So we were lucky enough to speak with Vincent Baker, the Lead Game Designer for Otherworlds, an upcoming Science Fiction Fantasy Tabletop RPG. We decided an interview was the best format to dig deeper into the inspiration and detail of Otherworlds, so please, join me for the ride!
First, we wanted to get a little bit more history on Vincent, to make sure he was decent RPG material and wasn’t full of false realities and broken dreams.
Jinx: When did you first get into Tabletop RPG’s?
Vincent: My father raised me on games such as Final Fantasy and Magic: The Gathering, so naturally around the age of 13, I had gotten into tabletop RPG’s from a young age. My first character’s name was Ramza (named after the main protagonist of my favorite game- Final Fantasy: Tactics) and was a dual wielding ranger.
Jinx: What games do you feel are comparable to Otherworlds in play-style or genre? GURPS? Shadowrun? Most importantly, what sets your game apart from others in its genre?
Vincent: As I stated before, I grew up playing D&D. I’ve also played others such as Shadowrun and Outbreak: Undead. As far as play-styles go, I’d have to say Savage Worlds is the most comparable, namely for its “exploding die” mechanic and its wide scope of settings.
However, I’ve found that Otherworlds has had a lower barrier to entry than any other tabletop role-playing game I’ve seen, while still not sacrificing depth. We have had a lot of people skeptical of giving Otherworlds a try because of how complicated other systems were to them, and to their surprise, they were able to easily understand and get right into playing! On the other side of the spectrum, more experienced players have credited Otherworlds as being the first system that they have played, that has allowed them to be as creative as they want to be without feeling limited.
The system is very much crafted from the ground up to really make the game feel like its own entity and as far as its genre goes, I truly believe there isn’t another game that captures this particular theme.
So to answer your last question, what sets the game apart from the others is that this game is a unique genre (Science Fantasy Adventure.) It has a unique resource management system, simple yet deep design, unique races and of course, limitless creation.
Jinx: What made you decide to design your own game?
Vincent: Ever since I can remember, I had been entranced by fantasy. When I was about eleven, I was inspired by the Ratchet & Clank series and played a game that I called, “The Mission Game.” I acted out as NPCs, gave missions and rewarded my friends with imaginary weaponry, armor and items for completing objectives. Little did I know that I was role-playing at the time and as I got into tabletop games, I realized there was no better way to recreate that fantasy experience than through gaming.
OK. So it seems like Vincent is on the up and up. We can continue this interview….for now.
Jinx: What about the game are you most excited about?
Vincent: Aside from my sheer excitement of the world getting their hands on a unique, fun and what I believe to be- a great game. I’m most excited about what the future holds. I already have dozens of ideas for expansions that I’d love to dive into, it’s just a matter of where the fans want to explore next with me.
Jinx: Can you give us a brief adventure you’ve run and the highlights for our readers?
Vincent: There’s so many, that it’s hard to choose, but I’ll go with the first that comes to mind:
About six months ago my friend Audrey played Otherworlds for the first time. She, along with the rest of the player characters, was tasked with finding the source of a distress call and had to discover what had happened. They were led to an inhabited moon, named Kholis, which appeared to be nothing but the desolate remains of what was once a flourishing city. On this moon, what they found was black-ooze, zombie-like creatures that had no hesitation in attacking the group. Audrey’s character, Cammy, tried her hardest to protect a scared NPC the group found earlier in the campaign.
Unfortunately, they had a player character named Verrick in their group, who’s a sociopathic reaper, who “accidentally” slayed the scared NPC in all of the commotion. Cammy angrily charged Verrick. He began stepping back as he swung his Bad Axe at her and missed, only to have his body thrown onto the wall, held by her tight grip. Unfortunately for him, Cammy was a skilled hardcore-fighter that punches first and asks questions later. She began punching Verrick, who couldn’t escape. The leader of the group tried splitting the two apart, but Audrey rolled a critical success, knocking their leader back. Angered, their leader turned into their Werewolf form (yes we were playtesting werewolves) and tried separating the two; again she critically succeeded. This happened repeatedly for a while until Verrick was almost beaten to death. Needless to say, Audrey really enjoyed her first game of Otherworlds and I believe a lot of the praise goes to the system. If it weren’t for the critical success mechanic and opposed checks, this would have never happened or have felt as unreal as it did in that very moment.
