Roderic Waibel is Izegrim Creations, a small publisher producing work for both old and new school games. He was kind enough to answer some questions for me.
Question. I first became aware of your work with your Chromatic Dungeons Kickstarter. Can you talk a little bit about Chromatic Dungeons; what inspired you to write it, what you think some of the main selling points are, and what your favorite parts of the game are?
Answer. The inspiration for the game came about because as a fan of that old-school style of play, I saw how it wasn't the most welcoming to women or other marginalized gamers. Let's be honest, D&D in the 70s and 80s was very much catered to straight white males and was very much a product of its time (rewatch 16 Candles if you want an example of the types of sexism and racism that was "acceptable" back then). I'm not calling all those creators back then racists or sexists, just that the time period had those elements. Know better, be better, right? So I decided a good way to share those old school playstyles with new gamers who share modern sensibilities was to present an OSR game that was inclusive and welcoming of all gamers. And to make minor rules changes that had modern sensibilities while retaining the old-school feel (such as ascending AC). When I was almost finished writing it, right before I launched it, the nuTSR thing happened. For those that don't know what I'm referring to, in June 2021 a group of OSR fans decided to loudly double down on bigotry and sexism. Their goal was to create a culture war, keeping the older games to straight white men by claiming that any other depiction outside of that was "political", and "politics must be kept out of gaming." That painted the entire OSR very badly. So I'm here to fight back against those who have tried to hijack the OSR and make it a toxic fandom. The timing of Chromatic Dungeons just so happened to be pretty fitting. As a cishet white male myself, I wanted to walk the talk, so whenever possible, I hired freelancers who were members of marginalized groups. Almost all of the artists I hired were from these groups. The biggest benefits from this are getting diverse feedback and representation and supporting our diverse freelancer community.
My favorite part of the game is the Heritage system. Rather than have hard-coded traits based on race, you choose two heritages and gain traits based on those choices. For example, previously if you chose an elf, you might get resistance to sleep and charm magic. With the Heritage system, you can be a human or anything else and choose a Fey Heritage, granting you those resistances.
I think the biggest selling point is that it's a welcoming game that represents all gamers, allowing you to play in that old-school style while using intuitive and modern design mechanics.
Q. I know you hired a sensitivity editor for Chromatic Dungeons. For those of us unfamiliar with the process, can you explain how it went? How would someone go about finding and working with a sensitivity editor.
A. Firstly, I highly recommend a sensitivity reader. That doesn't necessarily mean find the most marginalized person you can. That means find people who are not like you, and listen to them and their perspectives. Every single one of us has blinders on, so having people not like us look at the things we do brings tremendous value. Finding them isn't hard. Doing basic Google searches will reveal many. I'd suggest going to gaming forums and FB groups and just asking, and you'll get responses. The important thing here as a designer is to really listen to them. You might not agree with everything, but you should really try to incorporate their suggestions if possible.
Q. Your upcoming Kickstarter is Twilight Fables, a 5e book looking at fairy tales and legends. You are offering some interesting options, such as an rtf and easy to read version, for those of us getting older and unable to read without glasses anymore. Can you talk about Twilight Fables? How compatible will it be with older style games?
A. Accessibility is a big thing for me. When we talk about diversity and inclusion, most people assume things like ethnicity, or gender, or orientation. Often forgotten about is ableism. So I want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to enjoy the game. Twilight Fables is a bit of a tricky project. The primary goal is to bring the original European folklore and mythology into the 5e game. I've limited it to European folklore to avoid cultural appropriation. The challenge is that much of that original folklore is very dark, sexist, and contains racist elements. Child abuse was rampant. The best way I've decided to address this is to have a section up front on how to handle troubling content, and to provide a quick graphic icon that alerts the reader if a particular section contains one of these scenarios or themes. This is very much more Brother Grimm and less Disney.
As for content, there are more than 200 creatures included with robust monster entries that cover behavior, random lore, and hints on how to include them in the game. There are also several character options in the form of subclasses and races, dozens of magical artifacts from folklore and mythology, a drag-and-drop campaign adventure, and a large section on what the Fey Realm is and how to navigate it (which includes the Seelie and Unseelie Courts). Again, all emulating the original folklore as much as possible. That's what differentiates it from many of the Fey themed material that has come out for the game by WotC.
I have MANY previews of the book that you can find at www.izegrimcreations.com. Several example monsters, dozens of art depictions, playtest materials, etc. It is a 5e book, so it is not inherently compatible with older editions. You'll have to do some conversions mechanically. The lore, however, is perfectly useable with any edition of any game system.
Q. You write for both 5e and OSR-games, and your 5e products have a definite old-school flair to them. Can you talk a little about your process of writing for newer editions with an old-school aesthetic?
A. The answer is pretty much in the question lol. Shortly after 5e came out, I wrote a superdungeon called Depths of Felk Mor. 5e was new at the time, but I wrote it using those rules. However, if you pick up and look at the book, it looks like something out of the mid 80s. The aesthetic is the key part here. I used TW Cent font, which is what the 1e books used. I hired artists that emulated some of the older artists. Brian "Glad" Thomas is an excellent artist whose art is heavily influenced by Jim Holloway. The dungeon itself has many riddles and traps like the old modules had. That sort of thing.