Transmedia author George Strayton and I were so busy at Gen Con that we never had a chance to talk. I caught up with George between cons to learn about his latest film projects, how The Secret Fire Role-Playing Game is faring, and his contributions to Dungeons & Dragons history.
Michael Tresca (MT): How was Gen Con for you this year?
George Strayton (GS): I had a fantastic time at Gen Con doing seminars on screenwriting and panels on everything from dialog to writing color text for RPGs. Plus, it was great to get a chance to talk to Secret Fire players in person and hear about their home campaigns and how they’ve adapted the game to their particular groups.
MT: How is The Secret Fire doing?
GS: The Secret Fire RPG is doing well. It’s a labor of love, so in that sense it’s been a personal success from the moment we released the game. But since then it’s also won the 2012 Innovative Game Design Award (from I-CON 31) and we have over 1,500 copies of the game out in the world when you combine printed and PDF versions of the rulebook. Our next supplement, Fragment I: The Way of Tree, Shadow & Flame expands on the game overall and provides specific ways to further focus on the two core elements of the system: Energy Points and Elder Gods. The book was written by a great team of designers I was honored to work with including Ed Greenwood, Logan Bonner, Michael Curtis, and Thomas Reid, plus Jim Ward wrote the foreword, and most of the interior art was done by our amazing cover artist Antonio José Luis Manzanedo. In addition, TSR veteran Steve Winter has written an adventure (X1: The Rings of Death, edited by Michele Carter) which will be released in the late Fall. In the new year, we have a few projects planned (one of which has already been written — a book on the Unnatural, a.k.a. Demons, a main nemesis for adventuring parties in the world of The Secret Fire).
MT: Working on any new movies?
GS: I’m working on several projects, as usual, but I’m really excited about the announcement from the Andre Norton Estate about developing her 1978 novel Quag Keep into a feature film. We’re looking to make a big-budget tentpole film, something like a cross between The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the Transformers films.
MT: You have a passion for gaming history. How does Quag Keep fit into the legacy of D&D?
GS: Quag Keep was the first Dungeons & Dragons novel ever published (though not under the aegis of TSR; in fact, it’s currently being published by TOR). Gary Gygax, a fan of Ms. Norton (as anyone who has perused Appendix N of the 1st Edition Dungeon Masters Guide will know) ran a game for her and she based the story on that experience. Ms. Norton was one of the first major female sf/fantasy writers, starting out in the 1930s and going on to win dozens of writing awards over the course of her long career. The novel is very unlike any D&D novel you may have read: people from our world (the main characters) find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly transported into the game milieu. As they try to find a way home, they discover they have to save the game world in order to save their own so they have a place to return to (the TRON films have a similar element, but they use a sci-fi game world as opposed to a fantasy one).
MT: Speaking of legacies, what’s your involvement with the D&D documentary?
GS: I’ve been interviewed by the D&D Documentary director and producer about my experience working as a game designer since the early 1990s (freelancing for TSR/WotC and others and working on staff at West End Games) as well as about how starting to play D&D in the late 1970s led me to become involved in the filmmaking industry along with people like Jon Favreau, Stephen Colbert, and Vin Diesel (all of whom I’d love to meet or work with if I had the chance — I know we’d definitely have some common ground!).
MT: What’s your involvement with the Gygax Memorial Fund?
GS: I fully support the Memorial Fund and can’t wait to see everything come to fruition — it’s the least we can do for the person who started TSR, developed D&D, and put roleplaying games on the map. I just edited the second printing of a book that contains online interactions between Gary and his fans called Cheers, Gary, which benefits the fund, and I wrote a piece for the official Wizards of the Coast reprints of the 1st Edition core rulebooks (it’s just a single page talking about the Memorial Fund). Anyone interested can find more information about the Fund and make a tax-deductible contribution at http://gygaxmemorialfund.com.
MT: What’s next for you?
GS: Next I get some rest! Actually, it’s true — I just did five conventions as a guest of honor, including Gen Con, which was humbling and fantastic and exhilarating all at the same time, but also exhausting. Then I’m back at work on both the screenwriting/producing projects and Fragment I, specifically (and the game in general).
MT: What convention will you be at next?
GS: I’ll be attending NY Comic Con, which I highly recommend. It’s like a manageable San Diego Comic Con (i.e., I don’t feel completely overwhelmed and crushed by massive throngs of people whenever I need to cross the show floor). I’ll be hanging out at the Legendary Realms Terrain booth doing 1-hour demos of The Secret Fire and chatting with anyone who wants to come by.
MT: Where can fans find out more?
GS: On the screenwriting/producing side, IMDB is the best place to see what I’m involved in (IMDBPro is better because it lists additional projects and information, but you need a subscription), but there’s no central site where I post what I’m working on at any given time (since you never know what’s going to happen in Hollywood). As far as gaming goes, the two best places to find information on The Secret Fire are www.secretfiregames.com and our page on Facebook.
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
GS: I’d like to thank all the attendees of the various seminars and panels I’ve done, all the players in my demos, and all the folks who’ve just stopped by at a booth or signing to chat about the game or my screenwriting projects throughout the entire summer convention season. It’s the fans who make these two industries so much fun. I’m looking forward to seeing more of everyone throughout the rest of the year!
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