Gaming Ballistic Interview: Pyramid Magazine Panel Discussion

For my second interview – technically I suppose it’s a podcast – I took +Sean Punch up on his suggestion during our discussion that the next time we did something like this, he’d like to have some of his fellow creators with him.I aimed big, and invited +Steven Marsh, Sean, +David Pulver and four of the most prolific contributors to Pyramid Magazine to what would be up to two hours of conversation using Google Hangouts On Air. As before, I provided a list of questions that I’d likely be asking, but also noted that I’d let the discussion go places on its own.

This time, I got ahead of things, and so this post will contain the video link, an uploaded audio file, and the full text transcript of the interview. Thanks to +Christopher Rice, who did the transcription, for getting this done in just a few days. And of course, thanks to +Andy Vetromile, J Edward Tremlett, +Matt Riggsby for spending time with me on Saturday night!

Edit: Matt Riggsby came in late and was plagued with some technical difficulties. He graciously expanded on his thoughts on some of the questions that were asked, and posted them to his blog, Tetsujin No Llama. They’re worth reading!


Christopher Rice also blogs at Ravens N’ Pennies.

 

Click for MP3 Audio File

Pyramid Panel Discussion – Text Transcript


Douglas Cole (Gaming Ballistic): Just be yourselves and that’s why we have some of this [holds
up glass of red wine] so we can all be ourselves . . . or more of ourselves than we usually are.

I wanted to first thank you guys for joining. To have so many people make
time, a couple of hours, is gratifying and I do appreciate it. So, let’s
get started.

Welcome to the second interview conducted on Gaming Ballistic.
After the interview with the GURPS Line Editor, Sean Punch, I
invented . . . ahh invited! (Invented? I didn’t invent anything.) I invited StevenMarsh, Sean Punch, David Pulver who are very much regulars at Pyramid
magazine, being the editor, line editor, and regular columnist; and the four
most published authors since Pyramid volume three hit the
shelves. That would be Andy Vetromile, Christopher Rice, David Pulver, JamesTremlett, and Matt Riggsby will hopefully being joining us later.

So just
getting right into it, I wanted to start off with giving Steven the opportunity
to tell us a little bit about Pyramid magazine and what it means – or is – to Steve Jackson Games – kind of a mission statement, or purpose . . . or evil
plot or conspiracy, which would make a good segue to the next question.
Steven?

Steven Marsh (e23
and Pyramid Editor):
From my
perspective, Pyramid is the official support magazine primarily for GURPSnowadays, but we are certainly open to supporting other Steve Jackson Games
products. Umm, primarily role-playing games. Designed to be both a regular
source of material for gamers as well as kind of the cutting edge of what GURPS
is doing and where it’s going. So it’s a proving ground for new authors, a
regular source of material, and kind of a spot where we toss out ideas and tell
the fans what do you think of this…thing here. And it’s pretty much been
working well in all those capacities, certainly with the start of the third
volume. Five years ago now, as of this month.
Douglas: How
well does that mission statement resonate with you guys? Do you like to write
crazy stuff? Do you like to get out there with expansions on existing
material? How do you tie what you’re writing to either the themes Steven
has suggested or what’s in your heart.
Andy Vetromile (Pyramid Author): I have a tendency
to go more for systemless articles, which is odd given that Pyramid
has become something more of a house organ or dedicated more towards GURPS,
but, it is not so much that I don’t want to write the GURPS statistics, it’s
just that sometimes I worry I might not do them justice.So I kind of
like doing the more free-form tings. I shy away from anything too specific that requires me to start creating a lot of characters.
But characters and such are kind of like the quotes in a school paper: it
takes a lot of nice spice, but at the same time it takes away from word count
you could be doing something else with.
Christopher R.
Rice (Pyramid Author):
Okay, I
have the exact opposite kind of view there. I think that GURPS gamers – and [all] gamers – but specifically GURPS gamers want crunch. But they want just enough fluff to
justify the crunch, I usually between 40% and 50% to 50% and 60%, give and
take, that way people can jump off whatever I have come up with. I
especially like doing system add-ons. I like taking a book and grabbing and seeing
how I can twist it into other different pretzely shapes.
Andy: My
comments certainly weren’t meant to estimate the audience for the book,
certainly it was more a estimation of my shortcomings than anything else.
Steven: I have
to concur that Christopher’s really good at that 60%/50% mix. I get a 110%
article and I’m like what am I going to do with this, ya know? So I just cram
it in that issue.
Christopher:
[laughs] In my defense, you’re keeping me aliveeee.
[Everyone laughs]
Steven: No pressure
for me.
Douglas: What
gave you, Steven, the idea for coming up with themes for magazines. So every
issue has a theme, and you posted a list of themes in the wish list. And later on when we do the text transcript, we’ll have
a link to the wish list so
people can get to it. But why themes? Why not fill it with random stuff? Does
that speak to what you want to see or how writers write? What drove the
theme concept I guess? The theme theme.
Steven: To
offer a little bit of background, the first volume of Pyramid, started 25 years
ago, I think this year. Might be 20 years.
Sean Punch (GURPS Line Editor): On the order of . . . it was a
long time ago.
Steven: Umm
yeah, so for the first 30 issues bi-monthly paper magazine, it was a system, or industry wide cover-everything kind of gaming magazine. So you’re likely to
find anything in a particular issue.With the advent of . . . that magazine ended and we
started up the HTML version of Pyramid which lasted from ’98 to
five years ago, whatever that would be, 2008 I think. And that was a weekly
log-in subscription based HTML, anything goes, cover everything online magazine.It was
a great magazine, I loved editing it, and we had some very dedicated fans, but
the format of it was such that when you subscribed you got access to the entire back
catalog of issues, which I used to joke at conventions means that the longer
you don’t subscribe the better the deal you get when you do. But encouraging
people to not scribe isn’t the best long term strategy.

With the third edition,
we went over it a fair bit and I believe it was actually our marketing director
at the time – Paul Chapman. And he noted – and I didn’t disagree – that if
we’re going to go to a PDF format, folks are going to want a issue where they
have a reasonable shot of using most of what’s in a particular issue.

So if it
was just a hodgepodge of articles, and they are only into sci-fi gaming, and
there is only one sci-fi article, a bunch of Dungeon Fantasy articles,
and some modern day, and they’re paying their $8 a issue for 5 pages of
material or whatever it is.

So with the themes we’re really trying to foster
the long tail and encourage folks to pick up the issues that interest
them. And those who subscribe get something cool every month, but the theme is
a way to kind of tie back issues together, as well as inspire authors that they
may not of thought of before. I’ve gotten lots of queries that are like: “Oh, I
really hadn’t thought of doing a Victorian article, but since you got a issue
coming up, here’s my pitch.”

David L. Pulver
(System Architect and Game Designer):
Yeah, the theme, the theme concept is
quite good because it really does inspire you to get out of a rut. Doing things
like cavemen and dinosaurs in a dungeon was something I would have never
thought of except that you had a prehistoric theme. And I had a dungeon.
Douglas: Who
doesn’t have a dungeon? So what does the rest of the author panel think? Do you
like writing the theme? Or do you have this…, I know that Christopher has you
know 700 articles covering a broad range of things and just you know, and just
puts them all in Stevens [email] box to encourage sanity loss, but you know,
for the rest of you guys do you write to theme or…?
James Edger
Tremlett (Pyramid Author):
I find
it helps me to kind of focus my ideas a little bit. I remember back during the
second iteration of Pyramid when I first started writing for the magazine that it
would take me a little while because I was running the Wraith project at the time, and I was typing
like mad to get that out every month. I think “Hmmm, what can I do for Call of
Cthulhu this month?” and finally something would come to me.This way I can
actually look at a list that says “We like this… this month, this next month,
this that month.” So I can actually start thinking, “Yeah, here’s an idea I can
throw at that . . . here’s a idea I can throw at that.” So from a writer’s
perspective at least it’s a very useful thing to be able to say: “Okay, I
really need to start thinking space adventures some time really darn soon or I’m
going to miss the cut off and I’m going to bang my head against the wall.”
Andy: I’ve got
a love/hate relationship with it. I like the idea that I get some guidance so
that I’m not completely at sea with what I’m writing, but at the same time some
of the…if you run up against one of the more esoteric topics, then you may or
may not be able to come up with something. I’ll brainstorm, I’ll call it
brainstorming, but it’s truly brain pounding, uh slapping my head against the
desk trying to come up with something that fits. It isn’t always that easy.But, sometimes, yeah, sometimes it does push you that little extra bit further
and other times I end up missing it cause I think “It’s natural magic this
month, what am I going to say that hasn’t already been said about magic,” which
leads me back into how great I am with system mechanics.
David: Some of
the magic articles were the hardest for me to come up with a theme concept.
Magic on the battlefield. Laws of magic. That sort of thing.
Sean: I have
to admit I’m not much of a theme player. I work for the company so I can get away
with writing over the transom pretty much full time. So I send Steven random stuff
to make him lose hair. I think I’m the company version of Christopher.
Christopher does it from the outside and I do the staff version. So Steven
doesn’t really have a choice but to create a issue to entertain freaks like us.
And I know Christopher doesn’t like clowns, so I’ll say for example I sent
Steven something about carnies.
[All laugh]
Christopher:
No man, that’s not cool. No.
James: That’s
always cool.
Douglas: Did you actually write an article just to tweak Christopher? Cause that’s awesome.
Sean: That was
retroactive y’all. I didn’t know he didn’t like clowns till just now.
[All laugh]
Christopher:
It’s okay, I’m not gonna run screaming.
Sean: The
tachyon feed from the future told me this, so I was acting on knowledge from my
own self from the future without realizing it. I saw that in Prince of
Darkness, good movie.
Steven: One of
the secrets of Pyramid is I really try to plug in things as best I can.
And sometimes, y’know, I just end up fudging it as best I can. We had a Tools of the Trade:
Thieves issue that got some folks who were writing about law enforcement, and
folks who were writing about how to stop thieves, so I was like, okay. This has
drifted off course, but there is still obviously a unifying theme here. I just
need to figure out what it is. I think it was “The Rogue’s Life.”
Christopher:
Yup.
Steven: And that was a kind of a past, present . . . future even . . . look at both sides of larceny
basically.There was a mystery science theater 3000 segment where they set up a
crisis hotline for one of the movies, “Hobgoblins.” And one of the folks
calls in and says “Oh yes, I have a terrible problem.” And they’re like okay
“It does relate to the movie Hobgoblins, right?” “Oh yes, yes. So one day,
while I was watching the movie Hobgoblins, I came across this totally unrelated
problem
.” [Others laugh]So, umm, I’ve frequently find myself [saying] “Well,
when frequently facing dinosaurs you might use . . . Martial Arts” and slap a intro
on there that otherwise I can squint and it works okay, y’know.

