James Edward Raggi IV im Kamingespräch (Englisch)

Ban­grim takes some ques­tions and asks the mas­ter­mind of Lamen­ta­tions of the flame princess (LotfP) and also the Ran­dom eso­teric crea­ture Gen­er­a­tor, James Edward Raggi IV, some of them. The trans­lated ver­sion of this inter­view will fol­low soon.

Ban­grim: Would you like to intro­duce your­self and Lotfp to our reader?

James Edward Raggi IV: I’m nobody, no rea­son to waste time with that.

LotFP is an awe­some RPG pub­lish­ing putting out all sorts of cool stuff. Rules, set­tings, adven­tures. You like tra­di­tional games? You like fan­tasy? Hor­ror? You like unre­strained cre­ativ­ity that doesn’t think the audi­ence is made up of frag­ile chil­dren? Check out LotFP’s releases.

Ban­grim: How did you get in touch with the RPG com­mu­nity in the first place?

James Raggi: My mother orig­i­nally intro­duced me to DD back in 83 or 84 because she wanted an excuse to paint the lit­tle metal fig­ures. From there it was a mat­ter of find­ing out which of my friends gave a crap about books and dice and char­ac­ter sheets and dun­geons and all the things that come with cod­i­fied make-believe.

In high school I first con­nected with gamers out­side of my own group, and then in the early 00s I dis­cov­ered the inter­net and RPG.net and Drag­ons­foot and since then I’ve been mar­veling at how utterly wrong and crazy every­one else is.

In 2008 I released my first RPG book and started my blog to trans­form the world more to my liking.

Ban­grim: How did you come up with the idea of mov­ing from the US to fin­land and start a rpg com­pany there?

James Raggi: A woman pulled me to Fin­land, and women kept me there.

Finnish women are bet­ter look­ing and eas­ier than Amer­i­can women. They react favor­ably to old and fat and broke for­eign­ers, even when there’s no com­mon lan­guage. My advice to every­one is live some­place where the locals will do you and get away from places where they won’t.

Start­ing the RPG com­pany was pretty much my only choice other than clean­ing metro sta­tion toi­lets. That’s one rea­son why LotFP suc­ceeds – it has to. There is no Plan B.

Ban­grim: Which RPGs do you play beside Lotfp?

James Raggi: I don’t get the chance to play very much. I’m not very good at Finnish so it would be rude to show up to some­one else’s game and demand they speak my lan­guage. The last non-LotFP RPG I think I actu­ally got to play was Maid. I’d like to play the new Mar­vel thing and Call or Trail of Cthulhu .

I do like board games and (non CCG) card games.

Ban­grim: Can you really make your liv­ing with “old school” or lets bet­ter say “weird fan­tasy” RPGs?

James Raggi: I truly believe one /can/, although admit­tedly I’m only doing so now because of a very under­stand­ing wife. But the busi­ness is prof­itable, suf­fer­ing mostly from a slow prod­uct release sched­ule, which is why I’m try­ing to get some adven­tures pre-funded so I can get top peo­ple work­ing on them and get a real cat­a­log going at a brisk pace.

Ban­grim: What are your thoughts on the whole “old school” scene?

James Raggi: On one hand it has a lot of cre­ative peo­ple and it’s really excit­ing being a part of this group of peo­ple that’s tak­ing stuff that’s old and mak­ing new and excit­ing things with it and hav­ing this past-to-future con­ti­nu­ity going on.

On the other hand there’s this sec­tion of the old school scene that seems more about rever­ing the actual past and wish­ing it was 1980, like old school was some sort of reli­gion or some­thing. They’re a drag.

Ban­grim: Whats your impres­sion of this whole „Crowd­found­ing“ stuff?

James Raggi: I’m extremely jeal­ous of the Order of the Stick and Ogre people.

A few times over the past few months I’ve thought things are get­ting a bit too crowded and too many peo­ple are start­ing stuff up and basi­cally it’s just me whin­ing about com­pe­ti­tion. But it’s always been that way; RPG­Now has always had a ton of new releases every sin­gle day. Dis­trib­u­tor cat­a­logs have new stuff ever frickin week. Crowd­fund­ing isn’t intro­duct­ing new com­pe­ti­tion, it’s just another avenue that the com­pe­ti­tion uses.

