A bit over a week ago, I was joined by David Kenzer of Kenzer and Company. In fact, I was originally joined by Jolly Blackburn and Steve Johansson as well, but after nearly 90 minutes of great conversation, I had the horrifying discovery that I had 90 minutes of video . . . and no audio whatsoever.
Fortunately, David had the time and grace to do it again. We covered some of the same, and a lot of different topics the second time around, though Jolly and Steve were unavailable.
It was a good chat, and we covered topics ranging from the history and product portfolio of Kenzer and Company, to the production and design of Hackmaster, to the current Kickstarter for Aces and Eights Reloaded.
A transcript was added to the post May 21, 2017.
Douglas Cole: Good evening and welcome to Gaming Ballistics’ Firing Squad.
I am joined today by David Kenzer of Kenzer and Company. We may have some other people join a little later.
This is a special event for me because David has agreed to join after we already recorded this yesterday, and we got 90 minutes of great video and 0 minutes of audio. So there is a whole lot of animated conversation, but it is literally animated with no voices.
Kenzer and Company was gracious enough to do this a second time . . . so thanks for joining me again!
David Kenzer: [chuckles] Hi everybody and thanks for having me a second time. I don’t think . . . I know for sure Jolly is not coming, and Steve is probably not going to be able to make it either, it doesn’t look like today. Maybe I’m the only forgiving one of the group.
DC: Which is entirely fair, batting .333 is pretty good in the major leagues, and I’ll take it where I can get it.
So what I wanted to do for people who aren’t as familiar with the history of Kenzer and Company: Maybe you could briefly lay out some of the highlights: when the company started, first product, the breadth of the portfolio. I knew of Kenzer from Hackmaster and Knights of the Dinner Table, and not much necessary more than that.
But as I dug in and we conversed yesterday, you have a very broad, dynamic, interesting product portfolio. So why don’t you walk through a little of the history of the company, so people know where you are coming from as we talk about the kickstarter you’re currently running, and some of the other games you’ve done.DK: Sure, I’ll be as brief as I can to cover essentially 25 years of game industry history.
We formed the company originally in ’93. It was myself and five of my buddies. The only one still really with us is Brian Jellkey who is one of the development team members, of the original ones. You could count Steve Johansson. He joined us . . . I want to say we started in May of ’93 and Steve joined us in June. He was probably #7 through the door.
It’s interesting, I don’t know that everyone has the same experience forming a game company, but we did it with just whoever happened to be sitting around the gaming table with us. Which is actually not the way you want to do it [laughs].
If you’re going to form a company with other people, what you really want to do is make sure your interests – not just your interests are aligned, but your work ethics are aligned, and the way you want to run a company is aligned.
And we didn’t necessarily have that alignment. What we had was a group of guys who liked to run through 1st edition dungeons together [laughs]. We thought the same sort of stuff was cool, but where the syncing sort of ended.
Most of the guys we started the company with are still around in some capacity. They are shareholders, or hang out with us or whatever. 95% of the people that have come and gone are just that: gone. That’s how we started the company.
Lots of people think I started the company because of the name, and that’s pretty interesting. I’ve told this story before, but maybe its new to your viewership.
The way the name of the company was formed was I filled out the paperwork to incorporate the company and I put in Kenzer and Company as a placeholder and there were probably 5 or 6 people involved besides me at the time. Brian Jellkey in particular I remember very well and he said “Who picked the name?” and I said “I put that in . . . if you guys don’t like it you can pick another one.”
So we debated other names. “Thunderbolt Games” or whatever, for like an hour, and there was no consensus.
I said “You guys got another week to come up with another name, or this paperwork goes in” and that’s what happened.
I’m not even a majority shareholder – I think I have the most stock in the company, but you know we probably have 20 shareholders, and I could be easily voted out as president at any given time with just a handful of them getting together. It’s not like it’s just my company and that’s what most people think. Which is fine by me. I’m proud to have my name on it. That’s how the name started.
Quickly, our first product was Kingdoms of Kalamar. It was a generic fantasy setting; we made it for Dungeons and Dragons. We put it right there on the label – for use with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.
And we made kind of a splash in industry, because people were like wow, why are they doing that. At the time, TSR was sending out letters to people, and crushing people’s hopes. I was studying IP law at the time, and I kind of knew we were well within out rights, and not super concerned about that. I was in law school when we started the company. We never heard from them. Maybe we just weren’t successful enough, I don’t know.
We sold on the order of thousands, and we went through a couple of print runs, and we did a couple of modules . . . but when we really took off was in ’96 when we made our collectible card game “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” We got a license from Python (Monty) Pictures, which is the name of their corporation.
It was very fun, doing that – we talked about this already – Michael Palin signed the contract, so that was super cool. Although his signature was pretty hard to read, so I actually had to ask their agent who signed it, and once he told me I was like “Yeah, I could see that.” [Doug laughs] So I have a faxed copy of Michael Palin’s autograph somewhere, in a box with legal stuff from the 90s.
That was great fun. We sold a lot of that product.
Not sure how many people played it. I wouldn’t say it was our crowning achievement in game design. Although it was a fun game to play and we had some great ideas . . . and the graphics on there were . . . we were capturing things from a laser disc. That’s where we captured the images from. They sent us the actual film copies of the movie then we were scanning and cutting the movie – the film – scanning the film to make the images for the cards.
It wasn’t . . . I’m sure every one of your viewers have seen the movie, but haven’t thought about it. It wasn’t filmed in the highest quality. I don’t know how much you know about the background of Monty Python and the Holy Grail but I think there budget was in the order of $10,000 and had like 2-3 investors, one of which was Led Zeppelin. They filmed it mostly in the backyard, I think it was Michael Palin’s back yard, but I could be wrong I don’t remember which Python guy it was. I know it wasn’t Cleese or Idle . . . but anyway they filmed it mostly in a guy’s backyard and in a few locations. The footage itself was terrible, and so when I look at the cards now I’m like “Wow.” It’s pretty grainy. It’s not like, you know Magic the Gathering or Pokémon or anything like that.
DC: Right, and I know the movie ends the way it does because they ran out of funds . . . because that was it. They didn’t end it on a cliffhanger, so to speak, by choice. They sort of said “Oh, and we’re done.” I remember after all the jokes, and all the at-the-table references, I finally sat down and watched it front to back, and at the end I’m like “But where is the ending?” That’s one of the bizarre things about the movie. It just ends.
DK: You got all keyed up, because they were going to have this giant fight, and you were kind of into it.