Christopher: I
personally love themes, because it gives it me something to write too. Like, I
ran out of wish list – you need to get on that by the way, Steven. I’ m out of
wish list. You need to give me something to do, you don’t want me bored.
[All Laugh]
Christopher:
Bored for me is Bad™.
Steven: I’m
working on about 14 issues concurrently. Really, my sanity is not where it
should be at this point.
[All laugh]
Sean: Steven,
you know, this is not something I’ve ever seen. You work for the same company
as me, you’re not allowed to be sane, right?
Steven: There
is that.
[All Laugh]
Andy: I’ve got
articles I wrote over a year ago that aren’t going to see publication for
another three months. So, it can be interesting it’s almost like “found money” when you get that check in the mail. “Oh yeah, I wrote this.” I seem to have
some recollection of that.
Steven: [laughs]
David: What’s
everybody’s longest article, not longest, but longest time they took to get an
article published? I know the earliest one I ever submitted was in 1989 for the
old Roleplayer, and I only just got that published a few months ago.
Douglas: Oh,
wow.
Steven: That
wasn’t me
[laughs].
David: That
was the mecha article. I submitted it a while back for Roleplayer, but Steven picked
it up for Pyramid.
Sean:
Roleplayer, wow. I did find Pyramid number one by the way,
that’s what I was flashing, it was made June ’93 actually.
David: That’s
cool.
Sean: Now we
know.
Andy: ’93…wow.
David: Yeah.
Andy: Thanks I
was feeling pretty good about myself until this point, now I realize . . .
[All laugh]
Andy: My
subscription could be going to college, grad school even.
David: Anybody
got any issues of GURPSnet?
Andy: [laughs]
Douglas: I
will occasionally find posts of mine that I did on GURPSnet, usually about
your Vehicles book, David.
David: No, I
mean the newsletter.
Douglas: No, no
not me.
Andy: All hail GURPS
Vehicles.
David:
[laughs].
Sean: I know
where they might be, but there are spiders up there, so I’m not getting them
out. But they’re up there.
Andy: Few
books made me feel more powerful when I held them in than GURPS Vehicles. This
makes me dangerous.
David: You can
kill spiders with them, it’s not quite as good as umm those Hero games books
which are rated for ballistic damage resistance, but…
Andy:
[laughs].
David: Those
things are hardbacks.
Christopher:
Speaking of other game books, David didn’t you write the Sorcerous Crusade for
Mage: The Ascension.
David: Nope.
Andy: I edited that!
David: Nope.
Andy: I
co-edited it.
Christopher: I
must be thinking of Phil Masters.
David: Phil
Masters you are thinking of probably.
Christopher: Embarrassing.
David: Not
really, it was a good book.
James: A
Fantastic book.
Andy: Thank
you.
David: I’ve
never actually been published by White Wolf . . .I was published by White Wolf Magazine
once.
Douglas:
[laughs] That actually ties into a question that I think we started to touch on, but will certainly come back around to. So okay, I’m a
perspective writer and I want to do something on . . . grappling, or bows and arrows,
or like evil clowns with bows and arrows who grapple.
[All laugh but Christopher, who is not amused.]
Sean:
Christopher [holds up hands witch-like].
Douglas: Yeah
I know, that can get really ugly. So I want to write for Steve Jackson Games,
either that or Pyramid specifically, or I want to write a book. How do I
approach the matter. How do I get that done.
David: Wait
for the theme to come round?
Douglas:
[laughs].
Steven: To
back up a little bit…
Douglas:
If I’m a new author, how do I break into this. For some reason, one
has a penchant that they really want to enter the role-playing game business
because they’re tired of eating or something. So how do they get started.
David: Do you
mean enter the actual business, or just enter to Pyramid. Pyramid
is easy.
Douglas:
Let’s say you want to establish yourself as a writer, for gaming articles . . . or books.
Andy: Steven
could use the money, so a bribe isn’t out of the question . . .
Steven: It’s
funny because when I met my wife we were both at a convention in New Jersey and
we were both on a…
Douglas:
That’s two strikes against you: Convention and New Jersey.
Andy: [laughs].
Steven: Yes.
Well. And we were posting a panel about how to break into the gaming industry.
The only folks who showed up were already in the gaming industry, so we changed it to
how to break out of the gaming industry.
[all laugh]
David: Should
have gone there.
Steven: Almost
anyone that wants to write for Steve Jackson Games, primarily GURPS
at this point, but there is always the possibility of other projects in the
future. I…
Douglas: Robert Kelk would love to see an In Nomine article. Anywhere.
Steven:
…[laughs] No.
Douglas:
[laughs].
Steven: I’ve
toyed with it. No. It’s a can of worms that I’d need to be filling my oats
before I toss that line out.But, anyone interested in writing for e23, I
strongly in no uncertain terms suggest they write for Pyramid first. The reason
being is that the stakes behind a 3,000 word article are significantly lower
than a 25,000 word manuscript.I can be much more forgiving and coaching, and adaptive for someone who’s trying to learn the ropes with Pyramid. And a lot of our folks have gotten starts. I wish Matt were here, because he’s
one of the folks that I’m like [mimes tears] “I’ve seen him grow up.” He kind of was
in Pyramid
and one of our better writers there and is now releasing all these cool supplements
on his own, and he still writes for us for some reason.

But, the biggest piece of
advice I have is understand your market, understand what you are writing
toward. In this case . . . read a bunch of Pyramid. Get a feel for what a Pyramid
article looks like and sounds like. I’ll get in articles from folks that are
4,000 words without any kind of break, it’s just like a 4,000 word essay.

[snickers from panel]
Steven: Does
this look like anything that has ever
appeared in our publication? And I’ll get other folks that send a 300 word “You
might have spaceships show up and attack some geese.”
[more laughs]
Steven: And
I’m like, that’s way to short. So have a idea of what…when your article is done
you should be able to squint and look at it and say “Yes, I could see how this
could appear in the pages of a magazine.”
Douglas:
What’s the shortest article you’re willing to publish?
Steven: During
the HTML era, I started up a feature called “Appendix Z:” which has morphed
into in the new series into anything that will fit on one page. And that’s gonna
be 500 to 800 words there. Generally speaking, the shortest that
a article is going to be that’s likely cover its topic reasonably well is gonna
be 1,500 to 2,200 words.
David: I’m
assuming about 850 words per page, is that accurate at the moment?
Steven: Yes.
Douglas: What
are the best and worst parts for writing for Pyramid?
James: Getting
the email saying “its in.” My God, does that feel so good.
David: Money
is nice.
Christopher:
Money is nice.
Andy: Money?
money rocks.
David:
Seriously, I think that Steven is very good to work with. He’s a very good
communicator as an editor. Also the rapid pace of publication that in most
instances you get relative…you don’t have to wait as long as you would with a
non-magazine project or even a e23 project. I’d say the worst thing is that there is
not too much consumer feedback in most cases.
Christopher:
No there is not [shakes head].
David: It’s a
pity we don’t have a letter column or something [laughs wheezing].
Steven: I had
one.
David: …I treasure the occasional feedback I get on the GURPS
forum. It would be nice if people who liked the articles . . . or hated the articles . . . would post and tell everybody.
Sean: This is
a general issue with electronic publishing actually.
David: Well
yeah.
Sean: We encourage people to speak up about our stuff, but absent the physical gathering at a store or whatever, it’s a little harder, sometimes, for us
to get feedback from people.
David: Yeah,
sometimes the most feedback seems to come from the crunch-heavy articles. I
worry a little bit about the more fluffy articles that I’ve done. Or the adventures.
Because I haven’t go much or any comment on them.
James: There
doesn’t seem to be a culture of critique in the forums that I remember being in
the second iteration of Pyramid. Someone whose name I can’t remember, but every time we got an issue and he would
always go into the forums and go “Okay, here is what was out this week. Here’s
what I liked. Here’s what I didn’t like. Here’s what I would use. Here is what I wouldn’t use.” Everybody
looked forward to those and where is that wonderful person? Why can’t…
Sean: Kenneth Peters still does that. Kenneth bullets the big long list and talks about it in
detail.
David: Yay
Kenneth.
James: Where the
heck can I find that. Where can we find that.
Sean: Forums.
Forums.
David: Once
and a while. But not for the last couple of issues I think.
Douglas: I did
one where I (obviously in the Gunplay issue) where I did whole posts on every single article in it. Including the book ends that Steven wrote in the
beginning and the end. But that took well over a week to do. And I was like
“Oh, I’ll do that more often!” and I looked at my real life and I was like “No I’m
not.”
David: I’d
rather write the article.
Douglas: Yeah.
Andy: That’s
true.
Douglas:
I’m going to throw something down and see how people react to it. I think the hardest part
for new authors, and maybe the worst part, is writing to the GURPS
Style Guide.
James: Oh yeah.
Andy: Yeah.
[makes shuddering noises].
Sean: [laughs]
My fault mostly.
David: At
least its not as bad as the original GURPS where you had to, for second
edition or something ,where you had to insert little codes like little
<i>’s and code everything in manually.
Sean: That was
truly awful yes.
David:
[laughs].
Sean: Yeah,
ah, the thing with the Style Guide, to be fair, is my responsibility in the
sense that I keep the Style Guide, I didn’t develop it. It’s something that has
been handed down from torturer to apprentice.
David: From
generation to generation.
Sean: Yeah,
from generations of torturers and inquisitors have handed it down amongst
themselves. Its sort of like our secret manual on how to make people bleed and
hurt. But…
James:
[laughs]
Sean: …as a
publisher we do have to have standards and one of the things that’s a secret of
all games writing. Not just for Pyramid, but I’m going to use Pyramid
as a example here, is that it is fundamentally technical writing. You’re
writing material that completes a product or expands a product. And describes
how to do something that you want to do. It ultimately technical in character,
it’s creative sometimes, sure, and sometimes it’s pure fiction, and sometimes
its non-fiction, it’s research, but it’s technical first and foremost. And
technical writing always requires a freaking manual unfortunately. It’s just . . .
David: Yeah..
[garbled audio].
Sean: I
thought maybe it wouldn’t, but I checked. I checked and as far as I can tell,
and I talked with my editor friends and they’re kind of like Sergeants in the
army, they all know each other. And they’re like yeah everyone has one of
those, end of discussion.
David:
Including the military actually.
Sean: Theirs
is very scary, I’ve dealt with it.
Christopher:
Would it make me a freak if I said I actually like the Style Guide and kind of
read it when I have nothing else to do.
[All but Christopher]: Yes.
Andy: Without
qualification.
Sean: I
appreciate that someone likes that work.
David: It’s a
good Style Guide and it’s well written, it’s just overwhelming in its size. I
wonder if we could have a possibility of having a “dumbed down” Style Guide for Pyramid
on the off-chance that it requires less or slightly less rigor than a e23
supplement.
Christopher:
That’s not a bad idea.
Steven: It
really doesn’t. I mean one of the non-secrets about Pyramid. And I say
non-secret because we’ve been trying to convince people, but no one seems
willing to believe us . . . But there is very little difference between what goes on
with what goes on with a issue of Pyramid than what goes on with any
other e23 supplement. So, the formatting is the same, the same software, the
same production artist (Nikki Vrtis)…
Andy: [laughs]
Steven: Does
everything there. So, if it were dumbed down at all, it would just fall to us
to bring it back up to the standards of everything else we publish.
Andy: But…
Steven: Umm,
and part of the point of Pyramid is kind of trial by fire to
learn our Style Guide and…
David: Yeah,
there you go.
Steven: There
are actually two unrelated issues. One of which is easier to address than the
others and I considered it.But there is the GURPS Style Guide, which
is the monolithic, gargantuan, if you’re making a template in the format of
such and such equipment guide here’s what needs to be in there.Then there’s
the actual Microsoft Word WYSIWYG guide, which is this is how you do a A-HEAD, a
B-HEAD, a C-HEAD, and this is how there should be half-lines between text and a
table if there’s no header

