Thursday, May 29, 2014

OSR: an appreciation

I hope the forthcoming edition of Official D&D is a good system in the same way I hope today’s weather is nice in Mongolia. Might as well wish others well, but I’m not personally invested.

I like the OSR. And it’s not because of the ruleset. If the OSR were clustered around GURPS or FUDGE or anything else, I’d still be into it. Really, my personal favorite roleplaying ruleset is probably FU, which is a very un-D&D game.

OSR by Dyson Logos
Here’s what I like about the OSR: creative individuals from many walks of life creating distinct visions with just enough in common that we make sense to each other. It’s a big conversation in which a lot of different people can meaningfully contribute. My life has been spent in the art world, which means I’ve mostly worked with people who solve problems in similar ways. But in the OSR, you have engineers and economists and historians and hunters and cartographers and a million other backgrounds all bringing completely different toolkits to the problems at hand.

I like that OSR venues are pdfs and PODs and blogs—things that anyone with a laptop can put together, full of black and white illustrations and questionable font choices. The DIY aesthetic makes every aspect of the game seem approachable and tinker-able. I appreciate a professionally rendered full-color illustration as much as the next guy (more, probably, given my profession), but when I see it as part of a slickly-realized rpg publication, it’s like a hand in my face, telling me to back off. It says: This vision has been realized. We don’t need your input.


So, I hope the new D&D does well, and lots of folks have a ton of fun with it, and that it introduces some great new ideas into the conversation. But more than that, I hope we all keep doing what we’re doing, because what we’re doing is pretty is great.

JRR Tolkein. The plucky little guy is surprised to find the ancient dragon is awake and still possessive of its treasures. I feel like there's a metaphor in here, somewhere.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: The Dungeon Dozen

One of the first gaming blogs I stumbled across when renewing my familiarity with the hobby was Jason Scholtis' The Dungeon Dozen. If you're not following it, then please allow me to introduce you to your favorite new thing!


Scholtis writes "...flavor-rich yet detail-free idea stimulation for fantasy RPGs in the form of random tables for the underused 12-sided die." 

Occasionally, these dip into the actually-useful, but for the most part, Scholtis is creating a new literary form—poems of dehydrated weirdness strung together by the idea of random generation more than the practice. They are great fun to read, and an inspiration. I don't know how many times I've read a single entry on one of these tables and thought "There's a whole scenario/campaign/multi-generational mega-plot right there." 

You don't roll these tables. You read them and then you dream better dreams.

But don't take my word for it:
Disastrous/Abandoned Projects of the Gods
The Oracle Has Bad News
Yeah, But the Gaze of THIS Cockatrice...
Under the Evil Wizard's Hat
In the Philosopher's Spell Book

I've gotten so much enjoyment out of these lists that I've gone to the blog specifically looking for a "Donate" button, because this guy deserves my money.

And now he has some of it! Because he has released a collection! It is available via POD and pdf. 

I picked up a softcover. It's just the thing to leave on the bedside table as a way of reminding the Lovely Wife, "Yup. You're married to this. This is not gentle hispter-nerdism. This is primal. This goes deep. Your husband put a bookmark in at "Over-the-Counter Dungeon Unguents.""

Point being: I recommend it. If anything, Sholtis is setting his sights too low by marketing it just to rpg folks. I think this would appeal to anyone who likes any form of genre gonzo goofiness, which is a pretty wide circle. You know who'd like this book? Grant Morrison. He should have a pull-quote on the cover. So should Robt. Williams. And Penn Ward. And the revenant of André Breton should write the introduction.

My one note would be about the art. The art is great. It's fun and odd and kinda old school grody in a way that is really simpatico with the random tables. But. It's too simpatico. Given that these are lists of weird details that wake up crazy pictures in your mind, having those same details drawn out for you actually lessens the effect of the lists. They're redundant.


How could I possibly be complaining about this?

