Jeff announces Big Gay Fiction Podcast’s inclusion on BuzzFeed’s list of “52 Podcasts For Every Type Of Book Lover.” Will reveals the Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection for October: The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall by Gillian St. Kevern.
In a conversation that was part of Big Gay Fiction Live, Jeff talks with Jordan L. Hawk and the creators of the Widdershins Roleplaying Game, including Shane A. M. Matheson, Sarah Kennedy and Tytiana Browne. They discuss why Jordan’s Whyborne & Griffin series was ideal to turn into an RPG, what lovers of the book series can expect and what it was like to play the game the very first time. The team also revealed details of the game’s Kickstarter campaign, which runs through October.
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Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- 52 Podcasts For Every Type Of Book Lover on BuzzFeed
- The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall by Gillian St. Kevern on Amazon
- Widdershins RPG Discussion
- Jordan L. Hawk: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr
- Shane A. M. Matheson: Facebook | Twitter
- Sarah Kennedy: Twitter
- Tytiana Browne: Twitter | Brewing Witches Twitter
- Whyborne & Griffin Series by Jordan L. Hawk on Amazon
- Rath & Rune Series by Jordan L. Hawk on Amazon
- Widdershins RPG website
- Widdershins RPG Kickstarter website (runs until October 31, 2020)
- Harvester of Bones (SPECTR Series 3 Book 4) by Jordan L. Hawk on Amazon (pre-order until October 16, 2020)
- Hexworld series by Jordan L. Hawk on Amazon
- Adam Jury website
- John Wick on Twitter
- 7th Sea RPG on Chaosium
- Pocket Guide to Widdershins on Libomni
- Delta Green RPG website
- Maurice by E.M. Forster on Amazon
- H.P. Lovecraft on Amazon
- Lovecraft Country on HBO
- At The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft on Amazon
- Dungeons and Dragons website
- Remnant by KJ Charles and Jordan L. Hawk on Smashwords (free download)
- The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles on Amazon
- Library of the Omniverse Press website
- Star Trek Adventures RPG on Modiphius
- Star Trek Adventures: Shackleton Expanse on Modiphius
- Big Gay Fiction Live Featuring featuring Widdershins RPG on Facebook
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Interview Transcript – Jordan L. Hawk, Shane A. M. Matheson, Sarah Kennedy & Tytiana Browne
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: To get us started, for those who may not be familiar, tell us about the “Whyborne & Griffin” series and what the world of literature is this.
Jordan: One of the things I think that I tend to do as an author is create series, but also create universes because I like the feeling that, yes, you’re seeing what the character is going through, but there’s more out there that you just don’t necessarily see in the course of the books. So, the “Whyborne & Griffin” series is a Lovecraft deed inspired, Victorian/Edwardian era, gay, well, queer romance series about a gay wizard who fights Eldritch monsters with a ex-Pinkerton detective and falls in love.
Jeff: A little bit of stuff going on there.
Jordan: A little bit going there. We have his bad-ass female archeologist best friend, her love interest, fish monsters, and other kinds of monsters. And sometimes monsters are actually your friends and…
Jeff: It is good to have monsters as friends, of course.
Jordan: Yes. It can be very handy.
Jeff: And this series went for 11 books that you wrapped up last fall.
Jordan: Yes. Eleven books in seven years.
Jeff: But, you’ve also continued now with “Rath & Rune.”
Jordan: Yes. “Rath & Rune” is the spinoff series that takes place eight years after the climactic events in “Deosil” which is the last “Whyborne & Griffin” book. Again, like I said, I tend to create universes and I knew that there was a lot more stories that be told within this setting. Because within the setting, you have monsters, you have magic, you have various cults, you have people, you know, looking for power through magic or just regular ways or just a lot of richness to explore in it and I knew I wanted to keep doing that. And especially I wanted to bring in the librarians who are secondary characters in, tertiary characters may be in the “Whyborne & Griffin” books, but definitely have a big following. They were very popular during that series. I’m like, they’re the perfect, these keepers of secret tunes and secrets are the perfect setting to jump off for this next series. So…
Jeff: And the first “Rath & Rune” came out in July.
Jeff: When, do you have an idea yet when the next one arrives?
Jordan: Boy, that’s a great question. I think the other year I would probably be able to tell you, like a lot of creatives, the going has been very slow this year. So, my initial plan I had back in January, it was, I’d be working on it now. However, I am behind. So, I’m working on another “Hexworld” book. Once that’s done, then it is onto “Unseen” which is the next “Rath & Rune” book.
Jeff: Awesome, good things to look forward to there.
Jordan: Thank you.
Jeff: Now, I think what most of us think about adaptations of books, we think about maybe a TV series or a movie, or, you know, maybe it goes off to the stage or it’s a video game, perhaps. Roleplaying games are very different. And I think this might actually be like the first one in the genre, the gay, kind of gay romance, gay urban fantasy genre that we’re in. What did you think of the idea of turning this into an RPG?
Jordan: It was actually a really natural fit. And because basically as soon as say like the first three “Whyborne & Griffin” books came out, I started having people emailing, “Oh, I’m using these characters in, you know, RPG, I’m running. You know, I’m using, you know, adaptation something that you’ve done in this, you know, while we’re LARPing or here’s the character sheet I made for Whyborne, or I made, you know, Whyborne, Griffin, Christine and Iskander, in the Sims and they’re up in the gallery, you can download them. So, people had already been into the idea of playing as these characters or in the setting. So, it was a very natural fit, I think, because it was something that people were already doing and kind of once I became aware, people were doing that, at back of my mind, I was like, “Oh, that’d be something I would like to do someday in the future.” You know, it was a very sort of a pie in the sky that was out there. And then when Shane approached me about doing this, I was like, it’s no longer pie in the sky. It’s actually happening.
