Designer Interview: Eloy Lasanta, Third Eye Games, Mermaid Adventures

Gaming with my kids is a guilty pleasure. Not only do I get to spend time with them, but I get to pass along my love for gaming. Doesn’t really matter whether we’re playing cards, a board game, or the occasional odd RPG session – we all strive to have a good time.

So a few months ago when I caught wind of the Mermaid Adventures from Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games, I knew I had to pitch in and get a copy. Though we haven’t had an opportunity to play yet (my summer has been
a bit… complicated… in spots), I have flipped through and have to say that between the simple system, the possibilities of an undersea world, and all the great art – Mermaid Adventures is one of the games we should have a great time playing as a family.

Sometime after the first of the year I chatted with Eloy about potentially doing an interview at GKR and over the next several months e-mails were buried in inboxes as they are wont to do, but eventually things worked out. 🙂

Q: Third Eye Games has run the gamut since its inception a few years ago – action/horror with Apocalypse Prevention, Inc., wire work and kung fu with Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade, and even godlings in Part-Time Gods… and now Mermaid Adventures? As they say on Sesame Street, “one of these things is not like the others”! Though I’m curious to know how you’ve managed to produce so much in so short a time, I’m more curious about how you came to a kid-friendly game after so many adult-oriented ones.

First off, thanks for following my short, but exciting career thus far. It has been a lot of fun exploring all these different worlds and the fans have really gotten behind us, which is a huge plus. But yes… now there’s Mermaid Adventures. Doing a kid-friendly game may seem like a strange choice, but it was actually a growing experience for me. My own kids are getting older, 8 and 11 right now, and the fact is that my games don’t fit well for playing with them. Mermaid Adventures was born out of my craving to play with my kids. I myself was always a fan of the Little Mermaid when I was little. You know how you have that movie that you watch every day of your life until your parent has to take the tape and hide it? Yeah, that was Little Mermaid for me, so making a mermaid game was definitely my first choice. I check first to see if there were any games like this already, but was lucky that there wasn’t. Hopefully, it’ll hit the mark for everyone else’s kids too, since it was such a big hit in my house.

Q: With your success in your other Kickstarter projects, were you confident going in that Mermaid Adventures was a shoe-in to get fully funded? Or was there some trepidation with the change in direction for Third Eye Games?

There was definitely hesitation. My other kickstarters all went off very well, hitting my establish fanbase and getting them excited for expansions to what they already love or a brand new, dark setting for them to sink their teeth into. With Mermaid Adventures, I was hitting a brand new market. I’m sure some of my fans are parents and had the same desires to play games with their kids, but that was only a fraction. Most of my backers for Mermaid Adventures were brand new to Third Eye Games and I was very happy that we hit over 250% and get some new fans. The question now is whether the two audiences I have will cross into each other. Ony time will tell.

Q: Any advice for designers looking to try their hand at crowdfunding through Kickstarter?

Oh man. There’s tons of advice floating around out there right now and I even did an episode of my podcast, Rolling 20s, all about that (with Fred Hicks and Daniel Solis). Check that out and I think you’ll be on the right track. The best advice in there was that you definitely need to get quotes on all your extras BEFORE you offer them.

Q: The book turned out terrific by the way – the bright colors, big fonts, and splashy pictures really drive home the “fun factor” for kids and parents. As a father of two girls (7 and 11) and a gamer, I knew from the description that this would be a game we’d want to try. Beyond having a game simple enough to teach to kids (and non-gamer parents), what were your design goals for the book itself? And did you reach the goals you had for the game?

So glad you like it! I had a few goals when I was developing it. It needed to be flexible and able to work around a kid’s imagination, but wanted to introduce the idea of limitations as well (since traditional RPGs have so many of them). This is reflected in the descriptive system of Qualities and how you can’t just be pretty and rich and strong and magical and etc and etc. You have to pick and choose and really make your character unique. I wanted a complete world with lots of space to explore and I wanted prewritten adventures that would set it up for any Navigator (our term for the GM) of any age can pick up the book and run the game.

