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I am game designer Jonathan Tweet (D&D 3E, 13th Age Glorantha, Ars Magica, Everway), and Over the Edge is my new, story-oriented tabletop roleplaying game of weird, urban danger. AMA!

Over the Edge is a totally revised version of the groundbreaking OTE from 1992, with a rewritten setting and an all-new game system. Ask the four of us anything: me, Chris Lites (contributing author), Cam Banks (producer), and Justin Alexander (RPG lead at Atlas Games). Proof:

Chris Lites is CoreyHaim8myDog

July 23rd 2019
interview date

How healthy do you think the tabletop hobby is now compared to during the 80s and 90s?


Back in the 80s and 90s, we talked about the industry possibly dying out. The collapse of D&D was really bad for game stores that relied on RPG sales. But 3E revitalized the RPG field (if I do say so myself), and now D&D is selling like never before. That success means that game stores and healthy and that new people are joining the hobby. Those of us who create other RPGs have always relied on D&D to bring new people into the hobby, and they are doing that in spades. I'm bullish.


Was there any other game that particularly influenced the changes to OTE?


Apocalypse World. I'm a big fan of Vincent Baker's work, and AW impressed me with how much weight it puts on a single throw of the dice. A player's roll is, in a way, both their own "skill check" and the enemy's "skill check" rolled into one. I hate dice rolls that don't have much riding on them. Why bother? For the new Over the Edge, I set out to put as much weight as I could on a single throw of the dice. When a player gets set to roll, the other players stop and watch. Every throw means something.


So I've just got to say: working with Jonathan and Chris on this project was a complete joy. A new edition of one of my favourite RPGs of all time? Bucket list item, checked off! I am glad that baboons and Cut-Ups and Sommerites are all in this game, yet imagined in different ways. I'm glad that the book is full color, has gorgeous illustrations, and the layout is top notch. It may not be the same rules and writing as it was before, but I think this new edition turned out fantastic, and I credit all of the success to the creative talents on hand to make it that way. (I just juggled emails and spreadsheets.)


The original Over the Edge was a hard act to follow, but the new edition really shines. Thanks for bringing it all together.


Hey Jonathan, thanks for stopping by!
I've been a fan of yours for some time, particularly Ars Magica and 13th Age (and your twitter feed). Those books are big influences on my game, and my thoughts about design.
Two questions:
What avenues of design are you most interested in right now?
What are one or two specific things you like to see happen more in the industry in general? Discounting some of the obvious general improvements like greater accessibility and diversity of perspective.


Thanks for the kind words. I'm pretty regular on Twitter for folks who want to find me.

For design, I want to update Everway to let it benefit from everything people have learned about designing free-form RPGs. The original was a good effort, but sort of a shot in the dark because people just didn't know how to make serious, free-form RPGs back in the day. A lot of the game holds up fine, but it needs a second edition. These days, the only RPG material I want to do is stuff that is something new and meaningful for me. I might want to adapt the Over the Edge mechanics to a whole new setting and see what it takes to make it a universal system.

I would like to see more RPGs that give serious agency to the players. That can be in character creation or in play—or both. I would like to see a big, successful RPG where the standard approach to support (splatbooks, adventures) is untenable because the players customize their experience too much for a corporate-defined experience to work for them. Over the Edge is like that, and Justin Alexander had to rethink scenarios and adventure hooks to make support material work. But most people seem to like consuming corporate-produced experiences, so maybe I'm just daydreaming.


Was the Open Game License successful, in your opinion? What effect has it had on tabletop RPG gaming? What was its most disappointing aspect, looking back? And what was its most surprisingly positive aspect?

Finally, if you could send one tweet back to yourself at Wizards of the Coast, with the subject restricted to the Open Gaming License, what advice would you give yourself? (Assume you don't have to spend any characters on authentication to your pre-Twitter self.)


Super successful. It unified gamers, concentrating energy and revitalizing the field. It has made it easier for new folks to create stuff that other people will look at. I think it helped the indie game movement because the only point in doing non-d20 mechanics was to do something really different.


Hello everyone. So, I'm not an expert on the field. I had a D&D party a few years back and I play some tabletop games from time to time.

My question is how relevant are the statistics in the design of a new game? It seems to me that a lot of games come from fun/silly ideas but to make that become a game that you can actually play you need to know a lot about statistics so the players aren't too strong/weak or the game isn't too slow.

Do you make a first version to complete the design and work the numbers later or how does it work?

Sorry for my english, but I am spanish.


Escribe bien en ingles.

The statistics in the new Over the Edge are streamlined so that it was easy to balance them, and the game plays very fast. The focus is on the players' imagination in how they create their characters and what choices they make in play. There are no tricks to making your character overpowered like there are in lots of RPGs. In my demo from Gen Con last year, you can see players who are new to the game invent characters and then play a scenario all in two hours. That demo is on this list of videos, and it's worth a look, I think.


If you could really live in Al Amarja, would you?