The GURPS guide, there is not too much that can be done about that
because, if youre writing for GURPS it has to follow what’s gone
before. But the formatting guide I’ve had some contributors bounce back and
forth saying “This isn’t quite working right.” And then I’ll just send them a
previous article that’s actually in the lay out format saying this is what your
article should look like. It’s like a light bulb goes off and they understand
“Oh, when there is this block that is in the C-HEAD format, that’s literally a
C-HEAD.”

Andy: The
other thing…
Douglas: For
those of you who have actually, for the ten people that log into my blog, I
started the blog and I use the Pyramid Style Guide for practice, so
I actually use all the C-HEADs and D-HEADs and all that stuff just because it
makes it easier for me to eventually submit a article for Steven to uhh accept,
reject, or otherwise mock. It makes it easier to get practice for the GURPS
Style Guide if I use it all the time.
David: I
started writing adventures for my own campaigns that way.
Christopher:
That’s just what I was about to say, I create a setting bible for every game I
run and its between 50 to 100 pages. I got one right now that’s 300 pages and it’s
all in Steve Jackson’s Style Guide. Just so that I’m like, it’s internalized.
David: You’re
ready.
Andy: It hurts
real good for the editor in me when I start applying all those heads and I feel
pretty pleased with the results, but I…if you’re using it as for referencing for
new people who come in to use this as a springboard for e23, for me, and
remember, those of us on the panel, we’ve all been at this for a while. I go in there, I kid you not, iin mortal fear of missing some portion of the editing, that I’m going to leave out
one of those little half-page breaks. Somebody’s going to write back and say “You worthless slack-jawed so and so, you
forgot this that and the other” and then I will be “Oh God!” I despair of ever
actually making it to anything on e23, because I think if this is the structure that they
require to get onto Pyramid, most of what I put in there. If I start entering a lot
of GURPS
statistics, really what I’m doing is making more work for Jason [“PK”] Levine,
so it cows me,  even this late in the game.
Steven: Well, I…frankly,
I don’t think that’s necessarily inappropriate. I mean obviously I am…
Andy: Ah, so
you want me to live in fear.
[snickers from the panel]
Steven: I’m a
established writer, I have a dozen and at least a half dozen credits from other
game companies and other projects under my belt, and yeah there is a certain
amount of I really don’t want to put my head into the Lion’s Den of GURPS
Fandom and say “Here’s my GURPS slingshot rules, have at!”
[all laugh]
Steven: I
think that fear is probably a healthy thing if you’re not willing to jump in
both feet, I’ve been kind of dabbling as the Pyramid volume three has
gone here’s a quirk there and what do y’all think. Here’s a little powers type
format thing and I’ve slowly been gaining my feet there. But yeah, it’s pretty
daunting.
Douglas: I
think if you really want to get the experience of it, you need to write rules for slingshots and don’t think “How a 30 lb. ST 900 character would use
that slingshot to shoot a cat. Who would then turn around and bite you in the
face and eat your head.”
Andy: If you
do, Hans-Christian Vortisch will tell you what you did wrong.
James:
[laughs].
Douglas: I
haven’t found Hans to be too picky with anything other than firearms. There are
a few other people…
Andy: I wasn’t
aware he dealt with anything but
firearms.
Douglas:
No…that true. I had a great time lead playtesting Tactical Shooting, so I don’t
have anything ahh, anyone who the guy’s in Jane’s [Information Group] go to and
say “Wow, he knows all kinds of stuff that we don’t.” Is someone that I you
know happily call one of my circle of friends. It’s a funny story if you don’t
know that . . . but he has
Andy:
[laughs].
Sean: It’s
true actually.
Douglas: He
has this list of what country, what organization, whether it’s military,
police, or whatever; ordered and uses what firearms. And Jane’s editor was like
“Wow, this guy knows more about this stuff than anyone on the planet.” And I
think they may have even been a job offer involved. It was actually a pretty
cool to way to segue from role-playing writing into international superstardom, at
least if you’re a Jane’s fan.
Andy: Yeah
there were some people I dealt with back when I was a errata coordinator, there
was this one guy who would, and I’m not kidding, this guy would take something
we had written at the inception of GURPS. He could take something the
size of a gum wrapper and he’ll tell you something you missed. I always wondered
why we didn’t put this guy to work as the editor on the book, he knows more
about it than we do. [chuckles] But it never got to that point, but he called you
on everything.
James: Those
who can…
Steven: Can I
talk a bit about the editing process or, cause it touches on…
Douglas:
Absolutely. Absolutely.
Steven: I’m not an ogre, either the tank or the giant monster. I don’t
enjoy crushing people just for the sake of crushing people and I’ve never
rejected a article that was otherwise acceptable, but was missing that half
line in front of a table or what not.
[all laugh]
Steven: The
closest I’ll do is say “Look, that article was good material, it read like the
kind of thing that appears in Pyramid, but was formatted
incorrectly, so here is what I literally poured into our InDesign software and
I’m sending this Microsoft word file back to you and get a feel for what this
looks like and how I changed things and do a document compare and that will hopefully
help you.One of the greatest frustrations I have as a editor is there have
been articles that have been 85% of the way toward what we would run. Just not
quite enough where I can hammer it into shape, but not so bad that there is
nothing here I can do and just politely reject and say “thank you,try again.”There have been many submissions where I have written a 1,000 words of critique
saying “Here’s how you should rework this paragraph, follow this method for the
rest of the document, here’s what you did wrong with this section, here’s how
you can take it in a different direction, and if you make these nine changes
then I can publish this in Pyramid.”

And I’ll never hear from
them again.

I gave you a checklist! I gave you a do these things and send it
back and I’ll send you money. And nothing.

Douglas: I
think its funny, I think it was Joseph Campbell used to say that the highest
praise he could give was a check. Only form of rejection was a “no.” Anything else
that he spent his time on was constructive criticism that should be followed up
on, because that would make you a writer one day.
Sean: That’s
something that I found very hard to explain to writers. This concept that rejections
look like, they’re very short, they basically say “you’re rejected.” Anything
better than that and you’re already beating the percentages at that point.Neither Steven nor myself are allowed to invoice hours to critique something we
don’t plan to buy. That’s not how it works, so if you get back a long critique,
it just means this is great material, but can you make it easier for us to
edit, because (and this is the rude part) because it’s cheaper for you as a
writer to edit your own work, than pay us by the hour to edit it. This is
fundamentally true.
Douglas: I
think that the feedback that you gave me for Technical Grappling was almost
as long as the original manuscript itself.
Andy:
[laughs].
Douglas: Me
being me, it grew to much much much much longer. That is the one thing
that even on a concept that I flirted with, and Christopher and I are flirting
with again, from years and years ago for an adventure. And now that Matt’s
here we’re going to ask him about adventures since he’s the man for it.The
thing is, you get a lot of feedback from the Steve Jackson Games people and
it’s all constructive, even some of the previous Pyramid guys who have
come and gone have been very helpful, all the way through.They want different
things, and Steven is no different. He has a particular thing he’s trying to do
and it’s broad, but its Steven Marsh’s thing. But if you get the feedback,
acting on it is important.

Question for everybody: Steven, Sean, and whatever –
have you ever thought of having a kind of like gathering of people like
ourselves. If you have a article that’s 85% of the way email one of these
people and they’ll happily help you offline with formatting.

Christopher:
[makes noises while raising hand] Ooo!  Ooo! Ooo!
Douglas: We
have a volunteer on the left.
Christopher: Antoni
Ten Monrós, he and I have actually talked about creating a …
Douglas: A twelve-step
program?
[all laugh]
Christopher:
Yes, actually for Pyramid  . . . because there are a lot of people who want to write,
but they don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve taken like three people under my
wing personally, trying to get them to get their work up to Pyramid
snuff so we can have more authors.Even though, you know, it’s personally bad
for me, its better for the magazine because there are more people…
Sean: And
ultimately, that’s good for you.
Christopher: I
think that if we can have a group of people, say
ten or fifteen people just willing to put in, you know two or three hours in a
email showing somebody how they need to do something or if they have a
question. Just something like that, a Pyramid Author Help Group. Something
like that…
Sean: In the sad old days we called them writer circles…
Christopher: I
mean it would just help. A lot. There are a lot of people out there with great
ideas, but they don’t know how to get them on to paper properly formatted.
Douglas: What
do you think, Steven?
Steven:
Speaking as myself, not as Steve Jackson Games, etc. etc. I can see the value
in that, but I think that anything like that has to be unofficial and can’t us [Staff
Personnel].For one thing there is not the hours or ability to invoice that. But more importantly, the more our stamp of approval is on grooming writers in
any capacity that isn’t directly getting articles to us. I think the greater the danger is, something can go wrong and someone could say “Oh, a article that’s
similar to one I had that I sent to you for critique got published and now I’m
all upset.”So I would…I can’t see a place for that in an official capacity,
but on the forums I certainly know of and understand that some groups that I trust
their review process more than their review/playtest kind of process. Hans’
group for example.

