They teased you with new, unique and most importantly, full color monsters in Gaming Frontiers. Now before they've got their first full d20 hardback out the door, the Ogres would like to introduce you to The Inner Circle.
What are the dark origins of your company? Rumors persist that it originally had nothing to do with d20.
The Inner Circle was formed through grievous acts of depravity, murder, and subterfuge. . . sorry, you did say dark origins and I didnít want to disappoint. Bad humor aside, the Inner Circle (or Inner Circle Games which was our former name) started between myself and Chris Bennett with the intent of writing a series of novels based in a dark fantasy setting. We toiled over this world through many years and it has seen many different incarnations. In order to better design the world, I thought that creating a roleplaying game would be ideal. The task of doing our own roleplaying system took far too much time away from doing actual world writing, so that idea was scrapped around the same time that Wizards of the Coast introduced the D20 System. Iíve been playing D&D since I was six and this was the perfect answer to our problems. We got together with some of our long time friends and formed what is now The Inner Circle.
What made you want to come out with a monster book first? A full color monster book at that?
We are totally insane, and now with the benefit of hindsight, and I can say that with a lot of conviction. The real reason, was that Wizards had yet to release the Monster Manual and I had just purchased Creature Collection. I loved the way they presented Scarred Lands in that book, and I thought that we could follow suit with Violet Dawn. A monster book seemed the most logical book to come out with then. I thought it would be a walk in the park and be the easiest product to produce. Given the choice today, I would probably go a different route, but we did learn a lot along the way and there are quite a few things I would have done differently. The reason that we decided to go with color was that no one else did (other then Wizards at the time), and I really am a big art buff. I figured if we were going to go ahead and publish a product we might as well go all out and do it right the first time.
What's been the most difficult part of getting the book out of your head and into the stores?
Without a doubt, time. All of us have full time jobs, and trying to produce a product of such high quality really cuts into ones personal life (i.e. I donít have one). I just finished layout on Denizens of Avadnu and that took me over 100 hours in a two week span. Add a full time job onto that, and you're not left with much. Also, building a company from the ground up and not knowing the best process for going through all of the write ups, artwork, finding the printers, etc. can be a real chore. Weíve learned a lot and streamlined the process so in the future we can hopefully get a lot closer to a projected due date.
Whatís it like working with Gaming Frontiers? They've had some material in past issues and have some in upcoming issues.
Robert from Gaming Frontiers is very easy to get along with and has given me a lot of great advice. At least as far as we are concerned, there isnít much of a process to the whole thing. He sends me over a due date and we just send along our work. Its very painless. I really like the freedom and leverage that he gives us. Other magazines and periodicals that Iíve been in touch with have a very constricting policy for submissions, but with GF, it just isnít so. Because of this, I plan on doing a lot more with GF in the future.
What do you think of the finalized SRD?
Iím happy to finally see it get the seal of assurance, but I do question the absence of some monsters. I understand Wizardsí concern, but D&D is a game, its not a novel or movie property (at least at its roots). I personally wouldnít have seen any harm in leaving the mind flayer, githyanki, and some of the other monsters in there, but thatís just me. Iím sure a company thatís backed by Hasbro has much greater concerns then a company like us that does this out of the living room.
Will Gen Con's move to Indiana be good or bad for the convention? How will it effect your company personally?
Honestly, your asking the wrong guy. Iíve never done a Gencon (I know, let the beatings begin!), but from what Iíve heard the new set up that they have is supposed to be a heck of a lot more beneficial as far as hotels, space and such are concerned. This year will be my first Gencon, so when everyone else is walking around saying much better or worse it is, Iíll keep nodding my head as to not blow my cover.
Well, Indiana is about a 10 hour drive from us, so that will make things a bit easier for us. Iíve only ever been to Origins, so Iím really excited to see what Gencon is like.
What's a typical day at the office like?
