Monday, September 7, 2020

10 QUESTIONS TO: Richard Woolcock

Richard Woolcock is quite the star in the Savage Worlds community. He’s a true master of the rules (I sometimes think he knows them better than the authors!).
He’s got one awesome blog full of useful tools for Savage Worlds, and he’s authored or co-authored a tremendous amount of stuff, simply too much to make a list here. I’ll just mention three:
He’s even authored two special Gold & Glory dungeon adventures, Hightree Warren and Ebenezer’s Gold.
And it doesn’t stop.
Richard is also one of the most active members of the Savage Worlds Adventurers Guild community (SWAG, for short), and of the Unofficial Savage Worlds Discord group.
But who is Richard? Richard is an Englishman living in Germany, a family man, and a person that struck me as extremely gentle and thoughtful, with a sense of humor that I find irresistible.
Here's Richard making funny goblin faces while GMing Saga of the Goblin Horde at the Modena Play con back in 2018 (I'm the one on the left):

1 Hello Richard. You’ve published so much stuff that it’s hard to decide what we should be talking about. There, that’s your first question. If you were to tell us about just one of the things you designed, which would it be? Tell us about it!

Hi there Giuseppe, nice to talk to you again!
If I had to pick one thing, it would probably be The Gobfather, because it ties together a lot of other stuff I've worked on. It was originally designed as a crossover for Saga of the Goblin Horde and Wiseguys, but it can also be played as a standalone mini-setting -- and it comes with a conversion guide for my Tricube Tales system, so you can even play it without a copy of Savage Worlds! It's also the sequel to my recent Goblin Gangsters one-page RPG.
I'd wanted to create a mini-setting for a few years, and I'd also wanted to write a larger (and less railroady) adventure than my usual One Sheets, so I decided to combine both ideas. The mini-setting part of The Gobfather is only 6 pages, but it follows the same structure I'd use in a full-size setting. The 11-page adventure is called "Baking Bad" (about a baker who turns to a life of crime because he needs the dough), and it has the same sort of humor as Saga of the Goblin Horde.

2 Let’s talk about design. How would you describe your creative process? What are the things you enjoy the most? Anything you dislike?

If I had to describe my creative process in one word, I'd say "haphazard". I always come up with ideas much faster than I can turn them into products, so I end up keeping notes on all sorts of different things, and will usually work on multiple projects simultaneously. However, once a project crosses a certain developmental threshold I double down on it, working on it exclusively until it's finished.

In terms of likes and dislikes, my two favorite things are probably the creative process (particularly designing game mechanics), and seeing other people enjoy my work. I dislike doing layout, but I prefer to do my own because I want full control over the appearance of the final product. I also dislike marketing, I feel uncomfortable promoting my work and trying to convince people to buy it.

3 Are you currently working on something? Can you tell us about it?

I'm currently finishing up Fantasy Archetypes 2, which is similar to the original, and includes artificer, assassin, barbarian, bard, gunslinger, monk, psionicist, and swashbuckler. After that, I plan to expand Saga of the Goblin Horde and update it to SWADE (I'm also updating the One Sheets and adding them to the main book as Savage Tales).

4 You are one of the most active members of the SWAG community. Can you pass some quick suggestions to aspiring or beginning SWAGgers?

I've shared a lot of my thoughts about the creation process in "Turning Ideas into SWAG" (my article in the World Builder and Game Master's Guide), as well as on my blog. But I'd also strongly recommend joining the Unofficial Savage Worlds Discord server -- a lot of SWAG designers hang out there, and are always happy to give advice and suggestions. There are also community efforts organized through the Discord server, like the SWAGtember bundle, which can really help give new designers and their products a promotional boost. Nobody can work in a vacuum, so it’s important to network and communicate with other creators, particularly if you’re new.