Jeff: And speaking of Shane, let’s bring in The Game creators who are here with us tonight as well. We’ve got Shane, Tytiana and Sarah joining us. Welcome. I want you to introduce yourselves to everyone and tell us kind of what your role in The Game is. And Shane, we’ll kind of kick it off with you because Jordan mentioned that you two kind of had the first conversations.
Shane: I’m Shane A. M. Matheson, and I’m a maker things, sort of my role, I’m the line developer and the art director and co-creator of the system along with Sarah and Tytiana. And I always sort of described my work as caulk, and I’m faced with a creative thing, I bring together a bunch of really cool creative stuff and I caulk it together. And certainly, that’s sort of my role.
Jeff: I love that definition. I may have to start using that for some of the things that I do. Sarah, will come to you next.
Sarah: Hi, my name is Sarah Kennedy. I am one of the co-creators of the system for The Game. And I’ve been designing role-playing games for 16 years now. And working with everyone else in this project, it’s been a lot of fun. And I’m so excited that not only have we funded, but that it seems like people are really enjoying what they’ve seen from the system.
Jeff: Excellent. And Tytiana.
Tytiana: My name is Titanic Browne. I’m a designer on the game. This is one of my first projects that I’m working on. I’m very excited for this to be it. Shane introduced me to the series like a few years ago and he was like, “Hey, you have to read this.” And I was like, “Oh, okay.” He’s like, “You have to read it.” And I was like, “Okay.” And then I started reading it and I was like, “Ooh.” And he was like, “Right.” So, to get to work on it now, it’s just like amazing.
Jeff: That is fantastic to go from a book you were excited to read into like getting to work on it. And you got some thrilling stuff coming up too that we’ll talk about here in just a minute. So, as I mentioned at the top of the broadcast, we are celebrating today the launch of the Widdershins RPG Kickstarter campaign. And the really epic thing that’s happened here is that it launched roughly 12 hours and 12 minutes ago now. And within four hours, it had hit its funding, which is incredible. But even now, I think roughly an hour or so ago, you actually exceeded your first stretch goal as well. Tell everybody what the Kickstarter involves and a little bit about the Kickstarter itself, what the funds are used for and talk about some of the great things that are available.
Shane: Right. Okay. So, I’m going to very briefly veer into the political, not super-duper too much, but like most workers in the tabletop RPG industry and the creative fields are grossly underpaid and do not have a stable living. For example, most game designers are not paid for time for research and not paid for anything but the word count and that’s, it’s just not livable. So, I really want to have a big, robust, like actual salary for my creative team for whoever’s working on this project. That’s really important to me. So, making sure that the people who are working on it are adequately, fairly compensated for their work is a big one. And the other big one is just materials costs like color ink is quite expensive and hardcover books are quite heavy to ship. And so, basically with those two things, that’s a big chunk of change when you’re looking at a decent operation. So, I’m really, really grateful to everybody who’s been backing us because that money is going to be going toward, I hope I’m helping to, because I’m not a revolutionary I’m falling into in footsteps. Like for example, like Adam Jury does really good ethical work. And I think John Wicks, the 7th C campaign was very ethically as well, but I want to follow in those footsteps in your health and me with that. So, I really appreciate that.
Jeff: That’s wonderful to hear too, because we’re certainly all about artists and creatives getting paid their due for what they do. And so, it’s great that everybody who’s helped fund this so far as has helped to make that happen. Tell us about some of the goodies that are available in the Kickstarter for folks who are supporting it.
Shane: Okay. I could go off on this. Because, my little, whole reason I love doing this stuff is I love the branding because I just sort of try to appease the fanboy that lives in my heart that is like, “Okay, fanboy. What, if you could close your eyes and make this thing happen, what would you want the rewards to be?” And so, I thought the first thing that anybody would want for a game like this, especially that centers on the town is a map of the town. And this artist who I’ve been working with since I was literally out the gate, he was very, very first artist I ever worked with in the industry. He did this amazing, beautiful, full-color map for us that’s just gorgeous. And so we’re offering that as a reward alongside it and Jordan’s going to sign them so it’s going to be like amazing collector’s item. I definitely want one on my wall. So, that’s the thing I’m the most excited about.
Jeff: That’s very cool. And Tytiana, hitting the stretch goal already means that you’re on deck to produce something pretty cool.
Jeff: Tell us about the stretch goal you’re creating as well.
Tytiana: “Train to Arkham” is going to be an adventure. We have also added a couple of tiers now too. So, to talk about tiers, every my personal opinion, every tier that has character art is the coolest here ever. As someone who plays games, I’m always like anytime someone draws a character, anytime I can afford to get a character commission, it’s just amazing. And we have added a couple of new tiers off of “Train to Arkham” as well so we can get character art included in that. It’s basically going to be another full adventure for the setting although set outside the town as its name might give away.
Jeff: That’s very cool. And I have to say, looking at the Facebook comments, Natalie, Amelia, Bella are already going like, “Yes, a map.” So, that was incredibly the right way to go.
Shane: And you can actually find it now in it’s sort of small form in the pocket guide to Widdershins Massachusetts, which is currently available for download. And I’ve heard a few people saying when they download it that they don’t really know anything about gaming and I want to say that it’s our hope that you’ll be able to use this if you’ve never played a game in your life. And so it would be awesome if you would give it a shot and let us know, “Hey, this was great. This was confusing,” and we’re going to try to make it the most usable for people who’ve never played a game before ever. So, you can go download that right now and get that map in there. Take a look at it. It’s beautiful.
