Ignatius Umlaut, the winner of the Lulu.com March Sales Contest was kind enough to take the time to conduct an interview with me via email this week.
Tell us a bit about yourself and Fight On!
Certainly. I teach at a university and have a family; fantasy roleplaying is my main hobby. I started playing RPGs back in grade school in the seventies and have more or less been going ever since.
Fight On! is a fan magazine that celebrates and tries to pick up from those early days of the hobby, modeled loosely on classic FRP magazines like Dragon and Alarums & Excursions. Our focus is on old-school fantasy roleplaying games, especially in the style that developed around the original Dungeons and Dragons rules in the seventies and early eighties (Empire of the Petal Throne, Thieves’ Guild, Arduin, Runequest, AD&D, Tunnels & Trolls, Fantasy Trip, Dragon Warriors, and many others). Today games like Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, Encounter Critical, Mutant Future, Forward: to Adventure, Mazes & Minotaurs, Spellcraft & Swordplay, and many others carry this tradition forward – several of these games sell on Lulu.com, I might add! We try to give people tools they can use in their games and encourage a do-it-yourself, make-your-own-fantasy kind of approach to roleplaying in general.
What are your thoughts on the state of role-playing games?
From the point of view of a knowledgeable group that’s motivated to play, things have really never been better. People have been designing tabletop roleplaying games for 35 years now and if you know what you’re looking for you can pretty much find exactly the system you need. People are still roleplaying in traditional fantasy settings, which is what I prefer, but people are also writing games about talking animals, Mormon gunslingers, escaped slaves – you name it, there’s a game for it, pretty much – and rules for playing these kinds of weird and wondrous worlds are available at every level of complexity.
Culturally speaking it’s harder to say. Certainly it seems like online roleplaying games like World of Warcraft have overtaken tabletop in terms of overall popularity – the online gaming business is much bigger and more lucrative overall, it seems. But D&D and games like it still have some cachet as a rite of passage for smart kids, rebellious kids, fantasy and science-fiction enthusiasts, and others. Also, tabletop roleplaying is fundamentally a social experience, and it’s a really fun one – there’s a chemistry when you have a good group in suspense or wonderment that I’ve never duplicated with a computer game, fun as those may be. So we may be due for a comeback!
One thing I think our hobby could use is a greater number of products that are friendly for new and casual players. Many of the games out there frankly just require too much work for a group of normally interested people to sit down and play after a day of hard work, even if the GM winds up doing most of the preparation, as often happens. One reason Fight On! focuses on older games is that we believe they’re relatively more functional for this kind of setup if you want a traditional fantasy roleplaying experience. You get a character made up quickly, there’s a place to explore or a problem to solve, and then you just keep going from there, making up new things to entertain each other as you go.
What projects do you have coming up?
Producing Fight On! takes up a lot of my hobby time. At some point we’d like to publish our own fantasy roleplaying rules. There are also some neat projects coming out of the magazine itself, like The Darkness Beneath, a big dungeon adventure which has a new level in every issue. We plan to publish that as a stand-alone product with some extra goodies when we have gotten through most or all of it in the pages of the magazine. Branching out into fantasy fiction is another intriguing possibility, and we might publish a book on the ‘do it yourself approach’ to fantasy roleplaying at some point. We’re also open to publishing adventures, books, etc. written by others as stand-alone manuscripts, though this is a little bit of a slow process because we have to review, edit, and so on. But we have considered the possibility.
I do a lot of other writing that has nothing to do with fantasy roleplaying also, and it’s nice to know that Lulu.com is out there if I decide to go the self-publishing route with any of it!
What do you do to market Fight On?
We have a very passionate community of writers who work on the magazine and a lot of us are actively involved in roleplaying messageboards and have our own blogs. This enables us to get the word out to a wide group. We also have a webpage at Fight On Magazine. People encounter print copies of the magazine directly and that interests them as well. When you’re doing something that interests people, it may take a little time for word to get out, but it does get out!
Do you have any thoughts for other lulu authors in light of your contest success?
I think our core model of creating a periodical using lulu for motivated niche communities is a really good one. Lulu makes it possible to get started on such a product with very little start-up cost. Then, once it’s there, you can keep it there as long as you wish, and as more and more people discover what you’re doing, they’ll tend to buy not only the current issue but several back issues as well. This makes it possible for people to get up to speed with your community if they come in after the beginning pretty easily, and also means that your sales tend to grow over time as there are more and more issues of the magazine and other products available for people to purchase. Serial fiction, supporting texts for fan organizations or churches, publication centers for avant-garde or counterculture communities, and so on could I think all use our model with great success over time.
A big thanks and congratulations to Ignatius Umlaut!
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