I strike again! This week’s interview victims are the crew over at www.on-the-lamb.com , publishers of “Legendary Realms ” a new fantasy RPG. I interviewed Matthew Whitehouse, Emily Fontana and Pedro Panzardi about how they went from closing their retail game store to publishing their first game in only one year!
I also have an early copy of “Legendary Realms,” so I will review it sometime in the very near future. Watch this space for updates.
Trask: Tell me about “On the Lamb ” what is it and where did it come from?
Matthew Whitehouse: OTL started forming after Emily’s Retail business shut down.
The two of us we’re looking for something to fill our time while we worked part time.
We’d previously written an unlicensed miniatures game to sell some items in the store and thought it would be a good ‘time waster’ to write something that was an original IP rather than risk legal action.
Pedro and I have been friends since high school and had played tabletop games for a while. But he moved away for his job after College
So we’ve always been looking for something to make us keep in touch
Trask: What game did you develop?
Matthew Whitehouse: http://gundamscape.lazyotaku.com/
“GunplaScape” is a variation of Heroscape/Quest using Gundam miniatures
We’d bought a box of them for the retail store to sell, as trade figures, and realized they were for a Japanese miniatures game
We actually started trying to ‘translate’ the original rules, but threw that out and decided to just start with something we enjoyed and work from there
We demoed the game at Janicon …last year. As well as Megacon.
Trask: Is it currently available?
Matthew Whitehouse: The miniatures are sold through HobbyLink Japan and other gundam/Japanese hobby sites
Matthew Whitehouse: And the rules are available at that link for free, including some non-updated stats. As I said though, its unlicensed and was mostly done to provide purpose to the trade figures and get an activity going in the store.
Trask: Was the game well received?
Matthew Whitehouse: We could not put too much advertising into it, due to the gray area of legality, but the people who sat down and demoed it gave great feedback.
And the miniatures sold rather well compared to other items in the store.
Em and I also have an LGS we stop by bi-weekly and we’ve just introduced them to it, and they seemed ecstatic. I have a feeling though a lot of it was due to the IP.
Trask: So you have moved on to your own creations. What was your next project?
Matthew Whitehouse: Our next project is/was what is being released in Novemeber, “Legendary Realms.” Which runs on our own system, styled “The Module System.” When we decided to start writing our own system, we wanted to make something that was customizable.
Trask: Before we talk about system mechanics, tell me about “Legendary Realm’s” setting. Sci-fi, horror, fantasy?
Matthew Whitehouse: “Post-Rennaisance Fantasy” I believe is the blurb used on the book jacket. Which really means pre-industrial-punk, but not really punk either…
Trask: Could you give me an example of a PC archetype?
Matthew Whitehouse: Our system is actually classless, but of the powers/etc players can take “Aetherwarper” is our version of a wizard, which is really closer to a psychic.
“Magic” in LR follows the concept of what people believe is true. So the magical schools are based around different ways people see the mechanics of the universe
Trask: I am still a bit confused about the setting. “Post-Rennaisance Fantasy” implies 15th century or later. Is this correct?
Matthew Whitehouse:Yes, the world is really at an imbalance, though, certain countries are more technolgically advanced than others
Trask: What inspired you to create a game in this period? It is not your standard sci-fi/fantasy period.
Pedro: Well one reason that very fact, its not standard for fantasy/sci-fi to choose. We wanted to set ourselves apart form the pack.
Trask: Did you have a specific region in mind for this game? It sounds almost like Italian city/states.
Matthew Whitehouse: We actually started with what countries we wanted to ‘spoof’, and tropes we wanted to bend.
Emily: Heres a look at our world map: http://www.on-the-lamb.com/images/LegendaryRealmsMap-Texted-SM.png
Matthew Whitehouse: There is actually an Italian-styled country, Galina, but there are also other countries
Trask: So “Legendary Realms” is “tongue-in-cheek?”
Matthew Whitehouse: : Sort of, we wanted to leave lots of little jokes for interested readers, but we didn’t want it to be a ‘comedy setting’ or a ‘grim setting.’
Trask: Could you give me an example of one of the “in-jokes?””
Emily: Well our cover is a parody of an almost unheard of movie’s poster
Trask: Yes, “Army of Darkness.” No one has ever heard of that.
Trask: So lets talk about the system itself. Is it high-crunch like d20 or is it fuzzy system like the d10 “White Wolf” games. Or is it somewhere in between?
Matthew Whitehouse: Okay so we call it the ‘module’ system because we decided to break down all the parts that make up an role-playing system and we wanted to make them interchangeable.
Trask: I am sorry, I do not understand.
Matthew Whitehouse: Well there are the different things that make up a system, the rolling system(skill check), the progression(Leveling), the uniqueness (Classes), and so on and we wanted to write a system that could have say a ‘pool’ rolling system (like WW) and a roll high system (like d20) that could be swapped out and still work with the other pieces ‘below’ them
Trask: You wrote the game to use interchangeable dice mechanics?
Matthew Whitehouse:LR includes a roll high mechanic at the moment as its our first book, we included only one of each of the primary modules. Our second book, which is currently in writing, will include a different set of modules
Trask: What features will the second book add?
Matthew Whitehouse: It will have a pool module for rolling and a ‘balance’ module for progression, or really, antiprogression, as the setting is based around episodic adventures.
Trask: How does that work?
Matthew Whitehouse: Balance being, for every good thing for your character, you have to take an equal ‘cost’ of bad things the progressional part of the system will be points that accrue after adventures which can be turned in for a single ‘epsiode’ ability.
Trask: Could you give me an example of such an ability?
Emily Fontana: We don’t really want to go into too much detail on the second book yet, as its not going to be formally announced until Janicon (When we release Legendary Realms)
Trask: What is the specific release date for the first “Legendary Realms” book?
Emily Fontana: Nov. 20th, 2008
Trask: Since this is your first “official” game publication, could you speak about any problems you had during the publication process? In retrospect, would you do anything different?
Matthew Whitehouse: The first thing I would do is not promise a date to have the book out by, but that’s just me
Emily Fontana: My biggest ‘problem’ was trying to figure out costs and budgeting
Trask: What did you learn from the experience? Any advice to aspiring publishers?
Pedro Panzardi: Play testing is vital.
Matthew Whitehouse: Keep aspiring is a good place to start.
Emily Fontana: Make sure you have at least one person in the group who can get the others to work, and things will go alright
Trask: How did you handle the art for the book? Did one of you do it or was it outsourced?
Emily Fontana: We had a great bunch of artists we found through DeviantArt
Matthew Whitehouse: I was personally surprised at the pricing schemes they had
Trask: In what way?
Matthew Whitehouse: I was expecting higher prices for fewer pieces, like us the artists we commissioned were just starting out. But they did great work ‘on a budget.’
Trask: How long did “Legendary Realms” take to complete? From initial idea to shipped book.
Matthew Whitehouse: We closed Emily’s shop in July 07. I think we started on it in August. We just got the books back late September 2008.
Trask: You said you are working on another supplement. Are there any other books in the pipeline?
Matthew Whitehouse: We’re aiming to do some online content, We’ll have an adventure and progression module up for free at launch. We also have a few other settings lined up after the second
Trask: Alright, I think I have bothered you long enough. Any parting thoughts or questions before we sign off?
Pedro Panzardi: I Hope we have inspired others to take a look at our game, as well as hunt their own dreams
Matthew Whitehouse: and catch it like a fish in a net
Emily Fontana: And we’d like to invite your readers to visit us at Janicon (www.janicon.org ) Nov. 20-23 in Jacksonville, FL