Note: opinions expressed in interviews are those of our guests, not necessarily those of shadomain.com
Welcome to another Tales From the Tavern mini interview with Magnum π. You can find them at
Let’s hear from Magnum π!
I’m a gamer, play-tester, nerd, geek, and a member of the actual play group Initiative Zero. We’ve been playing together for over a decade, but just recently put games out there on YouTube. We focus on non-D&D actual plays (Chronicles of Darkness at the moment) and are featuring behind-the-screen GM tips following each of our new episodes. We want to help GMs new and old to learn a new system and get better at running the game.
What Game System have you not played that you really want to try?
I own it, I’ve read it, I’ve even watched it being played, but I’ve not yet run or played in Luke Crane’s The Burning Wheel. I tend to be a rules guy (mostly for the better, but sometimes for the worse), and I love the intricacy and the impact that the mechanics of The Burning Wheel have on the play of the game, and the development of the characters. I really love systems where the mechanics are closely tied to the setting and style of the game. Although there is no explicit “setting” per se in The Burning Wheel, it is palpable throughout the game. You can see it in how characters are created, the way magic works, and the myriad skills. Although Luke uses the “wheel” in Burning Wheel as a particular analogy of character building, after spending time with the game I envision it the master fly wheel amidst many gears in a precision timepiece. I don’t know when, but I can’t foresee never playing this game.
What artwork or piece of literature has inspired your TTRPG work?
Well, I cut my ttrpg teeth on Palladium RPGs (Heroes Unlimited, Rifts, Palladium Fantasy) back in the late 80s through mid-90s, so the work of Kevin Long pretty much seeded my adolescent imagination, and thereby my formative RPG years. As far as literature goes, there’s a lot of philosophical writing that inspires my gaming. I love a good morality system in a game and works by Plato, Aristotle, Kant and others really help me make my NPCs more morally complex. Interestingly, when Initiative Zero play tested a weird new game Monte Cook thought up in 2012, called Numenera, there wasn’t much in the way of world lore in those Word documents. So, I went looking for something I could set some adventures in; something weird, fantastic, and technological. I stumbled back upon the old He-Man minicomics that came with the original action figures back in the ’80s. The first 11 are very different than the TV show that followed, and painted a world that shared similarities with what brief information we received from Monte. So, these bits of obscure “literature” flavoured that play test and, to this day, my own little corner of the Ninth World.
If you created a TTRPG about anything, what would it be like?
I’ve been working on a Carolingian game for some time; here and there, now and then. It’s definitely low fantasy and not entirely historical. More of a legendary take on Charlemagne and his paladins, like something out of the chansons de geste. I haven’t even remotely looked at a system though. I would likely play out what I’ve envisioned using something like Zweihander or The Burning Wheel or even Palladium Fantasy. Seeing how those systems capture or fail to capture the experience I’m hoping to achieve would direct how a system would be tailored to that game.
What is your favorite game time snack?
I mostly GM and so I often don’t want anything that leaves my fingers or hands coated, so I tend to stick with M&Ms; peanut or almond for that added flavour and crunch. Maybe I was just sold on their old ad campaign. That said, I always like to have a meal with my group when we meet to play in person. Usually take a good break to eat and talk, or before the game starts. In those cases, it’ll be something barbecued or pizza, with a nice, cold beer. I actually don’t like to drink when I game. I enjoy keeping my wits about me.
Have you ever felt like an outsider in the TTRPG space? Describe if you can.
Oh sure, but not often. I love game mechanics and that can sometimes not mesh well with certain styles of play. I remember playing in a Shadowrun game once that was so house-ruled that it wasn’t even recognizable as Shadowrun anymore. The intention was to get the crunch out of the way so that a particular story could be told, which I totally understand, but the system defines that game so much that I really felt on the periphery as I tried to play it. I also enjoy random roll characters, which really challenges players to bring someone else to life. This typically doesn’t sit well with those who want to bring a particular alter ego of theirs to life. Don’t get me wrong, I like point-buy as much as the next nerd, but each type of character creation system is for a different style of play. Pursuing some styles can keep one on the outside looking in.