Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April A to Z - P is for Pingo

Hello lovely gamebookers and April A to Zers. Today, we have J. Pingo Lindstrom, who is a comic book writer, RPG maker and gamebok writer. So many talents...

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm J. Pingo Lindstrom, from Sweden. I've worked in marketing/advertisements and the sign-industry, but I also studied as a comic-creator at a small school here (one year course, one of the first comic making schools in Sweden). I've published a few fanzines and a graphic novel as well, but turned into movie making in the mid 90's, writing scripts and produced a few short films. In 2010 I produced my first feature film (Angry, with Bo Svenson), which I also wrote and directed parts of.

I've been interested in roleplaying games and solo adventures since the mid 1980's. I got The Wizard of Firetop Mountain - the Swedish edition - at Christmas, probably around 1984/1985, and that was an amazing experience. All fantasy I've done after that has always been, in some way, inspired by that particular book. In Sweden at that time we were lucky to get many Swedish editioned games of very high quality, with specially written adventures. So for me, I never really felt like I could contribute - the quality was so high!

But later on, when I started looking into table-tops, as Warhammer (both Fantasy and 40K), me and my friends made our own table-top rules, created our own figures and models - and of course, I wrote and GM'ed an amazing amount of adventures - always trying to have sound FX, clothes and even food (!) as extra properties in the game.

From there, it was only the Print-on-Demand-service that was lacking - I mean, if that had been invented in 1999, I had started publishing games already then.

You have made Drudge - a simple generic rules set for all settings. Where did the desire for this come from?
Well, back somewhere in the year 1996, or so, me and I friend (Henrik Pettersson) wanted something in the vein of Necromunda, but with roleplaying sessions more similar to Basic roleplaying - AND we wanted a really fast action system that was simple to understand and quick to play out. We didn't want a lot of details - if the figure is partly covered - it's totally covered in the game. Most cover gives the same armour rating - and so on. All to make it as quick and simple as possible - but instead also making it generic and easy for the GM to create magic in the adventures themselves!

We wanted something that could be used both on the tabletop and as a roleplaying game - and in any genre, really. We didn't want to only play epic battles, we want to be able to bring our characters into buildings, meet people, talk to people, solve a mystery - and then gun down ten guys on a roof-top. And we wanted our characters' skills to advance, so we could play campaigns.

Another thing that my friend added was "groups" - and here you can truly see the Necromunda inspiration shine through. Instead of having just one character, you have a group of characters, but one has to be a Main Character - and this is the person who does all the "talking" (mainly, not even that is set in stone).

Drudge! itself was called Grunts - and this was the name for the lesser characters in the group (all the characters started as a Grunt). But since so many other games uses the name "Grunt" in some way, I picked a name that I haven't seen any game use: Drudge!

The game was based on an even simpler system we created, based on Rock, Paper, Scissors, where each player has three cards with numbers: 1, 2 and 3. Each battle is then run with the cards - we draw the cards simultanously. 1 beats 2, 2 beats 3 and 3 beats 1. Easy, and very quick. No skills, no other stuff - just super-quick action. This was for us to play fun, fast table top games with modded figures. We expended on this until there's nothing left of the original game. Maybe I'll release those early rules as a free table top later.

There are some Drudge adventures available. Do you have any more planned?
Yes, The Monster from the Other Side is a small, first, adventure. The first "official" adventure. With the Drudge! rules is also a license for anyone to build their own adventures and even sell them with the Drudge! logo and name - without giving us any money. I wanted to give other creators the opportunity to make stuff, without having to be bothered with license fees and stuff like that. Bring out your best adventures - create and earn money!

I have started to outline a western adventure, and I have a few others planned as well - post-apoclaypse of course, but I also want to do some sci-fi-spaceship stuff and fantasy dungeon crawler adventures as well. Currently, the Drudge! adventures are a bit on hold, since I'm working so hard on the Random Solo Adventures, but I hope to release at least two more adventures in 2016. Not sure if I can keep that schedule - but I'll try.

You created the Random Solo Adventures. They allow you to have a different adventure every time based on die rolling. How did you come up with the idea?
I've wanted to (and tried to) make my own solo adventures ever since that christmas in 1984. But never really got anywhere. Again, I thought that the only way to do it was to do a 400 paragraph fantasy book that is BETTER than Wizard of Firetop Mountain. It wasn't until a few years ago I re-visited the game book market and understood that everyone else also tried to do this - and failed. It's just not possible to create a better game book than that. :-)

But that said, I also understood that a game book doesn't have to be 400 paragraphs. With games like Quill (amazing stuff - get it!) you see that the game book is taken to completely different territory - something I tried with my utterly weird free Random Solo Adventure: Pinball.

