Saturday, July 5, 2014

3PP Interview: SagaRPG

This week I'm interviewing three guys from SagaRPG: Curtis Edwards, Lars Lundberg and Nick Johnson. I posted an interview about their Kickstarter just the other day, please check out that one too!

Could you tell us a little bit about yourselves? 

Curtis: Much like everyone else my day job is teaching – but not in government education system, but on the job training.  As I am an instructor and supervisor for a telecommunication company helping new and veteran customer service call center agents perform their job correctly and efficiently.  At SagaRPG, I make sure all the bills are paid, all the sales channels gets access to sell our products, a key contact to half our freelance artist pool, puts all the text and graphics into layout for final PDF distribution and printing. 

Lars: I am a 2nd grade teacher who lives on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State with my still lovely wife, 2 teenage kids and a dog and cat. When I am not writing or doing cartography I love watching “Parks and Recreation” (Ron Swanson is my hero) and “Venture Brothers”. I am a huge Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners fan and I still mourn the loss of my beloved Sonics. The old school writers who inspire me to keep pushing myself are Glen Cook, Robert Howard, Patricia McKillip, Terry Pratchett and the master himself: Gary Gygax. The new writers I enjoy are Steven Erikson, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Andrzej Sapkowski. You can’t call yourself a fan of fantasy if you haven’t read at least one book from each of these authors. 

Nick: I am the proud father of a seven-year-old daughter. I am also an 8th grade teacher of both science and forensics. When I'm not with my kid and not working, I love to play and write music, run marathons and the like, and of course, GAME! I serve as one of Saga's two writers and designers. In truth, though, we all do a ton of different tasks. I love the variety and I'm very excited to be part of this business. 

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

Curtis: I really admire the fantasy setting having our heroes wielding swords or spell components readying a spell.  In our development team when we are discussing overall adventure story or even editing a rough draft, I usually ask, “What if we put…”, or “How about we change…”, or “Imagine if …”, or “Wouldn’t it be awesome if…”.  If this interjection then goes from idea to design via discussion and improving the product, that would be the best part of the process for me. 

Lars: I first fell in love with RPGs when a friend of mine pulled out his red box Dungeons and Dragons basic set. Ever since then I have been designing stories and adventures for my friends and family. After going to school for journalism (I figured if I liked to write I better find a job that uses that skill) I ended up working as the manager for the newly opened Wizards of the Coast retail store in the Sea-Tac Mall in Federal Way. It was called “The Guildhouse” and it catered to the hardcore gamer. I met Nick while working there, and through Nick, I met Curtis. After many years of playing together, Nick came to me with an idea about a boom town on the edge of civilization. It would have an old west feel, but maintain a high fantasy setting. Fast-forward a year and many hard lessons later, we have successfully published our first product. 

Nick: I'm pretty sure I was born obsessed with fantasy roleplaying. When I was 11, my mother took my brother and me to a hobby shop to buy model airplanes/cars. Instead, I found the D&D 2nd ED. Dungeon Master's guide. I read it cover to cover. Eventually, I figured out I needed the Player's Handbook and bought that too... I haven't stopped playing since. Now, I am lucky enough to have been playing with the same group of people for over 20 years. Lars and Curtis are both part of that group. Though I own many published adventures, I have usually designed my own. I love the creation process just as much as the game. This is our first time our group has attempted to enter the publishing ring in the RPG world. We're having a blast.

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

Curtis: I’m all in it about the “fun” factor. A good Pathfinder RPG compatible product must be, above all else, fun.  Fun to read, fun to run, and fun to play. Because, at the end of the day, we are all here to have some form of entertainment. 

Lars: I am honestly not a huge fan of Pathfinder compatible products that are about adding or tweaking classes, races, feats, skills, powers or spells. There are some good ones out there that I like, but for me, the experience of role-playing isn’t about min-maxing a character build, it is about challenging your mind with difficult choices, interesting encounters and surprising outcomes. If a product makes me chuckle as I envision my players having to deal with whatever deviltry the author has dreamed up, then I consider it a good product. 

Nick: I love any product with a great story that hooks in the players and gives them the opportunity to make choices. That being said, there also needs to be a good balance between story and action. Pacing is very important. As far as Pathfinder products go, they should be able to stand on their own two feet with great story and gameplay options for players and GMs. Paizo sets a high standard with their products. We aim to create a product that is easy to use, while keeping things fresh with unique and interesting scenarios for players and GMs to deal with. 

When and how did SagaRPG get started?

Our company really developed out of years of playing together and coming to the consensus of “we should write an adventure to publish.

What can you tell about SagaRPG's products?

We wanted to make a product so GMs do not have to reference other books to run/play the adventure.  We are having our campaign setting as an organic growth. As the players play the game the world around it grows organically.

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

Part 2 – A jail break and a meeting of the skinsag clan, each with their own grotesque and strange abilities for the group to discover. 

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

This is for the GMs: 
  • Maps for everything, statblocks for everything,  provides the main story and side quests, provides coalition system rules for how PCs interact with the townsfolk, each character could have their own background and side quests that tie into the adventure.
  • Interesting ways to add dynamic encounter conditions to keep the combat fresh.
  • A sandbox with an overarching story.
  • Colonial americana theme with an old west flair. 
This is for players: Much of the appendix is player friendly. And if we reach our stretch goal of $9,000 in our Kickstarter, then we will produce a Player's Guide in PDF form and will be given out free to every backer. Afterward, this Player's Guide will be available for sale at $4.99.

How do you generally find new freelancers to work for you? What is the application process like?

We generally explore art posted on and look at art styles and genres we like for a particular piece we are wanting. We then contact the artist to see if they are available for commission and their estimated price range for a specific color/dimension/dpi/psd. If it is comparable to others we have worked with in the past, we send them an art proposal with full details of the art commission and ask for a firm quote.

What are the main requirements for a freelancer to work for you? What other skills and/or experience are useful?

Communication is key – ability to read, write, and effectively communicate intent and purpose. Of course, have all the skills and competencies to complete the work. Most of the work we give new freelancers are to people we scout on who display the skills and style we are looking for in a particular piece of artwork.

Can you describe a typical assignment you give to new freelancers? What steps does the process typically include from the freelancer's point of view?

The typical assignment would be a half or quarter-page illustration.  The process is very simple as we provide two to four pages worth of specifications / full detail description of the assignment. Artist submits progress in form of jpg for composition. Once approved, artist will complete the assignment and submit a jpg once complete. Once approved and paid artist submits the original psd with all layers in dropbox.

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

Have a goal, timeline, and accomplish it! Writing, graphics, artwork. And knowledge and background and drive to push out a completed product.

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

Having a computer, lots of planning, collaboration, excision and attention to detail.

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

Put your own voice and stamp of approval on a published product.  Everyone has his or her own views on what makes a fun game, this is our chance to put on our own voice to produce something that we thing.

Least rewarding is that word smithing/editing takes a lot of time.

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

We've spent a lot of time researching the market, find a niche and try to fill it.

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