RPG Industry Professional Interview: Martin Ralya
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Martin Ralya is a member of RPG Geek:

Martin Ralya
United States
Seattle
Washington
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The Forgotten Bananas
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Microbadge: Click to see my homepageMicrobadge: I play many different RPGsMicrobadge: Play to find out what happensMicrobadge: I Play All GamesMicrobadge: Miniature Painter


When asked to introduce himself, he said:

Howdy! I'm Martin Ralya, and I've been a gamer for a pretty long time -- I cut my teeth on Red Box D&D back in 1987, and I started GMing in 1989. I've been a freelance writer for the RPG industry since 2004, with 25 published credits, and I founded Engine Publishing in 2009; we've published two books to date. I also run and contribute the GMing blog Gnome Stew, and I used to write the GMing blog Treasure Tables.

I live in Utah with my amazing wife Alysia, my awesome daughter Lark, and our ancient, neurotic beagle, Charlie. I've been an RPGG member since 2009, and was thrilled to be picked as the RPGG Geek of the Week earlier this year.
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1. RPG Designer: Martin Ralya
RPG Designer: Martin Ralya
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Any other gamers in your family? How did you get into the hobby?

Not gamers in the RPG sense, no. I'm an only child, and my wife doesn't game (she does like board and card games, though).

I got into the hobby back in 1987, when I picked up Avalon Hill's Lords of Creation in Barnes and Noble on a whim. I ran it, kind of, with a couple of different friends solo, but I didn't really know what I was doing. Not long after that, though, a friend of mine introduced me to the D&D red box, and I was hooked.

After playing a few times with him, I decided to buy some D&D books of my own. Since the store wasn't stocking the red box (understandable given that it was 1989!), I picked up the core books for AD&D 2nd Edition, and I've never looked back.
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2. RPG Item: Cityscape Tiles: Parking Lot [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Cityscape Tiles: Parking Lot
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2. Did any of your previous jobs or education help you become a game designer?

I wouldn't call myself a game designer, although it's the easiest handle -- I've primarily designed supplements, although I've written some rules text as well. I've never designed a full-fledged RPG.

My education definitely helped: I've always loved to write, and that love was nurtured by my parents as well as by my teachers. From the moment I got to make class choices, I did as much writing and as little math as possible in school.

With jobs, it's a little fuzzier -- nothing directly prepared me for working in the RPG industry. Indirectly, though, I used to manage parking garages, and as a general manager I learned a lot about working independently and making decisions without a lot of support, which has come in handy.
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3. RPG Item: The Nightmarket: Games of Chance [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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3. What was the first project you worked on? What was that like?

My first project was co-authoring The Nightmarket: Games of Chance for Mad Kaiser Games. It was a lot of fun, but also a bit rocky; the book -- a system-neutral supplement about underground gambling in fantasy RPGs -- turned out well, though. I appreciated the break, and that project gave me the confidence to pursue others, but I would also never work for that company again.
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4. RPG Item: Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:3430]
RPG Item: Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
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What’s the most recent project you’ve worked on and what’s great about it?

I've backed off from freelancing in the past couple of years so that I could devote my time to Engine Publishing projects, and my latest project is one of those: our newest book, Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game.

It's a massive collection of system-neutral NPCs suitable for any game and any genre (though broadly subdivided into fantasy, SF, and modern), and it's designed to give you everything you need to run compelling characters straight out of the book. We used a template to create the NPCs, and that template gives you easy access to the most important info about every character with no BS and no fuss -- it's very usability-oriented.

For a longer rundown, here's Masks' product page on our website.
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Family: Call of Cthulhu
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What games influenced you?

As a writer and a GM, I've been most influenced by Call of Cthulhu, AD&D 2e, Burning Wheel, Warhammer FRP 1e, and World of Darkness. Those games each get their own things right (with some overlap, of course), and they've all climbed inside my brain and changed how I think about gaming.

In terms of specific products, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set has been the single most influential -- it's just an amazing product, dripping with flavor, easy to use, and filled with so much good stuff that I've never run out of ideas. Time of the Dragon was another big early influence, product-wise.

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6. RPG: Star Trek Roleplaying Game [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:339]
RPG: Star Trek Roleplaying Game
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What are you playing right now or most recently?

I'm playing and running Star Trek Roleplaying Game. I started a CODA Trek series, and one of my players -- Don Mappin, who's also one of the designers of CODA Trek -- started up a parallel series focusing on ensigns aboard the same ship. This kind of tandem campaign is new for me, and it's an absolute blast.

CODA Trek is one of my all-time favorite RPGs, and I highly recommend Star Trek Roleplaying Game Narrator's Guide to any GM. It's out of print, but an amazing resource regardless of what you run.
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7. Board Game Designer: Ed Greenwood
RPG Designer: Ed Greenwood
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Who is one of your favorite RPG Designers?

I can't pick just one! Luke Crane, Robin D. Laws, Mark Rein•Hagen, Sandy Petersen, Mike Mearls, and Monte Cook are all right up there. They're all amazing in different ways.

I think of him primarily as a writer and worldbuilder, but Ed Greenwood has given me more pure joy through the Forgotten Realms setting than just about anyone else in gaming.
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8. System: Fate 3.0
RPG: Fate 3.0
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What RPG do you wish you had designed?

It's not an RPG so much as a system, but Fate Core. I've read Spirit of the Century and I'm reading Legends of Anglerre right now, and it just looks like an awesome engine for creating fun gameplay. LoA in particular is my current candidate for "D&D that's not D&D," since I've stopped playing D&D.
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9. Board Game: Warhammer: Invasion [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:625]
Board Game: Warhammer: Invasion
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What non-RPG (either card, board, or video) games do you play?

Tons of them! I've been playing games for as long as I can remember, and my tastes are fairly broad.

My most-played games at the moment are Warhammer: Invasion, Small World, and Biblios. On the video game side, I'm a longtime World of Warcraft player, and lately I've been playing Iron Brigade.
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10. RPG Item: Land of Og [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:4300]
RPG Item: Land of Og
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If you had to point someone to an overlooked RPG product, what would that be?

Land of Og. It's an incredibly silly and enjoyable caveman RPG -- you can only say a handful of words (17 rings a bell) in character, so you wind up saying things like, "Me go cave bang hairy thing" and hoping the other players understand that that means you want to go attack the saber-toothed tiger in its lair.
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11. RPG Item: S2: White Plume Mountain [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:206]
RPG Item: S2: White Plume Mountain
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*Bonus Question*
What are you drinking right *now*?

Mountain Dew White Out, aka Mtn DEW Extreme Wiper Fluid. I'd be pretty useless without caffeine.
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