DC: Okay, so that brings you through the collectible card game, and I guess it makes sense: A lot of people would buy it, it’s not a play card game it’s a collectable card game. They don’t play it. They collected it. [wry tone of voice]
DK: Yeah. [chuckles] There were people playing it. We had a pretty good GenCon in GenCon ’96 I remember basically for three days straight I served as a maitre d’: All I did was people come to the booth, and we had spots for 36 people to demo, and they were filled from 10am to 6pm every day. Guys were waiting in line, and I was like, “oh, there’s an open spot,” and putting people in spots to play demos. That was the kind of the height of the card craze. I’d say it was 94 to 98 somewhere in there.
So in any case, Jolly joined the company at the end of ’96, and at the beginning of ’97 we released our first Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. He’d done three comic books – 32 page comic books – It might have been only 24 pages. Three comic books; first three issues under his old company Alderac Entertainment Group. A company he founded. Lot of people don’t know that.
When he left his other partners he walked away from that company, he brought Knights of the Dinner Table with him to join us. I got a certain reputation in the industry of being a lawyer, and a fairly tough one, it’s interesting because Jolly joined the company because I was the most honest person he could find. Make what you will of that.
DC: Honesty and being a tough lawyer don’t necessarily go in opposition to one another. [chuckles]
DK: It’s a quirk I have. My sister-in-law bought me a giant plaque on it that said “Honest Lawyer” that I had up in my garage for a while.
In any case, Jolly joined up forces with us. We shard common interests: He started writing for Kalamar right away. We put out an adventure together. That kind of takes you through 97. Knights of the Dinner Table took off like a rocket once we started going monthly. We sold like 3,000-5,000-7,000, and next thing you knew we were doing 20,000 month. Next thing you knew everyone in the industry was reading.
DK: We did 20,000 a month for a long time, actually.
That was super popular at the time and we ended up branching off – we ended up doing a couple other comic books. We did Hackmasters of Evernight, which was a spinoff of that. We did a comic called Avalon for a while. We did a comic called Knights of the Dinner Table Illustrated. Which was from the point of view of the characters.
Though its amazing now that lots of people don’t know what Knights of the Dinner Table is – younger people who joined the industry.
I think we are on track by maybe next year to bypass Cerebos as longest running comic in the history of mankind from a single of creative group. I’m sure we’ll pass that. Lot of people don’t know that either. For a gamer comic to do that. We’re already way past Superman and Spiderman and groups like that . . .
DC: . . . because the creative teams turn over.
DK: Yeah. And we’ve been consistent for over 20 years.
DC: Can I break in for a sec? So 20,000 a month is phenomenal. Year after year it sounds like.
DK: Month after month, yeah.
DC: In the OSR, if you have an independent publication that sells 500 or a 1,000 copies, people talk about it as a success. That’s ever.
Is that basically saying roleplaying games are hard and collectible card games and comics are . . . I’m not discounting the quality of it. I’ve read Knights of the Dinner Table – not all of it – but it’s hysterical, and well-made, and it’s on point especially if you are a gamer.
Is it an entirely different level of sales from a comic book or collectible card game than it is a typical roleplaying game, or did you see that level of buy-in for many of your products.
DK: We definitely did that level of buy-in for some of our products, but I wouldn’t say many.
I think it’s pretty well publicized, or at least if you look around the web or read some wiki-pages you can learn some of the detail of what happened with wizards of the coast and Kenzer and Company.
The end result was that the route we decided to go was to sign 3 licenses with them. One was to do an official DnD comic, which we did, and that was successful. No where near as successful as Knights of the Dinner Table.
And we got a license for all the old – everything prior to 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons – which we used to make the Hackmaster Roleplaying Game. I would describe it as 25% 1st edition, 25% 2nd edition D&D, 25% new material, and 25% just kick ass attitude. That won Game of the Year 2001, and sold at Knights of the Dinner Table level. We did a lot of products for that game as well. There was just a huge pent up demand.
I know that there is now a big trend everyone knows about Retroclones. That term didn’t exist. There wasn’t even such a thing until Hackmaster. There was no market for that. There was nothing. There was nothing like that.
DK: Hackmaster was the Retroclone and everything past that was “Wow, look how successful those guys are maybe we should try this.”
DC: Did you guys basically pave the way for the OGL? Or was that concurrent?
DK: It was concurrent. They did the OGL the same time . . . we didn’t know they were doing that. In fact we felt they pulled the rug out from under us, because at the same time our 3rd license was to make Kingdom’s of Kalamar an official Dungeons and Dragons product. In fact, that was our 3rd edition Kalamar. That also sold on the order of Knights of the Dinner Table.
That came out and was the first campaign setting for 3rd edition and came out before Forgotten Realms – it beat them to market by a couple months. I actually think it’s a far superior product; it’s just that we just don’t have the marketing behind it.
In any case . . . and the old Forgotten Realms creator (Ed Greenwood) wrote for us in Kalamar. He wrote a city supplement for us, called Geanavue Stones of Peace. Concurrently, at that time, maybe six or nine months after Kalamar came out.
At the time we had that license they didn’t tell us about the OGL. They announced the OGL literally a month or so before we released Kalamar. Our stuff was at the printer in China, or something like that. We were like “What? Other people are going to make Dungeons and Dragons . . .” “Oh, but they are not going to have the Dungeons and Dragons brand.”
So what we learned through that process was that the Dungeons and Dragons brand wasn’t worth that much. [chuckles]. The Kalamar Brand ended being worth as much as the Dungeons and Dragons brand: when we took it off, the sales were about the same. Mostly because after the OGL came out. All consumers were educated enough to realize it was all for 3rd edition and it didn’t matter.
I think that wasn’t true for 10-15 years earlier, if you go to the early 80s. The Dungeons and Dragons brand was massive, and while you had things like Roll-Aids and other products available from Make Your Games or [Judges Guile, everyone knew it wasn’t Dungeons and Dragons and it . . . and Dungeons and Dragons bran carried a lot more with it.
Any case that was our experience.
That takes us to 2005 to 2007 – we still have the license through 2007.
I guess maybe the year before that we made our first miniatures game: we made Fairy Meat which also sold a ton. Didn’t sell 20,000 copies, but it sold a lot. That was a very popular game, and had eight or ten supplements as well. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Fairy Meat – it’s the only one-to-one scale miniature ever made.
DC: Oh, interesting.
DK: Faeries are about 25mm tall and . . .
DC: . . . That’s how big the faeries are. [laughs] That’s funny. I like it.
DK: And you don’t need terrain, because faeries exist in real life, so you just set up your table with a coke can, and some dice and whatever, and your faeries just flew around and . . . the idea is that faeries are super cute little guys, but they are all cannibals. So when you defeat another faerie there are life points on the table there, and you eat the faerie, and as you eat it you become more powerful.
And of course there are gnomes and other things. They’re much bigger.
