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.

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.

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.
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.

Interview with Monte Cook!!!!!

Firstly thank you for making a geek’s dream come true. I truly appreciate you taking the time to talk with us, especially with your busy schedule.

Thanks for asking!Could you please tell us about yourself: age, hobbies outside gaming, so on?I’m 44. I live in Seattle. Besides gaming, I really enjoy writing fiction, reading, travel, music, and movies. I also am really into Legos! So, I’m a big geek.

How did you initially get into playing RPGs?I heard about roleplaying games when I was about ten years old, in Sunday school of all places. Two brothers were talking about a map on graph paper, traps, monsters, and a magical crown. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I knew I wanted in.What was the first gaming system you played in? Can you remember anything about your First Character?D&D (the original, small booklets from 1974) was the first game I played. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I actually owned any rpg products, the first being the just-released AD&D DMG. My first character was a fighter, and I don’t remember much about him. Later, though, I remember having a
ranger named Thad the Brave.Do you get to play in a campaign, how often do you play? When you do, what system do you normally play?Until just a couple of weeks ago, I was in a play test for the new, upcoming edition of D&D. Before that, I was running a variation on 3rd edition with a lot of house rules (most of which appear in the books The Book of Experimental Might I and II) for a few years.

What is your favorite character you have played, could you tell us something about them?

That would probably be Malhavoc, a D&D wizard/cleric that I played long, long ago. He was an evil character that redeemed himself in the end.

Mostly, though, I don’t play much. I run games instead. I’d say I’m the GM about 98% of the time when I play an rpg.Do you have any funny gaming moments?

Sure. Thousands. I think everyone does. One time, a paladin vain about his appearance was on a quest to bring a villain named Helmut Itlestein to justice. He followed him into this otherworldly realm where an evil demigod lived. The demigod told the paladin that the man was dead. The paladin demanded proof to take back with him. So the demigod burned the words “Helmut Itlestein is dead” onto the paladin’s beautiful face.

I can be a mean DM.

Do you have any gaming superstitions?

Not really. I’m not touchy or particular about dice or sheets or anything.

Considering all of the items you’ve published throughout the years, what is the one thing you’re most proud of?

That’s really hard. I suppose it might be the campaign setting, Ptolus, just because it came out so wonderfully. It’s beautiful, it’s a feat of game design and editing (it takes a lot of broad steps forward in how a product can be presented), and I’m still quite in love with the content.

That said, D&D 3rd Edition made hundreds of thousands of people really happy for a lot of years, so I’m proud of that too.

What’s a typical day in the life of Monte in terms of preparing your own role playing campaign

I usually make a lot of chicken scratch notes that would make sense to no one but me. For NPCs, I’ll often just prepare the most important stats, or just take something out of a published source and change what I need to (sometimes on the fly). Basically, I often prepare the big stuff, and sometimes the cool descriptions of things (I’m a very visual person), and then pull together the details on the fly.

I try to make that kind of “on the fly” GMing as easy as possible, though, so I keep things like lists of cool names, books with cool art, and products with stat blocks, cool spells, monsters, and whatnot close at hand.What’s the secret to being a good GM outside of following the official materials?

The number one key is making sure everyone’s having fun. Sounds oversimplified, but if you do that, you’ll run a good game. Fun trumps rules, story, and anything else. And remember, “everyone” includes you, too.

What do you think of the changes the way the RPG industry is currently changing, and heading towards more digital products?

I think we going to see interesting melding of tabletop and digital over the next few years. But tabletop will always have value for its social components.

What’s next for you?I also am writing a lot of fiction. You’ll see some of my short fiction popping up in various places this year.

Do you have any other parting words for all of the gamers out there?

Worry less about what other people are doing in their games, and focus more on having fun in your own. Edition wars are so tired, and have done terrible damage to the game and the audience. If you love your Honda, but someone else drives a Ford, it doesn’t affect how you drive. It’s a game no one is going to win, no matter how pithy your criticism of someone else’s system might be. We’re all gamers, and we all love games.

Interview with the Chatty DM from Critical Hits

First off, let me thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for Fumbl. I truly appreciate you taking the time to talk with us, especially with your busy schedule. And Congratulations on your second
year at Critical Hits!

Could you please tell us about yourself: what you do, age, hobbies
Outside gaming, so on?I’m a 39 y.o. French Canadian Montrealer I’m a self-employed consultant in the field of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Quality Assurance. I’m a voracious reader (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Young Adult and graphic novels of all kinds). I love movies, biking and eating in good restaurants.

