I've known Eric Fabiaschi, prolific blogger, gamer, and appreciator of things that are awesome for years. Eric is also the fastest reviewer I've ever seen, and a really nice guy. Check out his blog, so much enthusiastic and original gaming content!
I hope you enjoy my interview with the man...
1. In the beginning... where did your roleplaying game experiences originate?
My roleplaying game experiences originated when I was four years old and my babysitter in Hudson, New York brought me with her to her boyfriend's and her brother's OD&D game. Her boyfriend was an older guy and he was a war gamer; so I got into war gaming first. Her dad was a friend of my father's and an RAF veteran pilot retired. He was also a war gamer.
It was on a Saturday night and there was about six players gathered around a table. The smell of pot and cigarette smoke was in the air and we were playing wood-grained OD&D box. The whole group helped me to roll up and write my first character, a magic user. Then we trooped down a hall and I was killed by a skeleton. They collected the treasure.
I was hooked; every part of the country had their own version of D&D back then. So how we played was different than say California or the Midwest. D&D was more nebulous & plastic back then. I had a rude awakening when my family returned to Connecticut a few years later. The kids here played D&D more by the rule book. I missed playing with adults and older kids. I missed the New York state games because I missed the simplicity and style of it.
The group got together to get high and play D&D; it was the Seventies so there you go. My dad's best friend was a retired RAF pilot and so I got exposed to lots of stuff with a British flare because we kept in contact over the years. Everything back then has formed the backbone for my niche in the hobby and how I approach roleplaying games today.
2. I can barely remember what happened to me last week, but you seem to recall conversations with me over a decade ago. Tell me what you can of that time period.
I can tell you a lot about that time period because it was when the Alt.Call of Cthulhu and Alt. role playing email groups were active back in the Nineties through early Two Thousands. I was extremely active during those periods in all kinds of groups under the handles Dark Legion, Needles, and a few others. What I can recall about you in those various groups was your enthusiasm, the love of the hobby, and you pissing off some folks about the time Delta Green came out so about '96 or '97. We discussed schlock movies, the state of RPGs, World of Darkness, Lovecraft, your take on Lovecraft's work, and D&D. All of these were sporadic conversations at best & so are lost to ancient email lists. What I took away from these was a sense of what direction you might go later in gaming. That direction is to chart your own course and not be afraid to take risks.
3. What does the OSR mean to you personally and what are your thoughts on the OSR as an industry or niche within the RPG industry?
I came back to Dungeons & Dragons about '07 or '08 because of discovering blogs like Blair Fitzpatrick's Planet Algol, Sniderman's The Savage Afterworld, Green Skeleton Gaming Guild, then through them the retro-clone movement. I downloaded OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future, & it was like coming home for me. Through it, I discovered the fact that a DM and his players have to have a personal OSR. It was Lamentations of the Flame Princess that really kinda drilled this fact into my head.
Are you all excited about the game your playing? If so, then does that mean you and your players are creating the campaign setting you want? If the answer is yes, then you're doing the OSR right. I'm a gonzo DM and it's my comfort zone; my players are happy with it. So, that's where I find my place in the scheme of things.
I personally think that there is way too much marketing now on the OSR as a label and many products are being slapped with the label to make money. It's a business and I understand that. But I think that the fashion of OSR products is changing far too rapidly these days and the playability of a product's shelf life is far too short these days. This is all a matter of my opinion by the way so take everything I'm about to say with a grain of salt. There are many good products getting buried by the avalanche of stuff coming out.
The OSR is a niche point within a niche hobby; it's a hobby that's changing but I don't think it's dying at all. Between Kickstarter and mainstream media embracing table top roleplaying with shows like Strange Things and many others. There is new blood coming on board as well as old players returning to the hobby. I think we're in a golden age of tabletop RPGs, but it's an age that the consumer needs to find his or her level of comfort. My personal comfort zone is the old edition mixed with new OSR stuff. I can only see good things for the OSR as an industry or niche if the level of quality remains high and the interest in D&D continues.
4. You have a serious interest in the whole lost world, pulp, dinosaurs, post-apocalypse, mutant wasteland aesthetic. Have you always been into that and what is it about that stuff that gets your creative juices flowing?
I think I grew up knowing I was going to die in a ball of nuclear hell fire that might have something to do with my unhealthy interest in the post-apocalypse, mutant wasteland aesthetic. Way too many games of Metamorphosis Alpha 1st edition and Gamma World right along with bloody, bloody Arduin were also to blame. One of the big thrills was meeting James Ward way back in the Nineties. Also, it was sort of my adopted uncle's passion for especially bad movies and a steady diet of Hanna Barbara cartoons that helped. Herculoids is one of the finest creations of mankind, in my humble opinion.
What gets my blood pumping about lost worlds, pulp, and dinosaurs in terms of the OSR was The Planet Algol blog by Blair Fitzpatrick, Sniderman's The Savage Afterworld, Green Skeleton Gaming Guild, plus James Raggi's stuff; all of which showed me that I could take D&D and make it my own again. All of the pulpy gonzo stuff permitted and nothing was off limits. Geoffery McKinney's Carcosa blew my mind out, it was the perfect unbreakable kitchen sink setting to me. So what doesn't get my creative juices flowing? There is so much fantastic stuff out there not to mention yours that it can be overwhelming in some respects. This is a golden age for gonzo old school roleplaying.
5. You are a prolific blogger. What does blogging about RPGs, as well as, your many interests and influences do for you? In other words, what do you get out of it? Do you think it has an impact on the hobby?
Blogging and writing keeps me sane in an insane world. What do I get out of it? Well, I get what millions of other people get out of it... the joy of getting together with friends and creating a shared campaign world. I've been doing that since the Seventies. A better question is what haven't I gotten out of it? I've gotten lifetime friendships, the ability to cope with dramatic life altering events, a ton of worlds, setting, weirdness that rivals anything that Hollywood has created, romance, and adventure here in America and in Europe.
Yeah, I think that blogging in the OSR is comparable to radio disk jockeys during the dawn of Rock & Roll. Bloggers in the OSR are the marketing arm of the garage band publishing movement. There are tons of writers & small time publishers who are looking for bloggers to help review and get their stuff into the hands of rpg gamers. That being said I think that there is a bit of a disconnect between bloggers who game and those who simply write about the hobby. I'm a gamer not a collector, or simply a reviewer; I relish the face to face of old school games with my friends. Do I think I have any real impact on the hobby? Not as much as some people might think. But do I have an impact where it counts? Sure I do. The place where my blogging and writing counts is at my table gaming with my friends and family.
Interview conducted by Venger Satanis