In this episode of the RPGBOT.News, we talk to game designer Brian Suskind of Kobold Press about the newly-released Tome of Heroes. We discuss the book’s contents, our favorite bits of content, the design process for a book like this, and what Brian and the other kobolds are working on for the future.
Materials Referenced in this Episode
- Brian Suskind
- Kobold Press
- DnD 5e
- Other Stuff
Welcome to the RPGBOT.News i’m Randall James and with me is Tyler Kamstra
and Ash Ely.
And tonight we have a special guest with us: Brian Suskind.
Brian Suskind 00:31
Hey everybody, Brian Suskind here. I’m a game designer for Kobold Press among other various companies. I’m most known as that guy who keeps trying to put mimics in things.
Are you responsible for the mimic high-heeled shoe?
Brian Suskind 00:48
I’m not, though I have been known to be the guy responsible for the moon-sized mimic. That’s terrifying.
That’s the cosmic horror we needed. Perfect. It’s no moon.
The next step is the whole world is just one big mimic.
I mean, you’re gonna die. There’s something to this, we should probably explore it.
The mystics were right.
Alright, Tyler, what’s happening?
Today, we’re going to talk to Brian about his work with both Kobold Press and other companies. And we’re going to talk about these soon to be released tome of heroes from Kobold Press on which Brian is one of the credited authors. So let’s get right into it. Brian, tell us a little about yourself. How long, how long have you been playing tabletop? RPGs. How did you get here?
Brian Suskind 01:41
I think the first tabletop RPG I played I was in high school, which I have to admit was very, very long ago because I’m an old guy. And we cheated and we were gods by like the second day. And so it didn’t last long. It wasn’t like a very long campaign. And you know, I played a bit in college. But my first real game is after I moved to California, I got invited to play Planescape which is still a setting that is dear to my heart. And we had a very long-running Planescape game where I believe I played a very dumb Abominable Snowman named Thogar who always spoke about himself in the third person.
Okay, I like this.
Brian Suskind 02:20
Like you do. And so that’s where it started. And I’ve been playing ever playing and running games ever since.
Okay, I gotta take a break right quick. I have never heard of Planescape. I’m going to look across the virtual to see, like, Tyler, Ash.
Planescape is one of the classic settings dating back very, very far in DnD’s history. There… There have been a couple of very, very good video games based on it. It’s, it’s where the city of Sigil comes from. The lady of, the Lady of Pain, a few other like really iconic parts of the D&D lore. We’ll catch you up another time.
Okay, sounds perfect. So is this like 3.x days? This is what we’re talking about.
Brian Suskind 02:59
It’s like second edition.
Second Edition. Okay, cool. Awesome.
Brian Suskind 03:02
It’s also where a lot of the people like like Monte Cook, and, and Wolfgang, that’s where they got their start was one Planescape.
Okay, that’s awesome. Cool.
So you’ve been playing for a super long time, Brian. How did you get into designing for tabletop RPGs?
Brian Suskind 03:20
Well, I started back with Wolfgang back in the open design days when it was still on Live Journal. And back then it was… this was pre-Kickstarter. So back then, he had this weird patron model where we would pay a fee, and you got to basically go onto a chat room and kind of learn as he was designing things, and kind of give input. And it was from there that that I basically learned how to do all of this. And that was back in 2008, I think is when I started that. 2007? And open design later became basically morphed into kobold press. And I’ve been with the company from the beginning. I think my first credited book was Dark Worlds and Holden Hells in I think it was 2011 or 2012. Back in 3.5 days. So yeah, I mean, so I’ve been doing this for a while, but it’s that start with open design really kind of formed the chops that that I needed to really keep going.
It sounds like almost like the modern idea of like signing up for a boot camp where it’s like, here’s somebody at the pinnacle of, of… Pinnacle of the mountain’s a dumb thing to say. The pinnacle of this field, right? Like, this is what they do and being able to like, Okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna pay, I’m gonna hop and I’m gonna get in this chatroom, I’m gonna watch you go through the process. I’m gonna contribute with you. And it sounds like you were able to take that and basically learn, like learn I don’t want to say learn the industry because the industry is probably a lot more complicated than just that process. But that’s the thing you needed to get in, right?
Brian Suskind 04:57
Oh, yeah. I mean, yeah, the industry itself is is very complicated. Once you get past the design stuff, when you start getting into more project management and learning, you know about publishing and all that all that stuff’s a whole other. That’s a whole other beast. But pure design. That’s what I basically learned. And you know, if you want, I will give you the big secret that that is the core secret to game design.
Brian Suskind 05:21
And it’s it’s one single question. Where’s the adventure? No matter what you’re designing, if you can’t answer that question with whatever you put in there, don’t put it in there. And I’ve gone I’ve been, you know, I people have asked me about, you know, setting design or whatever. And then they say like, well, what, give me some notes. And I’ll be like, well, this city or whatever it is that they’ve done. Where’s the adventure in that? Because a lot of times, new designers will do things like well, it’s a really beautiful place to live. It’s really nice there. I’m like, Why? Why are we there? There’s no reason to go there.
There’s a beautiful pool, so you’re just gonna sit by the pool all day. That’s the plan.