DC: They are about this big [gestures] with the red hats and they sit outside mostly.
DK: They are about that big. They did have funny hats, and are about 6-8” tall.
We made our own miniatures too. We had a whole miniatures line. Hackmaster miniatures. Fairy Meat miniatures. We made another miniature’s came called “Final Days.” Which used a lot of the mechanics from Fairy Meat.
It’s always a headscratcher to me that that game didn’t do better. It had zombies. It took place after the Apocalypse. Everyone that’s ever played it was like “wow, this is so awesome.”
I don’t know what happened. We never really sold very well on that game. We haven’t lost money on products in general. That one was kind of a headscratcher. It didn’t sell as well as we expected.
We may come back with that someday in a kickstarter or something.
DC: I almost wonder if instead of Fairy – this is the 90s and early 00s – if you say “fairy” people think “Disney.”
Maybe if you say “fae” or something they think evil cannibal stuff. Maybe it’s the power of the word “fairy” as people thinking it’s light and fluffy and cute.
Because people have forgotten the original lore, where if you don’t cut your hand and blood the well, and leave out a treat for the faeries, they kill a cow and dump it in there and poison your land.
Fae were mysterious, and cruel, and capricious, and we right now . . . you think faeries and you think Tinkerbell. The coolness of it has been . . . the mystery and nastiness of it that I think would attract different people has been somewhat lost. I’m going out of my way in Dragon Hersey to make really nasty fae, so . . .
DK: The cover of our product was a mushroom with a cute fairy setting on it eating the leg of another fairy on it. There’s blood all over it. So it was fairly graphic.
We made a couple of board games. Elemental – which won an Origins award also.
We also made The Great Space Race probably should have won an award. Craig Zepski designed that. It was a great game. That was our first premium big box $60 board game.
That one did very well for us also and has a pretty good following. We may kickstart that again; it’s been out of print for at least 10 years.
Then we made Aces and Eights in 2007, which was our second roleplaying game, and that also won Best Game, along with Hackmaster. So the first two roleplaying games that we wrote both won Best Game. We sold a lot of that game too – we went through two printings.
I didn’t print a third time because I wasn’t sure . . . there was still demand, but I wasn’t sure there was enough to eat the whole printing.
So you don’t want to print 5,000 books and sell 500. So we didn’t pull the trigger. We waited, and we watched all the original books go up on eBay for $200. Until we launched this new kickstarter the books were still going for $200.
DC: Right. That’s a strange thing. I know GURPS Martial Arts will occasionally sell for a couple hundred bucks. Because it’s out of print, and hard to get. As soon as it comes back in print, it’ll of course drop off. Were those the size of your print run? 5,000? Is that a typical print run for what you guys like to do?
DK: Yeah. It varies by game, and it also varies by product. If you’re making a three book system you want to print less of your gamemaster’s guide, but your monsters and player’s handbook you can put out those sorts of numbers.
The problem is always when you’re going to reprint. When you go to reprint, that’s always the real gut check: you want to make sure you have built into your profit margin enough to do a second print run, but then once that money is in your pocket, and you’re trying to figure out whether you invest that in another print run, or do I invest it in the next game you’re making. Or three more modules or whatever it is you’re going to do.
DC: It’s a good point to reiterate for people getting used to the business though: Make sure that when you sell the last book of your print run or whatever you are doing that you have paid for your next one, otherwise you’re going to find yourself as if you had never written a game at all.
Finding new investment or finding new money, especially if God forbid its your only product. You’re like “Wow, I’ve done so well and now I have to scrape up money to hopefully recover it, rather than having planned for it.”
It was one of those things I remember reading a year or so ago, before I incorporated, that really struck me as true: Make sure you are pre-funding continuing business. It’s one of these little truisms that after you hear it you’re saying “Of course!” but there are lots of those. There are lots of people who are bankrupt because they didn’t do it.
DK: Yeah. I would say the number of companies left since we’ve started, you can probably count on one hand. Everyone eventually goes bankrupt in this industry, or very few retire out on top. I’m counting distributors.
DC: Sure. Right.
DK: There’s probably a bunch of retailers that are still around, that have bene around for 30-40 years. When we started, I think there were 7,000 retail stores. I’d be surprised if there were 700 now.
DC: The joke I always make, which I stole from aviation, was “The best way to make a small fortune in the games industry is to start with a large one.” [both chuckle].
So that brings us up to Aces and Eights.
So before we get into the mechanics I want to talk about westerns briefly, because I think that sets the stage for how you approach the game development. This is of course based on our conversation yesterday, so I’m all educated about this.
But still, let’s talk about the important tropes, and what makes westerns endearing, and deep, and compelling to people. Star Wars in a space western. Firefly is a space western. Seven Samurai was (I think) a remake of Magnificent Seven, but it could have been the other way.
But the tropes of the western. . .
DK: It’s the other way. Magnificent Seven was a remake of Seven Samurai. Which is fine and they are both great movies, but Seven Samurai was clearly first.
Edited to add: I’ve only seen Seven Samurai; I know there was a good “back and forth” where folks were borrowing plots from each other, from the US to Japan, and from Japan to the US, and of course the classic spaghetti westerns. I just never really looked to see which was the remake and which was the original. Turns out Kurosawa is first. It’s a great movie, and if you haven’t seen Seven Samurai, you should – especially if you’ve only seen Toshiro Mifune in Shogun.
DC: OK. So the tropes of the western are still with us. What is it about westerns, as opposed to fantasy, as opposed to, you know, Star Trekish stuff which was around since ’65, and great sci-fi fantasy from the pulp era. What is it about the western that made you say “You know what? We’re going to do a game, and it’s going to be a western game. It’s gonna be awesome and this is why.”
DK: That’s an excellent question.
My first love will always be fantasy and I think that’s true for all of us, and as an industry as a whole fantasy dominates
But I like to look at it as maybe 10% of the people have another genre that’s outside of fantasy that is their favorite. But even 90% that are full fantasy all have a second or maybe third genre that they think is cool that they can deal with.
Whether that’s Star Wars, or space opera kind of thing, or Gamma World kind of sci-fi or western or gangbusters 1920s rumrunner sort of game.
I think a genre that no one has ever really ever done is pirates. You could say Seventh Sea, but it’s not actually a pirate game. Its actually a renaissance three musketeers kind of game. They did an excellent job marketing it to make it look like pirates, but it isn’t.
There was a pirate game I once played called – I can’t remember what it’s called – but I’ve only seen like one or two true pirate games. I’m going to try to make a pirate game at some point, because I think it needs to be done.
