Sunday, 13 January 2013

Interview - Jay Stratton

Please welcome Jay Stratton, lead designer for Pantheon Press!

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

My name is Jay Stratton and I am Lead Designer for Pantheon Press – a small RPG publisher in New York City. 

Our main product line is the Fortune’s Fool RPG. Fortune’s Fool is an innovative fantasy RPG that uses the Tarot deck as a resolution mechanic. The system has been praised by critics and players alike and even won an ENnie award in 2011!

I count myself a very lucky man. In addition to writing for RPGs, I am a professional actor – traveling the country performing everything from Shakespeare to the most cutting edge modern theatre. When I am at home in New York, I also work as an adjunct theatre professor at a local college.

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

I have been playing some version of RPGs for as long as I can remember. A child of the 70s, I grew up in a wooded suburb of Seattle. While other kids were going to soccer practice, my friends and I were crashing through the woods killing orcs and goblins. My closest friend (Tom) was a huge consumer of fantasy and sci fi literature. His ever growing lexicon was the source material for all our early adventures. In the two acre woodland beside my house, whole kingdoms were invented. We assaulted castles, stole magic relics, and slew every mythical beast imaginable! I still can’t play soccer worth a damn, but I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

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

Where do I start? I guess for me, three things come to mind: Storytelling, Friendship, and Laughter. Tabletop RPGs give me and my friends a chance to create amazing stories! They are active and social; and they are just great fun. I like movies, books, and plays; I enjoy a good restaurant, and I love a good bar; but give me a chance to sit at a table with five of my friends to play an RPG and there’s nothing I’d rather do.

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

Not surprisingly, my favorite game is Fortune’s Fool, but since I wrote it, that’s a little like saying I think my baby is the cutest!

Beyond that, I really liked the d20 version of Star Wars that was around a few years ago. I am not a fan of d20, but that one was mega fun – and a rare example of a genre that really worked with those mechanics.
Also, while it can’t really support a campaign, the Dread mechanics are awesome!

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

Boy, I don’t get as much gaming as I want! I am away from town for the next six weeks working, but when I left, I was running a campaign of Fortune’s Fool. Our last adventure ended on a pretty dark note (one of those demoralizing bloodbaths, though mercifully not a TPK), so I am looking forward to getting back to NYC to drive the story to a more positive resolution.

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?

The RPG market is a niche, make no mistake. And people in niche markets tend to cry 'Doomsday' whenever a newer different niche comes around, but they are almost never right. Finding a genre escape through card games or computer games or even Peter Jackson’s last Tolkien offering is great, but none of these things provide what Roleplaying games do! Only through an RPG do you get the sweet mix of an active, collaborative, social experience. You get to be present with your friends, and create a story together has never been told before! There’s nothing like it.

Beyond this, the RPG community is filled with forward thinkers and early adopters. We've embraced digital sales, for example. It's easier than ever to get a PDF of both new and old games. I think we'll continue in this vein in the future, as a lot of different people are looking to make virtual gaming spaces a reality. But the heart of the community will always be sitting around a table with friends.
Out of all your projects, what are you most proud of?

I am very proud of Fortune’s Fool and its supplements. I love the game because it has really innovative mechanics that truly enhance the gameplay. It’s actually a pretty traditional tabletop game – fantasy, largely European setting, dwarves and goblins – but the mechanics are so new and fun that it plays like honey!

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?

I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some big industry gamers, but I think I am going to invoke Thumper’s Rule on this one… No hard feelings, certainly.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am typing my fingers off writing Tales From the Ganges, the next supplement for Fortune’s Fool! Tales from the Ganges will be an Indian themed supplement with lots of fun new character options like Brahmin wizards, Sikh warriors, and Rakshasas as a playable race. It will also serve as a sourcebook for GMs who want to lift their campaigns out of Europe and journey to exotic Hindustan.

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