Welcome new writer... Steven G. Saunders
Steve Saunders, who tends to write under the much-too-pretentious â€œSteven G. Saundersâ€, is, as you might have already guessed, a writer. He also edits things from time to time, as well as engaging in various activities surly designed to hamper his game playing and comic reading schedule. Steve has written comic books, edited comic books, adapted comic books, edited novels, edited magazines, written short stories, written role-playing game stuff, has been a media flack, has been a columnist hack, has been a piÃ±ata for comics nerds, and has been numerous other things that would most probably bore you. He also wanted to name his first son â€œTPKâ€ but was vetoed on that awesome idea.
For some bizarre reason, Coin-Op Kids asked Steve to come up with a feature where he could talk about something gaming/gamer-related. They also had the equally bizarre idea of interviewing him as a way to introduce him to theÂ especiallyÂ wonderful people who read Coin-Op Kids.
Here we go.
1. Hey, Steve, letâ€™s start withâ€¦ what was your first video game, when did you get, and what console?
Tennis on the Odyssey 3000 system. Then it was some arcade games, though I was very short and young at the time and needed some help playing them. My first system was the Commodore VIC-20, bought for me by my father for us to screw around onâ€¦ and that led to the Commodore 64 in 1982. I guess Iâ€™m a little odd as a gamer as weÂ didn'tÂ have an Atari or Nintendo ever in the houseâ€¦ I did get a Sega Master System in 1989, though. But yeah, we were a tech-nerd household with several computers but no consoles.
Yeah. Iâ€™m old.
2. And what was your first Tabletop RPG game and, of course, when did you get into all of that gaming geekery?
Alright, sit back and relaxâ€”itâ€™s story timeâ€¦
Waaaay back during the summer of 1984, I was 8 years old. I lived inWest Germanyat the time, as I did through much of my childhood. My folks were gonna go to the French Rivera andMonacofor a week or so, and that meant spending the week with friends as they went camping by theNorth Sea. I guess I wasn’t cool enough to go gambling abroad yet… I bet that Cool Age is ten. Anyhow, my school chum Logan and I had a long car ride ahead of us, and a long time camping (camping by the North Sea in the Netherlands is like setting up tents, campers and pop-up tents in the coolest massive trailer park imaginable that’s clean and has stores– yeah, Europeans are boss campers). To stave off any horrifying boredom,Logansuggested that our hyperactive selves play this game called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
Now, I’d heard of D&D, but I didn’t know much about it. I’d seen the books at a BX (Base Exchange– a sundries store for Air Force peeps) in southern Germany, which was hours away from where I lived. A few of my British friends who lived local to me mentioned it, too, but they (like me) spent a lot of time reading 2000 AD, watching Captain Future, reading Green Lantern Corps in German, and talking about how Star Wars would be WAY cooler if it had killer plagues and Vikings. But Loganseemed to know it was time for me to discover roleplaying games; and so I did. My first character, who I had created during the car ride was a Greek Ninja; and this is a full year before Oriental Adventures was available, dammit. Like all little kids playing AD&D, we played it completely wrong. We made shit up during character creation and house-ruled things straight away. Years later I would realize that not once did I feel car-sick while making my character and rolling funny dice. I always get car-sick when I read in vehicles. So that added bonus.
After a week of theNorth Sea “camping”, playing the ever-loving poop out of AD&D, I had discovered my new passion– goddamned roleplaying games. I still get the same thrill I had then when I do anything to do with tabletop RPGs.
It’s really strange, probably, that I have only recently started doing anything even remotely professional in the realm of roleplaying game writing and such.
Short answer: AD&D (1st Edition)
3. So, you must play video games. What video games are you playing right now?
Oh, yes. I love video games.
I recently discovered the simple treasure that is Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, an incredibly simple and delightfully frustrating Roguelike. I still play Rome Total War and Medieval 2 Total War from time to time. I booted up Victoria2 the other week and dicked around with my global Zulu Empire. The Dawn of War games are always on the menu. I should probably finish up with my evil party in Temple of ElementalEvilâ€¦.
