Thursday, November 1, 2012

[Q&A] Kenneth Hite (Night's Black Agents)

[19:08] <+kennethhite> Hi, all! Thanks for dialing up, or whatever -- I'm Kenneth Hite, and I'm a full-time writer, mostly in the tabletop RPG field. My most recent books include TRAIL OF CTHULHU, DAY AFTER RAGNAROK, GURPS HORROR, and the newest and shiniest of them all, my vampire spy thriller NIGHT'S BLACK AGENTS. (done)
[19:09] <~Dan> Thanks, Kenneth!
[19:09] <~Dan> Would anyone like to get us started with a question?
[19:09] <+brehaut> The [REDACTED] version of Night's Black Agents was available for a long while before the final version was released; Did that ‘beta’ period result in much change to the game?
[19:09] <+GojiraRed> What is Mr. Hite working on right now?
[19:10] <~Dan> (Question pause after GojiraRed's question, please.)
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[19:11] <+kennethhite> There were definitely some changes -- one or two new action options (especially Disarm), a few clarifications, and (I think) a new monster, plus typos and such I red-penned in the [REDACTED] draft. Of all of those, the clarifications are probably the most important. (done)
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[19:11] <~Dan> (Welcome, Mytholder, JimLotFP! It's a game author mini-con! :) )
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[19:12] <+kennethhite> Right now, I'm working on THE NAZI OCCULT for Osprey Books, and a whole whack of stuff for Pelgrane, most notably the AGENT'S COMPANION and DRACULA DOSSIER for NBA and a sample scenario for MYTHOS EXPEDITIONS. (done)
[19:12] <~Dan> (Welcome, Guest57407! You can set your nick with the /nick command.)
[19:13] <~Dan> Kenneth, can you give us a quick rundown of Night's Black Agents?
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[19:14] <+kennethhite> Dan, the elevator pitch is: It's the Bourne trilogy, if Treadstone were vampires. You play burned, isolated ex-spies and paramilitaries who, while carrying out dubious missions for hire, discover the existence of a vampire conspiracy. Which will kill you, or worse, unless you can hunt it down and destroy it.
[19:15] <&Le_Squide> Do you have a preference for the more structured play from something like Night's Black Agents over more open ended games?
[19:15] <+kennethhite> The vampires and the conspiracy are fully modular: each Director (my word for GM in NBA) makes up her own versions of vamps from Gothic bloodsuckers to astral mutants to alien killers, and builds out her own conspiracy in the "Conspyramid". No two campaigns will be the same, keeping the mystery-solving aspects of GUMSHOE (the base system for the game) contd.
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[19:16] <+kennethhite> ... relevant and useful, if played at a higher speed than usual. It's designed to replicate thrillers, but can be played in any or all of four modes: Burn (psych damage), Mirror (who do you trust?), Dust (lo-fi low-power), or Stakes (higher causes drive you).
[19:17] <+kennethhite> Let's call that (done)
[19:17] <+DSPaul> I've heard some noise about a GURPS MADNESS DOSSIER book, is that still in the works?  If so, can you tell us anything about it?
[19:17] <+Gemini> Are you involved with Eternal Lies at all?
[19:17] <~Dan> (Question pause after Gemini's question, please.)
[19:17] <+kennethhite> Le Squide: I like good game play, however you get it. Structure is an under-appreciated design tool, but I've run lots and lots of open-ended sandbox games, as my players can attest. (done)
[19:19] <+kennethhite> DSPaul: GURPS HORROR: MADNESS DOSSIER is done in first draft, and being picked at by expert GURPSifiers right now. I shall stanch its wounds and buff it back some time in November, I reckon, and then e23 will be happy to sell it to you. I'm not sure what final word count is. (done)
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[19:19] <+kennethhite> Gemini: Nope -- just as an admirer of Jeff Tidball and Will Hindmarch, the creators. I haven't even read the ms. yet.
[19:19] <+kennethhite> (done)
[19:19] <+Silverlion> Will we ever see Out of the Box again?
[19:19] <+brehaut> WRT the Dracula Dosier campaign that is in development, I understand that it is based around an Armitage Files style improve campaign structure with british secret service annotated Dracula as an uberprop. How far along is this, and what else can you spill about it?
[19:21] <~Dan> Does NBA have the option to feature more than one sort of monster, and do the PCs have access to any special powers?
[19:21] <~Dan> (And question pause, please.)
