The Halfling and the Spaceman

Steven S. Long, Game Designer and Author

June 04, 2023 Janet & Roger Carden Season 2 Episode 22
The Halfling and the Spaceman
Steven S. Long, Game Designer and Author
Show Notes Transcript

Today, we’re excited to get a chance to talk to Stephen Long.  For over 30 years he’s been a game designer working for many of the industry’s companies.  He’s best known for best known for his work with the HERO System — from 2001-2011 he served as HERO System Line Developer.  He’ll be talking about that plus more insights into the gaming industry.

References and Links:

Steven S. Long, Author and Game Designer

[00:00:00] Halfling: Thanks for tuning into the Halfling and the Spaceman Journeys in Active Fandom. We're having great conversations with people that have turned their love of fandom into something creative. We're fans talking to fans, and today we're excited to get a chance to talk to Steve Long.

[00:00:15] Halfling: For over 20 years. He's been a game designer working for many of the industry's companies. He's best known for his work with the Hero System. From 2001 to 2011, he served as the hero system line developer. Welcome, Steve.

[00:00:30] Steven S. Long: Thanks for having me on.

[00:00:32] Halfling: Oh, it's great to have you. Thanks for being here. It'll be great to catch up a little bit.

[00:00:37] Steven S. Long: Absolutely. Haven't seen you guys in a few years.

[00:00:41] Halfling: yeah, yeah. Well, I couldn't get everything you've been credited with in the introduction. I, yeah, it, it's a very long list, so I just, I had to condense it down, you know, down into that one little spiel.

[00:00:56] Halfling: Um, but

[00:00:56] Steven S. Long: I don't know if you'll want to edit this out. I've actually been doing this for 30 years now,

[00:01:00] Halfling: Oh, oh my gosh.

[00:01:02] Steven S. Long: but it doesn't really, it doesn't really matter.

[00:01:04] Halfling: Well, no, no, it matters.

[00:01:06] Steven S. Long: that time I've written or co-written, I'm guessing about 220 books, something like that. 

[00:01:15] Halfling: Wow, 

[00:01:16] Steven S. Long: but its been a long time since I did an exact count.

[00:01:19] Halfling: wow. Kinda lose count after a while, huh?

[00:01:23] Steven S. Long: exactly though. I'll, I'll tell you, even though you lose count, you never ever get tired of seeing your name on a new book or a new magazine article or whatever it is that never gets old.

[00:01:33] Halfling: sure. No, I, I, I can totally relate cuz I remember the first time we got our first copy of the Crimson Streets anthology, the first one, and I saw my name on the cover as editor. I was like, whoa, that's, that's, that's kind of a rush. And I was going around to people going, look, look, look, this is me.

[00:01:56] Halfling: And it, and it never gets old even after 30 years. Right. Well, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background.

[00:02:05] Steven S. Long: Uh, well, I, live here in North Carolina in the house I grew up in. I've lived in North Carolina nearly all of my life by training. I'm an attorney, but I quit practicing law about 25 years ago, give or take, to pursue writing and game design full-time. And I'm one of the fortunate ones who managed to, you know, abandon his annoying day job and turn his hobby into his day job.

[00:02:38] Steven S. Long: And not only succeed at it, but not get tired of the hobby as a result. You know, sometimes when you start doing something full-time, it's no longer is interesting. But I still love gaming, you know, and reading for that matter just as much as I always did. So I've sort of gotten the best of both worlds in that respect.

[00:03:00] Halfling: That's great. You know, and that's, a rare thing, you know, when you, when you go, when you try to pursue what you. Love doing as your career. Sometimes, like you said, it, it can be, it can become not enjoyable anymore. So it's, it's great that you still enjoy what you're, what you're doing.

[00:03:20] Halfling: But I have to ask, what prompted that transition from being an attorney of all things to, you know, to, to becoming a, a successful game designer?

[00:03:34] Steven S. Long: Well, I mean, I had been doing game design and writing since 93. You know, I would, I was doing it in, you know, in my spare time on weekends, things like that and I just, I finally decided I was not enjoying working for the person I was working for at the time, you know? I chose a field of law that for better or worse, I wasn't really temperamentally suited for, but in a way I should be grateful that my last boss was a jerk and that I made a bad decision.

[00:04:07] Steven S. Long: Because without that pressure I would never have dared to make the step to becoming a full-time writer. You know, if I had been doing something, a different area of law rather than I was a litigator, if I'd been doing something more, like, for example, trust and estate, I'd probably still be doing it. Cuz by nature I'm a conservative sort of guy.

[00:04:29] Steven S. Long: I'm not likely to just quit a job. But in this case I was kind of, strongly prompted to, if you will, and it's all turned out really well. I have had and am having a great life, so, even, even though, I'm kind of the poster child for Quit your awful day job though, you know. I kind of subconsciously prepared for it for a long time and you know, it isn't something I'd recommend that anyone just do on the spur of the moment.

[00:04:59] Halfling: Sure, sure.

[00:05:00] Steven S. Long: know, planning is always better

[00:05:03] Halfling: Hmm.

[00:05:04] Steven S. Long: that kind of thing.

[00:05:05] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah. And I th you know, I think a lot of people probably get stuck in, you know, they, they think that they have a solid career path and they think they know what they wanna do, and then when they actually start doing that thing, they think to themselves, oh no, this isn't really what I wanted to do.

[00:05:29] Halfling: But they don't know how to get out of it. They don't know, they don't know how to take that leap, 

[00:05:33] Steven S. Long: that's true. Sometimes though, you know, unlike my dad who worked for the same company for 40 years these days, I mean, according to what I've read, the average person is gonna have, Four or five different careers. Typically, over the course of their working life, they're going to be doing different things or at least working for different companies.

[00:05:52] Steven S. Long: So hopefully that offers some level of choice and satisfaction to some degree. I've, you know, for better or worse, I've never worked for corporate America. I only ever worked for small plaintiffs oriented law firms, so I don't really have much of a window into the typical working life of many people other than listening to my friends talk about their jobs.

[00:06:21] Steven S. Long: So,

[00:06:24] Spaceman: Well, we try not to talk too much about the mundane world on this podcast. You know, we center around people's,

[00:06:31] Steven S. Long: yep. 

[00:06:32] Spaceman: Passionate professions. 

[00:06:33] Steven S. Long: Yeah, the mundane world's not that much fun anyway. 

[00:06:35] Steven S. Long: Fantasy worlds are much more 

[00:06:36] Spaceman: yeah, yeah. Well, first, before I get started, I wanna thank you for carrying on the torch of the Hero system. 

[00:06:43] Steven S. Long: No, you're quite welcome. I, I love doing it. And, you know, I wish the industry were such that we could keep on publishing the way we were in the two thousands when we were putting out, up to a book a month at some point. But that's just not the industry anymore, you know? And so we, like everybody else, we scale back.

[00:07:05] Steven S. Long: We try different approaches. We use Kickstarter when we can

[00:07:09] Steven S. Long: and sort of amble along as best we can. But, you know, being the Hero line developer is my dream job. So I love doing it, you know, I mean, I get to play around with what I believe is the best roleplaying game system ever designed and make it better.

[00:07:25] Spaceman: and who could want more than that?

[00:07:27] Steven S. Long: Absolutely. And even, you know, just in a more general sense, the thing I love about designing tabletop role playing games is that I'm helping other people create their own fun. You know, uh, watching a novel or a, you know, reading a novel or watching a TV show, you know, or a movie is passive of entertainment, you're absorbing something somebody else has created.

[00:07:54] Steven S. Long: But with an R P G, you are creating your own story or your own fun, your own adventure, if you will. And I think that's pretty special. It makes role playing game forms as pretentious as it may. This may sound as, you know, kind of a unique form of art.

