Hey my fellow tabletop gamers,
We have a great new interview today with MATTHEW DAWKINS, Onyx Path Publishing's best writer and content maker. Today, he's here to talk to us about the company's newest Kickstarter for THEY CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA. It is a retro-scifi 1950s B-movie influenced roleplaying game.
You can check out the Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/they-came-from-beneath-the-sea-a-tabletop-roleplay/updates
1. What is the premise of THEY CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA?
The premise of They Came from Beneath the Sea! is that you get to play the strong-jawed veterans, plucky journalists, mad scientists, and grizzled everymen of the 1950s, where the Cold War is starting to boil and suddenly, without warning, aliens invade our perfect towns! It's a game strongly set in the world of B-Movies of the era, which can be played as seriously or as farcically as the table desires.
2. TCFBTS is inspired by 1950s B-movies. What ones in particular did you draw from? Why did you choose this as a format? What made you think this would be a great game? (three questions in one, I know)
There are so many fantastic B-Movies. Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) is of course a classic, but don't overlook It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) and Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), the former of which is a magnificent Ray Harryhausen piece and the latter is a Roger Corman oddity. Of recent movies, I strongly recommend the work of Larry Blamire, especially The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001) and The Trail of the Screaming Forehead (2007). Both really evoke the humour present in these kinds of movies. I enjoy this format for cinema, but it took many playtest iterations to land upon it as an RPG medium. I've found groups love to have fun and laugh around the table, and a game that encourages that is a rarity in this market.
3. What sort of rules system does this game use?
We use the Storypath System (d10, dice pools, standard difficulties of 8) for They Came from Beneath the Sea!, as established in Scion, Trinity, and Dystopia Rising. However, our version is slightly modified to account for some of They Came From's unique powers and features.
4. How would you describe the game's tone? Funny? Horrific? Horror comedy?
The tone of this game is what you make of it. I've now run so many games of it with different tone and flavour, I can honestly say They Came From can be horrific or comedic, or any mixture of the two. While the game is set up to allow you to make a funny game, it doesn't dictate to you what good humour is. We're very conscious of allowing groups to find their own levels of fun.
5. Do you think fans of the Fallout or Bioshock games will like this game?
There's definitely a little of the Fallout tongue-in-cheek humour to this game, especially with all the talk of atomic devices in day-to-day life. I love BioShock, but we've not really attempted to emulate any sort of genetic splicing-Randian horror. Not yet, anyway.
6. Will the communists in the game be evil baddies or sensual slavs seduced by the heroes or heroes themselves?
While the default setting of the game is 1950s America, making "commies" default bad guys in the eyes of G-Men and other stalwart American "patriots", this game doesn't dictate that all communists, Soviets, Russians, or indeed any other group acts in a set way. Think of how they're portrayed in your favourite movie of the era and roll with that in your game.
7. What can you tell us about the enemies of the game?
There are so many! The writers on this book knocked the Threats out of the park. We have gill-folk, crab people, were-lobsters, teenage shrimp, centopus, the Prefecture of the Pod, the Sirens of Ness... So many! There are plenty more than that, each divided into the brackets of Destroyers, Invaders, Enslavers, Spies, and Primordials. Each has its own ecology and motivations, and they don't necessarily get on.
8. What sort of heroes will be the players be expected to play?
Heroes will tend to be the kinds of characters portrayed in B-Movies of the 1950s and 1960s. A little wooden, a little hammy, but ultimately earnest in their beliefs and ambitions. You'll have everything from the small-town sheriff just looking to get a restful night's sleep, to the blue collar everyman wanting to defending his patch of land. There are five Archetypes: Everyman, G-Man, Mouth, Scientist, and Survivor.
9. The 1950s are a frequently satirized period of history. Will this book engage in any social satire?
There's definitely some social satire. In some of the fiction within the book, men underestimate women, communists are taken as uniformly black-hearted villains, governments want a pacified populace, and scientists are unpredictable lunatics. In most such cases, expectations are thwarted with the foolish party soon taken to task. Also, Joseph McCarthy gets eaten by a giant clam.
