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Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Bad Axe Games Interviewed at EN World

August 21, 2002 (Lombard, IL) — Bad Axe Games’ own Ben Durbin was recently the featured guest at En World’s. weekly moderated chatroom. Ben (Wulf Ratbane to EN World regulars) fields questions, give readers a peek at the “man behind the curtain,” and offers a glimpse at the future of Bad Axe Games. A transcript from the session follows:

[8:06] Meowth: Notice: Welcome to the EN World chat room. For chat rules and upcoming events please see

[8:06] Golem: Notice: Greetings! Tonight we’re conducting a moderated interview with Benjamin Durbin (Wulf_Ratbane) of Badaxe games. If you have a question you would like to ask Ben, please msg it to Badmojo or Temprus. If you wish to chat during the interview, please join #peanutgallery.

[8:06] #dnd3e http: //

[8:07] thatdarncat: Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself Ben?

[8:07] Wulf_Ratbane: Well…

[8:07] Wulf_Ratbane: That’s awful open ended.

[8:07] thatdarncat: I know, I’m asking for trouble

[8:07] Wulf_Ratbane: I’ve been playing D&D since I was about 9 or 10… so over 20 years.

[8:08] Wulf_Ratbane: I started with a friend in Keep on the Borderlands.

[8:08] Wulf_Ratbane: I got killed by a kobold within 10 minutes.

[8:08] Wulf_Ratbane: History was made.

[8:09] Wulf_Ratbane: These days I work for Hasbro and in my extra time publish for d20

[8:09] thatdarncat: I’ll assume you don’t work for the WotC department of Hasbro 🙂

[8:09] thatdarncat: What made you decide to start publishing?

[8:10] Wulf_Ratbane: I had a cool character and got tired of waiting for a splatbook that I liked.

[8:10] thatdarncat: ok

[8:10] Wulf_Ratbane: I have experience “around” the industry, lots of contacts

[8:10] Wulf_Ratbane: So it wasn’t too hard to get the ball rolling.

[8:11] Wulf_Ratbane: It was more difficult than I imagined, but still a lot of fun.

[8:11] thatdarncat: Can you introduce Brad (coolgrafix) for us?

[8:11] Wulf_Ratbane: Brad is the man to thank for all the cool photoshop work on the covers, and the website.

[8:12] Wulf_Ratbane: And a lot of the layout decisions…

[8:12] Wulf_Ratbane: He has the aesthetic sense I don’t have and the education to back it up when we clash

[8:12] Wulf_Ratbane: Which is really, really often.

[8:12] thatdarncat: Ok 🙂

[8:12] coolgrafix: He can’t help it if he’s wrong.

[8:13] Wulf_Ratbane: Unfortunately it’s a partnership, not a boss-employee kind of thing.

[8:13] Wulf_Ratbane: Eventually I have to cave in… Fortunately he’s usually right.

[8:13] coolgrafix: Is someone recording this? =)

[8:13] thatdarncat: I am 🙂

[8:13] thatdarncat: Can you tell us a little about your products so far?

[8:14] Wulf_Ratbane: I started with a vision for the line that entailed prestige classes built around the favored class of each race

[8:14] thatdarncat: There will be a log up shortly or Morrus will kick my butt 🙂

[8:14] Wulf_Ratbane: The series is called HEROES OF HIGH FAVOR and we started with DWARVES.

[8:15] Wulf_Ratbane: The main thing people notice is how small the book is

[8:15] Wulf_Ratbane: It’s very compact size, and very compact content. Very player oriented, not a lot of fluff.

[8:15] thatdarncat: How do you mean “player oriented”?

[8:16] Wulf_Ratbane: Well, one thing I didn’t want to do was go too deep into the culture of Dwarves.

[8:16] Wulf_Ratbane: I think that’s really the purview of the DM. I wanted to present the classes in the most general terms so that players would be comfortable going to the DM and getting to play them

[8:17] Wulf_Ratbane: Regardless of what kind of culture the DM had in mind for his campaign.

