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Interviews: Lone Wolf RPG (Mongoose Publishing)

 

When they appeared on the scene in 1984, Joe Dever's Lone Wolf adventures brought some new ideas to the gamebook world and established a model that was imitated many times in the following years. The books featured a detailed setting called Magnamund, a serialized storyline of epic proportions and rules for character advancement -- upon completing books, players gained new abilities, and it was also possible to carry forward equipment from one story to the next. Lone Wolf RPG cover Considering that they were closer to group role-playing than most of their kin, it's surprising that (outside of Joe Dever's private game sessions and amateur Internet offerings) it took twenty years for a Lone Wolf role-playing game to appear, but at last the day has come. We talked to August Hahn, the author/creator of the new Lone Wolf RPG, and Ian Belcher, its developer and editor (with some details filled in by Alexander Fennell), to find out what we've been waiting for all these years....

The Lone Wolf gamebooks have a lot of fans who enjoy the series for lots of different reasons. I hope to ask questions that will be of interest to everyone in this diverse group of people, but before I do that, it seems worth asking what the new Lone Wolf RPG will have to offer to complete newcomers who can't tell a Giak from a Helghast. Why should they be interested?

August Hahn: The world of Magnamund is very diverse and detailed, yet has such easily defined and recognizable villains that game play opportunities abound. Any group of roleplayers should be able to pick up the Lone Wolf RPG, find characters and story hooks they enjoy, and begin play quickly - even if they have no idea who the gits in the green cloaks are before they start!

Ian Belcher: During the initial development of the Lone Wolf RPG, this was obviously a very important issue that we discussed. We wanted the game to not only appeal to the Lone Wolf fans out there, but also to grab the attention of newcomers to the setting. Also, there are quite a few Lone Wolf fans out there who enjoyed the original gamebooks yet have not delved too far into fantasy roleplaying - this was an opportunity to draw those fans into a new experience as well. The strongest reason for newcomers to be interested in the Lone Wolf RPG is the setting. Quite simply, Joe Dever created a fantasy world that is virtually unparallelled. Magnamund is charged with true heroism, utter evil, unique magics and sinister deceit, all expressed through races, nations and individuals that leap out from the page and grab a reader's attention - more importantly, you want to be a part of what you are reading... and that's where the RPG comes in. As an additional incentive, the Lone Wolf RPG is an OGL product - it is a whole game and Magnamund resource in one book, so you do not need to stock up on half a dozen other books just to use the core rulebook.

The Lone Wolf mythos has so far been created by a relatively small group of people; Joe Dever wrote all of the gamebooks (apart from Ian Page's World of Lone Wolf spin-off), Paul Barnett (writing as John Grant) developed the gamebooks into novels, and illustrators Gary Chalk and Brian Williams created a distinctive look and feel. The new RPG looks like it will bring quite a few newcomers into the fold, most notably August Hahn, who gets top billing for the main rulebook. How much involvement has there been by the original creators, and what does the new blood have to offer?

August Hahn: Speaking as the new blood in question (though Ian Belcher has every right to crow as well), I can only say that I have years of gaming experience to offer to the project and the dedication to Magnamund that comes from having grown up loving the gamebooks themselves. I fit the fine example set forth by those books into a roleplaying game that I am quite proud of, and that I hope others will greatly enjoy.

As for the original creators, their primary involvement has in crafting the world of Magnamund to begin with. We just took the reins from there. Of course, Joe Dever has had full say over every step of the process and we are proud to have his blessing on the results of that intensive labour.

Ian Belcher: The involvement of the original creators has been twofold, with the first being by far the most important. We've taken great pains at Mongoose Publishing to follow the lead given by Messrs Dever, Barnett, Chalk and Williams. We've stuck to Dever's world setting like glue, only making alterations when absolutely necessary. Gary Chalk and Brian Williams have been a strong influence on our art direction, as the sneak previews at www.mongoosepublishing.com show, with Tony Parker (the interior artist) adding his own unique style to the pictures as well. Fans of the original books will also notice that many of the little touches that personalised the gamebooks for them - font types, ability names, the character progressions - are all faithfully repeated in the Lone Wolf RPG. We also ran the whole book past Joe before we sent it to print - and he came back to us with a grinning thumbs-up.

What did the new blood do? We took all of the prodigious work the original creators had achieved - and ran with it. All those involved with the project had a passion for Magnamund and we hope that is reflected in the final product.

A Lone Wolf gamebook cover

It was an interesting decision to set the game fifty years before the world-changing events of the gamebook series. This seems like a good idea, since it allows everything destroyed in the gamebooks to be used in a campaign, but it also might prove limiting for people looking to pick up where the gamebooks left off and head in new directions. Are there any plans for a sourcebook to cover life after Lone Wolf's adventures?

August Hahn: As of right now, nothing is definite. Certainly, if the Powers that Be decree a sourcebook for the New Kai Order or beyond, I will happily produce it. The world is so rich and so vast, there is no limit to the number of books and adventures that could be gleaned from its depths. I think a sourcebook detailing the world after Lone Wolf's story arc would be a fantastic thing to write, as would a treatise of magic; Right-Handed and Left - and a volume on the power of mentalism in Magnamund.

