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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 Carlos Castaneda of Fable Streams, shown below with the prefix CC.
RPC: Why don’t you tell us a bit about the Hazzah RPG Tool-kit.
CC: It’s a suite of tools that’s going to be available for iPhones, iPads, and eventually Androids as well. It basically turns your RPG experience, you get to play whatever you are playing today, but using iPhones and iPads to recreate the tabletop experience. Basically play anytime, anywhere, with anyone.
RPC: What exactly are the details of what the tool does?
CC: It’s five applications in one. It uses your tablet, whether it’s an iPad-based system or whether it’s an Android-based system. It has five tools in one; it allows Game Masters to create 3d maps, it looks basically like a video game, we’re using a 3DS type of software. It allows you to create a campaign, so you basically write-out your campaign internally within the tool and you’re able to print it out in a PDF format. It has templates for you, so it’s very easy to create your own campaign and from within that tool, it allows you to create your encounters, what you want to tell your players, it allows you to populate it with your maps and your creatures or your NPCs so that when you’re actually in gameplay mode, it serves as a control center. You can just populate your maps and populate your miniatures.
RPC: Are you talking about a battlemap, and actual grid?
CC: It’s a battlemap and grid, but it’s in 3d, as opposed to 2d. If you want to do a 2d overhead, you can, you can reposition the camera to get a 2d view, an overhead view… it’s very easy. It has chat capabilities so you can talk within, for if anyone within your group will talk to the Game Master. It has built-in dice rollers, 3d dice rollers that actually simulate rolling the dice. It basically simulates your [tabletop] role-playing experience.
RPC: How do you do the 3d extrapolation?
CC: We’re using the Unity gaming engine, which is an open source game engine. We’re able to then expand on that API and tailor it to our own needs.
RPC: Do you include maps or do they have to import a 3d map?
CC: The game actually comes with a set of map environment icons; it comes with trees, it comes with dungeon walls, it comes with floors, it comes with hills… so it basically has a lot of templates already included. We also have pre-built maps, so that if you want a quick dungeon you can just grab it and drop it. We will be expanding on those product lines.
RPC: So the system allows you to create a map beforehand and then run the encounters on the map?
CC: Just like you would today. What the app really allows you to do… it allows you to take your game anywhere, anytime, as opposed to carrying twenty pounds of books, your dice, and all your miniatures… and meeting with all your buddies at lunch during work without having to take all this stuff. It facilitates, that’s the way that we view it. We looked at what are the unique elements of every role-playing game, or just about every role-playing game, and that was how we headed it. We also add rule sets. The game is going to come with the Pathfinder rules set already in there, but if you don’t play Pathfinder, you can still use it to create your maps and use the miniatures, and so forth. What the rules sets allow you to do is you now have character sheets and context based help. In Pathfinder, for example, if you want to look-up your skills, just click on the skill that you want, you have a question mark next to it, it opens up a help menu and tells you everything about that skill. The whole concept is you can take your tablet or phone anywhere.
RPC: What do the miniatures look like on the screen? Is it more of a medallion type or does it have a stand-up?
CC: It’s both. We’re going to have markers, because at first we’re not going to have sci-fi, and we’re not going to have pulp action figures, right now it’s geared toward fantasy. So you will actually have 3d miniatures, but you will also have counters, so if you have a creature or an NPC that we don’t anything for you can use a 3d counter for.
RPC: Can you import your own counters?
CC: Not yet. It’s basically all internal, though you will be able to use 3d counters or miniatures. Eventually, in subsequent phases what we would like to do is also create an NPC or monster generator so that you can create your own miniatures, just like you do with a video game. You can create and customize your own miniature and import them in.
RPC: Does it track the stat blocks?
CC: It does. If you have a rules set, that’s where it comes in… but you can still use the tool [without the stat block].
RPC: Does it have a text area where you can add your own stats?
CC: Yes, all the creatures have their own customizable stat blocks. You can actually create yours for Savage Worlds, if that’s what you want, just put in notes. Every object in the game has notes and you can add your own, personal information to them to customize them to your own needs. What the rules sets allow you to do saves a heck of a lot of time.
RPC: Tell me about the campaign manager.
CC: What the campaign manager allows you to do… Every adventure has a template: what do you tell the players, what do you want to do about this particular map, it has the map that you’re gonna use and it has the creatures that you’re gonna use. This template, that we built, is basically objects that you go: here’s what we’re going to use, here’s the notes about the encounter, here’s the map, here are the creatures, it also allows you to customize and write what you want. Since we’ve built a template for you, you can customize it however you want, within the template. If you want to print it as a PDF, we basically use that template to display it in a particular way so that you can print it on paper and take it with you, if you want to play the old fashioned way.
RPC: So you can import an overland map and display that on the screen, and can you show the progress of the characters?
CC: It’s actually whatever map you build within the app gets stored as a kind of generic map. And then you name, and you’re able to say add this map from within the app to this particular campaign. In gameplay as the GM is working on the tablet, he’s able to say here’s the map with simply a touch and drop into the gameplay area, and it displays it for all the players.
RPC: Anything else?
CC: One of the advantages of working with an existing system, like an iPad, is that it already has some inherent features. If you want to take a picture of your screen, say you have your map already set up with the 2d overhead screen, you can take a picture of it and then print it out, if you want to do it the old fashioned way again. The tool is kind of versatile. If you just want to use it as an electronic media or if you want to use it to just store your maps and take it out, and display it.