Sarah: It looks like really good. Like when Shane showed it to me, I mean, I’ve worked with a lot of like, you know, like intro products and like products just like the pocket guide before. But when like Shane showed it to me and said,” Hey, so I’m going to lay it out like this,” and I thought I would see like a rough version of it. And then boom. And I’m like, “This is amazing.” Like, it’s just wonderful.
Jeff: Let’s go back to a little bit of the origin now that we’ve had a good moment of celebratory anise. Shane and Jordan, how did this RPG come around?
Jordan: Well, I’ve known Shane online for a couple few years now. And we met at the GRL in…when they had the Wild West theme. Which one was that?
Jordan: God, I just completely blanked. And then last year we reconnected and I had, this was right after “Deosil” came out, and I had been thinking about, like I said, a lot of different things that “Whyborne & Griffin” and my other series could potentially become. And so, we were hanging out at like the dinner area, whatever. And she was like, “So, I’m thinking what if we do this?” And I’m like, “Yes, like that is something I already want to do.” So, he was like, great. You know, so that’s just kind of, it was a very easy start to it because I was already on board with it as soon as you know, he’s like, “So, have you thought about doing this? What do you think about doing this?” I’m like, “I am already there, like already there.”
Shane: And I have kind of an emotional, like a Lifetime original movie kind of answer for this. When I had encountered the “Whyborne & Griffin” series, I was in an abusive relationship and I was still in the closet, I’m trans, and so, I looked very, very much like a girl. I was leading a very miserable existence. And one of the things that I was enjoying was a Delta Green campaign, which if you’ve never played Delta Green, that’s another really solid system. But I was playing that and just feeling like very isolated in both my body and my social life. And I had finished the book “Maurice” and I was like, this is gay, but I want to go gayer than this.
Shane: Make it gayer. And Amazon was like, “What about this gay fan?” I was like, “All right. Yeah, I’ll try that. That looks great.” And about mid midway through when “Whyborne & Griffin” are talking at Marsha’s and I’d been like, kind of getting the hints of it, the little hands of the, what genre we were in. And because I didn’t know what genre we were in when I started reading it and Whyborne said that he went to school at Miskatonic like, “Oh, that’s where we are. Okay. I understand now. I love it.” And well, when I read it, I hit the end of where we were and immediately started over. I’ve never done that with a series. I read like all of the books and I was like, “Read them all again,” because it’s like, this is people who are like me, who are triumphing over stuff that I’ve been told in the genre is impossible to defeat. You know, like in like the left graph Shaun, or you’re supposed to go mad and die. And like, “That’s what you’re supposed to do,” but that’s not what these people were doing. And it was very inspirational and it was using that energy that I got out of that previous existence. And I’m now living in a much happier, healthier, like truer life, a safer life because these books gave me the kind of the blueprint to have courage in a time and a place that I thought there was none to be had. And so, I thought, because I’m a big believer in, if you play something in a role-playing game, it sort of trains your brain to do it. So, if I were to sort of allow people to experience what, you know, the stables of gaming and this love craft in a way, but have it usurped a little bit by this victory, by this queerness. That that’s exactly what people’s brains need right now.
Jordan: Yeah. I mean, the whole “Widdershins” series is really kind of about hope, about building your community and then using drawing on the community and your interconnectedness to each other in that community to be able to try out. So, that really lends itself to a narrative role-playing game where all of the characters kind of have to work together to solve this problem. And maybe all of them don’t get along. Maybe there’s some of them get along great. But the whole idea is that you’re, you know, having to communally write this story together.
Shane: And the other thing that I thought was really important and special about what about Jordan’s work that I think we’ve managed to really well translate here is the villains, because all of Jordan’s villains, like they don’t feel arbitrary, a lot of badly written fiction, especially people fiction writers who politically I would say are not the most woke. They tend to have villains that aren’t really well thought-out that are just like, they’re just doing evil because evil stuff. And I think it’s important to realize that the people that you come into conflict with who you think maybe they’re doing credible, evil stuff, like they only just have reasons like understandable human reasons. And I think that Jordan really captures what’s kind of terrifying about a human enemy that has solid reasons for doing their evil stuff, like that can’t really be dissuaded with reason because they are really being reasonable.
Jordan: Thank you. Honestly, my favorite not to get off track, but my favorite villain from the series is Daphne. I mean, she killed and ate her husband for God’s sake, but I felt like she was really relatable.
Jeff: Isn’t the rule, like all the villains think they’re actually doing the right thing? So, kind of the motivation.
Jordan: Yeah. People don’t…nobody wakes up and says, “What’s the wrong thing to do today that’s going to screw everything up?” They’re like, “What can I do for myself that will further whatever it is that, you know, I need? And yeah, whether that’s a psychological need or something else and, you know, even if they’re harming other people, they don’t see it, it’s like, “Well, I’m doing what I need to do. You know, I’m in the center of my story and so these are the actions I need to do.” So, yeah. Like no one sees them truly evil people. I don’t think ever see themselves as the villain.
Shane: And I think it’s awesome, honestly, a really important divergence from Lovecraft that you have, Jordan, in that because in a lot of Lovecraft, it seems like it’s like they’re mad, like, they’re doing bad stuff because they’re bad people from some like weird monstrous from a monsters race. Like let’s be more racist Lovecraft, but like even more. And I think that right now, like what really captures this is “Whyborne & Griffin” and “Lovecraft Country,” I feel really blessed that we dropped right after when “Lovecraft Country” came out. I was like, “Oh, they’re talking about in like a way less like fun and cheeky way. And more of like very serious drilling down to it.” The sort of same like tenant, one of the same tenants of this game and the Jordan’s work is that like the love crafty and stuff is sourced from this human interesting greed and sort of white supremacy that’s very pervasive in human culture now. And none of the Lovecrafty and inscrutable stuff is actually coming out of nowhere. It’s actually got like a source and a root in this present evil that exists now.
