The Gleemax Interview

I’m archiving this here before gleemax goes down… it’s the interview mudbunny conducted with me a while ago when I was an active contributor to gleemax, and gleemax was a going concern.

 

Mudbunny: Welcome to the latest of our series of Gleemax Interviews. I am
mudbunny, your host, and my guest is the regular Gleemax contributor,
MerricB.

Merric: G’day!

And, please, it’s Merric. I only use MerricB so that I’m not confused
with all the other Merrics out there.

Mudbunny: There are others?

Merric: Oh, my yes. One or two. One of them stole my “Merric” username on
yahoo before I registered there. So I use MerricB everywhere instead.
So far, it hasn’t been taken by anyone else. I guess it’s unique
enough.

Mudbunny: Thank you for being my guest today.

Merric: Oh, no worries at all. Glad to be here. I should point out, for the
folks at home, that you’re not exactly mudbunny yourself.

Mudbunny: I’m not?

Merric: No. You’re a fictitious construct that I’ve constructed for the
purposes of making this sound like a real interview.

Mudbunny: I see.

Merric: Yes, you’re nothing more than the product of a deranged imagination.
Except when you aren’t and you’re the real mudbunny asking me
questions. I like to think that these are questions you would have
asked if you were really interviewing me face-to-face. As long as you
don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain, everything will be
fine.

So, you had some questions to ask me?

Mudbunny: Yes. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Merric: Indeed I can. I’m a 35-year old male Australian who is currently
single and living in the hamlet of Waubra, which is about 25 km away
from Ballarat.

Mudbunny: Waubra?

Merric: It’s pronounced “war-brah”. Gave me no end of trouble when I was
younger, but I’m used to it now. It’s just that everyone else isn’t,
and it gives my friends a few problems whenever they need to get here
for a game session. No-one knows where it is, you see.

Mudbunny: I see. So, what do you do for a living?

Merric: Well, after I dropped out of university, I spent a few years living
the gainful – and entertaining – life of the freewheeling unemployed.
After that began to pall, I was afforded a job at school in Ballarat:
Ballarat Grammar, in fact. I was meant to do various computer-related
things, but it’s turned out to mainly mean that I set-up and print the
school reports. I’ve now been doing it for ten years, and it looks
like for some time to come.

Mudbunny: So, you’re not a teacher?

Merric: Mostly not. My mother was a teacher – of Chinese – but I’m not. Except
in the very special case of a very small class of four students that I
take once a week for Boardgames.

Mudbunny: That seems an unusual subject. They didn’t have it at my school!

Merric: No, nor at mine. The point is, Ballarat Grammar is a very enlightened
school and allows the brightest kids the chance to study things that
aren’t in the normal curriculum – the history of aviation, video
production, ancient Greek, and boardgames.

It’s not really a rigorous study of boardgames, but rather an
introduction to games that otherwise they might never see. I
concentrate mainly on games published in the past 10 years,
particularly Eurogames.

Mudbunny: Excuse me, but for the benefit of our readership, what’s a Eurogame?

Merric: Ah. A Eurogame is a form of boardgame that has really only existed for
the past few decades, and especially the last ten. It’s a little hard
to define one precisely, but generally they’re distinguished by not
being elimination games (like Monopoly) and by having rules that
promote elegant gameplay over simulation. Probably the two most
popular Eurogames in the US are Carcassonne and The Settlers of Catan,
and I strongly recommend you looking them out if you’re not familiar
with them.

“Eurogame” comes from the fact that most of these games are designed
in Europe and particularly Germany. However, there are American
designers who also follow the form – Vegas Showdown, a game by
Wizards/Avalon Hill is one such example, and an excellent one at that.

Mudbunny: So, you don’t teach them D&D?

Merric: Alas, no. I considered it, but it really takes more time than I have
available. Indeed, the hour lessons that I have aren’t enough for all
the games I’d like to show them. I do what I can. There are a few D&D
gamers at the school, though.

Mudbunny: What brought you to the WotC website?

Merric: Originally, it was D&D. I tend to hang around the forums of game
publishers that design games I’m interested in, especially if the game
designers themselves participate. However, it wasn’t until D&D
Miniatures came out that I really began to participate in the forums.

Mudbunny: Yes. Didn’t you once run a D&D Miniatures site of your own?

Merric: Indeed I did. Back in 2003, before the D&D Minis made their
appearance, I started collecting all the information I could on the
upcoming product and posting it on EN World. Then I made my own site –
originally hosted by
3rdedition.org – which expanded into what was a
pretty good source for all DDM information.

