I was fortunate to be able to interview Sean Patrick Fannon, the author of the up-and-coming Savage Rifts. The Gamer Nation welcomes Sean Patrick Fannon:
Savage Rifts: The Anticipated Upcoming Roleplaying Book
Adam Lee: You have been an author for roleplaying products for over two decades. You’ve worked for companies such as Hero Games, West End Games, and Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Before Rifts, what was your favorite work? Tell us about your baby.
Sean Patrick Fannon: Most folks know me for the Shaintar setting, which is epic high fantasy for Savage Worlds fans. It remains a very strong, beloved setting for a solid group of fans, for which I am very proud and grateful. I also have a lot of pride in the work I did for the Hero Games folks back during the 4th Edition days. I am invested in all of my work, but those two settings hold a lot of personal connection for me.
AL: How did you first come across the game Rifts? What was your experience?
SPF: Having started gaming in 1977, I was fairly entrenched by the time Rifts came out in the early ’90s. Like so many, I was drawn to the gonzo, everything-goes nature of the setting. Giant robots/mecha vs demons, and else embedded in the setting, as well as all of the player character options, made the game very appealing. Unfortunately, I discovered I did not quite have the patience or the storytelling chops to handle the system as it was presented at the time.
AL: Do you know Kevin Siembieda personally? If so, what is he like?
SPF: I am very pleased to call Kevin a friend. He’s one of the nicest, most caring people you’ll ever meet in this business. He can be tricky to work with if you show a lack of respect; he’s Old School in that perspective, in that he expects respect, which he gives in equal measure. I understand this quite well, and honestly, I think it’s pretty impressive he’s still writing and publishing after all he and Palladium Books have been through in recent years.
AL: Who is publishing Savage Rifts and what is Evil Beagle Games?
SPF: The publisher is Pinnacle Entertainment, the same folks who publish Savage Worlds, Deadlands, The Last Parsec, and dozens more settings and products. Evil Beagle Games is my own publishing and game design studio, with Ross Watson and Carinn Seabolt as my partners. Since I originally negotiated the deal, Shane Hensley was extremely gracious in keeping Evil Beagle directly involved; essentially, we’re the direct development studio, working in partnership with both Pinnacle and Palladium (as the licensor). To better work with the Pinnacle structure, I am also part of that studio, embedded as the Brand Manager for Savage Rifts. I am, frankly, happiest of all about that part.
AL: There’s a rumor on the Internet that you have been game-mastering/playtesting Savage Rifts. If this is true, do you have a game story/encounter that was memorable?
SPF: We did some highly intensive playtest and design workshops early on. Once I had a functioning basis for character creation and some of the needed rules addenda, I started running some demo/playtest games locally in the Denver area, as well as at some conventions around the country (AndoCon in Atlanta, Pacificon Game Expo in San Jose, and most recently at a Con on the Cob near Cleveland).
Each of the games provided some very memorable experiences, especially where the players embraced the idea of “Blaze of Glory,” whereby character death has major impact on the game and makes for a heroic, memorable ending. I will say the game where the Mystic decided to put Exalted Deflection on the Glitter Boy while the Ley Line Walker gave the Mind Melter effective superspeed (thus allowing him to run into the Coalition APC and quickly neutralize everyone inside) was a curb-stomping the likes of which I’ve rarely experienced as a GM.
AL: Is the official name of the game going to be Savage Rifts?
SPF: That’s what we’ve been calling and marketing it as from the start. I can’t say for 100%, because others may decide to go with something else by the time we publish, but Savage Rifts felt and sounded right from the very beginning, so that’s how I am leaning.
AL: Rifts has been around for over twenty-five years and there are numerous books that are part of Palladium’s version of the setting. Therefore I assume your version of Rifts will deviate from Palladium’s canon. What might we expect? Are there Glitter Boys, Juicers, and the Coalition? Will there be Mega Damage?
SPF: With Kevin’s support (and enthusiasm), we’ve made a few changes in how some things work, but we’ve kept everything folks expect from the Rifts setting. For example, Juicers now have much more control over their “death arc,” and can use their limited life span to do even more superheroic things than they’re normally capable of–but they are definitively Juicers all the way. Just about everything you remember from the core Rifts book is represented in the initial offerings, and we plan to expand out from there over time.
And, yes, there is Mega Damage, though it’s somewhat different in that not everything does Mega Damage, and not everything is built on M.D.C. principles as a defense. It’s a bit more rational, shall we say, such that a Glitter Boy has MDC armor and a Mega Damage Boom Gun, but the Juicer’s body armor is just tough body armor, and his main ranged combat weapon usually doesn’t do Mega Damage. Savage Worlds fans will recognize right off what we did, in that Mega Damage is Heavy Damage, while MDC armor is Heavy Armor, and that greatly simplifies everything.
AL: As writers, we sometimes have difficulties working on a project. Did you have any difficulties writing Savage Rifts? If so, how did you overcome it?
SPF: This has been, by far, the most challenging design work I’ve ever done. Constantly trying to find ways to (a) make it truly a Savage Worlds setting while at the same time (b) making it feel like the Rifts setting, all the while trying to exert a greater sense of balance than some perceived with the original Rifts rules… that’s been a constant, major struggle, but with some very rewarding results.
Let me be clear–as-is, Rifts works great for its fans. The lack of strong balance in the mechanics for that game is a feature instead of a bug for those players. I did, however, seek to reach a different audience with Savage Rifts, one that seeks more equity in the combat and other experiences across the board, and I think we got there.
AL: I have no doubt that Savage Rifts will be a big hit and I know there have been a lot of excited fans waiting for it to come out. Would it be possible for you to give us a release date or estimate on when to expect to see it on the market?
SPF: As of now, we’re strongly committed to seeing Savage Rifts release in the First Quarter of 2016. That’s all I can and will say, because we are determined, first and foremost, that this is right from the very start, and we’ll take whatever time is necessary to do that. As you say, there are a lot of people excited about this, and we don’t want to disappoint.
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