How did you initially get into playing RPGs?
One day when I was 9 or 10, a friend showed me this game he had played at his cousins over the weekend. He then made up a game based on his experience. He’d took 2 sheets of paper, gave one to me and a d6. He told me: Write the name of your adventurer on that paper and write “Sword” and “Shield”. He drew a corridor on the second sheet, then a room and drew a monster in it (he was quite the artist) and said: Okay, there’s a monster here, he says you can’t pass, what do you do? And thus I started playing RPGs. For the record, our rules were awesome: Whenever we fought a monster, we rolled the d6. On a 1 the character died on a 6, the monster died. We roleplayed all results in between.

What was the first gaming system you played in? Can you remember anything about your First Character?
Oh yes, we were playing a bastardized version of AD&D 1e (didn’t we all?) and I was playing a Gnome Illusionist! Because illusionist spells rocked in my mind. I eventually changed my mind. 🙂

Do you get to play in a campaign, how often do you play? When you do,what system do you normally play?

I have not played in a campaign for a long time. I’ve been a GM for more than 95% of my games of the last 3 decades. The last 3 campaings I played were D&D 3.5, Star Wars Saga Edition and d20 WoD/Modern

What is your favourite character you have played, could you tell us something about them?

My absolute favourite characters I’ve played were, predictably, NPCs. One was a Halfling priest of the god of food. He was huge, always happy and used a half-eaten turkey leg for a holy symbol. Getting healed by him always left you with grease stains on your tunic.

Do you have any funny gaming moments?
A ton, after 30 years you collect them. One of my fondest memories was this story.

AD&D’s Queen of the Demonweb Pits, the characters enter a room with this huge mirror in the back that just happens to be a very powerful magnet. As the cleric in full late enters, he gets pulled into the room and crashes into the magnet while dozens of gnolls come out from each side of it. The party’s Magic User, seeing so many Gnolls filling the room retreats and casts “Wall of Iron”. When he said that, I paused for a few seconds, looked at the Magic user, and said: “As the wall materializes in the room, cutting off the gnolls from reaching you, you notice it start wobbling. Before you can do anything, the wall flies through the room, knocks down several gnolls and CRUSHES the poor cleric stuck on the MAGNET! I still laugh when I think about that story… I was 15. 

Do you have any gaming superstitions?
Not much… I do kinda like to believe that dice can “run out of juice” but I don’t have a lot of gaming superstitions. I do like to arrange my dice by size though. But that’s not crazy right?

Considering all of the items you’ve published throughout the years, what is the one thing you’re most proud of?

That’s a trick questions for me since I barely started. I’d say two of them: My “When Madness Seeps Through” adventur

e that I wrote for the Goodman Games anthology “From Here to There”. That was my first official gaming publication and I managed to complete it while in in the grip of a severe depression. I channeled my energies to completing the project and it probably helped me recover. The second one was my 1st Dungeon/Dragon magazine articles about level 0 characters for D&D 4e. I’m happy that WotC let me express my crazy ideas for the rules I made and the adventure I wanted to write. They left me a lot of creative liberty and I’m extremely grateful for that.

What’s a typical day in the life of a Chatty DM in terms of preparing your own role playing campaign?
In the last two years I’ve moved campaign preparation to the gaming table. I will make “world making” sessions with the players by asking them questions and using their answers to generate allies, ennemies, places and situations. I then build the first scenes of the campaign with these elements and build the campaign from there. It saves me a BUNCH of time and the scenes are always engaging to the players

What’s the secret to being a good GM outside of following the official DMG’s?
The one secret I can share is this: You aren’t as bad as you think you are, you aren’t as good as you think you are. People show up week after week to play with YOU as the GM, it means a lot. Empower yourself with that. Yet, don’t become complacent and overconfident of your GMing style. Always be ready to become a better GM by listening to and observing your players. Read GMing blogs and forums. Talk to others and try to make the next session a little bit more awesome by trying something you’ve never tried. Try making funny voices, try a non-linear game, ask your players to create the next scene… go wild. The GMing experience is limitless in it’s application, spend your life perfecting this noble art.

What do you think of the changes the way the RPG industry is currently
changing, and heading towards more digital products?

