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Brent Knowles

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11
Hi all. I was invited to check in over here. I'm a former designer with both BioWare & Beamdog, as well as a long time designer working on tabletop material (I helped out a bit with the recent Minsc & Boo book). I've snuck in here to shamelessly promote my Kickstarter but I'm also good with chatting about my past in the RPG industry! Fire away (just be aware I'm averaging about 3 hours a sleep a night while running the Kickstarter so my answers may make little sense or reveal things I should not reveal.)
Nice to meet all of you.
 

Antimatter

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That feels so unreal to see you here, Brent, and very exciting! You've worked on some of my most favourite games of all time!🙏

For those who don't know, the Kickstarter campaign for Raiders of the Serpent Sea, an epic adventure for the 5th Edition of D&D, can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arcanumworldscanada/raidersoftheserpentsea/description

The first question: is it a coincidence that your campaign is inspired by Northern Mythology and you've recently visited Iceland? 😇
 

Brent Knowles

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Thanks for having me (and for the kind words)! No, not coincidence. I've always been interested in Iceland (read the sagas many years ago, etc.) and I was finally able to take a trip there a few years ago. Really inspired me to take a bunch of ideas I've been stewing on for many years and do something with them. And then I saw Odyssey of the Dragonlords and everything clicked. This was the kind of campaign book I wanted to write!
It has been fun connecting with the amazing artists and putting together the preview for the player's book. Looking forward to finishing the rest of the campaign and seeing what everyone thinks of it.
 

Eternal

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Wow! (Make sure the rats in the Tavern basement are well locked— and serve our best dishes! We have a guest of honour!) (Eternal drops a courteous curtsy). Welcome! Can I ask two questions: 1 - what are the main challenges when creating a game? 2 - I see that your Kickstarter is based on the Scandinavian mythology, why did you choose this particular setting (what is drawing you personally to it)?
 

Brent Knowles

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Hello & nice to meet you! There's many challenges. If we are talking a tabletop game (as an indie) the primary challenge is money to be honest. I had to take time away from work -- and eventually leave my job -- and borrow money to pay for the art. That -- and managing the logistics of a small business -- eat up a lot of time. I'm getting better at balancing all of this so that I can truly focus myself when doing the creative stuff (which is the whole point!) but it is a struggle. Point in fact: I haven't done much work on the game while running the Kickstarter -- being the marketing person has been a full time job. I expected that but didn't really understand just how time consuming it would end up being.
Selecting this mythology to use was largely because it was the one I was most interested in and most experienced with. There's other settings I could explore, but I would have had to bring on expert help -- and being a fledgling enterprise that wasn't an option. So I went with my strengths. I love Iceland, I love the sagas, and I (along with everyone else I think) have a fondness for the Norse Gods -- whether the classical literature or their portrayal in Marvel comics and the movies. They are such flawed deities, so very much like us, that they are fun to work into a D&D campaign setting.
Thanks for the questions!
 

Urdnot_Wrex

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576
Wow, it's an honour to have you here! The games you've worked on in the past are some of the greatest RPGs of all times, so I'm sure anything you're working on right now must be really interesting! (I have to admit I'm not a tabletop player, but will check out your Kickstarter anyway, creativity must always be supported!)

We Krogans aren't particularly good at curtsies and stuff, but we would probably get along well with the Norse gods, so be very welcome here and let us find a clean mug of Tavern ale for you!

Now I can't come up with an intelligent question to ask, I hope the others can make up for it.
But I like it a lot that you mention the Marvel comics and movies along with the classical literature when it comes to the Norse gods, because I think all of those interpretations have their merit, even if one may look less serious than the other.
 

Xzarloxara

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211
Hi there! Nice to meet one of the brilliant minds behind some of my favorite games! I will have to think up a bunch of questions for you, but for now I only have a few.

Do you have any favorite classes in NWN? What are they? What wizard/sorcerer spells do you prefer to use; specifically, do you prefer Weird or Wail of the Banshee?

A more complicated question about game making and planning now: How long was NWN in the works? I ask because there is a certain character in BG1 fittingly named Lord Foreshadow who speaks of some of BioWare’s future projects, including NWN and BG2. I can easily see BG2 being worked on at that time, but NWN was released quite a few years later. I remember when I first replayed BG after playing NWN and I was stunned when I met this character again and realized for the first time what he was talking about. Could you possibly shed some light on any of this?
 

