Monday, July 5, 2021

10 QUESTIONS TO: Roderic Waibel

Roderic Waibel is the mind behind Chromatic Dungeons - Old School Fantasy RPG Rules, currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

Roderic has already published a series of old school adventures and the Altus Adventum RPG, and he’s also contributed a lot of illustrations for several products by Raging Swan Press (among others). 

This time, with Chromatic Dungeons, he is offering an old school ruleset which is largely compatible with the earlier editions of D&D.

But who is Roderic? Rod is a nice guy from Portland, Oregon. When he’s not busy with RPGs, he’s a father and also a system analyst!

1 Hello Roderic. First of all, tell us about Chromatic Dungeons, as if you were trying to explain it to my aunt!

Well, Chromatic Dungeons is a tabletop role-playing game.  I’m going to really simplify down what that is, because I don’t want to insult your audience by going on and on with something they may already know.  In a nutshell, all players but one take on the role of a persona they want to play in the game: warrior, wizard, etc.  The other player controls all of the other creatures the players run into in the game (the Game Master).  Basically, a giant game of pretend.  With dice and unknown outcomes.  And lots of fun.  What makes Chromatic Dungeons different is that it replicates that old school feel when the game first took off in the 70s and 80s, but applies some lessons learned rules-wise, and is presented to be welcoming and inclusive of all gamers.  Back then, it was catered to white young males.  As one myself, it was right up my alley.  But looking back, and looking at how things are today, the game wasn’t presented all that well for those who weren’t white young males.  Not a dig on the original creators, as it was a product of its time.  But I believe that there is room in the modern era to also enjoy an old school game, and to have it representative of who are gamers today.

2 Tell us more about the contributors to Chromatic Dungeons, who designed that stylish character sheet, and why you’re not doing any art for the game??

Well, I did the design of the character sheet lol, so there’s your art from me.  Actually, there are a few other pieces of art by me, but I kept myself off the artist’s credit list because it’s not about celebrating me, it’s about celebrating them.  I am exceptionally lucky to have had some excellent contributors to this.  Evlyn Moreau was my primary sensitivity reader, but I also reached out and had consultation from Teo Morgan (Dungeons&Diversity), Luca Alexander Volpino, and Jennifer Kretchmer (who created a great adventure in the recently released Candlekeep book from WoTC).  For artists, I hired people from literally around the world: Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Uganda, the US, Britain, Poland, etc.  Cultural appropriation is a big deal for me to avoid, and I found hiring diverse artists from all over helps prevent that.  

 3 You haven’t released a “quick start” or “sample” pdf of Chromatic Dungeons. Any chance you will during the campaign?

There is a really good chance of that :)  The basic set is already done, and there just might be a pdf release of it for free during the campaign….

4 I’d really like to know, rules-wise, which edition of D&D is the closest to Chromatic Dungeons, and what changes in the rules differentiate it from a faithful retroclone.

The game is sort of a mix-match of what I feel are the best elements of Basic/Expert, 1e, and 2e.  For example, alignment is simplified, and more along the rules of B/X.  Speaking of, one of the big changes is that no mundane intelligent humanoid has a default alignment, like orcs, goblins, etc.  That’s up to the individual game table.  Classes are structured like 2e, with them belonging to class groups.  Fighters, berserkers, paladins, and rangers all belong to the Warrior group for example.  But the aesthetic is very much 1e.  The goal is to be compatible with those older adventures with the least amount of conversion, so there are many similarities.  

Other big changes include using an ascending AC rather than THAC0 or attack tables, and giving each class something at every level--a class feature.  Races are now called Ancesteries, and rather than stat bonuses based on ancestry, you get them based on class choice.  Introduced are heritages.  Rather than get a long list of traits from ancestries like in AD&D, you get some, but most are based on your heritage choices.  A character with a fey heritage would get resistance to sleep and charm magic, for example.  There are many, many heritages to choose from :) 

5 Your project is the perfect example of what crowdfunding was originally designed for. Through the years, though, it has become more and more important even for the “big players” in the RPG industry.

Do you consider that unfair? Or is the presence of big publishers beneficial to the small ones? Do you see that changing anytime soon? How would YOU like things to change?

I don’t consider it unfair.  Really, if the big players are using KS, they are doing themselves a disfavor, as KS takes a big cut.  Ideally with a good business model, they shouldn’t have to use KS but could use their existing customer base.

The only thing I’d like to change is the reliability and refund options.  In our industry in particular, there are way too many creators who created a project, took the money, and never delivered.  I’d create a rule that if you haven’t fulfilled a past project, you aren’t allowed to create another.  It’s a sore spot for me.  It’s also why I made sure I created this project to completion before launching.  The work is done.  You will get what you back (assuming project funds).

5 You’re a white male living in the US, who started gaming in the 80s, launching a game that aims at being welcoming to all gamers of every demographic to better represent just how diverse our hobby has become. I’m sure you must have pondered this a lot, what convinced you to take this step? 

I was expecting this question to be the first, and am honestly surprised more people haven’t asked me.  It’s a totally fair question.  I’m part of the privileged group, so why am I doing this?

