martes, 6 de octubre de 2020

Interview with Ernesto Orellana, author of Yozarian's Bandit Ducks!

7 comentarios

I interviewed Ernesto Orellana, author of the RuneQuest Glorantha scenario Yozarian's Bandit Ducks, available at DrivethruRPG. I met Ernesto for the first time on the RPG community on Google+ and later at an RPG meet-up focusing on all D100-based RPGs. Ernesto lives in Cádiz, southern Spain, with his wife and two children, and under the facade of an IT specialist lies an old-school roleplayer who is always trying new systems. Here's what he told me about himself as a RuneQuest fan and about the experience of self-publishing a scenario for the Jonstown Compendium, Chaosium's platform on DrivethruRPG for RuneQuest fan community creations.

How did you find out about roleplaying games, RuneQuest and Glorantha?

I was about 15 when I found out about roleplaying games. One afternoon I tried a game of D&D and, although the scenario was not that good, it was a kind of game that was different from all the rest I knew. Months later, a friend of mine ran a campaign on Griffin Island, and it was then when RPGs hooked me for life. Shortly after that, I was already running my own RQ3 and Star Wars games to several groups of friends, who I "recruited" for the cause, and I also started playing MERP, Stormbringer, Call of Cthulhu... You could say that barring some exceptions, my roleplaying base was RQ and other BRP games.

I discovered Glorantha as the RQ3 supplements were published in Spain. I have always been fond of the epic of the modest PCs, simple characters who manage to achieve things out of their reach. Maybe because of that, I have come to know the lore very gradually in all these years, exploring new regions in every new campaign. I still see myself as an apprentice in this setting, trying to get to the same level as great Gloranthaphiles I have been lucky to meet such as Master Gollum, Thorkrim, and some guy called Runeblogger...

What campaigns have you run in Glorantha?

Wow, what a question!! I haven't counted them, perhaps 6 or 7. Long ago, my campaigns used to start by creating the PCs with my friends and then tailoring the campaign for that particular group. I'm quite fond of the sandbox style, so the PCs always had several story arcs running that gained or lost center stage depending on their choices, and my campaigns used to go on forever until either a TPK (which never really happened) or the group's dispersal. Lately, I have been running the third of a series of linked campaigns, and I hope to reach its conclusion in the mid-term if the pandemic allows it.

As for published content, I have only run independent scenarios from supplements I have purchased in Spanish: Trollpak, Genertela, The Money Tree... And then Griffin Island, which is a must for me, even if it's not set in canonical Glorantha and you need to change the names of the gods, remove the orcs, etc.

What anecdotes do you remember the most fondly from your games set in Glorantha?

I have plenty of them!!! Let's see:

- The PCs had split into two groups and, unaware of the fact, they both were present at the rescue attempt of some Zarings, deep in a forest. What could well have ended in disaster ended up being one of the best ambushes I have ever run thanks to the players' choices and intuition. The terrain: little light, dense vegetation, animal sounds... together with the decisions of the PCs and how well suited the system is for combat, it all contributed to a memorably epic scene.

- Another ambush, but this time reversed: one of the PCs decided he was too cool for school and tried to face off the ambushers all by himself, without alerting his sleeping companions... and he didn't succeed. Even though none of the PCs died, one was crippled and I almost inflicted my first TPK. The next session was a sort of a trial/social combat between that PC and part of the survivors, which concluded with that PC losing all his rights at the Orlanth temple and being exiled.

- A more recent one: The party landed in Karse to meet an old Praxian leader and they got involved in a brawl with Lunar troops. One of the soldiers was murdered, the townsfolk helped the PCs flee, the Empire took reprisal, which created riots, and the consequences of that will have an impact on the rest of the current campaign.

Then there was that time when a giant slarge chopped off the arm of one of the PCs and afterward, they had to face a gorgosaur... But I'd better shut up, otherwise, I'll never stop telling you old stories!

If you lived in Glorantha, what would your 3 main runes be?

My first PC was an Orlanthi who ended up becoming a Wind Lord, so I have no doubts about it: Air, Movement, and Mastery. But if I was someone actually living in Glorantha, aside from dying young I would be from Esrolia. My main rune would be Earth, and my second one Fire... or perhaps Moon?

What other games do you usually play?

This last year I have played Vampire Dark Ages quite often, as well as IMSERSO to the limit, Mutant Year Zero, and Hitos in several different settings. I have also often run games of Ragnarok 3rd edition, Hardboiled, Farwest, IMSERSO to the limit, Mythras, and Ysystem in several different settings.

When you run games, do you roll the dice behind the screen or in front of the players?

Such a good question!!! I try not to roll behind the screen. What I do is I use a set of dice whose rolls are difficult to ascertain if you are not sitting close to them; this way the players know they can see the roll on the table, but they still need to get close to see the actual result.