[8:17] Wulf_Ratbane: So the kind of content included is much more in the spirit of the PHB than, say, the Forgotten Realms setting.

[8:17] Wulf_Ratbane: Very crunchy.

[8:18] coolgrafix: Mmmm… crunchy.

[8:18] thatdarncat: How many pages is HoHF:D?

[8:18] Wulf_Ratbane: 64

[8:18] Wulf_Ratbane: at least as far as the printer is concerned… 62 content

[8:18] thatdarncat: heh

[8:19] thatdarncat: Any online expansion?

[8:19] Wulf_Ratbane: I had a very good suggestion from another Ennie, Joe G Kushner, to put up the psion and psychic warrior classes

[8:19] Wulf_Ratbane: I’m not a big fan of psionics but he persuaded me that they were core classes and should be included

[8:20] Wulf_Ratbane: So for each book, we’ll try to put up 2 free PrCs to cover those.

[8:20] Wulf_Ratbane: Brad has some plans to expand the website in the future

[8:20] thatdarncat: Notice: if you have any questions about Badaxe games products or for Ben and Brad, please /msg them to Badmojo or Temprus

[8:21] thatdarncat: Expand the website in what way?

[8:21] Wulf_Ratbane: Brad’s a web designer by profession so the sky’s the limit, really.

[8:21] Wulf_Ratbane: Brad?

[8:21] coolgrafix: We’re looking at ways to add functionality that gamers can actually use. The first item on the list is an online dice roller.

[8:22] coolgrafix: Generates the dice roll(s) that you require and can send them to your ref or anyone else who might need them. The idea is old, but we wanted to put our stamp on it.

[8:23] thatdarncat: Ok 🙂

[8:23] coolgrafix: Plus… I get tired of other online dice rollers not working the way I like. =)

[8:23] thatdarncat: Now your latest product is Heros of High Favour: Half Orcs, correct?

[8:23] Wulf_Ratbane: It is at the printers now!

[8:24] Wulf_Ratbane: This is that part of the process where I am powerless and penniless.

[8:24] coolgrafix: A preview is available online at the website (shameless plug) at:

[8:25] thatdarncat: Same page count?

[8:25] Wulf_Ratbane: Absolutely. One of the hallmarks of this series is its format.

[8:25] thatdarncat: <Roland_Orc_Lover> Did you use a new artist for HoHF:O?

[8:25] Wulf_Ratbane: Same size, same page count. The only difference is that we went to a higher quality paper stock this time

[8:25] Wulf_Ratbane: Same price though. =)

[8:26] Wulf_Ratbane: Andrew Hale is doing the artwork again for half-orcs, he did a fantastic job. Better than Dwarves.

[8:26] thatdarncat: <Roland_Orc_Lover> also: HoHF:Dwarves has info dealing with Dwarves racial specialities, Crafting, runes, etc. Does HoHF:Orcs have similar? If so, can we get some details?

[8:26] Wulf_Ratbane: Sure!

[8:26] coolgrafix: Get ready…

[8:27] Wulf_Ratbane: Well, for starters we added some Rage feats that let you use up another of your daily rages to sort of “double up” during your current rage

[8:27] Wulf_Ratbane: So if you are already raging, you spend another rage and get something else cool for the duraton

[8:27] Wulf_Ratbane: So for example, Boar’s Hide gives you another DR1/– while you’re raging.

[8:28] Wulf_Ratbane: Pretty simple mechanic, applied in a lot of different ways.

