Owen K.C. Stephens Rogue Genius Games AetherCon Interview

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I recently interviewed Owen K.C. Stephens of Rogue Genius Games for AetherCon VII. Check out more cool interviews in the AetherCon VI Convention Magazine when it is released here: www.aethercon.com

JI: Rogue Genius Games supports many different RPG systems: D&D, Savage Worlds, and ICONs. What do you love about supporting and creating new material for multiple systems?

OS: I’m a huge fan of games in general, and RPGs in particular. I love exploring how different games tackle the same questions of design. Do characters gain in power and if so how? Does money equal power, and if not why not? Are characters balanced against each other, and if so is it in terms of effectiveness or in amount of spotlight time? Not every game system is going to be the right fit for every genre or game, or even every gamer. By supporting more than one system I can explore their different design philosophies, appeal to different audiences, and work with different great creators!

JI: Rogue Genius Games supplies a lot of quality stock art for super affordable prices for independent creators. Why did you get into the stock art game and how would you describe the style of your available art?

OS: Early in my publishing career I worked with smaller game companies that aren’t around anymore, IDA and Super Genius Games in particular, and saw how they used stock art to great effect. Lowering the barrier to entry helps new creatives get experience, and makes for a broader market for the end user. So when some artists expressed interest in having RGG publish their stock art, it seemed like a great way to help support other people and groups who were trying to break into the industry and make money at the same time.

Anytime I can both genuinely help people and make money, I see that as a win-win situation.

JI: You employ a lot of amazing creators like Christina Styles, Dan Dillon, Rich Howard, and Stephen Rowe to name a few. How do you find new people to work with?

OS: I’d add artist Jacob Blackmon, publisher Alex Augunas, and graphic designer Lj Stephens to that list. Honestly most of them find me. I have been very fortunate to have so many talented people interested in working with me. In fact, generally the limitation is not finding awesome people, it’s finding time to work with them all!

I’ve been active in the industry for more than twenty years, and I try to be very visible on social media. I go to conventions, and pass out a ton of business cards. Thankfully, those efforts have made me easy to find and remember as someone who wants to work with folks.

JI: You work with Stan! who is a big name in D&D. You’re a big name in Pathfinder. How did you get started working together?

OS: It actually began in 1997, at the TSR Writer’s Workshop in Seattle (at the much-lamented Wizards of the Coast Game Center). I was a participant, and Stan! was one of the presenters. After one of the sessions I saw Stan! and Ted Stark having lunch at the attached restaurant, Dalmuti’s, and asked if I could join them. We talked about their experiences in publishing, and gaming in general.

I sent them both thank you cards after the workshop ended.

A couple of years later, I got hired at Wizards of the Coast as a game designer, and Stan! and Ted both still worked there. Stan! and I got along well, and my wife and I had him over to watch the DVD of Big Trouble in Little China.

After Stan! and I had both moved on from Wizards of the Coast, he contacted me about writing a Call of Cthulhu adventure for Super Genius Games, and I accepted. After that I began writing Pathfinder-compatible material for SGG, and our working relationship solidified. He’s one of the partners in Rogue Genius Games now, for which I am the publisher.

JI: What are some of your favorite RGG products currently available?

OS: I’m very proud of our Starfinder-compatible products, especially the Starfarer’s Companion, and Starfarer’s Codex: Multiclass Theme Types. Those both look to expand the Starfinder RPG in ways I find fun and interesting. I also love Jacob Blackmon’s Super Powered Legends Sourcebook, for Mutants and Masterminds, which he wrote and illustrated. It’s a whole superhero world you can use as is, or draw from to populate your own campaigns. Of course, RGG also publishes material by Everman Gaming, who have the tremendously popular Skill Challenge Handbook, which gives expanded skill encounter rules for the Pathfinder RPG.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Writing With Style, by Ray Vallesse. It’s a collection of advice for RPG writers from an RPG editor with decades of experience, and it’s system-agnostic. It’s one of the best things I think we’ve ever published, and I learned a lot from it.

JI: What are you working on now that we should look forward to?

OS: My biggest currently advancing project that has things people can look at already is Really Wild West, which is a weird Wild West setting hack for Starfinder. I’ve been developing it on my blog, and people can give feedback there or through my Patreon page.

JI: How do you think the industry is changing?

OS: I think the biggest change currently is the rise of streaming in regards to tabletop gaming. Numerous groups have real-play shows, where they do production levels from totally hobby level to professional shows, with things such as Critical Role and Titansgrave perhaps being the best known. There are tons of other shows, including those that play through Starfinder and Pathfinder games, those that discuss nerdom in general, and broadcasts directly from game companies, such as Paizo’s Twitch stream which has interviews and play sessions both. I even do my own tiny stream, The Aftergame, Tuesday nights from my Facebook page.

Even a decade ago, the idea that there would be multiple, popular shows about watching people play RPGs was laughable, but that’s the direction the market has gone. Streaming is a way to showcase games, connect with audiences, and use an art form to entertain in a way that RPGs did not previously. I think the rise of streaming is going to drive decisions and success for the foreseeable future, until the next big, unexpected change comes along.

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