Praise for Twisted Tales Events
'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell
‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill
Monday, 13 June 2016
Bryan C.P. Steele interviewed by David McWilliam about 'Dark Age'
Branching out into professional miniature painting and sculpting, Bryan has done his best to try his hand at every aspect of the industry. Writing, designing, collaborating, marketing, and managing; if it has something to do with the enjoyment of gamers, Bryan has shown that he happily will be a part of it! Currently a game developer and writer over at Cool Mini or Not, Bryan spends his days in his home studio fleshing out, designing, and spit-shining games like Dark Age, Wrath of Kings, and even has had some hand in the company’s popular board games like Rum & Bones: Second Tide and Massive Darkness.
For more information on Dark Age, visit www.dark-age.com.
DM: How and why did you become a tabletop games designer?
BS: I’ve been a gamer for over thirty years. It seemed to be the only thing, aside from comic books, that I stuck with. Every other hobby or talent came, left its mark, then vanished. As I grew as a gamer, I moved into writing house rules, adjusting what I thought was wrong with existing games, and eventually official playtesting for companies that would have me.
It was during that era that I decided I wanted to try and be a part of the ownership circle in a local comic book shop. The current owner of the shop took me to a retailer-only convention where I ended up playing lots of games of a little game that was not finished yet set in this RPG universe called the Iron Kingdoms. By the end of the show I was handing these guys my gamer creds because I wanted to demo their game when it came out. I wanted to help them make this thing happen. As fate would have it, they saw that I had done some writing for games at the exact moment one of their staff writers left the project. They asked if I could do a test piece, the test piece led to a contract that in turn became the original Warmachine: Prime. We won a few Origins Awards the following summer, and that basically set me on my path. I never looked back; gaming was going to be my career. Here we are, fourteen years later, and I’m still going strong.
DM: With Mark 3 of Warmachine out this summer, the game is getting lots of coverage. What do you consider to be its greatest strengths and have they influenced your subsequent game design?
BS: Yeah, I am very proud to have been a part of what got that game started in the first place… now it is a juggernaut, no pun intended. Greatest strength, though? Probably the simplicity of its core system. This plus this, roll dice, hit, roll damage. Easy as that. It doesn’t take too long to understand, but it takes a lot of time to “master.” As for whether or not it has influenced my work later on… maybe? 95% of what I did for Privateer Press was just narrative design, so the rules and stuff was on someone else’s plate. But I will say this, I learned a lot about the “process” of creating good, memorable characters that people actually want to read about and play. Hopefully the fans agree.
DM: What is your pitch when describing Dark Age to new gamers?
BS: It is a true sci-fi skirmish game set in a world ravaged not by one apocalypse… but several. Aliens, humans, monsters, and robots all fighting each other for domination of a broken world that no one else wants. It’s a dangerous game where technology isn’t necessarily going to work, probably will kill you, but you’re damned if you don’t try to use it anyway.
DM: Are there any post-apocalyptic worlds that you draw inspiration from?
BS: I watch a *lot* of movies and international television series on Netflix, Hulu, and HBO, so my inspirations can come from the most random of places. As for specific sources that kind of fit, it depends on what I’m thinking about at the time. With the Forsaken, I can watch Kingdom of Heaven or possibly some Game of Thrones. Outcasts get Mad Max. Skarrd actually get Ghosts of Mars, Mutant Chronicles, etc. The CORE get VIRUS, Terminator, First Contact. But recently, with the impending new releases for the Kukulkani, I watched Apocalypto again. Now that I’m working so heavily on the upcoming Dragyri book, Predator movies have been in the rotation. Next year, when we do the Brood, it will be sci-fi monster movies from Species to Aliens. As for the world itself, I turn to anything Riddick has to deal with.
DM: Can you give an overview of where Dark Age began and where it is today?
BS: Dark Age was the first miniature game property of Cool Mini or Not. Dark Age, way back in 2003, began as a heavily narrative miniature game that almost felt like a roleplaying game. Low model count, heavy story factors, lots of in-game effects; that sort of thing. The game has evolved a great deal, and the current version is brutal magic, in my opinion.
DM: What do you consider to be some of the most effective and affective narrative elements that convey the horror of Dark Age to players?
BS: In the narrative itself, Dark Age is set on Samaria, a planet that was used, abused, and eventually abandoned by the collective corporate scum of the United Worlds conglomerated government. The humans, collectively falling into the religious fanatics of the Forsaken and the Darwinian survivalists called Outcasts, do everything they can to eke out a normal existence amidst honor-bound aliens, genetic monsters, sacrifice-happy space invaders, meat-powered robot monsters, and mutant cannibals. It is a rough place, and if they could stop their own Machiavellian schemes they might be able to thrive.
In the game’s rules, we represent the world’s situation in two real ways – the constant use of models’ “psyche” for fear and panic purposes, and the presence of a Malfunction number on most attack types that include anything more advanced than an edge or heavy weight. In Dark Age, pulling the trigger on your favorite sidearm might just backfire and cost you your hand! Sometimes, especially if an important model is already wounded, you choose the lesser attack with a smaller chance for Malfunction instead of a potentially more lethal one.
DM: There is a real focus on body horror within the setting, from grafting, mutations, cannibalism, and more. Is David Cronenberg an influence on the game?
BS: An influence on the game? Probably not. On me personally? Absolutely. I’m a *huge* horror movie fan, and if I said that some of the things I have let my eyes feast upon haven’t influenced the way I see Dark Age… I’d be a liar for sure. I love Cronenberg, but Carpenter and Craven are where much of my personal tastes lie.
