Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Interview - Tim Brannan, Robert H. Hudson, and Morgan Boehringer

Strange Brew: The ultimate Witch and Warlock.
Cover by Peter Bradley.
This week the Encounter Table sits down with Tim Brannan and Robert H. Hudson, developers of the 3rd Party Pathfinder (and Castles & Crusades) book Strange Brew: the ultimate Witch and Warlock, currently funding for stretch goals on Kickstarter. We're also fortunate enough to be joined by Morgan Boehringer, developer of the stretch goal, Warwitches & Hexmavens. 

Take a look within and learn a little more about this highly ambitious 3rd party project and what lies in store for readers and backers!

Robert Brookes: I'd like to thank you all for taking the time out for this interview. Before we get started, why don't each of you give an introduction and tell us a bit about who you are and some of the previous work you've done?

Tim Brannan: I have been working semi-professionally in the gaming business for about 14 years.  My first big book was Liber Mysterium a book on witches for the then-new Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition. I have worked on a number of books for Eden Studios including the Buffy the Vampire Slayer line and Angel. I also wrote the Ghosts of Albion RPG.  I have also written and published two old-school books on witches, The Witch and Eldritch Witchery.

Robert H. Hudson: I've been writing professionally part-time for the gaming industry since 2006. My first work was for HERO Games’ Pulp HERO line, Masterminds and Madmen and Thrilling Places, both Ennie-nominated. Since then, I've worked on the Christina Stiles’ Bite Me! Kickstarter project, started my own line of outsider bad guys for Pathfinder—Forces of Darkness—published by Misfit Studios, and worked on a number of other projects.

Morgan Boehringer: As well as being a dad to a terrific 3 and a half year old son and fantastically patient (and generally fantastic) wife, I'm a graphic designer, illustrator and author and I'm just about to finish a Degree in Applied Management in Design (just two exams to go!!!).

As far as RPG stuff goes, all of my work has been for use with the Pathfinder RPG. I've been an active member of the Multiclass Archetypes crew almost from the beginning. I've done a bunch of freelance gigs for Kobold Press - an island/adventure locale in Journeys to the West, a couple of legendary NPCs in Legends of Midgard and the adventure Curse of the Witchkeep in Midgard Tales, as well as the Gauntlet Witch in Kobold Quarterly #23.

Under my own imprint Forest Guardian Press I published the Direlock Base Class. I've also had a few articles appear in Wayfinder 7, 8 and 9, including the spooky adventure sidetrek Fractured Fane of the Fleshwarpers.

RB: How did you all get into tabletop gaming?

TB: I started back in 1979 when I borrowed a friend’s copy of the AD&D Monster Manual. Was instantly hooked and have been playing ever since.

RHH: A similar story for me; except I was invited over to a friend’s house to play ‘this cool game’ and haven’t looked back.

MB: My brother introduced me to RPGs when he hit high school. I played B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, and was immediately hooked. Following on to the same high school there were other kids into the same stuff, and it kinda progressed from there. We played a bunch of different systems and homebrewed our own. I have fond memories of DMing my friends in my homebrewed sci-fi system Nebulae, and creating my own character classes for D&D and Tunnels and Trolls.

RB: Strange Brew is an ambitious 3rd-Party project, both in the amount of content and also the scope of development. What was the biggest single challenge faced on developing a 3rd party project of this size?

TB: For me it was going through the ton of notes and completed pages I had.  Once I got everything together I was well over 500 pages.  So the trick with that is editing out things that don’t work and improve the things that do.

RHH: The sheer volume of material that Tim has put together. There are dozens of classes (both base and prestige), archetypes, and hundreds of spells and magic items that all have to be balanced out for Pathfinder.

TB: Yeah the writing is all done, save for a bit here and there, but the editing is a big task. Thankfully we have a great team here.

RB: Why Strange Brew? What drew you to want top use this title?

RHH: The challenge and the concept were too good to pass up.

TB: The title came to me from Christina Stiles.  But I like it a lot. It fits and reminds me of the old Cream song. I have always wanted to do a Pathfinder update to my 3.0 witch materials.  The Witch for Basic Era games was actually my working draft for what I was calling the Omnibus Book of Witches & Warlocks.

