<+Derek> Hello everyone, my name is Derek Sotak and I’m here to talk a little bit about my new game Grey Seas are Dreaming of my Death, which is a rpg set in the world of William Hope Hodgson’s Sargasso Sea stories.
<+Derek> I started off writing, and still do write for, the nacho website Nachonomics.com which got me into writing in general, but I’ve been playing rpgs since 1992 when one of my friends introduced me to Call of Cthulhu and said “It’s based on Lovecraft’s work. You know who that is right?”
<+Derek> I did not since I was probably 9 or 10 at the time, but that got me into the whole world of both rpgs and weird fiction.
<+Derek> Jump forwards 20+ years, Nachonomics is hitting it off, I kickstart a few books on nachos (The Field Guide to Nachos; Nachos & You, Living Your Life the Nacho Way; and Recipes from the Nachonomicon) and those go very well and give me an overall favorable opinion on Kickstarter in general.
<+Derek> After that I’d written almost everything there was to write about nachos and my mind turned to what else I could do for a future project. I liked rpgs, I liked weird fiction, why not combine the two? Another while passes, I get involved in the horror podcast The Horror of Nachos and Hamantaschen, and we cover a collection of William Hope Hodgson
<+Derek> stories and the idea that there’s something here comes to me.
<+Derek> H.P. Lovecraft has gotten 95% of all the fame in the turn of the 20th century horror rpg field, maybe there’s room for the other authors to shine. Maybe there’s room for the vastly underappreciated WHH to have his own game. And so there came Grey Seas are Dreaming of my Death.
<+Derek> And that is the summary up to now.
<~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, kiwi_70!)
<+Motulev> so what is this thing, and what does it do?
<+Derek> Ha, so the summary for most WHH stories is pretty simple: group of sailors are on a ship, probably stuck in the Sargasso Sea (an area now primarily known as The Bermuda Triangle), and they have to fight a giant squid, or some big sea monster, or a ship full of sea beasts, you get the idea.
<+Derek> That’s not a shabby little adventure hook, and one simple enough that if the game wasn’t too complicated you could probably get through it in an evening.
<~Dan> How do you make a giant monster fight last all night?
<+Derek> I’m sure I’m not alone here in trying to get people together to play through a campaign of some rpg post college and it works for a few games and then just falls apart. The goal was to make something that could be accomplished in a single evening so that next friday when everyone was going to try and get together but someone has some work project
<+Derek> and someone else has to leave early to bring their kids to soccer practice it wouldn’t be the end of playing it.
<+Derek> Well ideally you’d throw some extra stuff into your adventure more than just you start fighting one monster and that’s your whole night.
<~Dan> (Howdy, Agamemnon2!)
<~Dan> (wb, Beelzedude!)
<~Dan> HPL’s stories are united by a theme of cosmic horror. What (if anything) typifies WHH’s style of horror?
<+Derek> I like the idea in your MMORPGS where you get 40 people together and take down one giant monster or raid boss or whatever, but I think that’s a bit harder to do in a rpg that you want to jump into. If you’ve been playing a long D&D campaign and you’ve been with these characters for years, taking hours to whittle down a Red Dragon, or god help you
<+Derek> the Tarrasque, that’s fun, but I don’t know if it’s pulled off quite as well if you get a guy and are just trying to roll high numbers for the next 3 hours.
<+Derek> When WHH was 13 in the 1880’s he ran away from school to become a sailor, did that for years, then left to become a bodybuilder and writer. While he does branch out into more generes that Lovecraft, his primary focus (of his short stories at least) was always man’s interaction with the sea.
<+Derek> While Lovecraft’s characters were primarily artsy types who fainted at the sight of things man was not meant to know, WHH’s characters were made of stronger stuff and ready to face a devil fish or fungus man with cutlass ready.
<~Dan> I know he wrote at the turn of the last century, but were his stories mostly set during the Age of Sail?
<+Derek> This isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of “My god, the immensity of the sea is more than man can accept and it hates and wants to kill up”, but almost everything encountered was more on a human level than a cosmic one.
