Category Archives: Interview

Interview with Wolfgang Baur

KoboldSome days ago I managed to arrange an interview with Wolfgang Baur, Kobold-in-Chief of Kobold Quarterly. Wolfgang Baur is a RPG industry veteran and has worked for many companies including Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Green Ronin, TSR and his own Open Design LLC.

Stargazers World: Please tell us a bit about yourself. What kind of a person is Wolfgang Baur? When and how did you start roleplaying? How did you get into the “industry”?

Wolfgang Baur: I’m a fan from the blue box days of D&D; I really started with the Dungeon board game, and then started DMing at an early age. I wrote my first published work while in high school for Dungeon magazine and continued to write adventures in college as a freelancer. I was hired by TSR right out of college based on the strength of my magazine contributions, and learned the industry from the periodicals side of things. I’d say that still influences how I think of game material today.

What kind of person am I? A mildly compulsive language freak who loves history and gaming, a fan of wild berries and wilderness, and a man growing less patient with fools with every passing year.

Stargazers WorldKobold Quarterly magazine, the KQ website and two Open Design adventures have been nominated for this years’ ENnie Awards, so I think congratulations are in order. What were your first thoughts when you learned about the nominations? And what are your plans for the future?

Wolfgang Baur: It was the first thing I noticed in email on a Monday morning, and I was stunned at 5 nominations. I’m very pleased, of course, and I expect we’ll keep putting the magazine and the adventures out there. I keep thinking that Kobold Quarterly is under a lot of people’s radar, but I guess that’s no longer the case.

There’s some biggish plans for the future; adventures that are not patron projects, a couple Zobeck Gazetteers, and a few surprises that we’ll announce in the next month or two.

Stargazers WorldFor a lot of gamers KQ is the spiritual successor of the Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Both are available in digital format only. Do you think it was the right decision of Wizards to go all digital and do you consider a similar move for your magazine?

Wolfgang Baur: Well, sure, the big two aren’t magazines anymore, they’re part of a major subscription Web site. I think they are certainly making more money for the Hasbro shareholders that way than they would as magazines, and — after a really shaky start — they are starting to hit their stride as a web site. So I suspect it was the right move from a profit point of view, and perhaps

KQ doesn’t have the resources to create things like the Character Builder or other web tools, so we’ll focus on what we do well: great D&D articles for any edition, interviews with famous designers and artists, beautiful maps and entertaining Ecologies. The free content on our web site does draw a lot of traffic, and I’m happy to keep it free.

Stargazers WorldYour magazine is called Kobold Quarterly and you call yourself “Kobold-in-Chief”. So, please tell us, what’s the big deal with Kobolds?

Wolfgang Baur: Oh, I just like the little guys. They are sort of iconic underdogs, and we’re really a small press publisher living in a world of giants and dinosaurs.

We try to be nimble. Sometimes we get crushed. We keep doing more articles and we’ve got big ambition. Our motto is “Small but Fierce”, which conveys the kobold attitude in a nutshell.

Stargazers WorldI am sure a lot of people are very interested in the answer to my last question for today: where does Wolfgang Baur get his inspirations?

Wolfgang Baur: Honestly, a lot of it is daydreaming while I ride my bike, sit at the library, or ponder things at the park; a lack of distractions seems to help. Some of it is based on filtering history through a gaming lens, and I do read a fair bit of historical non-fiction. Real life is a rich source of wonderful characters, settings, and legends.

Finally, some of it is just material born of desperation. That is, I improvise at the game table my DM notes have run out — and often that leads directly to something fantastical or terrifying or wonderful. I’m blessed with a hyperactive imagination — the trouble isn’t finding inspiration, but finding enough hours in the day to write and design the best ideas into print.

Stargazers World: Thanks again for answering a few questions for us and good luck for all your feature endeavours!

Interview with Chad Underkoffler

With the release of “Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies” (get it at RPGNow or IPR) a few days ago, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to ask Chad Underkoffler, if he would answer some questions for my blog. He agreed and so I present to you my interview with Chad:

Stargazer: At first I want to thank you for taking your time to answer some of my questions. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What was the first RPG you played and what made you enter the “industry” so to speak?

Chad: The first RPG I ever played was BASIC D&D, back in 1981. I continued to roleplay throughout junior high, high school, college, and afterward.

I entered the industry in 1998. I had been participating on a GURPS-based mailing list, and was writing/statting various things for posting there. Someone mentioned to me that my writing was pretty good, and I should submit some of my stuff to PYRAMID ONLINE, the Steve Jackson Games magazine.

I did. They accepted it. I got paid. I wrote something else. They accepted it. I got paid.

I kept repeating that, and eventually gained a regular column on PYRAMID. After that, I started branching out and writing stuff for other games and companies.

Stargazer: The Atomic Sock Monkey Press site only lists you as staff. Is the Monkey King doing all the work alone with his two cats or do you have some uncredited Monkey Minions hidden in your basement?

Chad: Well, for the most part (except for artwork and editing), up until the release of THE ZORCERER OF ZO, I pretty much *did* do all the work myself. Writing, layout, the business end… It was a lot of work.