I’ve started running whole session with nothing but index cards, pencils, dice and my iPad. I’m ALL for RPGs making it to the digital age. Books are absolutely great for references (Adventure design)

What’s next for you?
I’ve been hired to be the Development Assistant for the next Marvel RPG event book: Civil War. I can’t wait to tackle that one.

Interview with Filamena Young

First off, let me thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for Fumbl. I truly appreciate you taking the time to talk with us, especially with your busy schedule.

No problem at all. Without dialogue and contact to the outside world, game designers can turn into very grumpy cave dwellers very quickly.

Could you please tell us about yourself: age, hobbies outside gaming, so on?

Age? Ouch. Well, I’m just over 30. Steven King says you can’t accomplish anything serious as a writer before that, so I’ll take it as a good thing. My hobbies include chasing my two kids around, erm, between that and writing, I have no time for much of anything else. I like the occasional video games. Minecraft and the Sims. That sort of thing.

Who have you worked for, what games have you worked on?

So I worked on supplements for Vampire, Werewolf, Hunter and Mage for the New World of Darkness Line for White Wolf. I did a little bit of work on Blood in Feraldyn for Green Ronin. I worked on the High School Yearbook for Margret Weis’s Smallville, and a lot of small stuff here and there, plus the three games my company has put out in the last few years.

How did you initially get into playing RPGs?

About a hundred years ago, when I was young, my parents got me an NES and the first Final Fantasy game. I was hooked, my friend and I spent hours playing it to completion with a Nintendo Power as our guide. Later, my dad gave me a friends old (incomplete) box set of AD&D. It didn’t have all the dice. That didn’t stop me. I GMed for some friends and it was love at first roll. Soon after, I was in highschool playing games probably more than I spent doing school work. (Whoops. Don’t do that, kids in school.)

What was the first gaming system you played in? Can you remember anything about your First Character? 

As a player, I started with AD&D. I played a pacifistic priestess of a fertility goddess. You can imagine, AD&D was not kind to the roleplaying leaning-type, but my group loved it, and we adapted things to fit that style quickly. It got very political and social very quickly.

Do you get to play in a campaign, how often do you play? When you do, what system do you normally play?

I haven’t played a real campaign since the Carter Administration. The closest I get are some longer running World of Darkness chat-style games. It’s a very strange animal and I don’t have much time for even that these days. There’s just too many games to try and too many games I want to make. I miss the five-year long games of my youth, but I know I couldn’t go back even if I wanted to.

What is your favourite character you have played, could you tell us something about them?

It would probably be easier for me to tell you which was my favorite child. When I first met my husband, I had a Requiem character. She was a horror writer, and didn’t have much patience for the sillier sort of vampire she met. It could get snarky, but ultimately, she ended her story heading off to seek vampire-nirvana. A lot of fun.

Do you have any funny gaming moments?  At least a year or two back, we played a semi regular Hunter game. My husband was running it, and all the players were ladies. We did a lot of clever things to handle monsters from a distance, none of us were front-line sort of killers. Ultimately, we decided that there was almost no monster that couldn’t be handled most easily than by hitting them with a truck. The mental hoops we jumped through to get all manner of evil monster into situations where we could hit them with a truck were hilarious. I highly recommend it to any monster-slayer out there. It’s my weapon of choice now.

Do you have any gaming superstitions? (Personally I won’t use a Dice in a game until its rolled 1000 times!)

I don’t think so. I do pay attention to a sort of, mmm… Feng Shui at the gaming table. Sometimes if players are sitting in the wrong place, you know, it’s just not going to flow as well. But that might be practical too. Put the mousey, quieter players nearer to the GM, the loud attention cravers further. That sort of thing.

How did you get started with Flatpack? Where did your inspiration come from?

I wanted a game I’d feel happy about my daughters playing when they’re old enough. I also looked at the sorts of things I wanted to do in a game, and rather than wait for someone else to do it, I did it myself.

Why should we play it? Does it bring anything new to our gaming?

I wanted to focus on non-violent conflict resolution, community building, and borrow back aspects from video games I thought were cool. My character advancement system, for example, is drawn from video game Achievements. You do X, your character is now a little bit better at Y. People seem to be really digging that.

Considering all of the items you’ve published throughout the years, what is the one thing you’re most proud of?

Aww, that’s not fair. I really really enjoyed writing fiction for Amaranthine, our second game, but there’s something about doing all of the development and writing for Flatpack that’s very exciting.