I also ended up as the chief moderator of the Maxminis website, which
– for a while – was perhaps even bigger than the Wizards forums for
discussion of DDM, although I was an active participant at both
Maxminis and the Wizards forums. I’m very, very grateful to Mike
Donais, Rob Heinsoo, Linae Foster and Stephen Schubert for all the
time they have given to DDM fans during the years.

Good luck to Peter Lee, who now is stepping up to the crease, as well.

Mudbunny: You’re no longer involved with DDM, though. What happened?

Merric: A number of things. For one, the people who I played DDM with in
Ballarat lost interest, so my figures were only being used for the D&D
RPG, not the skirmish game. Given that most of the discussion on the
DDM forums relates to the skirmish game, that sort of excluded me from
that side of things.

Also, the 3rdedition.org site went offline for several months, which
did horrible things to my news site – I eventually changed hosts, but
it never was what it was. Then, maxminis ran into trouble of its own
and as I wasn’t the owner and I didn’t agree with what was going on,
it was easier to leave.

Probably the final straw is that I no longer have a local store that
sells DDM, so getting any new figures is a real problem. Well, I have
over 2000 of them, which is enough to go with for the time being,
although I’m very interested in the new rules and the Dungeons of
Dread set. Still, without other DDM players around me, it makes it a
little hard. At present, I’m concerning myself mainly with boardgames
and the Dungeons & Dragons RPG.

Mudbunny: So, if you’re no longer involved with DDM, why are you still on the
Wizards site?

Merric: My first gaming love has always been Dungeons & Dragons, a game I’ve
been playing for about 27 years now. So, I visit the Wizards site to
see the latest news and occasionally participate in a discussion here
or there. However, most of my D&D discussion takes place on EN
World… no, the real reason I’ve been around so much recently is the
potential of Gleemax.

Mudbunny: The potential of Gleemax? Can you expand on that?

Merric: Indeed I can. You see, I like to think of myself as an omnigamer: I’ll
play any game if you give me half a chance. I played Magic extensively
for eight years or so, I’m currently playing a lot of RPGs and
boardgames, and there are several other games I’d love to play if I
got the opportunity.

The one thing that I lack is a centralised point where I can visit to
talk about these games. I go to
boardgamegeek.com<!– –> to talk about
boardgames, to EN World to talk about D&D, and yet other boards to
talk about DDM or whatever other game I’ve managed to find.

The site that is most like what I’d like Gleemax to be is
boardgamegeek.com<!– –> – it allows you to locate discussions on your
favourite games, but has an interface that allows you to see
everything if you’d like that. Session reports, reviews, images,
files: it hosts all of that and more. Its owner has been talking about
expanding it out into “
rpggeek.com“, which would make it a direct
competitor to Gleemax. I guess the omnigamer’s site is a concept
that’s time has come. Add in the online gaming that Gleemax intends to
provide, and you’ve got a very strong site.

However, we’re a long, long way from it at present.

Mudbunny: What part of the Wizards/Gleemax website do you consider home?

Merric: Gleemax proper, as in the blogs. The one forum that I tend to visit is
the D&D Future Releases forum, but even that I haven’t been at much
recently. Future Releases = 4e, and I really haven’t been involved in
many 4e discussions.

Mudbunny: Why not? Don’t you like 4e?

Merric: Actually, I’ve loved most of what I’ve seen of it. However, I haven’t
really seen enough to comment on it properly, nor have many of the
people who are commenting on it. So, we’re dealing with what people
fear and what the hope to be true, and that leads into a lot of
discussions based on very flimsy evidence. (A real example of Wizard’s
First Rule in action). So, I’ve absented myself from most of the
discussions, although occasionally I get sucked in…

Mudbunny: Is D&D the only Wizards game you play?

Merric: At present I’m involved in two D&D RPG campaigns and one Star Wars
Saga edition RPG campaign – the last is one I’m not GMing, much to my
amazement and relief. (I’m normally the DM!)

As I mentioned earlier, I used to play a lot of Magic and some DDM,
but mostly it’s just the RPGs at present. Every so often a
Wizards/Avalon Hill boardgame crosses my path, though. I’m very fond
of Rob Heinsoo’s Three Dragon Ante, for instance.

Mudbunny: What other games do you play?

