Saturday, July 12, 2014

3PP Interview: Morgan Boehringer of Forest Guardian Press

Today I'm interviewing Morgan Boehringer of Forest Guardian Press. He's also the founder of Yggdrasil, a fanzine for Kobold Press' Midgard campaign setting. Read on to learn more about Morgan's experiences in self-publishing!  

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland to Americans and raised in Australia. So I guess you could say I'm a mixed bag. I'm married to en editor, have a son, a step-daughter and an old dog, and just this past week received notice that I successfully passed my Degree - a Bachelor of Applied Management in Design. Tomorrow (the 13th) is my birthday!!! 

How did you get into RPG design and what kind of projects have you been working on? What have been your best experiences? 

Like a lot of designers, I started homebrewing and tweaking the game systems I played from a very early age, and always wanted to see my ideas and concepts published - in those days the great Dragon magazine beckoned. In time, the lure of the Dragon passed and I found the Kobolds - Open Design and Wolfgang Baur's patronage projects, funded through Kickstarter allowed me to pitch ideas and have them reviewed and receive feedback. I successfully pitched an island for Journeys to the West; an adventure scenario in Midgard Tales and a couple of legendary NPCs for Legends of Midgard. That period also saw the Gauntlet Witch published in Kobold Quarterly #23, the Bonewitch in Wayfinder #7 and a vegepygmy article including a Summoner racial archetype in Wayfinder #8. I also contributed constantly to the Multiclass Archetypes threads on the Paizo forums gaining a lot of valuable feedback. 

At the moment I'm well behind (my own) schedule on publishing the Midgard fanzine Yggdrasil, and I'm just about to release a new Base class, the Savage as well as an undead-themed Druid archetype, the Ossuarite. I'm also finishing up the Synergist Base Class for Amora Games Liber Influxus Communis - The Book Of Collective Influence, and revising the Gauntlet Witch and presenting a bunch of witch archetypes and concepts as part of the recent Ultimate Witches and Warlocks Kickstarter. 

My best experiences would have to be seeing my adventure Curse of the Witchkeep appear in Midgard Tales, and to publish my own RPG product, the Direlock Base class - after a "positive-but-not-perfect" review from uber-reviewer Endzeitgeist I revised the Direlock and ultimately received a 5-star review. It's just over a year since the Direlock was published, and I've enjoyed the positive regard the class has garnered in that time. 

In your opinion, what makes a good Pathfinder RPG compatible product? 

I'm interested in new ideas and fresh concepts - I see a lot of products that are based on classic tropes - these are "safe" and often also very successful, and I admire those publishers that are canny and know what will be a popular unit shifter. The larger publishers have the luxury to try their hand at both the popular and the outlier - personally I only have the "luxury" to follow my heart and my passion - so for me a good Pathfinder compatible product is new and fresh and follows that passion, and presents that passion clearly. 

Having said that, I'm a stickler for language and format - nothing makes me turn away faster than sloppy typos or fractured sentences. Mechanical balance is obviously key as well, but I don't like to see mechanics in a vacuum - there needs to be a reason for the mechanics to exist. 

When and how did Forest Guardian Press get started? 

I was tasked with producing a concept as part of my Diploma of Graphic Design, and had wanted to publish a Pathfinder-compatible PDF. Up until that point I found the process quite daunting - navigating the OGL and ensuring compatibility with Paizo, creating the PDF in InDesign, setting up relationships with Paizo and various hosting sites - all of this had stopped me for a few years. This Diploma project galvanised me to overcome my own inertia and push through the confusion and reticence I had. Thus the Direlock was born. Forest Guardian Press has yet to publish anything else, but as I said earlier, I have a bunch of new products coming down the line. 

What can you tell about your products? 

The Direlock is a 3/4 BAB armored Base Class that repels enemies with a dire zone, eats magic with her dire mantle, sloughs her own maladies on to her foes and can conjure eldritch tendrils to attach to enemies thereby channeling her inimical conditions to them. The direlock is essentially a personal area of effect debuffer. The direlock also details four archetypes - the more martial Banelock, the varied Dreadmasque capable of casting hexes depending on the mask she wears, the dark Fear Eater and the animal companion bonded Predator whose bonded creature shares her dire zone. 

Can you give us an exclusive teaser about a future product? 

The upcoming Savage is a Full BAB alternate class for the Barbarian and the Monk that combines elements of both to embody a wild warrior - among other abilities the Savage is able to "flurry" with a limited range of "savage weapons". The Savage PDF also contains the Noble Savage, the Dread Savage and the Phrenic Savage, a psionic take on the Savage concept. 

What are the best things about your products and what type of players or GMs would you recommend them for? 

I offer flavorful concepts for players and GMs - I've had various GMs tell me that adding some levels of the Direlock to their BBEGs has made for no small manner of consternation for their players. The Direlock is a specialised concept to be sure, but it is intended for those players that relish a little darkness and anti-magic in their day. :) 

What are the current goals for Forest Guardian Press? What are the biggest challenges? 

Mostly I'm just trying to push on with my backlog of products - the Savage and the Ossuarite are both the first in a line of themed concepts - Classic Alternatives and Skeleton Crew respectively, and they represent the start of that endeavour. Time is my biggest challenge. I have more ideas than I have time to develop. 

Is there anything else people should know about Forest Guardian Press or its products? 

I'm a big fan of language and its power, and as such I try to engage the audience without fear of using "difficult", esoteric terms or archaic language. While perhaps not a popular approach it is inspired by the wonder I experienced reading the Appendices of the ADnD first edition Dungeon Masters Guide - this (though somewhat clunkily worded!) from the Forest Guardian Press entry in the Paizo Publisher Registry: 

"FGP will also keep the flame alive for Appendixes H-K of a certain oldskool tome that champions multisyllabic, “difficult” words - shedding light on old and archaic words, terms and usage thus keeping our shared language vibrant, resourceful and alive!" 

In your opinion, what are the most important things to consider when starting self-publishing? 

Make sure you have a passion for what you produce. Have patience and time to make that passion a reality. Research the OGL and your competition - this will enable to understand what you are allowed to use and what may have already been done before - parallel design is a frequent occurrence. Make sure you have a thick skin for reading playtest reviews or reviewers comments - not everyone will see everything as clearly or in the same way that you do. Make sure you playtest your creations!!! There is no substitute for cold-hard play to reveal the weaknesses in your designs. 

What skills, tools or other resources do you consider to be the most important in self-publishing? 

Communication and networking are key to longevity. Be up-front with all the stakeholders in your venture - this includes family, as well as your fellow publishers, customers and hosting sites. It cannot be stressed enough that clear and constant communication is the best policy. And networking cannot be underestimated - the 3PP community is insanely friendly and helpful, and the multifarious benefits of the OGL pretty much requires us to be generous with our ideas. 

What do you find most rewarding about self-publishing? What about least rewarding? 

The most rewarding thing is hearing players and GMs experiences playing with or playtesting my concepts - nothing fills me with more RPG pleasure than knowing someone somewhere is using a concept I created to make their game more enjoyable. The least rewarding thing would have to be the fiscal element. I'm obviously very small fry, and I'm not receiving anywhere near the amount of money for the time I put into this hobby. 

Is there any further advice you would give to someone interested in self-publishing? 

You will not succeed if you do not try. There are plenty of threads on the Paizo forums alone about starting a 3PP and navigating the intricacies of the OGL. I have helped a number of people by telling them how I approached entering the 3PP arena and prevailed. By all means hit me up on the forums, and if I can't answer all your questions I can help you to find the answers...

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