Brian Suskind 05:58
They have great crepes and you know, and and the fountains run with beer doesn’t give you anything.
Like if you’re already in Utopia, if I have crepes and beer, what else do I need? Why would I even go adventuring?
Brian Suskind 06:10
Well, that’s, I think that’s a very good point. And even resort towns, even places that seem idyllic on the surface, always have a dark underbelly. Always have something, something can go wrong, even when you’re on vacation. In fact, there’s like, there’s whole stories and episodes like the beach episode where people relax, and then something comes to like shake it up. So you can always have adventure, even in these idealic sort of settings.
Brian Suskind 06:37
Well, that’s true. And and it’s, it’s, that’s the difference between the player’s point of view and the designer’s point of view. Like the designer knows that this idyllic setting isn’t hiding a hell gate or you know, a plague of leeches, or whatever it is. But the players don’t know that. So you make it seem like a really great place to be until, you know, the what the, you know, it’s a really great place to be until the dung hits the fan, so to speak.
No, perfect. I’m trying to think of how to take that advice and like moving away from, like, the scenery of the region, the city, this place where I’d like, I can imagine applying that to a race, a character, an item. Like there seems to be an adventure that’s to be a joy in playing, how do you think about applying it to those types of topics?
Brian Suskind 07:25
Yeah, I mean, it works for everything. I mean, you know, if you’re, if I’ve… Like, I designed the new catfolk race for the Kobold Press Southlands book, which is a whole other story that we can get into if you like, because it’s very funny, but the… you know, when you’re designing a race or an item or anything, you know, all too often it’s easy to to, it’s too common to go down the easy path. Like okay, this is a plus one sword. I mean, yeah, there’s some adventure there, but it’s not exactly adventurous. You know, on the other hand, if it’s a sword that yeah, it’s plus one, but if you roll one, it creates an earthquake. That’s a little bit more adventurous. So and I that will races too. I mean, you know, you especially because races are a story. Even though you’re even though you are giving it over to a player and they’re playing it. Every race has its own story, like the gearforged in, in Kobold Press’s Midgard setting, are basically robots that have the soul of somebody who just didn’t really want to die and so they bought a new body. I mean, that’s a whole story just in and of itself.
Yeah. It’s like to not educated enough to become a lich rich enough to become a robot.
Brian Suskind 08:33
We’ll make it happen.
Brian Suskind 08:36
No, perfect. I think that makes perfect sense. Okay, actually, I do want to get into catfolk story because that sounded pretty interesting.
Brian Suskind 08:43
Okay, so when… so I, myself and Ben MacFarlane wrote the first southlands book for Pathfinder. And, you know, a pretty good Kickstarter for it. And and, you know, we introduced a race called the Nicosi, who are basically werelions. And but they’re not like lycanthropes. They are natural change changers. Well, as when we went from Pathfinder to fifth edition, the they had they had the tabaxi, the catfolk. And so it became like, well, what are the Nicosi? Are they No, cosi? catfolk? What are they? And we had a couple of projects that came out that use them interchangeably. And people got very confused. And we kept having to answer questions on the facebook or on the Discord like okay, so which is it? Is it acat folk? Is it nicosi? Which is it? And we got so tired of answering these questions over and over and over and over again, that when we decided to do a new version of the Southlands book for fifth edition, we went “Okay, that’s it. We’re going to answer this question once and for all.” And I created like to two subraces of catfolk/ One of them’s tabaxi. One of them’s nicosy. And we went “here, just stop asking us this question.”
So you have a copy and paste. It’s like page number page number go away. We don’t want to talk to you anymore about this. So if you’re home and you’re thinking about messaging Brian: on this, don’t.
Brian Suskind 10:08
yeah, no, I prefer to previously answered questions.
Done. Perfect. Let’s hop into toma heroes. Okay. All right. So I think let’s start with what is toma heroes for folks at home who haven’t heard about it, they’ve been hiding under a rock, they didn’t see the Kickstarter. They, they haven’t seen all of the content that folks are writing on it. What is Tome of Heroes?
Brian Suskind 10:28
I wrote this down because I didn’t want to get it wrong and get in trouble. So Tomes of Heroes is basically a compilation of options for players. I mean, there’s stuff in there for Gms, too. But this is a book aimed at giving players new material to use in their games. So we have 70, there’s 70, seven zero, new subclasses. There’s more than 20 races and sub races, we got a dozen new backgrounds, there’s oodles of equipment, new ways of using magic, bunches of new spells, including two new Power Word spells that I designed because I think they’re hysterically funny. I do a lot of things in gaming because I think it’s funny, which is probably not the best reason to design stuff.
I’m gpomg to disagree with you, there. It is the best reason.
Brian Suskind 11:18
I mean, you know, previously mentioned mimic moon. So I mean, the Tome of Heroes is a, it’s like if you are playing fifth fifth edition, and you are sort of not tired of it, but if you’re like looking for something new, this is the book for you. My personal favorite, and not just because I designed it, but I did is a new clerical subclass, the portal Cleric. So if you’re a Cleric, and you really want to teleport around a lot, we got you covered. You can even throw a shot like with your weapon into a portal and have the portal open up by the bad guy downrange and hit him.
Nice. So now if you’re a Cleric, you can actually think with portals?