Stargazer: Recently your latest work “Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies” has been released as hardcopy and PDF. Can you tell us what S7S is about? What makes the world unique?

Chad: S7S is all about style — swashbuckling style! While Justice may be blind, Luck definitely keeps a lookout for flashy and fun folks!

It’s a world shaped like a snowglobe, with floating islands hovering within, and skyships travelling between them.

Stargazer: Now that S7S is done, have you already started working on your next project?

Chad: No, actually. I am taking a long break from “writing or game design with an eye towards publication” — instead I want to play more, design for fun, and write for fun.  In essence, a short sabbatical.

Stargazer: For S7S you worked with Evil Hat Productions who are publishing the game for you. When I am not mistaken you self-published all your other games, so what lead to the decision to cooperate with Evil Hat this time?

Chad: I discovered a few years ago that the business and production details weren’t as fun for me as they used to me. I’d gleaned all of the fun and interest I could out of them over that time, which was a useful education.

Also, I realized I just wasn’t as *good at it* as other people… So I went looking for people who are good at it. Thus, my new association with Evil Hat.

Stargazer: When I first read the PDQ rules some time ago, PDQ’s qualities reminded me of a lot of FATE’s aspects. Another system with similar mechanics is S. John Ross’ RISUS. Is this coincidence or was PDQ inspired by FATE and/or RISUS?

Chad: RISUS was definitely an influence on PDQ, if not exactly an inspiration — I’d already banged together a few ideas (inspired by OVER THE EDGE and possibly on misremembered elements of FUDGE, FATE’s precursor) for PDQ on my own before I came across it. But yes: RISUS helped.

FATE — along with ADVENTURE! — has had a couple effects on PDQ, mostly after I read SPIRIT OF THE CENTURY. You can see the influence on the basic game engine of PDQ when you look at PDQ#, the freebie version of S&S’s rules.

Stargazer: PDQ has a quite interesting damage mechanic. Can you tell us a bit about that and how did you come up with the idea?

Chad: Hit Points are boring. I wanted something that was not boring. I also wanted some player choice in assigning damage. I wanted a player to be able to sacrifice elements to keep going. I didn’t want an immediate death spiral.

When you take damage, you reduce one or more of your choice of Qualities. This permits a player to attempt to keep his or her character’s effectiveness optimized for whatever conflict the character is in as long as possible. (As Rob Donoghue has thumbnailed it: “You can punch Spider-Man in the girlfriend!”)

Stargazer: S7S is not the only game that uses the PDQ rules. Could you give us a small overview over the other PDQ-driven games?

Chad: From ASMP:
Dead Inside – You’ve lost your soul. What will you do to regain it?
Truth & Justice – Simple. Speedy. Super.
Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot – A simple, silly fighty game.
The Zorcerer of Zo – Fairy tale adventures in the zantabulous land of Zo.

From other companies:
Ninja Burger – The world’s only fast-food chain run by ninja is looking for new recruits!
Questers of the Middle Realms – The lighter side of fantasy gaming. In less than 80 pages.
Jaws of the Six Serpents – Sword and sorcery, and the darker side of fantasy.

Stargazer: With S7S you took an Open Design approach and blogged about the development process. How did this approach change the way you work on a new game? Are you going to post about your next project, too?

Chad: The biggest change, I think, was a certain reduction of the pressure I put on myself. You know, keeping my next secret project secret, and stressed because I couldn’t really talk to anyone about it. All that, and I sometimes got really useful comments!

When I get back to it, yeah, I probably will.

Stargazer: During the last years a couple of companies have jumped the OGL bandwagon and released their rules system under Wizard of the Coast’s Open Game License. PDQ is still pretty much closed although you give away the core rules for free on your site. Do you have plans to release the PDQ core rules under an open license in the future?

Chad: Actually, it’s better to say that PDQ is a FREE BUT CLOSED license at this point. That means that basically I need to see what the heck people want to put out commercially under it, before I give permission to do so. Add in system credit and a free ad page for ASMP, and that’s all I ask for.

However, for my part, I give licensees several things: access to a private email list of other licensees or potential licensees, my personal insights into gaming and game design, an established game brand, and whatever attention I can bring to their work.

Stargazer: And what is your stance on fan-created works based on PDQ?

Chad: Love them. Buy if you want to sell something, drop by and ask for a license.

Stargazer: Recently WotC stopped all PDF sales because of piracy. Have you had any problems with piracy of your products so far and are you thinking about going print-only, too?

Chad: I have no idea if ASMP’s PDFs have been pirated. Most of them are pretty cheap as it is. But it’s possible.

Listen: you’re not going to be able to stop pirates from pirating. So why blow a gasket about it. Stop it when it comes to your attention; defend your IP; but no measures will stop someone from scanning a hardcover book if they really want to.

Going print-only would be economic suicide for a micro-publisher — make that a NANO-PUBLISHER — like me. PDFs are the most cost effective products I make.

Stargazer: Thanks for answering those questions and enjoy your sabbatical!