In a distant age before the heat death of the First Universe, anime/manga blogger, podcaster, and Co-Reverse Thief Al Mendez graciously agreed to an interview. Soon after, Save vs. Me went on hiatus and Al’s interview drifted in the cold dark of Neverspace. Until now. Al loves Mage: The Ascension. If you want to know more about his impeccable taste, read on.
Who are you? Introduce yourself!
I am Alain Mendez aka Hisui. If I am known for anything it is for my anime blog and podcast. But as a jack of all trades nerd I also play a decent amount of table top RPGs. Due to a combination of various people moving and sordid interpersonal drama I had not played for about 5 years. Then about two years ago I started a D&D game and I have been GMing ever since then.
How long have you gamed and how did you get into gaming?
I was aware of table top games as early as elementary school but I distinctly remember buying The Doctor Who Role Playing Game from a comic shop as the first time I owned an RPG. But I mostly bought that as a source book for the TV show than something I would play. The first game I actually played was Star Frontiers. I only GMed a few games for my brother before we both concluded that we needed more players but we never really got anyone to play with us.
After that point I would occasionally flip through other systems whenever I went to a comic shop but since I did not know anyone else who played I never really bought any other systems. When I got to college there was a good deal of people who played regularly with a variety of systems. That is when I really started playing for real. Therefore I would put the time that I formally entered the hobby for real was in 1995. That means that I have been playing for 20 years now. The first game I played was a Traveler game but I played everything from D&D and White Wolf to the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game and a friend’s home brewed martial arts game in that time. Ever since then I was hooked. As a favor to me PLEASE don’t do more to make me realize how old I am.
What was your first game?
As I stated above my first game was technically The Doctor Who Role Playing Game or Star Frontiers but I would consider Traveler the first game I formally played with a real group.
Do you have a favorite game or favorite genre of game? If so, what about it appeals to you?
My favorite game will always be Mage: The Ascension. I think the magic system is unique and amazingly suited to innovative role playing. An inexperienced GM or problem players can easily make for a horrible session but when the game works it can be transcendent.
I love the philosophy behind the game. The idea that we all shape our own reality while having to deal with the fact that this is true for everyone we meet is a powerful idea in real life as well as in the game. Also I think the Technocracy is a fascinatingly sympathetic antagonist. They are clearly misguided and corrupt but you can see why they would exist if the game setting was real.
What games have you not tried, but would like to?
For a simple but boring answer I would like to try D&D 5th edition but that is more just a matter of either buying the books or playing with someone who has them.
My more interesting answer would be I would love to play a Japanese RPG. The Sword World RPG or Gear Antique are on the top of my list. The main problem is no one (that I know of) translates those books so I have not been able to play one. But I am intensely curious how they are different from American table top games. Then again Seven Seas Games just started a Table Top RPG imprint so I might get my wish soon enough. It all depends on what titles they pick up.
What was your first character?
My first character was a young noble trying to prove himself to his family in Traveler. He was on a space station that was being invaded by some strange alien species. I only played the character in one session so I don’t remember much about him other than that.
What do you use for inspiration for your characters?
That really depends on the day and the system. Sometimes I will modify a character I liked in something read or watched recently. Other times I will let the setting spark my imagination. I think “what sort of person would be attracted to this profession or organization.” Other times I pick a class that seems fun and build a character concept around that. Also as a GM I do have a habit of taking NPCs I love from other games and remaking them as PCs in other people’s games.
Do you have a favorite kind of character to play? (Could be race, class, archetype, personality, etc.)
I tend to try to make characters who fill in a gap in the group. If everyone is playing damage dealers then I might play a healer in a hack and slash game. If the group needs a techie, scholar, or a person with contacts in a more social game then I will take that role. That tends to mean that I play support characters 9 times out of 10. In fact the only type of character I rarely play is the straight up combat monster. Even when I make such a character I tend towards a clever gimmick fighter as opposed to a straight power character.
Do you run/GM games?
I do. Everyone was encouraged to GM a little bit in college so I picked up the skill there. I will admit I sucked at first but I went to school with some amazing GMs. I would say that by watching and copying their styles I have slowly evolved my own style. I would never say that I have surpassed my old mentors, as some of them were exceptional, but I think I have forged my path.
Do you run pre-made adventures or create your own material as you go?
I have never used a pre-made adventure. It is more because I am cheap as opposed to me looking down on them. They are great for when you are starting or just want to run something elaborate with minimum preparation. I will admit I have swiped a good idea or two from pre-made adventures I have read over the years. I have just taken much more from setting supplements than anything else.
What do you use for inspiration for your campaigns?
It is more a question of what I don’t use. I have drawn inspiration from books, movies, plays, comics, and TV shows. A good history book can give you 101 game ideas. Folklore, the news, travel guides, and even your own life can have the seeds of a great game. The more you take in the more chances you have for a spark of inspiration. I once made a campaign around the label on the back of a bottle of Dr McGillicuddy’s Black Licorice Schnapps. (Oh Damn. – ed.)
What would you say to people who are curious about gaming but have never tried it?
The most important piece of advice would be pick your first group carefully. They will shape your experience more than anything else. A bad game master, sexist and racist players, or just an uninviting group can easily turn you off from the hobby. If an old hand runs into a bad group they are far more likely to brush themselves off and try again. A burnt new player has a far better chance of being scared off and never getting that taste of what makes RPGs so great.
Conversely my advice to older players is that they should do everything they can to nurture new players. Not all of us got that gentle hand to get us into the hobby but that is no excuse for not extending a welcoming experience to anyone getting into the fandom. Remember today’s newbie just might be the person who runs tomorrows amazing session. As for why they would want to play: I think that Table Top RPGs are one of the most creative hobbies you can participate in. They let the players and GM be part actor, writer, director, and audience of their own stories. If you have ever read a book and thought, “If I wrote the story I would …” or played a video game and which you could just go off the rails of the system then you know the appeal of an RPG without realizing it.
Anything else you’d like to say about gaming that we haven’t covered?
I would like to mention how much fun it is to play RPGs. If you have ever seen a group of players talk fondly about an amazing session, an epic campaign, or even a cool moment you understand what a great hobby this is. I have made some of my best friends over rolling dice and that in of itself has made it all worthwhile.
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