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Meet the Publisher: Levi Kornelsen

Because Thursday is a holiday in the US I've decided to move the interview up to Wednesday. Like everyone, I'm starting the sales early (it really seems like a retail arm race). Starting this morning (about 7:00 am eastern US), all print items in the store will be 30% off, while all Third Kingdom Games books will be 40% off. Additionally, you can get a year's print subscription to Populated Hexes Monthly for 15% off the normal price of 81.95; that's 12 issues delivered to your mailbox for 70.00 a year! Use the code "Subscription22" at checkout to apply this discount. This sale will go until the end of day Monday the 28th.


That business out of the way, today's interview is with Levi Kornelsen. He is a game author and publisher mostly known for publishing shorter games as well as universal supplements that explore the theory and craft behind gaming. He was kind enough to answer some questions for me. Levi's work can be found on both Drivethru and itch.


Question: You sell on both Drivethru and itch. What's your experience with that? Is there something that Drivethru does better than itch, and vice versa?


Answer. I like both Itch and Drivethru, in their ways, but they're quite different. Itch takes a slimmer cut and lets me build a page that actually showcases my things the way I want; however, discoverability and passive marketing there are very poor. Drivethru, on the other hand, is the go-to for RPG pdfs, pushes them to the front, and has in-print options that I've been mucking about with more and more this year - I was actually redeveloping new editions of much of my stuff on Itch, and then brought them back the Drivethru to put them into print this year.

Q. A lot of your releases are focused on the theory and mechanics behind gaming and provide systems that can be used to either bolt on or expand games. As you say in the description of SCHEMA, "it is an engine, rather than a game, because assembly is required". Can you talk about this? What's your philosophy behind this? What inspired you to write the series of books?


A. My experience as a forever-GM of lots and lots of games is that at some point, I mostly actually started just rewriting game material on the fly, grafting things from one book to things from another, and so on. In a lot of ways, I find in my own play that I like either very tightly-built, elegant systems (which I will then mess with) or just... Bits for the bits box, to mash together when I need them. So, naturally, I build the kinds of things I need. Interesting enginery and bundles of bits. The theory side mostly comes in two parts. First, Fundamentals of Tabletop Roleplaying, which is me trying to write a *really good* newbie introduction to TTRPGs, so that I don't ever have to write one again and others can just send that file or print it out for new folks. Second, Manyfold Theory, which is my way of thrashing down the usual three-or-four-playstyle setup for RPGs into much smaller pieces, so it's more obvious that playstyles are big packages that can be restructured lots and lots of ways, something Big Theories often skim past. There's a lot of deconstruction in both, I guess; take it all apart, shuffle things around, make something new (The Deck Of Rules being probably the most extreme expression of this). Q. I'm also interested in the series of fonts you released (Aetherships, Aetheric Ordnance, and Raygun Rockets). What inspired this series, and do you see yourself creating more in the same vein? I'd be interested in something along the lines of a terrain font that would let you create a map with words.


A. The fonts are one of those things that just kind of caught my attention, so I had to do it? I have a lot of those, though most aren't online - board games built with Icehouse pieces, wooden terrain I made in my garage, a 32-pieces-per side fairy chess set I drew in TinkerCAD and then molded in concrete and ultracal, a single-screen-per-level sideview puzzle video game I never finished sound design on, Duplo-compatible marble run pieces I 3d printed for my toddler... On and on like that. Project tend to be cyclical over a period of years for me, so it's quite likely I'll suddenly return to each of those (and many others) at some point and make a bit more, when something there catches in my brain and wants out. Q. Finally, what projects are you currently working on that you'd like to share?


A. Right now, my thing of interest is Weirdglass, which is me returning to old rewrites of the d20 system, and beefing those up into a semi-complete starter book. It's... Both very elegant, mechanically, and extremely dense; a great deal of mechanical weight in relatively little space, with a setting that's pulled from many of the same *sources* as old D&D, but goes different places with those sources. If you see me yattering on about weird chaos creatures, or mercenary party structures, or Appendix N, of living magic, or philosophical factions like Planescape but with something of consequence to argue *about* other than power, or.... Anyway, all that is about Weirdglass, in my head.

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