FolkLore is a (very) rules light RPG that has recently shown some popularity on the pen and paper role playing site RPGNow.com, mostly because of it’s openness and it’s very small price. After buying the game to write a review for TheNerdyBomb, I thought I would try to get a hold of indie game designer Seth Zaloudek and ask him some questions about the game. Luckily for me he was more than willing to give us an insight into his game and background. Read on!
Patrick McGill- First, tell us a little about yourself. Where you come from, what your vocation is, things you like and dislike, stuff like that.
Seth Zaloudek- Compared to a lot of people I know, I haven’t really been gaming for very long. I was never really a popular kid in school, but I never really hung out with anyone that was into tabletop gaming. I come from Nebraska, and our biggest city is the size of a few state’s smallest, so there weren’t a lot of people around that ever did game.
I probably wasn’t even the type of kid you would assume would be into RPGs. But one day in 2008, I stumbled across a store selling D&D. I believe 4th edition had just come out so they had a lot of promotional stuff for it. I had little to no money, so I picked up their quick start kit. None of my friends played, so I had to put in a lot of work to try and force them to become gamers.
I played with that little quick start set for a long time and since the rules that it included were so simple I had to make up a lot of my own. I suppose that was the point where my game tinkering began.
After many years of gaming, I had started to accumulate a lot of game books that I never ended up using. My players were too skeptical of anything new, and I had a lot of trouble even getting them to sit down for one play session. Because of their unwillingness to try a new game, I decided that I would make my own. After all, they trusted me, so I assumed it wouldn’t be a big leap to convince them to play something I made myself.
After about a month of writing, I ended up with a game I called POOL. It was about a very rough 100 pages of rules and I could not get any of my friends to read through it. Frustrated, I began to simplify and trim down as much as I could to bring the game down to a size that I could stick in front of them and get them to look through.
I decided as I was trimming that I would tailor the rules to try and get my players to think about their characters more. I included a lot of little things that would give them bonuses for defining their characters. If one of my players created a wizard, it could still be effective, but not as effective as “Balgoroth, ancient summoner from the north lands on a quest to save his family name from the awful deeds committed by his father.”
In the end, I had FolkLore. An incredibly rules light game that my players would not only read, but actually play. And surprisingly, they loved it.
PM – So about how long have you and your friends played with FolkLore before you decided to publish it on the internet? Also, would you mind going into your process for self-publishing?
SZ – FolkLore was in development for a little over a year before I decided to publish it. Over that time the game was play tested frequently. It drove my players crazy.
Each week before we started I would explain all of the new rules I developed to take care of problems we experienced the previous week. It got so bad that my girlfriend insisted that I only be allowed to change the rules after three sessions each change.
I caved and did as she asked. It ended up giving me a lot more time to think about how I was going to implement or tweak each new rule and resulted in a lot less updates, as well as making my players happier.
When I was initially writing my game I didn’t really have any plans to publish it. I would have loved to, but I had always imagined the people who published games as giant corporations with the money and backing to go through with it.
After the first draft of POOL was finished, I discovered that most of my players did not want to play unless they knew I was taking it seriously. It was at that point that I promised to find a way to publish the game. Once they realized that they were play testing a product and not just my home brew rules system, they were totally on board. It’s strange to think that the stubbornness of my players was more effective at pushing me than most support I’ve ever gotten…
Once I had managed to fill 100 pages for POOL, I began to research ways to self publish. I had no clue what I was doing or if I would even be successful at it, but the idea of selling something that I created myself was too exciting to not at least try.
I listened to a lot of RPG podcasts (still do I suppose) and a lot of them had episodes focused on self publishing methods. I would have followed some of the advice that they had given except I wasn’t confident that my game was worth buying yet.
To be honest, the only reason FolkLore ended up being published was more because of a string of luck than anything. At the beginning of April I was checking out a web hosting site and discovered that they were having a one day sale on hosting fees. I impulsively handed over my credit card and bought a domain.