Brian Suskind 12:04
Yeah, I had a good time reading that one. Like the ability to deliver touch range spells through a portal and attack through it and like, teleport people around. Usually that’s a lot of things that wizards do, so it’s fun to see clerics get to play with it.
I also noticed that you guys really went… really went gung-ho on the guns. Most most of the supplements I’ve seen about it, like maybe one or two subclasses related to gunpowder, you’re like, No, oops, all of them get guns now!
Brian Suskind 12:38
Which, we wanted to get, you know, we wanted to get it over with and just get them get them all out at the same time. Now, you know, the guns were something that had its guns had been in the Midgard campaign setting for a long time. Usually, they were just in the you know, only the dwarves had them in this sort of ones in Zobek, the one the main city of the setting, because it’s a very clockworky city so that you know that the idea that they develop firearms was made sense. But we never really delved into gunpowder very much. And so for this one, we were like, Okay, let’s, let’s do that. And I got the job to handle gunpowder. And I had to sit there thinking okay, so why would you use these? Because the directions I got was okay, early firearms, like renaissance-level firearms. And I went, “Oh, God, why would you use those?” I mean, they’re horribly inaccurate, they exploded quite often, or they just misfired and didn’t work. So I had to figure out a way to do it, so that you’d want to use it instead of just a bow or a crossbow, which is much more, you know, reliable. And so what I ended up settling on was exploding dice, because I’ve played a lot of Deadlands and there’s nothing more fun than rolling exploding dice over and over again. And I went, I thought to myself, you know, this, this would be a reason to do it. If you had if you had a weapon in fifth edition that had exploding dice, I would use it even if it only happened once a campaign.
Okay, and then for folks at home explain what exploding dice are?
Brian Suskind 14:14
Yes. So exploding dice basically means it’s, it’s a, it’s a… I don’t remember who invented it first, though. I’ve seen it in Deadlands. So the Savage Worlds campaign setting uses it. Or the Savage Worlds rule set uses, it basically means when you’re rolling damage, if you roll the highest number on whatever dice it is that you’re rolling, you pick it up and roll it again and add to the total. So if you roll a d6, and you roll a 6, you get to roll it again. And if you roll another 6, you keep rolling and you keep adding, potentially you could roll a million. It’s not probable, but it’s theoretically possible. But you know, anyone who’s played Deadlands or Savage Worlds a lot, probably has a story of that time that I rolled 80, you know, with a stick or whatever it was that they were using.
But yeah, I mean, if you get to the point where you’re rolling like 6d6 for damage, like all of a sudden, the odds start creeping up that you’re, A, gonna roll at least one six, and that out of the pool of sixes you pulled out, you’re gonna get one more, one more. The best thing to do is buy loaded dice. Like, let’s just party. I’m getting it home. Don’t… just, now they’re dead.
Now, Brian, and the rest of the designers were very smart about explaining this. The number of times you can explode is capped by your proficiency bonus. So everyone at home thinking, “Oh, no, this is going to break my math.” Don’t worry, they they put a very reasonable cap on it. Still feels very, very satisfying, but it won’t break your game. And the the example for how it works, specifically uses rogues like rolling a pile of d6’s to trigger exploding dice. So yeah, it’s a very, very well explained, very well handled honestly. it’s a, it is a well implemented rule. I’m very happy with it.
Brian Suskind 15:59
There was a lot of debate about that.
Yeah, I think the way that you guys did gunpowder system was really unique and really cool. Like how bursting works and how certain classes get different features that they can use on a burst, which is just a very cool feature. And, like, it seems silly when you think about a burst like, you know, gunpowder Cleric, or gunpowder Sorcerer, but it all feels kind of, like, sort of in the world, like it’s explained pretty well and justified. So it doesn’t come off as just, this is ridiculous. There’s a Sorcerer with a bunch of mage hand guns!
I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s not ridiculous at all. That’s amazing.
It’s awesome! Yeah, I love it!
Brian Suskind 16:48
There was a lot of debate about exactly… Well, first of all, there was a lot of debate on the cap or no cap, there was a lot of discussion about like, I was sort of in favor of not capping it.
Brian Suskind 17:01
But you know, cooler heads prevailed. And we decided to put a cap on there. And in hindsight, it’s probably better that we did. You know, that said, if your home game is willing to do it, and your GM is willing to do it, go for it. But you know, the thing that you were saying before about making it feel part of the… making you feel part of a fantasy setting was a big concern. You know, because there’s, I know a lot a lot of my players in my home game are like, no, no, I don’t want any kind of sci-fi in my fantasy. You know, they are, they are not down with that. And so even gunpowder sort of pushes that envelope pretty close. And so you have to do it in a certain way in order to make it feel like it makes sense in a fantasy world or else you end up with like Barrier Peaks all over again.
For people not familiar with barrier peaks, it was the official… was that first or second edition? I can’t remember.
Brian Suskind 17:54
It was first it was first edition. It was Gary Gygax’s con game where you basically discover a crashed alien ship and site robots and get laser guns.
It is exactly as cool as it sounds.
That sounds pretty awesome.