Ian Belcher: As August states, there are no concrete plans at the moment, but given the sheer amount of interest in this area - and all this before the main rulebook has been released! - its certainly on our top ten list of areas to explore in future supplements. It would probably be the equivalent of an epic-level sourcebook, as we'd include the Grand Master abilities and more powerful magics in order for characters to take their development beyond the current scales in terms of both advancement and timeline.

Darklands cover

On the subject of sourcebooks, I see that The Darklands will follow fairly soon after the core rules. What can we expect to find in there, and are any additional books being planned?

August Hahn: The Darklands book is a vile and treacherous tome detailing the Darklords, their blighted realm, and the monsters that prowl it. It has new character classes, advanced classes to further build on them, and equipment suitable to flesh out any campaign set in or around the most evil place on Magnamund.

Ian Belcher: The Darklands is the definitive sourcebook and tome of lore concerning, well, the Darklands. The original rulebook is very much about playing heroes in a world threatened by darkness - The Darklands fleshes out this darkness and even gives the more nefarious players the rules and information to play as evil characters in Magnamund.

Not long after the announcement that the Lone Wolf RPG was coming, there was some talk of adapting the original gamebooks to the d20 system (possibly in cooperation with Project Aon, the group responsible for creating free online editions of the adventures). Is there any truth to these rumors, and is there any possibility of solitaire adventures coming along for fans of the original gamebook format?

August Hahn: Well, if these are in the planning stages, they are news to me. I have not heard anything specific about such plans, but I do think they would all make great additions to the line. Specifically about the solitaire adventures, they would be nice, but the beauty about roleplaying as it exists today (as opposed to the hobby when Lone Wolf first appeared) is how much more social a hobby it has become. I really think the emphasis for any RPG should be how well it can bring gamers together - not keep them apart.

Ian Belcher: These rumours are mostly incorrect. While we have kicked around the idea in the office, we've not settled on producing any gamebooks as yet, mostly for the same reasons as August has given.

Speaking of the original gamebooks, it looks from the character sheet like some of the familiar scores found in the gamebook system (Endurance, Willpower, etc.) have been carried over to the d20 version. How have the two systems been melded together?

August Hahn: Very well, thank you. The mechanics of Endurance will be very obvious to players of the d20 system. With only a few tweaks, that statistic is Hit Points with a different name. As for Willpower, that's a bit more complicated, but suffice to say it works nicely in keeping the feel of the gamebooks alive in the roleplaying game.

Ian Belcher: It's been quite eerie how easily the two systems have blended together. We've had very few hitches in the process, though one that comes to mind is the way that Psychic Combat works. Both August and I spent a lot of time on this system, as we wanted to make it as faithful to the original book as possible, while also keeping it simple to play using d20 rules.

The description of the core rules on the Mongoose site mentions a simple combat system. How does this compare to the old gamebook system of "compare combat skills, generate a random number, look at a table?"

August Hahn: The whole idea behind the d20 system has been to reduce the number of tables needed to play the game; that philosophy has continued in the Lone Wolf Roleplaying Game. The comparative chart found in the back of the adventures is gone, replaced with the familiar (but simplified) combat system found in fantasy d20 games. Not to fear; this simplification has also been created to keep the flavour of Lone Wolf. Look for combat options and ways of defeating one's opponents that feel like they are straight from the pages of your favourite gamebook!

Ian Belcher: We've stripped down a lot of the d20 combat system to make a smoother, easier system that mimics the easy style of the gamebooks. That said, we also kept players' options open - the Lone Wolf RPG opens up the world of Magnamund, giving players limitless options. The combat system follows the same guideline - more options, just less fiddly rules to complicate the options you choose.

Lone Wolf fans have also been excited to learn that a miniatures line is on the way to complement the RPG. What figures do we have to look forward to, and are there any plans of a separate miniatures game to support them?

August Hahn: I'll leave this to the Powers that Be of Mongoose to offer, but I was just as excited to learn of the miniatures. Having seen the other figure work Mongoose Publishing is doing latety, I am sure they will all be top notch. The possibility of a miniatures game to support them is also a great idea; I hope I get tapped to write it!

Ian Belcher: The figures we're working on at the moment include: Kai Lords, Telchos Warriors, Dwarven Gunners, Sommerlund Knights, Shadaki Buccaneers, Dessi Magicians, Brothers of the Crystal Star, not to mention hordes of Giaks and other creatures...

The miniatures are primarily designed to support the RPG, but we certainly have wider plans for them as well, including miniature battles.

What is the scale of the Lone Wolf miniatures?

Alexander Fennell: 30mm

Presumably, you read some or all of the gamebooks in order to prepare for working on this project. Were there any moments or ideas that you particularly felt needed to be brought to a larger audience?

Alexander Fennell: The roleplaying game is set 50 years before Flight from the Dark, and so Lone Wolf has yet to be born and the Kai are still at the height of their powers. Given this, we had to be very careful about what was said regarding the countries that Lone Wolf later visited so we did not contradict the books. Since it is entirely possible that players may find the lorestones, we have detailed the individual powers of each one (in the roleplaying game, they all have different effects).

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