with Michael Tumey of Rite Publishing
By Cape Rust
The following is a Q&A interview. Roleplayers Chronicle correspondent Cape Rust, shown below with the prefix RPC, is speaking with Michael Tumey of Rite Publishing, shown below with the prefix MT.
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RPC: Please tell us about yourself.
MT: I am a graphic designer and run my own design and digital print studio in my hometown, for the last 19 years. 6 years ago, I began my side career as a professional fantasy cartographer, starting off by creating an RPG map printing service for gamers and publishers called gamer-printshop.com. I joined the Cartographers’ Guild initially to promote my service, when I started participating in their monthly map challenges (contests) at the CG, and subsequently won 4 of them. Small publishers regularly visit the CG to request maps to be done on commission and I started accepting map commissions. Dog House Rulez needed maps for 3 mini-adventures in a product called Eggstraordinary Encounters (each involving a monster egg of some sort) as my first commission. Since then I’ve done about 30 commissions, including designing the original hand-drawn version of the City of Kasai, for Paizo’s Jade Regent AP, The Empty Throne. I also wrote some of the Kasai gazetteer and am credited as one the contributing authors for that release – Paizo even gave me a $200 bonus to my commission due to the unexpected quality of map I provided.
I only began doing game design and development when I was determined to create my own published setting. Learning most of the ropes by the seat of my pants, working with great freelancers like Jonathan McAnulty, Will McCardell, T. H. Gulliver and Justin Sluder, through Rite Publishing.
RPC: How long have you been into gaming?
MT: My next door neighbor’s grandson, who visited several times a year, brought the D&D Red Box and Against the Giants adventure one summer in 1977, and we ran it. Although it would be almost another year before I found a local group for regular games, I’ve been playing since I was 15 years old.
RPC: Of all of the games you’ve played what is your favorite, and why?
MT: Of all the many, many game systems I’ve played, D&D was always the main stay as you could always find players for the game. I’d say every edition of D&D up to 3.5 was my favorite edition (at the time). Once I moved from 1st edition to 2nd, 2nd was my favorite – as the change from 2nd to 3.5. My main gaming group had a 5 year hiatus between 2nd edition and 3.5, due to the death of one of our players, so we never actually played D&D 3.0. Now I can claim Pathfinder is my favorite edition, as I’ve gotten closer to system mastery with that rule set versus any before it. As an aside I also loved both Paranoia and HOL for their over-the-top wahoo factor.
RPC: What trends in table top gaming do you love and hate and why?
MT: d20 and the OGL as provided by Wizards of the Coast, and expanded with the Pathfinder Compatibility License allowing small publishers to create products with a ready and willing market of gamers is probably the trend I like most, and one that I’ve eagerly taken part – this is probably my favorite trend right now. I only hate that the market is getting older and not growing as fast with the possibility of leading to an end at some point.
RPC: How did you get involved with Rite Publishing?
MT: I had helped Jonathan Roberts with the in’s and out’s of the map commission game when he first started, and Rite Publishing was one of those publishers. So when I began my first thoughts on developing my own game products, I talked with Steven Russell of Rite Publishing on advice. Although I had originally worked with a few other publishers, when I started having problems working with them, I chose to move my efforts to Rite Publishing and to people I trusted more.
RPC: Rite does things a little different than other companies, could you explain it?
MT: While I’m unsure what you mean specifically by that question, being more a freelancer in the industry rather than a buying customer – I know the ‘inside’ more than the ‘outside’ of Rite Publishing. That said, I can tell you what Rite Publishing’s difference [is] for me. I feel lucky in approaching Steve about publishing my Kaidan setting as an imprint under Rite Publishing. I’ve been told by many other publishers that they’d more than likely take ownership of an offered intellectual property, allowing me to develop it as author/designer only. Steve has allowed me to keep 100% ownership of the intellectual property, sharing copyright with him, and splitting the profits after costs and royalties to freelancers.
Also aside from doing the marketing and the administrative side of game publishing, he, in no way is directly involved in the development of Kaidan. That is solely under my hand and the freelancers who work with me in getting it developed. I owe a special thanks to Jonathan McAnulty for taking the lead role on many aspects.
Steve also works closely with other small publishers doing cross-publication work more than most 3PP companies out there.
RPC: What are some pros and cons of the way Rite does business?
MT: For pros, Rite Publishing gives me the leeway to develop my products the way I want to. That said, because I am a business man, and have the needed initiative to get things done, if, however, I was not as skilled nor inspired too much leeway could lead to poorly developed products. It’s a boon if you’ve got the talent and initiative. It would be a bane if I needed regular attentions by Steven to look over what I’m doing. If I were more apprehensive about my work, I might need a guiding hand more – and Steve is not providing that relying on me to do my own work. I could see that as a Con for a lesser author/designer.
RPC: Tell us about your views of Kaidan.
MT: Kaidan is my creation based on being both a Japanophile and someone greatly interested in my heritage, as I am half Japanese. As a reveal for you, my middle name is Kenji, a typical Japanese boy’s name (I haven’t mentioned that anywhere else). As an amateur historian, a lover of Japanese literature and movies, and as someone whose played Oriental Adventures since 1e, I always felt those versions of oriental fantasy somehow didn’t meet my expectations of it. While I enjoyed playing, OA never sat right with me. There are many concepts taken out of context, and some outright mistakes – I always felt I could do a better job. Also I felt that my interactions with my Japanese relatives and seeing things from their point of view is in many ways different than western perceptions of the same concepts. I wanted to attempt to bring a greater sense of authenticity to the culture, history, folklore and ghost story tradition, that seemed missing from previously created oriental worlds.
