Vincent Baker discusses Under Hollow Hills

Interview Transcript

MARX: So, today we’re talking to Vincent Baker. Hi there Vincent, and welcome to the podcast!

VINCENT: Hi! Thanks for having me.

MARX: Absolutely, no problem. I’m going to ask you to introduce yourself, and let us know what you do in the indie tabletop role-playing game scene, even though I’m fairly sure your name will be familiar to most.

VINCENT: Well, you never know. I am Vincent, I’ve been making and publishing indie role-playing games since 2001, something like that. I was big involved in a website called The Forge, which was sort of the first explosion in the early 2000s of indie role-playing games, and I’ve been making games ever since with my wife and codesigner Meg Baker. And now our three kids have kind of stepped into the family business and started making games as well.

MARX: That’s wonderful.

VINCENT: It’s pretty cool actually.

MARX: I’d love it if my kids follow in my footsteps as well. Do you ever feel like you might end up being upstaged by them?

VINCENT: Oh yeah, no doubt about it.

MARX: Brilliant. Well, with two expert designers as parents, then it’s sort of inevitable isn’t it?

VINCENT: We talk about it a lot, and you know I didn’t get any education in game design, their education in game design started when they were very very young. Oh, can I tell a little story?

MARX: Yeah, of course. 

VINCENT: We were at a family gathering with friends and family, you know, a cookout one summer. And, there was a big game of Connect Four, you know the game?

MARX: Yeah.

VINCENT: Big, plastic set up standing in the backyard, 4‘ x 4‘, thing like that. You put these hockey puck sized checkers in, and play the game. And, our oldest, Faye, and I were playing, and as we were playing we were talking through the game, I would say “OK, I’m going to go here, and I’m trying to set something up over here, so you should know that,“ and Faye would say, “OK I’m going to go here to block you, and I’m also setting up this over here,” and the neighbor family, our friends, were flabbergasted. They’d never seen anybody play games out loud, analytically like that before. How I think about games, and how I wanted to teach our kids to think about games, to see and understand how they work.

MARX: I have three kids as well, most people who listen will know I’ve got a six year old, a four year old, and I’ve forgotten how old the baby is, five or six months. Our six year old really likes to play board games, but he likes to take them and twist them into, like, almost unrecognizable forms of themselves. And I realized this is possibly something that I have taught him, which is kind of worrying. So, you know, it’s good, I can see the inevitable trend here.

VINCENT: We call it the family curse. You know, one of the kids will come downstairs going “oh I have the family curse,“ and it means, “I have an idea for a game.“

MARX: That’s fantastic, I commend and applaud that, that’s wonderful. I think sometimes you have your kids’ stuff published through your Patreon as well?

VINCENT: Oh yeah.

MARX: I wanted to kind of highlight how cool I think your Patreon is, because it has this incredible back library of games, where if you support, you can get access to just an amazing array of games. Some of the most influential games, I think, they have been in the indie scene, Mobile Frame Zero, and all these games that people talk to me about on Yes Indie’d all the time, and it’s amazing that now I am talking to the creator of such games.

VINCENT: You’re kind. They’re very kind.

MARX: I do my best. Your Patreon model of releasing small games and the development process of some of your bigger games as you go along is very interesting, do you want to tell us a little bit about why you opted to do that?

VINCENT: Yeah, I mean I can’t even remember, I have to go back and look and see how long I’ve been doing that Patreon, and what decisions came into my mind. Patreon was new when I started, it was a year old or something. A lot of the decisions I make like that are laziness, like I would have to put in the effort to do something different, and, you know, I don’t put in that effort.

MARX: As a sort of designer I kind of, yeah, I appreciate the effort of laziness.

VINCENT: So, I produce enormous quantities of game design stuff. I fill up notebooks all the time. And, it must have been someone who said they’d like to see my notebooks that gave me the idea to publish to my Patreon that way. You know, my philosophy about that has always been, anybody who’s interested in that can sign up, it’s a buck a release. Anybody who’s interested can sign up, and anybody who stops being interested can ditch out, and there’s no, like I’m never going to ask any questions. This is what I’m publishing and if you’re interested you’re interested, and if you’re not, that’s totally reasonable and legitimate. I don’t know that I would be interested.