Sean: We do
actually have a private forum for e23 writers. People who’ve written a lot of Pyramid
are welcome to ask me to put them on that group. I’ve got admin powers, I’ll
add you. One of the things that goes on in that group is very frequently is
people will ask for input from peers on really pre-, very much pre-alpha/alpha stuff.And we had no problem with that at all, we enable it by allowing that forum to
exist so they can discuss things. But we’re not responsible for it. If you post
your cool article on geese and Hans says: “Ha ha! I like to shoot geese with my
shotgun, it’s my article now, boy.” You’re kind of hosed, and we can’t do anything about that.But if you trust these
other people, and I like to think you trust these people because everyone we
have working with us is very good, very trustworthy. You could certainly go
there and throw your stuff out, and if you’re not sure about your formatting
there is probably going to be someone there who knows a bit more about it and
is willing to say something.

And if you’re not on that e23 writer’s forum, you let
me know and I can add you. Everyone I’m speaking to right here, I’m looking at all
of the names and anybody who is watching this podcast and has written, say, a
dozen articles or more, we welcome. You’re a writer, that’s what it exists for,
is for writers, but you have to be a writer. But you have to be someone who has
written a sufficient quantity of material, we would say it’s basically book length, a dozen
articles or PDFs or something. That’s all I’ll ask.

Steven: So..so
Kromm has confirmed the existence of the Illuminati by revealing the existence
of the super secret forum…
[all laugh]
Steven: …in
its shadow.
Sean: It’s not
very secret, because everyone who goes on our forums can see it exists by looking to see
who is browsing what group. [laughs] So it’s not really a secret realm, the
software makes it visible.
Andy: [garbled
audio].
David: I bet
we could find it.
Steven: Umm,
Kromm I always thought that we reserved that for folks who were official e23 authors, then we
at least had the power of a contract in our files in case things go really off
the rails there. Is that..?
Sean: Mmm, people who write for Pyramid are bound by its agreement,
actually. Its agreement is pretty simple so I’m good with that.And besides the
point, I think for… this isn’t Steven and I having a policy discussion. This is
actually a honest statement I make to the world: If we want people to take Pyramid
seriously as a GURPS supplement for e23, then treating people who spend a lot
of time making Pyramid a great thing as writers for e23 is… is merely logical
and fair.But the reason I’m putting a length stricture on is not because I’m
trying to be a jerk, we do get some very short articles from people who never
show up again. There is a very big difference between a short article by any of
you guys, you guys have written…I don’t know, boatloads of stuff, I…I…I can’t
even calculate how much stuff and I’m looking at the faces in front of me and I’m saying
this is most of what’s in Pyramid lately.

So, yeah, I’m
comfortable with that as GURPS, and since it’s my responsibility
as a administrator don’t worry, Steven, if someone comes with a axe it’ll be my
neck.

Douglas: But
then, Sean, will turn into a zombie and come after the rest of us.
James: [makes
zombie noises and face].
Steven: This
is World War Zed.
Douglas: Yes.
David: Since
you are in Canada, you are sort of out of the range of some people.
Douglas: So
one fairly common observ– somewhere between a observation and complaint depending on the tone it was given — one of the things that is hard about GURPS
is writing adventures or adventures seeds or anything like that. Is there a
good place in Pyramid for that sort of thing and how does that work?That’s not just
for Sean and Steven, it’s a great opportunity for Matt Riggsby.
Sean: I
nominate Matt, yeah
Douglas: I’m
totally signaling him out, because uh…
Christopher:
Speech!
Douglas: So
how do you feel about Adventures in Pyramid, Matt? Peanut butter and
jelly? Oil and Water? Ducks and shotguns?
Andy: [snorts
a laugh]
Matt Riggsby (Pyramid and e23 author): Pyramid
is a good place for short adventures simply because it’s something that comes
out very quickly relative to full GURPS books.  And there is always a
few pages to put something in.So you can get out a quick and simple idea, but
that does restrict you to the core of a adventure, the idea of a adventure. So
you can set out a plot or a extended adventure scene with some stats or
something like that.But it won’t give you the full detailed I need to run
something in 10 minutes and I have no time to think about it. Gives me
something that gives me all the stats right now. That you don’t have in Pyramid.

Douglas: Has
anybody ever…so Matt has actually written an adventure for Dungeon Fantasy, Mirror
of the Fire Demon. Um, what other adventuring content shows up overtly or kind
of subtly in the pages of Pyramid.
David: I’ve
done a couple of adventures recently. I did for the mega-dungeon, the dungeon
article, the Dungeon Fantasy II issue. I did a sample, what I called a
“super dungeon.” With a hex map and fully statted out NPCs, plot, and so on. And it was
fairly lengthy, but it did fit in Pyramid. And I also did one for the
Prehistoric issue, another dungeon adventure. Again, fully statted out. The main
thing is they do take a fair bit of space so you have to make sure that Steven
has that space in the issue.
Matt: A number
of things that I have done have been somewhere between an extended adventure
seed and a location, so there will be a map of a place and a sketchy idea of
what can happen there. Rather than a full list of expected events or complete
matrix of relationships and ways to navigate those, so it’s adventure-ish
without necessarily being a full adventure.
Sean: Yeah, I
think that’s what we’ve got to encourage people to produce for Pyramid. The thing is that it’s a generic game (A); and as Matt’s pointed out, it’s a short space (B).So
you take those two things and cross them together that really limits what you can put in there, and I would
say that primarily what you want to offer people is some tools that can be
lifted out of that adventure and used in any campaign or any adventure. As well
as the adventure content itself.If you spend a little bit of time on good
quality tools like maps, and I really love Matt’s maps, they’re beautiful. Or
NPCs that are very generic, or a little rules add on – Christopher likes those.

You get these together and you get them in there and people can use them
regardless, and that’s great because then if they’re even in a totally
different genre in some cases they make use of it. And it reduces the actual
adventure per say to relatively short text that’s fluff and seeds of adventure
that don’t force stats on people and you still get the best of both worlds
there.

You get a little fluff, a little crunch, which is we’ve said is a great
combination, a 110% of an article, right there. Then you make sure the fluff
stands on its own without the stats so those who aren’t using GURPS
or are aren’t using the same genre or tech level can use that idea. And you get
the tools, the maps, the stats, whatever, you make them relatively stand alone
so people that aren’t using your fluff can use those. And I think that’s a sure
sale right there as a Pyramid adventure.

That’s distinct from a
full length e23 adventure, that is a separate discussion and a different
adventure. But that right there is what I would like to see.

James: Yeah,
I’ve done a couple generic adventures for the magazine over the years and I’ve
found if you’re being generic, and just giving, like, “Here’s this character,
here’s the things he can do, in generic terms;” you can pretty much easily port
that over to any gaming system you care to and just fill it in and you don’t
have this huge block stat. That takes down on your total word count, but on the
other hand, as poor Steven will probably admit that I’m a bit naughty and try, and
I’m trying to get things down to 5K and keeping them there. And then I wake up
and suddenly have this beast on my hands. I think I’ve caused you heart
attacks, if so I apologize profusely.But yeah I kind of prefer the free-form
ability to do something generic and have it be: “Here’s the idea, here’s what’s
gonna happen, here’s what you want to do, go crazy and make it your own.” As
opposed to doing block-stat, block-stat, block-stat, and then going “Did I do
that right… or did I cause work for somebody else.”
David:
[laughs]… yeah. You can do a very short adventure, I don’t know if Steven would
like to see too many of them. But for the Conspiracies issue I did “Dreaming
Penguins” or whatever I called it. It was a very short adventure conspiracy
about amateur press role-playing and politics. I think that got only about two pages,
but I made it completely statless just with an adventure plot line and a
description of the characters involved,  and pretty much nothing else. And I
think that’s about the most you could, the idea was to do a complete adventure, but it was pretty much stat-free and crunch-free, Kromm. It fit in
two pages or so.
Douglas: How
do you think you balance the fact that you know, if you do, I think people
would like adventures. At least for me at 40 some odd years old, you know I
like adventures and seeds and what not because it helps me save time. But on
the flipside if you have everything drilled down it’s like useable only from
the campaign on which it was pulled. On the other end, you say “Well, you have
this group and it’s gonna conflict with this group and they’re gonna fight or
argue or do something.” And it’s like this totally – and there are really only
three stories ever. Which people will come back and say, that’s no good. You’ve
just told me, yeah you need development and a denouement and stuff that’s
entirely generic and therefore not useful. Where is the blend that you want to
strike there?
David: Another
thing which I was thinking of, which sort of relates to that. And I don’t know
whether this is the sort of magazine one wants to do. But I know a lot of
people read game supplements – at least people I know – just because they like
reading them as entertainment. And even if they actually have no plan to use
the things. Probably about four or five of the people in my gaming group are
like that, they would buy dozens of games, but they never actually play them.
So I think another thing you have to have in a article is that it has to read
as something, unless it’s a crunch heavy article, that is something that’s fun
to read.
Andy: I do try
for that, but I’ve only written one adventure article per say, that I can think
of. There may be one I’m forgetting, but mine hasn’t actually seen the light of
day yet and there may be a reason for that. But we’ll see come the Alternate
Worlds issue.
Christopher: I
haven’t actually written an adventure yet for Pyramid, but I like to do
is shove little niggly-bits, as I call them, everywhere. I like to hide rules in text
and just make my article as information dense as I possibly can.
Andy: I, too, like
calling them niggly-bits, and we are kindred spirits.
Christopher:
Apparently.
Andy: Yeah. My
article only had three fully statted characters, so there really wasn’t a whole
lot else to draw off the word count. The rest of it was an adventure.
Steven: As a
editor, one of the first things I notice is that adventures have traditionally
been the kiss of death as far as long-tail sales go. If too much of a issue is
taken up by a adventure or there are too many adventures in a issue sales just
go [makes noises like falling plane while miming a downward motion, then makes
exploding noises].And I think its because folks make their own adventures, I
think they’re looking for toolkits, they’re looking for things that can be plugged into their own
campaigns.So, I think that for Pyramid at least, what I strongly
encourage in most cases, is if you have this cool adventure where the heroes
need to break into this bad guy’s secret lab and steal the plans for this thing
and the villains got “such and such is gonna happen,” and there is this
doomsday scenario and stuff . . .

Why not just present the lab?  Just keep that and
forgot about any plot or tuck it into a side bar or the like. Once you start
trying to flesh it out into a full adventure, a really tight cool 3,000 word
evil lab turns into this 6,000 word “Well if the heroes try and bribe the guard
with candy, then the guards say…”

So you know, a lot of space gets taken up by
things that just aren’t going to be useful to most campaigns. Especially because when
people say they want adventures what they want is adventures specific to their
homebrew campaign that can be plugged in with no additional work. And in a
system like GURPS, outside of Dungeon Fantasy, it’s somewhere between hard to impossible.