Brent Knowles

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Thanks for the questions. I'll be honest, it has been years since I played NWN (or Baldur's Gate). And I never get to play in my tabletop campaigns (I am always a DM). So no favorite classes or spells unfortunately. And usually when testing our old videogames, we rotated who played what, so we tried a bit of everything -- this allowed us all to try to make all classes as good as good be. We did not play favorites :)

Foreshadow happened before my time but I think Neverwinter was in the works before BG1 was shipped. By the time I started midway through BG2, Neverwinter Nights had a lot of their graphics engine done, etc. (or at least they were showing me what looked like a near finished graphic's engine). I know from experience that games get "thought about" quite early -- we talked about Knights of the Old Republic well before Baldur's Gate 2 was done, for example.

Thanks & take care
 

Urdnot_Wrex

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576
Okay now I'm curious... what do you like to play in your free time (if you still remember what that word means ;)). Any particular video game or board game that you just have fun with, professional reasons aside?
 

Brent Knowles

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11
Honestly, since I started at BioWare I generally just play games for research. With my writing, personal projects, being a single parent, and running D&D campaigns ... I'm pretty busy. I generally try most games out so I have an idea of what they are about -- and then my kids might finish them and give me a report.
The only exceptions -- I was really into Titanfall2, Apex Legends, and... Rocket League for a period of time. I think this was mostly because they were simple distraction games to allow me to focus on other things. Also when I was at Beamdog I *really* enjoyed getting to play Axis & Allies. But it and other games like any of the Total War or Civilization type of games, I try to avoid because they take up too much time and I can easily get "too into" them and not get my personal projects done. (My kid got me into Frostpunk for example, but I had to stop playing because it was going to interfere with getting Raiders finished!)
We do play quite a few boardgames as it is something I can do with my kids -- Root, Oath, Scythe, & King of Tokyo are all favorites for us to play as a family.
I also build furniture in my spare time :)
I imagine one day I'll relax ...
 

mlnevese

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565
Welcome! It's always interesting to listen to the perspective of someone who actually works in the industry. Take a eat and have fun... also be careful if a big lizard offers you anything to drink.
 

Urdnot_Wrex

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576
I have one more question if you don't mind, which is probably too imprecise to be answered properly, but since you're here, I'm going to ask it anyway:

You have been connected to D&D for a long time, do you think nowadays people who weren't involved with it before can still get into tabletop D&D, and is 5th Edition easier to grasp for that than the older ones? Or is it mostly something for people who have played all their lives and are familiar with the older rulesets as well?

I only know D&D rules from their adaptation in cRPGs, and there I found the jump from 2nd to 3 or 3.5 very complicated with a confusing amount of customization not really friendly to an inexperienced person, or which requires a lot of reading for an optimized build, stacking one level of too many different classes on the other instead of a more natural and intuitive leveling process.
Supposedly 5th Edition is somewhere in between? Or are the computer adaptations not comparable to the pure tabletop ruleset at all?

Also, if you run D&D campaigns yourself as a DM, from your experience, what are the biggest mistakes a new player can make?

And one more: Except for your trip to Iceland and your interest in Norse mythology for this project, what have been the things that inspire(d) you most in your work?

Edit: Okay those were three questions. The big lizard can't count well. But at least you were warned so I'm not offering drinks.
 

Antimatter

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Do you think there are still chances to get cRPGs in the future where you're involved?

Have your kids played Baldur's Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights or Dragon Age: Origins? What do they think about these games? How do they discuss them with you?

---
Also, don't worry about being around here at any particular moment and/or responding to questions quickly. Forums are a bit slow usually but accumulate information over time.
 

Brent Knowles

Habitué
Messages
11
I have one more question if you don't mind, which is probably too imprecise to be answered properly, but since you're here, I'm going to ask it anyway:

You have been connected to D&D for a long time, do you think nowadays people who weren't involved with it before can still get into tabletop D&D, and is 5th Edition easier to grasp for that than the older ones? Or is it mostly something for people who have played all their lives and are familiar with the older rulesets as well?

I only know D&D rules from their adaptation in cRPGs, and there I found the jump from 2nd to 3 or 3.5 very complicated with a confusing amount of customization not really friendly to an inexperienced person, or which requires a lot of reading for an optimized build, stacking one level of too many different classes on the other instead of a more natural and intuitive leveling process.
Supposedly 5th Edition is somewhere in between? Or are the computer adaptations not comparable to the pure tabletop ruleset at all?

Also, if you run D&D campaigns yourself as a DM, from your experience, what are the biggest mistakes a new player can make?

And one more: Except for your trip to Iceland and your interest in Norse mythology for this project, what have been the things that inspire(d) you most in your work?

