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Chinwag: Interview with RPG writer Allen Farr

1 Jun

Well, to kick off this month’s Post a day, we’ve got an interview with RPG writer Allen Farr, author of our recent adventure module “The Witch’s Daughter” (available from Grinning Skull Studios), we sat down and had a bit of a chinwag to discuss all things RPG, writing and life…

Grim: Hello Allen, welcome to Chinwag, and thanks for taking the time to talk to us, So lets start by introducing yourself to the audience, tell us a little about yourself.

Allen: Talking about myself doesn’t come easy, so I guess that makes me shy. I’m the shy person that once he gets to know you, he comes out of his shell, and then you get to spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to fit him right back into it.
I’ve enough hobbies, interests and projects to last me a lifetime, or two. Other than playing and writing role playing games, my other main hobbies are gardening, and sea kayaking, which includes building them.

Grim: So then, at what point did you get involved in the hobby?

Allen: Like many people my age, I got into the hobby when I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons. I was twelve or thirteen then. I can still remember my group furiously rubbing wax crayons into the etched numbers on the dice and trying to speed paint some really bad quality miniatures.

Grim: So tell me, when was it you decided you wanted to start writing?

Allen: As a child I was either writing stories, or reading them. Yet, it never crossed my mind that a writer was something you could be.

Other people wrote books, more specifically, adults. As I had no intention of growing up (and still don’t) that didn’t seem to be an option. Later, when I had moved on to other games such as Shadowrun and then Earthdawn, I would always write out my adventures to match the structure of the published modules. I can remember thinking it would be cool to write for FASA Corporation, but it remained nothing more than a thought.

Much later, after FASA Corporation had closed its doors, and Redbrick had the Earthdawn licence, I was on the forums, lamenting about a book that had been promised, but not delivered, Travar. The line developer then challenged me ‘Why don’t you write that book’. After I picked myself up off the floor my first thought was ‘how hard can it be’? Long story short, as soon as I started writing Travar I realised I was enjoying the whole creative process, and I’ve been writing ever since. That was almost eight years ago. As we speak Travar: The Merchant City is sitting with FASA Games, ready to go to print.

Grim: What would you say, inspired you the most in both your hobby direction, and your writing?

Allen: Dungeons & Dragons was my first RPG love affair, and nothing can take that away. It definitely inspired me, not just its concepts, which were new to me, but the beautiful artwork. Yet, there were things about Dungeons & Dragons that didn’t quite make sense, or rubbed me the wrong way, and it took me a really long time to put my finger on what they were. The dungeon in the middle of nowhere for no explicable reason, the trapped doors, treasure chests and passageways, rooms full of creatures that seemed to have been waiting an eternity in a sealed underground chamber just for the chance to attack a wandering explorer. Undead aside, what did these creatures eat, where did they get their gear, who cut their hair. With rust monsters lurking down there, how come they still all had steel weapons? It was these unexplained questions that eventually eroded my suspension of disbelief and made me look to other games.

I find the artwork on RPGs inspiring, and it was the Shadowrun artwork that got me running the shadows of Seattle. It was Shadowrun (Tom Dowd at Euro GenCon 94’ to be exact) that made pick up Earthdawn, and it was Earthdawn that offered a fantastic background that instantly made sense of all the things in Dungeons & Dragons that I couldn’t quite reconcile. Shadowrun set the bar on what something new should look like, and Earthdawn set the bar on depth of setting, and they both inspired the direction of both my gaming and writing.

Grim: What do you think of the state of the RPG hobby today?

Allen: People often talk about the Golden Age of RPGs and lament that it’s now a thing of the past. Personally, I think the hobby is in a great place today and the Golden Age has just evolved.

Yes, the age of companies making millions of dollars on their products is mostly over, but with the advent of the Internet, all manner of things are now possible. PDF publishing and POD have really shaken the market up and anyone who has ever wanted to publish their own RPG can have a go. Yeah, sure there are hundreds of Heartbreakers out there, but so what. The more people that have a go, the more likely we are to see new developments in the future.

