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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

RPGPundit Interviews: Brett Bernstein

The following is an interview with Brett Bernstein, RPG author and publisher, owner of Precis Intermedia. I should note that Precis has published my own Lords of Olympus and Gnomemurdered RPGs, and that Brett Bernstein is also the Tech Admin at theRPGsite. I don't think that really affects the tone of my questions, though.

So, with that said, here we go:

Q: who are you?

Just another asshole.

Q: What did you do?!
I didn't do nothing, man!

Q: What do you have to say for yourself??Fuck off!

Q: What's the best game you wrote yourself?  What's your favorite game that you didn't write yourself?

I'd have to say the upcoming Bloodshadows 3E, but since it's my own writing mixed with rewriting what came before, I guess it's a toss up between EarthAD.2 and Treasure Awaits!

I've asked this question, but I guess I never really thought about it myself. It's really hard to pick a favorite game that someone else wrote, because it depends on my mood. The new D&D is probably the best iteration in a long time. I had the most fun with Star Frontiers back in the day. Mutant Year Zero is pretty cool.

Q: How would you judge your success in the hobby at this point?

Better than some, worse than others. Success is hard to judge. I'm either happy with it or not. There's always room for improvement. I guess it comes down to whether I've done everything I can do - the answer to that is no. I need to do more.

Q:What makes EarthAD.2 or Treasure Awaits so good?

EarthAD's setting grips me. Now it may just be that I can envision it better because I wrote it, but it's fun to me. Treasure Awaits is what I consider the epitome of old school dungeon crawling without an old school set of rules.

Q: What would you say is your least favorite game you've actually played?

It's got to be Age of Rebellion. I can't remember what the different dice and symbols do. It really detracts from what could be a great game.

Q:  You haven't gotten on board with the OSR. Do you just not like D&D?

I don't have any ideas that would benefit from the OSR. I also haven't found the holy grail of OSR rules - I have a specific concept in mind, but it doesn't exist and I don't know how to make it exist.

Q:  Is there any situation where you could imagine yourself publishing an OSR game, either your own or one someone else wrote?

Absolutely, but it needs to feel right

Q: What would make it feel right?  Do you have some kind of process through which you decide what to write or what to publish?

A unique and exciting setting. A thorough but simple rules set. I also want a D6 or 2D6-based system that is fully compatible with standard OSR mechanics - that's my holy grail. 

Q: You have famously published me, in Gnomemurdered and Lords of Olympus. What was it like to work with me?

You were professional, competent, insightful, and not at all full of yourself. What a refreshing change :) Highly recommended.

Q:You're also the Tech Admin for theRPGsite, and the site would literally not be able to exist without you. Why would you put yourself through that?

See the first question.

Q: What do you think is the worst trend in the RPG hobby of the last few years?  On the whole do you think the hobby is getting better, or worse?

Kickstarter bothers me. It's basically a pre-order and a way for people to create higher-end products. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but the fact that it is often promoted as an investment is an issue. An investment implies a return on the money invested. The only return you generally get is a product - which is really just a simple transaction. Call me old-fashioned, but if I'm investing in something, I want to see a monetary return. But hey, to each his own.

The hobby is definitely more open to new publishers, which is good. I've seen the various cliques and "movements" put off newcomers to the hobby, making them either give up or it simply leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

Q: I agree with your pet peeve about Kickstarter; it should really be understood as a pre-ordering system.  Other than that though, it's clearly useful (and has made a few people amounts of money that one would never expect).  Is there any scenario where you can imagine yourself doing a Kickstarter yourself?

I almost used kickstarter for my 8in1 Dice, but ultimately decided to go with a regular pre-order. Shipping is what stopped me, because it complicates matters, as does their cut. And by the time the dice shipped, the post office raised international rates, which was not good - this would have been worse if I had used kickstarter.

Q:  Is there any genre you haven't done an RPG out of yet, but would really want to?

Cyberpunk. Some people have also been asking for a cyberpunk genreDiversion game. I've had an idea for years. Two authors started the work, but the direction was not right. I finally know where I'm going with it. It's got some standard cyberpunk elements, but it goes off in a slightly different direction, with more emphasis on psychics, genetically engineered folk, and hacking. While there is augmented and higher reality, there is no artificial reality.

Q: You have generally not been a heavy contributor to either political topics (when they come up on the RPGPundit's Forum on theRPGsite, for example) or to debates about the fight against the pseudo-activist "Outrage Brigade" Swine and their attempts to censor and blacklist people in the hobby.  What would you say your politics are? And what is your position on the what the Swine's adoption of alleged 'social justice' causes has done in the hobby?

Let's just say that I'm an independent. I don't like any organized political group, although I do lean to the right. I don't like extremism on either side. I'm very tired of the fascism and bullying of the left. I want to see less government interference, balanced budgets, and common sense laws. And I want to see politicians who want to tackle important issues, not just the ones that the extremists are calling to solve (that have already been solved).

I'm all for natural social justice in the hobby. That is, every group plays the way they want without being told they are wrong or imposing their own values on others. That's the only social justice that matters. The so-called Swine's social justice is about imposing their own views on other people -- they are basically fascists, which stems from the left's ideologies of everyone having to be homogenous in their beliefs. If you think differently, you are a heretic in their religion. And that's what it is -- a religion to them. Now I could be very wrong, because I'm only going by what I read online. There may be other instances of these social justice warriors actually doing good. I'm open to the idea, but I haven't seen it.

Q: Do you think the hobby will be doing better or worse 10 years from now? And will you still be involved in it, and how?

I don't think it will change much in terms of better or worse. It will likely change in terms of logistics though - there may be new internal and/or online sales laws. We'll find out. I may get tired of it by then, but who knows.


That's a wrap. Thanks to Brett! 

And let us know what you think, and who else you might want to see interviewed!


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck


  1. Well at least now I know where to find the political debates at The RPG Site...

    More seriously, I have nothing but respect for PI Games. I wish more publishers were like him.

  2. Everyone you interview has similar political viewpoints.

    Ever thought about interviewing someone with wildly different views to yourself?

    1. The problem is that usually only people with broadly similar views to my own actually believe in free speech, and would risk talking to me.
      Name me a flaming liberal who would be willing to be interviewed with me and I'll be pissing my pants with joy that someone like that still exists.

  3. Brett Bernstein for US President.