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
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.
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....