I think the hobby will continue to evolve and crowd funding is probably the most recent tool helping this process along. Without the Internet and crowd funding, I wouldn’t have any writing credits. Another tool gaining traction is 3D printing. As the technology improves there will be a lot of RPG related innovation and I’m not just talking about miniatures, but other game aids, custom dice, scroll cases for player hand outs, dungeon tiles, printed 3D maps and maybe things that haven’t been thought of yet.

Grim: I totally agree, the industry is going to evolve with new tech and ideas, speaking of PDF publishing  You recently wrote “The Witch’s Daughter” for us here, could you tell the readers a little about it?

Allen:The Witch’s Daughter’ is an example of the evolution of the hobby. I saw a ‘Writers Wanted’ advert from a hobby designer on RPG.net who wanted an adventure to complement the upcoming release of his game. Unfortunately, the game never materialised, leaving me with an outline adventure. When Grinning Skull Design Studio advertised for writers, I pitched the adventure to them. It still needed quite a bit of work, but the core of it was there. It was the first time that I had to write something that was system agnostic.

The adventure itself is a mix of fantasy, murder mystery and horror and is set against the tense background of an expected spring offensive between warring nations. Of course, the player characters find themselves right in the middle of it all.

Grim: So tell us what were your inspirations in creating the adventure?

Allen: The witchcraft theme of the adventure was partially inspired by the setting theme it was originally intended for, but more than that I often write material where not everything is down to the ‘Evil Monster’. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the traditional high fantasy monstrosity running about and eating villagers, but I like a little ‘Grim’ that only humanity can provide, thrown into the mix. While there are a few low level monsters in the adventure, it’s more about the monstrous side of people.

Grim: You’ve written some ‘100’ titles for us, so would you say that you prefer writing those, or adventure modules?

Allen: I love writing adventure modules. I love the process of crafting the story arc and putting together a background to set the story arc in. So, writing adventure modules is at the top of my list. Having said that, as a writer, the ‘100’ titles are a great writing exercise. Take the Fatal Blows – Bladed Edition, there are only so many ways to describe the cut and thrust of a bladed weapon and the trick was to come up with 100 fatal blows without becoming repetitive. So word usage became very important as did sentence structure. 100 City Encounters was a different beast. It wasn’t as tightly subject focused, but it was still challenging to make each encounter unique, and as many of the encounters are also adventure hooks that made it all the more challenging.

Grim: Is there any advice you could give aspiring RPG hobby writers based on what you’ve learned on your writer’s journey?

Allen: Honestly, I could write a book on hobby writing, and I’ve only been doing it for a handful of years. Hobby writing is fun, and you want to keep it fun. Unless you want to become a full time freelance writer, be careful of the projects you work on.
Large projects with hundreds of demanding Kickstarter backers and tight timescale are probably best avoided. From my experience, smaller publishers are more likely to give the first time writer a chance and they also tend to pay promptly, the rates are often better and negotiable. Small publishers tend to have a quicker turn around, and you will see your work published sooner.

Getting your first writing credit is important, it can lead to other things, and its not as difficult as it might seem. Get involved with fan projects – I’ve been involved with a couple that have been picked up by publishers. Some forums have a freelance or bulletin board section, check these out regularly. There are plenty of pitfalls also. RPG publishers come and go regardless of their size, and you can be left high and dry with an unfinished project. Then there is the dreaded contract and Non-Disclosure Agreements, royalties, work for hire and getting paid… Its interesting ride, get writing and get it out there…

Grim: Great advice there! What are your writing plans for the future?

Allen: There is a lot more collaborative stuff with Grinning Skull Design Studios. There are more adventures planned. Singularity, a one shot Sci Fi adventure set on a scientific research vessel. Betrayal At Tarsus Mor, an adventure for beginning characters introducing them to the City of Tarsus Mor, which will be getting more attention in future products. Lament of the Gargoyle King, another adventure in the pipeline, which is also based in and around Tarsus Mor.

