Tim Loya – The Expedition Journals of Amestus Armen [Interview]

I have mentioned that I have a Kickstarter addiction, haven’t I? I’m sure I have. Well, the cool thing about all these Kickstarter projects is that sometimes I get to chat with some of the folks behind the project.

In this case, Tim Loya, one of the folks behind “The Expedition Journals of Amestus Armen” dropped me a line and we started chatting. These journals are meant as narrative explorations of a new world to be presented in the form of entries logged by an expedition crew investigating a new land. It’s definitely a new approach that I’ve not seen before, so I asked Tim if he’d mind answering a few questions about the project in its final funding days. He kindly said yes, so here’s what transpired…

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Q: A narrative, journal-based approach to role-playing supplements goes quite contrary to much of what’s being published today. In broad strokes, what do you hope to provide GMs and players using this approach?

Much of what a GM takes away from a new supplement he or she purchases tends to be a concept, the ideas behind the new material being presented. Our idea is to skip straight to that part and instead focus on the “feel” of the new material instead of the minutiae. Also trying to stand out by not doing what everyone else is doing has its own merits.

Q: Who is Amestus Armen? And how are we introduced to his expeditions?

Without giving away too much, Amestus is our guide and link to more traditional fantasy roleplaying locals. More in terms of the world: he is a scholar who has spoken his mind and is being “rewarded” by professional exile. As for how a reader is introduced, that depends on where you join in.

If you’re taking part in our kickstarter he’s blatantly trying to recruit you to join him. and a few interesting tidbits may be dropped here and there. If you join us as a buyer you’ll be introduced at the beginning of each journal with a short excerpt from his more personal thoughts before he delves into the topic at hand.

Q: Does the world behind Armen enter into these adventures at all? Will we learn more about the world he comes from over time or will we only learn of the New World, not the old?

Yes and no. Being as Amestus himself and all references to the Empire he’s left behind are being used as analogies to more traditional settings, but not wanting to nail down just what setting (since our readers may be coming from a wide variety of them) we’re leaving it rather rough in that regard. Allusions will be made, and one of our backers has already asked for more leading to the possibility of expansion, but in general, no, not directly.

Q: How do you foresee integrating actual adventures into these supplements? Or is the creation of the adventures left up to the GM adapting the material for their particular setting and rules system?

Well three of our journals are referred to as “Traveler’s Logs”, although only one is currently up on our release time line. These are directly intended to be used as adventures. Either as a framework for one in and of itself, as a seed for something that has happened and players can respond to, or somewhere in between. Our hope is that these will help guide a GM in the creation of additional adventures, but as with the rest of our journals, is intended to be completely modular as well.

Q: Since this is a *new* world, will you be offering statistics for any of the flora or fauna encountered along the way? If your supplements are meant to be largely system-neutral or generic, will you offer tips on converting to common RPGs?

Yes and yes. There are a few core systems we will be focusing on as far as our provided suggested stats go. Primarily d20 and AGE (our new favorite around the table) and we will of course make provision for conversion. Hopefully our narrative descriptions creatures will also help with that. As communication is important for any company, doubly so for a startup such as ourselves, we will also try to provide stats for requested systems as we are able.

Q: How will you enforce the “discovery” aspect of each supplement for the players?

That’s the goal of the narrative perspective. Aside from Amestus’, or whichever presenting character’s, writing, simply saying “wow, that’s new”, we’re also working on making sure these things are, in fact, new. We’re a diverse group of role-players so we’ve seen a lot, so we’re trying to bring things to the table that even we haven’t seen before.

Q: How much
of each supplement will be meant for player-consumption vs. GM-consumption? Will there be player handouts describing any of the things the expedition may see?

Technically all of it could, minus the “grey text” or out of character bits intended for the GM. In fact I suggested to one backer that utilizing a GM’s aide through the use of a player whose character is a native, by allowing them to read everything. But all in all, that is very much so a GM’s call. The handouts as well. We’ll do our best to describe things to the GM so he can describe them to his players, however he deems best.

Q: Are these supplements meant to be used in a fantasy setting or do you see them being used in other places as well? For instance, I could see a Victorian-era setting, a Columbus-era setting, and a pure fantasy setting working well, but perhaps modern or futuristic settings may not work as well due to technological advances.

I suppose they could be used in any more technologically archaic setting. Futuristic settings, you’re absolutely right (and we’ve already jumped on the idea of doing a similar project for sci-fi should this one be successful) it wouldn’t fit. Any creative GM can shoe-horn just about anything into anyplace so I wouldn’t underestimate anyone out there. But, yes, our focus is primarily fantasy, but in material and concept.

Q: If the first supplement goes well, how often do you hope to release new supplements?

Well this project is intended for a monthly release, which actually gives us plenty of time for polish and rewriting. But should this first set of journals is successful we see expansion into sci-fi (as planetary expeditions) as well as continuation of this expedition with a second moving to focus on places and people in the “new lands”, and even potentially a third about a return to the Empire and making it a more definitive place.

Q: Do you run a regular gaming campaign that these ideas have come out of? If so, what system do you use and why have you chosen to go system-neutral vs. using one of the many popular RPGs?

Well, yes I do. AGE is our favorite, by Green Ronin. It was initially conceived to cover the licensed property of Dragon Age by Bioware. And while they’re expanding on that, and outwards away from the initial goal by expanding the rules of the system itself, there’s still a lot of potential there.