[00:08:14] Spaceman: I agree. Uh, it's, it's very, it's an active, participatory type of fandom. It's the way you can be in the story.

[00:08:23] Halfling: Mm-hmm.

[00:08:24] Steven S. Long: Yeah.

[00:08:25] Halfling: And it allows you the opportunity to be something else, you know, other for, for a while. Forget who you are for a little while and, just enjoy being somebody else and being in a different environment and having the different experiences. Uh, I just personal side, I remember one time I was so ticked off at work.

[00:08:50] Halfling: I was really, really mad. And we came over to our friend's house because he was gonna be running a game and we were getting ready to start character development. And he turned me and he said, well Janet, what kind of character do you want? I said, I just want somebody that will kill things. I was, and so, and that's what I did, that's what I made.

[00:09:11] Halfling: So, you know, where, whereas I would never do anything. Remotely, like what that character did in the real life. I got to sort of work out some of that frustration during, during that, those uh, sessions.

[00:09:24] Steven S. Long: no, I, I, as crazy as it may sound over the course of my gaming career and all the people I've played with, I think that the most blood thirsty characters have always been played by women. It's their, you know, maybe their way of taking their frustrations out, you know, like you did. But, you know, the really bloodthirsty characters are always played by females.

[00:09:52] Steven S. Long: Um, on the other hand, you know, I had, uh, one friend that I gamed with, I won't give her name for privacy reasons, but her job, daily job required her to make a lot of tough decisions as to. Who would get funding and who wouldn't. And so there were a lot of both practical and sort of moral considerations involved.

[00:10:14] Steven S. Long: And that kind of drained her every day. And so when she came to the gaming table, she didn't want any moral ambiguity. She wanted everything to be black and white, cut and dried. Cause she didn't want to have to make any decisions during her fun time. That reminded her of her day job. So, when I was running games and she was involved, I made sure that they were all very black and white.

[00:10:36] Spaceman: Mm-hmm.

[00:10:37] Steven S. Long: You sort of tailor to your players because you want, I mean, the whole point of it is for them to have fun. If you're creating games that they don't enjoy, you need to step back and rethink typically, because if you're telling the story you want to tell and they're not into it, you should really be writing a novel.

[00:10:56] Spaceman: Never truer words have been spoken. Steve. You know, we, we always approach people from the point of view of

[00:11:04] Steven S. Long: behind. So you can backstab with notes.

[00:11:06] Spaceman: Uh, no, 

[00:11:07] Halfling: me. I'm the Halfling. 

[00:11:08] Spaceman: Yeah, the halfling is the 

[00:11:09] Halfling: back stabber.. 

[00:11:10] Spaceman: I'm much more of the plasma rifle kind of guy. But, but 

[00:11:15] Steven S. Long: There you go.

[00:11:17] Spaceman: when we

[00:11:17] Steven S. Long: Plasma, weaponry, nothing better.

[00:11:19] Spaceman: that's exactly right. You know? Uh, yeah. Uh, uh How many dice does that do?

[00:11:24] Spaceman: And, and what's the stun? Nevermind. Nevermind. 

[00:11:29] Spaceman: We won't 

[00:11:29] Steven S. Long: on, it depends on the model and the attachments you add to the rifle.

[00:11:32] Spaceman: Right, right, right, right. So we're not gonna look up the stun modifier right now, but we're gonna continue on. The fandom is important and everyone we speak to started out as a fan, and then they developed their fandom into, some manifestation of creativity.

[00:11:48] Spaceman: You know, some people are writers, some people they're game designers. So what was your first fandom? What was the thing that, that turned you on into this wild, wacky world that we call, fandom?

[00:11:58] Steven S. Long: I probably have to say comic books. When I was a kid, I loved reading comic books almost entirely Marvel comics because, I love Spider-Man. That's what got me into reading them in the first place as a little kid. Um, and so I'd read anything where Spider-Man made a guest appearance. And, you know, in the seventies, spider-Man was the hugely popular character.

[00:12:19] Steven S. Long: The X-Men were still floundering along in a book that was so lackadaisical that it half of its run is a repeat of the first half of its run. And so anytime a new book was launched or they wanted to goose up sales, spider-Man would make a guest appearance. And so I wanted to see what Spider-Man was doing.

[00:12:39] Steven S. Long: So through that, I gradually got into reading other Marvel characters. But then then I got into reading fantasy and science fiction after watching, there's a, company called WonderWorks that produced, a series of like two hour TV movies for each of the first four books of the Chronicles of Narnia.

[00:13:00] Halfling: Oh, wow. 

[00:13:01] Steven S. Long: while they're, yeah, they're, generally speaking, I find them to be superb adaptations, particularly given that they're working on, I guess more or less a B B C budget. I'm not sure where their funding came from. Cause I will warn you if you ever watch them, that the, an, there's some animation, at least in the line, the witch in the wardrobe, that is hideously bad by, even by the standards of the time, probably, but it's only for a few seconds.

[00:13:30] Spaceman: Yeah. British animation at

[00:13:31] Spaceman: its 

[00:13:31] Steven S. Long: the real highlight of the, the series of four for many people is that, In the silver chair, they get Tom Baker, you know, the great Dr. (crosstalk)

[00:13:39] Halfling: Oh yeah.

[00:13:40] Steven S. Long: pu.

[00:13:40] Halfling: Wow.

[00:13:41] Steven S. Long: And so at one point I was, stuck in a hotel. I think, you know, my, my sister was a competitive swimmer when we were younger, and so that meant we went to swim meets almost every weekend.

[00:13:52] Steven S. Long: And I got stuck in a lot of hotel rooms reading.

[00:13:56] Halfling: Mm-hmm.

[00:13:57] Steven S. Long: And so for some reason, I, I saw this show was coming on and I'm like, well, those are those books all the girls were reading in fourth grade, but there was nothing else on tv. So I thought, well, let, let's give it a try. And I just instantly fell in love with it and immediately started reading the Chronicles of Narnia and then went on to the Lord of the Rings and so forth and so on.

[00:14:18] Halfling: Hmm.

[00:14:18] Steven S. Long: And then one day I started hearing, you know, when I was in about eighth, seventh, or eighth grade, I think early, early, early eighties,

[00:14:25] Halfling: Hmm.

[00:14:26] Steven S. Long: you, I began hearing about this game called Dungeons and Dragons, and. You that it would let you play, you know, the play out these same fantasy stories with, other people.

[00:14:37] Steven S. Long: And that sounded really cool. And so I ended up getting the, you know, the blue cover J Eric Holmes edition of D&D. Yeah. I, I still have the same copy to this day. Love it. And started playing with my friends and gradually they all stopped playing, you know, they, the fad lost interest for them and I just kept going, you know?

[00:15:01] Steven S. Long: And eventually, you know, about 10 years later, in the early nineties was prompted to start writing game articles and then stuff for game books and then eventually whole books.

[00:15:14] Halfling: Mm-hmm. Well, that's, that's the gateway in drug. So Touch the dragon.

[00:15:19] Steven S. Long: There's always, there's always one out there. Yep. No, you, D&D just. It immediately took hold of my mind. I was just obsessed with it early on. And I mean, looking back on those early Dungeons I designed and games I ran, they were horrible. They were, I mean, the very first game of D&D I ran, I had not won, but two TPKs though the term didn't exist at the time, but partly because I didn't really understand what I was doing and partly because the players didn't really know the rules and what their characters could

[00:15:49] Halfling: Mm-hmm. 

[00:15:50] Steven S. Long: So, but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm at the time, so we just rolled up new characters and kept playing.

[00:15:57] Halfling: Well, you sort of alluded a little bit, but, you got prompted to start writing games. Who, who, who, who, who did the 

[00:16:06] Halfling: prompting? 