Edit: Okay those were three questions. The big lizard can't count well. But at least you were warned so I'm not offering drinks.
Hi & thanks for the questions.
5e is way easier to grasp and I think there are lots of new people getting involved all the time. It feels far more popular than when I was growing up with it. And lots of people experience D&D because of videogames. When I did an AMA on Reddit I had numerous messages about "I started playing D&D because of Dragon Age or Neverwinter Nights or Baldur's Gate")

I don't honestly know if I would compare the computer adaptions to tabletop. When you play D&D with a group there's a lot of talk with the other players and the DM and you all get to figure out things together. Most people I know who play a wide variety of games including tabletop, for example, found 2e (as portrayed in BG) horrifically complicated (Thac0!) Which is probably partly why Neverwinter sold a lot more than any of the BG series, etc. Third edition was easier for someone with NO D&D experience to get into than Baldur's Gate was.

In terms of running new campaigns, I wouldn't say players really make mistakes. It is a group storytelling effort. The only issues I have with players is sometimes there are personality types that try to dominate the session -- do all the talking, talk over other people. Or those players who constantly want to split off from the rest of the party -- that can be hard for a DM to manage (when there are 2-3 different subgroups).

In terms of inspiration... honestly everything. Everything I read (I've read a lot of history, fiction, howto) & everything I've played. Obviously the things that I experienced when younger probably have the larger impact -- Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Indiana Jones, the Star Wars movies, The Stone and the Flute, Prydain Chronicles and Stephen King! More recently the Vikings series & Last Kingdom & the movie The Ritual (2017) has had a large effect on Raiders (I hope to have the time this week to blog about that before the Kickstarter ends).
Again, thanks & all the best!
-Brent
 

Brent Knowles

Habitué
Messages
11
Do you think there are still chances to get cRPGs in the future where you're involved?

Have your kids played Baldur's Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights or Dragon Age: Origins? What do they think about these games? How do they discuss them with you?

---
Also, don't worry about being around here at any particular moment and/or responding to questions quickly. Forums are a bit slow usually but accumulate information over time.
My kids have not really played any of the games I worked on (other than some Axis & Allies, I think) but they've watched YouTube playthrus and consider themselves experts (they are teenagers). I do think my youngest wants to try Dragon Age: Origins but I'm not sure I want him to experience that just yet. We do play tabletop D&D together!

In terms of me being involved with cRPGs -- my last public cRPG experience was with the enhanced edition for Planescape. I enjoyed that. Technically I am an adviser for a game company right now and also doing contract work for another company making a cRPG but I can't really speak about either yet. So I'm not done in the games industry but my role is different -- I think I'll primarily be a contractor or adviser. Especially if I can build a company properly from my work with Raiders of the Serpent Sea -- I'd like to keep my independence and pick what I work on.

Thanks for the question!
 

dmwyvern

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Messages
60
Hi all. I was invited to check in over here. I'm a former designer with both BioWare & Beamdog, as well as a long time designer working on tabletop material (I helped out a bit with the recent Minsc & Boo book). I've snuck in here to shamelessly promote my Kickstarter but I'm also good with chatting about my past in the RPG industry! Fire away (just be aware I'm averaging about 3 hours a sleep a night while running the Kickstarter so my answers may make little sense or reveal things I should not reveal.)
Nice to meet all of you.

Brent!

Let me extend a huge Tavern RPG congratulations on funding your Kickstarter to the tune of 200K


You did it man. Congratulations! The fanbase spoke and has resoundingly backed your creative enterprise!

I have the feeling you're a little excited today as you near the last 40+ hours of your Kickstarter so I will keep this one short:

Dragon Age: Origins, what was your favorite character origin? ^_^
 
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Brent Knowles

Habitué
Messages
11
Brent!

Let me extend a huge Tavern RPG congratulations on funding your Kickstarter to the tune of 200K


You did it man. Congratulations! The fanbase spoke and has resoundingly backed your creative enterprise!

I have the feeling you're a little excited today as you near the last 40+ hours of your Kickstarter so I will keep this one short:

Dragon Age: Origins, what was your favorite character origin? ^_^
Thanks! It has been a long day already and there's still a ways to go before I get some sleep.

My favorite origin? Honestly that is tough.
It has been over a decade since I last played but I really enjoyed the dwarf noble. There were hints of the larger pollical machinations that would dominate most of the plot of Dragon Ages and I liked how the culture of the dwarves was fleshed out by the writers through the process of creating the origins. The dwarves were familiar to folks who liked classical dwarves but "more real".
But honestly I enjoyed all of them and I love the concept of multiple beginnings. I felt that was the essence of the Dragon Age franchise and its point of differentiation to be honest.
Thanks for the question.
 
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