Jinx: Sounds pretty badass. I really like how the critical success mechanic can turn an encounter into something so much more, really bringing the story to a whole new level.
You mentioned in your video that Otherworlds was a mash up of Borderlands, Magic The Gathering and Final Fantasy. I’m an avid fan of each and while I did notice weaponry that reminded me of the Borderlands universe (as shown below), I would love to hear about how and where you incorporated each of these genres into Otherworlds.
Vincent: Otherworlds has weapons, items and gear inspired by many different games such as Ratchet & Clank, Halo, League of Legends and Borderlands. The overall tone of the game is also fairly similar, but with Otherworlds being a TRPG, we’re able to add depth in additional races, armor, items, skills and other things that Borderlands doesn’t have.
I believe most would agree with me that Magic The Gathering is a well-designed game. I’ve not only been playing it for a decade, but I’ve been playing scrupulous amounts of attention to their designs and how they have improved. A lot of their design principles are taken into account when designing Otherworlds. I simply love how they only have two stats (power and toughness) and yet still have over 20,000 cards and STILL have more design space. Otherworlds is built to have a lot of design space and to take up complexity where it’s important and to minimize it where it’s not. I believe that’s important for any game.
As for Final Fantasy, as mentioned above, my favorite game of all time is Final Fantasy: Tactics. I love how simple it is to play, yet how much strategy there is to the game to master. This is vital role I wanted in Otherworlds. I want players to have options when it comes to combat. Players can go the simpler route by just pointing and clicking with a big gun or swiping down their foes with a sword. But there are much more tactical approaches a player can take as well, such as determining whether it’s better to use your rifle that your enemy won’t be able to evade successfully, or to attack your enemy with a slightly weaker attack that will devastate them if they try defending it. Along with these decisions, Otherworlds has what I like to call a “checks and balances” approach to design. What this means is for every strength there is something to counter it. There is not one piece of gear that’s the best. It’s almost like a rock-paper-scissor-style combat, but instead of three variants, there are limitless variants.
Jinx: I’m very curious about seeing this from a player’s perspective. What would you say is the learning curve for new players to pick up the system and make characters?
Vincent: I feel like in comparison to other systems, Otherworlds is very straight forward and allows for easy character creation. Accessibility into the game is also simple for new players to join with more advanced players. The enemies and tasks during an Otherworlds campaign are balanced enough for even a beginner to contribute to the mission at hand.
Jinx: I really liked the idea that two gunslingers could be completely different in the Otherworlds system. Disregarding race, can you explain what customization options are available that allow for the differences in two members of a similar class?
Vincent: Aside from race, characteristic traits, backgrounds and the destiny of the characters, two gunslingers could differ functionally based on what play style the player wants. For example, a player may love rolling dice and playing the odds. In that case, the player can acquire skills like “Bang! Bang! Bang!” and “Lady Luck,” which will weaken their overall attack power in favor of rolling more dice, for additional chances to gain critical successes. Additionally the player can use “Lady Luck” to build up Luck, in order for the player to re-roll their dice.
If rolling a lot of dice isn’t your thing, you can go for a sharpshooter variant of the Gunslinger, allowing you to gain increased damage and range. You can pick up additional skills such as “Shootout” and “Fan the Hammer” to further increase your damage and accuracy to make sure you always hit your targets.
Alternatively, you can go for more of a support Gunslinger, in which you can equip heavy armor and tank damage as you use skills such as “Bullet Rain” to take out multiple pesky enemies or use “Wanted” to curve your bullets to get enemies hiding behind cover. “Twist of Fate” could also be useful to reveal all of your concealed enemies for your teammates.
Additionally, equipment plays a huge role in how your character will play in combat and in Otherworlds there is no “best equipment.” It’s more like a puzzle and you can try and solve combat the way you want to. There is no right or wrong answers. Not only do you have the above options available to use as a Gunslinger, but you can also have a frost elemental weapon to freeze your enemies in place or at the very least slow them down. If you’re going for more damage, have a fire elemental weapon.
