Wednesday, 7 March 2018

5e: An interview with Chris Lock, co-creator of the Retroverse setting.

Recently I had the opportunity to have a series of conversations with Chris Lock (@snickelsox) and Lluis Abadias (@LluisAbadias), the two creative minds behind the fascinating Retroverse, a truly original setting for the Fifth Edition of the D&D game. Today I’ll be sharing my interview with Chris!


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Let’s start simple. Who are you?


CHRIS
My name is Chris Lock. I’m a dad - I have two kids. I work at a grocery store. I’m not terribly important. But I’m also the lead designer on the Retroverse, working closely with Lluis Abadias to make this awesome world.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
How did the Retroverse come about?


CHRIS
Through some happy accidents. I had just returned to twitter after an absence for personal reasons, when I came across some art by Lluis and retweeted it with some flavour text. He really enjoyed it, so I continued to do that with more of his art. Then he posted some art with a retro feel to it, a neon dragon, and I etched out a world over the course of two or three tweets. Then someone replied to ask “hey, are you making this? Is this something I could buy?” And I replied “uh… yeah, give me six months.” I messaged Lluis, and that’s how it started.


Lasers & Liches: Tales from the Retroverse © Lluis Abadias.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
That's amazing.


CHRIS
Yeah, it's sort of silly.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
No, it’s cool! I see you tweeting out descriptions of art all the time. It’s very cool that’s something’s come about from that because of the artist responding to what you’re doing - and other people responding to what you’re doing.


CHRIS
Yeah. I’m trying to push out stuff that people can enjoy. A lot of people are very secretive with their story ideas. Maybe my brain is broken - I have ten billion ideas every second, and I’ll never use most of the ideas so I might as well throw them out there and let other people have fun with them. And artists love it. Maybe not all artists. But most of them love it when you take the work they’re already making and add cool stuff to it. When they know they’ve inspired you, it makes them feel good as an artist.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
We've been seeing a lot of the Retroverse on twitter. But what exactly is it?


CHRIS
That’s a question I get a lot and one I don’t know I’ll ever have a solid answer for. Do you remember Saturday? How cool Saturday was?


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
You mean the morning cartoons?


CHRIS
Yeah! You wake up in the morning and you don’t really have anything to do. You’re in your pyjamas and you watch cartoons and wrestling and you eat a bunch of sugary cereal. Then you play with some action figures for a while. It’s that only we’re making it a tabletop roleplaying game. One of the things I’m really trying to do is not step on creators. I want to let them have their own world. We are creating our own setting but that’s just one of ten thousand worlds that are part of the Retroverse. And we’re building it so that you can take any part of it and put it in your own world. The universe is one where it’s not that crazy that things intersect with all sorts of other realities.


Retroverse T-Rex © Lluis Abadias.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Would you say that this is the ultimate sandbox setting?


CHRIS
I'm trying really hard to make it that way.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
It reminds me a little of the movie Wreck-it Ralph. That was obviously about games and the internet, but this idea of connected worlds which don’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense together but somehow they’ve been thrown together and wound up making a cohesive whole.


CHRIS
How many times when you were a kid did you take all of your action figures and toys and throw them all into a world. Batman was hanging out with He-Man and sure it didn’t make any sense but it was still a lot of fun. That’s sort of what we’re going for.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Right. This hobby of ours is all about the imagination. Taking us back to that childhood sense of wonder couldn’t hurt, right?


CHRIS
Yeah! It’s not going to hurt anybody to have a little bit of childish fun again. And something that I’ve written into the first paragraph of the introduction is that the Rule of Cool is the only one that needs to be strictly adhered to. It’s all about having some fun, letting loose, getting weird. It doesn’t all have to be super serious.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
How long have you been working on this now?


CHRIS
A little under six months pretty much nonstop. I went from having about seven hours of sleep a night to about four. We’ve got a ton of stuff we’ve been working on for the first test wave to go out after the kickstarter.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
What's actually in the kickstarter?


CHRIS
We have two books we’re working on - the Player’s Mix and the Game Master’s Beats. The Player Mix is comparable to the Player’s Handbook that Wizards of the Coast released. It’s not going to be exactly that but it’ll have many similar things in it. Races, classes, a bunch of new magic, new feats, backgrounds, and gods. Player options and cool lore they can choose from. The Game Master’s Beats will have all the resources to help make your world more “retroversey”. It’ll have all the magic items and a bunch of monsters. If everything goes right it’ll feature a full campaign as well, around 8-10 adventures long.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
How many classes and races does the Retroverse have and can you briefly describe or hint at what they are?


CHRIS
If we’re fully funded and reach every stretch goal we’re shooting for 12 races and 10 new classes. Currently there are 6 classes done (though not tested). The Synthweaver, The Holo Knight, the De-Fragger, the Goreangyr, the Glitch Hunter, and the Code Warlock. All of those have bits and pieces of other classes that serve as either a backbone or window dressing. The Defragger is sort of Paladin-esque but doesn’t share the faith and religious traits and its abilities get away from the Paladin quite quickly. The Code Warlock has some abilities of a monk, like ki points, but as soon as you get passed that they’re not a monk any more. They have a lot of cool abilities that make them sort of like Neo and Goku mixed together.


