Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gareth Ryder Hanrahan: Interviewed!

Episode 119 of the Gauntlet Podcast is up for your listening pleasure! In this one I talk with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan about Cthulhu City, his approach to writing, and his voluminous output. Gareth’s one of rpgdom’s most productive and interesting creators. I mean—seriously-- check out RPG Geek’s book summary. It includes sourcebooks, modules, adventure collections, and megadungeons. They list him at just shy of 200 releases and I’m certain that’s incomplete.

Gareth delivers evocative ideas and amazing set-ups. He works on the trad side, but his rich concepts and plots can easily adapt to indie and story games.

His RPG Geek Listing:

Below are a few things by Hanrahan I really love.

GRH has written several really sharp adventure collections for GUMSHOE products. Elsewhere I’ve reviewed Dead Rock Seven for Ashen Stars. I love its variety. The Zalozhniy Quartet offers a series of linked adventures for Night’s Black Agents approachable in any order. They’re both great introductions to the core book’s world—providing great examples of the problems and situations you could play out. In both cases GRH built on adventure concepts from the core book author, providing the flesh and bone to that spirit.

One of my favorite collections he’s done is Brief Cases, one of two books for Mutant City Blues. Harahan has a mandate here: provide rich adventures doable in a session or two. They’re fast, but not thin. Each one leans into a different aspect of the setting. I’ve run “Blastback” for The Gauntlet Hangouts and I appreciated the way the game sets things up for the GM. (See my write-up here with links to the videos).

Some modules provide little GM guidance on how to actually approach reading or running the adventure. They expect the GM to decipher and discover the fun buried within. That works for broadly sketched resources, like Dungeon World starters. Adventures with more connections and detail require signposts. On the other hand, some modules itemize the process: X scene --> Y scene --> Z scene. They offer a track and show how to steer the players back on to it. There’s an expectation of control. Hanranhan’s adventures expect the players to shoot off in many directions. They discuss ways to approach that and how scenes & incidents can flow into one another. Most of all, they consider the practicalities of timing and how to handle changes.

I’ve mentioned before my love for Rolemaster’s Creatures & Treasures series. They’re great, wild, and random. I’ve bought other item books—the d20 glut spit forth a ton of them-- but I’d never found any I’d really dug. Until I hit The Book of Loot. It’s a great collection, with amazing ideas smartly organized by the Icons. That means you can easily key an item or a player or a situation. My favorite kind of treasures has always been those with novel ability. This has that in spades. I don’t items fully mechanized, just a grab bag of bonuses. I need stuff that players can use in clever ways or that open new approaches to problems.

There’s also Eyes of the Stone Thief. In 13th Age’s Dragon Empire living dungeons bubble to the surface from somewhere down below. These lairs change and reshape over time. Some eat other dungeons. The Stone Thief is a megadungeon which has swallowed cities and castles. It adapts, learns, and changes. You can imagine the challenge in setting that up for the GM. The book’s at once a solid adventure and a toolbox. Since groups can head in many directions it has sections, set pieces, factions, flow charts—all easily divided and accessible. The smart organization struck me when I ran pieces from it. There’s also a dynamite section of dungeoneering at the start and a great index-glossary of key elements at the back.

Finally there’s “Heroes of the City.” It’s a short little thing, a DS pitch from Blood on the Snow. But it grabs my attention like no other concept. A band of Heroes and their gathered forces have finally defeated the Big Bad Warlock in his capitol. This is about what happens next. It’s a story about reconstruction, alliance crumbling, old feuds arising, and dark conspiracies lurking. While I never got it to the table with DramaSystem, I did run it as a session of Kingdom. I loved it and I’m probably going to run it again with Fate next year.

3 Games I’d Love to See GRH Write For
1. Cryptomancer: I really dig this concept and I want to return to it again next year. I’ll love to see some adventure seeds for this “heroes underground” concept. The setting has so many cool ideas that I’d be interested in what he pull out as adventures.

2. Any Free League publication: Tales from the Loop, Coriolis, but especially Mutant: Year Zero. MYZ has a series of Zone Sectors. They’re adventure set ups, NPCs, challenges, and concepts. GRH could offer interesting twists on what happens at home and in the zone.

3. Base Raiders: GRH’s done dungeon-crawls and superheroes (via MCB). I’d be super excited to see what he’d do with those two in combination. What kind of villain base would he create? How would he draw out the cool from the setup?

And of course I’d also like to see a fuller version of “Heroes of the City,” with some mechanics to support that. Perhaps for Dungeon World or 13TH Age.

Anyway, check out the podcast and consider taking a look at Cthulhu City. I have my copy and I’m working through it. I’ll post a review when I’ve had a chance to play around with it more. 


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