Be a Good Dog: Eddy Webb talks about the Pugmire RPG

Pugs of Westeros by pupstar sonoma - pugs in Game of Thrones gear - Pugmire

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Pugs in Game of Thrones outfits?”

Yes! Dogs with swords!

Today, I’m interviewing game designer, short fiction writer, Sherlockian, and all-around cool guy, Eddy “with a Y” Webb. At this year’s GenCon, he announced that he’ll be working with Onyx Path Publishing to create a new roleplaying game entirely populated by domestic animals.  Dogs and cats, living together – mass hysteria! It’s going to be totally awesome, and I can’t wait to beta test it (hinthint).  But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Without further ado, here’s Eddy to tell you allllll about it.

Let’s begin at the beginning with the most clichéd possible question: Where did you get the idea for Pugmire?

Bits of it have been rolling around in my brain for years: the name “Pugmire” was something Rose used in her D&D game years back, and I had a desire to work on a fantasy game that was different from the traditional “elves and dwarves and orcs” tropes. But it really came into place when we were moving between houses.  The house we wanted to move to wasn’t ready before the house we sold needed to be vacated. The company I used to work for (CCP, hf.) had a company apartment in town, and they let us use it for the week or so we were between houses. This meant that I was stuck in a one-room apartment with two pugs and a cat. On top of this, my laptop met with a fatal beer accident, so all I had was a Chromebook to keep my occupied.  So I’m spending a lot of time observing my pets, and since I couldn’t get to any of my writing projects, I started a new one, just thinking about the mindset of dogs. At one point I was reading up on AKC breed groups, and was struck by how well they matched up with D&D classes. At that point a lot of those ideas coalesced in my brain, and Pugmire was born.

I have to admit that I laughed when you told me the original idea for the game. I mean, come on – dogs in armor fighting evil cats? But it’s done straight where it could be cutesy, and it totally works. Tell me about that decision. Are there serious ideas you’re trying to get across with the game?

There are. The first is that there isn’t a pure Good or Evil in the game — even the Cats are just another race that the Dogs don’t trust. It really revolves around a commandment: Be a Good Dog. It sounds so simple, and it’s something we can connect to because we want to have good dogs in our lives (if we’re dog people). But if you take it as a religious tenet, it becomes more interesting. Who is a Good Dog? Who gets to decide that? What does that entail?  Also, since this is a game about dogs, I can also explore some other ideas that would be harder to address in a more human-centric setting, like racism, sexism, and ethics. The game isn’t all about that — if you want to play a badass Great Pyrenees with a battle-axe, you absolutely can — but it’s more than just a silly action-adventure game about cute animals. Books like Maus, Mouse Guard, and the Nimh series have been inspirations.

You’ve written across a broad spectrum of genres and styles—gaming books, short stories, fan-based non-fiction—both as collaborations and solo. What have you found most rewarding and/or most difficult about developing and writing Pugmire?

It’s the same — developing my own world, for me, from scratch. A lot of my work has been in other people’s sandboxes, or are projects set at least partially in the modern world. This is the first time I’m building something purely speculative from the ground up. That’s extremely challenging, but it’s also incredibly freeing. A lot of times I’m just tossing out ideas because they sound good, and then I discover they actually work extremely well. It’s even better when I pitch them to some of my friends, and they get even more excited. I’m loving the process, but it’s very new to me.

Having been privileged to peek behind the curtain of Pugmire’s development, I’m struck by its massive possibilities. Because you’re creating a world with a history rather than a set of rules with story crammed around it, it seems easy to branch out into other media (novels, video games, film). What are your grand plans and big dreams for this project?

Indeed! I’ve already written a short story (which will be in the Sojourn Anthology, volume 2), and I’m working next on the game, but I have lots of ideas. I plan to chat with an established comic writer about ideas for a comic book, and I’ve got enough friends in the video game industry to kick around a potential video game. I also live in Atlanta, which is a hub for cartoon companies, so even a cartoon is possible. The sky’s the limit!

And just to wrap it up for those folks with short attention spans, what’s the Too Long; Didn’t Read version of everything you want to say about Pugmire? Let’s shoot for a tweetable – 140 characters, max.

Augh! Only 140 characters?! Uh… let’s try this: Dogs have inherited our world in the far future. They explore this strange and dangerous world, while always trying to be Good Dogs.


 

Eddy Webb - writer, designer, consultant

Eddy Webb (with a “y,” thank you) is an award-winning writer, game designer, and lifelong Sherlockian. Since 2002, he has worked on over 100 products, including Lead Developer and writer for Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition and five years as Content Designer on the World of Darkness MMO. Today he is a freelance writer, designer, and consultant for video and role-playing games, but he cranks out words for other things in his spare time. He lives a sitcom life with his wife, his roommate, a supervillain cat, and an affably stupid pug. He can be found at eddyfate.com.


 

3 writing lessons I learned from WWE star Mick Foley

Mick Foley - bang bang

Doesn’t exactly look like the sort of guy you should be taking writing advice (or a ride or candy) from, does he?