[00:16:07] Steven S. Long: story in itself. I was, at the time, I had started with D&D. But then when Champions came out and my friends and I were finally able to get a copy, cause this was back in the day when if you didn't live in a huge city, it was that had a game store, it was kind of hard to find RPG products.

[00:16:23] Steven S. Long: But I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of Champions and that quickly became our game. We stopped playing D&D entirely. It was so, it's so, it appealed to us so much. It was so captivating and we could finally really design the characters we wanted to play, not just what the rules of D&D would let us cobble together, if you will.

[00:16:48] Steven S. Long: Which is not to say that first edition D&D wasn't fun. It was immense fun. But I was constantly working on campaign stuff and thinking about campaigns, and I began buying other products when I could get them. And I subscribed to the Hero Games magazine at the time, which was called Adventures Club.

[00:17:05] Steven S. Long: Which was a supposedly quarterly magazine that came out. And it would have, all kinds of, you know, characters and articles and suggestions and ideas and what have you. And one, I wanna say it was issue 16, they said that next issue we were gonna focus on, among other things, we were gonna have a focus on martial arts and we're looking for articles.

[00:17:34] Steven S. Long: And that set off a light bulb in my head, like a month or so before I, at the time, one of the comics I most enjoyed reading was a comic from DC called The Shadow Strikes written by Gerard Jones and beautifully illustrated by Eduardo Barreto. And there was a, in the first storyline in which Chuan Khan, one of the shadows.

[00:18:00] Steven S. Long: Relatively rare returning villains, was coming to New York and the way they learned about it was the shadow ran into some basically a Mongolian gangster. And what he tried to catch this Mongolian gangster to interrogate him, the Mongolian gangster, like did this maneuver and basically broke his own neck to avoid being captured.

[00:18:30] Steven S. Long: And, a little kid who was watching the. Whole thing said, what the heck was that? And you get this full page, , panel shot where the shadow says the twisting vine of yang chi. And he recognizes it as a special martial arts maneuver. He knows what it is. And that clues him in as to who he's dealing with for reasons that are later discussed in, in later issues of the comic.

[00:18:55] Steven S. Long: But the idea that martial art maneuvers could have special names, that blew my mind. So I pulled out my, my copy of this was in the fairly early fourth edition days. This was in 90 or 91, cuz I was still in law school at the

[00:19:12] Steven S. Long: time. Um, and so I got out my copy of Ninja Hero, which had rules for designing, martial arts maneuvers and building martial arts styles.

[00:19:22] Steven S. Long: And I created a whole bunch of fictional martial arts styles for my campaign. And so I immediately, this was in the day, you know, kids, there was a time when we couldn't just email people. I had to actually write a physical letter, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it to John Brard at Iron Crown Enterprises, who was the Adventurers Club editor at the time, saying, I've got this, you know, grouping of fictional martial arts styles.

[00:19:48] Steven S. Long: Here's a brief sample. Would you like, an article? And he immediately wrote me back and said, yeah, I'd love to have that as an article. And so at that, the, his response happened to arrive on a Friday, which was game night. I immediately called up all my, all the people in my game and said, we're canceling tonight.

[00:20:05] Steven S. Long: I, I can't run. I gotta write. And so I, I just immediately sat down and started writing. And that led to, you know, a couple of other things. I then contributed some bits and pieces to, Fantasy Hero companion too. And at that point, the writing bug had really bit, and it wasn't long before I said, I bet I could write a whole book.

[00:20:29] Steven S. Long: And I immediately knew what I wanted to do. I, I was currently at, at that time, my main Champion's character was a character called The Harbinger of Justice, who was a, you know, extremely motivated gun toting vigilante, played in a campaign that was very much a four color campaign. And I was sort of frustrated by the fact that all of the Champions products at the time, all of them dealt very much with the four color superhero style of play.

[00:20:59] Steven S. Long: And so I, you know, I'm gonna write a book about playing these other characters, you know, the characters like the Punisher, the characters that I'm playing. And secondarily, my selfish motivations for it were a), I. I want more people to run games like this so I can play in them, and b), I want to educate game masters at a surface level of course about things I know, cuz I was constantly frustrating the game Master cuz he'd say, you know, there's this and this and this going on.

[00:21:28] Steven S. Long: Meaning to point towards a plot that would lead to a mafia gang. And I'd say, well, based on my knowledge of organized crime, which was something I studied as an amateur pretty intensively at the time, I said, well that and that and that only Japanese organized crime does those things. So I'm heading to Chinatown and just completely drive my GM, who's still a good friend of mine to this day, just drive him crazy because I was acting on knowledge I had that he didn't.

[00:21:56] Steven S. Long: So I, part of what I did in was trying to do with what became Dark champions, was to. Provide GMs with this information so they could design scenarios that sort of fit the real world organized crime picture better. Now, ironically, despite having, you know, that Dark Champions is what made my name in the industry and what led me to go on to a 30 year career of writing this stuff, I've never actually gotten to play in a Dark Champions game at all.

[00:22:25] Steven S. Long: Not even at a convention. Oh. So I still keep hoping and you know, but nevertheless, you know,

[00:22:35] Halfling: well, 

[00:22:36] Steven S. Long: that that was how I got started and that was how the writing bug bit me. And it's never let go

[00:22:42] Halfling: Hmm. Well, you, you're just gonna have to ask somebody to run something specifically, you know, so that you can play. That's, that's the only way that's gonna happen.

[00:22:52] Steven S. Long: now, once or twice people have offered to let me play Harbinger in convention games, but it's always been a matter of scheduling.

[00:22:59] Halfling: Hmm. Yeah.

[00:23:00] Steven S. Long: you know, the problem is that, I've gotta leave to catch a flight, you know, at the end of Sunday or something. And,

[00:23:06] Halfling: Yeah.

[00:23:07] Steven S. Long: know, 

[00:23:08] Spaceman: Yeah, 

[00:23:08] Steven S. Long: time slots are always filled it.

[00:23:10] Steven S. Long: And it, once I got to the point where I was involved in the industry professionally, full-time, attending a convention meant, working for someone, helping them in their booth and getting a hotel room in exchange or eventually running my own company's booth. And so when you're doing that, you don't really have time to do gaming, you know, you're there to work in essence.

[00:23:34] Steven S. Long: And even though you have a lot of fun, conventions are awesome as far as I'm concerned, even when I'm doing, even when I'm working them. You know, but you're not going there with the same in, you know, perspective and intention as a gamer who buys a ticket.

[00:23:51] Spaceman: Right. Yeah. I've been on the other side of the booth. It's, it's, it's fun, it's engaging, it's interesting, but it's, it's different.

[00:23:58] Steven S. Long: Yeah.

[00:23:59] Halfling: Yeah. Well, so do you have a particular genre that you like to write in? Because you, because you have, you know, writing in, in different genres. Do you have

[00:24:10] Steven S. Long: I've written in just about every genre, unless you talk about weird niche ones. That's hard to say. I really like all of them. I mean, obviously I love modern day action adventure. That's what I broke into the industry writing. But I also love fantasy. I, I really love pulp, for instance, I, I wrote a lot of just for fun pulp adventures, some of which I ran in my campaign, and some of which I just wrote up to sell as PDFs on the Hero Games website.

[00:24:36] Steven S. Long: So, I think all of them are fun. One of the great things. About my job is either as a freelancer or as Hero system, line developer is, I never got stuck in any one genre or setting, things were always changing up because, the hero system is used for multiple genres.

[00:24:55] Steven S. Long: So we provided material for multiple genres. And even before then, one month I'd be working for a company publishing a fantasy game in the next month, it might be a Western game in the next month, it might be science fiction. You never could tell. Freelancing is, a tricky business.

