It’s great to read reviews and explore the stuff that someone has written but I always found it even more interesting to get to know the persons behind the games. That’s why I love doing interviews so much. This time I asked David Bezio, author of the SF roleplaying game X-plorers to answer a few questions for me.
Stargazer’s World: Could you please tell my readers about you? What are you doing when you are not designing RPGs and how did you get into the hobby in the first place?
David Bezio: I’m a pretty average guy (great way to start an interview, huh? “I’m boring as hell!”). I work for the USPS as a city letter carrier and have a family, my wife Melissa and two “kids”. The youngest will be out of the house in about 2 years, the oldest is in college. Most people who meet me don’t think I’m that old. I don’t know if it’s because I look young, or if it’s because I’m so immature.
Like almost everything cool (or nerdy, depending on your perspective) that I’m into is because of my older sister Colette. We grew up in the country, so I had nothing better to do than tag around after her while I was growing up. She got me reading Sci Fi and Fantasy, drawing, writing, and eventually playing RPGs. I’m a contact nerd, or something.
Stargazer’s World: When did you decide to start writing an old-school SF roleplaying game?
About 4 or 5 months before it came out…seriously, that’s it. I’ve always liked sci fi role playing, and as a kid, I probably GMed more Star Frontiers than D&D. SF has some mechanical issues though, and I was really tempted to play Mongoose Traveller…but that is just a bit “complicated” for my taste (not to mention the setting is too detailed for me to wrap my brain around). I thought, “boy, wouldn’t it be nice if I had a game as simple as B/X D&D, but for Sci Fi, to fall back on?” So I started writing.
Stargazer’s World: Recently I started reading Swords & Wizardry White Box and I noticed several similarities. Is this coincidence or was this game an inspiration for X-plorers?
David Bezio: S&W: WB was not only a HUGE inspiration, but I also used its OGL. While X-plorers looks about 90% different than that game now, I started the project with the word version of S&W:WB and started adding things, and taking things away. While I’m still a huge B/X D&D fan, I really found S&W: WB liberating and refreshing. While B/X D&D is probably a better all-around game, you can’t beat S&W:WB for really bringing back that old school FEEL when you play. Matt Finch and Marv Breig really did the old school movement a huge favor by releasing this game, and did it with style and class as well. If you’re thinking about picking up a retro clone, it’s my recomendation for feel alone.
Stargazer’s World: It seems a lot of people are having great interest in playing roleplaying games from the "good old days". There are a lot of OD&D retro-clones and your own game has a strong 1974 feel. Why do you think there’s renewed interest in old-school gaming?
David Bezio: I think a lot of people have gotten to the breaking point. Rules keep getting more and more complicated and complete, and settings keep getting more detailed and complex. I think many role players (especially older ones with busy lives) have gotten to the point where they simply want to get together with friends and have a good time, not try to remember 400 pages of rules. I also think a lot of GMs have been feeling stifled by rules and settings that don’t allow as much room for “doing your own thing” as the old school ones do.
Stargazer’s World: Your company’s website lists several upcoming books, can you tell us a bit about them? What will be the main differences between Mythic Kingdoms and other games emulating OD&D for example?
David Bezio: ("Company" stiffles giggles) I’m actually thinking about scrapping MK, simply because I don’t want to fracture a small player base any further. There are 5 very good retro-clones of basic and OD&D already…do we really need another one, even if it does make several changes? That and I should really concentrate on X-plorers a bit more for now. I’ll probably consider releasing my setting (The Phoenix Barony) as a supplement for S&W:WB instead…but not right away, too many other things in the pipe.
Stargazer’s World: Do you consider creating another "what if" games like Mythic
Kingdoms and X-plorers? Do you intend to explore more genres in an old-school format?
David Bezio: I actually had 3 lined up. Heretic Warrior, my horror setting, Wild Waste, my sci-fi western world, and Zodiac Sunrise, my Mecha setting. But, again, I have more ideas than time. It’s going to be plenty of work just getting GT out every 3 months (hopefully ;)) The good news is, Wild Waste is going to appear in Galactic Troubleshooters #3 along with an adventure on that world. Zodiac Sunrise may see a place in GT as well, with some Mecha add on rules (although I really wish someone else would write them instead of me). Heretic Warrior is in limbo…who knows…
Stargazer’s World: Did you recruit most of your playtesters over the internet or did you do most the testing "in house"? Do you think X-plorers would have been possible without the ‘net?
David Bezio: I’ll be honest, and hope it doesn’t alienate the internet community…Over 600 people downloaded the X-plorers playtest version. Of those people, I heard back from a number less than you can count on my hands. Most of the playtesting was done by my group, and rigorous solo testing (yes, I fought with myself a lot). So, open playtesting wasn’t as productive as I hoped it would be.
No, X-plorers wouldn’t have come about (and won’t continue) without the net. It would just be one of the many RPGs I’ve written over the years for myself and my friends. With all the old school talk, I felt there were a lot of people searching for a game like this, so I decided to share. Unfortunately sharing takes money (most people probably think it’s the other way around when you publish something) and a lot of time. I’m not a pimp, and it takes outside interest to keep me motivated (it might seem easy, but, anyone who has done it probably agrees with me that even a small project like this takes a lot of effort). If the internet community doesn’t get pumped and contribute their thoughts and ideas (and money when they buy products) X-plorers won’t be able to grow and flourish.
Stargazer’s World: Is there anything else you want to talk about?
David Bezio: Yeah, I purchased a house recently, and have a game room in the basement with carpet and everything…but no table to actually play on! 3 stinking months and still no place to play in my new house yet. Sucks! That’s all ;).
Stargazer’s World: Thanks for answering a few questions for us! I wish you all the best in your future projects and hope we can perhaps do a follow-up interview in the future!