Interview with Joseph A. McCullough, author of Frostgrave

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Joseph A. McCullough is the author of several non-fiction books including A Pocket History of Ireland and Osprey’s Zombies: A Hunter’s Guide. In addition, his fantasy short stories have appeared in various books and magazines such as Black Gate, Lords of Swords, and Adventure Mystery Tales. He also wrote, Rise Alabama!, a zombie supplement for Savage Worlds role-playing game. He co-wrote also, The Grey Mountains, a supplement for the Middle-Earth Role-Playing Game.

Joseph McCullough

Born in: Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

Age: 40

Personal blog: http://therenaissancetroll.blogspot.co.uk/

Favorite roleplaying club: I did most of my role-playing at a store called Cerebral Hobbies in Chapel Hill, NC. Unfortunately, the store is gone, but its influence is still strong in my memories. I don’t have a current group.

Favorite book: The Lord of the Rings

Favorite role-playing game: GURPS. I just love the ability to create any kind of character I want.

Favorite boardgame: Toss-up between the original Robo Rally and Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space.

Favorite wargame: The Lord of the Rings SBG, not only am I a sucker for all things Tolkien, but there are some really clever mechanics in it. I’m also a fan of Dan Mersey’s Dragon Rampant and associated games.

Juegos y Dados – Welcome Joseph, thank you so much for your collaboration. It is a big pleasure that you are here with us.

Joseph – Thanks for the invite!

Juegos y Dados – How did you begin in the world of games and what was the first game that you played?

Joseph – I guess I entered the world of gaming when I was 8 or 9, when I bought a copy of Basic Dungeons and Dragons at a yard sale. I didn’t really understand it, but somehow I knew it was for me.

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Juegos y Dados – You were co-author of The Grey Mountains, a supplement for the Middle-Earth Role-Playing Game. How did you get involved with that, and what do you think about so people with a copy in their homes?

Joseph – I was 14 at the time and a big fan of MERP. My mother was a professional writer, so I suggested that we write a supplement together. (Surprisingly, in retrospect) She agreed. Mom approached Iron Crown Enterprises, who were producing the game, and landed the deal. Together we worked on a set of adventures – she did the actual writing, I worked out the game stats. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the company nearly went bankrupt soon after the book was released, so its print run was small. Today it is one of the rarer and more sought-after supplements for the game.

Juegos y Dados – I suppose that you met some of famous designers of that age. Could you explain any funny story?

Joseph – I was pretty young then, so not really. I did get to play in a GURPS Call of Cthulhu game which also had Steve Jackson running one of the characters, which was pretty cool.

Juegos y Dados – What is the best mechanic you have created into a system that you are most proud of?

Joseph – I think the basic Fight mechanic in Frostgrave is a pretty good piece of game design. It is quick, both players are active, and it gives a good variety of results.

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Joseph receiving the ‘Best Miniatures Game’ award at UK Game Expo for Frostgrave.

Juegos y Dados – How does a designer know when a system is completely finished?

Joseph – A system is never finished! There is always more than can be added or things that can be tinkered with. I think that’s why publishers have deadlines, to stop designers from continuously tinkering.

Juegos y Dados – How did you get involved in Osprey Publishing?

Joseph – The old fashion way. I responded to a ‘help wanted’ advert on their website. I had only been in the UK for about a year (having married an English woman), and was looking for work. I knew the company from all of their great military history books. Since then, I have bounced around the company. I started in Production, moved over to Marketing, did some Editorial, and am now back in Marketing.

Juegos y Dados – You created a fantasy wargame, Frostgrave. Did you enjoy creating and innovating in this new wargame?

Joseph – It was loads of fun, and still is. It really started off as something I mainly wrote for my own amusement. Since then it has grown to dominate my life over the last year or two, but that’s been a lot of fun too.

frostgrave

Juegos y DadosFrostgrave is near being a RPG. It was inspired in the style of role-playing games?

Joseph – Absolutely. There is a big dose of D&D and GURPS and others in there. Now that I’m married and have kids, I don’t have much time for rpgs, so a wargame like this gives me some of that flavour without the huge time commitment.

Juegos y Dados –Are you creating any new supplement of Frostgrave in the future? Could give us any details?

Joseph – There are many new supplements coming soon. Coming in March is The Frostgrave Folio, which collects a bunch of mini-ebook supplements I’ve written. Then in June, Osprey is releasing Frostgrave: Ulterior Motives, which is essentially a deck of cards which gives the players new tasks to try to accomplish during the game. The big release though is coming in September – Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago. This is actually a new game set in the Frostgrave world. It takes place in a mysterious chain of islands, and combines some of the things I love from the worlds of pulps, and pirates, and lost worlds fantasy.

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Juegos y Dados –I would like knowing funny moments in amazing battles.

Joseph – The first two times I played Frostgrave in the office, my wizard died on turn 2. Both times they were shot dead by a critical hit arrow. My wizards now really believe in the power of cover.

Juegos y Dados – You wrote Rise Alabama!, a zombie supplement for Savage Worlds role-playing game. Are you fan of zombie topic?

Joseph – Not as much as my writing migh lead one to believe. I’ve also written Zombies: A Hunter’s Guide. I like the occasional well-done zombie film, and I’ve always loved them as bad-guys in role-playing and wargaming (kill all you want with no moral ramifications!), but I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of the genre as a whole. It’s often a bit too gory for my tastes.

Juegos y Dados – What do you think the game industry nowadays?

Joseph – It’s a really interesting time for gaming as a hobby. Not only has it started to work its way into the mainstream and become ‘cool’, but various strands of it seem to be pulling together. The difference between board games and wargames is not as great as it once was, and all gamers seem more willing to try out role-playing.

Juegos y Dados – How often do you play wargames or role-playing games? Which ones?

Joseph – As far as work goes, all the time. I’m always testing out rules or learning about the games Osprey is releasing. Otherwise, not a lot. Two kids, plus writing Frostgrave, has killed off most of my ‘free time’.

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Joseph playtesting Frostgrave with the editor Phil Smith.

Juegos y Dados – Is there anything else you would like to tell fans?

Joseph – In the next couple of months, I will be releasing an ebook collection of my fiction entitled Victory’s Knife. So follow my blog for updates!

Juegos y Dados – Thank you so much for your time. We are very happy for your collaboration in this interview with Juegos y Dados.

Joseph – Many thanks. I’ve enjoyed it.

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