RB: Give us a breakdown of what we can expect from Strange Brew.

RHH: There is so much great material packed into this book that covering it all in a reasonably-sized answer is impossible. There are two new alternate classes for witches, each with a different slant on what it means to be a witch. There’s a new take on the warlock, a class that gains its power by making deals with powers beyond normal mortal considerations. There are dozens of prestige classes and archetypes to help you customize all of those base classes - and many other non-witch/non-warlock classes - and take your characters in new directions. It’s just flat-out, really, the Ultimate Witch and Warlock resource.

TB: Strange Brew is absolutely everything you need to play a witch, warlock or similar character in the Pathfinder or Castles & Crusades game.  If you enjoy witches, warlock or arcane classes in general then this is the book for you.  There are plenty of new archetypes to play any sort of witch; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  More spells than I have ever seen in any Pathfinder book, more feats and magic items.  We call it the Ultimate book and we mean it.

RB: Morgan, you're designing the Strange Brew: Warwitches and Hexmavens PDF as stretch goals alongside Christos Gurd for the Strange Brew Kickstarter. Tell us about this book and where the inspiration for it came from.

MB: The Gauntlet Witch class stretches back to some classes and characters I created back in the day for 1st edition D&D - always toying around with the idea of the martial caster, or "gish" as they were known even back then. When it came to the present day, I wanted to create an armored witch, and the Gauntlet Witch really sprung out of that. There has been a lot of pointed comparisons to the Witchblade comic but I wasn't very cognizant of those - if anything I was more interested in the armored aspect than the glove. However, I did warm to the gauntlet in a series of blogposts detailing racial variants of the Gauntlet Witch on the Kobold Press (formerly Kobold Quarterly) website, and then when that finished I added some more on a homebrew thread over at Paizo.

So, Warwitches really allows me to retool the Gauntlet Witch to make her more effective in combat, as well as clean up all the racial variants and perhaps add a few more. Additionally there is an Alternate Base Class called the Witchsoldier, that dispense with most of the spell use and concentrates on physical melee and hexes.

As for Hexmavens, Christos Gurd and I really wanted to explore some of the other witch tropes in real world lore, but also add a few wyrd concepts of our own - so we are adding a bunch of other archetypes that play with Patrons, Hexes, Familiars and spells - the Virulent Witch whose hexes are more gnarly than usual, the divining/prescient Haruspex, the Hollow Eyed Witch who is torn by love and loss, the Dark Mistress that deals in domination and control, the Element Bonded that becomes charged with elemental might and the Consort who plays with glamours and maintains a stronger link to her Patron than is perhaps seemly. There may also be a couple other archetypes waiting in the wings. We'll try to squeeze in a bunch of extra spells, hexes and feats as well to round out the theme.

RB: Tim and Robert, what are your responsibilities when it comes to Strange Brew?

TB: For me it is primarily the writing, first pass of edits and creative vision of how the book works.  There is so much written on the witch class, but not all of it works together.  So it is really figuring out how to get things to play nice with each other.

RHH: I primarily work on development, which is a fancy way of saying :taking what Tim has and making sure it all works by Pathfinder rules, is playable, and adding any cool bits I think of on the side."

TB: Which is something I really appreciate.  I work with a lot of different games, so have a “rule checker” and big vision guy is really nice to have.

RB: Given that Strange Brew is being parallel designed to work with two systems—both Pathfinder and Castles & Crusades—what has been the most challenging aspect of working within the margins of these two systems? How has that affected the direction of the book and the development of the content?

RHH: For me, the most challenging aspect has been the details. That’s where the devil hides, and if I don’t catch every one of his hiding places, one of our readers will… and I don’t want that. And there are so very many details in this work to keep straight. Tim’s been working on this for, like, forever.

TB: I have it easier. I come up with the “big idea” first and then have to think about how to implement it. But I have been thinking a lot about Castles & Crusades for the last 2 and half years, so I have some very ideas on what to do to make the witch class for that system.  The books (Pathfinder and C&C) will have similar source materials, but they are not copies of each other.

