Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Five or So Questions with Eddy Webb on Pugmire

I was excited to have the chance to chat with Eddy Webb about his new game Pugmire, which is currently on Kickstarter. It sounds like such a cool and unique game. I hope you enjoy hearing about it, and check out the Kickstarter if you get the chance!

Tell me a little about Pugmire. What excites you about it?

Pugmire is a tabletop roleplaying game I’ve been working on for a couple of years now. "Pugmire" is the name of the biggest kingdom in a world in which dogs have built a new society. They live in the ashes of our world far in the future, seeking adventure and redemption. Think Lord of the Rings meets Planet of the Apes, but with dogs.

It excites me for a couple of reasons. The first is that most of my career thus far has been crime and horror fiction and games, and the world of Pugmire allows me to not only have a little fun, but also tell different kinds of compelling and engaging stories. Secondly, though, it's all mine. This is a world I've build from the ground up, and for the first time I can apply all the ideas and strategies I've learned over the past fourteen years of my career to something that I have complete control over. It's very freeing to be able to reach out to people I know and trust, as well as work with brand new people, and work with them on great projects without having to worry about checking in with another group of people.

Can you tell me about the conception process you have used to develop the game, the world, and the fun characters you mention on the Kickstarter, like Yosha and Pan?

I've been developing the world off and on for a few years now. It all started over a Thanksgiving break. I had ruined my normal laptop, and was stuck in a small apartment with my two pugs and a Chromebook. The dogs were driving me nuts barking at invisible things, so I started writing down notes for a fantasy world in which dogs barked at invisible demons. I thought it was amusing, but put it aside.

About a year later, I was asked to write a short story for an anthology, and pulled up the world idea. I fleshed it out, and that became the first glimmers of Pugmire (and the first time I wrote Yosha and Pan). A number of people suggested I do more with it, and the idea of a tabletop RPG was high on the list (since it's an area I've worked as a writer and designer for close to sixteen years). I pitched the idea to Richard Thomas at Onyx Path Publishing, he loved it, and it's been in various stages of development pretty consistently since then!

I wanted to make sure that there were signature or "iconic" characters for people to gravitate to early on, and Yosha and Pan were definitely two I wanted to include. I used them as a good counterpoint to each other for the Gen Con promotional release we did -- she is the voice of intelligence but a bit of sweet naivety, while Pan is the gruff, exaggerated voice of experience -- and the dynamic just worked really well.

I'd love to hear some details about the mechanics. What is the base system you are working with, and if you're doing any fun variations, could you tell me about them?
It's d20 OGL, but it's had a bit of an interesting journey. I started working on the system for Pugmire before D&D 5th Edition came out. When I got a chance to read it, however, I realized that a lot of where I wanted to take the system was already addressed in those rules. But the OGL for that edition wasn't out until just a couple of weeks before we were ready to launch, so I rewrote the original (3rd edition) version of the rules to get closer to that.

But Pugmire is not just a clone of D&D. At each step, I've tweaked, streamlined, revised, and outright changed various parts of the rules to fit my vision of the game. People familiar with those rules will find a lot they recognize, and a lot that's totally new.

Some small rules changes can have knock-on effects, and I used that style of design to help emphasize cooperation and action. For example, there are no experience points and no rules for currency -- dogs gain a level after an interesting story, and they can roll to "remember" equipment they didn't bring with them on the adventure. Additionally, there's a brand-new mechanic called "Fortune" that allows players to reroll dice and affect the flow of the game, but it's all in a bowl in the center of the table. Anyone can spend it, but they have to ask the group if it's okay first. Little things like that, combined with the in-world ideology of "Be A Good Dog", really help to get people thinking about cooperation and telling interesting stories.

What kind of stories do you think people can tell with Pugmire, and what kind of experience do you think they will get out of those?

After years of writing games that were very complex, dark, and full of terrible people doing terrible things, I wanted to write a game that was more heroic. But I just can't get into bubble-gum fantasy where everyone is good just for the sake of being good. I still value characters and worlds with texture. As I started working on Pugmire, I realized that I could create a world where one group of players can have a lot of fun playing Corgis with battleaxes, while another group of players can dig into the religious ramifications of the edict "Be A Good Dog." It works on a few different levels, sometimes simultaneously, which makes it a game that can scale quite well between light-hearted fun and poignant sadness.

Finally, what are your main inspirations for Pugmire and how do they see representation in the game?

I had a wide diversity of inspirations. Some, like Mouse Guard and Redwall are fairly obvious -- talking animals that go off and have fantastic adventures! But others are more subtle. The early, slightly gonzo material in both Dungeons & Dragons and Gamma World were certainly inspirational to me, particularly that strange but compelling blend of genre fantasy and science fiction that manifest as Pugmire's "magic." Also, the not-quite-post-apocalyptic feel of Thundarr the Barbarian really influenced the feel of a fragmented society that looks to the past and gets some bits wrong. But really, my biggest inspiration are my dogs, past and present, who continue to delight, console, and infuriate me every day. I constantly try to imagine the adventure they think they're having, and I try to bring them to the table.

Thanks so much to Eddy for the great interview! I think Pugmire sounds like a great game for a variety of audiences. Make sure to check it out on Kickstarter!

This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs.

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