Thursday, September 27, 2012

RPGnet Chat with Dan Davenport

Last night I did a late night Q&A on the RPGnet Chat with Dan Davenport and others in the chatroom, discussing all things Conspiracy X, Doctor Who and WILD. Below is an edited and formatted transcript of the chat. Enjoy! (You can read the full unedited transcript over at Dan's site -


Dan Davenport: Alright! Dave, when you're ready, please introduce yourself and your games. The floor is yours!

Dave Chapman: Hi, I'm Dave Chapman. I've worked on lots of games for Eden Studios, including Buffy, AFMBE, Ghosts of Albion, Terra Primate and most notably I'm line developer for Conspiracy X 2.0. I was also system designer and lead writer on Cubicle 7's Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space and now I'm working on my own project called WILD for my little publishing name Autocratik.

Dan: Any questions so far, or shall I get things rolling?

nick3: Well  I guess I should ask if more Conspiracy X 2.0 stuff is coming out

Dave: Yes, there's the Paranormal Sourcebook (thanks to Kickstarter) which is hitting shops this week, the Conspiracies Sourcebook which is in layout at the moment, and Extinction (the future of Conspiracy X) is in the works at the moment too... There's been talk of another sourcebook (The Operations Sourcebook) as well, and there are other books on my harddrive from the classic game that never saw print, so there's plenty of scope for the future.

nick3: The Conspiracies Sourcebook? Mind giving us a bit of information about it .

Dave: Sure. Like the other books, it takes existing classic ConX stuff and updates it (in this case, Sub Rosa, Aegis and Hand Unseen) but it also includes a lot of unseen material from the fabled Area 51 sourcebook... There's also some new stuff in there that builds to the future of the line (Extinction) and takes the game in a new direction. It's been Kickstarted, busted through its goals, and should be finished in the next couple of months. It's all written, it just needs layout, proofing and printing. 

Dan: And do I recall correctly that the Paranormal Sourcebook includes info from the 1st edition magic, psychic, and cryptid supplements?

Dave: Oh yes, only updated and converted to Unisystem. Kickstarter backers could get Zener cards with it, they'll be available to retail soon as well hopefully.

nick3: Are you guys going to aid some more stuff about CAPS?  That was a curious omission in the Paranormal Sourcebook

Dan: CAPS?

nick3: Dan, they are Aegis agency that studies the directly supernatural elements of the Conspiracy X world.

Dan: Ah, thanks.

Dave: CAPS is Center for Advanced Phenomenological Studies. Try saying that with a mouthful of marbles as my dad would say... As they're part of Aegis, I do believe they're covered in more detail in the Conspiracies Sourcebook's Aegis section. I'll check... I did write it five years ago, but I have been doing some additional updates recently.

Dan: Without giving too much away, the supernatural has a unified explanation in the ConX universe... How (or do) the cryptids fit in?

Dave: No problem. The book gives multiple explanations for each cryptozoological phenomena. Maybe it's seepage, maybe it's Atlantean constructs, it's up to the GM to decide what fits the campaign best.

Dan: Ah, I see.

Le_Squide: So, is seepage no longer the assumed truth behind all the weirdness?

Dave: Seepage is the cause of 99% of it, but weird things like the Loch Ness Monster, or Yeti, have very different origins... just to keep agents on their toes...

Dan: I spoke a bit about this to George regarding Extinction, but how do you plan on keeping it interesting and not just a matter of "Oh, great, more lizard guys"?

Dave: It all sounds a bit epic, but CJ Carella (creator of Unisystem) wrote Extinction before he became a recluse and vanished (hoping to avoid government agents I think). It's a huge game, but I see it like TV's "Falling Skies" meets "Halo", on a near future Earth. The Greys and the Atlanteans are about, but have very different parts to play in the battle against the Saurians. Lots of cyberware, nano tech, body modification, and magic has become recognised and public. It's gonna be interesting.

Dan: Really? I didn't realize it was that far in the future. Or is the high-tech stuff a result of interaction with the aliens?

Dave: Not too far, but with the way technology is developing at the moment, and with the Atlanteans predicting the return of the Saurian fleet they're stepping up the game and encouraging technological advances.

