Date Posted: 31-03-2020

Q&A with CEO Dom McDowall

The #RatCatchersGuild on Discord submitted questions for C7’s CEO and game designer Dom McDowall as part of a Q&A recently – check out Dom’s answers below. Now that you may have more time on your hands perhaps you might like to join the chat on Discord here ?

What are your major influences when it comes to literature, mythology or historical works in the content you create for Tabletop Roleplaying Games? – Question by Dave

That is a big question, I could go on for hours! The influences that come into play on a project depend on what I want it to feel and play like. When I was planning WFRP 4, I wanted to build on the work of previous editions, so all the great content released over the years, from early issues of White Dwarf onwards, was very important. WFRP 1e was the first RPG I played, so I really wanted to capture the feel and excitement that first made me fall in love with the game and setting.When I am putting together the creative brief for a game – the cornerstone the team will build everything out from – I look for other works that showcase the features that I’m trying to build in. For example, on WFRP I referenced (among other things) The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers, and Terry Pratchett’s work – part of my initial brief to TS Luikart for the starter set adventure was ‘Re-read Guards! Guards!’I also read academic historical references – the ‘Time Traveller’s Guides to Medieval and Elizabethan England’ had some lovely content, as did many of the ‘Life in a Medieval Village/Town/Castle’ books. It’s so easy to form our own idea of what life in previous ages was like, so challenging that with some research can be very inspirational. A lot of it is very accessible – I am certainly no academic. Fantasy worlds needn’t adhere too strictly to the historical periods they are based on, but keeping some of the basics gives a believable grounding to build from. I particularly love some of the recent books – including those by the late, and much missed, Terry Jones – that share lots of personal stories and anecdotes that make the period come to life. One of his stories of a twelfth-century monk who built a bird suit and tried to fly from the top of the monastery is fantastic – I’ll find the book and write that one up properly!For WFRP I also listened to period-appropriate music to help get in the mood – mostly the soundtrack to Europa Universalis! Gaudete, Falalalan falalalera – Feltxa o Carceres and other awesome stuff by Joculatores Upsalienses. Being lucky enough to live my whole life near lots of old abbeys, castles, towns and cathedrals helped too!

One thing that I appreciate more as I get older is that my influences are as much the sum of my total experience as they are the particular things I’m impressed with at the time. Going back to my earliest memories at primary school, Usborne’s amazing books on the Romans, Castles and Greek and Arthurian Mythology, amongst many others, absolutely entranced me. Sheila McCullagh’s ‘Buccaneers’ and ‘New Buccaneers’ series of pirate adventures were an incredible introduction to epic multi-volume adventures. I devoured any historical, mythological, fantasy and science fiction books in my school and local town libraries. Bridgend Library had all the Doctor Who novelisations AND got White Dwarf, so they spoiled me completely! All that stuff is in my brain to this day, helping shape what I do.

What was your first job in the RPG industry? Question by Roders

I started off as a freelance editor on SLA Industries with the first volume of Hunter Sheets in early 2004. I had very nearly applied for the Games Workshop designer apprenticeship in the ’90s, and it seems the fates have been conspiring to get me back on course ever since!I am enormously grateful to be working on things I love. I remember seeing adverts for GenCon in Dragon Magazine, wondering what it was like but never dreaming that I would one day get to go, let alone be there as a publisher!

How would you foresee the revival of The Old World impacting WFRP moving forward? Question by CandleStealer

It’s great news, I can’t wait to see more of what is planned! And I’m delighted that more people will be finding out about the Old World and joining us there. Did you see the recent map reveal on the Warhammer Community site? Very intriguing, and some exciting possibilities!We’ll have to wait and see what specific things WFRP will be able to explore from the new content, but I am very much looking forward to it!

What would you say was the pivotal moment for you to begin in the path of tabletop RPGs? – question by @Fr05ty

As a kid I was a huge fan of ‘Lone Wolf’ and ‘Fighting Fantasy’ game books, and also of the ‘Lego Castle’ range. I had my own home brew rules for combining the two when I came across Warhammer for the first time, thanks to my cousin Simon Lucas (who also works in games). We visited when I was 9, and he was painting skeletons. My eyes popped out of my head, and I was hooked. That led to finding my first fantastic game store – Encounter Games in Cardiff – and my adventures in this wonderful hobby began.