MARX: I think a lot of people are interested.

VINCENT: It seems like it, a number are. And I really really appreciate my patrons. I started the Patreon before I quit my day job, and now that I have quit my day job, my Patreon really makes it possible for Meg and I, Meg and the kids and I, we do ongoing sales, and then my Patreon lets us stay in game design full-time. We would have to rethink our plans without my Patreon and my patrons, who I really appreciate, thank you. So as I’m kind of dismissive and flip about my Patreon, I don’t want that to land on my patrons who are amazing, supportive people.

MARX: It’s a wonderful addition to the scene, being able to kind of have this Patreon, patron relationship, and the way that you do it, and, you know, the way that others do it and let people into their Discord servers as well so they can chat about stuff that’s being released, it’s a really good hype tool for published games as well. And, yeah, like I said, I think that having that sort of insight into you, being able to peek inside your notebooks as it were, or that insight into the design process of some of the bigger games, I think that’s really invaluable for baby designers like me and others as well, who kind of just want to see how people have been doing it for a long time, and, yeah, I think it’s really invaluable. And very useful.

VINCENT: That is fantastic to hear, thank you. You know, I always wonder kind of how useful it is, and that’s great to hear, that’s fantastic.

MARX: Well, I know others have found it very useful as well, for example, Luke of Wildwoods Games, who wanted to publish stuff related to Under Hollow Hills for a long time. Being able to follow along means that that process has been accelerated, and they really appreciate it as well. So, it’s not just me.

VINCENT: Their stuff is fantastic.

MARX: I absolutely agree. And actually, it was sort of Under Hollow Hills which sort of got me into your Patreon, because Luke also runs a podcast. It’s called Feelings First, and it’s really very wonderful, and they were playing Under Hollow Hills, and suddenly I thought “this game is everything I’ve ever wanted.” So I thought, OK I’m gonna go back this Patreon, and try and get an early copy of this game ‘cause it sounds really wonderful.” Would you like to give us a little bit of an elevator pitch of what under Hollow Hills is?

VINCENT: Yes, this is the worst, the worst part for me as a designer. Because I have so much to say about the game, in fact, 328 pages to say about the game, and it’s really hard for me to do anything other than two, sort of, hold the game in my hands and go “this, this is what I mean.” But yeah, Under Hollow Hills is a game about a circus that travels through fairyland and through the mortal human world. And you’re the cast and crew, and performers, of the circus, but really it’s about how we treat each other when times are good, and how we treat each other when times are bad. That’s what I always say about it, and I have no idea if that is the right thing to say about this game. It’s a very playful game, it’s full of puns and, of our games, I think it’s the one that’s the most into the language of play.

MARX: It is, definitely. I’ve been flicking through it this afternoon and I 100% agree with that sentiment. It’s very playful with language, but also yeah, when you read through it it’s full of the verbal aesthetic of play, if you like, you know, it talks a lot about the games fairies play, and the games people play, and so on. It’s very, yeah, what’s the word? Exegetic.

VINCENT: The proof, the print proof, arrived yesterday, and you know, there’s a thing that happens when you publish games. It happens to me for sure, and I think it happens to every publisher I’ve ever talked to, where when you get that proof, you can’t see it. And so I spend a day getting used to having this physical thing before I can even read the words on the page, or see the art. We call it “proof-blindness” in our house. So, at the end of the day yesterday, I finally opened it up to see, you know, how long it would take for me to find a typo, and the answer is on the fourth page I looked at I found a typo. That’s how it is and then I started going through it with my red pen, and I started on the glossary, is where I started, just by chance in the center of the book. And writing that glossary was so much fun, I’ve never had more fun as a game writer than writing a glossary for Under Hollow Hills.

MARX: That’s really wonderful, I don’t know why I haven’t looked at that before, that’s probably the best set of words and descriptions that I’ve ever seen. It’s really wonderful.

VINCENT: But that’s not really selling the game, I don’t know what my elevator pitch is.