As for why we decided to go system neutral, three reasons. One, it’s kind of like picking a political party, pick one and a lot of people from the other side seem to start treating anything you come up with as anathema. Two, the systems we’ve been using more recently are from small and independent publishers, so picking one of them may guarantee us a loyal crowd, but the main idea is getting the concept out. And three, it saves a lot on licensing fees, as not everyone company out there is as benevolent as some others when it comes to their intellectual property.

Q: How long have you been gaming? Any favorite gaming stories you’d care to share?

Well I suppose I would have to date myself eventually. I’ve been gaming for nineteen years. I wasn’t in on the beginning, and we were very young-ish then. Mistakes were made and we probably weren’t doing it right, but we still played. And the ideas and fun were what mattered anyway.

Stories… sheesh, so many. And how many of them start with “we had this dwarf in the party.”

So, we had this dwarf in the party. We were using a system that allowed progression outside of leveling through actual time spent training, so long
as the player could come up with reasonable justification as to how their character was improving. The party was on the slopes of a mountain range, winter was setting in, and the players just new they’d be facing some environmental hazards relating to cold here shortly. So the dwarf’s player decides that since he’s already roleplaying the invincible tough guy that he needs to improve his endurance.

So his dwarf promptly takes off his plate mail and clothing and begins traveling with the rest of the party along the road buck naked. No comment from his fellow travelers or his employer could convince him that putting anything back on may be more prudent. I believe he even participated in a fight against hungry wolves in his birthday suit.

All in all I’m certain was traumatic for everyone involved. Luckily as players we didn’t have to see it… only imagine it.

Q: If there is one question you weren’t asked that you’d like to answer, what would that question and answer be?

Why? Why something so new and so different?

No we’re not trying to make a huge name for ourselves or become the next big roleplaying company, but we would like to be successful, even if only by our own standards. Those standards don’t include a ton of money, one of our own unique intellectual properties on every bookshelf, or becoming as common a name as Gary Gygax.

What it does mean is showing something new. And getting enough people interested in it that we can try it again, and again. Eventually getting to the point that we can release our own systems and it’s seen as a matter of course, not an attempt at frivolity (interesting fact, one of our original project concepts is a modern US military Special Operations RPG). Yes, making a buck is nice, especially if we cover costs, but anything more than that is just icing, not a goal.

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By the way, in case you think Tim is “alone” on this project – he’s not. When I asked for biographical details I got the following, which hints to me that these guys are gamers just like the rest of us – and each with a sick sense of humor. :)

Timothe Loya

Timothe (or more commonly Tim) is a semi-professional writer. After exiting the US Marine Corps he tried his hand at college and discovered both a talent and love of writing. After participating heavily in his school newspaper he moved on to his more personal interest in table top gaming while remaining writing non-fiction for various quarterlies in print and electronic media.

His move to fiction in support of roleplaying and creative design was brought on by his love and commitment to the field and his interest in becoming more directly involved in the industry, instead of just  commenting on the industry. Besides it’s the only way to let out the Gremlins who otherwise spend all their time banging at the inside of his skull.

Christine Carattini

Christine, better known as Chrissie, is a mother, vet tech, and overall nerd. She has always had a passion for animals first, but followed shortly by a love of all things horror and fantasy. She enjoys writing short stories revolving around the suspense of the unknown and misunderstood. She has contributed ideas to a few different projects, and would love to one day have a horror genre role-playing game to call her very own.

Outside of animals and her child, Chrissie has hopes for complete world domination. Her plan includes malfunctioning toasters shooting poisonous pop tarts mounted on the backs of specially trained cats. However, that is all that can be revealed at this time as those are plans for a distant date. As for now she plans to focus on her family, career, and horror inspired nerdy goodness.

Colin Robertson

Colin is many things: an aspiring engineer student, an RPG junkie, and an omnipotent being that controls most things that you do in your everyday life, or so he thinks. He has an outstanding mind that allows him to delve deep into crevices unexplored by others. His love for sci-fi and fantasy has driven him to a couple short stories, and some great ideas for many different games.

He often gets caught up in the details of the larger picture. This trait allows him to create truly vivid and realistic descriptions, right down to the individual color of the highest leaf on the oldest tree. This also leads to his love of all things mechanical. He is a great inspiration and mind when it comes to guns, robots, and devices you have never thought of to do things that you would never need. Outside this  fantastical world inside his imagination Colin enjoys the company of his chosen family, attends school, and is beginning a career in a field that will play to his strengths.

Michael Durkin

Mike Durkin is firmly convinced that the creator of Invader Zim used his own people, the Proud and Glorious Durkins, as inspiration for the Irken race. As he is the tallest Durkin he knows of, by the rules of his magnificent society he is in fact the Alpha Durkin. Currently he is posing as a (mostly) average, former Marine gaming nerd in order to evade the agents of the secretive Project Bluebook (which he thought he had handled years ago). Now for the cover story…

Mike Durkin is a sci-fi, horror, and fantasy enthusiast, and spends much of his time seeking out prime examples of the “so bad it’s good” types of movies for those genres. He holds a special love for super cheesy
“creature feature” movies. His love of gaming grew out of a high school obsession and he has been playing card, role playing, and board games ever since. Also, he likes comic book superheroes, and has since before it became popular to do so.

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A huge thank you goes out to Tim and the team behind “Expeditions”. They only have a few days to go and a little more funding before they hit their goal, so I’d encourage you to check out the project today and toss some money in the pot! They only need a few more bucks to get fully funded, so let’s give them a chance to succeed.

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