Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mini-Interview with Unexplained Designer Bradford Younie

1. What do you do with yourself when you're not designing role-playing games?

I spend time with my wife Andrea and my three kids, Edward, Heather, and Kayleigh (and our cat Spooky Jr.). I watch TV, and I’m writing a novel.

2. How did you discover Fudge as a system and why do you keep coming back to it as a system?
I was originally using my own modern d20 system for Now Playing when I was designing that game (this was before the d20 Modern product came out). I ran a playtest, choosing the TV show “The Chronicle.” At the end, I asked everyone what they thought of it. They all said, “It was just like the show…except for the gunfight!”

I realized then that I needed a rules light system. I was in the process of designing my own, when a friend told me about Fudge. I downloaded it and read it. The Fudge core book didn’t read like a system book to me; it read like a toolkit for building my own system. And it was open. I loved the use of adjectives in the trait ladder and other mechanics, and so I went with it.

I’ve stuck with the system because it works well, provides compatibility with my other games, and I haven’t found a system I’d rather use.

3. What games and designers influence you as a designer?

Gee…this is a tough one. A lot of games influence me in small ways. You know, I’ll see one game that does one thing really well, and I’ll see another game that does something that doesn’t work, like in layout or something like that. But if there’s one game that influenced me most as a designer, it would be WitchCraft by C.J. Carella. That game did a fantastic job of blending the system with the setting. And the book was a fantastic read. The vast majority of RPGs out there are written like reference books, which don’t make enjoyable reads. The downside to WitchCraft is that it doesn’t make a good reference. It taught me that it’s possible to create an RPG book is both a great read and a good reference. WitchCraft is still one of my favorite games.

4. How did you become interested in the paranormal?

In short, the house I grew up in was haunted. Actually, I can’t say for certain that it was haunted, as I have no actual evidence…just personal experiences. I try to remain objective about that. I’ve heard footsteps in the house when I was alone, and there was one room that I was totally terrified of, especially at night. Unfortunately, it was right next to my bedroom and I had to go through it every night at bedtime. There was nothing obviously wrong with the room, and there were definitely parts of the old house that was creepier, but I had this unreasoning terror of that room.

But I never considered that it might be haunted until I was in my teens. When I was in Elementary School, I found a book in the school’s library on UFOs. It had the famous Trent photo and a photo of some UFOs in Trinidad. They really intrigued me. I ended up reading every book in the library on paranormal topics. I just ate it up. I’ve been researching it ever since.

5. What about your interest in the paranormal lead to you deciding to make The Unexplained as a game?
Well, part of it was that it’s been such a big interest in my life. I’ve had a variety of experiences and I kept thinking about it. I was already researching it, so that helped. But I think the biggest motivation was that I noticed that all the horror or paranormal RPGs that already existed took a more mythical or legendary approach to it. There was no game out there that took a realistic approach to the subject. When I realized that, it just clicked.

6. Have you ever done any real world "ghost hunting" and if you have what is your most interesting/favorite experience?

Most of my experiences with the paranormal were things that just happened when I wasn’t expecting it.

My favorite experience happened when ECTO, a paranormal group that endorsed The Unexplained, invited me to an investigation of America’s Stonehenge in Salem, NH. This is an ancient pre-Columbian ruin with stone structures and stuff. We were all standing in this one stone chamber that had a large stone table in it that was presumed to be a sacrificial table. We had several digital cameras sitting on it. At one point, Tim (one of the ECTO guys) asked the spirits for a sign. He suggested that they could do something to a camera. All of a sudden, three of the cameras suddenly powered down due to battery drain; one right after the other, a few seconds apart. A few minutes later, I was looking right at one of the other investigators when all of a sudden, his feet were suddenly yanked out from under him, and he fell on his butt. He said it felt like someone grabbed his ankles and pulled. He was wearing boots that had rubber cleat-like stuff, so his feet didn’t slip. It looked to me like someone yanked his feet. It was really exciting!

7. What is next for The Unexplained?

I’m working on the Storyteller’s Screen right now. It’ll be a 4-panel screen that comes with a ready-to-play adventure module. After that, I’ll release more adventures, and I’m working on a cryptid compendium (working title was “Strange Creatures”). It’s basically a non-fiction cryptid monster manual.

8. If the sky was the limit what is the one thing that you most want to do as a role-playing game?
Wow! That’s a hard one. There’s so much I’d love to do. I have two settings that I’ve come up with. One is pretty detailed and I plan to release it. It’s tentatively called “Space 2150” and is a hard sci-fi game. The other is a historical RPG set in the time of Mycenae. I chose not to do the Mycenae game because marketing research shows that historical RPGs typically win awards, but don’t sell.

9. What is something about yourself that you've never admitted online before?

I have ADD. It makes it tough to stay on task, but I’ve found ways to work with it.

