Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day!! Hellbrood Interview!!

From the man who brought you War of the Dead, Hellbrood is coming. The quick pitch is alien zombie apocalypse with superheroes. Reading the previews, which can be found at , you get a bit of a tease as to what is coming. Despite that, I wanted to get a little more information, so I asked the man in charge some questions. So here we go.

How did the idea come about? I can see where you may have been influenced by different media (Marvel Zombies, Escape from New York), but how did the idea nestle in your brain and eventually creep out?

Actually, if Marvel Zombies showed me anything it was: this is how not to do superheroes and zombies. I hated it on all levels, and that isn't something I say often about a product from a top company.

As War of the Dead hopefully showed, I'm a fan of the zombie apocalypse genre. I'm also a very huge fan of superheroes. The problem is, there was a part of me that never felt they really mixed together well. On the one hand you have flesh-eating zombies, on the other people that typically can level an entire city block and are getting into fights all the time. They aren't exactly your average untrained civilian.

So, I'd been playing around with the idea of how to mix the two for a very long time, and in a way that would put the world at stake with such an apocalypse, but not be so over-the-top that a typical zombie would somehow be able to bite into the average heavy-hitter.

Several ideas were boiling in the pot. One was a world-wide virus orchestrated by a mega bad guy of whatever the setting eventually turned out to be. That one was there for a while, but the more I looked at it from the angle of a game designer and really explored it (especially as the setting developed), the less I liked it. It was too pat, too easily defeated, and it led to a singular adversary. I would be able to pull that off in say, a novel or a series of novels where I maintained control over the heroes, but when looking at a roleplaying game setting--- well, I just couldn't envision it surviving the players. All you needed was a group that wanted to be more anti-hero than hero, and the opposition was all but done.

So, then I hit upon an alien race, something that could truly dominate the Earth even with superheroes, and who served a cosmic being (or a god, if you prefer) that wanted to eradicate all life in the universe. I decided they would harness a form of biotechnology that, itself, was a super-form of undead-- something the average superhero would even have to take a step back when they first saw it and go: but-wait-what?!!?

So, when Hellbrood was in the early stages, I sent the idea to Dave Martin (a writer on the main Hellbrood book who actually turned into what I would call a co-designer, and who is also the owner of Protagonist Games), and he created this cool mythology about the dark cosmic being (whom I had named Necrolos), how the Necroleans came about, and a war with cosmic warriors called the Makers.

I liked it— a lot. What he wrote not only fit very well into comics, but opened up the foundations for a pretty cool Cosmic section to the setting.

Dave also handled all the biographies for the Defenders of Liberty (sans Phalanx, who I have special plans for) and really brought the main NPCs to life for me. As a matter of fact, his biography for one of those NPCs brought about a scene at the end of Hellbrood: Countdown to Invasion, and influenced parts of the setting in a big way. So, Dave Martin has also been a deep influence on Hellbrood and its development.

Meanwhile, the novels "Ex-Heroes" and "Ex-Patriots" by Peter Clines kept my thoughts company, and the DC Comics event "Blackest Night" hit a lot of cords with me. As a matter of fact, the Incarnate Hellbrood were inspired by the Black Lanterns in a few ways.

Other than that, writers such as Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Brian Michael Bendis, Grant Morrison, Chris Claremont, Dennis O'Neil, Roger Stern, and Marv Wolfman— and of course Jack Kirby's New Gods— all provided more inspiration.

The first preview mentions that there are four books that are being worked on, if the demand is there will there be more?

There is plenty in the setting to explore and for the fans to play through and experience. Throughout the Hellbrood "event" we are planting seeds for many future "event" style plot-point campaigns, ranging from time travel, to a super artificial intelligence bent on protecting humanity in a very twisted way, to something major within the mystic community, and more. I feel it is important, like in comics, for the Necrolean/Hellbrood storyline to also hint at events outside of that scope, things that the players will get to experience down the line. So, there are most definitely plans for more if the demand is there from the Savages.

The post-apocalyptic setting of the Hellbrood "event" won't last forever. It's comic books, after all.

I was wondering because the information about New York sounds really cool, which got me thinking about what may be happening in the rest of the world. Also I felt a little touch of Escape from New York, both having a crazy cabbie, though Hellbrood's cabbie is a little more dangerous. A little rambling, but I guess my question is would it be in the cards that a location guide might pop up, maybe next year?

While I am touching on places beyond New York in a couple parts of the plot-point campaign and the Savage Tales by sending the players there as part of what it'll take to eventually defeat the Necroleans and Incarnate Hellbrood, I most definitely plan to do an Atlas type book for the rest of the setting. I've actually been thinking of doing the Atlas and the Alien Races (Atlanteans, Martians, Lunarians . . . and something more for the Necroleans) as one book. The final determining factor will be page count, which dictates minimum MSRP (especially in the print editions). So, we'll see if it turns out to be a single book or not.

In the meantime, I would definitely recommend hitting or DriveThruRPG and downloading Savage Insider #4 and Savage Insider #5 from Mystical Throne Entertainment. They are free, and both issues contain a Hellbrood short story. As a matter of fact, the story in Savage Insider #5 is a sequel. The Hellbrood plot-point setting book will also point GMs to Savage Insider #4 at one point, as the story in there is also meant to be a player handout of an audio file. It isn't required for that adventure, but is recommended.

In the third and fourth previews, you give us a look at the Hellbrood and their masters, the necroleans. What inspired these creatures?

