Kristine Chester, Fanboy Comics Senior Contributor: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, Timothy. You're starting up a new tabletop RPG and multimedia project entitled Dragon Kings. Why don't you tell our readers a little about it?
Timothy Brown: It’s my pleasure, thanks for letting me talk about Dragon Kings.
Role-playing games traditionally combine fiction and art to set the stage. I’ve designed quite a few game settings that way. But, since I’m also a professional musician, I’ve wondered if I couldn’t also introduce music as a third media. And, not just music layered on after the fact, but really use music up front as a way to envision and share a new fictional universe. Dragon Kings is my quest into those uncharted waters, and so far the sailing’s fine.
KC: How is Dragon Kings a “spiritual successor” to the Dark Sun campaign setting you co-created? What makes Dragon Kings stand apart from Dark Sun? And, how do the Dragon Kings of Dark Sun and the Dragon Kings of Dragon Kings relate?
TB: I enjoyed creating the Dark Sun universe. We pioneered genuine collaboration with the artist, Brom, from the onset. Not only did he illustrate things that we designers dreamt up, but he also created images that we, in turn, described. Fans appreciated that innovation. It gave the game a cohesive look and feel. I think I can get the same sort of true collaboration with Dragon Kings, adding music in as a third creative medium.
My own participation in the unfolding Dark Sun universe was short lived, though, and in hindsight many of my original hopes and aspirations for it were never realized. I like where Dark Sun developed, but I would have done some things differently. Dragon Kings gives me an opportunity to bring some of those concepts to life in a thematically similar universe.
KC: Dragon Kings is supposed to be an “agnostic” campaign setting, able to be work with several different game systems such as Pathfinder and possibly Savage Worlds. What makes these systems a good fit for the new setting, and are there any more game systems we might see?
TB: Players gravitate toward rules sets, because of play style. One game system promotes detailed character progression, while another offers faster action. Honestly, I think a fictional setting should be broad enough to accommodate any play style. If I do my job well, Khitus (the Dragon Kings world) can support play in any game system. Maybe a player who wants to delve into the costly, state-controlled, and often personally tragic pursuit of Dragon Kings magic wants that 3.5 detail to guide his play. Other groups who embrace the day-to-day struggle to simply survive in a chaotic, desperate environment may want quick combat resolution. At the end of the day, a game master and his players will elect to sit down and play in the Dragon Kings universe, and they already have their favorite game system. I don’t want to restrict them. I would be open to having PDF rules supplements for any and all game systems, and we are talking with several.
Also, I’m personally far more motivated to create an exciting new fictional universe and less interested in creating a unique game system. I’d rather devote my mental energies to the former.
KC: Now about the album: What is the general style of the album, and what sort(s) of music can we expect to hear? Given the rather exotic nature of the Dragon Kings world, will there be any atypical additions to the music?
TB: I’m personally inspired by the classic progressive rock albums. Rush. Pink Floyd. Queensryche. Progressive rock’s elevated lyrical content and storytelling appeal to me. If the Rush 2112 album had come with maps of the Temples of Syrinx, I would have turned that into my Traveller campaign. I think that sort of music can describe a fictional place as powerfully and completely as any text or art, and on an emotional level it may be the superior medium. You can expect the Dragon Kings songs to be along those lines: heavier, guitar-driven songs that are lyrically informative and emotionally impactful.
And, yes, we’ve got some production ideas that will have a distinctive Dragon Kings edge. Watch the website and our YouTube channel for sample scratch tracks and songs soon.
KC: Your website mentions you're putting together a creative team to assist with Dragon Kings. Can you talk about any of the other creators who are involved with the project at this time?
TB: Veteran game artist Brom is on board to help coordinate the art. He has already completed one cover painting for Dragon Kings, and he’s on line to do another. I was also pleased that another Dark Sun artist alum, Tom Baxa, chose to join the team. Tom is already working on some creature sketches that we’ll be able to share on the website soon. Those two guys are my artistic anchors on the project.
I do have some other artists and musicians lined up for the project, people you may know, but I’ve decided to roll out their participation to coincide with some other marketing initiatives. So, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
KC: What's your creative process like for a project like Dragon Kings with its multiple components? How do you get the campaign setting to inform the music and vice versa?
TB: As much as possible, I want all three media to come together at the same time. I write some lyrics, poke around with some character or monster ideas, then break out the guitars to lay down some tracks. (I’m in Heaven, did I mention that?) They all feed on each other, I’m finding. For example, the ‘New Dune Wasteland’ is a name that fit the lyrical melody; music inspired the fiction. In another instance, a chorus’ three-beat cadence suggested the loping gate of a three-legged beast; music inspires art and fiction. The artist came back to me with his suggestions on how a three-legged beast might actually work; art inspires fiction. The trick is coordinating all these complementary ideas.
KC: Where can readers go for more information about Dragon Kings and to follow its progress?
TB: We’re posting news and sample art and music just as fast as it comes available. Please, follow the fun!