I recently had the chance to interivew Dave "nerdelemental" Bowen. Dave is part of our local group and also is one of the writers/developers on Malifaux: Rising Powers.
TE: What's your role with Wyrd Miniatures? How did you get involved with Malifaux?
Dave: It’s ever evolving! Mostly “piss-boy” for Nathan and Eric. It started back at Gencon 2008 when I met Nathan and talked his ear off about the models on display and the ideas he could share about the upcoming game and plans for it. I shared my interest in the world he had envisioned and the plans Eric had for the gameplay. I was intrigued and enthused and let them know that I wanted to participate. I became a very vocal playtester, determined to end up with a game that I’d enjoy playing for years. With enough pestering, they eventually shoved me into the Development Team so they could more comfortably tell me to shut up whenever I got on their nerves. Now I’m in the development of rules, do a considerable amount on the editing side, and devote a tremendous amount of time as a part of the writing team.
TE: Were you the head writer? How much influence did you have on the story?
Dave: That’s a tricky question to answer. We don’t have a “head” or “lead” writer moniker anymore. Nathan’s the head of the writing department and he consults with every writer about the vision that person is writing about. Every plot idea goes through him. Sometimes I had what I thought was the coolest and best idea in the world and then Nathan will shoot it down. Like killing Perdita seemed like a totally cool idea to me! He said no.
However, once I got my voice and vision aligned better with his there’s a lot of trust and leeway and he’ll loosen the reins and say, “Write it up. Let’s see how it looks on paper.” Once the project was in my lap it became clear that the world, itself, has so many story paths that want to be talked about that it almost drives itself. Since my mind’s a full step ahead of what the general populace has regarding the fluff fiction, it cracks me up when I read on our forums “I don’t think undead beasts work with Marcus thematically so I’m not going to do it,” and I think “What are they talking about? Marcus would have no trouble because of this…” and I forget that not many people know what’s in the planning for the future. I’m already writing the story for Book IV so I have to be careful because I’m providing answers in my writing for questions everyone else haven’t even thought of yet.
TE: Is "Rising Powers" focused primarily on the new masters? Do any of the masters that didn't get much love in Book 1 featured (ie Nicodem, Marcus etc.)?
Dave: Of course. There’s a need to shed the spotlight on every master, to give them some validity in the world. But, there’s also the story that must be told, too. Book I had a lot of attention on Seamus and Rasputina and the camera shifted off of them for Book II: Rising Powers, but they’re surely integral to this first story arc and the attention will have to come back to them. But, it’s not hard to list the masters that haven’t been given much attention and expect more stories to wrap around them. Marcus, McMourning, Lady Justice, Pandora, etc.. They’ll see more face time as the full story unfolds. Even the fluff of RP isn’t entirely on the new masters, either. Sonnia is strongly present as she prepares to do whatever she’s planning, as is Perdita. Nicodem has a lot of attention and Ramos is in and out as a string puller. You’ll also see a lot more development of secondary characters like Gideon as a Desperate Mercenary and Lucius, the Governor’s Secretary, and the Governor General, himself.
TE: What happened with the TerraClips Product? From the GenCon Coverage it looked like a solid product.
Dave: It is a solid product. Even as it is right now there was a lot of interest in it and many people at Gencon expressed an interest in buying it as it exists. However, Wyrd’s standards are high and the Partners made the call that several aspects of the product were simply below their standards and expectations and they’d rather fix them, increase the value of the product, and then get it to consumers to make them even happier. As for “what’s wrong with them”? You’d be hard pressed to identify the problems yourself – suffice it to say that in less than a couple of months an even better package will be available! Now that Book II is out, it’s clear that I need several of the “Building” kits as I have my mind set on working up Colette’s Star Theater with them. I’ll make tiny tables and the whole deal.
TE: What can we expect in the future for the Malifaux story line? Is there an outline for where things are going or are you playing it by ear?
Dave: Well, at Gencon Eric and I did some brainstorming and talking and Nathan and I have spoken at great length on a more formal outline: of Book IV! So, yeah, we’re forward thinking rather than whipping it from the hip. However, as we write, new ideas come and we talk again and tweak the story, go back and rebuild what we did before, that sort of thing. The outline is living, though, and the difficulty is keeping the story, concept art, and model stats aligned throughout the process as those things are living, too. For example, we’ll discuss how we think something looks and I write it up, then the stats change, giving it some twist that needs rewriting, then the artwork comes in and Nathan may request changes and pretty soon I have to go back several chapters to revise something because it’s changed in several ways. Because the fiction is by far the most time consuming aspect of a book we have to try to get some down before stats are even out of the alpha stage. Now, what can you expect for the story line? As the game is very unique and introduced an entirely new mechanic, I hope the story can match that. I don’t want the typical “Here’s the master of this chapter and he’s fighting this other master and crew” kind of storytelling. We’re pushing for real people in phenomenal circumstances that Fate has twisted for them and see how they rattle. I’m no Poe or Faulkner but keeping the story character driven is much more important for us than one battle scene after another. Of course they’re in there and fun to write – hopefully they’re the fun breaks between the true story. I’m hoping for some unexpected unions and allies and some conflict between individuals we might have thought were tight. Some of that was introduced with Sonnia and the Ortegas in RP and Rasputina probably ticked off Ramos quite a bit by doing what she did to those miners while up in the mountain. We’re going to explore a lot more of the character’s motivations and conflicts.
Ultimately, I develop a storyline plot structure and then Nathan gives various thumbs up and thumbs down to different ideas and we talk for a long time about it and he throws ideas around like crazy. My favorite part of the writing process is the “talking with Nathan” stage! When I write, my mind’s still on him. I want to surprise him with something. If I can get him to react then I know the rest of the readers will. And Book IV has some chapters that caused him to respond immediately so I think we’re getting the job done! I can’t wait for it to drop. I can’t write fast enough.