* ~Dan nods
<+Derek> Primarily he wrote contemporaneously to his time, at least with his sea stories, but he does have some stories about Carnaki the Ghost Finder, who was an occult detective who used technology to counter all manner of specters, and his novel The Night Lands was a post apocalyptic sci-fi/horror story.
<~Dan> Really? Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought the Sargasso Sea would have been much of an obstacle for steamships.
<+Derek> Oddly enough on The Night Lands, it was originally published as a 200,000 word novel, but when it didn’t do well he released it as a 20,000 word abridged version, so perhaps the people were not so much interested in that.
<+Derek> Sorry, contemporaneous to his time as a sailor, and perhaps a little earlier, not during his lifetime.
<+Derek> Well, his lifetime as a twenty something sailor, not his lifetime as a 1910’s writer.
<~Dan> Ah, I see.
<+Derek> And really his ideas of the Sargasso Sea where there are islands of weed you can walk around on and trap boats is entirely unrealistic to what the Sargasso actually looks like.
* ~Dan nods
<+Derek> In much the same way now when people talk about the Pacific Garabe Patch as though it’s a solid island of trash you can stroll around on, when realistically it’s just garbagey water you can get through no problem.
<+Derek> If he was alive today and still writing his stories would probably be set there.
<+Derek> Although the mysteries of the seas is kind of lost these days anyhow so I’m not sure anyone would really care one way or the other.
<~Dan> Are the adversaries in these stories supernatural or more like “weird science”?
<+danhunsaker> Most of the remaining mysteries of the sea involve things under the surface.
<+Derek> Probably half and half, and really more just “science” now. You’ll have a giant worm monster or a were shark kind of thing or a fungus human show up in one story, and the next it will just be a really big crab or giant squid.
<+Derek> Lovecraft is more of your unspeakable extradimensional being, and WHH is more of your “here’s a thing that exists, but it’s really big, that’s spooky right?”
* ~Dan chuckles
<+Derek> I’d have to imagine that most of the strange things he brings to the table were based of sailor stories he heard on the seas.
* ~Dan nods
<+Derek> Which, don’t get me wrong, are pretty cool, but somewhat quaint in this day and age.
<+danhunsaker> So with that being the case, why make an RPG out of it?
<+Derek> A sailor punching an octopus has a certain old time charm to it you don’t really find these days.
<+Derek> Oh, because there is an old time charm to it. When people think of anything with an old boat these days it’s all pirates, but there are a lot of sea stories to be told that don’t have to involve any of those tropes.
<+Derek> The only encounter most folks have with the age of sailing is maybe their dad made them watch Master and Commander or the read the Cliff notes to Moby Dick in high school and hated it. It’s a fairly overlooked setting.
<~Dan> A fair point.
<~Dan> Do the PCs have access to anything resembling paranormal abilities?
<+Derek> WHH is also criminally overlooked in the fiction community, so if I can do anything to bring more people to those stories I am more than happy to. There are hundreds of Lovecraft pages all over Facebook, but only one page for “William Hope Hodgson Enthusiasts” with 500 members. And they didn’t even accept my invitation to join them 😥
<~Dan> Awwww… 😦
<+Motulev> well, that’s FB for you
<+Motulev> how does this relate to The Night Lands, if at all apart from the author?
<+Derek> For the most part nothing paranormal, as for the most part his sailor characters were just normal guys on the sea. There is a fungus man character based on his “A Voice in the Night” story that was an unlocked stretch goal, but it’s treated as more or a leper with some damage mitigation being half man half mold. You’re not going to run into anyone
<+Derek> throwing a fireball or anything, but there may be some mildly strange things found on the seas…
<~Dan> Oh? Like what?
<+Derek> The game was made to be primarily focused on his sea stories, so there’s not too much brought in from a guy inherits an old house in england that happens to be on a dimensional rift as in The House on the Borderlands, or people living in a gigantic protected pyramid thousand of years in the future that protects them from the unknown monsters in the
<+Derek> darkness outside like The Night Lands. As another stretch goal on increasing the bestiary you could encounter an extradimensional Swine Man or maybe one of The Watchers or Abhumans, but you’re not going to sail to the future. Or maybe you will, I’m not going to tell you what adventures you can or can’t create with the game once you have it in your
<+Derek> They’re a highly superstition lot those sailors, who knows what trinkets and gee-gaws might have been brought back from distant lands and traded in the seedier parts of the already seedy port towns, or the effects they might have on you and your crew…
<+Motulev> so they’re a superstitious, cowardly lot…
<~Dan> You shall become a bat?
