RPG Industry Professional Interview: Gareth-Michael Skarka
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Director and founder of Adamant Entertainment, Gareth-Michael Skarka is a writer, game designer, consultant, graphic designer and veteran of over twenty years in the entertainment business. For the past decade, he's been at the forefront of the growth of the ePublishing industry, appearing in articles on the subject ranging from the Washington Post to the South China Morning Post, and online via dozens of sites, including CNNMoney, ABCNews.com and the Nintendo Wii News Channel.

The married father of three lives in the old frontier (in Lawrence, Kansas), but works in the new one.

Gareth is also a member of the site:

Gareth-Michael Skarka
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1. RPG Designer: Gareth-Michael Skarka
RPG: Top Secret (1st and 2nd Editions)
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
Any other gamers in your family? How did you get into the hobby?

I was one of the kids that got into gaming during the first big explosion at the end of the 70s and the turn of the 80s. I got started with the first edition of TOP SECRET, which was a birthday present from a friend who knew that I was a massive James Bond fan. Six months later, my parents got me the Moldvay Basic Set of D&D for Christmas. I've been hooked ever since.
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2. RPG Item: Two Bit Tables: Languages New and Old [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Two Bit Tables: Languages New and Old
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
Did any of your previous jobs or education help you become a game designer?

Not as such, no -- aside from my self-education in reading (and if possible, playing) any game I could get my hands on throughout my adolescence and college years.

Funny enough, the skills that I taught myself when I started down the road to publishing my designs (layout, graphic design, etc.) where actually responsible for every non-gaming-related job I held since college. I've never held a job in my area of study (East Asian Languages and Cultures), but the stuff I learned for my "side interest" was what ended up paying the bills. Eventually, I decided that I should just do the "side interest" full time, and launched my own games publishing company, Adamant Entertainment.
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3. RPG Item: Periphery [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Periphery
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
What was the first project you worked on? What was that like?

My first game design was a "war game" -- or rather what I thought was a wargame based on looking at advertisements for Avalon Hill and other publishers in various SF magazines and comics. Using a bunch of Avery labels, I created a "game board" out of the only real-world map I could find at my Grandmother's house -- a map of Canada from an issue of National Geographic. I came up with a scenario where we'd discovered the Canadians had been tapping into the Alaska pipeline, and so we invaded (naturally). I called the game "Conquer Canada." I was around 11 or 12. Obviously, it never saw print.

My first commercial release was in 1993 -- a small-press science fiction RPG called PERIPHERY: SCIENCE FICTION ROLEPLAYING ON THE EDGE, which was a percentile-based generic space-opera game that I designed and published with several college friends. We only had a print run of about 500 or so copies, but I still occasionally come across one at the GenCon auction.
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4. RPG Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
Video Game Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
What's the most recent project you've worked on and what's great about it?

For Adamant Entertainment, my most recent work has been on FAR WEST -- our Wuxia-Western Mash-up setting, which is the focus of a tabletop RPG, a fiction line, with more under development including a webseries, a card game, etc. What's great about it -- apart from the concept, which is pretty much the distillation of everything that I find cool about Spaghetti Westerns and Chinese Wuxia -- is that it's my first transmedia effort. Transmedia is a horribly-buzzwordy term which describes a story-world that is explored across many different platforms, with each platform giving additional layers of meaning and depth, but not taking anything away from the folks who only want to engage via a single platform. A good example of the form is The Matrix series -- where folks could watch the films, but the folks who delved deeper -- read the comics, played the video games, etc. -- got additional information which paid off in different ways for them from the same films.

I also work for Cubicle 7, on their DOCTOR WHO line (which is the fulfillment of a life-long dream of mine). Most recently, I worked on DEFENDING THE EARTH: THE UNIT SOURCEBOOK, which gives players and gamemasters campaign options and adventures for running games based in the international organization which has been part of the Doctor Who universe since the early 70s and has continued to the present series.
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5. RPG: James Bond 007 [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:117]
RPG: James Bond 007
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
What games influenced you?

The biggest influence on me personally, outside of the first games that I mentioned earlier, was Victory Games' JAMES BOND 007 role-playing game from the early 80s. It was a revelation to me -- it was the first time I had ever seen a game which focused on genre emulation -- where the rules fostered a "feel" which mirrored what it was attempting to model. (The chase rules were a great example of this, as were the seduction rules.) I had never considered the possibility of rules design which was focused on modeling genre tropes as much as it was on modeling actions. It was like opening a door in my head.

I immediately began tinkering with emulative RPG rules design, which put me on the path to my career.
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6. RPG: Far West Adventure Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG: Far West Adventure Game
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
What are you playing right now or most recently?

I've been so busy working on FAR WEST and our forthcoming BUCKAROO BANZAI roleplaying game that I haven't had the free time to spend on RPGs. Usually, after working, I've been so brain-tired that I just want to vegetate in front of the TV to "disconnect" a bit. Now that we're nearing release on both of them, things will be getting back to normal, and I expect to start up a regular game again -- probably FAR WEST, in fact.
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7. RPG Designer: Chris Kluge
RPG Item: Gamesmaster Pack
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
Who is one of your favorite RPG Designers?

My first answer would be Chris Kluge, designer of JAMES BOND 007 -- simply for the effect that it had on me.

If I limit my response to designers currently working today, I would go with Steve Kenson, who is absolutely amazing. He's written for nearly every superhero game ever published -- and designed a couple of them as well. I had the honor of working with him on ICONS, and the sharpness of his ideas coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of the genre was really energizing to be around.
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8. RPG: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:60]
RPG: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
What RPG do you wish you had designed?

Most recently, I've been seething with envy at the design of MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING from MWP -- so much so, I pestered Cam Banks about whether or not they'd be willing to license the system for use in other games! I would love to apply the elegance of the design to other genres.
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9. Board Game: Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:906]
Board Game: Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
What non-RPG (either card, board, or video) games do you play?

I've been playing more board games in recent years -- my recent favorites have been Ghost Stories from Asmodee and Fortune and Glory from Flying Frog.

Video game-wise, I've never really had the time to devote to long-play -- although I'm a sucker of Red Dead Redemption -- but as a football (soccer) fan, my real video game addiction is EA Sports' FIFA, which also suits my time needs: I can play a single match, if I don't have time for more than that.
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10. RPG: octaNe [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:546]
RPG: octaNe
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
If you had to point someone to an overlooked RPG product, what would that be?

Jared Sorensen's "octaNe: Premium Unleaded" -- a game from 2002 that's currently only available in PDF (http://www.rpgnow.com/product/17890/octaNe%3A-premium-uNlead... )
... and in my opinion pretty much invented the 'indie/story games' movement single-handedly. It's a fast-playing hot rod of a game system, set in post-apocalyptic, psychotronic trash-culture America. Absolutely brilliant stuff, and definitely deserves more attention.
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11. RPG Item: RC1: The Thing in the Valley [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: RC1: The Thing in the Valley
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Microbadge: Ultimate Image UploaderMicrobadge: Ultimate ReviewerMicrobadge: 2020 Ultimate SupporterMicrobadge: Ultimate RPG Uploader - This user has 500+ entries and is in the RPG Geek Hall of Fame!Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level VI -  Is six any more shiny? ... Well, it's one shinier isn't it? ... Okay, why don't you just make five a bit more shiny and then that would be the most shiny? ... Because these go to six.
*Bonus Question* What are you drinking right now?

Right now? Boring answer, I'm afraid. RC Cola.
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