Monday, September 19, 2016

Five or So Questions with Brandon Williams on Demon Gate

Hi all! Today I have an interview with Brandon Williams about the new game from Arcanum Syndicate, Demon Gate, which is currently on Kickstarter with a little over a week left! You may recognize Brandon's name from the cyberpunk RPG Chaos 6010 A.D. Demon Gate is an apocalyptic fantasy RPG with survivalist elements. Check out the interview below!

Tell me a little about Demon Gate. What excites you about it?

Demon Gate is an apocalyptic dark fantasy RPG that places the players into a very harsh and dangerous world that really forces players to survive together. There are no alignments and all characters begin the game with the bare minimum of gear that is primarily established depending upon what your character class is. I try to let GMs know that it is very important to keep track of the mundane things in this game like food and provisions and warmth, for surviving in a hostile wilderness should be just as tough as the monsters you may encounter.
Everything about it excites me realistically, but if I had to choose a couple it would be the combat system and the setting. It is kind of meant to start out very fantasy lite where all these things, monsters and such are supposed to be scary stories you heard around the campfire at night in your village but as you start to explore the dark world you find out the stories are all real. There are these prophesies about the end of the world where the demons and devils from the Black Plane (Hell) will eventually enslave our world, and you will begin to realize that this can really happen unless you band together and try to stop it.

The combat system uses resisted rolls so you roll a d20 to hit but you also roll a d20 to defend by trying to match or beat your attacker's roll. There are also cool talents and abilities that help you out in the midst of combat where you can sometimes spend legend points to activate them. If you roll a natural 20 to defend an attack you gain an immediate riposte at your enemy, there are a lot of fun things like that which makes rolling against one another a good time.

What inspired you with your design of Demon Gate, including games, other media, and your own interests?

I originally created the idea back in the 90s working on another RPG called Chaos 6010. So back in the day I really loved the setting for Forgotten Realms during 2nd edition. Yet since then I have taken a lot more inspiration from the art in other games like Diablo, or the Necronomicon, Call of Cthulu. I also took a great deal of influence from a really old rpg computer game called Darklands, a game about medieval Germany. Inspiration from movies like the Hell scene in Constantine. Even many of my own nightmares have been a great inspiration, while very frightening they were also inspirational and I had to jump up and write them down. I have always been fascinated by the idea of Hell in many religions so it takes a lot of inspiration from real world religious beliefs as well and I tried to tie the storyline into our world's history in a way. For instance how to explain how entire civilizations or villages just vanished in the past. Hellraiser was also an inspiration to me and series of books on the Lesser Key of Solomon, Ars Goetia, as well as goetic art and symbols.

For a survivalist game, tracking gear and rations can be complex. How does Demon Gate handle that mechanically and fictionally?

When you are traveling the GM rolls a chance for random encounters each day (optional but recommended) and due to the planet's harsh climates at times bad weather conditions can pop up effecting your chances of survival. So it is good to have survival skills to help out. Players are allowed untrained skill checks for those who do not possess the proper skills even though it is much harder to succeed. Since each character skill is based off of an attribute you make an attribute check for an untrained skill check and your target number is raised. The GM has the option to use the random encounter tables for all different types of locations or they can simply make situations up of course. Due to the planet having two suns, a broken moon, and many close planet's during parts of the year, the climate and gravity shifts can sometimes cause some strange anomolies.

When keeping track of provisions you are allowed a certain amount of days for your water skin to deplete so you just make a little tick off for each day on a scrap paper. For food there is a very helpful hunting and foraging table that lets you make one roll to pretty much figure out how many meals you gain from the hunt and also how many hides and bones you are getting from the kill determined by the result of your hunting skill result.This works the same when foraging or fishing. The roll will determine if you catch anything that night at all, how many portions, and units of leather, bones, scales, etc. These can be saved and traded on the road or sold at a town, or if one of the characters possessed the proper skills can be used during crafting. For long adventures across the wilderness it is always good to pack your provisions so that you do not have to worry if you will eat that night, for starving will begin to degrade your stats as will freezing to death.