* +Motulev golfclaps
* ~Dan bows
<~Dan> Derek: Do you have a character sheet that we can see?
<+Derek> Perhaps the Bosun’s renowned strength that’s won him many an arm wrestle in a portside tavern isn’t just from hauling crates all day. Nobody has ever asked why he wears that old octopus beak on a string around his neck that he was rumored to have gotten off a merchant in the south seas.
<+Derek> I do. It’s still a work in progress, but the general idea was for it to resemble the old Captains logs of sailors past.
<+Derek> Uploaded file: (Link: https://uploads.kiwiirc.com/files/16a10ef69932be479793ee4b1872851c/Character%20Sheet.png)https://uploads.kiwiirc.com/files/16a10ef69932be479793ee4b1872851c/Character%20Sheet.png
<+Motulev> love the -ess’s
<~Dan> Can you describe the game’s task resolution system?
<+Derek> Hey, a sailors life is defined by their saltiness.
<+Derek> The goal was to have almost every issue resolved by a simple still check. Nobody wants to be sitting around for hours only to find out that while they put 77 points in sailor knots and 23 points in desalination what they should have actually done it put 25 in scrimshaw and 75 in sea shanties.
<+Derek> You’ve got your Brawniness and Nimbleness stats for attack and defense and skill checks befitting those state. Perspicacity for smarts, Backbone for courage, Physique for effect issues, and finally Seaworthiness as just an all around everything ocean related catchall.
<+Derek> Your Mettle is your hp (for testing your mettle, get it) and finally your Saltiness as sort of a resource pool you can decrease to enhance your other stats in time of need.
<+Derek> Stats are rolled on a D20 (so I guess you would call this a D20 game) roll your number or under, you pass. Over, out of luck.
<+Derek> As the game was designed to be a quick pick up and go, characters start with set stats (with some exceptions with the stranger characters) that define them. Your Bosun character has high Brawniness, while low Perspicacity befitting a tank/fighting character, your Cabin Boy not a lot of Mettle, but higher Nimbleness as it’s a little kid and harder
<+Derek> to hit, that kind of thing.
* ~Dan nods
<+Derek> Different characters get a few different base skills befitting their station, the inspiring First Mate can help improve others rolls with words of encouragement, the hated Jonah hurts others roles by being so cursed to improve theirs, etc.
<~Dan> Does degree of success matter, or is it strictly pass/fail?
<+Derek> It’s a pass/fail/crit role. Roll over your skill, fail. Roll under your skill, pass. Roll under your skill on a 1 or your exact skill number is a crit. Depending on what exactly you’re doing maybe the crit matters, or maybe not. A critical fail may make it into the game eventually, but I don’t know how mean I want to be.
<~Dan> How is combat resolved?
<~Dan> (Howdy, kiwi_70!)
<+Derek> Whether or not you hit is based on rolling against the enemy’s Nimbleness. If you pass, you roll for damage against their mettle. Certain creatures will take less damage from certain sources that may alter these. A giant crab for example isn’t going to take too much damage from a bladed weapon thinks to its chitinous shell, but if you came at that
<+Derek> thing with a mallet your cook will be serving up crab meat soup that night. Alternately a pulpy octopus won’t take much damage if you shoot it, but go at it with a blade and it’s calamari time. This is why it’s important to have someone play as The Cook character for the tasty meals afterwards.
<+Derek> “Important” is relative, “fun and flavorful” is a better way to describe it.
<~Dan> Heh. Nice.
<~Dan> What do you use for the attack roll, and how do you roll against your opponent’s Nimbleness if it’s a roll-under system?
<+Derek> So in attacking you need to roll OVER the opponents Nimbleness, which I realize goes against the rest of the skill checks in the game, but I feel makes the attack/defense system feel inherently different from the rest of the rolls.