Office? Hehehe... It sounds so official. Well, the whole development of Violet Dawn is a big collaboration between five of us. A basic day (now that weíve streamlined the process) involves a lot of preplanning on our current projects. I put in about 5 hours a day after work on average. A typical day usually involves going over the latest batch of writing, doing an approval on artwork, messing around with some ideas for our upcoming projects, doing boring managerial stuff, etc. After which we discuss where we are at with our assignments, do some peer critique and work for the rest of the night into the wee hours. A typical day usually involves an argument or two, lots of iced tea, and we usually end the night with a big Quake 3 tournament (which I always win).
Do you think its more difficult to get attention and a fair shake now than it was when you started due to the number of d20 publishers?
Of course it is. Almost every week on EN World you hear about the new D20 company on the block. And Iím not sure we are taken very seriously due to all our delays, though I think weíll allay most of those fears when everyone gets a look at Denizens of Avadnu.
What can we expect to see from you in the near and not so near future?
Well, we have quite a few products in the pipeline. First off, weíll have The Avadnu Primer which is a 64 page full color soft cover that will give players a look at the world of Avadnu. New races, a new class, new equipment, etc. There will be a lot of info crammed into this little book. Look for it around July. Then we release Fantasy Locales, a 144 page b&w book that will detail common encounter areas like taverns, inns, equipment shops, etc. After that we will be releasing Weapons & Combat, a book that will focus on D20 combat. New races, new feats, some alternative combat rules, and 4 new classes. We also have something planned for D20 Modern, but thatís a bit down the road.
Are there any particular writers or artists you'd like to see joing the crew?
Well, there is a lot of great talent in the industry. Among my favorite artists are Wayne Reynolds, Matt Cavotta, Arnie Swekel, Tony Diterlizzi, and of course Todd Lockwood and Sam Wood. Thatís just a brief list, as there are so many others not counting the big guns like Brom and Elmore. Oh, I do have to mention Justin Sweet or Jason Rosenstock (our lead artist) would kill me! The writing side is stacked as well. Gary Gygax (of course!), Mike Mearls, Sean K Reynolds, Skip Williams, Bruce Cordell, Clark Peterson, the guys from Privateer, theyíve all come up with some great stuff. Top bid would go to none other than Monte Cook. Almost everything he does is fresh. In my opinion heís one of the pioneers of d20 and I canít wait to get a hold of Arcana Unearthed.
What rules are you waiting to see hit the SRD?
Well, weíre pretty busy and have our plates filled now. I guess more than anything (and since we missed the early access list by only a week!), Iím waiting for 3.5. A lot of other people think its a little too soon, but there are problems that need fixing, so I say keep this whole roleplaying reemergence going strong. Aside from that, Iíd have to say the Epic Level Handbook and all the feats from the splat books.
What do you feel you bring to the D20 table that other companies have failed at so far? Why buy into the new setting?
Well, weíve focused a lot on quality and providing a product that not only plays and looks good, but when you sit down and think about it, it makes sense as well. We honestly left no stone unturned in DoAís production, and that may turn around and stab us like one of those cursed back-biter spears, but I was adamant throughout the project that if we were going to take the d20 plunge, we were going to do it right. The real challenge comes in the next several months when we have to start churning this stuff out a bit faster to make this a viable business. As far as our setting goes, it has honestly been in development for as long as I can remember and does have a lot of development behind it. Its been tweaked so many times, that the original concept is almost unrecognizable. Iím not going to say that itís unique and totally innovative, as almost everything in fantasy has been done in one form or another, but I will say that it does offer a different perspective with a lot of twists on the common genre. There will be a ton of free material for the setting available at violetdawn.com, so be sure to stop by and check it out.
Any final thoughts?
Its been a very rough ride getting this far, but weíre finally ready to dive in. This whole market is like a big family which is really cool. There havenít been a lot of backstabbing rogues about as far as Iíve seen. Its been a great experience up into this point and Iím just really excited to see where this will take us.