[8:28] Wulf_Ratbane: Next up we have Tribal Focus and Totem Focus– really two names describing half-orcs from two different angles

[8:29] Wulf_Ratbane: What we were aiming for here was a kind of synergy bonus if your character chose feats along a certain path

[8:30] Wulf_Ratbane: So if you start at 1st level with a Totem Focus– say, the Wolf– as you pick up feats from the Wolf Totem you get bonuses to certain skills

[8:30] Wulf_Ratbane: Again, we tried to keep the mechanic fairly simple, and we included guidelines on building your own Tribes/Totems

[8:30] Wulf_Ratbane: (One complaint about the Runes from DWARVES was that there were not enough options, so we included guidelines this time)

[8:31] Wulf_Ratbane: Let’s see… A lot of savage stuff to cover.

[8:31] Wulf_Ratbane: Of course we have rules for “shoddy craftsmanship,” as seen in Fellowship of the Ring

[8:32] thatdarncat: heh

[8:32] thatdarncat: tell us more about that

[8:32] Wulf_Ratbane: Again, simple mechanic to describe what’s a pretty common standard in fantasy

[8:32] Wulf_Ratbane: Sure…

[8:32] Wulf_Ratbane: There’s three shortcuts you can pull: Less Time, Less Money, and Less Skill.

[8:33] Wulf_Ratbane: Less Time lets you work twice as fast, less money lets you work at half the raw material cost, and less skill adds a bonus to your final Craft check

[8:33] Wulf_Ratbane: But for each shortcut you take, the quality of the weapon drops dramatically. They tend to break or shatter in combat.

[8:34] Wulf_Ratbane: And it’s definitely not something to make a living at.

[8:34] coolgrafix: But good in a pinch.

[8:34] Wulf_Ratbane: The example in the book details the use of this skill to outfit ye olde barbarian horde.

[8:35] thatdarncat: sounds useful

[8:35] thatdarncat: no reason for the party to want to cart all that captured weaponry to market if it’s all low quality 🙂

[8:35] Wulf_Ratbane: heh… You’re thinking like a DM. =)

[8:35] coolgrafix: lol… you must be your groups ref

[8:35] thatdarncat: o:)

[8:36] thatdarncat: on hiatus right now and loving it

[8:37] thatdarncat: Any other crunchy bits you want to tell us about?

[8:37] thatdarncat: <Roland_Orc_Lover> also: You mentioned rules for ‘shoddy equipment’. Are there also rules for enchanting this equipment? A sort of ‘shoddy enhancment bonus’?

[8:38] * thatdarncat pokes Wulf and reminds him he’s supposed to be telling us about the cool rules in channel, not pm 🙂

[8:39] Wulf_Ratbane: Well, one last thing I want to touch on, really the shining jewel I think

[8:39] Wulf_Ratbane: And that’s the use of Handle Animal to make funky crossbreeds.

[8:39] Wulf_Ratbane: One thing I always liked about attacking the orc camp was not knowing what kind of vicious guard animals they’d have

[8:39] Wulf_Ratbane: So this skill lets the player get away with that kind of thing… Cross a basilisk with a wyvern, get a wyverlisk.

[8:40] Wulf_Ratbane: Sorry you had to read that twice, cat. =)

[8:40] thatdarncat: it’s ok Wulf

[8:40] thatdarncat: it happens 🙂

[8:41] Wulf_Ratbane: Ok, to answer Roland… No, you can’t enchant shoddy crap.

[8:41] coolgrafix: lol

[8:41] thatdarncat: ok, thanks 🙂

[8:41] thatdarncat: moving on

[8:41] thatdarncat: <Wulf_groupie> Q: what’s the coolest prestige class in the half-orc book?

[8:42] Wulf_Ratbane: There are a lot that I really like.

[8:42] thatdarncat: If you had to pick one?

[8:42] Wulf_Ratbane: The MOULDER is a druid-barbarian that can *instantly* make crossbreeds, including with himself

[8:42] Wulf_Ratbane: (dont think about that too hard)

[8:42] * thatdarncat thinks about it too hard

[8:42] thatdarncat: ouch

[8:43] Wulf_Ratbane: The WYRD (bbn-sor) is good too…

[8:43] Wulf_Ratbane: A little tip of the cap to Games Workshop here

[8:43] Wulf_Ratbane: His magic gets more powerful if there is rage around him

[8:43] Wulf_Ratbane: But on the downside, his head can explode.