Westerns for me . . . I played Top Secret, I played all the TSR ones, Gamma World, everything. Boot Hill was always the one that everyone got into the most outside of Dungeons and Dragons. When it was time for us to pick another genre, for me Boot Hill was in my experience the best.
Jolly had a different experience; he played the shit out of Gangbusters so he was mobster guy. But he also really liked westerns.
We’re a little older than most of the gamers are now, but it wasn’t that way when we started. We were 25 year old punks and now we’re kind of the old guard and pushing 50 or in our 50s. But when we were kids you couldn’t turn on the TV without a western. Sci-fi was just in its nascency, and I was watching reruns of Star Trek. There was a bunch of sci-fi martians invading kind of stuff, but that was sort of it.
Westerns were dominating. They had just finished dominating the box office. I don’t know what their demise was, maybe it was the musical in the 60s, but from the start of motion pictures through the fifties and the sixties, westerns were it.
So I kind of grew up with it so that’s why I picked that. We dabbled in a bunch of genres in Knights of the Dinner Table, and probably our most popular strips were the cattlepunk strips, outside of straight up Knights, so it seemed natural for us. So we went western.
DC: What were the tropes you found most compelling. So we’re going to say, we’re going to bring the western feel to a roleplaying game. What part of that did you want people to be able to experience, and then we’ll segue from “And how do we turn that into mechanics.”
DK: We had a very simple . . . we all kind of had the same experience with Boot Hill and other westerns we’d played.
It kind of went like this: everyone makes character the way you might have think it had been written, and then you all go rob a bank and become outlaws. It always degraded into that.
Part of it is gamers didn’t really know what else to do. You have these guys whose characters are set for shooting, and you want to shoot things, and you want to shoot other people. That drove a lot of our game design decisions from a worldbuilding standpoint. Which I can get to in a minute. We didn’t cover that yesterday.
We wanted to make a western that people would roleplay, and you could keep your character for longer than two sessions, because eventually if you keep doing bank robberies, you’re going to get shot. And you’re gonna die because there is no magical healing.
Deadlands is a pretty successful game, and that was [garbled] so that was a little different. But you’re gonna go with kind of a historical or pseudo-historical approach, if you get shot you’re shot. The best case scenario is your out a couple of months and the worst case scenario . . . the sawbones hacks off your limb, or your bleed out on the table, or you die of lead poisoning or whatever, right?
So we kind of like verisimilitude. We like realism. We like games that are believable, where you can get lost in the game. I think that’s super-critical to roleplaying. So we set out to do something like that.
So we needed to simulate gunfights to make them real, and our logic was that if the gunfights were as deadly as they were in real life – meaning you could, by luck, survive several, but eventually your number comes up. People will wise up and do other parts of the game.
We introduced a mechanic around profession paths they reward players points to grow their character by progressing along profession paths. We had one that was a prostitute. When you get to the end (there were different levels of it) the highest level you could be was to own a cathouse or several cathouses. Or a saloon owner. But there is also outlaw, lawman, rancher, we have like 60 professions.
The game’s designed so it gets harder and harder to progress, and takes months and month of game time. If you are impatient and you want to grow your character then you quit and do something different. And that’s how the game is designed.
DC: And you made the point yesterday that that’s exactly what some of these famous people in the old west actually did. They had a great number . . . you talked about Wyatt Earp. Everyone knows him as a law man, but he was several things.
DK: Pretty much everyone that you heard of in the west did a bunch of different things. Whether they started out as a mountain man or something, and 15 years later found themselves a prospector. About everyone you read about our west had multiple professions.
To a ludicrous degree I was kind of influenced by the movie Little Big Man. If you haven’t seen it you should see it. It’s famous because it’s the first movie to show Indians as human beings, and not marauding orcs. It was from the point of view of the Indians to a great extent. But the guy in the movie, who it was about, was Dustin Hoffman. He was a 120 years old, and telling us about his life. But that was the first 30 or 40 years of his life, and he did like a dozen different things.
That’s what the game plays like. You do a bunch of different professions.
But on top of that because the gunplay is so dangerous, you aren’t meant to use your character as the gunfighter. You might start that way, and you might get kind of good at it, and you eventually figure out that you got more to lose than I wanna lose, and so I’m going to do something else, and I am going to own this saloon, and I’m going to hire a couple of thugs, and the session you’re going to have the gunfight your hired thugs are doing the shooting. Not your main character.
You started to get henchmen and hirelings around you that are now enforcing things for you then if those guys die it’s a loss to your character, but you go and find another guy, right?
DC: Right, right.
DK: That’s how it continues it plays a lot like the HBO TV series Deadwood. You’re really town-building at some point. We have maps of these cool towns and we have platte surveys and all this stuff. “Hey, I want to get lot B-17 because its kind of central and I’m going to put a saloon in there.”
Eventually there is a guy across the street who’s pissing you off, so you end up sending one of your thugs over there. And you wind up playing the game, rather than more fantasy-esque, where it’s your character, and he’s going to kick down the door and kill the orc. It doesn’t work as well in a western.
DC: It’s a little more abstract, but it sounds like domain-level play. Instead of the castle and you send out your armies and you lead the armies personally. In a way it’s a small scale version of domain-level play where you are the boss of a bunch of people and you’re gonna go intimidate the ranchers on the north side of town, and you’ll play one of the thugs today, instead of your main character. Or maybe you bring your main character but you also have your thugs.
DK: That’s kind of the way things played out often in the west.
If you were a rancher you had a bunch of hands and those . . . you generally didn’t yourself go and fight over water rights with the guy right next to you. You sent three of your guys over to kick down the fence, and if they got into a scrape because of that, then they got into a scrape. If it’s a really big important thing, maybe you show up, and you got four or five of your dudes, and he’s got four or five of his dudes, and if it turns into a gunfight, well, if you’re the Clantons and not the Earps, then you’ve got a problem.
That’s kind of how things really were, so we try to design our games to be like the way things could be. The worldbuilding kind of supported that, so let me just get to that.
DK: If you do want to try to become basically a bank robber or criminal, the reason it fails when you are playing a historical western is because eventually the US Marshalls will catch you or the Pinkertons. You got no chance to survive long term.
Maybe you escape to South America and now you’re off the map and done with the game.
We kind of created an alternate history and we took a very contentious election and we switched it the other way starting in the 1840s and we just ticked a few boxes a different way. Basically everything else was the way it was on planet Earth.
We ended up with the north and south fighting to a draw, and that created a whole different situation in the west.
Instead of one nation controlling the entire west, and where the cavalry could show up. Now you’ve got, because of the way we’ve done this past history, you have the following countries.
You have the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America, and Texas is its own nation still. We have the country of Deseret. That’s Mormon country. Mexico is still there. If you go northwest far enough, you still have England and they are usually not so much involved in the game, but you do definitely have Mexico. You have an Indian nation called Sequoia.
