Thursday, July 31, 2014

[Interview #14] Margaret Weis, Best Selling Author and Game Designer


I'd been playing RPGs for 6 years at this point. I'd read The Hobbit and LOTR, the Wizard of Earthsea and the other books in that trilogy, and more.

A book titled Dragons of Autumn Twilight came out, written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Neither I nor any of my gaming friends recognized either name. We all knew Gygax and Arneson and the other folks at TSR but these two? Who the heck were they?

But we all read it and played the modules through and through, and then read every single book that came after it. The Dragonlance setting was born and has generated tons of novels and game supplements and game play.

30 years later, Margaret Weis has no problem being recognized.

She's got over 50 best selling fantasy and science fiction novels to her credit.

She owns Margaret Weis Productions, which has published a series of licensed movie and tv franchise RPGs: Serenity (2005), Battlestar Galactica (2007), Supernatural (2009), Leverage (2010), Smallville (2010), Marvel Heroic (2012), and, coming full circle, Firefly (2014).

Every time I read the MWP website, I am compelled to throw money at them (yes, I've got nearly all their games and participated in the Firefly Pre-Order).

Margaret was kind enough to sit down with Otyugh Talk to answer some questions.....

On with the interview!

Otyugh Talk: Do you have a favorite game convention that you go to where you can just game?

Margaret Weis: Gary Con is a small convention in Lake Geneva, WI where I can play games with my friends. We also have a yearly TSR reunion with old friends.

[Ed. You can find info on Gary Con here. And cool beans that at least one convention isn't a "I'm at work" convention]

OT: What is your favorite fantasy game and why?

MW: Hah! My own, Margaret Weis Productions, of course. Why? Because we publish Firefly, we have an awesome staff of freelancers and our rules make game-play fun!

OT: What would a Sword of Otyugh Slaying +2 look like?

MW: Mmmm. You got me on this one.

[Ed. Stumped! That's a first here at Otyught Talk]

Thank you, Margaret, for answering.

More interviews to come! Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

[Interview #13] Judd Karlman, Son of Kryos & The Githyanki Diaspora blog

Judd Karlman is the second of the Sons of Kryos interviewed for Otyugh Talk. And he also writes the Githyanki Diaspora blog.

He's appeared on other podcasts, like The Canon Puncture Show with Rich Rogers and Canon Puncture's This Imaginary Life.

Judd wrote and published The Dictionary of Mu, a supplement for Ron Edwards' Sorcerer, that's been described as "Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom meets Robert Howard's Conan meets the Bible." I picked up my copy a while ago and for such a slim volume, it's filled with quality.

I argued with Judd a while ago about fudging die rolls. He said on one of the Sons of Kryos podcasts that if you are fudging rolls, then the system you are using isn't working for you (he said it much better). He knew it was a controversial statement when he said it and when I had the opportunity, I emailed him about it. And then I started thinking about it and I've come full circle: now I roll in the open and my players take the dice as they fall.

And yes, that leads to some very nervous situations....

That, to me, is the mark of a good gaming podcaster, one that makes you think about how you are playing your game.

I was glad that Judd took the time to answer some questions.

On with the interview!

Otyugh Talk: As a fan of the Sons of Kryos, do you have any plans to get the gang back together and re-boot the podcast?

Judd Karlman: Thank you, I'm flattered that anyone remembers our show.

When we first started the show, Jeff and I knew that we could keep the show going for as long as we continued to game regularly, Storn joined and strengthened that with his own broad gaming experience.

Right now, none of us are gaming like we used to, our lives are just in very different places. That said, who knows?! Life is long and strange, gaming isn't going anywhere and Ithaca has a strong pull on all of us - never say never.

OT: You're in a game shop and you pick up a new game that says "this game will change gaming forever" on the back cover. What should that game include in order to change gaming forever?

JK: In order to change gaming forever, before anything else, it has to inspire me to play it. It has to fill me with a burning desire to get home from a long day of work and gather my friends to play or set aside a precious weekend night to dedicate to pursuing this game.

That isn't easy.

