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Interview with CJ Carella

Posted on January 10, 2005 by Flames

How did you get into gaming?

I started roleplaying in college, mainly GURPS. I had been trying my hand at writing fiction for a while, and amassed a nice collection of rejection letters; my girlfriend suggested I tried submitting a gaming article, and next thing I knew I was writing GURPS Martial Arts for Steve Jackson Games. Fifteen years and twenty-odd books later, I’m still writing games…

How did the Unisystem develop?

I wanted a simple yet versatile game to use with WitchCraft, Armageddon and eventually all types of genres and subject matters. My goal was to design an intuitive and quick game system that got out of the way of storytelling and roleplaying. If people weren’t thinking about the system but about how their characters should behave, I figured I’d have succeeded.

What has been your most challenging work in the RPG industry?

Hard to say… the historical books (GURPS Imperial Rome) required massive amounts of research, but I thrive on that. The licensed properties (like GURPS War Against the Chtorr and the Buffy RPG) required me to immerse myself in the pre-existing works. On the other hand, I love doing that. It’s often been hard work, but it’s always been fun.

How did Witchcraft develop? Where is it headed?

It started as a “what if” exercise – what if the creatures from every horror movie and novel ever made existed in the same world? I wanted to create a coherent cosmology that allowed for the vampires of Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot” to coexist with Friday the 13th’s Jason or the werewolves of “The Howling.” I also wanted to take several religious and mystical bodies of belief (from paganism to Christianity) and meld them into a world where every religion holds a small piece of a greater truth. Add in a dash of Lovecraftian horrror, and you’ve got WitchCraft.

Eden plans several releases for the WitchCraft game line – the Book of Geburah (dealing with the Death Realms) is in the finishing stages; I’m also slated to write to more supplements, the Secrets Codex (dealing with the Combine) and the Book of Yesod (which develops the concept of the Fey races, mythical dragons and other esoterica).

What challenges do you face when writing for an established setting such as Buffy: the Vampire Slayer?

The main one, of course, is getting it right – conveying the feel and themes of the show or novel or movie, which can be challenging since RPGs are a very different medium.

It helps a lot when you’re a fan of the setting in question (I was a Buffy fanboy from Season One) – in fact, given the amount of work and attention to detail you have to do to make a license come alive, I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t a labor of love. It’s also very important to have a property that can be used in a game – many if not most movies and TV shows would not work as roleplaying games.

What makes for a good night of Horror gaming?

Player involvement – they need to care for their characters, so when terrible things happen to them, they will be affected.

What’s next for you?

Beyond Human (the definitive Unisystem corebook, dealing with non-humans of all types, from supers to fantasy, horror and science-fiction races) is in its final stages. After that, the two WitchCraft/Armageddon books I described above, and then probably a couple more Beyond Human supplements (a book of technology and one of magic) which should give Unisystem coverage for just about every genre out there.

Drop by the Eden Studios Website for the latest Unisystem updates.

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