Tuesday, April 20, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 276: Steve Dee

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!

Name:Steve Dee
Location:Sydney, Australia
Day Job:I'm actually disabled so I don't have a typical day job, but I do also work as a dog trainer. And running the company is also a job!
Designing:Over ten years!
Facebook:Tin Star Games
YouTube:Tin Star Games
Find my games at:The Game Crafter and Itch!
Today's Interview is with:

Steve Dee
Interviewed on: 1/6/2021

This week we get to meet designer Steve Dee, founder of Australia's Tin Star Games and the designer of a number of RPGs and other games. His latest tabletop game was Baby Dragon Bedtime and his latest RPG, Partners, is on Kickstarter right now! Read on to learn more about Steve and his decades of game design experinece!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Over ten years!

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I was about ten years old and games were really expensive so I just started building my own. I wanted a copy of Trivial Pursuit but couldn't afford it so I made my own board and got a bunch of trivia questions from calendars and bottletops and so on. Mostly that's been my motivation my whole life: games cost money, design is cheap.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Like most game designers, I'm always working on lots of ideas. My current big project is a collaborative push your luck card game I'm tentatively calling God Damn These Vampires. I have a mostly finished card game about dealing with poverty called Rent. I'm fleshing out a party-game style roleplaying game about zombies I'm calling The Walking Deck. And I have two kids games about dragons in testing, which are sequels to my game Baby Dragon Bedtime.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I've been a published RPG designer for twenty years, working on such games as Vampire: The Requiem, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Shadow of the Demon Lord, and the Doctor Who RPG. I've also published half a dozen small indie RPGs and my large self-published RPG Relics came out this year. My company Tin Star Games also published our first card game last year Baby Dragon Bedtime.

What is your day job?
I'm actually disabled so I don't have a typical day job, but I do also work as a dog trainer. And running the company is also a job!

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
At a table with good friends.

Who do you normally game with?
Friends and members of local clubs.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I'm in love with Spirit Island right now, and it has so much depth for replay value.

And what snacks would you eat?
I like a nice bit of dark chocolate, a little bitter, and a cup of tea.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not really. I'm autistic and it can intrude. It's hard enough to game and be social.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Games Paradise in central Sydney has always done me right, and they sell my games!

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
As mentioned, I love Spirit Island, but I am also just in love with Detective: City of Angels, which is by far the best deduction game ever made, so much better than Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, Chronicles of Crime or Detective (although I enjoy all of those too). I'm also playing a lot of Unfair right now because my friend got it for Christmas. Probably the game I least like but still enjoy is Blood on the Clocktower. I don't really like bluffing games but the deduction is amazing. The worst game I've ever played is probably the Twilight Boardgame, as in the movie Twilight. Not only is it badly designed, it encourages people to be mean to each other. But there are so many terrible terrible games. At one time I had a huge collection of them just as a fun mental exercise.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love collaboration mechanics, in various forms. The ways that just bring us closer to each other. Whether that's by communication like in Mysterium or through trusting teamwork in Pandemic. I dislike bluffing or deception, and games that tend towards mean spirited.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I adore Holding On, but nobody wants to play it. You describe the setting and idea and it's just too heavy. I imagine as my own parents age it will only get harder.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other Games?

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other Games?

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
They stole from Apples to Apples, let's play the original.

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
Everyone asks that, and I don't really have an answer, because it's both and neither. You get ideas. Sparks. Constructs. Mechanics, settings, ideas, stories. Sometimes it's really driven by theme, sometimes you just have a core mechanic you love. Generally, the games with strong themes work out the best for me because I can always come back to the theme like a well, for inspiration and meaning.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered too many to count. I've got lots of nominations and finalists. I've won four Ennies for RPG design.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I always wanted to be James Wallis, but right now I kind of want to be Reiner Knizia, just a weird little guy who makes a work of genius every five seconds. And who can sell a million copies just by his name alone.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Usually coming back from conventions or long game days. Your mind rests under all that play, and something grows in the fertile soil as ideas trickle down like water to hungry seeds.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I find every living human who can help, and ask them. Events are the best, whether they are weekly, monthly or yearly.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Mostly I work alone in design but I have a co-designer who does all my graphic design. Which is amazing because I have no skills in that area. I would be nowhere without him.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Probably that I'm not great at the secret mathematics. I can do basic probability, sure. I even have a maths degree. But the stuff that some players can do in their heads is just beyond me, so I'll probably never design a game with any big mechanical structure to it because if you can't see it as a player you're not even going to WANT to design it let alone be able to!

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'm working on a zombie game and I would love to have Romero's blessing on it somehow because he just is the godfather of the genre so much.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
It gets easier the more you do it. Your first games will not only suck, you won't know how to make them better. But your hundredth game will be better.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Get something to the table. Get something to other people. Get rules other people can read. Games are about people. You can't do anything until you give it away.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Leaving aside RPGs, I worked on Betrayal at House on the Hill 2nd edition and wrote some rules alternatives for LetterHead. I wrote the scenarios for English vs Pirates. I've self-published Baby Dragon Bedtime and I have a bunch of free games on my website.
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Partners - A Roleplaying Game of Mystery Television for Two Players
Currently looking for a publisher I have: We've got a great party game we'd love to get to a publisher who can do it justice. One player draws three cards with descriptions on them then the group discusses/argues/debates over the fictional character that best fits those three descriptions. It always (deliberately) devolves into hilarious arguments!
I'm planning to crowdfund: We're going to produce and crowdfund two sequels to Baby Dragon Bedtime. One is called Baby Dragon Word Hoard and at the moment the third is called Baby Dragon Haul Brawl.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
So many. Board Game Design Lab is one of my favourites (great podcast too) and the TGDA (for Australian designers) is great

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Trek, Coke, Betamax.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I like to draw little cartoons, but mostly if I'm not playing them I'm making them.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Margaret Cavendish was invested into the Royal Society in 1667, yet the Royal Society would later contend that women were not permitted until 1902.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like singer songwriters like Dylan, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen. I read a lot of Pratchett. I like mystery/detective/noir movies.

What was the last book you read?
Tales Too Stupid to Tell by Brad Daniels

Do you play any musical instruments?
The guitar, the ukulele

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm disabled! Most people never notice.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
When I was in Norway I decided to walk up a mountain in a snowstorm. Baaad idea. Nobody knew where I was. If I'd slipped and fallen I would have been found way too late.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Probably being a game designer!

Who is your idol?
Bob Dylan

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Store my boardgames safely in the past.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Beast. Super smart, super agile, super fuzzy.

Have any pets?
No but I walk them and sit them for others! I have everyone else's pets for a moment!

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I hope Mysterium survives, it is such a lovely experience. I hope Monopoly gets wiped out.

Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!

Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

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