[Ed. I have noted that "game changer" is often bandied about in all industries]

OT: How would you incorporate an Otyugh into The Dictionary of Mu?

JK: Demons in the Dictionary of Mu are a part of the history of Marr'd. Maybe the original denizens of the dying planet are the Otyugh? Who knows!

Oghma, son of Ogham might write it up like this:

Otyugh: Foul creatures who kill the unwary making their lairs in piles of human offal. See also, Politicians.

[Ed. Now to find a nice pen to write that in my copy.....]

Thanks, Judd!

More interviews to come.....

Thursday, July 24, 2014

[Interview #12] Glenn Moore, Gamer

I've known and gamed with Glenn for nearly a decade.

Mark Woodside brought him into our game group and he joined our coterie of GMs (yes, his initials, don't think I've missed that) running such games settings as Marine Fighter Pilots during the Vietnam War, Classic Star Trek, Fringeworthy, and Abram's Star Trek reboot.

Three things I can tell you about Glenn:
  • He's the guy responsible for bringing Savage Worlds to the table. Yay!
  • He's the gun-bunny of the game group.
  • Finally, there's always one: he is, without fail, the guy at the table who is going to roll snake-eyes. Often rolling poorly repeatedly. 
In addition to being a good friend and excellent gamer, he's also got a bunch of good stories, including gaming stories (If you ever run into Glenn at a game convention, ask him about "I wack the priest").

Glenn kindly answered questions for Otyugh Talk:

Otyugh Talk: Have you ever played a character out of type and how did that go?

Glenn Moore: Well. I've played a gay psionicist in a Savage Worlds Fringeworthy game and a black cop in "Witchcraft". Both allowed me license explore character behaviors which would have been out of type for other characters.

[Ed. Fringeworthy by Tri Tac Games (a Savage Worlds version is in the works) and Witchcraft by Eden Studios (available free on Drivethru RPG)]

OT: What game renewed your faith in gaming?

GM: Savage Worlds. I had been at a place where I was not looking forward to gaming due to one of the players being a subject matter expert with the current system. I hunted for another system this player knew nothing of with which I could run my games. SW was not my first system, but it has been with me since I discovered it in 2005.

[Ed. As I mentioned above, Glenn introduced Savage Worlds to our game group and it's now our system of choice]

OT: What would be your "elevator pitch" for an Otyugh-themed adventure?

GM: Gentle Ben meets The Expendables, where an Otyugh is convinced to assist a rag-tag group of freedom-fighters for hire to assist in the overthrow of a despot and earns the love of a child in the process.

I'm interested.

[Ed. You have to run this now, Glenn]

Thanks for the interview, Glenn.

More to come so bookmark (CTRL+D) this blog.....

Saturday, July 19, 2014

[Interview #11] Mark Kinney, All Games Considered and The Gutter Skypes

Mark Kinney is a longtime podcaster. Nearly a decade, if I recall correctly.

He's the front-man of the 2009 Ennie Best Gold Award Podcast and 2010 Ennie Best Silver Award Podcast All Games Considered. Over 180 episodes is quite a feat, when many of my favorite podcasts have podfaded over the years.

I don't remember if I listened to him on AGC first or the Actual Play podcast The Rolemonkeys first. It really doesn't matter. If you missed The Rolemonkeys, you missed a great podcast, though there are two websites dedicated to them (1, 2), with a few episodes still there. I am missing a bunch of them, like the Vegas After Midnight session(s), but I'm pleased that I have some of them still on my computer.

Those first two podcasts lead me to others of his: another Actual Play podcast called The Byzantine Game (3 episodes, which he mentions in his interview below, and a short project page), his audio fiction (alas, no longer available), his sit-around-and-drink-beer-and-riff-on-geek-stuff I Wish I Had This Show in Real Life (6 episodes), his watch movies and comment Dice! Camera! Action! (1 episode) and his zombie-inspired Podcast of the Dead (3 episodes).

Besides his successful AGC podcast, his other long-running podcast is another Actual Play group called The Gutter Skypes. With over 130 episodes, they play a whole bunch of good games, games that have inspired me. Yes, they play RPGs over Skype and record it. Another hearty recommendation.

