There’s a degree of irony to the fact that the Old School Renaissance is producing some of the best and hottest artwork, modules, and GM resources in the tabletop roleplaying game industry right now–isn’t “old school” by definition staid and played out? As with all gaming communities, there’s a component of tabletop RPG culture that is grounded in nostalgia; the best OSR content is like a classic car that’s been retooled with all-new parts, parts that have emerged from thirty to forty years of deep thought, experimentation, and winnowing on the topic of game mechanics. The folks behind that movement might have grown up on AD&D or the white box, but me and mine, we grew up on version 3.0 or 3.5.
Here at BloodLetterPress, we’re all about supporting other designers and creatives like us in their kickass projects. One of the ways we do that is by interviewing these creators in the hopes that readers gain a deeper understanding of the ideas and the feelings that forged their work. But it’s also 2018, and we know that ain’t nobody got time to read a 3k word in-depth interview.
So here’s our solution; if someone can do an “elevator pitch” of a product, it’s also possible to do a carefully-curated interview in a similar time restriction; in this case, you can read this interview in the same amount of time it takes to get from the ground floor to the top floor of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in their super-fast elevator.
Our subject is Sean Billson of Timeless Caverns production studio. They are the lead designer for Fuel Priest, a game that was just successfully funded on Kickstarter! We gave them five hard-hitting questions about their game to inspire and excite new fans, and to spotlight more local creators in our community.
So, last week, I introduced the problem I was having with making engaging combat encounters with my teenage player group with a DnD homebrew system I’m running. And I promised an answer for my game design woes. Well, here it is:
I don’t really enjoy combat encounters myself. (Was that dramatic reveal worth the wait? Don’t answer that).
And from what I’ve seen, my players don’t either. But games like DnD are literally designed around combat encounters (or at least the first four editions were, I don’t have much experience with 5e); your character gains power and levels through EXP and loot obtained after beating up baddies. It’s more than something you’re encouraged to do via game mechanics; it’s the game’s M.O. It’s how you play the game.
A generational gap that divides opinions on what makes a game worth playing
My first roleplaying game experience takes me back to when I was 12 years old. I stepped out of a December snowsquall into Phoenix Games, a hole-in-the-wall game store squeezed into a strip mall five minutes down the road from my house. After purchasing the 3.5 DnD Player’s Handbook there, I joined a game group made up of kids who would become my closest friends for the next six to fifteen years. The game was run by the owner of the store, a late gen-X geek in his mid-twenties who got paid either nothing to way too little to put up with all of our teenage bullshit for the next few years. It was a seminal time for me, is the picture I’m trying to paint here.