Brian Suskind 18:08
That said, that module is endless. Because there must be 800,000 rooms. There’s nothing in them. Like you’re in this ship, and it’s massive. And there’s like, all these rooms are marked and there’s nothing in them. And it’s a different style of play than what we do now.
Very classic first edition.
I’m not gonna lie, it actually sounds like what where we’ve come to is probably for the best.
So I am curious. So I noticed that you put the traditional gunslinger archetype with Ranger. Most gunslinger things that I’ve subclasses I’ve seen have been for Fighter. Why have you guys chosen to do it for Ranger instead?
Brian Suskind 18:47
Well, I think there’s two main reasons. I mean, one we’re not allowed, like, because of the way the because of the way the SRD works with fifth edition, this system reference document which is basically the rules that say from that that’s from Wizards of the Coast and say you are allowed to use this stuff in your fifth edition. If you’re going to sell it. This is the fifth edition stuff you’re allowed to use. So we… they have a gunslinger, which is from Matt Mercer’s side of things.
I didn’t know that was officially part of it.
Brian Suskind 19:18
It’s sort of officially unofficially official.
The lawyer’s saying stay out of the gray area every time you talk to them.
Brian Suskind 19:23
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So we didn’t want to step on any of those toes. So we went “eh, you know, okay, let’s think about this as a Ranger thing.” But I think also when you when you really think about it, yeah, Fighter does make sense for gunslinger. But a, Ranger, you know, I always harken back to sort of my western, you know, westerns, you know, so the guy who’s roaming about. The Man with No Name and those old Clint Eastwood movies, you know, it never struck me as a Fighter type. He’s much more the Ranger that you know, traveling across the land getting there and then shooting a bunch of people.
Brian Suskind 20:00
Yeah. Then he cats Goodberry and then he goes on, you know?
The man and black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.
Brian Suskind 20:06
The best opening of any book on any book, one of the best openings of any book I’ve ever read.
No, it’s classic, and it’s exactly like you would think of him as a Ranger, I think, more than you would think of a Fighter, right? Like he’s a rough, he knows how to survive. He didn’t exactly befriend those lobster creatures, but you know, it worked out.
Brian Suskind 20:23
He fed them.
Brian Suskind 20:25
for those of you don’t know. We’re talking about Dark Tower. Stephen King. Yeah.
It’s a great book.
It’s fantastic series. The movie was… out of all the films ever made, It was one of them.
Brian Suskind 20:36
Yeah, that definitely… Definitely came out.
That’s a word for it.
Steven King, we don’t mean it, please come on the show.
You know, Idris Elba could have been perfect for that.
Ah, he was so awesome. Yeah, I’ve got a lot of feelings. Matthew McConaughey.
Brian Suskind 20:51
Idris Elba could almost play anything.
That’s fair. 100%. Matthew McConaughey coming right out of the Lincoln commercial. “Whose kids are these? How’d they get in my Lincoln?
So Tome of Heroes: 70 subclasses. I believe there are 13 races listed, some of which are new, some of which are existing races where we get new subclasses. There, there’s pages and pages of spells. There’s new magic items. There’s feats. There’s backgrounds that like there’s all this stuff in here. Huge book. How many people worked on this? Because like, you can’t have written all of all of this yourself in the time between now and when this was kickstarted.
Brian Suskind 21:38
I would like to claim that I did. But that would be lying. No, there was there was about a dozen of us worked on it. You know, some of us had bigger chunks of it than others because with any publishing company, you’re to tend to work on multiple projects at the same time, they all kind of overlap. And then you kind of come off with one project. And you roll into another one. But some people have already been starting with that project. And so they’re a little bit farther along than you. I started working on Tome of Heroes, I think, March of last year. Yeah, March. And we got done… I think earlier this year. Yeah. It was, it was a… Yeah, about, I think a dozen designers in total. But then there was some stuff that people had that we pulled from some of our other some of our other products. And that we got to be… and to be fair, we got some flack for doing that, which is admittedly fair. But the what we looked what we thought about was some of this material is in our patron-only Warlock zine. And we’re like, some people haven’t seen this stuff. And if you haven’t signed up for Warlock, you should, but.
Link in the show notes.
Brian Suskind 22:53
Exactly. So we just thought, you know, since we’re doing this book of player options, let’s pull in some of the stuff that we’ve created for Warlock, because most of the audience hasn’t seen it yet. And it just sort of worked out.
Speaking as one of the people who hasn’t read all of Warlock, I’m enjoying all of the things that may or may not have been in Warlock. Honestly, I think there are going to be a lot of people who are seeing a lot of this material for the first time. So even if it’s… even if it’s included in the warlock thing, then yeah, this is still new to a lot of people. And yeah, I understand the the kobold diehards reasonably might be like, “Hey, I’ve seen this before.” did you make any updates to the stuff that was moved? Like update the rules text, make corrections, any things like that?
Brian Suskind 23:38
There was a bunch of stuff where, you know, we had gotten play test material or just comments from fans saying, you know, this spell, or whatever it is, this class didn’t really work. And so we there were definitely there’s all we’re always tweaking things, we’re always making little changes, to try to make sure everything works, right? Because there’s a lot of times when you design, it’s probably a lot like writing movies, because I am a screenwriter in my in my other job. And things that look great on the page don’t necessarily work great at the table. And there’s been plenty of times where we’ve where we’ve designed stuff, which is why we do play testing, by the way, but there’s plenty of stuff that goes to play testing, we’re like, “this is going to be fine!” Ait comes back and they’re like “this doesn’t work at all.” But my stuff is always perfect.
