Three years ago (almost to the day), I had the opportunity to publish an interview I conducted with Brian Patterson, creator of d20monkey – a webocomic featuring an enjoyable cast of characters navigating both the real world and the roleplaying game worlds they call home. During the course of the past three years, Brian has become a consistent staple in the RPG community to the point of previewing select pages of the official Player’s Handbook for Wizards of the Coast. The webcomic routinely delivers strips with new characters, engrossing plotlines, and humorous commentary on current events in the gaming world.
In recent weeks, I was able to communicate with Brian about his personal and professional development over the past three years. Since our first interview in 2011, he has ventured out to expand his presence starting with a successful Kickstarter project to publish the first years of his webcomic, and most recently announcing his involvement in the creation of Exploding Rogue Studios, an independent games and fiction company. Enjoy our discussion below about the past, present, and future of d20monkey and all things Brian Patterson.
And bards. I almost forgot to mention bards.
I first interviewed you over two years ago in late Summer 2011. At that time, d20monkey was beginning to gain some serious momentum with the online roleplaying game community. How have things changed for you – and d20monkey – since that time?
Wow. Where do I begin?
Many things have changed for me personally and for d20Monkey since 2011. I am still making d20Monkey 3-days a week and building momentum to make it my full-time career, which will hopefully happen some time this year. I worked with some incredibly talented creators, providing illustration for their new products, I nearly destroyed my left leg requiring I go through surgery and a long recovery, and I made the decision to relocate to the city of Denver in 2014. However, I would have to say the biggest event professionally was launching my first ever Kickstarter campaign to fund and produce d20Monkey: First Edition, a collection of the first years’ worth of comics in the series.
That was a major milestone for me, personally and professionally speaking. I mean a “beat Raiders of the Lost Ark on Atari 2600” kind of milestone.
Crazy talk, hardly anyone beat Raiders on Atari! There is a lot to dive into that you mentioned on both the personal and professional side. But since I recently talked with a developer about a failed Kickstarter attempt, it might be nice to balance that out with your successful Kickstarter story. How did you prepare for the Kickstarter? And on a scale from 1 to oh-my-God-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into, how would you rate the expected versus actual workload for the project?
Raiders is one of the games that taught me to hate.
Ah, Kickstarter. I have many tales to tell regarding such things and I am happy to share them with anyone who asks. When I decided to make my first collection of comics, I knew that Kickstarter would be the only way to make it happen in any reasonable amount of time, but I wanted to be as careful as possible. I read horror stories from other campaigns and I asked for advice from other creators who launched and fulfilled successful campaigns. I put a LOT of time and effort into the preparation of producing the book and the Kickstarter page as well with a nice video and graphics to catch the eye of potential backers. It was my first experience with crowdfunding, so I tried to cover every possible base to avoid delays or other issues.
Spoiler alert: I did not avoid delay but more on this in a bit.
I researched printing, shipping, shipping supplies, fees, and delivery schedules. You have to do your best to examine every possibility and make the most of your prospective dollars. I approached it the way I approach game session prep: I created an outline for the project, assembled the hard numbers, and then factored in as many “what if” factors as possible. It is impossible to plan for everything but I wanted to be on the ball and ready to react to any “I turn left” moments the process dropped in my lap. I cannot stress enough that accounting for shipping costs and shipping supplies is huge, especially if you are going to handle fulfillment yourself. Many folks forget these details and pay for it – literally – once it is time to ship out their goods. Thankfully, this was not my downfall. No, my own worst enemy was myself.
Where I fell down on things was my desire to offer too much through the campaign. I call this condition Stretch Fever. It’s like setting a hyper kid loose in an unattended amusement park; it is fun to watch for a while but there is a chance something horrible might happen. I was very fortunate to have folks who jumped on the campaign when it launched and it funded quickly. Once that happens, it is kind of expected of the creator to have stretch goals lined up. It is all super exciting and, as I have learned, taps into a basic feeling of accomplishment. Who does not like to see numbers climb in a positive way? I am not different and that came through as I added stretch goals to the campaign. This is where I needed someone to tap me on the shoulder and ask, “Are you sure?”