Jordan: Yeah. I mean, I remember not to get too far off on the Lovecraft tangent, but back when I was reading “At The Mountains of Madness,” which is probably my favorite Lovecraft story, but the shoggoths are bad because they rebelled against the race that was enslaving them. And it’s like, I feel bad for them. I’m like, “You show those elders things,” you know, like I totally took the opposite tach for what he was trying to convey, I think. And so, you know, that shows a lot in like, you know, hoarfrost, for example.
Jeff: So, Shane, as you were reading the books and then you reread the books, what was in there that said this needs to be a role-playing game.
Shane: Honestly, I actually allude to this in the Ashcan. It was Whyborne’s consistent incompetence at stuff that I thought was very mechanically grounded. Because I’ve started, because, you know, when you’re in game design and Sarah will understand, when you’re in a game design for every long enough everything becomes game design. Like, every single thing that happens here, like how can I mechanically represent those with math? And so, when I’m reading this, I’m like, clearly he has a trait, but it’s just making him incompetent at all stealth, no matter what stealth it is. And it just very much put it in a game world for me.
Jeff: That’s amazing.
Jordan: That came out of my, a desire when I was writing the books to be like, how can I make this scene as awkward as possible for Whyborne? Like is there any way I can make it even more awkward for him? So, he literally gave me in terms of fails every possible deception it’s stealth roll because it’s just, you know, I’m like, “Well, that would be much more entertaining to you than having to be like competent.” You know, it’s better storytelling if he fails at it.
Jeff: Incompetence can be so awesome and much to grow from too at the same time. Sarah, when you got approached on this project, had you read the books yet? Or was it a lot like Tytiana with Shane going, “You must read these?” You also were presented with, “You must read these.”
Sarah: Actually, yeah, it was pretty much the same where Shamans first is like, “So, what’s your work schedule look like for the next year?” And I’m like, “Oh, it’s got a lot of some open spaces.” And then he’s like, “I’m going to send you just a couple of books,” which we’ll get back to that in a second. Just a couple of books. I want to see what you think of the series. It’s been really inspirational to me and I’ve been looking at it and thinking about it and I want to know what you think of it. And the next thing I know, I get one of the largest boxes I’ve ever gotten in the mail with all the books in it. It was like neatly ordered all night the way we’re supposed to read them. And she was like, “Did it arrive yet? Did it arrive yet? Did you get it? I’m sure it was shipped.” And so, I of the first book and I just started like, you know, just like diving into it just because I’m like, “Oh, well it looks really cool. I really, I mean, it sounds like it’d be up my alley.” And then I think I stopped around like the third book in like five days, and Shane and I were just talking about like, you know, the series and Shane was like, “Hey, so I really want to design a game that captures the appeal of this. And I would like to bring you on.” And I was like, “Yeah, sure. I’d love to.” And then I did like my fan read through and then I had to do my critical read through where my first copies all marked up with love. It’s not marked up with like, you know, like my edits. It’s just more like, “Oh, note for this, another note for this. Okay. Just circle the section, get back to this.” This is a word that keeps popping up, ask them later. And then actually in one of the first meetings that we had on this, they asked me if I’d gotten to the fifth book in the series yet. And I’m like, “Oh, no, I think I stopped at four and then I’ve started making notes,” and they’re like, you have to finish that book right now. And so, I did. And then I’m like, “Oh, yeah, no.” I said, “Yeah, I should have finished this sooner. Yeah.”
Shane: So, annoying about that. I’m sorry. But it’s just because they like the genre changes suddenly, like you’re like, “Oh, this is normal.” Lovecraft in like investigate or stuff. And I won’t spoil it in case other people haven’t read it, but like around the fifth bucket, like, “Whoa, we’re looking at a whole different thing here now.”
Sarah: Yeah. And it was really good. And I was just glad to be invited to the project and I really loved the books. I know I’m like probably one of the newest people here to reading it, but the series has just been wonderful and tied together.
Jeff: And Tytiana, we saw your reaction initially when you mentioned getting the books. As you were reading it too, did you also see, ye, there’s a role-playing game here?
Tytiana: When I first started reading it originally, I wasn’t looking at it at that length to be perfectly honest. Before picking up on a Jordan’s books, I found the entire Lovecraft genre on plat bladed, but I couldn’t consume a single bit of it mostly because according to everyone else that I knew at the time, I apparently was having Lovecraft dreams without having read the books. And I was like, “Great. That means I don’t want to read Jordan stuff. “And I just, I liked it so much. Like the way he explores magic to the way like you guys were talking about it earlier, the relatable villains. And not even that, there was a certain point when I was reading and Shane was like, “Oh, what do you think of these people?” I was like, Oh, they’re nice. But they’re evil.” And he was like, “How do you know? ” And I was like, this is why, and I’m not going to say it now because I don’t want to spoil it for people. But basically, it was because I was basically because I liked them. Like I like this though. I like having to encounter this in fiction. The comps, like the people you like being an obstacle, you have to deal with. And not even Justin dude, you’re being a dick, but it’s like, “Dude, you’re trying to ruin the world. I may like you, but you’re trying to ruin the world.”
Jordan: Lighten up, take a nap, dude.
