Categorized | Game Designers, Interviews

Interview with Ed Wetterman and Preston DuBose at 12 to Midnight

Posted on May 21, 2008 by Matt-M-McElroy

How did 12 to Midnight get started?

Ed Wetterman: My best friend, Jerry Blakemore, and I got involved with the RPGA writing adventure modules and interactives for the Bandit Kingdoms region. With a few modules under our belts, we asked ourselves why we were working so hard for free when we could be writing modules for sale instead. We designed a huge war-game based on D&D 3.0. It was huge and fun, but after realizing how much it would cost to take to market we set it aside.

At this point another old friend, Mark Ramsey, joined and we decided to focus our efforts on the PDF market and specifically the modern horror area. At the time, there were only a few companies were producing material for that genre. Later we were joined by Preston DuBose and Craig Largent. Preston has extensive skills in layout, art direction, and marketing.

Preston DuBose: I met these guys at a convention and played in a game Jerry wrote called Weekend Warriors. It was a cool military horror game, and I’d just written a big modern horror adventure. I started stalking them in hopes that they would publish my adventure, and after a month or so they asked me to join the company. That’s when I realized it was all an elaborate ploy! They immediately put me to work as their layout guy, and one month after my son was born 12 to Midnight released its first title—Last Rites of the Black Guard.

Pretty soon after that, we invited a professional engineer and designer named Craig to join us as our in-house cartographer. In the past year we have also added Neal Hyde for his great writing skills and Brendan Quinn as our chief technology officer.

12 to Midnight is the distributor for three imprints. What can you tell us about them?

Ed Wetterman: Our first was Dirty Unicorn Games, owned by Jeff Varnes. His 3-D tokens and tiles are the best and I rarely sit down to GM without his stuff. The next to join us was Fabled Environments, owned by Charles and Krista White. They have an awesome line of modern maps called Modern Floorplans. These maps come in several types, with furniture, without furniture, with grid lines, without gridlines, etc. These maps can be used in ANY modern game. Finally we have Silven Crossroads. This is our official fantasy line of products based on the original Silven Publishing products and now including our own, such as Steamworks.

Preston DuBose: We’ve really enjoyed working with Jeff, Charles, and Krista, and we are pretty sure they’ve enjoyed working with us. They’re like extended members of our 12 to Midnight family (or cult, depending on who you ask–such as my wife). We’re always on the lookout for new imprints, but the number one criterion is demonstrated quality.

What can you tell us about the Pinebox Adventures line-up?

Ed Wetterman: My first idea was to create a website full of paranormal articles both real and fictional. One of the articles I wrote was about a Nazi whose mummified remains were found in his home in Rosetta, Texas. The story was cool and the adventure Last Rites sprang from that. While Last Rites was still in development though, we decided that we really needed our own campaign setting. Pinebox was born out of many legends and stories from East Texas, which came easily since I grew up in the region.

Preston DuBose: When I first met Ed, Jerry, and Mark, they explained that they had this fictional campaign setting called Pinebox, Texas. As they filled me in about the various details, they had the habit of talking about Pinebox like it was a real place. I remember at one point being on the phone with Ed and stopping him in mid-explanation to confirm that there wasn’t really a place called Pinebox that they were simply fictionalizing. Even that early in 12 to Midnight’s history, Pinebox had a way of grabbing you. It wasn’t long before I started talking about it as it were a real place too. Today I can tell you as much about Pinebox as my own hometown. Actually, probably more.

What may surprise people who don’t know 12 to Midnight is that there is no Pinebox campaign setting book. We’ve posted some campaign setting basics on our website for free—a city map, some travel destination-type information, and enough information to give you a sense of Pinebox’s flavor. Beyond that, we’ve grown Pinebox incrementally through a series of adventures. Each one adds new locations, new people, and new slices of Pinebox’s history. We have five full-length Pinebox adventures, plus adventures and setting material in about a dozen and a half issues of an e-zine called Modern Dispatch.

How much playtesting goes into your adventures?

Ed Wetterman: Lots! I run it for my local group first, then usually two or three more times with extended group of gamers. Once we feel it’s ready for a big playtest, we contact folks from around the world that are active on our forums and ask them to playtest for us. This usually leads to another big series of edits, but makes for a better game.

Preston DuBose: Ironically, when I wrote Brainwashed, Ed got to test it before I did. He ran it several times while I was living out of town and away from my gaming group. He passed back the playtest results and I made the changes, but I didn’t get to play it until close to a year after its release.

So, are we ever going to see a Pinebox campaign setting book? Why or why not?

Ed Wetterman: Yes. The first one is a plot point book called ETU: Degrees of Horror that takes place on the East Texas University campus, though there is lots of information on Pinebox and Golan County, Texas. There is enough here for several campaigns, but we also hope to add lots of fun stuff as well. Things like an official East Texas University website, more Bites of Midnight, music, a Google-style interactive map, and both a Whitepages and a Yellowpages for Pinebox with active links for many of the folks and places listed. When this is released, gamers are gonna get more support than they have ever seen from an Indie company.

Then….we might do another book that is more about Pinebox and less the University. We have discussed the possibility of releasing a d20 (modern or 4th edition Modern) version of the campaign setting as well.

Preston DuBose: If you’re asking whether we’ll ever publish a generic book about Pinebox, probably not. We prefer filling out the campaign setting more obliquely. Ed has already spilled the beans on our intentions for web enhancements. While those are ostensibly in support of ETU, most of those pieces are just as useful for Pinebox as a whole.

