A Word in Edgewise… with Dominic McDowall-Thomas of Cubicle 7

with Dominic McDowall-Thomas of Cubicle 7
By Aaron T. Huss

The following interview originally took place at Gen Con 2012 and is being transcribed here for publication. Roleplayers Chronicle editor-in-chief Aaron T. Huss, shown below with the prefix RPC, is speaking with Dominic McDowall-Thomas of Cubicle 7, shown below with the prefix DMT.

RPC: [Let’s] talk about your new stuff and ENnie nominations.
DMT: We’ve got The One Ring stuff and Shadows Over Scotland stuff, Primeval, Dr. Who card game, Dr. Who new stuff, we have more new stuff after the show.

RPC: What’s new for The One Ring?
DMT: For The One Ring we have the Tales from Wilderland book. This is seven adventures you can play as stand-alone or as a linked campaign. It really captures The Hobbit vibe especially in the earlier episodes and throughout the campaign. But some say it’s worth getting alone for the goblin song, Gareth [Hanrahan] did a fantastic job with that. Then we have the Loremaster’s Screen and Laketown Sourcebook. We have some advanced copies at [Gen Con]. The rest will be permeating into the shops sometime in the beginning of October.

RPC: Is this the Gen Con exclusive?
DMT: No we didn’t get the Gen Con exclusive. Sadly these things happen. The One Ring’s up for the Best Production Value and Best Interior Art. And the Words of the Wise adventure is up for Best Free Product, so three nominations there.

[Pointing to Cthulhu Britannica] Our Call of Cthulhu supplement line, the line is called Cthulhu Britannica. It is 1920s sourcebooks for Call of Cthulhu. The one we have up for the ENnies is Shadows Over Scotland, which is a really chunky half-sourcebook for Scotland 1920s and half adventure. There’s lots of playable material in there, straight out of the book. That won the Origins award for Best RPG Supplement and is up for Best Setting and Product of the Year for the ENnies, so it’s fantastic! Stuart Boon did such a good job with it. And he did such a good job that he is now the line developer for the Cthulhu Britannica line.

RPC: Is it just a stand-alone setting?
DMT: Yes, stand-alone though you’ll need the Call of Cthulhu core rulebook. One of the products were next for this [Cthulhu Britannica] is a Britain sourcebook. That will give you the infrastructure information and all the price lists for use in Call of Cthulhu, but also the national overarching conspiracies, Mythos blocks, and things like that; it really ties the whole line together.

RPC: And it’s all going to stay in the 1920s?
DMT: Yep. We’ll be moving slightly away from that with our World War Cthulhu go, which is next year. I can’t give out that many details; not all contracts are dry yet. It is doing investigations in the backdrop of World War Two. How you interact with the war, that’s up to you. For me it’s the Cthulhu take on what are the secret societies, what are they Mythos elements, what are they doing while everyone is distracted by this big war going on?

RPC: So the war is in the background or is it integral to the setting?
DMT: It is a bit of both. It depends on which bits of it you want to do [in terms of what aspects of the war are being incorporated and how much they influence the scenario]. I think most people playing Call of Cthulhu, it wouldn’t lend itself to well to being on the battlefield. However, maybe your squad finds something, gets separated from its unit, definitely potential for that.

RPC: Is that a campaign setting guide with supplements or is it just going to be one book, is it a line?
DMT: We’re counting as a line. It should stay alongside Cthulhu Britannica.

[Moving on] We’ve got the new stuff for the show. We’ve got Primeval; which for those familiar with the series is basically dinosaurs and time travel and future apocalypse. You’ve got anomalies in time and space that have opened up. They first start finding out about them because primeval monsters come through, the dinosaurs. You’ve also got gateways into the future, you’ve got future predators coming in. At some point in the future they find a post-apocalyptic wasteland. All the usual, deserted streets, overthrown cars, things like that, and you’re trying to work out what’s happening. Is the timeline being changed? Can you stop that? There’s a lot of elements to it, and on the monster hunting side of things Gareth Hanrahan, the writer, has put in some fantastic systems. There’s one which is the threat tokens, and it’s like dealing with something like Jurassic Park where you’ve got aliens as well; you hear things, you’ve come across evidence of something that’s happened such as carnage, to represent that you have these threat tokens the GM puts on the table, and the threat grows, and grows, and you have a guess of what’s going on. It’s a fantastic mechanic for building tension.

RPC: Is it action based or is it horror based or is it more pulp?
DMT: It’s action, it’s sort of contemporary action. The default mode of play is you are investigating the anomalies, trying to control the fallout. One of the other subsystems is temporal damage; so as the timeline takes a hammering if you change stuff then there’s massive consequences.