[8:44] thatdarncat: that’s a pretty big downside

[8:44] coolgrafix: Some folks might consider that whole head exploding part to be a downside. Bah!

[8:44] thatdarncat: interesting visual 🙂

[8:44] coolgrafix: Embrace the exploding head! =)

[8:44] Wulf_Ratbane: I would probably pick the bbn-ranger, the DIRE STALKER.

[8:45] Wulf_Ratbane: He’s faster than his prey, he’s relentless, and he gets to eat the hearts of his favored enemies.

[8:45] Wulf_Ratbane: I’m big into that.

[8:46] thatdarncat: <Wulf_groupie> Q: Any interesting h-o equipment?

[8:46] Wulf_Ratbane: Not in terms of tables of equipment, mercurial longswords and such

[8:47] Wulf_Ratbane: But we added rules for making all sorts of “homespun” half orc stuff

[8:47] Wulf_Ratbane: Making armor out of bits and pieces of your kill, etc.

[8:47] thatdarncat: Are you just talking rough, corse fabric? 🙂

[8:47] thatdarncat: ahhhh hide/scavanged armour

[8:47] Wulf_Ratbane: I am not a big fan of taking up valuable content space with new equipment lists

[8:48] Wulf_Ratbane: YES! In fact we have a feat called SCAVENGER, that lets you use anything you can grab at half the penalty.

[8:48] thatdarncat: nice 🙂

[8:49] thatdarncat: <Wulf_groupie> Q: what races come next?

[8:49] Wulf_Ratbane: Elves at Christmas!

[8:50] thatdarncat: yay elves 🙂

[8:50] thatdarncat: can you give us any hints about the elf book?

[8:50] Wulf_Ratbane: Ahem… Well, readers of my story hour may know that I am not the world’s biggest fan of yer traditional elf…

[8:50] Wulf_Ratbane: So we’re taking a much darker approach with them.

[8:51] Wulf_Ratbane: But still serious in tone. We’re going to really address the effects that immortality would have on a race

[8:51] Wulf_Ratbane: There is a reason that Wizard is their favored class, after all… a reason for their seclusion

[8:52] Wulf_Ratbane: I am happy to say that I will be working on this one with Duane Maxwell, formerly of WOTC

[8:53] Wulf_Ratbane: I have known Duane for many years, he *always* played Elves; furthermore he did some excellent writing on Magic of Faerun

[8:53] thatdarncat: For those of us who don’t know who Duane Maxwell is? 🙂

[8:53] Wulf_Ratbane: sorry… I was in mid-explain. =)

[8:53] thatdarncat: it’s ok, it’s always hard to tell :p

[8:53] coolgrafix: Duane is a dream to some… a NIGHTMARE TO OTHERS!

[8:54] coolgrafix: (pardon my Excalibur reference)

[8:54] Wulf_Ratbane: At any rate ELVES is in very good hands, with Duane and I working together on it.

[8:54] Wulf_Ratbane: It wasn’t easy, but I have pulled myself out of dwarf-and-orc bloodlust and started focusing on the arcane

[8:54] thatdarncat: Will we see much in the way of new spells?

[8:55] Wulf_Ratbane: Of course.

[8:55] Wulf_Ratbane: but not in lists of spells

[8:56] Wulf_Ratbane: I would like to take a really serious stab at concrete rules for new spells, and this is the place to do it.

[8:56] Wulf_Ratbane: This would be the gemstone section of the book, as the Masterwork Crafting was to Dwarves.

[8:58] Wulf_Ratbane: For starters I’m strongly considering moving away from Spellcraft as the governing skill here

[8:59] Wulf_Ratbane: I think there needs to be more of a use for Knowledge Arcana as opposed to Spellcraft, so I’ll encourage K:A as the governing skill in new spell research

[8:59] Wulf_Ratbane: I think the PHB is very clear about Spellcraft applying to spells-in-existence, whereas K:A should be the more theoretical approach

[8:59] Wulf_Ratbane: I like taking those ignored key skills and making them… cool.

