Dr. Wesley Snipes and Sean Astin Join Grimmerspace as Creative Developers
  • Dr. Wesley Snipes and Sean Astin Join Grimmerspace as Creative Developers


    Iíve known Rone Barton of Iron GM Games for years, so when he shared some big news about their forthcoming Kickstarter for Grimmerspace Ė a Starfinder compatible sci-fi horror setting -- I jumped at the opportunity to interview him. He had quite a few surprises to share, not the least of which is the involvement of two well-known media personalities pictured here!




    Michael Tresca (MT):
    Tell us a little about Iron GM Games and what the company is all about.

    Rone Barton (RB):
    Iron GM Games is genuinely about community. This new companyís grand endeavor is only possible because of the gamer community. Lou Agresta and I started with Iron GM, a live event we tour at conventions internationally that aims to find and bring glory to the most creative GMs and we give out at least $25k in prizes at our annual World Championship at Gen Con. Been doing that for a decade solely for the love of gaming and gamers because there certainly isnít a penny of profit in it. If we end a year only eighty bucks in the hole we high five at our astounding success. Well as it turns out, Iron GM built up so much goodwill in the industry that when we finally decided to start a publishing concern, amazing people came out in droves to support us. We initially thought weíd be lucky to generate any interest at all in a first offering and that Lou and I would be doing all of the writing. Lou was even asking me could we consider using stock art. I listened patiently for two full seconds but then murdered him that very day via an asphyxiating Chewbacca Weeble Wobble lozenge and replaced him with a far more agreeable pod person (please keep that off the record as I am highly allergic to prison food). [Oops!] But soon thereafter, positive responses and offers of help poured in voluminously enough to raise all boats. I remember Louís enthusiastic overwhelm as more and more things began to go our way in unexpected ways, but I am idiotically confident in my belief that if you put good things out there and treat people well, good things are likely to return to you. A hug offered is often a hug returned, and that is especially so when youíre talking about gamers (even the many who shudder at the idea of being touched).

    MT: What is Grimmerspace?

    RB:
    Grimmerspace is a Starfinder Compatible sci-fi-horror setting and adventure book. In it, we start with a hard sci-fi galaxy called the Gliding Rim or G-Rim, and its residents, collectively, are Grimmers. These Grimmers have been dealing with alien horrors from the depths of space for generations. Magic isnít a possibility in this cold, rational area of space. Itís against the physics of the place. But they have aliens aplenty and thatís danger enough. You go exploring in Grimmerspace alone or unarmed, just go ahead and give yourself the title Alien Monster Turd in Waiting, chief. You earned it. But I digress. A catastrophic event recently occurred that is about to bring even greater instability to this game world. Nitroglycerin injected into an already shaken soda can. A massive purple tear in the spacetime-continuum opened up near the galaxyís edge. And from it erupted a warship full of not quite human epic level mages from another galaxy across the universe. And with them, magic now leaks into the G-Rim. These mages see a galaxy without magic and decide to conquer it, thinking it'll be easy. Time to lock and load, people, the battle between science-fiction and science-fantasy is on. How it all turns out in the end is for the players to decide, of course.

    MT: How did the idea of Grimmerspace come about?

    RB:
    Grimmerspace came out of a conversation itself inspired by our 3pp/Freelancer early-access to the Starfinder ruleset. Lou was saying how he really wanted to try out the Starfinder rules without magic, to see how it played, but at the same time magic was so integral to the rules that it might be missing out to skip that. We started talking about what kind of world we'd like to see and both agreed we liked our sci-fi a little darker and grittier. Then I suggested the defining idea: what if we pit science fiction against science-fantasy by having a magic-less sci-fi horror setting get invaded by beings from a magic world and have magic bleed into the setting. Best of both worlds in a rough and tumble setting -- and Grimmerspace was born.

    MT: What makes this Kickstarter different from others using the Starfinder ruleset?