DM: Can you give a sense of each of the main factions and what you consider to be their most interesting aspects?
BS: Sure! The Forsaken (and the Prevailers) are a theocracy battling amongst themselves politically while trying to survive against the world around them. The Forsaken have a great strength in their adaptability, because as a faction they definitely have the greatest number of units to look at.
The Outcasts, whether talking about the core survivalists, the Slavers of Chains Barrow, or the Salt Flat Nomads, are all about making a living outside the comforts of reliable technology. They cobble together what they can. Make use of it, and try to get by. Like the Forsaken, they have a lot to choose from, but they bring a ton of interesting skills and special abilities to the table.
The Skarrd – mutant cannibal cults bent on the evolution of mankind through hardship. True monsters made by forbidden science, psychic powers, and the harsh environments of Samaria, maybe with a touch of evil madness tossed in. They are offense, offense, offense; give them the opening and they will tear you to pieces… and eat them!
The Dragyri, who are getting a big update and a brand new sub-faction before the end of the year, are a race of aliens that have actually been on the planet for longer than humans, oddly enough. They are powerful close combatants that use either swarms of pathetic slaves or hulking Trueborn brutes along with some powerful “magic” to crush their foes. Dragyri armies have some of the most durable individual models at a mid-level point cost the game has to offer.
The Brood are genetic beasties born in a lab and eventually left to their own devices in the Blackmire Swamp. They are part animal, part science project, and the only faction built around the idea of regenerating wounds. They take a licking and keep on coming.
The CORE are self-replicating robots that run on scavenged or aggressively claimed organic matter. They are a force of somewhat mindless drones that never give up led by higher programmed AIs that can hold their own against nearly any enemy. The draw to the CORE is a collection of unit-changing Upgrades that certain models can choose, allowing certain models to play different roles to the army each time you play.
Lastly we have the Kukulkani- a race of Aztec/Mayan-themed alien invaders from space that (if you ask some of the other Dark Age staff) might have had a hand in the possible destruction of humans on Terra (maybe in 2012?). They live on the biological energies taken from living things through advanced technomancy, using science to create magical effects. On the tabletop they have a resource they gain from some of their units or killing others called Bio-Energy, which they spend to cast powerful rituals or enhance some of their units in spectacular ways.
I think that about covers it.
DM: Every faction seems to be getting a book of their own at the moment (those for the Forsaken and Outcasts are already available, with the Dragyri one due out later this year). What is the idea behind this and how are the books allowing you to build Dark Age?
BS: We are going forward with Dark Age in new ways, starting with an official “Web Update” for the Kukulkani coming very soon. We will be using our website downloads section a lot more to update factions, repair card typos, adjust for balance mistakes (we all make them, unfortunately), and such, but when we have BIG releases or faction/story-wide events that need more pomp and circumstance, we will put together a faction book. Eventually, we will release a compilation of the Web Update stuff, too… but only when we have enough to make it worth the customers’ while – no tiny splat book syndrome here! So, things like the emergence of the Dragyri Shadow Caste or a new evolution within the Brood, those require a published product.
In all of our books and web updates we will write narratives and further the overall story of Dark Age, but it is a matter of scope. In a Web Update, we will focus on the changes to the faction involved, maybe getting a little bit into the overall story, whereas a fully published book will have a heavy narrative element that will talk about all the factions – and more. Effectively we want to grow our world in small steps, space out the changes we make, and even the game as we go. A fair game is what we want; at least fair between players – the models themselves are pretty much screwed from Jump Street!
DM: Where do you see Dark Age going in the near future? What are your long-term hopes for the game?
BS: Well, in the near future we have the update and new releases for the Kukulkani, the long-awaited reveal of the Shadow Caste in the Dragyri book shortly thereafter, and then an update to the expansive CORE robotic hordes. That’s the rules and models part of it, as for the narrative… well, that is another story (pun definitely intended that time).
The Shadow Caste coming out to play is like breaking every rule of Fight Club all at once, and Samaria is about to get a heaping helping of violent interaction. The spidery Dragyri had a ton of little threads wrapped around their talons, and now that they are up and out of hiding – a lot of those puppets are about to dance.
As for the long term, the number one thing that I would like to see out of the game is a driving force of games being played all over the world for people trying to become "Immortalized" as a model in our annual Immortals tournament and March To Immortality event circuit. The “MTI” (as it is commonly phrased) is about to get a little shift in how it happens, beginning with this 2017 Circuit, and I really think that people are going to enjoy climbing toward our Immortals event in Atlanta, Georgia at the Cool Mini or Not Expo next spring. Basically, I want the game to be as popular as other skirmish games like Malifaux, Infinity, and eventually my old alma mater, Warmachine. Once people get to playing it, reading our stories, and seeing all the fantastic new sculpts and re-sculpts in the Dark Age line, it will be an easy sell, so to speak.
DM: For people who are entirely new to Dark Age, how would you advise them to get started? What resources are there for them to draw on?
BS: For beginners that aren’t getting to play in starter games at a convention or an official Legion (our demo team) store event, I’d say the first place to stop would be www.dark-age.com to peruse the factions, the gallery of models, and maybe download the basic rules. Also, hopping to our Facebook page (or the very popular fan group on Facebook, Dark Age: Samaria Reborn) and asking questions is always a good way to find out what’s what. For a game about everything being thrown to hell in a proverbial handbasket, we have a very tight and friendly community that is growing every week. I hope it continues to do so as we move forward. A good community is the foundation to a successful game, that is my belief.