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Interview with Scott Mitchell

Posted on December 5, 2004 by Flames

How did you get into gaming?

I began my roleplaying game journey in 1979 when a friend from high school introduced me to a game called Dungeons & Dragons. The game allowed me to use my vivid imagination to create characters and explore worlds where I could carry out deeds similar to heroes from comic books, television and the movies.

It wasn’t until many years later that I began submitting material for West End Games’ Torg line that I considered pursuing game design as a professional career.

Where/how do you find your artists and/or writers?

I usually find writers and artists by sending out posts on roleplaying freelancer sites such as RPG.net. Being small press and having a limited budget I search for the most talented first-time artists and writers who are seeking to break into the industry. I really enjoy opening the door for otherwise undiscovered talent.

GenCon is another resource I use for finding talent. Speaking with writers and reviewing artist’s portfolios in person is a great way to find the right team for a project.

What do you see as the difference between working for a big name publisher and being small press?

The difference between being a small press publisher and being a big name is that as small press you have to prove to the market that your product is worth the investment. Since the d20 buzz, a lot of companies have sprung out of the woodwork producing below-standard product with weak artwork and content. I believe this attempt by everyone and their brother to break into the roleplaying game industry tainted the title of being “small press.” This may be the reason why almost all the game distributors would rather deal with fulfillment houses in regards to committing to the small press.

With big name publishers, you obviously have previous branding behind the company as well as more capital and resources. This allows one to go beyond the capabilities of the small press which relies on budgeted resources to produce their product.

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

If I’m to assume that you are referring to the gaming community as specifically those who play table-top or pen and paper roleplaying games, I would have to say that the competition with video game platforms is the biggest issue. Video games, although capable of visually transporting players to the realm of the fantastical, don’t incorporate the imaginative storytelling and spontaneity that table-top roleplaying games provide for their audience.

Still, in a world where quick results and technology are the core, video games seem to be the choice amongst gamers who may not have the time to develop the narratives and settings necessary for roleplaying out of the digital realm.

How did The Seventh Seal evolve? Where is it going?

The Seventh Seal evolved as a personal quest to pursue a career in one of the three entertainment industries I love: comic books, movies or roleplaying games. Since I spent a lot of time game-mastering and creating worlds for my players to explore, I opted for creating a roleplaying game.

A graphic artist by trade, I originally wanted to take on the tasks of illustration, design and layout of the game while other fellow gamers took on other roles in the process such as writing and game mechanic design. However as the “quest” demanded more time and effort than the others were able to contribute, the illustration, design, layout . . . writing and game mechanic design became my sole responsibility.

In designing The Seventh Seal, I wanted to create a mature game setting which dealt with a progressive character development based on a moral struggle. Unlike other games, players could choose whether to play the hero or villain depending on the path of free will they chose. This underlying theme would give gamers the opportunity to play characters unakin to their own ethical beliefs, yet at times relative to the ethical struggles they may be experiencing in their own lives.

I wanted the game to be set in a modern era, to enhance the real relationship of the moral struggle and the preservation of the human condition within a fantasy setting, I set my sights on the apocalyptic horror and conspiracy genre, which was becoming popular in the year 2000 Millennium media at the time.

There also had to be a mythology behind the whole game setting which had to explain why the mortal characters cared about preserving their humanity rather than succumbing to the evils of the world. Many mythologies deal with the struggle of “good” and ” but the one closest to reality for me was the Bible, especially the Book of Revelation.

A year and two editors later, The Seventh Seal was born with the help of a few additional writers and a team of unknown freelance artists.

It is a dream come true to see something I created become embraced by the roleplaying community. Originally this project was to be a personal one shot endeavor, but the response I received from the last two GenCons and the internet community prompted the production of two additional supplements for the game line. Novelists and foreign publishers have recognized the richness of the setting and have opened up the door for licensing opportunities.

What sort of fallout have you had over using Biblical mythology as the basis for The Seventh Seal? Has it been better or worse than you were expecting?

Well, I expected experiencing fallout from somebody due to the subject matter of The Seventh Seal, however, I didn’t expect it from both side of the tracks. It’s pretty funny how on one hand some gamers, without opening the pages to see what it’s all about, view the game as a “Christian” roleplaying game while others label it as “Satanic.”

My intent was not to make this game into an evangelical attempt at converting those “devil worshiping roleplayers” to Judeo/Christian beliefs, nor is it an attempt to advocate Satanism. I just recognized biblical mythology as being as rich as any other used in RPGs. As with the Norse, Greek, Egyptian and other inspirational mythologies adapted by fantasy game designers to their game settings, the Bible is rich in mysteries, heroes, monsters and those things that make a game setting interesting . . . and, for my setting, relevant.

What’s next for you?

Ready for controversy! We are currently developing Legion: Book of the Damned, a supplemental, yet also stand-alone, addition to The Seventh Seal gameline. This supplement not only provides setting material for Hell and its infernal occupants, but also allows players to assume the roles of the Marked, mortal minions of Satan who are paving the way for the rise of the Antichrist on earth. They asked for it. They’re getting it.

You mention that your next book includes mechanics and character generation for playing “The Marked.” Do you foresee this as being playable with the kind of characters that are already available or do you think most PC parties will need to be entirely one or the other?

Actually it will be interesting to see how Prophets incorporate The Marked in their Crusades. I see players creating Cabals comprised of Marked characters to thwart NPC Sentinels’ efforts in halting the rise of the Antichrist, as well as infiltrating player character Tsabas as spies for the Legion. It may even be interesting for a group of player character Sentinels to embrace a player character Marked in a effort to guide him to the road of redemption. The possibilities are limited only by the Prophet’s and players’ imaginations.

This concept of good and evil player characters interacting within the same setting is one which I haven’t seen work successfully in other RPGs. I think within the underlying themes of redemption and the mortal struggle for spiritual survival prevalent in The Seventh Seal, players will find the game an interesting forum for this kind of character interaction.

Anything else in the works?

We are currently in negotiation with a German publisher to create a translation for the European market.

I am also interested in breaking into the Live Action and Miniature games market . . . but more on that later. It’s difficult to foretell what the future holds, however, “With Imagination, Anything is Possible!”

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