If, say, I were an art director at Chronicle Books, and we were going to put this book on the "We're Sorry You Married a Nerd" table in every Barnes & Noble in creation (which someone should definitely do), I'd want to pair the text with spare images that led you to look to the text for details. Such as pictograms.


Nikolai Belkov's Olympic Pictograms. Imagine these, but about Terrestrial Angler Fish.

Or silhouettes.


Lotte Reiniger. Imagine this, but... no, just imagine this.


Available at RPGNow and the D20PFSRD shop as pdfs, and at Lulu as pdf, hardcover, and softcover.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

GM Challenge

Fit this image in your next session:
"Rajasthan, India" by Steve McCurry

Edit: Okay, it occurs to me that this post falls under the cultural heading of "Exoticism of the Other," what with the total lack of context and all. Heartfelt apologies. On the other hand, sometimes taking things out of context is a great prompt for creative thinking. So: Yes to taking inspiration from the formal combination of colors and shapes; No to treating people reductively. But you knew that.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Setting: Herebury, with locations


Here's what Herebury looks like now that the players have generated a ton of NPCs, locations, history, and intrigue for the place. It's going to be a challenge to make the scenario as much fun as chargen has been.
  1. Woodcroft House
  2. Town Square
  3. Eighter’s House
  4. Ravengard’s Library
  5. Herebury Market
  6. The Mill
  7. The Red Herring
  8. Herebury’s Hearth
  9. Hedge Hovel
  10. Tatter Helga’s House
  11. The Forge of Hake Glenross
  12. Temple of the Old Gods
  13. Wicht Hill
  14. The Forgotten Well
  15. Guardian’s Grove
  16. Shriek’s Den
  17. Smokey’s Cabin
  18. The Lumber Camp



Also, Beyond the Wall is proving to be just as great a bridge between the OSR and story games as one might hope. When I've suggested story-ish systems to this community before, they have looked upon me with the soft, pitying eye usually reserved for children who don't quite have their bowels under control, yet. Now, people are saying, "Tell me more about this Microscope."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Setting: Herebury


Working on the town map for my Beyond the Wall campaign.

This is a mostly-blank slate on which the players can drop in locations, which they will come up with as part of chargen.

A special feature of Herebury: instead of a town wall, it has a ditch. Not even a moat. Clearly, these guys learned nothing in the Goblin Wars.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Play-by-post: Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

This summer, I'm going to run a BtW campaign over on the Unseen Servant forums. Let me recruit you!

Prince Valiant panel by Hal Foster
If you'd like to join, register at the Unseen Servant, and go through all the standard forum rigamarole:

  1. post in the Introductions and Welcomes thread
  2. go to the Looking for Players or Games thread and find my recruitment post, helpfully titled "Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures"
  3. private message me (Pulpatoon) to get included in the game

I'm looking for 5-6 players who can post more-or-less once every weekday, through the summer.

It might take awhile to get all the players lined up, so don't worry if it looks like a slow start. PbP is a great way to fit role playing into your schedule, but it does mean adapting yourself to a very different pace.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Kleywelt: Sneak Skills

In my Kley-inspired setting, I'm calling the thief and thief-adjacent classes The Sneak because it seems to address the tactics of the class. Fighters fight, Sneaks sneak. Sneaks can be thieves, con-men, spies, assassins, detectives, merchants, reporters, diplomats—anyone who chooses guile as their way of getting things done.

All illustrations in this post by Honoré Daumier
An ongoing event in the OSR Olympics is reworking the thief skills. They're an inelegant fit with the rest of the rest of the game, what with their exclusive claim on tasks that had previously been open to anyone who could describe their character doing something sneaky, and their weirdly low levels of competency. And yet they loom so large in the broader conception of what the game is supposed to be that it seems churlish to just excise them.

So here's my take, with the Sneak Skills.

These skills are based on the assumption that everyone can hide, and look for traps, and climb, and whatnot by rolling appropriate attribute checks. Sneaks, however, get automatic successes at their basic sneaky activities. Other skills become less a matter of if they succeed, than how long it takes (finding traps, picking locks). Skill checks are reserved for attempts to preform remarkable feats of Sneakery (hiding in shadows from active searching or disguising yourself as a specific person). And, at higher levels, they can do things that border on the superhuman, (hypnosis, spider-climbing).

