Victorian Adventure Enthusiast interviews Timothy Brannan~
Welcome back to the new (and improving) Victorian Adventure Enthusiast! I can tell you already that the decision to switch to a blog style format was a good one, our creative engines are officially re-stoked!
Enough about us, we’re proud to have had a chance to chat with the architect behind Eden Studios’ RPG Ghosts of Albion, Timothy Brannan!
Victorian Adventure Enthusiast: How did you discover Roleplaying Games?
Timothy Brannan: It was back in 1979 and I borrowed a friend’s AD&D Monster Manual to read one day in silent reading. It blew me away! I had another friend that had a copy of Holmes Basic. By a copy I mean that, he had run it off on a Xerox machine. I didn’t understand a word of it or how these two books were related but I knew they were and I knew they were cool. By the end of 79 I was playing with some friends. We had no idea what we were doing and all I had were some six sided dice stolen from a Monopoly game. I got my own copy of the Moldvay Basic rules a year later, this time they were a “real” copy with dice. The rest is as they say…
VAE: When did you make the leap into actually writing games?
TB: Right away I think. I remember writing a “Healer” class as early as 1983, I would have been 13 at the time. It was nothing more than a Cleric that couldn’t kill and had all these healing spells. It didn’t work very well to be honest, but we ruled that every time he healed someone he got 10xp per 1hp healed. I keep thinking I need to pull that back out someday and fix it.
VAE: You’re the designer and one of the authors of the Ghosts of Albion Roleplaying Game, what is this game like?
TB: In a word Fantastic! Ghost of Albion was this animated story on the BBCi Website back in 2002-2003. It was written by horror author Christopher Golden and actress turned author Amber Benson. Amber also played Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Chris had written the intro fiction for the Buffy RPG. I approached Chris on the idea of converting one of his other properties to an RPG. He jumped on it, but he wanted Ghosts. We used the same system as the Buffy RPG.
VAE: What sort of stories might characters playing Ghosts of Albion find themselves in?
TB: Ghosts takes place in the early Victorian Age, so 1838 and on. Queen Victoria has only been on the throne a couple of years and she is still a young woman. So some of the things we associate with the Victorian age; Jack the Ripper, Dracula, steam powered trains, were not around yet. The world of Ghosts though, is also one about magic and monsters. So there are these people, the cast in the animations and book, the players in the game, tasked with protecting the borders of their lands from the evil monsters. So vampires, werewolves, demons, ghosts, evil faerie creatures. All of these are in Ghosts and they all want England.
VAE: As I mentioned, you’re listed as designer and one of the authors of the game (along with Amber Benson, Christopher Golden, Garner Johnson and M Alexander Jurkat), what were your responsibilities in creating GoA?
TB: I was the lead designer and author. So my job was to get everything down on the computer. The initial vision was mine, but a lot of people really helped out. Alex was the editor at Eden at the time and he cleaned up a lot of the material and made it work with Eden’s style. Garner was my right hand guy. He was my play-test coordinator, he was my sounding board and when I had rewritten Chapter 5 for the third time he came in and gave me a hand. He also wrote the first adventure for Ghosts much in the same way I did for Buffy. Amber and Chris are well Amber and Chris. They had the vision to make the stories and see the RPG potential. Chris and Amber also wrote the adventure in the back of the book. I spent a lot of time on the phone with both of them. I even met up with Amber when she was in Chicago and took her out for her first Chicago style pizza!
VAE: What does Ghosts of Albion offer that other RPGs don’t?
TB: For me Ghosts is a great rules-lite way of getting into a dark magic Victorian setting. There are a lot of great Victorian games with magic. I happen to call many of the authors of those games friends and I love playing their games. But Ghosts I think is one of the few that you can pick up and play with almost no instruction. The mechanics are handled by the Cinematic Unisystem so they are very easy to learn.
I also have to mention the magic system in Ghosts. I feel it is one of the best magic systems out there and I love it. It is the reason to buy Ghosts over say Buffy (similar system) or Cthulhu by Gaslight (a similar concept game).
VAE: What other games or gaming products have you worked on?
VAE: Eden Studios released the core rule book and one, free, adventure (Derby Day). Will we see any future products for GoA?
TB: Derby Day was the adventure I mentioned above written by Garner Johnson. I would LOVE to see more, but I don’t think we will. Chris and Amber have moved on to other things and Eden known it’s money comes from All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Some of my best playtesters have moved on to do their own games. I guess sometimes you just can’t get the band back together.
VAE: What are some of your favorite RPGs?
TB: So many. I love C.J. Carella’s WitchCraft from Eden. All forms of D&D are still near and dear to me. Call of Cthulhu. Mage and Vampire from the old World of Darkness. Pathfinder with my kids. Ghosts of Albion of course. Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space. I will try just about anything once or twice.
VAE: If you could work on one game line which would it be?
TB: Existing or hypothetical? For existing lines, I think Doctor Who from Cubicle 7. A lot of the guys working on it also playtested for Ghosts so I know them and think they are great people. Though I have no idea where they would use me! D&D would be great too. It would feel like a homecoming of sorts.
For a hypothetical line, I have said this before and I’ll say it here. I would LOVE to work on a Charmed game. Yeah, the silly little Witch series that was on the WB. But I would rock it really. Witches. Magic. Fighting evil demons. My entire creative output is about all that. I played a Charmed game at Gen Con using the Buffy rules and it was the most fun I have had at Gen Con.
VAE: Do you think electronic distribution of gaming material has been good or bad for the industry?
TB: Good. I was an early adopter of books on PDF. I love books, I have my game room full of them, but I love PDFs too. I love that I can legally buy older versions of games I like and not pay an arm and a leg for them or have to go to some warez site. I love that PDF publishing has opened the door to so many great indie games and small or DIY publishers. I love that I can carry all my books on my computer or tablet and have instant access to them or be able to search the files.
I am not happy about pirating. I have seen Ghosts of Albion on various sites that can be downloaded with the watermarks removed and they have been downloaded there more than legal purchases. I have friends who have had book lines killed by game companies because sales were low due to illegal downloads. So that I am not happy about, but pirates will go on stealing books whether they are in PDF or not. For example my own experience with Holmes back in 79-80.
I am a big fan of the new “Pay What You Want” model that places like Evil Hat are doing with Fate. Have a buck? Spend a dollar. Think $5 is better. Great. I know people argue that no one will pay what it is worth, but I there have been a few of these where I have paid more than the average price because it looks like it is worth it AND I believe in the concept enough to support it with my money.
VAE: Any final thoughts?
TB: I have a few more books on the way. I am doing some books for Battlefield Press on their Victorian game Gaslight. I have a Pathfinder book about witches and warlocks coming up called “Strange Brew”. I talk about all of these and more over at my blog The Other Side, http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/
Otherwise thanks so much!
Thank you, Timothy!