    RB:
    A couple of things, actually. The first is how we're planning to present the setting and world: primarily through short adventures. We have a unique setting with playable humanocentric races, playable aliens, even playable monsters; but we also listened to the Starfinder audience and heard that most gamers don't want to drown in player options at this point. They've got a whole new ruleset, replete with races, classes, spells, starship combat, equipment and the works to explore. They want to learn the Starfinder rules. So we decided that in the Grimmerspace core book we'll give enough setting material to ground gamers in the setting, but then fill most of the book with a wealth of 1-2 session set pieces (approximately 7500 words each) that you can play in the Grimmerspace setting as intended, in the Pact Worlds, or in your own homebrew galaxy. These short adventures will deeply immerse you in the setting, learning Berlitz-language style, about what it means to live and adventure there, and they'll also be designed to help you get your head and your table wrapped around the Starfinder rules. That's the first way this Kickstarter is different.

    The second way it's different has to do with the offering itself. We've got a core book as mentioned, but we've also got Richard Pett's first ever Starfinder adventure, and we're going to give that away for free during the Kickstarter (and you can get it earlier than that if you sign up on our website for the early bird freebies and updates). This adventure will allow gamers to see for themselves - game for themselves - what Grimmerspace is all about. If we see the support and backing from the community we hope to see, the core book itself could double in size by the end of the Kickstarter at no extra cost to backers, and we hope to deliver the trifecta of full-on variant Player's Handbook, GMs Guide of setting and adventures, plus a Bestiary. Along the way, we've got Greg Vaughan standing by to deliver a 48-page introductory adventure module. Weíve also got metal minis for key bad guys -- the iconic "stormtroopers" of our setting, if you will -- and at least one monster. And these minis aren't a pie-in-the-sky hope, either. We've already paid upfront and had the mini made so it's a done deal that can't affect the Kickstarter or delivery. Iím holding one in hand now. Itís my woobie. On top of which, we're in discussions with at least two highly-successful publishers about having tiers for additional systems. You'll hear more of all that when we launch, but breadth and depth of the offering is a key differentiator.

    Lastly our lineup of writers. Theyíre incredibly impressive and we are so very lucky to have them.

    MT: What's your involvement with the Kickstarter?

    RB:
    We're writing, developing, and editing on all of the products. We're going to be 100% hands on. This could be our one shot at game publishing, right? Who knows? So weíre giving it everything we have. Everything. Yes, even spleen. Especially spleen.

    MT: Any stretch goals?

    RB:
    We have stretch goals for days: growing the core book, adding adventures, adding authors, adding monsters, adding new gear, adding minis, unlocking add-ons, splitting out additional books...

    MT: You've got quite a few industry names signed up to participate in the Grimmerspace Kickstarter. Who is involved?

    RB:
    I already mentioned Richard Pett and Greg Vaughan, but Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, Ben McFarland, BJ Hensley, Hal Maclean, and Larry Elmore (whose art is both iconic and timeless, but who is also a deft sci-fi author) are writing for us. Perhaps more along the way. And Erik Mona, Paizo's publisher, is writing our foreword. And of course Sean Astin and Dr. Wesley Snipes.

    MT: That's a long list of luminaries in the RPG field -- wait a minute! Did you say, Dr. Wesley Snipes? As in "Blade"?!

    RB:
    Itíd be weird if we touted having landed Wesley Snipes the locally famous cheesecake baker on our project, wouldnít it? But no, youíre right, Blade himself! Heís in for creative development. writing, and kung-fu application whenever and wherever kung-fu is most needed (we do find it helps to overcome many temporary obstacles in business meetings).

    MT: What's Dr. Snipes' gaming experience?

    RB:
    Dr. Snipes is a tabletop gamer. He's also recently published an excellent urban fantasy novel Talon of God. He came to us by way of our mutual friend BJ Hensley, Founder of Playground Adventures and the Business and Marketing Director of Lone Wolf Development. BJ is someone who helps out so many others with their own projects that I donít know how she ever gets her own stuff done. I role model her in that if I get half the work completed in a day that she does I know I should see a doctor about the possibility that I may be suffering from workaholism.

    MT: And you've got Samwise -- I mean Sean Astin?! I'm trying to keep my head from exploding. How did Sean get involved?

    RB:
    Lou and I have been friends with Sean for a while. We're involved with him on a television deal and have shared a number of real-life adventures in LA and elsewhere, so when we decided to do Grimmerspace we called him and asked if he'd be interested. We had this big long pitch planned but he cut us off and said, ďStopÖ stop. Storytelling is worthy. Gaming is worthy. You don't have to convince me. Of course, I'd love to help.Ē You mention his character Samwise, bravest and most loyal of hobbits. And that was likely an easy role for Sean to play because a kinder, more loyal and giving friend youíll not find between Riverdale, The Bronx and Rivendell.