A lot of different attributes are called upon for the different Sneak skills, encouraging either well-rounded thieves, or specialization in one's strengths.

This is very much a first stab at these skills (f'rinstance, I don't have an Advanced version of Sleight of Hand yet), so please let me know what could be improved!


Sneak Skills
Acrobatics, Alertness, Ambush, Climb Walls, Code, Disable, Disguise, Forgery, Poisons, Search, Sleight of Hand, Size Up, Stealth, Swindle

Begin with 5 Sneak Skills.
Every five levels, the Sneak can either gain two more Skills, or a known skill can become Advanced.
New skills, including Advanced skills, only count level bonuses for levels gained after the skill is achieved.

1. Acrobatics
Balance. Stay upright in most circumstances. Skill Test: Automatic

Safe Fall. Take less damage when falling from heights. Remove 10’ per level. Skill Test: Automatic

Hazardous Acrobatics.  A skill roll is required when preforming under extraordinarily difficult situations, such as balancing on a dragons back during a windstorm, or avoiding a trap while under fire. Skill Test: Dexterity + Level bonus

Avoid Traps. Pass traps without triggering them. Must be aware of the traps in order to avoid them. Skill Test: Dexterity + Level bonus

Advanced
Evade. One a successful saving throw against an area attack, avoid all damage. May move up to their entire movement rate during an evasion. Skill Test: Saving Throw

2. Alertness
Lightning Reflexes. +1 to avoid surprise; +(level) to initiative. Skill Test: Automatic

Keen Senses. Preform extraordinary feats of observation: seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling things that would otherwise be imperceptible. Skill Test: Wisdom + Level bonus

Advanced
Detect Invisible. Skill Test: Wisdom + Level bonus

3. Ambush
Backstab: +4 to hit when striking with surprise; add one dice of damage for every four levels, or part thereof. Skill Test: Melee Combat
Snipe: +2 to hit with ranged weapons when striking with surprise; add one dice of damage for every four levels, or part thereof. Skill Test: Ranged Combat

4. Climb Walls
Climb. Can climb even sheer walls without apparent handholds. Skill Test: Automatic

Hazardous Climb. Skill is only tested when rushed by dangerous conditions, such as strong winds or missile fire. Failure results in drop from half total height of climb attempted. 1d6 damage per 10 ft. fallen. Skill Test: Strength + Level bonus

Advanced
Spider Crawl. Can climb overhangs, even ceilings. Skill Test: Strength + Level bonus

5. Code
Thieves’ Cant. Fluent in the coded language of Thieves’ Cant without spending Language Points. Skill Test: Automatic

Decipher. Attempt to break codes and read unknown languages. Skill Test: Intelligence + Level bonus

Advanced
Read Magic. Can read and cast from magic scrolls. Skill Test: Intelligence. 10% chance of misfire with unexpected results, whether success or failure.

6. Disable
Remove Traps, Pick Locks. Skill Test: Dexterity + Level bonus
1st attempt: takes one round.
2nd attempt: three rounds.
3rd and subsequent attempts: one turn each.

Advanced
Reconfigure Device. Rework the circumstances that trigger, lock, or unlock a trap, lock, or other device. Skill Test: Intelligence + Level bonus

7. Disguise
In Cognito. Obscure own identity enough to not be recognized. Skill Test: Automatic

Impersonate. To imitate a specific person or another race requires a skill roll and a Disguise Kit. Without a kit, there is a -2 penalty for improvised materials. Skill Test: Charisma + Level bonus

Advanced
Mimic. No longer need a disguise kit. The disguise can be maintained indefinitely. Skill Test: Charisma + Level bonus

8. Forgery
Copy Document. Can make copies and derivations of letters, maps, official documents, even artworks, given time, proper materials, and an original to work from. Skill Test: Automatic

