Guest: Neil Robinson
Tetrarchies are better than Triumvirates, and so say all of us…. 0:00-4:55
MOB and Jeff celebrate the fact that for the first time in the podcast’s history they are actually in the same time-zone, on the same continent, and indeed actually in the same room. They are also drinking the same drink, a certain brown beverage with a name in flowing script that is quite popular on planet earth (Ok, Coke).
They are in Bellevue, Seattle, home to many exciting things. It is next suburb to Redmond, home of a certain Microsoft Corporation, but Bellevue is more famous in Moon Design circles as the home of Neil Robinson, who by an extraordinary coincidence is the guest of this week’s podcast.
Neil introduces himself with the exciting news that the Moon Design triumvirate of Neil, Jeff, and ‘Monsieur Valise’ himself, Rick Meints, have been joined by a fourth member. This is good because triumvirates are always unstable, and nobody wants to be Lepidus. The Domitian of the new Tetrarchies is in fact TOMA’s own Michael O’Brien. Tetrarch member number four Rick is off on a Boy Scout convention in the wilds of Michigan avoiding wolverines and honey badgers. Rick will join up with the rest of the Moon Design crew at Gen Con, providing he survives the badgers.
MOB makes the traditional weather reference for those ticking off their TOMA bingo cards by pointing out that this is the sixth or so time he has been to Seattle, but he always comes in the middle of summer and has always found the weather to be glorious – as opposed to the locals, who, it is said, rust rather than tan.
Another notable feature of Washington State is its city of Yelm. When you go south of Seattle on I5 towards the state capital (Olympia), you eventually come to a mysterious sign leading to Yelm. Unfortunately for Gloranthan historians, as far as anybody knows there is actually no connection between the Yelm in Washington and Yelm in Glorantha. Yelm, Washington, does however have a mystic connection, being the home to Ramtha, a 35,000 year old caveman who is the spirit guide of a native Yelmsian (if that is the correct term). MOB argues that Ramtha is in fact an Atlantean, but they settle on Atlantean Caveman. Neil breaks in with an anecdote about when he and some friends went drove from Victoria, Canada to San Francisco for RQCon 2. When they drove past Yelm they knew it was a good omen for the trip to come.
The Canadian Bathtub of Beer 4:55-10:55
Another good portent was the famous bathtub of beer at RQCon 2 itself, Neil’s adroit way of ingratiating himself with the Gloranthan community, obviously with some success.
Neil’s interest in Glorantha dates back to grade 10, but he was not a serious player until he moved to the Netherlands as an exchange student. There he was forced by dire circumstances to rescue the Dutch from their native role playing games (probably Het Oog Des Meesters, the Dutch translation of the German game Das Schwarze Auge). MOB asks for clarification, but Jeff feels that these games actually gain from lack of knowledge.
At university Neil played mainly D&D, but when he was interning after graduation he discovered RuneQuest 3, and went to the first RuneQuest Con, in Baltimore in 1994. The first person Neil met at RQ1 was Greg Stafford, although Neil at the time had no idea who he was.
MOB was at Baltimore as well, and remembers it really cold, so cold in fact the Canadians won the Live Action Troll Ball game by default as it had been scheduled for 7AM on a bitter Sunday morning.
Neil decided to get involved, and organised a convention in Victoria, Canada. This was a little more challenging because during the period of organising the Victoria convention he relocated to the United States. He also came to both RQ Con Down Unders in Australia, at one point notably and unwisely choosing to wear a thick quilt-based costume in the middle of the Australian summer.
Seattle Farmers Collective (slight reprise) 10:55 – 22:45
Neil first got into publishing to fund his conventions, producing two volumes of Enclosure, a North American equivalent of Tales of the Reaching Moon. Neil has been writing with Jeff for twenty years, starting with convention scenario Orkal’s Bull, and leading on to the LARPs Fall of the House of Malan, and Between the Dragon and the Deep Blue Sea. Neil has been working at Moon Design for the last two and a half years, as the ‘Guy in the Backroom’. Neil does the web design, ordering, and works with the fulfilment house, and does the design for the Prince of Sartar web comic. The first three chapters are being collected for Gen Con, in a glorious full-color 64 page edition.
Another significant publishing venture for Neil came out of his experience with long term D&D users who were interested in Glorantha, but reticent to try new rules systems. Neil mentions the Seattle Farmers Collective, which leads Jeff and Mob to wonder if previous episodes have referenced this group. Because technical reasons have prevented Robert Love, the producer and episode note writer, from calling into this podcast, MOB, in an interesting example of meta cross genre podcasting episode note referencing, requests him (that is, me) to insert an asterix and footnote if this group has been referenced before.*
As previously noted, the name of the collective came from an intended insult that labelled them as game mini-maxers who would rather raise cattle than engage in manly questing. The group took the intended slight and turned it into a badge of honour , so much so that it is surely no coincidence that David Dunham built cattle raising into the very heart of the King of Dragon Pass computer game. Coming to the point, former members of the Collective such as Neil and Rob Heinsoo are working on 13th Age in Glorantha, which will translate the Gloranthan setting into a different rule system, allowing the hordes of D20 gamers to finally appreciate the glory that is Glorantha.
