Sunday, 25 May 2014

An Interview with Paolo Greco about Italian RPG's

Paolo has his own blog but he is one of those rare nerds who would rather communicate with another human being rather than just sit on his own writing. So here is a transcript of our G+ conversation with all the random stuff and missplings left in.


Patrick Stuart
How do you like to be interviewed?

Paolo Greco
Wait what?


Paolo Greco
It depends on what. If you want we can start in hangout and I can write you emails for difficult answers or these which need research?


Patrick Stuart
About italian RPG's. It would be a kind of public service thing for the nerdosphere.


Paolo Greco
I am only aware of stuff that happened in the eighties and nineties though, and the late nineties are a bit spotty.

Patrick Stuart
Hm

Paolo Greco
Mind you, I left in 2004.

Patrick Stuart
I could just ask you here if you don't mind

Paolo Greco
sure

Patrick Stuart
PAOLO GRECO, WHAT WAS THE FISRT RPG YOU PLAYED IN ITALY??????

Paolo Greco
I ran T&T in primary school. It was translated in the mid 80s. I learnt how to play T&T from  gamebooks from the public library, and that's what I used to run the game. T&T is great. The adventure I ran was The Amulet of Salkti. It has a super-cool mini-saltbox in it. And it's a gamebook.

Twas really short lived. Then I ran some DSA (the first and second edition were translated mid-80s as well), which was more long-lived. There were some adventures for DSA in the library.

The first Italian rpg I played was Holmes & Co., which is an Arthur Conan Doyle-style game, which was run for me only by my buddy Andrea. I remember coming down with a bad fever playing it and misunderstanding more and more the more feverish I was getting. It was also the first time I played a tabletop RPG, and after that session I hid back behind the screen. And it took me four years before leaving it again.

Patrick Stuart
Is DSA the Dark Eye?

Paolo Greco
Years

Patrick Stuart
Holmes and co sounds interesting? What do you remember of it through the fever-haze?


Paolo Greco
It a as really light on mechanics. Like a game where players get to unfold a mystery. In a sense its an RPG because you have a demiurge customising the experience for you, but in another sense IIRC the focus was on gathering hints and solving the mystery. More like a puzzle game, or a murder party. I haven't seen the handbook in more than twenty years, mind you

Man this intervew format is great. You're asking me things I don't even remember knowing, if you know what I mean.



Patrick Stuart
Do you think the people who made holmes and co had read American/Anglo rpgs? Were they just inventing stuff on their own?

RPGs derived from party games sounds interesting.


Patrick Stuart
(p_-)


Paolo Greco
sorry, I missed the update. I have no idea but in retrospective I think they might had. Lotronto (one of the authors) seems to be active in the murder party scene. I'm contacting him via email.

I contacted Lotronto and he gave me an old interview. Turn out he read all the tules systems he could find back in the day, from D&D varieties to Traveller to T&T. And he came up with a veeery rulelight, no-action game: the game was to be only deductive in the style of non-action, Doylesque crime novels. Character sheets morphed into scripts and H&Co morphed into murder parties. He likes them much better.

Paolo Greco
it might be a bit before he answers. any other questions?



Patrick Stuart
What other Italian RPG's have you played or run?



Paolo Greco
I ran Kata Kumbas, which is awesome and weird, Cyb, which cyber-postapocalypse, Druid, which is Fantasy-Celtic, and played this weird sci-gonzo rpg where we were a cyber-band called "From Calabria with a Van", which is a pun on the Italian title of "Fist of Fury", and when I was 16 it was effing hilarious and the game was ace.


Patrick Stuart
If some ango/american OSR G+ nerd magically learnt to read italian and ran Kata Kumbas, what would they notice as being different from the games they knew?



Paolo Greco
First of all, the art. There's a bucket of d100 chargen tables that occupy a whole spread, with 100 illustrations and 100 inheritance items, saints and so on. A table per class, or so. More art for the shops: the "list" is in fact a serie of full-spread illos.