I know you use many visual and sound effects in your games, could you tell us about them?

That's right, sometimes I go overboard. I don't always use all of them, it depends on the scenario and whether we are playing at my place. Here's my list:
  • On the table, I provide the players with counters, name tents with PC portraits, PC tokens, an initiative sheet, rule handouts, notebooks for the players to write secret messages, laminated cards in case a PC has any sort of handicap, and a foldable whiteboard with markers.
  • I use a smart TV next to the table to play ambient music and show images to the players.
  • For sound effects (a door, a trap, steps...) I use my smartphone. Particularly the Fantasy Sounboard app, since you can create playlists and have sound effects ready for any game.
  • Finally, I have RGB lights over the gaming table that I control from my smartphone. Sometimes during a game, I make changes to the color and intensity of the light which I have programmed beforehand. It's a neat effect.
Now that I play mostly online, I keep sound lists for games on Custom SoundPad, and I use both Roll20 and Owlbear Rodeo.

Ernesto running a game between the covers of the Spanish and original version of Griffin Island.

What is the talent you value the most in a good GM?

Mmm. I know some really good GMs and they each have different good qualities. Some of these qualities are better suited for certain narrative styles and types of games.

I think what I value the most in any GM is that they are able to maintain a certain balance in their storytelling: letting players enjoy their roleplaying moments if they seem to be asking for them, but at the same time keeping the story moving forward. Letting the actions of the PCs influence the story, and giving every player the spotlight.

What would you like to run and play in the future?

Aside from keeping on playing Mythras, M-Space, RuneQuest Glorantha, Hardboiled, Ysystem and IMSERSO to the limit, I'd like to run a game of Kids on Bikes, Call of Cthulhu, and Night Witches.

I'd like to play more of RQG, Mythras, Night Witches, Alien, and try out Trueque.

Do you think RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha is being successful?

Yes, I believe it's enjoying a lot of success because Spain has a great Gloranthan fandom. Many (like myself) are going to buy everything they publish about Glorantha, but you have to take into account that many other people have never played the game or have only a vague recollection. ¡It's been like 30 years since the last Spanish edition!

In the Runas NET online con there were some RQG games and they all filled up, so at the very least there is some interest. We hope there'll be enough of it for Edge to continue publishing supplements.

Not everyone will stop playing Mythras to pick up the new RuneQuest, since when Chaosium broke up with TDM and Runa Digital closed up, many of us kept playing in Gloratha using RQ6/Mythras thanks to the work that Gran Orco, Antonio Polo, and other fans did (I must have somewhere my adaptation for Griffin Island). There are people with converted material who just don't like the new edition, or who are currently playing campaigns and haven't yet switched over...

Some people consider it silly that the world of Glorantha includes a race of anthropomorphic ducks. How did it occur to you to design a scenario where all the PCs are ducks?

Well, I consider it silly that they consider it silly 🙃.

More seriously though, Glorantha includes many peculiar races, and you will like some more than others, but the ducks are certainly not the worst of them. I can understand part of the general dislike for them because some of the pieces of art that were published long ago did a lot of damage to this race; but many people hate them without having ever played them, without having given them a chance. The Durulz have interesting features that play very well on the table, and they are quite different from similar races in other fantasy RPGs.

The idea for the scenario originated when Rebeca & Nestor, a couple of good friends who were initially reluctant to play in Glorantha, committed to giving it a try on the condition that they could play duck PCs. When I thought of the Durulz, I usually recalled Yozarian, that mistreated NPC in "The Money Tree", one of the scenarios I often used to introduce new players to roleplaying games. I wanted Yozarian to be part of the scenario as a way of paying him a small homage, so I came up with a group of bandit PCs who, as fate would have it, end up teaming up with Yozarian. As for all of them being ducks, multiracial groups of adventurers need to be carefully designed in Glorantha, so I thought it would be less likely for Yozarian to meet a nasty end if all of them belong to the same race and have about the same potential. I also thought they were a better match for the initial scene I had in mind.

Who is your favorite duck in the scenario?

Man, that is a very difficult question. They are all very different from each other and I love them all, but I would choose Eyra. She's a big, strong duck, she's cut out for heroism and she's got a big heart as well.

How was the process of publishing Yozarian's Bandit Ducks on the Jonstown Compendium at DrivethruRPG?

It's a lot of work, but also a good learning experience. Thank goodness we're a team of two. I can't imagine how hard it must be for a single author to write, proofread, add corrections, do the art, and do the layout. Even so, we had to recruit an artist to do some of the art and you helped us recruit two additional proofreaders (Simon Phipp and Bill Carley).