Where our game takes place is in an area called The Cauldron, and greater than that, what we call the shattered frontier. It’s a frontier, but it’s claimed by everyone and owned by no one. So you could be in a Texican town and 6 miles down the road you could be in a Confederate town. It’s technically not against the law to shoot a few people and take their stuff. They can come after you. It’s certainly not against the law because there is a technically Civil War still going, though its in a state of draw, where there is an armed Mason-Dixon line. There isn’t confrontation going on.
DC: More like the demilitarized zone, where things are just simmering and could blow up at any minute.
DK: Out west you could be vigilantes. You and six guys could take your horses and rid into a Confederate town. You could shoot up some of those slave-owners and free some of the slaves and while you are there rob their bank, and now you’re not an outlaw, because when you come back to the US town you left, maybe you’re a hero. Maybe you get deputized before you even do it.
We solved that problem with that so if you want to have that sort of game you can. So I think Aces and Eights allows a lot of different types of western play, and I don’t think that had been done before.
DC: It’s important to set the stage like that. I’m working on a game with David L. Pulver and we’ve had long conversations how we’re going to drive the setting. It’s a science fiction setting. How we’re going to drive the setting to allow people to play the game that they want to play? Space piracy.
Actually, it’s very much the same thing you just said. It’s hard to have space piracy in certain genres because the entirety of the US Navy is one squadron and they can just show up and kick your ass. And so how are we going to stage it where you can have the kinds of games that you want to play, and it sounds exactly like you did, except in 2007 – ten years ago.
DK: Did you check out Somalia to see how they did it? Somali pirates were kind of successful.
DC: Right. To a limited extant. Except whenever you go up against the US Navy it doesn’t work out so well.
But that’s the key right? It’s a broken power structure so that individually you can be a fairly big fish in a small pond. And if you don’t become the nail that sticks up and draw . . .
actually, you see a lot of that in supernatural games. A lot of the premise of Monster Hunters International from the Larry Correia books, or the Dresden Files where you don’t want to bring too much attention to the supernatural stuff, because if everyone knows about it, then seven billion swarming humans come after you. And that kind of thing. The distributed power structure. That fractured frontier seems to be a key element in telling the kind of stories that gamers want to play.
DK: We kind of . . . it was a long evolution to get there, and I won’t go into all of it, but another show that greatly influenced me, and I know Jolly, was Lonesome Dove. If you’ve never seen that western it’s got to be one of the best westerns ever. I shied away from it because of the name and it had that guy Dan Fannon in there.
But it’s great and that movie starts and these guys are Texas Rangers, they’re lawmen, and they go across the border and steal a bunch of cattle and horses. That’s how they get their herd. So in their minds it may have not have been the right thing to do morally but it certainly wasn’t against the law. It was another country. They just went and took their cattle. They figured the guy they were taking it from was also a rustler.
DC: Easy come, easy go.
DK: In the movie they hang their own friend for being a horse thief, a guy they’d known for 25 years. A great dear friend of theirs.
That kind of played into it. What if there was another country every couple of miles, every ten miles. Just around the other side of the hill.
DC: Right. Even in my Dragon Hersey game, my Vikings. I had this map, and Ken Hite goes “So where do your Vikings go raiding?” Oh, well, I’ve surrounded them with powerful people. I need something disorganized, where they can just drop by and kill a few people and take their stuff.
But that sounds really neat and I like the thought that was clearly going into enabling adventurous play.
Let’s segue a bit – how did you mechanize . . . how did you drive the rules around the kinds of rules the kinds of settings you wanted to play in?
DK: One thing we do pretty much with all our games is we have a fairly elaborate character creation process. That includes lots of things like quirks and flaws and background where you know how many brothers and sisters you have, whether your parents are alive or dead, some pretty detailed stuff. It takes some time because it’s worth it in the end because now you have a feel for your character, right? Whether you walk with a limp or you have a stutter or you’re just ornery or you have trouble sleeping. These are all things that bring out your character.
Believe it or not people look at Hackmaster as hack and slash game, but that system was pretty much taken from Hackmaster which was really heavy into roleplaying. The new Hackmaster even more so. It’s the only game in that genre that really rewards directly roleplaying.
In any case we have a concept called Honor, which mechanically . . . sorry, it’s Honor in Hackmaster and Reputation in Aces and Eights, which drives certain character actions as well. If you’re being insulted by someone in a bar or saloon, you have a reputation to uphold, and you got to figure out what to do. At the end of the day its just ways the gamemaster can push buttons on the players.
The combat system is very realistic, which means it can be really really deadly. Far more deadly then you’d expect. You can get one shot into the head and enough damage and you’re dead.
On the other hand you can get shot in the head, and the bullet can bounce off. Which also happened.
The random nature of combat, coupled with the fringe end of complete destruction of your character, makes you not want to dive headlong into a gunfight unless the odds are in your favor. Which, by the way is how it worked with a lot of the gunfighters in real life. They just didn’t go out into the street and fight with anyone. A lot of times, they would say “Hey, draw!” while they were already pulling their gun out. Like figuring they could hopefully clear holster and shoot this guy without it seeming like I just murdered this guy. But I actually did just murder the guy.
DC: What was the movie with Louis Gossett, Jr. and Athony Edwards? It’s a western. “You just shot that man in the back!” “His back was to me.” I can’t remember. But it was a great kind of ringing of the bell against the kind of shoot out in the street that everyone sees in the movies, but apparently didn’t happen much.
It was El Diablo.
DK: So we have some. . . we tried to put some mechanics into the game to create a lot of what happens in real life, and a lot of what happens in cinema.
There are some concepts that can really improve your chance in combat by taking some serious time risks.
Meaning, I want to say it was Wild Bill Hickok who had a reputation for being very cool under fire. Essentially you wait a very long time and you take very careful aim, meanwhile your opponent who is doing something very stupid like hip shooting or if they are just firing rapidly. They could fire three or four shots at you but your chance of hitting is much better. There is a couple of accounts – you reminded me of it when you talked about the high noon thing – this is one of the few high noon things that were out there. The other guy shot a couple times and he shot him down from like 25 feet and everybody was like “wow.” He’s got ice in his veins or whatever.
So that concept’s in there. You can do that. It’s risky because while the guy is shooting at you with less chance if he does happen to hit you there is a good chance you’re done for.
DC: Significantly impaired. Right. Yeah. What you just said about taking careful aim and all that: they did that almost word for word in Unforgiven. That’s the line between Little Bill and Beauchamp the Writer.
