Sunday, 1 September 2013

Interview - Simon Powell of DramaScape

Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Simon Powell of the rather excellent Dramascape, 'A wonderland of maps and adventures' for your tabletop games.

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

I’m 49 and live in Newport South Wales UK, I’ve been a bit of a Jack of all trades through my life, from Army to Shop Manager and lastly Fork Lift Instructor. I had to retire 8 years ago due to ill health and had to look for something to occupy my days.

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

In my early 20’s I discovered a little shop in Newport called Armchair Adventures, it had lots of wonderful games and figures, after a while of popping into the shop and attending the Dragondaze conventions they ran yearly, in a small hall, I got invited to join in with a group playing Warhammer Fantasy, and that spurred me onto running my own games, I discovered Earthdawn and used to run that weekly at the local gaming club and enjoyed participating in the RedBrick forums.

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

No matter how your week has been, you can emerge yourself into your character and forget all your troubles; you can enjoy the social interaction of like-minded people who tend to think above the level of “normal” folks. As a gamemaster you enjoy watching the players characters develop and solve the problems set before them, and of course the constant bribing the GM with cups of tea and snacks always helps.

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

I must say that my favourite game is Earthdawn, it’s the diverse world that’s based on past earth and the way that the dice are open ended so that anything can happen, the dragon can be slain with the lucky shot and of course the totally unlucky can happen too.

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

Unfortunately due to my illness my brain doesn’t work well in live situations and I’m not always well enough to attend regular events. So I’m not currently playing anything but I like to keep an eye on all the new developments in the RPG world.

6 - The tabletop 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 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 think that family interaction through board and RPG games is still as important as it always was; it’s up to us to teach the youngsters what we learnt at their age. There does seem to be a reemergence of board gaming, and especially war games, its seem the be the “eye candy” games that work well and those based on products that are already known to the public, like Star Wars and such.

Virtual technology is also helping restart the gaming scene, we have now copied the MMOG strategy that seems so popular these days, with Virtual Table Tops, players from all over the world can sit down and play games with each other over the internet, with software such as RPMaptools, Battlegrounds and Roll20. I think one of the reasons that DramaScape has been so successful is that we provide a Virtual copy of each map we produce so that it can be used online.

One of the things we have tried to do with our maps is to move away from the traditional hand drawn cartoony look, we have tried to make our maps look realistic and give them the computer game feel.

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

At the moment my favourite map is the Asylum, it’s a five level Victorian style mansion converted into an institution to hold indefinitely the mentally disturbed. The five levels include a basement, three main floors, and an attic each with multiple rooms, this was great fun to create and we worked alongside Aaron Huss from Savage Insider who was looking for a map for an adventure he was writing.

8 - Tell us more about Dramascape; what was the inspiration for creating these wonderful floorplans, what goes into creating them and what are your inspirations?

I have always tried to include maps when I was gamemastering, they say a picture speaks a thousand words and a well-drawn map enhances the gaming experience. I found Dundjinni many years ago and used it to produce my maps. One of the things that I started to use to occupy my time now I’m not working was digital art and after producing a few fan images for RedBrick I was asked to produce some covers, this was something that I really enjoyed, after a while I approached RedBrick and proposed the idea of running a map company within the RedBrick umbrella, and thus DramaScape was born. We went solo in May 2012 when Redbrick closed down.

I met Steven J Black and Vidar Edland who are also part of DramaScape while I was creating images for the RedBrick products and they joined in with me, Steven is the Assistant Manager and writer and Vidar is a writer and editor for us.

The maps are created through 3d modeling, we use high end software to create the scenes sometime making the models ourselves, the scenes are then rendered and put up on our development forum where Steven and Vidar look over them and decide what works and what doesn’t, when we finally have a completed image Steven then writes the descriptions and plot hooks for them, these are then edited by Vidar, I then sort out the layout and then publish them on Onebookshelf. Sometime if we are inspired this process can be very fast, we have gone from inspiration to published product in one day on a few products.

We also like to listen carefully to our Facebook community and if there is a map that they want us to produce we will do our best to create it, these always sell well.

We produce a free map each month and we have found this has done well in introducing people to our product range.

9 - What are you working on at the moment?

We are currently working on a Savage Worlds source book called Tribes of Yggdrasil, this is based on a series of books by Best Selling Canadian Author Hugh Long, it’s a sci-fi setting based on the idea that the Norse Gods are real and that they seeded life on Earth and several planets around the Galaxy.

We are also producing a series of cards for use with the Savage Worlds system, our first one was the Savage Worlds SciFi Weapons Cards and we have a Sci-Fi NPC set in the works too.

We are also working with a few writers to produce a series of generic adventures based on our current and future maps.

And of course we will be continuing to produce the maps that we are known for.

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