    MT: Maybe it's a foolish assumption that anyone who participated in the Lord of the Rings franchise AND the Stranger Things franchise is a gamer, but what's Sean's gaming experience?

    RB:
    Actually, Lou and I are Sean's gaming experience. We pull him in deeper every time we work together. Sean is new to gaming, but as an Oscar-nominated director his eye for story and, especially, for what makes a story worthy of going cross-platform (movie, TV, games, etc.) is unparalleled.

    MT: How are Dr. Snipes and Mr. Astin contributing to the Kickstarter?

    RB:
    They're certainly not doing it for the doubloon-spilling treasure chests RPG publishing is known to earn so reliably. HARD WINK! As Creative Developers, they'll be reviewing the written work and critiquing it: here's where it could be stronger; hereís where it needs more originality, here's what would really drive this home; how about we add something like this? In addition, both Sean and especially Dr. Snipes have expressed an interest in writing specific parts of the setting that most appeal to them. We're going to keep those particulars under wraps for now because they're exceedingly cool and we don't want to get scooped.

    MT: I don't want to minimize the list of fantastic contributors from the tabletop industry that are contributing as well, like renowned artist Larry Elmore. Talk a bit about their roles?

    RB:
    It varies of course, but we intend for the core book to be at least half adventures. Depending on how the Kickstarter goes, at least 12-15 set pieces. But those set pieces are going to expand the world as well, so most of our additional authors were tapped for their award-winning adventure work. Some of them, like BJ Hensley and Larry Elmore, are masters of worldbuilding and critter creation and will be contributing that way. And then our designer Hal Maclean is one of the minds behind the setting and mechanics of the acclaimed Interface Zero cyberpunk setting.

    MT: When does the Kickstarter launch?

    RB:
    Early February.

    MT: Where can fans find out more?

    RB:
    Our website (http://www.irongmgames.com), our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/IronGMGames/), and a steam mephit agreed to do some skywriting for us as well, so watch the skies!

    MT: Anything else you'd like to add?

    RB:
    Being a Creative Director on the book isnít new territory for me, nor is wandering into the field of directing artists. But being a real deal Art Director has taught me so much about how to communicate more clearly with visual geniuses from around the world Ė especially those who donít speak English well or at all. I adore our artwork. Be it the eerily entrancing beauty of Jean Brissetís space and creature paintings, Leon Tukkerís cityscapes sure to one day be considered masterpieces of the sci-fi genre, or Jason Jutaís viscerally down and dirty fight scenes. Itís been important to acquire artists who blow us away and I think weíve met the challenge. As with all parts of this project, teamwork is everything, and we couldnít have a stronger team in place.

    Iíve thought about self-publishing for years but never pulled trigger. Was it that the setting idea for Grimmerspace was so convincingly gamer gold that Lou and I were inspired to take our chances with it? Partially. But what brought it all home, what will bring it home, is indeed community. Our writers, artists, publisher friends, and then the supportive gamers who make all of this possible and improve our shared efforts along the way. I guess it really does take a village (to get a fantasy village published and then reduce it to cinders in-game for xp).
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    Comments 31 Comments
    1. Greatwyrm's Avatar
      Greatwyrm -
      All that and nobody stops to ask in what field of study Wesley Snipes holds a doctorate?
    1. talien's Avatar
      talien -
      Quote Originally Posted by Greatwyrm View Post
      All that and nobody stops to ask in what field of study Wesley Snipes holds a doctorate?
      He has an honorary doctorate in humanities and fine arts from his alma mater, SUNY/Purchase. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wesley_Snipes#Career
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      I think the degree was a BA in being BA. The tagline should be, "always bet on black...holes."

      And I'll get my checkbook out if there's a dungeon adventure subtitled, "This is Our Time, Down Here."
    1. Kramodlog's Avatar
      Kramodlog -
      Humanities. Pffft. Only losers study that. I should know. I studied political science and anthropology.
    1. Olaf the Stout -
      Quote Originally Posted by Greatwyrm View Post
      All that and nobody stops to ask in what field of study Wesley Snipes holds a doctorate?
      Funny, that was the first thing I thought of when reading the article, "Wait, Wesley Snipes is a doctor now?"
    1. neobolts's Avatar
      neobolts -
      It's irregular to refer to someone other than an MD as a doctor in non academic press. PhD holders should be noted as such. Having an honorary degree isn't noteworthy unless the honorary degree is the focus of the article. AP Style sets suggested guidelines for titles, and the reporter, not the subject, determines the title to avoid self- inflation.
    1. Rone Barton -
      When doing this interview, I suppose I should have realized the most common comment would be a call for Wesley Snipes to show his papers... but hey, the game too, huh?