MARX: Well, you know, you don’t need an elevator pitch. I think the way that you said it there, you play fairies in a circus, and it’s actually about how people treat each other in good times and bad times, I think that’s enough. Often when I pick up these games that people talk about, and this is definitely true of many of your other games that I’ve looked through, you know I can kind of see where things have come from, I can kind of get an appreciation of what media you are looking at as inspiration for this. With Under Hollow Hills, I feel like it’s from everything. Do you have any specific touch stones and, you know, a little bit of media, books or whatever, that you were thinking of when you were starting to write this game?

VINCENT: So, you know, we have some primary sources, collections of fairytales, Wirt Sikes’ book about Welsh fairytales is my personal go to for that, but we went through several. But for media, one of the big touchstones is The Muppet Show, because you have the on stage in the off stage, and you have the pretend audience in the real audience, and you have the characters of the Muppets, of Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear, who then put on performances.

MARX: I didn’t see that coming.

VINCENT: You didn’t see that coming?

MARX: No, but I can see it now, you know?

VINCENT: It’s one of the main influences I think, The Muppet Show. In Under Hollow Hills, you’re a traveling circus, you aren’t a vaudeville troop or whatever, and so the audience changes every session, the place you’re performing changes every session, but the idea of, you know, we as players and I as the GM, we are here to enjoy the backstage and the performance in this place with his audience. Really kind of comes from The Muppet Show.

MARX: That’s really cool. Now I’m trying to imagine which of the Muppets are which of the different play books.

VINCENT: There was a Muppet Christmas special, A Muppet Family Holiday? I forget the name of the special, and in that, you know, little hour long made for television Muppet thing, it had the Sesame Street Muppets, and the Muppet Show Muppets, and then the Fraggles were sort of watching from the sidelines. And Kermit the Frog is there between the Sesame Street Muppets and the Muppet show Muppets, and there’s this a moment where the Swedish chef sees Big Bird, you know his eyes don’t light up, he’s a Muppet without eyes, but his eyes light up, and he is like “oh my God, I’m going to cook the hell out of that bird,“ and poor Kermit the frog has to run around trying to keep the peace between the sweet, harmless, innocent, delightful Sesame Street Muppets, and these predatory weirdos in the Muppet Show. Brilliant.

MARX: That’s, OK yeah, that’s really dark.

VINCENT: It’s so funny, it’s so true to the characters. That doesn’t really help land which Muppet is which playbook, but I think it gives a sense of what I was seeing.

MARX: I think that’s really fascinating, I absolutely love that you were inspired by Welsh fairytales as well, not just the sort of standard northern European fairytales that we come to think of as the classics, but like the sort of slightly forgotten parts of the Celtic mythology and fairytale, and yeah. That’s really cool, that’s rad, actually. I love it.

VINCENT: This book, it’s called British Goblins: Welsh Folk Lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions. He compiled these stories in 1880, published in 1880. He was an ambassador to Wales from England, oh wait, no, from America. But living in Wales. In an official capacity. And he wrote down everything he heard, anything anybody told him, anything he ever observed. And it’s super interesting.

MARX: And you’ve got your Yeats book at the same time, the Irish Fairy and Folktales in 1888, and this is sort of the timeline when folk songs are being collected in Britain as well. It’s just really interesting that all of these things were happening at the same time, while the Industrial Revolution continues on in the background.

VINCENT: I had not put that together with the Industrial Revolution.

MARX: Yeah, I think that’s kind of at the point when the industrial revolution is kind of a done deal, isn’t it. There’s sort of no going back, there’s no turning point there. So I think there’s definitely parts of the world which are fading, and Wales and Welshness is an absolute perfect example of that, because the Welsh language is being suppressed at that time as well, and people are being told to be more like the English. And that’s something that doesn’t turn around until relatively recently, when there’s a renewed interest in folk songs in folk music, and folktales as well. It all comes back around. I don’t know if there’s more that you wanted to say about your background and inspiration, but.

VINCENT: We watched really, mostly bad, fairytale movies. There are a bunch of horror movies that are based on fairytales that are not very good. 

MARX: Yes, absolutely there are.

VINCENT: But we watched a bunch of them. There was a really weird movie called The Reckoning, do you know this movie?

