Monday, February 22, 2010

Game Table Interview: GM Dariel

To my knowledge, I have ever gamed with GM Dariel, though we have chatted (in person and on the interweb) about RPGs, game systems, game design, writing fiction, and the early days of the Alliance of Eclectic Gamers and Interactive Storytellers (AEGIS).

He currently maintains a blog on gaming, F&SF, and writing at The Madman's Cave.

And here are his surprising answers to the questionnaire:

What was the first RPG you remember playing?
D&D, using the red Basic books, back in '91. I actually got into gaming relatively late in life - I was already done with college by that time, while most of my peers had been gaming since either high school or college. I think that's a major factor affecting my taste in games -- for one thing, I've never been fully able to enjoy D&D. There was always something missing in the experience, fun as it was.

What was it about the hobby that made you want to continue playing?
There've always been two great facets of the hobby that I liked - first was being involved in an evolving story of adventure and exploration, and second was the social interaction with friends. Under the latter I'll also lump in the incredible amount of time I've spent laughing while playing and after -- my first gaming group had a very wacky sense of humor, and it's something I've brought with me and perhaps even amplified a bit when I started GM'ing, myself.

What was it about the hobby that made you want to run RPGs?
The same reasons I enjoyed playing, plus one more -- I love world-building and entertaining others with my creations. One thing you'll notice about the games I run is that I always try to give a detailed, life-like world, and that I always make the game's challenges and scenarios revolve around elements of that world. So for example when I ran a game based on the legends of Cuchulainn, I made ancient Celtic beliefs in honor and the world of Faerie central to the game.

What 3 novels have most inspired the games you run? Why?
I've only run one game that was directly based on a single novel, and that was my Red Branch campaign based on Morgan Llywellyn's novel of the same title. Maybe a better answer to your question is to list which authors have most influenced my games: they're Robert E. Howard, Poul Anderson, and Frank Herbert.

From Howard I got my narrative technique, my ideas of pacing, and my taste for running combats in a cinematic style. From Poul Anderson I derived a love for finely crafted and detailed worlds, whether fantasy or science fiction. And from Herbert's Dune saga I picked up a taste for mining history for ideas and using the machinations of various NPCs to drive the story.

What 3 TV shows have most inspired the games you run? Why?
I don't watch TV much, and interestingly enough I've found no taste for the current crop of fantasy and science fiction TV series, so my answer to this one is - zilch. I do mine the Discovery Channel and Nat Geo a lot for ideas and info, however. (Blogowner Alex: I wonder if this includes such shows as Meerkat Manor and Mythbusters)

What 3 movies have most inspired the games you run? Why?
The three movies that most directly inspired game ideas were of course Star Wars, the 1970s adaptation of The Man Who Would Be King, and - uh, can I mention Legend of the Overfiend? No? Guess I'll have to stick with the Star Wars series and Man Who Would Be King then.

Star Wars is of course seminal to the SF gaming as a whole, it's easy for any player to get into because it's a well-known franchise, and I've always enjoyed the idea of the Jedi and the fact that a Jedi's life is one of constant testing and temptation by the Dark Side. You'll never lack for story material with those premises.

The Man Who Would Be King on the other hand helped inspire the visuals and some scenarios for a game I ran entitled Foreign Devils on the Silk Road. The title and idea -- Victorian era explorers in the wilds of Central Asia -- were inspired by a history book. The movie decided me on setting the game in 1870s Afghanistan, inspired some of the character concepts (I used pregenerated characters as it was a playtest of my Cineflex system), and some setting details, the idea of a hidden kingdom lost since Alexander the Great's time. The setting's also one I'm very interested in, as I've hiked in Kashmir and lived a year in India.

What is your favorite published RPG of all time, and why?
For me this would be West End Games' version of Star Wars. It was the first system I ever encountered that espoused a cinematic way of doing things, an enormous and refreshing change from D&D and AD&D. The idea blew my mind. I'll also have to mention my love for Pendragon, which I think is the most immersive RPG I've ever encountered.

What is your favorite published game supplement or adventure of all time, and why?
I'd say the one I enjoyed the most was Pagan Shore, by Chaosium. It gave very good information and rules for a milieu I was very interested in, the pre-Christian Celtic kingdoms of Ireland. I was already loving the Pendragon RPG, but when Adrian showed me this supplement I was really impressed. Pagan Shore laid down in very easy to understand terms what it was like to be a character living in that milieu, which is great for players, and gave lots of ideas for adventures and elements to introduce to the game. The result was my Red Branch campaign, which to this day I think was the best I ever ran.

What RPG have you always wanted to play, but never got a chance to?
Fading Suns. Loved the setting and its ideas.

What upcoming RPG releases are you looking forward to seeing?
My own :-D. I'm looking for illustrators so I can ready Sea Rovers of Syrene for publication, everything's already written. This RPG will be a distillation of the things I love best -- exploration and a sense of wonder, the sea and sailing, the Arabian Nights, and the richness of Asia. There's more to Asian gaming than ninjas and Shaolin monks and Hong Kong gangsters, so SRS will be my contribution to that.

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