      If any of you have any questions about Grimmerspace, I'm your man. Shoot! (Stun setting, please)

      Thanks for the interview, Talien!
    1. Rone Barton -
      Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
      I think the degree was a BA in being BA. The tagline should be, "always bet on black...holes."

      And I'll get my checkbook out if there's a dungeon adventure subtitled, "This is Our Time, Down Here."

      This... can be arranged.
    1. Greatwyrm's Avatar
      Greatwyrm -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rone Barton View Post
      ...I suppose I should have realized the most common comment would be a call for Wesley Snipes to show his papers...
      You gave us a lot of good info on what's coming. I'm not sure what else I would ask until we see the pricing and so on. But you can't just dangle "Dr. Wesley Snipes" out there and not get some attention. It's like that one, slightly different square on the floor that you know is going to trigger a trap when He-Man steps on it.
    1. Rone Barton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Greatwyrm View Post
      You gave us a lot of good info on what's coming. I'm not sure what else I would ask until we see the pricing and so on. But you can't just dangle "Dr. Wesley Snipes" out there and not get some attention. It's like that one, slightly different square on the floor that you know is going to trigger a trap when He-Man steps on it.
      Ha!

      As I've been court-ordered to stop dangling things in public, I beg you not to report me, Greatwrym.

      Impulse control is an ongoing struggle.

      Bring it in, everybody. Group hug.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Greatwyrm View Post
      All that and nobody stops to ask in what field of study Wesley Snipes holds a doctorate?
      Now I know that I have slipped through from the Berenstein Bear universe.
    1. David Benevides's Avatar
      David Benevides -
      I wish you and Lou all the luck. Cannot wait.. sincerly iron GM whose name changes every year but is going to stick with Wicked Awesome
    1. Derulbaskul's Avatar
      Derulbaskul -
      Quote Originally Posted by talien View Post
      He has an honorary doctorate in humanities and fine arts from his alma mater, SUNY/Purchase. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wesley_Snipes#Career
      Of course, that also means he's not supposed to be addressed or referred to as Dr.

      And here's another point to consider: When you use a fake title for someone in this sort of context, that tends to have a negative effect on the perceptions of the project. After all, if you have to resort to title inflation to talk up a project, it begs the question about the project's soundness. Focus on the good bits; leave the fraudulent title inflation to ponzi schemes and their ilk.
    1. Rone Barton -
      Quote Originally Posted by David Benevides View Post
      I wish you and Lou all the luck. Cannot wait.. sincerly iron GM whose name changes every year but is going to stick with Wicked Awesome
      Thank you, David! We endeavor to well earn that title.
    1. Rone Barton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Derulbaskul View Post
      Of course, that also means he's not supposed to be addressed or referred to as Dr.

      And here's another point to consider: When you use a fake title for someone in this sort of context, that tends to have a negative effect on the perceptions of the project. After all, if you have to resort to title inflation to talk up a project, it begs the question about the project's soundness. Focus on the good bits; leave the fraudulent title inflation to ponzi schemes and their ilk.
      Hmm... I never would considered that line of assumption, Derulbaskul, but thank you for sharing your insight because if you see it that way I'm sure others are likely to as well. I certainly don't want to do anything to make our project look fly by night. But now please drill down with me into the truthful details a bit and walk in my mocassins...

      It was never my intention to vaunt anyone nor is it still. Neither was it, for anyone involved, ever a sell point for our project. I was told by our intermediary that he likes to be called Dr. Wesley Snipes and since he's doing us such a huge favor agreeing wasn't even a thought. I did not ask after the story behind the name. Although there was that one time I ran out onto the basketball court and asked Julius "Dr. J" Irving if he was a neurosurgeon and he ripped my head off and sunk a three-pointer with it on live TV. As it turns out, he proved to not have the credentials to reattach it and I went way too long without oxygen... thus, my lingering oddness at all times and in every situation.