Andy: I think
a lot of the stuff that I put into my article, mine was set in the modern day
even though it’s a time travel article. So not quite modern day, but fairly
modern, so I think most people who read it are going to have some idea of what
I’m talking about.So when I presented challenges, I did exactly that. I said:
Here are some things that can go wrong, here are some things that can go right,
here are the kinds of challenges you might expect in such-and-such a setting.
But I didn’t give a laundry list or a flow chart, because I didn’t think it was
necessary.
Christopher:
Flow charts make the baby Jesus cry.
James:
[laughs].
Andy: And yet
so many board games could use them.
David:
Speaking of graphics and flow charts and things like that. I wonder if Steven
could go into a bit more detail about what you’d like to see in terms of maps and so on as submitted by
authors. How much, what quality do you like? Do you like a rough sketch or do
you need something wonderfully presented done with digital graphics or what?
Steven: As
I much mentioned earlier, Pyramid is a e23 supplement. It
follows the same process as any other GURPS project for the most part,
with a few things that are different or streamlined. So it’s really a question
about . . . artwork. [takes a dramatic swig of his beer]
[all laugh]
Andy: Let me
brace myself for the onslaught. Here we go.
Douglas: This
is like the Pyramid Panel drinking game, if anyone says the word
“adventure” or “artwork” you gotta take a shot.
[all laugh again]
David: Do you
get paid for submitting a map, for example?
Steven: Oh
yeah, absolutely.Yes, generally, maps or other illustrations need to fall into
two categories. Either things that we can drop in as-is or nearly such, or
things that we can recreate here. Which is primarily my skills or Nikki Vrtis’
skills, which are much more on the illustrator side not on the art side.If you
need a hex map with dots that show that this guy can go this way, because
that’s what this maneuver is? Great because we can totally do that here. If you
need a 3D cartographic representation of the dungeon with its sublevels, nope,
can’t do that.

So…we strongly encourage folks to figure out how to work their
material so it doesn’t need a map. Figure out how to generate material or  illustration material that we can use as is. Or hope it’s simple enough that we
can recreate that as need be.

Andy: How does
that…
David: I was
thinking of, what I was thinking of specifically, the comment just a little bit
earlier regarding adventures. Submit the laboratory not the adventure.So if
you wanted to do an evil laboratory what would you as the editor like to see
from the writer submitting a laboratory? Would you prefer it as a key with no
map at all? Or a little sketch map? Or do you want the writer to go into great
detail and whip up or master something in Photoshop or whatever.
Steven: I hate
to cop out but . . . it depends. I have a full Campaign Cartographer suite and I’ve even
done some map-work in the magazine. I think the most recent one was I did a Appendix
Z about a fun house firefight or whatever, where the heroes were chasing around
whatever in a hall of mirrors.But I generally only do maps about every couple
of years so whenever it comes to me to make a map in CC I’m having to reteach
myself from square one again. So it’s nothing I relish doing or encourage folks to
do.I mean if it’s like… David you had in the first Transhuman Space article I
think, something, it was fairly straightforward map to a home or something.

David: Yeah. A
basic home.
Steven: A box
with a couple lines and a thing that indicated a door. We could do that here.
That was pretty straightforward, took half a hour with the tools we have here.But, if it has to have the attractive tables on there or the location of this
or that, or the doted line to indicate paths it gets beyond our abilities
pretty quick.
Douglas: I
guess I would probably say, and that Steve Jackson Games staff would hopefully
agree: Ask. “Hey I’d like include a map, and I’d like to use Doug’s Pretty Good Program™  – which may or may
not be actually be licensed.” That seems like a two second email which can be
resolved fairly fast.
Steven: Yes. I
totally encourage folks who are going to have issues like that to send them to me first.You know I swear despite the fact that some articles get caught, but otherwise
get punted down till I can find a issue. I don’t relish making people write
stuff that we can’t publish. I really don’t like to do that. Something that can
be sorted out in a really quick query letter “Hey I want to do a 10,000 word
adventure that includes such-and-such and includes Zorro is that a problem?”
And I’m like, “Zorro might be a problem…”
David: Yeah,
that actually segues into a question I wanted to ask you about. Which is what
is the status of Cthulhu and doing Cthulhu mythos these days.”
James: Ohh, ho
ho…
Steven: I
would look to the Steve Jackson Games – the rest of the product lines and see what
they are comfortable doing. So references to Cthulhu are pretty acceptable at
this point. Most other stuff I really don’t like to deal in, or maybe just a
nod here and there. There’s this thing that is similar to this . . . whatever.And
even things that are in the public domain can be challenging because all it
takes really is for someone to say: “Hey we want you to hire a lawyer to make
sure you can do this.” And we’ve got a bunch of paperwork to deal with there
that is frankly just not worth the trouble.
Christopher:
Original artwork, uh, I have a couple of artists in my group and every once and
I while I’ve considered submitting original artwork.
Steven:
[shakes head emphatically “no”].
Christopher:
No?
Douglas: Bad
idea.
Steven: The
artwork one is real simple. We don’t have approval process for artwork. It’s a
can of worms that we have a challenge resolving with the rest of the e23 line.So
just no, absolutely no hope for it.
Douglas: If I
could ahh…I think some of these things, the maps and graphics are interesting,
especially for already established [authors] that “I’m so good at this not only
can I write a article, but I can include my own graphics.”I wanted to ask a
quick question, looking at the best and worst in “What’s Hot” issues of Pyramid.If I could summarize the top ten: Alternate Rules for GURPS, anything having to
do with Fantasy and Low-Tech, and expansions on genre’s that are deep and
complicated. I was somewhat surprised to find Transhuman Space, number #3/15 as
very well regarded. Lots of sales. And Transhuman Space is one of these things I
find fascinating and utterly untouchable because I have no idea how to approach
it.

Andy:
[Laughs].
Douglas:
Thaumatology. Urban Fantasy and Cyberpunk are other areas that are very broad genres, that
might not be easily skimmed off if I’m going to run a adventure like that. You
think that is sort of the key to success? Enabling people to bite into the
apple?
Andy: You
asking Steven or us?
Douglas: I’m
asking anybody, you guys…so what do you think? Is that the kind of thing you like to write? Do you like to read?
David: I’ve
had a theory for a while now that one of the issues is that GURPS
doesn’t really have that many established world settings, that
people can accept as a consensus. Such as… it has Dungeon Fantasy, but
there is no consensus Science Fiction setting. There is a consensus modern
world. There is a consensus Transhuman Space setting. So unless there were… and there is of course a consensus low-tech fantasy that people accept from Dungeons and Dragons. But because there isn’t a consensus for things
like cyberpunk, or space, or alternate earths, except Infinite Worlds which is infinite,
it makes it hard to find lots of people who would be interested in one of those
particular issues.
Andy: I think
part of it is the atmosphere of trying to recreate some things. People are
hungry for certain things because they can’t come up with them on their own.
I’m not good at writing for say, Vampire the Masquerade. Paranoia is a tough
idea to come up with. Everyone loves it, but coming up with satire is not a
walk in the park, so some things are so atmospheric or so specific with their
elements that it can be hard to put out.So I think if you got someone who can
go into a setting like Transhuman Space and come up with a setting
for it or come up with a adventure idea for that kind of setting than that
person’s writing is a gold nugget right there.
Sean: I think
there is also an audience for that. You have to consider the percentage of
people who are going to be interested in picking up the issue. Which in
turn is going to influence how often Steven is going to want a issue that is
themed on a world. That in turn dictates the demand for that kind of writing.We’re not completely without our mercenary leanings. We do look at what sells well
and those things do get more attention in future things.And my experience with
the rest of GURPS and I think that is mirrored well in Pyramid is that the rest of GURPS…the
things that people seem to really want is expansions of rules, good, solid
treatments of genre and/or subject matter.

When I say subject matter as
separate from genre, I mean things like Hans’ guns. Guns. Guns. Guns. Or
martial arts, something that doesn’t necessarily have to be rules heavy. It
could be completely exploratory, completely fluff writing, if it’s well done.
Well researched and brings facts to the table that would require the average
gamer to spend hours going over to get.

But that sort of stuff, generally
speaking is more popular and to make a world popular, to sell copies of world
material. You don’t just need what David was talking about, you don’t just need
a consensus for it, just a lot of people who are interested in playing.

You
also need a bunch of writers who are actually interested in writing that world.
And one of the interesting things that can happen and I’ve experienced this in
my 18 years with Steven Jackson Games. You could have a setting that writers
are interested in writing for, but nobody is buying. And you could have a
setting that has very much captured the imagination of gamers, but no writer is
particularly interested in expanding upon.

That’s a tricky bridge for us to
cross, a tricky tricky puzzle. So you usually the other stuff I’m talking
about: genre-treatment, subject-matter, and crunchy rules expansions are safe
low-hanging fruit. Much much easier. If were to go to a new writer and say wanna write something for Pyramid, that’s the stuff I’d offer the writer.

Established
writers, sure, world stuff. If David wants to write Transhuman Space stuff,
duh! but if some random guy says “I like Transhuman Space and I want to write
for it.” “Have you read the books?” “No! but it sounds pretty cool.” We get that . . . that’s the
problem.