Ultimately, we enjoy expanding Pinebox by going narrow but deep. For example, East Texas University is only one part of Pinebox, but when we’re done with ETU: Degrees of Horror you’ll have everything you could possibly want or need to play a college-horror campaign. We’ve talked about taking the same approach for the Pinebox Police Department. We have more fun going deep and developing rich campaigns than we would putting out a generic Pinebox almanac.

What makes for a good night of horror gaming?

Ed Wetterman: Memories, good characterization, and surprises! I’m a story gamer. I love tossing handfuls of dice as much as the next guy, but if there is no plot or story, it rarely holds my interest long.

Preston DuBose: Yeah. Horror gaming is heavy on roleplay. A good night of horror gaming is a night when all the players are in the zone and resist distractions that break the mood. You know it’s a good night when you give yourself or someone else at the table goosebumps.

What are your thoughts on the Savage Worlds system?

Ed Wetterman: I personally love Savage Worlds. It’s my personal system of choice. I still play d20, but I no longer write my adventures for it. We hire d20 gurus to convert my adventures from Savage Worlds to d20. There is nothing more I hate about writing adventures than creating stat blocks. I believe Savage Worlds is the perfect game system in that it’s easy to understand but has lots of depth and nuances that can only be learned by playing the game. It truly is Fast, Fun, and Furious.

Preston DuBose: Yeah!

What challenges are there when writing a Savage Worlds adventure?

Ed Wetterman: I like writing for SW the best. It’s simply an easier system to write for, design for, and requires much less preparation as a GM than the other systems out there. I guess the biggest issue is making certain that encounters are balanced for the adventurers.

Preston DuBose: I agree with Ed. I’ll just add that we have to challenge one another to outperform ourselves for every title, because the quality of Savage Worlds material is just amazing and keeps getting better. The creativity coming from Pinnacle and the Savage Worlds licensees is inspiring.

How did Steamworks come about? What can you tell us about it?

Preston DuBose: Steamworks is a fantasy d20 System supplement. It gives gamers and GMs rules for bringing steampunk-type technology into a fantasy campaign. It is a big book—almost 175 pages—and includes character classes, prestige classes, item creation rules, and devices. Lots and lots of devices. Honestly, as far as I’m concerned the chapter on devices alone is worth price the book’s price. Who wouldn’t want to have a bag full of self-propelled caltrops? Or a mind control helm? Or a rust grenade? Or a clockwork steed? A clockwork steed! That just rocks!

Ed Wetterman: We were contacted by the author, Korey MacVittie, with the idea. I thought it was a great idea that really fills a nitch, so I campaigned hard within the company to accept it. It was big book though. It took a long time for Korey to write, and even longer for us to edit. Unfortunately by the time we finished, 4th edition was announced. I wish we could have released it a year ago.

Is Steamworks going to be available for Savage Worlds?

Preston DuBose: No. Steamworks relies on classes, while Savage Worlds is a classless system. It would require such massive rewrites that we can’t justify the resources.

What can you tell us about the Midnight Charity project?

Ed Wetterman: My son is a high functioning Autistic and we were wanting to give something back to society. We chose to give to Autism Research. One in 150 births are now recognized as Autistic, and this is up from one in 10,000 in the late 1970s. It’s an epidemic and the causes remain unknown. With these kind of numbers everyone should be aware of Autism and I’m certain most people know of at least one autistic person.

Preston DuBose: In early November I decided that it was time we use our powers for good instead of only evil (adventures). I suggested to the guys that we look at starting a charity project that we could run in December. We were already working on ETU at that point, so I knew we could auction off a NPC role in ETU without much difficulty. We tossed around a few ideas for charities, but with Autism research being so personal to us it was an easy decision. From there it snowballed, really. The guys started offering to donate their December royalties, and eventually we decided to dedicate the sales of certain titles to the charity. We even opened it up to other publishers and had Second World Simulations donate some of their sales as well. In all, we raised $245. In the great scheme of things it may not seem like much, but for a last-minute charity by one small RPG publisher I think it turned out pretty fair. I hope that this year with more advance notice we can get even more publishers on board and raise even more.

What is next for 12 to Midnight?

Preston DuBose: We’ve already mentioned ETU: Degrees of Horror. It’s a self-contained modern horror campaign that takes characters from incoming college freshmen all the way through graduating seniors. The characters start off as little better than mooks, but throughout the challenges and dangers (both mundane and supernatural) presented by college they are forced to grow into the heroes they were destined to become. Well, either that or they’ll die and serve as object lessons for the next incoming freshmen class. We’re pretty close to a complete first draft, so we’ll be playtesting and editing over the rest of the year. We expect ETU to hit game stores in the second half of 2009.

Ed Wetterman: ETU is our number 1 priority, but that’s not all we’ve got in the works. Last year I wrote a serialized adventure in 12 parts, called 12 Hours to Midnight. Like the TV show 24, each installment represents one hour of adventure time. After ETU is turned over to the editors, I’d like to go back and finish that. We also have a ghost-related adventures called The Prodigal that just needs art and layout. I wrote another haunted house adventure, House on Dale Island, two years ago. I pushed it back to focus on 12 Hours to Midnight, which in turn was pushed back because of ETU. I’m gonna get that adventure released somehow, come hell or high water.

Visit for all the latest news on upcoming products, including Pinebox Adventures and Steamworks. You can also find 12 to Midnight eBooks at the Flames Rising RPGNow Shop.

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