JP On Gaming

Monday, December 5, 2011

[Organized Play People] Kitty Curtis, Part 3 [Arcanis]

For the rest of the interview, here are links to Part 1Part 2

JP: What would you say are elements that define your writing style? What elements would I expect to find in one of your adventures?

KC: Honestly, I am a horrible writer. I stick to making sure the story has internal logic, doesn't break the rules of the game, has NPC names you can actually pronounce, and gives PCs choices instead of plopping PCs into someone else's fanfic.

I have, however, discovered over the last couple of years that I am a fairly good muse. (It pushes my teacher/tutor buttons.) I am the cure for writer's block: I either fix the problem, or ask just the right questions to inspire a writer to fix it themselves. And once the framework is there, I can add encounters, vignettes and NPC motivations that pump it up a notch. (But that blank page staring back at me, the horror!) The island full of savage half-orcs who have been taken prisoner will have a hut with a pregnant half-orc going into labor, or adorable baby kobolds at play. Maybe when you search a dungeon, the servant's quarters will have snippets of poetry scrawled in troll near one particular bed.

When you kill a bunch of goons, you'll find a grade-school primer tucked into one of their packs showing you s/he was learning to read and write. Underground fortresses will have privies. All those little elements that remind you that those stat blocks have personalities and motivations of their own. And lots of parentheses. :D Also, descriptive text that explains what something looks like and why it might be there, rather than just a list of what items are in the room (I'm not a visual thinker at all, so a laundry list of what's in a room just clouds my mind.). Oh, and post-scripts. ;)

JP: What would you tell those out there about your campaign? Why is your campaign the best there is?

KC: Our campaign has the least paperwork! Seriously, though, it's the world that dragged me in and kept me. We take all the standard tropes and turn them on their head. No alignments, the opportunity to really change things.

Several times a year we have enormous Roleplaying Interactives and it's a tradition for the players to derail that year's planned plot and put us on a whole new course. A system that takes 5 minutes to grasp the concepts of, and 1-2 combats to get the hang of. Where instead of asking what you can do, the system asks what you want to do then tells you how to do it. Adventures aren't just a series of combats to fight and stuff to take. Where there are decisions to make, and the "right" answer isn't obvious, to players *or* to characters. And the accessibility of both campaign staff and the whole publishing company (Honestly, it's easy to forget that PCI is just a couple of guys from Miami doing this in their spare time between family and day jobs). And as sappy as it sounds, the crew of us that scrimp and save all year and pile 4-8 to a room to make it to Origins each year have become a family of sorts. We've had marriages, births, and group grieving for those that have passed on. Origins has become a cross between a family reunion and summer camp for grown-ups.

I still think 2 quotes from local players summarize it best. (I didn't write the names down, if you were at these tables at TactiCon 2010 and know who said them, please let me know - the author of the game system has them in his sig line.)

New player: "You know, I'm not really sure we *should* win. I'm not sure we made the right choice."

Veteran player: "Welcome to Arcanis!"

At a different table:

2nd new player: ?"Wait, there's a fight starting? But I still don't know what side we're on!"

2nd veteran player (at a different table): "Welcome to Arcanis"

3rd veteran player: "At least we're all on the same side this time." All veteran players: ::knowing nods::

JP: I think I was part of one of those discussions… Way to flatter my ego! I did say a lot of "Welcome to Arcanis" at last year’s Tacticon…
But let's get back to the topic at hand... What is the current organization of the campaign? Any known names?

KC: Currently, I'm the Campaign Director (, which mostly consists of admin duties and keeping everyone on track.

James Zwiers (former LG Triad and Living City/Witch Hunter bigwig) remains as our webmaster ( Sean Molley is now staff for LFR but still does guest appearances to narrate Battle Interactives and to NPC at Roleplaying Interactives. Maryrita Steinhour remains as our Convention Liaison (, Sarah Brown was formerly an Invisible King and now heads our edit team ( Mindy Reid is our Author Liaison ( The primary author of the new rules system, Pedro "Pete" Barrenechea remains on call for rules questions ( "Uncle" Henry Lopez is of course, the primary author of the core storyline ( And Eric Weiner and Nelson Rodriguez are on call whenever we need them.

JP: Does the new campaign still have that program?

KC: We don't have an Invisible Kings program in place at the moment. We are interested in re-starting it with the next arc, but we want to be absolutely sure that we have all the proper support in place first. I'll let you know when we're closer to having something concrete.

JP: Why do you think a complete newcomer to organize play should join your OP?

KC: Our OP has less focus on the minutia of rules, and more on what your character thinks, and wants to do in a given situation. We offer the chance at glory - your character could cameo in a future adventure that everyone in the campaign gets to play! And minimal paperwork.

JP: Why should an old grumpy player – yes… think of me as that grumpy old troll – what is the biggest strength of the OP?

KC: Less paperwork! But seriously, the story. Just like new players, old players will appreciate the depth. Grognards have the attention span to make the links years later when they realize that "throwaway" NPC from 2 years ago is now a major player, and catch stray references and subtle foreshadowing in retrospect. Henry's refusal to take the stereotypical solution to any problem, even when it would save us a lot of headache. Those jaw-dropping moments when your character realizes it's all your fault, despite your good intentions! And the chance to use your d12 on a regular basis.

JP: How did you become a campaign administrator? Why?

KC: I had been volunteering pretty much from the beginning, because I loved the game so much and really loved how involved the staff was. In the second year of the campaign, there is a 2-round adventure that had an enormous dinner party that I thought made more sense as a LARP.

