Thursday, July 12, 2012

Everwayan Interviews Greg Stolze

The Everwayan is very pleased to be publishing the first part of our interview with Greg Stolze, author of Everway's first and only print supplement, the Spherewalker Sourcebook!

Greg is the author of numerous roleplaying games and supplements, including Unknown Armies, REIGN (a real favorite of The Everwayan!), NEMESIS, A Dirty World, Progenitor, Wild Talents, Godlike and numerous game supplements, including Feng Shui, Over the Edge, and the new World of DarknessThat's quite a list! It includes some of the most creative RPG designs and settings in the last two decades! 

No less importantly, since 2003, Greg's been the author of seven novels, the most recent of which is SWITCHFLIPPED. We've been following that one for a while, because Greg has been posting these stunningly witty quotes from the book over the last year or so on his Facebook page.

John Till: Welcome to The Everwayan, Greg! To get us started, let me ask you to share something about how you came to the hobby. When did you first start roleplaying? How did you get introduced? What was your first RPG?

Greg Stolze: Ah, my first RPG was green box D&D [Folks, pretty sure Greg is talking about the blue box, although that box is certainly blue-green - JT] gotten when it was brand spankin’ new back in the 1970s.  (Hold on, I have to take my brain medicine and adjust my false teeth.)  What were we talking about?  Oh yes.  D&D led to AD&D led to Car Wars and Star Fleet Battles and then I went off to college and put aside gaming until I met this insurance salesman who was running these wacky games he wrote himself. His name was Jonathan Tweet. 

John Till: Where did your professional work in gaming begin?

Greg Stolze: I’d always wanted to be a professional writer and when I realized Tweet was getting PAID to write for SHADIS and Atlas Games, I started writing stuff and bugging him about “Al Amarja” (as Over the Edge was then known). He directed me to Jolly Blackburn (who had the advantage of not having to deal with me face to face) and then John Tynes contacted me after we worked together on “Wildest Dreams” (an OTE supplement with Robin Laws).

John Till: So let’s turn to Everway. How did you first get involved with Everway? What made you decide to work on the Spherewalker Sourcebook?

Spherewalker Sourcebook
Greg Stolze: You make it sound like I had this glittering array of projects to choose from and plucked EVERWAY like a choice delicacy from a tray. I got involved as a playtester and hand-drew my own fortune deck and ran games that were wildly divergent from Tweet’s vision, and when he was putting together the WotC release, he tapped me for the first sourcebook. It was my first published book where I didn’t have a coauthor. 

Everwayan: Well, it is kind of a choice delicacy! Quite interesting that your hand-drew your own fortune deck. Now that the game is no longer in print, I think people will eventually have to do that again. Like RPG Inspiration Cards and the Story Cards RPG, for example. 

So, can you talk about your process in writing the Spherewalker Sourcebook? I know the Dictionary of the Khazars was an influence, but what were the steps you took to build it? And how were your efforts integrated with the development of the cards that complemented the sourcebook?

Greg Stolze: I had the advantage of being a young, enthusiastic nerd, a tolerant fiancée, and no house payments. I’d been reading and writing fantasy since high school, and I had a pile of unused ideas. I just started putting them in alphabetical order and stringing them together.  I never had to worry about repeating something I’d done earlier, and I had Tweet offering plenty of stuff that had to be in it — all the elements, all the Fortune cards — and he was pretty good about establishing a tone, then handing me the keys and saying “Don’t crash the car.”

Tweet was a William S. Burroughs fan, like Robin Laws, and they recommended that I use a sort of ersatz cartomancy to generate ideas — a bit like Burroughs’ Cut-Ups method. I mixed in Fortune cards, art cards, Magic cards (I remember Tweet being particularly pleased that I’d added those to the mix) and let ideas arise out of the conjunctions of ideas and images.

William S. Burroughs
Once we had a bunch of elements written, the wonderful Wizards of the Coast art staff was released on them to make the cards, and I then added stuff on the back. Only I remember a bit of a crisis where we had to run through GenCon looking at artists’ unsold stuff to create the SPHEREWALKER chase cards, and I wound up with some ideas I really loved, like the sad Basahn winter god.

John Till: I know you also wrote one of the CD supplements for Everway. I saw it once in a Bay Area store, but unfortunately decided not to buy it. I assumed it would make its way east, which it never did. What was the supplement like? Is it available anywhere that you know of?

Greg Stolze: “Waves of Time.” I have one copy of it sitting on my shelf. Man, I haven’t read that in YEARS. Most of it is in-character documents of two echoing events in a nation’s history.  First there’s an ancient war against creepy (but non-aggressive) neighbors, which transformed into a revolutionary bloodbath.  
Then there’s a modern episode in which the descendants of those creepy neighbors are summoned out of sorcerous exile DURING a revolutionary bloodbath. 

The idea was that many EVERWAY games were “Spherewalkers come to new realm, make radical changes, then ride off into the sunset.” This one sets up the post-spherewalker mess. Everything has been overthrown, nobody’s in charge, everyone’s angry and scared. Have fun!  

I have to say, I have no idea where you could get a copy of it commercially. 

On that note of mystery, we conclude the first half of Everwayan's interview with Greg Stolze. Come back on Tuesday of next week for the second half of the interview!


  1. Good interview. It is both interesting and enlightening to get a glimpse behind the scenes of the making of Everway. It also is a bit inspiring--just draw-up your own deck of cards. Why not? One card a day might make a nice new side-project...

  2. @Gj: I agree about making new decks of cards, and about the "one card a day" series concept.


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