Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Interview - Andy Klosky

Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Andy Klosky, freelance RPG writer and founder of Blackfall Press LLC!


Welcome to Farsight Blogger. Perhaps you'd like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

It’s my pleasure, thanks!  My name is Andy Klosky.  By day, I’m a high school English teacher in Englewood, OH.  By night, I’m a freelance editor and writer for various RPGs.  I’m also the founder of Blackfall Press, LLC—our first product, Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics is about halfway through its Kickstarter drive right now.

Tell us about your RPG history - what got you into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying?

My first ever RPG was Heroes Unlimited—my cousin Jason introduced me to gaming while I was in 5th grade and I haven’t really looked back since.  After that, it was into 2nd Edition D&D, which only led me deeper into the hobby.  When my parents bought me a boxed set of a Ravenloft supplement for Christmas one year, I was hooked.  While I was in undergrad, I started the Wittenberg Role-Playing Guild (at Wittenberg University, Springfield OH), which is now in its 11th year.  Staying within the Dayton area, I’m still able to game with them fairly regularly, though I do have a home group as well.

What is it about the tabletop RPG hobby that attracts you? What do you enjoy most when playing a game?

One of the things I’ve really come to love, particularly as I run games at conventions throughout the Miami Valley, is the way in which stories unfold differently between groups of people.  Each player brings something unique to the table that shapes the experience of everyone around them.  Even when the scenario is the same, the pre-generated characters are the same, and the monsters are the same, the story changes based on who’s at the table and how they react to those elements.  It’s a fantastically unique storytelling medium that’s just not replicable elsewhere.

What's your favourite game? What games that are out there at the moment float your boat?

Like most gamers, I have fond memories of past Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, but my tastes really tend to vary and I rarely find myself enjoying a “true” D&D game.  I’m very high on Savage Worlds right now, particularly the Deadlands universe.  I’ve been keeping my eye on the Fate Core Kickstarter as well, as I really enjoy ICONS.  The brevity and utter boldness of Lady Blackbird: Tales from the Wild Blue Yonder were amazing, and my group had a blast playing in that system. 

Do you still get time to play? What are you playing at the moment?

I do get to play, still!  While usually I’m the GM, my wife has been kind enough to take up the reins for a bit.  We had just finished playing through The Flood (one of the Deadlands “plot point” campaigns), and she volunteered to run Hell on Earth.  When we don’t have enough people for that, we go to our backup—Marvel Heroic Roleplaying—or we play board-games.  Arkham Horror may be my all-time favorite board-game, and it sees a lot of play at our house. 

The tabletop roleplaying hobby has been through a lot changes over the years and it seems that its death-knell is always sounded when newer hobbies come along, such as collectible card games and online computer games. It still seems to be able to hold its own, though – what do you see happening to the hobby in the future? What changes, if any, do you think will have to be made to ensure its survival?

When I see statements like that, I genuinely get confused.  “Death-knell”?  We’re living in a Golden Age of RPGs!   Between print-on-demand, PDF releases, Kickstarter, and numerous print/publisher partnership companies, it’s easier than ever to be published.  If you had asked me even 5 years ago if I thought I could write and produce an RPG, I’d have laughed in your face.  Needless to say, I’m happy to have been proven wrong!  Print may be a dying medium, but RPGs are riding the digital tsunami phenomenally.  My iPad has become an invaluable tool as both a GM and as a player—something I certainly couldn’t have said even a few years ago.  The digital age is nothing short of a godsend for the tabletop roleplayer.
And, truthfully, this era is an Enlightenment of ‘nerd culture’.  Comic book movies make billions at the box office.  One of the biggest cable shows on right now is a zombie-apocalypse melodrama based on a graphic novel.  George R.R. Martin has gone from a niche genre-writer to being a household name.  San Diego has become geek Mecca.  To say that our medium is becoming irrelevant misses the elephant in the room—we’re more relevant now than ever!

Out of all your projects, what are you most proud of?

My ‘piece de resistance’ right now is Cold Steel Wardens.  I’ve put about 2 years of work into it, between writing, playtesting, rewriting, and editing.  And, as we approach development for the system into a full game, the magnitude of what I’ve created has really begun to sink in.

When I started CSW, I saw a massive gap within superhero roleplaying.  Games like ICONS and Supers! emulated the wackiness of the Silver Age incredibly well, but were of limited use in darker genres.  Generic systems like Mutants and Masterminds and Champions claimed to be able to support all genres of comics writing, but fell flat in many ways.  In trying to play to the proverbial middle—being all things to all people—there simply wasn’t room in those games to provide the necessary hallmarks of the Iron/Dark Age of Comics: a detailed investigative system, intrinsically flawed heroes, non-powered heroes on the level with powered ones, and so on.  Nothing against those games—they’re just not built for that level of focus:  they’re broad and all-encompassing, Cold Steel Wardens is narrowly-focused with greater depth.

I still find it somewhat ironic that, despite the fact that Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns are among the best-selling graphic novels of all time, there’s never been a game built from the ground up to replicate those experiences.  Cold Steel Wardens changes that.  It’s focus is what makes it different, and that’s what makes it great.

You’ve no doubt mixed with other great names in the roleplaying community – do you have any stories or anecdotes to share? Any horror stories? Be as frank as you like!

Working with Angus Abranson (Chronicle City, ex-Cubicle 7), has always been a pleasure and led to Blackfall Press agreeing to a print/publisher agreement with Chronicle City.  He was my first point of contact while working on The Laundry Files: the Mythos Dossiers, which went extraordinarily well. 

However, I was lucky enough to be able to hang out with Gareth Michael Skarka at Origins in 2010, just after ICONS had come out.  I was the only one who had run it at that convention, and we spent at least half an hour jamming on various ideas and system hacks.  That might have been the first time I realized that, yes, my ideas were just as good as anyone else’s.  It’s not a matter of “holding your own” against others in the industry—it’s a matter of “what can you bring to the table?”  That said, I did have an utter “squee” moment when Shane Lacy Hensley signed my Hell on Earth books…

Truth be told, my time at Wittenberg has really been spent among some up-and-coming great minds in gaming.  I was introduced to Savage Worlds by Will Herrmann, whose Wild Card Creator was a hit on Kickstarter and is nearing beta release.  Both Will and Kat Ostrander—newly hired by Fantasy Flight Games as an associate roleplaying producer—played in the campaign that inspired CSW.  My good friend Eric Ebbs is in the process of prepping a Kickstarter for his Era of the Ninja board game, which he debuted at GenCon this past year.  The I-70 Corridor through Dayton is a hotbed for gaming creativity!

What are you working on at the moment?

Cold Steel Wardens is taking up most of my waking moments right now.  We have about two weeks left in our Kickstarter, and I’m ready for that sprint to the finish!  I’ve already lined up 4 artists, and am starting my search for a layout designer.  My editors and I are kicking into high gear, preparing for the release of the beta rules for all KS-backers in January. 

If you’re interested in Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics, check out our Kickstarter here.  Alternatively, stay updated by ‘Liking’ ourFacebook page

I’m already in the planning stages for the follow-up volume to CSW, tentatively titled Cold Steel Wardens: Rogues’ Gallery.  I have a great idea for layout in mind already, to say nothing of a bevy of threats for would-be street-level heroes. 

I’ve also been working on a series of essays on gamemastery, which I hope to publish as a collected volume in late 2013.  Stay tuned for that!

Thanks for the opportunity to chat!