I suppose Iâ€™ve been playing a lot of older games currently. One newer game I always enjoy playing is Fallout New Vegas, and I need to get back to working my way through the bounty hunter fan mods which is exceptionally well done. Oh, and I have been playing Legend of Grimrock, which is a fun throwback to Ultima Underworld and is available over at GOG.com.
Wait. How the hell do I find time for all of this shit? I have even reinstalled Dungeons & Dragons Online. Um, anyone wanna play with me?
4. What is your favorite type of video game? RPGs? RTS? Grand Strategy? FPS? Â Â Â Â
I would say it’s a toss-up between Roleplaying and Strategy. I love seeing new civilizations, building new things, meeting people from said new civilizations, trading with them, and eventually crushing their militaries, breaking their populace, and bending their wills and resources for my Unending and Relentless War Machine. So, yeah, I love games where conquest is involved. I also love a great game with a great story.
But you know what? If the game is a kick-ass game that interests me, I donâ€™t care what type of game it isâ€”Iâ€™ll play it.
5. We all go through it at some point, and so we would like to pose the following question: when did you first realize that you were a geek/nerd/geenerdk/etc?
Around the first grade. I was most certainly an odd child who was reading at an adult level around Kindergarten. I knew I was different, as I cared more about comic books, science fiction films, Star Trek, Star Wars, Judge Dredd, and a bunch of other stuff than all the other kids. I wasn’t referred to as a nerd until the fourth grade, though, when I was full-on playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I used to take tour busses to and from the NATO base school I attended, and on one of those long trips an older kid mercilessly mocked me for being a nerd.
He ate my metal Battlestar Galactica lunchbox for his insolence. And yes, I still have that lunchbox.
6. Hah! Nice. And what would be your Top Five Video Games of ALL Time?
Hoooo boy… this is a really tough call. I guess I will rate my Top Five based on my level of enjoyment and obsessiveness with said videogame at the time.
1) Rome: Total War. I still play this game and I still freaking love it. I love the other Total War games, too, but this one gets the most mileage. I especially enjoy Â Â building my Frankish Empire in the Barbarian Invasion expansion.
2) Ultima III: Exodus. I played the shit out of this game when I was a kid. To me, it was D&D as a computer game. It came in a box, had an ankh, a cloth map, and a few booklets that explained things… sort of. You had to play the game to find things out. It also got me into author H. Beam Piper, as one of the races was called a “Fuzzy” and one of my father’s friends heard me talking about Fuzzies and suggested I read something by Piper. It’s really weird how that game helped to shape my life. Sadly, I can’t play it anymore… it’s too goddamned dated. But I would absolutely love to play a modern rehash of it.
3) Pool of Radiance. This kicked off SSI’s Gold Box series, and I bought ALL of them as they came out. I played them on my Commodore 64, then my C128, then my Amiga(s). It is very difficult to relay just how much time I spent playing Pool of Radiance and the games like it that followed. Once again, I can’t play them today, but I’d wish “They” would redo them… well, aside from that shit-sandwich “Ruins of Myth Drannor” that was released a while back. I’d say games like Neverwinter Nights and especially the excellent and heavilyfan-moddedTemple of Elemental Evil were great spiritual successors to Pool of Radiance for me.
4) The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. Hands down, this changed RPG videogames forever for me. I played it on PC and the Xbox. Hell, I still play it from time to time. Whether my heavily modded version on my crappy old computer here, or dusting off my old Xbox from the days of pre-360 yore to play it on there with my kids or my partner’s kids. It’s just such an expansive game and world, and it’s in first person, and there’s so much to do, and it has a sweet non-traditional fantasy story to play through. Oblivion (the next game) was cool, too, but it just didn’t compare to the darker Morrowind. I, uh, haven’t played Skyrim yet. Back down, fellow nerds, I will soon enough!
5) Fallout. Is it cheating if I say “ALL THE FALLOUTS”? I loved each and every Fallout game, save for the one released for the first gen Xbox, which was merely “meh” for me. Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and so many of the mods. I’ll even include Wasteland in there, too.
And whoâ€™s excited for Wasteland 2? THIS GUY.
7. You love Tabletop RPGsâ€”Your Top Five Games ever?
Man, only five again? Sigh. Fine, fine, FINE.
1) Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I love WFRP. I love it to death. I started playing it in 1987, the same year I heard about Warhammer 40,000, and I’ve played it ever since. Well, aside from 3rd Edition. I haven’t tried that yet. But I have most of the 1st Edition and 2nd Edition books. I have oodles of Warhammer novels, comics, video games, board games, and so on. I mean, Call of Cthulhu meets D&D? What’s NOT to love? I have been Mr. Grimdark since the age of 8, so WFRP is just about perfect in setting and tone (though I prefer the occasional punny silliness of 1st Edition). I know the Warhammer universes so well in their many different forms over the years that I consider myself a Warhammer Fluff Expert.
Yes, I can say â€œFluff Expertâ€ that with a straight face. I would also call myself a Fluffer if I wrote any of the Fluff.
I suppose it goes without saying that I love Dark Heresy, too. Fantasy Flight Games have really outdone themselves with WFRP, Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Black Crusade, Deathwatch, and the upcoming Imperial Guard murderfest: Only War (â€œGenestealers fall; everyone diesâ€).
2) Cyberpunk 2020. CP2020 is one of the most influential games ever created to me. No, donâ€™t bother with the doll-encrusted 3rd Edition. Just focus on CP2020 (and Cybergen). Not only did this game change my thoughts on RPG rules and RPG combat, but it also got me more into electronic music, encouraged me to write more, and to think about things differently. When I was a kid, I loved dark future stories, but I didnâ€™t become REALLY interested in Cyperpunk stuff until about 15 years of age. I looked for Cyberpunk music to make my games better and I came across more industrial music. Later I would work in the industry that creates and promotes industrial music, and to this very day Iâ€™m rather passionate about futuristic and dark electronic sounds (industrial, coldwave, EBM, elektro, powernoise, whatever you want to call it). I ran a lot of Cyberpunk games. A LOT. I even mashed up Call of Cthulhu and Cyberpunk before Cthulhupunk was cool. I guess Iâ€™m like an RPG hipster like that.
Bottom line: I love CP2020. Itâ€™s a bit dated now, but I still fucking love it. Whatâ€™s that? Shadowrun? Sure, chombattaâ€”as long as we use CP2020 rules. Substance over style in that case, drokk-faces.
3) Gamma World. Oh, Gamma World. I love you so. Before you kids out there had Fallout and stuff, we future oldbeards had Gamma Worldâ€”and before that, Metamorphosis Alpha. But the most awesome Metamorphosis Alpha was before my time, and I played Gamma World for the first time in 1986 (3rd Edition), finding it more enjoyable than Star Frontiers. At the time I was getting into the Mad Max movies and so it made perfect sense to get into Gamma World. This entry almost became Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness, but without Gamma World, I wouldnâ€™t have been into TMNT as muchâ€¦ also, I would still play Gamma World as opposed to TMNT. Gamma World made me a fan of post-apocalyptic stuff. I can recall looking at the VHS cover art for Def-Con 4 and begging my mom and dad for us to rent it. Then, I wanted to do a D&D game like itâ€¦ and then I happened upon Gamma World (through mention of it in Dragon Magazine, I think). My ten year old self was very, very pleased.
I havenâ€™t looked back since, and I still hope for an apocalypse so I can ride a mutant badger. *whistles innocently*
No, I havenâ€™t played the new Gamma World yet, but I hear its fun.
I should watch Def-Con 4 again and see how bad it is now.
4) Call of Cthulhu. The ultimate investigative horror game; and the thing that got the most people into finding out who the hell H.P. Lovecraft is, aside from Stephen King namedropping HPL in his introductions, or author Brian Lumley (Necroscope, Titus Crow) mentioning our favorite racist and neurotic New Englander. CoC is a game where combat is for the truly foolish and running away is the best tactic. Your heroes are dilettantes, explorers, crazy veterans, burned out cops, drunk PIs, writers, and antiques dealers. This is a game where you want a high Library Use skill and donâ€™t give one iota of one poop if you have a high handgun skill. Besides, how hard is it to put a gun to your head and pull the triggerâ€¦ because thatâ€™s when you need to use a gun the most in Call of Cthulhu. I played/ran a lot of CoC 4th and 5th Edition, and I have a copy of 6th Edition on my desk right here (someone had fun with fonts in that book, eh?).