DC: In Unforgiven, Little Bill, Gene Hackman’s character, pulls a gun and is like “That’s about as fast as I can draw and shoot if I ever want to hit anything.” “What if the other guys’ faster?” “Then he’ll miss.” Basically that whole scene was Gene Hackman and the guy that plays the writer [Saul Rubinek], is basically just word for word what you just said. It was a good parallel there.
DK: If you’re a cold-blooded killer and your not nervous . . . this reminds me of another mechanic so that the more gunfights you’re, in the better your chances are, the better your accuracy is, the better your speed is. If you’ve been in none you’re very penalized, and after your first one a lot of the penalties go away, but not completely until your second or third one. Only at that point you get what it’s all about and that’s the concept Gene Hackman [was talking about] is in there as well.”
That’s actually a thing. That’s from real life. That’s a real thing. The thing about successful gunfighters like John Wesley Hardin – he killed like 20 people -the difference between him and the guys you never hear about, well, the guys you never hear about were nervous and . . there is a lot of story, one the really strikes me.
These two guys in a shootout with each other in a bar, in a saloon, and by the way saloon’s back then were 10 by 14 if they were big. They were actually shooting at each other, each on one side of the bar. They each emptied their six-shooter and then one ran out of the building and reloaded while the other one was reloading inside. Then they each emptied another six-shooter and nobody was hit.
DC: There is a modern version of that where a police officer in a criminal exchange a full load of ammunition in the front and back seat of a police car, and no one was hit.
DK: So I mean if you take your time, and you aim and shoot, you’re taking a huge risk, but then when you do shoot you’re going to do what you set out to do. It’s a gamble. Do I go fast?
That’s part of the game. You got me lost here. I guess we were talking about mechanics.
DC: We were talking about mechanics. And I guess I can steer a little bit [Because that’s what an interviewer is supposed to do!]
The realism part of it will get into the shot clock, and it’s really interesting. It’s something I did in excel and it was unplayable. It wasn’t designed to be playable. Can I simulate bullet spread using GURPS statistics? The answer is yes, but God you wouldn’t do it at the table. You managed to bring scatter of fire playably to Aces and Eights.
DK: I’ll say it’s not a perfect simulation. But it’s pretty darn good. It really feels like gunfire and there is a visceral feeling.
You have this picture of a silhouette and this other guy in a pose or kneeling down or standing or whatever. We have a plethora of silhouettes, and you take the one that represents the guy and you put your shot clock down, and you aim it, right, and so you pick where you want to shoot at the guy.
Let’s say he’s drawn down on you but he’s the sheriffs brother and you just want to disarm him, you want to shoot his gun. You can try to do that. Every shot is a called shot, and if you roll a bullseye – which is 25 on a 20-sided die. Meaning you need some modifiers. That could be because you’re at point-blank range, or that you’re a really good shot, or your resting your gun on a solid object, or you’ve been aiming for a second or two, or consecutive fire.
There are a million ways to do it. If you get a 25, you hit exactly where you want to. But more often you don’t. But if you can get into the 15, 16, 17, 18 range, you draw a card, and the shot clock determines randomly where your shot is off.
Each single digit increment is roughly a foot on the character you’re shootin at. So the idea is that you’re aiming at a certain spot, and if you miss you’re going to miss on somewhere off, and you miss anywhere on 360° and we kind of determine where that is.
Where it really gets interested is where you shoot a shotgun at somebody and miss them entirely, but now you got a gun that scatters. You got two factors. You got a dozen pellets to track, but second of all the way you track a shotgun that’s been shot at you from eight feet away vs. one that’s been shot at you from 60 ft away is very very different. I think if most people think about it, it spreads and spreads and spreads. So there is a sweet spot for shotguns and I call that around 25 to 30 ft-ish where you have a chance to hit them with some pellets, but not so few that it doesn’t affect them. But yeah if you use the shot clock and [garbled] pellets actually go and you track them based on range. Really interesting is if someone really wants a game that covers all these details we have a way to do it really fast. I’ll give you some thoughts about that. So how was my character standing or setting or kneeling, right? That’s automatically covered by what your shot clock is. Called shot or where do I hit them is covered. What about if I have cover? We’ve got silhouettes of things like stoves or troughs or wagon wheels or fencing or whatever. I’m resting my gun on a fence. Okay, there’s that right. You can have cover taken care of. When you use the shot clock to determine where cover goes gives you a plethora of other rules depending on how details you want to get. Does the shot go through the cover? If it’s a stove, no. Unless it’s the exhaust. If it’s a fence, well, maybe. If it’s a plywood wall and it’s a boomtown, you probably just shot through the wall. Which absorbs a certain amount of damage which means the character doesn’t get hurt as bad. You can throw all that detail in and in a very quick shot.
DC: Right right.
DK: The whole concept of hiding at a window or whatever when you put the cover silhouette over it’s a super visceral feeling. “Wow, now I’m seeing. Now I’m showing actually where I aim.” If you’re the guy on the other end of that. Let’s say I’m the gamemaster and I’m shooting at you. I put my shot clock on your guy and say head instead of center mass. He’s like wait what? You want to do a headshot on me because its super offensive suddenly because if I do get a 25 and I roll a natural 20 on the die or something like that I’m going to blow your head off. Maybe. Then you’re going to be sitting there with your fingers crossed as I roll damage and hope the character you’ve just worked on for a year isn’t blow away because I decided to shot you in the head.
DC: Do you feel that the graphically intensive nature of the overlay process helps with keeping the people who are spectators more viscerally involved?
DK: Do you mean spectators like the other players?
DC: Yes. Games that are very realistic have the reputation for “While the gamemaster is figuring out the million modifiers he’s going to use on me everybody else can go for pizza and come back and maybe it’ll be their turn.”