[19:21] <+kennethhite> Silverlion: Never say never, but I would need a lot more free time to restart it. I burned myself out on Out of the Box without realizing it, and I do no favors to publishers if I write the column while burned out. But I consider it "on hiatus" not "dead forever." (done)
[19:21] <+Silverlion> Cool. Nice to know :D
[19:23] <+kennethhite> brehaut: Not as far along as Simon would like, certainly. But it was a big, crazy idea that Gareth Hanrahan (who I will make do all the hard part) and I hadn't realized was quite so big and crazy when I pitched it. I can tell you we're looking at three generations of MI6 annotations, which should give you an idea which time periods we're talking about. (done
[19:25] <+kennethhite> Dan: Although NBA is based around vampires, you can use the modular powers and such to build any kind of monster you like. There are guidelines in the book for werewolves, ghosts, mummies, and all kinds of weird vampire-like things. Plus, there's TRAIL and UNREMITTING HORROR to glean monsters from.
[19:27] <+kennethhite> Although the default is "badass humans vs. supernatural horror" there is a drift in the back for agents with powers: remote viewing and necrophony. (done)
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[19:28] <+Jeremy> Do you think there might ever be any more material for the Dunwich Sanction option in NBA? Reading it left me wondering if there is any reason why NBA ever would NOT be the primo system option for running Delta Green.
[19:28] <+kennethhite> I should clarify, those are the two examples given; you can use those rules for any of the powers from ASHEN STARS, MUTANT CITY BLUES, etc or the Improvisational Magic from TRAIL OF CTHULHU. (done)
[19:28] <~Dan> Gotcha. Thanks, Kenneth.
[19:28] <+GojiraRed> Day After Ragnarok: I hadn't realized this was out when I saw it a couple of days ago on Hero Games website.  Can you tell us any more?  I get it's Post Apoc, but a little more details? Is it available for any other systems?
[19:28] <~Dan> (Better question pause there, please.)
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[19:29] <+kennethhite> Jeremy: Whether Project Covenant (the TRAIL "feds vs Cthulhu" frame) ever gets its own book is up to Simon; it might be a TRAIL book or an NBA book. As it is, I think NBA+TRAIL+the DG sourcebooks gives you everything you really need right now. (done)
[19:31] <+Jeremy> Thanks, Ken. (And sorry about the bad question pause, I think I miscounted the answers there.)
[19:31] <+kennethhite> GojiraRed: DAY AFTER RAGNAROK is a "submachine guns & sorcery" setting that I elevator pitch as "Conan the Barbarian: 1948". It's also available in SAVAGE WORLDS version, and will hopefully soon be coming out in FATE once Lenny finishes FATECore.
[19:31] <+Silverlion> Yay Fate versions
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[19:33] <+kennethhite> In sum: Nazis summon Midgard Serpent, Truman nukes it, it crushes Europe and poisons America when it falls to earth. Eastern 2/3s of US reverts to barbarism and city-states; British Empire removes to Australia (Serpent crushes Britain, too); Japan un-nuked doesn't surrender; Stalin swallows everything east of the Serpent Curtain.
[19:33] <+GojiraRed> wow.  that's hella nuts.  sounds great.
[19:34] <+kennethhite> Scientists have begun mining the Serpent's corpse for "ophi-tech" which allows weird science but carries strong potential for taint and evil. Magic, demons, spies, jetpacks, barbarians, pirates. All there. (done)
[19:34] <+GojiraRed> Thanks!
[19:34] <~Dan> What's the other version besides Savage Worlds?
[19:35] <+nick3> Are there plans to produce more material for  Day After Ragnarok ?
[19:35] <+kennethhite> Dan: DAY AFTER RAGNAROK was the first sourcebook ever published for HERO 6th Edition. It actually beat the core books to press. (done)
[19:36] <+Gemini> do you guys have any other plans for pre fab campaigns besides Dracula Dossier? (Also, my friends and I are playing through Zalozny right now. Great stuff.)
[19:37] <+kennethhite> nick3: I have promised to do a city book for Memphis, TN, and I want to write my luchador mini-book for Mexico in the DAR world. After that, it's all up to the gods of free time and market demand. My publisher (Atomic Overmind) sure wants more, though.
[19:37] <+kennethhite> (done)
[19:37] <+brehaut> Does the Dracula Dosier bring new innovations in improvised campaigns since The Armitage Files? And how does having all the clues up front change things compared to the slow release that Armitage Files enables?
