Q&A with Tim Beach

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Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by agathokles » Sat Feb 07, 2009 9:58 am

Hi all,

this thread is reserved for questions to Tim Beach, author of the AD&D version of the Savage Coast/Red Steel.

Tim already answered a number of questions in the following threads: I'll consolidate the answers here when this sticky thread is more established.
GP

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Havard » Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:50 am

Someone has to start asking I guess! :)

Tim, you said you used to be the Monster Guy of TSR and was a little frustrated when they didn't want you to write the Savage Coast Monsterous Compendium. Do you/did you have any ideas for SC monsters (or Mystara ones) which you would have included did you get the chance to write such a product today?

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Havard » Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:01 pm

Tim Beach wrote:The feat system in 3E, however, is an unfortunately good way to handle some other aspects, but I'll give some thought to how that might be generalized. If I can ask -- and suggest the answer go into the Q&A topic -- what is it about 3E that makes you tired of it?
I have ran several short and one longer 3E campaign over the last decade (Yikes, how time flies). I've had alot of fun with the game, but for various reasons, I have now decided to take a (possibly permanent) break from this edition. Some of these include:
* Too long preparation time
* Combats last too long
* Too complicated to make new additions (Monsters, NPCs etc)
* Too much is solved through game mechanics.
* Too tactical/miniatures oriented

4E adresses some of these complaints, but takes the last one even further in a direction I don't like. My current preferred game is Savage Worlds. If I go back to any of the exisiting editions of D&D, It will probably be Classic D&D (BECM/RC). Note that I still think that your idea of using 3E for your games is a good idea. As long as you are not doing 4E (for understandable reasons), 3E will probably have the broadest appeal. And if you keep it fairly low on crunch (rules/stats) and with more flavour text, it will be easy for the rest of us to adapt to our preferred games. :)

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by maddog » Sat Feb 14, 2009 5:14 am

Tim,

I could probably look this up on ye ol' internet but I thought I would ask you directly. What projects have/were you been involved in both as TSR and afterward? I know about Red Steel but what else? Have you written anything for 35e or any other system or simulacrum game? What version of DnD do you play/run? Is there a favorite version of DnD?

What's your favorite color? What's your middle name? Do you drink beer? Can you run an eight minute mile? What's 2+1 or the square root of 2? :)

I think that's enough questions for now. :)

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Tim Beach » Tue Feb 17, 2009 7:19 am

Havard wrote:Someone has to start asking I guess! :)

Tim, you said you used to be the Monster Guy of TSR and was a little frustrated when they didn't want you to write the Savage Coast Monsterous Compendium. Do you/did you have any ideas for SC monsters (or Mystara ones) which you would have included did you get the chance to write such a product today?

Havard
I think all my ideas were picked up and used in the Monstrous Compendium as published, but I'll see what I can find. I did have a full list for a Maztica MC at one time (I wrote most, if not all, of the MC pages that appeared in the Maztica boxed set and the adventure Fires of Zatal). A number of those monsters would have transferred well. I think I would have also wanted to give stats for some variants that I would have seen as semi-iconic for the setting, such as the winged bulette. I'll devote some thought and research to this, and see if I can give you a short list.

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Tim Beach » Tue Feb 17, 2009 7:56 am

maddog wrote:Tim,

I could probably look this up on ye ol' internet but I thought I would ask you directly. What projects have/were you been involved in both as TSR and afterward? I know about Red Steel but what else? Have you written anything for 35e or any other system or simulacrum game?
I worked on 50+ pieces for TSR, most credited, some not (for example, I wrote or co-wrote most of the songs that appeared in the April issues of Dragon in the early 90s). Here are some of the big ones, or pieces that would be of interest in the Piazza.
* Monstrous Manual (put it together, did the art order, standardization)
* Monstrous Compendiums: Mystara, Fiend Folio, others.
* Thri-Kreen, for Dark Sun
* City of Delights, for Al-Qadim
* Factol's Manifesto (a bit less than half), for Planescape
* Maztica (adventures and monsters in the boxed set and in Fires of Zatal)
* Magitech, for the Amazing Engine line
* Pages from the Mages, for Forgotten Realms
I also did bits for Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Gamma World.

After leaving TSR, I put together Rascals, Varmints, and Critters for Pinnacle's Deadlands game and did some bits for West End's Hercules & Xena game. More recently, I did Lost City of Grynix for the Ramlar system from White Silver.