Merric: Boardgames. Lots of boardgames. Although many are Eurogames, there are
also Wargames and other American games that I play. At present, I’m
playing a lot of Power Grid, Combat Commander: Europe, Talisman and
Twilight Struggle, but I’ve probably played more than fifty different
boardgames in the past year.

I’m not really a big computer gamer; I live in a house that uses solar
power for electricity, so I’m somewhat limited in how much time I can
spend at home on the computer. When I do play games on the computer,
they tend to be conversions or online versions of boardgames.

I played more CCGs in the past, along with miniature games, but lack
of a strong player pool has stopped that.

Mudbunny: What is your favourite game to play?

Merric: I don’t think I have one. I enjoy variety. Mind you, I strongly
recommend both D&D and Twilight Struggle. D&D has kept me entertained
for decades, and Twilight Struggle is a truly exceptional boardgame.

I started playing D&D back in 1981 or thereabouts, using both the
Moldvay Basic set and the AD&D game rules by Gygax. Since then I’ve
played every edition of the game, although it hasn’t been continuous
play: I’ve occasionally not had a group to play with, and so I’ve
played games like the Star Wars RPG (both d20 and d6 games), Amber,
and Magic.

Twilight Struggle, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a
2-player game that revolves around the Cold War between the US and
USSR as you try to dominate the world. It’s really excellent.

Mudbunny: What hobbies, outside of gaming, do you have?

Merric: I sing as a bass in the local choir, although that’s been interrupted
recently due to a growth I had on my vocal chords that required
surgery. Not that much fun, but – thankfully – not a cancer!

I also read a lot of fantasy and science fiction. Recently, I’ve been
investigating several Australian fantasy authors; we have several,
many of whom are pretty good. My favourite authors at present?
Lois
McMaster Bujold
, Terry Pratchett, Steven Brust, and
Laurell K
Hamilton
.

Although I don’t play it any more, I also am a strong fan of cricket,
and delight in the successes of the Australian team.

Mudbunny: What is your general impression of the WotC community?

Merric: Splintered and cliqueish. It’s just the way that gamers are: most of
us pick one or two games to devote our lives to, and then ignore most
of what happens outside that. Then you have the subfactions within
certain games. D&D, having been around for over 30 years, is
particularly prone to that.

There are lots of really worthy people on Gleemax and the boards, but
you also get people who are so opposed to your own viewpoints that
you’ve got to be quite strong to not be drawn into something
regrettable. I love the ignore function.

That said, Gleemax itself seems to be developing its own rather
exceptional community, and I hope it lasts once we get past the Alpha
stage.

Mudbunny: What is your favourite gaming moment?

Merric: What, from almost 30 years of gaming? Hmm. Tricky.

There’s probably one D&D session, back when I was playing AD&D 2nd
edition with a couple of friends, my brother, and his fiancee (now his
wife). It was the session that introduced my brother’s fiancee to D&D
and the campaign, and I did things in the session that I can’t believe
I was brave enough to do.

You see, I framed my brother’s fiancee as the person who assassinated
my brother’s high priest…

So, V’s first experience of D&D was being interrogated by my brother
as to why she’d assassinated his superior. It was an incredibly tense
session, with a bunch of things I’d been leading up to in the campaign
all coming together. I’ve had good and bad sessions of D&D since then,
but nothing that quite lives up to it.

(Although there have been a few session of the Amber Diceless RPG…)

Mudbunny: What is your favourite aspect of gaming?

Merric: It varies. I think it depends on what game I’m playing. In D&D, it’s
the improvisational side of things, especially when I get to take on
the personas of the NPCs. (See my youtube videos for a couple of
examples of that). In boardgames, it’s the strategy aspects, and
exploring the possibilities of the game.

I think under Magic parlance, as introduced by the incredible Mark
Rosewater, I wander through being a Johnny and Timmy with lesser
elements of Spike. When I’m not playing my friend Randy in a
boardgame, I tend to win more than I lose, but it’s not the
be-all-and-end-all of gaming for me. The experience more than the
destination… although winning is nice, I admit.

Mudbunny: What game or type of game would you like to try?

Merric: World of Warcraft is the one big game that I really haven’t tried. I’m
not really sure how much I’d like it, for I really respond to variety:
so, a lot of boardgames, and the endless variations of D&D. Still, I
hate that there are games out there that I haven’t played.

I’ve got a trial disc of it; I might get around to it one of these days.

Mudbunny: Thank you for your time.

Merric: My pleasure.

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