Tytiana: So, because of that just really opened me up to like the genre and also the setting as a whole and from there and interacting with people within it. And, you know, people who are clearly much further ahead in the books. Oh, I noticed what Jordan had been mentioning earlier, which is that people just hit this point of naturally wanting to play within this setting eventually one way or another. It’s like whether you’re the librarians or you’re messing around different part of town, you want to play in the setting of petitions. And I think anything that people want to play with should be made again.
Jordan: I think we’re going to have a lot of people playing librarians like instincts here, but I think that is going to be like a lot of people creating librarian stories.
Jeff: Let’s talk about the Kickstarter just a little bit more. So, you hit that first stretch goal. What’s the next stretch goal? What do we have to do to push this into the next one?
Shane: My next stretch goal is going to be that $30,000, going to be more art. And this is a kind of a tricky stage for me because it’s little less flashy, but it is the, like the grownup sort of tear because my heart always wants to add like a full-color illustration on every page and all that stuff. But it really like, gosh, it does add up if you’re paying your artists correctly and with the color, like in loads, the page count a little bit too. So, it’s like, this is actually something if we want to do as much art as we really want and as much art as is. And like those first few pages of the Ashcan to get like the whole big rule book, looking like those first few pages that Ashcan, we really do need that extra 30K.
Jordan: Real quick for people who are unfamiliar with the term Ashcan and what Shane is referring to is the demo, download the pocket guide to “The Town of Widdershins.”
Jeff: Thank you for adding that because I was like, “I should ask that question because I don’t know what that means.”
Shane: It’s also, it’s also a comic book from too, sorry.
Sarah: Yeah. A lot of games to them, it’s a great way for people to get a glimpse into what the product is going to look like. And also, it allows us to get some feedback because people can look at it, they can try out the mechanics on their own, and then they can contact us and let us know what’s working and what’s not working. And that really helps us design as best a product as possible.
Jeff: And you were converting people to RPGs here, because Leslie has left a comment that she never played an RPG, but has become a supporter.
Shane: Yay. Let us know.
Jordan: That’s so much fun.
Shane: Yeah. You specifically are because when I remember when we first rolled like a play, when I did he initial beta for this, the rules are very much like let’s play an imagination game and like allow your brain to like be creative. And I think the people who are going to get the most tripped up on that are the hardcore gamers who are going to be like, “Wait, but mechanically, but wait, are you sure?” Kind of like, I want people to know that this is just like telling a story. You don’t worry about the rules. Don’t get crazy on what the rule book says. It’s there to support your fun time. So, don’t get intimidated by it. Just let it help you and change it if you want.
Sarah: And when we were designing the game, like I love crafting. I love the other love crafting games. I love like just like all the novels and comics. And so, I own like a fair amount of them. And at one point, I just sent Shane a list of books that I just breezed through. So, I was trying to see like how other people tackle the genre. And the thing that we wanted to do when we were making this game is we wanted to make a game, not just for like people who’ve played games for 10 years, but for people who are new to playing it, we wanted to make a game where if Jordan’s at a literary convention and people find their books, they can like people who are excited about it can see the role-playing game and then they can jump in and they don’t need like years of playing D and D or being in an adventure lead to be able to have fun. And it’s a very big story-driven game. There’s like there are mechanics to help facilitate that. But the purpose of the game is for people to sit down, to think about the kind of characters they make and then to also like how to make the story that the characters are going to be in. And like the third thing we also want to do is because the game is all about solving mysteries. If we wanted to make a game that doesn’t punish you for not being good at solving mysteries.
Jeff: I definitely say Jordan, where we get to GRL hopefully 2021, that there’s going to be the people who play cards against humanity. And then there’s going to be this other mass of people who are with you playing Widdershins RPG.
Jordan: I hope so. I mean, I hope people will do it on their own as well, but yeah, I would love to see people be like, “Hey, let’s get a group together and just run a short, you know,” I mean, something like this, you can make it as short or as long as you want to. You know, it really lends itself. The system is flexible. It lends itself to do like, “Oh, we’re going to run something that’s going to be like a very simple, short term thing that we’re going to run a couple of nights over a convention or even one night in a convention, you know,” or if you really want to get into it and get a great group together, you know, online or whatever, then you can really dig into having a longer campaign. It’s completely up to you, the player, you know, we want everyone to have fun.
We want everyone to be able to exercise their creativity. I mean, that’s the most exciting part of it for me is that other people are going to have a really cool takes on this universe that, you know, that’s really exciting to me the creator, because I love it. I just can’t wait to see what people do with it. You know, that’s just very exciting. I would love to see a let’s play or, you know, whatever with this system, because that’s just seeing other people how their take is and what they want out of it. I mean, that’s just really cool. I mean, hopefully, that will be an option next year. So yeah, that would be a lot of fun.
Jeff: I haven’t played RPG since college. So, it would be fun to kind of get back into that with this.
Jordan: Yeah. And just to speak to like not needing, to have to be super into knowing how RPGs work or having played them, recently, I mean, I did play like two sessions before lockdown hit. I had time to play two sessions of D and D with the local trans support group. And then we all went into lockdown and just kind of, it fell apart, but I hadn’t played D and D since like eighth grade before that. So, that was a, you know, I was only a couple of years ago, but it had been a long time. So, but we did a buy the four of us a play, a live play of it and you know, it was easy to get into. Yeah. It’s like, “Okay, you know, here’s my character, this is the character’s motivations. Let’s go.”
Jeff: What was it like for you, Jordan, to play in this universe, not as author, but as RPG player?
