Publisher Interview: William C. Pfaff of Escape Velocity Gaming

Way back in May, I was contacted by Bill Pfaff of Escape Velocity Gaming and he asked if I’d review his book – Baba Yaga: Queen of the Wicked Fens. How could I refuse? Baba Yaga managed to leave a lasting impression on me way back when I started playing AD&D 1st Edition, so I was curious to see what Bill was doing with Baba Yaga in 4e.

And like every other time I’ve talked to folks producing gaming content, Bill and I started exchanging a fair amount of e-mail over the last 7 months. Since then I’ve reviewed a number of products from Escape Velocity, including City Slices I: Marketplace Fun, Incredible Insects, Volume 1, and WCP’s Monstrous Garage, Volume 1.

So what was the next logical step? Interviewing him of course! And he kindly responded to my questions…

What was the first role-playing game you ever played? What are you playing now? Any good gaming stories to share?

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition was the first for me, would have been about 1983. It was weird to play that version and then join friends who were playing basic. I was thinking “wait….elf is a race not a class, right?” Currently we play 4th edition D&D. As new editions have come out we have simply picked them up and continued right along. Gaming stories? Not a particular one- but just in general that we are having a blast with 4E because my prep time (in creating actual stat blocks and the like) is way down, while my time to prepare stories and plots has increased. I love the online DDI Compendium and I love the 4e monster stat block compared to my utter loathing for the 3rd/3.5 monster stat block.

What’s the story behind Escape Velocity Gaming? What’s been the hardest part of the publishing process so far? What’s been the easiest?

The story is simple. I wanted to produce the kind of products I’ve been using in my home games. I like “outside the box ideas” and I love monster creation. My best friend, William H. Moran III, is a design guy/editor/gamer as well so I had a built-in partner for the creation of Escape Velocity Gaming. The name of the company itself harkens to escaping from the norm. The easiest part of the publishing process is coming up with ideas for new products; I have tons of them kicking around in my head. The hardest part has been finding the time to write all of these ideas down.

Which product has been the most fun to write?

City Slices I: Marketplace Fun without a doubt. As a DM, I was able to produce a product that is something I have been looking for. I like supplements that challenge me to come up with my own similar elements. I enjoyed writing City Slices so much that I started working on City Slices 2 almost immediately. City Slices 2 will focus on the more magical neighborhoods- the places where wizards trade in spell components, where magic items can be found, and sages dispense ancient wisdom.

Awesome. I look forward to City Slices II! Have you been pleased/surprised by the community feedback?

It’s been interesting. One thing I have discovered is that a fan who actually takes the time to e-mail is worth his/her weight in gold. People who provide specific feedback are so valuable and I love getting e-mails from anyone
who wishes to comment on our products. I have also discovered (based on rpgnow sales numbers) that apparently I am huge in New Zealand. My sales numbers are terrific in that beautiful island nation. So thank you to all the kiwis out there!

Do you play any other board/card games? Favorites?

I will play anything. Growing up I played the James Bond RPG, M.E.R.P., Car Wars, D&D, Star Frontiers… For a while I was a pretty darn good M:TG player (mulitple top 8 finishes in Pro Tour Qualifiers and winning many regional events) but most of my friends who played have now quit or moved and so that became less fun. As far as board and card games? I liked the old Dungeon! board game, I love Blackjack and Texas Hold’em, The Great Dalmuti is a blast at parties, and anything by Cheapass Games is fun.

It’s funny how many of those games I’ve played myself! What’s next for EVG? New projects?

Up next is more monsters…of course! I am also working on a very unique NPC supplement for 4E. I also have a “combo” product on the way with Inked Adventures involving some spidery foes.

Are there any favorite RPG books or web pages you use regularly?

I find myself returning again and again to the old Volo’s Guides, Monsternomicon I & 2 by Privateer Press, and anything from Flying Buffalo. My current web page roster of faves…wow…there are a lot: John Four’s Roleplaying Tips, Kobold Quarterly, Trollsmyth, Inked Adventures, Greywulf’s Lair, and of course EN World, WotC’s official site and Game Knight Reviews.

I’m honored to see GKR in that kind of company! What about electronic toys? Do you use any kind of electronic devices at the game table? Any apps you use regularly?

I use my laptop outside of the game to prep but that’s it. I am decidedly old-school pencil and paper as are my players. We use a huge battlemat, printed dungeons and accessories (such as my man Billiam Babble produces over at Inked Adventures), and my much too large mini-collection.

How would you describe the perfect RPG supplement?

Easiest question of the bunch…no hesitation… Monsternomicon I (by Privateer Press). This book is the perfect blend of design grace, gorgeous black-n-white art, compelling monsters, and engaging “fluff” text for the monsters. I have probably read through this book over a hundred times (sidenote: The binding is still holding strong). That’s the perfect supplement -something that clicks on every level from layout to story.

Lastly… If there’s a question I didn’t ask that you’d have liked to be asked… What would it have been and what would your answer have been?

Who is your biggest industry influence? Monte Cook. I have a bit about Monte on my website and it explains a lot of what has driven Monte to not only the top of the industry but to the top of my personal fave list. Monte creates at a different level than most people. He gets the idea that you have to create a feeling or emotion with design. Ptolus (Monte’s magnum opus) has a definite feel that has to be experienced.

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A huge thank you goes out to Bill for answering my questions. And I wish him and Escape Velocity Gaming all the best going forward. Hopefully we’ll see great supplements for many years to come!

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