It’s always great. I’m sure it isn’t like this. But in my mind, what I’ve decided is that Brian, you walk into a room with a one way mirror, and you’re looking upon a table where people are getting ready to play and you’re very happy. You got coffee in one hand, maybe a cigar on the other hand. Do you have a cigar on the other hand?
Brian Suskind 24:38
Sure, why not?
Alright, cigar in the other hand, you’re looking at the window, it’s like this is gonna be great. And everybody in it is like, “No, I hate this!” Like flipping tables and stuff. And he’s like, “uh… back to the whiteboard and you’re walking.” Is that… that’s what testing’s like, right?
Brian Suskind 24:50
Sure. But you’re leaving out an important feature. When they start freaking out that you lift the cover off the big red button and you push it and then you need new play testers.
Just, the table drops off. It’s like Shark Tank except for there’s a real shark tank and there’s fewer play testers.
Brian Suskind 25:05
We’re not kidding. Please sign up for play testing. It’s wonderful. The industry needs you.
Brian Suskind 25:09
There’s no sharks.
What if we’re play testing sharks?
Brian Suskind 25:13
Then there might be some imaginary sharks, but no real sharks. You don’t want to stand up at the game table? Because then you’re LARPing.
That’s the line?
Brian Suskind 25:23
That’s the line.
That’s a good line to have.
I DM primarily standing up. And now I’m going to use that as an excuse to say, “look, I’m the only one here LARPing. Get into this, guys.”
Brian Suskind 25:39
I have to I have to say that’s a running gag at my at my home table, because a couple of people like do have LARPed in the past. And so anytime someone gets up, we’re like, “whoa, whoa, whoa, no LARPing.”
Take the jacket off, they’re wearing a full cape. A scepter comes out of nowhere.
Brian Suskind 26:00
I would give inspiration for that, though. I mean, there’s some forethought there. Some planning.
Then you find out there wasn’t. That’s just that’s how they walk around every day.
Brian Suskind 26:10
I can see you’ve met my players.
Perfect. So talk to me about kind of previous products. One of the things that was cool for me, there’s a lot that Kobold has put out that I’m not familiar with. So I’m looking at the book. First, I’m gonna ask you for for a pronunciation guide because I’ve only ever read it. Darakhul? Darakhul. Darakhul. Okay, a race of ghouls. And I’m reading this and it’s awesome. Like, there’s all these different subraces, like the different features you might be taking. And I’m like, this would be fun to play. Like, this is the kind of thing where, you know, first of all, I’m gonna bring somebody to play a whole campaign. That’s fantastic. But we love to talk about one shots just to explore ideas. So this would be an amazing race where I’m gonna get a party, we’re gonna play this race, and we’re going to explore this concept of like, you know, though, we’re very elegant, but also we eat people sometimes it’s great. And as I’m looking at this, I’m looking at it in front of Tyler and I say to Tyler, it’s like, they have to have source material for this. So I go searching and immediately I find Empire the Ghouls and it’s like, okay, now I’ve got like an entire source book that I can go and I can say, if I want to put together this one shot, I have everything I need. I say that to say like, when you bring these materials in that are coming in from maybe Warlock ideas that are coming in from either the Midgard setting where you’re you’re finally kind of giving players the content they need to have what they want to match what the GM has been bringing in for forever. I love that you put this out, because I feel like it’s so complimentary to so many things that Kobold has put out in the past.
Brian Suskind 27:34
We really tried with with Tome of Heroes to… And I should say to everybody that it’s not this is not a book that is bait that involves the Midgard setting. Exactly. This is a system neutral, you can use it in any fivey game, we have some references to Midgard, little sidebars that say well, if you’re using this class and mid guard here some thoughts. But we really, you know, Kobold Press started doing just Midgard that was sort of our thing. But as we’ve grown, we’ve really tried to branch out and speak to the players and the GM’s who aren’t necessarily running the guard but still want good material. And that’s really been our goal this whole time is to is to provide the best role playing game material that we possibly can. And Tome of Heroes is, I think, one of our best.
Yeah, it is really awesome.
Yeah, I like that plan a lot. For people who own or at least have heard about Tome of Beasts and, well, similarly Tome of Beasts references the Midgard setting for a few new monsters like the whole time of the series. And then you’ve also got like the Creature Codex. And there’s at least one more I’m forgetting the name of but yeah, the books are easily to drop into any game regardless of setting. They may reference Midgard where it’s appropriate. But yeah, the this is fantastic content that’s just really easy to bring into your own game.
Yeah, I love Tome of Beasts. Like I’ve used so many monsters from it for my games, because there’s like, I have weird settings. And there’s not a lot of weird 5e creatures, or if there are, most of my players are familiar with it. So Tome of Beasts is a great way to sort of throw them a curveball. And this This is just this great. I love this. Like this is probably my favorite book of your guys’s. It’s great.
Brian Suskind 29:23
Have you used the Ostinato yet?
Which ones that?
