Updated: May 13
Ryan Thompson runs Appendix N Entertainment and publishes gaming products for use in old-school games. His products can be found on Drivethrurpg, etsy, as well as this webstore (The Child Thieves , Octhorrorfest, and Hidden Hand of the Horla.).
Question: I think that you and I had similar trajectories in that we were writing stuff using different systems until about two years ago, when Old School Essentials burst onto the scene and really made an impact on small publishers like us. Can you talk a little bit about what you like so much about OSE, and how you see it influencing what you write?
Answer: Well, let me go back a bit and cover the "writing stuff using different systems" portion before I get to OSE. I'm not sure how many people know, but prior to being Appendix N Entertainment, I was the Gamers & Grognards blog. During that time the chief systems I was blogging using were OD&D, Swords & Wizardry and LotFP's Weird Fantasy game. In fact, for several years I was the host of Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, later Original Edition Appreciation Day. In fact, Hidden Hand of the Horla was originally written as a Swords & Wizardry module. All of that said, due to reasons that tend to be known (and argued about) in OSR communities which I will not go into now, I cut ties with S&W and LotFP. The first printing was done very low budget and released as "Original Edition Compatible." This was intended to push a "Gateway to Adventure" line, which was to be a stand alone game based on OD&D, but with many of my own rules added and some of the original rules tweaked.
While working on the Kickstarter for "Solar Sanctuary of the Cannibal Corpse" and "Lost Classes," Gavin Kickstarted Old School Essentials. I already liked BX Essentials, but it didn't have all of what I was looking for. I wanted some of the classic classes and features found in OD&D and AD&D, as well as options for things like ascending AC. When Gavin unveiled that there would be an optional advanced class book and ascending AC options in OSE, coupled with the ultra clean and usable layout I was sold and switched everything I was working on over to OSE. OSE was BX based and not OD&D, but honestly, a lot of the house rules I was tweaking OD&D with were BX based anyway.
The layout and ease of use of OSE have affected how I do things greatly. It still amazes me that none of us had thought of doing this sort of usable clean layout and style sooner in nearly 40 years of RPGs. Taking the ease of use into consideration, I have done something additional in my adventure modules. All of my adventures will always contain appendices with all of the monsters and magic items present in the adventure. That way there is no reason to have to pick up a rule book because all of the abilities of a creature or item are not listed in the module.
Q. One of the first things I knew you for was the creator of the wonderful "OSR for All" rainbow logo. I've started using it on my products, and I've seen other publishers use it as well. What sparked the creation of that logo?
A.The OSR For All logo was sparked, initially due to a logo that I had seen touted about during pride month but, to me, seemed to be phoned in by persons that did not actually care about inclusivity in gaming. Similar to what you see with corporations during pride month. Since I want to support inclusivity in gaming, and especially the OSR, as it is often lacking here, I decided to make a logo for publishers that want to show that their games and other publications are intended to provide a safe and inclusive space.
Q. You just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter to rework one of your published adventures for OSE. Would you care to talk about any upcoming projects you might have in the works?
A. Actually, I've wrapped two Kickstarters ro rework three previously published products, in a more professional format with cleaner, more OSE friendly layout. These being Hidden Hand of the Horla, Octhorrorfest, and Solar Sanctuary of the Cannibal Corpse.
As to what the future holds, I have a few backburner projects that I will keep to myself at the moment, though one may be announced in the next month or so. The big announcement is that since opening up for submissions, I have had 6 authors submit work or ideas to me. Two of these being fairly complete manuscripts, one of which I am in the middle of attempting to work out a contract on. 5 of these projects are adventure modules. I am also going through and "interview" process with each person that submits work to me to ensure they are on board with our inclusivity statement and that I will not later regret working with them.
In addition I have a few projects myself that I am more open about and want to work on once the Solar Sanctuary Kickstarter gets wrapped up. The first of these is likely to be Octhorrorfest II. This will be similar to the first volume, featuring new classes, magic rules, ritual spells, spells and monsters, all horror or Halloween themed. Our version of a Necromancer Class will be included in this, along with a Trance Medium. Also on the backburner are a classbook and a bestiary, based upon the work of a particular artist. The bestiary should also be announced in the near future. Announcements will be made at our website: www.appendixnentertainment.com.
Q. Finally, tell us a little bit about yourself; how long you've been gaming, what sort of games you like to play, and so forth.
A. I have been gaming since 1990. I started out while a Cub Scout on a camping trip with Boy Scouts leading us. I had been familiar with the idea of D&D via the show, toys and media from years prior. I was also aware that it was a game, as my uncle had friends that played. I was highly interested in what the older Boy Scouts were playing at night, especially as I had been playing video game rpgs at the time. They let me join in and I had a blast with a pre-gen magic-user I was allowed to play. What we were playing was an amalgam of AD&D, AD&D 2nd Edition and BECMI. I only know this now from memory of what books were at the table, now that I can recognize what it was. It was another couple of years since I got my own D&D materials, but unlike many gamers in the OSR who had a lapse of time in which they stopped playing, I never have. RPGs have heavily influenced my other passions in life and I can say I would not be who I am without them.
As far as what I like to play, old school style D&D takes the cake. That said, I enjoy many other games, both RPG and not. Amongst my favorite RPGs at the moment are OSE, Mothership, Stars Without Number, Mutant Future, Call of Cthulhu and DCC RPG, to name a few. On the board game front my favorites are Talisman, RISK (name a version, I probably have good things to say,) Settlers of Catan (you can usually get non-gamers in on this one,) Touch of Evil, Chess, Nine Men's Morris, HeroQuest, Eldritch Horror, Middle Earth Quest, Dungeon! and Sails of Glory (though I rarely play this one.)
I also enjoy Frostgrave on the minis front, but rarely if ever play and the Chainmail Jousting rules as a joust game (of which I am working on an adaptation to OSE.)