Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Five or So Questions with Paul Riddle on Undying

Hi everyone! Today I have an interview with Paul Riddle about his new game, Undying, currently on Kickstarter!

As a disclaimer, I've played a session of Undying, and I totally loved it. I'm a fan. :)

Tell me a little bit about Undying. What excites you about it?

Undying is my first published game, so getting it out there is a huge deal for me! I’m blown away by the support for Undying on Kickstarter and on social media. To everyone supporting Undying, thank you so much!

Undying is a diceless vampire roleplaying game of predation and intrigue. I think what excites me the most about Undying is how elegantly the game functions in support of the core theme of vampirism. Blood, debt, humanity, and status work together to create a common tension that plays out in really compelling ways. I think the simplicity of the rules are great for people of any experience level and I think there’s enough complexity in the interplay of the rules to keep game play engaging time after time.

Your examples for meddling, hunting, and feeding feature characters of a variety of genders and identities. What inspired you to make sure you show diversity in roles and representation? Will we see more of this in the game?

Blood and sex are both very intimate things and blood, at least, is essential to a vampire roleplaying game. Sexuality is a spectrum and I believe that the same concept should apply to blood and feeding. I want to cultivate an environment for Undying where folks playing the game are empowered to explore genders and identities in both feeding and sexual contexts. I hope the examples I’ve provided for hunting and feeding help by showing strong female characters and strong non-heteronormative characters.

As a gamer and lover of fiction, I've seen a fair share of vampires. What makes Undying different than, say, Anne Rice or Bram Stoker inspired media?

Undying is an amalgam of various vampire media. I think what makes Undying special is that it isn’t strongly typed to any one take on vampirism and, instead, offers a toolkit in the form of predator lore that allows you to design the vampire roleplaying experience that you want. Predator lore teaches you how to make house rules and encourages you to do so on the fly, while you’re playing the game. For example, when the question comes up, “Will staking a predator through the heart kill them,” there’s no canon, you decide while you’re playing whether it does or doesn’t.

One of the most complicated factors of vampire lore is the matter of consent. In Undying, how do you approach this concept, and did it impact your design?

That’s a tough one and yes, consent is definitely a factor. As far as the design goes, since losing your humanity by doing horrible things -- often to people who can’t resist or wouldn’t consent -- is an open ended question, the game itself doesn’t dictate that the taking of blood or sex must be consensual. Instead, it’s an exploration. To help frame things in a positive way, I’ve tried to give examples that show a variety of situations.

The Hunting and Feeding moves provide a solid framework for taking blood and the choices that a predator of various levels of humanity must deal with. While blood is covered, sex is not. Sex is left entirely to the gaming group to decide what works best. There’s a section in the book that discusses how to play in a supportive environment. This gives you tools for how to work together to set expectations and be respectful of each other at the game table.

If someone was on the edge about kicking in to get Undying, what would be the most important aspects of the game, mechanically or fictionally, that you would like them to know?

Well, if the diceless thing is the hang up, all I can say is, no one (except my wife perhaps, who knows me better than anyone) is more surprised that I made a diceless roleplaying game. The diceless system works! It really clicks -- delivering a high-stakes experience! If it’s something else they're hung up on, I’d just say that the mechanics give you enough flexibility to play the vampire game you want to play, whatever that means to you.

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

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