Q&A with Mark Reed

Yesterday I posted about Heroic Journey Publishing’s “Erinbour: Places of Power” Kickstarter. What excites me the most about the setting is two things: first it will support DwD Studios’ Barebones Fantasy, which is a system I like a lot and which should be supported by way more developers, and secondly one of its early stretch goals includes a book which will allow Birthright-meets-Pendragon gameplay with BBF. I’ve never played Pendragon nor Birthright but I was intrigued by both and a combination sounds just awesome. Heroic Journey Publishing’s Mark Reed has luckily agreed to answer a couple of questions. With further ado, here’s the interview:

Stargazer: Before we go into the nitty-gritty details of Erinbour could you please tell us about yourself and Heroic Journey Publishing? One thing I am always curious about is what was your first roleplaying game and what turned the gamer into a game industry professional.

634776968932mark-reed_227x235.largeMark: Great question. My first game was AD&D experienced on a Boy Scout Jamboree when I was 11 maybe. It was cool, I played a wizard and irritated the Teenagers cause I played him “Wrong”Didn’t matter I was hooked. From there my go to games I ran were Marvel Super Heroes (I had the Basic and Advanced boxes) and the TMNT Palladium books. Ah good times. Slightly later I found WEG Star Wars and frankly by that time I was running full AD&D campaigns in this not quite forgotten realms variation that really skirted the realms as source material.

The story of Heroic Journey is pretty strait forward. It started from my gaming group. Back in 2004 I had recently moved to the Twin Cities here in Minnesota. I was starving for a group and fell in to a band of gamers that had one of the best people in the Industry Michelle Nephew from Atlas games. She and John the primary owner of Atlas really got me in the industry. I began by working on the Northern Crown layout in 2005 and spent some time in their warehouse part time putting together game boxes and shrink wrapping them. Fun Times. Did some more layout work and in 2008 got started publishing Bounty head Bebop and Learned a lot about being a publisher. I had previously worked in Newspaper publishing for years so I knew a bit but that first book teaches you a ton. That was the formation of Heroic Journey Publishing, Chris Perin came on board in 2009 and brought MECHA with him and we began developing that line of books as well.

Stargazer: What sets Erinbour apart from your run-of-the-mill fantasy setting? How would you describe Erinbour in a few sentences?

Mark: Erinbour is my loveletter to the fantasy setting. It is the one I made up all those years ago updated to more modern thinking of gaming. The setting is designed to be more about the Players doing Epic things that change the face of the setting. For starters there is no Evil for Evils Sake. Everything has a reason for the way they are based on a choice that person or race made and its reflective in the bigger story. It is a setting that also is both systemless and encompass all (Or many) systems. We believe if we build the setting right (and we think we have) then you will want to play it in the setting you have the most fun in and we want you to, so we are going to make that as easy as possible.

Erinbour also has a rich history starting with the decimation of the ogres as the otherkin set a magical disease. How the Elven or blessed were the remaining ogres of old immune to the disease and their cousins the orcs as the ones to survive this horrible affliction. How the Dwarves brought to Erinbour and slaves of the Otherkin from elsewhere flourished eventually helping Mai the first Queen overthrow the Otherkin locking them in deep slumber.
More recent history has the betray of the lost king and the cursing of the land during the ogre war bringing us to today where erinbour is a shell of its greatness with much of the land lost to the wilds of the curse begging for its hidden places of power being rediscovered.
Also the mysterious island of the sirens and the pirates that roam the seas make the world full of danger ate just a few things that make erinbour a place of mystery and more then your run of the mill fantasy setting.

Stargazer: In Erinbour the player characters should be the heroes of the setting influencing the fate of the world on a large scale. How exactly does this work in the setting?

Mark: This is where the most complex planning is taking place. The Campaign for Erinbour is technically 5 books long but lets start at its basic. The first book Places of Power is a campaign book that drives the characters to explore the Wilds of Erinbour lost for the past century due to the Curse. The characters are exploring the old kingdom finding the most magical and powerful remenants of the Nations past and rediscovering them. These mini campaigns are linked together by a larger story that the players will have choices to make. Based on their actions within these plot point moments there is being design several different endings to Places of Power and based on action and some free choice by the GM there is alternate endings designed into the game. Erinbour Dynasty on top of being our BBF specific rules for that Kingdom level game play will pick up the story from Places of Power or be a stand alone campaign.