[Moving on] On the Dr. Who side of things we’ve got the new version of the role-playing game.

RPC: What’s the difference between the new doctor version and the original version?
DMT: Very little in terms of the game; exactly same game, exactly same mechanics. The new version is the eleventh doctor edition so it has the monsters and creatures from the eleventh doctor series as opposed to the tenth doctor. So you have new aliens and creatures as well as a brand new adventure book and all the character sheets.

RPC: It is not dependent upon having the other book?
DMT: No, it is completely stand-alone. We still have the tenth version as some people prefer him, but we won’t reprint that. [The Eleventh Doctor Edition] is the current version, so you don’t need to upgrade if you don’t want to.

RPC: What are you going next with the Dr. Who line?
DMT: UNIT. We’ll be Defending the Earth in the UNIT sourcebook. That’s got fantastic stuff around the Defenders of the Earth, and we introduce a bit more around the mechanics for if you’ve got battles going on, how they proceed, UNIT characters, and adventure seeds. The Time Traveller’s Companion, which has a lot more time travel stuff. We’ve also got, here at the show, the Dr. Who card game. It’s 3-4 player designed by Martin Wallace, a very well-respected Euro games designer, and that’s just great fun. It’s very easy to pick-up, but it’s got those subtleties that allow for extended play.

On Saturday we should have Yggdrasill, which is like Qin: The Warring States.

RPC: I saw that over there [referring to the display booth]. The Victoriana line…?
DMT: We’re in the middle of preparing third edition. Third edition Victoriana should be out in a few months. It will be completely backwards compatible so all the second edition sourcebooks will stay in the line as sourcebooks.

RPC: And the Legacy of Frankenstein and Airship Pirates…?
DMT: They all will.

RPC: So what’s the difference?
DMT: It’s a bit streamlined. There are things like the characters have ranks, which didn’t really do a lot so we’re taking that out. I wanted to make it a bit clearer what the purpose of the game was. Victoriana’s main strength is its huge, broad canvas game, you can do whatever you want with it. You can dial up or dial down certain elements; it can be a real steampunk game, or it can be a low steampunk high magic game, or a Sherlock Holmes investigative thing. But when we talk to people they say “What do I do with it?”, whatever you want, it’s this huge, massive thing. Some people, quite right, haven’t got time to invest in what they want. They want more of a default play setting.

RPC: Are you picking a setting or are you going to have choices to say if you want this, use these mechanics, if you want this use these mechanics?
DMT: It’s kind of in the middle. What we’re trying to do is, a new part of the character generation is basically organization generation. While you’re creating your characters you’re also creating what you’re about. You’re one of the organizations, like Leagues of Extraordinary Gentlemen and things like that, you’re out to defend and promote what you want to do, against all the other organizations and machinations, wheels within wheels and the politics and that sort of thing. We don’t want to lose that.

RPC: But now you have a more character-focus. If you have these types of characters then this is the type of setting you’re playing in.
DMT: Hopefully we’ll hit that right.

RPC: Are you doing anything with the Qin line?
DMT: We’ve got most of the supplements for Qin, with the Art of War releasing in a month. We had a bit of a hiatus on that one. We had some problems with translations, that way we’ve got a good staple of translators. We’ve got Yggdrasill, which is the Viking version, from the makers of Qin.

RPC: Oh really?
DMT: Yeah, same team. Vikings. Norse myths.

RPC: Is it the same mechanics or is it just similar mechanics?
DMT: It’s a good sort of d10 dice pool sort of thing. You roll a number of d10 equal to your attribute, keep the best two.

RPC: It’s a roll and keep system.
DMT: Yeah. Early next year we’ve got Keltia. Which is Arthurian… basically it is kind of authentic Arthurian, if Arthur existed at the time that he was he would have been a Welsh warlord. It’s going back to that historical dark age, post-Roman.

RPC: Early Anglo-Saxon…
DMT: Yes, see I’m Welsh, so it’s close to my heart. The (derivation of the) Welsh name for England is “The Lost Lands.” The Saxon invaders came in and pushed the Britons out. That’s the same thing as Yggdrasill, with the d10…

RPC: Are those two going to be compatible as far as you can play the two together?
DMT: Yeah, so your Vikings can meet your Britons.

That’s it for this interview. I’d like to thank Dominic McDowall-Thomas for taking some time to speak about what’s new with Cubicle 7 and giving us a little look at what’s coming in the next year.

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