10. What are some of the Kickstarter rewards which donors will be able to get?
The Kickstarter is the best place to look for such things, but at bare minimum we're offering the PDF of the game, through to the book, a Director's screen, and cards for your Quips and Cinematics. If the Kickstarter hits stretch goals, we might see additional supplements or artwork for the game, among many other things.
11. Do you see this as a potential ongoing series of books or a limited collection of them?
I could see a whole series of They Came From games if this one were successful. Spitballing here, but I could see a Hammer Horror-influenced game, a Goosebumps-inspired game, and others that take inspiration from other forms of cinematic media. I'd love to do one based on Italian giallo cinema, but I understand that would have a limited audience (outside Italy).
12. Describe to us a typical adventure of this game in your view.
The typical adventure sees your characters reacting to a rapid invasion of bodysnatchers such as the crab people, or a ship offshore going missing and your heroes having to investigate the whereabouts of its crew. Adventure thus unfolds!
13. What projects will you be working on after this?
I have a few V5 books to develop, the Contagion Chronicle to get finished, and a bunch of projects for companies other than Onyx Path such as an unannounced Chaosium book, Solemn Vale for Dirty Vortex Games, and pushing forward with my Onyx Path media role! If you've not subscribed to Onyx Path on YouTube and Twitch, please do so! Content will be thick and fast come 2019!
I am one of the biggest fans of Chicago by Night 1st Edition that exists. For those who wonder what the hell I'm talking about, it is a supplement created in 1992 for the tabletop role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. The premise was the city of Chicago was secretly controlled by vampires ranging from the beautiful Annabelle to the unliving Al Capone. Further figures like Critias of Athens, Helen of Troy, and Meneleus were also undead inhabiting the Windy City. You, as newly created vampires, had the job of navigating the city's complicated politics in order to avoid another sunrise.
Eventually, the focus of the game changed as it became less about city-based gameplay and more about globe-trotting adventures between sects. Chicago by Night had a good half of its vampire population slaughtered by werewolves and after a follow-up edition, Chicago by Night 2nd Edition, ceased to be relevant to the setting for the rest of the original line's history.
However, the legend of Chicago by Night would not die. With the return of Vampire: The Masquerade after a decade-long absence with the Vampire 20th Anniversary line, it was to my delight they managed to bring back the supplement. I had done a read through of the supplement on RPG.net and also had been touting it for years. I wanted to see how old friends, fictional or not, had adapted to the 21st century.
Presently, they're raising money for the supplement on Kickstarter. They've already passed the funds necessary for the supplement but are now raising funds for supplements to the setting. I hope people will chip in a bit and pick up a copy if they have any interest in vampires and role-playing games. What I've seen so far of it has been awesome.
Thankfully, Matthew Dawkins, one of the writers of the supplement has decided to sit down with me and give an interview about this awesome book. He was a chief contributor to Beckett's Jyhad Diary and is the man behind the excellent Gentleman's Guide to Vampires Youtube video series.
Here's a video introduction to Chicago by Night 5E.
And here's the interview.
1. What inspired making a 5th Edition of Chicago by Night?
Chicago was the iconic city for Vampire: The Masquerade for the longest time, so it made sense to revisit it, give it a facelift, a lot of new plots and characters, and bring it forward into fifth edition.
2. What was your thoughts on the original supplement?
I'm a big fan of a lot of the old city sourcebooks, with Chicago being in my top three. Chicago was the template that many books went on to follow, and my hope is that any city sourcebooks following this one will match or build on its design.
3. Do you have a favorite Chicago-area supplement to that period? (Diablerie: Mexico, Milwaukee by Night, Succubus Club, Under a Blood Red Moon, Ashes to Ashes, Blood Bond)
My favourite supplement for that period and location would be Milwaukee by Night, which still ranks as my #1 city sourcebook. I love it due to its simplicity. It has a lot of stereotypical characters in its pages, but I enjoy that, and consider it an excellent introductory book for anyone looking to get into Vampire.
