Ryan Chaddock – ‘Whisper Campaigns’

131522T: Can you tell us a little about your background in Table Top RPGs?

R: I’ve been playing RPG’s for a long time.  I started with D&D 2nd edition, the D6 Star Wars, Cyberpunk, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all at once basically.  From there I moved on to GURPS, Car Wars, and the White Wolf line, which I became obsessed with.  I started playing and then running Vampire LARPs and that turned my hobby into a lifestyle.  Eventually we were self publishing our own version of Vampire LARP among my play group and that’s where I learned to put together books.

T: What has been your favourite to play?

R: That’s a hard one.  Right now I really enjoy the play of the Cypher System games (Numenera and The Strange) at the table.  They’re the perfect balance of interesting dice rolls, risk/reward mechanics, and interesting settings.  In terms of theme and plot though Vampire the Masquerade is my home base.  I always go back to that well and it really informs everything else I play.

T: Do you have a moment that you will always remember from a game?

R: For me it was a LARP moment.  I had constructed a plot where the villain who was threatening the city turned out to have been the sire (creator vampire) of the character in charge.  The player totally went along with it and ultimately defected to the other side in a speech in front of the city during which he revealed everyone’s secrets.  For me, creating a plot and then having people totally buy into it is the fun part.  I love the collaboration of it and I love being part of something bigger.

T: What have been your inspirations?

R: In terms of stuff outside of the RPG world, growing up it was scifi and fantasy- Asimov books and the Dragon Lance novels for instance.  Right now it’s TV.  We really live in the golden age of TV series.  House of Cards, Game of Thrones, True Detective, Sherlock.  I think TV can be really great as a guide to plotlines that span many episodes, which is closest to what tabletop gaming is like.

T: Can you tell us a little about Ryan Chaddock Games?

R: We’re a little company that’s comprised of me, my wife Katherine, and my co-author Jordan Marshall.  We’ve also had writing from Joseph DeSimone.  I guide the process and do most of the design and development.  Jordan helps with writing, and Katherine edits.  Katherine and I trade off doing layout.  I have a few playtesters back in Oregon (we moved to Indiana recently) who I keep in contact with.  We mostly put out Numenera and The Strange supplements right now, but we’ve done a setting for Fate and plan on producing D&D content once the new OGL comes out.

T: What attracted you to the Cypher System?

R: The setting really.  I was reading Monte Cook’s blog back when he left Wizards and when he started talking about the setting I really got inspired.  I pledged the kickstarter and signed up for the playtest.  I started running several of those a week, really organizing my life around understanding the game.  During the kickstarter I had somehow convinced my local game store to pledge at a level where Monte would come out and talk and run games, so I met him and Shanna Germain just as the game was coming out.  When the limited license was released I already had been putting up fan content for a while and had some stuff ready to go.  I put together my first book in 2 and a half weeks.  It was intense.  Cypher System became important to me because it represented the distillation of what I wanted in a game.  It’s not about complex optimization, it’s about the places and people of the Ninth World.  I think all those years of LARP had shown me that rules are incidental to the game.  They actually get in the way.

T: What was the concept behind Whisper Campaigns and how did it come about?

R: I’m a long time Vampire player and someone with more than a passing interest in politics.  I’ve been a political activist, an elected student representative, and hold a degree in applied economics and public policy. My years running LARP as well have given me a bit of experience seeing politics play out and I think I’ve gleaned a few things that most people haven’t.  We wanted to make a supplement about court life in Numenera that took a lot of those lessons and made them work for people who haven’t picked them up.  We wanted a primer, as well as a mechanical shorthand for political intrigue.  We wanted to emphasize how much more thrilling a battle can be when your place in society is on the line, for instance.  So, that was the plan.  I think the book works because we married that advice with houses and player options that are very Ninth World.  They’re weird and creepy and that’s what you really need to pull it all together and make it Numenera.

T: Can you give a brief overview on the creation process?

R: Usually I’ve got ideas for a book floating around for 3 or 4 months before we start it.  Once we start we write an outline and decide who’s going to write what.  Usually I focus on stuff with a lot of mechanics, and Jordan focuses on things that are more about background detail and fiction.  Before I begin writing I start making the art, in particular the background / border art for the interior.  I need to have a sense of the feel of the book.  I then make a playlist to listen to while writing.  This really helps me get into the head space of the book.  I need to be able to put headphones on and get back into it at the drop of a hat.
We write separately, but Jordan is our roommate so we touch base every day on how we’re doing.  Once the book is starting to come together we start to edit and revise.  All along the process I’m usually making art from Creative Commons source images I grab mostly from Flickr.  Once most of the writing is done we start the layout and I’m usually making art and doing small bits of writing as we do that, to get the spacing right. Then we all go through the book and look for problems and typos one last time.

T: Is there anything you are particularly proud of in Whisper Campaigns?

R: I think the intrigue cypher system is the weirdest thing I’ve published yet.  I hope some people are using it.  It really comes from a lot of experience I’ve had writing similar systems for Vampire, so it’s been playtested well.

T: Is there anything of your own you would recommend if they like Whisper Campaigns?

R: I think our book on crime in the Ninth World, Wits Alone, really dovetails with Whisper Campaigns well.

T: What else have you developed for the Cypher System?

R: Beyond our Numenera line, we’ve made a couple books for The Strange.  The first was The Translation Codex, which is a massive tome containing a hundred Foci for use in constructing recursions (fictional universes) for the game.  More recently we came out with Broken Immersion, a guide to emphasizing the video game origins of Ardeyn (a recursion derived from an MMO).

T: Is there anything you are working on at the minute?

R: I’m finishing up the principle writing on a book called The Wander, which presents story seeds and character options for campaigns centered on the Wandering Walk of the Ninth World.

D: Are you writing for other systems? If so what?

R: I’ve written for Fate in the past, which was a real learning experience for me.  I’ll probably revisit Fate soon, as it’s fun to develop for.  I’m also working on D&D content as much as I can.  I’m interested in writing a campaign setting focused on the politics of a new nation being forged in a time of war.  Sort of American Revolution meets Game of Thrones.

T: Any plans for the future?

R: I’ve been dabbling in cartography for a while now and plan on continuing to pursue that.  I’ve been writing freelance here and there as well (ENWorld’s new magazine uses a piece I wrote as an example of their articles), and I’m hoping to continue doing that.  If the OGL for D&D allows for running Kickstarters I’ll be trying my hand at a KS campaign for my D&D setting.  I’m also considering starting a podcast on gaming topics in the future.  Lots of stuff to do!

T: I just want to say thank-you for being an inspiration and being core to my Numenera Universe.

R: Haha, thanks.  Glad I could be of service!

Dated March 2015