As far as the d20 system, I don't seem to have anything published for 3.5 -- yet. I did a fair amount of 3.0 work for Fast Forward (DungeonWorld and other books) and did a portion of Upload: Etherpunk for the Etherscope game from Goodman Games (d20 Modern).
What version of DnD do you play/run? Is there a favorite version of DnD?
I currently run a moderately modified 3.5 game, and I'd have to say that 3.X is my favorite version of D&D. There are a small number of root reasons for this: 1) The skill system works (which is an advantage over 2E, in which the skill system was bolted on after the system was done, and as a result was kind of clunky -- not bad, just not smooth); 2) multi-classing became really easy, and works pretty well; 3) the open gaming license encouraged lots of settings in the system, so if I want to run a game with a Jedi, a cowboy, a cyberpunk, and an elf, all world-hopping through a Stargate -- and I have run that kind of game -- I can; 4) except for a few strange omissions (grappling, for one) the system is integrated and consistent, with the different pieces working well together.
What's your favorite color? What's your middle name? Do you drink beer? Can you run an eight minute mile? What's 2+1 or the square root of 2? :)
Currently aqua, often black, sometimes gold.
Michael.
Yes, but not as much as I used to (and living near Seattle, with lots of microbrews and imports, I've gotten kind of spoiled). I have been known to drink some beer at GenCon and other conventions.
I used to be able to, but not any more.
I get to choose? 3 or 1.414. (I'm actually pretty good at math, so feel free to ask some more advanced questions. :) )
I think that's enough questions for now. :)
If you're sure ...

Thanks for asking!

Tim

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Havard » Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:08 pm

Tim Beach wrote:I think all my ideas were picked up and used in the Monstrous Compendium as published, but I'll see what I can find. I did have a full list for a Maztica MC at one time (I wrote most, if not all, of the MC pages that appeared in the Maztica boxed set and the adventure Fires of Zatal). A number of those monsters would have transferred well. I think I would have also wanted to give stats for some variants that I would have seen as semi-iconic for the setting, such as the winged bulette. I'll devote some thought and research to this, and see if I can give you a short list.
Very interesting!

Winged Bulettes eh? I'd be interested in seeing that list :)

Going through the Maztica products you mention, I was able to find the following:

Maztica boxed set:
Chac (Shape shifting Jaguars)
Jagre (Shape shifting ogres)
Kamatlan (Displacer beast-like Jaguars)
Kamadan (Displacer beast-like Leopards)
Plumazotl (Hummingbird-like creatures)

Fires of Zatal:
Ahuizotl (Gatorman-like creatures)
Tabaxi (Jaguar-men)
Tabaxi, Jaguar Lord (Tabaxi variant)
Tlalocoatl (Maztican Dragon)

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Colin McComb » Sun Feb 22, 2009 7:28 pm

I would also like to note that Tim helped me with monsters for my very first product, Taladas: The Minotaurs, and I've always been grateful (and, 18 years later, would like to thank him again).

Further, Tim's being too modest about his involvement with the 2e Monstrous Manual. He agitated for it in product meetings, fought to be the designer for it, worked his tail off to get it in four-color and hardbound, assembled the core monsters, vetted artists, and in general made it far better than it would have been had it been farmed out to freelancers - which was, sadly, the general modus operandi at TSR for Monster Manuals at the time. With this effort, Tim made sure that we all got a fantastic reference work and something much easier to use than the three-ring binder nonsense.

There. That should set the record straight.

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Havard » Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:21 am

Thanks for filling out the details on that situation Colin! :)

Tim, I just noticed you wrote the Thunder Rift module "Assault on Raven's Ruin". Do you have any more thoughts on the character Raven? I always found him quite fascinating. Is there any connection between him and Grey Raven, the Thief from Thunder Rift's history? (Maybe Colin could help fill in here as well?) :)

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Tim Beach » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:40 am

From Havard:
Winged Bulettes eh? I'd be interested in seeing that list :)
It is a winged bulette that's attacking on the Savage Baronies cover.
For Maztica, I'm not sure I did the Jagre (I'll have to read through it). I wrote the others.

From Colin (hi, Colin!):
...He agitated for it in product meetings, fought to be the designer for it...
Well ... nobody was doing anything with it, as if they thought it would just put itself together with some of the same crappy art ... it was a core book! I actually got chewed out for falling behind on a Gamma World adventure because I worked on the Monstrous Manual -- and no offense to Gamma World (seriously, none intended), but come on!