The best part however is you can mix and match any of the things I said above to how you see fit, as well as use the additional dozens of skills to further alter and get “combos,” that work well together. Ultimately however I wanted each class to have different playstyles for players to explore, because I for one don’t enjoy playing the same thing as everyone else.
Jinx: Taking it one step further, I’m someone who really enjoys building my character. What customizations and options can I expect that will allow me to really bring life to my character, to get it exactly how I envision him?
Vincent: Otherworlds has twelve classes and ten species in the core rulebook. All of which cover a wide variety of options to choose from. Along with this, you can choose characteristic traits and your character’s Destiny, which can be anything as long as it’s a motive. These elements really build up the narration aspect of the game, so even if you’re playing a story-based campaign, it still feels like a personal player-based campaign as well.
Additionally there are proficiencies you can have your character specialize in. These cover anything from investigation, science, artistry, weapon crafting and more, which will allow your character to further fulfill a unique role in your play group.
Jinx: Sounds great Vincent. Now let’s look at it from a GM’s perspective. Something I’m really interested in, is limitless creation. I’d love to know as a GM, how easy is it to create a new monster or even a new race and class that functionally works in Otherworlds?
Vincent: It takes some basic understanding of the game and looking at the other monsters, races, classes, etc. to see how they are built. But you can go as simple or as complicated as you want to. As for ease of creation, we’ve had a lot of players start creating after their first playthrough of Otherworlds.
Jinx: Again, as a GM, how much of the er…other worlds in Otherworlds are mapped out, designed and detailed?
Vincent: Currently there are twelve worlds listed in the Otherworlds Core Rulebook, each with their own themes and identity. They are detailed enough to understand the world, but obviously to illustrate an entire world for any game is difficult, if you multiply that by twelve, it becomes ludicrously difficult.
The answer to this is there are details given of each world, enough so, where you can feel confident in visiting them and knowing what they are about and what life is like on that planet.
Jinx: So I hear you recently attended a convention where you got to show off Otherworlds?
Vincent: I had a blast attending Triad Anime Con. They had me as a guest and treated me very well throughout the convention. During the campaign sessions, (which I wish could have been longer) we had full games of ten people! It was a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.
Afterwards it made me extremely happy to hear people ask me what conventions I’d be at next so that they could play again. Currently I’m working out the details, as I plan on being a part of many more conventions. Getting to meet new people and enjoy a shared gaming experience is a feeling unlike any other and I seek to have more of that, moving forward.
Jinx: So the rumor on the streets is that you’re going to have a kickstarter. When are you expecting it to launch and what’s the price going to be for a physical product? How about the .pdf?
Vincent: Depending on how the die rolls, I’m expecting to launch Otherworlds on May 1st. Physical copies will be a hardcover 8.5 x 11 fully colored book around 200 pages. As for the prices, I’m still negotiating with print companies, so I’m not able to give an answer at this moment. However, what I will say is you can expect a price reasonable to that of other tabletop RPG’s found on Kickstarter.
Jinx: Do you have any stretch goals planned? Any chance you can divulge the first one to entice some excitement in our readers?
Vincent: Absolutely! Art is essential for this game and even though we have a good amount of it, I’d love to fully flesh out more of what the different worlds, weapons and characters look like to give the player’s more perspective of this new universe to explore. I feel like this is common for most RPG’s and as such, the first stretch goal will be to add more art to the core rulebook.
Jinx: Sounds solid Vincent, thanks for having the interview here with us at 3-Sided-Die, we thoroughly enjoyed it. For all your fans out there, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Vincent: Honestly, I love talking to others and being involved, so if you have any questions or just want to chat, feel free to contact me. The quickest way would be on Twitter: @thevindicated or on the Otherworlds Facebook page. http://www.facebook.theotherworldsuniverse
So that about sums up our interview with Otherworlds designer, Vincent Baker. It was an absolute blast working with him on this interview. During our correspondence, he was polite, professional and really seemed to have his head around his Otherworlds vision and where it was headed. We at 3-sided-die are looking forward to running a game of Otherworlds with our group, sometime around the kickstarter time-frame and will happily report all the shenanigans that transpired.
Vincent, thanks again for your time and for sharing Otherworlds with us at 3-sided-die.