David: What
I’m thinking of is specifically that suppose you want to write about a thing
that is crunch-heavy science fiction that is cyberpunk or something. But it’s a
bit tricky to do that because in the real world you can look up a bunch of real
world stuff, research a bunch of guns or cars or medical devices or whatever
and turn them into a Pyramid article. And everyone knows
what you’re talking about because it’s real world, historical.But if you’re
doing, with the absent of any sort of boundaries for something like science
fiction or fantasy, unless you’re working within Dungeon Fantasy, it makes
it a lot harder to come up with crunch because it makes a good chance that your
crunch won’t be usable either.
Steven:
Actually, from my perspective, I’ve had the opposite effect. It is much easier
to assemble a issue and ask people to contribute if its not based on the real
world. Probably the biggest reason is because there are people wanting to
pounce on you for saying “Oh no, the weight of the such-and-such Howitzer 287 is actually 2.8
pounds, not 1.9 and you’re completely wrong and this issue sucks and no one
should buy it. But no one is gonna say I think the wingspan of a dragon you
just made up is really 12 meters not 10 meters, it just doesn’t make sense.
Douglas: Those
people are all on the GURPS forums, so we can self-select that out.
Andy: Place is
lousy with them.But that also goes back to what I said earlier. Even if you
just take something like fantasy. What new is there to say about fantasy? You
can only do so many guns statistics before they all blend or you just say:
“It’s like that but weighs a gram lighter.”So it does seem to me like some of
those things he mentioned that are so popular are also that there is no low hanging
fruit left there. You go in there to do . . . a lot of what you want to use in a GURPS
adventure has already been touched on. And it..it..I stand in awe of those who
find new things to discuss, in some of those… in some of those heavily tilled
fields like Martial Arts. I agree that the research at this point seems more
important than actually coming up with the rules for it…

Douglas:
[sneezes].
Andy: the
rules cover a lot of situations. Bless you.
Douglas: Thank
you.
David: I agree
with that to some extent. You look at something like Low-Tech or Martial Arts
or whatever or I suppose even some of the books I’ve been involved with. And you see a
200-page plus numerous Pyramid articles which have already
been written all filled with crunch. And you think it would be so much easier
to just write a adventure or something with this stuff, because all the
fighting styles and historical material and fantasy historical things already
exist.
Sean: Yeah
there is a lot of that. I mean the thing too is to understand that is there is
the difference between what writers would like to write from a purely creative
perspective and what apparently customers want to buy. And one of the things
that was touched on earlier, the gram lighter is exactly what I’m thinking of.
You know to me a 9mm pistol is a 9mm pistol, I know Hans is gonna hunt me down
here…
[All laugh]
Sean: …and
waste me. But that’s how it is. I’ve shot some 9mm shells, seen lots of them, and I think “Yah, it’s a pistol.” But there are people who come on our forums and write me
private emails or write Hans private emails saying “what are the stats for this
model such and such which was released last year and is a gram lighter and
holds one more round in the magazine?”And you could answer “change the weight to
1.01 or 2.01 and add one more to shots.””Okay, but when are you going to publish
that so it’ll be official and my GM will let me have it?”

And like it or not
that really exists in GURPS fandom in a big way, not a small
way, that’s a major “we want official word on iteration 117 on something that’s
been iterated 116 times.”

David: That’s
exactly what I would like to do. With something like science fiction material
is to be able to fill articles with that kind of crunch and things because its
very hard to because we don’t have a background where we can make up all this
stuff.
Douglas: One
of the criticisms of Ultra-Tech a little bit is that it’s too broad and too generic.
Gee if you could take some of this awesome generic stuff and say “But in this
kind of setting here’s your list.”For me as a prospective game master that
saves me time, I can say here’s the list and whether it’s “official,” or just easy.
It just works out. I think that’s why people are hungry for the nine-hundred
gun list of every weapon that existed in WWII, is because it says I don’t have to
filter, I don’t have to spend time, I have the book, I can look it up. It’s not
only interesting and well researched, but it’s a time saver.
David: So sure, but which settings would you and would other people like to see for stuff like
Ultra-Tech Guns. Which settings were you specifically thinking or where you
thinking settings in general terms like “Cyberpunk Guns” ‘cause to me that’s
basically TL9 guns. [JT laughs]. Or did you have something more specific, like sub-genres or something?
Steven: Can I
just say that, kind of related to this, David you had one of my favorite
articles of this sort in the past couple of years when…I think it was for the
Gunplay issue, you came up with a fictional gun company and just traced its
development through the ages. You showed when they came out with material starting in TL 4,
and then TL5 to the modern day and just…and by presenting it that way it sidestepped
the issue entirely for me. No one is gonna complain that Made-Up Co. wasn’t
presented correctly ’cause he made it up.
David: Yeah.
Steven: It
gave me an option as a player; I could immediately see that this could be
dropped in into any campaign. Suddenly, if you need a evil gun manufacturer you don’t
need to worry about drawing out a real-world one or getting into material you are not
comfortable with. It’s a open book.So, related to that I would encourage you
to if you got a hankering for that to make up whatever your parameters are and
write within that. So you just start out in the initial paragraph and say:
“This material is assuming a TL9 world…
David: Okay.
Steven: …it
can be suitable with TL 10 if you tweak X, Y, and Z, but otherwise . . .” And just
make it up just like you did for that article.
David: I’d be
happy to do something like that. Yeah. I’d be happy to do something like that.
That was to some extant born of my Hans-Envy, that particular article. When I
realized I couldn’t match his research, so I just made it up.
[all laugh]
Steven: The
secret to that article is to do it like Dungeon Fantasy. Which is to just to
drop little bits of flavor in that are evocative, but not constraining…
[all agree]
Steven: So if
you say, this is the firearm that was made famous in the 1933 Kabossskoff Stand
Off. Oh my gosh, the Kabossskoff Stand Off. What was that? You know . . . who cares.
David: See
yeah, you’d be happy to see something like that for a Ultra-Tech article or so.
Steven: Yeah.
Absolutely.
David: That’s
good to know.
Douglas: Yeah
based on conversations from . . . the Forums are a  self-selecting group, but I think that the…I
think that there are a couple things that people seem to want. Details. They
are going to want stuff that feels like popular culture. If you’re going to do
super heroes, you don’t say “well, here’s a generic super-hero setting.” Lets build off something like Avengers. A billion dollar
franchise and making so you can play that using your system of choice which is hopefully GURPS.
On the flipside the superheroes issue is apparently the worst thing ever. So
it’s hard to tell.
David: Yeah
could you go into more detail….
Andy: I had
nothing to do with that…
David: …about
that. Because I was looking through, prior to this and I noticed there had only
been one issue. Was there only one super hero issue?
Douglas: Looks
like Superheroes was the only issue rated on less than four and was fairly
heavily voted on . . . and people seemed to hate it.
David: I was
wondering if there was any feedback to why that was? Because I would have
thought super heroes would fit well into an episodic sort of thing. It’s like a
super hero characters could be dropped into any super hero campaign. Is it. Do
you think no one is using . . . that people still aren’t using superheroes in GURPS.
Steven: There
are a few things going on. First off, that issue was the second issue or third
issue, I can’t remember if it was Post Apocalypse.
Sean: Issue
two, I got it here.
Steven:
Anyways it was one of the earliest that we did, so you know, it’s like what
they say about bands, you got twenty years to come up with your first album and
one year to come up with your second one.So we had a half year to come up with
issue one and get that looking like we wanted too and then a month and a half for the second issue. So there was a lot of trying to find out feet
very quickly into what Pyramid was trying to be.I think
that, my gut tells me, and I’ve done no particular research. But most of the
tool that one would want for superheroes exists in GURPS already. There are
lots of powers, there are power-like things that are in other type things. Like the Weird
Science issue was tangentially related to that.

And most folks, first of all,
I’m not sure how big the supers audience is, as far as being a self sustaining
thing in GURPS nowadays. I mean in the main line GURPS ever since 3rd
and 4th editions there have been just the main Supers book.

But it’s
hard to add that new crunch that folks are going to find interesting so then
you are relying on the strength of whatever supers you add. And once you do
that, are you designing for a 300 point supers campaign, a 500 point, a 10,000
point and it gets really hard to get something within the banner of supers that
is going to satisfy supers gamers.

Kromm might have more insight here, but…

Sean: Well the
only insight I really have is that, what in the past what an awful lot of focus
on supers writing has been, and I took a quick look at that issue while we were chatting here
and I know what’s in the books in front of and behind me here.A lot of focus
has been on specific heroes and villains’ character sheets and fundamentally
they suffer from a problem that all characters suffer from: they’ll work in the
context for which they were designed and in any other context, be it different
point level, different tech level, different assumptions about the available
skills or powers and they’re not gonna work.Supers is really sensitive to what abilities are available or allowed. And if you
focus on that direction you’re never gonna sell much because it’s only gonna
work for a small subset of people running campaigns with those characters that
are precisely compatible vs. a treatment, a micro scaled down version, you say,
take PKs Divine Favor book, or you take his Psionic Powers book and they are
treatments of Powers in great detail.

You say, okay, if you took a power, a
specific power, and give it four to six pages treatment in Pyramid, you give it Power
skills, Power perks, framework, a few modifiers, and a description how it might
fit into various settings. Here’s how it interacts with fantasy magic, here’s
how it interacts with TL6 WWII guns, here’s how it interacts with futuristic
psychotronics, David’s book Psi-Tech, and so on.

Then that would be salable, but I would argue you
wouldn’t need a Supers issue to put that in. You could put it in the Psionics issue if it’s about psi, you could put it into the Weird Powers issue if it’s about weird powers.
It doesn’t have to be supers.

The popular stuff in GURPS is really just
treatments of the actual powers and abilities, not treatment of supers as a
comic book genre with capes and guys with specific names in a specific setting.

We had some limited success with International Supers Team setting, but truth
be told it wasn’t successful enough that we could move that up to the front of the queue for 4th
edition and we still think that someday we might do some stuff related to it.
But we can’t justify the amount of energy that goes to it, because the setting
is very particular set of tastes.

This is the issue that all settings have.
David makes a very good point; you need a consensus setting for a awful lot of
stuff. Supers is, I would argue, the only genre where you more strongly need a
consensus setting than futuristic sci-fi.

Futuristic sci-fi is number two after
supers, supers is number one, because supers is really just a wildcard. You
could have anything and do anything. Oh, okay, could we narrow that down just a
little bit. That’s the problem there.

At least with science fiction you’ve got
a range of Tech Levels as a base of expectations for fiction. For supers you
don’t even have that. Because when you say supers to me, I think indie comic
books. I don’t read Marvel or DC stuff. I don’t know anything about that.

Other people think of Golden Age. I didn’t like the Golden Age, I actually preferred the
Iron Age with all the blood and violence so… [throws up hands]. What’s your
genre. You pick it. That’s where supers is.

And since I’m yakking I’ll add one
other thing, if you guys, a group of you guys, a group of two or three or four,
or all you guys and some other people who write for Pyramid, if all of you
guys banded together and conspired and created a little consensus setting and each wrote your little piece of it, and sent us the articles and said “Hey would you be interested in this?”

And if we
got enough of them and filled a issue I think Steven and I would at least have
the conversation. I’m not making you a promise, but if Steven said this theme
could sell? This theme being a consensus setting for some genre that’s never
got one, Pyramid-length, by known writers. Steven and I would at least
discuss it, we very well may send you a standard rejection notice. Let’s face
it that could happen, you have to face that, but I’m saying that. And the
reason I’m saying that in this podcast that is lots of people could look at later. If there is
enough demand then Steven and I will have enough reason to take seriously,
won’t we?

