Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Interview with Sean Patrick Fannon (Freedom Squadron)

Freedom Squadron throwing down with VENOM

Hey guys,

I had a chance to have an email chat with Sean Patrick Fannon, writer of the upcoming Freedom Squadron Savage Setting currently on Kickstarter. I'm pretty excited about this book, being a fan of the Deckbuilding Game by Spyglass games that it's based off of (Venom Assault).

I'm a terrible interviewer, but I wanted to do a bit more than just say "Hey guys, check out this Kickstarter!" and, as a fan of Venom Assault, wanted to ask a few questions about the game anyway.

With that said, let's get to the interview.

Sean Patrick Fannon aka "Big Irish"

TB: For the benefit of my readers who may not be familiar, tell us a little about yourself. What got you into roleplaying games? What got you into writing roleplaying games? How did you become so involved in Savage Worlds?

SPF: 1977 - Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons both happened to a somewhat lonely 7th Grader and opened up a whole new world of nerdery and fun. I was likely as not the first Dungeon Master in Cobb County, GA, self-taught and leading the kids in my neighborhood (and eventually classmates) through epic, heroic fantasy adventures while trying to understand just what the hell a dungeon actually was.And it all started with a Games Magazine article I read while hanging out in the Griffin Middle School library... It was 1988 that I started writing reviews and other articles for various folks. By 1989, I'd made connections with the guys running Hero Games (George MacDonald, Steve Peterson, Ray Greer, and Bruce Harlick) and made my first pitches to them. This eventually led to High Tech EnemiesThe Mutant File, and a lot of other work for both them and many other companies over the years. My journey to Savage Worlds began with my friendship with Shane Hensley and Matt Forbeck back in the early days of Pinnacle and Deadlands. When Shane, years later, saw that I was struggling to find the right system to bring Shaintar out in, he hooked me up with his new Savage Worlds rulebook and a couple of other early releases, told me I was free to use the system, and watched me take that particular ball and run it for multiple touchdowns.  

TB: First with Shaintar, then with Savage Rifts, you have pushed the envelope with Savage Worlds, expanding the power level and the "upper limits" of the system. How do you feel about those efforts from a design standpoint? Do you feel like you showed Savage Worlds was capable of another level of play that maybe people didn't think it was capable of?

SPF: That seems to be the prevailing idea, and I am extremely proud of it. Shane himself said very recently (in regards to Freedom Squadron) - "Sean isn't afraid of big games and big ideas..." I love the action-cinema feel I can get out of Savage Worlds, and that just encourages me to try bigger and more exciting things. A lot of folks feel like the game might not scale well to "higher power" styles, but I've always felt it just took the right touch to make it work in those areas. The system is exceptionally robust, but you have to approach things with the core resolutions and ideas in mind. Just "patching things on" won't work well at all, and simply raising the numbers without some serious thought to the consequences will be messy and unsatisfying. There's an art+science kind of approach that takes a bit of practice and trial-and-error to hit just right.

TB: You currently have Freedom Squadron (powered by Savage Worlds) on Kickstarter right now. Give us the elevator pitch for Freedom Squadron.

SPF: A thoroughly modernized and idealized remodel of those great 80s and 90s action cartoons, comics, toys, and everything else that we remember and love despite (or because of) the cheese. Freedom Squadron is what our grown-up selves want those childlike experiences to play like - still over-the-top and colorful, but with believability and updated concepts that will keep us in the game for more than a session.

TB: Obviously, I'm a big Savage Worlds fan, but I was actually a fan of VENOM Assault (the board game that inspired Freedom Squadron, currently on Kickstarter) before this was announced. Between your convention demos and your online interactions with the Patreon and the Kickstarter, what are you seeing more of? Fans of the board game coming to the RPG, fans of Savage Worlds embracing the setting, or people who were already fans of each?

SPF: Mostly I've encountered Savage Worlds fans coming to the table who love the idea of a setting that gives them that action-adventure paramilitary experience (and a nostalgic trip back in time). I've also had lots of folks who've never played SW sit down to play, either because of the incredible art and concepts, or just because they heard this was a lot like their favorite real and American heroic types.

TB: How did the Freedom Squadron RPG come to be? Did Spyglass Games reach out to you, interested in doing an RPG, or did you become a fan of the setting and approach them? And what, specifically, caused you to embrace this setting as both an RPG setting and a Savage Worlds setting?

