Colin Le Sueur is an author and illustrator best known for Runecairn and the recently released and critically acclaimed We Deal in Lead. You can find his work on his website.
Question. Tell me about We Deal in Lead. You bill it as weird west rpg influenced by the Dark Tower Series. It's a bit of a departure from your previous work. How did idea to write this come to you, and what were some of the challenges you encountered? What are a couple of things that you think WDiL does *really* well.
Answer. We Deal in Lead is a world-hopping gunslinger RPG and came about because of my love for The Dark Tower novel series by Stephen King. I’ve always wanted to play a Dark Tower TTRPG and couldn’t find one, so I wrote it myself! The first challenge was finding a suitable system; I knew that guns were going to play a big part, so I needed a system that could accommodate firearms while still being light enough to run easily. My previous game Runecairn was based on Cairn and Into the Odd, so I did some tests and realised that system would work for We Deal in Lead as well. I wanted the gun mechanics to feel different and impactful, since its primarily a game about gunslingers, so getting the shooting right was the first step. I think the gun mechanics in We Deal in Lead work really well and achieve the risk/reward balance that’s so important to my games.
Q. Looking at your works, you seem to have traced a trajectory from new school (5e) to old school. Can you talk a bit about this transition? What drew you to the more old school style of gaming, and are there elements of newer games that you have incorporated into your current works?
A. So my 5e adventures actually started off as a homebrew Pathfinder campaign I ran for my friends. I wanted to update and publish them, and I’d started playing 5e at the time, so it was a natural progression to write for D&D 5e. My early gaming history was more old school than new, since I started playing D&D in the 90s with AD&D 2nd Edition. When I was designing Runecairn, I knew that 5e wasn’t the best fit, system-wise, as it was a bit too complex and crunchy. I’d been reading a lot of OSR systems and found Cairn, which turned out to be the exact mix of rules-light (compared to 5e), exploration-focused, with a modular combat system that worked perfectly for the dynamic Soulslike combat of Runecairn. One mechanic from 5e that I continue to use is advantage and disadvantage; tracking small bonuses or penalties can slow things down and advantage is such an elegant solution. I’ve also started applying it to damage rolls in Runecairn and We Deal in Lead as well.
Q. For those unfamiliar with your books, talk about Runecairn. It's an rpg steeped in Norse mythology, and one of the things I'm curious about is how you approached writing it knowing that some of the elements of norse mythology have been co-opted and assimilated into far right idealogy.
A. Runecairn’s a Norse fantasy TTRPG set in a world after Ragnarok, when most of the gods are dead and the Nine Realms are filled with fresh new life. I’ve loved Norse mythology since I was young, but I know how fascist and far right groups have co-opted the imagery and twisted the ideology of the Viking Age and Norse cultures. I’ve actively avoided any fetishisation of typical Norse imagery and added elements of inclusivity and diversity like gender neutral language and a range of physical appearance options. There’s no room for racists at any of my tables and if you think this way then my books aren’t for you!
Q. I'm jealous that, in addition to writing, you're a talented artist as well. When you're working on a book, what influences what. Do you think in images and write to that, write first and then illustrate, or is it a careful blend of the two?
A. Thank you! I still consider myself a beginner when it comes to art and I’ve started bringing in some much more talented artists than me for my newer work, but I enjoy drawing and painting. Art and writing influence each other, really, but typically writing comes first. I’ll have an image in my head of the world, or an NPC, or the weapons, and then either make it myself or ask someone to make it for me. Sometimes I’ll take a piece I’ve previously drawn and fit that into the book, creating a character or setting inspired by the image. But lately I’ve realised that I don’t have to write and illustrate and edit and do everything myself. There are so many talented artists out there and I’m glad when I can bring them in on a project!
Q. Talk about your upcoming projects, if you don't mind.
A. I’m taking a different approach to my next book; I’m bringing in an external writer for a We Deal in Lead adventure, planned for Zine Month in February. I’m currently reviewing pitches from indigenous writers for an indigenous-focused gunslinger order for We Deal in Lead. I’m super excited to see the result!
Beyond that, I’ve got a We Deal in Lead 0-level funnel adventure planned, as well as a new Runecairn adventure (The Icebound Grave) and bestiary. Also ticking away in the back of my mind is an OSR/NSR remaster and conversion of my 5e adventures The Howling Caverns and Colossus Wake. That one’s further down the road as I want to focus on supporting Runecairn and We Deal in Lead!