MARX: I do not.

VINCENT: I forget who made it. Willem Dafoe is in it, and Paul Bettany is in it. It’s one of Paul Bettany’s earliest roles, and they play traveling performers, actors, in the middle ages, I don’t remember, the 15th century or something. They put on passion plays going from town to town putting on passion plays, and the movie is about the time when they decide to write an original play, instead of following the passion play, the formula. And it’s because of an injustice that’s happened in this town they’re visiting. And it’s kind of a weird dark movie, really fascinating, and I thought about that movie a lot while we were working on this game.

MARX: I think all of that, it definitely reads like a traditional fairytale, you know, with good sides and bad sides to each of these playbooks, and, you know, the people are complicated, but they’re also kind of ridiculous, and very contrary and there’s kind of a, a very strong binary, if you like. And I think that’s really interesting. Do you want to talk about, you know, how you design some of these playbooks perhaps?

VINCENT: Well, you know I would want to think about which play books.

MARX: Well, OK. Do you have a favorite playbook?

VINCENT: No, how on earth would I have a favorite playbook? 

MARX: Yeah, OK, unfair question. How about my favorite? My absolute favorite without a doubt question, OK, I have two favorites. Well my favorite is the Stick Figure, because I am in love with the Feelings First character, which was the Stick Figure. My second favorite is almost certainly the Boondoggle Hob, throughout the book. The Stick Figure is probably my favorite. So, for instance, what does the Stick Figure mean to you?

VINCENT: The Stick Figure is kind of me, is a side of me. It’s one of the play books that I identify with most closely, you know, and so the process of designing the Stick Figure, of creating a stick figure, and I should say before I go on, and I’ve been a little bit remiss already, I was the sort of, first draft author of most of these play books. But once I finished with my first draft, Meg and I finished the play books, developed the play books, into the form you see. So, none of this is my work. This is all really our work. So when I talk about what I was thinking when I was working on the Stick Figure, that’s really the first draft, when I was getting my ideas out, and then it went through this whole process of strengthening and developing it, and making it a real thing, that Meg and I can only do together, you know, neither of us really can finish anything without the other person. Certainly not in this game. There are certain games that we write on our own, but this was definitely not one of them. You know, and so, Meg would have a whole different set of insight into the process of finishing the Stick Figure, and making it the finished playbook that you would play. She would have a whole different set of insight into that than I would. So, first of all, the pun in the Stick Figure, of going into pieces, I just love that joke, you know. You lose your head, you lose your footing, you lose your feet, you burst into tears, like I love that, and you’re gonna need a friend to come and help you put the pieces back together. That’s sort of one of the summations of the game that, you know, was an emblem of the whole game in its way. One of the emblems of the whole game, the games approach the language and the literal and the metaphorical, really lives right in that, and is typified by that. Sometimes I feel like I’m a wasp that lives in my elbow, sometimes I feel like I am cheerfully outside of the workings of the society I am part of, you know what I mean?

MARX: Yeah, definitely. The blurb for it is, “you’re a stick figure, you’re a made thing given life and animation by magic, curious, naive, foolish and self-aware.” I think a lot of people I speak to would identify with that, curious, naïve, foolish, and self-aware, that does feel like it. It’s really interesting that its particular playbook plays, if you’re not familiar with Under Hollow Hills, everyone has one set of moves, and plays, and every individual playbook has their own as well. And it’s particular, it says “blurt out to someone what you think is going on,” which I think is particularly wonderful. The second year is my favorite, which is “express yourself to someone in capering antics,” which is extremely funny to me. And then the part, which you’ve already mentioned, “and get to work,“ and all of these things I strongly identify with, perhaps too on the nose for me.

VINCENT: Yeah, and maybe for me too. For me, it’s blurting out what I think is going on, I kind of do that all the time, and I’m not always to the benefit of the people around me, or my benefit, not always appropriately. For me, the capering antics is the games I publish, you know.

MARX: When you thought of this character, what were the other particular characters in fiction that you were thinking of as well?

