Starting in this September’s issue of the free RPGNow’s Downloader Monthly GameWyrd is interviewing RPG publishers, authors and artists involved in the PDF RPG industry. This means there can be twice as many interview victims for Echoes from the Wyrd! This month the “lucky” candidate is industry veteran Philip J Reed.
You’ll always see this monthly interview in Downloader Monthly first and then the encore here at GameWyrd. This month the free ezine looks at the Nuts and Bolts of the Action! System, has a round up of the latest PDF releases, V Shane’s “Whack it Good!” comic, top ten PDF RPG charts and some other stuff. It’s well worth taking a look.
GameWyrd’s questions appear in strange blue, Philip’s answers are in typical black.
1) You’ve done lots of work for Steve Jackson Games over the years. Do you think that’s affected your outlook on roleplaying as a hobby or as a profession?
Very much so. While some games are still a lot of fun to play I find myself playing more games as a part of my career than as a hobby. Working with Steve and the others at SJGames has forced me to look at games as more than just a relaxing pastime and focus more on the details. By nature I’m a “loose with the rules” sort of guy – which I think shows in some of my work – but working on professional games has forced me to improve as a rules writer.
2) How does designing and writing a product entirely by yourself and for yourself differ from working with a larger company?
There are massive differences. With projects I do for Steve Jackson Games (and other companies) there’s always at least one other person going over my work to check details and point out my mistakes. It can get extremely frustrating at times (I’m an action guy) but I understand that it’s very important if the product is to have any chance of being error-free.
With my own personal projects, there is rarely anyone I can turn to for that sort of checking. It forces me to look a little more closely at what I’ve done and with each release I worry that I’ve missed some glaring error that’s going to anger several fans. Personal projects are both more fun and more stressful than projects for a company.
3) I think it would be possible for someone dipping into your electronic shelves at RPGNow to be a little confused about your corporate identity. What’s your company name? Spider Bite Games, Ronin Arts, or PhilipJReed.com?
Very possible. What started as me and a hobby has slowly grown into something larger. I think over the next year the Ronin Arts name will become accepted among fans and, with hard work, will be recognized for releasing fun and unique products.
4) Do you think you’ve saved the Whispering Vault? Resurrected it? How did you come about adopting the game?
Brought back from the dead sounds right. The game was adopted through persistence, sweat, and a bit of patience. Acquiring the game was a long, tedious process. I’m glad the time and money was spent and sales and fan response to the Vault PDFs gives me a big “I told you so” to those who thought I was crazy for going after the game.
5) Do you think the Whispering Vault example the best way to use the PDF media? Are PDFs best used as a sort of pasture for old RPGs long past their racing days?
Maybe not the best way to use PDFs but one of many ways. I actually think that PDFs are best used to try new ideas and to release products that would otherwise never see the light of day. Many of my own PDFs would have never succeeded as a print project but with PDF I was given the chance to scratch that specific creative itch.
6) What was the inspiration for your 101 product line?
Probably the first edition DMG and the Forgotten Realms supplement The Magister. Those two products heavily influenced my AD&D games in high school and my entire outlook on treasures in games.
7) Have the 101 products only been made possible because of the rise of PDF roleplaying supplements?
PDF certainly helped. I think selling the idea to an established company would have been difficult. For that matter, I can see where gamers would have had a hard time accepting the idea of a book packed with 101 treasures . . . and not even magical treasures.
8) If a supplement or set of core rules is only viable as an electronic document then is that the same as saying it’s simply not good enough for paper?
I’m not sure I can answer this question.
9) Can you tell us a little more about the Star Ace roleplaying game you’re working on?
There really isn’t much to say at this time. What had started out as a short project has grown into a long-term project. I had started with the plan of making it a D20 game but the more I work on it (and the more I talk to others) I find myself leaning toward making it an OGL game. The amount of OGC included in the final release will likely surprise many people.
10) I notice Christopher Shy there on the credits again. How come? Do you have some blackmail going that gets you artists of his calibre on the cheap?
Nothing I can share with others. Seriously, Christopher and I are partners, both of us owning and running Ronin Arts. Most people don’t realize this and think I have some secret to getting great art at a low price. We both donate our time to Ronin Arts and are working together to grow the experiment into a full company.
11) Star Ace uses the Blood and Space toolkit from RPGObjects. This collaboration is the first (and only) between two giants of the e-book publishers in the RPG industry, how did it come about?
I was looking for some good OGL sci-fi rules and found Blood and Space. Discussions with RPGObjects were favourable and led to an agreement. There’s really no magic to the arrangement.
12) Do you see yourself as one of giants of the PDF RPG industry?
Not at all. Maybe if I released more products (one a week) I’d think of myself as a small giant.
13) What would you like to be getting up to in the future? Can we expect a steady stream of new products from you?
I’d like to get Star Ace finished. I have a campaign setting I’d love to put together and release. For the immediate future I need to finish Treasures of Freeport and the Player’s Archive PDFs. Treasures of Freeport is a PDF for use with Green Ronin’s Freeport setting. Chris (Pramas) was good enough to set me up and I’ve been writing material for the PDF as time allows.
My biggest project for the fall is the Dork Tower boardgame being published by Steve Jackson Games. As of now this is planned for an October release and has been in the works for over a year. At $39.95 it’s a fairly big project but I’m hoping people will enjoy it. Lots of die-cutting and a fold-up wizard’s tower make it the most complicated game I’ve ever worked on. This one was designed by me with lots of input and assistance from Steve Jackson (so much we’re listed as co-designers in the rules).
As to a steady stream, I think sporadic is a better way to put it. I work on personal projects as I have time and energy so the release flow fluctuates wildly.
14) What would you like to see other publishers getting up to in the future?
I’d like to see Paizo release a big book with all of the D20 mini-games from Polyhedron. I’d love to see the Iron Kingdoms Campaign Setting released by Privateer Press (and not just because I wrote parts of it).
What I’d really like to see is a licensed Transformers RPG. There’s so much depth to the setting that it could support an entire RPG line for several years.