Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Greg Stolze Interview, Pt. 2

Today Everwayan is sharing the second half of our interview with Greg Stolze. In the first half of the interview, Greg shared about his involvement in the playtesting of Everway and in the development of the Spherewalker Sourcebook. We ended on a note of mystery about Greg's other Everway supplement "Waves of Time". If anyone knows how to get a copy of that game, please drop Everwayan a line. We'd love to review it. You'll see a bit more about this supplement and many other things below, as we conclude our interview with Greg Stolze.

Greg Stolze

Everwayan: If you had to describe Everway to someone who had never played it, what would you say? 

Greg Stolze: EVERWAY is high fantasy based on image and intuition more than rule and regulation. It has barriers in place to GM fiat, but you have to trust the GM and the system. If you can do that, though, it blasts your creativity wide open.

Everwayan: Can you say anything about any memorable Everway campaigns you have GM’d?

Greg Stolze: Ah, I had a great EVERWAY campaign in Syracuse, New York, featuring the last survivor of a doomed and superior race who, after mistakenly slaying a serpent, cut off the offending hand in order to undo the crime.  So after that, he had a ghost hand, and eventually acquired a ghost sword to use with it.  Another character was run by a player who, after a crappy day at the office, impetuously murdered a guard he could have easily disabled, and who was thereafter tormented by karmic vengeance. He ultimately found out the guard had reincarnated, and that the infant had been stolen away by their chief antagonist, who then blended his life with that of the babe, so that if he was killed it had to die too…  I was kind of a mean GM. 

Everwayan: A mean GM? I guess so if you say so... but I am mostly blown away that you were running Everway just a city away from me! I grew up in Rochester, NY. If only I had known that we could have made Upstate NY the Realm of the Spherewalkers! 

So, was Everway was too far ahead of its time? How successful do you think it
would be if released today in light of the popularity of various indie RPGs with
similarly light rules and novel systems? 

Greg Stolze: EVERWAY had some issues when it was released. It was very, very innovative, and WotC very much wanted it to expand the RPG market the way M:tG had expanded the general hobby games market. They pushed it hard, and I’ve heard that a lot of store owners felt coerced into carrying it, which is not a way to get people fired up about your product. It was hugely expensive to produce - I still haven’t been involved in any project half as gorgeous - and when it didn’t immediately sell in M:tG numbers, it lost favor. That put it in limbo, so the supplements that might have won people over were delayed until the narrative that “this game stinks so hard they aren’t even going to support it” looked very plausible.

Everwayan: Do you see a lineage between Everway and any games which came after it? 

Greg Stolze: Mm, tons of rules-light stuff. I could argue that its move from emulation to story generation pointed towards a path for Spirit of the Century and the plot-insertion rules in Adventure! — then again, maybe it was just steam engine time.

Everwayan: Was REIGN influenced by your experiences developing Everway? If so, how?

Greg StolzeRe-reading Waves of Time, I’m struck by how lovingly detailed the factions are, and how the implicit assumption is that the PCs’ actions shape the decisions of big groups of people. Already, I was pursing my lips at the Fafhrd-and-Elric model of the lone adventurer whose mighty deeds escaped repercussions. 

Cover by Daniel Solis

Cover by Dennis Detwiller
Everwayan: The Companies rules in REIGN were quite an innovation!. As far as I know, only FATE (in Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre) has followed up with similar concepts. I made fun use of the REIGN Company rules to simulate different companies of gladiators a few years ago. It was a convention scenario called REIGN of Rome Marathon. There is a bit of an One Roll Engine community here in the Twin Cities. You should come up to Con of the North one of these years! 

So, if you considered developing a second edition of Everway, what would you change and what would you keep the same?

Greg Stolze: Oh good grief, that would be… challenging. Keeping the art would be very, very difficult, but I’d do it if I could. I’d probably get away from the pastel design and make it look more vivid and vibrant, less contemplative and ethereal.  I’d also probably bow to pressure to provide more emulationism, because I think that’s still the conservative sell and because that tends to be how I design.  But if I thought I could get away with it, I might shove it even farther from traditional RPGs and argue that it’s more of its own thing than it is a descendent of D&D.