[9:00] thatdarncat: <RatPunk> Question for Ben: Was the decision to co-write the Elves book based on your dislike for elves, the desire to get someone else writing, or some other mysterious reason?

[9:01] Wulf_Ratbane: Well, I’ve never really been able to take Elves all that seriously. I play a lot of dwarves and that prejudice is hard to shake. 🙂

[9:01] Wulf_Ratbane: But I have a lot of respect for the players, so I want to do right by them. Teaming up with Duane has been my plan for a while now.

[9:02] Wulf_Ratbane: I have plenty of contributions to make in the crunch department, but I didn’t want my usual tone to pervade the writing.

[9:03] Wulf_Ratbane: I would also like players to get a taste of a different writer.

[9:04] thatdarncat: <RatPunk> Question for Ben: You’ve said elsewhere that you will be doing a book for Humans as well. Since neither Humans nor Half-Elves have favored classes, are you going to combine them into one book or will each race have its own?

[9:04] Wulf_Ratbane: If folks have requests for the Elves book, you can probably find me at ENworld. Probably. =)

[9:05] Wulf_Ratbane: Humans have long been one of my favorite races. In the end, we know they win.

[9:06] Wulf_Ratbane: When all of the other books have been covered, we’ll tackle humans, who can cover every other multiclass we haven’t seen yet.

[9:06] Wulf_Ratbane: The bard-cleric. The druid-sorcerer. Etc.

[9:06] Wulf_Ratbane: I don’t think I will tackle half-elves alone.

[9:07] Wulf_Ratbane: The Humans book will address everything the half-elf needs.

[9:07] Wulf_Ratbane: (Or the Elf book, depending on your tastes.)

[9:08] thatdarncat: can we expect to see a moderately larger book combining both Humans and Half Elves?

[9:08] thatdarncat: <Roland_Orc_Lover> also: Any plans to do HoHF books for non-PHB races?

[9:09] Wulf_Ratbane: I’m considering a bigger book towards the end of the product cycle that has everything in one hardback binding, a collection of all the previous races plus all the new material. How do the players feel about that?

[9:10] thatdarncat: Well, considering that was one of the questions coming up, I’d say there’s at least some support for it :p

[9:10] Wulf_Ratbane: One other idea I had was a sort of boxed set to hold them all together.

[9:10] Wulf_Ratbane: We’ve got time to see what people would like to see.

[9:11] Wulf_Ratbane: To answer Roland, we don’t have any plans to cover non-CORE races. If another race becomes core, we’ll cover it.

[9:11] thatdarncat: <RatPunk> Q: So, do you see the HoHF books as not necessarily being race specific, even though they are presented that way, i.e. Human Coal Tongue Ravers, etc.?

[9:12] Wulf_Ratbane: It is very, very rare that I actually use race as a game-balance factor. You won’t break the game by having a halfling coal-tongue raver

[9:12] Wulf_Ratbane: (But I’d stay the hell away from the dirty little bast… sorry)

[9:13] thatdarncat: heh

[9:13] Wulf_Ratbane: But I think many DMs like for prestige classes to have some campaign significance

[9:13] Wulf_Ratbane: Tying them to race, at least for roleplaying reasons, addresses that somewhat.

[9:13] Wulf_Ratbane: It gives the DM a valid reason to tell the munchkin halfling, NO, he can’t have a battle-rager.

[9:14] Wulf_Ratbane: So it sort of helps the DM to allow the prestige classes in with the kind of backstory underpinnings that some DM’s need to feel “safe” about all those crunchy-munchy options

[9:15] thatdarncat: <Roland_Orc_Lover> also: What plans, if any, do you have after completing the HoHF line?