Jordan: I mean, it was a lot of fun because obviously coming in as a player, you know, I didn’t know, like, okay, what is the scenario? What is the plot here? What are we, yeah, I had my goals and the background, but how is this going to play out? You don’t know. It depends on what other people do. And it’s like collaborating with other people to make the story. Like that’s always been something I’ve done it a couple times in my writing life, you know, just for example, the remnant short story that Katie Charles and I wrote, which is free and has a crossover between “Whyborne & Griffin” and her Simon Flexible books, that was a lot of fun because it’s the collaborative nature of it because it’s someone else throwing in an idea that you wouldn’t have had. It’s like, “Oh, how am I going to take that and incorporate it and then run with it, you know?” So, that I’ve always done that kind of collaboration really rewarding. And so, this is just a different way of a more casual way of doing it, but also like very fun because you get to, you know, playoff, what are other people doing and what are they giving you? And like, “Okay, well, now I have to use this prompt to come up with my answer what am I going to do next.” That was tons of fun.
Jeff: And for the three of you, Tytiana and Shane and Sarah, what was it like for you three to play with the author creator of the universe?
Tytiana: It was actually really fun. I didn’t get to interact with Jordan’s character too much personally, by Partner Sherod got to play an MC. That’s spent a lot of time with Jordans. I was watching those two go at it, was amazing. Oh my God. Like a big part of it, we are chosen to do a flashback scene just to kind of like clarify somethings and just watching the two of them. Because like from what Jordan said, he’s not playing a lot. And I know that my partner is like played maybe like a couple, one-shot games that I’ve run all. So, to see two people who like really don’t do this that often just get immersed in, it was really fun. It was really cool.
Jordan: The flashback scene was Shane’s idea. That goes back to what I was saying about rambling because I was just ready to go on. And she was like, “Well, let’s hold on to it. Let’s actually play that.” And it’s like, brilliant, great idea.
Shane: I want to real quick because like I’m going to be releasing kind of videos along with the lead’s play of like, sort of by like, “Hey, how do you use this as a narrator, how do you use this tool guide to telling stories as a narrator?” And yeah, like that’s one of the big things is like just pay attention to the flow of the story and think, “Okay, would this be fun to watch? Would this be fun for everyone to watch and everyone to be a part of?” And if the answer’s yes, do it. And if the answer is no, skip it out. The answer to this question, by the way..
Jeff: That was an excellent answer. Sarah, how about for you?
Sarah: I was nervous just because like whenever like I work on a project and we’re running the system through its paces, there’s always stuff that you never planned for, that the players would come up with. And so, I was just like making sure I was taking notes and making sure, like seeing how people interact with stuff, but everybody else was having so much fun with the system that I was able to relax. And then the character that I was playing, Lillian, who I love, she’s very outrageous, but she’s also, she has her own plan and getting to…she’s in widdershins to meet someone specifically to ask questions about what they might know. And then my character was back and forth with shame where we both clearly know things, but we don’t want both of us don’t want to admit it. And that was a lot of fun for me.
Jeff: We’ve talked a lot about, do you have to know how to play an RPG to do this? And the answer has been a resounding no, you don’t. How familiar do you need to be with Widdershins going in?
Jordan: I don’t think you need to be familiar with it at all. In fact, I would hope it would be accessible to people who have not read the book, you know, just going from, you know, the pocket guide, it lays out, here’s the basic conceit of the world. Here’s how the game works, have at it. So, yeah. I mean, that’s definitely my, I think all of our hope that yeah, you don’t have to be familiar with the source material to play it. You know, hopefully, it’ll be a rich experience for you. If you are familiar with the source material. We don’t want to like exclude anyone from being able to enjoy the game.
Shane: Yeah, I agree. It is my dearest hope that there will be a sort of mutual like feedback loop that the gamers who are usually like,” Oh, I like Lovecraft stuff. We’ll find Jordan’s work.” And like the people who like Jordan’s work will find gaming and that everyone will be able to meet in a big, fun queer group of people who haven’t experienced each other’s hobbies and then getting to experience each other’s hobbies and making it their own. I think that’s really the dream, of course. But I, you know, yeah. Please do tell us if you are a gamer and you’ve never experienced anything about Widdershins before please go ahead and pick up a copy. Let us know how you think it does of translating the setting to you, because it’s a living document. We are going to be reacting to feedback. So if you’re like, “I’m not really understanding XYZ,” there is a certain point that a lot of the here’s what the content I want is going to be the stuff for kick-starting like all of the really serious, like setting info, like a big play by play of the whole town and all the things that you can go and do and see like that’s going to be in the main, real book that we’re kickstarting. So, we can’t give you all that, but hopefully, we’ll give you a little bit enough.
Sarah: And really the important thing is we’ve all played pretend and some of us have done like just spontaneous improv. And that’s really just what gaming mostly is, is improving. And you have like your character, which is sort of loosely your script and your role, and you just go from there. And I think that they’re going to be some people where they’re going to be like really nervous about being on the play any game, especially a game with an established universe. But the nice thing about the setting is that it’s not quite anything goes, but it’s not a setting that’s going to punish you if you come up with something that Jordan has a covered in a book, and the setting is so broad and encompassing that it’s easy to interact with. And you’re going to see a lot of familiar things. You’re going to see a lot of not familiar things, but it’s going to be a lot of fun. I keep saying a lot of fun. It will be a lot of fun.
Jeff: In terms of what’s been created for the game, are there new things involved in Widdershins that have been created for the game? So, things that aren’t necessarily in the book.