To be honest, I'm not really sure. They just sort of popped in there, and then Dave Martin took the parts of them I needed further fleshed out and really ran with it. I've no doubt some fans will see a correlation between . . . well . . . whatever. In that case, I'll just nod and agree, as they're probably right. The subconscious apparently played a large part in Hellbrood, as even during editing on Hellbrood: Countdown to Invasion, Tommy Brownell would appreciate certain nods that I did to something in Marvel or DC. I'd smile, because the nod was sometimes completely unintentional.

We do have nods to Marvel and DC within the setting (but then again, what superhero setting doesn't— they've covered so many of the bases). There's a lot of new stuff for the GMs and Players to grasp and get to know, and I felt some nods and homages were important in order to give them a sense of semi-familiarity from the start. I wanted them to be able to dive right in and have a basic feel for things, not necessarily be lost from the jump.

In the necrolean preview you explain power stunts. Did you include it as a tool to facilitate comic book action or so the characters might not get squashed as much?

While the Hellbrood have certain abilities that could level the field against the superheroes if encountered at a bad time (and I'll leave that there, so as not to spoil the surprise for the players), the typical Hellbrood is not going to take down a superhero. Depending upon the hero, a pack of Hellbrood aren't going to do it— nor are they meant to in that case. Sure, there are some with powers, but even they probably wouldn't be a threat that could crush a hero. Now, the Incarnate Hellbrood are a different matter entirely, but they are extremely rare. The Incarnate Hellbrood are best described using a line from the Matrix film between Cypher and Neo: You see an Agent, you do what we do. Run.

The player-characters will eventually have to face them once and for all (as the heroes always do), but that is a Legendary rank affair.

Anyway, Hellbrood uses the Recurring Roles Setting Rule from the Super Powers Companion. Since the Setting Rule specifically states it deals with normal death under the Savage Worlds rules, however, the Hellbrood infection is not affected by that rule. So, even if the players managed to get squished by the Necroleans or a supervillain, it isn't "death" in the normal sense. Under the rule, they'll be back in 1d6 days. I really didn't want Hellbrood to be "War of the Dead" lethal (and it isn't as long as you don't somehow get infected). They are both two different genres, and it wouldn't really represent what I wanted out of the superhero genre if the player-heroes were falling like flies. The setting has a dark tone to it, but as we remind the GM often— it's still about superheroes, protecting the innocent, and fighting evil.

Power Stunts were included to facilitate comic book action. All the options in the Super Powers Companion do a great job of that already, but we felt Power Stunts were a staple of the genre that were important to that superheroic feel we wanted Hellbrood to still be able to convey at the table. The new Setting Rule really flexes the muscles of the Savage Worlds system in relation to the Super Powers Companion. And since the final version of the Setting Rule was designed by Clint Black (he really gets the credit for Power Stunts in Hellbrood), and the play test we did internally on my end went very well, I'm thrilled with the outcome.

Alright, down to brass tacks, do you have a release schedule yet?

I have one, but not one that I'm going to announce too far in advance. Being a small company, too many things can cause a date to be missed.

What I will say is that Hellbrood: Countdown to Invasion and the free, full-length adventure called Hellbrood: Ultimate Agenda both release in September. In October at some point, we will be launching a Kickstarter for the main setting book. The Hellbrood setting book is coming out whether the Kickstarter makes it or not, but a success on that will allow us to have more maps for Hellbrood New York, more internal maps of special locations, art for all of the major characters in the setting, and allow us to have additional material written and included for the setting. So, it gives fans a chance to make the main book bigger and better. Naturally, there will be some cool tier rewards and Stretch goals (final details are being hammered out).

After the main book, we'll have the book dedicated to the Alien Races, Atlas, and other sourcebooks released throughout 2013, in addition to individual adventures (one of which deals with an Alternate Earth), One-Sheets, and so forth.

Anything else in the works?

After Hellbrood launches and the main book is out, we'll be revisiting War of the Dead with new products. Some will be Location/Plot Point Setting books that give an alternate War of the Dead campaign, some stand alone adventures, and of course the World of Dead sequel plot-point setting.

Dave Martin and I will also be working on the final incarnation of the Daring Comics Adventure Game. Given how that product branches us out to not being a licensee for "Game-X" to cushion its release, since it is our own RPG system, it's being carefully designed, play tested, hammered, and redesigned where needed. I put it on the back burner recently to release War of the Dead: Chapter Four and launch Hellbrood, but we'll be diving into it again very soon.

Finally, late 2013 will see Daring Entertainment, after much preparation over the past 18 months, enter into the eBook market. We've already made a deal with a larger company in that industry, and we'll be debuting with a Hellbrood "mosaic" novel. Although we'll be marketing it ourselves to the RPG fans, the main eBook marketing will be more focused outside the RPG industry and handled by our partner.

Do you have plans to attend any conventions, as a publisher, guest, or just for fun?

I would love to. It's good for any publisher to be at the Cons and meet the fans. Unfortunately, being the main writer at Daring Entertainment as well as running the company (not to mention the 19, 12, 14, and 2-year-old children), I've been so busy I haven't been able to handle that end of the business very well. I have solid plans to be at GenCon next summer (2013), as between the War of the Dead line, the Hellbrood books, and (hopefully) the launch of the Daring Comics Adventure Game, I think being there is going to be well worth the trip.

Well, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Take care and watch out for those nasty Necroleans!!

Always a pleasure!

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