Kicking off my first in a series of interviews with RPG designers, Stephen Dewey and I discussed the culture and practicalities of independent game production. He is best known for designing, writing, and producing Ten Candles, a tragic horror game which incorporates candles that are the only light you will play by; as they dwindle and die, they take your characters closer to their inevitable deaths.
I hope you will listen to a surprisingly pleasant conversation on indie design, a field not so bleak as I feared. It is by and large fair to say that tabletop RPG production is difficult to profit from. Though tabletop is thriving, the simple fact remains that getting a group together for group roleplay is a huge hurdle. That and the costs of manufacturing and distribution severely limits the attention and dollars that will find their way to creatives. This is especially so for inventive, emotionally challenging games like Dewey’s recent To Serve Her Wintry Hunger. The game requires exactly four players and a facilitator, spinning the tale of elemental spirits hunting a mortal to sate the hunger of their wintry mistress.
Stephen introduced me to the other side of the coin, which I should have considered earlier. As the world of independent film has shown me over the last year, the people making art under these constraints couldn’t do it if they weren’t driven by genuine love for the craft. Make no mistake, I wish these people were being paid more. I wish that I could play more, and that I had more disposable income, and more of these people could devote more focus to the craft they love. But for the moment, the diversity of the voices creating games is not being heard by an audience that, I think, would prefer knowing about more of the weirder, experimental games.
To that end, I will continue talking to the designers that I can. Upcoming entries in this series will include discussion of the unspoken prevalence of piracy in the RPG community, and its impact on business, non-American perspectives on the market, and the impact of AI on art budgets. For now please, listen to our discussion linked below.
John Farrell is a legal aid administrator, living in West Chester Pennsylvania. You can listen to him travel the weird west as Carrie A. Nation in the Joker's Wild podcast at: https://jokerswildpodcast.weebly.com/