Musings about the Steve Jackson Interview – Part 1

I interviewed +Steve Jackson, who of course wrote and published the game system for which I write, GURPS. +Jeffro Johnson said nice things about the interview.

Steve and I covered a lot of ground, much of which could have elicited an even larger response than I made during the interview itself. 

I’m going to excerpt parts of the transcript, and say what comes to mind. Hey, it’s a blog. That happens

*** *** ***
Doug: It was the axes are something like growth and profit, and so the high growth, high profit where you are just printing money is the Star. Low growth, low profit is the Dog, and what do you do with those – shoot ‘em.
Then there were the problem children, which were high profit, but low growth and then there was another one that was high growth, low profit. That’s the cash cow?
Steve: The cash cow would have to be high profit, low growth.
Doug: Yeah. Something like that.
[Note: Doug got this a bit wrong. The original BCG framework was growth vs. market share, with share being a stand-in for cash production or consumption, a proxy for profitability but not a direct analog. So high-share, high growth were the Stars, high share, low growth were the Cash Cows. The low-share, high growth were the Question Marks or Problem Children, while the low-growth, low-share were either the Dogs or, perhaps more pertinently, the Pets.]
Steve: In those metrics Ogre is the star because it’s profitable, but it’s also still growing.

As I mentioned in the transcript itself, I got this a bit wrong. One of the interesting twists on the original BCG model of “Stars and Dogs” is that another name for the low growth-low profit markets is “pets.” This is likely more apt for the GURPS brand at the moment. As Steve goes on to say, people still like it enough to be profitable, if only marginally, and so it stays. Not because of any particular force of business, but because he wants to  see it go on.

Doug: Which I think brings me to something we’ll weave in and out of. The relationship of Steve Jackson Games and its product set to some of the 800 lb. gorillas in the role-playing game industry: How did Munchkin Pathfinder happen?
Because I was sort of on record saying that (on my blog) “This is so unlikely to ever have these companies get together,” and I was really happy to be wrong, because it potentially opens up at least speculation about other things. How did that work out?

Steve: The executive summary would be we asked Lisa and she said “Ha! Go for it!” It wasn’t quite that quick, but it wasn’t slow. 

Perhaps I should not have been surprised by the evident collegiality here, but I sort of was. Of course, Munchkin Pathfinder will do nothing but support Patfhinder as it succeeds, so this was clearly, as Steve notes, win-win. But I also can’t help but wonder, in direct contradiction to my earlier comments on the subject, if a GURPS Golarion adaptation might be feasible.  

You’d want some sort of conversion guide that would either allow for the translation of Pathfinder monsters into GURPS, or give substitutes that provide the right feel. You’d do it with Dungeon Fantasy, and probably customize or adapt one of the magic systems to feel more like Vancian magic rather than going with the standard spell system so that the flavor would be the same . . . but you’d give advice for using other magic systems as well, for those that like them.

Finally, I’d want to stat out 50, 100, 150, 200, and 250-point lenses for some of the core templates that feature in Pathfinder. Much of that is already done in one way or another. The Knight (Fighter) and Barbarian (um, Barbarian) are already right there. The Ranger is a Scout; the Monk is a Martial Artist. Clerics are Clerics or Saints, Paladins are Warrior Saints or Holy Warriors (Warrior Saints are much more evocative, thanks to Divine Favor and +Antoni Ten Monrós nice work on the subject). The various flavors of Magic-User would need work to make them unique, etc.

All in all, it would work well, and provide a huge wellspring for all kinds of games. Now that DF16: Wilderness Adventures is out, a true “hex crawl” can be entertained, with dungeons thrown in for fun.

It would certainly be a boost in pre-published and available material for GURPS players. I’d have to think more on what the Paizo guys would get out of it – though even if I do say so myself, having the stable of writers that contribute to Steve Jackson Games be familiar with the Golarion world and writing content that could be used in Pathfinder would not be bad for either party. It’s certainly quite lucrative to dip toes into the world of Dungeons and Dragons-based games (my casual forays into talking about D&D5 broke daily records in views for me), and I think the material that would come of such a thing would be very good stuff.
All in all, it would work well, and provide a huge wellspring for all kinds of games. Now that DF16: Wilderness Adventures is out, a true “hex crawl” can be entertained, with dungeons thrown in for fun.

It would certainly be a boost in pre-published and available material for GURPS players. I’d have to think more on what the Paizo guys would get out of it – though even if I do say so myself, having the stable of writers that contribute to Steve Jackson Games be familiar with the Golarion world and writing content that could be used in Pathfinder would not be bad for either party. It’s certainly quite lucrative to dip toes into the world of Dungeons and Dragons-based games (my casual forays into talking about D&D5 broke daily records in views for me), and I think the material that would come of such a thing would be very good stuff.