[00:25:10] Steven S. Long: The only time I consistently wrote one genre, I think would be the period during which I was employed by, directly employed by Last Unicorn Games, working on their Star Trek line. And then also on their, sadly, ill faded Dune, RPG line. So that for about three years there, two or three years, I was writing pretty much nothing but Star Trek and that's okay because I love Star Trek.

[00:25:40] Steven S. Long: And Star Trek is, this vast setting, most of which has never really been explored. So they're all kinds of wonderful things you can write about and just have a blast. I, I could have gone on writing Star Trek books for three more years, it was all kinds of fun and that's not true with every setting.

[00:26:01] Steven S. Long: Some settings are very limited, you know, there's only so much you can do. But you know,

[00:26:09] Halfling: Yeah,

[00:26:09] Steven S. Long: good setting is always fun to write in.

[00:26:12] Spaceman: Yeah, it, it's interesting. We had, uh, Thomas Morrane, the art director for Star Trek online on an earlier show. And, he was talking about the work he did for Modiphius . The, uh, current owner of the, uh, Star Trek RPG license. And I, we were talking about this very subject about the breadth of things you can do with Star Trek that aren't necessarily the things you think about from the TV series.

[00:26:35] Spaceman: And I said, the thing I'd really like to do is run a game where everybody is federation archeologist. If you've ever seen,

[00:26:44] Steven S. Long: Indiana Jones, the Star Trek years.

[00:26:47] Spaceman: I was actually thinking of the TV series Excalibur, the follow on to Babylon 5. But yeah, that could work.

[00:26:53] Steven S. Long: Yeah.

[00:26:54] Spaceman: So there's a lot of opportunity in the federation that's just not touched on.

[00:26:58] Steven S. Long: Yeah. There is, I mean the, the shows focus on specific things. DS9 opened up a lot more alternatives. I the DS9 line developer at Last Unicorn, so, unfortunately a lot of the products didn't get published, but we were able to look at things like, I wrote a book. We, we wrote a book on merchants and traders, which is an, a side of Star Trek.

[00:27:21] Steven S. Long: Normally not discussed at all until DS9 came along. It was never discussed really, other than a couple issues of, uh, the original series

[00:27:30] Steven S. Long: or episodes of the original series. And so we got to look more at that. The fun thing about doing a licensed game, something that isn't necessarily created to be a role playing game, is you get to take these bits of information that they give you over the course of six novels or a hundred issues of a comic, or 80 episodes of a TV series, and think, you know, okay, if they, they said this, What are the implications of that and how can I use that to explore this culture or this subject more?

[00:28:06] Steven S. Long: So we take the bits and pieces they've told us about commerce in the Federation slash the rest of the Star Trek universe. Things like, Gold-Pressed Latinum, and the Farge as a whole and so forth and so on. And you can come up with a whole bunch of really interesting stuff. Same thing with the, Cardassians box set we wrote up that also didn't get published.

[00:28:29] Steven S. Long: We only see the Cardassians in the TV shows as basically, a war mongering enemy and there's a, you know no civilization, even the Klingons is entirely oriented towards war. You, you can't be, you'll fall apart. And so we came up the, the group of authors that I hired and myself. Came up with this really cool, you know, sort of historical background and political background and so forth to explain how Cardassians was the way it's shown in TV and what the implications were for that in terms of their society.

[00:29:07] Steven S. Long: And it was really good. But unfortunately, screw arounds with the license at Viacom at the time, uh paramount Viacom, meant that the license was transferred to somebody else and we never got to publish those books, so.

[00:29:23] Halfling: When you are developing a game that's based on an existing, for instance, like the DS9 stuff, you have to deal with, with Canon, I guess, um, how, yeah. I, I mean, and I, I, I guess you can't really stray very far from Canon because that will cause trouble.

[00:29:43] Steven S. Long: Other writers may have a different opinion, but my opinion is if I'm doing a licensed game, canon is God, you know, I've got to stick to canon, for example, when after the Wizards of the Coast, uh, you know, Wizards of the Coast at one point bought Last Unicorn Games, the people I was writing Star Trek for, and we ended up being employed by them for about six months.

[00:30:06] Steven S. Long: And then they wanted us all to move to Seattle. And with one exception, none of us wanted to. So we all resigned and we all ended up working, going to work for Decipher, which at the time it was a company based in Virginia that did the Star Trek collectible card game and had gotten the licensing rights for Star Trek role playing games and.

[00:30:33] Steven S. Long: This was late 2000, early 2001 and had the RPG rights at the time for Lord of the Rings. And this is the year that the fellowship was coming out. Everything everywhere. Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings. 

[00:30:45] Halfling: Right. All right.

[00:30:47] Steven S. Long: So we had to do a, a new Star Trek game for them.

[00:30:50] Steven S. Long: We couldn't just reprint our old game cuz that was now owned by wizards. So the rest of the guy, I, I did a few bits of the Star Trek books that we did, but when I handed my parts of that off and the other the other guys went on working with it, I turned to writing the Lord of the Rings RPG, for which I was gonna be basically the line developer.

[00:31:15] Steven S. Long: And I wrote all the parts that had been assigned to me. And at that point they were still, knee deep in the Star Trek games slogging through. And so I'm like, well, okay, this guy was assigned these parts, but he, he might have some, you know, they might be a little difficult to write. Let me just go ahead and do them for him.

[00:31:35] Steven S. Long: And they, they were involved with the Star Trek stuff for so long, wanting to make sure they got it just right and so forth and so on that I ended up writing the entire Lord of the Rings RPG book, with the exception of one short paragraph that was done by a freelancer. And one of the things I did there is, if you look at the Lord of the Rings, R P G I wrote is that elves are markedly better than any other player race because for me, Canon is God.

[00:32:04] Steven S. Long: And in Middle Earth elves can do more things than your other species can, you know? We see Legos running a top snow without leaving footprints and other things like that,

[00:32:19] Halfling: Mm-hmm.

[00:32:20] Steven S. Long: you know, and, and other races had their own little things. But the truth is, if you are going to play a role-playing game campaign in Middle Earth, and I don't necessarily recommend it, but if you're gonna do it, you have to have a group of players who are gonna say, Hey, I get the chance to play a Hobbit.

[00:32:40] Steven S. Long: I wanna play a Hobbit. Rather than a group of players who say, well, elves are obviously better, let's all play elves. You know, in the same way that you shouldn't play Star Trek games if you don't understand the Star Trek ethos and storytelling method, you shouldn't play in Middle Earth if you don't understand the Middle Earth, earth ethos and feel and the nature of the story, if you don't grasp those things in an sort of intuitive way.

[00:33:10] Steven S. Long: I don't think you're gonna have much fun because middle earth is not greyhawk or the forgotten realms, it's different. And therefore writing adventures for it is different and a lot harder in my opinion but it all depends on a lot of factors. I can think of a couple of great Middle Earth campaigns I could run, but that's not always the case. Sometimes, people have difficulty with this stuff cuz when they're, particularly in the case of Middle Earth, when there's so much published material though, there are a lot of subjects that aren't touched on. And there again, you've, I basically in write, re in writing the Lord of the Rings, RPG I reread all of Tolkien's corpus twice basically looking for notes and underlining.

[00:33:53] Steven S. Long: So you know, every little mention of something.

[00:33:55] Halfling: Mm-hmm.

[00:33:57] Steven S. Long: I, I have a note that justifies anything I did in that game. And a couple of people, I remember this, the internet was still relatively new at that time in the web, but it was going, and so, you there were some complaints after the game was published.

[00:34:13] Steven S. Long: The all magic doesn't work like this in Middle Earth. This doesn't, this magic system is wrong. No, you are wrong. I have a note for every single one of those spells and every single other thing that explains how I know how it works. I've read those books very carefully and I took notes, and I designed a system that accurately reflects that.

