Monday, June 30, 2014

[Interview #5] Storn Cook, Artist and Son of Kryos

I was aware of Storn the Podcaster before I was aware of Storn the Artist.

Sure, I'd seen his art but it's different when you realize "Hey, I've heard this guy talk about gaming!"

Storn was on the late and much-missed Sons of Kryos with Judd and Jeff. I've got all 60 odd episodes of SoK and usually listen to them from beginning to end every year or two. They are that good. Storn came into the podcast about 15 or so episodes in and added a thoughtfulness to the discussion that I really appreciated, rounding out the crew.

As an artist, Storn has done illustrations for West End Games' Star Wars (he's got his own page on Wookiepedia!), Pinnacle Entertainment's Savage Worlds, as well as other Savage Worlds products (like Winterweir by Phipps Studios), and more. You can find his blog here, his Photobucket here and his Deviant Art page here.

Onward to the interview!

Otyugh Talk: Have you mentored a new GM and what skills did you pass on?

Storn Cook: Yes. To think about balancing an encounter and letting the ramifications of players actions happen without judgement.

[Ed. Yes!]

OT: Are there dice you want that you currently don't have?

SC: No. Not really.

OT: Have you ever drawn an Otyugh?

SC: Yes. A while back and I cannot remember if it was for Kenzer or AEG, but it was some 3rd party dungeon module for open license 3rd edition.

[Ed. Fans, check your 3rd edition products! A free Sea Otyugh starter kitTM to the first minion that provides the info on the product and page!]

Storn also said "Hi Matt.  Thanks for the opportunity to spout off..."

Thanks, Storn, for taking the time.

Be sure to check out Storn's illustrations!

More interviews soon!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

[Interview #4] Timothy Brannan, Ghosts of Albion

Timothy Brannan writes The Other Side blog but don't make the mistake of thinking that's all.

I first read his Zatanna Saturday posts (I mean, really, who doesn't like Zatanna?), his Black Rose five-parter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, a mash-up of TSR's Ravenloft and Green Ronin's Blue Rose settings) and then his various system conversions of the characters Willow & Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show.

Before I knew it, I had ordered one of his books: Ghosts of Albion RPG, published by Eden Studios. The PDF was great but, boy, was I glad to finally get that hardback in the mail. (What I didn't realize was that I already had some books that Timothy contributed to, including the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, Core and Revised Core, and it's supplements: The Slayer's Handbook, Monster Smackdown, and The Magic Box).

Timothy also has written a number of other books, on a subject that he often writes about on his blog, witches. They are Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch and Warlock sourcebook for Castles & Crusades, The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games, and Eldritch Witchery, a sourcebook for Spellcraft & Swordplay.

Timothy was kind enough to come into the Otyugh studio and answer some of my questions:

Otyugh Talk: What was the most memorable critique you had on your work and how did you learn from it?

Timothy Brannan: During the playtests of Ghosts of Albion I was working on a new magic system. I had reworked it and added a bunch of what I thought were cool features. Turned out that my "cool features" not only bogged down the game, but had a neat little loophole in them that let my party of playtesters destroy all my big bads in the first act. The advise I got then was "keep it simple". Turns out this was the best advice/critique ever.

Simple rules are easier to abstract and then they get out of the way. I know old school gamers love their tables. Forget that, give me a unified mechanic, a few target numbers and a rule of thumb and I can run a game without having to pause to look a rule up.

[Ed. Hokey Smokes! I'm sure that was a surprise!]

OT: A shy player is at your table and you are the GM. What do you do to get that player comfortable and involved in the game?

TB: I have run into this situation at cons before. Of course I first need to figure out if the shy person wants to be more involved. Most do, but some enjoy sitting back and being part of the story. As the GM I try to find things that this player's character is perfectly suited for. Maybe they have something in their background, or they have the only skill that can help. I prefer to find a role-playing based solution rather than a game mechanics one. They may have the right skill, but one bad roll can make things worse. So focus what they can contribute on their own.

There really is nothing like the feeling of seeing a shy person come out of their shell with a look of "yes, I can do this!" on their face. In any case people don't get to stay shy in my games. I like seeing a lot of role-playing.

