Ego Check: Grant Gould, Freelance Illustrator

In Spring 1999, Pacey Witter was a season away from kissing Joey PotterPresident Bill Clinton was dealing with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Star Wars fans around the globe were camping out to buy tickets to the long-anticipated Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Remember that feeling of anticipation? There’s going to be a new Star Wars movie! And we’re going to see it on the big screen soon! At the time, I was in the process of completing my first year of graduate school at University of Minnesota – where Jesse “The Body” Ventura was residing as Governor of Minnesota. Looking back, it was a strange time!

Being a huge fan of Star Wars and not wanting to miss out on getting a ticket to the first show, I searched online for the nearest organized line – a task that was not as easy as it sound because social media like Facebook and Twitter didn’t really exist yet. I found a nearby group through an online message board and not knowing what to expect, I left class and drove 20 minutes outside of Minneapolis to a suburban theater. I immediately connected with the other guys and girls in what became simply known as The Line. There was a shared language we all understood – we were all nerds, damn proud of it and the enthusiasm and camaraderie was contagious. During the following days when I wasn’t in class, at work or home sleeping – I was at The Line.

New roleplaying game in development from Grant Gould.

One of the great people I met in that movie theater parking lot was Grant Gould. Grant is currently a freelance illustrator and developing a new roleplaying game, Blade Raiders, but back in 1999 he was just another guy camping out in line for Star Wars tickets. We shared many of the same interests and he and his friends were hilarious. If you’d like to read some truly unfortunate quotes – including several from yours truly – from The Line regarding Star Wars fandom and the build-up to Episode I, then check out this issue of The Minnesota Daily – the student newspaper for University of Minnesota – which profiled the people waiting in line to buy tickets. None of us knew about the trainwreck that was thundering in our direction. How could we have known!?

Grant and I stayed in touch after the hoopla of Episode I died down and he invited me to a party the next year in June 2000. I had recently graduated with my Masters degree and was leaving Minneapolis for good, but I really wanted to see all the people from The Line one last time. I decided to stay an extra week in town for the party and leave the next morning. At the party, Grant introduced me to his cousin, Emily. Four years later, Emily and I got married and we celebrate our eighth anniversary tomorrow. Without Star Wars – I don’t meet the love of my life – and I owe the equivalent of a Wookie Life Debt to Grant Gould.

Below, I interview Grant Gould about his journey from standing in line for Episode I tickets to working officially as a freelance illustrator for Luscasfilm and other big-name franchises like The Lord of the Rings. He talks about his long history of playing roleplaying games and his motivations for designing his own game, Blade Raiders. I’m obviously biased, but Grant is good people – and if you feel so inclined, then please check out his Kickstarter page for Blade Raiders.

Continue reading “Ego Check: Grant Gould, Freelance Illustrator”

Ego Check: Tracy Barnett, Designer of Sand & Steam

Welcome to another installment in the Ego Check interview series. One of the interesting things about running this site is the opportunity to meet new people doing creative things in the roleplaying-game universe. Last month, I was contacted by Tracy Barnett, designer of a new campaign setting, Sand & Steam. Tracy was kind enough to discuss his design process, which includes the unique approach of building his campaign setting on the mechanics of three different gaming systems – Pathfinder, Savage Worlds and Fate.

Welcome, thank you for agreeing to talk with me. Can you introduce yourself to those that may not be familiar with your site, Sand & Steam?

Hello, all. My name is Tracy Barnett, and I am the creator of Sand & Steam, as well as a guy who just plain loves gaming. Especially gaming at conventions. Sand & Steam is a multi-system, steampunk/technomagical campaign setting with a twist: rather than writing the entire setting for the systems I intend to use (Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, and Fate), I am breaking the setting into chunks, and using different systems for different parts of the setting. I think that each system tells certain kinds of stories more effectively, and that there are parts of the setting that lend themselves to those stories.

Continue reading “Ego Check: Tracy Barnett, Designer of Sand & Steam”

Ego Check: Jeff Gupton of Blackbyrne Publishing

The following article is the first of two new features I will be adding to the blog this week. In what I hope is the first in a series of interviews with various players, gamemasters and other members of the roleplaying-game community, I present Ego Check. Ego Check will be a place to learn more about the people who you may have interacted with briefly on Twitter or through Comments on a variety of blogs. It is an opportunity for me to conduct a long-form interview to gain insight into how active members of the role-playing community are influenced and think about current topics and trends throughout the gaming world.  The first Ego Check is focused on Jeff Gupton of Blackbyrne Publishing.

In the interview, he recounts his journey as a young player of roleplaying games and how this eventually led to him creating his own publishing company. He speaks about the trials and tribulations of 3rd Party Publishing (3PP), and advocates for greater unity in the 3PP community. I hope you enjoy the following interview as much as I did conducting it!

Can you please introduce yourself, and talk a bit how and when you started playing Dungeons & Dragons?

Greetings and Salutations! (ok, normally I don’t talk like that, but wanted to show off) My name is Jeff Gupton and I am the owner of Blackbyrne Publisher, a third-party publisher for both 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, as well as Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Jeff Gupton, Founder of Blackbyrne Publishing

It was the spring of 1981 when I saw some of my 5th grade classmates playing this odd game with no board, no pieces and these weird shaped dice.  Then I heard what they were saying, almost telling a story of sorts, so I sat and listened.  I heard about spells being fired off, monsters being slain and treasure being found and was instantly hooked.  That summer I saved all of my allowance and walked the four blocks from my home to The Hobby House and bought my first boxed set for Dungeons & Dragons.  (not the Red Box everyone knows, but the one just prior, yes I’m that old) That fall when I returned to school, I had my box in my backpack, filled with characters I’d written and adventures I’d planned, and was ready to fight the good fight.  It’s the feeling that I had when first playing the game that I hold on to as I write the adventures for Blackbyrne Publishing, hoping to convey or pass that along to the new fans of today.

As a side note, normally these were the same people who teased me about my weight issues and only kept me around to make fun of or play tricks on.  But when we were playing D&D, that changed, there were no jokes at my expense, we were a team, and I think that says a lot about the game itself.

Continue reading “Ego Check: Jeff Gupton of Blackbyrne Publishing”