10. How can people find you, Carnivore Games and The Unexplained online?

There are lots of ways:
My web site:

Friday, February 05, 2010

Jeff Grubb: 30 Secrets About TSR's Marvel Super-Heroes Game

It's really not a big secret that I love this game. It is my favorite game and system of all time. I even have the revised Basic boxed set not ten feet away from me as I make this blog post. I have even been actively involved in the retro clone of it (I would love to see Jeff Grubb take a swing at doing something with 4C). So, this is from Jeff's blog:

The recent post in Grognardia about the original Marvel Super Heroes game has garnered a lot of comments, most of them of the 'boy, we loved that game when we were kids' variety. In fact it has been picked up by the blog for the Stranger, one of Seattle's free weeklies. And its gotten me all nostalgic about the old days. So here are thirty things about the Marvel Super Heroes and its history.

Great stuff in here, by the way. My favorite quote:

27) Early on, we had a knack for publishing things that were immediately outdated in comic book continuity. We would publish a map of the Baxter Building and they would blow it up. We would do an Alpha Flight adventure and they would change the line-up dramatically. Peter David once suggested we do a New Universe adventure so they could wipe out the line (they did, eventually, without my help).

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mash-Ups in Review

Do you know what a mash-up is? Well, you should. More than a remix, and something approaching an entirely new song when it is done right, I've been a fan of mash-ups for a while now and it really sounds like they're coming into their own as a style and approach to music.

Bootie (the world's first Mash-Up club experience) puts out a yearly compilation of what they think is the best in the genre. This year in a continuous mix. Unfortunately this is version two because Nirvana's record label made them take down Lobsterdust's great NirGaga mash.

Best of Bootie 2009 v.2 by bootie

 Couple this with the amazing work of DJ Earworm and his 2009 edition of "United States of Pop" and you can start to see where this style is going.

DJ Earworm - United State of Pop 2009 (Blame It on the Pop) - Mashup of Top 25 Billboard Hits by user8381635

PS. Want to hear NirGaga?
NirGaga (Niravana vs LadyGaga) by D0C. 

Dorkland Giveaway with Open Design/Kobold Quarterly!

Thanks to our fine friends at Open Design/Kobold Quarterly we have a great prize giveaway for the gaming fans who follow this blog (and all of our friends on Twitter as well). Open Design has graciously given us three book (The Kobold Guide To Game Design vol. 1 & 2 and Zobeck Gazeteer Volume 2: Dwarves of the Ironcrags). One lucky winner on Twitter will get all three of these great books as a prize.

Above is a photo of the prizes given to us (forgive my fancy high-tech photo backdrop system). In order to win these books you have to do three basic things (and follow the official rules as outlined at the bottom of this post):
  1. You have to have a Twitter account.
  2. You have to follow @dorkland and @monkeyking on Twitter.
  3. You have to tweet the phrase (without quotes) "I want @dorkland to pick me for the prize from @monkeyking"
That's basically it. The contest starts tonight at a minute after midnight and runs for one week. Only tweets during that time period will be considered as entries and only one tweet per Twitter account. Starting early is a bad thing also.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of something new here at Dorkland. I am already talking with a second publisher about the next giveaway, and ideally this is something that I would like to start doing on a monthly basis, with publishers of a variety of systems. If you are an RPG print publisher and would be interested in taking part in a giveaway, send me a Twitter DM at @dorkland and we'll talk.

Official Rules For The Contest
  • You must have an account on Twitter ( to enter this contest. As the winner will be notified via Direct Message through the Twitter website you must also follow @dorkland and @monkeyking in order to win. If you cannot be sent a DM because of this, a new winner will be picked. Only one attempt at notification will be made and if that fails a new winner will be picked.
  • This contest is only open to people within the Continental United States. No exceptions to this rule. If the winner does not live within the Continental United States they will be disqualified and a new winner will be picked. The prize will be sent via USPS media mail with delivery confirmation. Is it the responsibility of the winner to provide a valid mailing address, and should the prize be returned or be unable to be delivered the winning of this contest will be declared null and void. Neither this blog, its owner nor Open Design/Kobold Quarterly take any responsibility for lost, mis-delivered or stolen mail. This prize is considered "as-is" in its condition.
  • Only one tweet per contestant. This means only one tweet per Twitter account is allowed during the time period. A search will be made before announcing the winner and if it can be found that multiple tweets have been made from any account, that winner will be disqualified and a new winner will be picked.
  • Only tweets containing the phrase "I want @dorkland to pick me for the prize from @monkeyking" will be considered. The tweet can contain additional language but it must contain that phrase to be considered.
  • Only tweets made from 12:01am EST on February 4, 2010 until 12:01am on February 12, 2010 will be considered for entry in this contest
  • Violation of any or all of these rules will make any entry null and void.
So, that's it. This is our first big giveaway. Good luck to whomever might end up winning it and thank you very much to Wolfgang Baur at Open Design/Kobold Quarterly for his great prize in this contest.