DK: I’ll get to that in a second. The shot clock itself . . . when you lay that picture down on the table and aim everyone stops what they are doing. No one is looking at their phone. Everyone is like where are you aiming? Is it a groin shot? Where’s he aiming. There is always a crazy guy who thinks he can game the system and is like “I’m going to put it way on the upper right here figuring I got a bad chance to hit so I’m going to suck and I’ll shoot way off and it just doesn’t work. The math just doesn’t bear out and they are shooting their shot into space. [garbled] Where the game really shines is the count up system. Which is call it an initiative system, but it’s really a rolling count. Because of that as the game master counts up from tenths of a second – 1, 2, 3, 4 – lets say you’re running so every three counts you get to move. So he says 1, 2, 3 you move yourself in whatever scale you want. We play with inches = 5 ft, but there is no scale. Do whatever you want. Everyone at the table is moving at the same time and then someone says I want to shot Ok, you can shot right away if your gun is packed and all that stuff, but then you have to wait half a second to shot again. So let’s say you shot on six so when he gets to 11 he’s going to shoot again. You and I talked about this off camera that both this game and Hackmaster have count-up systems. What we found and I would love ot say we thought of this. We did not. We stumbled upon this. What we found by having these count up systems is that the wallflowers that come to play at these games – the less aggressive players, the spouse and significant others that have been dragged along that usually get told what to do don’t get told what to do and are left to their own devices and doing their own thing. Because everyone has their hands full managing their own character and that’s a wonderful thing because they end up having to with turn-based games. Because what you end up having to do with turnbased game you go around the time and when it’s that person’s turn I brought my cute boyfriend to play and he’s never played a roleplaying game before. Now everyone at the table has their advice and they are all telling you what to do. The way Hackmaster rolls and Aces and Eights rolls they can’t really do that. They might be able to say something, but the next thing you know the gamemaster is ticking up a count and as much you love your significant other you love your character more. So you’re more worried about what you’re going to do next rather than what they’re going to do next. That lets them learn and lets them play. They love it. We found that complete novices do really well in our games. [chuckles]
DC: That’s really neat. One question though. How do you . . . how does the GM who might be playing six characters manage the count. Seems like it’s awesome when you got “I’m going to worry about me and I don’t have time to shout advice at my wife or girlfriend or my daughter or whatever.” But now I’m a GM and I’m managing six or eight or ten guys. How does that work?
DK: Well the short answer is it depends on the game system. I’ll talk about Hackmaster real quick for a second and then we’ll jump to Aces and Eights. [garbled] Once you get used to the system its not that hard to manage them all. Generally, they end up bursting into the room at the same time and they kind of move around at the same time. There are one or two outliers. It’s really more like you got this mob of six or seven and you got two or three others. A lot of people do it on paper, but there are all sorts of game aids out there now. Where people lay their minitures down on the table – most people use miniatures now a days. They’ll have them labeled A through G and they’ll keep track of them that way. Aces and Eights. So first all Aces and Eights if you’re going to have a gunfight with ten people for the gamemaster and five players. That’s a pretty big gunfight. That’s going to go for a while. Normally a gunfight will be 2 to 3 different people – especially as you’re roleplaying. You’re roleplaying what ends up happening is someone’s caught cheating at cards and they throw down right there. It’s literally too. . .
DK: Right. But if you’re going to have . . . if you’re going to ride into a Confederate Town and teach ‘em a lesson that’s like tonight we’re going to have that miniature war. That’s different. At that point you’re going to have to have a count track to keep track of all your guys or have some of your players help or whatever. Most scenes aren’t like that. You may do 3-4 on a side in which case its not that hard to keep track of. If you’re going to have a huge battle you’re going to have a huge battle. It’s not a lot different than basically saying – whatever it is – Dungeons and Dragons and now we are going to have a miniature war it’s a totally different scenario than just a dungeon crawl. That’s sort of like you described a miniature war of Aces and Eights. 20 characters. That’s not a gunfight anymore. That’s a skirmish. Even the shootout at the OK corral only had 8 guys involved.
DC: My understanding of that particular shootout was only was their 8 guys involved, but if you actually go to the OK corral it’s like the size of my room. 10×10. It’s tiny. It’s a very very small space.
DK: It wasn’t a running gun battle through the town. They all stood there and threw down and it lasted about 18 seconds and 20 shots were fired. One guy ran away right away so you’re down to seven. That’s the gamemaster’s answer: this guy runs he’s afraid.
DC: There are two things that have come up. One is morale. Morale and running away and no I don’t want to die – and I’ll segue into that in a minute. The other is situational awareness and one of the things about the count system or the game master management, not everyone is going to go at once, right? People are taking stock and the perfect situational awareness that you get staring for a half an hour that you stare at when you get a blank piece of paper or miniature things and you got your guys going “What do I do?” That is so far from reality. We were talking yesterday about how I was doing this Viking martial arts combat thing. It was a battle of five or six on each person. Either someone ran up into my face and when I was the archer and killed me or the guy who killed me hit me with a spear from a direction I wasn’t looking because I didn’t have the situational awareness to maintain. The pace seems like it would reinforce poor situational awareness which is closer to verisimilitude than not and very hard to do without onerous rules in most games.
DK: I’d say it’s for sure the case and this is another byproduct. A happy happenstance and I’d love to say we were brilliant enough to let novices enjoy the game more even though it’s got a lot more detail and more crunch. I’m happy to report that’s what it does. This is another thing. When you’re playing a battle to a lesser extant Aces and Eights you’re running around and moving, but if you’re playing Hackmaster and there are a dozen orcs on the table and you got six characters and an NPC and you have this big pitched battle characters are moving. They are moving because of the count. The example I use is playing the mage, right? If you’re playing the mage and you’re kind of staying in the middle and you don’t want to . . . it’s like you [Douglas] as the archer. You want to keep people off your shirt. You’re the quarterback. You want to keep that guy clean. As the fighters are eliminating foes or moving the battle moves. If you’re in the mage you can’t go and get a coke even if you have no spell points level and there is nothing you can do. You literally can’t because you have to constantly be following around a couple of tanks and heavies to stay around them or behind them so you don’t get smoked because the line will disintegrate and orcs will flow through if you’re not paying attention. I’d say again the combat is very fluid with a lot of moving around and different things happen. It’s exactly how you describe situational awareness. You can’t keep track of what’s happening. If you leave and come back in ten minutes you look at the board. It’ll look totally different. It’s completely different than a turn-based game where everyone has got to wait fro you to come back and take your turn and everything will look moved and if someone falls on either side things change right away.
DC: I guess the one thing that if you go away and come back your piece will be lying on its side dead and hasn’t moved in many counts.
DK: You’re bleeding out.
DC: Right. So let’s avoid that. Let’s avoid bleeding out. We’re at a bar or we are around the card table and someone reaches down for the gun and presumably combat is deadly and you spent all this front loaded time building you character. What are the social mechanics. What are the conflict avoidance. Fisticuffs and we have to talk about grappling because I always talk about grappling mechanic. Or pursausion because you don’t want everything to end in a gunfight. People do what mechanics enable. If the only thing you have is a combat system then you’re going to resolve everything through combat or free play. It won’t be mechanics-based free play but you’ll method act your way with the gamemaster through a situation. How has – and lets stick with mostly Aces and Eights because you’re kickstarting very successfully I might add. Currently at $56,658 of $20,000 so that’s awesome. About half way to go. 20 days left. Aces and Eights so you would rather not get into a gunfight because you are outnumbered or you are in a town where the guy you are really having a fight with is part of the ruling family so to speak. That trail will not go well. If all you can do is combat then all you can do is combat. So what other mechanics exist to enable you to not shoot each other.Eights is a very strong skill system. In fact, one of the changes from the 1st and 2nd editions of Aces and Eights and the biggest mechanical change is the skill system. It’s not – it sounds like a huge change, but it’s not that big of a change we had a different – we had a count down vs. a count up. We had a deduct from a hundred and that’s your total instead of 7% would be brilliant would be bad. So we’re flipping that over. That brings it in sync with Hackmaster so we can have a more unified universal system if you will. But within the skill system you have all sorts of things you can do. You named a few. There’s the art of seduction or persuasion. You have ways you can try to convince others. Which generally the way it works is you try to roleplay that and you get a modifier based on your success at that. I know there are some people that don’t like that rule because they feel like . . . I’ve actually heard that there is an advantage for people that are good at roleplaying they get bonuses to their skills because they’ve gone a good job roleplaying with the gamemaster so it’s unfair to the other players at the table that maybe aren’t as glib or good at roleplaying.
