Tuesday, March 16, 2010

[My Collection] The 23rd Letter, Part 2

I emailed Matt Johnston, author of The 23rd Letter, some questions about Crucible Design and the games he wrote and produced.

Asshat Paladins: Is Crucible Design currently defunct? Any plans to bring it back?

Crucible Design published two games (The 23rd Letter, SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis). What happened to Qabal, Capital, Frontier, Supers, the sequel to the SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis and DoA projects and were there any plans for an ERIS system stand-alone book?

Where does Zombi fit in here? Is Zombi part of Crucible Design?

Matt Johnston: The 23rd Letter, SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO and Zombi were all published under the Crucible Design imprint. Crucible Design itself was really just me with some friends providing colour text and as folk went off to do their own things, I moved everything to LateGaming.

The other projects - they exist on paper, on small snippets which I post to the LateGaming blog intermittently. So, at some point more of them will appear.

An ERIS standalone book is entirely possible - most likely as a PDF?

I've wanted to do more but I hate working alone. If I found a collaborator or three, things would come out faster as I work better with deadlines and working alone means deadlines are flexible.

AP: I found the Tripod website for Crucible Design. Is this site going to be updated any time soon?

MJ: No, the Tripod site is dead, has been for years. CrucibleDesign.com was the main web site but the chap updating it let the domain lapse.

AP: Do you know how popular your games were/are in Ireland and the UK?

Do you know of any groups that are still playing your games? Do you hear from die-hard fans?

Do you still play your games and do you run them or demos of them at local conventions? What local conventions do you go to?

MJ: We don't tend to visit conventions any more. It's nearly 10 years since Zombi was published and I think everyone moved on. There were hundreds of books sold in the US by Key 20 (for which we never got paid - which is a sore point).

To be honest, I've not been on the gaming scene for a long time. My day job is pretty immersive and I tend to just have a small group here in Belfast.

As for popularity - we had a couple of fan sites, I never saw a bad review and every now and then I bump into someone who has a book.

AP: I assume in the late 1990s, printing costs were very high. Did you print a whole bunch at a time or go with small print sets?

What lessons learned would you pass on to others wanting to print their own games? And with the rise of Print on Demand, will that change your publishing options?

MJ: We usually printed in runs of 500. This was the optimal point of the curve that we could afford. At the time most of us had jobs but we also had mortgages and a really poor selection of printers locally. I'd have a hard time recommending people give it a go with anything but vanity or fun as the expectation.

I'm not entirely struck on PoD. It seems expensive. But I wouldn't say no.

AP: Yours was the first RPG game company that I had heard of in Northern Ireland, are there any more?

MJ: Nearside Games were based here. And Wasteland Games straddled the border between north and south.

AP: What is the RPG gaming scene like in Ireland and Northern Ireland?

MJ: It had a massive upswing in the 90s - I was heavily involved in the local clubs and recruited aggressively - meaning the local Uni club went from 25 members to about 300 in two years. The club is still large but partly due to incorporating Anime and Computer Games rather than just being an RPG and Wargaming club.

We thought it was big and popular because we were at the centre of it. It was still small and niche (a bit like the internet at the time).

AP: Do you still game and hang out with the other members of Crucible Design (John Fleming, Eamon Watters, Mark Lamki, Lesley McLarnon, I assume Colin Johnston is your brother)? Have they published any game material on their own or with other companies?

MJ: Eamon is in Japan. John, Mark, Colin and Lesley all got on their lives and remain in Northern Ireland. None of them published anything. I was always the most prolific writer and that didn't change.

Hope that helps!

Thank you, Matt, for letting us know what's up with Crucible Design and the 23rd Letter.

As I mentioned in Part 1, Late Gaming has The 23rd Letter, Zombi and SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO at the bargain prices of £9.99, £7.99 and £7.99 (+ £2.50 shipping each). Check them out!

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