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Interviews: Fantasy Flight Games

Interview by Joe G. Kushner

Fantasy Flight Games is arguably one of the most popular publishers of D20 material with their Legends & Lair, Dragonstar, and Instant Adventure prooducts. But did you know they do boardgames, cardgames, and even *gasp!* non-d20 roleplaying games? Read on to discover more, as Joe talks with FFG's RPG Developer Wil Upchurch, and Managing Developer Greg Benage.

What was the convention season like this year? Lots of updates on the web site indicate that it was frantic but fun.

Wil: Convention season was hectic this year, we had a mass of product to get out all at once and things were abuzz. It's a really fun time around the office because everyone is excited and it's fun to see the different pieces fall into place, especially since we had so many different types of games in production. As much as I enjoyed it, I'm looking forward to my upcoming vacation as well. :)

Do you find that fans appreciate the 'rants'? I know that I enjoy hearing about what's going on from a publisher's perspective in a non-professional manner because it keeps the web page updated and keeps the fans informed.

Wil: We get a lot of positive feedback, so I think they are good. The RPG department no longer rants since we have our Behind the Curtain column ongoing now, updated 3 times a week. We basically talk about game design in general and give some insight into the issues we deal with on a daily basis. Kevin has been really putting out a lot of new content in his columns, so I hope everyone checks them out and lets us know what they think about the column.

Fantasy Flight Games was doing gaming stuff long before D20 came around. What made the company decide to join what looked to be a fairly competitive market?

Greg: The market is competitive, yes, but also the largest market for roleplaying products. The only things holding us back were concerns about the licenses and the status of the core rules officially released under the OGL. Once those concerns were addressed to our satisfaction, we started working on d20 System products. We sort of tested the waters with the instant adventures, but quickly jumped in with both feet based on their success.

Dragonic Lore is listed at $14.95. I've heard tales that this is not a full sized book but a smaller one. Is there a change in the way FFG will be doing things with their books now?

Wil: Dragons have tales....Yes, in fact, we are going to be launching a new line of Legends & Lairs products. We hired Kevin Wilson (Spycraft, 7th Sea) to take control of the new line and so far he's doing a fantastic job. These books will be smaller and more tightly focused than the hardcovers, but the quality will remain the same from art to rules. The new books will be 64 pages and retail for $14.95.

Any chance we'll see a collected adventure pack that takes all the little modules and puts 'em into one campaign sized hardcover?

Wil: That idea has certainly been tossed around the office, but I don't think it has gotten past that stage yet. It is possible you'll see something like this next year. If we do it, though, it won't just be a reprint. There will be new material and perhaps some ideas on linking adventures together into a....mini-campaign. :)

Are there any writers you'd like to see joing the crew?

Wil: Well, I'm not sure where they would sit! I'm fortunate to be able to work with some of the best writers in the industry. I've steadily been trying to attract known writers like Mike Mearls and Sam Witt, while others you will see from book to book are the backbone of our team. I'm a running annoyance to Monte Cook as well, and will be until he writes Dragonstar: Dark Space. :) New writers are always coming to our attention as well, and I've recently drafted a new Submission Guidelines document which is available on our Website.

How will Gen Con moving affect FFG? Do you think it's going to take a while to get back to Milwaukee strength or do you think it'll hit the ground running?

Wil: It means two long drives every year instead of one! We're only about 5 hours away from Milwaukee, so from a logistical standpoint we aren't thrilled, but I'm sure Indy will be just fine. I don't think attendance will be much affected by the move, and I'm sure the con will be just as good if not better from a lot of standpoints. We'll have to wait and see how that pans out, though.

A lot of people are hoping that the card game for a Game of Thrones is merely the first step in seeing a d20 role playing game based on that setting. Any hope there or should we kill that fire?

Wil: I love the A Game of Thrones CCG! I'm not much of a card player, but this game really won me over. Oh, you were asking about something else, weren't you....? :)

Tell me a little bit about Midnight. It sounds quite interesting from the forums on FFG. For example, will it boast races from Mythic Races? And more importantly, is this a one-shot or will other companies be licensing out adventures and other goodies like Dragonstar?

Greg: I don't have any plans right now to include races from Mythic Races. Really, Midnight is a very traditional high fantasy world, with elves, dwarves, orcs, and all the rest -- it's just that things have gone horribly wrong. This gives playing some of the races a very different feel: You can play an elf, but you'll be a hunted fugitive in a world where the Night Kings are systematically exterminating those of your race.