5 Tell us about the SWAGtember II Bundle. Which are your favorite contents in there?

There's a lot of great products in there, and I wouldn't want to play favorites by naming any names, even if I had a favorite! However, I think the main strength of the bundle is the diverse range of products it contains -- there's something for everyone. It really demonstrates the creativity of the SWAG community, and will hopefully encourage more people to join us on the Discord server :)

6 Let’s talk to the family man. Already started playing RPGs with the young one? What are your thoughts about RPGs with younger players?

I think it's a great idea, and I've played quite a bit with my son. It's good for his creativity and language skills, it's something that we can enjoy together, and my wife is happy to see him show an interest in something that doesn't involve a digital screen. He's always enjoyed having stories read to him, so I think RPGs were a fairly natural progression.

Tricube Tales actually grew out of a set of guidelines I put together for running games for my son. He generally prefers adventures based on his favorite TV shows, so I needed a generic system that could easily handle a wide range of genres, while also being fast to run and easy to understand.

7 If you could buy any franchise and make an RPG of it, what would it be? Tell us about the franchise and the game you’d make out of it.

It's tempting to imagine writing an RPG based on a big name blockbuster, but (even if money and control weren't an issue) I suspect the reality would prove quite stifling from a creativity perspective -- if you're designing a game based on a highly popular novel, movie or TV show, most hardcore fans will expect you to adhere loyally to the original vision, and even a small divergence from their expectations could be met with hostility. That doesn't really leave you much creative freedom, in comparison to creating your own settings.

So if I could choose anything, I'd probably pick one of my favorite book series, something weird and dark, but also fairly low-key, and I’d create a small rules-lite RPG for it (with a brief overview of the setting, and an assumption that the reader would read the novels for further details). Perhaps the "Twenty Palaces" novels by Harry Connolly, or the "Southern Watch" series by Robert J. Crane, or the "Deathless" books by Chris Fox.

8 You are credited in several games, including the Savage Worlds World Builder and Game Master's Guide, Codex Infernus, and Guild of Shadows. How do you like writing for other publishers? Which of these projects engaged you the most?

I did quite a lot of freelancing in 2015 and 2016, as I wanted to build up some commercial experience and professional references before trying to publish my own Savage Worlds setting. It was an enjoyable experience and a great opportunity to network with other publishers and game designers, but it didn't leave me much time to work on my own projects, and these days I don't have a lot of free time anyway. I liked working on all of the projects, each brought its own challenges, and these helped me hone my skills. But while I still like to help out other people, I don't generally do freelance work anymore.

I think SWAG has also changed the scene. Back when I first started looking into self-publishing, a lot of people would begin with the fan license, then move on to freelancing for an Ace/Licensee (writing for Savage Insider, in particular, was a popular way of getting your foot in the door). But today, anyone can publish directly on SWAG if they want to, so freelancing is no longer perceived as an important stepping stone to self-publishing. I do still think that freelancing is worthwhile (the contacts I made have helped me a lot, and I gained some very useful insight into the way other publishers work), but SWAG offers many of the same benefits, with the added advantage of having more control over what you create (plus you keep 60% of the sales, and retain full rights to your work).

9 Talking about Savage Worlds, you are quite the authority. Which are your top three settings?

A major selling point of Savage Worlds is the sheer size and diversity of the settings it has available, and I'd find it difficult to choose favorites. But if someone was new to Savage Worlds, and wanted three examples of the sort of settings it offers, I would probably recommend Deadlands (because it's the flagship setting for Savage Worlds), 50 Fathoms (it's still the gold standard for Plot Point Campaigns, one of the signature features of Savage Worlds settings) and Saga of the Goblin Horde (what self-respecting game designer wouldn't recommend their own setting? Besides which, I specifically designed it to showcase the Savage Worlds system).

10 One last question before we say goodbye. Please point us to a song you think we should listen to.

I like humorous songs with a serious message, and this one relates to creating your own Savage Worlds products: They don't have to be perfect, as long as you enjoy them.

Thank you Richard!

Thank you too, I hope one day we’ll meet again at another con!

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