Not in a million gajillion years! Holy moly, no. When the first edition released, one reviewer said it was pro-libertarian propaganda because the government left so much unregulated on the island. That confused me because the place is a dystopia. If anything, it's anti-libertarian propaganda. Give me the rule of law any day. I don't think I would even want to visit Al Amarja, although probably I would want to read up on it from a safe distance. (Of course, no distance is "safe".)


What existing movie/tv/book franchise would you be most excited to adapt as an RPG and what rule set would you use?


That's a hard one because I want RPGs to be about the players' imaginations, not someone else's inventions. I've thought of doing a Lovecraft RPG, possibly medieval or ancient. Kafka is another possibility, although it's hard to see how it would play. My favorite fiction book might be Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, but I would never want to turn a nihilistic, pain-soaked western into a roleplaying game. As for a system, I really like what I came up with for Over the Edge, and I just don't have time for a system where one rolls attacks one at a time or whatever.


Hey Jonathan,

Congratulations on the new game, but this isn't a question about OTE. What motivated you to write Grandmother Fish?

(This is Mark the Dragonflight Guy, BTW) Edit: Spelling


Hi Mark! Thanks for a wonderful question. Grandmother Fish is the first book to teach evolution to preschoolers and my only children's book (published by Macmillan). Twenty years ago when my daughter was a preschooler, I wanted a book like this for her. There are plenty of Adam & Eve books for little kids, and I wanted an evolution book for her. It took me 15 years before I figured out how to to make it work. Originally I was going to publish it on the cheap as an ebook just so I could say I had published it. But when I told people that I was creating a book on evolution for little kids, their eyes would light up. Once I saw several eyes lighting up, I knew that the idea was too good to be done on the cheap. I found a real artist, and we raised money for the first edition on Kickstarter. My daughter is really happy to see the book come true after all these years. If I hadn't been a parent, probably I never would have written this book.


remember when Pelgrane Press publicly disavowed you for your bizarre hot takes on race science?


There's more to it than that, and you can read about my advice for how to combat race science right here:


Is there anything you could tell us about the On the Edge Wetworks and Chaos Plauge expansions? Outside them being cancelled. Is there any lore we lost out on for example?


Chaos Plague was going to be about the spread of insanity. Other than that... it's been a long time.


Considering how much was stuffed into the supplements for previous editions, how much are you planning on revisiting for future supplements and to you have some new stuff coming up?


Justin? Here's a good question for you.


What is the best system you have encounter for either run horror or investigative games?


I like Cthulhu Dark, but it seems to be strictly for short-term play. I'm not thrilled with investigative games any more because they tend to be too goal-focused (ie, win-focused).


Any advice for someone interested in this field?


Self-publish something and prove you can do a thing.


When Hollywood enlists you as a powerful creative consultant for the Over the Edge TV series, who will you recommend as showrunner? And which actors will portray the significant characters from the setting (actor/role)?


I'll ask Robin D Laws for his professional opinion. He's way more plugged into TV than I am. I've always liked Halle Berry, and was in a James Bond movie back in the day, so I'd love to see her come to Al Amarja and get weird. Maybe I'm showing my age, but I'd be happy to have David Cronenberg running things. He did the Naked Lunch film, which I liked, but maybe he wouldn't want to repeat himself.


A bit late to the party, but if anyone is still answering questions: I am curious about the French version of OTE that set Al Amarja in the Devil’s Triangle. That actually appealed to me quite a lot, but of course as far as I can see all the information on that is in French (and I don’t read French). Was there ever anything done on this in english? Is that a possibility for the future (it is certainly a variation I’d be interested in)?


In the current version, Al Amarja is in the Atlantic. The setting is designed to be adaptable, so you can sure set your campaign's Al Amarja in the Bermuda Triangle (as I called it back in the 70s when I believed in all that).


I'm glad I supported OtE on Kickstarter. The book is awesome! And, yeah, the content is excellent as well. This questions is for Jonathan Tweet: What are your future plan for Al Amarja? I seem to remember something about Al Amarja during early modern times, and Al Amarja vs. Cthulhu. If you could tell us something about those projects, it would be great. If you can't, I understand.


No secret projects have been announced at this time, but stay tuned...


Jonathan, if you found yourself tasked with leading the D&D 6E design team, what elements from freeform RPGs and what elements from modern PbtA-style games would you seek to incorporate into the world's most popular roleplaying game? What sacred cows would you like to see slaughtered?


I have thought about that, and I'm afraid that my design preferences are at odds with what shareholders want to see from IP that they own.


I picked up the deluxe book and the core book, both are very lovely! I'm about a 1/3 of the way through. My question is how is it being received at the distribution level? Is it getting into stores?


Thanks for the kind words. The Atlas folks should be able to answer your question.


Do you play any video games based on table top RPG's like Pathfinder: Kingmaker?


I don't. Tabletop roleplaying games are about limitless imagination, but video games are not.


When is Ars Magica: Tales of the Quaesitor coming out?


It's been a while since I talked with anyone about that project. Not sure...

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