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Interview with Heather Grove

Posted on March 22, 2004 by Flames

How did you get into gaming?

I first noticed RPGs when I was pretty young and stumbled across a copy of the Middle Earth RPG (as I recall) and bought it, but I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to give roleplaying a try (not a huge roleplaying community in most parts of Vermont).

In high school I stumbled into a D&D group because of a friend who was in it; the dungeon master was a minister, oddly enough. (His wife would make cookies, and his two-year-old daughter would sit on his lap and throw dice at us.) I’d say it was his work (he was quite a good DM) that really got me interested in roleplaying, and then when I went to MIT that was reinforced because there was a huge roleplaying community there.

I never did end up playing MERP…

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing the gaming community today?

That’s a tough one; I haven’t been nearly as active in the industry for the last year or so as I used to be, so I think any answer I gave would be pretty off-the-mark. Personally, in my own writing, I like to concentrate on the dynamics of roleplaying — the social interactions, the ways in which the attitudes and actions of players and GMs shape how people game and whether they have fun with it. Sometimes I think it’s an issue that gets lost in the midst of all the other, more exciting stuff.

What has been the most challenging work you’ve done in the RPG industry?

In a general sense, I find writing world-history to be challenging and difficult. I much prefer writing about present-day game world material. Any time I’ve had to write straight world history it was like pulling teeth.

More specifically, my favorite challenge was “The Book of Madness Revised” for Mage. Mental illness is a special interest of mine — I studied it for a while, and I have bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder — so writing the storyteller section on how to deal with insanity in roleplaying games was a wonderful opportunity. I was particularly glad to get the chance to do it because I think mental illnesses often get treated in an unrealistic and damaging fashion, both in RPGs and in other media.

What was your initial reaction to the Time of Judgment announcement?

I think that with the kind of build-up to the Apocalypse that’s been going on in World of Darkness books, they had to deliver eventually — it was just a matter of when. So I wasn’t particularly surprised. There’s always the sadness of knowing there won’t be yet another supplement for the game you’re currently playing, but then my favorite WoD game (Wraith) got canceled a long time ago anyway. Now I’m just curious to see where it goes from here.

What can you tell us about Burning Void?

That’s an interesting question right now because I’m in the middle of a site redesign. Burning Void started out as my home page sometime in the mid-to-late 90s. I just kept adding to it — reviews I felt like writing, articles, listings of links. I’d split things into their own sections whenever they got too big. As a result it’s an ungainly mess. I’m redoing everything from the ground up, reorganizing, and making it nicer-looking.

The site reflects a lot of my interests, as well as my husband’s. It has articles and links for both roleplayers and writers and a semi-regular email zine for roleplayers. Many of the articles reflect at least a little of my interest in psychology. I like to listen to the problems people have in their games and then try to figure out solutions, so our articles tend to address various trouble-spots and useful gaming techniques. Actually, I get a lot of topics out of watching my husband GM and thinking about the way he does things–he’s the best GM I’ve ever had.

We tend to take an unusual approach to things, or tackle unusual topics, like our series on free will in roleplaying. I think this means we’ll always have a very niche audience, but I like the fact that we do something a bit different. And sometimes odd things happen, like the couple of teachers who’ve asked if they could use articles from the site when teaching their workshops or college classes. It’s been very gratifying to know that people find the site useful.

Anyway, none of the major resources are going away in the redesign. We’re organizing them, and they’ll look a lot nicer. New articles and such come out irregularly — doing anything on a regular schedule with ADD and bipolar can be pretty challenging sometimes. But I expect us to be around and doing what we do for the foreseeable future!

What RPG(s) are you currently playing?

My husband and I just wrapped two games, one long-term chronicle set in the World of Darkness and one using HackMaster. We’re playing some interim Terra Incognita, which is just plain fun, and planning Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stargate campaigns for after that. We still hope to someday get around to all the other games sitting on our shelves, too!

What’s next for you?

I stopped freelancing. Tight deadlines are tough on my hands since I have tendonitis. And although I got very good at making myself sit down and work despite the concentration problems that come with ADD, I think the difficulty of it contributed to a case of burnout.

For the moment the site work will take a little while, although it is going faster than I expected despite the fact that I’m learning PHP as I go along.

Some of our readers have expressed an interest in PDF compilations of our articles, and I’m toying with the idea of turning them into fully fleshed-out and revamped PDF books instead. It’s one of those things, however, where it’s hard to know whether there’d be enough interest to make it worthwhile.

A couple of editors thought my last short story was worth turning into something a lot longer, so I’m debating whether I feel capable of writing a novel. And I have some RPG projects that, again, I might be tempted to try selling as PDFs.

But for the moment I’m working on a handful of things and seeing where they lead me. I can imagine ending up taking any one of several paths, so I’m kind of curious myself to see where things go from here!

For more information on Heather Grove, visit her website at http://www.burningvoid.com.

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