Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Five or So Questions on The Quick

Today I have a great interview with the creators of The Quick, a Nordic noir ghost story RPG! It sounded really cool to me when I found it scrolling through Kickstarter, where it's currently up, so I had to ask them some questions. Ville Takanen, Petri Leinonen, and Teemu Rantanen were a joy to interview. Check out the answers below!


Tell me a little about The Quick. What excites you about it?
Ville: The Quick started as a twisted lovechild of the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, True Detective and my earlier experiments with the New Weird. It was supposed to be a quick one-off experiment with those building blocks without any greater plans, but the first demo game we had turned out to be a massive success. The Quick let us combine the low-key - or almost magic realism like - touch on the supernatural seen on some of the newer Scandinavian new weird and the brutal storytelling of the new wave of Nordic detective stories.

Teemu: To me, the atmosphere of Nordic Noir has always held a feeling of unseen forces and threats under the surface. What we are doing is manifesting these originally psychological themes in both more concrete and at the same time more symbolic form to the setting. In this way Nordic Noir and Ghost Stories are a perfect match, and I'm loving working to combine them into this cool setting.
(Yeah, when I watched the Millenium-trilogy, I was just waiting for it to turn into a supernatural horror movie)

Petri: I'm a game mechanics kind of guy, so I'm really excited to be creating something like this that takes these Story Game elements and combines them with a more traditional kind of a system. The end result, that I'm really excited about, is the nice coherent engine that drives the character stories forward in a way that fits our genre mashup extremely well.

What mechanics will we see in play the most often? 

Petri: Our base mechanic is pretty simple and revolves around the players having their characters accomplish what they set out to do if they really want to do it, the question always being more about what price they're willing to pay for it. This base is supplemented by player moves (we've dipped a bit into the Powered by the Apocalypse pool, even if we're not doing a PbtA game) that enforce the genre expectations -by making things like violence always a messy option or the closing a gate to a major Echo a very dangerous thing to do.

On the GM side, the most prominent mechanic probably is the Threat Track, which creates mechanical momentum to the story elements the players spend their effort investigating, pushing the story always forward. 

How have you developed the setting for The Quick? What have you done to make it rich?

Teemu: I think that the genre-aware approach has worked well on for us: The starting point has been a sort of mix between urban horror and magical realism. From that point, we started to think 'Ok, so what central themes of Nordic Noir does this embody?'. And then begun building the game around these things. We feel we ended up with something cool, clearly matching the distinct feeling we want the setting to have. This genre-aim has also enriched the material, often taking it to complete new directions from where we have started.

What are the character types in the game? How do they integrate with the base mechanics?

Petri: We drew the character concepts or types from the stereotypes of Nordic Noir fiction and then gave them a spin so that they fit the ghost-hunter stories we’re creating. The seven concepts vary from the very mundane ones that can still play a bit of a Scully to our Mulders, to those concepts that make it clear from the start that there’s something strange happening. The concepts, ordered by their strangeness, are called Spook, Seeker, Old Soul, Bloodbound, Touched, Channel and Rogue Ops.

The concepts provide another layer for the character, giving them a perspective on the world. The system doesn’t have stats or skills, so instead of giving the character something like +1 to shooting or +5 to agility, each concept gives the character a power that will make things easier, and a flaw that pushes the characters to work as one of the Quick.

How has working on English and Finnish texts alike influenced your experience as designers and gamers? Do you find that it influences your design at all?

Ville: I actually find it easier to write in English. The Role-playing and Story Games lingo has in many cases originated from the American gaming community: being able to use the original terms instead of bickering on how it should be translated to Finnish helps us a lot when it comes to writing the game text. 

What is (for each of you) your favorite thing you've worked on in The Quick?

Petri: The Touched character concept is something I've really enjoyed working on. Probably because it's been a long road to get to this point. We knew from the start it was something we needed to have it in the game, but it's taken numerous iterations to get to this stage where it sings with both the mundane and the supernatural side of things (they can detect things from the Echoes others can't). And still, represent a very classic archetype from the Scandinavian Noir stories (the person who is trying to get in touch of something they've lost by immersing themselves in the mystery).

Ville: Aside from the whole book? The track tech we are developing must be my favorite part. I was introduced to the ideas behind the tech by Petri's PtbA hack "New Horizons/H+," and I instantly knew they were the missing part we needed to have for the Quick. The threat tracks create an elegant mechanics for the storyteller to run mystery games, the way I had tried to run White Wolf games as a teenager. And the Harm track which puts the player in control of the character's downward spiral, giving us a neat way to model the character's kinda anti-"hero's journey" found in many of Nordic Noir stories.

Teemu: The favorite thing I have worked on would probably be the Rogue Ops character concept. One thing that has really worked well in this project has been the way we have taken turns in writing items, each writer bringing their own perspective and ideas to the text and then passing it on. The Rogue Ops sort of started as an outside-the-box character idea I played in one of the early playtests. Since then every time someone developed it further, it was enriched in the process, so that when I returned to work on it there was so much better and versatile foundations to build on than there would have been if it would have just stayed with one writer.

And of course, I do find the idea of company men sneaking to save the world behind the backs of their corporate employers charming. It's sort of like an environmental activist with the day job in the oil industry.

When it comes to the stories that will be told, what elements of the game do you hope will resonate with players?

Ville: The combination of Nordic detective story and new weird is a new and fresh take on the urban fantasy genre. The harsh and realistic take on violence, the bleak view of society and the low-fi supernatural create a unique platform to tell player stories.

We feel the way we have modeled the genre limitations, and possibilities to the game engine will help players to bring the things we love about the game to life.

For me, I hope that the main themes of the game, and way the Quick focuses around this with the player concepts and the moves provided by the engine, will resonate with players and let them create new and exciting stories of complex characters and scary ghost stories.


Thanks to Ville, Petri, and Teemu for their responses! I hope y'all enjoyed the interview and that you'll check out The Quick on Kickstarter, and share with your fellows! 

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