Anyway: thanks very much for the kind words, Colin, and it's good to see you here. A couple of quick things: Colin and I kind of "co-discovered" Tony DiTerlizzi, choosing him for his first work for TSR (me for the MM, Colin for Dragon Mountain). And I wrote the description of the ophidian for Dragon Mountain (I was usually good for a monster or two for a project), and when it was published, I was surprised to see that ophidians had legs and feet (they didn't in the 1E Monster Manual II). I was embarrassed that I hadn't written more clearly and a bit put out that Colin had made the assumption. The change has carried through to 3E, and even the ophidian mini has legs now.So, if you're sad that ophidians have legs now, the responsibility lies squarely at our feet. Ahem.

As for Raven, I'm not sure if we had considered that possibility. I'll try to read up and see if that jogs my memory. Colin?

Tim

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Tim Beach » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:56 am

Oh, yeah: Colin --you're very welcome. It was a lot of fun.

Tim

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Havard » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:57 pm

Tim Beach wrote:From Havard:
Winged Bulettes eh? I'd be interested in seeing that list :)
It is a winged bulette that's attacking on the Savage Baronies cover.
Ah! I always wondered what that creature was. :)

Are those insectlike wings really strong enough to keep the Bulette in the air? (Yeah I know, realism in a fantasy game eh? :) )
Anyway: thanks very much for the kind words, Colin, and it's good to see you here. A couple of quick things: Colin and I kind of "co-discovered" Tony DiTerlizzi, choosing him for his first work for TSR (me for the MM, Colin for Dragon Mountain). And I wrote the description of the ophidian for Dragon Mountain (I was usually good for a monster or two for a project), and when it was published, I was surprised to see that ophidians had legs and feet (they didn't in the 1E Monster Manual II). I was embarrassed that I hadn't written more clearly and a bit put out that Colin had made the assumption. The change has carried through to 3E, and even the ophidian mini has legs now.So, if you're sad that ophidians have legs now, the responsibility lies squarely at our feet. Ahem.
Keep these anectdotes coming guys! I know there are more of us than just me who love hearing about life in the industry and how things in our favorite game came into being! :)
As for Raven, I'm not sure if we had considered that possibility. I'll try to read up and see if that jogs my memory. Colin?
Grey Raven was the Thief who was a member of the original Quadrial. In my timeline, I placed the founding of the Quadrial to AC50. He was killed by the dragon Ash. Raven (from Assault on Raven's Ruin) is currently active, although in the module, he fell into magical sleep some years ago. I suppose he could have taken the name in honor of Gray Raven, though it would be cool if he is descended from Gray. I could even see some connections between Gray and the Burning Hills, which would explain why the current Raven built his Stronghold there. Okay, I will stop rambling now. This is your thread! :)

Here is another question: What is the best thing (in your opinion) about Thri-Kreen?

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Colin McComb » Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:13 am

Oh man, don't ask Tim about thri-kreen. When we were playing Rich Baker's - and later my - Dark Sun campaign, Tim invented The Blender: a thri-kreen psionicist with multiple physical buffs to jack its strength, buff its damage, and increase the number of attacks. Oh, and it could outrun everything, too. It was very frustrating to have a perfectly laid trap and then have ol' Buzzkill swoop in and devastate the entire camp of half-giant raiders. I couldn't even fudge enough dice rolls to kill that thing!

Anyway, my original comment about Tim's role with the MM had a comment about how, without Tim, Tony DiTerlizzi's career would have looked very, very different. Tony's a super-talented and super-driven guy, so he would have been a success anyway - but Tim opened the door for him, and I'm grateful for that as well.

I honestly don't remember the derivation of Raven. Frankly, I think it may have been because it sounded cool as an adventure name in the scheduling meeting, and I needed an excuse in Thunder Rift as to why the place was called Raven's Ruin.

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Tim Beach » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:21 am

From Havard:
Here is another question: What is the best thing (in your opinion) about Thri-Kreen?
From Colin:
Oh man, don't ask Tim about thri-kreen.
You are kind of opening up a can of worms ...

Answer 1: Everything!
Answer 2: Being able to play a cleric/psionicist with natural armor and 5 attacks per round, one of them poisonous. In 2E, it was the best multi-class option available, in my opinion: a natural fighter, plus the ability to heal, plus psionic powers for surprises.
Answer 3: The whole alien mindset, which offered a great role-playing opportunity.
Answer 4: The fact that a good portion of the thri-kreen book -- many of the customs, much of the language, and a lot of other thri-kreen lore -- developed from play. We were making it up as we played, but I was in a position to make it canon.

