Hi Guy and thank you for giving us some of your time and participating in this interview. Please introduce yourself as a person and as “a gamer.”
I’ve been gaming since 1982 when I discovered D&D and some of the other early RPG games. Gaming was a big part of my teenage years as I grew up in the hell (for me) that was rural Kentucky. Through college and into my late 20’s I gamed my ass off. Generally RPG’s and board games in the early years since I didn’t have anything like the cash for miniatures.
After college I moved out from Kentucky to southern California, got into the burgeoning gothic industrial scene pretty heavily, and started to help run events for that subculture. White Wolf and the World of Darkness games were getting big around then and I jumped into that big time, both tabletop and also running large, large LARPS with hundreds of people dressed in black and vinyl. I still remember when the PD thought one of my games was some kind of big gang showdown and landed on us with SWAT and we had to explain to them WTH a LARP was before anyone got shot. Good times. (-:
One of the things I’ve always loved about games though was the visual components. I love a game that LOOKS good as well as one that plays well, I like the artistic aspect and the spectacle created in addition to the game play. Visuals are such an important component to storytelling and storytelling is a big part of any game. That also means I have a pretty high bar on these visual things, in my early D&D days for instance we didn’t use much in the way of miniatures or terrain cause it all looked too crappy to me. In addition, I was poor as shit.
I’ve also always been a big history buff, minored in college, and I always always do everything with a firm historical basis. Even fantasy. It just makes it so, so much better long term and enriches the story immensely.
After a while I got tired of being poor and not having healthcare. Theoretical mathematicians not being in high demand in the job world, I went back to school, got an MS Computer Science, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in ‘99. The next twenty years were almost entirely work, family and kids, and not much time for gaming. I did a bunch of startups, helped build CNET, Facebook, Lyft, worked for the Department of Energy on fusion power research, out on a football stadium sized laser array out in the desert. That was fun.
Meanwhile the Silicon Valley work scene changed a lot, a mess of freaks, weirdos and outcasts (my people basically) morphed into a much more professional environment as the money got serious. Eventually I got burned out and tired of it all and retired, right as Covid was ramping up in May of 2020.
I never realized how much I missed gaming until I finally had the time to get back into it. I’ve been going kind of nuts across the board since, RPG’s, board games, miniatures. Mostly RPG’s during Covid as that’s easier to do remotely. My basement has turned into a damn movie studio.
It’s actually pretty fascinating to think how Covid is going to change our hobby long term. I think a lot of the barriers for remote gaming have been overcome and also there is sort of a media convergence going across tabletop, computer gaming and multimedia. Being able to essentially “make movies” has become commoditized. For instance, we are starting to create and use video clips in the D&D game, to introduce scenes or characters, dream sequences etc. Gene has become an Augmented Reality expert as part of his day job by creating huge elaborate 3D computer maps of dungeons. That kind of thing.
Then my vacation house almost burned down in the Oregon forest fires of 2020, a bunch of friends got burned out, and my property turned into a climate refugee camp for a couple weeks. I sort of sat up, looked around and it seemed like things were way out of control climate wise, and I should probably do something about it. I got together with some of my old Facebook crew and we kicked up a startup to try to keep the forests from burning down. So yeah, climate change is gonna screw us, if you aren’t scared you should be and retirement lasted all of three months.
How long have you been playing Blood & Plunder and how did you get into the game?
Started getting into it in early 2020 right before Covid, while looking for ships for DnD. It sucked because as California locked down I had no one to play this damn game that I had just gotten all excited about. So I am nowhere near the expert that many of the people in the community are. Eager to learn though, if you write a post, I’ll probably read it!
It looks like you’re a big Dungeons & Dragons player and you’ve combined Blood & Plunder and D&D in some awesome ways. Tell us about that!
The pandemic is one of the main reasons I made the pivot but I am glad I did. I am very very good at running remote games. I have ridiculous hardware, the whole play group are computer engineers, and we are doing some next level shit here. And it is still almost impossible to make B&P an accurate and fair competitive experience by playing remotely. Pivoting to D&D and incorporating Blood and Plunder into it meant it was now “Dungeon Master vs Players” which meant that you didn’t have to measure to the inch anymore, the person that was actually physically in the room didn’t have the big advantage, and the whole thing turned into a less lopsided competitive experience.
The second advantage is it lets you do a lot more with terrain. In B&P you need a terrain build that is fair to both attacker and defender and balancing something like Lost Anchorage is super tough. D&D means a lot less worry about balance since as the DM I can tweak it on the fly.
Like this scene, you could not balance a1v1 game on this. Or at least I cannot.
The rules of the two systems actually jell pretty well. The trick is to just accept that the D&D ruleset is absolutely ass for even small unit combat and the hitpoint system (where you are fine and then you are dead) that is the core to the D&D mechanic is the anathema to a ship battle experience. You want the feel of the ship being shot away around you and that is something B&P does really really well, one of the many strokes of brilliance in the design.
So rather than fit B&P into the D&D paradigm, I went the other way and just imported some D&D elements into B&P. B&P already has a whole system for characters and is at a scale where 1 model = 1 actual person so it works pretty well.
Details here, I am going to officially open source these rules soon
Link to the campaign blog here
Your tables look amazing. Can you tell us some about your terrain collection?
