Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Interview with Steve Russell of Rite Publishing: Play on Target Podcast


We record our episodes of Play on Target in advance, usually a couple of months. This time we tried to be more timely, bumping our normal schedule in favor of an interview with Steve Russell of Rite Publishing. Steve currently has a Kickstarter running for his project Lords of Gossamer and Shadow. That’s a ”spiritual successor” to the Amber Diceless RPG. It uses that core system with a new campaign frame offering a new paradigm for dimensional travel, exploration, and warfare. The project successfully funded and  has several weeks to go as of this writing; it has some interesting backer rewards. In our interview he explains the game, his company, his other Kickstarter projects, and his general philosophy.


I’ll admit I wasn’t aware of the project until Brian and Andrew brought it to my attention. Amber’s a great game that I’ve only had the opportunity to run a couple of times. I ran three distinct Throne Wars and a short-lived campaign all of which were interesting. However I never got the chance to really dig down into the guts of the system. I keep thinking that Amber could be one of the best games to handle as an online campaign. I’ve also considered how to use the rules to do other settings and events. For example a Throne War style event for politics ala A Game of Thrones, Fading Suns, or even a Grand Tribunal from Ars Magica. Even though I own the Amber books, I’ve backed this project. I’m curious about the setting and what tweaks/advice the rules will offer. As another perspective, I’ll point to The Rhetorical Gamer, one of my favorite blogs I don’t always agree with. In a recent post he discusses his feelings about the project as a massive fan of the original Amber. I think Steve addresses his concerns in our interview, suggesting this has clearly been a common question for him.

One of the issues we touch on is the relationship between retailers and Kickstarters. Steve offers a particularly blunt and bleak assessment for that relationship. At least regarding rpgs, KS begins to move retailers out of the equation. On the other hand, the diminishing importance of rpgs to a hobby store has been happening for the last decade. If we consider the four pillars of a game store: miniatures, board games, CCGs, and rpgs- this last category is probably the one generating the least sale and least add-on sales. It is also the niche of the market most easily served by pdfs and places like Amazon. I say that as someone who worked in gaming retail for many years, but in the previous century. Steve’s thinking lines up close to that of Gary Ray who has an excellent blog on gaming retail. However Steve suggests that there must be a solution; what that is remains uncertain. The discussion seems to me a little contrary to the spiel I heard given by one of the board game based Kickstarter fulfillment companies. They want the retailers to partner with them, but I’m unsure what the benefit could be to them. Another perspective comes from Ken Hite’s analysis of the recent GAMA trade show on his podcast Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff. In that case, Kickstarter seems to be seen not as an adversary, but a partner. It will be interesting to see how that pans out. It’s a little more under-the-hood look at the problem than we covered in our earlier episode on Kickstarters.


If you like RPG Gaming podcasts, I hope you'll check it out. We take a focused approach- tackling a single topic each episode. You can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the podcast's page at www.playontarget.com.