Christopher: I
just have to say something real quick, Sean, have you been reading my hard
drive? I have a Pyramid article on exactly a supers treatment like Psionics
Powers.
Douglas:
[makes interested dog noise].
Sean: No. I
didn’t read your hard drive, not specifically. Tachyonic TV from the future
maybe beamed it into my head, but that happens a lot with me.
[all laugh]
Douglas: You
know ah, this is the second gauntlet you’ve thrown down in one of these podcasts,
Sean. I’m going to have to include you in more of these, because you always
inspire the next one.
Sean: Im
trying to see Steven’s face to see if he’s shaking his head in despair or
taking a bemused look or what, but he’s got some scary video artifacts going
on. It’s actually frightening.Douglas: I thought he was giving everyone the steely eyed
glared of “Why don’t you please shut up.”
[all laugh]
Douglas: Okay,
well, we’ve been chatting for about a hour and half. Anybody have anything
they’re dying to say about Pyramid, writing, GURPS,
or anything in general. Not anything in general, but something gaming related.
Steven: I have
to say I’ve never been on television before.
Andy: No I’m
afraid…
Matt: There is
no time.
David: Yeah, I
don’t, how about favorite theme issues for Pyramid which have only been done
once or twice?
Douglas:
Excellent. What themes do we want to see?
David: How ‘bout
a beasts theme issue?
Andy: Beeps?
David: Beasts.
Animals. No monsters.
Andy: Ahh.
David: Beasts.
Sean: As the
line editor of the line who has yet to get a Bestiary out I fully approve of
this. This would be a wonderful way for you to get some creatures out there for
people and would establish Pyramid as being a real honest to God GURPS
supplement. Hey where are the bears? Didn’t you see Pyramid #3/72 Bears And
Things That They Eat? You suck. You have to go get it now.
Douglas: What
I want to see in the bears issue is who writes up the football team.
Sean: Better that than large men in leather on motorcycles. That could happen too.
David: A
sports issue would probably sell really badly, but would be interesting.
Andy:
Alphabetically they would be under “D” for “Da Bears.”
[all laugh]
James: I was
always hoping for another supers issue, but I guess now we know that won’t happen.
David: I’d
still like to have a supers issue too. What about splatterpunk? Blood.
Andy: If it
were up to me every issue would be about time travel.
Christopher:
I’d like to see one on alchemy, but that’s just me.
Douglas: Says
the potion master.
David: That’d
be interesting.
Christopher:
I’ve made a amateur study of alchemy throughout the ages, different cultures,
it’s interesting stuff.
James: We
haven’t really had anything on ancient lost civilizations…
Steven: On
thing I’ve wanted to do as a issue, as just kind of, in my mind is going to
some of our more established folks and say: “Submit me something that you know
will never be able to fit into another theme, surprise me!”And then I look at
the things like All-Star Jam and I go[puts hand on forehand] “Maybe not…”
[all laughs]
Andy: Yeah but
you’re the editor, right?
Matt: I’ve
already put my Iron Chef rules somewhere else on the web.
Steven: Yeah?
David: What
about some of things which have been on the regular e23 wish list, but haven’t
received any usable submissions for yet. Like I’m just looking at the list,
like Disasters or Furries or Sports.
Sean: My
opinion as the line editor if we’re not seeing bites for things on the wish
list we’ve had for upwards in some cases, nine years, then it’s not taking
food out of any writer’s mouth to say “Article length treatments we might buy.”
I really don’t think that’s a problem.
Andy: Are
those pieces…has that been updated? And that’s probably not a question for the…but I haven’t actually looked at the e23 wish list in forever. It didn’t
seem to change much when I did look at it.
Sean: It was
last updated July 12 [,2013].
Andy: So there
might be something new!
David: What I
was just thinking for instance, while I don’t think I have much interest in
writing a elves or dwarves supplement. If there was a Pyramid Elves and Dwarves
issue for example, or a Orcs and Goblins issue or something; two or three races
closely related, I could certainly come up with something for it.
Andy: Yeah, the elves would be easy to do, because like
every other role-playing supplement we’d have to start with “Not much is known
about the elves…”
[all laugh]
David: You
could come up with something wide enough to cover elf punk, elf
magic items, elven…elf characters, elf martial arts, elven and,…
Sean: Douglas could give us more elven bows…
David: Yeah.
Douglas: It’s
on my list of things I might want to write, but would take forever and the
research would be painful and you know I would really probably cause Steven to
insane would be to do it. The archery book and I write it all up in the Deadly
Spring and then what’s the history, how they’re made. And say okay, if you want
to use the standard rules here’s the stats, listed ST 5 through 20 for the
Ancient Elvish Mongol Bow of Doom™ or something.
David: Looking
down the wish list, what about an agencies issue?
Douglas: That
would be…an awful lot of fun. Especially if it were thematic rather than specific.
[bunch of panelist talk all at once]
Christopher:
I would just like a book on agencies, in general. How…like how to create them, what their
resources are, how they’re…
Andy: That’s
one of the ones I shy away from. I’ll do the CIA as a agency book for e23 I
would get crushed under foot into Andy-pudding by Hans-Christian and his
friends…
David: But
probably not for Pyramid. Plus you could pick something really obscure or you
could make up something up, like CIA in 2020.
Andy: That’s
true.
Douglas: I
think that’s where if you’re very specific, like in Sean’s game, he probably uses the CIA so he might find a book, but it would have to have things you couldn’t
just look up at CIA dot gov. To have a type of agency, or series of agencies,
if you want to have an intelligence agency it has to do these things and have
these resources. If you want to have the extermination agency, whether its bugs
or people or people with bugs you need to have these resources…
Andy: People
who are bugs…
Douglas: Bug
People. Bug Hunt. There needs to be a Bug Hunt supplement somewhere…
David: Or a
Bug Hunt Pyramid issue…
Douglas:….Ooooooooooo…
Andy: Were
getting dangerously close to doing Steven’s job for him for free and I don’t
like that…
[all laughs]
James:
[garbled audio]
Sean: Steven
and I do have discussions whether a certain theme would work. Steven has
occasionally sent me emails saying “Look, I got people interested in this,
this, and this. Do you think this theme would work.”It’s not like it’s set in stone, with
just what’s on our wish list are gonna exist so nothing else can exist. But,
there is some behind the scenes dickering, because essentially, GURPS
is basically: Steven, myself, Nikki, and PK – Jason. That’s it. We’re the GURPS
people and Nikki is mainly focused on lay stuff out so it’ll look awesome.So
we can’t suck too many brains from her. Which leaves the three of us here,
Steven likes to punt on rules and stuff to myself and PK because it’s our job. We
like to punt on approvals on magazine article lengths because that’s his job.
So it gets pretty narrow, pretty quickly. This is who you’re dealing with, you
got half the people you’ll ever deal with right here talking to you. And if you could
precipitate something into a vacuum if there is enough interest. WE just can’t promise
anything. We are not in the position to promise anything.

Andy: That
goes back to the idea that, talking about the how long have you waited for a
article to see print. It can be hard enough to write to the wish list, if we’re
doing something that doesn’t seem to be on the wish list, boy talk about your SWAG. That…that ahh, you’re taking
your literary life in your hands there, spending a few days or a week or two
writing something that you’re not sure will ever see the light of day. ..
Sean: That’s
why I suggested you conspire…you conspire.
Andy:
Conspire…
Steven: Two
things. First off, when it comes time for me to update the wish list we have a
dedicated Pyramid forum and look to see what suggested issues there have
been. And if I see “I really wanna see Evil Space Monkeys…” and there is “Heck,
yeah, evil space monkeys would totally rock!” And there are four people who
think that’s a cool idea, then Evil Space Monkeys is probably going to be on
the next wish list as long as I can convince how I can wrap that issue around the
rest of the Pyramid infrastructure.The other thing I would caution against
is some articles or like if you’re going down the e23 wish list is not a good thing to try and base Pyramid
themes on simply because….Pyramid articles are not
collaborative, I don’t pass them around between the authors and say “Make sure this all follows the same format,” or “Make sure
this follows the same thing.”So if you look at something like the Banestorm
issue, which was one I quite like, but there is two depictions of cities there
that are a bit different from each other that if this were a true Banestorm
Cities supplement would be much more strict in its format. So something
like Agencies, I would shy away from because I would picture getting four
different agencies in totally whacked out different formats.

