140 Characters, One RPG: Interview with Tweet RPG’s Sam Richards

A lot of the debate at Conpulsion 2013 revolved around the future of tabletop gaming and RPGs and it was fitting that these debates should take place when Sam Richards was attending. Sam, you see, is in the perfect position to be considered an expert voice on the subject. He’s taken the traditional RPG format and merged it with Twitter to create Tweet RPG, the first RPG that was created for and is intrinsically entwined with social media. I managed to grab some time with Sam before he ran off into the Future of Gaming talk.

tweet rpg logo

Screen-Shaped Eyes:
Hello! To begin with, can you tell us exactly what Tweet RPG is? You can use more than 140 characters if you like.

Sam:
That’s very helpful. Well, Tweet RPG is a project I’ve been running for a couple of years now. It’s essentially a roleplaying game system that uses Twitter as an interface to help people enjoy simple fun and quick roleplaying adventures with people from all over the world. That’s my simple explanation.

SSE:
How difficult was it to begin, because you’re not far off a thousand followers now?

Sam:
I think, to start off with, it wasn’t too bad. I mean, it’s just setting up the feed and getting a blog and putting my ideas down, getting the first adventure off the ground. I think really the challenge of it has been working out what I can do and what I can’t do, so working out what my limitations were and what needed to be done, to actually saying that’s not worthwhile and no-one’s asked me to do that aspect of the game, so maybe I’ll cut that, that sort of thing.

I think maybe the hardest thing but also one of the most rewarding things has been doing it on my own. It’s been that it has been my project, that I’ve been shaping it myself but also being a one-man band, it’s quite difficult, doing all the different jobs.

SSE:
Yeah, you can’t really ask someone else to cover something else for you.

Sam:
Yeah, yeah.

SSE:
I’ve was idly looking through some of the past adventures, like the Tweet RPG Arena, and I noticed Mookus Maximus, who had a backstory eight times longer than everyone else.

Sam:
(laughs)

SSE:
Do you find that people are engaging with their characters on that level, or do you tend to find hyper intelligent potatoes are the extreme?

A note: Mookus Maximus’s character was that of a hyper intelligent potato in a cape, looking to move its consciousness into a human body. Despite what that sounds like, I really haven’t gone mad, I promise you.

Sam:
It depends, really. I mean, the thing with Tweet RPG is that it’s simple and it is easy to get involved with. However, there is still the sense that the more you engage, the more you get out of it.

So you can drop in and out, you know, vote a couple of times and just see how the story’s going and you’ll have fun, but actually, if you are engaging on that kind of level, if you are there for every story decision, if you’re seeing everything that’s happening, if you’re interacting with all the other players then yes, you do get more out of it.

I think something for the future with Tweet RPG is I want there to be more opportunities for the people that have got the time and enthusiasm to be involved in that way, to have the opportunities to shape the world and fill it up with their imagination.

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SSE:
How long does it take, usually, to write a Tweet RPG storyline? Do you ever find yourself finding that halfway through the players don’t like it and you’ve suddenly got to stay up ‘til 3 in the morning, rewriting?

Sam:
Initially, when I first started off the first story I did, an adventure called King Slayer, which was quite, I guess, not the most imaginative, not super original, it was kind of inspired by Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, that type of thing. But I wanted something that was really clear, people knew when they were getting on board, “OK, I can see exactly what kind of story this is and I’ll know if I like it or not”.

Anyway, when I was first writing that one, I set everything out as a big story where if this decision happens here, there’ll be a stat test here and all that sort of thing. It took a long time and I realised, actually, I created all sorts of things that’ll never get used, because it isn’t a gamebook, because it isn’t a fluid, living adventure, I’d done a lot of planning that wasn’t really necessary.

So as I’ve moved on, that stage has become a lot less intense. It’s more that the fact that I’ll maybe decide this is act one, this is act two, this is act three and these are the things that could happen and then it’ll be more of a carrying on process as the adventure continues, seeing what happens and also seeing what players enjoy and what they bring up as important to them. Often people will say something and I’ll think, “Ah, actually, do you know what, your ideas maybe better than my idea”.