Dan: Aha. Gotcha. Are there any supernatural aspects to the enemy, or is that a purely human thing?

Dave: It's more of a human thing. Saurians are (*spoilers*) assumed to be Voids (except for the Dreamspeakers), so they haven't really gone into magic... but the idea of a corrupted Gna-Tall is a scary thought...

Dan: As I mentioned earlier, we discussed Doctor Who quite a bit with Nathaniel a while back, but I would just like to say that the system is awesome... and bears a more than passing resemblance to Cinematic Unisystem. Any thoughts on the subject? (Nat ran a demo game for me. He's local.)

Dave: Cinematic Unisystem was a great influence, one of the first games I'd played that really balanced a powerful lead (Slayer) and a group of White Hats (Scoobies).  When approaching Doctor Who, you had the same problem with The Doctor, and Companions, though in the more recent series, the companions have just as much to offer the story as The Doctor most of the time. Ensuring the poor player lumbered with K-9 has just as much to do and is just as capable in their own way during an adventure is tricky, but hopefully the game balances that.

Dan: How robust do you see the system as being? Obviously, it's been adapted to a more action-oriented setting in Primeval... Can you see it getting as much use as CineUni in various games? (And just because my regulars will be surprised if I don't ask this... could you see it handling pulp?)

Dave: I know the adaptation to Primeval was certainly more combat orientated, and it seems to work really well. I know it's also being used for a number of upcoming games that Cubicle 7 have coming out, but I don't know if I'm allowed to discuss what they are. As River Song would say... "Spoilers!"

Dan: Really? Cool. :)

Dave: I know one of the up coming games is certainly "Pulp-y" so hopefully that'll please your regulars!

Dan: DWPearce mentioned that it's a bit on the deadly side, Story Points aside.  What's your take?

Dave: It can be dangerous. It was a problem that initially came from Doctor Who - most of the weapons in the series are one-shot-kills. Hopefully, the Story Points keep people alive, and if you're running out of them, you're not doing enough dramatic and cool stuff to get them back!! Do something exciting!! There's also systems in play to exchange Story Points with other characters, and to keep you alive and healthy, but the best way to tackle combat in any game is to plan ahead, avoid conflict if possible, and take cover!

Dan: I saw that damage tops out at 1.5x in Doctor Who... Does that stay the same in Primeval? I tend to like rewarding sharpshooters/swashbucklers.

Dave: AFAIK, though you'd have to ask Gareth R-H about that, I haven't seen the final printed copy yet. Keep meaning to buy it!

Dan: Ah, understood. He's currently negotiating with the wife for a Q&A of his own. 

Dave: Yeah, must admit, he's the go-to guy for info on Primeval and Who at the moment, I had to take a step back from it all for a bit this year.

Dan: Okay, so can you tell us about WILD?

Dave: Ah, WILD... well, it stands for Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming. It's an RPG that takes place in various levels of consciousness - from the waking world to many levels of dreaming. I like to think of it like Inception meets SuckerPunch.

Dan: What's the system like, and how does it handle what would have to be a wildly crossgenre setting?

Dave: It's even looser than anything I've worked on before. It's a new system, I've called "Rapid Die Movement". It's very fast and easy, and should handle anything. There's also an element of Tarot cards, and mandalas... Jung would be proud. 

Dan: How does the system work?

Dave: I can't give too much away, it's early days. There's only four stats, and five "skills", fairly simple dice pool. The depth comes from how dreams work, who's in control of the dream, how much you can alter them, and what happens when you lose control. In the real world there's a technology that allows dreamshare, built for medical and psychotherapy use but, then the military gets hold of it, there's black market copies for underground fight-clubs, dream recording, weirdness like that. Hopefully it should be good. And it may help with your real world problems and induce Lucidity too!

Dan: Are dreams potentially dangerous in the setting?

Dave: Dan, yes... think Nightmare on Elm St. And there's always an element that the dreams may escape. Just watch Paprika

Dan: (Oh, that's right... I do need to watch that. I bought it a while back...)

Snake_Eyes: Hello DaveChapman! what is your favorite Dungeons and Dragons module?

Dan: (Snake loves that question. :) )

Dave: Snake! Haven't played D&D since 1st Edition! Demonweb pits is the one that sticks in my mind. Dangerous!!!