      So thank you for being willing to keep hearing about the good bits. It is very much appreciated. If "Dr. Gate" proves to be the main thing that gets people talking and draws their focus, whether they're curious, irked, laughing, or concerned, that might be viewed as an unexpected gift because at least someone is talking about us. So easy to get lost amidst all the many worthy projects needing funding out there.

      Signed, President of the Universe Barton
    1. Michael Dean's Avatar
      Michael Dean -
      This is the very first time I've ever heard Wesley Snipes referred to as "Dr." With every reference to "Dr. Snipes" in the article, I was completely pulled out of it. Why are Mr. Tresca and Enworld using it? Maybe Mr. Barton feels obligated to refer to him as one to preserve their working relationship (although that should raise some huge red flags on working with him), but it's silly and disrespectful to people who have actually earned the title for it to be perpetuated here.
    1. Rone Barton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Michael Dean View Post
      This is the very first time I've ever heard Wesley Snipes referred to as "Dr." With every reference to "Dr. Snipes" in the article, I was completely pulled out of it. Why are Mr. Tresca and Enworld using it? Maybe Mr. Barton feels obligated to refer to him as one to preserve their working relationship (although that should raise some huge red flags on working with him), but it's silly and disrespectful to people who have actually earned the title for it to be perpetuated here.
      Hi, Michael, or Mr. Dean, whichever you prefer, good sir. Obviously I'm terribly easy in that regard.

      Thank you for the honesty of your insight... that seeing "Dr. Wesley Snipes" pulled you so fully out of article immersion. That particular detail is useful information.

      However, huge red flags strikes me as a strong assumption, so please allow me to try to shed some light. New to a relationship with a celebrity gamer I just went ahead and called him what I was asked to call him by the person who connected us. "Sure thing," I said. It begins and ends there. There is no more information from which to reliably draw conlusions. All that Wesley wants to know from us is what we want from him, and all he wants to do is turn in good work because he was intrigued by our proposal. He's a big name that can bring a little more glory to gaming.

      Most folks here are focusing on the vaunting of honorary title, and I understand how that profoundly rattles some of your cages, but Lou and me - developers who've been working on this for so long and who only recently acquired the help of Wesley - we never gave "Dr." a single thought. Just figured he was a doctor of something, shrugged, and went back to game designing. This setting won't build itself after all (unless the new Genesis Wordcount Bomb we just shot down into empty pages has the desired effect).

      Everything that could be said about disrespect shown to doctors and vaunting and absurdity and worry about our project has been voiced articulately. It was an education reading all of your well written insights and opinions. So much of an education that I now feel strongly you should all call me Dr. Rone Barton.

      TRESCA! I DEMAND AN EN WORLD DOCTORATE! MY WILL BE DONE!

      If the takeaway from reading about what we're trying to do here and all the names attached is that a contributor is overblowing a honorary doctorate, okay. It's unfortunate that there's some minor irritation attached to the positive thing we're trying to do, but negative focus can and will happen. You just deal and get back into the dream space of writing. I do sincerely thank you for your thoughts.
    1. Michael Dean's Avatar
      Michael Dean -
      Thanks, Rone; I am afraid that all of the comments on the issue have made it seem more of a big deal than it really is. It is not a big deal. In fact, I was amused when I saw "Dr. Snipes" in the title and, of course, had to read the article to see if they actually explained what he was a doctor of. I was even more amused when, seeing no explanation, quite a few commenters noted it as well. With all of Mr. Snipes' career and legal troubles over the years, it kind of feeds into a picture of a former A list actor for a minute who fell to the B or C list and now insists on being called a "Doctor."

      But hey, I've got a juris doctor, so I now request to be referred to as "Grand Poohbah and Lord Protector of Michigan" henceforth.
    1. Rone Barton -
      AND SO SHALL IT BE, OH GRAND POOBAH AND LORD PROTECTOR OF MICHIGAN DEAN!

      (The chambered throng or dapper members bows, hops on one foot, and circles GPLPM Dean singing lyrics of utmost reverence.)
    1. Greatwyrm's Avatar
      Greatwyrm -
      To be more serious, though, I guess I'd like to know how compatible "Starfinder Compatible" is. If I wanted the tunnels of Osiris-VII to be overrun by little, green kobolds is that going to be drag-and-drop or will it take a little elbow grease?
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