Okay, story time: The thri-kreen in the original campaign was different from the one Colin later tried to kill. My first thri-kreen PC was Ka'Cha, who did die -- fighting a fiend (an ice demon, if I remember correctly). The story of his death, and the way I wish it had been handled, became the story of the Great Race, page 10 of 'Thri-Kreen of Athas.' I worked his death into a sort of parable for what it meant to be a clutchmate. (In play, I rolled up a new character.)

And Colin later got me back. I had an idea to pump up a thri-kreen and use it in a Predator-style scenario -- there are a number of parallels betwenn Predators and thri-kreen. Anyway, as I remember it, my pumped up super-kreen didn't last very long against a small and organized party played by Colin and his friends.

From Havard again:
Are those insectlike wings really strong enough to keep the Bulette in the air? (Yeah I know, realism in a fantasy game eh? :) )
Well ... studies have shown that bees shouldn't really be able to fly, and as far as we know, they don't even have magic. And just because the wings look fragile doesn't mean they aren't incredibly strong. I could probably come up with a few more good rationalizations. Actually, I'm pretty big on realism, even in fantasy games -- it makes the fantastic more believable.

Tim

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Hugin » Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:57 pm

Tim Beach wrote:Okay, story time: ...
I love story time! Thanks so much for sharing these memories, guys! There are many, many more people that only read the stuff here without posting and I'm sure they're grateful too.

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by night_druid » Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:03 pm

Tim Beach wrote:Well ... studies have shown that bees shouldn't really be able to fly, and as far as we know, they don't even have magic. And just because the wings look fragile doesn't mean they aren't incredibly strong. I could probably come up with a few more good rationalizations. Actually, I'm pretty big on realism, even in fantasy games -- it makes the fantastic more believable.
I *think* they'ved solved the bee's flight problem, but I could be wrong. But regardless, a flying bulette is not more unscientific than any giant insects in the game (which are all impossible without a drastically different atmosphere than the one we're used to) or say earth elementals... :mrgreen:
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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Tim Beach » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:10 pm

Now that you mention it, I do seem to remember seeing something about further studies of bees.

The problems of giant insects were much on my mind when I was writing the thri-kreen book. I changed their respiratory and muscular systems, and I don't think I mentioned it in the book, but I certainly theorized a chitin with a chemical make-up different from normal insects (to reduce the weight per volume ratio; in 'TKoA' I described the properties of the chitin without really going into why it had those properties).

If we assume the bulette is an insect -- and I have since seeing Tony DiTerlizzi's treatment of it -- then we have to make the same sorts of adjustments for it. And, since the Legacy that gives it wings is a magical effect, it's probably a safe assumption that magic takes care of what physics can't.

For a good article that touches on scientific problems of giant insects, go to http://fathom.lib.uchicago.edu/2/21701757/.

Tim

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by cab » Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:15 am

Tim Beach wrote:Now that you mention it, I do seem to remember seeing something about further studies of bees.
Indeed there have been. Thing with bumblebees is that there is no way they could glide, if their wings don't beat then they simply tumble, but so long as their wings keep going they can maintain balance and keep flying.
The problems of giant insects were much on my mind when I was writing the thri-kreen book. I changed their respiratory and muscular systems, and I don't think I mentioned it in the book, but I certainly theorized a chitin with a chemical make-up different from normal insects (to reduce the weight per volume ratio; in 'TKoA' I described the properties of the chitin without really going into why it had those properties).
Its surprising stuff, chitin (I spent best part of four years working on it), and whats more surprising is that the structure of an arthropods exoskeleton only relies on chitin in part. It provides a certain amount of chemical resistance, and of course physical strength, but the ruggedness of the whole also depends on how it is layered with proteins and calcium salts.

It isn't hard to imagine how larger arthropods (and there have been many throughout Earth's history that were larger than any found now) might have adapted this into a lamellar structure of quite surprising strength and flexibility. Layered, repeating structures are something that arthropods are very good at (just look at iridescent butterflies, perhaps the best example of this in nature).
If we assume the bulette is an insect -- and I have since seeing Tony DiTerlizzi's treatment of it -- then we have to make the same sorts of adjustments for it. And, since the Legacy that gives it wings is a magical effect, it's probably a safe assumption that magic takes care of what physics can't.

For a good article that touches on scientific problems of giant insects, go to http://fathom.lib.uchicago.edu/2/21701757/.

Tim
The laws of physics as we know them don't entirely apply in a fantasy setting, else it wouldn't be a fantasy setting. It has always seemed likely to me that the same 'rules' that allow magic to work would also be exploited by animal and plant species, and this (giant insects) seems like an obvious example.