[19:37] <+kennethhite> Gemini: None right off the bat, although I imagine Simon would like some pitches, from me or Will Hindmarch or someone else swell. (done)
[19:37] <+nick3> cool
[19:39] <+kennethhite> brehaut: I don't know if DRACULA DOSSIER will innovate past ARMITAGE FILES -- just catching up to Robin will be a job of work. The advantage of using Dracula as the source text is that everybody already knows it: they've read almost all of your document dump already. So the feel will be more sandboxy and less plot-coupon, still w/total improv as goal. (done)
[19:40] <&Le_Squide> Off the wall question: Any chance we'll ever see anything like GURPS Cabal out of you again?
[19:40] <+nick3> I love your Supressed Transmissions stuff, and was wondering if you  had any suggestions for handy references about nazis, ufos, nazi ufos , and other craziness.
[19:40] <~Dan> What sorts of powers are available in DAR?
[19:40] <~Dan> (Question pause.)
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[19:42] <+kennethhite> Le_Squide: Depends on what you mean by "like GURPS CABAL." I'm awful fond of the Western magical tradition as game source, but I'm not sure I need to write another GURPS book on it. NBA is my current take on "monster conspiracy to rule the world" games. (done)
[19:44] <+kennethhite> nick3: Thanks for the love! Joseph P. Farrell is probably my go-to for unified field crazy on all those topics, plus the "Giza Death Star." He adds his own madness rather than just rearranging other people's bad research. (done)
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[19:45] <&Le_Squide> My understanding was that NBA was about being on the other side of the conspiracy, so to speak,
[19:45] <~Dan> (Welcome, waxbanks! Kenneth Hite Q&A in progress!)
[19:45] <+CamBanks> My Elizabethulhu campaign for D&D3E was in some part inspired by a somewhat throwaway comment in one of your Alt History columns about Elizabeth inviting the faerie back to England, and what this means for Europe in general. Have you found your writing influential in ways that have surprised you before?
[19:46] <+kennethhite> Dan: Magic (reawakened after the summoning of Jormungandr), divine miracles (per normal SW play), psionics (mostly Soviet experiments), and ophi-tech weird science gadgets made from snake corpse parts. (done)
[19:47] <~Dan> I was told there are mutants as well?
[19:47] <~Dan> (Question pause.)
[19:47] <+kennethhite> Le_Squide: True, although GURPS CABAL is both an enemy book and a narrative frame for monster/mage PCs. But yes, NBA is very much pro-human, anti-monster. (done)
[19:48] <+GojiraRed> (Dan, could you indicate when questions should restart?  I'm starting to get confused...)
[19:48] <~Dan> (Sure, GojiraRed. Will do.)
[19:49] <~Dan> (Kenneth, you might want to save your "(done)" until you've answered all open questions and are ready for more.)
[19:49] <+kennethhite> Cambanks: Indeed. Very early on, someone read GURPS ALTERNATE EARTHS 1 and it revealed to him that democracy was invalid. I don't know where he got that from, but he posted a lot of very exuberant praise for my work ("changed my life" type stuff) that I did not want to read. I much prefer when people make Shakespearean magic thanks to me. (done)
[19:51] <+kennethhite> Dan: The "chimeras" (snake-men, ghouls, swamp-devils, and man-apes) are all NPCs as written, although one of my players played a defected Soviet man-rilla. (done)
[19:51] <~Dan> (Question resume! :) )
[19:51] <+brehaut> You list a lot of influences in NBA, and mention that a number of the mechanics are inspired by other games (Vampyramid from Blow Back, Trust from The Mountain Witch and Cold City, etc). What is involved with lifting mechanics from games (especially tightly focused ones like TMW) and integrating them with (for lack of a better word) a more 'traditional' system like GUMSHOE?
[19:51] <+kennethhite> Dan: Sorry -- I thought (done) meant "done with that answer". My bad.
[19:52] <+Jeremy> Now that Gumshoe is going Open (thanks to the Hillfolk kickstarter), are there certain sorts of things you are hoping the small publisher ecosystem will generate for it?
[19:52] <~Dan> (Kenneth: No worries. Actually, that's what it originally meant, but I'm finding the "ready for more questions" option works better. :) )
[19:53] <+kennethhite> brehaut: Figure out what the mechanic in question actually does. Figure out how to express that in your current game engine. Keep as much of the original mechanic intact as possible, given constraints of elegance and clarity. That's the method regardless of where you're lifting from, indie or trad.
