A few days ago I did a quick interview with Charles White about his crowdfunding project for Olympus, Inc. It’s the first foray into a full-blown RPG setting for his company, Fabled Environments, and it presents a very interesting take on Greek mythology – as seen through the lens of the modern world.
The Indiegogo campaign is ending very soon! It’s running until Tuesday, April 26th, so I urge everyone to go and check it out! You can find that campaign HERE.
Music by Kevin MacLeod
Sorry about the delay in getting this one posted, folks. This week I’ve been doing the literary equivalent of trying to ski uphill during an avalanche. So I’ve been a wee bit more distracted than usual.
This time I’ve decided to geek out about Deadlands, a Weird Western role playing game. I talk a bit about the game in general, my experiences with it and the various Deadlands campaigns I’m running these days. I also talk a little bit about why I think these particular kinds of genre mashup games work as well as they do.
(No jackalopes were harmed in the making of this podcast.)
(The audio of this interview is available at the bottom of this post!)
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.
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.
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.
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. The 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).
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)
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…
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…
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’re 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.
Click below to hear the interview:
Music by Kevin MacLeod
(The audio of this interview is available at the bottom of this post!)
When I went to ConCarolinas this year I got a chance to sit down and talk to Joel Kinstle, VP of Pinnacle Entertainment Group, the makers of Deadlands and Savage Worlds. The interview was for one of the shows I do on War Pig Radio and we talked mostly about the Savage Worlds Showdown rules – and tapioca! Here’s the interview in full.
JK: Well hello, folks!
JR: Greetings, sir! And the specific thing that I wanted to talk about today is the Showdown rules, skirmish rules for Savage Worlds, because I don’t think that gets very much attention.
JK: Well that’s kind of sad. They’re actually very nice rules and, special bonus: they’re free!
JR: Yeah, that’s always the really awesome thing. You guys are giving things away left and right. It’s like, every time I go to the web site, they’re giving away more stuff and I’m like, “I hope they can stay in business!” (laughs)
JK: That’s because we love our fans so much and are such foolish business people that we’re desperate for milk for our children. All donations are welcome!
JR: (laughs) Awesome. Just for those who may not be familiar, how do the skirmish rules differ from the regular RPG rules in general?
JK: The skirmish rules differ from the regular RPG rules in general in that they focus pretty much on the mechanical aspects and tabletop use. All the Hindrances and most of the social Edges that you might run across tend to be washed out or transmuted into something that would apply on the tabletop. Some of the Edges that tend toward being social or like a quirk that may be in how you play a character get defined mechanically in a way that you can repeat on a tabletop setting. That doesn’t really make for a good role playing experience, but the role playing experience does not translate at all directly to a pure minis game.
JR: How many different Showdown settings do you have out right now?
JK: The Showdown rules, themselves, the 2.0 version, are somewhat recent. Probably out for about five months or so…?
JK: But, my brain’s something like tapioca, so you’re gonna have to take that with a… well, grain of tapioca.
JR: I know the feeling.
JK: (chuckles) But, what we have out right now for them is… we have a couple of scenarios that are not really so much setting-specific on the web. We have Raid on Fort 51, which is a Deadlands-specific scenario. It’s really more of a mini-campaign. It’s a series of engagements that things change for one engagement based on what happened in the prior engagement, and the force makes changes a little bit as the story unfolds and that’s a product for sale on the web site. We’ve got a Weird War II scenario that will be coming out on the web site hopefully soon. I’m not sure what will be the next piece out but it can be easily suited to any of the settings. If you could’ve played it in Savage Worlds, you can play it with Savage Showdown.
JR: That’s cool. Now, I remember Rippers started as a Showdown setting, didn’t it?
JK: Well, for the history of Showdown – for those folks who remember The Great Rail Wars, which was the minis version of Deadlands – Deadlands Classic – that was the game that’s kind of turned into the Savage Worlds game itself.
JK: And so, distilling it back down to minis only wasn’t so tough since a lot of that had really already been done. But with prior rules and trying to get everything balanced out there was still some work to do to it. So, the minis game that came of Deadlands Classic turned into Savage Worlds, which produced, of course, Deadlands: Reloaded. (chuckles) So really, it’s all very much related. There’s a lot of similarities amongst it all. Rippers: The Horror Wars was sort of a Great Rail Wars or Showdown-ification of the Rippers setting. There’s nothing out there right now for Showdown 2.0 that is in the Rippers setting, but that’s a setting that’s rife with stuff that can be turned into Showdown.
JR: Well, it seems to me that virtually any setting, because of how simple Savage Worlds is… and by simple I mean easy to play with!
JK: I know what you mean!
JR: (chuckles) It seems to me that any setting – any of your settings could easily be converted over to a Showdown setting.
