Tin*Star Games are presenting a module at Eyecon over the Easter weekend, and have recently launched a Kickstarter for their RPG Relics. SRGA have taken the opportunity to interview designer Steve Dee.
SRGA: Steve, tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in roleplaying.
Steve: I got into roleplaying via Talisman. Back in 1988, I was buying supplements for it and stumbled onto the Redbox, aka BCEMI D&D.
I was a big board gamer but I didn’t like how competitive they could be so finding this collaborative thing was wonderful. I’ve been a roleplayer ever since.
SRGA: Tell us about the game you have developed.
Steve: Relics: A Game of Angels is a new RPG where players take the roles of fallen angels, trapped on earth, abandoned by God and desperate for answers.
Taking its lead from movies like The Prophecy, comics like Hellblazer and shows like Supernatural, it throws the protagonists into a modern day arms race as demons and angels alike cross the globe to recover powerful holy items to determine the fate of the world, all the while unravelling the secrets of their own pasts.
SRGA: What motivated you to start creating your own roleplaying game?
Steve: Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever thought NOT to create roleplaying games. I was always modifying my games, adding new monsters and new roles, trying out new kinds of ideas. My first proper game I wrote in 2003 and I’ve been freelancing in the industry since around the same time.
SRGA: What has surprised you most about your experiences creating / producing a game in Australia?
Steve: After so many years of Australian design trying to get a foothold, I was pleasantly surprised to see things turn around in the last five years. Thanks to Kickstarter, the internet and the growth of the boardgame market we’re finding bigger audiences and getting better printing deals and there’s not just a rising design scene but a lot of successful publishers now. Sadly however we’ve lost what we did have fifteen years ago which was a sense of community between local freelancers and designers. But people like you folks are trying to fix that!
SRGA: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you meticulously plan every detail, or spontaneously go with the flow when writing your game?
Steve: As a GM, I’m a plotter, but that makes it sound like I railroad. You have to follow the players, it’s just whether you have a list of ideas in your head beforehand or not. Similarly I had some very clear ideas of what I wanted Relics to be, but it revealed itself to me as I wrote it. It was only after a year or so of work that I saw what it was. But that’s how art goes! You have to follow the work, and trust where it is going.
SRGA: What is important to you as a player, and how have you incorporated aspects of that into your own game?
Steve: As a player I like a lot of randomness in character generation, and in my systems. Not in the sense that you never know if you’ll hit or miss with a sword but in the sense that you enter a scene and then you roll or turn over some cards, and you discover how the scene ends. In other words, the system isn’t about do I hit this guy with my sword but what does my character do? Do they hold their emotions together? Do they go off the rails? I don’t want to be like a scriptwriter who says I go in to the dungeon and hit the orc, I want to be in some way an audience member. Do I go into the dungeon? Or do I run in fear? Let’s find out. So there’s something of this spirit in Relics, although you can play it a variety of ways.
SRGA: What do you think will change about the Australian hobby gaming industry over the next 5 or 10 years?
Steve: The success of 5e and shows like critical role have caused a dramatic shift. The RPG audience has about doubled in the last few years and board gaming has shot into the mainstream. But what happens next is hard to say and depends on how well we respond to that. I don’t think we want to leave people just in D&D because, no offence, but it’s hugely limited. But as newbies, we can’t just expect them to hop right into the indie scene when they’ve only just entered the hobby.
The challenge for us is to walk the line and find ways to speak to the new blood. Now that’s a challenge for the whole world of gaming. In Australia I think what’s already happening is our renaissance in design and production. The whole world is watching Australia as the current place of innovation and new ideas, in computing and tabletop, and I think we’re about to really make our mark and make people go “oh, that’s one of those new Australian games” like they do about the Japanese games of late. But the challenge again is finding a way to be Australian without cultural cringe, and without just copying American games. Nobody wants to see Crocodile Dundee: The Roleplaying Game. But if it doesn’t feel Australian, it will get lost in the international crowd. Though we may cringe, the international folk wants things that feel exotic to them, like Crocodile Dundee. But it took Martin Wallace, an Englishman, to make AuZtralia. Are we too close to the topic? Are we ever going to get over our Cringe? It’s been fifty years of cringing in Aussie arts. How do we find a new way? I don’t know, but I bet gaming is the media that does it.
SRGA: Finally, some fun questions to finish off (quick answers please!):
SRGA: a. If a movie was made of your life what genre would it be, and who would play you?
Steve: a. It would be a horror film. A gritty nihilistic Australian suburban horror film, and I would be played by Jason Statham because Australian movies don’t get made without a big Hollywood star
SRGA: b. If you could bring back any fashion trend throughout history, what would it be?
Steve: b. It’s not historical but can we get the jacuzzi suit from The Simpsons? I would never take that off. So refreshing.
SRGA: c. What personal trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
Steve: c. Definitely my sense of whimsy. Wandering off in random directions can cause a lot of problems.
SRGA: Thank you for your time, and for being part of the Australian roleplaying community. If readers what to find out more about your game, or purchase copies, what is the best way for them to do that?
Steve: The Kickstarter for Relics is here
All my games are at www.tinstargames.weebly.com.