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Havard » Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:54 am

Thanks for your answers Tim! I didn't even know Bulettes were considered insects, so I'm learning alot here! :)

I have always believed that settings are defined both by the creatures found there and the creatures _not_ found there. Dragonlance doesn't have Orcs and Halflings for instance. Are there any creatures or races you would never include in a Red Steel game?

Another question: The second run of the Red Steel /Savage Coast products were publiushed under the Odyssey title. Do you have any thought on how to use the remaining Odyssey products (Jakondor and Tales of the Comet) with Red Steel/Mystara?

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Tim Beach » Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:50 am

From Havard:
I didn't even know Bulettes were considered insects, so I'm learning alot here!
Well ... just because I consider them to be that (and I should have said either "insectoid" or "arthropod" -- thanks, cab, for not pointing that out! :oops: ), doesn't mean that other people do. For example, Wizards clearly designates them as "magical beasts" in 3.5. And in the accompanying artwork, they don't have the arthropod look, as the 2E Monstrous Manual version did. They would be in an undiscovered-on-earth classification, not arachnids or insects.

From cab:
The laws of physics as we know them don't entirely apply in a fantasy setting, else it wouldn't be a fantasy setting. It has always seemed likely to me that the same 'rules' that allow magic to work would also be exploited by animal and plant species, and this (giant insects) seems like an obvious example.
Agreed -- but as I mentioned in a previous post in this thread, the more that can be explained by real-world physics, the more the fantastic seems believable. And even the fantastic should follow internally-consistent rules. As you say, giant insects would use the same (or at least similar) rules as magic or other things of an arcane nature. For example, giant insects would probably have more advanced breathing systems, different chitin arrangements, altered musculature, and so forth -- first, solve as many problems as possible with real-world physics, chemistry, and biology (if it causes an evolutionary anomaly, we could explain that with arcane means -- if we had to). Whatever is left over, that can't be explained through the rules we know, we start explaining with rules we make up -- perhaps we do have to decide they have a magical background, or are supported by deities. (If they have a magical background, maybe they're actually a form of fey -- lots of fey have insectoid properties, after all.)

cab, by the way, thanks very much for the information. I might look you up when I'm working on more big bugs.

For monsters to not include, my first couple of thoughts are mind flayers and aboleths -- even though I like them a great deal, they have a science fiction or dark horror vibe, and Red Steel (as published) doesn't. Black Steel, on the other hand, well ... maybe. I'll give this some more thought.

Jakandor and Tales of the Comet: great question, but one of those that will require a little research on my part.

Tim

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by cab » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:33 am

Tim Beach wrote: cab, by the way, thanks very much for the information. I might look you up when I'm working on more big bugs.
I'd be delighted to help out; you'll find me right here at the Piazza.

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Havard » Fri Feb 27, 2009 12:02 pm

Tim Beach wrote:For monsters to not include, my first couple of thoughts are mind flayers and aboleths -- even though I like them a great deal, they have a science fiction or dark horror vibe, and Red Steel (as published) doesn't. Black Steel, on the other hand, well ... maybe. I'll give this some more thought.
Good choices. Mystarans tend to replace these with Brain Collectors (Neh-Thalggu) and Kopru, two races who have roots back to the early days of the setting, though which fill a similar niche. I guess those aren't part of the SRD though, so those would likely be out of the question for Black Steel I guess.

More questions: Did you read the novel The Black Vessel? If so, what did you think of it? Was there any thought on making game adaptations of the ideas presented in that novel? Black Vessel includes the presence of Hutaakans (Jackal-headed folk) secretly living among the Gnolls. Was this something discussed among you when you made the game books? How much contact was there between the novel writers and the game designers? Would be fun to see stats for some of the characters from the book for instance. Did you (TSR) have more Red Steel novels planned? Interestingly, Black Vessel features the Mystara logo...

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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by night_druid » Fri Feb 27, 2009 12:32 pm

Tim Beach wrote:For monsters to not include, my first couple of thoughts are mind flayers and aboleths -- even though I like them a great deal, they have a science fiction or dark horror vibe, and Red Steel (as published) doesn't. Black Steel, on the other hand, well ... maybe. I'll give this some more thought.
A swashbuckling mind flayer... :lol:
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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by cimmeria » Fri Feb 27, 2009 4:31 pm

Stupid question: what's Black Steel?
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Re: Q&A with Tim Beach

Post by Ashtagon » Fri Feb 27, 2009 4:46 pm

cimmeria wrote:Stupid question: what's Black Steel?
I believe it's a mashup of Red Steel and Ravenloft that Tim has been cooking up.
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