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[19:55] <+kennethhite> Jeremy: Right now, I'm still very excited about the options Robin and Will and Gareth Hanrahan and Bill White and I have been developing for it. In general, I find the creativity of the "small publisher ecosystem" is great at surprising me, which I imagine will happen this time, too.
[19:55] <+kennethhite> (done)
[19:56] <+brehaut> What can you tell us about your Hillfolk Series Pitch (Moscow Station)?
[19:56] <+GojiraRed> Are you involved with Narosia with Darren Watts?  Can you give us a status update for that?
[19:57] <+kennethhite> brehaut: It's all pretty much there on the label: historical, real-life espionage, in the ultimate bottle setting. I need to do some research to find out which era I want to set it in, tho I'm partial to the Angleton years.
[19:57] <+Jeremy> Thanks Ken, I love everything you guys are doing too. Which makes me almost very curious what other space there could be for non-Pelgrane Gumshoe to explore.
[19:58] <+kennethhite> GojiraRed: For NAROSIA, I'll be doing my best Sir John Mandeville imitation, writing mad geographical certainties regarding places I've never been. As far as status update, I haven't the foggiest, but I'll see Darren this weekend at Metatopia and I'm sure he'll tell me.
[19:59] <+GojiraRed> cool, thanks!
[19:59] <&Le_Squide> Anything you're particularly looking forward to at Metatopia? I can'
[19:59] <&Le_Squide> 't go, but my better half is.
[19:59] <+kennethhite> Jeremy: People always surprise you, especially in this micro-Golden Age of RPG design. I've still got a few spaces I want to take GUMSHOE myself, so I'm sure other folks will do things I don't expect.
[20:00] <+kennethhite> Le_Squide: Everything and everything. Just being there is like marinating in game design 24/7. I love seeing new designers put stuff to the wheel, and talking to them. I'll be in a Bollywood RPG playtest, frex. All that plus Raul's Empenadas.
[20:00] <+kennethhite> (done)
[20:01] <+Jeremy> With White Wolf issuing nostalgia versions of long-dead Vampire: the Masquerade books, there's a lot of love for that hoary old Vampire Conspiracy in the air. What do you think would be the challenges for a GM trying to make NBA fit into that world?
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[20:03] <+brehaut> Science has worked out how to convert proteins in blood into bioplastics (e.g. (Link:; what is the vampire conspiracy's response to this?
[20:03] <+kennethhite> Jeremy: Mostly just figuring out which NBA powers map to which VTM disciplines, mechanically. I tried to make sure they were all there when I designed it, tho I may have missed one or two. The big change is attitudinal: from VTM operatic angst to NBA balletic action. And getting to play the good guys for once, of course.
[20:04] <+kennethhite> brehaut: Depends on the conspiracy. It may be one of the conspiracies that did this, so they can control machinery made from blood-plastic the way they can control humans who have ingested vampire blood.
[20:04] <+kennethhite> (done)
[20:05] <~Dan> Did you have to tweak GUMSHOE to allow for over-the-top action?
[20:06] <+Jeremy> Thanks. That v:tM nostalgia has been calling my name, but I feel like NBA might be a better way to re-enter that world and maybe make the horror seem actually horrifying again.
[20:06] <+kennethhite> Dan: Robin had already begun that process with the ESOTERROR FACT BOOK. What I did was streamline and slightly lower the prices of his options, add some others, and make sure to pump up the point-refresh economy where I could. That and Cherries (cool things you can do if your ability is high enough) were the big changes I had to make.
[20:06] <+Gemini> NBA is pretty great. The conspyramid kind of lends itself to a princely hierarchy, too, iirc. :P
[20:08] <&Le_Squide> Can you field a question about Pelgrane's pricing, by the way?
[20:08] <+kennethhite> Gemini: It's always nice when the audience gets it. :^)
[20:08] <+kennethhite> Le_Squide: I can field it, but since I don't control it, my answer may well be purely decorative.
[20:09] <+Gemini> Cherries were awesome, btw, imo (as someone who has played Trail, Ashen Stars and NBA). Not to gush. Gambling is the best.
[20:09] <+Jeremy> Yeah, and given the spiralling metaplot of old White Wolf, it would be easy to have NBA players get that sense of utter confusion, each door opening five more. Like, "Wait, there are TWO Black Hands? And neither one is part of the Camarilla?" I am talking myself into this as well chat.
