1. What one role-playing gaming product (that does not exist to the best of your knowledge) would you like to see created and would you like to participate in its creation?
There is no book about the Shire. Hmm. There is a book about the Shire, published by I.C.E., or there used to be a book about the Shire in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, published by I.C.E. I bought it, read it once, and sold it at the first opportunity. It wasn’t very good. What I mean, though, is I’d like there to be a book about a small campaign area, say 60-70 miles square — my criteria is a three-day walk of relatively calm country from the center to any border, with a day’s worth of wilderness all around. A few towns, some relatively gentle countryside, some political/social adventure hooks, some family rivalries, some little adventures on the borderlands — and a great mess of evil approaching the frontier. I think the lesson of FotR is that home is a thing worth defending, and I’d like some effort made in the RPG market to recapture some of that heroism of relatively ordinary folks rising to unexpected challenges.
Another supplement idea that occurs to me just this instant is the Royal Road/Appian Way. We tend to think of RPGs revolving around specific places, but I’d like to see an RPG product dedicated to the idea of a journey on a specific road. You could have two chapters detailing the cities or towns at either end, three chapters detailing market towns and their inhabitants on the route, a chapter on the villages, a chapter on the wilderness threats, a chapter on the bandits who prey on travelers, a chapter on the military forces looking for the bandits, a chapter on the merchants who are the targets. A two hundred mile stretch of road can have a fairly large city at either end, three or four largish towns in betwen, numerous villages, and lots of side routes.
the idea with both books would be to create relatively limited material that could be dropped into someone else’s world fairly easily. A sixty-mile square is half the size of Massachusetts or Connecticut; it doesn’t take up much room on a world-sized campaign map, and it could give a starting GM lots of hooks for building a campaign — Here’s your first 5-6 adventures, ideas on building more adventures, and connections to a larger world when you’re ready to build it. But both products can also help out advanced GMs by providing transitions between one part of a game and the next — “you need to go from your current location to Euburacum, and here’s the road before you.” “While relaxing at the Green Dragon Inn on the road, you see a dark figure in the corner, and catch a glint of a malevolent red eye under his — its — hood.”
And Yes, I’d be interested in working on either project. I don’t think I have the time or the skills, necessarily, to organize either, but I could certainly write parts of both.
2. What fictional character would you most like to fence and why?
If his sword wasn’t sharp, I’d love to spend about four years with Inigo Montoya as my daily fencing instructor. Anyone who knows his Agrippa and his Capo Ferra like he does, well….
Some might ask why I don’t choose Wesley, the man who could beat Montoya. It’s simple, really. Wesley is a pirate fencer, and as a pirate fencer, his form is going to be terrible. I need a lot more stability and discipline to be a collegiate fencer, and I need someone who’s studied the rulebook as well as the blade and footwork. I think Montoya is more likely to know that sort of stuff.
3. Suppose I came to you and said I was going to get out of Statistical Contract Research and was going to go into teaching instead. Would you encourage or discourage this plan and what advice would you give?
I know nothing about Statistical Contract Research or what it pays. I do know what teaching pays, and I know that being a teacher is, as they say, a lifestyle choice. You become a teacher, and your life becomes not your own in many ways, your pay will probably drop, and you will be maligned as someone who cannot do, and therefore teaches. On the other hand, it’s a noble and honorable profession, and you will be surrounded by people who will return your love for them and your devotion to your subject matter with a strange combination of devotion, gratitude and selfish disrespect. I have worked in politics, in business, in law, and in non-profit work, and I’ve never found a group of colleagues quite so congenial or gentle, and as disinterested in office politics or the like. It’s not a line of work for those with a drive to succeed whatever the costs, it’s a line of work for those who love sharing and helping and knowledge. And I feel at home in this life. If you ever want to come visit, you’re welcome to do so (this applies to many of my readers, as well).
4. A blue police box appears mysteriously in your bedroom. Who do you find inside and how do your react to the adventures that inevitably follow?
Well, the Doctor bears a suspicous resemblance either to Tom Baker, or to the guy in the long camel coat whose name I can never remember. There is a woman who had a most peculiar Thursday with him, a halfling who got bored in Tol Eressea, an old-style wanax from Ithaka out for one last adventure, a newly rejuvinated terraformer from Mars in the 24th century, and a first-century AD prophet who escaped from a Roman patrol in the nick of time on the road from Emmaus to Galilee who keeps insisting that I’m thinking of the other fellow and have him confused with someone else. I think I would deal fairly well with the dislocation, and the time travel would be fun, but the whole peril part might be difficult for me.
5. You have the opportunity to influence many young lives. What one thing do you hope they come away learning from you?
Hmm. There’s so many things that I wish they would come away with after time with me, but if I had to sum it up, I would say an appreciation of excellence and the desire to achieve it. Is that two things? No, I don’t think so. I want my kids to see excellence in art, architecture, science, history, whatever they turn their eyes to; and then seek to achieve the same in their own lives. It’s a tall order. Maybe it happens to a couple of kids I teach a year. It’s usually worth it.