TE: Can we expect a new book each year at GenCon?
Dave: That’s not a call for me to make. So far that sure seems like our track record, though, doesn’t it? :wink:
TE: Can you tell us anything about this Puppet Wars that's mentioned on the plastic card deck box?
Dave: No. However, it’s not terribly hard to imagine. We have a deck of cards that says it can be used with Malifaux as well as the Puppet Wars game. We had puppet figures on display that sure resemble the real figures used in the Malifaux game. I’ll let the masses speculate what the game will actually be.
TE: What's it like to work with Nathan and Eric?
Dave: They’re slave drivers! That’s not much of an exaggeration but they’re both totally cool. Each will simply get the job done himself and both rarely ask for much from anyone. However, there’s a ton of work to get done and they appreciate forward thinkers and self-starters. You’ve got to be independent to stand a chance in this industry. They’re both visionaries of a high caliber and together they see things on a grand scale. We all debate and get attached to something in our projects, but they appreciate other’s visions even if they don’t agree with them. Emotions might run high as tension mounts and we playfully taunt and call names, but there’s a tremendous amount of respect they grant the people that step up to the plate for them.
TE: Are you going to start your own Twitter Feed?
Dave: Ghah. I hope not. Not unless they make me. That thing’s the voice of Satan or something. However, in the vein I think you’re asking: I have a plan that’s on the table to bring you more updates about the fictional world in a more timely manner. However, as you can guess, there’s a tremendous amount of projects we all have stuck on the end of a stick that’s getting hot in the fire. Honestly, you really couldn’t imagine the number of ideas we’ve generated about new material, content, new games, and supplements. Wyrd’s a small company with colossal ideas. I hope I can influence the story enough to get more out into the public. We’ve even come up with a clever experiment I hope to initiate that will allow our fans to get involved in a story arc and have them drive the direction it goes. I’d love to get that going soon.
TE: What other games do you play? Do you draw any influence from them?
Dave: I used to play a lot of games and still have interest in many. I barely have time to play this one right now, though. Privateer Press games, Dark Age, and I’d like to dabble in some other really impressive looking games that have been on my radar for years. Gencon is awesome for driving up a person’s interest when you see them in person. Helldorado and WarGods of Aegyptus look interesting. Drawing influence isn’t quite how we steal from everyone else, though. What’s more common is that we consider the games we like and specifically say, “I hate this aspect of this game that I otherwise enjoy” and make sure we push that game element in the trash heap for our game. It’s hard to make a perfect game, but we’re making one that we enjoy, with little that we dislike in a miniature game.
TE: What's your favorite faction?
Dave: That’s a hard question. I literally play them all. When I put them on the table, I guess I have the most fun playing Neverborn. Pandora, specifically. But I like the trickery of a good Viktoria list, too. Crews with complex interactions make me happiest to play from any faction. The fiction is far different, though. Faction isn’t as important as much as rich backgrounds and open-ended story possibilities. I rarely play Resurrectionist crews (to be changed now that I have the Kirai crew!) but I’m very drawn to their stories in the fluff. Odd paradox in my interest. Kirai became very interesting to me because she was so young, so vulnerable, and at the same time driven by rage and a thirst for vengeance. She had to overcome her own self-pity to turn it into that driving hatred. Even Nicodem tried to manipulate her and she came out on the other side, ignoring his drive to connect that punk zombie with one of her spirits and she played along just to learn what he had to offer. That’s a cool character.
Lady Justice, however, seems a bit flat. I’m working out some angles to make her more appealing to me – maybe more dark and brooding like our version of Wolverine or Bruce Wayne. Mostly I just dropped a big building on her to get her out of the way. If you don’t like writing the character, just kill ‘em off! That’s my motto. Nathan tells me I have to quit trying to kill all of the Book I masters but I think I’ve got him worn down where maybe he’ll let me truly get one in the grave.
TE: Will any other characters make the move to master? In a related question why is Hamlin on a 50mm base?
Dave: Never say never! We’re consciously not going to get ourselves stuck in a place where there’s no growth, I can promise that. I think we could potentially see a master change, entirely, too. New stats for the same character name, that sort of thing. As the characters evolve in the story, their stats may change to reflect that evolution. I think it’s clear that we’re not shy about presenting a change no matter how jarring it might seem at the beginning. We want to make as many innovative changes as possible to keep everyone on their toes: from the use of cards as the key game mechanic to completely devouring a character in the Necropolis only to see him rise as one of the vessel of an ancient Tyrant entity. Eric loves to push the envelope and if he can envision something in his mind he’ll work out stats for the thing and then the rest of the Development Team will tell him it won’t work. He’ll still send it to the playtesters and several months later it’ll be getting ready for the book. Nothing’s ever off limits unless it’s a simple creature you could find in every Monster Manual since 1977. Everything else is fair to consider.
Hamelin on 50mm? Nix. The dog’s on a leash. He needs room to move about. The Hamelin the Plagued model, though, doesn’t need Nix on a leash. So they’re separate models and each has their own appropriately sized base. That’s really your only question about models? We’re doing awesome!
TE: Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Dave: Casey J. says I use the word “upon” so much that it’s pervasive and…what did she call it?... “almost pathological” I think she said. Maybe there should be a drinking game where you have to take a shot whenever you see the word “upon” in the writing. She tried her damnedest to clean it up for me but I found one sentence that has two “upons” in it!
Also, keep in mind that we have a real writing team on Rising Powers. There are several others that made substantial contributions to the fiction. It’s all really solid if you ask me. The Arcanist introduction story is super fun for me to read and I had nothing to do with it! We’re going to see the contributions from some of these guys more and more, I’m sure.