JK: Oh, they really could. But what you don’t tend to have is a lot of the social, discussion, investigation. Because at that point you’ve turned it into a me-versus-you or us-versus-them fight game. Which I’m not about to say is a bad idea! There’s a lot to be said for sitting down and going, “You know, that boy needs to die.” And putting him down. There’s a LOT to be said.
JR: Well yeah, sometimes you’ve just gotta go bust some heads. But, er… I know that there was probably another question in there… floating around in my melon and I… have to now fish for it…
JK: You may borrow some of my tapioca. (chuckles)
JR: Ah, thank you! I appreciate it! Mmm… delicious Brain Tapioca… (chuckles)
JK: For the younger folks out there, tapioca used to be a form of pudding that only old people like me and my father ate.
JR: (laughs) I remember tapioca! We used to have that served to us in my grade school cafeteria, and that’s probably… I’m going to try to blame the fact that I can’t remember my next question on the fact that I was served tapioca as a child somehow…
JK: I will admit that I’m wandering very far afield here, but when I was in elementary school our lunch ladies tended to like to make homemade chocolate pudding, which was great! The pudding was excellent. But they really did make homemade-cooked pudding, so they would always end up with this not quite inch-thick layer of skin on the top that they would pull off, cut into squares and give to children who wanted it. And there were FIGHTS for that stuff, man.
JK: There is no accounting for the taste of children. But since I never had it, in full fairness I can’t claim it was horrible.
JR: (groans) I can’t imagine – just the… They get into fights over pudding skin in a school cafeteria… I think…
JK: I grew up in a rural area. (chuckles)
JR: Well, you know that actually… You’re talk about kids getting into fights in a school cafeteria over pudding skins. That… You may be coming up right now with a possible new Showdown setting.
JK: That could EASILY be a Showdown scenario! Special bonus points if you dunk the nerdy kid straight head-first into the pot.
JR: That would be great! (laughs) Well, let’s see… Is there anything that you can tell us that we might look for in the future at some point with respect to the Showdown rules?
JK: The Showdown rules are broad and kind of all-inclusive and occasionally when you try and use the building tools to simulate a specific setting very closely, you can run into a few points mismatches. You can produce something that just seems like, “X seems more powerful than Y, but really, shouldn’t Y cost less, I mean something’s wrong here…” They’re kind of rare, but when you’re trying to pin something down PRECISELY, if you’ve got that persnickety feel that you know exactly how that setting ought to go, it can go a little bit around it. And one of the things we’re considering doing is making setting-specific packages for Showdown. Like, perhaps – and this is pure speculation – perhaps repackaging an actual Great Rail Wars-specific set of Showdown bits.
JR: That would be cool!
JK: Or something like that for some of the other settings. I would say the ones most prone to having so much combat that you’d want to do that for would be Great Rail Wars and the Weird Wars lines. What I CAN promise, though, for sure, are more actual Showdown scenarios that’ll be up on the web site and maybe some more freebies for it as well.
JR: Awesome. Well, believe it or not – perhaps it was the ingestion of tapioca, I don’t know – but my brain has returned to me the question I wanted to ask.
JK: Oh, so we’re getting to the ambush part of the interview, is that it?
JR: Potentially, potentially.
JK: You can’t prove I was there, I tell you!
JR: Ah ha! I’d like you to look at these photos and tell me your immediate reaction…
JK: Never seen that girl before in my life.
JR: Wait… those are the wrong photos… never mind. (chuckles) ANYWAY. Well, one of the questions I wanted to ask is have you had a chance to play the skirmish rules at all at any point?
JK: A little bit. I’ve honestly not played a whole lot of them myself because when I have gamer buddies handy, they tend to be handy in big “we wanna role play” clumps. I don’t tend to have the occasional gamer buddy show up and just want to blow stuff up.
JK: If they’re mad, they just want to blow stuff up, they don’t come looking to me. (laughs) I’m not sure exactly what that says but it tends to be true.
JR: (laughs) Well, you know, yeah… I was gonna ask what you think your favorite setting might be for use with the Showdown rules?
JK: My favorite setting… One thing I’d really like to see done in Showdown rules which I think would be very nifty – and now that you’ve brought it up I think I may have to set somebody to it – is some material for Sticks and Stones. Sticks and Stones had come out as a minis game a long time ago and we’ve reproduced it in a different format. Last year it came out as a card game. The actual role playing game is in the works. So, yes, I’m sure somebody out there will have an “Ooga Booga” stat, but… (chuckles) or perhaps it’s a skill, I’m not quite sure. It’s not finished yet. But having some scenarios for Sticks and Stones I think would be a lot of fun.
JR: I’d love to see that. That would be great. If people want to come and find your products and they’re roving about online, where do they go?
JK: They would go to the Pinnacle home page, which is www.peginc.com.
JR: Thanks very much!
JK: Any time, happy to help.