I certainly do not in any way am trying to speak for any marginalized group, and I want to put that out there straight away.  First a bit of background.  I served in the military when I was younger, and all of us who did so swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the US.  That’s important, because that document has many amendments, not just the 2nd.  To be frank, several of those (the 4th, 5th, 8th, 14th, and 15th in particular) have been violated, particularly if you’re a person of color in this country or other minority.  Fairness and equality are important to me, or I wouldn’t have sworn to uphold them.

Then I’ve also got a mixed race family.  Seeing my oldest son grow up through his eyes as a black man in the US was, pardon the pun, eye opening indeed.  And then I’ve also got many close friends and other family members who are part of the LGBTQ community, and my heart hurts from all the things they suffer every day.

But it all comes down to being fair and equal to everyone.  So when I keep hearing folks who proclaim to speak for the OSR (old school revival) community repeat toxic, bigoted, and exclusionary statements about a game I love, I’m not going to take it lying down.  The OSR is for everyone.  They don’t speak for me.  I’m not going to let them take down and destroy something I think is great.

And then there’s the whole garbage fire over the past two weeks with the new TSR, Ernie Gygax Jr, Justin LaNassa, and crew.  The timing of this project was a coincidence with that, but it just reaffirms it’s needed.

6 Inclusion and representation of minorities in RPGs have become a hot topic, recently. How does Chromatic Dungeons address that within the game?

The most obvious is to look at the art.  It’s very diverse, done by diverse artists.  And as I mentioned earlier, if the art represents a certain culture, an artist from that culture did the work.  Additionally, one of the recurring NPCs in the book is Faridah.  They are in the character creation section, and appear later on as well.  Faridah is a trans woman who identifies with they/them.  So to be respectful, I ensured I had a trans woman do the art for them.  Now, you might not ever know that by reading the book, because I am not taking an approach of “Look at me!  I’m a gay or trans character!”  Rather I’m simply including them like anyone else.  Gender and sexuality aren’t mentioned unless that aspect is important to the game or story.  We don’t have to (and in my opinion shouldn’t) include underrepresented minorities and then put a giant flag that says “Look at me!  I’m a minority!”  We simply just need to treat everyone the same, and include everyone.  I want this book to be one where anyone can pick it up regardless  of age, body type, gender, orientation, ethnicity, etc and see someone that can represent them.

7 Tell us more about the stretch goals of Chromatic Dungeons!

The first stretch goal is the basic set.  VERY streamlined ruleset, even more basic than the B/X D&D version.  It’s meant to be a quick start into rpgs.  If it gets unlocked, the pdf will automatically be a free download to everyone, regardless of backer level.

The other stretch goals are the zines.  Each one is about 24-28 pages, and has a central theme: either a highlight for a monster, or a new class.  For example, the first issue is about the Mrav Covjeka (and ant-human hybrid).  There is an ecology section for them, stat blocks, a small adventure, and then some goodies like a comic humor section, new magic items, and NPCs you can put in your campaign.  

8 Let’s talk about you as a family man. Already started playing RPGs with the young ones? What are your thoughts about RPGs with younger players?

LOVE IT!  The great thing about kids is that they don’t have preconceived notions about how to play.  They let their imagination run wild.  It’s great.  Just two days ago, I was reading one of those old Endless Quest D&D books (Dungeon of Dread) to a six year old.  You know the choose your own adventure format?  Where you read and then get a couple choices?  Well, before we even got to the choices part, as I’m describing that there’s this giant ogre in the room but hasn’t noticed him yet, he interrupts me and says, “I take my rope out of my backpack and set up a booby trap!”  It was great.  Kids naturally fall into that role-playing mode.

9 “KS days are crazy days”. How are you coping?

I’m glad I have a great day job lol.  Right now super busy after launch, and I’m trying to keep up with all the questions while also trying to spread the word.  Honestly, one of the best things that could happen to me is if someone can’t back the project for whatever reason, they can still share it.  Boosting the signal would be the biggest favor for me.  Every once in a while imposter syndrome kicks in when I don’t get as many backers as I’d hope, but it’s a campaign, and gotta stick with it.  I honestly think I’m doing the right thing.  And it’s a fun game!  I don’t want that to get overshadowed by the diversity part of it.

10 Please point us to a song you think we should listen to.

O Fortuna, Carmina Burana.  To get you in the mood for fantasy lol.  Outside of that?  A good song to get what I’m trying to do, and also from the 80s (same era as the game I’m replicating)?  That’s Just the Way it is, by Bruce Hornsby, or Another Day In Paradise by Phil Collins.  Great songs.  And sadly relevant.  

Thank you Roderic for your time, and best luck with Chromatic Dungeons!

Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity.

Stay tuned for more interviews! Hit me on the Axian Spice Facebook pageon Twitter or even on Telegram to never miss one! 

If you want to support this blog, check my OSR and Savage Worlds stuff, or simply shop on DriveTrhuRPG (affiliate link).