Brian Suskind 29:25
That’s the song that gets in your head and then kills you.
Yes, I have used that! I have used that.
Brian Suskind 29:30
That was my mom.
That was your mom?
Brian Suskind 29:34
My mom signed up for… I think it was Tome of Beasts 1, I want to say, but she signed up for the Kickstarter, because she was being they were being my parents were being supportive. And it’s the level they signed up on you they got to design a monster. And so she calls me up and she says “Oh, I get to design a monster now.” And I said “oh, you’re gonna do that?” She goes “no, I’m gonna give you the idea and you’re gonna do it.” Alright, I see how this is going. And so she gave me that she’s a music, she’s very musical. And so she gave me this idea this, this called the ostinato. And it gets in your head and kills you. And so that I wrote it up, and it ended up in the book.
It’s a really great monster so kudos to her for inventing it. I love that it’s such a creative one. Actually, I’m about to run the session that I’m using the Snow Queen as a boss, like, that’ll be brutal.
Brian Suskind 30:26
Just wait for Tome of Beasts 3.
Like, yeah. 100%. Yeah, we’re, I’m looking forward to talking about it.
Brian Suskind 30:35
We’re just we’re just starting to see the first art comeback because it’s, the kick started ended a while back and, and we’re just starting to see the first art kind of coming up. And it’s very interesting as a designer, because you send in art briefs, like when I design a monster, I write up an art brief, like a little script, like prose description of what the thing what I’m seeing in my head, and they handed off to an artist. And sometimes it comes back the way you picture it, and sometimes it doesn’t. And usually it’s better because, you know, artists are very visual. And we’re, you know, we were a little vague often with the art the art briefs, like, yeah, they’re kind of standing there with a sword. And they, you know, but when the artist comes back, you’re like, Oh, look at that. It’s so amazing.
Yeah, props to your artists. They are some talented people, man. Like, the art in these books is great, very evocative, very cool.
Brian Suskind 31:21
Artists are amazing. And everybody involved with the book from, you know, the, the art editor just to layout, everybody does such a great job. I mean, the books look fabulous when they come in.
For sure. 100% that is that one of the things I’ve been most impressed about as like flipping through Tome of Beasts, looking through Tome of Heroes is exactly that, like, the quality of the art is absolutely amazing.
Brian Suskind 31:43
It’s the first thing you see when you pick up a game book. I mean, and it’s, it’s that’s what catches your eye. And and there’s probably been a lot of game books in the past that were amazing. But if the art wasn’t good, you sort of went “eh, you know, it’s nice.” But and that, does that make a shallow? Yeah, probably, but it’s true,
But also, like you want it to be out in people’s hands you want you know, when I talk about Tome of Beasts, I want people to say, Oh, I know exactly what you’re talking about. And I think part of that is putting out a product that people are going to be excited about. They’re gonna be excited to use, they’re going to be excited to promote.
Brian Suskind 32:14
With Tome of beasts, er, sorry, Tome of Heroes. Very confusing. Tome of Heroes, I think that thing that they’re that are going to, that’s going to make people most excited, is, yeah, the subclasses are great. And you know, the spells in there and the equipment’s fun. For me, the two things that I loved doing were the backgrounds, because I have a pet peeve about backgrounds. And I’ll go into that first. But the thing about backgrounds is, a lot of times, they’re not very useful. I mean, yeah, they give you your little, you know, they give you language or little items, or whatever it is. But the feature that comes with it is very subjective. It’s very like, yes, if you happen to be in a town, and you have to talk to a noble and you happen to the noble background. Sure, that’s helpful, I guess. But the traits and the flaws and all the personality stuff, tend to be things that you’ll never use at the table. That mean that like, they’re like, “I hate orc-made sandwiches,” and you’re like, “well, that’s never going to come up.” That’s not actually an example. But you know, it’s, so when I, I worked… the ones I worked on for this book, I really spent a long time, probably far too long, figuring out traits and bonds and flaws and ideals that you would use every game session. You know, and it’s… I always sort of in my head when I’m designing, I’m thinking about not only like is where’s the adventure? But also especially with character stuff is, will this allow a player to throw lines to other players? And by lines, basically, like bite, throw them things for the other players to react off of. So if you have a trait that’s like, “I won’t rest until I become the greatest swordsman ever.” Actually, that’s a pretty good one. But you know, it’s like, if you come up with one that doesn’t, like it has a trait that you’re never going to use in game, or you’ll use once. That’s, that’s useless. Because, A, you’ll never remember to do it. And B, it’s like once you’ve done it once, will it ever come up again? But if you have a trait that says, you have to knock at the door, knock on a door every time you open it, suddenly that happens all the time.
We’re going in quiet this time. We’re not going to make any noise. I need you to go first. You’re the Rogue.
Brian Suskind 34:44
If you notice, it’s Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. And not that I’m saying that every character needs to be obsessive compulsive, but you want to have things that not only make your character memorable, but things that other characters know about your character. And the traits and bonds, like some players don’t need that stuff. I mean, I’m sure you know, the very, like, you know, some of the players in my table are super experienced and they will never use them. They created their own character and, but they have those things. They just don’t need. They don’t need those. But for the players who need them there, they should be useful. So, like, my favorite background is honestly it’s the one that they use in the commercial for for Tome of Heroes, which is the monstrous of Adoptee. Because, you know, when you’re raised by bugbears, you’re a little differently.