[20:10] <+kennethhite> Gemini: I have to say, when I figured out how to represent the Gambling cherry, I kind of walked on air the rest of the day.
[20:11] <+kennethhite> The Gambling cherry in NBA, for the curious: roll a die at the beginning of the session. You can replace any one other die roll with that result, once.
[20:11] <&Le_Squide> I was just curious about why the .pdf prices are on the high side (NBA being 24$, f'rex). And then I checked what other books are going for, so I think I just have a skewed idea of the typical cost of gaming .pdfs, so never mind
[20:12] <+kennethhite> Le_Squide: But keep in mind, the PDF is free if you buy the hard copy, from Pelgrane or from a participating Bits and Mortar retailer.
[20:12] <+Gemini> :D
[20:12] <+kennethhite> (done)
[20:12] <~Dan> Kenneth, you've obviously had the chance to work with many of the "heavy-hitters" in gaming. Is there anyone you haven't worked with that you'd love to?
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[20:13] <~Dan> (wb, Crabbyapples!)
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[20:14] <~Dan> (Welcome, Knik!)
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[20:15] <+Knik> Thanks. This will be of couse the moment my children all go non-linear, but I'll try
[20:15] <~Dan> (Howdy, JA!)
[20:15] <~Dan> (Oh, is that you, Kurt?)
[20:15] <+kennethhite> Dan: Leaving aside the indie geniuses whose model doesn't require collaborators, I'd like to work with Wolfgang Baur on something some time. He and I seem to have very similar sensibilities, and he focuses admirably on what the audience actually wants to play.
[20:15] <+CamBanks> (Watching this while doing laundry & solo dad)
[20:15] <~Dan> What's he known for? The name doesn't ring a bell...)
[20:15] <+kennethhite> I've never worked directly on design with Jonathan Tweet, which would be like playing HORSE with Michael Jordan. I'd get schooled, but I'd learn a lot at that school, I suspect.
[20:15] <+Knik> Yep.
[20:16] <~Dan> (Video reviewer extraordinaire Kurt Wiegel, everybody!)
[20:17] <~Dan> (YouTube RPG reviewer, rather. Not a video reviewer.)
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[20:17] <~Dan> How about game systems? Is there one you'd love to write something for but haven't gotten the chance?
[20:18] <+kennethhite> Wolf Baur does a bunch of stuff for his Open Design patrons, mostly D&D of one or another flavor. He also spearheaded the criminally underrated DARK*MATTER for WotC back in the day.
[20:18] <+Knik> I really liked Dark Matter too. It kinda got lost in the shuffle.
[20:19] <+CamBanks> Also Kobold Quarterly.
[20:19] <+kennethhite> Dan: It would be nice to take the PENDRAGON system out for a spin. If the stars align correctly, I may do that in the upcoming year.
[20:19] <+Jeremy> (Baur was also a big contributor to a lot of the most beloved but criminally abandoned 2nd Ed D&D properties, like Planescape and Al-Qadim.)
[20:20] <+kennethhite> (done)
[20:20] <+Jeremy> Ken: If you put up a Kickstarter called simply "Me doing something with PENDRAGON", utterly lacking in any other detail, I would still totally give you my money.
[20:21] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:21] <+Jeremy> So happy Stafford got his game back.
[20:21] <~Dan> Ken: Do you work in gaming full-time? And either way, what's a typical "day at the office" like for you?
[20:22] <+Gemini> mmmm, planescape
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[20:22] <+kennethhite> Dan: I work as a writer full-time, most of that for gaming.
[20:22] <+Knik> So what drove the presentation of GURPS horror in the "Fear of..." aproach rather than by critter type "Vampires, werewolves etc."
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[20:24] <+kennethhite> Dan: I get up around 12:30pm, swap the cats around, read blogs and mail, write until my wife gets home from work. Make dinner for her, hang out, maybe read or watch reference material (lotsa spy movies during NBA development, frex). Then back to work when she goes to bed, until I get sleepy or she wakes up, when I go to bed. Glamor!!
[20:24] <+Gemini> What was your biggest Le Carre influence during the writing of NBA?
[20:25] <~Dan> :D
[20:25] <~Dan> Livin' the dream, my man. :)
[20:25] * +Gemini is jealous; and is also playing xclm.
[20:25] <~Dan> (Howdy, Rand!)
