An Interview With Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games

Today I have Eloy Lasanta in for an interview. Eloy is the owner of Third Eye Games and designer of two role playing games, Apocalypse Prevention Inc. and Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade.

Tom: Welcome Eloy. Tell us a bit about yourself before we jump into the questions.

Eloy: Well, I’m the owner/operator of Third Eye Games (that great publisher that brought you Apocalypse Prevention, Inc and Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade). I started playing a long time ago when I was 13 years old and it took hold over me ever sense. When I’m not spending time with my children or girlfriend, I’m usually reading a book, writing or role playing.

Tom: First question, What makes a good rpg player?

Eloy: That’s a tough question. There are tons of players that probably consider themselves the best players ever and are likely not the type of player I’d want to run a game for. For me, a good role player is someone ready to play, knows their character and has the ability to create their own stories. That’s a little out there for some storytellers that don’t regularly play indie games that give the players narrative control. But even within traditional games, the willingness to get into character and act on behalf of that character is a big deal. Also, I love players that occasionally throw wrenches into my plans. “Oh, what does this button do – oops, I pushed it” is great for me as a Storyteller. It helps me flex my muscles and adds crazy randomness into my games.

On top of all of that, there needs to be a willingness to play as a group (no matter how much a loner your character is supposed to be). While some in-group conflict is cool, splitting the party up because one player wants to be the star while the others dilly-dally around is just not good playing.

Tom: What do you bring to the table?

Eloy: Literally, dice and a great attitude. Continuing from my earlier point, when I make a character, I think about all the aspects of their life, but most importantly… I give my characters goals. There’re too many games where the Storyteller is expected to come up with everything. It takes a type of player like myself to say “Ok, since my character is like this, I’m going to do this or that” and a special type of Storyteller as well, one that can handle my sandbox play style. I’ve never been a “let’s kill it and loot it” type of player.

Tom: What is your take on GNS game theory?

Eloy: The GNS theory makes sense actually. It lays out the different types of play styles in pretty easy to understand bites. I myself like a mix of them, which of course is completely against the actual theory of “a game should do one thing well” mentality. I’ve never had a problem with the GNS at all.

What I have a problem with are the players that vehemently follow and apply the GNS to their games. These are the ones that go around telling me that the way I role play is wrong because it doesn’t follow the edict set forth by the Forge. I usually just end up sighing and walking away from these conversations, because there’s no debate to be had with a zealot.

Tom: What is your most memorable gaming moment?

Eloy: One of my favorite moments was in Dark Ages: Vampire. I’m playing my crusader Tzimisce and having a ball. We stop at a bar and run into a man who’s also traveling. He starts talking to my comrade (another player) in Italian – which is one of the few languages my character didn’t know. There conversation reveals that the man knows of one of my greatest enemies… and then he says my enemy’s name – I instinctually cleaved him in two. Blood everywhere, my companions getting very angry with me and the law being called made it a very chaotic scene. He was convinced that the man was working with his enemy. So while extreme, the action was still justified. The crap-storm that followed was a lot of fun to play in. I’m all about upping the stakes in a game.

Tom: What are you currently playing?

Eloy: I’ve just come off of running some Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade for my group and we’re continuing with a Changeling: The Lost game that we put on hiatus for a while. Changeling has to be my favorite game that White Wolf has ever made. I’ve got my eye on the Dr. Who RPG for my next “go-to” game.

Tom: What is the hardest part of designing a game?

Eloy: The hardest part of designing a game is trying to encompass all the different character types that a player might want to play. You have to take the social players into account, just as much as the combat players. The game has to have the ability to make all of these kinds of players happy, in my opinion. A compelling setting is also a must for me as a designer and roleplaying customer. I’m much more likely to buy a game,…if I like the setting. So, I try to keep this in mind when I’m brewing up a new game

Tom: Tell us about the trials and tribulations of playtesting.