Paolo Greco
Second, they would not be getting the meaning of the setting, and the reason d'etre of the game. Laitia is the name of the country, and it's a rearranged and anagrammed Italy (Italia). The town names are anagrammed, and are sort of fantasy caricatures of the real places. Region names too, so the region Friuli Venezia Giulia becomes Landa delle Furenti Viole (Land of the Furious Violas), and Sardegna becomes Sgradena. All the book is full of references to past Italy (from pre-Roman to the Renaissance i'd say, but the setting is after-empire) which would be completely missed. The setting is also very interesting.


Paolo Greco
Is the game setting based on a country-wide inside joke? No, but it's hiding behind it


Patrick Stuart
Interesting. What about the mechanics?


Paolo Greco
KK mechanics are extremely lightweight. But almost every class has its own extra mechanic. And there are 12 classes. And if the character is from the Ancient People (Laitian autochtones, as opposed to Roma or Hyperboreans, the two other playable enthnic groups) they get weird powers if their star sign is right.


so the mage cast spells, the summoner summons light or dark spirits (partially at random), the alchemist does alchemy, and so on. Three of the 12 classes, only available for the Ancient People, are monks of the New Cult, a faux-christian religion that strangely manages to be interesting.



Patrick Stuart
What are the classes?
Playable ethnic groups but not playable races ie dwarfes, elves etc?
What makes the religion interesting?


Paolo Greco
and the game exploits a setting between paganism and faux-christianity in an intriguing way. for example the characters are asked to go and destroy this terrible apocalyptic book at one point, and they do it because well, the world might end otherwise and it doesn't matter what they believe, and it works if they spray holy water on it even if they are pagans, because the water has been sanctified by a monk with genuine faith.

Paolo Greco
do you have any other KK questions??

Patrick Stuart
Probably. But dont' worry about speed. take as much time as you like we can just pick it up  whenever you are free


Paolo Greco
I'll have a phone conversation with one of the two Holmes & Co authors this weekend


Paolo Greco
The sci-gonzo game is "Röle". Our version is a reprint that sold for 2000 IT£ (70p) in the mid '90s. The serie was called "the Games of the 2000" because year 2000 and 2000 lire:
http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_giochi_del_2000

I have a few of them. Small but awesome.


Paolo Greco
more covers. The format is A6 IIRC:
http://rpggeek.com/image/573023/role/2012/03/1.jpg

http://maurolongo.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/1.jpg


Patrick Stuart
What happened when you ran KK??


Paolo Greco
can;t remeber much but the last time players didn't get it


Patrick Stuart
Did it go wrong?


Paolo Greco
unsympathetic group


Paolo Greco
also they were not much into playing an RPG that often feels like this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L'armata_Brancaleone


Patrick Stuart
How about Cyb, what would an OSR person notice about that?



Paolo Greco
Cyb. You have stats and instead of a die you use a deck of cards and try to draw under your stat, and for difficult rolls you had to match a colour too. Cards because dice were scarce, while every house in Italy has some decks of cards. Like, three or four. And you wake up in a vault. And you're a cyborg. And go do post apocalyptic stuff. And instead of xps you get to draw a card. And that card is a subroutine you can use to program your cyborg body to do awesome stuff. There are quite a few programs in the book. This part was awesome. Never played it, sadly, but now I'd say it wounds traveler-like. But without a spaceship.


Patrick Stuart
It sounds amazing. I think the only one we haven't looked at is Druid. What was that like?


Paolo Greco
Druid... I haven't read or played it in twenty years. Published by Editrice Giochi, a big Boardgame company that translated and published a whole lot of boardgames, including D&D. Fully illustrated with amazing art by Paolo Parente, it came out in a swanky boxed set, and I remember it had a really deep and rich and colourful celtic-inspired setting (with elves and dwarves of the Tolkien kind IIRC) that made me really want to play it, and the bard class was pretty awesome and not only setting relevant but with interesting mechanics for different instrument and the possibly to have different bards singing and playing together. The last parts of the game i remember were hit location and that bagpipes were awesome for bards but they would not allow to sing at the same time. I gave it away to a classmate that dropped out at the end of the year and I never saw again.

BTW, Cyb is one of the 16-pages-affairs from Giochi del Duemila, but was published first as a  double centrefold in a gaming magazine called Kappa in I believe 1990 or 1991. The same series published Kalevala by the always awesome Luigi Castellani, which now is doing illustrations aplenty for RPGs. You better ask him about that.