Everwayan: I know that you have been creating your own illustrations in the past few years. Did that come easily? With a lot of struggle? What has that been like?

Greg Stolze: It’s really hard. I use stock photos and computer illustration programs as crutches, but I have no real ‘inner eye.’ I can fake illustration but I’m no artist. It has given me a deeper appreciation for what people like Dennis Detwiller and Jim Pavelic can do.

Everwayan:  I believe you are writing a novel, yes? Can you share something about your current projects? 

Greg Stolze:  I’ve actually written a couple novels recently.  SWITCHFLIPPED came out as an e-book from Ghostwoods publishing - its home on the net ishttp://www.gwdbooks.com/books/gregstolze and I’m selling POD versions of it. 

It’s an urban fantasy novel that resembles Unknown Armies more than EVERWAY, inasmuch as it’s about an ordinary schmuck who sets off to pursue his long-lost fiancée with only the word ‘switchflipped’ as a clue. He runs into a whole passel of symbolic weirdos. 

I fully self-published MASK OF THE OTHER (online at http://www.gregstolze.com/motopage.html ) which is a bit like what you’d get if H.P. Lovecraft wrote the script for “The Hurt Locker.” It’s military science-horror in which a squad of American soldiers stumble across the wreckage of Saddam’s occult weapons program and get entangled in matters Mythos. It does not go well for them.

I’ve also completed a supervillain novel called SINNER, but I’m trying to figure out what in the world I should do with it.

Everwayan: Greg, thanks so much for doing this interview! 
You can keep up with what Greg is doing on www.gregstolze.com  From his website, you can connect to the discussion forums dedicated to his games!


  1. Good interview. Everway might have been too innovative, but really it sounds like the marketing behind it was what really hurt its chances more than anything. People can handle innovation, if it is presented in a palatable manner, like say an iPhone or if it taps into a previously un-catered-to segment of the population, but that only works if you actually reach that segment and can make a strong connection/positive impression...and that takes time to accomplish effectively. I'm very curious why Everway was not actively marketed to the Tarot community. Seems like a no-brainer.

    Reign sounds interesting, we'll have to look at that.

  2. @Gj: Missing the chance to market to the Tarot community does seem like a no brainer, doesn't it. Ken Hite has often remarked that RPG companies have overlooked the entire book market (book fairs, publishing trade shows and the like) rather completely and consistently. And the reverse also seems to be true. It has only been in the last 10 years or so that I have seen much crossover of non-gaming Tarots being sold in gaming stores. there was probably more opportunity for crossover in the dealers rooms at conventions, but that angle apparently wasn't tried with Everway either.

    Back in Upstate NY, I also remember some active resentment from RPG gamers towards Everway when it came out in the mid-90s. Some gamers viewed it as another CCG gimmick, another way to take money and ganmer interest away from "real" games (RPGs) and push their (and money) towards Wizards' core business model of Magic.

    1. "Some gamers viewed it as another CCG gimmick..."

      Only just got around to reading the interview with Greg, who remains my favorite game writer of all time. Your comment above is exactly how I felt at the time. I got interested in Everway because I was writing reviews for a 'zine at the time Everway first came out. I heard WotC was producing a "card-based RPG." (That's how I heard it. :) ), and I begged the editor to write to WotC for a review copy so I could slag it.

      Of course, I ended up writing the most positive review ever, and have now been playing and running Everway for 17 years. :)

      Waves of Time is, BTW, brilliant. It's more a story than anything else, a chronicle of some serious events which makes a great read all by itself. But then, it presents this realm for the GM to explore, letting the Heroes pick up the shattered pieces someone else left behind.

      Its only drawback was the format. I'm not sure, but this might have been the first e-pub game. The disk had an HTML copy, though Rubicon also later had a PDF version if I recall correctly. I've always preferred paper.



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