[00:34:33] Steven S. Long: And so that it's, doing a licensed game is a fascinating experience, and yet also sometimes a really frustrating one. It would've been a lot easier for me if I could have called up Professor Tolkien on the phone and said, well, you've written this and this and this, you know, How do we sort of harmonize those things, you know?

[00:34:54] Steven S. Long: And I've been lucky enough to do that. I've done licensed games for, the Monster Hunter International Series written by Larry Correia and, the PS 238 comic written by Aaron Williams. And, those guys I could actually call up and say, what's going on here? You've said A in one place and B in another, how do we, which is accurate or how do we, make those two agree somehow?

[00:35:18] Steven S. Long: And not to brag, but in a couple cases, I've seen you bits and pieces I wrote for role playing games show up in later published books or TV shows or what

[00:35:29] Halfling: Mm-hmm.

[00:35:31] Steven S. Long: So that's always kind of a hoot. you know, the, it's, it's, it's a challenge, because authors in writing novels, Or screenwriters and directors in creating movies don't necessarily have to think about, these countries over here on the edge of the map that the characters are really not gonna get to, or this race of people that none of the main characters belong to, but that they encounter during the story.

[00:36:03] Steven S. Long: I don't think that a typical novelist, when your player character, your characters in your novel are going to briefly encounter lizard people when they trek through the swamps. I don't think that the typical writer sits down and writes a source book full of information about the lizard people that are only gonna appear for 10 pages. At most they jot down a few notes to keep things consistent, and that's fine. That's all they need to do. But my job as a game developer, if I'm developing that as a licensed RPG is, I may eventually want to do a Lizard People source book, and so I have to take all the bits and pieces that they included in the book and weave it into a hole and add to it with the author's, approval, so that we can create something that gamers can use.

[00:36:53] Steven S. Long: Unfortunately, most of all of the creators I've worked with, including Paramount, have been very easy to work with. Yeah. I think, if I recall correctly, three times, maybe three or four times, paramount said, when we were doing the Star Trek RPG, she said, no, you can't do that. But other than that, we were able to do whatever we wanted, or at least they approved of whatever we did.

[00:37:22] Halfling: Right. 

[00:37:23] Steven S. Long: And I, I, I would, there were certain things I wasn't allowed to do in the Lord of the Rings because of rights issue. 

[00:37:29] Halfling: Sure. 

[00:37:30] Steven S. Long: That was a nuisance. I, I actually wrote two versions of the Lord of the Rings, RPG. I wrote one version with everything in it that I thought should be in it from The Silmarillion, from the history of Middle Earth series, the whole nine yards.

[00:37:42] Steven S. Long: But then I took that, saved it as a separate file and then redacted it down to use only the things we were actually licensed to use. And that was what was published.

[00:37:53] Steven S. Long: So if I were ever to run a game in Middle Earth, I'd print out that full file and give that to my players to work from.

[00:38:02] Spaceman: And in that way you are a saint because one of my biggest aggravations when gaming with anybody, especially a game master who has house rules, is undocumented house rules.

[00:38:14] Steven S. Long: Yeah, I want to know in advance what the rules are, and if you've, taken the time to create these rules for your campaign, you must have a very good reason. But I want to, and I want to know what they are. If you know, for example, I once played in a tournament, convention game, using the hero system rules.

[00:38:33] Steven S. Long: It was basically set up like a martial arts tournament and the GM wanted to include wa wanted basically, I think he wanted a lot of action and moving around and people actually in fighting. So he cha normally the rules for dodging in the hero system are that when you dodge the bonus, you get to your defensive combat value to your ability not to be hit, lasts until your next action.

[00:39:02] Steven S. Long: And he changed that he said no to, I don't want that. I want to discourage, dodging, I want people to fight. So the bonus from Dodge Ends when the segment you used it in ends. So I had to radically change the way I was gonna play my character, cuz all of a sudden I'm vulnerable. I, in fact probably shouldn't dodge, so I became much more aggressive in my fighting style, but if, if he hadn't, if he had pulled that on me in the middle of the, game tournament, would've been, I would've been really sort of confused and annoyed. 

[00:39:35] Spaceman: Right, right, 

[00:39:36] Steven S. Long: it, you know, with my Gaming group, at least, people are really good about creating handouts, so here's what we're gonna do in this campaign, here's what you get, here are the special rules, et cetera. So that hasn't been a problem I've had to deal with for a while.

[00:39:51] Halfling: From a player perspective, if you're gonna, kind of bend the rules or add to the rules that are already existing in a system, if you wanna do that, that's fine, but put it in writing and give it to everybody so that everybody's on the same page. And so, you know, all of a sudden, you know, you don't have one person that suddenly gets a plus three for something and then, you know, another person that does the same thing doesn't get it or whatever.

[00:40:18] Halfling: That needs to be consistent. 

[00:40:21] Steven S. Long: I mean, house rules are often really good. Some of the suggested options in the Hero system six edition, cuz we went through a, a lengthy review process where anybody could comment about anything

[00:40:33] Steven S. Long: and some of the like, you know, tips on how to use this, how to do that came from, people said in my campaign, we use this house rule to simulate this element of the genre or to do this.

[00:40:48] Steven S. Long: And some of those made it into the rule book. Because they were good suggestions.

[00:40:53] Halfling: Sure.

[00:40:53] Steven S. Long: You know, some house rules really help.

[00:40:57] Halfling: Yeah.

[00:40:57] Steven S. Long: Some are, you know, neutral, but as long as I know them, I'm fine.

[00:41:04] Halfling: Right.

[00:41:04] Spaceman: Well, you know, I hate for this to become a digression into rules, but I can't help it because of, you know, you know, the, there's been some changes in the way that the tabletop R PPG hobby has been, Looked at or implemented or executed or played over the last, you know, well, you know, 25 years or so since I was actively involved in the industry.

[00:41:27] Spaceman: But the one innovation I think that I've seen that I really like in the last 20 years has been the idea of session zero. How, how do you feel about session zero?

[00:41:39] Steven S. Long: I love it. I mean, my, my group. Had been doing that since long before anybody came up, whoever thought up the term session zero, we just called it a planning session. Basically, I, we might have actually gotten the idea out of Aaron Alston's brilliant supplement Strikeforce from, which was for second or third edition Champions.

[00:42:01] Steven S. Long: I don't remember which. But wherever we got the idea, we just realized that it made a lot more sense to sit down and have everybody come up with a character idea in the beginning with the GM sitting there, so that we didn't have three people show up all wanting to play a wizard. We negotiated that out during session zero to make sure that each character was distinct and each had something he could do that was special to him.

[00:42:30] Steven S. Long: And with the GM there saying, you know, okay, okay, no, no, you. Given the nature of this campaign, the character you're thinking of probably is not gonna work or you're not gonna have as much fun playing that guy cuz he's not gonna get as much opportunity to do the things you want him to do. So I suggest coming up with something else.

[00:42:48] Steven S. Long: He, he wouldn't, the GM never says, no, you can't play that character. But I have yet to see anybody turn down those suggestions. Cuz once you realize that you can't do what you want, you start thinking about other ideas. It's no fun to play a character and have to sort of half-ass your way through things because you can't.

[00:43:07] Steven S. Long: And the, the whole virtue of using the Hero system is that you can create anything you want. You can exactly manifest as a character the idea you have in your head, you know? And so if you've gone to all the trouble to do that, and then you don't get to do the things you want to do, that's no fun. So you come up with a different character.

[00:43:27] Halfling: right.

[00:43:28] Spaceman: We actually, uh, Everybody has their gaming stories. And, uh, several years ago, I mean, this is like 30, maybe not quite 30, we watched the Game collapse because of a different understanding of the rules between the Game Master and the Player.