[9:16] Wulf_Ratbane: I’ll tackle this in two parts.

[9:16] Wulf_Ratbane: First, plans from within the company.

[9:17] Wulf_Ratbane: I have a few other partners in the company, who despite their “professional” hats also wear the gamer hat

[9:17] Wulf_Ratbane: Who are working on content of their own

[9:17] Wulf_Ratbane: We have some very dark and gritty campaign-length adventures coming up, and we’d like to really go all out on these

[9:18] Wulf_Ratbane: high production value, lots of bells and whistles

[9:19] Wulf_Ratbane: Take all of the stuff I am a fan of in other companies’ work and combine it into something wonderful.

[9:19] Wulf_Ratbane: Maps, handouts, CDrom… The kind of stuff you could formerly only get from DMs like Piratecat.

[9:19] thatdarncat: Notice: if anyone using is disconnected, please reconnect, we’re dealing with a server issue

[9:19] thatdarncat: hey, I do stuff like that for my PCs! :p

[9:20] Wulf_Ratbane: One of the things we’d like to do is slowly reveal a campaign world through these adventures

[9:20] thatdarncat: Are you looking for freelance writers?

[9:20] Wulf_Ratbane: In the same style that Greyhawk was revealed to us in the old days, before it was a boxed set

[9:21] Wulf_Ratbane: Well, the outside writers bit is part two. =)

[9:21] thatdarncat: heh ok

[9:21] thatdarncat: go on 🙂

[9:21] Wulf_Ratbane: One of the things that I wanted to accomplish when I formed the company was to make it easy to publish for others

[9:22] Wulf_Ratbane: So our contributor’s contract is very generous in terms of both royalty and keeping letting the creators keep the copyright to their own stuff

[9:22] Wulf_Ratbane: It will undoubtedly keep us a “small fry” publisher forever, but it was important to me at the time

[9:23] Wulf_Ratbane: I read a chat with Ryan Dancey somewhere that talked about RPG writers being underpaid because they allow themselves to be underpaid, and I really took that to heart

[9:23] Wulf_Ratbane: So the quick answer is, NO, we aren’t looking for freelancers who want to get paid .03 cents a word.

[9:24] thatdarncat: heh

[9:24] thatdarncat: sounds interesting 🙂

[9:24] Wulf_Ratbane: But on the other hand we’ll work with anybody who has the drive and desire, and we’ll help them get their stuff out there

[9:24] Wulf_Ratbane: It might mean they take a lower royalty so we can scare up investors, but in the end, our contributors (myself included) own their stuff

[9:25] Wulf_Ratbane: I think folks can spot the companies that are in it for the money. We just love the game.

[9:26] thatdarncat: Notice: if anyone wants to ask any more questions of Wulf, msg them to Mojo, Alt or Temp

[9:26] Wulf_Ratbane: Artists have it easier with us, by the way.

[9:26] Wulf_Ratbane: We always need artists.

[9:27] thatdarncat: <Roland_Orc_Lover> oh, also: Wuld, exactlly how many employees does Bad Axe games have? Just you and Andy Hale?

[9:28] Wulf_Ratbane: We don’t really operate in an employer-employee fashion. The simple answer is zero.

[9:28] Wulf_Ratbane: We have about a half dozen or so contributing partners.

[9:28] thatdarncat: Ok 🙂

[9:28] Wulf_Ratbane: ok!

[9:29] thatdarncat: I think that’s about all the questions we have

[9:29] Wulf_Ratbane: Cool, it was fun.

[9:29] thatdarncat: unless anyone wants to ask some more?

[9:29] Wulf_Ratbane: I can’t half blather though!

[9:30] coolgrafix: Thanks for a fun evening cat.

[9:30] thatdarncat: Alright, I’ll open up the channel for general chat then

[9:30] thatdarncat: no problem 🙂

[9:30] Wulf_Ratbane: thank you!

posted by Durbin Benjamin at 6:09 pm  
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