Ivan Van Norman Discusses the Future of Altered Carbon
  • Ivan Van Norman Discusses the Future of Altered Carbon


    Altered Carbon is both an award winning novel and a popular Netflix original series. With several notable IPs being grabbed up by RPG designers, it was only a matter of time before someone took the step to snag the rights to Altered Carbon. Ivan Van Norman of Hunters Entertainment took some time to chat with EN World about some details of the Altered Carbon RPG.



    SM Hillman: Ivan, before we get into the details of the new game, could you tell folks a little of how you got into role playing games, both as a player and a designer / publisher? How did Hunters Entertainment come about?

    Ivan Van Norman: Hunters Entertainment was founded on 3 college friends who all played D&D together, and decided they wanted to make a role-playing game about Zombies. We launched our first book (Outbreak: Undead) at GenCon 2011, during the craze of Max Brooks Zombie Survival Guide, and the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Needless to say, we saw great success and since then have released several products for that line as well as 3 new RPG systems, (Kids on Bikes, Icarus, and Outbreak) in as many years. In 2016 we put to market a Children's book, the ABCs of RPGs, which we sold the rights off to Dungeons & Dragons to become the ABCs of D&D. We are just one of many different creators in this awesome space, but we love doing it! We even managed to make a couple of Art books for Critical Role in the midst of it all.

    SMH: What is it that fascinates the folks at Hunters Entertainment about Altered Carbon? Was it the show that caught folks interest or the books? Or both?

    IVN: I read Altered Carbon about 6 years ago, and again after I found it on Audible. I was fascinated about the world, and loved the unique spin it took on sci-fi. It took so many elements I enjoyed about Blade Runner, and yet added a great philosophical and political discussion about what happens when death is no longer a finality. The first book in particular, with its 'unraveling the mystery' - really took me down a journey in which I said "I want to play in that world".

    SMH: People are always interested in the business side of tabletop rpgs. Without getting into the private business, what was the process for Hunters Entertainment to get the license to Altered Carbon? Does the license cover the show and the books?

    IVN: It's a business of passion. Which we all have to buy into in order to see success. Every license is different, but it always comes down to trust and a good plan. As far as the license goes, thankfully since Evolution has both the Film/Book rights - we were able to acquire both for this license. That isn't always the case. We wanted to make sure Evolution was 100% comfortable with what we were putting together and represent the property well. Thankfully, we have a great partner with Genuine Entertainment and Joe LeFavi who is always looking out for us. We met Joe at a Nerd Trivia Night at GenCon years ago, and really enjoyed what we were doing in both the print and media space. When we learned he had secured Dune for Gale Force 9, we reached out and discussed what we could possibly bring to his associates and connections at various companies.

    SMH: is the license just for Altered Carbon or the other two books as well? Would it cover any potential new books if the author ever goes back to Takeshi's story?

    IVN: We currently have the game license for all books in the Takeshi Kovach series.

    SMH: Could you go into the dice and mechanics a little? Will it be closer to Outbreak: Undead or Kids on Bikes? Something completely different? How will death be handled in a universe where death is not a permanent injury?

    IVN: I will give you a direct quote from Christopher J. De La Rosa - the designer himself. "The game will share some DNA with the Cortex system, Outbreak: Undead.. and Savage Worlds but it’s very distinct from each. One of the most unique mechanical element is that purchases in this world are heavily abstracted; since in this setting, the gulf between the haves and have-nots is nothing short of canyonesque."

    SMH: What role do you foresee the characters taking? Are they lost envoys like Kovacs or more like the supporting cast?

    IVN:
    While Envoys and even "Meths" will be options for players, these are in all cases extremes and honestly not at all recommended. They are incredibly rare, and nearly impossible to relate to on an adventuring level. Most characters will be serving roles in the Altered Carbon world as Mercenaries, Law Enforcement, Citizens, or Socialites.

    SMH: Altered Carbon in all its presentations brings up a great many social and political questions that can be uncomfortable. Is that something that will be mechanically part of the game or just adds narrative possibility to the game play?