Brian Suskind 35:40
The other one was former adventurer, and I was taught it took them a long time to talk me out of not including something about taking an arrow to the knee. I really wanted to include it because you know, played Skyrim and the NPC in Skyrim says all the time.
I feel like we’ve had a mistake. Right, if you have a former adventure, basically the only acceptable reason that you’re a former adventurer.
Brian Suskind 36:02
Arrow to the knee.
That meme is so 2011.
November 11 2011.
Hey, they just released Skyrim.
It doesn’t matter doesn’t matter what year you’re listening to this podcast in. They’ve just released Skyrim.
Brian Suskind 36:24
Here, I’m gonna I’m gonna really date myself. I played Elder Scrolls 1: Arena.
Brian Suskind 36:31
Okay, this was the one right where like, you had to click on the left side of the screen, and then you had to drag your mouse to the right side of the screen.
Brian Suskind 36:39
Yes, it was.
That’s awesome. That’s also terrible, but…
Yes, yeah. I started with Morrowind. And that still holds a firm place in my heart.
Morrowing was amazing.
Yeah, it was great!
As far as the pitcher goes, like the whole like, oh, I accidentally killed… What was the name? It wasn’t Caesar. Oh, it was something like this, but like, I killed him in the first 30 minutes of the game. I missed the warning that I’ve ruined the game. And now I’ve just been running away for 50 hours.
Brian Suskind 37:07
Yep. It’s like “ah, I’ve got to start over now. Oh, god. No.”
I don’t know if you’re surprised. I’ve never been Morrowind. Yeah. A true story. The one I just told. It’s like I had to, you know, because I started playing in like, well, I guess it would have been 11th grade in high school. And then at some point, I had to graduate college and so I just there wasn’t enough time. That’s really the problem.
Brian Suskind 37:29
I think, I think if people are reading how long they’ve been playing a particular video game by what year in school they were in, that game might be too long.
Brian Suskind 37:33
What if it was over? Just what… a time limit. Like you, okay. Perfect. Like literally your character is old enough. Your character has died. That’s it. That’s better than traveler where you can die during character creation. Yeah.
Hey, that’s a feature not a bug.
Tyler loves to talk about this.
I still have yet to, to run… I still have yet to have someone run Traveller for me, but I’ve heard so many stories.
Brian Suskind 38:08
I have. I’ve played traveler and I had, and I have also died during character creation.
Nice. I feel like I feel like there needs to be a badge for that or something. Like someone shows up at your house one day and is like “Congrulations. You did it.”
Yeah. I think it’s also possible in Warhammer Fantasy to do that as well. Like I know Warhammer Fantasy has a similar background sort of character creation. Like, oh, yeah, you’re a peasant who’s in the gutter and has no wealth and everybody hates you. And you’re, you have like one hit point left. Have fun.
Brian Suskind 38:39
Definitely harkens back to like really early D&D. When you when like when you used to have to roll your six, your ability scores, and you had to roll them in order once. And it’d be like, Oh, I rolled a 3. I guess I am the weakest Wizard ever. One hit point.
I’m the dumbest Wizard ever and wish me good luck.
Brian Suskind 39:03
Don’t knock that. One of the characters I’ve been dying to play is like the ogre Wizard who’s really not very smart and he has like a pointy hat that says “Wizord” on it all spelled wrong and he has a big ax and he, but he really wants to be a Wizard he’s just not really good at it.
So you, you take all your levels in Wizard except for you take maybe like one and Fighter just so you can do anything at all.
Brian Suskind 39:27
Yeah, pretty much one level of Barbarian the rest like Sorcerer or something.
Or just go do what pumpkin forest did and do one level in every class.
Brian Suskind 39:38
it’s fine. You take 1, a 1 level dip into hexblade Everything’s fine.
Yeah, there you go.
It’s the MSG of subclasses. Just put a little on top and everything will be great.
Brian Suskind 39:53
I in a game that I’m playing in for a setting that that is we’re calling “musket punk”, but it it’s a… I was playing a Bard for many levels and we’re about level 10 or 12. And I ended up multiclassing into Paladin for various in-game story reasons. And I’m thinking this makes sense, but I’m boning myself, this is awful. No, it turned out that was really a great decision. Because those smite, those smite abilities worked great with any Bard spell. Just like slot slot slot slot. I’m just like, doing massive damage all over the place. I was like, wow, I should have done this a long time ago.
All right, so I guess Brian, what’s next for you? What are you working on next now that Tome of Heroes is imminently out there.
Brian Suskind 40:40
We have… I have… definitely working on a bunch of new Kobold Press stuff. Including I’m about to start a blog series on our, on our website about planar stores. So basically establishments found across the planes. So that’ll be coming out at some point. I’m working on on the new co-lead developer with Sarah Maddison on it for a company called Draco studios on a setting called Dragonbon. And it’s gonna be it’s a massive, massive project. Sometimes enough to make you weep, or at least us. Make us weep about what we have to do in order to get this ready. But it is going to be a really fun setting. And as you can probably tell by the title, it does involve players getting their own dragons to ride around. So there is…
Brian Suskind 41:30
Yeah, it’s Gonzo. So look for that toward sort of toward the end of the year. And I also just finished something something for animal adventures from Steamforged Games, which if you haven’t played it is a riot. Because you play, you play animal adventures. Like you’re a dog who happens to be a Bard.