Shane: I think this is a good time to talk about the iconics. As a baby game designer, this is sort of game designer stuff. Something that I learned sort of out of the gate is if you give people a sort of blueprint of what they’re playing in your game, it will help you sell your game to them and also help them play it better because they will get to see, “Oh, this is the kind of thing I’m supposed to be aching. So, we made four iconics. We have the original main characters, which are of course, like Whyborne, Griffin, Christine, and Iskander. And then we have their counterparts, the new iconics, which are dr. Alvin barrister, gas bar, dealer crews. We just changed your name. And so in the play, the thing that I’m sort of hesitating ran up, we call her Hattie, but her new name is Ed Chan and Lillian Wallace. And those are iconics. And also there’s a new setting called the Portent. That’s the newest hotspot in town that I made up and Jordan has graciously allowed the Portent to stay in auditions yet.
Jordan: I mean, what a great name for something in watersheds, right? Like the poor set, of course, you’re going to go there for all of your entertainment and gambling needs.
Jeff: Without getting into too many mechanics of things, what’s involved in adapting a known universe to a role-playing game?
Sarah: Well, for starters, you have to figure out what your tone is going to be, because just as not every novel series is the same and not every game is going to be the same. Cause like, if you were trying to adapt, like, you know, it’s like some other movie, like let’s get the underworld stupid bingeing underworld. Recently you would have to tell a game that make a game that can tell that story. Well, which is a game of like, you know, like supernatural creatures, a lot of action, a lot of like, you know, like conflict, you would need to adapt that you need to make a game engine that makes it feel like you’re reenacting the movie. And when we sat down to make this system, and we wanted to make a system that was like one user-friendly and that you just like could pick up easily. And the thing that really got me about the characters was that within like the first novel, I immediately knew a lot about Griffin. I knew a lot about Whyborne and that was what I wanted to portray when we were working on the mechanics, is that I didn’t want to make a game of plugging in numbers and then you go and have fun. I wanted to make a game where you were actually making a character. And I thought about in a novel, how would you describe your character? How would the character describe their goals? So, when we were working on the engine, we really wanted to make it more thematic and make it really more like you’re like sitting down and writing your own improv. And then that’s pretty much just how we ran with it.
Shane: And yeah, I, for my part, adaptation is sort of my bag and my background. So, I think when you’re adapting, anything, what you really need to do is you need to pair down to what makes it itself first. Like you really have to find the skeleton and the core of the work. And that means usually the broad themes. And so, in this, I think what Widdershins was to me when I really pared it down. Because it’s, you could say it’s gay love craft, okay, that’s a good comp selling it. But it’s not really the core of it. The core of it is this power, authenticity and community that I thought was really what we needed to drill into and find purchase and to actually construct anything out of. And then the second aspect, there’s finding the thing that draws people about the work and for me, because this was all in the hullabaloo of J.K. Rowling showing her whole butt to everybody and like thinking about what drew everyone to Harry Potter, wasn’t her amazing pros, it was Hogwarts. And I was like, “Okay, wait a second. The thing that is drawing like literations is great.” And “Whyborne & Griffin” series is well well-written and great characters. There’s a ton of series like that go under the radar that nobody listens to or pays attention to what literations draws people with is leadership. It calls people, it knows its own, like that functions, that magical call actually functions in real life and calls and draws this real community that actually exists. And like how awesome is that? And what a fool we would be not to tap into that and really, really build from what already exists, the magic that already exists there. So, those were my two design goals.
Jeff: What stories kind of lend themselves to RPG, I mean, you certainly, you saw it in “Whyborne & Griffin”, but are there key components that especially authors who may be listening might be like, “Hmm, maybe this thing.” And, you know, to that end too, can authors approach you with ideas?
Shane: So, I mean, I love adaptation. So, if you’ve got a franchise that’s got legs, it might not be a game, not everything is, but, you know, I please come and talk to me about like, I will write you spec scripts. We could do like audio plays. We can do whatever, but games specifically, the question you have to ask is does this world live when we’re not watching these characters? When we’re not looking at the characters that the author has put in front of me or the specific scenario and narrative that the authors like in front of me, does this place still live? And the answer for literations is absolutely obviously, like it has this very rich and vibrant place. And I loved that. I had this idea of like what gameplay looked like, and then when “Rath & Rune” dropped, I was like, “Yes. That’s what it looks like. Perfect. It’s good. We’re good.” And it’s okay if things aren’t a game. I know, I think that tabletop RPGs are going to be a new, like we’re in the boom. I love it. And I love what’s going to be coming out of it. What’s going to be coming out of people, designing for, and marketing for people who aren’t gamers, who are just starting like marketing for the world now and designing for the world. But if you want to have a tabletop RPG, you must have a world that has like an internal core, that like has like kind of a real existence and a place to it. And like not all great narratives have that. And that’s cool.
Jordan: I feel like if you have just any kind of situation where people are like, “Hey, I use insert a different kind of like system here, like D&D or Pathfinder or Delta Green to run a campaign in your setting, chances are, you’ve got a game.” I know a lot of like, anytime, like I go into like a new setting or a new set of rules or this there, they’ve got their whole book that comes with the full description of the world, the setting and this at the third, if you’ve already got a big thriving world as Shane’s mentioned, you’ve got half of it done. You just need though all rules now.
Sarah: And then when it comes to just when people are wanting to make games, they want to make stories. The thing for me that I would warn people up front is that no system covers everything well. I mean, there’s a lot of great systems out there and there are a lot of systems which can do like a little bit of everything really well. But depending on what kind of story you want to tell, you kind of have to pick which system will best facilitate that. If you want to run a system that’s based around like gladiatorial games, then you’re probably going to want to focus on mechanics that are more about combat and how to facilitate that combat. If you want like a game that’s all about hosting tea parties and the intrigue that can go on there, you’re going to need a game that’s more built around like social stuff and probably won’t be that great at combat. So, having a clear idea of what kind of story and also what kind of game best tells that story in your mind will be your best bet.