I’m also chipping away at a source book called, Mekello – The Forge of Eldorande, for the Warsong RPG. I have a couple of adventures written for the upcoming Travar sourcebook for Earthdawn, but I’m unsure if they will get released as an official product or a fan project. I’ve also written an adventure for FASA Game’s 1879 London Sourcebook, called Baby Boojum, which is in the development pipeline awaiting artwork. On top of that I have a couple of home brew settings that I would like to see published, High Frequency, and DemonPunk. I hope I will get a chance to return to writing them soon.

Grim: So here’s a question I always ask, Marvel or DC?

Allen: I’m not sure I would know the difference (I can almost hear the disapproving intake
of breath!). While I do read the odd superhero comic book and love the movies, I preferred Judge Dredd or the Aliens comic books.

Grim:  An excellent answer! I love the old 2000AD strips from last century, they are something that doesn’t get enough love or respect as they should! Here’s another one for you, is it Trek or Wars?

Allen: I’m going to throw caution to the wind and say Battlestar Galactica. I love the cheese fest of the original, and the dark gritty themes of the reimagining. But to pacify at least half of the crowdand antagonise the other, while I do love Star Wars, I think I love Star Trek a little more. What Star Wars needs is a tv series.

Grim: Well, thanks for taking the time to talk to us in this edition of Chinwag, it’s been great talking to you! Is there anything else you’d like to add? Like where can you be contacted or can be found on the interwebs?

Allen: Almost anything RPG related I’m involved with can be found on my G+ page. Folks can check it out and if they want to strike up a conversation or comment on anything I’ve worked on.

https://plus.google.com/108772548112027786997

Grim: Thanks again Allen for taking time out of your busy schedule to have a chinwag!!

Well, that’s it for this edition of Chinwag, we’ll be talking to author Tyler Omichinski next time in Chinwag to discuss more things about the writing, RPGs, life and the universe!

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New Release: 100 Cursed Places for all Horror RPGs.

28 May

Yet more Grinning Skull Design Studios goodies on offer, this time 100 Cursed Places for all Horror RPGs by Tyler Omichinski.

This great title presents 100 weird locations for GMs to slip into your horror games when on the fly, simply choose and use, or randomly generate by D100!

Get your title here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product/212885/100-Cursed-Places-for-all-Horror-RPGs from RPGnow.com (also on Drivethru RPG)

Click on the link to visit our publisher page for many more PDF RPG titles: http://www.rpgnow.com/browse/pub/8807/Grinning-Skull-Studios

Released Today! The Grinning Skull Compendium 2016! Get your copy now!

24 Aug

compsmaller1a

Today is release day for the Grinning Skull Compendium 2016. it’s been a while since it’s inception but it’s finally out there into the world for all and sundry to download.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Compendium, it’s a Wargaming/RPG/hobby zine containing usable 28mm paper kits and articles, no less than seven paper kits in this issue in fact! Here’s a run down of what’s in this issue:

Editorial by Grim
Words of wisdom from Mr.Grim himself (probably!)

Cheap & Cheerful: Ruined walls 28mm paper kit.
Easy and modular ruined wall kit for wargaming/RPGs

Duck Wars!
Want a duck army for gaming? We show you how!

Grim’s Dungeons of Doom: Dungeon Builder Series;
Stone Temple sampler set.
Add on paperkit for the dungeon builder series of
models from Grinning Skull Studios

W.A.R. (Wound Attack Rules) by Graham Seeney
Experienced GM and games designer Graham Seeney details
the Wound Attack Rules system for D20 RPGs.

Grand Tall Brick Wealthy dwelling paper kit.
A 28mm tall tower building for your gaming table!

Apocalypse 28mm Protest signs
Get some civil unrest in your miniature games!

The Art of RPG Games Mastering by John L Arnold
Tips & tricks for the savvy GM!

The Dinner Party 28mm paper kit sampler
More tea vicar? Add some details to your miniature setups.

God says burn all your RPG books and miniatures!!
Remembering the 80’s Satanic panic!

Skinflints Quest: skeleton edition
Looking for cheapo skeleton minis? we explore some options!