Q: Did you have fun playtesting with the kids? It looks from the credits page that you had quite a few involved, including your own kids! How did your kids help make the game happen? And any fun stories you can share from the playtesting phase?

Oh the fun we had! My daughter would ask me every day to play and I would oblige as much as I could, but there’s a reason why a lot of gaming happens on the weekends. There’s work to be done! Best part was, though, that my son even got into the action. Being autistic, I wasn’t sure if it’d click, but he did a great job and got into it at times. If you read the play example at the beginning of the book, that’s my family! We played a lot of sessions, resulting in 3 of the 5 included adventures in the book. The random charts in the book were also heavily inspired by my kids. There was stuff in there that I thought was fun and then when the kids rolled and got it, they’d say “Um, nah. That doesn’t seem cool.” So, obviously, I scratched those and wrote in others.

Q: Were there any challenges in getting the kids to understand the basics of roleplaying? I know I’ve run a few games with kids and some kids get it right away while others only seem to pick it up after a while.

My kids got it right away. I was definitely lucky in that regard. When playtesting with some of my kids’ friends, however, it didn’t come so naturally. Some were too shy to really do anything. I had one girl was like “My mermaid is magical and can do whatever she wants with her magic”. Remember that limitation thing I mentioned earlier? She didn’t get it, but we all still had fun. I just had to give her a little more leeway in the game.

Q: Any advice to parents (whether they’re gamers or non-gamers) who want to try Mermaid Adventures with their families?

The book is full of advice, but I guess the best one is: make sure everyone’s fed and not tired. Kids who are hungry or tired get cranky and it’s hard to really get them into the game when they are distracted like that.

Q: The art by Melissa Gay is gorgeous. Did you have a list of ideas for pictures or did you let her run with her own ideas? What’s your favorite among the many pieces of art in the book? I like the lobsterfolk and the urchinfolk myself!

I’m a unique art director in that I trust my artists to interpret the game and the world. Melissa is especially good at this, like she reads my brain or something. So, when I say “I need a Lobsterfolk pic”, that’s pretty much all I give. She then delivers me a great piece and says “I made them builders, is that cool?” Of course, the piece was so awesome, I made them builders in the game. We feed into each other and that’s part of what makes Mermaid Adventures (and any game I work on with Melissa) so great!

Q: Do you plan on writing more for Mermaid Adventures in the future? Or what’s next for Third Eye Games?

I definitely want to release some more prewritten adventures for Mermaid Adventures, but the main expansions for the game will be additional settings to use the Pip System (the one Mermaid Adventures uses) to have other great times. The first is going to be called Thimble, Little People/Big Adventure, taking the idea of the Littles and the Borrowers and making a great game out of them. The Kickstarter backers get this one for free (due to the funding level we reached), but we have other planned after that too.

Q: Any advice you can offer gamers who want to try their hand at publishing their work?

I’m big on giving advice and that’s why I started my podcast. Seriously… everyone needs to check out my podcast. Rolling 20s, and it’s awesome, just slightly sporadic, since it has to fit around my writing/publishing schedule.

Q:
Lastly, if there’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but are dying to answer – what would it be? Curious minds want to know!

Now that’s an intriguing question. I’ve gotten a lot of question, running the gambit from “what inspires you” to “why’d you write that rule page 62 to be that way instead of changing your entire development course to fit my idea of what your game should be?” If I wanted to be asked anything, it’d be “Can I give you a million dollars?” To which I would be dying to answer with a big fat “YES YES YES!”

[Editor’s Note: Me too!!]

Thanks so much for the interview. I love the site and it is an honor to be here.

————————————–

I have to offer a huge thank you to Eloy for bearing with me when I somehow buried his e-mail for a couple of months, delaying our interview exchange. And I wish him, his family, and Third Eye Games all the best in the future! We can only wait and see what might be next from Third Eye Games over the next few months. 🙂

For more about Third Eye Games, be sure to check out their website.

For more about Eloy Lasanta and his podcast, Rolling20s, check out his website.

For more about Mermaid Adventures, check out the original Kickstarter and the product page at Third Eye Games.

And you can pick up a copy of Mermaid Adventures at the Third Eye Games store or at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG

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