Having empty web space that I was paying for felt wrong, so I created a site for Folklore. But having a site for a game that was not for sale felt wrong, too. So little by little I kept working on the game and my website until I felt confident enough to submit Folklore to RPGNow.com. I wondered if the game would meet any of their standards, but sure enough, the next morning I had an unread message from them sitting in my inbox.
PM – I first came across Folklore from your post on Reddit on the rpg subreddit. It gained a bit of attention there, and from what I saw the feedback was mostly positive. I also saw that on RpgNow your game has received a Silver badge for popularity. Were you surprised by any of this? Has the feedback remained positive? Also, what are some criticisms you’ve come across that you feel are justified?
SZ – I’m still incredibly surprised by the attention I’ve received. When I made the reddit post, I hardly expected to get any attention. I kind of realize what I posted was close to being spam but I was so excited about finally publishing my game that I wanted to share with someone.
That reddit post was the only post I made regarding the game, and still is I suppose. I think the reason it gained so much attention was because I promised myself that I would respond to everyone that posted. A lot of people told me that they purchased the game because of how kindly I treated them and how quickly I responded to their questions. I’ve always been nice to people, but never before had I realized just how well people respond to a kind word.
I like to tell myself that the reason FolkLore has become a Silver Pick on RPGNow is because of how great it is and not because I’m only selling it for a dollar. I’m sure that there are a fair amount of people that only decided to check it out because of its price, but I think that there has to be more to it than that. There are a lot of products that cost the same as Folklore that have not seen as much success. All of the positive reviews probably help.
As for the criticisms… I honestly haven’t gotten much negative feedback at all. In fact, I don’t think I have gotten any. All of the criticisms that I’ve received have been very positive.
The main ones I get are that people wish the game had a “monster manual” of sorts, or that they want a more detailed magic system. I totally understand what they mean. It was difficult to include everything I wanted while keeping the game as light as it is. All I can promise is that I will try to put out a few supplements to resolve these issues. I’ve been making blog posts on FolkloreRPG.com that flesh out some of the things I’ve included in the game, but that obviously doesn’t solve everybody’s problems.
PM – I’ve enjoyed the posts on your product blog. The Relationships post and the new Quick Monsters one are pretty useful to me as someone running the game (hopefully soon). Is the blog going to be the go-to place for new FolkLore content, or do you see yourself doing more game add-ons like Basilisk! ? Speaking of which, do you have any sort of new content in the works currently that you wouldn’t mind talking about?
SZ – I do plan on updating the FolkLore blog from time to time to expand on ideas introduced in the game, but it won’t be the sole source of new material.
I certainly want to release more supplement products in the same vein as Basilisk! but haven’t yet decided if I will be doing any more adventures. I released Basilisk! to sort of test the waters, and although it seems to be selling well I have received hardly any feedback regarding the adventure.
As for future products… I have a few ideas, but nothing solid quite yet. I’m still considering whether or not to release a “spell-book” of sorts as a new product or blog update. I have been compiling a list of creatures to release in a little NPC booklet, but have yet to decide how I will put it together or release it.
PM – For my last question, I’d like to leave it open ended and just ask if there is anything you’d like to communicate to your current and future fans and customers, and also if there is anything you’d like to say to others who might be interested in trying their hand at self-publishing an independent RPG?
SZ – I already do it constantly, but I want to thank everyone that has purchased or may purchase a copy of FolkLore. I’m really just some guy that wanted to be a part of the gaming community and I’ve been welcomed with open arms. Though they may argue with each other about the games they play, in the end, gamers are some of the nicest and accepting people you will ever meet.
My advice for anyone that would like to publish their own RPG is to just go for it. I’m pretty sure it was Voltaire who was quoted as saying “perfect is the enemy of good.” If you constantly worry about making a perfect game, then you’ll never end up releasing a game at all. Folklore is far from perfect. But is it a good game? I think so. And as I have come to find out, so do a lot of other people. If you give your game a chance, other people will, too.