Eloy: Oh man, playtesting. I’ll say that there are really no true “trials” or “tribulations”. In all honesty, I approach playtesting as a way to see if my ideas work. I playtested the initial Dynamic Gaming System (DGS) for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. for over a year. For Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade, since it used the same basic system, took only 6 months and several groups of playtested to get it just right. I love feedback of any kind myself. Even learning of things that I may have done wrong is really good for me as a designer.

Tom: Who’s work in the game industry do you admire the most?

Eloy: In all honesty, I really admire Justin Achilli’s work. He’s been one of my favorite writers for a long time. His language and grasp of design concepts make his work my favorite. The few conversations I’ve had with him, however brief, really made me understand where his influences come from as well.

Tom: Do you play board games too?  If so which ones are your favorites?

Eloy: I do play boardgames too. Though not “technically” a board card, I really love Dominion. Carcasonne is also another favorite of mine. I wish I had more time to play them.

Tom: Tell us about the history of Third Eye Games.

Eloy: Third Eye Games began when I got tired of small freelancing gigs or writing stuff for free. I also really wanted an outlet to pursue new gaming concepts and settings that had been circling around my head for years. Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. was the first of these settings, allowing me to explore different dimensions, demons from other worlds and humanity’s attempt to protect humanity. I like walking the line and creating the grey area of “protecting our kind” vs. “demonic genocide”. We’ve sense released 3 sourcebooks, detailing new demon races and how API operates in other countries. Great stuff!

As soon as we had API underway, I had time to concentrate on a new setting, Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade. This gave me the opportunity to create a fictional world, unlike API that just took place in our own world. Wu Xing allowed me to expand on combat concepts I created for API and a way to pay homage to many of the anime and kung fu action influences that I’ve had throughout my life. It’s only been out for a month and already has several 5 out of 5 Reviews, which means that people are feeling what I was trying to do with it. Which makes any designer feel great!

The next phase for Third Eye Games involves brining our fans into the process and rewarding them for being fans in the first place. We just started the Fan Rewards Program. Doing stuff for Third Eye Games, from buying books to running demos at your local store to talking about us online, gets you points that you can spend on FREE STUFF!!! I’m really excited about this new initiative and I hope that it brings the relationship between Third Eye Games and fans to the next level.

Tom: Tell us a little bit about your games. Let’s start with API.

Eloy: API stands for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc, a shadow corporation that polices the supernatural on Earth. Players take the role of agents within the corporation, who implement the policies the company’s set forth. The world is full of demons that either help the company or are hunted down and exterminated/incarcerated/deported. Fun fun stuff!

Tom: Now how about Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade?

Eloy: Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade is our brand new game where the players take on the roles of ninja from rival clans that must work together in the face of utter destruction. The Emperor’s family has been murdered by ninja and he has ordered the death of all ninja. After picking off a few clans, they decide to band together and fight back. There’s rivalry, intrigue and awesome martial arts abilities going on in this game, and it is a blast to play (and GM)!

Tom: Have you had any production problems?

Eloy: Production problems… I think every company has them. Mine have been mostly due to poor back-up practices, but I’ve corrected them. lol. Others come from communication with some freelancers. Not to say that any of them were unreliable, but I’m quickly learning exactly how important constant communication is to keeping deadlines.

Tom: What’s up next for you and Third Eye Games?

Eloy: As I said we just released Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade and are currently developing sourcebook material for this setting as well as Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. Also, Volume 1 of an API Anthology and a Savage Worlds conversion for the setting is in the works. (The API Anthology came out this week.)

Tom: Where can we find you on the Internet?

Eloy: – From there, you can find all the great links to buy the books (PDF or Print), as well character sheets and discussion forums for Third Eye Games products.

Tom: Thanks Eloy. That was a lot of fun.

Be sure to head over to Third Eye Games and give API and Wu Xing a look. And while you are there check out the new API Anthology!

