Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Interview - Jesse Galena, creator of Timeline Fracture

Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Jesse Galena; gamer, writer and gosh darn it, a damn fine fellow.

Right now he's got a Kickstarter on the go; Timeline Fracture is a tabletop RPG campaign setting that lets you to use d20 books (3.0, 3.5, etc) regardless of genre together. You can take the races, classes, weapons, feats, and skills from multiple d20 books and create the most interesting characters you can imagine. When creating a campaign, the setting allows you to use the diverse material in a coherent and consistent way.

The rich setting offers a living, unique world where all these elements can come together. Timeline Fracture provides world-based solutions that solve complications that would arise from mixing different d20 books together. It also allows you to get the most out of all of the d20 books you own, breathing new life into them. If you discover new d20 books of any setting, they can be used to enhance Timeline Fracture even further.

Perhaps you'd like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a twenty eight year old fiction writer who recently married an intelligent, wonderful lady. I love to write, create, and learn as much as I can.

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

Unlike most of my friends who play RPGs, I'm a bit of a late bloomer. I wasn't introduced to it until I started college. While visiting a friend on spring break, he told me about this game his friends got him into playing. At the time, I was only familiar with video games and board games, so I was confused that his character had a defined look but no actual picture and intrigued that he created his own character. He told me to join them, so I did. In the basement of one of the dorm halls, we played Dead Lands for seven hours. That was my first experience, and it was enough to hook me.

I have joined and run games ever since. Games like Vampire: The Masquerade, Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved, Savage Worlds, and Numenera have all left a positive impression on me. It wasn't long before I started making and running my own systems and games that fit niches that were not being satisfied.

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

I love the idea of theater and communal story telling mixed with rules and regulations to make the experience balanced and dynamic for all the players. You are playing an important role in an ever-shifting story you and others help shape. That kind of creativity is intoxicating.

When playing RPGS, you have choices that are not limited to specific paths, the bane of every GM's planning efforts. Your options of what to do with your character are vast. I once made an entire encounter for my players in a ten-story building. Different events would trigger and different people showed up depending on which floor they went to and how long they took. Instead of investigating the building, my players made a fertilizer bomb out of a van, put a brick on the gas, and dove from the speeding van before it struck the building and blew it up. I never expected them to do that.

I also love that failure usually makes the story more interesting rather than simply penalizing the players, though it can do that as well. In many board games, video games, card games, failure has a specific outcome. If you fall in the pit, you die. If you don't roll high enough or answer a question correctly, someone will beat you to the end of the board. The effect has to directly relate to the mechanics of the game. But RPGs mimic life and real interactions which allows for a far more dynamic possibility of negative outcomes. You could lose HP or drop something you care about or even have an NPC you liked refuse to speak with you anymore. The consequences can transcend the mechanics of the game.

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

My favorite game is a tabletop RPG where everyone plays to have a good time, tell a story, and help each other. I've been a part of several games like that, and they are always fun regardless of the system we use.

For specific games at the moment, I love Numenera, Storium.com, and Timeline Fracture. I enjoy Numenera because it is in-depth but not too complicated system, Storium because it can be RPGs on your time, and Timeline Fracture because no matter what idea for a character or story I have, I can make it work.

My wife and I have also pumped about one hundred and fifty hours into Dark Souls and Dark Souls II, so I feel it would be doing those games a disservice to leave them out.

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

I do have time to play, but my wife and I just moved to a new city that lacks my regular RPG groups. Now that we're unpacked and settled, I am finding new people to play with. I am up for most games, so I am excited to join a new group or two.

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?

That's a great question. I think inclusiveness will keep it viable. Rather than only playing with our tried and true party members, its good to extend a hand to newer players. You can help teach them table etiquette and show them how much fun being in a friendly group can be.

I think innovation will make a difference. Many games have gotten simpler over the years, allowing new players to have an easier time learning the rules. That being said, there are still great games with 300+ page books that learned from previous games and made a wonderful, very large system.

I think variety will draw people in. Vampire: The Masquerade doesn't play like Pathfinder and neither play like Numenera. There are so many good games and systems that one of them will probably deliver what you want. If you can't find one that does what you want, you can make your own.

I think the social nature of RPGs is one of its strengths. I love video games, but none of them, even those I play online, have fully captured the experience of being in a room with people and playing an RPG. There is a different feel to the experience, and I think once you've experienced it and liked it, you'll know there's nothing else quite like it.

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

I cannot say for sure. I will say there is a very special place in my heart for Timeline Fracture, for it is the first time I have tried to appeal to such a large audience. I've made other games and ran them successfully for years, even had other people run those games without me for different people. Timeline Fracture is even larger than that. I want everyone to have the chance to experience it and have as much fun as we did. For all the work I've done for it and how I have seen it succeed as a game, I am quite proud of it.

Tell us more about Timeline Fracture and the crowdfunding project; what was the attraction in making such a game, and why choose crowdfunding?

The idea of Timeline Fracture came about while I was making another game. I liked the idea of having a first-generation astronaut, a warrior, and a cyborg in a party together. I looked into several genre-bending game systems, but none of them quite clicked with me. Aside from that, the rule books were so thick I questioned if I could convince an entire group of friends to dedicate enough time to learn a new, extremely dense system.

That's what got me looking more into d20. The massive amount of content meant that nearly everyone I knew had experience with playing one d20 game or another. If you were only experienced with a particular fantasy game, you could make a character for Timeline Fracture without using any other books. If you were a seasoned player or wanted to explore what could happen when you started mixing different games, you had a great wealth of possibilities before you. Both kinds of players could play Timeline Fracture and have a wonderful time with it.

Since all those d20 games used the same system, everyone knew the basics. I thought players could make characters using any class, any item, and any feat they could find. My work was done, and I didn't even have to do anything.

In my first game, I learned how wrong I was. While d20 games all use the same base system, there are a lot of changes between each of them that don't mesh. With that in mind, I started finding solutions for these problems. It took quite a while and a lot of research into different d20 games, but I found the answers to converting all this wonderful content into a tangible game that everyone could enjoy.

I chose to crowdfund Timeline Fracture for several reasons. One reason was because RPGs are social games, and I wanted to make the development a more social experience to mimic that. I made a forum for the backers and myself so we could communicate. I made pledge levels that allow people to shape the game. I wanted to hear about people's experience with it directly.

What else do you have planned?

Aside from constantly writing new works, I have written a fantasy novel and am looking for an agent, I have more to add to Timeline Fracture, and of course I have not stopped making new RPG systems. What order these get released is not fully in my hands, but all of them are sure to happen.