What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment in this industry? – question by @Exodus Alpha of Sylvania

I’m one of those people who tends to only see the next challenge – the mountain ahead rather than the one I’ve just climbed – so that’s a hard one! I think it would be continuing to build Cubicle 7 and leading and expanding the team of 20 amazing people, plus a host of freelance artists, designers, editors and writers. I am humbled by the talent and dedication of each and every one of them. I’m proud of all the awards we’ve won, and excited to see what the future holds (especially once we’re through the current pandemic!).

Personally, I am beyond delighted to be working on the Games Workshop games. GW approaching me about working on the games was fantastic. Finding our games in Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue in New York was another happy moment, while going to my first actual business meeting in Manhattan was simultaneously exciting and a bit surreal. As a lifelong Tolkien fan, I’m very happy to have been the person to bring together Middle-earth and the 5th edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game. In terms of writing, my favourite thing I have written so far is the text for the opening double-page spreads of WFRP, that was great fun and I’m pleased with how it came out!

What draws you personally to the IPs that you work on at Cubicle 7, particularly those licensed from Games Workshop? – question by @VioletDreamer

Everything we work on is something that I love. I grew up with Games Workshop games, so they mean a huge amount to me. I still get excited as the settings develop and we learn more about them. Many of us have works of fiction that we adopt, that chime with us deeply and in a way become a part of us – Warhammer and Warhammer 40K are two of mine. I think that deep down I am still endlessly fascinated with RPGs and each of their component parts. I love telling stories – both mine, in the planning stages, and also the collaborative ones we build together at the table. I love working out rule sets and how we’ll interact with them. I also love world-building, creating characters, countries, artifacts, towns, monsters, all of it!

Who was your all-time favourite Warhammer PC that you have played and why? – question by @Uhtred43

My first WFRP PC, Gilthanas (!) will always be remembered fondly. He followed the most min-maxing career path of all time, including Wardancer (from White Dwarf), and was a monstrosity of pre-teen wish fulfillment! Couldn’t do it now if I tried. I suffer from a common problem though, in that I tend to end up as GM rather than player – I am really looking forward to Pádraig taking the reins of the C7 WFRP game so I’ll get to play!

How much experience do you have with older Warhammer Fantasy editions? – question by “The Law”

My first RPG was WFRP 1e, when I was 10. I hadn’t found any games groups in my area, so I read the book and ran what was probably the worst game ever run, for my friends. I suppose it can’t have been that bad, as we played for years! Alongside that was a lot of Warhammer Fantasy Battle – I started with 3rd edition and an allied Empire/Wood Elf army very much inspired by the Border Legion of Callahorn from the Elfstones of Shannara!

What advice would you give to someone creating their own TTRPG? – question by “Lput”

Enjoy it! There’s nothing quite like the combination of different aspects of creativity that goes into creating a TTRPG. In practical terms, think about what you want it to be and feel like, and let that inform every choice you make. Don’t get too hung up on what other people have done, go with what feels right for you, and don’t be afraid to be different.

How has the RPG scene changed since you first joined it? Do you enjoy the direction games are going as they become more popular? – question by @MisterSister

It has changed enormously since I first started playing. There are more games than ever, there are more types of games than ever, and there are more players than ever! I think that’s the main feature of difference really, diversity of games and gamers. I think it’s great – I want to share these awesome games of ours with as many people as possible! One of the other changes has been around complexity – I think we’ve seen an appetite for games that are less of a challenge to wrap your head around. Many of us have a lot less time on our hands, so we just want something we can get on with. I can totally relate to that!

What was your reaction when you found out that you were getting the licence to create the next Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay edition? – question by @Lady Charlotte, Witch Hunter

I actually cried a little! Happy tears! Once you’ve been in discussions for a while, and you’ve really invested in the potential to go ahead with a project, it’s always nerve-wracking waiting to see if it all comes together. And when it’s a dream project that means a huge amount to you personally, I’m sure you can imagine the emotions at play. It was one of the best moments of my life.