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Interview with Jason L Blair

Posted on June 4, 2004 by Flames

How did you get into gaming?

My brother dragged me into it, actually. He tried to get me to play a couple different games but it was Starchilde’s second edition of “Justifiers” that finally lured me in. That was in ’92, ’93. My first actual group was made up of some friends of mine. Occasionally my group meshed with my brother’s group. Good times were had. What kept me in gaming was all the possibility, all the wonder and excitement the media affords.

Just over ten years later, by the way, I licensed the rights to do a new version of “Justifiers” that is due out this summer.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing the gaming industry?

Stagnation. The common trope is that everything in gaming has been done. That’s bullshit. Look at the system work of Ron Edwards or Jared Sorensen or Clinton R Nixon or Matt Snyder. System is the long-neglected stepchild of gaming. Most systems make one of the following: an attempt at realism; an attempt to be generic, or; an attempt to get out of the way. Pick any one and your system is bound to be dull. That isn’t to say it won’t sell, just that it doesn’t do much.

Hell, there are nigh-infinite settings that have yet to be touched. Not every setting need be another Tolkien rip-off, or anime sourcebook, or generic superhero game, or western. Nobilis, which for certain owes to the like of Neil Gaiman, is a wonderful setting. Chad Underkoffler’s “Dead Inside”-come on! Great stuff. Redemption, man. To pimp my own work, “Little Fears” should not have been the first game of childhood terror. I mean, it’s kids, it’s the Bogeyman. It’s two plus two.

The majority of the vocal gaming public is happy with the same old shit, unfortunately. Most put absolutely no thought into their game sessions. No real thought, anyway. It may sound harsh but it’s true. They lift from creative people, some with righteous indignation, with no real concept of originality. Not everything needs to push an envelope, but everything shouldn’t fit in one either.

What advice do you have for hopeful authors trying to get into the RPG industry?

If you’re going to do it, if you’re going to make that leap, make sure you have something new to offer. You’re not going to fell Goliath; your homebrew fantasy system is not going to lead the masses from their lord and master. At least, that’s the proper mindset to have initially. This is especially true if you’re looking to publish it in hard copy. The bar of entry into the RPG field is pretty low, especially given POD publishing, but that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes it is; look at Rafael Chandler’s game “Dread” which probably never would have seen the light of day if not for small, small runs. For every “Dread,” though, you have twenty “Elves have SHORT ears in MY game” wastes of paper.

Doing freelance isn’t bad, but be smart about what you do. It’s like the “porn myth” in acting. No great actors got their start in stag films. The casting couch is no place to launch a serious career. If quality freelancers stopped pumping out “The Wacky Wizard’s Guide to Mount Mammajamma” and “Erloch the Imp’s Sagacious Sack of Snacks” type sourcebooks, maybe we’d see better more original product. Of course, that could very well be wrong.

What can you tell us about your work on Little Fears?

I knew I wanted to release a game. I spent many years as a wannabe game designer which is code for “I’ve filled a couple legal pads with notes and, um, not much else.” Eventually, finally, I sat down and finished one. It was rough. I owe a lot of people praise and money for helping get that out. But it was worth it. “Little Fears” was a bit of a phenomenon. It sold really well, got a lot of good buzz, got some nominations and even an award. I’m really happy for it. It was a long-shot idea that paid off. I’m really happy people are playing it.

What makes for a good night of horror gaming?

I believe you have to know your players in order for horror to work well. As a GM, don’t worry about scaring the characters. The characters are going to react and run and hit, that’s what they do. They’re either gonna die in the first half or they’re going on to the sequel. The players-now those are the cats whose skin you have to get under. Be psychological, be intense.

What keeps you busy when you’re not gaming?

My wife, my daughter, my other day job. I watch a lot of movies. I write, I read magazines, I surf the net. Most of the time is consumed by my daughter, though. Babies are demanding animals.

What’s next for you?

I’m doing some freelance work for two really good companies with cool ideas. I just released “Wyrd is Bond” through my company, Key 20 Publishing, and am finishing work on “Justifiers: OMEGA Edition” for a summer release. I am negotiating getting some of my properties into other media; specifically, movies, comic books. And action figures. Dammit, one day, I’ll have action figures.

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