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[20:26] <+kennethhite> Knik: GURPS HORROR 2nd ed. had a lovely paragraph or two about "what the monsters mean." One of the many unappreciated gems of that book, I simply took it and blew it up as my model for the whole chapter: each major monster "means" (or at least can usually stand in for) a certain universal fear.
[20:28] <+CamBanks> Pendragon is my favorite roleplaying game. Clearly Ken and I should team up to do some kind of Knights of the Elder Sign Pendragon campaign. Set in the Severn Valley, a la Ramsey Campbell.
[20:28] <+kennethhite> Gemini: Probably reading THE HONORABLE SCHOOLBOY (his most action-driven work) and watching THE CONSTANT GARDENER (the best thriller made from his work). But Smiley is all over the Investigative chapter.
[20:28] <~Dan> Cam: I would so buy that. :)
[20:29] <+Gemini> Yeah. Smiley is the man. I was going to ask you to pick between Tinker Tailor, the BBC mini-series vs the movie :p
[20:29] <~Dan> In NBA, what's the expected balance between mundane and supernatural threats?
[20:29] <+kennethhite> Dan: Paying the mortgage pantsless. That's the dream, mi compadre.
[20:29] <+Gemini> CamBanks: That'd be pretty rad. And hey, GUMSHOE is open license now, right?
[20:29] * ~Dan laughs
[20:29] <+GojiraRed> ok, TMI ken
[20:30] <+Gemini> TLI
[20:30] <+kennethhite> Gemini: They do different things very successfully. Apples and oranges.
[20:30] <+kennethhite> Gemini CamBanks: But Ramsey Campbell is not open license.
[20:31] <+CamBanks> It's all locked up in Goatswood legalese, yes.
[20:31] <+kennethhite> Dan: It's up to the Director. You can run NBA totally mundane, if you want. I think it harms realism if everything you meet is a vampire, but that's just me talking.
[20:31] * ~Dan nods
[20:32] <+Jeremy> I would be all over that crossover idea. Pendragon and Call of Cthulhu being by the same publisher always kind of floated some kind of Camelothulhu idea into the back of everyone's heads, didn't it? I know I ran my own take once.
[20:32] <+Jeremy> Again, you'd get my money sight unseen.
[20:32] <+kennethhite> Dan: Even if everything you meet is part of the Conspyramid, the vampires still have lots and lots and lots of mortal tools, from gangsters to terrorists to SWAT teams to enemy spies to your own bosses.
[20:32] * ~Dan nods
[20:32] <~Dan> That's what I figured.
[20:33] <~Dan> Do you think it would adversely affect the setting if the vampires had other monsters as "goons"?
[20:34] <~Dan> (In terms of how you envision the themes of the game, I mean.)
[20:34] <+kennethhite> Not at all. I have twelve other kinds of lesser vampires and monsters in the corebook, from ghouls to dhampirs to the old Roman witch-bird striges.
[20:34] <+kennethhite> Dan: Woops, forgot to put your name at the front.
[20:35] <~Dan> No worries. I figured it out. ;)
[20:35] <+Jeremy> Listening to your recent Ken & Robin podcast, on John Dee, I was curious if you had any fun ideas about who stole the books from Dee's library at Mortlake?
[20:36] <+kennethhite> Jeremy: In actual fact, it was Dee's friends, noble patrons, and fellow occult-minded types. Which is wild enough, mind you, given that some of them were also Shakespeare's patrons. But time-travelers and Thames gill-men are also good options.
[20:37] <+CamBanks> And fake angels.
[20:37] <+kennethhite> (done)
[20:37] <~Dan> Kenneth: Have you ever had a game-writing gig for a system/setting combo you thought just flat-out might not work?
[20:37] <+Jeremy> Thanks. I didn't realize we knew that!
[20:38] <+JimLotFP> Gratuitous plug I know, sorry everyone... Ken, why did you choose an Asian setting for the upcoming LotFP adventure you did?
[20:38] <+brehaut> kennethhite: when you put together the mystery for the book of the smoke / bookhounds, did you expect it would be as hard to solve as it turned out to be?
[20:38] <+Jeremy> A crazy magician on a YouTube video posited that Shakespeare having access to Mortlake explained every concern the Oxfordians or any other proponents of alternate author theories ever had about the Stratford man lacking the necessary knowledge to write the plays...
[20:38] <~Dan> (Question pause, please.)
