What started off as a company with a well illustrated and inexpensive d20 module has turned into what could be the next Games Workshop with a full line up of figures. Who are these strangers who claim ownership of the Iron Kingdoms and what terrible devices do they bring in their War
Machine miniatures game? Joe tries to get to the bottom of things with Matt Wilson of Privateer Press.
How did Privateer Press get started and what's your role in the whole thing?
Privateer started with Brian Snoddy and myself deciding that we wanted to put together a little d20 project. We got another pal, Matt Staroscik, involved for some of the writing, and things started rolling.
My personal role is world development, story line plotting, and artwork. Brian also does world development and lots of artwork. I also have done the game design for WarMachine and have been managing a bit of the business.
What's been more difficult to work on, the RPG aspect of the Iron Kingdoms or the Wargame rules?
By far, the RPG stuff! The OGL gives you a lot of hoops to jump through. It's not so bad if you're producing generic game aid material, but in developing an intellectual property like the IK, we have to watch ourselves very carefully. You also have to be able to describe a lot more detail in the RPGs than you do in WarMachine. For instance, a weapon in WarMachine has about 3-5 stats. In d20, you've got a whole slew of information that is needed for every little item and detail present. Plus you have to provide a comprehensive background and environment for players because RPGs are so completely freeform. With WarMachine, every time you play, it's a battle, so things are pretty straightforward. When you have an RPG where anything is possible, you have to make sure you've accounted for every possibility...which is basically, impossible.
Now, production is a bit different. Making a book is pretty easy compared to coming out with all the packaging and trade dress needed to launch a product line like WarMachine. Once you've got a book done, it's done. But with WarMachine, we have to deal with the pack out, all the components, and all of the logistics of manufacturing. So maybe in the end the RPGs and the minis balance each other out.
What's the most exciting part about being in the industry?
Certainly, it's the perpetual state of adolescence that we all get to preserve. We make games for a living. We create worlds, pretend we are heroes, and play with little metal warriors on fantastic model tabletops... all in a day's work.
What's the worst part about being in the industry?
The perpetual state of adolescence that we all get to preserve. Seriously, the thing that makes this industry so much fun to be a part of is the same thing that undermines it. Some people are made to make games, and others are made to play them. Often, people are in the wrong roles, and this can make things difficult for anyone else involved.
Sell me on the Iron Kingdoms. What makes it stand out? Is it the art? The setting? The non-standard races like Gobos and Trolkin?
It's the quality, my man. It's the uncompromising attention to detail, the perfect blend of familiarity and originality. It's high-octane action, full metal fantasy. It's sex appeal without pandering. It's what you always wanted, but didn't know could happen.
The Iron Kingdoms isn't some home grown campaign that got compiled in a book to try and sell. It's not generic plug and play fantasy that you can insert in any campaign. We've taken the time to develop a world on an epic scale. We've produced a property that will stand out as a new direction in fantasy gaming. And we've put the talent behind it to make it shine like nothing else on the shelf beside it. This isn't meant to sound boastful (you did ask me to sell it). But collectively, the blokes at Privateer Press have a great deal of experience in this industry, and excellent track records for creating and working on a catalog of very successful products. The Iron Kingdoms, both the RPGs and WarMachine, are the product of what you get when you unleash this experience on a project that is not bound by the chains of bureaucracy. We love what we're doing, so every bit of what we do contains heart and soul like nothing else we've ever done.
If you had to pick one product for best of show, which one would it be?
One of ours? I guess it'd be a tie between the Monsternomicon and WarMachine. With the Monsternomicon, we set new standards of what to expect from a source book of monsters. And with WarMachine, we've achieved something that no one thought was possible: a miniatures game that could sell in today's market. For the past year, we were met largely with raised eyebrows, doubtful mutterings, and many reasons why we were crazy to even attempt such a project. Now, WarMachine has only been out for a little while, so it's not a proven success, but at the same time, the doubts seem to have all but disappeared.
