Responding to Zak’s Questionnaire …
1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
The Hari Ragat RPG, both setting and gameplay. From the very beginning Marc and I were set on giving players the means to experience the game through a Filipino epic hero’s eyes, so from character generation to starting an adventure to the adventures themselves, the flavor will be unique. Still familiar in many ways – otherwise we’d have no market! – but unique.
2. When was the last time you GMed?
I don’t get much time to run games. My last session was last October 30th.
3. When was the last time you played?
Strictly speaking, I haven’t played as player for ages. I’m always the GM.
4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
It is a still, moonless night over the jungle. The fires are low, and nearly everyone has gone to sleep. Suddenly there is titanic crashing, and you hear trees – enormous trees, from the sound – splintering and falling as something huge forces its way through the jungle. What do you do?!
5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Talk to the players and exchange jokes. We probably spend 25% of our game time laughing our heads off. I’m also alert, though, for ideas I hadn’t thought of, either to inject into the current game or to use in a future session.
6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Anything, almost. My players usually bring an assortment of chips and other junk food, but one player owns a bakeshop so he sometimes brings breads and pastries, and the same guy is a manager at an ice cream company so he sometimes brings ice cream …
7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Yes. Extremely stimulating – I can’t sleep for hours after running a game, it’s like a chemical high – but at the same time taxing. I’m a morning person by nature, but it’s almost impossible to run a game for my players at any time other than evening. So running a game is more exhausting because it’s out of my usual body rhythm.
8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
We were playing in a game of Pendragon, the Boy King campaign, and it was the eve of the Battle of St Albans. King Uther’s last big battle with the Saxons. We seven knights decided to try something to tip the battle’s odds in Britain’s favor, so we snuck into the Saxon camp and stampeded their horses. Seven knights against an army of thousands!
Among other things, we were humming the Marlboro/ Magnificent Seven theme (seven knights! herding horses!), and one player decided to burn the outhouse. Why the outhouse? “Because if a man cannot GO in peace, there can be NO peace!!!”
9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
My players do take my settings seriously, but at the same time we have a lot of fun at each other’s expense in-game.
10. What do you do with goblins?
The last time I used goblins was back in the early 90’s. If I were to use a goblin-like creature I’d play them much more cunning.
11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
Ancient Filipino epics – the Hinilawod, the Darangen, Indarapatra and Sulayman, Maradia Lawana, the Bi-ag of Lam-ang.
12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
My players had just made a successful sneak attack on an enemy’s beached ship, crippling it to prevent him from beating them to their destination. Derek, one of my worst jokesters, declared, “I’ll mix aphrodisiacs with laxatives in their rice wine! That way they’ll never know if they’re coming or going!”
13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
My copy of Pendragon: Pagan Shore. I like the way they wrote up Ireland’s mythic locations, and I needed a guide for writing up Hari Ragat.
14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
I don’t think he’s ever illustrated an RPG, but my vote goes to Michael Whelan. Not only is his style visually stunning, he also captures vital moments and characters in whatever he’s illustrating very well.
15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
I actually had to ask them this question last session. I felt they had defeated the monsters I had thrown at them a little too quickly. Bots, Gelo and Derek however noted that they were afraid enough that they were spending their resources like crazy to keep their characters alive.
16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
I’ve been running my own adventures for years. I usually use published adventures in bits and pieces, cannibalizing from more than one source.
17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
My ideal gaming group is 4-5 players only. For that many, I’d prefer a small, low table, ringed by low cushy chairs or ottomans, in an airy room that we can have totally private. I’m easily distracted by noise and the presence of non-players, so I want to minimize that as much as I can.
18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Pendragon and Teenagers From Outer Space.
19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
Filipino epics and Viking sagas. As geographically disparate as they seem at first, there are interesting similarities between them. If I had less than a dozen words to explain Hari Ragat to a Western player, I’d say “Think Vikings in an exotic Southeast Asian setting.”
20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
Proactive players who will take the setting and their characters seriously and seek to grow their characters and their story on their own. My approach is, if I know the world well enough I can run anything the players want to do.
21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
I spent part of my childhood in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Island, before it became a touristy place. Our house there was literally right between the jungle and the coral reef, an environment haunted by sea snakes and sharks and poisonous stonefish, and not far away, rivers where crocodiles still lurked. So it was always a place of wonder and danger combined for me. When I run a session of Hari Ragat, that’s where I’m taking my players.
22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
Yup – Hari Ragat. There are no RPGs that have taken the ancient Philippine setting yet in entirety, so I’m writing it! :)
23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
My wife! Though she’s played in a few sessions, she doesn’t really consider herself a gamer. She does love cinema and the F&SF genre though, so I value her viewpoint as someone from the outside looking in that’s familiar enough she knows what she’s talking about. That, and she’s far better acquainted with human nature than introverted old me, so she’s a great help when I’m doing characterizations and interpersonal conflicts.