Counterfeit. Can lighten coins by recasting them with lesser materials such as tin. Requires a metalworking shop. Takes one day per 100 coins. The lighter the coins, the greater the chance of discovery. For every 10% by which a collection of coins is extended, there is a 20% chance of people refusing them and officials beginning an investigation. Skill Test: Automatic

Improvise Document. Roll to forge documents when working without time, proper materials, or an original to work from. Skill Test: Intelligence + Level bonus

Advanced
Copy Magic. The forger can reproduce magic scrolls. An original is required, and the process takes both one week and 100 gp per level of spell being copied. If the Sneak cannot Read Magic, they still cannot read the scroll. Skill Test: Intelligence + Level bonus

9. Poisons
Handle Poisons. Safely work with poisons and maintain poisoned weapons. Skill Test: Automatic

Brew Poisons. One poison recipe per level. Skill Test: Automatic

Identify Poisons. A successful roll will tell the poison’s nature, effects, and antidote. Skill Test: Intelligence + Level bonus

Advanced
Identify Potions. Skill Test: Intelligence + Level bonus

10. Search
Search. Find traps, secret doors, and other hidden details. One turn per attempt. Skill Test: Intelligence + Level bonus

Advanced
Detect Magical Traps. Skill Test: Intelligence + Level bonus

11. Sleight of Hand
Conceal. Move and conceal items without being detected by passive observation. Skill Test: Automatic

Pick Pockets. A 2 or less means the subjects noticed the attempted theft. Skill Test: Dexterity + Level bonus  – (1/2 Opponent’s Level, rounded down)

Active Conceal. Keep items hidden even when being actively searched by continually moving them. Skill Test: Dexterity + Level bonus – (1/2 Opponent’s Level, rounded down)


12. Size Up
Detect Lies. Always know when being lied to by anyone of the same level of lower. Skill Test: Automatic

Read Person. Determine level and class and alignment of another character. Skill Test: Wisdom + Level bonus

Advanced
Deductive Observation. On a successful roll, the GM will provide 1d3 accurate (but not necessarily relevant) facts about the NPC. Skill Test: Wisdom + Level bonus
               
13. Stealth
Move Quietly. Half movement rate, +1 to surprise. Skill Test: Automatic

Hide. With shadows or minimal cover, cannot be found by passive observation. Skill Test: Automatic

Move Silently. Completely silent; automatic surprise. Failure means merely Move Quietly. Skill Test: Dexterity + Level bonus

Active Hiding. Cannot be found even when searched for, given shadows or enough cover to move around. Skill Test: Dexterity + Level bonus

Advanced
Disappear. As long as there is an available exit, leave unobserved from a room if others are distracted for even a second. Skill Test: Dexterity + Level bonus

14. Swindle
Haggle. Always gets a 1d30 discount on purchases in markets where one is not known as a swindler. But if the second roll is lower than the first, the result is a price hike of 20%. Skill Test: Automatic

Ingratiate. A successful roll results in an NPC’s reaction raising one level. Can be preformed multiple times for as long as the rolls succeed. Skill Test: Charisma + Level bonus

Intimidate. Force a morale check. Will not work after a failed Ingratiate roll. Skill Test: Charisma + Level bonus

Advanced
Hypnosis. Can automatically put anyone who engages in conversation with them for more than two consecutive rounds to sleep (subject allowed a Will Save). On successful skill roll, can instill one belief in the sleeping subject, or make one request. Skill Test: Charisma + Level bonus

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Interview: Beyond the Wall's Peter Williams and John Cocking

There is such a wonderful profusion of creativity that has emerged from the OGL and the SRD, and I thought it would be interesting to chat with some of the creators involved, beginning with designers of the game I'm gearing up to run this summer.

Peter Williams and John Cocking, of Flatland Games, are the designers of Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures.


What are your histories as gamers?
Peter: Like many of my generation, I started playing with the original Red Box, which my older brother got for a present at some point when I was quite young. I remember having a 1st Edition Monster Manual in the house much earlier, which I believe our parents picked up for us on a whim, knowing that we liked mythology and monsters. From there it was on to other early favorites, particularly Stormbringer. I've been gaming ever since.