Doug: Do you think there is a market for this sort of dimebag of awesome that we can throw at kids? Is Munchkin Adventure Time or Munchkin Princesses geared towards a younger set, or is it taking adventure of the fad that is Disney…I don’t know if “fad” and “Disney Princesses” goes together. . . it’s been 30+ years of beating us over the head with it.
Steve: Yeah, give me a fad like that every time. No. Those cards are both aimed at the adult viewership. We still think of Munchkin as a game for teens and up.
We know perfectly well that some families are playing with it, and that’s great, and one of these days there will be a Munchkin game aimed at the younger set. But that’s going to be our answer, rather than to…I don’t want to say it, but everybody will understand, but better than to dumb down Munchkin.

Oh, you mean like THIS one?

+Andrew Hackard noted that he nearly spit out his drink when Steve dropped this utterly opaque-to-me-at-the-time hint as to this game that was released a short time later. 

Yousa gots to watch that tricksy Steve – he drops hints and you have to be on your toes to pick them up.

Steve: Okay. Implicit in that question is the idea that keeping the same line going for decades and decades is necessarily right. It’s not necessarily right. You could make a good argument now, and you could have made a better argument five years ago, that GURPS ought to be turned off, because the market for table roleplaying had really shrunk by faster, easier to learn table games.
But I’m loathe to quit doing something that people like. And because we are not at all a public-traded company, I can get away with saying “Fine. This particular marginally profitable thing may not have played out yet, so we’re going to continue, and we are going to continue to try and develop it.” I can get away with that and someone who lived or died on quarterly returns cannot.

And here is where I read the implicit statement that GURPS as GURPS will be sustained as long as it can be done with at least its level of current success. What it won’t likely do is have extra resources thrown at it that could profitably be deployed to Munchkin, Ogre, or likely Car Wars when it comes out.

This is both good and bad. Good because my system of choice will continue to be supported at least at some level. Bad because the pipeline, as it’s called, will likely remain fairly tight, with risks that a larger market segment might take being minimized. 

We’ll see – +Sean Punch‘s LiveJournal makes noised about at least four projects currently going through for eventual release (more, actually), which is a nice haul. As this gets through, I hope people realize that this is definitely a case where being a collector tells SJG that “more please!” is a good answer. 


Parting Shot
We’re about to get to some really interesting stuff about Virtual TableTops and GURPS. Given that this is a reasonably controversial topic on the SJG Forums right now, I’ll save this for a post of its own. In short, I think that a VTT for GURPS would be Just Ducky, and the key is more about how to ensure quality control and IP protection. The former harder than the latter, I think.
Stay tuned and more later!

6 thoughts on “Musings about the Steve Jackson Interview – Part 1

  1. To be honest I can no longer keep up with GURPS releases. And I exclusively only GM and play GURPS so I dont have anything else to buy. I (with perhaps some notable exceptions) also no longer have physical space to put more than one or two physical GURPS Hardbacks (as much as I love them. Lastly I think 90% of the most essential books for GURPS are done.

    So while in my ideal world perhaps GURPS Lord of Light etc would be coming out weekly Im pretty much happy with the releases GURPS gets

    All I want is more GMs and players. Books that help this or events from SJ Games would be more appreciated than new books.

  2. It think it would be great if they have a GURPS Pathfinder/Golarion. Not sure how they will do that and not get the OGL involved. What publishers usually do when they want to minimize open content is to declare everything but the stat block and terms product identity.. Here likely the reverse would be true, a small portion of the text would be open content. The portion of the monster and spell descriptions that is derived from the open content. And the actual rules portion would be product identity.

  3. Hex crawls in GURPS have been more than entertained even before DF 16: both Jürgen and I have been running them. It does make me wish SMarsh would get back to me on my latest article query.

    1. Everything has been possible in GURPS from nearly the beginning, of course. And having two campaigns being run doesn't establish a market. But exploring Golarion using DF16 as a hex-crawl engine provides the official nod and a common rulebase, not for players (though of course that will happen) but for content creators, who will need to know what rules to leverage, and which to invent (if invention is required).

    2. I think this is worth a more detailed response. You'll forgive, I hope, the poke at anecdotes not equaling a trend, but I think that the intersection of D&D, Pathfinder, and GURPS is an interesting topic by itself. I think an open Hexcrawl in Golarion would be a natural fit in GURPS, but there's a lot more to it.

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