Today we’re talking to Comrade Pollux, one of the writers for the Demon Collective, Vol. 1. His own module, Bad Faith, is a gory hack-and-slash adventure set in and around a desecrated church and the village it has come to infiltrate.
DAVID: So how would you like to introduce yourself?
COMRADE: Hi, I’m Comrade Pollux. I like D&D, cheesy fantasy, and socialism.
What can you tell us about the dungeon you’ve written? What inspired it?
My dungeon is about murdering cultists who have started warping reality around their base (and are also trying to murder you). I’ve always been fascinated by cults and secret societies, both as trope-y fantasy enemies and as real organizations with the capacity to do lots of harm. I’ve lived in areas with fair amounts of Klan activity, and the town I went to high school in is home to a church that makes millions of dollars a year “teaching” faith healing to foreign nationals. A lot of that money they use to influence the city government, donating hundreds of thousands to the police and stuff like that. Needless to say, I find that pretty scary, especially since there’s not really anything else in the region that can compete with them economically.
Less depressing inspirations include Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, the very first RPG I played and quite possibly my favorite to this day (though the dungeon is hardly something that would fit into a WFRP game). That’s probably where I first really got into the cult as an enemy. A big tonal influence for me is 90’s-era CRPGs and FPSs. I love DOOM and Daggerfall to death. More specific to this dungeon is the game DUSK, which was really the spark that helped me tie together a bunch of ideas which have been floating around in my head for a while.
That’s really interesting. What is it about WFRP that makes it your favorite?
Well, a great deal of it has to do with nostalgia and happy memories, no doubt. I’m sure I’d still like it if I have the patience to play a game as crunchy as WFRP these days. Now, I knew a little bit about D&D before I played WFRP, mostely from reading play reports and Order of the Stick and things like that, and WFRP just seemed a lot more real to me a lot of ways. I was an edgy teenager and I dug that it was A GRIM WORLD OF PERILOUS ADVENTURE, but the budding historian and medievalist in me used the Old World’s caricatured nations as a gateway to learning about their historical counterparts. The problems that you’re expected to face as a character in WFRP–poverty, corruption, mental illness, bigotry, and yes, shadowy cults–also seemed a lot more applicable to my own lived experiences than the problems that D&D of the day presented.
I’ve never played it, but that all makes sense to me. What system do you play the most now?
These days I mostly play my own homebrew B/X OSR thing, currently called Dagor Dagorath. It’s been four years in the making, and my group just had our 99th session. I can pretty safely say that I’ve stolen stuff from pretty much every OSR blogger that has ever existed at this point, so if you have a blog and you’re reading this, thanks! Keep writing and keep rolling.
If you could distill your gaming style into a single sentence, what would it be?
“Roll the dice and see what happens (it probably involves mutilations).”
That’s something to be respected. There’s been lots of talk about RPGs as art lately. What’s your take on that? Is there anything you think tabletop games do better than other forms of creative expression?
I absolutely agree that RPGs are art. I think the thing RPGs do better than any other artistic medium is allow a group of people to create and inhabit a highly-interactive shared imaginary space. As I write that it sounds obvious, but I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity to create deeply meaningful experiences that’s being overlooked. Books and films have Lore, but RPGs can have History. I read about these campaigns that have run for decades, and I think that’s just the coolest thing, because pretty much everything worth telling about these games is stuff that actually happened in a way that isn’t true of other types of art. You can get similar experiences in MMOs like EVE Online, but even those are about a particular thing in a way that RPGs don’t have to be. You can have games that start out as a dungeon-crawl which then evolve into political hijinks, or a game about merchant caravans, or maybe you discover lost alien spaceships and now you have a sci-fi thing, or all of these in different orders and combinations, because the only limitation on the nature of the shared space is the imagination of the people playing.
Is there anything you’d like to see catch on in the greater gaming community?
Apart from reading tons of blogs I tend to keep to my own gaming group, so you may want to take these thoughts with a grain of salt.
This hobby is an incredible way to forge friendships, so I think we should strive for eliminating barriers to participation both as a player/referee and as a creator/publisher. Partly this is a problem of access: there’s a ton of games I want to play but can’t afford, and the patterns of life under neoliberalism are not exactly conducive to being able to hold a regularly scheduled game unless you’re really devoted, making it harder to get new butts in chairs. There’s also a cultural problem: you don’t have to look far to hear stories about minorities being harassed in our community, which still largely trends white, straight, male, and cis.
Neither of these things are really isolated to us as gamers, however. So I guess you could say what I’d like to see catch on in the greater gaming community is the abolition of capitalism and an end to oppressive hierarchies. Those things belong in make-believe worlds, not the real one.
Also the dice they use for Dungeon Crawl Classics are really cool. We need more sizes of dice.
Last one: which writers/artists are you most excited to see more from?
Anything by anyone who wrote, illustrated, edited, or produced for this project, for one. I feel awed and honored to have my work included alongside theirs. Broadly speaking, I’m interest in fresh perspectives in gaming, either from marginalized communities or simply people who are writing for the first time. There are a few OSR bloggers which have influenced me a great deal–Arnold K of Goblin Punch, Skerples of Coins & Scrolls, Delta of Delta’s D&D Hotspot–and I always look forward to anything they put out. I absolutely have to plug my brother, who runs the blog Profane Ape and is a regular in my own campaign. If you like my stuff, you’ll probably like his.
Finally, to tie this to my thoughts on the nature of RPGs as art, I’m just looking forward to what my own players throw at me. They’re artists as much as I am.