John: It may sound like a line, but around the same time I learned to read, my friend and I played AD&D in a tower. We just had a Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, and a half-set of dice, but it was enough to get started. Games have always been about stories first for me, perhaps because I learned to game at the same time I first heard most of Grimm's fairy tales.

Could you describe BtW?
Peter: Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures is a game about young heroes. It runs on a chassis made from the OGL, but differentiates itself in its genre, which comes directly from classic young adult fantasy fiction, and the approach to starting a game. We use what we hope are flavorful and interesting Character Playbooks and Scenario Packs to allow pickup play.

John: I'd go so far as to say that as well as Peter's description, you could call Beyond the Wall a trick for making characters matter to each other within a traditional game setup. We used the OGL because it's the lingua franca for gamers of a certain age.

What motivated designing this game?
Peter: Oh, probably a lot of things. The foremost in my mind right now is the fact that we, as many gamers of our age, were finding it harder and harder to find steady play. That was the impetus behind putting together something for quick, one-shot play. In terms of our literary inspirations, I think I was just generally frustrated with being unable to find games emulating the kinds of stories I most enjoy; I certainly don't have anything against either epic heroes or grim and gritty stories, but neither of those speaks to me the way that the Hobbit does, or the works of LeGuin.

John: I really wanted the convenient fun of a one-shot dungeon crawl, but wanted to play a game like the stories I read—stories about people helping each other when it really matters.

BtW shows an influence from more contemporary story-based and collaborative styles of games. What were your non-OSR inspirations?
Peter: I'm a big fan of a lot of modern, story-based games, in particular Burning Wheel and Fiasco. I think you can see the touch of both of those games on Beyond the Wall. Interestingly, Apocalypse World and its derivatives, which are excellent, and to which we are frequently compared, came afterward for me.

John: I seem to remember that I kept pestering Peter to play Apocalypse World, but never made the sale. It and Fiasco certainly shaped much of my thinking about getting games started quickly. The card game Once Upon A Time, which I once rather optimistically purchased in French, was also an influence.

Peter: I do remember that now. I was an idiot.

What is your take on the balance of mechanics and narrative?
Peter: That is a really complex question, and one about which I go back and forth all the time. If I am speaking personally, I often very much enjoy playing traditional games with simple mechanics that get out of the way and let me immerse myself in my character. However, I also really like what indie games have done with story-driven mechanics in the past 10 years or so, and I do think that system matters. The interplay between those two sometimes conflicting desires is probably also behind the origin of Beyond the Wall.

Ultimately, I certainly believe that there is room in the world for games that address the relationship between mechanics and narrative in many different ways, and personally like a great number of them. I frequently don't understand tribalism.

John: Beyond the Wall is our first run at that very question. We picked the OGL to have access to a set of mechanics that would "get out of the way" for many gamers, and used the Playbooks and Scenario Packs to introduce mechanics to serve the narrative. Another approach would be Burning Wheel, a game I adore, which in its stake setting and Duel of Wits mechanic does a wonderful job of keeping both the story and the game system active and engaging.

How integral is the setting/flavor to mechanics of BtW?
Peter: Probably not as integral as I might like. We knew that we were working with the OGL because, as John said earlier, it is the lingua franca of the roleplaying world, which meant that it was perfect for immediate pickup play. That meant that we really couldn't do too much to work the flavor directly into the mechanics, and instead had to rely on things like the Playbooks and our monsters to get that across. Having said that, we did several things here and there that I think are a big help, like our magic system and the rules for true names.

John: The change of the magic system, the addition of Fortune Points, and the use of the Playbooks and Scenario Packs are our ways of using the mechanics to model the setting and flavor we're trying to capture.

