Sunday, June 23, 2024

Exclusive Interview with Blackmoor Age of the Wolf Designer C.A. Suleiman


Interview with C.A. Suleiman 

June 17, 2024 
By Havard

Readers may know or recall C.A. Suleiman as the developer Dave Arneson trusted to shepherd new material for Blackmoor, the first fantasy campaign, into the 3rd and 4th editions of D&D. He’s also the developer of the last tabletop project with which Dave Arneson was directly involved prior to his passing in 2009, a setting update for Blackmoor called Age of the Wolf

What was it like working with Dave Arneson?

 In some ways, it was the opportunity of a lifetime for a lifelong gamer like me. Dave’s creative mind is what drew me not just to roleplaying, but to really exploring the limits of my imagination. Getting to sort of channel a guy like that through your own work, which is what being his developer was like, is like taking a guided tour through the halls of another creator’s imagination. Beyond being a legendary figure, Dave was like a kindred spirit to me. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of high-profile projects for some well known companies, but there is no substitute for having the father of the roleplaying game put his trust and endorsement in you when it came to developing material for him. Dave could have empowered any one of a number of worthy designers, and he chose to put his faith in me. Words fall for short for describing how that made me feel back then, and how it still makes me feel today. 

What is Age of the Wolf like and what can we expect from the new release? 

Well, maybe the most important aspect of the book is going to be its cost to fans: I’m pleased to be able to announce here, for the first time, that Age of the Wolf is going to be absolutely free to pick up, starting the first day of its release. Here in the U.S., the price tag is going to be $0.00. 

Wow. What prompted you to push for a no-cost price for the new book? 

A number of considerations, chief among them the desire to create an inclusive offering for people to celebrate on the 50th anniversary of the biggest RPG. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of releases or events dedicated to Dave and his legacy on the industry slate this year, and that means that whatever projects are in the offing, should really be given their due. Waiting 15 years to get the book seemed enough of a barrier. No sense complicating matters any further. 

How does Age of the Wolf differ from previous Blackmoor offerings? 

The biggest difference is that Age of the Wolf isn’t strictly a game book. It’s a world guide for a new a vision of Blackmoor and a creative tribute to the man who started it all. The book has no game mechanics for any specific edition or iteration of any game, but rather focuses on setting, mood, and hopefully doing justice to the legacy and memory of Dave Arneson. In that regard, it’s fair to say that Age of the Wolf is a book that’s intended to be enjoyed by all. 
    Apart from how it’s being rolled out, the biggest difference between Age of the Wolf and previous Blackmoor material is the timeline. The entire concept for the book is a big “What if?” — in this case, what if the Kingdom of Blackmoor fell and the land was put through centuries of turmoils and upheavals both magical and mundane? As a result, the political situation, most of the active characters, and even the underlying themes are all written to suit this specific vision. The classic Blackmoor setting is about a land united by a singular king and his attempts to bring ordered civilization to a dangerous part of the world. In Age of the Wolf, that king and his works are long gone, and the land he fought to unite is now being fought over by those who remain. 

Would it be difficult for those running classic Blackmoor campaigns to bring their characters into an Age of the Wolf campaign? 

Since the book advances the Blackmoor timeline 270 years, it’s fair to say that only characters who were young elves or dwarves in the classic setting (or otherwise trapped out of time, or the like; always a possibility in a Blackmoor story) would still be around come the new setting. 

Will Age of the Wolf cover the same geographic area as did previous Blackmoor offerings? 

While the timeline may be different in the new book, the geography is still more or less the same as it was in the classic setting. A lot has changed, but it has changed the face of the same North we know and love, not moved the setting to a different geographic region in the same world. This book is set for a 2024 Gen Con release. 

What will be available for Gen Con attendees? Will some of this material become available for fans who are not able to attend? 

As mentioned, the digital edition will be free to download starting the first day of Gen Con, and that offer will be good for everyone, whether they attend Gen Con or not, for as long as Ink Bat publishes the book. Those who attend Ink Bat’s ticketed events will also receive a limited edition print copy, as well as a free high-quality metal miniature courtesy of Paizo Publishing, but Ink  Bat has no plans to distribute a print edition of the book through general distribution thereafter. This project is primarily about seeing the last tabletop book Dave was involved with finally released to the fans, and in the process, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his greatest work. Many Blackmoor fans have been waiting 15 years for this book to be published and are excited that it is finally coming to fruition. 

Besides the shift to new rules, have other changes been made to the original product? 

Originally, I intended Age of the Wolf to be compatible with 4e, since that was the new hotness at the time and since Dave’s approach had been to release Blackmoor support right on the heels of the release of new rules, as we’d done with 3e and 3.5e. After 50 years, though, there are a lot of fans enjoying Blackmoor through a number of different rulesets, so I decided a more system-neutral book, a world and tonal guide, was the most accessible approach for the whole community. Dave’s genius wasn’t rooted in any one rules design, and his genius is for everyone. 

You have worked in the RPG industry for decades. What are some products that you are especially proud of outside of Blackmoor? 

I’m grateful for both the opportunities I’ve been given in my career and for the way most of those projects turned out. I’m especially proud to have created Hamunaptra, the first expressly ancient Egyptian setting for the great game, but the other books I’ve written for D&D stand out, as well, including Heroes of Horror and Cityscape, both of which continue to have their fan followings long after the edition of the game for which they were written wrapped. I’m also proud of the work I’ve done for the World of Darkness, especially Mummy: The Curse, which I created, and Vampire: The Requiem, which I wrote with my friend Ari Marmell, and which remains the biggest-selling RPG White Wolf ever published. 

Is Ink Bat working with WotC or the Arneson estate for this product, or is it a completely independent launch? 

Ink Bat approached Wizards of the Coast about its plans for the book, and WotC proved just as excited to see Age of the Wolf finally released to the community as the fans seem to be, so they gave their blessing for publication to proceed. And of course, the project predates the Arneson estate, so neither the estate nor WotC were involved in the creation of the content of the book. 

Can we expect more Age of the Wolf content in the future? What other projects are in the works from Ink Bat?

 To my knowledge, there are no current plans to produce support specifically for Age of the Wolf beyond this one book, though of course we all hope the book will live on at the tables and in the stories of Dave’s fans. Ink Bat is just getting started, though. Look for a teaser for their next big project at Gen Con in August.

More discussion of this topic at The Comeback Inn


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