What’s a typical day in the life of Filamena in terms of preparing her own role playing campaign?

Prepare? I’ve heard of it. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually done it. I’ll sometimes write down some clues or plot hooks and NPC notes on index cards, but by and large, I’m a by-the-seat-of-my-skirt sort.

What’s the secret to being a good writer?

Sit down and do it. You can always fix it later. Talking about the processes, reading about it, that’s all cool, but a lot of people let that get in the way. Theory is only good if you apply it to practice. I’d rather be polished through practice than study. JD Salinger types only confuse me.

What do you think of the changes the way the RPG industry is currently changing, and heading towards more digital products?

Yay! More games is better than fewer. More games that break the same molds over and over. That’s the way to go.

What kind of new goodies are coming out from Machine Age Productions?

Aside from the million books I’ll be doing for Flatpack to go along with the Kickstarter, (three, at this point) We’re doing series three of Guestbook pretty much as we speak. Next up, and hopefully for Gencon of this year, David’s designing what he calls a ‘progressive post-fantasy’ game. I’m not sure how he’s going to unpack that statement yet, but he came up with calling Flatpack an ‘Optimistic Apocalyptic’ game, so I’m ready for the fun. I believe the scientific method will be a big part of the system. Also, archeology. Really. It’s gonna be cool.

What’s next for you?

Rumor has it I’ll be working on something that Margret Weis is rolling out now. (Its okay to be a little jealous.) I’m also likely going to be doing a game hack for Evil Hat’s Don’t Rest Your Head book of hacks. After that, it’ll be rushing to complete stuff for Gencon, and having a third kid in May. (Woo!) So basically, I have to type in my sleep to get it all done. But it’ll be worth it.

Do you have any other parting words for all of the gamers out there?

Yeah. We can make gaming better, safer, and bigger with room for all sorts of games and players. We can be welcoming and increase our numbers and make sure the industry thrives. There’s room for everyone, if we just make room.

Brief Interview With Artist Gavin Hargest


Gavin Hargest, or better known as Gav likes to illustrate the dark side and macabre, the strange and the unusual… He can be found lurking the valleys of South Wales situated in the UK which some say he calls home.. Surprisingly his favorite colour is blue.
Adam Could you please give us a brief runddown of who you are?
Gav I’ve been professionally illustrating as a freelance artist for almost 3
years now, not long in the industry filled with godly talent, but I enjoy it, it’s something different and stops me doodling on anything flat I can find . . . .  In my old day jobs that’s all I would do lol.
Adam Have you had any formal training in the fine arts?*
Gav I have a degree in Illustration, a BA(Hons), although back in my Uni days I wanted to become a children’s book illustrator, working solely in bright colours with pencils . . . .  How things change, the moment I left Uni my style of art evolved, or perhaps a better word would be decayed into a dark and gritty representation of modern urban horrors, or just darker styled.  (I like how that long sentence sounds)
Adam What are your biggest artistic influences and inspirations? 
Gav I’m going to have to say I have 2 main influences, firstly the art direction behind the White Wolf books and games, and Tim Burton.  White Wolf has employed over the years an incredible amount of artists toillustrate their dark, game lines, some of the very best the RPG scene has seen.  Of course Tim Burton needs no introduction.
Adam Can you describe your creative process – how you come up with ideas for a new drawing and how you take those ideas and create a finished piece of art. 
Gav The digital medium has become the industry standard for many publications and artists alike, ranging from creating fully digital artwork rendered completely on the computer to just tweaking and correcting real medium art ready for print, I guess my work fits in-between both extremes, while I originally draw the base image in pencils and pen and ink, I later import into the computer to tweak, alter and paint over the original art.  My weapon of choice for such alterations is Adobe Photoshop.
So starting off, depending on a few rough sketches I draw in my main image in pencils, adding ink to darken up areas and add fine line work where needed.  I always like to have my line work present in the finished image, so I tend to make some areas more prominent with selective lines, scribbles even, painting under these markings in Photoshop at a later stage. With the base image in place, I’ll scan it into Photoshop to begin the tweaking, contrast adjustments and the like, to get the image nice and dark and ready for its paint over.  Photoshop is a marvellous program, that makes life much easier to experiment with different concets and ideas from the same image, you  can be bold and try out new things without having to worry about making mistakes, the ‘undo’ button is a life saver and probably one of the most important tools in the program.
I have a lot of markings and textures I use as a base overlay to add a bit of grit to the art, mostly made from random paint splat sessions I have from time to time, its fun but can get a bit messy lol.  I might just scan in some random doodle I’ve done that I may think would look cool on a drawing.  I use Photoshop more as a placement tool, bringing together my original drawing, markings, textures, once happy with the
arrangement I then paint over using various digital paint brushes . . . .  That’s about it really . . . .