So I emailed campaign staff asking if they minded if we ran the first round as a LARP, and instead of a yes or no email, I got a call from Henry Lopez, the primary author of the setting and president of PCI, where we spoke for 3 or 4 hours about the in-depth motivations of each NPC (after all, 3-4 hours of RP needs more detail than the snippets 1 GM can give of 8-12 different NPCs) and he sent me some conceptual art that hadn't made it into any of the books yet. I was already hooked on the setting, but that level of dedication and connection with the player base really sold me. I was part of a small but faithful group of players and GMs that did everything possible to make sure we kept running adventures locally.

A couple groups of local GMs and authors gathered together to propose an IK group, and they asked me to pitch in because of my prior experience as part of LG Regional Staff and my name recognition within the Arcanis community. We were accepted in the first round, and I attended my first Origins so I could be there when we were announced.

I was a pretty outspoken member of the IKs as we felt our way through this new structure, and got to know people pretty well. When they advertised looking for members of Campaign Staff, I wasn't interested in any of the positions listed, so resolved to just keep judging. And then the Campaign Director emailed asking why he hadn't seen a reply from me. I told him I wasn't particularly interested in any of the positions listed, and didn't need a title, I just wanted to help out, and gave him a run-down of the jobs I tend to get the most satisfaction from and did anyone need a back-up, or did they want a "float" position to cover when anyone needed to run off and take care of real life for a bit.

So he asked if I would be the Assistant Campaign Director, which I accepted in February of 2010. Then this year as real life started to catch up with him, he asked if I would take over, and I agreed. As for the why, I am a big believer in not complaining if you haven't done anything to help fix it (or at the very least offer a solution). Arcanis has done so much for me; I just want to give back. And the more I give, the more I seem to get, so you guys are stuck with me for the foreseeable future!

TLDR: I volunteered from Day One and kept suggesting unusual ideas that none of the other local campaigns had. My name kept popping up on the radar of campaign staff again and again, and when there was work to be done I stepped up. And when they were looking for someone, apparently they batted my name around a fair bit. To anyone who's looking to be a campaign administrator, volunteer now. Figure out what you're good at, and do that. Ask what else your preferred campaign is looking for, and do it. If you think of something that would help your campaign, tell the staff your idea.

JP: What are you main duties as part of the campaign?

KC: Keep track of what everyone's doing, make sure there's progress, pair new jobs with volunteers, and take the blame ;) When real life rears its ugly head, I cover for whoever needs to take a break. I field a lot of questions from staff, writers, GMs and players via phone, email, FaceBook and our forums. And lastly, I co-run the Gathering at Origins - an organization that provides admin support to campaigns within the RPG section (currently Legends of Arcanis, Witch Hunter: Dark Providence, Legends of Rokugan, Fellowship of the White Star, and Pathfinder). We act as a liason between campaign administrators, judges, and GAMA. We share judges between campaigns, figure out room blocking within our section, marshall (muster) events, coordinate distribution of certs and collection of tickets/tokens, etc.

Basically we do everything we can to make sure judges just have to show up and run their table. (Quick plug: if you judge for the Gathering, even 1 slot, we'll pick up your badge so you don't have to wait in line in the big hall at Origins ;)

JP: In an average week, roughly how much time do you devote to campaign-related duties?

KC: There really is no such thing as an average week for me anymore. I've had weeks where I spent less than an hour working on campaign material, and weeks where I've spent over 40 hours reviewing files and bouncing back and forth with staff, writers, GMs and players via phone and email. But don't be afraid, you can volunteer for far less than that.

JP: A difficult one: I give you a magic wand and you can only use it to make your campaign better… What do you do?

KC: That's easy - I make enough money to allow us all to quit our day jobs. Or clone all the staff we've got now. Not a single one of us is paid - we all do this for love of the game. Sometimes that means that things get stalled because of our personal lives, but more often because of our work lives. 60+ hour work weeks mean delayed Arcanis work. If any of us could make a living at what we're doing for the campaign, we would in a heartbeat. Imagine that much talent with nothing else to distract us 4+ BIs a year, and a ridiculous number of adventures. If I get to keep going, then I bring the "big convention" experience to everyone. I'm not loaded, I scrimp and save all year to get to go to Origins, and then only afford it with a judge's comped room, but I don't have kids and am a long way off from retirement. If everyone who wanted to come was able, we could light a fire under a lot more people!

JP: Play, GM or write? Which do you enjoy best?

KC: GM!! I don't see why it's a loaded question. So long as I get to play in a semi-regular home campaign, I far prefer GMing for OP.

First there's the obvious, players get 1 character apiece (sometimes 2), and I get all the rest! As a player, I see 1 version of each adventure. Whatever happens, happens. As a writer, I get to create part of a story with a few possible endings and hope that I've given the GM enough information to roll with whatever the PCs throw at them. As a GM, I get to see many different versions of each adventure, and I get to directly shape players' perceptions and experiences of an adventure. I get to meet individual players and get to know them (and in some cases, their families). I get to throw things in on the fly that will make a player's day and become the awesome gaming story they tell for years to come. I can be the deciding factor on whether their convention experience was awesome or "meh".

After having a taste of that, who *wouldn't* come back for more?

JP: Do you have any links of websites where people might learn more about the campaign?

KC: Our main campaign website is at:

Our discussion forums (official place for all announcements) are linked there, direct link is:

The Arcanis Free RPG Day Offering: a condensed version of the rules and world, with a 1-hour sample adventure and pre-built characters: Free RPG Day Adventure and Fast Play

The world book (has some residual d20 crunch in it, but that's why its free): D20 Codex Arcanis

Everything you can buy for the new system: Check it here

The Yahoo Group for those that can't stand bulletin-board style forums: L A Talk Yahoogroup

PCI's FaceBook page: PCI's Facebook

My FaceBook page: Kitty's Facebook

Can't think of any more links at the moment...

JP: Thank you for your time… I really liked this chat…

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