RPC: Is it all self-contained… you have to run it all local or can you run it on a server? Are you guys going to have online tools for it?
CC: The first stage literally replicates a whole tabletop experience, face-to-face. The phone kind of acts like as a remote control, it’ll have a tactical map, character sheet if you have one of the rule sets, and it interacts with the iPad of the GM. Other players can have an iPad and can connect with an iPad, but basically, the iPad or tablet is your host. Everyone can look at the game, and do passive play from within the iPad, you don’t need to have a phone connected to it, but you can. Or you can use an adapter, which Apple sells, to connect it to an HDMI TV, so that everyone will see what’s going on. You basically can replicate and get rid of your [printed] maps, sit around and have some 3d digital video game-looking, quality maps. But what we’re really trying to do with this is not only make it easier for existing gamers, but also trying to attract our kids and a younger generation who is more comfortable with using technology for this sort of thing, that may get put-off by a 400-page rulebook. In that sense the game is very board-gamey, and kids sort of like that. When you add that to an electronic media, it piques their interest even more so. We’re after growing the existing market to a new generation.
RPC: Are you planning to offer an online tool where somebody can run a campaign from there house and people can log in?
CC: Yes. We talked about the other phases. Right now, our first phase is for the iPhone and iPad because it’s a lot easier to program for. The next stage is to come out with an Android version. And the next stage will be to provide Wi-Fi and broadband, and then we’ll have our own servers. You can really play anywhere, your buddies don’t have to be with you in the same room.
RPC: They could Skype in.
CC: Exactly. That’s another thing we want to do. When we do the Wi-Fi and broadband, we want to include Voice Over IP so that everything is internal to the app. You won’t have to have all these applications that don’t necessarily work together.
RPC: What game systems are you looking at adding in the future?
CC: One of the opportunities we’re taking at Gen Con is talking to a lot of different companies. We’re interested in talking to Triple Ace Games, Pinnacle [Entertainment Group], we’re looking at talking to Green Ronin [Publishing], we had a great conversation yesterday with Paizo and some of the things they’re doing and perhaps being one of their preferred vendors in IT technology, that sort of thing. We’re looking at unifying the industry and providing users with the ability that, regardless of what you play will have a rules system. So we’re looking at some of the big players and also not-so-much of the big players by bringing them all together under one platform.
RPC: By looking at some of the Savage Worlds licensees, are you looking at adding actual setting content, almost licensed setting content and material?
CC: That’s exactly what we’re looking for. We want to partner with these companies so that we license their products and it looks like Savage Worlds, we have settings for Savage Worlds for example, and we have miniatures that look like Savage Worlds miniatures, and basically replicate the experience, but only digitally to make it more accessible to other folks.
RPC: That’s all I’ve got. Do you want to talk about the Genesys RPG?
CC: Genesys is kind of a parallel track. We want to introduce our own rules set. It’s not really a rules set, it’s based on Pathfinder OGL, so the rules look like something folks that play Pathfinder would be able to utilize, but our own unique setting. It’s basically a universe that exists outside of the universe, the great beyond, what Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 kind of lived. Basically what this rules set does, it’s a universal rules set, so if you want to play cowboys and Indians, you can, if you want to play fantasy you can, or sci-fi, but the whole thing is that, it’s a universal game system that has a purpose behind it, it’s really a setting.
The whole story behind this universe is kind of a dark universe where they’re fighting a losing battle against the last remainder evil god, one of the creators of the whole universe who has slain his kin, the other gods, and is trying to undue their creation and destroy it. He basically built a very elaborate trap that took everyone in a sanctuary, and in this world called Aegis where the Genesys Universal Roleplaying Game takes place, and trapped them within the great beyond, almost as spirits. And as these spirits began to be reborn inside individuals in various worlds, as they fulfill their destinies, they began to reappear in their sanctuaries. These nine fates represent these nine houses, and they travel and guide the PCs to go back into the great beyond and locate their lost kin. As they go about performing great deeds, they manipulate events in different worlds based on their house philosophies, in order to prevent that universe from continuing to expand and destroy theirs. So there really in a battle in two fronts: one is to make sure the great beyond does not continue to expand and destroy their universe while at the same time fighting a very real battle against Itzal, the evil god, and his forces.
RPC: So the different worlds must be where the different genres come from?
CC: Exactly, and that’s how we unify that within Hazzah that we don’t want to replace your game, we want to have you embrace our adventure hook and setting, but still play within your own universe and just have an additional way of bringing some flavor to your existing games.
RPC: How would this be different than Pathfinder?
CC: It’s outside of Golarion, if you will. You can play in sanctuary, you can play in Aegis, getting involved in the political intrigues within the houses and the battles that are going on against Itzal and his forces. Or you can also travel back to Golarion to either do a mission for the Pathfinder Society or you can do a mission for your own house and sanctuary. So again, it really merges the two. It’s not meant to replace Pathfinder or Golarion, but just enhance it or provide additional flavor to Golarion or to your own homeworld game.
RPC: So it’s using the Pathfinder core mechanics?
CC: Yes, it’s an OGL rules set, so if you still play 3.5 you can use that or Pathfinder, you can use that. It’s not mean to surpass it or supplant it, it’s really an enhancement. … we’re just providing additional storylines and additional characters to add to your existing campaigns.
RPC: It’s kind of like adding a multiverse to Pathfinder.
CC: That’s kind of the idea.
That’s it for this interview. I’d like to thank Carlos Castaneda for taking some time to speak about Hazzah and Genesys.