Stargazer: On the Kickstarter page you tell us about that the basis of the setting were formed by six commissioned adventures meant for a d20 product called “Places of Power” which never saw the light of day. How much work was it to form a campaign setting from the mini-settings included in each of these six adventures and how did you approach this task?

Mark: In a way it was incredibly easy and difficult at the same time. The original 6 Mini campaigns were each about 12,000 words of stand alone goodness and we have had to and continue to go back and either edit some new information or change our version of history to make them fit. The setting though as a whole has been pretty easy since it is coming from a understanding of years of game play. The rest of what made it easy is the unbelievably awesome people I have been lucky to find who have bought in to this setting. As far as how I approached it I did it like I do everything and started from big picture and then figuring out the why of things and building outward. There is still some work to do but once we get funded we will be ready to start commissioning writing from David and FIlemena and finalizing some rules development with George “Loki” Williams.

Stargazer: Can you tell us a bit more about the $25K stretch goal “Erinbour Dynasty”?

Mark: This is honestly where is all began. I thought wouldn’t it be cool to do a Birthright meets Pendragon set of rules for Bare Bones Fantasy. Originally called Bare Bones Fantasy Dynasty Chris Perrin and I began talking about how do we do this, do we set it in some setting, design our own, or just do generic rules. We decided to design our own and I began work on Erinbour. Then an idea struck me, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”and I thought back to Places of Power and now we have a line. Dynasty at its core is to be an expansion of the Bare Bones Fantasy Rules to be at a Realm Level or Kingdom level if you will. Players will control their characters and also realms within Erinbour making decisions that will affect what regions thrive, what support for the war will be met and ultimately who will reclaim the Throne of the Lost King and be crowned ruler. This also is designed to be Book two in a trilogy of sorts that tells the story of Erinbours rebirth, reclaim, and return to prominence within the known world.

Stargazer: As I said before I am very exited about the fact that Erinbour will fully support BBF out of the box. What made you pick BBF instead of more popular systems like Fate Core? How closely are you working with DwD Studios on this?

Mark: Easy answer to the first part. I like the system. Its fun, easy, and makes a lot of sense. I wanted to try and expand the areas of support in a different way then just modern or genre or simply by class/skill changes. I like tinkering with stuff and this is a fun tool to tinker with. To be honest I am not working very closely with DwD but not for lack of desire. Larry Moore is a good friend and he seems to pop in and out and I haven’t built a solid relationship with Bill over there but my plan is to be reaching out to him and make sure he knows how much we love the system and want to see DwD grow.

Stargazer: What made you to decide to use crowd-funding to raise the money needed to produce Erinbour? And what are your thoughts on how KS and similar platforms changed the way roleplaying games are made today?

Mark: Our decision to crowd fund was based on the fact we felt Erinbour deserved a large release. We felt that the quality of design we had and were working toward it deserved more then just a PDF release. It deserved a Box set, and since we are small and cash flow isn’t something we have in abundance Crowdsourcing we felt was a logical step in getting the project to completion. Overall I believe KS and those platforms lets the market decide who they want to support and who succeeds in a much more interactive way. Designers can find and talk to their audience prior to taking the full risk of fronting thousands of dollars to see if an idea has legs.

Stargazer: Your plans are to release hack books for many different systems. One of the problems with such a move is that often different systems make a setting feel different even though the world is the same. How do you plan to avoid this issue? Or are you rather embracing it?

photoMark: I fully embrace the system differences. The “Hack” books are not simply Stats conversions. We have talented designers from within each system specialty to build a guide book on advice, conversion and general information to give GMs a basis to convert Erinbour to their favorite Systems. Currently we have the likes of James Spahn from Barrel Rider Games on board to write an OSR Hack book, Ash Law andRyven Cedrylle to help port to 13th Age, and Raymond Terry to help with an Open D6 conversion. I realize each system brings new challenges and awesomeness to any setting so the purpose is to embrace that and give GMs a place to start so they can enjoy Erinbour their way and not be forced to enjoy it my way.

Stargazer: Is there anything else you want to tell us about?

Mark: Overall Erinbour is the campaign I love to run it is filled with epic adventure and choices that matter. I have 3 more campaign books in the works to support the line but we need this first set to get done. I am really excited with our plans and the staff I have gathered who share the passion for creating unique and cool things.

Stargazer: Thanks for answering these questions! The team of Stargazer’s World thanks you and wishes you and your company all the best with Erinbour and any future projects.

You can check out Mark’s Kickstarter project here.