Kaidan reflects concepts from my experiences with Oriental Adventures, Ravenloft and those unique to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
RPC: What did you think when you got the opportunity to do Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House?
MT: While last year’s Kickstarter for the Kaidan gamemaster’s and player’s guides (scheduled for release in Oct/Nov 2013) was still underway, the basic elements of the Haiku of Horror series came to me. The problem with doing such a project was that most of our freelancers were tied up doing the development and writing for those guide books. Also because of that development, there would be a lack a Kaidan releases until that project was complete. Although I am fairly confident of my writing skills, my game design has always been my weakest link of my skills required to do what I do. Having worked closely with Rite’s freelance designers over the last 2 years, I felt it was time for me to try my hand at authorship and game design, and to try to fill that empty schedule of Kaidan releases. Although I’d spoken to Steve about doing this small project, I took it upon myself to begin the work on my own and see what I could come up with.
The Haiku of Horror series allows me to bask in my main industry strength as a fantasy cartographer, since at it’s heart, the series is primarily a map product. I wanted to offer some solid design in creating monsters, monster templates, creating custom haunts, hazards, traps, curses, afflictions and other elements of game design, combined in a mini-adventure or complex encounter. While there are many examples of typical mapped locations for sites common in western styled game settings, there’s a definite lack of similar maps for oriental locations. Also many available oriental mapped locations are really ‘special snowflake’ designs to fit an author’s concepts for a specific product, and in no way reflects how such a site might have appeared in the historical record. I wanted to create maps based on authentic Japanese architecture to be usable in any oriental setting, including historical games like Sengoku or Bushido. The series also allows me to present Kaidan as I think best – in my own words.
RPC: In the introduction you mention your mother as your inspiration for all things Japanese, would you elaborate on this?
MT: My mother, Mari Shimizu Tumey, told me tales of her childhood, the stories told to her by her father, bringing me a thorough appreciation for all things Japanese. Because I had always been a lover of horror stories, monsters and the occult, she was the first to point me towards the works of Lafcadio Hearn (Kiozumi Yagumo) a 19th century journalist who was first to translate Japanese kaidan (ghost stories) to English. This was my first steps towards developing Kaidan as a game setting.
RPC: Other than Kaidan, who do you think has handled Oriental settings well and why?
MT: Despite the many mistakes and concepts taken out of context, Oriental Adventures 1e did a remarkable job in bringing the orient to gamers everywhere – I certainly played it too death. Also while not my favorite game system, Legends of the Five Rings did a fine job at creating a samurai based game, especially their treatment of courtiers as a non-martial based class. Sengoku while more authentic than many systems and settings, it’s extremely dry and not well equipped to deal with fantasy folklore aspects of Japan. Really all those releases brought something to the game table, ideas worthy of expanding upon. Kaidan is my attempt on doing the orient the way I feel it should always have been.
RPC: In regards to Kaidan, what does the future hold for Michael Tumey?
MT: My initial plans were to publish this on my own, as my own publishing concern, and I may yet do that some day. Actually experiencing more of the back room activities of administration and marketing is less appealing to me that the creative side, so I may put off that original goal a while longer.
I have hopes of taking the Haiku of Horror series to a couple years worth of material. I have considered as many as 24 mapped locations to feature.
Once the Kaidan campaign setting guide books from the Kickstarter are released, we’ll probably be looking at doing another Kickstarter to create a Bestiary for Kaidan with a goal of a single, Mark Hyzer illustration for every entry. We also want to release at least two more class/faction books similar to our Way of the Samurai supplement focusing on shinobi (ninja) and divine classes of Kaidan. Finally, if we can develop the interest, I’d like to work and release a full Adventure Path set in Kaidan.
RPC: Other than Kaidan what other projects do you have in the works?
MT: Really almost all my efforts these days are in the continued development of the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror. I have done some side published releases through other 3PPs like Johnn Four of Roleplaying Tips, including an Assassins guide which I helped co-write, as well as doing all it’s cartography. I would like to get involved with other publishers to perhaps develop other historically based settings (Steve of Rite Publishing has stated he doesn’t want any more settings – he’s got enough already.) And as mentioned above there is always the possibility of leaving the Rite Publishing nest, and trying to become my own game publisher.
RPC: If money was no object what kind of setting would you like to develop and who would you bring in to help develop it?
MT: I really don’t believe budget as being a barrier for what I want to create. I am developing Kaidan exactly how I want and expect it to be. The only thing unlimited funds would bring is more freelancers and more projects run simultaneously so that more products could be released in a shorter amount of time. With the realities of development costs, Kaidan will eventually be fully released, it will just take a few more years than it might otherwise. While I am extremely satisfied with the artworks by Mark Hyzer and the other freelancers Rite Publishing works with, more accomplished artists could be brought in, if money weren’t an issue.
RPC: finally this is a free for all please feel free to discuss anything I might have missed and feel free to pimp yourself, after producing a product like Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House you deserve it.
MT: Once the bulk of what I intend for Kaidan is released, I have some interests in possibly offering to translate Kaidan to other rule systems. Iron Crown Enterprises has even approached me with interest to either statting up Kaidan for Rolemaster and their other rule sets, or licensing out Kaidan for their own releases. I’d like to think that designers reading what has been created for Kaidan is so distinctly authentic Japan, that it would be used as reference material in developing any other Japan based setting for any rule set.
While Kaidan is all consuming for me at this time, there are other world’s I like to build and release. I may seem to have great knowledge in all things Japan, my love of history extends beyond the orient. One thought I’d consider is doing a post-apocalyptic setting based on the years following the fall of the Roman Empire, as a more dark age entrenched game setting. On seeing someone else’s development on these ideas, that person coined a phrase that I love. You’ve heard of Twilight 2000, consider this idea as Twilight 200.