Joseph Carriker Jr is a developer for the White Wolf owned Sword and Sorcery Studios. Sword and Sorcery Studioes is perhaps best known for their d20 Scarred Lands fantasy setting but produce other titles such as the Warcraft and Everquest paper RPGs. GameWyrd’s questions appear in strange blue, Joseph ‘s answers are in typical black.
1) I think the first RPG product I read in which you enjoyed a credit was Dark Quest Games’ City Guide. The City Guides are the exception to the rule though, right? Do you consider yourself a Scarred Lands developer first and foremost?
Currently? Very much so, primarily because that’s about all I have the time to work on. ;-)
Seriously, though, I’ve been very fortunate – not many people get to exert the kind creative control on their favourite campaign setting that I have. Some people kind of have this vision of me as one of the Great and Grand Creators of the Scarred Lands, but that just isn’t the case – I first read about the Scarred Lands in the first Creature Collection and became completely infatuated with them, just like everyone else. My first published work was in the first Relics & Rituals book.
2) An obscure hobby for bored roleplayers is working out which company is owned or imprinted by Sword and Sorcery Studios and thus White Wolf – at least, it could be an obscure hobby if the partner relationships got any more complicated. Do you find yourself having to work inside the bounds of these relationships or doesn’t effect you at all?
Oh, if anything it is a benefit. I love being able to drop Monte Cook or Clark Peterson an e-mail to see if I can borrow something from one of their recent books for an upcoming Scarred Lands book, and I love it when they do the same.
3) How do you think the Scarred Lands have developed? Have they peaked or do you see the campaign world going from strength to strength from some time to come?
Oh, it certainly has the potential for a lot of diversity in stories. It’s a big place and there are many stories that can be told just about Ghelspad, to say nothing of some of the other continents. I think they have developed into a very strong campaign setting, with a lot to offer folks, all the way from “bash the door in and charge the monster” type players to more intricate political or other styles of roleplaying.
4) Why do you think the Scarred Lands have taken off in the way that they have? Do you think they’re “The 3rd edition campaign setting”?
I very much do. There are many campaign settings where the details and unique traits of the 3rd Edition (and now 3.5 Edition) aren’t taken advantage of. I firmly believe that there is an implied setting in the current game – a setting where elves are great at magic, where druidic magic is different from clerical magic and where orcs and elves can interbreed with humans, but the others don’t seem to. I think that a good 3rd Edition game is going to address some of these topics, taking advantage of these traits and putting their own unique spin on them.
The Scarred Lands does this in a big way, I think – there are distinctive reasons why druids and clerics are different. There are reasons why druids have the powers they have. There are reasons why wizards prepare spells, and where sorcerers come from. All of these things help to make the 3rd Edition rules-set blend seamlessly into the setting – there are no kludgy fits. This allows the game system to seem as though it were tailor-made for the setting, when the reverse is true.
In short, I think a good campaign setting is going to take advantage of the really cool aspects of the system. And many do. But many do not.
5) How important is to support a campaign world with accessories and supplements? Does there come a point where you can release too many supplements?
I think that point comes when you aren’t selling as many copies, in all honesty. Let’s face it – we like continuing stories. We like more information about things we really like. I think its very important to support a campaign world, as long as those supplements have something to say. Once you begin rehashing stuff you’ve covered in other books already, I think that may be something of a saturation point.
6) What do you use for inspiration when you’ve got a pressing writing deadline to beat?
Music, mainly. I listen to a wide variety of music, from Cruxshadows, VNV Nation, and Disturbed to Dave Matthews, Silly Wizard and Jill Cohn, depending on what I need to get done. What I listen to greatly depends on the “feel” of the project in question.
When I’m “feeling the heat,” as it were (and weather permits here in Oregon), I also like to do a lot of writing outside on my back deck, or in the garden. The change of scenery also helps to kind of recharge the batteries – I’ve discovered the best remedy to writer’s block is to change your surroundings and get a breath of fresh air.
7) Is there anything that you think other publishers, other d20 publishers, are doing wrong at the minute? Why can’t everyone be as successful as Sword and Sorcery Studios?
*chuckles* Honestly, I’m just another developer. I think that aspects of that kind of success are contributed to by my level of the creative process, but hardly dependent. Which is to say, I don’t feel qualified to comment on that sort of thing.
8) What are you finding exciting in the RPG industry at the minute?
All sorts of things – I’m the biggest kid when it comes to new and exciting stuff. I just finished running a great Mutants & Masterminds campaign; I freaking love that game. Steve Kenson is a god among mortals, as far as I’m concerned.
I think the thing that I love is the fact that the game industry seems to be maturing with regards to story-telling elegance and game rules. That is, for a long time, it seemed like many games were looking to become more focused on a strong narrative – but this came at the expense of a clear, usable game system sometimes. I think that the old “roll-play vs role-play” bugaboo is vanishing – folks are realizing that they are mutually exclusive. I love having a strong setting and theme for the game, and a solid system of mechanics that I can use to communicate and facilitate that.
9) If you could go back in time and change one thing, do one thing differently, what would it be?
I probably would have tried to get into writing sooner. :)
10) If you could take part in any RPG project, a book, setting or system, what would it be?
That’s a tough one. One of the things that I love about the Scarred Lands is that it is a diverse enough place that I can do a lot of the weird things I’ve always wanted to do. And, there are a lot of things that I’ve always wanted to do that I’m getting to do; probably one of the reasons I’ve stuck with the Scarred Lands for as long as I have.
That being said, most of my dream projects currently aren’t standard D20-style fantasy. I’d love to do some work on Exalted. I have got to be one of the biggest geeks on the face of the planet when it comes to that game. I also really love the World of Darkness in general. As I mentioned earlier, I really like Mutants & Masterminds, and would love a reason to work with Steve Kenson.
(GameWyrd notes – We’re in the Out of the Box section now. A couple of unusual questions for which we expect unusual answers!)
11) Imagine a strangely accented man with oddly coloured eyes thrust a battered and torn scroll at you, explained that it was of utmost importance that you read the words of the scroll from the top of the nearby hill during tomorrow’s dawn and then he then ran off before you could ask him anything else. Would you read the scroll on the hill at dawn?
Unlikely. I’d be more likely to sell it on Ebay, under “Weird souvenir – Marilyn Manson!”
12) A wild-eyed fan ambushes you in a convention and insists that everything you write is coming true in an alternative dimension, a dimension’s he’s only just escaped from in order to convince you to write about flowers, puppies and peace from now on. What would you do?
Explain that a world built around flowers and puppies is, in truth, a reality too terrible to contemplate, and explain to him that I am obligated to use my godlike powers for the benefit of all, not just those who thrive on small dogs and plants. Then, in my next book, I would write this guy being carried away by nice Men in White and becoming happily medicated.