[20:39] <+kennethhite> Dan: It is far, far more common to be offered game-writing gigs by publishers I thought flat-out wouldn't work. Most games can be run in most systems, although there are exceptions at the margins. The job of the designer is to point everything in the same direction.
[20:39] <+kennethhite> That said, some systems do some aspects of adventure better than others: GUMSHOE does investigation better than D&D, frex; D&D does tactical orc-fighting way better than GUMSHOE.
[20:41] <+kennethhite> Jeremy: See William Sherman, John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance.
[20:42] <+kennethhite> JimLotFP: Because I wanted to make an adventure set in a land suffering the side effects of an incomprehensibly mighty magical war next door. Which made Cambodia the obvious choice for a model.
[20:43] <+kennethhite> brehaut: I hadn't counted on Steve Dempsey's yeoman job of muddying the waters. But the investigation is always the most fun part in this sort of thing, I find.
[20:44] <+kennethhite> Jeremy: Shakespeare having access to the Earl of Southampton works just as well, and happens to be historical fact to boot. People forget just what a small world Elizabethan London was.
[20:45] <+kennethhite> (done)
[20:45] <+Jeremy> Absolutely, I just look for all that anti-Oxfordian ammo I can get.
[20:46] <~Dan> We've got about 15 minutes left in the regular Q&A, although you're welcome to hang out and field questions as long as you like, Kenneth. Is there anything we haven't covered yet that you'd like to bring up?
[20:46] <+Jeremy> And big big thanks for the book suggestion. I was already looking into Ackroyd's House of Doctor Dee on your recommendation. My experience was so focused on Shakespeare, especially grad school, so I feel like I know so much about that. And yet now I feel like there was a John Dee shaped hole in my schooling...
[20:46] <+kennethhite> JimLotFP: I also wanted to re-emphasize the "strangers in hell" feel of my story models: works like APOCALYPSE NOW, VALHALLA RISING, and GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY.
[20:47] <+kennethhite> Dan: I'll be scooting off at 9ish unless the questions are really flowing thick. But no, I don't have anything else I'm desperate to plug right now.
[20:48] <+Silverlion> DId I miss anything cool and new coming out?
[20:48] <+Jeremy> Ken said earlier: "Right now, I'm working on THE NAZI OCCULT for Osprey Books, and a whole whack of stuff for Pelgrane, most notably the AGENT'S COMPANION and DRACULA DOSSIER for NBA and a sample scenario for MYTHOS EXPEDITIONS."
[20:49] * +Gemini wishes he had better questions.
[20:49] <+Gemini> What do you do when you find yourself without inspiration?
[20:49] <+GojiraRed> steal
[20:49] <&Le_Squide> Do you prefer to work in secret history or alternate history?
[20:50] <+kennethhite> Silverlion: NIGHT'S BLACK AGENTS (out now!), DEADLANDS NOIR COMPANION (coming soon), QELONG (for LOTFP, coming soon), GURPS MADNESS DOSSIER (Nov, likely), my column in FENIX if you're Swedish, what else? I think that's it.
[20:50] <+Silverlion> Ah. I guess I glossed over that. Sorry I'd had to run to take out my dogs.
[20:50] <+Silverlion> Deadlands Noir Companion might be fun. :D
[20:51] <+kennethhite> Gemini: Work on something else. I've always got some deadline or other looming. "Inspiration" = "Mortgage due.
[20:52] <+Gemini> :(
[20:52] <+kennethhite> Le_Squide: I love both equally. I don't get as many paying offers for AH, which is why I write much more secret history.
[20:52] <&Le_Squide> I was wondering about that!
[20:52] <+kennethhite> Silverlion: I wrote the Chicago section, which was great fun.
[20:52] <~Dan> On a related note, do you have a favorite genre, Kenneth?
[20:53] <+Silverlion> Awesome.
[20:54] <+Jeremy> I am confident that one day, there will be a market for a series of novels about a time traveler who creates alternate timelines using only his ability to get other people drunk...
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[20:55] <+kennethhite> Dan: Horror by a mile, followed by alternate history, SF, thrillers, mysteries, urban fantasy, crime. I don't read enough Westerns, though I love watching them. Same with romances, if they're speaking Hindi.
[20:55] <+CarlHickman> Kenneth, what is your opinion on the state of tabletop gaming? Many think we are in a slump but may experience a sort of rebirth or renaissance.