Paolo Greco
Sorry, Cyb seems more like the first Fallout, of all the things.


Paolo Greco
OK. How many words is it until now? There's still a couple of bits about Signori del Caos, magazines, translations and import.


Paolo Greco
Also, I now feel compelled to write more about Kata Kumbas.



Paolo Greco
Btw, if you have specific questions, fire away. You might poke at memories.

I just remembered that finding people in my town to play with was incredibly difficult.


Patrick Stuart
Is there anything else you remember about the bards in Druid (becasue clearly Bards are an amazing class and should be played more)?


Paolo Greco
23 May 2014
They had a list of songs but I can't remember how it was obtained. There's a chance it might have been the only magic players could use.

Not having sources at hand is grim


Patrick Stuart
Did you want to talk about Signori del Caos, magazines, translations and import?


Paolo Greco
So. SDC eluded me, I saved to buy a copy but when I had the money the Ars Magica translation came up and I went all "ohhh Ars Magica must have"

And then someone else got SDC. And I got sad. Later research puts it straight in the "improved DND" field, and nowadays I'm curious to see what essentially a 80s clone of ADND looks like. Also, SDC is the first Italian published RPG: apparently when its publisher heard about Kata Kumbas being released soon they rushed the job and botched it somewhat. For some reason I imagine it as some kind of spaghetti-arduin.


Paolo Greco
Sadly the usual suspects that source my odd RPGs came up empty handed for this.


Patrick Stuart
What about magazine, did you have an italian Dragon or White Dwarf?


Patrick Stuart
(p_-)


Paolo Greco
Sorry.

Yes, we had one. We had two actually.

Granata Press mostly translated manga to Italian, but also printed a magazine called Kaos, which published material and articles about all kind of RPGs and was famous for its extremely irregular schedule. When Granata went under, Nexus took it (I'm not sure if Nexus started with Kaos or not) and did not improve its schedule but kept on churning out good content, and had some stand-alone games in it, like the First of the North Star Simulacri adaptation, and was pretty cool. Later on Nexus put out two more magazines: Oracolo (on TCGs) and another Kaos spinoff with only materials for games published or translated by Nexus.

Stratelibri had a house organ called Excalibur, and as far as I know supported only the games translated by the publisher - Cyberpunk 2020, CoC, Stormbringer and possibly a few others I forgot. I was not interested in their games and, most importantly, for some reason it slagged off Kaos going to press with things like "they better stay in their graves". So Nexus brought them to court, and Stratelibri had to make amends. They both died in the late nineties IIRC.

Then there was Rune, which was basically a posh A4 zine, which sometimes ended up being distributed at the newsagent, and was mostly adventures and supplements for fantasy RPGs, mostly D&D.

Judging by Rune, I can't estimate how many rpg zines were published in Italy. I know of Spellbook being published somewhere in Tuscany, and IIRC its crew became Nexus.


Patrick Stuart
Ok first Kaos? That is the coolest fucking name for a magazine ever. And they were hated by Excalibur? The Italian mag scene sounds cool as shit.

Also "First of the North Star Simulacri adaptation" WTF? That sounds amazing.

Those weren't really questions


Paolo Greco
Simulacri is a French RPG translated by nexus. It's generic but much lighter than gurps. And Granata was publishing the translation of Fist of the North Star, in a comic monthly magazine called Zero, together with Baoh and XENON. Yeah, much violence, so amazing, wow. At any rate, they put out a small supplement for simulacri. Was very badass.


Paolo Greco
As they were also publishing the translation of Bastard!! eventually they released also the  simulacri supplement for Bastard!! in the back of the comic. So we played a couple of sessions of simulacri with Fist of the North Star melee and Bastard!! Magic. I don't think I ever ran anything as awesome.


Paolo Greco
That's what generic systems are for. Merging the awesome


Patrick Stuart
Well, that's all the questions I got. I will ask one final one; if you could magically translate
one italian rpg into english and distribute it, which one would you choose?



Paolo Greco
Kata Kumbas!

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