Interview with Christopher Margraves of Perpetual Motion Games

First off, let me thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for the all new Fumbl.

Could you please tell us about yourself: age, hobbies outside gaming, so on?
My name is Christopher Murrell, although I write under the name Christopher Margraves. I turned 30 yesterday. Let’s see, I’ve got two daughters so that’s a lot of the “hobby time”. I play a lot of video games, I love to watch Geek TV and kibitz awful movies. I’m also part of a vocal ensemble here in Columbia, MO, called CoMoCabaret.

Happy birthday. Did you get anything nice?
Yeah. I got some money for spending cash, and a really fantastic pink tie.

Ties always make great gifts don’t they 😀
Indeed. I kind of have a collection of bizarre non-tacky ties

What did you mean by geek TV?
Oh, well, your traditional stuff like Dr. Who and Firefly. But, also Warehouse 13, Haven, Supernatural, stuff like that.

Can you tell us about your work?
Ah, yes, of course. I work for a Food Service Management company. We handle contracts for various institutional sites, like colleges, and government buildings, and we do their dining halls. It’s a smaller company that actually allows the site director to cater the menu, and administrative needs to the specific school, or site, unlike a lot of the bigger ones. I’m an administrator for one of the sites. I handle a lot of paperwork, and help run catering events.

And whats your connection to Perpetual Motion Games?
I’m an owner, and I am the President/Product Manager. It’s my baby. There are about 6 of us that are investor/owners, but only a few of us actually write/produce for the company

And what does your company do?
We are a Savage Worlds Licensee, via Pinnacle Entertainment Games. Our intention is to produce Tabletop RPGS, as well as eventually branching into board/card games. We are working on our own system, called the Momentum Engine, but are also producing setting books for Savage Worlds. We are the creators of the Exemplar setting, which recently failed to meet its Kickstarter Campaign Goals, and we are working on cleaning it up, and trying again as an E-book release.

What Did you learn from your kickstarter?
Good lord. So much, let’s see. Creating your initial KS launch is vital, having a consistent visual language throughout the main page, a good video the whole deal. A lot is decided in the first few days. Also, I think companies that let people actually get their hands on some of the content right of the bat, are going to do better, we really missed an opportunity in not giving samples out. Right now, I think looking back, one of the frustrations is the price issue. We went through a very reputable company for price quoting, it would have been brokered with overseas printing. The book was planned to be full-color, about 200 pages, hardback etc. That’s not cheap, and there are a lot of people who are pushed back by the price. Hell, I was terrified of the goal myself. The issue is, a lot of the suggestions were to use lower grade printing, which I wasn’t willing to do, because books that look like junk, and fall apart don’t create any trust in the company. That’s why we decided to do e-book launch next time.

Do you think there are any downsides to eBook publishing?
The smell. I’m a dyed in the wool book lover. It’s actually part of my degree. I have an art degree, and much of my work was focused on Book arts. E-books, means there is no book smell. Nothing to hold. It means computers at the table, which I hate, it means nothing to throw in your backpack to read in between classes, or at the park. There’s also very little wow factor, and NO impulse purchase from your FLGS.

What can you tell us about Exemplar and why did you decide to go with the Savage World System?
Exemplar is a super hero setting, set during the 1100’s. Rather than just a window dressing for a traditional 4-color super hero game, our goal was to create a “realistic” setting. We wanted to explore what would have happened if super powered beings had suddenly been introduced to the Dark Ages. how would things have changed? How would they have been seen? So that’s what the game is about. It’s about playing Super heroes, tied to each other, and their liege lords by oaths of fealty, which to those that would have lived then, would have been considered unbreachable. Combine that with the intrinsic knowledge that you are stronger than all of the people who you have to protect, who you swear your oaths of fealty too, and you have a game that combines traditional “punch-em-up” superheroism, with dark, moral conundrums. Add in the political machinations of the Holy Roman Empire, and you’ve got yourself a full service RPG setting.

As to why Savage Worlds, it comes down to two things. We are all fans of it. I love Deadlands, and Sundered Skies. PEG does phenomenal work, and their system is tidy in a beautiful way. The system also lends itself to action games. I don’t always think it has the most realistic combat system, but it’s fast, and fun (and furious 😀 ), and it allows for tricks, and stunts, and wants characters to use their environment. It’s just a great set of mechanics for a superhero game to start with.

How did you initially get into playing RPGs?
Well, 23 years ago, yesterday, my father ran me in my first D&D game, and my mother gave me a hand sewn dice bag, and two sets of dice. I played D&D with my family for years, got into White Wolf when I was about 11 or 12, and did that mostly for about 15 years. I’ve wanted to write my own system and setting for years, and PMG is the quasi-realization of that dream.

Masquerade or Requiem?
:Laugh: Requiem was nowhere near around when I was 11. I was actually a Mage: The Ascension player first. Although I love all of the Old World of Darkness games. I have played New world, it just doesn’t spark my imagination the same way. Although I feel I should give a nod of appreciation, and say that Changeling the Lost is one of the best written RPGs I’ve ever played.

vamp
I can certainly agree with that, there’s a lot of great writing in that book

What was the first gaming system you played in? Can you remember anything about your First Character?
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I played a 15 year old first level fighter named Christopher, who hated orcs because they killed his village.He was not a very deep character.