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[20:55] <+brehaut> Jeremy: im pretty sure Tim Powers is on that one already
[20:56] <+kennethhite> CarlHickman: The answer depends: are you talking about the market, or the artform? Also, which sector of tabletop gaming? Boardgaming seems to be doing quite well, for example.
[20:56] <+GojiraRed> How is crowd sourcing affecting rpg publishing right now?  Would you say a lot or is the effect kind of small?
[20:56] <~Dan> (Question pause, please.)
[20:56] <+CarlHickman> RPG market
[20:57] <+kennethhite> Tabletop RPGs are in a design Golden Age, and are (I hope) slowly crawling out of the bottom of a disastrous crash in market size.
[20:58] <+kennethhite> GojiraRed: Crowdsourcing is rapidly becoming a major component of RPG publishers' business models. It's like watching everyone catch up to Gareth Skarka on PDF sales back in the early 2000s. So the effect is mid-sized and growing, although Wizards (so far) can ignore it.
[20:59] <+kennethhite> CarlHickman: Did I answer your question? I don't have any hard numbers, but then neither does anyone else who's not a distributor or Ed Healy.
[20:59] <+GojiraRed> interesting. ty. :)
[20:59] <+Jeremy> Brehaut: If that is the case, it is likely that Tim Powers will have to funnel some of that Pirates of the Carribbean money Ken's way, for using his likeness from his and Robin Laws' podcasts.
[20:59] <+CarlHickman> That did answer it and followed my suspicions
[21:00] <&Le_Squide> Do you have a favorite recent game (that you didn't work on)?
[21:00] <~Dan> Does anyone have any final questions for Kenneth?
[21:00] <+kennethhite> GojiraRed: By "crowdsourcing" I meant to say "crowdfunding." If you actually meant crowdsourcing, then it's been a huge dropoff since the collapse of the d20 bubble.
[21:00] <+brehaut> favorite mythos creature, and favorite beverage?
[21:00] <+GojiraRed> oh, yes, I meant crowd funding. sorry.
[21:01] <+brehaut> Jeremy: (Link: he has been doing so (in small amounts) for years
[21:01] <+kennethhite> Le_Squide: Anything by Luke Crane or Jason Morningstar. When 13TH AGE comes out, I expect that to be a favorite, too.
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[21:02] <~Dan> (Since Kenneth has to run, we'll make brehaut's question the last one for the evening.)
[21:02] <+kennethhite> brehaut: Cats of Ulthar, and Coca-Cola. Or, in my darker moods, Quachil Uttaus, and Polish vodka.
[21:02] <~Dan> Kenneth, I'd like to thank you again for coming out this evening! It's been a great time. :)
[21:03] <+brehaut> thanks Kenneth
[21:03] <+Jeremy> brehaut: With that link, tonight has pretty much intersected the entire Venn diagram of my life.
[21:03] <~Dan> I'll have the log posted shortly at my blog.
[21:03] <+kennethhite> If anyone has any final final questions, I'll take them -- I don't want people choking on the unasked.
[21:03] <+Jeremy> I just want to say a very big thank you, obviously I had A LOT of questions, it was gracious of you to answer all of them so thoroughly.
[21:03] <~Dan> (Here's the link to my blog: (Link: )
[21:04] <+Silverlion> What alien influence drives you to write these crazy things?
[21:04] <+Silverlion> :}
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[21:04] <+kennethhite> Silverlion: The congeries of hyperintelligent spiders that controls my mortgage holder.
[21:05] <+Silverlion> Awesome.
[21:05] <+Gemini> thanks for coming, kennethhite !
[21:05] <+Silverlion> Indeed thanks Ken.
[21:05] <+kennethhite> Looks like that was indeed that. Thanks, everyone, for showing up!
[21:06] <~Dan> Oh, before I forget: Want to lay any links on us, Kenneth?
[21:06] <+kennethhite> Follow me on twitter @kennethhite, I'm on Facebook, and here's my LJ: (Link:
[21:06] <~Dan> Great! :)
[21:07] <+kennethhite> Oh, and listen to "Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff," my podcast with Robin Laws:
[21:07] <+Jeremy> Best. Podcast. Ever.
[21:08] <+kennethhite> With that tranche of gratuitous pluggery, I shall bid all y'all good night.
[21:08] <+Gemini> done and done and done
[21:08] <+Gemini> good night and thanks again!
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[21:08] <~Dan> Have a great evening, Kenneth!
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