Sun, 14 October 2007
Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams is the Creative Director for Pinnacle Entertainment Group (PEG). Considering the size of the fan-favorite publisher, this means he has hands in pretty much all things Savage Worlds.
While Wiggy is typically locked in a dungeon, chained to a computer with no phone (he doesn't even have Minesweeper on the computer), he did take the time to respond to some questions over e-mail. Here are the fruits of our necessarily covert labor.
1. How did you get into RPGs?
That was back in 1982. The Fighting Fantasy book “Warlock of Firetop Mountain? had just been released. My friend Jaffa had bought a copy and got caught reading it in math class by the teacher, Mrs. Lupton. She was a DM and asked if he wanted to try AD&D (1st Edition). He said yes and asked me if I was interested. I was a keen reader of fantasy and sci-fi back then, so I agreed. That was it—hooked for life on the RPG drug!!
2. Tell us how you got into RPG design?
I played AD&D for about 3 months before I jumped sides and became a DM. Something about being able to design worlds rather than react to them was very appealing. I tried my hand at a few homebrew RPGs, but they all sucked. By 1996 I was a big Ars Magica fan and came up with an idea for runic magic. On a whim I sent Atlas Games a few pages of ideas and they came back with a contract for an entire book. That set the ball rolling and I haven’t stopped writing since.
3. It seems like everyone at Pinnacle Entertainment Group knew each other before Savage Worlds. What led you to PEG?
Savage Worlds is the obvious answer, but really it was Weird Wars. I don’t know why but WW2 and horror have always been favorites. My dad read a lot of WW2 books, so I guess that part comes from him. Problem was, d20 was great for a small squad but died a rapid death when you had 20 allies and 30+ Germans. In its defense, it was never written for that level of play.
I was also working on Necropolis again, using d20 rules. When SW came out I immediately saw the advantages and wrote Necropolis properly. Then I got wind of the Rippers RPG. We’d just watched the Van Helsing movie, which both the wife and I loved. So I offered Shane my services and he let me write three adventures. Then came the Slipstream contract and shortly after that a meeting with Shane at Gen Con UK 2004. A few weeks later I was on the payroll.
I had met Simon and Rob Elliot before, though. They came to WigCon (a small con I used to run back in the day) and demoed a CCG they’d invented. That must have been about 1999 or 2000.
4. As of this writing, what is your word count with PEG?
No idea, I’m afraid. About 18 months ago it was over a million. I’d have to guess at well over 2 million now due to some large projects, like Kane and Pirates, plus a few other big books for future release. Not everything will necessarily see print, though, which makes it hard to give an accurate figure.
5. Where did you get the idea for Necropolis?
Now that’s a question I can’t really answer with 100% accuracy. I know the idea first appeared around 1991-2. Two brothers and I had designed a few rubbish games, but then we saw Aliens and, I think, Warhammer 40K was just being released. Somehow we got the idea of marines (more like Aliens than WH40K) against undead. Back then there were a small number of worlds, not just one. That idea died a natural death, but 10 years later I went back to it and added the themes you see in the book today.
I guess I went for the holy orders in the final version because of my interest in the Medieval holy knights. Part monk, part warrior, and semi-autonomous—that balance between holy vows and killing is an interesting one.
6. We’d heard somewhere that your pitch for Necropolis to Shane was rather interesting. Can you tell us about that?
I don’t know whether I’d call it interesting. I sent him the entire draft back in 2002. It lacked a Plot Point back then, though. 50 Fathoms wasn’t out and I didn’t have Evernight, but it was around 96 pages. So I hear nothing (which is unsurprising given it was unsolicited). A few months later I contacted Shane again asking a specific question about the setting and he didn’t know what I was on about or who I was. You have to remember back then PEG was Shane and Zeke working part-time. I guess the file just got lost and I should have sent my writing resume with the file.
It was only after I’d written the Rippers adventures that I brought the subject up again. This time I got the nod to finish it properly.
7. What, if any, TV shows or movies do you recommend to get players into the feel for Necropolis?
Aliens is a must. I’d also recommend Chronicles of Riddick. Strangely, what I’d really recommend is Gears of War. Although it came out after Necropolis was finished, the architecture is just what I was after—Gothic yet futuristic. I hear Hellgate London (I think that’s the title) might be a good fit, but I’ve never played the game.
8. What is your favorite Savage Setting, to date?
Difficult one, that. Rippers is probably my top favorite, because my wife loves the setting as well. Necropolis (because it’s 100% mine) and Pirates (because it’s a cool genre) come close behind. When Weird War 2 comes out it’ll jump into that pile somewhere, for sure.
9. What upcoming Savage Worlds project (that you can admit exists), that you have written, are you most anticipating?
There’s a future Weird Wars project, the existence of which Simon leaked by mistake, which I think the fans will enjoy. The Plot Point spans around 400 years of game play, with ancestral tables to let you play the same family (assuming you survive the previous campaign era). At the moment there are thirteen historical periods you can play in. You can pick a single era and really go to town, run all 13 as an extended campaign, or mix and match your favorite eras, leaving those you don’t like out altogether.
I’ve managed to tie in a backstory to real history, so I hope the fans appreciate it. It’s in very early internal playtesting and proofreading at the moment and isn’t scheduled for release until 2009.
