Interview with Andrew Modro aka Corvus

darksun When you’ve been following Stargazer’s World for a while you probably read a couple of the guest posts written by Corvus aka Andrew Modro. But what you probably don’t know is that he created a couple of games including a Microlite20 conversion of the popular D&D setting Dark Sun, which will be soon released for D&D 4th Edition. I recently asked him, if he was willing to answer a couple of questions for us, and he agreed. Without further ado, here’s the result of our interview session.

Stargazer
I don’t think I need to introduce you again, since you already did so on the blog, but can you tell a bit about yourself for the ones who missed that post?

Corvus
I’m a 34-year-old father of one who’s been gaming since about 1982. I started with Moldvay Basic D&D, which my godmother’s son got for his birthday, and eventually got my own box, by which time it had gone to Mentzer Basic. I didn’t expand into AD&D until my first year of college, which was 1993, but before that I’d had some contact with Star Frontiers and TMNT & Other Strangeness.  I branched out further as the years went on, but my favorite published campaign for AD&D was always Dark Sun because of how different and strange it was.

Stargazer
Dark Sun was definitely different from standard fantasy fare. What was your favorite aspect of that setting?

Corvus
My personal favorite is the lack of gods. I don’t mind religions in D&D, but having that swept away in favor of strange elemental shaman-priests really drove home how brutal Athas is.  I also like that the closest thing Athas has to “real” D&D clerics, Templars, get their spells instead from the Sorcerer Kings.

Stargazer
Let’s now talk about your Microlite20 adaption of Dark Sun. When did you have the idea to write it?

Corvus
I started thinking about it the day I found Microlite20 itself, which was shortly after M20 was released.  I didn’t know if I had the right stuff to do the conversion myself, but eventually I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to just try.  From the day of that decision, it took me only a few weeks to get everything into what I considered good enough shape to release to the wild.

Stargazer
What was the hardest part to translate to Microlite20? I am sure you had to make a few cut decisions because of the extremely rules-light nature of Microlite20.

Corvus
I’d say it was a tossup between the condensed spell lists and the monsters.  The monster stats were easy, but many creatures on Athas are psionic — which meant I had to replace a lot of powers that weren’t featured in the basic M20 psionic lists. I agonized over the spell lists for hours. At first I didn’t want to add any more spells than what M20 already had, but I realized I would have to give in a bit; after that, the lists became easier. The new Templar list was probably the hardest.  I had to rebuild it from the ground up, so I stuck to the theme of “enforcer of the Sorcerer Kings’ law”, which ended up giving them a lot of detection and control spells.

Stargazer
So, even while you tried a close conversion of Dark Sun, you also managed to add your own touch as well?

Corvus
Unintentionally, yes.  I wanted to stay as close to the published material as possible. I only put a spin on things when I couldn’t recreate what was already there with the existing Dark Sun material.

Stargazer
But you are happy with how it turned out or are there things you would like to change or fix in a later edition?

Corvus
I honestly couldn’t say at this point. I haven’t gotten any feedback, so I don’t know how well it plays in practice. I’m pleased with how it feels when I read over it, at least.  I’d like to do more material, including more monster conversions from some of the AD&D Dark Sun supplements, but I’m still hashing out how to go from AD&D 2e to M20.

Stargazer
Do you plan to convert other AD&D 2nd Edition settings to M20? Planescape, Spelljammer and even Buck Roger in the XXVth Century come to mind.

Corvus
I’m not attached to any other AD&D setting to that degree, and the only other 2e settings that have had enough 3.5e material released don’t really need an M20 campaign setting document.  I’d love to see somebody do something with XXVc, but it uses a variant of the AD&D 2e ruleset, which poses the same problems as for me wanting to do more monsters and so on.

Stargazer
I guess especially the percentile-based skill system of XXVc would pose some problems for a M20 conversion. A lot would have to be left on the cutting room floor.

Corvus
You’d have to either push it through a d20 lens first, or come up with a new microlite entirely.  Dark Sun was easy because of the 3.5e magazine articles; XXVc would pose a much bigger challenge.

Stargazer
Perhaps let’s now talk a bit about your other projects. Your website http://bluehex.yolasite.com/ lists a Couple of games of your design. What is Simfanad for example?

Corvus
Simfanad is my entry into the retro-clone circus.  The name stands for “simple fantasy adventure”.  The game distills and represents the essential rules ideas that were used in the fantastic “Lord of the Rings Adventure Game” (LOR) from Iron Crown.  I’ve taken out the Tolkien IP, replaced ICE’s house terminology with d20 SRD terminology, and split races and classes to create a simple, basic fantasy game. I’m still in the design stage with it, as it needs a monster list.  You’ll be able to use information from LOR (and some MERP books with LOR stats included), but not everyone has access to those products.  What I intend to do is present SRD monsters in terms of the Simfanad rules, however.

Stargazer
That sounds pretty interesting. Alas I have never played the original game myself. Does it have some similarities with Rolemaster or HARP or was it totally different from those games?

Corvus
LOR is to MERP what MERP was to Rolemaster, but to an even greater degree.  It is an ultra-simplified expression of the MERP concepts and is played with only 2d6 and a single combat chart, instead of percentiles and many individual charts.  In that way it resembles a lot of small, fast and light games from today.  When I noticed that, it seemed a no-brainer to distill LOR’s concepts for re-expression as a retro-clone.

Stargazer
Are the rules of LOR or Simfanad for that matter very much intertwined with the setting or could you use it for other fantasy campaigns as well? How does magic work for example?

Corvus
By removing the existing Middle Earth material and splitting up the character templates into races and classes, I was able to make it fairly generic in the way core D&D can be.  Magic uses one of the most basic models, where a character knows a set number of spells.  A spell is cast with a successful casting skill roll, and causes HP drain like in Microlite20.

Stargazer
So Simfanad is a retro-clone of LOR but without the setting baggage (which would also cause some copyright issues)?

Corvus
Some copyright issues the size of Mordor, yes.  Simfanad uses the underlying ruleset, but does not reproduce any of the setting IP at all.  I even went so far as to replace terms like “offensive bonus” with “base attack bonus” to make sure I was covered.

Stargazer
Speaking of retro-clones, what do you think about the Old School Revolution or Renaissance, as some people call it?

Corvus
I have no comment on the OSR one way or the other.  I enjoy retroclones and new games equally, and I think if people want to play a certain way, that’s the way that’s best for them.

Stargazer
So, what’s your next project? Are you actually working on something right now?

Corvus
I don’t have any current projects. What I should be doing is going back and finishing/polishing things like Simfanad and my Game Fu projects.  I’m still hoping to get some outside assistance on those; a fresh set of eyes, as it were.

Stargazer
I know exactly what you’re talking about. I should be working on a revision of WR&M but I am just not making any progress. That’s the hardest part of any design process IMHO.
Before we conclude this interview, is there anything I forgot to ask you that you would love to talk about?

Corvus
I’d actually like to plug my support for your game projects, especially Warrior, Rogue & Mage and GEARS, as well as the Star Frontiers Revival and Star Frontiersman magazine. Lastly, I do maintain a forum on Blue Hex for feedback and discussion.

Stargazer
Then let’s hope this interview and the review of you Dark Sun conversion for Microlite20 will get people to give you some feedback and join the discussions in your forums! I lso want to thank you for your support of my current projects (especially GEARS is still a tough nut to crack for me). And I want to thank you for taking your time for this interview.

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