Jordan: All I can think of right now is what Sarah said the tea thing. And I was like, “You know, doily that gives plus two to AC and I’m braids right away with it. I’m like, yes, badly teapots.”
Jeff: Can we write that up for the game just now so we can have this going?
Jordan: What I was going to say to authors is don’t limit yourself. There’s, well, and what you can do if your world and your writing depends if you have a contract with a traditional publisher, so your options may be limited quite a bit. And then someone like myself who is a self-published except for foreign translations, but don’t limit yourself with what you might be able to translate your world into that people will enjoy. I mean, there’s just really, almost no limits of the kinds of things you can do other than like the obvious, like what Jeff was saying at the top of the show. And, you know, there’s just so many possibilities from like, I had a looking around my office here. I had a fan make some, this Funko pop figures and they modeled and to be Whyborne and Griffin, Christina and Iskander, which is great, you know. So, like maybe you have some really popular characters and your series has enough legs that you can actually go to Funko pop and be like, “Hey, do you want to license my characters or something?” Like just don’t limit what you can imagine for your characters and what, you know, knowing your audience, what you think, people, your readers would like. Your fans will tell you, like I said, this was something in my mind already because people had said, “Oh, I’m running a, you know, I’m trying to call a game with, but I’m using a we’re LARPing. And I’m using, you know, I’m being Whyborne on my friends being Christine, or, “Hey, I built, you know, them into the Sims or whatever people were telling me already what they wanted.” So, a lot of it’s just not looking at just, “Oh, stories are traditionally only movies or, you know, maybe a Netflix series.” And there’s a lot more potential out there. And a lot of authors just don’t really don’t realize it because we just don’t think about it that way. So, just to throw it out to the authors audience, just don’t limit what you’re thinking about because maybe your world would be a great game. Maybe it wouldn’t be, but I guarantee you’d be a great something else.
Jeff: So, coming back to the Kickstarter, I’m happy to say that while we’ve been in the broadcast, it has now doubled its goals over over $16,000 now, which is fantastic. The Kickstarter runs through the month, but it ends on a very important date, which is Halloween, but it’s also something else, Jordan, if you’d like to share that for people who may not know.
Jordan: Yes, that is the birthday of the main character in the Widdershins series Whyborne and also his twin sister, Stephanie.
Jeff: So, I mean, you could have planned that better. I know, right?
Shane: Like immediately after Jordan was like, “Yeah, let’s do a game.” I was like, “Okay. So, the Kickstarter, right, it’s got to end on their birthday,” just had to.
Jordan: The greatest birthday present they could have asked for,
Jeff: So, as we wrap up, I want to know from everybody how our listeners can keep up with all of you online, not just with the Widdershins RPG, but other projects that you may have going on too. And Shane, we’ll start with you for that.
Shane: I’m on most places like Twitter and Facebook, Ybroshane. Or you can follow what our company is doing at Libomni and the next thing that we’re doing right after this is I’m going to be releasing the first issue of our inclusive romance magazine, “Only One Bed.” We’ve got two issues filled right now, and we’re just working on like the editing and the illustration. So, keep an eye out for that. And there’s maybe some really good stories in that.
Jeff: Fantastic, Sarah,
Sarah: You can find me on Twitter. I believe my handle is SarahStone83. I don’t have right in front of me. So, that’s why, and I also, you can find out more about the RPG. We just set up a discord. So, it will be a, you’d find the link online soon. I will be sharing it a lot and it’s a really cool place. People seem to be really enjoying themselves there. And then just new stuff that I have in the pipe. There’s some new stuff coming out for Star Trek Adventures. So, the Shackleton Expanse and you just, yeah.
Tytiana: You can feel free to follow me on Twitter at HazeLikesStuff. You can follow me there for updates on my…I’m actually really fashionable about sharing this. I’m sorry. This is my first time plugging it. My upcoming Comic Star World, I have found artists to start drawing some things I already have. Some concepts are posted. Yes. It starts a kind of fantasy story and then makes a hard left side. That’s about all I can say. And if you are interested in learning how to hone and better channel your real life magic, then you can also follow me at
BrewingWitches on Twitter to keep up with updates about my magic podcasts which is called “Brewing Witches.”
Jordan: I am everywhere as Jordan L. Hawk. If I’m on a platform, that is what it is. So, Twitter it’s @JordanLHawk, Facebook Jordan L. Hawk Patreon as Jordan L. Hawk. I’m on Instagram as Jordan L. Hawk. I don’t ever do much over there except post pictures of my cats. So, you know, you’re not going to get a lot of information there, but if you’d like to look at cats that I occasionally post cat pictures, I’m also on Tumblr As Jordan L. Hawk. And that is essentially my, whatever my current fan focus is. I’m terrible at promoting myself on Tumblr. I just end up reblogging cool fan art for other franchises. So, yeah. So, if you’re trying to follow actual updates, my website is jordanlhawk.com. You can subscribe to my newsletter there. Again, Twitter, Facebook just put in Jordan L. Hawk and you’ll find me.
Jeff: All right. Fantastic. Well, thank you all for joining us. All of you on the panel, everybody on Facebook who hung out. Congratulations again on such a successful start to the Kickstarter campaign. Can’t wait to see where it ends up at the end of the month.
Shane:Thank you. You’ve been an excellent host. We are so grateful to be here.