There is another project I’m waiting to see released, but that’s still a closely guarded secret known only to a few PEG insiders right now.
As a freebie, I will mention I’m thinking very hard about expanding Necropolis. Necropolis sort of caught us off guard in that it has sold well and received generally good feedback. The Companion gives fans new options for the game, such as performing more investigative missions for the Church, but I want to go further and advance the timeline beyond 2355, which is where the Companion stops.
10. What about a project you haven’t written?
Weird Wars: World War 2 is top of the list. It was WW d20 which got me interested in PEG (I had played Deadlands a few times, but never bought into the line), so this book, although written by Mike Montesa (great job, Mike!), is really important to me. I’ll be senior line editor for that one.
11. If you could write anything, what would it be?
Well, I have written the one thing I’d always wanted to write. Actually that’s a small lie. I’m 656 pages into it with a few more hundred pages to go. However, with regard to dreams rather than reality, I’d love to Savage “Living Steel,? one of my favorite settings ever. The next thing I want to write is “Necropolis II.?
12. The toolkits have all been awesome. Will there be any more coming?
Maybe, maybe not. We’d written all the Toolkits we planned at the beginning, so anything else we produce is a bonus. I know some fans want post-apocalypse, but they’ll have HOE. Some want to see a set of PEG-written martial arts, but they’ll be better in a setting book.
So, the Post-Apocalypse TK has been suspended for now because Teller is working on HOE. I sent him the file in case there was anything he wanted to use. The Combat Options TK is in a similar state, because a lot of the martial art stuff I’m using elsewhere.
It may be that we release smaller TKs, possibly even just a few pages as free products, but right now we’re working harder on getting print books out to the fans.
13. Is there any ETA for printed toolkits or updated PDFs to line things up with SW:EX?
Not yet. I suspect we’ll take a look at those in a year or so. We want to make some major changes so fans who invested in the PDFs don’t feel they were cheated. By changing the examples and expanding certain sections we’re going to create a whole new book, really. Also we want new art and layouts for each one and we have to re-lay them out to fit whatever size book we go for.
14. What is the toughest thing you’ve written?
Any Plot Point ranks very highly (laughs). Of all the books, I’d say it has to be Kane. Kane wasn’t my character, so I had certain constraints. I also wanted to try and emulate Howard’s style, more for continuity and recognition of the character than anything else, which wasn’t easy. Then you get all the history and deciding what to add in and what to leave out for space reasons.
15. What is your favorite style of game to GM?
Another tricky one. I’d like to just say “action? but that’s too vague. I like the pulp style of gaming, where you concentrate on the plot and the action and ignore boring details like fuel consumption in a stolen Nazi truck. Everyone knows it runs out of fuel when the plot says it does, even if the tank was full just 20 miles ago. But I also love the suspense of horror, so you get action-horror like Weird Wars and Rippers.
I get the best answer is, so long as the players and I can ignore the details and get on with the cool story, I’m easy. The only thing I really detest is players who quibble over trivial details instead of trying to enjoy the game.
16. If Savage Worlds didn’t exist, what would be your favorite RPG?
Heroquest (formerly Hero Wars) by, Issaries, most likely. I love the whole character generation thing and how it’s a story driven game. HQ, to me, is about becoming somebody. That may be a tribal elder or a warband commander, or perhaps just the best farmer in your tribe. It’s also Glorantha-based, so that earns bonus points.
However, ask me in March 2008 and it may well be Dark Heresy, the forthcoming Warhammer 40K RPG. I’m really looking forward to that.
17. What are you playing now?
I’m playing Weird Wars: Weird War 2 with one group and playing D&D 3.5 with another. I’m hoping to GM Rippers soon for the wife. My Weird Wars GM is painting all my minis, so having the added color will be rather cool.
18. Who is the best GM at PEG, and why?
Well, my answer is biased by circumstance. I’ve met Shane exactly once, and that was back in 2004. I’ve met Simon a few times, but we usually have to talk work rather than play games. So, by default of him being the only PEG GM I’ve played under, it’s Dave Blewer.
I know others run a mean game, but that’s just rumor to me up here in the frozen north. Maybe one day I’ll get chance to meet guys like Joe, Clint, Mike, and Steve, and I can give you an answer with a few more candidates than Dave (who is a great GM).
19. Can you tell us about a setting you’d love to make but will never sell?
As a company? No idea about that. I suspect most of us have homebrew settings we’ll never push forward. Personally, not sure. Thing is, I don’t write for PEG, in the sense of, “What does Shane or Simon think of this?? I write stuff I hope the fans will enjoy reading and playing. If I ever wrote a setting just for me I’d feel a bit guilty at keeping it to myself.
Heck, for all I know, Shane or Simon may read some of the for-the-future stuff I’ve written and decide it sucks. It would then fall under a setting I loved making but we’d never sell.
20. Tell us something about yourself that none of your fans would be likely to know.
I have an HNC (that’s sort of equivalent to a low-ranking degree in America, if I recall correctly) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, but I’ve never been to university (which I guess is college to you guys).
Thanks for taking the time for this interview!
Hey, thanks for taking the time to contact me. Always a pleasure to help sell Savage Worlds and support THE GAME’S THE THING!
Category:20 questions -- posted at: 1:05pm MDT