What factors led to the creation of Signal Fire Studios?
I hit a crossroads. It was time for me to try to find another job
(either in or out of the game industry), try to make it as a full-time
freelancer, or start my own company. I have so many ideas and so many
lessons learned (most of them the hard way) that I felt I had as good a
chance as anyone to create a new RPG-focused game company and make it
One thing that's great is that the talent resources I've enjoyed in the
past are almost all still there for me. The team that has made some of
my past books read, play, and look great will be there with me doing the
same thing for Signal Fire's products. Even with a tough economy and a
constantly-changing industry, I'm excited and hopeful about our future.
We were excited to hear Signal Fire's announcement to release a new
Metamorphosis Alpha game. How did this come about?
I've known Jim Ward for many years now, and worked with him on a number
of projects. He fully owns the rights to Metamorphosis Alpha, and one
day I got an idea to do a new version of MA using a different set of
rules. I called Jim up to pitch him on the idea and he liked it. We met
up at Culver's in Lake Geneva to discuss the idea over a Butterburger
and some frozen custard. Before long we had ourselves a deal! But as for
the genesis of the idea itself ...
Cam Banks had been running a D&D Fourth Edition game for us and I'd been
having fun even while I was trying to wrap my head around the new
version of the rules. As a guy who's played every previous edition of
the game it took me a while to warm up to the idea that even the
sword-toting fighter was using "powers" in the middle of combat. But
even I had to admit that D&D4E can be pretty exciting and the stuff
happening on the tabletop is fun and intense when it's going well.
I was musing over the book Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega that TSR put out
in the 90s and the review that Gary Gygax did of the game in Hobby
Games: The 100 Best when I had one of those "you got your peanut butter
in my chocolate moments." The words Dungeon In Space leaped out at me,
and I realized that D&D4E might be the perfect set of game rules to use!
What differences can gamers expect in this version of MA?
In many ways this is a relaunch of the MA property. There are tons of
younger gamers - and by younger, I mean many of them are adults with
kids of their own - that had no direct experience with Metamorphosis
Alpha back in "the day." Even for me, TSR had moved on to Gamma World by
the time I broke out of playing D&D only. So while it has a nostalgia
factor for one portion of the audience, it has to look, read, and play
like a complete new product line.
So this is not a complete game. It's a rules expansion and campaign
setting for D&D4E produced under the Game System License, but one that
explores a classic setting and focuses on action-and-adventure scifi. We
have a number of new races that deal with genetically altered humans,
plants, and animals, and four new character classes that use the Mutant
Cross-compatibility is a big deal for us. We fully intend for you to be
able to take mutant characters from the new MA and drop them into other
campaigns or design a completely different setting using the character
rules. Or you can put fantasy characters and creatures on the Warden (it
is a strange environment, after all!) and it'll work just fine.
Will you be supporting MA with any follow-up products?
Absolutely! The first book is the Metamorphosis Alpha Player's Guide, a
product that has player-focused information: races, classes, paragon
paths, epic destinies, information and skills, feats, and equipment. The
second is the Starship Warden sourcebook that maps out the ship, lists
creatures and challenges to be faced, and offers any number of campaign
ideas. We'll also be producing adventures and looking into additional
sourcebooks over time. One of the promises I made Jim when we started
this is that we would support the product line as long as it was
profitable to do so.
Who's lined up to work on the product line at this point? Will Jim Ward be involved in any way?
Cam Banks, known for his work on the Dragonlance game line for D&D 3.5
and other MWP products like Battlestar Galactica, Demon Hunters, and
Supernatural, is the lead designer for Metamorphosis Alpha. I'm also
writing material for the book and we're getting some supplemental help
from a few other writers.
We're licensing MA from Jim Ward, so he has final approval on our
products and will be writing material for the first two books as well!
He's been very supportive of our ideas to "re-launch" MA with these
rules and our approach at mixing the game with D&D 4th Edition.
Many roleplayers know your work from Margaret Weis Productions (Serenity, etc). Will you be returning to any of your old product line haunts?
I have a new MWP release in August, one that's been long-anticipated.
The Supernatural Role Playing Game will be in stores, based on the
television series that airs on the CW Network here in the US. Modern
horror is one of my favorite gaming genres, and I was a fan of the show
from the night the very first episode aired.
Signal Fire Studios will definitely be making use of the Cortex System
game rules for many upcoming projects. You may see me working with both
new and familiar properties over the next few years ... for now I'll
leave that nice and vague!
You've worked on multiple licensed games. At this point, can you watch shows without evaluating them as potential RPG products?
I was joking with my wife about this very thing the other night! It's a
danger when you do what I do. You see a show like Warehouse 13 or Heroes
or something and you instantly start thinking about some things in game
terms and how well it might translate it into a tabletop RPG experience.
New shows are actually the worst about that ... shows I'm invested in
I'm able to turn that part of my brain off and just enjoy it. And every
time I like something new people ask me things like "When are you making
Dr. Horrible into an RPG?"
Any other hints you can give us on future SFS projects?
We're about to announce a new horror role playing game for next year
designed and written by Lester Smith. This is very different than
Supernatural (which I call "heroic horror") and much more in the style
of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and the like. I hope fans of Dark
Conspiracy or the horror genre in general will check it out. I'm also
talking to Timothy Brown (of Dark Sun fame) about an alternate
If that weren't enough, I have some exciting meetings coming up next
week at Comic-Con that will hopefully lead to great possibilities for