Once the campaign ended, I stood face-to-face with a mountain of work. It was doable but this is where, for all of my careful planning, I did not take my hours in the day into consideration and it slapped me around a little bit. I am thrilled that the campaign did as well as it did but the reality of being a one man band hit home in the months that followed. My book and most of the goods shipped in timely fashion but the number of commissions I took on and the added work of creating extra books, including PDFs and one hardback, which put me way behind schedule. Then, I fell off a ladder wrecking my left leg to the point that it required surgery and extended recovery time. I could not sit and draw comfortably at all, so d20Monkey went dark for a few months. That is an example of one of the unpredictable elements I mentioned earlier.
Unrelated: Percocet is a hell of a drug.
Despite my trials, I still believe crowdfunding is wonderful and I love what it is doing to allow creators to make great things they might otherwise have no means of making. It is a great time for creative people but there are pitfalls to avoid when diving in and truthfully most of them are self-inflicted.
My closing advice to folks considering crowdfunding would be this: Plan. Plan. Plan. Know your limits and recruit friends when the day comes to pack and ship everything. Do not fall victim to Stretch Fever.
First, Stretch Fever would be a solid name for a Ted Nugent cover band. Second, I really respect the dedication and courage it takes to put yourself out there and say, “Hey, this is my idea. Would you be willing to support it?” Because the answer could be, “No” and that type of rejection is never enjoyable.
Speaking of this dedication and a work/life balance, what’s it been like to take d20monkey from a hobby, to side project, to possible bonafide self-sustaining career choice? Even through your injury, you’ve been actively engaged with your fans and supporters. Given that you promise three strips each week while working a full-time job, how do you keep yourself motivated to operate your site when the rewards are less than tangible?
The short answer? I love it. D20Monkey combines the two things I love most in life: making comics and gaming.
Since I was that lonely, chubby 10-year old kid comics and gaming have been defining pillars in my life and at the risk of sounding dramatic, made me who I am today. I honestly cannot think of any other career that I want more in life. It can certainly be tough at times. I spin many plates these days between working a 40+ hours-a-week graphic designer job, making comics, freelance work, and sneaking in a few hours a week for gaming and game prep but every new strip pulls me closer to living the dream. There are nights when it’s tough to be at my desk working on a comic until the early hours of the morning but I love it too much to stop now. Honestly, if I never make another dime from d20Monkey I would continue to push out new strips because the characters and this comic are who I am now and trying to stop would be like asking me to cut off a limb -possible but will hopefully never happen.
My readers are a huge source of motivation as well. I have been very lucky to attract a great group of people into my little community and their enthusiasm keeps me going. There is nothing cooler than meeting someone who enjoys your work and appreciates the time you put into making a thing. It’s intoxicating.
So d20monkey CAN make you drunk? I knew it!
How much of d20monkey bleeds into your day-to-day life. Is it graphic designer by day, web comic artist by night or do the two blend together more frequently now? What needs to happen for d20monkey to become your primary source of livelihood?
At the moment, it is still graphic designer by day, webcomic artist by night but it is getting to a point where things are bleeding together more often. I have always relied on my skill set as a graphic designer and color separator for d20Monkey merchandise. Having the ability to design t-shirts and then prepare the files for production is a huge time-saver and it makes me feel more confident in the final product. I can look at my shirts and say, “I designed that and I made sure it would print correctly.” I am already proud of what I do but that is an added bump.
To make d20Monkey my full-time job I have to be able to basically pay the bills. I am not talking about a life of high-end hookers and blow. I am not looking to be on Cribs (is that even a thing anymore?), I just want to pay my rent and know that d20Monkey is my job. There is no magic formula it seems for that to happen. Revenue comes from a lot of sources such as ad sales and merchandise. I launched a Patreon page as well and that is a pretty fantastic model for folks that want to support their favorite creators every month but cannot afford to buy a bunch of books or t-shirts.
I know I will get there someday. I just keep working, drawing as much as I can as quickly as I can. My readership keeps growing, which is an awesome feeling. Most of the folks I hear from tell me they found d20Monkey through friends and people talking about how much they enjoy it. To me, that is the best kind of growth.
