Monday, 11 February 2013

Interview - Tim Bancroft


Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Tim Bancroft of Sceaptune Games.

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

Villager (near Stonehenge!); grandfather (and father!); roleplayer (and gamer and wargamer!); writer (and designer); student (Religion & Ethics); supposed Christian (though somewhat radically liberal); geek (Star Wars, Stargate, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Napoleonic navy, Crusades and Romano-Byzantine period, mainly). I also love walking and my wife and I regularly go wombling across Dartmoor and the Salisbury Plain.

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

I’d been wargaming for a while and a friend of a gaming buddy went to America and brought back these booklets for an amazing game.  It was D&D, of course, and I fell in love with the concept and was hooked, running a campaign for friends and my brother.  Then Traveller – amazing for SF – and when Runequest came out a few years later I switched my fantasy gaming almost completely over to this wonderfully rich and different world.  We’re talking 70’s, of course; I’ve been RPGing since D&D came out, which must be around 38 years, now, I guess.

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

The story and the creative interaction between the players round the table.  You just cannot get the interaction or communication bandwidth in any other way. The relaxed social side is great, too, and unlike others I enjoy the occasional out of game diversion.  I MUCH prefer running and playing in campaigns, though, where you can buy into and develop a character and relationships: I look on RPGs to provide a structure in which a rich SF or Fantasy creation – a story – can evolve.

I love GMing and writing, dreaming up campaigns and scenarios, especially trying to see if players can think out a non-combat solution. Indeed, many scenarios I create have or can be twisted to have non-combat solutions should the players wish.

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

It’s got to be rulesets that can support campaigns, really, and preferably simpler rulesets.  On the fantasy side, it’s simpler forms of fantasy d100 and Runequest such as OpenQuest or its relatives, whilst on the SF side it’s typically Hyperlite – which I love – and similar derivatives of Mongoose’s Traveller.  I ran several d20 Star Wars campaigns, mainly ‘cos I love Star Wars, even though the rules can be fiddly, but I’m not overly excited by what I’ve seen of the latest Star Wars ruleset.  Beat to Quarters is also great fun and I created two derivatives versions for it for running leaders in a Goblin tribe and for playing Star Wars.
Otherwise, I tend to find the Indy/Hippy games very unsatisfying – probably because the experience is too short, biased towards one-shots, and also because the nature of them means I find both the settings, process and systems are often too predictable.

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

As much as I can, but not enough in my opinion.  I wish I could play more: I can make time! If anyone wants a regular playtesting slot for Hyperlite or anything else, do get in touch.  It looks as though Tuesdays might be a good evening.  As a developer, I find playtesting is absolutely key as all sorts of things come out of live play and playtesters even feed great things back.

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?

Yeah – a perennial accusation. An ageing core fan-base and the hobby’s fragmentation at the moment is the most problematic, I think, so we’re not picking up the MMORPG-ers.  Whilst it can be seen as an exploration of boundaries and development, the fragmentation through creation of numerous “my systems” makes finding satisfying games quite difficult as I have to keep learning new rules!

I guess that’s why I stuck with the OGL Traveller rules in Hyperlite and the OGL Runequest rules through Openquest games and derivatives as I didn’t want to add to the problem. It’s also why I’ve gone with Angus’ Chronicle City rather than staying separate: the consolidator concept is a good idea at this time and also, I think, can act as a form of quality control.  It’s too easy to create your own ruleset and I’ve heard some horrendously complicated ideas.

On a further muse, whilst D&D games are easy to find, and it sells well, and I guess the same goes for Pathfinder, the underlying and closed set of assumptions channel play in a direction I ultimately find unsatisfying, even boring.  Too many years, I guess, though I sometimes wonder if that’s part of the problem for others, as well. ...

The advantages tabletop has over online or other, channelled, games are the social interaction and breadth of bandwidth and I think it’s that players and GMs need to focus on. It’s worth remembering this advantage, this adaptability and flexibility, and that no ruleset can cover every situation.  For example, despite the potential for a mid-level detail in Hyperlite, my actual and advocated GM style is quite loose, using the rules as a guide and allowing the characters to be themselves and explore the situation and universe before them.  I’ve frequently run games where players have only made one or two dice rolls in a session but have made a point of saying they’ve had an absolutely great game.

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

The Quester’s Guide to Duck and Hyperlite: The Sirius Treaty.  Both were really great fun to write for very different reasons and both have produced really satisfying games.

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!

None, really, other than forgetting to give Greg Stafford a copy of Duck when I chatted to him.  It’s all been really great fun and the people I meet are all really interesting.  I consider myself lucky to be playing and be involved in such a great hobby with so many fantastic people.

What are you working on at the moment?

The second edition of Hyperlite: The Sirius Treaty should be out early this year (see Chronicle City).  I was asked to extend the timeline and various players asked for a few more examples and ideas for campaigns and play, so those have been included.    It also contains some of the advanced augments from Hyperlite: Corporate Crisis. Players still have the problems of dealing with risky, sometimes hi-tech, problems and situations whilst armed with little more than Roman legionary equipment!

Otherwise, Hyperlite: Corporate Crisis is the most advanced and is being playtested. It’s based in the Hyperlite universes and uses the same 2D6 ruleset. However, whilst The Sirius Treaty focuses on conflicts and issues on the low-tech Protected Worlds, Corporate Crisis is concerned with futuristic corporate espionage between the interstellar metacorporations and, well, whoever tries to get in their way.    Characters tend to start the game fairly well jacked-up as part of an intelligence team or a Corporate Crisis team.  It’s a mix of investigation and action and has made for a number of interesting one-shots with the inclusion of hostile sleepers inserted within the Corporate Crisis teams themselves!
For various reasons, I try and keep things updated on Facebook  rather than on a regular blog, and I’m happy to chat about anything on the Sceaptune Games forum guested on the excellent UK Roleplayers.

On the back-burner is LOQE (lo-ki), a set of d100 extensions and options for Legend and Openquest – and perhaps other d100s), including a character creation minigame and a cascading skill system that can radically reduce the number of skills in use. There is also a Hyperlite Fantasy ruleset that I’m toying with and have run a couple of times.  And there’s a couple of one-sheet rules for SF wargaming and zombie apocalypse and may be involved with a demo/participation games of those this year as well as putting them up on DriveThruRPG.

If I can get all this done around studying for the ethics degree, of course!

Have fun!