De-Fragger © Lluis Abadias.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Is it fair to say that you’ve built these classes around the chassis of the core classes to provide a sort of touchstone for players?


CHRIS
Yes, sort of. I want it to be very compatible with your basic material so you could have a Cleric and a Holo Knight in the same group in the same world and it would work, and nothing would be broken. As far as the races go some of them are fully fleshed out, some are just concepts at this point. Within the first test wave we’ll be releasing two test races and some new dragonborn variants based off the dragons that exist in the Retroverse. There’ll be the Wo'nari which are wolf-people that can shoot lasers out of their eyes, and the Ceran which are triceratops-like people that can summon power from their ancestors.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
That's pretty out there. Wolves with laser eyes is cool.


CHRIS
I thought so! It makes me happy that you think so.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
It seems like this would be a fantastic setting as a sort of palate cleanser between serious campaigns.


CHRIS
I can’t stress enough how bored I am of Tolkien-style fantasy. It’s a perfectly fine and acceptable way to do it, but it bores the heck out of me. Let’s get weird. Let’s have some fun!


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
I’m fascinated by the idea of Retroverse gods, so I want to come back to that. What sort of gods are we talking about?


CHRIS
There’s Paku Paku, the all-consuming god of Death. He is the feeling of hunger incarnate. He consumes stars at the edge of universe, slowly blotting out entire solar systems. It is told that one day he will make it to the centre and devour the last of the light. He is not malevolent, he just exists for one purpose - to consume. He has witnessed or caused the destruction of infinite worlds. In doing so he has absorbed all of the knowledge the inhabitants possessed. He will sometimes share that knowledge with his followers but it is almost always too much for them to handle. He can be driven back by the combined spirits of a devoured planet but this only ever temporary. Paku Paku will feed. Some sects of his faith profess the existence of a lover or child, their combined hunger being enough to eradicate all that ever was or will be.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
I’m sorry, have you turned Pac-Man into a Great Old One?


CHRIS
Er, yes… and no… Yes. But that’s the Retroverse. That’s what we’re doing right there.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
I feel like rather than write up this interview I should just say “Pac-Man is a Great Old One. Go kickstart this, it’s brilliant.” That alone sells it…


CHRIS
If you really think about Pac-Man what is he if not a Great Old One? If you take him just a little out of context… I mean, he can eat ghosts. What eats ghosts!?


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
You obviously must be enormously proud of everything you’ve created, but do you have a personal favourite thing?


CHRIS
You’re asking me to pick my favourite child, partner… Oh man. To be honest it changes depending on what I’m working on. But I suppose the thing that’s really stuck with me is the first class we built, the Holo Knight. They can summon holographic constructs of weapons and armour and they use illusion magic. They combine all of this stuff with some fighting prowess. They’re a super fun and versatile class and I don’t think there’s really anything out there quite like it. If I can say anything that makes me the most proud it’s probably that one. At the time I had just a page of notes written and that was the first thing that came out complete. I looked at it and thought “we can do this, I think we can actually make this happen”.


Holo Knight © Lluis Abadias.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Have you decided on price-points?


CHRIS
Nothing’s set in stone, but we’re shooting for somewhere around $25-30 for the PDF and $40-45 for print. Again, that’s not set in stone. Each of the two books will be well over 200 pages worth of new content.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Obviously it is a two-man team and you guys are probably being very careful with this kickstarter, but do you have any plans for stretch goals?


CHRIS
Most of the stretch goals are literally just to increase the amount of content in the books. I’m trying not to make anything where it’s like “yeah we’ll make a ton of posters, and t-shirts, and laser and liches branded slippers!” That’s not really what we want to do, it just muddies the waters of what we need to focus on. Nobody wants any lasers and liches slippers anyway.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
You might be surprised if you put it out there! But you’re probably better off not doing so. Okay. Have you thought beyond the kickstarter? Are there other sourcebooks or products you’d like to release for the Retroverse? Or indeed any other projects you want to pursue after the Retroverse?


CHRIS
I have thought a little about this and there are two answers. On a personal level I want to keep growing my streaming presence and grow it to where I can do it more regularly. If I can get away from my grocery store job then I can get to a place where I can spend a lot more time on the Retroverse stuff. Concerning the Retroverse, the only thing I’ve nailed down is that I’d really like to do a campaign that’s all about the Goreangyrs, which are a class that are like the power rangers. The campaign would be all about fighting big monsters and teaming up with your comrades and combining your robots.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
I think there'd be an audience for that.


CHRIS
Yeah, I’d like to think there’d be an audience for that. It’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s a little dumb, but who doesn’t want to be a power ranger?


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
I wish I could say that I don’t. But I think there’s probably a little part of me that kinda does.


CHRIS
Everybody kind of wants to be a power ranger. Just a little bit.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to explain why a potential fan needs to take a look at the Retroverse?


CHRIS
If you just want to have some fun and you’re a little tired of the sword and sorcery feel. If you want something that scratches that “Ready Player One” or “Power Rangers” or “Saturday” itch we’re going to do our best to make that for you. We know as well as you do that just throwing in a bunch of nostalgic references is not nearly enough to make something cool, so we’re doing our best to treat your memories with love and care. Please support us on Kickstarter coming April 10th.

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