You have been quite open with fans about developments in your personal life (e.g., health issues, life changes) and how that has affected the course of d20monkey over time. What has that level of transparency brought to your work and the relationship you have with your fans?
Great question! It makes me laugh now but when I started, I had a hardcore self-imposed rule that I would never allow myself to make d20Monkey an autobiographical comic. It was always on my mind during the writing process and any time I felt a script drifting too far into my personal life, I would scrap it or rework it. I even went so far as to keep a Post-It note on the edge of my monitor that just said “It’s about the stories. It is not about you.” Granted, my parameters for what was considered “too personal” were weird and I cop to that. Over the course of the first year, things started to happen in my life and the way I created d20Monkey. It was little things, subtle changes and eventually I was working more of my own life experiences and reactions into stories.
If you follow me on Twitter or see me at conventions talking to folks, I tend to be an open book about most things. I am not a, “Let’s talk about X just to stir things up,” kind of guy. When things happen in my life now, I try to let people know where I am and what is going on. In November 2013, when I seriously injured my left knee/leg and went through the long, painful surgery/physical therapy process, I stayed sane by talking about it with readers. The strip went on hiatus through recovery as I could never find a way to draw comfortably but I never disappeared. I could not do that. People were sending nice cards and emails, being super supportive, and I owed it to them and myself not to crawl back down into my well and wallow.
Readers have asked if I will recreate some of my isolation, injury, and recovery stories into the comic at some point, and I will say that it is a real possibility. As much as I fought the idea of d20Monkey becoming autobiographical initially, I cannot imagine going back to the way it was before. The comic and the way I present the comic have evolved now. It is an extension of myself.
Last time we spoke, you detailed the inspiration for Brett, Sam, Trevor, Charlie, Mel, and Emma. How have those characters – and their relationships with each other – changed for you over time?
It feels like a natural progression with everyone but I think the biggest changes come through Sam and Brett. It has been a few years since the comic began and they are not the same guys now. With those two, I want to showcase how small life changes and huge life changes have the same impact depending on your point of view. Sam is more confident, and taking steps to find his place in the world with a job at the Dragon’s Den, a creative outlet in Karthun, and a new relationship with Amy. Then over on Brett’s side, he is responsible for carrying the mantle of Santa Claus, under pressure from higher-ups like the King of Seasons, and his relationship with Jeanie is strained. The scope of their challenges are different but both are important.
Everyone in the series has matured a little bit. Sam and Mel are close friends now. I have revealed Charlie’s secret profession and I’ll be covering more of his life with that in the upcoming year. Trevor has a boyfriend, Donny, and in my mind this is the longest relationship he has ever been in. Emma is still Emma. Evil never changes but I do use her less these days. She is like a fine, evil wine you break out on special occasions.
It is little things that happen over the course of time that start to add up. I know this comic is all ridiculous jokes and situations but we all change over time and if you are like me you have those moments every so often where it suddenly hits you just how much you have changed since you were a kid. Since you were a teenager. Since you were in your 20’s and 30’s. Like I said before, I never really planned for the comic to become a chronicle of the lives of these characters in this way but here we are and I love it.
I wanted to go into the developments of Sam and Brett in more detail. I spent some time recently rereading all the comics since 2012, and one of the clear changes is that Brett and Sam are in romantic relationships with fellow gamers. Some of the comics show the interesting boundaries – or lack thereof – when gaming crosses into romance, and vise versa. What were some of your motivations to take their stories in that direction?
I think it stems from the development we talked about. I am getting older and it just makes sense to me that these characters would date, have relationships, and possibly marry someday. It is another source of personal experiences – or hilarious experiences of close friends – to pull from for strips and story arcs. I have always said that at its core, gaming is hilarious and dating is no different. Everyone has dating stories and even when they are bad, they are usually awkward and hysterical after the fact. So, I am pulling in a bit of dating and relationship humor just to broaden the scope of the series. I keep trying new things. I have had my share of ups and downs in the romance department, and by this point, very little in my personal life or history is out of bounds. The characters may live out some of my own experiences because they are funny now – years later – or because I need to get it out there. It is cathartic.