SPF: On the advice of a friend of mine (Dave Forby), I sat down with the president of Spyglass, Jeff Arbough, and played VENOM Assault. I instantly fell in love with both the game play and the art. Dave had suggested this could be my next Savage Worlds project, and when I pitched the idea to Jeff, he instantly agreed. A couple of meetings later and we were off and running.
Tundra, one of the many kickass members of the Freedom Squadron

TB: As mentioned earlier, you pushed the Savage Worlds limits with Shaintar and Savage Rifts. What are the design elements of Freedom Squadron that you are the most proud of/most excited about?

SPF: Beyond a doubt, the addition of the Plans & Operations rules are the singularly most important design I've come up with. I don't mean just for this setting, but for the whole of my career. I set out to create a cool way to handle mission planning that would be more fun than tedious. What I ended up with is a process that solves many problems at once - mission planning; the use of lots of different skills and showcasing specializations without leaving other players with nothing to do; player-driven narrative and cooperative storytelling in a structured and satisfying way; and handling huge ideas in a quick-and-entertaining format that still leaves plenty of time for a classic Savage-style boss battle. I am also thrilled with out Vocation Frameworks and Specializations work in this setting, and I think folks will enjoy the Gear Points approach to equipment, as well. Add to that some great new Edges (like Zone Specialist, Fighting Styles, and Strange DNA), and this is going to be one of my best releases yet.
You can be A ninja, but Blindsight is kinda THE ninja.

TB: The VENOM Assault/Freedom Squadron setting already has a robust cast of heroes, like Roundhouse, Sandbar, General Steel, Blindsight and Corporal Carnage. In the RPG, how are the PCs expected to mesh and interact with the pre-existing heroes?

SPF: Generally, players will be fully able to establish their own stories and importance; the world has lots of challenges, and those established characters can only handle so much. At the same time, they can be called in allies and mission specialists to assist with Plans & Operations Challenges and really help flesh the background out without taking anything away from the heroes.

TB: VENOM ASSAULT includes The Robo-Trons, robot visitors from outer space. Will we see Robo-Trons in the RPG?

SPF: We call the larger plan "Project: Awesome" for a reason. ;-)

TB: VENOM ASSAULT's roster of heroes and villains is impressive and exhaustive. How many of those characters, heroic and villainous, can we expect to see statted and represented in the RPG?

SPF: Ultimately, all of them. There's the Friends/Foes Manual, of course, and other books (the Advanced Technology Manual, the Occult Operations Manual) will feature characters that are appropriate to them.

TB: Savage Rifts has obviously been a huge success, very well received by the Savage Worlds community. Is there more Savage Rifts on the horizon? Anything you can talk about?

SPF: There's a team of folks hard at work on the next set of books, to include the Empires of Humanity book, the Blood & Banes book, and the Arcane North America book.

TB: Vehicles play a large role in the VENOM Assault Card Game, more so than the typical Savage Worlds game. Will Freedom Squadron have more focus on cool and unique vehicles than the typical Savage Setting?

SPF: You betcha! There's going to be writeups for everything on the cards in VENOM Assault, and eventually, we'll be adding even more via books like the Advanced Technology Manual and future updates.

TB: I just picked up Savagely Useful: A Hero Will Rise and plan to use it for character generation in my next Savage Worlds game soon. What else can we look forward to from Evil Beagle Games?

SPF: Ultimately, I want to do a version of A Hero Will Rise for other genres (space opera, modern action cinema, wild west, and more). We're looking at other Savagely Useful ideas, as well. In addition, we've got Michael Surbrook Presents, which features Savage Worlds and other system-supporting ideas, and you'll probably see some stuff under our Ross Watson Presents banner as well. There's also Bill Keyes' Cities of Wonder line, constantly expanding, and we're about to ramp up stuff under Len Pimentel's Lakeside Games banner, to include the upcoming huge project, Prowlers & Paragons: Ultimate Edition (featuring two settings by me, Modern Gods and Unending War). 

TB: Is there anything else you'd like to mention? About Freedom Squadron or other upcoming projects?

SPF: If folks want to get a good advanced look at anything and everything I am working on, they should definitely check out my Patreon; folks who've been supporting me there got long-ago looks at Freedom Squadron, for example. Of course, there's my every weekday Sean's Pick of the Day to let folks know about new stuff and classic things they might have missed.

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