OT. There are unsubstantiated rumors circulating that Gary Gygax almost used Otyughs & Rock-Cut Architecture as the title for Dungeons & Dragons. Do you think we'd have more architects and Otyughs in gaming today if he had used that name?

TB: Where are you getting your rumors? ;) I would have to say no to be honest. The reason the game was so popular in the early days was because "Dungeons & Dragons" rolls off the tongue so easily. But if he had gone with that name Architect would be a class (favored by Dwarves and Gnomes I am sure) and we would have more choices than just Otyugh and Neo-Otyugh. They could have been what the Mind Flayers are now. Except grosser.

Now Otyughs & Oubliettes has a certain ring to it...

[Ed. Hmmm, yes, an Oubliette would work .... or Otyughs & Obelisks....]

Timothy also said "Thanks for the note! I always enjoyed Asshat Paladins! I had hoped to do more with Edith, I liked the idea of a Harpy Witch." [Ed. Yes, Edith was quite the hit with the players and has made several appearances in my games. I hope you do get that opportunity.]

There it is: Interview #4 in the can. Statics have shown that 50% of Otyugh Talk interviews are with people named Timothy, so expect more Tim-Talk in the future! (No, not really. The next few are not named Tim, sorry to disappoint but thems the breaks).

Friday, June 20, 2014

[Interview #3] AGC Mags, All Games Considered

Our third interview is with one of the hosts of All Games Considered. AGC won the 2009 Ennie Best Podcast Gold Award and the 2010 Ennie Best Podcast Silver Award.

I've been a listener of AGC for a long, long time. It's one of my first gaming podcasts.

I don't remember exactly when Mags joined the cast (and, quite frankly, I didn't want to waste a question on that). But what's that matter? She's fit seamlessly into the show and contributed greatly to it's success.

Mags added fresh new segments to the repertoire of the podcast, and soon The Mags the Axe School of GMing (School Slogan: "You must taste blood to be a GM") and the recipe-laden RPG Buffett ("Playing games with our food since 2004") became fan favorites. I, as a fan, heartily recommend them.

Mags is also active in the online gaming forum community, serving as one of the Mods over at, and is heavily involved in Louisville's sci-fi and fantasy convention, ConGlomeration.

On with the interview!

Otyugh Talk: What other podcasts, besides your own, do you listen to and what have you learned from their format that you've incorporated into your podcast?

AGC Mags: I haven't been listening to anything but Welcome to Nightvale (sic) lately, but in the past I've listened to TWiT, the Jennisodes, and Atomic Array.  I have several episodes of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff to listen to.

What have I learned?  The importance of really, truly listening to your guests and not anticipating or thinking ahead to the next stage of the conversation.

[Ed. Atomic Array and Jennisodes are favorite podcasts with the Otyughs. I will have to check out the other three. Thanks for the recommendations.]

OT: Have you ever turned a rules lawyer into an asset?

AM: Yes.  I designated him my Werewolf: the Apocalypse Rules Judge in a Classic WoD Crossover LARP. He was brilliant in the role.

OT: How would you incorporate an Otyugh into your current campaign?

AM: I wouldn't, since (a) I don't run D&D, (b) I'm not currently running a campaign, and (c) I never saw anything appealing about that creature.

[Ed. Oh, the humanity!]

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, Mags!

And thank you, gentle Readers, for joining us today. Check back for more interviews. Announcements to come on my Twitter feed (see sidebar)!


Monday, June 16, 2014

[Interview #2] Neil Gow, Omnihedron Games

Neil Gow is the owner, game designer, and chief cook and bottle washer at Omnihedron Games.

Neil wrote the 2013 Golden Crown Award winning Napoleonic War RPG, Duty & Honour. It's the Sharpe's novels and movies in RPG form.

(I ran two campaigns of Duty & Honour and it is truly an excellent game. You can find Reviews and Actual Play info, including links to my game sessions, here.)

Omnihedron's second Napoleonic War RPG was Beat to Quarters, a game that emulates the naval adventures of Horatio Hornblower and the Aubrey-Maturin stories.

Neil is currently working on the second edition of Duty & Honour and I look forward to seeing how that turns out.

You can also find more about Neil's gaming on his blog, The Bottom of the Glass.

On to Interview #2!

Otyugh Talk: What's your third rule when designing a new game system?