Sam and Brett date gamers, which if I am honest is a bit of a toe-in-the-water kind of safety net for me starting out. My gaming milkshake tends to bring gamers to the yard, so that is who I have dated primarily because of similar interests. I understand gamer-dating-gamer dynamics: the games you like, the rules you disagree about, friendly competition, an so on. There is that instant connection when you are both passionate about a hobby. It is awesome and through this pair of relationships with Sam/Amy and Brett/Jeanie I plan to explore it deeper. They will roll dice together, share victories, be rivals at times, and even argue a bit in tense moments. It should be a lot of fun. Brett is historically anti lady-gamer so now he is dating Jeanie, a skilled gamer and GM of the Innsmouth Garden Society. He uses every excuse to rip on ladies who game and now here she is, in his heart, and he will have to come to terms with that. Basically, he cannot be awkwardly neutral about it forever. Brett is not built that way.
Plus, I get to write more of Amy. I love Amy.
That being said, not every relationship in d20Monkey is gamer-on-gamer. In the case of Trevor and Donny, Donny does not game at all. It is a foreign world to him and this is also something I plan to explore in future arcs. They are crazy about each other and they share other interests, but gaming is not Donny’s jam AT ALL.
You mentioned a few of the new characters in the world of d20monkey. Could you speak more about the genesis of those characters, and which character has been the most surprising addition for you so far?
Before I was sidelined with my leg, I started the annual Christmas arc and I knew where that story was going with regards to where Brett would be for a while after it ended: Brett was going away for a while. I made the decision for a few reasons but at the core it stemmed from a need to shake things up with Brett and Jeanie a bit and to see if I could produce d20Monkey without Brett humor to fall back on. I really love Brett as a character, but I was beginning to feel like he and his stories were the comfortable pair of jeans for the series. Brett is always there. If I hit creative roadblocks, Brett is always good for a bit of low-hanging fruit, such as a rant or a brawl; it is nice some of the time but I needed to challenge myself and add depth to the cast of characters while elevating Brett and Jeanie’s story at the same time. They have not been tested as a couple and while I have Sam and Amy doing well in a brand-new relationship, Brett and Jeanie needed to face their first big challenge together.
By taking Brett off the playing field, it allowed me to reach a comfort level with the current cast where I thought it was a good time to start introducing a few new faces, so along comes Donny, Amy, Tamina, and Phillip F. Dove. Donny has been in the strip for a little while as Trevor’s boyfriend but spends the majority of his time off-camera. That will change in the near future, as we will learn a little more about Donny and his relationship with Trevor. As I said, Donny is not a gamer so we will see how he and Trevor click when they are away from the group.
Phillip F. Dove is a character I have had for a while and could not wait to debut him. I am working on expanding the rogues gallery of d20Monkey and with the physicality of characters like Grey and Klaus, I needed to mix things up with a villain who was less physically imposing and more of a cerebral, verbal threat. For me, Phillip is like Brett in a lot of ways. Phillip is Brett without the shreds of decency Brett nurtures for his friends and Christmas. Since his debut, folks tell me that they know a Phillip Dove and that is kind of the idea. We have all met someone like Dove at a local gaming event or convention. He is that guy who knows all of the rules, plays games very well, and is an absolute ass about it. He oozes this smarmy confidence and treats everyone like idiots. I took that guy and turned the volume up to create Phillip. When I write his dialogue it is in two stages; the first stage is general tone/message and then on the second pass I ask myself, “How can I add bigger words and make him more unlikeable?” It’s fun but there are some strips I hate myself for when it comes to Phillip. However, as much as I love to write and loathe Phillip Dove, no one is close to my love for Amy.