But the thoughts about “com­pe­ti­tion” don’t last long. Hun­dreds of RPG pub­lish­ers existed before LotFP started and hun­dreds more will start up after LotFP dis­ap­pears. LotFP isn’t suc­cess­ful because of a lack of alter­na­tives, LotFP is suc­cess­ful because out of this giant moun­tain of RPG releases, LotFP’s books stand out as being just that damn good. So bring on the 348923749823498 new games and releases. If they’re bet­ter than LotFP releases then the gam­ing world has gained some­thing great, and if they’re not as good as LotFP then they make me look that much bet­ter in comparison.

Ban­grim: You financed two adven­tures, at the moment you try to finance a big project and also big com­pa­nys like White Wolf financed their stuff by Crowdfounding.How will it affect RPGs and the “RPG Indus­try” , espe­cially LotFP?

James Raggi: I think it’s going to make life eas­ier for pub­lish­ers who already have an estab­lished audi­ence (pre­fund ALL THE THINGS!) and make things dif­fi­cult for unknown designers.

Word of mouth is impor­tant for the suc­cess of small pub­lish­ers and you have to be will­ing to sac­ri­fice a bit to make your vision real. I fear some peo­ple who would have taken the finan­cial risk to pro­duce a good prod­uct before will attempt to crowd­fund their idea, get dis­cour­aged when it doesn’t fund (or limit their vision accord­ing to a pre-funded bud­get), and we’ll miss out on things we should have.

In my own expe­ri­ence, only 5% of Death Frost Doom’s sales hap­pened in the first 30 days it was avail­able. Only 13% of Vornheim’s sales to date hap­pened in the first 30 days. Good things will sell over time, so mak­ing your big project’s future depends on pre-selling stuff within a small time­frame… I’d say don’t risk it. Just do it.

Now I’ve got one crowd­fund­ing cam­paign under my belt, another ongo­ing, and another planned. But I don’t think I’ll again crowd­fund a project I was going to do any­way, unless it was to try to fund ridicu­lously extrav­a­gant pro­duc­tion upgrades. How­ever, try­ing to fund projects that I would not do oth­er­wise (for exam­ple releas­ing a hard­cover ver­sion of the rules I’m already sell­ing in a box set) or could not afford to do oth­er­wise (hire top names to write adven­tures for my game), that is a per­fectly legit­i­mate rea­son to do a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign and I think I’ll con­tinue to do that.

Ban­grim: You pub­lished Stuff from Zak S., your Hard­cover Project fea­tures a lot of reknown Writ­ers, but there must be some­one you still want to work with?

James Raggi: My hard­cover crowd­fund­ing project fea­tures a lot of renowned writ­ers that I will work with if – if – their adven­tures fund. I want to actu­ally work with them instead of just hope­fully poten­tially work­ing with them.

Ban­grim: In the last years a lot of “Begin­ner” Stuff was pub­lished. Every­one wanted to cre­ate a Box or a game that tried to get Peo­ple to play RPGs. I think Lotfp is one of the best sys­tems out there for peo­ple who want to start play­ing RPGs. Was this intended?

James Raggi: Nope. Com­plete accident.

Ban­grim: Do you think that RPG books or boxes espe­cially designed for “begin­ners” will attract new play­ers? Is this a good idea or do you think that a good rpg is enough to attract new players?

James Raggi: I don’t think that “stuff for begin­ners” attracts new gamers, but they make it a lot eas­ier for the inter­ested new­comer to get started.

Ban­grim: LotFP is a good Sys­tem, but you didn’t wrote a Set­ting. Every­thing is in the hand of the Ref­eree. Why?

James Raggi: I want the game to be big­ger and have more pos­si­bil­i­ties than how I use it myself.

Ban­grim: You vis­ited the SPIEL and RPC in Ger­many. What were your impressions?

