It was one of those news stories that hit my inbox and immediately made me think, “this will be big”.
Polarity owned Magnetic Press had set up a company, Magnetic Press Play, to get into tabletop games. Furthermore, they had dieselpunk Carbon Grey as the first project and West End Games on board with the D6 System.
That’s the same system that once powered Star Wars.
The Kickstarter for Carbon Grey is now live. The project has been funded, is still live, and showcases some gloriously deadly mechas that seem well suited to the paranormal-laced wartorn world.
I was able to catch up with Mike Kennedy, the Founder and Publisher of Magnetic Press Play, and Andrew E.C. Gaska, the Creative Director and Lead Writer, over the interwebs’ magic and ask some impertinent questions.
For people who don’t know Carbon Grey, what can you tell us about it?
CARBON GREY was a comic book series created by Hoang Nguyen, Khari Evans, Paul Gardner, and Kinson Loh originally published by Image Comics a few years ago. It introduced an alternate universe very reminiscent to WWI, but with elements of the supernatural and wildly anachronistic technologies. The central plot of the series focused on Giselle and Mathilde Grey, the youngest twin sisters in the Grey lineage, descendants of a fabled demigod who pledged allegiance to the nation’s Kaiser. But a prophesy suggested that one of the twins – the 13th Grey – would bring about the end of everything. The question, however, was which one of them was the prophesy referring to…?
It was a beautifully illustrated tale of freedom vs destiny in an age of war and uncertainty, and the world was full of intriguing subplots and intense action. The series was very successful at the time, with multiple reprints, sequels, and trade collections (that have all gone out of print).
Why did you choose Carbon Grey as your first property to do a game for?
Aside from some personal creative involvement with Hoang when he originally started outlining the graphic novel series many, many years ago, it always seemed like a really cool, unique, and expansive universe that would be fun to play in. He and I first met while working in video games at Namco Bandai, so our thoughts tended to lean towards video game adaptations, but as the years went by, a tabletop RPG adaptation seemed just as exciting (and within easier reach). So once Magnetic Press was in a position to start developing tabletop products, it was one of the first properties that came to mind.
What does success look like for the Carbon Grey roleplaying game?
Do you mean success as a player? As a social role-playing game, there aren’t any “winners” or “losers”, but certainly good or bad things can happen to your character depending on how you react to situations. Do great things and you can level up, gain powerful loot, build influence with other characters and NPCs within the world, and discover deeper and more intriguing secrets. Of course, like all good RPGs, the dice can roll in the other direction, and you could die (if your GM is the type to play with that degree of absolutes). It is set against a wartime backdrop, and there are lots of enemies and monsters who will try to kill you!
If you’re asking what “success as a product” looks like, for us, that would mean bringing as many people as possible into the world of Carbon Grey and keeping them there out of pure interest and excitement. We have multiple expansions already planned, from Solo Play Adventures to a complete Arial Combat Expansion, so we are ready to keep fans engaged once we’ve got them on board.
Why the D6 System? In what ways do you plan to modify it, if at all?
Many of us on the team have been playing TTRPGs for decades, and while it can be exciting to try a new system from a new company, that comes with a lot of uncertainty and a steeper learning curve. By starting with a proven system, we are able to put more creativity into the world itself, rather than worrying about debugging and balancing brand new mechanics from scratch. We all loved the D6 System from West End Games for its streamlined accessibility and expandability, and after some creative discussions with WEG, it felt like a perfect opportunity to bring it back in a big way.
While there have been a few iterations of the classic D6 System over the years, we chose to go back to the original and then build from there. We are adding a number of cool features that will help identify ours as the “Magnetic Variant (D6MV), things like genre-specific traits, Quirks and Obligations, and new ways that the system’s famed “Wild Die” can affect events.
Will you be doing other products in the Carbon Grey line (boardgames, TV shows, etc?)
We do have several game expansions outlined, pending the success of this initial campaign and release. It is a rich world with a lot of interesting territories and scenarios to explore! We are also offering a deluxe hardcover omnibus of the original sold-out comic series. Hoang, Paul, Khari, and Kinsun have started work on a follow-up series that will offer further expansion opportunities. As for other media, TV, etc, it is absolutely at the top of our current pitch deck!
And what about other titles for D6MV? Anything planned? Perhaps your anime titles?
We can’t answer that in detail as of today, but very soon! Without going into specifics, we are discussing several exciting licenses (including some anime titles), but part of those agreements include strategic timing of announcements. I can say that hopefully we can reveal one or two of them in the next few weeks (hopefully while the Carbon Grey campaign is still running).
Rest assured, however; the D6MV System will be the basis for the majority of our original game designs. It’s ease of use and flexibility allows for some really exciting and new types of adventuring that will fit some of the yet-to-be-announced brands really nicely.
Can you tell us anything about those anime conversions?
Net just yet. Stay tuned! Soon!
You’re talking to Chaosium about Call of Cthulhu as well. It’s an impressive debut. Are these personal connections, good networking, the helpful arm of a big parent company?
Unfortunately, we can’t discuss anything about this either at the moment.
How much of a splash for Magnetic Press Play need to make to justify all this time you’re spending?
We have been approaching this new venture as a complete expansion of our business, beyond our award-winning Graphic Novels, with several projects in the pipeline already. We definitely would love to make a huge splash right out of the gate, but not as a painful bellyflop that gets us kicked out of the pool! We are committed to growing into the marketplace and learning from the community along the way. Gaming is an interactive medium, and we want to be interactive with the audience so that they are happy with our products and confident in our ability to deliver top quality. It is a ton of work, but nothing worth doing is easy. The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
Where do you see the market going? Could there be a cool down as lockdowns around the world ease?
Speaking only as a publisher, the ongoing global shipping congestion continues to be our biggest challenge. The costs of shipping goods has nearly doubled in 12 months, as has the length of time it takes to get goods from factory to warehouse. (And don’t even get me started on how complicated VAT has become…) With it now being twice as expensive and taking twice as long to deliver goods to consumers, direct-to-customer sales (such as crowdfunding, direct webstore offerings, etc) have helped to streamline some of the overhead that might otherwise require publishers to raise their prices. We’re rooting for the specialty retail market to bounce back strong – people still want their comics and games! – and we want to help those shops bring people into the fold once they are able and comfortable to do so! It might require some creative problem solving to navigate the shipping (and VAT) situation to everyone’s benefit.
We’re curious to see how Carbon Grey develops. What should we expect to see from Magnetic Press Play next?
Thanks! With our Quickstart guide now available, we’re excited to start engaging in tangible conversations about the product features and the rest of our D6MV system as a whole. As for what’s next, hopefully you will see some exciting announcements very soon!
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