Monday, February 8, 2021

My TOP 5 Zine Quest 3 Projects FOR NOW

Zine Quest 3 is the third edition of Kickstarter's RPG event showcasing small RPG projects in the shape of zines, and is going strong with hundreds of cool brand new mini-games and supplements for existing RPGs.

I'm in there too with Lands of Legends, the OSR six-zine set I've concocted together with my good friend Mauro Longo.

So many projects, in fact, that it's hard to figure out what are the coolest offerings. So here's my personal TOP 5 of ZQ3 projects FOR NOW, and in no particular order. More and more projects are coming in the next days, until the end of February,  so a second round will surely be in order!

The Lair of the Manticore

A Micro-Dungeon Adventure and mini-campaign setting for several systems: Savage Worlds, 5e, Swords & Wizardry, and Tiny D6. 

This one by Frank Turfler Jr. is an obvious choice for me: an old school dungeon, with stats for THREE of my favorite rulesets!

It also features several interesting stretch goals, including an amazing old style character sheet!

The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade

A series of Old School dungeon adventures by Gothridge Manor, (with stats for Old School Essentials), focused on Lady Ingrade's crypts: the lady feared a filthy group of adventurers would violate her in death, so she compulsively built crypts to lure in tomb raiders and dispatch them with deadly traps and creatures.
Bonus points: maps are drawn by Rob Conley!

A solo journaling rpg about creating rituals you don't actually believe in, for the sake of your community. This one struck me immediately because of the parallelisms with one of my favorite Spanish novels: San Manuel Bueno Martir. This one launches on Feb the 10th, but I was so intrigued by the theme I contacted the creator Alberto Furlan to get to know more about it, and can't wait to pledge!

A tabletop role playing game with minimalist art, where you play a mech pilot and mix-and-match parts to build your own mech and fend off invading alien forces. I love mechs, and simple games, this looks perfect!

An original single-player roleplaying/strategy game about infiltration, espionage, and careful use of resources. The game begins as you, an operative of D.I.C.E (The Department of Infiltration and Covert Extraction), parachute down onto the roof of the Royal Flush Corporation headquarters; a 52-story skyscraper (represented by the deck of cards) that has been taken over by an unknown terrorist organization. I LOVE games that create content using cards!

And then there's my thing: Lands of Legends!

A set of 5+1 Old School zines packed with tables to create and run sandbox/open world campaigns!

It's just hit 100+ backers and is 500%+ funded and racing through stretch goals to fill up the sixth Companion zine with awesome tools, check it out!

New projects pop up everyday, so I'll surely post more soon!

Monday, February 1, 2021

Lands of Legends hits Kickstarter!


 Axian Spice is on Kickstarter. Here's the story!

Lands of Legends is a collection of five zines, each of which is a unique tool to craft and enrich your fantasy sandbox and adventures with unique areas, locales, encounters, and events.

It can be used with most fantasy RPGs, and occasionally refers to the basic concepts of the world's most popular role-playing game (things like Armor Class, Hit Dice, and so on), so it is readily usable with the vast majority of OSR rulesets.

Each Zine contains 10 Area tables and 10 Encounter tables, for 10 different terrain types: Civilizations, Deserts, Forests, Jungles, Mountains & Hills, Plains & Valleys, Rivers & Lakes, Seas & Islands, Swamps & Marshes, and Wastelands.

To sum up, each zine holds 100 unique areas and 100 unique encounters.

The whole set of five zines gives you FIVE HUNDRED OF EACH.

Each zine has a double use: the Special Areas tables are designed to be used as a resource when shaping and designing your campaign world, while the Encounters & Hazards tables are the tool you'll want to keep at hand while running your game.

For this reason, the print version is double-sided! Seen the video above? 

 The Lands of Legends - Mundane zine features places and situations which are perfect for low fantasy/low magic settings and campaigns: natural environmental features and commonplace events which will spark life and add depth to your adventures and campaigns.

Then there are four more zines that push and empower the magic and wonder of your fantasy world to a higher degree. Each has its own unique flavor:

 Lands of Legends - Grim: dark magic, terrible secrets, and horrific threats

 Lands of Legends - Fairy: enchanted lands of gentle wonder

 Lands of Legends - Holy: lands and events displaying the powers of the gods

 Lands of Legends - Primeval: where the brute force of Nature is at work at its utmost power

You can combine Grim and Fairy to create a sandbox campaign mixing the bleak horror and gentle wonder of both flavors into one unique setting, blending surreal and grotesque; you can set an epic campaign where Nature and the Gods are turbulent, ever-present forces just by mixing Holy and Primeval!

And on and on, you can mix two, three, or more of the flavors, or use each as the predominant note for a specific region of your campaign world: use Primeval for a "lost continent"; try Fairy for a realm of gentle fantasy, and so on. The possibilities are endless!

 Lands of Legends is our love letter to the OSR, and a set of tools Mauro Longo and I have been using for years in our games, both as GMs and as content creators. We decided to release it as a zine because we wanted to stay true to its Old School spirit, and to try and get as many people to know about it.

Find Lands of Legends on Kickstarter!!



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