We were quite confident that the scenario would end up being published in some way or another. So when we got word that Chaosium was setting up the Jonstown Compendium, Xavier already had the scenario translated into English and adapted to RQG (I had originally written it for Mythras). We commissioned the art of all the gang members to Francisco José Asencio, a guy I met thanks to a friend, and we were amazed by the result. It meant a small investment, but his art made the personality of each Durulz come alive so well that we knew it was the right choice. We eagerly waited for the official templates and when we received them we started working on it to have it ready at the Jonstown
Compendium right from the start. I did the layout and the map of the forest, while Xavier proofread the text and did some interior art. Jorge Alonso-Colmenares helped us color some of that art.

In my case, I didn't know a thing about layout or graphic design, so I had to trudge my way through InDesign and Photoshop. Publishing a PDF is not difficult in itself, but adapting it to POD is a whole different beast: setting the bleeds, redoing the cover and back cover, and modifying every piece of art to remove the excess of ink; on top of that, I had some trouble understanding the how-tos, so it was a painstaking process.

Even though the layout work is never valued enough, proofreading is even worse. No matter how many times you go over the text, you always find new typos. Xavier and you took the brunt of that, together with Bill Carley, who was extremely helpful and who we are thankful to.

All in all, a great experience that requires much more work than we first imagined, but one which I'm looking forward to repeat.

Would you change anything in it, now that it's published?

No, not really. I didn't find the need to add many changes after the playtests, I think it's a fully fleshed-out scenario and it achieves the experience I was looking for. Some GMs have told me they'd give it a more serious tone due to the tragic stories of the PCs, so if anyone runs it with a different style, please let me know how that went!

What player decisions surprised you the most when running the scenario?

Well, it's hard to talk about this without revealing any spoilers. It's also a difficult question because I have run it quite many times, and many players have surprised me.

When I ran it at the El Día de las Runas meet-up it was a big surprise, because all players roleplayed their characters brilliantly. I particularly enjoyed how Rebeca roleplayed Neils, especially at the beginning. It was so much fun! Another memorable scene was when Eyra (played by Miguel Ángel) pushed Radnak into the water in order to save him.

When I ran the scenario at the Rolea convention, Liv (played by Marian) and Eyra (played by Iñaki) had a tense argument over Meils. They even risked their lives over it! Later in that game, the most surprising scene happened when Neils (played by Endyamar) tied himself to a rope and took a leap of faith that caused an unexpected chain reaction.

What do you think of the success of the scenario?

It's been absolutely amazing! For two unknown fans like us, it was impossible to imagine that an all-duck scenario would ever reach Electrum status (over 250 sales). I have to praise the concept of the Jonstown Compendium, I think it's a great initiative for independent authors.

But more important than sales is the good feedback I have received from people who have purchased it and have understood the hours of work behind it; from the players who encouraged us to publish it; and from people like you, who had a great time with it and shared your experience online. At the end of the day, it's all about having a great time together.

Plus, I appreciate the existence of the Jonstown Compendium, I think it's a great idea for independent creators.

Why would you recommend Yozarian's Bandit Ducks?

Because there's more in it than meets the eye. Yes, it is a fun adventure and it has a lighthearted tone, but it also produces epic moments. On top of that, the PCs' emotional links and their background generate good roleplaying and tense scenes among them.

I wouldn't just recommend it to anyone who wants to have fun, I'd also encourage anyone who thinks roleplaying a duck is ridiculous to give it a try, because it may make them change their mind.

To finish with, do you have any plans for further publications on the Jonstown Compendium?

We are already playtesting a new scenario, called Andrasta's Ring, set near Alone. I think it has a bit of everything, and an interesting plot. The consequences for the characters will surely mark them forever. This time it will include notes so you can play it with a new group of PCs, with the pregens included in RQG, or with Yozarian's bandit gang as a follow-up to the first scenario.

It will also include notes about different tones for the game and different play options.

7 comentarios:

  1. I had a blast when I played Yozarian's Bandit Ducks, it's a great work :)

    1. I agree, Kenrae! It was fun watching you all roleplay your characters when I ran it to you. I remember Radnak was very envious of all the attention you (Meils) got from Liv. 😂

  2. The issue with the ducks in Spain is that they took too much protagonism, to the point RuneQuest was called "the game of the ducks". I don't know if that happened also in the US. I ever felt the ducks were created to fill the niche the halflings and hobbits have in other universes. They have a strong parody and comic role. We can see it in the way they are depicted and used in the official modules. As you point out, despite the tragic backgrounds of the Yozarian's Bandit, the adventure is rather comical. Of course that's not a bad thing. It's just what it is. I think that story deserves a prequel, it would be a good place to explore a more tragic aspect of the ducks.

    1. Thanks!!! Yes, they have a strong parody and comic role. I try bit it's hard to fight it.

    2. Now I can see an adventure with ducks just after the Duck Hunt, trying to find a place to hide for your clan.

  3. Thank you very much for everything Runeblogger. A pleasure to interview.


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