Saturday, October 4, 2014

Interview: Southlands Kickstarter

I interviewed gaming legend Wolfgang Baur about the Southlands Kickstarter. In keeping with my blog's recent monster theme, there's a lot of discussion about monsters, including information on how you can design a monster for the Southlands Kickstarter!

As of today, there are nearly 600 backers and more than $50,000 of the $16,000 goal has been pledged, meaning that many, many stretch goals have already been unlocked! So check out the Kickstarter page as well, pledge, and reap incredible rewards!

Welcome, Wolfgang! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm a game designer, editor, and publisher who's been rattling around the RPG field for the best part of 20 years. I publish newcomers and veteran freelancers under the Kobold Press imprint, and I'm always looking for good high-fantasy adventure. I have an unreasonable love of leatherbound books and well-crafted lore; and not that long ago, I wrote the first standalone adventure—Hoard of the Dragon Queen—for the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons with my co-author, Steve Winter.

While I love to play all kinds of games and new RPGs, most of my attention is focused on Pathfinder RPG releases: I've written pieces of two adventure paths for Paizo (three if you count my installement for Savage Tides) and a chunk of the first Golarion setting hardcover, plus monsters and articles and even fiction.

I get around, as they say. 

How did you get into RPG design and what have been your best experiences? 

I started with adventure design for Dungeon Magazine many years ago, and writing adventures and creating monsters have been my favorite parts of game design. My first moment of real delight in design was when I contributed to the Al-Qadim setting. I wrote the Monstrous Compendium for that, loading it up with monsters from Middle Eastern folklore, classic Ray Harryhausen movies like The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and Egyptian mythology.

The very best experiences have been in the last 8 years or so, when I started doing a lot of brainstorming and collaborative design with Kobold Press. It's part of the "secret sauce" that gets us rave reviews and keeps Kobold Press original and vibrant. Our creative process for big projects like our new Southlands book is rarely a matter of one person going off on their own and writing something. (It happens, but usually just for smaller projects.) Instead, I gather up a crew of old hands and newcomers, we brainstorm ideas, and work together to make something as good as it can possibly be.

Collaborative design has some pretty big upsides. I've enjoyed 90% of the projects run that way. 

When and how did the Southlands Kickstarter get started? 

The Southlands has been rattling around my brain since the Northlands book did so well for us. Northlands was full of Nordic, arctic, and generally chilly options for Pathfinder RPG players: spells, monsters, feats, tons of gear, and a chapter describing a set of small northern kingdoms. I wanted to flip that around and make a hot, tropical, sprawling set of kingdoms, loaded with archetypes, monsters, new spells, cults, hooks, dark gods, and NPCs useful for any homebrewer.

Ben McFarland and Brian Suskind pitched an approach to the project, and we've been brainstorming, designing, sketching, and drafting maps and fine-tuning monsters ever since. The Kickstarter campaign gives us the resources to make it bigger and more awesome. 

What can you tell about the Southlands Kickstarter? 

It's designed to bring all sorts of goodness to any Pathfinder RPG campaign that uses themes of high adventure, whether that's in Osirion and Katapesh and the Mummy's Mask, or as part of a desert caravan in the Midgard campaign setting, or the deserts of a world of your own invention. It also includes Eight Arabian Nights: adventures by me, Jim Groves, Jeff Grubb, and others.

It's basically the sort of game that Indiana Jones would run if Dr. Jones were a Pathfinder GM. 

What are the best things about the Southlands Kickstarter and what type of players or GMs would you recommend it for? 

Well, I think the best part is that backers can submit monsters for publication in the Southlands Bestiary, but then I'm a notorious monster-lover. Backers at a certain level can submit one or more monsters. The best of them will be published in the Bestiary chapter of the Southlands book or—I'm really hoping this comes together—they will all be published in a standalone book called, with stunning originality, the Southlands Bestiary.

I'm eager to see what sorts of monsters people create for the project. I've got my eyes on 3 monsters I really think fit the pulp-adventure vibe, and the great stuff that comes from backers is always a pleasant surprise. 

You've got a pretty impressive group of freelancers working on the Southlands Kickstarter. What can you tell about them? 

I worked with Jeff Grubb and Zeb Cook back in the TSR days in Lake Geneva, and I was there when Al-Qadim launched. I wrote a bunch of it, such as the official City of Brass.

Others, such as Jim Groves, were backers of Kobold Press projects, and I've been lucky enough to continue to work with them. And finally there are people like Amber Scott: I liked her stuff for Paizo, so I invited her to write something for the Deep Magic book, which we published a few months ago. Sometimes it's just a matter of asking. 

How do you generally find freelancers to work on projects like this one? What are the main requirements? 

Usually it's either someone I've worked with before; or someone who shows up and wows me in an open call (like the monster submissions for Southlands), or in a Kobold Press contest like the Lost Magic contest we did a year ago. And many people start as backers first. It's a pay-to-play format, but the people who submitted spells to Deep Magic—and the ones who will be submitting monsters to Southlands—often find that those early publication credits can turn into steady work for third-party publishers, Paizo, Wizards, Catalyst, Pelgrane, and others. It's a wedge into the industry.

Some of the people who show up and blow me away during a Kickstarter go on to become big name freelancers or even employees of top-tier game companies: Brandon Hodge, Adam Daigle, and Jim Groves are great examples. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in running a Kickstarter? 

Be very, very cautious about your shipping costs. They can sink you into the red faster than a searing light spell turns a skeleton to dust. Seriously, be very aware of all your costs, including shipping, art, shipping, printing, design, editing, shipping, layout, and shipping.

1 comment :

  1. Wonderful news! Delighted to hear at least 1 set of books is in Southlands today, and another set in Quebec. C&M maybe one of the Gen Con visitors to the booth wants to spill the news, but the kobolds are going to wait a tiny bit longer.


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