[00:43:47] Spaceman: Uh, yeah, 

[00:43:48] Steven S. Long: I've seen similar things, but that sounds pretty severe. 

[00:43:50] Spaceman: It, it was, it was, it was, it was all about, you

[00:43:54] Steven S. Long: if you don't mind my asking, what was the difference of opinion?

[00:43:57] Spaceman: Um, this was in GURPS and it was about, uh, it was about dual weilding,

[00:44:02] Steven S. Long: Ah,

[00:44:03] Spaceman: uh, a one, the player had made up a character who was a flamboyant, um, two sabre wielding, swashbuckler. And that was his whole shtick. You know, he fought with two Saber and he bought the appropriate advantages.

[00:44:19] Spaceman: And so he and the game Master got into an argument in the middle of the game. And the argument last lasted for like an hour and a half, and we finally left. I mean, it was already late. It was, but yeah, yeah, there were some actual, hard feelings over that. So it's

[00:44:34] Steven S. Long: yeah. No, my, my group has established a rule and I think a lot of groups use this rule that, at the table, the GM is gonna make a ruling. If you want to dispute that ruling after the game is done, we can do that and then perhaps change things going forward. But while we're playing, we don't wanna stop and argue about the rules, you know?

[00:44:53] Steven S. Long: So if the GM says his understanding is this, we go with that for the time being. Yeah. I once had a campaign end because the player characters all decided they couldn't work together anymore,

[00:45:04] Halfling: Mm.

[00:45:05] Steven S. Long: their methodologies and per perceptions of things were too different. And they sat down, the players themselves sat down in character and talked this out for about an hour and finally decided we, we just can't keep working together.

[00:45:20] Steven S. Long: And that was the end of the campaign.

[00:45:22] Spaceman: Hmm. 

[00:45:23] Spaceman: I hate it when that happens.

[00:45:25] Halfling: Well, 

[00:45:25] Steven S. Long: I would have been really upset if it weren't for the fact that they came up with this entirely on their own. I didn't suggest it, you know, I was actually really happy that they were so in character, and I really, it was my, uh, my Dark champions, uh, Hudson City, the Urban Abyss campaign.

[00:45:42] Steven S. Long: Uh, and, you know, just unfortunately the characters concluded they couldn't work together. Uh, and I just, I thought it was brilliant.

[00:45:52] Spaceman: Yeah,

[00:45:52] Steven S. Long: You know, it was, it was a fascinating role playing thing, so I've never really had any hard feelings about it.

[00:45:59] Halfling: Well, um, I wanna get kind of back on track cuz we sort of 

[00:46:04] Halfling: did 

[00:46:04] Spaceman: because the spaceman always 

[00:46:07] Halfling: off. Yeah. Yeah. So I wanna, I wanna kind of get us back on track a little bit, uh, because you know, one of the things that we do with the podcast is talk about. Talk about people's journeys from where they were to where they are now.

[00:46:21] Halfling: And you, you talked a little bit about your transition from, you know, being an attorney to, you know, being game developer and, and the fact that you wrote down these ideas for these martial arts styles and, you know, and that kind of, I, I guess that sort of started the whole snowball of you, you know, becoming, the name that you are in, in the industry.

[00:46:48] Halfling: Um, so we really already kind of talked a little bit about, you know, the, the journey. 

[00:46:52] Halfling: But 

[00:46:53] Steven S. Long: The early stages of it, at least.

[00:46:55] Halfling: well, yeah. Um, but there, there's one thing that in particular that I was kind of curious about. What, what do you consider your biggest break in the industry

[00:47:06] Steven S. Long: Hmm.

[00:47:06] Halfling: you, if you have one?

[00:47:09] Steven S. Long: In a sense you might say the original Dark Champions in 93, cuz that was sort of what got me noticed after that book was published. Steve Peterson, who's one of the original creators of the Hero System, and the guy who ran the company, he was kind enough, he, Steve is not only a really friendly guy, but he's, uh, by actual Profession Day job is a, is a marketer, a marketing consultant, and he's very good at it.

[00:47:36] Steven S. Long: And he was kind enough to basically take me around the GenCon floor and introduce me to anyone who is anyone. In the RPG industry at, at that time as of 93, 94, I don't remember exactly

[00:47:50] Steven S. Long: the year. And so he introduced me to a lot of people and, they became colleagues and, and or friends. And eventually I, got work from some of them cuz I basically went from, I quit being an attorney and became a freelance game designer.

[00:48:05] Steven S. Long: And that lasted for a few years. And then as a freelancer, I started working for last Unicorn games. And that eventually transitioned into a, we, we had a situation set up where they, they guaranteed me x amount of work per month and I cut them a slight break on my per word rate. And so that way everybody was happy, I was kept busy and they were getting, if I may or modestly say it really good work for a good price.

[00:48:33] Steven S. Long: And that then led to them hiring me full-time and paying me a salary rather than per word. And then that led from there to working full-time for Wizards at the coast and then working full-time for Decipher. And it was while I was at Decipher that I ended up, becoming partners with the guys in DOJ Inc.

[00:48:55] Steven S. Long: Our company and buying the Hero Games assets and getting hero games sort of rolling again or bringing it back from, its moribund state and for various reasons I won't get into. And so then I was, self-employed in the gaming industry, if you will. And now I'm more or less back to freelancing.

[00:49:18] Steven S. Long: I still do work for Hero when it's needed,

[00:49:21] Spaceman: Mm-hmm. 

[00:49:22] Steven S. Long: and even then, I've reached the stage in my life and my profession where I basically only take assignments. That really interests me. For some reason, I don't have to take assignments just because somebody will pay me. I only take things that I like enough that I would either do them for free or because you're offering me so much money that it becomes intensely interesting to me. Wow.

[00:49:49] Steven S. Long: You know, so, 

[00:49:50] Steven S. Long: and the rest of the time I work on my own pet projects, some of which have been going for 10 years or 12 years now. And, I keep myself, as my father would say, I keep outta the pool hall.

[00:50:02] Halfling: well, you, you sound like some actors and actresses that have, you know, made such a big name for themselves that, that they can pick and choose whatever role they want to, and they can fund their own pet projects and, you know, and all that. So, that's a really cool place to be. 

[00:50:19] Steven S. Long: I am a very fortunate person, you know, I am incredibly lucky that I've been able to turn. A hobby that I love into a job and support myself with it. And I'm very blessed by fate or whatever you wanna call it. And I'm very, very aware of that.

[00:50:38] Halfling: Yeah. 

[00:50:38] Steven S. Long: You know, it is not something I take for granted 

[00:50:41] Steven S. Long: cuz I want this to keep going as long as possible.

[00:50:45] Halfling: Sure.

[00:50:46] Spaceman: What challenges have you faced along the way, and how were you able to overcome?

[00:50:53] Steven S. Long: I can't say I faced a huge amount of challenges. Like any writer, I will sometimes clash with editors, regarding what should be in or what should be out or how it should be phrased. But that's par for the course. And those things get worked out, I've never had any lingering bitterness over anything like that.

[00:51:11] Steven S. Long: Though I will admit that one of the great perks of being Hero system line developers that essentially I was in charge of what was going in the books. I was in charge of what the rule said. 

[00:51:23] Halfling: Yeah. 

[00:51:23] Steven S. Long: made it much easier on me.

[00:51:25] Halfling: Mm-hmm.

[00:51:26] Steven S. Long: But, probably the, the worst challenge, well the, certainly there was the challenge of losing the Star Trek rights when they shifted from last unicorn to decipher, which was not because of anything we had done.

