This interview is part of a series focusing on candidates in the running for the 2014 ENnie Awards. The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop role-playing gaming, with voting beginning 7 a.m. Central on Sunday, July 20 through 7 p.m. Central on Wednesday, July 30. The winners will be announced at Gen Con, the Grand Hall at the Historic Union Station on Friday, August 15. To vote, see http://www.ennie-awards.com/vote/. In this installment I interview Wolfgang Baur, Publisher, Kobold Press.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your company.
Wolfgang Baur (WB): When I started the company X years ago as Open Design, we focused on adventures for D&D 3.5. Over time, we moved on to rules and setting design, and publishing material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game as well as the AGE System, Call of Cthulhu and 13th Age.
MT: Has your company been nominated for any ENnies in the past?
WB: I’m proud to say that Kobold Press has been nominated for 17 ENnie awards and won 9 awards. We’ve won in multiple categories including Best Podcast, Best Electronic Book, Best Aid or Accessory, Best Adventure, and Best Writing.
MT: Tell us about your nominated products.
WB: The Kobold Guide to Magic is part of our best-selling series of game design guides, and is written for designers, authors and GMs who want to take their magic-creating to another level. The Midgard Bestiary: 13th Age Compatible Edition is our first product compatible with the 13th Age Roleplaying Game (which is also up for some ENnies this year), so it’s very gratifying to knock it out of the park on our first try!
In addition, the Deep Magic hardcover won a Judge’s Spotlight nod, which means a lot to us. That book is the tome of Pathfinder RPG spells that we’ve always wanted to produce, and it was a big success both creatively and in terms of expanding the audience for our Pathfinder books. Plus it doesn’t hurt to have Margaret Weis weigh in with the introduction.
MT: What distinguishes your entries from your competitors?
WB: Call it the dabbling nature of a kobold crew, but we tend to experiment a bit, trying new things every year. The books we produce reflect the things we’re most excited about, and I think that makes them stand out. 13th Age, for instance, is something that two of the kobolds are very keen on, so those books get more devoted—or more obsessive, if you like—review and development.
MT: What products will you be producing for the remainder of this year?
WB: We’ve got a 13th Age version of the Deep magic book in editing right now, plus some Wondrous Items for Pathfinder RPG, and two adventures for Kickstarter backers. And we just announced a poster map of Midgard, the setting for tons of Kobold Press adventures.
MT: Have you participated in any recent Kickstarters? Are there any upcoming Kickstarters on the horizon?
WB: Kobold Press has backed a few lately, including gaming ones like the Blue Dungeon Tiles project and the Advanced Bestiary from Green Ronin. We’re also preparing a bit of a magic carpet for an upcoming Kickstarter of our own, called Southlands, which explores the pulp tradition of Arabian, African, and Egyptian legends in fantasy gaming.
MT: Congratulations on working on Tyranny of Dragons. How did Wizards approach you?
WB: They bought me lunch and asked me whether I’d work on the new D&D adventure. It took me about two seconds to say yes! Adventures are by far my favorite type of design work.
MT: What can players expect from Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat all about? What about DMs?
WB: They can expect to fight an evil cult up and down the Sword Coast in the Forgotten Realms, and to encounter rather more dragons than most D&D adventures contain. The Hoard of the Dragon Queen is the first of those, and will be available at the Kobold Press booth at Gen Con. You can also order an autographed edition with a special embroidered patch at the Kobold Store online.
MT: What makes a successful 5th Edition adventure?
WB: The same thing as a successful 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th edition adventure: thrilling dangers, wondrous places to explore, foul monsters and rich treasures. Game designers sometimes forget that last one, but it’s not a complicated formula.
The difficulty, of course, is making something familiar new and exciting again. Players are thrilled or disgusted or at least amazed by a gelatinous cube the first time their characters meet one. The third time, it’s routine. Reinventing the core tropes of fantasy and presenting new ones is the secret to a great adventure.
MT: What’s the secret to designing an adventure path?
WB: Keep the action moving. Connect the dots in a straightforward way. Make sure the scenery is truly wondrous and amazing, and that the NPCs are easy for a DM to bring to life.
MT: What’s your opinion on including anachronistic elements in an adventure?
WB: Well, different adventures are set in different time periods, and what’s anachronistic in D&D might be fine in a Cthulhu game. But I’m generally against it, though I’ll make exceptions for some automata, land-of-the-lost dinosaur adventures, and for laser/robot/spaceship scenarios that are isolated from the majority of a campaign.
MT: Will you be working on any future collaborations with Wizards?
WB: That remains to be seen. There are no current plans for Kobold Press to do another such project.
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where? Will any new products debut at Gen Con?
WB: Yes, we’ll be at booth 2537 in the dealer hall and at a number of panels throughout the convention. We’ll be debuting four products at the show:
- a signed edition of Tyranny of Dragons: Hoard of the Dragon Queen for D&D,
- our first-ever poster map of the Midgard Campaign Setting,
- a few convention special patches including one of Tiamat, Queen of Dragons, and 4) a special convention-only Pathfinder RPG adventure, called Goblins in the Brewery.
Come visit us and say hello!
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
WB: We post new, free RPG content every weekday at KoboldPress.com. Please visit us and leave a comment! We also have a thriving Kobold Press community on Google+ and friendly accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
WB: Despite what you may have heard, Tiamat is actually quite easy to work with. Very professional. Not at all evil. Really.