Amy is an absolute joy to write. When I decided it was time for Sam to enter into a relationship in the series, I made a list of the common tropes we see in books, television, and movies, and decided to push in another direction. Do not get me wrong, I love romantic comedies (seriously, I do) and there will always be some overlap but with Sam and Amy, I knew it had to be different. She needed to be different. Up to this point, Mel was the only woman Sam showed interest in and his future girlfriend was going to be a little different. She ended up being WAY different but in all the right ways. I knew she had to be confident, brilliant, and quirky. I did not want to create Sam’s manic pixie dream girl but she needed to march to her own beat when it comes to dialogue, appearance, and motivations. I wanted Amy to be confident and love herself all the way down to be a positive influence on Sam. He is making strides in those areas but I think Amy will be the last push to get him up to where he wants to be. Amy made her intentions clear right from the start and made the first move on Sam. It was important to me for Sam to see how that was done and learn a lesson in a way. He is so unsure most of the time and here is Amy, this cute, quirky, gamer, scientist making her feelings clear and he decides to dive in with both feet. Some folks hated it and others love it. I expected a polarizing reaction to Sam and Amy and that is what happened. It is going to be fun to develop their relationship more in the coming months.
Her hat obsession is a happy accident that evolved in the series but will stick around forever if I get my way.
Yes, I think we all know a Phillip Dove or two! It has been fun to see additional characters like Amy and Jeanie develop over time. And speaking of strong female characters, what was it like to get such a positive reaction to Dallas targeting The Patriarchy?
It was amazing. To have so many folks sending kind and positive tweets, messages, and emails really made me feel good. I do not claim to be an expert or the best guy to take on such issues but it matters to me and I do the best I can with what I have to offer.
Dallas is one of the cast members I am taking a very long-game approach with in terms of her story. By now, everyone knows her story so far: prodigy game designer who, after a few years of frustration, created an eccentric male alter ego to get her foot in the door. With the release of her last game Dead Iron, she let the cat out of the bag on her age and gender. I have alluded to how things are going for her currently and I will explore it in more detail soon but for now, let us just say that her struggle with the patriarchy has reached a new level. Through her, and the other ladies in the series, I always try to be mindful of how lady gamers are treated within the community and present stories that reflect it and react to it.
Dallas is my voice for shining a light on such issues and to have her exact a little bit of cathartic justice on a group of horrible dudebros hit a chord with folks. I’m not saying that arrows through the head are the answer to tough issues but for the moment it felt good to wreck their shit in a fantasy setting.
You have made numerous decisions to broaden the diversity of the cast in the comic, though it never feels heavy-handed or manipulative. Numerous characters have struck a chord with portions of your audience over the years. Brett’s passion, Sam’s prior loneliness, Dallas’ trials as a woman in the gaming industry – the characters feel genuine. And I think people respect that honesty. I am eager to see how else we get to meet in the future as the comic continues to expand and grow!
And speaking of striking chords, your white-hot, passionate love for Bards is well documented. The Bard Love culminated recently when Wizards of the Coast used your comic to preview some pages for the Bard class from the new Player’s Handbook. How did that develop, and what was it like to work directly with the D&D team?
It was AMAZING. Seriously, did you see that shit? An official Fifth Edition class preview was on my site. I am shocked the sound of my squealing did not crack the planet in half. It was weeks ago and I am STILL fanboying over it.
I have always had a good relationship with the folks over at Wizards of the Coast, specifically their Community Manager, Trevor Kidd. Trevor is a super nice guy and leading up to the release of the new Player’s Handbook, Wizards was dropping little previews everywhere, so I started crowing on my Twitter feed about all of us in the bard community who wanted – no, correction – needed to see a bard preview. I even staged mock Twitter protests. Where was the bard love? There are dozens of us in this community, Michael. DOZENS. We wanted to be heard. Apparently, I was not allow.
This joke went on for a few days and everyone had a good laugh but then this email appeared in my inbox from Trevor asking if I would like to be the site that hosts the Bard preview. Of course, I said yes and the rest is history. For me, it was amazing to be asked. Not because of my Twitter joke but because everyone who knows me knows that I genuinely love bards and I was dying to see them in the new edition. I have spent the majority of my time as a player with either bard or wizard characters and admittedly, I have a deep nostalgic love for both. Sure, bards are mocked but in the right situations they are invaluable and they are always fun.
As for the new version, they are awesome and I cannot wait to play one in a campaign.