[00:51:41] Steven S. Long: It was all internal corporate maneuvering at Viacom Paramount, some high ranking executives who for whatever reason favored decipher as a licensee, won out in whatever conflict over the people who were in our camp. And the, the license was up for renewal and instead of renewing it, they just shifted it to another party and yeah, that's okay. These things happen. But when it, it, the whole thing actually went down. Ironically enough at GenCon, it was first decipher, first Enou was able to announce it at GenCon in 2000, I think it was either 2000 or 2001.

[00:52:25] Steven S. Long: I'm losing track of the dates as I age and my mind shriveled.

[00:52:28] Halfling: Aren't we all?

[00:52:30] Steven S. Long: but since we were all there in the same place, the, main WotC leadership called all of the Last Unicorn people and to have a meeting say, okay. How do you think we should address this? And before anybody could say a word, I came to the edge of my chair.

[00:52:47] Steven S. Long: I said, Sue em. You're gonna sue em for this and this and this and this. And you know, I was still only a couple years outta practicing law.

[00:52:54] Steven S. Long: So many things I have since forgotten were still fresh in my mind. And I went full on aggressive litigator mode. And it's like every head in the room turned towards me.

[00:53:03] Steven S. Long: It's like, who is this person? And what have you done with our friend Steve? Cause none of my friends had ever seen that before. And so after I finished my little rant about how we were gonna litigate them into the ground, I think it was either Ryan Dancy or Cindy Rice said, okay, you know, other ideas, you know, cause for obvious reasons, the game, there's not that much money in the gaming industry.

[00:53:25] Steven S. Long: Suing people is largely something done when there's a lot of money to be had.

[00:53:29] Halfling: right.

[00:53:30] Spaceman: Yeah. 

[00:53:31] Steven S. Long: As Steve Dallas from Bloom County tells us, never sue poor people. Now,

[00:53:35] Spaceman: Or you wind up destroying two different companies like, uh, TSR, um, G D W and Dangerous Dimensions, nay (Dangeous Journeys)

[00:53:44] Steven S. Long: Yeah, the, I mean, the outcome always leaves a bitter taste in someone's mouth. That's, you know, but honestly it wouldn't matter, even if we did sue them, that doesn't make Paramount give us the license back. Paramount's entitled to do what it wants with its license,

[00:54:00] Steven S. Long: So we went on and did other things and that was that, then when we did ironically enough move over to working for Decipher on their Star Trek game, and Lord Ring to me, the having to work around the limitations that, you know, Tolkien Enterprises in the Tolkien estate were putting on the IP.

[00:54:21] Steven S. Long: Because, you know like I said, this was 2001, everybody was talking about the movies. The Fellowship of the Ring was gonna be released in the theaters in December and so it's all over the place. And unlike, like when Iron Crown Enterprises had the, you know, middle Earth role playing license back in the eighties, no one really cared that much.

[00:54:41] Steven S. Long: And they were able to get away with things that we couldn't do. You know, they used bits and pieces from The Silmarillion, for example, or from other things that we were strictly told were off limits. And in particular, the hard part about this is, I don't know which of the licensors it was, the to estate or to enterprises said you can't use the appendices to the return of the king because those are actually all part of The Silmarillion.

[00:55:10] Steven S. Long: And so you can't have them. And to give you an idea of how important this is, even despite the fact that they were written and published in 19 54, 20 years before The Silmarillion came out, the terms. Sindarin and Gray Elf appear nowhere in the text of the Lord of the Rings. They only appear in those appendices. So until we got that issue ironed out, we, our first product, our Adventure in Moria box set, that was sort of an introductory game.

[00:55:40] Steven S. Long: We had to use the term middle elves. That's why it says middle elves, because we couldn't say gray elves, we couldn't say anything else because those terms all came from the appendices. And so that was all it. It was all a big fufferal and I was really mad about it at the time. But you know, it is what it is. We got our way, we worked our way around it.

[00:56:03] Steven S. Long: I'm very proud of the R P G that was published, you know,

[00:56:08] Halfling: Hmm.

[00:56:09] Steven S. Long: leaving Decipher for here. My only regret about, buying the Hero system assets and moving over to do that job is that I didn't get to continue working on the Lord of the Rings line. But, So it goes,

[00:56:22] Halfling: Yeah. Well, , based on what you're, what, you've been describing with, you know, issues with licensing and one company buying assets from another company and all this good stuff, would that be a piece of advice that you would give to people who are thinking about getting into the industry?

[00:56:41] Halfling: You know,, as a game designer or somebody doing freelance work? It, would that be a piece of advice as to be aware that these kind of things happen?

[00:56:51] Steven S. Long: yeah, I mean that was certainly, if you take the approach of wanting to create license games and, and not everybody does, if for no other reason than getting licenses is often expensive. Particularly the big licenses if they're even still available. Those do not come cheap and I don't even know what they cost, but I know it's a lot more than I can afford.

[00:57:13] Steven S. Long: How, you know, the just you, you have to be aware of these issues. To give you an another example, when I was at last Unicorn games, we were also working on a Dune roleplaying game cuz one of the founders of last Unicorn games is a huge Dune fan. And they, they had originally made their mark in the industry Last Unicorn Games producing the Dune collectible card game.

[00:57:35] Steven S. Long: So they really love the property and I also really love Dune. And so getting to work on this was a lot of fun. But the reason that we had it, we only ever published one book. And part of the reason for that is, you know, we had the license to produce this role playing game. And so we wrote the book, we got everything ready, and we submitted it to the Herbert Estate.

[00:57:58] Steven S. Long: And they had not realized that when we were talking about game rights, that we meant a book. Because they said, wait a minute. No, you can't do this. The, the license to create books in the Dune universe belongs to, you know, Brian Herbert, who, whoever was producing the books. So you can't do this. And so literally months of negotiation and lawyer talk back and forth were necessary before Wizards could even publish a very limited run of that core rule book that we produced.

[00:58:27] Steven S. Long: And nothing else was ever done. You know, while we were employed with Wizards, we were working on a Dune, uh, Dune D20 adaptation, and doing, I modestly think some very good work. But again, once we left their focus changed and they didn't want to produce that product anymore. So you, you have to be aware if you're, if you're gonna play with, large corporate unquote entities that have a lot of money and a lot of lawyers on retainer that.

[00:58:59] Steven S. Long: You better make very, very sure what you have and what you can do and that they understand what you're gonna do. Cuz the Herbert Estate, you know, when apparently I, I don't know how the contract was written, I never saw it, but they heard role-playing game and they were, I thinking, I guess something with the board and pieces, 

[00:59:18] Steven S. Long: you know, that kind of thing.

[00:59:19] Steven S. Long: Like the Dune boxed board game that Avalon Hill produced, back in the seventies, I think, um, that I am told is very, very good. Um, and so, you know, that's, that's the sort of thing that, you'll learn that lesson once. You never make that mistake again. You explain to the licensor in advance that what you are going to be producing, we want to do this.

[00:59:45] Steven S. Long: We, we want to do a book, we want to do miniatures, we want to do dice, we want to do whatever.

[00:59:50] Spaceman: See, that's what I would've done when they rejected it, uh, I would've brought it back to the office. I would've built a box. I would've thrown some dice in there. A map of the known universe and a few minis. And send it back.

[01:00:02] Steven S. Long: That would they, the, the book was the sticking point. It wouldn't make any difference how we packaged it.

[01:00:06] Spaceman: Okay.

[01:00:07] Steven S. Long: That is not a bad idea, to be honest. But the fact is they would've seen right through it.

[01:00:15] Spaceman: Yeah, 

[01:00:15] Spaceman: yeah, 

[01:00:16] Steven S. Long: you know, it is a shame cuz I, I really was very proud of the work we did on the Dune stuff, both at Last Unicorn and at Wizards.