VINCENT: That is a great question. So, there’s the Tin Woodsman, and the Scarecrow, from the Wizard of Oz, and there is Mickey’s broom in the Sorcerer‘s Apprentice, and these are all kind of, and what’s her name from the Nightmare Before Christmas? That kind of a thing, the ragdoll character. But in the case of the Stick Figure, there’s a character that I can’t remember from something, and I have no idea what, and I probably made it up, I’m probably thinking of something that I’m just inventing. So, the stick figures based on this character that I identify, I can’t figure out what it is, where it is from. Oh, and Pinocchio. Maybe I saw Pinocchio when I was really young, and it’s a memory of Pinocchio. I don’t know.

MARX: I was thinking of the magic carpet from Aladdin as well, I mean the film version, I don’t think it’s in the actual book, but that character has a lot of humor attached to it. I think this does as well, but it’s humor, and tragedy, and pity as well, because it’s a character which is bound into servitude if you like, which is sad. There’s an interesting aspect there, as there is with so much of this, I could’ve picked any of the other ones and found something which reflects who I am, and I think that’s part of the genius of what you’ve done here. You’ve taken loads of really interesting archetypes, and made them very approachable, and hilarious and tragic, and all those other things. It works.

VINCENT: Thank you.

MARX: I think one of the most interesting things you’ve done, and it’s not all fairy characters, there’s human characters in there as well. Is there a reason you opted to do that?

VINCENT: It was always obvious that we would, I don’t think we ever considered not, like, from the beginning of the idea, they were always going to be human characters in it. So I don’t know why, other than that’s part of the idea.

MARX: Yeah, I know you said it’s sort of a game about exploring two worlds, you know, you know it’s about exploring the ferry of the world and explaining the real world as fairies. So yeah, of course it makes perfect sense to do it.

VINCENT: There’s a thing where, without the human characters, it’s just games fairies are playing. And the including of human characters changes the stakes of those games. Not only like, in immediately concrete terms, like for instance, violence, the rules for violence for human beings are very different from the rules of violence for fairies. And so, there’s that kind of change in the stakes. But I think that also, just the fact that you can play a human character, even if nobody does, connects the games that the fairies play, connects the play with us, the human beings, with the real world.

MARX: Yeah definitely, it’s a grounding thing, isn’t it? You can see yourself reflected better in the world that you’re creating if you can have a character that looks a bit more like you then, say, the Feather-Cloak. I think we’ve sort of skirted around this idea, there’s a lot of contrasting imagery in this, like you have for instance, we’ve talked about summer, winter imagery, for the characters, the way they look different. And sometimes it feels like you’re doing very much with it, but in a way, it’s about how those binaries are blended as well, because it’s not always one thing or the other. As with anything fairy I guess.

VINCENT: Well, again, as with anything in our lives, that, you know, I’m not always angry, I’m not always happy, I’m not always at my best or my worst, you know? There’s an in between area, but at no point are you locked into the binary, at no point are you locked into a place, you know, sometimes you’re all the way in summer, and sometimes are all the way in winter, and other times you’re moving back-and-forth between them. Usually, you’re moving back-and-forth between them. You’re never solidified, you’re never crystallized.

MARX: It feels to me like an example of one of the ways that you kind of play with the structure of a game, throughout this text as well. Like, in particularly, a game that’s Powered by the Apocalypse world, I feel that it’s quite far from what some people might think of as a Powered by the Apocalypse game, like, that kind of playfulness added to how you explain the rules, like you don’t use the mistress of ceremonies role in the same way that you’d use an MC role in another PBTA game, it’s very much, like if you want to. That changes the way that the rules text feel, you know, it’s, it gets across the idea of what you’re going for extremely well. Not just the way that the playbooks are put together, but like, the way that the rules are structured, and it’s very much like, “oh here’s a very strong structure for the game, but actually, just do what you want with it and have fun and explore what it’s like to be a fairy and a circus, but also, other things as well,“ that works very well for me. And it’s one of the reasons why I really really like this game. Not trying to be too sycophantic about it.

VINCENT: No, it’s fantastic to hear. Feedback is hard to come by sometimes, and it is great to hear.

MARX: Well, you’re absolutely welcome. Do you have anything else that you sort of wanted to get across about Under Hollow Hills that maybe we’ve not talked about? You said you had so much to talk about.