When players encounter challenges in the game, are they more likely to be physical in nature and if so, how? What mechanics are in place to address physical and social or mental challenges?

In the game master chapter I talk about making sure all NPCs (non- player characters, just in case someone doesn't know), aren't just brutes who care nothing about living and just wish to kill you and take your money. Some may have starving families, some may even end up helping you. I think that this might depend on the GM and players but in Demon Gate there are rules for social engagements, and very many mental afflictions. Travelling to the Veil or Shadow Plane, or Hell even, as some may do at times in quests to forever kill a spirit's soul can have repercussions. Characters must also have a good Willpower attribute to be strong in mind. Having a high willpower will grant you fortitude which is like armor for your mind. Armor in this game soaks damage so if a character has a high willpower they might have +2 to defend mental attacks and a fortitude of 5. This if hit with 20 mental damage the fortitude soaks 5 of it letting you take only 15 damage. 

Charisma is your social skill. This is not how pretty you are, there is a physical beauty rating for that. Charisma is how well you do in social engagements. I did this because I'm sure many people have met a very pretty person with a really bad charisma. A high charisma will alter your reputation points which are great to have when trying to seek an audience with a local magistrate or lord, etc. There are resisted rolls in most cases if it comes down to having to roll. I say this because some game masters would prefer you use words but Jon the player might not be very good with them while Arun who is Jon's character might have a high charisma so he would make his charisma check by rolling the dice and trying to either reach a target number or another character's resisted roll.

There are a great deal of physical alterations of course, so I put a lot of rules within the combat mechanics as if you are playing a mix between an rpg and a miniature battle game. I love using miniatures to show fight scenes of course it isn't necessary but I believe it adds a whole new level of fun to the game. You do not have to use miniatures but the rules are explained with them in mind. I love the combat system being resisted d20 and it has proven to be a good time for many years.

The Black Plane sounds cool! Could you talk about the fiction of the game a little, and share any of your favorite flavor bits?

I have written a great deal of lore about this world but I do wish to keep much of it a mystery and hope to unleash more and more of the story in future books. I will say that it is meant to start as if all these prophesies and legends are just fairy-tales but as adventurers begin to explore the world they find the remnants of an ancient alien race called the Void Gods who once ruled this world and inhabited it for it's metallic resources. There is a few metals on this planet that can glow and channel energy and magic very well, these mertacullum weapons that are found can do some powerful things. I still keep it all within the medieval fantasy genre though so you never find a ray gun, but a lance that can retract and fire lightning out of it is a little more on point. The ancient alien tech that is found is primarily thought of as "magic items".

The demons once ruled this world, it was theirs because many of them were the criminals of the void gods. They were the most foul and wicked of their kind, so bad that they left them imprisoned on this planet within dungeons. A very powerful demon lord who is from a little planet called Earth is the one who started to set them free when he was banished to this world long ago by the God of Earth. These demons were able to reconstruct the powerful gates of the Void Gods that they made using the mertacullum. These gates could travel to other worlds and even other planes of existence. They would use these gates to bring creatures from the surrounding planets and enslave them, forcing them to mine the metals of this world, to serve them, to force them to worship them as their new gods, and to use them for their suffering. Well once the gods of the Forgotten Worlds found out about this, they united and brought angels and nephilim to the planet through the gates and fought the demons in what is called the Thrall War. The demons were defeated and locked away in prisons in the Black Plane, or Hell. Each world has its own planes of Heaven, Purgatory, Shadow, Hell, even Elemental ones. Hell has a special prison called Tartarus, where the demon god Baal was locked within and sealed up forever. Until the seals began to break and fantatical cults a thousand years later sought to unleash the ancient lord Baal upon the world. Now the Age of Falling, the Pale Plague all of the signs are coming true, and now everyone is afraid.

Thanks to Brandon for the interview, and definitely check out Demon Gate on Kickstarter! It only has a little bit of time left but has some great art and seems like a cool time for survivalist, apocalyptic fantasy fans. 


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