[01:00:23] Steven S. Long: And I think it, I think the Dune universe, again, if you accept it sort of built in strictures is a great setting for roleplaying. And I think that o Owen Sailor, who did most of the work on the base book came up with a fascinating way of handling things is I never thought when I started that you could design a role-playing game featuring Bene Gesserit and Mentats, but he came up with a way to do it that I thought really worked well or as well as you could expect in a role playing game. And I was actually pretty impressed by it. Owen's a great designer and he really knocked my socks off with that.

[01:01:02] Steven S. Long: Unfortunately a lot of the stuff we worked on in planning for launching a whole game line is just, now sitting on the hard drives of some executives at Wizards of the coast and creators who were involved and can't do anything with.

[01:01:19] Halfling: Yeah. Right, 

[01:01:20] Steven S. Long: So, I will say Wizards of the Coast was kind enough to, most of our books were written by Assemblies of Freelancers, the way it's normally done in the RPG industry. But there were three books we had ready to go that I had written entirely by myself and I asked for them back and they said, well, what do you wanna do with them?

[01:01:38] Steven S. Long: I said, I just want to give them away free online. Like, you know, and they said, well, can, can you do that? And I said, well, thousands of other websites do. And Cindy Rice was kind enough to call legal and discuss it with them. And 10 minutes later she called me back and said, okay, they're yours. And I've been giving them away free online ever since. We couldn't do that with any of the other books cuz they were written by a hodge forger book, most of whom had been paid. So, you know, or were paid with the proceeds of the whole thing. So in some cases they got bits of their work back and have done things with them. But for the most part it's all just never gonna see the light of day,

[01:02:11] Halfling: Yeah.

[01:02:12] Steven S. Long: which sucks.

[01:02:13] Steven S. Long: But again, that's the nature of the industry.

[01:02:16] Halfling: Right. Well, we've talked about, , a lot of the projects that you've been involved in o over the years. But tell us what's coming up? What are you working on now?

[01:02:26] Steven S. Long: Well, I'm, right now my main work, you know, for an outside employer is on, uh, for a company, a fairly new company called Dice Tail Games on a game called Blood and Doom. They just successfully kickstarted it earlier this month and brought in a nice chunk of money, and we are now working on, I, I had written some stuff prior to that for their, what they call the primer that they released in aveo.

[01:02:53] Steven S. Long: Here's a free look at a lot of what's going into the game so that you can decide whether to back it. And so now we're in the process of tweaking things, finalizing things, deciding if we want to change anything, and getting the book ready to go to press so that. It can be released in, I, I believe the target date is December.

[01:03:15] Steven S. Long: So that's gonna be basically on my part, some design and a lot of editing. But it's a lot of fun. It's a, it's a sort of a blood and doom is a kind of a dark swords and sorcery type game, in a setting that is sort of, if not going down the tubes, starting to go down the tubes. And the question is whether the player characters can really ultimately save it or not.

[01:03:41] Steven S. Long: And that's gonna be up to individual GMs, I guess. But, um, I, I really, I'd rather enjoy it and it's been a lot of fun working on it and I'm looking forward to the rest of it. And on my, sort of my own plate, I'm working on a couple of the things I'm occasionally pecking away at bits and pieces of a book for Hero called Champions International, which is a look at, uh, In the Champions universe, there are a lot of fictional nations we've made up, just like Marvel and DC, have done that so that you don't have to try to set a story in Afghanistan and make somebody mad.

[01:04:16] Steven S. Long: So and so, we've never published a book that looks at these fictional nations in detail, and that's what Champions International is going to do. And I've got a couple more chapters to finish and a couple to edit, and then I've gotta mush it all together into a book rather than a series of small PDFs.

[01:04:35] Halfling: Mm-hmm. Okay.

[01:04:38] Steven S. Long: And then, sort of on my own time, I'm still working on two projects, one of which is sort of related to gaming and one of which is kind of a non-fiction project. The non-fiction project is a book I call the Encyclopedia of Mages, Magic and the Arcane, and it's basically a long encyclopedic list of every term I can find that has ever been used for people who magic, people who use magic spells or related subjects like divination, that I can find or from around the world and throughout history. And when I finish this, I hope to submit it to like find a university press or something like that.

[01:05:23] Steven S. Long: Cuz the reason I started working on it is for 20 years I've been looking for a book like that and I finally decided five or six years ago, it's like, screw this, I'll write this book cuz no one's ever written anything like it, as far as I can

[01:05:36] Steven S. Long: tell. And I mean, it's, it's not necessarily any great academic accomplishment.

[01:05:41] Steven S. Long: I'm just reading lots and lots of books and assembling this vast list of terms. It's in a way you might call it academic scut work, but I. It's my academic scut work. So, and then, the gaming related thing is my Mythic Hero, which I've been working on for about 12 years now, which is sort of going to be the ultimate guide to world mythology for gaming.

[01:06:03] Steven S. Long: And the probably, you know, I often get distracted and don't work on it for long periods of time, which is why it's taking so long. But I've already got half a million words written and hope someday to write. The other probably half a million words is, yeah, I'm, I'm nowhere close to Don. Uh, when I say Ultimate guide, I mean ultimate guide and I'm thinking actually of publishing two versions of it.

[01:06:27] Steven S. Long: One of it with all the game stats and hero system pers and then I may do some PDFs adapting it to other game systems if I think there's a market for that. But then I'm thinking of doing a version where I ju I delete all of the game stuff and all of the references to game things. And publish it as a work of non-fiction because I personally have a library of about 2,500 books on mythology and I absolutely guarantee you that there's no book about mythology on the market that is anything like Mythic Hero..

[01:07:05] Steven S. Long: It approaches the subject in a much more comprehensive way that is useful for gamers and writers, for example, than a typical academic would. For example, if you wanna know the color of the socks that you know, the Finnish God of the hunt is wearing, Mythic Hero will tell you the color of his socks.

[01:07:22] Steven S. Long: Cuz for some reason the Finns were really interested in the color of the socks their gods were wearing. I can't explain it, but they were, I mean, when you live in Finland, I suppose socks are really important.

[01:07:34] Halfling: Oh, sure. Sure. Well, where can people find out more about you and about more of the things that you're working on?

[01:07:43] Steven S. Long: Uh, well there, there's always, uh,, which is the Hero Games website. And I'm not as active on there as I used to be, but I'm still around. I have my own website, which is, but, you know, tumbleweeds roll through that place. I was raised, you know, was taught that self-promotion of the sort that is common today is sort of rude and arrogant.

[01:08:07] Steven S. Long: And so I have a hard time doing it even though I know it's necessary in today's world. And so I don't update my website as often as I should. I need to get better about that. And I think if it comes to the point where I have more products, projects of my own coming out, I will crank up the publicity machine a bit more, but the best place to get to me to get a quick reply is likely to be finding me on Facebook where I'm just Steven S Long.

[01:08:37] Halfling: Okay.

[01:08:38] Steven S. Long: I don't follow Twitter that much. I don't have an Instagram,

[01:08:41] Halfling: Yeah. Well, 

[01:08:43] Steven S. Long: but I try to respond as quickly as I can to things when people contact me. Thank

[01:08:49] Halfling: Very good. Well, we'll make sure to get that in the show notes. 

[01:08:53] Steven S. Long: you Thank you. 

[01:08:54] Spaceman: Steve, thank you so much for talking with us today. We've had such a great time getting to know you and to hear about your journey into active fandom. 

[01:09:03] Steven S. Long: Thanks for having me on. It's been a lot of fun. Great to catch up.

[01:09:06] Spaceman: Good deal, and we want to thank all our listeners for tuning in today. We hope that you've enjoyed and perhaps become inspired by today's guest, Steven S. Long, and we want to give Steven a huge thank you and shout out for joining us today. This is the spaceman of the Halfling and the Spaceman over and out.

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