Interview: Chris Birch

fb_profile_picture.mediumRecently I had the chance to do a short interview with Chris Birch from Modiphius. Modiphius is a pretty young company but is already well-known in the RPG community. The Kickstarter for Achtung! Cthulhu was a huge success and their recently released Mutant Year Zero RPG finally brings the Swedish franchise to the english-speaking world. But let’s see what Chris Birch, the man behind Modiphius has to say.

Stargazer: Thanks again for having agreed to answer a couple of questions for my blog. I guess with the announcement of the Conan RPG you have a lot on your plate, so it even more of an honor that you’re willing to take your time for this.

Could you please start by telling a bit about yourself and Modiphius? What was the first roleplaying game you played back in the day? When did you decide to open your own roleplaying business?

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Chris: My first was Dungeons & Dragons aged 8, I remember the excitement of being asked if I wanted to join my brother and his girlfriend and their friend who was the dungeon master. I looked forward to those nights immensely. I’ve always been a gamer since, writing my own rules to play solo wargames or boadgames, writing with friends, then finally writing Starblazer Adventures. I like organising teams though, and realised my strength lies in creating ideas, or worlds and helping find the talented people to bring them to life – whether writers or artists. With the advent of Kickstarter it meant it was suddenly possible to start a business without investment (which would be rare with a games business) and so we gave it a go. I have never been happier!

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Some Thoughts on Technoir

Technoir, Jeremy Keller’s cyberpunk roleplaying game, was one of the first Kickstarter projects I supported back in 2011. The video he created to promote his game blew me away, and I was excited to get my grubby little hands on a modern cyberpunk game with easy to learn rules.

The Kickstarter was a moderate success (compared with the ones we saw later) with 622 backers pledging $24,255. This was almost 10 times the initial goal of mere $2500. During the Kickstarter several bonus goals had been unlocked including MechNoir (Mechas etc.), HexNoir (Magic) and MoreNoir (which was meant as a toolbox for GMs). Alas only MechNoir was released and the last official update on both the KS page and the official Technoir site is over 2 years old. Obviously the official support is dead.

Overall I don’t regret backing Technoir at all. The game itself has some interesting rules, the book looks good, and it’s the first game of its kind I’ve seen which focuses on story instead of combat, weapon stats and long lists of cyberware. Alas this can be seen as both a good and a bad thing. Technoir feels terribly generic. On the one hand that might be great if you have a strong setting in the back of your mind, but if you don’t, you’re basically on your own.

One of the plans I had when I finally got my hands on the book, was to run a Shadowrun game with it. But instead of creating some house rules for Shadowrun’s fantasy elements I waited for HexNoir instead – which never showed up. So Technoir ended up on one of my “looks-interesting-but-I-can’t-use-it-right-now” shelves.

I pretty much forgot about the game until recently. I’ve been playing in a Shadowrun 3rd Edition campaign which made me interested in all things cyberpunk again. So I checked the Technoir KS page for updates, only to notice that there are none. I still think that Technoir had and has a lot of promise but the lack of official support – please excuse my language – sucks!

First Impressions: Beyond The Wall

hodgson-coverYesterday evening I had the chance to create my first character for Beyond The Wall by Flatland Games. I have a digital copy of this fine game on my harddrive but alas I haven’t had the time to give it a closer look. So I was glad about being given the opportunity to actually play it.

Beyond The Wall is a very interesting D&D retro-clone which combines elements of old-school gaming with a couple of more recent ideas. The rules mechanics are clearly based on D&D, while character and setting creation reminded me of what I’ve seen in games like Apocalypse World or various Fate games.

You start creating characters by picking one of the available playbooks. I chose the Self-Taught Mage, which turned out to be a pretty cool choice. But the other playbooks are definitely as interesting. After that you can note down your starting stats. In my case, my character had an intelligence of 12 and all other attributes started at 8.

The next step is rolling on a table from the playbook which tells you something about your childhood. In my case I found out that my father was a stern but fair watchman. This also raised a couple of my character’s attributes. This step was done by every player at the table. The important part is that everyone in the group knows the story of the other players since the members of the group are meant to be childhood friends.

During character creation we slowly revealed more information about our characters’ backgrounds. Each step provided each character with more story details, improved their stats and provided them with skills, items, and spells. During several steps the players were allowed to add a place to the town map or write down an important person. All these information is later used by the GM to generate an adventure.

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