Andy: That
makes sense.
Christopher:
Makes a lot of sense.
Andy: Yeah,
but I mean…are you saying this is what your experience is? Cause if you got
only, say you got only 3,000 words or whatever to write it in, there might not
be room for any type of stability in the structure format.
Steven: Not
sure I got the question, I’m sorry.
Andy: I’m just
saying there is less room to…to waver from some very basic principles if you’re
writing to a 3 or 6,000, somewhere in there thousand word article. They’re all
going to have to touch on some things that are the same, like the number of
personnel or the locations like…I see what you’re saying, it’s a bit of a risk,
but I don’t know it’s any bigger a risk than you take with the shotgun
submissions you might already get. And if we’re all conspiring to do it. It
sounds it might work out better.I haven’t looked . . . I remember Agencies being on the list, I don’t
remember if it came with any basic outline.
Christopher:
That was just what I was just gonna suggest. What is Steven or Kromm or
somebody came up with a mini-Style Guide for the Pyramid issue, that way
it would seem more cohesive.
David: Or just
say: “Please do it on the format of p. 79 of GURPS Whatever.” An existing book, that way
you don’t have to bother doing anything.
Christopher:
That works, yeah.
Andy: If
you’re saying the Agencies we could also have one of us write up a suggested
outline and if they like that, and if they’re considering the article itself
then they might also sit down and consider the outline and say “Yeah we like
what you got here, but Andy’s suggestions on the number of coffee breaks…I
don’t know what he’s been smoking.” So…
David: Yeah,
sure, but again I am sure there are zillions of GURPS books which use a
specific agency format for that book. And one of them is probably good for Pyramid.
Andy: Hmmm.
Christopher:
Hmmm.
Sean:
Something else to consider is that, one of the things that we can consider and accept or reject
a proposed theme on the basis of whether we like what we see put together.
Steven is hesitant to see Agencies because there is a theme that might be
tricky, because the Agencies may be different. You’re saying that we could
adapt a format, but point of fact there is no agency format that I know of in any GURPS
book at this point. So we would actually be up the creek on that.But. But
there is a possibility that if there is only one agency in the whole Agency’s
issue, and then there is a article on generating agencies, and have some combat
systems for agencies doing intelligence combat, and uhh, say a article on agent
templates for the future and the past. A agent for Dungeon Fantasy. Another
agent for another genre, say Monster Hunters, that doesn’t really have a per se agent in it. And if that came across the desk then that’s a different…
David: That
was more what I was thinking…
Steven: And to
be honest, that’s the kind of thing I like to see as both editor and as a fan.
Because if I’m not necessarily looking for real world agencies to plug into a
2012 set campaign, then an issue of nothing but those is likely to be of absolutely no interest to me. Whereas if there is one agency, and some
templates, and some new martial arts, well okay, I’m not using the agency as
written, but these martial arts as written I can give to my TL9 mooks and
they’ll be great for that. And I can file off the serial numbers for this
secret lab and suddenly there is a TL9 secret lab for my campaign.So really,
I’m always looking at articles with a eye towards what…how can this be
repurposed by fans. And sometimes it can’t be, I just accept that. Not all articles have to serve
all masters, but if it’s something that can be ported in. And that’s one the
reason why I like, Christopher, your material, because I can immediately see
this is useful to someone gaming in a TL4 Fantasy as well a TL8 “Now” Monster
Hunters
campaign.
Andy:
Christopher always was your favorite…
Douglas: So I
think you can…
Christopher:
Aww, I love ya Andy, love ya, man!
Douglas: We’re coming up to the end, we’ve spent about two hours chatting. I
thank you guys all for your time, I’m going to go from left to right on the
screen and just ask … What’s your favorite article or issue that springs to mind
since Pyramid Three came out. I’ll start with Andy.
Andy: The
favorite one I’ve written or read?
Douglas: Oh
just pick something off the top of your head.
Andy:
Ahhh…[exhales], boy…umm, I like the article I wrote about gems. In fact I think
it was my first free form article for Pyramid once we…once I stopped doing
the reviews. I did a article about gems and various types and their uses.That
was when I began to see just how creative freedom you could get with some of
these articles. I read through it and I kept thinking: Gems like anything else
could be..they could be different magics could be based on different types of
gems, the colors could be important, the creation of the gems … So I went
looking for information about how gems were created and how the Earth’s crust
created them or it..it…was hard to not keep adding stuff to the article. That I
think ended up being my favorite. Maybe it was just the freshness of that first
article that helped.
Douglas:
Excellent. Christopher what do you think?
Christopher:
Can you repeat the question please., you broke up for a minute.
Douglas: Sure.
I was asking the panel what your favorite article either that you’ve written or read.
What is your favorite bit of Pyramid that you want to close out
this discussion with?
Christopher:
Favorite that I’ve written, I guess I’m going to have to say the Safe as Houses
article that I recently wrote up. That came out of a five minute email with Steven and I
gave him three options and he was like “I like this one.” And I had literally
come up with it on the spot.
[panel snickers]
Christopher:
..and then I spent seven days researching and I learned more writing that than I had in a long
long time [shakes head]. My favorite article that someone else has written? I
gotta say it’s the X-Terminators article from Horror & Spies was just
amazing. That actually restarted a campaign I was running at the time and I
used that like… a lot. I’ve printed out a copy of that particular issue of Pyramid
and I’ve had to do it twice now, I’ve used it that much.
Douglas: Cool.
David?
David: I don’t really have any strong favorites, I enjoy all of them. I like the Alternate GURPS issues. They were
good fun. But really I like … I don’t have any signal favorites. I generally
think Pyramid has been really strong and I find something good in
every issue.
Douglas:
James?
James:
Well..umm in spite of the fact that it was the…now that I’m learning apparently
the worst received issue, I really enjoyed writing the one on Soviet
superheroes. I had a lot of research for that and I really enjoyed it and people seemed to like it, but
you know. I think uh, probably the [hums to self]. Was it World-Hopping? I
think it probably a cross between Transhuman Space…
[Technical Difficulties for James]
David: I think
people are randomly muting…
Douglas: We’ve
lost James.
James: Can you
hear me now?
Douglas: Yes I
can.
James:
Probably a cross between the World-Hopping and the most recent Transhuman Space
would be my most interested, the ones I was most interested in reading and
enjoy.
Douglas: Matt?
Matt: My
favorite all-time Pyramid article is actually Sierra [Dawn Stoneberg] Holt’s
brilliant article on personalities of trees derived from their biology back in
Volume Two [The Omniscient Eye: Do Good-Looking Trees Have Great Personalities?].
Limited myself to Volume Three, I think the Netrunning Rules in the Cyberpunk
article…the Cyberpunk issue, derived from the chase rules in Action 2.I think GURPS
Action 2 is the most unsung brilliant GURPS book of the 4th
edition and that article really shows how useful and adaptable the rules in
that book could be. And it was really nice seeing those used for something completely different from how they were intended, but being absolutely perfectly suited for what they were for.
Douglas: You
want to answer that as a fan?
Sean: First, I
gotta thank Christopher for saying nice things about X-Terminators and thank Matt for
saying nice things about Action 2.If you want to get me to talk about a
article someone else wrote, I’m not gonna pick favorites as a editor who works
for the company that would be too evil. And I do have favorites.But the ones I
have had most fun working on I’ll tell you, it’s sort of a tie for me, but I
had a lot of fun working on the Deathball article with Peter Dell’Orto in Issue
#3/3, because stupid futuristic sports where people do insane violence for no
obvious reason is a personal secret guilty pleasure of mine. I actually watch
Blood of Heroes about once a year for this reason alone.

It’s a tie. I’m gonna cheat and do the tie
thing. The other one I had a lot of fun working on was the Demolisher article
and the reason I had fun with it was then Matt came along with a totally
different take of the same idea [laughs] and I had no idea and he had no idea.
And it was just this perfect, “oh yes, people blowing things up in fantasy.”
Someone needed to do it and we both thought it needed doing. That just made my day to think we were thinking alike. It was
just…sort of a retroactive, yeah that was the most fun.

Matt: Steven
played that one very close to the chest.
Sean: [laughs]
He didn’t tell me. He didn’t tell you. He conspires over there. There’s my two
cents and half plus a quarter and a nickel and a dime.
Douglas:
Steven?
Steven: I
apologize if I touch on ones others have. But for me the favorite issue, the
one that kind of captured the spirit of what we’ve been doing with Pyramid
the last few years was the Social Engineering issue. Which built off of Bill
Stoddard’s excellent book with a excellent article by Bill, but also with a
adventure which I believe holds the record for one of the longest sitting in
the slush pile (that was Matt Riggsby there) and I can’t remember who else
contributed there, but it had that perfect blend of supporting things and
adding-to, and just really showing what is different about Pyramid, and why it is
part of the GURPS family. My favorite article I’ve written, I had one for
the Pyramid
#3/32 Fears of Days Past where I did the Typewriters of Terror.
[laughs from the panel]
Steven: …
which was an adventure that freaked out my wife when she read it for
me, so I take that as a compliment. It has that kind of flavor that I felt
folks could drop into a lot of different campaigns ranging from 1890s up
through to modern-day and beyond really. I loved writing that one. I think
fondly of that one.
Douglas:
Excellent. I wanted to thank everyone…
Sean: Wait!
You can’t weasel out of it.
Christopher:
Yeah, I was about to say…
Douglas: Oh, me? I
will admit that my favorite article that I’ve written is probably . . . I really
like the Last Gasp. Adding the Action Points and really just sticking it to
people who spend fatigue points was a awful lot of fun. And I will say
that my favorite feedback that I’ve ever gotten was by Jeffro Johnson’s review
on the Deadly Spring when he said it was going to be “the most infamous Pyramid
article of all time.” I still use that in my sig file . . . I have that in there, I love it . . .
[all laughs]
Douglas: …and
I will never remove it even though I got Technical Grappling out there I will never take away that line in favor
of anything else. It’s awesome. And it’s true [laughs] it hits that sweet spot. I think one of my favorite ones that I’ve read recently, I think were, y’know
and I guess I’m going to cop out a little bit and say, obviously I contributed
to them, but I love the Alternate GURPS stuff. It’s my favorite thing
to write about . . . and if you look at the things I’ve written you see why so it’s
no surprise.I just love how the authors can take a system that is so broad and
so deep and still find new things to do with it that provide emergent behavior
from the rules.

It’s simply delicious. Social Engineering is a great example,
where you have a very deep set of rules that covers a area that’s usually hand
waved away. “Oh yeah, it’s what the players do, or the characters do, or I just
roll my fast talk skill and whatever.”

And there is so much more to be had
there and those are probably my favorite bits.

And plus you know anything
having to do with guns or explosions is kind of in my sweet spot as well, so I
gotta give those a thumbs up.

Well I want to thank everybody for
joining us, having seven people plus me that are established authors plus
this all dedicate two hours of their time to this on a Saturday night either
says something about you or something about me…

Andy:
[laughs].
Douglas:…I’m not
sure what it says. But I’m gonna assume it’s a good thing. I want to give
everyone, Steven and Sean, as Sean alluded to is one of the driving forces
behind e23 and GURPS. This is three hours of Sean’s time we’ve taken on podcasts so
I want to thank you for that.Thought I suppose the hair loss [Steven and Sean
comb fingers through hair] and stuff from editing my work is probably a larger
toll than the 3 hours given here.But in general, as a farewell, I really
inflicted a lot of pain on Steven with the Deadly Spring. The note that I had a
recursion error in my article and that it was wrong two days before deadline was
probably his favorite part of that one… [laughs].

Enough about that and I want
to thank you all for you time and we’ll see what can do about turning this into
something watchable (and that’s on me) and into something readable, which is thankfully on
Christopher which has volunteered to transcribe this for us.

Andy: Well
thank you having me along, it was flattering to be invited and a lot of fun to
do, and for the record I gave up entanglements of a romantic nature with three
really hot women on a Saturday night just to be here.
James: Wow.
Christopher:
Riiiggghhhtttt.
Andy: That’s
my story and I’m sticking to it
[all laugh]

16 thoughts on “Gaming Ballistic Interview: Pyramid Magazine Panel Discussion

  1. I was a bit grumpy that we didn't get to go into detail about our writing process. I actually wrote a bit of a essay for that question and then it never came up. Grr. Anyways, I had a lot of fun doing this. So thank you. 🙂

    1. The 30 minutes of genuflecting to the Awesomeness of Peter didn't translate well on the text part, and the blinding light from JUST MENTIONING YOUR NAME swamped out the video.

      It's hard being that Awesome, I know.

  2. I can't thank you enough for the transcript. I just don't have the love affair with video that the kids these days do, and really prefer to get my information via text, so that was just a wonderful thing to find already in place.

    And I'm sure it's crossed a few minds, but this sort of event has to pay big dividends for SJG – when we on the outside have such personal access to those on the inside of the game, it humanizes the whole relationship. Lord knows I find myself wanting to dig through the wish list for something to write for Pyramid now.

    1. I've edited the main post to link to your thoughts, and your blog. I did likewise with Christopher's blog, and if Andy, James, or anyone else wants me to include a link, I will!

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