Tales of Mythic Adventure Podcast – Episode 3 – Season 1

GUEST: Ken Rolston

SNAKE CHARMERS AND LAMPREYS (0:00-4:00)

Ken Rolston regales MOB, Jeff and Rob the Producer by playing a few staves on his snake charmer’s pipe. In what is also possibly a first for radio Ken also announces that the crunching noises that from that moment on are liberally sprinkled through the podcast are from his eating of dried lampreys, a somewhat unusual snack food Ken has just received from a cousin holidaying on a Greek Island. Rob the Producer interjects to warn Ken of the fate of King Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, who died of a surfeit of lampreys. Ken feels that he would much rather the fate of George Plantagenet, first Duke of Clarence, who was drowned in butt of Malmsey wine, for treason, in 1478, because wine.

THE RUNEQUEST RENNAISSANCE (4:01-11:40)

There follows a general discussion of the ‘RuneQuest Renaissance’ of the early 1990’s, when it looked like Glorantha might disappear from publication until Ken’s instrumental role in restoring the fxortunes of Avalon Hill’s RQ line.

Ken cannot recall quite how he got involved with AH, but does remember going to the Avalon Hill plant in Baltimore, which was established in a rather sketchy part of town, not as pleasant as the Chaosium offices in Oakland, California. Given that MOB had been to the Chaosium office, which was in a neighbourhood with motels with signs saying ‘ask us about our hourly rates’, he is somewhat astonished that Baltimore could have been worse. Rob the Producer reminds MOB that “The Wire” was set in Baltimore, not Oakland. There is then some riffing that the Rune-Czar Rolston-led ‘RuneQuest Renaissance’ was more of a Carolingian Renaissance – bloody, brutal and short – rather than the Italian Renaissance period of about now under Iron Chancellor Jeff, to completely mix our historical metaphors…

SANDWICHES AND DEMONS (11:41-19:21)

Ken then leads a general discussion of his approach to games design. Where Ken feels that most games designers are more interested in the progression of characters to power, he likes the beginning stages of a campaign, where characters are still vulnerable. “Risklands” in Dorastor: Land of Doom is given as an example of this. Jeff feels that this approach was instrumental in the approach taken later in the game King of Dragon Pass, which Jeff sees as the model for a beginners level campaign. There is also discussion of the economic basis of the Dorastor Campaign, similar to the approach taken in King of Dragon Pass. Ken sees this as part of the ‘Low entropy’ approach to gaming, which he characterises as “a vulnerability fantasy, not a power fantasy”. Ken contrasts this approach to his later Elder Scrolls games.

KING OF DRAGON PASS (19:22-24:35)

Ken is very excited to hear that there is sequel to King of Dragon Pass, and Jeff provides a short teaser on the development of the game, with David Dunham and Jan Pospisil. There is some discussion about how KODP was ahead of its time, but that the age of the Indi and mobile game has seen its time come.

The puzzles in KODP are scripted in a poetic and analogical manner, rather than the more conventional scripting found in most video games.

HOW THE WEST WAS ONE 24:36-33:40

To illustrate the Ken and MOB approach to LARPing there is considerable discussion of Ken’s performance as Notslor the Holy Monk, which he did without pants (the costume was a sheet).
This LARP, How the West was One, was in many ways the Gloranthan equivalent of the early church game Credo. MOB started the LARP as the pope, right at the top of the slippery pole, so naturally it could only get worse for him. Ken the Holy Monk declared Pope MOB anathema, but because MOB was pope he forgave himself.

On another occasion during a LARP Ken memorably played a mute dancing bear, unfortunately during a heatwave.

ELDER SCROLLS AND MORROWIND 33:40 – 47:00

Ken sees himself essentially as a teacher, which he was at the start of his career… Motivated to help people communicate, which is done through feeding the initial idae through playtesting in a number of recursive loops. He feels Glorantha was awesome for that, as the players were at such a high level of sophistication.

Morrowind was Ken’s homage to Glorantha. Morrowind is to Moby Dick, as Oblivion is to Titanic. Morrowind was too dense, to complicated, too rich to be replicable, whereas the later Elder Scrolls games could be repeated many times with variation.

KEN ROLSTON MAXIMUM GAME FUN QUESTIONS (47:00-)

Q: What is one thing you are worse at than the average gamer?

A: I do not keep track of numbers

Q: What is one thing you are better at than the average gamer?

A: I will crawl on my stomach like a reptile, whether the plot calls for it or not.

Q: What is one thing everybody knows about you as a gamer?

A: Paranoia DM instructions: Roll Dice enthusiastically and then say what you want

Q: What is one thing nobody knows about you as a gamer?

A: I will always follow the worst possible plan. I am the oldest living teenager! (Isn’t that two things? Ed.)

END OF EPISODE REFRESHMENTS

  • Jeff (Berlin, Evening). Glass of Red wine.
  • Ken. (America. Time not important) Bacon and Banana Shampoo mouthwash. Perfectly safe, for topical use only.
  • MOB and Rob the Producer (Melbourne, Australia, 6AM). Double Double Espresso

PRODUCTS DISCUSSED, ALLUDED TO OR OTHERWISE OF INTEREST

  • River of Cradles (RQ3)
  • Sun County (RQ3)
  • Shadows on the Borderlands (RQ3)
  • Strangers in Prax (RQ3)
  • Dorastor: Land of Doom (RQ3)
  • King of Dragon Pass
  • Morrowind
  • Oblivion

CREDITS

Producer: Robert Love
Music by: audionautix.com
Introduction: Rick Meints

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