Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Interview - John Watts

John Watts, the president of Gypsy Knights Games, graciously took some time out to answer a few questions for me.

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

Well, my name is John Watts and I'm the president of Gypsy Knights Games.  I started Gypsy Knights Games in 2011 and we currently create supplements in support of Mongoose's version of Traveller.  I'm married to my wonderful wife Wendy.  We live with three cats (Ariel, Felix, and Moneypenny). 

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

During one of these classes, I noted that several other classmates had gathered in one corner and seemed to be playing a game with oddly shaped dice.  I moved closer, listened in, and I was hooked.  I never joined that game, but it was fascinating to sit and listen to their D&D game progress.

Inspired by their game, a couple of friends of mine and I biked our way over to a local mall where I intended to purchase the game.  While there, I discovered that TSR also made a science fiction game called Star Frontiers.  I've always had more of an affinity for science fiction over fantasy, so I bought it.  We pulled together a group of 4-6 players and had a blast.

After Star Frontiers, we moved on to Victory Games' James Bond 007 which remains one of my favorite games.  We played that for a while until we decided to go back to science fiction with Traveller.  I've ran Traveller games on and off ever since.


I grew up in Georgia in the United States.  During the early to mid-80s when I was in junior high school (called middle school in most other places) gym class was an optional class.  We had the option of playing dodgeball or sitting in the bleachers doing something else. Well, as I would always rather be reading a book than have a large red ball thrown at my head, I opted to read.

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


I think one of the most fascinating facets of RPGs is the problem solving element.  You get a group of people in a room with characters of different types, classes, and abilities and present them with a problem within a story.  For me, its amazing to watch the group figure out how to solve the problem and move on to the next one.

I have a great group of gamers here locally (the Gypsy Knights, hence the name) with whom we playtest each adventure and supplement.  Usually I'll run the same adventure for two different groups to see how it plays out and what changes might need to be made.  It's amazing to see how the groups find such completely different solutions to the problem.  I love seeing that process.

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

Well, Traveller obviously.  I've been a huge fan of Traveller since those early days and many of current products draw on the campaigns we've enjoyed over the past 27 years.  I'm so very pleased with Mongoose's treatment of the game and I'm honored to be able to produce supplements for a game I've loved for so long.

In my spare time, I've become quite interested in Mutants and Masterminds and ICONS.  I've had a real urge to play or run a supers game and at some point I'm going to have to satisfy that impulse.  I've not ran a supers game since our group picked up Silver Age Sentinels and I'm beginning to miss the four color adventure.

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

Not as much as I would like.  As I said, I've gotten a real urge to run a supers game but so far I've not found the time to put together a good campaign.  Maybe 2013 will be a good year for that.

Currently, I have a friend, Alan Mullican, who runs a second edition D&D game at my house on Saturday nights twice a month.  It's been a lot of fun revisiting some of the old modules.  Oddly enough, after all these years of gaming, I never really played a lot of D&D.  I was either running Traveller or James Bond 007 or playing in someone's Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Champions, or Deadlands campaign.  So while most gamers played the classic D&D modules years ago, I'm currently on a trip of discovery with them.

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 it’s 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?

I do hear a lot about the "death of the RPG" but I really don't see it.  I go to conventions and I still see tons of people playing D&D and Pathfinder.  When I go to conventions, I run Traveller and always get a strong turn-out.  Usually while I'm in the gaming area, I see folks running other games and also getting good numbers.  I think it's still alive and well out there.

I've heard some say that there is new "Golden Age of RPGs" with PDF sales and, in large part, I think that's right.  Go to Drive-Thru RPG or RPGNow and you'll see a ton of games, old and new, that are attracting players.  PDFs are easily accessible.  So instead of lugging a backpack across town or across a convention center, now you can load up a tablet. 

Folks are not only buying into new games like ICONS but are also getting into older games which are now easily found in PDF.  I know when I see people at conventions, they say "Wow!  Traveller!  I remember that game....".  We always say "Oh yeah!  We're bringing it back!".  People are not only buying new games but also rediscovering older games, much as I am doing with D&D.

But I think the most important thing for people to do to keep RPGs alive is simply to keep doing it.  And more importantly, be open to bringing in new folks to your group.  Don't become a clique.  Try to be welcoming and understanding to new players.   

Another thing which always makes me happy to see is the initiative that Drive-Thru RPG has with encouraging kids to game.  Game with your kids!  Let them see how much fun it is!

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

I know it may seem like a trite answer, but I'm really proud of all of our projects.  And while we are proud of each of our books, we're always striving to make the next one just a bit better.  That's our main goal.

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!

Whoa there!  Hey.... what happens at the convention, stays at the convention.  I think that's safer for all involved.  And, for the record, I have no idea who threw those water balloons.

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now we have several projects on which we're working.  The one you'll see soonest is The Superior Colonies which covers three worlds on the edge of the Clement Sector.  Each of them settled for different reasons away from the mainstream of Clement Sector society.  The worlds presented can be used as a whole as part of our setting or can be used piecemeal to provide adventure for Traveller players in any setting.

We're also in the middle of putting together our Core Setting Book, Clement Sector.  Previous to this, we've been producing worlds and adventures which were somewhat generic Traveller products.  In these, we simply hinted that one might link these products together.  In our 2012 offerings, we've been a bit more open about the details of that background with products like Hub Federation in which we detailed some of the history, background, and technology of the upcoming setting.  Clement Sector will give a Traveller Referee everything he/she needs to run a campaign in this alternate setting.  We're really looking forward to showing it to everyone.

Perhaps our biggest news is that we've reached a partnership with Chronicle City.  This will allow us to get our products in print to a much wider audience.  We're really excited about it!  Our first product in this partnership, 42 Plots, will be published with Chronicle City in early 2013 and will give a Traveller Referee 42 short adventures, each with six different possible outcomes.  While we wrote it with Traveller in mind, it could easily be adapted to any science fiction RPG.

You can keep with us on our news blog  or on our website. Or you can follow us on Twitter @GKGames or like us on FacebookWe are really excited about the future and we hope you'll join us. 

Thanks for the opportunity to share our story.