Snake_Eyes: Awesome!!!

Dan: Yeah, I love that one. Even had a steampunk spider before steampunk was cool. :)

Dave: Oh, I may have played a 3.5 demo of Eberron about 3 years ago... Looking forward to seeing where 5th Ed goes though!

Snake_Eyes: What would you say is the best advice to give to an aspiring RPG writer?

Dave: Know the system, email the company, and WRITE! Write for free! Prove you can do it! My blog covers my attempts at getting into game writing since 1986, but I think the supplement I wrote for AFMBE is what convinced Eden to give me work. I wrote it on-spec, and it's never been used, but proved I could write for them... I became developer for Terra Primate from it, and the rest is history.

Snake_Eyes: :) Cool, nice to know.

Dan: Terra Primate is awesome, by the way. But you know that, because I reviewed it. ;)

Dave: Many thanks for that, dude. I didn't do much, just plugged the system into existing text, but it's a very underrated game.

Snake_Eyes: What is your favorite personal design you have created for rpgs, as a in rule mechanism?

Dave: Hmmm - I think the Initiative system for Doctor Who. That seems to go down well... allowing the Doctor to talk people out of a fight... I'm hoping the new system for WILD will surprise people too.

Dan: Would you mind saying a bit more about the initiative system, Dave? I've read and played it, but I'm not sure if Snake (or everyone reading the log of this chat) is familiar with it.

Snake_Eyes: Oh, yes I am a little familiar with the system, it allows the protagonist that wishes to engage in diplomacy a chance to act before violence begins?

Dave: Yes... basically, it breaks down into 4 phases. Talkers, Movers, Doers and Fighters. In that order. Gives people chance to talk their way out of a fight, to run away, to do something cool like open a door or trigger an alarm... anything rather than fight. You can fight, especially if you're in a UNIT style game. But in Doctor Who, the Doctor usually slides into a fight and gets them to lower their weapons - giving everyone a chance before the blasting and exterminating starts. I think it's that order... (it's been a while)

Dan: I'm told that there will be an alternate system for the UNIT supplement?

Dave: There's certainly mass combat rules in UNIT for when the troops are called in to fight armies of Cybermen, etc.

Dan: How would you describe the work of a line developer as it relates to the authors of individual game books?

Dave: It's not too different from just being an author, except when there's a line of books coming out, you're not expected to do them all yourself. So you call upon the people you know and ask them to help. Then you take their cool text, merge it into the format you need, and ensure the books have the same "voice"...

Snake_Eyes: What RPG books are you enjoying reading atm?

Dave: Just reading Nobilis (3rd) at the mo, as I loved (2nd) and wanted to see the difference. Leverage is amazing and highly underrated, and I'm looking forward to the Star Wars Beta making it to the UK... Speaking of being in the UK, it's 2:10am here and I've a dull day job tomorrow, I'll need to sleep soon!

Snake_Eyes: cool :)

Dan: So as line developer, is it your decision what comes out, and when?

Dave: Not really, it's usually when it's done, it's ready! Most of that's down to the publisher and the line developer's boss. They set the deadlines (if any)!

Snake_Eyes: well thank you very much DaveChapman, I hope you have pleasant dreams!!

Dan: No problem, Dave! We can call it a night if you need to hit the sack.

Dave: Thank you! I consider all dreams research - I'm cataloging some of them here for the game -

Dan: Cool. :)

Dave: Thanks guys, it's been a blast. Anytime!

Dan: Thanks very much for staying up late to talk to us!


Jeffrywith1e said...

Super glad to hear there'll be more games using the Doctor Who and Primeval system. Curious what the official name of the system is or will be. Calling it George didn't stick, but I am rather fond of Saturday Afternoon Tea Time Adventure System as a name for it.

David F. Chapman said...

Aw... I liked George as a name! Last time I spoke to Cubicle 7 about it I suggested just calling it the ATS system (short for Any Time or Space) as it's being used for lots of different things, and the initials were handy as it all came from DW: AITAS (or DW:ATS).

I did like the Saturday Tea Time name it was gaining, but there are a lot of new games that aren't tied into Saturday tea time coming... shame we didn't do Merlin, that would have fit the name... or X Factor. Ha!