Wood Ingham Interview

So for the next dark whispers interview we have Wood Ingham, freelance writer for White Wolf.
Adam: So to get started would you introduce yourself and give a little personal background?
Wood: Right. British, married, two kids, 32 years old, resident in Wales.
I’ve been a freelance writer for five years now, and I’ve had White Wolf as a client since early 2005.
I gamed a lot as a teenager, but gave it up when I went to university, because of girls and stuff. You know. Anyway, about six years ago, a mate of mine pulled out a Call of Cthulhu set he had, and asked me to run it, and it snowballed from there. So I wrote some Cthulhu stuff, for The Black Seal, and Worlds of Cthulhu.
Adam: So was that your introduction to the world of role-playing?
Wood: Pretty much. I ended up buying back a lot of the stuff I gave away and sold, and ended up getting some more WW stuff – I’d been a fan of Vampire and Wraith in their very earliest iterations (I’d given my copies away back in 1994).
…but it was the work I did for Adam Crossingham that made me think I could write for RPGs.(The Cthulhu stuff I mentioned). Anyway, I’d said this before, but I picked up a WW book (won’t say which), and read it with older eyes, and thought, bloody hell, I could do better than that.
Adam: We are lucky you did.
Wood: Thank you. During a big drive for clients in January 2005, I wrote about five pages on a factory farm for vampires, and sent it to WW, and thought no more of it. Will Hindmarch e-mailed me within a fortnight of me having sent it, and that was it, really.
Adam: And has that material been published?

: Yes – it’s in Shadows of the UK.
Adam: Do you have any writing qualifications?
Wood: Not in the sense of professional qualifications. I worked as a technical writer for computer software firm for a couple of years, and started out by sending columns for free to magazines and web magazines. I tended to go for stuff on news and religion, since that’s where I feel I’m best at this writing business.
Adam: What are your biggest artistic influences and inspirations?
Wood: Ooh. Music, a lot. Robyn Hitchcock, mainly. I like stuff that has its own mythology, its own stories, Belle and Sebastian. Arcade Fire, Husker Du and Tanya Donelly. For film: Julio Medem “Tierra” and “Lovers of the Arctic Circle”. Books: Donna Tartt, Umberto Eco, Flann O’Brien, Salman Rushdie, Jorge Luis Borges and Mervyn Peake
I’m fond of 70s Marvel comics – Tomb of Dracula, Tales of the Zombie, Monster of Frankenstein, Son of Satan, Man-Thing, all of which I discovered relatively recently. Also, a lot of European stuff, particularly Bilal’s recent stuff. And 2000AD, of course! The really old Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog stories. It’s interesting, though – it didn’t make a lot of difference to a lot of people.
Adam: Shame about the terrible movie conversion
Wood: Oh, it was awful, wasn’t it?
Adam: I can remember trying to sneak into the movies to watch it, and was so disappointed.
Wood: Dredd’s such a part of our culture – if you’re male and between about 30 and 40 now, you read 2000AD back in the day when it was good – that Stallone’s idea of him just wasn’t Dredd.
Adam: What advise can you give to someone who is starting, or thinking of getting into the writing business?
Wood: I think the important thing is that you’ve got to be aware that it’s not art. It’s a job, and you have to treat it as such. If you’re starting up, you should really refine your skills by writing stuff for people for free, because you’re only going to get paid if you’re really quite good, and for most people, being good needs a lot of practice.
Oh, and take advice. If what you wrote is crap, and someone who knows what they’re talking about tells you that, accept it and go back to the drawing board. Speaking as a magazine editor (it’s one of my other clients) there’s few things more frustrating than a writer who won’t take honest advice on how to improve his work.
Adam: What books have you worked on so far?
Wood: Right. Deep breath…
For Vampire: Bloodlines: the Legendary, Damnation City, Requiem for Rome, Fall of the Camarilla, and one book currently in writing that I can’t talk about.
For Promethean: All five of them.
For Mage: Legacies: the Sublime, Legacies: the Ancient, Secrets of the Ruined Temple, Reign of the Exarchs, Tome of the Mysteries, Magical Traditions
For the General World of Darkness: Asylum, Shadows of the Uk, Reliquary.
For Changeling: the core book.
And the core and three supplements for the game we can only call Number Six.
Adam: There has been a roaring debate on the forum about that one, but it does seem very interesting?
Wood: My lips are sealed.
Adam: Could you at least confirm it has something to do with hunters?
Wood: Francis Urquhart “You might well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.”
Adam: Shame
Wood: I love the speculation.
Adam: Some of the new book you mention, could you tell us about those? Reliquary perhaps?
Wood: Reliquary is out there now, and it’s a book about how to storytell mystical artifacts – and also how to create them. You can create your own, place them, and tell stories about them. The book gives you concrete tools to do it, too.
Justin Achilli, Matt McFarland and the others produced some fine work.
Jess Hartley (interview coming soon), who developed it, is rightly proud of what she led.