Also, The second drop of awesome in the entire experience was being included in the email chain with Bill Cavalier, also known as The Dungeon Bastard. Bill is good people and I love his enthusiasm for gaming and the community. He previewed the Barbarian class and most people have seen our exchanges over the superiority of the bard versus the barbarian.
Bard still wins, Cavalier!
In 100,000 words or less, what justifies your love of Bards?
It is big hats, bravado, and power chords. It is swinging off the furniture, being the only person singing on a battlefield, and reminding everyone in the party that we are all awesome. It is charisma and counterspells. It is diplomacy and a devil-may-care attitude. It is being the character cracking a joke when it is all going to the hells or comforting a distraught ally in a time of need. It is stories, songs, and drawing players into the game.
When you are a bard, you may wear several hats but regardless of the shape or feather sticking out of it, you will always be awesome.
That is less than 100,000 words, but I think you captured why the Bard is a force to be reckoned with on and off the battlefield! Shifting gears, it sounds like I missed out on a great deal this year at Gen Con. One of the more exciting developments was the announcement by you and Tracy Barnett of Exploding Rogue Studios. With the new brand, you will be creating and publishing games, comics, and books. How did the relationship with Tracy develop over the years? And what was the tipping point for both of you that resulted in, “You know what, we’re ready – let’s f**king do this!”
I have known Tracy for a few years and really got to know him during our time working together on School Daze. Tracy is an amazing creator and from day one, we just seem to click when it comes to design, art direction, and business philosophy. That is a rare thing and I think we both recognized it for what it is. Since School Daze we talked about projects and things but when Tracy hired me to work on the logo and graphics for War of Metal & Bone it really hit home that we needed to work on things more consistently. It might sound cheesy but we seem to bring out the best in each other creatively.
Shortly after War of Metal & Bone, Tracy approached me with the offer to partner up in a brand new venture. I will be honest – I loved the idea but I went into it slowly. Until that moment, I was (and in a lot of ways still am) a one-man show. I have handled everything when it comes to d20Monkey aside from the nuts-and-bolts website, which was Nerdette Designs. That independence is not an easy habit to break. I guess technically I am not breaking it but I am bending it a little bit with this venture.
I kicked Tracy’s offer around for a few days, weighing the possible pros and cons just to be an adult about it, and then I jumped in. Honestly, it was time and we are both creators who shook off our rookie years (so to speak) in our trades, enjoyed a bit of success, and are on the cusp of making this a full-time thing. In a very Captain Planet kind of way we believe that by our powers combined, Exploding Rogue Studios could elevate us to full-time careers creating things we love to create.
On my side of things, Exploding Rogue is where I will pour my ideas for games and gaming related material. We’re launching with Karthun: The Lands of Conflict from d20Monkey and that is a dream come true for me. I have had Karthun rolling around in my head for years and spread out across a few notebooks and sketchbooks so the possibility of bringing it to life in an actual product makes me super giddy. I like to think I am a decent writer and I have design experience from the days of 3rd Edition and the d20 OGL boom, so I feel confident in my ability to pull it off. When you add Tracy and his skill set to the equation, the possibilities just keep getting better and better.
I am always excited about new projects and possibilities and working with Tracy through our partnership in Exploding Rogue Studios just feels like the best thing we could ever do. I cannot wait to dive in and make the best products possible.
As a voyeur (not in a creepy way), it’s great to see other members of the community like Tracy and you take risks and “live the dream.” The first project you have out is The Monkeynomicon: Monsters of Karthun. What is the best thing about having that book completed?
I am always giddy when a project is completed and released into the wild but at its core I am excited about the first steps towards Karthun the Monkeynomicon represents. Aside from the stories in d20Monkey, this is the world’s first glimpse into Karthun. Call me old school, but I love monster manuals that are more fluff than stat blocks. I knew going into the initial design process for the Monkeynomicon that I wanted it to be system-neutral and filled with adventure fuel for GMs. I want GMs to read the entries and say, “Holy shit! I can do this and this and then this” regardless of their system of choice. I like to think Karthun is going to have something for everyone, while bringing tons of new ideas and approaches to gaming to the table. It is ambitious but I know we can do it.
