In my second blog post for today, I'm interviewing Eric Morton, whom many people on Paizo messageboards remember for his 200+ monsters available on d20pfsrd.com. Today he talks about his new Animal Races product line, self-publishing, and other things!
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Let me start by saying I appreciate the opportunity to participate in your blog.
My name is Eric Morton, also known on the Paizo messageboards as Epic
Meepo. I learned to play RPGs when my father gave me a Dungeons and
Dragons boxed set he picked up at a demo in the early days of the
industry, and I've been an enthusiast ever since. I have been gaming for
twenty-seven years and working as a freelancer on-and-off for
How did you get into RPG design and what kind of projects have you been working on? What have been your best experiences?
My first design credits were several articles I wrote for Dragon
magazine back when it was still in print. I have since written a dozen
or so stand-alone products, and contributed to a few more. In addition
to my paid freelance work, I have also written several hundred pages of
free online content, including over one-hundred archetypes and
two-hundred monsters appearing on d20pfsrd.com.
Some of my best experiences as a designer have actually come about as
a result of my unpaid work. I never cease to be amazed by the goodwill I
earned from that content, especially among the Paizo messageboard
community. Long after I moved on from those projects, readers were
recommending me to publishers looking for freelancers. Needless to say, I
am grateful for their every recommendation.
In your opinion, what makes a good Pathfinder RPG compatible product?
Pathfinder is a game with many interlocking parts: races, classes,
archetypes, feats, traits, skills, spells, etc. This degree of
complexity results in an interesting situation where players (and GMs)
can interact with the game on multiple levels. On one level, players
actually play the game: they roleplay characters, explore imaginary
worlds, and tell compelling stories.
On another level, players can experiment with the mechanics of the
game while not actively playing: they can build hypothetical characters,
test strange combinations of rules, and otherwise explore game
mechanics outside of (or in tandem with) events occurring within a
Sometimes, a campaign works on both of these levels, with the
players' agency in the game world impacted by the rules they investigate
between sessions. Time spent studying rules may, for example, represent
training a player's character is undergoing in-game. Just as often,
these two layers of interaction are separate. Players in a game may
handwave or houserule away some of the game's more complcated rules, for
example, while players without a game may still have fun tinkering with
I think the best products provide value in all of these situations
and more. When possible, a product should include enough story elements
to inspire in-game events, along with enough rule elements to entertain
players who are exploring the rules for the sake of the rules. More
importantly, the story elements and rules elements of the best products
compliment one another and the game as whole; they fill a particular
niche in a way that is logical, consistent, and easy to use at the
When and how did Eric Morton Presents get started?
Eric Morton Presents released its first three products last month.
I had not originally planned on starting a long-term publishing
venture. My initial intention was to self-publish two large, one-shot
PDFs and leave it at that. As I worked on those, however, I realized
that a series of shorter products could be better accomplished with the
resources I had at my disposal. Any larger projects I work on in the
future will reach a wider audience if I first attract readers with a
series of products that are focused, affordable, and fun.
What can you tell about the products of Eric Morton Presents?
Animal Races is the first ongoing product line from Eric
Morton Presents. Each product in this series presents a new, playable
race based on a different animal or group of animals... with a twist.
Unlike a bestiary or a typical book of player character racial options, the Animal Races
product line ties every new race it introduces together with a shared
history inspired by real-world evolution. Each animal race can be used
as a stand-alone player character option, if desired, but any
combination of animal races can be included in the same setting without
their diversity feeling forced.
With the appropriate combination of Animal Races products, for
example, boggards, catfolk, gnolls, lizardfolk, and orcs can all be
related to one another through a combination of genealogy, history, and
mythology (with some heraldry thrown in for good measure). What started
in the bestiaries as five unrelated humanoid races are now playable
races that are tied together by a common thread.
Can you give us an exclusive teaser about a future product?
I can answer a question you might be asking after reading my previous
answer: how do orcs fit into a product line devoted to animal-themed
races? In the early days on tabletop gaming, orcs were often depicted
with pig-like snouts. Animal Races: Clan of the Pig uses that old-school orc imagery as inspiration, adding new options for porcine orcs and half-orcs.