Adam: What can you tell us about Requiem for Rome? 

Wood: Well, in Requiem for Rome, you discover that some of things you thought about vampire history were completely wrong, and something’s are only slightly wrong. You meet familiar clans and bloodlines, and unfamiliar ones.
The Camarilla has four wings, and each has its own advantages.
And in the place of the Ventrue are the Gens Julii.
In the book, you get a full overview of Rome and what it’s like for a vampire, people you might meet, and things that might happen. It’s full of guidelines for telling stories from the founding of Rome to its fall…
…and in Fall of the Camarilla, you get a fully-realised chronicle taking you across the fourth century CE and its outcome.
Want to drive in a midnight chariot race?
Want to hold a banquet of the dead and leave to vomit the Vitae so you can feed some more?
Oh – did I mention the social combat rules?
Adam: No please do!
Wood: Well, the Roman society of the dead revolves around discussion, around debate, and the stakes often get ridiculously high. You can lose all status, or even your (un)life if you lose a debate. The mechanics kind of reflect this. Ray Fawkes did a fine job of getting them together. David Chart had a hand, too.
Adam: could these rules be used for modern day chronicles?
Wood: Yes. I’ve play tested them with three groups now, and they’ve all loved them.
Wood: Right. One more question.
Adam: Is there anything that you can give us that is not already available on the forums?
Wood: Hmmm. You get to meet the founders of not one but two bloodlines still active in the modern day.
You’ll discover the nature of the Nemeses, the thing that vampires fear.
Adam: Wow. I think you’ve given us plenty us to drool over. It has been much appreciated. Thank you.

Interview with Peter Mohrbacher

In the second Dark Whispers Instatement, an interview with the artist Pete Mohrbache. who’s work you will have seen in Changeling: Source, Changeling: Fall, Changeling: Spring, Changeling:  Summer, Scion: God, Scion: Demigod, Exalted: Scroll of Kings and Vampire: Rome. You can see his work here
Adam: So to get started would you introduce yourself and give a little personal background?
Pete: My name’s Pete Mohrbacher but I also go by Bugmeyer or One-Vox on the internet. I’m 24 and I have been working as a freelance artist for about 2 years now. I like long walks on the beaches and fine foods.
Adam: How long have you been an artist?  
Pete: I started drawing back in 2000 while I was still in High School. Most people tell me that’s pretty late considering most people say they’ve been doing it since birth. Not sure if that makes me fashionably late or just tardy.

Adam: Have you had any formal training in the fine arts? 
Pete: Not in fine arts per se. I earned a bachelors degree in Game Art and Design with asperations of being a game developer. But I taught myself to paint during my time in college. Turns out the painting has gotten me farther then the degree. The whole experience of being in a creative environment made a huge difference on my development, but the education itself seemed to have a very minor effect on me.

Adam: What are your biggest artistic influences and inspirations?  
Pete: I’m always being influenced by different things and for different reasons. When I started drawing, it was because I was into anime and my work was big googly eyes and pointy noses. Over time I’ve cobbled together different bits of things I’ve seen from other artists over the years. The stuff that has stuck with me the longest is fantasy work with a horrific slant like Kuang Hong or Zdzislaw Beksinski. Its important to me to channel as much of my own energy as possible, because I think its really hard to get noticed if you look a lot like the people around you. 