Producer Dan has a copy sitting in house.
And the miniatures are stellar. Yes.
Brian Suskind 41:58
So big shout out for the Steamforged guys. Ah, there you go.
I’m holding up a copy of both. I have small children that I want to do tabletop and they think animals are cute and cuddly.
Brian Suskind 42:07
Yes. I’m definitely playing that with my kids… I mean, actually, I have a kids game that I’ve been running since the beginning of the pandemic with my for my son and all of his friends. We played three days a week during the pandemic, my wife called it my community service. Now we’re back in-person we just we’re just at the end of Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
Swesome. And yeah, that was perfect. Like, Tyler actually did a similar game. Get a little bit into it.
Yeah, I got a few sessions in running Wildl Beyond the Witchlight for my daughter and Jody who was on our how to play D&D podcast arc. My daughter is very small and has a very short attention span. So we didn’t get very far but I’m hoping as she ages a little bit, we’ll gradually make it out of the Witchlight Carnival.
Brian Suskind 43:01
I started with my son when he was 10. And and now he and his friends are all into it. Like when we were playing Saturday, we were playing Saturday, right, we’re definitely playing Saturday. I love Wild Beyond the Witchlight. I think it’s probably one of the best-written WotC games that they’ve done. But you’re asking what’s next? Yes. Um, so I will let you in. It’s not a secret exactly, but I will let you in on the next big project from Kobold Press is called “Wastes of Chaos.”
Brian Suskind 43:29
So expect weirdness, mystery adventure, of course. And, you know, things are themed around wastelands and all the craziness that that ensues.
Will, will there be rad scorpions?
Brian Suskind 43:46
Only if we’re shifting all of our currency to bottle caps.
For the uninitiated, a rad scorpion has escaped Jose scorpion on a skateboard with a backwards baseball cap.
Brian Suskind 43:59
That’s not what a rad scorpion is! It’s a monster from Fallout! What kinda podcast is this?
What Tyler said: just as scary, so..
Brian Suskind 44:14
The thing that Tyler said sounds like it should be like an after school special mascot. “Rad Scorpion says don’t do drugs, kids!”
You have a little, it’s more of like it’s like this is your scorpion on meth and like it’s just comin’ at ya.
Crack dulls my Stinger. That’s how to keep it sharp. I don’t. Do. Crack.
The kids are looking around. It’s like “I don’t know what to do with this message.”
Brian Suskind 44:43
I’m very conflicted by all of this.
Like dad, I did think that scorpion looked pretty cool. Perhaps on the way home, we can pick up…
Brian Suskind 44:53
The drugs. All the drugs.
DARE worked so well.
Well, you heard it here first, folks: Wastelands of Chaos coming from Kobold Press. There’ll be scorpions on skateboards.
Brian Suskind 45:08
As far as you know.
If there aren’t scorpions and skateboards, Brian, I will be very upset.
Brian Suskind 45:16
It’s gonna be a really hard sell. Okay, so I’ve got this idea that I need you to hear me out now.
Here’s how you get away with it. Here’s how you get away with it. Alright? You don’t sell it as a skateboard. There’s a flying carpet in… somewhere. It happens to be roughly rectangular and small. And you have some kind of trap in or around the flying carpet that drops scorpions. All you have to do is get art of one of the scorpions falling onto the flying carpet mid-flight.
Brian Suskind 45:53
And maybe the only way to to to disarm the whole thing is to put little caps on each of them. But that’s… yes. Yeah. It’s kind of complicated. It’d be like a skill challenge for the whole party. Every gets a little hat and they just put it on a scorpion.
That’s gonna work.
Brian Suskind 46:09
This is gonna work team. All right, Brian, thank you so much for being with us today.
Brian Suskind 46:17
Oh, guys, thanks for having me. This was this was a lot of fun. I hope I was somewhat coherent, which is you know, that after a long day of designing, sometimes my wife will look at me and go, I have no idea what you’re talking about.
I think, I think we mostly had ideas what you’re talking about. So I think that was really well.
Brian Suskind 46:34
I’m just fixated on this whole scorpion on this on the skateboard thing. So I’m gonna be thinking about that all night, now.
We’re gonna workshop it a little bit. We’ll get it put together. It’s gonna be wonderful.
Brian Suskind 46:42
Well, thanks again. I’m Brian Suskind. I’m one of the freelance designers from Kobold Press. Probably find me on definitely on the Kobold Press Facebook and Discord. Also, BrianSuskind on Instagram and @BrianSuskind on Twitter. And they said that they’ve put my name in the comments so that people know how to spell it.
Perfect. Absolutely. We’ll have links in the show notes. You’ll be able to find all the different Brain Suskinds on, okay, no, this Brain Suskind on the internet in all the places he is in particular. All right, thanks so much.
Brian Suskind 47:16
Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.
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So sorry, my cat is attacking my microphone. Stop it.