RB: Robert, you and Tim both worked pretty closely together on this. Have you ever collaborated on this level before—either with each other or with another developer?

RHH: Never. All of my previous work has really been solo - me versus the brutal tag team of Deadline and Word-Count.

TB: I have not worked with Robert before, but I would totally work with him again.  I have worked with large teams on Liber Mysterium and Ghosts of Albion where I was in charge.  While there are always issues with teams I found both experiences to be rewarding. This was one of the reasons I so keen on having a team for Strange Brew; I knew it would make the book that much better.

RB: Is this the most challenging product for you? If not, what do you feel was?

RHH: I think that my most challenging project (in the ‘sense of creating ‘writer terror and panic’) was my first one, Masterminds and Madmen. That said, for sheer volume of material and complexity of scope I've done nothing else like this before.

TB: The challenge for this one is that I have written so much over the last 12 years that getting it all in the book (or NOT putting it in as the case may be) presents a unique challenge that I have not had before.  Ghosts of Albion was a huge project as well, but I have to write the game system at the same time of dealing with all the fluff and character business.

RB: Were there any concepts that you wanted to include in Strange Brew, but couldn't either for space reasons or due to complexity of design?

RHH: With a project this size there’s inevitably going to be material that you really, really want to include that there is just not room for. I really wanted to have more sample pacts for warlocks in, but the space was not there. I wanted to get all the monsters in, and there wasn't room for that. The list is long… but that just means we have material for PDF releases after the main book comes out!

TB: Well, the first cut was the Monsters.  I have a section of witch-like monsters to add. Due to space we cut the whole thing.  Next were some of the spells, but that one was fine since I felt those were the weaker spells and they same effects where handled by others.  I am afraid other things might get cut as well just to keep the costs down, but like Robert says PDF releases!

RB: Would you be eager to try and develop a book of this scope again?

RHH: Only if I had people this good to work with on my team.

TB: Same here.  But with the exception of one product that I was a consultant and playtester on my experiences with working in a team have been great.

RB: What part of Strange Brew are you most excited about?

TB: All of it!  I am most excited I think about tackling the Castles & Crusades version.  I have been living with the Pathfinder one now for so long that I am just anxious to get that one out to people.  The Castles & Crusades version though presents a number of interesting challenges.

RHH: All the awesome options that are crammed into the book. There is, literally, something for everyone in here.

RB: With the writing on Strange Brew is nearing completion and the Kickstarter was successfully funded. So, what's in the works next for you, creatively?

TB: There is the immediate project of the Castles & Crusades version.  After this I am working with Jonathan Thompson over at Battlefield Press to do Darwin’s Guide of Creatures Magical and Mundane for the Gaslight RPG. It’s a monster book as written by Charles Darwin.

RHH: I’m working on a Pathfinder conversion for the Interface Zero 2.0 Savage Worlds setting, have another of my Forces of Darkness pieces out for layout, and three more in various stages of completion, and I’m circling an idea for a series of PDFs to pitch to Rogue Genius Games.

MB: Well, I really should get the first issue of the Midgard Campaign Setting fanzine Yggdrasil out the door—editing and corralling all the moving parts of a multi-artist and author magazine has been a steep learning curve and real labor of love. I'm hoping to get that out in time for Paizocon.

I have a new Base Class I'm quite excited about that I'm hoping to release in the next few weeks - it was a concept that seemed to just reach out and throttle me, and the design path was a pleasure to experience. I'm sorry I can't even give a teaser on that one yet. That should be followed by some flavorful little archetypes for the Druid and Inquisitor. I had hoped to release some hybrid-type monsters, but that and my other Base Class the Symbiont have been pushed back slightly by Strange Brew and Yggdrasil.

RB: The Encounter Table would like to thank Tim Brannan, Robert H. Hudson, and Morgan Boehringer for sitting down to talk with us about Strange Brew. If you would like to learn more about Strange Brew, please visit its page for more information! Special thanks to Christina Stiles for facilitating this interview.


  1. Awesome. Thanks so much for this chance to talk about Strange Brew!

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