James Raggi: I’m still too small an oper­a­tion to prop­erly take advan­tage of those con­ven­tions. I’m a small oper­a­tion with just a few releases in print. I can make do with a sin­gle table, but these con­ven­tions offer as a stan­dard pre­sen­ta­tion space a 10 square meter booth. Way too much! Con­ven­tions are an impor­tant pro­mo­tional tool to get through to active gamers who aren’t yet famil­iar with my stuff. If I can’t fill out and dress a full booth prop­erly I’m going to look bush league com­pared to the larger estab­lished com­pa­nies, and that just might be death when I’m try­ing to pro­mote pro­fes­sional prod­ucts with pro­fes­sional prices that are sup­posed to favor­ably com­pare with those of the larger estab­lished companies.

We’re not mak­ing assembly-line toast­ers here. RPG books don’t do any­thing and aren’t sup­posed to do any­thing. Their only pur­pose is to inspire YOU to do things.

Pre­sen­ta­tion and per­cep­tion are very impor­tant in con­vinc­ing peo­ple that this is some­thing they should pay money for.

Ban­grim: You live in Fin­land, vis­ited Ger­many and the rest of Europe and you were born in the USA. When you com­pare these coun­tries: what are the biggest dif­fer­ences – with regard of rpgs?


James Raggi: With regards to RPGs? Pretty much none. I’ve dis­cov­ered that no mat­ter where I go in this world, two types of peo­ple are the same every­where: Role-players and metalheads.

There are slight dif­fer­ences (the tra­di­tional entry game in Ger­many was Das Schwarze Auge, Swe­den had Drakar och Demoner, etc) but the look of the gamers, the games they play, the argu­ments they make (I even got a lec­ture about “Role-Playing vs Roll-Playing” at Goth­Con in Swe­den last month!), they’re all the same.

Ban­grim: What tips you have for young aspir­ing authors who want to write a RPG?

James Raggi: Nobody gives a shit. Really. The RPG hobby and indus­try is absolutely flooded with thou­sands of cre­ative and tal­ented peo­ple all des­per­ate for atten­tion and maybe a few bucks.

To make peo­ple give a shit, you have to do two things:

Ignore the audi­ence. What they want doesn’t mat­ter. Present some­thing to the world that rep­re­sents YOUR pas­sions and YOUR energy and every­thing YOU ever wanted. Sys­tem, set­ting, all of that is irrel­e­vant on its own. Your belief and your enthu­si­asm is what peo­ple will respond to, so you damn well bet­ter do some­thing that you can believe in and be enthu­si­as­tic about.

Cut no cor­ners. This doesn’t mean break the bank (that will result in heart­break for a new­comer), but make sure every­thing you can do is actu­ally done. Lay off your amuse­ment of choice for a bit and get a qual­ity cover done. Have some­one actu­ally proof­read the thing and get some­body skilled to lay it out. Make sure it’s some­thing you’ll be proud to pull off the book­shelf in 5 or 10 or 20 years when your RPG writ­ing career is over.

Ban­grim: Recently you started your own “web­show” “Because Fuck You, That’s Why”. What was the rea­son to say “I’ll do a webshow” ?

James Raggi: I’d watch other video blogs and think “That’s bor­ing! I could be much bet­ter than that!” So I started. Now I’m another in a pile of bor­ing video blog­gers on Youtube but it’s a fun thing to do now and again. Plus this one mar­ket­ing guy I know says it’s a good idea to have vis­i­bil­ity in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent social media chan­nels. It helps LotFP seem more ubiq­ui­tous and there­fore impor­tant, or some­thing like that.

I’ll keep it up as long as it’s fun and only put a video up when I think I have some­thing to say, so it should work out fine.

Ban­grim: On which LotFP projects are you work­ing at the moment?

James Raggi: I’m fin­ish­ing up the pro­duc­tion of The Mono­lith from beyond Space and Time (the wildest, trip­pi­est adven­ture ever), The God that Crawls (a dun­geon chase!), and Green Devil Face #5 (ran­dom stuff).