There are three distinctive mechanics of BtW I’d like to hear more about, both in terms of inspiration and development:
1.     Character Generation
Peter: I think that John was the one who first had the idea for discrete Character Playbooks, and I thought it was pretty brilliant with only a little pushing on his part. I've always liked joint character creation and players bouncing backgrounds and ideas off each other, creating an interconnected group from the start. It was nice to have something, like our Playbooks, to facilitate that sort of group creativity and unity.

John: It's hard to care about someone else's lone wolf assassin character, but when your characters have all grown up together, and the players have helped invent the village, suddenly there's a reason to care. Even single goblin is a big deal when it might kill your aunt.

2.     Magic
Peter: Some time around 2005 or so, my personal group at the time decided to start an AD&D campaign. I hadn't played any flavor of D&D in years at that point, and some of the players never had. John was running, and he and I had a brainstorming session that lasted most of a night. I was mostly a 2nd Edition guy in my childhood, but John showed up with his 1st Edition books. We mostly used a 2nd Edition Player's Handbook and 1st Edition everything else, and I remember that we could never agree on which edition we were playing, to the point that arguing about it became a mostly unfunny running gag.

In any event, one of those books that John brought was Unearthed Arcana, of which I had only a vague recollection. John pitched a game of very low magic, all human characters, but I wanted to play a mage. Using the optional rules in Unearthed Arcana, John started me at level 0 knowing only a few cantrips, but he let me cast the cantrips as often as I wanted with an Intelligence check. This experience was absolutely awesome, both when I was just using those cantrips in creative ways, and then later when I finally learned spells.

When it came time to do a magic system for Beyond the Wall, I knew that I wanted to recreate some of that feeling, and it helped that the combination of quick but weak cantrips and a few more powerful spells matched much of our source fiction. Rituals were the last piece of the puzzle, and I think that they help make the magic seem like a bigger deal. That's one of the reasons spell components are shunted off to the rituals alone and made even more important there.

John: As well as what Peter said, I would add that in the stories that I love most, magic doesn't work at all like it does in D&D. I'm happy that we've found a way to keep some of the best of all possible worlds.

3.     Adventure Prep
Peter: Like I said earlier, we were finding it harder and harder to make regular, longterm play happen. Once we had Character Playbooks, it wasn't a very big leap to get to these Scenario Packs that tie in with them. John and I both regularly "wing it" when we are running games, doing a bit of prep and then seeing what happens at the table; I frequently show up to run games with one page of notes, tops, and sometimes I think John does less. We knew that this was the only reasonable way to make a roleplaying game suitable to a single evening of play, but figured that we needed to provide some help for the GM so that the whole thing wasn't too stressful.

John: Many of us spend a lot of our working time alone in our heads, getting to dream up cool ideas, solve complicated problems, or troubleshoot server settings. That was much of the fun of preparing adventures. I do that for work now, so I like to spend as much of my gaming time at the table as possible.

BtW doesn’t have Clerics. Did eliminating their healing spells or undead-turning require adjustments to the rest of the game?
Peter: It hasn't really been much of an issue. For one thing, both healing and turning are available as spells for the mage class, so it is still possible to have someone healing in the party. Our HP and death mechanics are also a bit more forgiving than some others out there, though not much.

John: Peter recently played a follower of a forgotten god of Law using the Devout Acolyte playbook. It's not that we got rid of clerics, it's that we tried not to be prejudiced about where anyone's magic might come from. That said, you're right that the balance of the party is shifted a bit by folding the cleric into the mage class. The strongest balance for that has been our Fortune Point mechanic.

Were there any legacies of the original game that you considered problematic, but too established, either mechanically or in the mind of the player, to get rid of?
Peter: Saving Throws! We agonized over them for some time, but ultimately decided that they needed to stay for compatibility purposes. It was important to us that players be able to use any module they wanted with a minimum of fuss, and that meant keeping some legacy mechanics that might not have been our favorites.

On that note, there was a time in the development of Beyond the Wall that we worked on making our own system from scratch, and I recall that we actually did get somewhere with it. In the end though, we just decided to go OGL and keep it simple, again for the lingua franca reasons mentioned earlier.

