition.

JR: Oh, cool!

EL: …which I’m really, really hoping that I can get out by GenCon. I’m REALLY, really hoping that we can. (chuckles) It’s hitting all of its playtest marks so it’s looking like there should be no issue, however it COULD not make it, but I’m really, really hoping it does.

JR: Nice! Me too, that sounds great. Savage Worlds obviously being a system I’m a lot more familiar with, so… (chuckles) That always makes me happy.

EL: Savage Worlds is a setting that I kind of fell in love with from the first time that I played it. And you know it has a different flavor from the Dynamic Gaming System that I designed, but both are really fun ways to play. So, API: Savage Worlds Edition – we’ve been working really hard to make sure that it keeps the feel that the DGS has, but reflecting in Savage Worlds rules and it’s coming along VERY nicely.

JR: Yeah, Savage Worlds is moldable enough that you can do a lot of different things with it.

EL: Most definitely.

JR: So that’s always very cool that that’s working out. So if anyone wanted to go online to find you or your site or the Part-Time Gods project, where would they go?

EL: Well, the Part-Time Gods project is primarily on Kickstarter. If you just go to search and hit “part time” it’s gonna come up, it’s gonna be the first one. Our web site is thirdeyegames.net. I also have a blog and that’s eloythesaint.com.

JR: Excellent. Well, I urge everyone out there to go and check it out. And thanks very much for coming and talking to me. I appreciate it!

EL: Thanks, Jim.

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Music by Kevin MacLeod