After that it’ll be man­ag­ing what­ever gets funded from the cur­rent crowd­fund­ing cam­paign, mov­ing for­ward with a cou­ple of adven­tures writ­ten by other peo­ple, and then decid­ing what my next big project is going to be.

Ban­grim: A year ago you announced that LotFP will pub­lish Exquis­ite Corpses. No news since then, will it still be published?

James Raggi: That’s up to Ste­fan Poag. I’d made some sug­ges­tions for chang­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of the book (I wasn’t attempt­ing a straight reprint of the edi­tion he’d already done), he agreed, but mak­ing that hap­pen is a fair bit of work. He’s got a life and gets to choose his pri­or­i­ties. It’s not going to be a bet­ter book if he’s pres­sured, and I’ve got other things to work on too, so I don’t worry about it.

Ban­grim: Before you started LotFP you wrote a Metal Fanzine. How much did Metal influ­ence you when you wrote LotFP?

James Raggi: It influ­enced me very much. In metal there’s a real cul­ture of being able to do absolutely any­thing (from hip­pie funk to Nazi noise) and part of metal’s appeal is being the music of “out­siders” (except in Fin­land where bands dress up like dinosaurs and play metal for small chil­dren – look up Hevisaurus) so even if you are on the “out­side” of the metal main­stream you’ll con­nect with part of the most loyal and rabid fan­base there is.

The flip side of that is the metal crowd is rabid, picky, and crit­i­cal and no mat­ter how hard you try, no mat­ter how good you are, there will be tons of peo­ple ready to tear you down and let every­one know you suck because if your niche-of-a-niche band gets any trac­tion there will be 100 more com­ing just like it because fans become bands; metal is a folk move­ment. The over­all eco­nomic pic­ture is small so there really is com­pe­ti­tion for spots on tours and fes­ti­vals, and hype for bands you don’t like means less for bands you do – and everyone’s aware of the eco­nom­ics of small-type musi­cians and how dif­fi­cult it is to finance tours and all the fun stuff that makes tour­ing and record­ing possible.

And nobody “respectable” will ever acknowl­edge that you even exist just because it’s metal.

Does any of this sound famil­iar to role-players?

It’s very lib­er­at­ing cre­atively to know ahead of time that most peo­ple will hate what you do so you might as well make it as per­son­ally sat­is­fy­ing as pos­si­ble. And that’s what you should do any­way because peo­ple will sniff out a crowd-chasing poseur every time… and the other big rea­son the fan­base is rabid, picky, and crit­i­cal is because they’ve been burned and burned and burned by sub­stan­dard prod­uct cre­ated by for­mer favorites who had no respect for their audi­ence too many times.

Ban­grim: You said Metal influ­enced you, but is there any RPG that influ­enced you very much? (In the terms of good or unusual mix of gen­res, great set­ting or just a mind­blow­ing idea)

James Raggi: DD (Mentzer and ADD ver­sions) and Warham­mer FRPG (1st edi­tion) were by far the biggest influ­ences on what I do now. I’ve played a lot of good games, but the more orig­i­nal the game is or the more detailed the set­ting, the less likely I am going to use any­thing from it in my own work. I’ll take more generic ideas from oth­ers and then add my stuff on top of that.

Ban­grim: In the LotFP Ref­eree Book you explain which stuff should be in a good adven­ture. Which adven­ture, not writ­ten or pub­lished by you, would you con­sider great ?

James Raggi: Death on the Reik.

Ban­grim: Thanks for the Inter­view. Any­thing you want to say to our readers?

James Raggi: The cur­rent thing I’m pro­mot­ing is the LotFP Hard­cover and Adven­tures crowd­fund­ing cam­paign.

At the very least you’re going to get a world-class hard­cover (with a new edit and lay­out), and if you’re feel­ing gen­er­ous we might just get some creepy adven­tures from the biggest names in gam­ing today.

Oth­er­wise, check out Vorn­heim and Car­cosa and Isle of the Unknown and all the adven­tures. It’s good stuff.

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Arti­cle source: http://greifenklaue.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/james-edward-raggi-iv-im-kamingesprach-englisch/

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