Midnight will receive support, but we haven't yet developed the release schedule for next year. I'd say there's a good chance we'll be looking for partners to help us support the setting, just as we've done with Dragonstar.

After the next few sourcebooks for Dragonstar come out, Imperial Supply, etc..., what level of support can we expect to see from it? I think FFG has done a very smart thing letting Mystic Eye Games make modules for the setting for example and wonder if we'll see any more paths like that.

Wil: A game is supported ultimately by its fans, and they will determine how much material we can release. I know it sounds cold and corporate, but it doesn't mean we are any less excited about the setting. Right now things are looking really good, though, so I don't imagine there will be a drop in production any time soon. I really hope we continue to be able to release Dragonstar supplements for a long time. I think it is a really interesting setting.

Now that you've revised and revisited the Nocturnum saga and d20ed it, are there any other Call of Cthulhu support plans? I don't want to bash Chaosium but someone's got to support that setting.

Wil: Chaosium is going to be supporting CoC d20 soon, I'm pretty sure. We don't have any plans to do anything in the near future with the setting, but we were very excited to be able to update Nocturnum for use with CoC d20. It was one of the coolest projects I've worked on to date.

On a similiar vein, any Modern D20 support plans? Blue Planet D20 perhaps? Come on, you know you want to...

Greg: We don't currently have any plans to publish d20 Modern products. That could certainly change. We've long discussed doing a d20 System edition of Blue Planet and simply haven't decided one way or the other. We've tossed around the idea of a "Blue Planet: Extreme" or something along those lines. Sort of a cinematic, action-adventure game set in the Blue Planet universe, using the d20 System rules. We'll see...

With the different games FFG publishes, do you often find a lot of overlap between say those who play Disc Wars and those who enjoy D20 or are the markets very seperate now?

Wil: I think as a general rule the markets are, and always have been, separate to a large degree. Obviously there is some overlap, but sometimes it's interesting how different things are on the production side and what we expect from our different fan bases. This has only increased with our recent foray into the CCG market.

When can we expect to see some more electronic add ons? The three bonus races for Mythic Races were great but the downloads of late have been more of a preview nature than expansion.

Wil: I think we've been putting out quite a bit, actually. We've got three free Dragonstar adventures up, with more on the way, and I try to sponsor a lot of contests and other ways to get fans involved. In fact, most of the Dragonstar adventures are fan created, and we just had a very popular Legendary Class contest sponsored by EN World. I would rather pack as much as I can into the books than have constant "Web enhancements" which usually turn out to be material that was cut from the book for one reason or another anyway.

What rules are you waiting to see hit the SRD?

Wil: Core Rulebooks 1-3. :) Aside from those, I think the Epic Level [Handbook] and Deities and Demigods are probably the most vital to allowing us to keep up with market demand and the expansion of the core rules systems for D&D. I also want the Monster Manual 2 in there the day it hits the shelves. :)

Any plans to do some Interlink products? Any companies or products in particular you'd like to work with? You've done work outside of FFG so it might be a good opportunity to combine past contacts into one kick butt product.

Wil: Well, I'm not currently working with any other companies, but we are always looking for opportunities (such as our Dragonstar license with Mystic Eye Games). Cooperation is fun, but it isn't always a feasible option, especially with the high number of products hitting the market. Hopefully the future holds more interlink and less overlap. :)

Alright now it's time to plug. If I wanted to buy one board game, which one should I buy and why?

Wil: Citadels is my favorite board game we produce, it's fun as heck and has more replay value than any other game I've played. Lord of the Rings: Confrontation is up there as well for its sheer strategy, ease of play, and the fact that it can be played with only 2 players.

What makes FFG products stand above the rest of the competition?

Wil: I think we don't settle for less than the best on any aspect of our products, from Brian Schomburg's excellent graphic design to our top notch artists and writers, to the quality of our content. It's much harder to be picky on every aspect of a product, and certainly it means we can't do as many products as some of the other companies in the market, but I think the quality shows. We do it for ourselves as much as we do it for our customers, although their interests are always foremost in our minds.

Tell me, do you often have to explain to people that you're FFG, not FFE? I know it's a mistake I've made on occasion. Not product wise or anything mind you, but company wise.

Wil: Just the acronym...the first time I saw it on the front page of EN World I knew it would be trouble....

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