Miniatures gamers close to the Cave have praised WarMachine's simplicity and game balance. What designs and principles did you look toward for guidance during its design?
You pretty much said it there, really. We tried to keep the mechanics simple. We tried to make rules intuitive and accessible, easy to learn, easy to remember. At the same time, the system has an integrated complexity that allows for all kinds of combinations and possibilities—this gives it great depth of strategic and tactical play.
Some companies have formed alliances and merged to form Voltron. Any plans of this happening with Iron Kingdoms? For example, can we expect to ever see a Iron Kingdoms module not from Privateer Press, or a brief nod in a IK book to Freeport and other OGL cities?
No. Because of our focus on the Iron Kingdoms as a property, we won't ever cross any streams.
With "Fool's Errand", you put a PDF product on the market that could be tied into, but not required for the Witchfire Trilogy. Any plans on other PDF's on a similar nature?
Very possibly. We have a few things in the works right now, and they may see distribution on the web first.
What can we expect to see from Privateer Press in the upcoming months? More miniatures? Love that Iron Lich but I want the big dragons and the other huge monsters.
Ha! I doubt you'll see any dragons. They'd be about 3' long if scaled to WARMACHINE! You'll definitely see more miniatures though, as well as the upcoming Iron Kingdoms Campaign Guide: Full Metal Fantasy. The WARMACHINE rulebook releases shortly as well, and towards the end of the year, we are planning much more regular releases of the RPG books. Right now, we intend to only concentrate on our two product lines to make them as solid and stable as possible.
Any plans for further exposure to the Iron Kingdoms? Fiction, anthologies, computer games, or other goods?
All of that, and more! A little bit at a time, though. As we grow, we'll certainly bring the IK to new types of media.
Any big releases at Gen Con this year? I'm still painting my IK miniatures from last year and of course ,still using the Monsternomicon.
Hopefully, but I'll not make the mistake of saying what. We will certainly have new stuff, but I won't get any hopes up. One thing we've learned is that schedules are never set in stone, so you can't predict what will happen between now and then.
Has Gen Con's move made any impact to your plans for the convention this year?
Not really. Looking forward to finding the new places to eat...
What are you waiting for most to hit the SRD? Epic? Deities & Demigods? General material from the Forgotten Realms book or OA?
Actually, the Iron Kingdoms Campaign Guide.
What's a typical day at the office like?
18 long hours, usually. We work like dogs. The phone rings off the hook, hundreds of emails pour in, and there are a million details to sort out on a daily basis. But I've got a little custom Slayer Helljack model from Mike McVey that sits by my computer and eggs me on to keep things going.
How did you get sucked into the gaming hobby? Was it miniatures gaming first, or roleplaying, or neither?
Originally, it would have been through role playing, but it was the miniatures that really grabbed me. Funny too, because I’m talking about the really old stuff, like the ‘Dungeon Denizens’ that they used to sell in the Sears catalog. They’ve come a long way! But I did a whole lot of just about every kind of gaming for the last... uh... long time.
Any final thoughts?
It seems like there should be... it's like an open invitation to run my mouth about all sorts of things. All I can really think, though, is that I am very pleased that Privateer Press has struck a chord with the gaming community. We make things that we would want to play, and we make them with the dedication to quality and to the players that we would expect out of any other company. We're not a company that is out for the fast buck, or we would have put out a dozen books by now, rushing them to market just to cash in on some excitement. We take our time (sometimes a painful amount of time) to produce what we hope are going to be good products. We do this to satisfy ourselves, and more importantly, the consumers of our products. Nothing is worse that having someone feel like you cheated them out of their hard earned money because you didn't fulfill your obligation to make the best product you could. Our goal at Privateer is to not only push the envelope for quality, but also set the bar for how a company should behave. We know where our bread is buttered, so we are totally committed to delivering only the best products and service to these people. In the end, it's about respect and integrity... and making really kick-ass games. That's important too.