A Word in Edgewise… with Paul S. Kemp

with Paul S. Kemp
By Cape Rust

Who hasn’t heard of Paul S. Kemp? He is known for his contributions to not only the Star Wars books, but his (forgotten) Realms shaking novels. When not herding his twin boys, Kemp is an avid Roleplayer, Corporate Lawyer, Adult Beverage Lover and all around interesting guy. While his renditions of Led Zeppelin need work, we won’t hold that against him, much. His new sword and sorcery novel, The Hammer and the Blade, is just the kind of book us roleplayers crave.

RPC: What got you into RPGs?
PSK: I read THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS in fifth grade, and, being an imaginative kid, very much wanted to move to Middle Earth.  I got the next best thing when a friend of mine introduced me to D&D.  I was hooked for life.

RPC: Can you describe your first character?
PSK: Boy, that’s a long time ago.  I believe we were playing Basic D&D and I was an elf (class and race were combined in Basic D&D).  I think I named him Gil Gilad, after one of Tolkien’s legendary heroes from the Silmarillion.

RPC: I know you play D&D. Do you play any other RPGs?
PSK: Over the years I’ve played many.  Marvel Superheroes RPG, Traveller, Star Frontiers, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Blue Planet, Deadlands, Tunnels and Trolls, Man, Myth and Magic (now there’s one you don’t hear about everyday).

RPC: Edition wars (D&D). Which is your favorite and why?
PSK: See, the system is never the thing with me and my group.  It’s all about the story, and I think the best (and therefore my favorite) story I’ve ever run with my group was in AD&D.  They were The Band of the Broken Bow and ran from first level through the teens.  Great campaign.  I plan to surpass it one of these days, though.  Maybe with a game run with D&D Next.

RPC: Do you have any feelings on D&D Next?
PSK: I’m excited to see how it shakes out.  I haven’t had any direct experience with it (I’m not a playtester and haven’t seen much of the ruleset), but I know the goals the designers are trying to attain and that has me fired up.

RPC: What would be your dream gaming group and who would play what classes?
PSK: Oh, hell, how about Felicia Day as an elven sorcerer, Nathan Fillion as a rogue, and Neil Gaiman as a cleric of the god of the dead.  I’d play a paladin and Ed Greenwood would DM.  That’d work.

RPC: What is your favorite type of character to play?
PSK: I almost always play a religiously affiliated character of some kind: a priest or paladin.  That’s kind of funny, in that I’m not at all a religious person in real life, but I think having a religious angle for your character gives both you and the DM a lot of room for storytelling depth.

RPC: Do you have any feelings about the recent trends in RPG development and the ability of smaller companies to produce games?
PSK: Man, I’m not very well tuned into that.  I know the 4E license from WotC was regarded as a slap in the face by many third party game companies and (it seems to me) that was an enormous strategic mistake by WotC.  Third party stuff in the era of the 3E OGL resulted in lots of incredible material, and therefore helped keep the game vital and interesting.

RPC: Did any of your gaming experiences show up in your new novel The Hammer and the Blade?
PSK: They didn’t.  But some of the events of the The Hammer and the Blade may show up in a game session sometime (my players are hereby forewarned).  J

RPC: What RPG system do you think would best support the world you’ve built in The Hammer and the Blade?
PSK: D&D 3/3.5 would work quite well, which isn’t surprising, as D&D generally is built on a foundation of trying to model sword and sorcery fiction.

RPC: When you write, do you ever envision how the mechanics of what you are writing would fit into a game?
PSK: I don’t, even when I’m writing fiction tied in to a game system (like my Forgotten Realms fiction).  Best avoided.

RPC: In The Hammer and the Blade, Egil worships the Momentary God, a man who was a god but for a moment before perishing. How in the nine hells did you come up with such a cool concept for a god?
PSK: I honestly don’t remember the origin of the idea.  I was just a bit taken with the idea of Egil, a man with a shameful secret in his past, being a member of a “faith” in which he is the only congregant.  Egil feels lonely, so it just seemed to fit.

RPC: If The Hammer and the Blade was made into a movie, who would play Egil and who would play Nix and why?
PSK: Toughie.  Maybe Gerard Butler as Nix and Idris Elba as Egil.  That’d rock pretty hard.

RPC: Could you tell our readers a little about how magic works in The Hammer and the Blade?
PSK: For Nix, it works only with difficulty.  J  More seriously, I want to keep magic a very mysterious, wondrous kind of thing in Ellerth.  The only common element across all uses of magic in Ellerth (so far) is that it requires at least some verbalization in the Language of Creation.  But after that, the practice of magic can and does vary considerably by practitioner.

RPC: While writing The Hammer and the Blade, did Egil or Nix ever go in a direction, character-wise, that that you didn’t expect?
PSK: Little bits here and there, but no big deviation.  I outline before writing, and characters and their arcs are one of the things I focus on, so I usually have a pretty firm idea of where they’re going before I ever start writing.

RPC: You telegraphed (foreshadowed) a few of your moves in The Hammer and the Blade. How many readers do you expect to pick up on those hints?
PSK: Oh, readers always surprise me.  I bet a good number pick up on the foreshadowing.  J

RPC: What parts of you are manifested in Egil and Nix?
PSK: I have Egil’s stoicism, but (on good days) Nix’s wit.

RPC: When people have finished reading The Hammer and the Blade, what do you hope they walk away with (Other than wanting to buy 20 copies of it for all of their loved ones and placing a life-time pre-order for any and everything you produce in the future)?
PSK: I hope they’re wearing a big smile and think:  That was a great ride.  Can’t wait for the next one.  If they also pick up on the book’s main theme and give that some thought, so much the better.

RPC: Finally, this is a free-for-all, it’s your dime! Feel free to pimp yourself, talk about whatever you want to talk about or post another video of you singing Led Zeppelin songs, and while you are at it, why not post a link to your website.
PSK: All righty, then.  I’ll just say this:  The reviews for HAMMER have really been extraordinary.  Folks seem to be enjoying the read as much as I did writing it.  I hope you’ll give it a whirl.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

As for my website, easy peasy:  paulskemp.com.  I’m also on Twitter as @paulskemp and on Facebook as Paul S. Kemp.  Come hang out!

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