Thanks! In general this community produces amazing tables. I have never seen a game that had more visual appeal and the community is a bunch of artistic madfolk.
I have spent way too much money on this shit. I have been super lucky in that my financial situation (which I take zero credit for, that stuff is mostly all luck kids) has made me able to substitute money for artistic talent. This is fortunate because I have no artistic talent. However one thing that the community has taught me is that actually talented people can produce amazing stuff with three bucks, some shoestring and a bunch of popsicle sticks. So you don’t need a mess of money to do great stuff. I am not one of those people.
Fortunately I am friends with Carlos Fernandez who has ooodles of artistic talent . He painted most of the hard stuff including all the large ships
I buy a lot of 3D printed stuff and paint it, mostly off Etsy. I troll the internet for mom and pop outfits that have cool models. My current favorite is Crescent Root, boy they are good, especially for the money. I also have a lot of Dwarven Forge, but honestly it’s less good for pirating, too medieval focused. Which kinda sucks because it is a lot easier to store and more flexible. Builds a helluva castle though. I hope Stefan does pirates as his next Kickstarter!
The important thing when doing a table is to have a story you want to tell, not extremely detailed but a general idea of setting, plot, characters, mood, style. Even for 1v1 battles. Then as you build the terrain the terrain influences the story and vice versa. And then once you start playing the game, the terrain, players and story all influence each other. At least that is how it works for me
Games are stories.
Describe your local B&P community.
Well, lockdown, so not really sure. I mostly play with my friend Gene, and some of my other D&D peeps. However as we open up I am going to hit the local game store (Anime Imports, they are awesome if you are in the Bay Area check them out) and see if I can drum up some interest. So I’ve been working on teaching games, both for my friends and to prep. Teaching games that are accessible but also look good and don’t have Barks. I hate Barks.
What factions do you like to play?
I like ship based stuff, so British Navy and I am experimenting with the Dutch. Though of course when I am DM’ing it can be weird. Longships, to galleys crewed by half giants to ghost ships of long forgotten maritime empires.
Describe your Blood & Plunder collection.
One of each Firelock ship except the Bark. I hate the Bark. I don’t like how it looks. Several longships that can do double duty as galleys if you aren’t too picky. A bunch of fishing ships, a medieval cog or two. The Firelock models are the best ships out there, even if you have no interest in anything but D&D. If you are spending your money on that Wizkid monstrosity, don’t. Undercannoed weirdly rigged piece of junk. And overpriced on top of it.
The other thing I really like about the Firelock models is that you can run multiple versions of the sails/flags so I can switch them around for different D&D encounters without having to have multiple versions of the models.
What is your favorite ship and favorite unit?
That’s hard cause seriously almost all the ship models are amazing. I like my pirate Sloop of War. I love the 6th rate and Tartana. But the Flyute and the Galleon rule too. Everything is good except the Bark. F***ing Barks. I wish they spent a bit more time on the longboats and canoes.
Unit wise, probably like Boucaniers even though I don’t play them often. I have a bad case of Boucanier envy. Overpowered French! Usually they are killing me since Gene loves his French. Not only are they awesome but the whole backstory and mystique is great.
Do you have a favorite character or Commander?
Actually not so much for commanders. Still not enough games under my belt, though I really love some of their various backstories.
I like the sailing master for characters cause I love to try clever sailing maneuvers and if I have him out, I am more likely to die spectacularly after pulling them off then stupidly when I miss stays.
What is your favorite thing about Blood & Plunder?
1: The visual appeal
2: The historical accuracy
3: It’s a really good game mechanically. I haven’t talked about that much previously, but they really fixed a lot of things that annoyed me about the other miniatures games I’ve played. You know what a model is. (it’s a person) and where the model is actually matters. No movement trays required. The Models vs Units level of abstractions have a really nice game play demarcation. Sailing is awesome. Amphibious is awesome. Other games where I maneuver big squares around the battlefield I’m like “why are they even figures on these big squares? They don’t actually have any effect on anything?” They could be chits. What the hell is this big square suppose to be? Is it a formation? This isn’t how formations work. How many guys is this guy suppose to represent? This is dumb.
What would you like to see added to Blood & Plunder in the future?
Ha! Too much!
- More sailing advanced maneuvers. A bunch of common stuff like heaving too, shivering sails is still missing. More emphasis on the naval game in general
- More modularity in ship models. You see people doing this through modding, Brigantine -> Snow for example, but specific support for multiple sail plans would be great.
- Barbary Pirates and Indian Ocean would be amazing. More non-European ship design.
- Female pirates. Yes I know, ahistorical. Do you want women playing this game? Then break that rule (-:
- Extensive and balanced rules for large scale battles involving intricate fortifications
What’s currently on your painting desk or workbench?
Terrain mostly, Dexter Heide inspired. I am trying to build up a Mayan ruins style terrain set. Since that is coming up soon in the campaign. I am also thinking about some dollhouse scale giant-lair stuff, that is gonna be pretty wacky
I have a Xebec being printed, see what I can do with that.
Is there anything else you would like to mention before we finish?
It’s a great online community. Super creative, knowledgeable and collaborative.
Thank you for sharing with the Blood & Plunder community!