DC: It’s the old “player skill vs. character skill” argument.
DK: Yeah. Exactly. To that I would say it’s unfortunate if you look at professional sports I’m not allowed to do what they do because they just simply happen to better at baseball so I can’t be on the Cubs. Look. It’s a roleplaying game if they are better at roleplaying game then they are going to be more successful than you. I don’t know what to say that they’re better at roleplaying and why they are doing better at the roleplaying game. I don’t know what to tell you. [both laugh]
DC: There is two ways of doing that. If you have a roleplayer who’s really great it then great. They are doing it. And if you have someone who is not a good roleplayer and they say look help me out let me just roll skill at least maybe ask them to try and maybe don’t or maybe just say “Ok, well, think of something next time. But for now just roll.” You’re not going to get the bonus for say “I roll my chemistry skill or I roll my bluff skill.” Yeah, if you’ve a good skill you’re fine and if you don’t have any context to it you don’t get a bonus.
DK: That’s exactly the way we resolved it. We kind of do both. Obviously there are skills we don’t possess and that’s why we are playing a roleplaying game and it adds a fantasy element to it. Anyway, that’s a way you can resolve it. You also mentioned grappling. We have a pretty good set of barroom brawl rules that involve three different colors of chips. Poker chips.They are based on your different stats of ST, DX, or CON. When your CON chips hit 0 you pass out. So you can actually fight until you’re beaten senseless in a barroom brawl process. It’s not a five minute stall but more like you spend an hour setting up a saloon and guys are going to get hit over the head with empty bottles and the dancing girls going to get involved and all that bit. That’s one of the troupes that we have the ability to do that. That’s one of the micro-games. You mentioned trails that’s a micro-game and that’s fairly involved. If you’re character’s caught and you’re tried for murder it’s not much fun to have a percentage roll and resolve that. I tell you right now I got 5% left of my battery.
DC: OK. Well, let’s pitch the kickstarter.
DK: The kickstarter is going very well. We’ve hit a ton of stretch goals already I think there is $80 of free stuff – PDFs primarily if you buy one of the hardcover books. Which is fantastic because [garbled] stuff. Even if you get a $40 PDF you get $40 of free stuff. We have a ton of really cool stretch goals. We have some interesting miniature’s I think. We have something called casuality counters which are little black plastic silhouettes of guys that are down and they got a read blood splatter so you can the splatter face up if they are dead or face down which means they are incapacitated or maybe they’ve had enough of the gunfight in this case [Douglas laughs]. We also have those for mounts if you have to make a fort out of your horse you can. We also have these stand up silhouette guys that are also plastic. They are good for creating crows. What that’s good for is when a guy gets off stage and you have a score to settle and you take a shoot and you miss you have this great shot clock and tells you exactly where you missed. You can see if you hit someone’s grandmother and next week you can go with the trail and see whether or not you get hung for murder. It all kind of dovetails together. I think our next stretch goal is a couple thousand and we should hit that by the end of the week or so. That one is some overlays of cover. Which are great because you can put those straight over the top and you can still see through over the silhouette. If you’re shooting a buffalo rifle and you hit the fence you’re still going to hit the guy. If it’s a derringer you hit the fence and nothing happens. You want to know if you have a buffalo rifle and you hit the cover exactly what part of his body is on the other side.
DC: It also looks like you’re on track to get the Roll20 support.
DK: That’s coming up soon and I think [garble] playing over the internet is definitely the future and it’s the next big wave and people’s college buddies are all over the country and they want to game with them. System’s like Roll20 allow that. It’s very close. Just doing this hangout is almost like we are face to face. It’s very close to the table experience. It’s not quite the same, but it’s gotta be like 80% there. So we have a pretty good set of tools for that and they are very western-eqsue and people will be very happy with those when we hit that goal.
DC: So just to make sure you get in the last word before your battery dies. So where can we find you at Gen Con because you said you’ve been at Gen Con every year for 30 years. Where is Kenzer and Company kick out at Gen Con. What kind of games will you be running there?
DK: I’ve got no idea where our booth is, but we usually have a booth. If you walk the floor it’s hard to miss us, but you can look us up. We’re pretty much a destination booth so Thursdays are usually really really busy. Fridays are a good day to come to us. Thursdays and Saturdays are hard for us. We’ll be running Hackmaster and Aces and Eights at the booth so if you want to come try either of those games definitely a good place to do it. Though it’s very loud at Gen Con. That makes it a little more difficult. One of the stretch goals of kickstarter was to stay in our house with us at GenCon.
DC: Oh, fun.
DK: It included three nights of stay and one shootout.
DC: An actual shootout.
DK: An Aces and Eights shootout. A roleplaying game shootout
DC: You were talking about the background of you guys I could see you bringing airsoft or nerf [guns].
DK: When we first started Live Action Roleplaying was really big and I wanted to do Live Action Gladiatorial Combat at Gen Con and bring in real tigers but they didn’t want us to do that.
DC: Well after the Siegfried and Roy thing it just wasn’t the same. Not only do I want to think you for coming, but I want to thank you for coming twice because it was really nice of you to come back and give more of your time after the technical foibles yesterday. We had a different conversation today and that was good. It wasn’t stilted and we got some things that I learned that I didn’t know from yesterday so that was great. I’m in at the $80 level for Aces and Eights. I wanted that leather-bound book. I like tangible stuff. I’m happy to do PDF, but if I can have it and look at it and feel it I’m looking forward to it and I really hope you get that virtual gaming pack. So everyone check out the kickstarter and I would say for at least people just getting into the hobby Kenzer and Company seem more than what you might think. They are a broad product portfolio with some exciting stuff going on.
DK: Thank you for having me. I had a really good time and we should do this again sometime and I won’t try to pimp my stuff. We can talk about design flaws. It’s fun.