Neil Gow: Ha! A clever question because in answering it you sort of have to think about what question #1 and #2 are and then be tempted to talk about say, 'writing games that I would want to play' and 'always refering (sic) to the base material' - but I'm not going to fall into that trap. Oh no siree! For me, my third rule is 'You cannot legislate for *****s (sic).'

What do I mean by this? Well, if someone is going to try to break your game, mess up the premise or generally do different things with your game there is NOTHING you can do in games design to stop that. So don't try. I'm of the opinion that a lot of systems could be a lot sleeker if you removed a lot of the safeguards against people being *****s (sic) that have been built into those systems.

OT: When a player comes to your game, what one thing should they bring with them?

NG: An extensive knowledge of the rules. I'm terrible at this - I simply cannot keep my eye on the story and the rules, so I ditch a lot of the rules stuff onto the players. You want to play that edge-case class with loads of variables and new systems? Excellent - here's the book; you keep me straight at the table. If you want to use the combat rules including all the fiddly bits, fine - but you'll make a cheat sheet for yourself and hopefully for everyone else too.

OT: How would you incorporate an Otyugh into your current campaign?

NG: As I am just about to start the first playtest for the second edition of Duty & Honour, I think I'd find it pretty damned hard to incorporate one. However, I have just been playing 13th Age and I reckon the Ogre Mage Lords who have rallied the 'Green Horde' to their banners might well have created a couple of them as evil arcane experiments to unleash into the midst of our heroes. Yeah, evil arcane experiments + teleport = chaos at court!

[Ed. You realize that now I've got to use teleporting Otyughs in my next game, right?]

Thanks, Neil, for taking the time to answer these questions. If you need any playtesters for Duty & Honour, 2nd Edition, let me know.

I've got a few more interviews in work, so stay tuned!    

Sunday, June 15, 2014

[Interview #1] Tim Shorts, Gothridge Manor blog

My first interview is with Tim Shorts.

He's the writer of the Gothridge Manor blog. Gothridge Manor has been kicking around for 5 years now (Congrats!) and was made famous for it's Sleestak Sunday posts (who doesn't love Sleestaks?).

Tim is also the author of two gaming supplements: Knowledge Illuminates, a Swords & Wizardry adventure, and Starter Adventures.

And, as a longtime fan of gaming 'zines, I'm very impressed with his ongoing The Manor 'zine. Six issues of this 'zine have been published and you can get them on his site.

Now, on to the interview!

Otyugh Talk: What's your criteria for making a new magic item?

Tim Shorts: My criteria for a magic item is, not let it be generic. I don't want a world filled with +1 swords that were discarded because there is a glut of +2 swords. I like magic items that are simple, but useful. And the more powerful they are the more dangerous they become. Magic has no true master. 

[Ed. Check out Tim's post on the Wand of Horrible Death, truly a unique magic item.]

OT: As a player, how do you help the GM?

TS: As a player I always try to see where the GM is going and play along, but within my character's motivation. This way it moves the adventure along and we get to explore the world more. Also if my character plans on doing something I'll let the GM know at the end of the session what I plan to do. Out of game ways I help, is I am the initiative keeper for combat to lessen some of his duties. Our group has these kind of duties divided up. Someone is the treasurer that writes down all our loot so we can divvy it up later. Another guy sets up the Google Hangout. 

OT: Otyugh (obviously) beats Owl Bear. Then what happens?

TS: Obviously. And it has enough monster xp to raise to the next level of existence to becomes a dire otyugh. It is now a 9+1 hit dice creature, its putrescent skin becomes more durable and increases its AC to 1[18], and it grows another pair of tentacles and gets to attack 4 times with them doing 2d6 each and its horrible mouth wides into a gaping maw that can bites for 1d10 damage. And still maintains the generous feature of distributing fatal diseases. 

Tim also said "Otyugh Talk sounds fun and cool. And I love that it's an Otyugh. They don't get enough love. I had a dead one make an appearance in issue #3." [Ed. The Manor, issue 3, pg 12-13]

Thanks, Tim, for kindly answering my three questions and getting this blog off to an excellent start.

And you're right: Otyughs do deserve much more love and "screen-time" in games.

Stay tuned for the next exciting interview......