6 Questions with Caradoc Pritchard
For this week’s 6 Questions, we’re talking to Giles Pritchard. I met Giles when I was editing the Games for Educators newsletter. He’s a writer, a gamer, a teacher, and a podcaster. You can see all his work at https://caradocgames.com.
As you may be able to tell from that link, Giles is now also publishing his own RPG’s.
On to the questions!
Like a lot of us, you play a lot of different styles of games. What is it about RPGs that draws you, that inspired you to want to create them?
Role playing for me is all about having a good time with friends, it’s the chance to collectively tell a narrative, to experience the thrilling and exciting, the hilarious and the terrifying, without needing to sacrifice a warm fire and snacks. I still remember (with joyous nostalgia) laying on my floor and reading the Middle Earth Role Playing game book, from Iron Crown Enterprises. I would have been about 14, I think, and I had never read anything like it.
Ever since then I have loved role playing games, and playing and game mastering led to creating. I love telling stories, and enjoy tinkering with the rules to encourage different styles of play. The games I try to create are generally about stories and fun. These stories may be heroic fantasy, science fiction (from pulp to hard), they may be whimsical, but in the end I strive to make sure they are all about providing the players a vehicle through which a fun and engaging tale can come to life.
I know that you’ve considered writing novels instead of games. As a creator, how do you decide where to focus your energies? Do you have a way for someone to know that they’ve made the right choice?
This was a really hard choice. I was setting myself ludicrous goals about writing novels and games, at the same time I was (and still am) working full-time as a teacher, and working in the evenings as a freelance writer in the RPG industry. I realised after a year of making only a little progress on a lot of things, that I needed to focus my energies better than I was.
I love writing stories, but I had been working as a freelance writer and designer in the miniatures game and role playing game industries for about 5-6 years. I felt writing games was territory I was comfortable in, and I had to choose something. In the end I chose to focus on creating games, I still intend to come back and finish the various novels I have plotted or started, but for now I am focused on Caradoc Games!
Choosing games over novels wasn’t an easy choice, and I regularly ask myself if it was the right one, but choosing one doesn’t mean that I can never do the other, so for next few years I am throwing my creative energy into making role playing games. My plan is to release a small micro-game every month or so, and work on a larger fantasy RPG I have been developing for the last 6 months. Once that has reached completion I feel like I want to make something science-fiction themed, and after that, who knows. It will depend on how everything else has gone in the meantime!
What’s the toughest thing about writing an RPG? Do you have any advice for someone who’s just getting started?
So many things. The toughest thing about writing generally is doing it. Finding and making the time to do it on a regular basis. As a freelancer I generally write between 15,000 and 30,000 words a month, so I know I can do it… It’s just ensuring I stay on target. Set small goals and chase them down. Have an outline to follow and follow it.
Settling on a concept is hard, I’m an ideas magpie, I like the new shiny thing. Picking one thing to stick to is difficult, and it’s one of the reasons I have given myself the goal of making a micro-RPG every month or so. I have an outlet for my tendency to go down rabbit holes, but I also have a larger project that is outlined and that I work on consistently.
I think that after you settle on an idea, writing a goal is important – what should the game feel like in play? What style of play should it encourage or engender? Finding or creating a game system to support that play is also tough. It’s mathematical, you need to see if it works toward the feel and goal you set for the game, it needs to be flexible, support growth and development (a corner-stone of RPGs), but it shouldn’t be too exploitable.
I think I have been through nine dice systems for my fantasy RPG Ashmerl, and I’m not convinced I have nailed it yet. While I’m working on developing the system, there are a lot of other things I can do in the meantime, and I need to make sure I am focused and get them done. Getting a little more done on a regular basis is better than waiting for that big rush of inspiration.
Once I have the concept and goal, and I am working on the mechanisms of play, I think developing an outline to follow is key. An outline is a map, if you are ever wondering what to do next, the outline will lead the way. From the outline comes goals, targets to acquire and reach. This chapter written, this system explored, this section of the world described. Each piece is a part of the whole. Again, a little on a regular basis is better than a rush every now and then.
One of the hardest things to achieve is playtesting. Playtesting requires people and it requires time. Both are often hard to find in ready supply, and yet it is a vital part of the process. I haven’t got any answers to this one yet, aside from generous friends. I think building a good network is important here, online and through social media, but this is something I am still working on, so no useful advice unfortunately!
Turning all of that into a product that people will buy? Well, that’s the end goal. Maybe I can come back in a year and write some more about this… for now, it’s in the process.
Writing role-playing games must have led you to some truly enjoyable times. Can you give us a fun player story? Any fan interactions that spring to mind?
It is a lot of fun. I love writing. I love games. I love role playing games. So far the best fan interactions I have had are some of the reviews I have read for adventures and books I have written. Reading that a player, GM, or reviewer gets the feel you were aiming for is a real pleasure!
In terms of a player story, probably one of the most enjoyable recently, was a playtest session of my game Freedom or Toaster, a game in which the players are all human-like robots trying to escape from the robot police in a shopping mall and make it to freedom. Robots can’t eat or drink coffee of course, and regularly one of the players tried to hide from the robot police by getting into lines at coffee stalls or bagel shops, and of course, off-duty robot police officers would be lining up as well. Finding a dozen different excuses to not put food and drink in their mouth while talking to the robot police about how good the bagels are was definitely an amusing game experience!
I’m always interested in how people bring their “real” lives into their creative process. Do your experiences as a teacher affect your writing or game design? How?
Yes. I probably over-explain things in my writing, or explain things half a dozen different ways! I would like to think that my experience as a teacher, as well as my freelance work, has helped me be clear in the technical writing of my rules. To be honest though, the experience with games and writing has probably helped me teach writing better, so the influence is stacked the other way I think!
What’s next? Anything in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
Yes! The big project I am working on at the moment is a fantasy RPG called Ashmerl. I have tried to create a game system which is narrative focused, where building the setting happens alongside building the characters. Once the game begins, the characters are already embedded in the world, they have a stake in it, their own little slice.
Characters will come from a place that is linked to who they are, and I hope that this process leads to adventures and campaigns closely tied not just to the characters and their exploits, but to their homes and the people they know. Ashmerl is getting close to playtest ready, and I’m hoping to have the first draft finalised by the end of this year. We shall see!
In addition to Ashmerl I am working on a number of micro-RPGs. These are small, couple-of-page games. Usually they contain one or two pages of rules, some adventure ideas, and a character sheet.
The next micro-RPG due for release from Caradoc Games is called The Hoppy Pops. In the Hoppy Pops you play as a character from one of those surreal and weird kids shows, like the TeleTubbies, Yo Gabba Gabba, or In the Night Garden. In Episode 9 the producers made the Hoppy Pops do a ‘Happy Dance’ and it opened a gateway to Hell. Now they’re trapped in the Gatehouse of Hell, and need to get home! The Hoppy Pops includes rules, character sheets, and the expanded edition even contains a short Hoppy Pop story, in which Jiggy Pop must summon all their Yoga skills to face off against a Demon with a tasting-sample of cheese!
After The Hoppy Pops will come Owlbear Omelette, in which players are some ne’er-do-well goblins who have taken it upon themselves to steal an Owlbear egg from the Goblin King’s hatching grounds, obviously for omelette-making purposes.
All my micro-RPGs will be available to download from DriveThruRPG and Itch.io, or, if people sign up to my Patreon, they will get the games early, with a little extra added in as well, whether extra rules, a story, adventure ideas, or something else entirely!
I have a bunch of other games in various stages of development, but they aren’t ready to write about just yet!