<+Derek> Depending on what your Brawniness is that may also provide a bonus or hinderence to your roll.
<+Derek> Creatures may also have various issues that increase/decrease your roll, and you may have items or weapons that will do the same.
<~Dan> (Howdy, Linen! Welcome to #randomworlds!)
<+Linen> Hey guys
<~Dan> (Derek, meet Linen, a future Q&A guest. 🙂 )
<+Derek> Hey all.
<+Linen> Hi Dan
<~Dan> How is damage determined?
<+danhunsaker> Most creators have their favorite parts of projects they work on. What’s your LEAST favorite part of Grey Seas?
<+Derek> Various other sided dice depending on the weapon. While I enjoy the simplicity of as few a dice game as possible, it’s just not a rpg if you’re not throwing around as many weird shapes on the table as you can. Plus the randomness of damage possibilities adds to the realism. I’ve never been in a knife fight before I’d like to hope that I’d just
<+Derek> suffer a few one damage roles, but I’d know that one roll of a 6 would probably do me in. The attacker in this case is wielding a 1D6 knife of mugging.
<+Derek> Well the good stuff like more options in a D20 is also the bad in that now you really need to get in there to see if oh, should this Physique of a 12 actually be a Physique of 13 and is that 5% difference really going to matter overall. The basic playtesting has tweeked the numbers so far, but for things like this there’s still going to be more. In
<+Derek> something like Call of Cthulhu where most of the skills are on a D100, I can see how they’re on the 7th Edition of working them out.
<~Dan> Do any attributes affect weapon damage?
<+Derek> Bladed and Crushing weapons may see a little bonus from Brawniness, but that’s probably it. As in real life, if you get shot in the head with a gun it’ll do as much damage whether it’s someone from MENSA or a real dummy.
<~Dan> Do you use Brawniness for ranged weapons as well?
<+Derek> I’m going to say probably, if only for balance reasons, but they may get the exception that they could fall under Backbone in that you need to be calmer and cooler to be effective with them. Thematically you realize that you don’t need to be a real muscle to do the same damage with them, but do I want to use a different skill for every type of
<+Derek> weapon you use?
<+Derek> Maybe I do? I’m keeping the option open for now.
<~Dan> Does the game include a bestiary, and if so, how large?
<+Derek> When the alpha version goes out this summer there may be the option for players and I can see if it’s loved or hated.
<+Derek> Oh, of course. A rpg lives and dies on it’s besitary.
<+Derek> Currently it is…
<~Dan> Good man. 🙂
<+Derek> checks spreadsheet…
<+Derek> 16 creatures, but I think it’ll probably end up at 20.
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> In the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
<+Derek> The printing service will only let you have so many pages, so there might be a little bonus in the pdf for folks. Or maybe it just gets turned into a second book on it’s own, we’ll see how much the Kickstarter gets up to by the end of this thing.
<~Dan> (Oh, and don’t forget to link us to your Kickstarter! 🙂 )
<+Derek> Just want to throw out there as well that my friend and podcast cohost and horror author J.R. Hamantaschen is writing the scenarios for the book, so if you’ve read any of his stories and enjoyed them, just imagine playing through one of them set in the Sargasso Seas.
<~Dan> (Howdy, Woo77!)
<+Derek> Yes, the Kickstarter ends bright and early Tuesday morning, so I’d say jump on backing ASAP or at least by Monday, March 2nd to back.
<~Dan> Usual reminder: If you’ve enjoyed this Q&A and would like to treat me to a coffee or two, you can do so at (Link: https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe)https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe . Anything’s appreciated! 🙂
<+Derek> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nachonomics/grey-seas-are-dreaming-of-my-death-william-hope-hodgson-rpg?ref=discovery_tag)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nachonomics/grey-seas-are-dreaming-of-my-death-william-hope-hodgson-rpg?ref=discovery_tag
<~Dan> Thanks for joining us, Derek!
<~Dan> If you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll get the log posted and link you!
<+Linen> Good luck Derek!
<+Derek> Back while you still can if you want a physical copy because they’re probably going to be pretty limited after the initial printing!