VINCENT: Well, like I say, you asked me what I can say about this game, and I’m like, holding the game going like “uhhh, uhhh, this is what I have to say. “

MARX: Not a structured question. I mean, one of the things I really like about this game is the way that you have brought in all of this fairy imagery into the characters. And, I particularly like that you’ve got this really cool little map about how you move around, seasons, and I think that’s really interesting, and you sort of got distracted rhythm of the year, and again, that’s an example of how you’ve made it very playful and interesting. If you had an over writing aesthetic that you wanted to kind of get a cross with the summer and winter and seasons and things, is there a way that you can explore that?

VINCENT: So, that’s about when times are good and when times are bad, and when I’m at my best and at my worst, and how do we treat each other. It was always really important to us to not say, “summer is when you’re at your best, and winter is at your worst,” but also to say, you know, and that little funny spiral map of the seasons, you know you have summer, autumn, winter, and spring, and you have these endless summers, and the depths of winter, or whatever it is but season for spring or whatever it is. I think that those seasons are the more evocative, but they’re also too much, that’s too much summer, too much winter. And I think that that tension between here is where the imagery is strongest, but also that means there’s too much. That means there’s too much. That means that summer has gone on too long, and we need to get to the harvest, or winter has gone on for too long, for god’s sake winter has gone on too long.

MARX: That’s a mood.

VINCENT: And so, kind of the idea that every season is the best and the worst.

MARX: And I agree. That’s sort of reinforcing the idea that everyone is the best and the worst, and just the most themselves that they can be, and also the least themselves that they can be. I guess just exploring that idea’s really interesting.

VINCENT: That appears again, you have your character, and then you have your act, you know, if I’m the Stick Figure backstage, out of the ring, I may be very different than I am when I’m putting on an act for an audience. And, they’re both truly me, but they’re very different versions of me.

MARX: And it’s played up very well through the structures of what your circus does, you know, you arrive at a place, you examine it in depth, you find out what makes it tick, and then you try to capitalize on that to get what you want out of this, and to get what they want out of this, and you summarized it for a while, but it’s this idea that things are as they are because people make them that way. And I think that’s very interesting. I’m just very impressed by the way that you managed to succinctly summarize what it is, so I guess, obviously, you wrote it that way.

VINCENT: Thank you for saying that, it was a lot of work writing this work.

MARX: Absolutely, 328 pages is a lot of work.

VINCENT: We put in our time. It’s fantastic to hear that it’s paid off, that that work communicates what we hoped to communicate.

MARX: And as I was saying earlier, like, following on what you’ve been doing for a while, and presumably that was the tip of the iceberg timewise. But it feels like you can sort of get a sense of the labor that went into it just by following along in the abstract. It’s more or less a dumb thing then I guess, and you had a Kickstarter for it last year, finish the development, and you’ve got the print proof.

VINCENT: Yeah, in my hand, right now.

MARX: What’s the future of Under Hollow Hills?

VINCENT: So this book gets all marked up with a red pen, and then we finalize those changes, and then it goes to the printer for a real print run, then we deliver it, and then it goes into our catalog, we play it at conventions with anyone who wants to play it with us. So, we’ve been publishing games for a long time, two decades, and it’s very interesting to watch games rise and fall in reception. You know, one measure of it is how well they sell, but that’s only one measure of, you know, what a game is doing. And so, right now, Under Hollow Hills is Right at this really delicate, I mean right now it’s on the threshold, but it’s about to step into this really fascinating, delicate moment of, what is it gonna do once it’s out? You know, sort of the crassest way to measure that is how is it going to sell? But, what is it gonna do? Who is it going to reach? Who is it going to inspire, if anybody? What audience is it gonna create around itself, gather round itself? These are all questions I can’t wait to see the answer is, and I hope they’re good. I hope they’re good answers.

MARX: And that’s really interesting, because people do talk about sales as a kind of useful metric of whether a game is successful, but that’s, a game isn’t there to be sold and bought, is it? Games are there to be played, and that’s the most difficult metric to take, because you don’t know who is playing this game out in the wild, as it were. I guess it’s helpful that people put actual play podcasts and other things together.