Adam: Can you describe your creative process – how you come up with ideas for
a new drawing and how you take those ideas and create a finished piece
of art.
Pete: I like to start with key words or symbols. Well…the process truly starts off by drinking a ton of coffee, but then I get to word association. It helps me to get the tone of the piece right. One I start drawing I try to get the core ideas down in the sketch before I start working. But after I’ve gotten something loose, I paint over the whole mess in Photoshop using my 40 40 40 brush. That is a round size flow brush 40px large, 40% opacity and 40% flow. When I need to get something smoother I turn the opac down and when I need to work faster I turn the opac up. I like to use texture overlays to add depth, but I tend to paint into them a bit so they look more natural.
Adam: You do a lot of art within pre-existing worlds. What sorts of challenges does that pose for you? How do you work in your own unique touches and ideas, and are you given freedom to expand on those said worlds? 
Pete: I think a large part of that balance is in the hands of the art director. They’ve got the challenging job of hiring someone who is right for the job for the right pay at the right time. Once you get roped into a project you just have to trust their judgement in picking you. The only way to produce real quality work is to follow your own inspirations, so trying to bend to some ethereal concept of how its “supposed” to look is just going to produce garbage. You still have to follow the style guide, so when a character has big ears you draw big ears and when they are supposed to be jumping in the air you draw them jumping in the air. But when it comes to everything else, you just have ignore all the other artists and ignore what you think you know about the project and just make something that you are truly into. An AD doesn’t want to hire someone to recreate the same stuff they already have, they are hiring someone who will contribute something fresh and interesting to a project. Or at least, that is my experience. 
Adam: So was that your introduction to the world of role-playing?
Pete: The first game I ever saw was the old version of Changeling way back in the day before I was an artist. But I played D&D and then Mage with a core gaming group for years. Unfortuantely, I started getting jobs working on RPGs after I had already fallen away from playing them. Though White Wolf’s new releases are threatening to draw me back into the fold.
Adam: What advise can you give to someone who is starting, or thinking of getting into the art world?
Pete: Be totally obesssed with art or just keep it as a hobby. This is one of the hardest industries to make a living at. Trying to be a famous artist is about as easy as being a famous actor. If you can’t do anything else, go for it, but don’t get into it expecting it to be easy. 
Adam: How did you come to work at White Wolf? 
Pete: They E-mailed me. Apparently one of the art directors saw my Epilogue gallery and wanted to try me out. People ask me this question all the time, and I’m fairly sure that the only way to get hired by them is by reference or google search. But I have no idea really. Those guys seem to go out of their way to avoid looking at people portfolios. I don’t blame them, you can only look through so many hundred awful portfolios before you want to claw your own eyes out. When you are a name like White Wolf, everyone and their little sister wants to show you their doodles. 
Adam: What books have you worked on so far? 
Pete: I’ve worked on 4 of the 5 Changeling books, I missed the Winter book because I was out of the country at the time. I’ve also done a couple of Scion books, an Exalted book and the roman Vampire book. I’ve got plans to do more Changling and Vampire projects. 
Adam: What is your favorite book you’ve worked on so far? Which has been the most rewarding? 
Pete: I had a really good time with the Changeling: Autumn Nightmares. I love that project to pieces, I love the wealth of information Aileen provides with the art notes and that is my favorite court. But I have to say that I crack open that beutiful hardcover Changeling source book every once in a while just because I like the way the whole thing looks. I’m a big fan of the source material that whole project was based off of, so I’m really proud to be a part of any iconic dark faerie literature.  
Adam: What can you tell us about your current pieces? 
Pete: I’ve been slowly updating my iconic Angelarium series. After a few years, they all started to look a bit dusty, so I have been progressively updating them to better represent my current ability. However I have been too busy with contract work to do much of it recently, so I am looking forward to easing up my schedule a bit to get back to them. 
Adam: Can you tell us anything about the summer Changeling book 
Pete: Honestly, I don’t know much about any of the books I work on. Despite having a large amount of source text for them, I tend to focus in on the parts that I am a part of. Though, I have gotten the sense that people are coming out of the woodwork to contribute to this book. Seems like the word has gotten around about how much fun it is to work on or people just like the series and want to be a part of it. The whole flavor seems to be getting very popular thanks to authors like Neil Gaiman. 
Adam: Is there anything that you can give us that is not already available on the forums? 
Pete: There are forums? I’m kinda removed from the whole culture… 
Adam: It has been much appreciated. Thank you.
Pete: No prob.