Zak S. asks
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1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
SFX!’s “Primary Rule”, which requires that proposed actions make sense according to the genre, but gives the players final say over whether they find their own actions sufficiently plausible to go ahead.
2. When was the last time you GMed?
3. When was the last time you played?
4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven’t run but would like to.
A Mission:Impossible or Dortmunder style caper adventure, where the players concoct and carry out a scheme so cunning they could put whiskers on it and call it a weasel. That’s actually my next project after Zap! and Zorch! are released…
5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Try to keep a poker-face. Think about what the NPCs are likely to do, or if there’s anything important going on in the environment. Listen to what they’re saying, in case I have to correct their recollections or elaborate on something that they seem to be misinterpreting/jumping to a conclusion about.
6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Depends on the game; we usually have cheese and crackers or something like that at the Sunday game. Hangout games, maybe some pretzels but usually nothing.
7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Yes, but that may partly be because I tend to play at night.
8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
Figuring out a way to thwart an enemy spy-camera installation without alerting them that we were on to them.
9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
Always. I don’t try to make the settings too serious any more. I try for a balanced tone, but assume the attempts to lighten things up mean they don’t really want a serious setting. Or maybe they don’t like the way I deliver it.
10. What do you do with goblins?
I hardly ever use goblins. Last time I did they were a bunch of oddballs, more or less out of Labyrinth.
11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
I’m always looking for stuff. Illustrations from John Carter books and H. P. Lovecraft figure heavily in the feel of the Skyships of Atlantis setting.
12. What’s the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
When one of my players, having successfully in character smooth-talked the posse searching for one of the party members turned to that party member and (still completely in character, using her character’s distinctive accent) completely blew it addressing him by his full name and commenting on his lucky escape, realized what she had just done and exclaimed “Oh, shit!” I literally fell out of my chair laughing.
13. What was the last game book you looked at–aside from things you referenced in a game–why were you looking at it?
Moldvay’s Basic D&D, to transcribe the recommended reading appendix.
14. Who’s your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
Frazetta, or Gustave Doré
15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
No. Creeped out, sometimes, but afraid, never.
16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn’t write? (If ever)
I’m running Stonehell for some kids, and that’s fun, but mostly I run my own adventures.
17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
Anywhere there are enough comfortable seats and relative quiet. I don’t usually run anything that requires a battle mat or table.
18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Arduin Grimoire and Risus
19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
L. Frank Baum and H.P. Lovecraft.
20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
A creative, engaged, and cooperative one; I don’t like players who can’t mesh their agendas with what the other players want out of the game.
21. What’s a real life experience you’ve translated into game terms?
I usually mine the cities I’ve lived in for locales in games.
22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn’t?
Other than the ones I’m working on? I really like character portrait generators, but I’d like some that were more robust as far as poses and body types…. something more like the character costume generator in City of Heroes, but with an easy way to publish to the web. Then the same sort of mix-n-match toolkit for building scenery. Not a full-fledged virtual walkthrough, just something that you could quickly whip up an illustration of a locale that you could share with the players to give a feel for a place.
23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn’t play? How do those conversations go?
Not really. Once in a while I find myself having to explain what an RPG is to somebody’s relative, but the conversation isn’t usually very long. It’s gotten a lot easier since video games and MMOs have become fairly mainstream.