Cheap & Cheerful Shops & Dwellings 28mm paper kit.
Create villages & settlements easily with this customizable kit

Origins: Dungeons of Doom & the Grinning Skull panel!
Where did that panel come from? We explore….

Grinning Skull’s Amazing 28mm Meta-Books sampler kit
Get some tiny versions of our e-books with this meta-paper kit

This is a pay-what-you-want PDF publication, which means that if your skint or if you’re a skinflint, you can get this for free, but all donations keep the Grinning Skull machine going and are all greatly received!!

Get your copy of the compendium now by downloading the PDF from Wargame vault (also available from DriveThru RPG & RPG Now) by visiting http://www.wargamevault.com/product/191682/The-Grinning-Skull-Compendium-2016 and tell your friends about this new PDF! Also why not take a look at all the other PDF grinning Skull products in our range by visiting our Wargame vault publisher page here: http://www.wargamevault.com/browse/pub/8807/Grinning-Skull-Studios

Please let me know what you think of this first issue, all comments and suggestions are welcome.

Enjoy!!

Want to get FREE advertising in the forthcoming “Grinning Skull Compendium”? Read on…

13 Jul

compendiumcov

Calling all would be advertisers! Ok, I’m going to put this out there, so please give me a bit of time to explain before clicking away.

I’m planning a PDF publication called “The Grinning Skull Compendium”, it’s going to be a collection of articles and paper kits all along subjects of the similar theme of this site and all it’ll be put up for Pay-what-you-want on wargame vault and its appropriate sister sites. I’ll get into the specifics later, but I’ll talk about that another post. You’ll be hearing about this quite a bit over the next couple of months as it starts coming together, so I’ll apologise for that in advance if it becomes a pain!

Anyway, this next bit is going to be reposted and copied on quite a few places, but I thought it’d save me time repeatedly typing the same points over and over. Feel free to ask any questions if you feel I have been unclear or vague. Also I’ll be posting this info on its own page so it’ll be easier to redirect any interested parties to the info.

Ok, that’s out of the way, lets get to the point….

HOBBY ADVERTISERS WANTED FOR PDF PUBLICATION (The Grinning Skull Compendium)

Ok, since I want to get quite a bit of information over, you’ll have to forgive the “cut & paste” nature of this message where it is online.

So, I am looking for advertisers in the Miniature gaming/RPGing/modelmaking and related community and offer FREE advertising in my forthcoming first “Grinning Skull Compendium” PDF publication.
The compendium is a Pay-what-You-want PDF publication containing a collection of papermodels and articles for miniature wargaming, RPGs and general modelmaking, which I hope to publish every year/twice a year (depending on how the first is received.) I hope to include terrain making articles too and anything else I can cram into it before publication. So in addition to this, I hope to include advertisers within the hobby a cheap rate/sponsorship/etc in following PDFs, but the first issue will be free to advertise in for those who would like to be involved.
Contributors are welcome, although I cannot pay for any unsolicited material. If you would like to be involved in some way, please contact me via the website https://thegrinningskull.wordpress.com to have a chat about your ideas.

Priority will be given to advertisers who fit best into the various categories that complement the compendium, and some examples are as follows:

Miniature figure related (manufacturers/sculptors/painters/businesses etc)
Paper modeling (PDF/book/sales/websites etc)
Terrain or modelmaking (PDF/book/sales/websites etc)
wargaming related (PDF/book/sales/websites etc)
RPG related (PDF/book/sales/websites etc)
Crowdfunding Projects within all above related fields
Genre related other (comics/books/products/etc)
Other advertisers will be considered, but priority is given to those mentioned above. Please contact me if unsure and require more details.

Advertisments in will only be accepted in the following formats: JPEG, BMP, PNG, PDF. and must be accompanied with a current valid URL to link the ad within the PDF document. No text ads are accepted in this first issue (sorry)

If your interested in advertising in this first issue and future publications (not limited to the compendium) please get in touch via my site: https://thegrinningskull.wordpress.com/contact/
Thanks!!


PS: I’ll be back later with some specifics about the project!

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