Today I have an interview with Mike Evans on his setting Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure, currently on Kickstarter!
Tell me a little about Hubris. What excites you about it?
Hubris is a weird, horror fantasy setting that utilizes the Dungeon Crawl Classic rules. It's a setting of horrific monsters, strange abandoned ruins, and terrifying gods that care little about the world. Players can be any of the classes from DCC, or they can dive into new races and classes in Hubris such as the mutant, murder machine, shadow dancer, alchemist, or blood witch (to name a few). I was inspired by horror movies such as The Thing, Tetzo Iron Man, Evil Dead, Pumpkinhead. RPGs that inspired me are Vornheim, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Cthulhu, Iron Kingdoms, and more. While writing the setting I had a constant flow of TOOL, A Perfect Circle, Slayer, Type o' Negative, Cannibal Corpse, Anthrax, and White Zombie blasting on my stereo.
Hubris excites me because I wrote the setting how I would like a setting book to be: usable at the game table. It's got horror, weirdness, and fantasy. The territories I've created have just enough fluff to give good flavor, but by and large they are a d100 random encounter chart and a d100 interesting locations chart. Each territory then has 5 or so locations I've created (with a paragraph of description) and 3-5 plot hooks/rumors. If you don't like DCC or don't want to use that ruleset, you don't have to. The territories are largely system neutral and can be used with any mechanics. I'm also excited because the people who are helping bring Hubris to print. Alex Mayo is doing the layout, while David Lewis Johnson, Jez Gordon, Jason Sholtis, Jeremy Duncan, Doug Kovacs and Angie Groves (my wife) are doing art. It's been great to connect and work with them.
What did you do to help guide your design process - structured templates, blog posting, etc.?
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was HOW I wanted to do the territories as far as formatting goes. I played with several permutations, but I wasn't happy with nothing. I ended up getting frustrated and put down the territories for about 2 months and went to work on the gods, patrons, spells, etc. Finally one day I was on a OSR blog and they were doing a list of random encounters that had location and encounters in one table... and it just felt right to separate them and create a d100 of each. Once that was done, boom- I was off writing again.
As far as other things- I kept an open mind to constructive criticism and valued the opinion of my peers, friends, and especially my wife. She was a good grounding... and she's not a role-player so she offered a great perspective on things.
I put quite a bit of stuff up on my blog (https://wrathofzombie.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/the-hubris-campaign-setting-links-page/) for others to use and offer feedback and thoughts, and the more I did the larger the Hubris following became. The interesting thing is I originally didn't intend to publish Hubris, but peeps seemed to dig it and I said fuck it.
As far as structured templates I used those quite a bit (and tried to emulate the formatting of DCC) for the patrons, spells, etc.
What would you say is one of the most unsettling thing you worked on in the book?
Easily the most unsettling thing I worked on was the Charred Maiden (https://wrathofzombie.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/hubris-the-charred-maiden-a-dcc-patron/). The patron was inspired by the burnt lady in American Horror Story the first season, Countess Barthory, nightmares, etc. I wanted the character description to be "real" so I researched what burn victims look like and read reports on how the body reacts to high temperatures, etc... Tried to capture that a bit in her writing, but I didn't want to go too far.
Can you tell me a little about The Black Queen? She sounds awesome.
I love pictures. When I started developing ideas for Hubris I was just typing up random crazy words in Google that I had in my head and looking for art to inspire me. One piece I found was of the evil queen from Snow White (https://wrathofzombie.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/the-black-queen.jpg) and it just HIT me that I wanted something like her in my game. I wanted a strong character that could be a horrific ally or a formidable foe. I also thought it would be cool to link her to a game mechanic (patron bond to the Floating Island of Terror- https://wrathofzombie.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/hubris-the-floating-island-of-terror-a-dcc-patron/). Players can share that bond and that could create interesting situations.
The queen consumes nightmares, rules through fear, and is responsible for flintlock weaponry being distributed through Hubris.
Here's a small piece about her" The Black Queen, a powerful sorcereress, sits high on her throne of bones and steam in her floating metal city, satiating her hunger on the nightmares of her subjects. The Black Queen governs and commands all who enter here; with the help of The Black Guard of Abhorrent Action, a group of devote followers of the Black Queen, it isn’t difficult.
As a designer, you get a different perspective on how games function (from my experience) - what is the best takeaway from a design perspective that you would like to see in a player's toolkit?
I'd have to say that this is a two-fold desire. One- I hope people use the book at the table. It's packed full of charts and tables to be used on the fly, and each territory (there are 10 of them) have two d100 tables. I want the players to say, "fuck it! We want to go into the Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire and explore!" and the GM can do a few simple die rolls and have a couple locations and encounters ready to spring. If they want to go deeper they can flip to the charts and use the die drop table to create a horrible ruin or the table to create the alter of an ancient and forgotten demigod...
The second is that it has been my experience that many authors fall in love with their own campaign settings, as they should as it's their work... however it shouldn't be treated as gospel. When I read some (not all) settings I get this sense of THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE PLAYED! DO NOT DEVIATE! And I say fuck it! DIY! Hubris is a toolkit; hack it, chop it, mutilate it and use what the hell you want. The map does not have a scale... I want the GM to decide the size of Hubris. Is it a REALLY dense island? Is it the size of Texas? Africa? Larger? Whatever- I don't need to put something in there to sway your mind. I'm putting three versions of the map in the book. A map with no labels, one with labels, and one with a hexgrid overlay. Some GMs like hexcrawls and others don't. I want people to play Hubris (or mine from it) what they want.
If someone uses just ONE idea from Hubris, then I'm happy.
Thanks Mike for the great interview! Make sure to check out Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure on Kickstarter!
This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs.