Jason Enright: Christian, thanks for sitting down with me and chatting today.
Christian Lindke: Thanks Jason. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me about the Dice Chuckers project and what it is all about.
JE: Christian, first off, I want to tell everyone about the geek cred behind this project. How long have you been gaming? How long have your partners been gaming?
CL: I started playing roleplaying games in the 1980s with the Moldvay/Cook Basic Set of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. There was something magical about that edition of the game. I loved the Jeff Dee, Bill Willingham, and Erol Otis artwork. The rules were clearly written so that even an elementary student -- which I was -- could understand them, but they were robust enough that I still read those books when looking for inspiration. To this day the Mystara setting -- which was called The Known World in those boxed sets -- is my favorite sandbox to play in as a DM. My regular gaming group doesn't actually play a campaign in those settings, but the "Sharn" of our campaign is pretty much Specularum in my imagination.
That isn't to say that I only play D&D, though, I have played every edition of the game and currently run an Encounters group at Emerald Knights Comics and Games. My gaming tastes are very broad. I own almost every superhero roleplaying game ever published, and have played most of them. Mayfair Games' DC Heroes is one of my all time favorite rpgs. I have a GURPS library. I love the Savage Worlds game system. I am also inspired by what Margaret Weis Productions has been doing with their Cortex+ line of games. It would take too long to list all of the games I actually own. My friends joke that I should just use my collection to start up a game store or library.
JE: What is Dice Chuckers all about?
CL: When I was growing up, roleplaying games were a mysterious thing that society didn't really understand. In fact, they somehow got sucked into the Culture Wars of the 1980s and became associated with teen suicide and devil worship etc. While films like E.T.: The Extraterrestrial featured examples of real roleplaying games, it was the image of Tom Hanks driven mad by Mazes and Monsters that mainstream America seemed to associate with the hobby. Things got so bad that as Michele Nephew of Atlas Games points out in her dissertation, people were asking the Consumer Product Safety Commission to evaluate the potential harmful effects of roleplaying games on players.
Though the Culture Wars of today largely ignore the roleplaying game hobby, the damage done to the reputation of the hobby by movies like Mazes and Monsters and Skullduggery remain to this day. People still think that roleplaying gamers are odd "men and boys" who live in their parents' basements and play strange games. The thing is, the gaming community is extremely diverse and includes people from all walks of life.
Our goal with Dice Chuckers is to show examples of the modern roleplaying gamer. That being said, it is also the goal of the film to show that the modern roleplaying gamer doesn't fit any preconceived stereotypes. The list of hobby gamers includes actors, screenwriters, professors, economists, professional baseball players, teachers, attorneys, successful business managers, artists...and soccer moms. There is no stereotypical gamer. Gaming is a broad community, and we want to show it as such.
We want to dispel myths regarding what gaming is and who gamers are while telling an interesting story.
JE: It seems like since Trekkies, there's been a swell of movies with people saying, “Look at how cool my hobby is.” Do you think it's an important evolution for the RP gamer to move out of the basement, and into the game store, and now into their own movie?
CL: I think that of all hobbies, gaming is the least understood. We've seen a wonderful progression in gaming as a social experience over the past few decades. Home games are still a vital and important part of the hobby, but so is Organized Play at game stores and conventions. The thing is, that the nature of Organized Play has changed over the years. Look at the old RPGA organized play structure. Players -- like characters -- earned experience points based on how often they played or ran events. They even acquired "titles" within the hobby. The system was very insular. The Living City -- to take an example -- continued to grow to the point where a new gamer walking into a store to play a game of D&D might not feel welcome, because the current group was playing a level 9 adventure...which requires a certain intimacy with the rules that the new player would lack.
One of the things I love about Encounters is that each season tells a story and is challenging enough for experienced gamers, but that the games are always set up so that beginning players can jump right in. The hobby manufacturers like Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, and Green Ronin have all learned that "Quick Start Rules" are an important way to bring new gamers into the hobby.
But getting more play in the game store still hasn't dispelled a lot of the friction or resistance that the hobby experiences from main stream culture. That's what we hope this film will do. We want not just to show how awesome our hobby is in the sense of how much we love it, but also how accessible it is.
JE: Now, I understand that in the film you will be following a few particular gamers. How important is it for you to balance the personal story of a few with the grander story of what it means to be a RP gamer?
CL: We want to spend about 50% of the movie on the personal stories of individual gamers. We want the audience to become attached to these individuals as people...as friends even. The personal stories will focus on the non-gaming lives of the subjects and demonstrate how gaming fits in as a past time in an otherwise busy life.
The other 50% will be about the hobby itself. The fact is that there has been too little historical engagement with the hobby, and there are too many myths within the hobby itself about feuds and reasons why things happened in the industry. We want to engage those as well. The past few years have seen the deaths of some of the most important people in the hobby -- a hobby that's been around for 40 years now -- and it's important to me that we get a living history of the hobby. I hope that this film is able to add to the oral history of the hobby in a wonderful way.
JE: Who are some of the gaming professionals you plan on interviewing for the film?
CL: First on my list is Ken St. Andre. Ken was the author of the roleplaying game I had the most experience with as a teen. During my teen years, the "solo" adventure was the main way I was able to experience RPGs. The Tunnels and Trolls rpg effectively invented the solo rpg -- a model that was imitated and extended by the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks and others -- and is a central figure in the hobby.
We'll also be interviewing Wolfgang Baur, Matt Forbeck, Cam Banks, Steve Jackson (American), and Steven Schend. These are only the beginning, actually. I have tentative agreements with a number of other professionals, but until we get funding, it's hard to say who else we'll get. I'm hoping to get Michele Nephew, Anne Brown, Lisa Stevens, Mike Stackpole, Ed Greenwood, Loren Wiseman, Allen Varney... You name the professional, and we'd love to talk with them.
JE: What do you hope people will understand or realize after seeing this film?
CL: That they want to play a roleplaying game and become a gamer, of course. If we cannot achieve that, I'd like them to understand that we all geek out about something, whether it's football, baseball, Formula 1, or D&D. I was recently at Disneyland with my family. There wasn't a person that was there, and it was quite a diverse group, who wasn't a total Disney Geek for the day. Everywhere you turned, people were just there having a good time. They had let down any false pretense and were just enjoying the experience. I want people to understand that this is exactly how gamers are when they are gaming. Gaming is a gamer's Disneyland. For me, so is Disneyland, but you get the picture.
JE: Thank you very much discussing Dice Chuckers with us. Do you have any final thoughts you want to share with our readers?
CL: At $40,000, our Kickstarter might look on the expensive side, but just consider the following. We want to travel to New York, Georgia, the MidWest, Seattle, Arizona, and Texas to get content for our documentary. We want to have it professionally filmed and edited. We want to issue DVDs day one and have DVDs for sale. We will be entering film festivals. We want a quality score.
We want this to be a great project that reflects the hobby in a good light. While this is a film by fans and about fans, it is also a film by professionals.
Also...that if anyone out there knows where I can get a copy of David Nalle's To Challenge Tomorrow or StatCom Inc's Witch Hunt without going deep into debt, please let me know.
Please support us at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1800289736/dice-chuckers?ref=live.