Wednesday, 16 July 2008

FAL Interview: A short chat with Steve Darlington

The first time I was made aware of Steve Darlington was at RPGnet. He posted in what turned into one of the funniest threads ever on any site, and after a few good additions to the thread in question he wrote a Monty Python riff based on the spanish inquisition sketch. Pure genius. Ahem ... well it was laugh out loud funny at least. Lines from that post still grace my sig at RPGnet.

After that I followed Steve's posts with some interest, mostly to see if he would deliver more funny moments. Which he did, again and again. And in between that he posted thoughts about gaming and plot seeds and what have you. Posts that became one of the many reasons for visiting RPGnet, apart from the highly amusing flame wars.

So when it came to my attention that Steve was writing on WFRP supplements, I considered that some very good news. It was interesting to see what he would come up with, and for sure, his work on Children of the Horned Rat (with Rob Schwalb and Gary Astleford) and Night's Dark Masters (with Jody MacGregor) didn't disappoint me. I have yet to read through Realm of the Ice Queen (a collaboration with David Chart, Andy Law and Graham McNeill) but I'm sure I'll enjoy that book too. And there are other fans out there, who asked me to do an interview with the distant Aussie. Steve volunteered and I quickly shot off the questions. He managed to return the answers in between being a guest of honour at GenCon Oz and trying to get some well-earned sleep. He also sent a picture of him holding a ... beaver of some sorts, I think.

The Altdorf Correspondent (TAC): Tell the readers a bit about yourself.

Steve Darlington: I live in Brisbane, Australia. I have been gaming for twenty something years but am relatively new to freelancing. I've worked on Children of the Horned Rat, Realm of the Ice Queen and Night's Dark Masters. I've also worked on a few other products like Freeport and Grimm and I'm just about to do some work for Vampire.

TAC: How and why did you start playing WFRP?

Steve Darlington: That's far too complicated a question to really answer here, because it took about ten years from the first time I encountered the game to the first time I actually got to play it. The first time I encountered it I didn't get to play but my friend did and the next day he told me about how cool it was using the Curse spell to turn people's hair purple, which sounded pretty awesome.

TAC: What was it that primarily attracted you to WFRP?

Steve Darlington: Adventures. I've always had a lot of trouble writing these things and as a young gamer I would buy any module I could find. I stumbled onto an awesome double pack in the bargain bin of my old gaming store: The Enemy Within/Shadows of Bogenhafen book and the Restless Dead book bundled into one. As an incredibly stroke of luck, these books contain some of the best adventures ever written for anything in them. I was hooked.

TAC: How did you land the job of writing for WFRP?

Steve Darlington: The same way anyone gets a writing job: I sent off a resume and a sample to the line developer. I had a friend who was working on Freeport with some Green Ronin staff and he'd heard they were looking for freelancers. It was pretty intimidating to start with my favourite company and my favourite game, but the passion for this game is also what carried me through the fear.

TAC: What are your strengths as a writer/designer?

Steve Darlington: Hmm, a tricky question - I'm much better at spotting my weaknesses. I think my strength comes from my passion for the Warhammer world and its style. I love so much about it, and I love crawling into it again and again and doing everything I can to communicate all the joy and wonder and terror I get from the world to others. I could spend the rest of my life writing Warhammer and consider myself blessed.

TAC: Primary inspirations?

Steve Darlington: History. Geography. Humanity. Politics. The world is my sourcebook.

TAC: A catchphrase of WFRP is "Grim'n Gritty". What does this mean to you, and how does this influence your game?

Steve Darlington: Grim and Gritty has many aspects. For me, it's about highlighting the more "mundane" aspects of the world - ours and the Warhammer one. It is a sad casualty of many fantasy worlds that the mundane, the small, the quotidian and the base are swept aside in the pursuit of the epic and the grandiose. Warhammer reminds us all that the mundane and the small and the base are full of just enough evil - and more than enough heroism - to tell the greatest stories imaginable.

TAC: How much humour do you inject into you WFRP game, and how do you do it?

Steve Darlington: I don't really inject humour. I find that games are full of humour anyway, players are just naturally funny. What makes WFRP unique among fantasy RPGs is that that humour is very often in character, instead of just out of character. The humour also comes out of the darkness too, just as the darkness comes out of the humour.

TAC: What is your favourite WFRP book?

Steve Darlington: For 2nd ed, Plundered Vaults, no question. It's probably the most used and most valuable book I've ever bought, except for the core rulebook. For 1st ed, Shadows Over Bogenhafen. Did I mention I love adventures?

TAC: What is your favourite WFRP fan material?

Steve Darlington: Whymme's excellent time-loop adventure for last year's competition. I've forgotten the name but it was gorgeous.

TAC: What's the status of WFRP in Australia?

Steve Darlington: That I couldn't really tell you. I think the battle games are very popular though, and everyone I talked to was jazzed about Dark Heresy, so it seems to be as popular as any non-D&D RPG is these days.

TAC: Have you looked at Warhammer Online? Any comments on that?

Steve Darlington: I don't know a lot about MMORPGs and my computer would melt if it tried to run it...but I am insanely keen to see this game in action. I can't imagine anything cooler than walking around the WFRP world. Also, from some hints I've got, I think my work in Realms of the Ice Queen might have ended up in the game, since one of the main areas is Praag.

TAC: What are your hopes for the future of WFRP?

Steve Darlington: That it goes on. One of WFRP's great strengths has become its legendary tenacity and long-toothedness. The greatest RPGs may just be those that refuse to die the longest. I want WFRP to keep going - and still be on its 2nd ed - long after D&D 20th edition is gone and forgotten.
And that's it, a short chat with Steve Darlington. A few surprises there, especially the bit about Plundered Vaults, a book I haven't heard anyone else list as their favourite for WFRPv2. It's good to see the initial releases get some loving as well! Thanks for your time, Steve, and get some rest now!


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