VINCENT: It absolutely does. But you have to, you have to guess how many other people those represent.

MARX: Absolutely. It’s something that Hannah Shaffer and Evan Rowland talk about as well, games in a delicate state. It’s kind of this liminal space, if you like, between publication and not publication, and, I mean it has been published, because it’s out in PDF, but it’s still in that space, isn’t it? Where you don’t know what’s gonna happen, but that must be really exciting.

VINCENT: Yeah. It’s certainly nervy, you know. It’s exciting, and frightening. It’s a really vulnerable moment, and a vulnerable state, and I say moment but it’ll be months or years.

MARX: In the meantime while you wait, what are your, what’s your next big project? What have you got in the pipeline, as it were?

VINCENT: This is a scoop. Third edition of Apocalypse World. It’s Burned Over. You’ve heard it here first, it’s time to start thinking about Burned Over as Apocalypse World third edition.


VINCENT: I have a quick correction, after checking in with Meg. She says it’s not time to start thinking about Burned Over as Apocalypse World third edition, so there might be exciting things in the works there, I don’t know what happened. But, Burned Over is our major project going forward, or big, immediate major project.


MARX: Burned Over being that zine that was released last year?

VINCENT: Yeah, somewhere around there. It’s the version of Apocalypse World we want to make now, we started that game in 2008.

MARX: That’s really interesting in itself, people talk about re-reading books at different stages of their life. My mom talks about this with Le Grande Meaulnes, Which is sort of an obscure French book that she’s read at multiple points in her life, it’s something different every time she’s read it. It’s interesting to think about people writing things multiple times in their life, how their new perspectives and feedback from the scene, as well? And how that would change things. Do you have thoughts about how things might’ve changed in the last, I guess 15 years by the time it’ll be published?

VINCENT: Yeah, seriously. Yes, but it’s too much. It’s too much. Things are very, very strange. When we published Apocalypse world in 2010, our oldest was 14, 15 years old. And they’re now 25, and our youngest was a couple of years old, and they’re now 16. And so, the audience is completely different. The audience for Apocalypse World was a generation older than the audience is now. For the next Apocalypse World. That’s super fascinating, super strange. When we wrote Apocalypse World we wrote it for our peers, who are now 50, now we want to write a game for people who are half our age. Very different audience.

MARX: That’s interesting. It’s interesting as well that the people nowadays kind of, when they come to the role-playing game scene, they don’t necessarily have to come into it through what we might refer to as a traditional route. And that, Apocalypse World, or Under Hollow Hills, or particularly Avatar: The Last Airbender, could be their introduction to role-playing games, and that’s gotta feel pretty cool, right?

VINCENT: It’s something that’s pretty cool, I’m pretty, pretty- the coolest part is when I get a letter that says Apocalypse World was the first game I GM’d. I love that. Like that’s the thing I want to do. “Thank you Vincent for writing the game that told me I could be a GM,” you know, that I could do that. You know, as well as “the first game I designed was PBTA.” That’s pretty cool.

MARX: That’s pretty cool. Everybody go right now and write a letter to Vincent to tell him, please tell him that he changed the way you think about games. Vincent, would you like to tell us where we can find you on the Internet?

VINCENT: Yeah. Our website is On Twitter I’m @lumpleygames, Meg is @nightskygames. And if you’re interested in our Patreon, it’s just Meg’s in an Apocalypse World Discord, but I don’t know offhand how to connect to that, and then I run a Discord associated with my Patreon that should connect you automatically if you’re interested in that. 

MARX: And there’s an Under Hollow Hills Discord as well.

VINCENT: Oh yeah, there is an Under Hollow Hills Discord. It’s been kind of low traffic, I hope that when the book comes out, well that’s that delicate part. 

MARX: I hope so too, I’d like to hear about other peoples experiences.

VINCENT: Thank you very much. 

MARX: Well, all that’s left for me is to say thank you so much for being on the podcast, and good luck with this liminal space that Under Hollow Hills is in right now, and with Apocalypse World three.

VINCENT: You heard it here first. Thank you so much.

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