5) Kult. This game will mess with you hardcore. When I discovered it way back towards the end of high school, I had never seen a game like it. I mean, holy shit, it was, like, a crueler version of Stalking the Night Fantastic, Chill, and Call of Cthulhu all thrown into a â€œFuck Youâ€ blender with added grimdark and weirdshit creepsprinkles thrown on top. There is no way I can ever do a short write-up on Kult. The game can be disturbingly deep and complex. And dark. Have I mentioned that itâ€™s dark? Go look it up and read about it. Itâ€™s sort of like the Matrix scenario, and having an â€œawakeningâ€; but instead of it being an interesting background involving machines taking over and putting us all into a reality construct of their making and devolving into a horrendous piece of shit as a franchise, itâ€™s a soul crushing background involving overlapping realities and demons and other horrors and your God not giving a fuck about you and you not having much of a hope of anything other than going batshit crazy, which is a good thing. Or something like that.
6) SLA Industries. Screw you guys, Iâ€™m adding a sixth one! HAH! But yeah, SLA Industries basically ties with Kult for me. I was introduced to it at 19 by the guy who eventually went on to create the Warmachine rules and co-create Unhallowed Metropolis.SLA is, simply and lazily speaking, Warhammer Cyberpunk. Itâ€™s a bizarre world full of darkness, dread, and violence. I would also like to point out thatSLA creator Dave Allsop essentially predicted the ubiquity of reality TV. Itâ€™s too bad that reality TV isnâ€™t as cool as watching SLA Industriesâ€™ Operatives and Contract Killers must be, though.
Special mentions go to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (it got me into RPGs, after all), Palladium Fantasy, Star Frontiers, The Dark Eye (itâ€™s German AD&D), Talislanta, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness, Paranoia, Unhallowed Metropolis (highly recommended to Kult players), Traveller, Runequest, Rolemaster (Ahhh, Chartmaster; gotta love those critical hit charts!), On The Edge, Earthdawn, and, of course, Robotech. Itâ€™s really too bad that Palladium hasnâ€™t improved any rules-wise since the late 80s. I still enjoy reading the Rifts and Robotech books.
Look, I love roleplaying games. Itâ€™s tough to pick a fave one sometimes. Itâ€™s probably easier to pick which one of my sons is my favorite.
Iâ€™m kidding with that last bit there.
8. I suppose we can forgive you for listing six. This time. Almost doneâ€¦ hereâ€™s the most important question: What are your plans for your corner of Coin-Op Kids?
Well, I want to start off by offering a semi-regular column where I show off and mention independently published tabletop roleplaying games and RPG supplements. Iâ€™m calling it â€œBurning Spotlight of the Unvincible Stevillordâ€. Bonus points if you get the reference. Donâ€™t worry; Iâ€™ll explain it a bit when I send in my first BSUS. The point is to highlight what you may be missing in whatâ€™s being offered by â€œthe little guysâ€. Of course, Iâ€™ll play fast and loose with what is â€œbig guysâ€ criteria. For instance, I may highlight a Pathfinder supplement if itâ€™s done by an indie company. But I would like to avoid the most popular RPG producers if I can help it. No disrespect meant of course; I mean, Fantasy Flight gets assloads of money from me, and Iâ€™m about to pick up that intro 4th edition D&D set (you know, the one that looks like the Red Box) so I can have something for kids to play. These companies get lots of exposure, though, and there are so many gems out there that need to be spotlighted, I feel. I donâ€™t plan to talk too much negative shit, either. I may point out a flaw here and there, but if the Burning Spotlight is focused on something, assume said something is cool and Iâ€™m recommending it.
So, yeah, I, uh, hope you like what I have brewing and stuff.
Did you just read all of that mess above? I am terribly, terribly sorry. Perhaps one day I can figure out how to email tacos as a means of apologyâ€¦
Find Steve online if you are bored, desperate, or just plain crazy though his website (link: www.baconlich.com). There you can find links to everything he does, is doing, or may/may not do.