Mark was kind enough to sit down with us and answer some questions.

Onto the interview!

Otyugh Talk: What scenes in games are you completely done with and is that because you've already seen the best or worse example of it?

Mark Kinney: I've started to tire of the travel scene. I made a couple of attempts to do an "agents of King Arthur sent to investigate rumored evil in the Byzantine Empire" game (as once suggested in Ken Hite's excellent Suppressed Transmission column back in the old days of Pyramid) and I'd intended the voyage there to be an opportunity to gather allies. Instead, things would bog down halfway there, and neither attempt really ended up working. Next time, if there is one, I'll likely come up with specific scenes and hand wave the rest.

[Ed. I, too, recommend Suppressed Transmission by Kenneth Hite. First published in Pyramid magazine, then compiled into two books published by Steve Jackson Games. It's available in PDF format here and here for the low, low price of $8 each!]

OT: What game is the dirty little secret that you love to play?

MK: I've usually been pretty open with my gaming, but I suppose if pressed, I'd always wanted to make a game of Kult work.

OT: What's your favorite monster, after the Otyugh?

MK: I remember, back in the olden days, seeing that cover of the Fiend Folio with the Githyanki on the cover, and it fascinates me to this day.

[Ed. Githyanki are a favorite, as was the Fiend Folio – that full page illustration of the Grell was very cool]

Thanks for talking with me, Mark. Good luck on AGC's 2014 Ennie Nomination!

Remember: Otyugh Talk is the only gaming interview blog with interviews with 3 Marks and 2 Tims!

And more interviews to come! (Will it be with another Mark? A Tim? Perhaps an Ed? Who knows!?!?! so stay tuned!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

[Interview #10] Erik Tenkar, Tenkar's Tavern blog

Tenkar's Tavern is one of the OSR blogs and has been around since 2008.

Erik Tenkar writes the blog and, over the past couple of years, has posted on average over three times a day. That's a feat for a gaming blog.

And his stuff is good. Like making OSR monsters unique and a useless magic item. I was, however, disappointed with no Otyugh mention in dungeon potty tricks, but I don't hold grudges.

Check out Tenkar's Tavern, you won't regret it.

And now, on with the interview with Erik!

Otyugh Talk: Have you ever GMed a game where you gave each PC everything they wanted and more problems for the PCs came from it?

Erik Tenkar: Never happened. The closer I've come to giving PCs what they truly wanted, they've always found they've wanted more. It's like a never ending trip around the hamster wheel.

OT: What original tools do you use at the table when you play with your group?

ET: These days, 100% of my gaming is via G+ Hangouts / Roll20, so much of my tools are those new fangled "virtual" tools. So really, there isn't much in the way of "original tools" that I introduce to my gaming sessions, unless it's silly accents. The accents probably annoy more than they entertain, but there you have it ;)

[Ed. my group uses G+ hangouts and Roll20 and they work really well together.]

OT: We have original and Neo Otyughs. What other forms of Otyughs would you make?

ET: I'd probably add Neon Otyughs and Pastel Otyughs - just think of the color combinations :)

[Ed. The dreaded Pastel Otyugh will have to appear in one of my games now]

Erik, thank you for taking the time with Otyugh Talk.

More interviews to come.....

Friday, July 11, 2014

[Interview #9] Mark Woodside, Marchland

Mark Woodside is a good friend and we've gamed together for over a decade, playing Savage Worlds, GURPS, BESM, Call of Cthulhu and more game systems over the years. We are both great fans of H.P. Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu, urban fantasy author Charles deLint and Changeling: The Dreaming.

So it comes as no surprise that Mark is the author of Marchland, a Savage Worlds urban fantasy setting book (and also the owner of Hearthstone Games). A second Marchland book, Uncanny Roads, is still in the works and will be available soon (as a completist, I am looking forward to this).