SSE:
(laughs) And you’ll pretend it was yours all along.

Sam:
Ha, maybe. In some senses that can be difficult because when I’m not totally engaged, if there are other things going on that are distracting me, sometimes I will get to doing the story update and think, “Crap, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I haven’t thought about this at all” and other times, when I really focus on it, it can take a few minutes, because I know exactly what it’s going to be and this is where we’re going to go.

SSE:
Fantastic. Your next project, we’ve got a few leaflets here and I’ve got a few in my bag too, is Rough Riffs. Can you give us an outline of the plot, or are we verging into spoilers a little?

Sam:
No, no, I can tell you a little bit. The main character is, as you can see on your leaflets, Jessie St Ernestine, she’s an electric guitarist and don’t tell her girls can’t play guitar ‘cos she’ll kick your ass. The story is quite inspired by Scott Pilgrim, a bit tongue in cheek but also with that post-modern element to it so that, yes, she plays guitar but she also can beat up monsters through playing guitar but we’re not actually going to talk about why she can do that.

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SSE:
It’s just a thing that happens, like in Scott Pilgrim when he beats the bejesus out of everyone and doesn’t really explain why he can.

Sam:
Yeah, we just don’t need to go there. He’s just cool. But what I’m going to be using is a character creation method which I tried in a previous adventure whereby, rather than having one character that everyone shapes, each person is going to have their own individual character and in this story it’s going to be that each person creates a guitar setup.

They’ll choose an iconic guitar, they’ll choose what effects pedals they want to use and that basically determines their fighting style. So, for example, if you say you’re going to use a Fender Stratocaster, that’s going to be a bit of speed, but also, I want to have a bit more power so maybe I’ll go for a distortion pedal for an attack boost or something like that. It’s going to be a fun story.

One of the really exciting things is that I’ve teamed up with the guys that create a board game called Rock Science which-

SSE:
I was just about to ask you about that partnership, you’ve just beaten me to it.

Sam:
It was a random coincidence that they happened to get in contact with me at the same sort of time and said, “Would you like to collaborate?”. So they’re going to be providing some trivia gameplay element to the game and they’re going to be providing me some free copies to give away when we’re doing some promotion in May. So that should be really fun to get another element into it as well.

Interview with sam richards of tweet rpg

SSE:
And finally, where would you like to see Tweet RPG go in the future? I know that you’ve mentioned monetising it in a few of the talk.

Sam:
There’s a few different things. One aspect is that potentially there could be sponsored stories, so that if a games developer or publisher have their new line coming out or new book, I could run an adventure for them and that could be them funding me to do that. We’d have to be careful with that though, I wouldn’t want the players to feel like they were constantly being sold things. They want to have the stories that the primary thing is that they enjoy the story, not just shut down their brains.

I’ve been thinking about a couple of different ideas. Possibly doing individual stories, premium stories that people can buy to play one-on-one with a program set up, like a gamebook really, but through social media, so they could tweet the game and the game could tweet back the next decision.

Potentially, it might be the case that we can essentially open up the system and sell that for people to use; if you enjoyed playing a Tweet RPG adventure, why not run one for your friends? We could have a scaling level of usage, where you could have a free version which is quite stripped down or subscribe to a more opened up version with more information that you can use or all the way through to the corporate version where you can build your game into a social media format for your players to use.

Essentially, I just want to have fun with it, see how far I can push it, how far people want me to go and as long as people are enjoying the stories and having a good time, that’s the main thing.

SSE:
I believe you’re just about to run off to a talk, so thank you very much.

Tweet RPG has opened up character creation for the newest adventure, Rough Riffs, today; you can follow Tweet RPG on Twitter for all the details or visit the site. It doesn’t take too much time to set up a character or join in the story as it goes along, so join in and help turn this adventure up to 11.

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