Which, I suppose, is more of a spoiler than a teaser. So I will add
this: expect some new dhampir variants in the not-to-distant future.
That probably qualifies as a teaser.
What are the best things about your products and what type of players or GMs would you recommend them for?
I have designed the Animal Races product line for players who
enjoy having a wide range of nonstandard races at their disposal, both
for mechanical reasons and for story reasons.
On the mechanical side of things, each animal race has customizable
ability score modifiers, racial traits, and racial feats. Many can be
either Small or Medium (player's choice). Two members of the same animal
race can be remarkably different, and may diverge even further as they
gain new feats and new racial traits.
On the story side of things, I make an effort to touch on the
roleplaying aspects of nonstandard races that many players enjoy. Each
animal race has its own psychology, religion, and society to help set it
apart from other races. When appropriate, I call attention to
motivations and personality quirks that apply specifically to
adventurers of a given race.
At the same time, the Animal Races product line is for GMs who
like consistency in their game worlds. Too often, product lines present
a hodge-podge of unrelated character options whose place within the
same setting is not immediately obvious, especially when those options
are new races. At best, you get an approach where each character option
comes from a different, distant land.
In contrast, products in the Animal Races line suggest
numerous, in-game connections between the various animal races they
describe. If you can find a way for your campaign to incorporate even
one animal race, any of the other animal races can be smoothly
incorporated into that same world through the various relationships
which tie those races together.
What are the current goals for your company? What are the biggest challenges?
My current, short-term goal is to release at least one new product
each month. I want to establish myself as a publisher who regularly
releases new content while also creating a backlist of available
products. I want to have enough older products available for sale that
supporters of my publishing efforts can regularly revisit my backlist to
grab products they may have missed.
The biggest obstacle I face is, oddly enough, my day job. If not for
the forty hours a week I have to put in at another job, I would be able
to work that much harder to grow my business. One of my longer-term
goals is to grow my readership and reduce my reliance on other sources
of income. That way, I can spend more time creating fun and interesting
game supplements for other gamers to use.
In your opinion, what are the most important things to consider when starting self-publishing?
In my limited experience, the most important things to consider when
self-publishing are your target audience and your pitch: who will want
to purchase your products and how are you going to pique their interest?
In most cases, having an amazing idea for a product and having the
design chops (or freelancers) necessary to pull it off will probably not
be sufficient, on its own, to attract readers.
Someone with more industry experience than myself may come along and
correct me on that at some point in the future, but until that happens, I
am going to operate as if the above statement is true. Based on that, I
would recommend that new publishers come up with ideas for more than
one potential product line. When it comes time to get started, pick the
one product line that best stands out from the crowd. Be flexible enough
to find and fill niches that are being underserved by other publishers.
What skills, tools or other resources do you consider to be the most important in self-publishing?
If you are looking to publish a regular series of products, the most
important skills you will need are good planning and good time
management. You will have to juggle writing, editing, layout,
illustration, and marketing for multiple products at the same time. I
can only imagine that print-on-demand publishing adds even more layers
of complexity to the task. Good planning and good time management will
reduce (but not necessarily eliminate) unexpected headaches and delays.
The most important resource you can have when publishing is access to
other publishers. When other publishers make themselves available on
public forums, ask questions. Look for publishing-related groups you can
join. Participate in public conversations where publishers are talking
about publishing. Independent research is no substitute for advice from
someone who is already working in the industry.
What do you find most rewarding about self-publishing? What about least rewarding?
To me, the most rewarding thing about self-publishing is the creative
freedom I enjoy. While it can be fun making contributions to shared
worlds and product lines controlled by other publishers, there are many
times when I simply want to do something my own way. As a
self-publisher, nothing is stopping me from doing that. The only people I
answer to are my readers.
The least rewarding part of self-publishing, as with any business: taxes.
Is there any further advice you would give to someone interested in self-publishing?
Check back with me in a few years. As I get more experience in the
world of publishing, I hope to expand and refine my efforts. If I manage
to do that, I will likely have more and better advice for
self-publishers than any insights I can offer today.