4. Did you prefer 1st Edition or 2nd Edition?
I don't really have a preference between first and second edition Chicago by Night, as they both have a lot of strong elements. The thing I feel is missing in second edition are the chronicle hooks at the back of first edition, but it makes up for it with a more diverse, interesting cast of characters.
5. What can players expect from this supplement?
Players can expect rules for playing the Lasombra, lots of interesting Kindred with whom a character can form alliances or rivalries, benefits and drawbacks for operating out of certain parts of the city, and a beautiful campaign setting in which to grow a character.
6. What was the design philosophy for updating Chicago and its characters to the year 2018?
The core design philosophy was to ensure this book had the horror of the Beast, Humanity, and Hierarchy. Bleeding out from that we strived to introduce a diverse cast of characters with multiple interesting agendas, plentiful plots a Storyteller can introduce to their chronicle, and to make the book feel exactly as Chicago should.
7. Do you have a favorite character from the book?
My favourite character is a new Nosferatu named Adze. He's a lot of fun and teases the possibility of Chicago moving away from the Camarilla.
8. What sort of changes can we expect to the setting with the transition to 5th Edition?
There's a new Prince, some new Primogen, old foes might have fallen, new ones may have arisen. The changes to the Camarilla and Anarchs in fifth edition sends ripples across Chicago as well, meaning previously quiet clans receive prominent position while others, once powerful, sink into the shadows.
9. The Lasombra clan will be detailed in this book. Can you explain why they'll be included in this book, in or out of universe?
I pitched for the Lasombra to be included in this book for a few reasons: 1.) I wanted them playable in V5, 2.) There's a strong metaplot reason for them to be in the North American crown jewel of the Camarilla, and 3.) It adds an exciting plot vein to this book.
10. The Kickstarter lists some additional supplements that have already been unlocked. Can you tell us a bit about them?
The Chicago Dossiers will be books largely consisting of in-universe artifacts you can print and use for your chronicles, though there's the hope it will receive expansion so we can include some more characters and loresheets in there too. Let the Streets Run Red is a chronicles book a little like the Succubus Club sourcebook of old, with as many as four decent-sized chronicles, the first being set in Chicago, the last (if we reach it) going out as far as Milwaukee and Indianapolis.
11. How has your experience been on writing for 5E?
I've enjoyed my work on V5 a great deal. Certainly, it's had its stresses from time to time. That's natural for a new edition of a game, especially when a new team has been put together. It can also sometimes prove tricky to create something that exactly matches what the licence owner (White Wolf, in this case) would like to see. But all in all, I'm very pleased with how V5 has turned out, and especially how Chicago is looking.
12. You wrote about the Ministry (formerly the Followers of Set) for the Guide to the Anarchs, right? What can we expect to find out about them in that book?
The Ministry have gone through a bit of a re-brand, ostensibly accepting a plethora of non-Caine faiths into their ranks and re-embracing their polytheistic roots. They're the spiritual arm of the Anarch Movement, providing advice to fellow Anarchs on how to temper their Beast by working for a higher power, while of course profiteering from other vampires' spiritual corrosion. I've heard a lot of good things from fans of the Setites who were apprehensive about the Ministry, but enjoy the fresh coat of paint the clan's received.
13. What projects will you be working on after Chicago by Night?
They Came from Beneath the Sea!, the Contagion Chronicle, Book of Oblivion, Mummy: The Curse, and Shunned by the Moon are the big projects on my list right now. There's also the stretch goals following the Chicago by Night Kickstarter, but we won't get started on them until we know how big they're going to be.
VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE remains the most influential of all tabletop roleplaying games in my life and is pretty much under DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS for influence on the world as a whole. The Blade Trilogy, Underworld, True Blood, Dark, Vampyr, and a huge number of other works were all influenced by it. Recently, Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition came out and electrified the fanbase. However, 5E didn't cover what a lot of people most remember about the game: the metaplot.