    IVN: The social and political elements of Altered Carbon are one of the reasons we were drawn to the property. We want to give players the ability to tell stories that are compelling to them, but also allow everyone to feel comfortable including (or excluding) what they want. Narrative gameplay will be covering many of the tougher questions that the world of AC poses. There are factors that are endemic to the setting; like extreme gulf in the Socio-economic gap between Meths and the rest of the humanity and the wide-awake nightmare reality of what society looks like when a human's legal personhood is reduced to literally just lines of code. Ignoring these completely would be a betrayal of the central appeal of the setting. Ultimately though, even potentially troubling elements of the AC universe distill into fairly emotionally sterile things in the game mechanically. Things like Baggage, Influence Points and Ego Points, in particular, reflect the harsh reality of AC mechanically, but how or what those points mean or represent or how they are gained or lost can be abstracted out or omitted from a narration entirely and they can simply be another point resource to use like any other. Sleeving into a body with a peanut allergy, or spliced with Wolf DNA are good examples of something that can be colorfully played in gameplay while keeping mechanics emotionally sterile.

    SMH: Are there sourcebooks planned? Will each season receive its own sourcebook?

    IVN: We do have sourcebooks planned, but can't discuss the details of when or what those are at this stage in the announcement

    SMH: What other supplements, if any, are being considered?

    IVN: We have a list of awesome supplements we are considering for the Kickstarter, but it all comes down to bandwidth and what interest is shown in the project during the campaign. We also are discussing other partners to provide cool accessories as well too that will be featured in the campaign. At the same time, we're heavily aware of the fact that with each new 'thing' adds the potential time needed to deliver. So it's a balancing act!

    SMH: What is planned for the art for the rpg? Will there be stills from the show? Will book covers appear in some way? Is there a specific aesthetic Hunters Entertainment is looking to capture?

    IVN: We have a huge library of art and stills from the Netflix series, but we're still planning on adding our own original art, as well as composited pieces similar to the announcement graphic that come along with the press release.

    SMH: Although 2020 is a whole year away, are there plans to stream the game on a regular show of its own? Do you think streaming the game might draw in fans of the show or books who are not tabletop rpg fans?

    IVN: We are certainly planning to produce a show for Altered Carbon along the same lines as what we’ve done with We're Alive: Frontier and Sagas of Sundry. We’ve been producing these series for years now, and we’re confident that we can find an excellent home to really showcase the game and provide an entirely new and exciting way to bring fans new and old into the world. There’s no doubt that these streaming series can bring new audiences to the tabletop in a way never before possible, so we’re very excited about the future for Altered Carbon and how our game can play a meaningful role in the growing franchise and fandom in the years to come.

    SMH: Can you talk about the team at Hunters Entertainment? Will everyone be directly involved in development of the Altered Carbon RPG?

    IVN: We all wear lots of hats here at Hunters, but everyone is taking part in the process of bringing Altered Carbon to life. That being said, we still have many projects like Kids on Bikes, Outbreak: Undead, and our recently funded Storytelling Dice Stacking game called Icarus to consider as well.

    SMH: Where can folks keep up with the development of the game?

    IVN: Head over to HuntersEntertainment.com to sign up for our newsletter, or follow us on our socials (Hunters_Ent on Twitter)

    SMH: Are there any other projects on the horizon for Hunters Entertainment, that you can talk about?

    IVN: We have an Original Concept RPG that we will be announced at GenCon that is also in development. We can't stop!

    EN World would like to thank Ivan and Hunters Entertainment for taking the time to talk to us about the Altered Carbon RPG. This article was contributed by Sean Hillman (SMHWorlds) as part of ENWorld's User-Generated Content (UGC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. vpuigdoller's Avatar
      vpuigdoller -
      I disagree with their position on envoys and meths. Either way I want to see how the final product looks like and wish them luck in this endeavor.
    1. Philature's Avatar
      Philature -
      Quote Originally Posted by vpuigdoller View Post
      I disagree with their position on envoys and meths. Either way I want to see how the final product looks like and wish them luck in this endeavor.
      I agree with your disagreement! I want my characters to be the heroes of the story and not just a supportive character but maybe I am getting the type of game they want to bring.
    1. SMHWorlds's Avatar
      SMHWorlds -
      Well there will be rules to play an Envoy or Meth, it is just not recommended.
    1. polishogre's Avatar
      polishogre -
      I'm in for this game. Kids on Bikes was well done, so I will give them a chance on Altered Carbon for sure.
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