Is there anything new and juicy (again, not in a creepy way) you can share about Karthun at this time? How would you compare the setting to other offerings available?
At this point, we are in the planning stages with printer quotes and setting up the Kickstarter campaign so there are a lot of things that I cannot talk about but I can say that we have decided to go right in with the goal of an 8.5 x 11, full-color book. This may seem ambitious for a first project but Karthun is my baby. I have worked on it for years, and my dream is to have this glorious hardcover sitting on the shelves next to my favorite settings and system books. It is important to me and – again this is another reason why he is awesome – Tracy understands that so he did the research to find printers capable of such quality that is hopefully obtainable for us.
As far as other settings out there, I think Karthun hits a few familiar beats while pushing in new directions as far as style, design, and presentation are concerned. I am an illustrator so most of my design cues come from the visual side. At the moment I am putting together a Karthun design bible for Tracy and I to use as a master guide for the book. It is filled with my notes, ideas, and a ton of sketches and concepts I have created since beginning work on the setting and where I think Karthun sets itself apart will be visually and through my first directive in the guide:
“Karthun is not classic swords and sorcery. It is new ideas, re-imagined icons, and a world that is not your father’s fantasy RPG.”
That is not a knock on old school. I LOVE old school, it is just that I want to make something that stands out to gamers around my age who were raised on one or two styles but are looking for something new.
And how do you plan to gain real estate in an already-crowded gaming marketplace?
It is true that there are a lot of options for gamers these days and I love it. I love that we are in a golden age of gaming where we are spoiled for choice with top-shelf systems and settings. That is one reason why I want Karthun to be system neutral. I know that we will create game systems through Exploding Rogue and that is going to be exciting but for now, I think a super nice, system-neutral setting will appeal to a lot of groups out there. If we hammered Karthun down to one setting it would discourage some folks from looking at it and possibly create more work for the GMs choosing to convert and run it in another system. So, we will focus on setting, lore, and tools for using Karthun in a handful of the big systems out there: FATE, Dungeon World, Pathfinder, 13th Age, and 5th-Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
It seems like a great idea to publish a book that can be used by multiple systems since so many games are out there right now. If you just targeted one system – or created an entirely new system – then it likely limits your audience. Good luck going forward, and I’ll definitely be backing the Kickstarter when it launches.
It has been fun to peek into the world of Karthun through the current Dungeon Run arc. How often can we expect to see Karthun featured in the comic going forward?
The short answer is: Often.
When it comes to Sam and the games he runs in the comic, unless I specifically mention that they are playing with a particular system or setting, his games will always default to Karthun. Karthun is his passion now and he is enjoying the process of developing the setting, adding layers of depth and detail, and building the framework for campaigns for years to come. Basically, I am pouring myself into Karthun and through Sam, everyone will see bits and pieces of the process. It is fun and it presents new challenges for me both as a GM and as a guy writing and illustrating a comic.
With conventional fantasy, most folks have a basic knowledge of the references you make. When I say, “There is a unicorn” people know what that is but when I make a reference to a new thing created for Karthun, I have to tell the audience what it is and provide an illustration. Creating that explanation may lead to a strip dedicated to just the fable and backstory regarding the creature during the arc. This creates a chain-reaction that leads to longer arcs and more details about Karthun for the readers and myself. It is more work on my end but I love to do it and the end result just makes for better comics and world building.
In the upcoming year, I will be focusing on Karthun through Sam’s campaign and the world of the Innsmouth Garden Society through Jeanie’s campaign. While it is not as front-and-center as Karthun, there is a world and lore being built around the IGS and in horror/Lovecraftian fashion, it is happening back here in the shadows. It is far planning but that is actually my next project after Karthun is completed next year. I want to make a stand alone Innsmouth Garden Society game/setting book. It is ambitious but I love the IGS and I want people to play in that world just as much as I want to see sessions of Karthun happening at conventions.
Basically, I love what I do, I want to make all of the things, and I am excited to do as much as I possibly can to bring some happiness to the gaming community.
I wish to thank Brian for the opportunity to learn more about the exciting developments in his life over the past three years. Come back in another three years when I check in with Brian again to learn just how close he is to world domination.