Jeff broadens this out to point out that Glorantha the setting is more than any rule system. The Guide to Glorantha and the upcoming Glorantha Sourcebook do not have any rule-based material in them at all, and one of the reasons for developing the Prince of Sartar web comic was to further explore the setting in genres other than gaming.
Fulfilling Kazakhstan 22:45 – 25:00
Neil is also chief fulfilment officer at Moon Design, which keeps him busy. The Glorantha community is truly international, and orders come in from 48 countries including Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Uruguay, Malta, every Canadian province and every American state except one.
MOB wonders if this could be a Moon Design trivia question, but Neil says that there is already a post on the website about which state has resisted the allure of Moon Design. MOB just assumes it would be Rhode Island, but that is not the case.
Detroit Rock City 25:00 –
MOB reminds Neil that they have something exciting coming up in a weeks’ time. Neil of course takes that to mean a visit to Detroit, but that is actually only the first stage of their descent into the underworld. After Detroit all of the Moon Design extended family will meet in Ann Arbor, get into the party bus, and head down to Indianapolis for Gen Con. Here The Guide to Glorantha has been nominated for four ENnie awards and the Diana Jones award. The Ennies are for Best Cartography, thanks to master mapmaker Colin Driver; Best Production Design, thanks to layout guru Rick Meints; Best Setting, thanks to Greg Stafford and everyone; and Book of the Year. Jeff avers that the Diana Jones Award is the gaming equivalent of the best picture Oscar. Unlike the ENnies, which are voted on by the public, the Diana Jones is judged by a mysterious cabal according to arcane rituals linked by ley-lines (or at least, the internet). MOB notes there has been quite a bit of buzz for the Guide in the lead up to the awards ceremony.
At Gen Con itself there will be an extraordinary roster of Moon Design events. Firstly, there will be the Moon Design booth, two Glorantha seminars, and plenty of game sessions including a Kids (actually all-ages) free-form over four days of the convention, about the siege of Whitewall. The booth number is 2535.
Moon Design will also be debuting the new version of Credo, the Game of Dueling Dogmas. Credo is a card game based on the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It was originally designed by Chris Gidlow, the Manager of Live Interpretation at the Royal Palaces in London – one of the coolest job titles around – who incidentally MOB and Rob the Producer also recently interviewed for their other podcast, Shenandoah Down Under aka Confederate Pirates Save the Whales. Credo is not fantasy, it is history, and is one of the few games to have an extensive “Glossary of Heresy” at the back. There will be a playable demo at Gen Con, featured in the gaming at the back of the Moon Design booth.
The gaming area will also demonstrate MOB’s new card game Unfamy, the game of the obscurely famous and marginally memorable. This game will also be presented in a quiz show format. As a special feature of the quiz, players who get answers wrong will be forced to eat a piece of the notorious Australian abomination, Vegemite Chocolate, the only chocolate product in the world to incorporate a breakfast yeast spread as the soft center. Jeff mentions that he has tasted this horror before, when participating in the Unfamy Quiz at Eternal Con earlier this year. His mistake was to believe Father Alphonso Redacto was the correct name of the chief censor for the Spanish inquisition (he wasn’t).
Moon Design will also be holding the First Ecumenical Congress of Indianapolis, an exploration and celebration of all things Credo. This will include the debut of Kalin Kadiev’s new cover for the game. (Finishing this amazing cover also explains why Prince of Sartar is on currently a brief hiatus). Sandy Peterson’s booth (right next door to the Moon design booth) will also be showing off God’s War, and some additional Cthulhu Wars material.
For those listening post Gen Con, Moon design will also be at Essenspeil, Pax Prime, and possibly Pax Australia later in the year. This workload is why Moon Design had to become a tetrarchy, which still leaves the Antarctic territories unclaimed, for anybody who wants to do fulfilment for penguins.
NEIL MGF QUESTIONS
There are no last questions from Rob the producer due the frankly inexplicable decision to leave him in Melbourne, Australia, typing slightly passive aggressive episode notes. **
Q: Something everyone knows about Neil
A: That he is Canadian.
Q: Something nobody knows about Neil
A: That he is not just Canadian.
Q: Something Neil is better at than the average gamer
A: Neil can remember rules of all kinds, including the stats on the Monster Manual that he hasn’t owned for 25 years.
Q: Something Neil is worse at than the average gamer
A: Nobody is more likely to fumble a dice roll at a critical moment.
Products Mentioned in this podcast
- The Guide to Glorantha
- God’s War
- Cthulhu Wars
- 13th Age in Glorantha
- Glorantha Sourcebook
- Prince of Sartar
- Shenandoah Down Under episode with guest Chris Gidlow
*Yes, Episode 5, David Dunham, and Episode 2, Rob Heinsoo.