Failing Well, kind of

So I didn’t get an entry in for Game Chef this year.  I ended up too busy with other things at the end of the week to complete a game.  So that’s the fail.  The ‘well’ part is that two game ideas spawned out of it this time.  I have been working on one most of the week.  I’ll talk about it in a minute.  The other one hit me Thursday afternoon and kind of took over the thought process.  And may have prevented the first from getting completed.  I talk about the second game in another post.

So the first game is called The Survivor(s).  It is set on a deserted planet that once was home to a civilization.  In the game your ship has crashed here.  You (this can be a plural ‘you’) survived.  Luckily for you the Galactic Patrol set up an emergency beacon on the planet.  Unfortunately it is very far away.  So you must journey there, activate it and survive until you are rescued.  Along the way you will face dangers from outside as well as inside.

So it was originally designed as a solo game.  The idea came from watching Survivorman and was inspired by the movie Robinson Crusoe On Mars.  This is a good movie from 1964 starring Paul Mantee and a monkey.  Check it out if you are able.  Anyway, the idea is survive until you are rescued.  I began writing it as a solo game.  You play against a card based mechanic in sort of a ‘choose your own adventure’ mode.  Inspiration here comes from ‘The Plant’ by Jason Morningstar.  The game was developing ok.  I was getting ideas on how to handle different things like weather and creatures.  The card mechanics were fair but promising, needing work.  As I was going along with it, the idea occurred that it could be a two player game with one person as the survivor and one as the planet.  This is good.  And it doesn’t really change anything.  Then I thought well it could be multiplayer in the same way with a GM.  This too was good.  So it ended up being a game multiplayer GM or GM-less game that will support solo play too.  Cool.

The mechanics.  I know you want to know about mechanics.  Those will have to wait until tomorrow.

So come back on Tuesday.

Rob Donoghue is at it again.

Rob has a new post called ‘How To Fail Well’.    He talks about what to do when players fail a roll.  There is a nod to stakes setting.  And how you as GM should make the fail big so the players have something to do.    Which is good.  But then he talks about what if you can’t get that to work.  What if there is nothing to do.  Then do this:

“A failure is a success with an additional cost.”

He gives some examples of the above.  This is good advice for GM’s and  for any role player.  Please go read it and use it.

Fear The Boot’s Tracy Hickman Interview

You should also go over to Fear The Boot and listen to their two part interview with writer Tracy Hickman, Dragonlance Tracy Hickman.  This is an excellent interview covering Tracy’s work, the state of publishing, online publishing, fantasy, and Tracy’s current projects (which sound cool).  Tracy also talks about STORY.  They all agreed that the need for STORY is a universal thing.  To quote Tracy, ‘We naturally view the world through the lense of story.  And where there is no story, we will construct it.’  That is so accurate and resonates with me.  We will fill in what we imagine in any occurance.  What do you think?  Comment below.  I dare you.

Game Chef 2010

It’s that time of year again.  Game Chef 2010 is on.  The theme this year is journey and the ingredients are city, skin, desert, and edge.  I have two ideas.  One is about a living city moving traveling to the edge of the world.  Players would be the aspects of the city and must enable the city to complete its journey.  The second is about infection where the players are the infection trying to invade the body.  I may not make the deadline of Saturday night but I will at least get some seeds of games germinating.  But maybe it will all come together for one of these.  Check out Game Chef it is always fun.

More Good Ideas from Rob Donoghue

You should check out this series of posts by Rob Donoghue.
They’re about character goals and how they can be used to enhance or even enable play. There are some very interesting ideas here.
I was first impressed by the idea of characters having goals. Of course they do. But Rob goes on to explain some things about goals that I had not thought about. Make them specific yet more encompassing. His example from Lord of The Rings: Change DROP THE RING IN THE VOLCANO to DEFEAT SAURON. There is a subtle difference there that is important. The first is specific and can lead to a good story. The second openes the first up to many more possibilities. He talks about KWORC, the things needed for success of your character’s goal. You’ll need to go find out what those mean. The last post deals with some things to watch for in your role playing. This is a very good series that you should check out.