This guy is Hardcore Legend Mick Foley, arguably one of the greatest professional wrestlers ever. He started as a teenager jumping off the roof of his house and ended up in the hall of fame. Mick’s matches were epic, known for bone-crushing falls and blood-spilling punches. He set the bar for today’s superstars and served as a reality check to those who believe wrestling is fake.

Just after he retired in 2000, Mick published an autobiography covering his 15-year career. He wrote it himself. Rather than give his life story to a passionless ghostwriter, he scribbled over 200,000 words on notebook paper, resulting in a 750-page tome. And that was just the first book; the second volume is 500 pages.

I’ll admit to picking up Have a Nice Day! A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks with some skepticism. Pro wrestling is one of my secret loves, and I’m always excited to learn the backstories, but Mick’s had eight concussions and wrestlers aren’t exactly known for their literary prowess. How well could he write?

Turns out, I have to eat my words like a finisher from Mr. Socko.

It took me three short days to read the entire book, including the paperback bonus chapter. I devoured it – couldn’t put it down. About halfway through, I started wondering how Mick had succeeded in capturing my admittedly critical mind when I’d started out wanting him to fail. I boiled it down to three ideas that not only work for action-centered sports autobiographies but are excellent tactics for writers of any genre.

Simplicity

You won’t find long, winding sentences or complex metaphors in these pages. Even when talking about depression or rage, the style is uncomplicated and direct – the language of a guy telling a story to his friends, not of a writer trying to impress other writers with his vocabulary. Mick handles ideas from depression to hardcore action with the same straightforwardness. This makes the reading quick, easy, and fluid. Without fancy imagery to get tangled in, the reader processes the narrative without having to stop to work out where they are. It’s easy to get caught up in pretty words when you’re writing, especially when the subject is emotional. Unfortunately, that makes it easy to lose your reader. There’s something to be said for individual writing voice, but stating ideas simply is almost always better than a web of adjectives. Shorten your sentences. Clean up your descriptions. Say what you mean, how you mean it.

Sincerity

Part of what got me about Mick’s story is that he’s not hiding anything. He freely admits to both the good and the bad of his career, love life, and inner turmoil. Some of it’s uncomfortable, too, like his relationship with pain and blood. But his openness is touching, particularly for someone who’s often hailed as the baddest son of a bitch in wrestling. He means what he says, and it adds to the reading experience. The mate to “say what you mean” is “mean what you say.” Readers have an awesome bullshit detector, and when your heart isn’t in what you’re writing, your audience can tell. Being both present and honest counts.

Showmanship

“But how can you have showmanship and simplicity?!” I hear you cry. (Actually, that’s what Lino said when I told him the outline of this post.) Let me tell you.

Mick’s book is about his struggles and successes in an over-the-top entertainment industry. The WWF/WWE treatment is right there as he juggles action sequences of his bouts with more subdued personal anecdotes. Established glamour isn’t demolished; it’s accented with grit. He also takes occasional tangents to deepen the reader’s understanding of a particular relationship or motivation. By choosing to interweave the professional and personal storylines, what Mick’s done is created engagement. Writing showmanship comes down to formatting. Instead of hammering on one topic until it’s boring and switching to a new one, blend the structure to motivate your audience to turn the page. And nothing is all glamour or all grit – find a balance and mix it up. You’re creating a written show for people, and they shouldn’t leave feeling overwhelmed or bored.

Surprised? I know I was.

The merit of Mick’s book as a literary guidepost is straightforward, just like his style: write simply, be sincere, and put on a good show. If a guy who’s happy to be thrown off a 30-foot steel cage into a table and get up to be slammed through the cage again can write a good book using those tactics, you can, too.


 

Artists and the art of asking

Amanda Palmer just moved up several notches in my inner hierarchy of awesome people that I want to be when I grow up. Her TED talk went live, and I cried three times in those short 13 minutes.

I want to be a part of the world she’s talking about. A world where we can ask for help and get it from the network of trusting, supportive connections we’ve formed in our lives. Connections that extend beyond close friends and family into the ether of social media and the internet where we have a chance to forge a new future where we don’t “make” people pay for things or shame them for following their bliss. A world where connection is king. Not content or capitalism or culture. A world where we can be vulnerable and open enough to ask and let the voices who speak up support us, not because we deserve it or have tenure or are famous but because there’s an exchange of love taking place.

We’ve been taught that we should be ashamed as artists to ask for money. That we need to just make our work and shut up and hope someone has pity on us or is so enthralled with our work that they shower us with riches. That would make us lucky. Otherwise, we should get “real jobs.”

We’re taught that to ask for help – artist or not – is to be weak and helpless. And if you get help, you cannot ask for it again because you’re no longer in need.

It’s not about need. It’s about the connection.

It’s not about masses of screaming fans. It’s about connection.

It’s not about piles of cash. It’s about connection.

“It’s about a few people loving you up close and those people being enough.”