Clarence Redd, Creator of M-Space, Discusses Sci-Fi, Aliens, and RPGs

Clarence Redd is the publisher and author of M-SPACE and recently released the M-SPACE Companion. He was kind enough to talk about RPGs, his creative process, and the RPGs he has created at FrostByte Books.


CHARLIE DUNWOODY (CD): Why M-SPACE? What made you decide to create a tool kit for GMs to create sci-fi settings?
Well, I never had a grand aha-moment or dreamed of writing games. It just gradually happened. Back in 2014, I posted some ideas on BRP Central about starship design and got a fantastic response. There had been very little in the way of sci-fi rules for BRP (Basic Roleplaying), so the community was quite happy. Then I just kept adding new stuff in response to the comments and ideas that popped up on the forums. And at some point, it just seemed logical to collect everything in a book. When The Design Mechanism released the rules-light version of Mythras (Mythras Imperative) and their Gateway License, it was the perfect platform to develop the game even further.

CD: You have created Odd Soot, The Weaver, and Elevation settings. What inspired you when creating these settings and are you working on additional support for any of the settings?
The premise of Odd Soot is simple: What would the 1920s look like if space travel had been available back then? Everything else - aliens, magic, an interstellar plague, The Philosophy Engine - grew from that initial idea. I also wanted to explore how realism is corrupted by the surreal. The Soot - the plague in the setting - has a very disruptive influence on spacetime, among other things. For this, the writing of H P Lovecraft and Jorge Luis Borges were important on a very fundamental level. Some New Weird works by Karin Tidholm and China Mieville also played important parts. And I’m a big fan of Itras By, a surrealistic game that I can warmly recommend. I’m working on several pieces for Odd Soot - a scenario, a campaign, a few short stories - but I can’t say much at the moment.

was created by Mike Larrimore, while I did most of the illustrations. His initial idea was “What if the Federation in Star Trek was broke?” The human desire to explore unknown space was a big inspiration, of course. What strange new worlds are out there? What do alien cultures look like? That deep drive to go where no man has gone before is a perfect story seed. But Elevation turns the idea on its head and adds human greed to the mix. In post-scarcity Star Trek, exploration is in the hands of a well-trained crew. In Elevation, everything is up for grabs by corporations, pirates and unscrupulous scientists. Tragedy ensues, unless the PCs act. I’m sure Mike Larrimore will write more for Elevation, hopefully next year.

I usually think of The Weaver as mythic sci-fi, but epic space opera is perhaps a more accepted term. A baroque Empire is rotting from the inside. It clashes with petty warlords and a clandestine species of magicians. The world is falling apart, but an ancient truth just might save it. The original Star Wars trilogy is probably the biggest source of inspiration. Jedi knights were still mysterious loners back then and the galaxy was less well-defined. It succeeded in bringing science fiction and fantasy closer together - without turning dorky. But I also read a lot of Iain M Banks at the time. The downward spiral of cruelty and inefficiency that empires tend to end up in comes from some of his books.


CD: The aliens in Odd Soot are truly alien. What inspired you to dream up such unique truly alien beings? How did the art for each alien get completed?
It was a monumental task and I spent months on those illustrations, putting everything else on hold. But they turned out to be essential for the game’s development. I’ve always felt that creating aliens is an impossible task. How can we dream up something truly alien, when we only have seen Earth-based lifeforms? I wanted to come up with a new solution, to cast off some of my ingrained views. During the game design process, I came upon a bunch of old anatomy drawings. They turned out to be the perfect resources of bizarre alien body parts. After some trial and error, I learned how to combine pieces of mollusks, flowers and intestines to build entire aliens. In the end, I looked through thousands of anatomical drawings. Very few were usable for my purposes. And even fewer ended up in the finished pieces. But when the drawings were done, I could write down the alien cultures in one go. My subconscious had somehow created them for me while I was cutting and pasting. I wrote an article about the graphic Frankenstein process I used and how it inspired the rest of the game design: Designing Aliens: My Graphic Frankenstein Process.

CD: How did you come up with the name of your company, FrostByte Books?
I live in Sweden and it gets pretty cold here in the winters. I also wanted to explore the digital tools available in publishing today. The name evolved from there.

CD: You choose a square shape for your books. Why did you decide to go with an unusual size for your RPG books?
It was a combination of aesthetics and my writing style. A single column of text with a wide outer margin for additional comments suits me very well. The square format felt like the most rational choice.

CD: Have you used kickstarter for any of your RPGs or considered using it? If no, why did you decide to go a different route for publishing your books?
I haven’t used crowdfunding for any of my books so far. It’s a great concept and has made a lot of cool products possible. But I haven’t felt comfortable using it. It would add too much pressure to my design and writing process. I prefer to have my previous books fund my new books, without involving hundreds of other people. It gives me more control and takes less time.

CD: How long have you been playing RPGs and what are some of your favorite RPGs?
I started playing in the early 1980s, with the Swedish BRP-based Drakar och Demoner. BRP dominated the Swedish RPG scene back then, and Dungeons & Dragons never really took off here. RuneQuest was my favorite for many years. The investigative playing style of Call of Cthulhu was a true revelation the first time I tried it and I’ve never really left it since. More recently, I’ve enjoyed Tales from the Loop and Ashen Stars, both with fantastic settings. Systems without a GM also fascinates me, like Mythic Game Master Emulator and Microscope.

CD: Many readers of EN World are D&D and Pathfinder players. What would you say if they asked why should they should try one of your RPGs?
In my experience, most players want to go beyond D&D after playing for a while. There are so many cool games where you get to play fantastic stories, far from the fantasy staples. M-SPACE runs on a classic ruleset as old as D&D. And it’s easy for newcomers to learn. Without classes and levels, each character is unique and feels more personal. You improve any skills you want and gain expertise in any area, regardless of starting background. The Passions mechanic ensures that both PCs and NPCs have strong motivations and clear goals. Play a robot. Grab a cybernetic implant to master any skill instantly, Matrix style. Design your team’s starship as if made of giant LEGO blocks. As a toolkit, M-SPACE has endless possibilities, as it’s not tied to a predefined setting or IP. And with support from the rest of the Mythras titles - like Lyonesse and After the Vampire Wars- you can create stories you’ve never heard before.

CD: Where is the best place to learn more about your RPGs and what you’re currently working on? Where can your RPGs be purchased?
You can read reviews, download previews and freebies on my website, I post news there as well, but my mailing list is usually a more timely source. You can find my books at DriveThruRPG and Lulu.

CD: Thanks for sharing with EN World. Any final comments you’d like to share with the readers of EN World?
Thank you for reading! Don’t hesitate to drop me an email if you have any questions about M-SPACE.

You can read reviews of M-SPACE (review), Elevation (review), and Mythras (review) as well as read an interview with the Design Mechanism (interview) for further information.

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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody


Still sad that I missed the chance to play this at a con. Saw it on the list of games before I knew what Mythras or M-Space were. Liked the art. Almost signed up, but did something else instead.

clarence redd

FrostByte Books
M-SPACE 1.2 is available now from DriveThruRPG:

M-space - FrostByte Books |

The paramount update is affordable colour printing for everyone (or most people, anyway). I’m also very proud of the beautiful hardback option and the six nifty skill pyramids for high-level NPCs.

So, what else is new?

This is a minor update. I’ve corrected more typos than I care to admit (thanks everyone who reported errors). Added six newish careers that many have asked for. I've written up a few more sample Extended Conflicts. And spruced up the looks with colourful new artwork to go with the new print options.

I hope you enjoy the new version.
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