Mark ran the first Marchland adventure for us back in 2010 (you can read about the three sessions here 1, 2, 3). It was a great game and my PC, who had the hindrance Doubting Thomas, spent the whole game disbelieving that magic or the Fae world existed. By the end of the game, he had became the town's first resident dragonslayer, not that he actually believed dragons exist. Naturally, I was hooked on the setting.

Mark then spent the next couple of years developing the setting, writing, play-testing and finally coming up with a complete color book with evocative art and everything. Check it out, it is very cool. I snapped up a copy of Marchland from Mark and played in a Marchland game last year at Dragonflight.

Earlier this year, I asked him if he was interested in playing in Marchland instead of GMing it (hey, what author wouldn't want to, right? ) and so I ran a game for the enjoyment of Mark and our group.

Marchland: Internal Affairs had each of the PCs as cops in the Internal Affairs department of the Brighton Bay Police Department. Since there's not much police corruption going on, someone in City Hall is using the IA officers as investigators of the "strange and unusual" events going on around town.

Mark created a good background in the setting and I carefully selected sections of that exquisite detail to add to the game. I ran M:IA for a half-dozen sessions and the group faced some pretty interesting challenges. The first 'season' was a success and now I have plans on a second. Maybe I'll write up the game for my other blog sometime.

On with the interview!

Otyugh Talk: What scenes in games do you want to see more of and what is the best example of it?

Mark Woodside: I'd like to see more written about the transition from the "normal" world to the "fantastical" world. I put both of those in quotes, because they are very relative terms in gaming.

So what do I mean by this?

First, I'm a big fan of Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey". You should read it. It brilliantly translates Joseph Campbell's "Hero With the Thousand Faces" into a guide for incorporating the hero's journey into story.

The RPGs we play are entirely derived from these kinds of stories, yet we leave out some of the most impactful parts of the journey. Once the call to adventure (read the book) has been accepted, we GMs tend to gloss over the transition and go right to "Roll for Initiative". I'm as guilty of this as anyone, however I crave the opportunity to try a more extended transition in my own games. Describing the transition in detail, reminding the players that they are leaving their community and it's support structure behind, emphasizing the shift from familiar to unsettling isolation - these things increase the tension and the drama of the game.

You can be sure that this type of gaming isn't for everyone. Some players and GMs just want to kill the orcs and loot the bodies. There's nothing wrong with this. Some of my favorite game experiences have been old school dungeon crawls. But for some, there is greater opportunity for group storytelling that just might create a deeper and more satisfying game experience. Lastly, not all systems are created equal when it comes to this type of gaming. Story games that encourage players to create their characters in-play would probably work better than systems in which characters are entirely generated pre-game.

OT: If you were paid big bucks to create a new edition of a game, which game would you want to revise?

MW: That's a tough one. Can I do two? OK, just one.

I would revise The Whispering Vault. It's a wonderfully dark, moody fantasy game that for its time (early 90's) is pretty revolutionary in terms of system, style, and theme.

By default Whispering Vault is a modern fantasy setting. However, games can take place in any historical period with little adjustment. Players too can be of any time period or locale and there is a lot of freedom for personal expression in character creation.

It's also the only game that I'm aware of that attempts to adapt the hero's journey to game play.

One change I would make is to incorporate the deep character backgrounds of the Nephilim RPG. See what I did there? I sneaked in the other game I would revise. I just can't be trusted.

Both of these games are available as PDFs online. Whispering Vault through Paizo, and Nephilim through DriveThruRPG. Please don't pirate them. They're worth the price.

[Ed. Whispering Vault is available from Paizo and Nephilim is on DrivethruRPG]

OT: How would you incorporate an Otyugh into Marchland?

MW: The Otyugh would definitely be a creature of the Oubliette.

I envision a series of trials in which several Otyugh and the PCs are trapped in a series of mazes. The PCs must collect gems to be used as tribute for the Saffron Queen. Randomly scattered about the mazes are artifacts that temporarily drive the Otyugh into a blind panic during which they flee from the PCs. This is only a temporary reprieve however, so the PCs must collect all the gems before the Otyugh catch them. :)

[Ed. hmmmm, I must use this in our next Marchland: Internal Affairs game.....]

Thanks, Mark, for answering these questions. See you next game!

You can find a  review of Marchland on Game Geeks youtube channel, episode #233 to be specific, and another review on the Solace of Savagery blog.

Marchland is available in print from Amazon and PDF from DrivethruRPG. A Player's Guide PDF is available from DrivethruRPG, too. Marchland eBook, with some cool features (including audio), is also available on the iTunes store (simply search for it and it'll pop up).

Still more interviews to come!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

[Interview #8] Carol at AGC, All Games Considered & Secret Life of Girl Gamers

Carol is another host of the award winning All Games Considered podcast (she joined the cast after Mark and Chris – and IIRC Glondar – but before Mags).

And she co-hosted the Secret Life of Girl Gamers, with other girl gamers. It ran for 9 episodes.

She's edited game books (I don't recall which ones, but she's mentioned them several times on AGC) and has a fondness for libraries.

She also loves Changeling: The Dreaming. It's the game Carol cut her GMing teeth on. A one-shot that was supposed to last one session lasted many, many years. She's mentioned it a lot on AGC.

Carol was kind enough to sit down with Otyugh Talk.

Of course I had to ask her what other genres she liked besides urban fantasy.....

Otyugh Talk: You've talked extensively on All Games Considered for your love of Changeling: The Dreaming, so we're well familiar with your favorite urban fantasy game. So let's switch genres: What is your favorite historical game and why?

Carol at AGC: Well, I'm rather fond of Victorian/Steampunk. Games like Victoriana, Victorian Lost, Space 1889, and Widening Gyre are all fun settings. Why? There's a lot of fiction that inspires my roleplay. Fiction that draws me in also gets my imagination going, thinking "what else could happen in that world?" That's where the RPGs come in.

Books like The Importance of Being Earnest, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Stardust, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series are ones that I re-read all the time (I'm a backer of the upcoming RPG set in the Ministry world as well). I realize that Steampunk is pretty much period urban fantasy, so perhaps that is why I'm also drawn to it.

[Ed. I missed out on The Ministry Initiative Kickstarter. I hope we get one of Carol's famous AGC reviews on it.]

OT: Do you reuse special NPCs for your games and which ones stand out in your mind?

CAGC: Reuse NPCs? Hm. Not really. I have favorite NPCs from the games that I've run. Most recently a White Court Vampire Virgin from House Skavis who spent most of the Dresden game I ran trying very hard not to turn. The PCs were helping him with that. When his girlfriend was killed in front of him, he rounded on her killer and made him feel so much despair that he killed himself, thus becoming full vampire. He now tries to keep some distance between himself and the PCs in order to protect them from his Hunger, but at the same time knows that their friendship helps keep him from killing anyone else. He is studying to be a social worker. It's a perverse way to feed - as he draws the despair of his patients to the fore he tries to help them deal with it and eventually heal. His goal is to help them out of being a food source for him.

I try to create NPCs with the potential for depth and growth. If the PCs are interested in the NPCs, they will (hopefully) grow and develop together. I try to give them lives and stories that do not revolve around the PCs and their problems.

OT: What would be your "elevator pitch" for an Otyugh-themed adventure?

CAGC: I'm not very familiar with Otyugh, but from what I've read here it goes: The PCs come to a town that's pristine, very well kept, and yet no one seems to have a "dirty job." The populace is extremely well-behaved. No one dares start any kind of altercation. They're approached by one of the Otyugh who tell them he and his people have been enslaved as living waste dumps and corpse disposal, and beg their help in securing their freedom.

Carol also commented "Thanks again for choosing me for an interview - this was fun - and thanks for listening :)"

Thanks, Carol!

I've got more interviews in my queue, so keep checking back here!

Monday, July 7, 2014

[Interview #7] Meguey Baker, Night Sky Games

Meguey Baker is the author of One Thousand and One Nights and Psi*Run, two indie RPGs published by her company, Night Sky Games.

She also has an essay in Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters a book published by Engine Publishing, the Gnome Stew blog folks, and participated in Names: The Story Games Name Project.