ADND
Do you get to play in a campaign, how often do you play? When you do, what system do you normally play?
That’s a rough one. I’m not currently playing in any campaigns, a friend of mine recently wrapped about a year long game, that was sort of home brewed using the Chaosium system. I’m tentatively running a 4th ed D&D game, but we haven’t played for a bit. Because of a new job, and schedule conflicts, we really haven’t done a lot recently.I like to play Savage Worlds, or home-brewy White Wolf pretty frequently, although I’m considering running something in the Momentum Engine (our system that’s a WIP) pretty soon.

Did we just get an exclusive from you?
Yeah, that’s what we call our system. It’s just not quite finished yet.

What can you tell us about it and why are you going with your own system?
‘ll answer the second question first. I love pieces of a variety of systems, but I, like I imagine most gamer’s feel, think that there’s something missing from each of them. I could just home brew everything to do, which I sometimes do, but I have grand designs of giving people the tools to run the game they want to, without having to jury rig it to death.  What I will say, is that there is an attempt to create a game, where there are base rules, and then what we’re calling modules, to change the game to fit your play-style. For Example, the base rules may have a relatively cinematic combat style for damage, think Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, maybe even just D&D. Our plan then, would be to include a module to change the damage rules slightly to be more realistic (Think war movie, or just real life). It would be a generic system, but easily customizable, to be exactly what you want. Our vision statement is : We aim to become a leader in the gaming industry by inviting gamers into our stories like family, giving them the keys to new worlds and inviting them to treat them as their own. That’s Momentum Engine in a sentence. We want to create delicious games, but then give people the tacit permission and invitation to take them apart and put them back together again. Which, i think all companies do to some extent. But rather than just say, go ahead, we’ll show you where the stitches are, so you don’t tear anything when you take it apart.

What is your favorite character, and what can you tell us about them?
Guh, I’m not sure. I run games way more often than playing. It feels like choosing which of my daughters I like best :p

Does that mean you have played a female character before?
:laughs: Yeah, I have, but I just meant that choosing is difficult, they are all different. If I had to choose, I think it would be Langston Meiers, he was a Daeva NWOD Carthian, LARP character in the former CAM LARP organization. Prince of the city, die hard humanist, smart ass, just an incredibly difficult and complicated character.
200px-LogoDaeva
A humanist Vampire?
Yeah. He really hated the douche-y vampire trope. I always have, I try to play characters grounded in being people, and so I took every opportunity to call people out for bad acting, and terrible choices. To him, being undead was a fact of life, being a traditional vampire was a choice, that he didn’t particularly respect.

Do you have any funny gaming moments?
Guh, I don’t know. I usually play really serious/dark/scary as hell games. I asked my wife, and she wants me to say “I don’t do laughter, I do tears.”  I did run a LARP scene once where my wife’s character chased a friend of ours’ character through a hallway trying to beat her into torpor. She was doing it to protect her from the person she was blood bound to, so she was apologizing the entire time. The best part was that she kept failing her tests, so she was just beating on the other character with no damage, for quite a while it was sad really. Just this Gangrel chasing down a Daeva yelling “I”M SORRY” while punching her in the back.

Do you have any gaming superstitions?
Well, I just deal with the fact that I won’t succeed at rolling.. Other than that, not really. I try not to touch other people’s dice, because I don’t want to infect them. Also, if I am running D&D, the players are fine, as long as the encounter isn’t supposed to be easy. If it’s intended to be easy, they will fail every roll, and I will destroy them with crits.

What’s a typical day in the life of Christopher in terms of preparing your own role playing campaign?
Guh, I don’t really “prepare”. I feel that when I do, it goes terribly wrong. So I’ve just always been an off the cuff GM. I tend to prep more for D&D, but I don’t run it as often.

What do you think of the changes the way the RPG industry is currently changing, and heading towards more digital products?
Hm. Well, I appreciate that OGL seems to have died. I like that people are innovating again in a major way.
Digital products are fine, but again, the earlier comments about books as a physical object being important to me. One of the biggest pet peeves I have at this point, is Kickstarter being used as pre-sale for large companies, who really don’t need the money. It was started as a way for small business to get their ideas out with little to not start up cash, and it has gotten away from that quite a bit.
ogl-logo (1)What’s next for you?
Hopefully, this Summer, I can get back on the right footing and get PMG re-focused. We want to get our E-Book Kickstarter for Exemplar ready, which means re-tooling our Superpowers section and getting stuff tidied up in the adventure section. I’d like to get Momentum Engine moving towards play test, and that’s really about it for right now.

Do you have any other parting words for all of the gamers out there?
Hm. It sounds a bit goofy at this point, but I always end posts and updates and such with a quote from the Abney Park song, Letters Between A Little Boy And Himself As An Adult, “Never Stop Playing”

Whats that mean to you?
I never really stop thinking about gaming in some way. I always fiddle around with ideas for settings, or characters, things like that. When I play MMOs, I Role Play while playing, even when I’m by myself. The idea of playing is something that we miss out on as adults, and I think that that sense of wonder is needed, and healthy. Just, try and remember what it was like to get a big present when you were little, throw it aside, and pull the box apart to build things with it. That’s playing.  That’s what we’re missing.

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