Greetings readers! Time for another interview--I'm very pleased to welcome my good friend Jason Marker to the blog. I first became aware of Jason due to his stellar work on the new Robotech RPG products from Palladium Books. Once Jason was available to do some freelance work, I hired him to write for the Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay lines. Jason's got a lot of experience in the industry, both as a developer and a writer, and he's very imaginative and talented at writing both content and adventures.
Dude, he's totally stealing your fedex packages!
Whenever Jason and I get a chance to chat face-to-face, the conversation always seems to come around to our mutual love of Robotech. I try to get at least one nudge in there about "RDF vs. UEEF" but we often goob out over all the stuff we really love about that series.
Jason and I worked together on a number of books for Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, and the main core book for Black Crusade.
You can check out more about Jason on his blog and his tumblr named Amalgamated Fiction.
With the introduction out of the way, let’s begin the interview! As before, my questions are in red.
RW: Can you tell me a little about yourself as a gamer and as a game industry professional?
Jason: Hmmmmmmm. Well, I've been playing RPGs since I was about twelve. My friend Brian introduced me to D&D through the original red box basic set and I was hooked. From there I went to RIFTS and the rest of the Palladium games. Eventually I went farther afield, playing AD&D, Marvel RPG, WEG's Star Wars, all of the World of Darkness games (even Wraith which is completely unplayable), Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Deadlands, Role Master/Middle Earth RPG... Hell, even the Tank Girl RPG. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few, but that was a long time ago.
RW: How did you get your start in the RPG industry?
Jason: This answer tends to infuriate people, as it's kind of flip, but purely by accident. In 1998 I submitted a piece of short fiction to Palladim Books' The Rifter magazine as the final project for a writing class I was taking at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. To my surprise the piece, which was really short and the first thing I ever submitted for publication, was printed in the Halloween issue. From there I freelanced on and off for years, not doing much as I was apprenticing as an advertising photographer and building my own photography business. In 2007 as the bottom fell out of the advertising industry here in Detroit, Kevin Siembieda hired me at Palladium and the rest is history.
The Black Crusade has begun!
RW: What is something great about working in the RPG industry?
Jason: I make people happy for a living. Well, as happy as you can make a load of passionate, detail oriented... I love making games and bringing a little fun and adventure into peoples' lives.
RW: What is something really bad about working in the RPG industry?
Jason: Everything else. The pay is lousy, the hours stink, it's feast of famine all the time with either too much or too little work, writing is lonely, and I'm either too busy or too broke to do other extracurricular activities. That being said, it's very much worth it and I wouldn't change what I do for anything.
RW: What do you believe is the most important aspect of professionalism in the RPG industry from the viewpoint of the freelancer? What about from the viewpoint of a publisher?
Jason: For a freelancer? Do good work, meet your deadlines, communicate early and often with your editors, and be open to editorial feedback/guidance. Be courteous and generous to fans and don't brag overmuch. Remember, good work doesn't make a lot of noise. If you disagree with an editorial change, discuss it respectfully and in clear terms but remember to pick your battles and the fact that you don't know everything and can't win every disagreement.
For a publisher? Pretty much the same. Courtesy, professionalism, good communications, and respect go a loooooooooooooooooong way. Also, make sure your expectations are clear and pay the talent on time.
Imperial Fists, Storm Wardens, and Jason Marker.
RW: If you could change one thing about the RPG industry, what would it be?
Jason: The prevalent idea that we're all a bunch of regular guys/nerds/gamers/what have you and that we're doing this as a hobby. Everyone, from the boss at Fantasy Flight or Paizo to the greenest freelancer are industry professionals and we should all endeavor to comport ourselves appropriately.
RW: How do you engage with the fans of your work?
Jason: Through social media and attendance at conventions. I use a Wordpress blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr to interact with fans and colleagues most of the time. Of course, not even the most thorough social media saturation can replace the handshake and the smile and the simple human contact found at places like GenCon and Pax.
RW: What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as an RPG professional?
Jason: Bringing the new Robotech RPG to market. What's that? Write a bunch of new canon and continuity for a game based on a cartoon I grew up obsessing over? Sure, I can do that!
I'll always be an "RDF" guy, but Jason is the true Robotech Master.
RW: What do you feel is your greatest setback as an RPG professional?
Jason: Losing Robotech. On the other hand, getting laid off from Palladium allowed me to work for other great companies in the industry, so even my greatest setback wasn't a huge disaster. One door closes, another opens, etc etc.
RW: How do you reconcile working on a game that, on the one hand, requires a set of rules… but on the other hand, encourages GMs and players to break the rules or come up with their own?
Jason: Eh, that's pretty easy. Even though I like rules, and I like rules a lot, I know from long experience playing and writing for Palladium that rules can't be perfect and can't cover every imaginable situation at the table. Houserules are a fact of life in our hobby, and I've come to a good houserule as much as an official one.
One of Detroit's most wanted Shadowrunners.
RW: If you were a Shadowrunner, you’d be a…?
Jason: A self-destructive, alcoholic Russian EOD specialist and housebreaker suffering from both near cyber-psychosis and PTSD. Oh wait...I played that character already. His name was Yuri, and as you can imagine, it all ended in tears. Tears and beautiful, beautiful explosions.
RW: What’s your favorite RPG that you have no involvement in?
Jason: I have a two-part answer for that. I'm really, really into Savage Worlds at the moment, but more as a system as opposed to a specific game. As for specific settings, it's Iron Kingdoms by Privateer Press. Man, I'd cut my own mother to write for Iron Kingdoms.
RW: What do you look for… and what is a red flag… for a random freelancer submission?
Jason: Good grammar, good spelling, and the Oxford Comma because Oxford Comma best Comma. As for red flags? Blatant rip-offs of popular characters or media, misspelling common words, basic lack of knowledge of narrative.
RW: If you could pick up the dice and play an RPG right this very instant, you’d play…?
Jason: Robotech, which hilariously enough, I'm about to do with a bunch of friends using the Savage Worlds ruleset. I'll let you know how it goes.