Friday, May 20, 2016

Five or So Questions with Craig Campbell on Murders and Acquisitions

I have an interview here with Craig Campbell about his new game Murders and Acquisitions! It's a game that's unexpected but sounds like a lot of fun, and it's currently on Kickstarter! Check out the Kickstarter, and Craig's responses to my questions below!

Tell me a little bit about Murders and Acquisitions. What excites you about it?

Murders and Acquisitions is a tabletop RPG of subterfuge, espionage, intrigue, theft, and murder in an absurd corporate world. The players portray corporate go-getters who seek money, power, and prestige, by whatever means necessary. The game is a little tongue in cheek with humor thrown in here and there. The game mechanics are simple. The world is very easy to understand. The character sheet looks like a resume.

Firstly, I'm excited to be creating my own RPG. I've done freelance for D&D, Pathfinder, Gamma World, and Iron Kingdoms, but Murders & Acquisitions is my own creation. Seeing finally come to fruition is very satisfying. Secondly, it fills a niche that I think most gamers haven't seen before. When big, corrupt corporations show up in RPGs, they're usually the bad guys. In M&A, you play within the hostile (deadly) work environment and, hopefully, rise to the top. It's part fantasy wish fulfillment and part fun, engaging storytelling. With full dental.


What inspired you to make a game about corporate subterfuge and the like?

The initial idea for the game came from my friend Matthew at work. He described a game about corporate go-getters working with each other but also sometimes betraying each other as they rose up the corporate ladder. The game he described felt like a board or card game, maybe a reskinning of Munchkin, where players portrayed company employees rather than dungeon-delving adventurers. My background in freelance RPG design put me in the head space of making this idea a tabletop RPG. I asked Matthew if he'd be cool with me expanding his idea into an RPG and he said, "Go for it."

Within just a few weeks, I had the basic game worked out. I started playtesting with friends just to see if the game idea had some legs underneath it. Within a month or three, Murders & Acquisitions was in full design mode.


Could you walk me through the mechanics of a basic encounter, such as a character sneaking around trying to steal a rival's secrets?

Very simple game mechanics. Each character has twelve skills that cover everything you can do in the game. Skills are ranked d4 - d12, higher is better. When making a skill check, you roll this Skill Die along with a d6 called the Synergy Die. Add them up. Compare to a target number for the task. Success/failure as well as DEGREE of success/failure is resolved with this one skill check. If you succeed on a skill check and get a "6" on the Synergy Die, you gain a boon. Your skill check results in a better than normal result. If you fail on a skill check and get a "1" on the Synergy Die, you suffer a botch and the GM describes a problem your character has to deal with.

The skills in the game read like they are "corporate speak" or "resume keywords." Your ability to "sneak around" is called Bodily Grace. Telling lies falls under a skill called Social Equivocation. Covering up your horrible acts of wrongdoing falls under a skill called Loss Mitigation. Your character's physical strength is Force Application; the application of force to achieve your ends.


The stretch goal for magic in the game has been unlocked! How does magic impact the alternate reality you've built for M&A?

Magic doesn't affect the core game at all. The core game is built around the idea of our real world, but with some significant differences...how the game world is different from our real world. Companies in the game world are more corrupt and cut-throat that those in our world.

The stretch goals (including the Magic & Spellcasting goal already hit) add optional rules for the M&A game. These optional rules allow players to add fantastic elements so often present in RPGs. Magic. Monsters. Future Tech. Cosmic Horror. And more. These chapters allow the players to create a more complex and unique game world environment. These optional rules are sort of a mix-and-match thing. They all work with the core rules, but provide added dimension to the game. You can pick and choose which optional rules you want to use in your game.


What has your experience designing your first full RPG been like, and how do you think it shows in M&A as a game?

Designing Murders & Acquisitions has been a labor of love. It's been in development for well over two years and has gone through multiple iterations. Playtesters have offered a ton of advice and revision goals. It's been tweaked and re-tweaked. I feel the game I'm providing in the Kickstarter is as good as I can make it. 

Despite my past RPG design freelancing, I'm always surprised by Murders & Acquisitions. Playtest and demo players surprise me with their actions. The game supports such surprises, encouraging GMs to "roll with the punches" and help the players create a memorable story of corporate intrigue. The GM in M&A is actually called the "Supervisor." His job is to supervise the game experience to help everyone at the table have fun and tell an evocative story. It's an apt moniker, I think.

When it comes down to brass tacks, Murders & Acquisitions is a game where players create stories together. I'm proud that the game supports such a worthwhile endeavor. Stories are what bind us together as a people. If my little game can help the players do that, I'll consider it a resounding success.

Plus, you can "kill your boss" in the game without having to find a new job afterwards. So that's pretty fun.

Thanks to Craig for the interview, and I'm excited to see where Murders and Acquisitions goes from here! Remember to check out the Kickstarter and share this interview with your friends!


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