Otyugh Talk asked Meguey some questions and she was kind enough to respond. Thanks!

Forward to the interview!

Otyugh Talk: What myths exist in the gaming community that you wish would just die?

Meguey Baker: There are several, but the very top ones are that girls/women don't play games of all kinds and that teenage boys are just terrible in general and are to blame for any poor behavior in the community. After that, the myth that a good GM can make a game great - a poorly designed game is a poorly designed game, and if the GM is the only thing making it work, that's a real shame.

[Ed. good examples of myths that need to die!]

OT: Have you ever played RPGs online using Skype or Google+ hangout with Roll20 and do you think this is the future of gaming?

MB: I've played a few games over G+ hangouts, but I haven't used Roll20. It's undoubtedly part of the future - it's part of the present - but it is not the future.

OT: Tell me about your favorite character. Did it ever battle an Otyugh?

MB: My favorite character was a detective in a Cyberpunk game, and no, he did not battle an Otyugh. He hunted a serial killer who turned out to be an honest-to-goodness vampire.

Meguey, thanks for taking this interview.

More interviews to come.....

Friday, July 4, 2014

[Interview #6] Mark Plemmons, Corporia


OK, I'm done.

No, not really.

Mark Plemmons worked at Kenzer & Company for over a decade, co-author of Aces & Eights: Player's Guidebook, Kingdoms of Kalamar: Player's Guide to the Sovereign Lands, plus contributed to Hackmaster and Knights of the Dinner Table and more. He guided over 170 game products through inception to publication while at Kenzer (you can see a bunch on DriveThruRPG).

So, yes, he has game experience.

Recently, he ran a successful Kickstarter for Corporia, an urban fantasy melding the Knights of the Round Table with corporate America.


And the book is beautiful.

I know because, though I missed out on the Kickstarter, I managed to snag a copy straight from Mark.

You can find more about Corporia here and more on Mark's blog here.

Mark was kind enough to chat with Otyugh Talk and here's the interview.

Otyugh Talk: If you were known as The (celebrity) of Gaming (e.g. The Johnny Carson of Gaming, the Dr. Ruth of Gaming), who would that be and why?

Mark Plemmons: I feel like I'd be "The Ben Browder of Gaming." We're both North Carolina natives who left home for a bigger city and worked on some fairly well-known franchises. Now, we're mostly focused on smaller projects that are still in the same realm of geekdom. And we both like Claudia Black...

[Ed. Ben Browder played Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1 and John Crichton in Farscape, favorite characters in both shows here in the Rubbish Pile]

OT: What was the most memorable positive feedback on your work?

MP: The most memorable positive feedback I think I've gotten was how the HackMaster fans enjoyed the "Chainmail Bikini of Remote Eye-Gouging" magic item in that system's GameMaster's Guide. As I recall, it was just something I invented on the spur of the moment, based on a piece of art we'd received that showed a chainmail bikini top with lots of spikes and points. I didn't think any more about it, but over the years I kept hearing about how funny it was.

OT: How would you incorporate an Otyugh into Corporia? Would it be a weird pet of some Morlocks?

MP: If an Otyugh showed up in Corporia, yes, it would definitely dwell in the city's sewer system where Morlocks can sometimes be found - but it would probably eat any of them it encountered! If I were gamemastering a session of Corporia that featured an Otyugh, it would be a unique - and pregnant - creature that accidentally fell through one of the rift anomalies from another dimension. The Knightwatch (the players) would have to track it down and eliminate it before it spawned, and they would have to use force or diplomacy to deal with the other homeless creatures or mutated humans that make the underground access tunnels their home.

[Ed. Spawning Otyughs is my new band name]

Mark also said "Hey, nice to hear from you. I'm glad you're enjoying Corporia! And the new blog sounds interesting - I'd be happy to contribute." and continued with "Corporia is available digitally on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow, and hardcopies of the limited Kickstarter print run can be ordered directly from me, or in UK/Europe from"

This is the first of the Marks I've interviewed so please stay tuned!