The 2013 ENnies nominations have been announced and voting is now open. I recently spoke with Jeffrey Talanian of North Wind Adventures. North Wind Adventures’ news role-playing game, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, has been nominated for “Best Game,” “Best Production Values,” and “Product of the Year.” Jeffrey’s company is also listed in the Fans’ Choice award for favorite publisher. Voting begins on Monday, July 22 and runs to Wednesday, July 31. The ceremony itself will be on Friday, August 16, in the Union Station Grand Hall at 8 pm with the cocktail reception beginning at 6:30 pm.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your company.
Jeffrey Talanian (JT): North Wind Adventures is a small press publisher located in New Hampshire, USA. We produce the role-playing game, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, a role-playing game of swords, sorcery, and weird fantasy. AS&SH is presented as a boxed set, which includes a Players’ Manual, Referee’s Manual, poster map, dice, and character sheets.
We also produce adventure modules that are written for the AS&SH game, but are quite compatible with the traditional or classical versions of the world’s most popular fantasy RPG — as well as its modern simulacra. When I say we, I pretty much mean me, Jeff Talanian, as I am the sole employee, but I have some incredibly talented freelancers, including illustrator Ian Baggley, editor David Prata, cartigrapher Andreas Claren, and cover artist Charles Lang.
MT: Why should voters vote for your product? What sets it apart?
JT: This game uses a traditional mechanical base (albeit with several new twists and innovations) inspired by rules created by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. These rules are blended with the sword-and-sorcery / weird fantasy setting of HYPERBOREA, which is inspired by the fantastic fiction of authors such as Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and H.P. Lovecraft.
The rules of this game inform the setting, and the setting informs the rules. Here there are no elves or hobbits, but races and cultures of humanity from which to choose, these applied to a variety of classes, including the core classes of fighter, magician, cleric, and thief, and 18 sub-classes, including but not limited to cataphracts, rangers, warlocks, necromancers, pyromancers, witches, priests, shamans, legerdemainists, and scouts.
The most important distinction, I feel, is the setting of Hyperborea, which is largely represented in the game’s gazetteer, but also in the class descriptions, monster descriptions, magic items, and so forth. This is no vanilla set of rules; rather, it is a rules set married to the fantastically weird setting of Hyperborea. This “flat earth” realm is hemmed in by the mystical boreas (or “North Wind”), and under a bloated red sun its roiling seas spill eternal over the world’s rim. Hyperborea is in a perpetual state of decay, populated by disharmonious men, hostile monsters, and weird, alien beings. Hyperborea is an adaptable campaign setting. It can be used independently or in conjunction with other settings, published or home-brewed; indeed, Hyperborea might be just beyond the North Wind of any campaign setting.
MT: How do you feel about the state of the gaming industry today?
JT: Not a big concern of mine. And I don’t mean that to sound rude or crass. I understand that pop culture fads come and go, and that tabletop gaming is not as popular as it was when I was a teenager in the 80’s. But for me, I love this hobby, and I’m going to continue to develop gaming material as long as I can, because I have a genuine passion for it. This will continue regardless of popular opinion, regardless of popular opinion or industry health. Of course, I do encourage folks to introduce their children to tabletop gaming, because I feel it is a unique and unparalleled form of fun and entertainment. I’ve done the same myself.
MT: How hard is it for a game publisher in this economy?
JT: It’s not easy! You better have a strong support system in place, because in many cases it alone is not enough to support a family. If you intend to get involved in small press tabletop game publishing, I’d advise you not to quit your day job. But if you love gaming, and you want to do it, by all means, go for it, but don’t sacrifice your home or the well-being of your family.
MT: How has Kickstarter influenced your business model?
JT: I think it’s great! I used Kickstarter to raise the funds to publish Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. I think it is a great way to create cash flow, and I would use it again.
MT: What’s next for your company?
JT: Presently I’m overseeing the creation of four adventure modules for the Hyperborea campaign setting, one of which I have written, the others written by freelancers. After that, we’ll be looking ahead to the second printing of the AS&SH game, which may be in hardcover format instead of the boxed set format we used for the first printing.
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
- Here is the main web site
- Our Facebook Page
- Our Google+ Page:
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
JT: Thanks for asking. From late 2005 until his unfortunate passing in March of 2008, I worked for Gary Gygax as his co-author for several Castle Zagyg works, including Castle Zagyg: The East Mark Gazetteer, Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works, and other titles (some of which remain unpublished following his passing). I learned so much from Gary. He was a boyhood idol of mine, and I was fortunate to work for and with him, but more importantly, he became my friend, and I will always cherish the honor to have known him. I have dedicated my game, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, to his memory.
Want more? Subscribe to this column; follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar. Become an Examiner and get paid to write today!