John: That Fantasy Heartbreaker system we abandoned was wonderful, wasn't it? Still, I like the one we kept.

Peter: For the record, we called the project "Fantasy Heartbreaker" for some time and almost used it for the official name of the game. I am still sometimes sad that we did not, and I know that John is sadder.

John: This is the only grudge I ever intend to hold.

What’s the longest running BtW campaign you know about? Does the game scale well to upper-level play?
Peter: I'm not sure how long people have been playing it out there, but we have certainly messed with it at all levels of play ourselves. Really, it works just as well as most OSR games for campaigns, but most people are more focused on the Playbooks and one-shot play.

John: Built on the chassis of the OGL, Beyond the Wall does at least as well as its ancestor. One thing we did well was to make every character class relevant at every level. With cantrips, higher HPs, and access to weapons, the mage can meaningfully contribute at first level, but by moving the most earth-shaking magic to our time-intensive rituals, we keep the high-level mage from overwhelming the rogue.

What do you play when you’re not playing BtW? What do you look for in other editions/retroclones?
Peter: In the past year or so I have played Fiasco and Vampire, in addition to Beyond the Wall and other OSR stuff. My brother is working on a neat Apocalypse World hack that I have playtested in that time too. I play a fair amount of board games. I recently got into a miniature wargame called Saga, which I am pretty keen on.

John: In roleplaying games, I look for a system that will make the other players think I'm clever. I know, it's asking a lot.

How has the community received BtW?
Peter: Better than I expected, to be honest. We aren't a phenomenal success, but the press has been good, and people seem to like it.

John: Everyone's been very kind. We've reached electrum seller status on Drive Thru RPG, and even had a wonderful extended Bestiary made by Colin Chapman. (Check it out! http://www.flatlandgames.com/btw/downloads/)

What are your plans for the future?
Peter: We've been working on a largish supplement for Beyond the Wall dealing with campaigns and other bits. I am pretty excited about it. We've been through several iterations over the past six months or so, which has caused the time table to get pushed back repeatedly, but I like what we are on to.

John: We're working hard to make sure your villains are as interesting as your heroes.

Can you share any of the thinking that's going into the campaign supplement? Is it a scaling up of the playbooks? Or a completely different beast?
Peter: We are trying to approach the "campaign problem" with a similar mindset to the way that we approached the "one shot problem." I use the quotes there because I am not convinced that either of these things are problems per se, but we do recognize that it can be a difficult thing to get a game off the ground sometimes.

Given that, we build on our existing framework to provide the GM and the whole group with some tools to set up what we hope to be a dynamic campaign setting directly tied to their characters and the village. Then we try to have some simple rules that keep lots of pieces moving in the background so that the GM has a minimum of prep required for play sessions. Our flavor concerns are still present throughout, so we also need these tools to suggest games in which relationships and home matter more than treasure and monsters (but there are plenty of those, too, of course).

John: Yeah; we're tapping into the systems that were so useful for character creation and quick-start play to provide sustenance for longer-term play.

What is the appeal of the OSR?
Peter: I think my favorite thing about the OSR is how cross-compatible everything is. Whether the mechanics of these games are your favorite or not, they are extremely serviceable, and the wealth of material means that you can grab what you like on any given night and never run out. There are so many neat games and supplements coming out with really interesting takes and bits and bobs, all of which run on the same basic engine. Just look at something like Adventurer, Conqueror, King and its domain rules, or even something as small as the Summon spell in Lamentations of the Flame Princess. All of these pieces can be combined in an infinite number of ways.

John: Yes. It's mostly that we're familiar with the underlying grammar. Thirty years from now, Apocalypse World or FATE might be the system that everyone kind of knows.

Thanks to Peter and John for their generosity in responding to my questions. Beyond the Wall is available for download at DrveThruRPG.

Illustrations for this interview are from The Book of Wonder Voyages, 1919, illustrated by John D. Batten and found via the precisely named fuckyeahvintageillustration tumblr.