The first book in the series, Fantasy Dungeon, was heavily inspired by the Dungeon Robber random map (http://blogofholding.com/dungeonrobber/index.php) - an amazing game map that is truly cool. When I saw that, I thought it should be possible to translate that into a game book - so I tried, and after some different versions, I ended up with Fantasy Dungeon.

It was more difficult than I first thought to make a random adventure - especially since you need to be pretty generic. But I think it works pretty well.

In your Fantasy solo adventure, you even create a randomly generated quest. Was it difficult to come up with a scenario that had so many objectives?
Yes, and no. This is actually the part where I got most critique - the quest is random, but I don't really follow it through the whole way, using some techniques towards the end that could have been done better. I changed this entirely in the next book, Jungle Quest, which is more linear, but feels more solid because of it.

However, the Fantasy Dungeon still is pretty much fun just because of the 18 different quests - and it was very difficult to find out a way to find sollutions to the quests without creating a 1,000 paged book!

The main reason why I used the techniques I did in Fantasy Dungeon, was that I mainly inteded this book to be published as a softcover pocket, and not ebook. I didn't plan an ebook version at first at all - and because of this, I needed to try to stay within 100-140 pages, otherwise it would be so much more expensive. It wasn't until later I discovered the DriveThru-sites and started the PDF-versions (which sell very well, by the way).

Your next Random Solo Adventure is based on Bram Stoker's Dracula. What made you decide to make an adventure based on Public Domain stories?
Dracula is an amazing story in itself and the original novel is written in an interesting way, using mainly letters, diary pages and newspaper articles.

The Coppola movie (Dracula, 1992), which had the title on the poster as "Bram Stoker's Dracula" by the way, is one of my all time favourite films. It's heavily flawed, but there's something with it that keeps drawing me back. It's entertainment - and I love entertainment!

So I planned to do Dracula - but not until much later. Currently I am finishing Post Apocalypse. But I met Greenhickup (the artist for the Dracula project) on DeviantArt, and we talked about creating the project together, and try to get funds by launching a Kickstarter campaign. He's in Macedonia and is also a true fan of the film, as well as the original book, and have made some interesting similar gothic stuff before - so he was sold on the project right away. If he hadn't come in so strongly on this, I don't think I would have launched the project so soon - but he made me enthusiastic of it as well, so we're a great team. It's really fun to create these projects when you have this creativity momentum.

About "public domain", though - I've worked with similar works before. I created Allen Quartermain, a female decendant to Allan Quartermain, and wrote a script together with Josh Hoffman (filmmaker from USA), and I have also started to look into other similar stories for future games and projects. I also control the rights to the UK/Spanish sci-fi comic AXA, so I understand the value of a brand and already made products.

What future adventures do you have planned?

That will be a fun book to write - I am huge fan of BLACK SAILS.

But it would be fun to write something in the vein of THE THICK OF IT, with a swearing Malcolm Tucker-kind of villain, but I don't have the language skills for it.

But I guess a fantasy-themed Thieves story, a sci-fi Planet War story and maybe even a Frankenstein and a Werewolf book wouldn't be out of the question. I have also toyed with the idea on making a "second series" of Random Solo Adventures with only World War II themed storylines - but it means a lot of research, so I guess that's in the future.

Getting ideas for stuff to write is NOT the problem. It's the opposite actually, I get distracted from my writing by ideas that keep popping up. I have lists and lists of titles, and sometimes I even go and make posters or front-page mockups just to see how it would look. This goes for game books, movies and adventures.

You also make illustrations. What kind of illustrations do you like doing?
I do some simple black/white line-art mainly, to fill up backgrounds or if I need something special, fast. I have a great Samsung pad with a pen that I'm using to draw on, and then I bring the pics into Photoshop to complete them there.

I've also made some colorized cute little monsters, but I'm saving those for some strange childrens book for the future.

What do you have planned next for the future?
Mainly the Random Solo Adventures and Drudge! Adventures - but I am constantly playing around with card-game ideas (Oh yea, I did release a card game a few years ago). I like simple and fast rules, but I also like stuff that feels epic and that can create large areas - like big dungeons, citites and stuff. I also like games where you can play solo. I just don't have time anymore to bring a lot of friends together - it's too much logistics. :-)

But I do have three feature films in post, so as soon as those are completed, I guess I have to go out and sell those - which means I loose some time for the games. But we'll see... Nothing is set in stone.

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