An Interview with Fred Hicks
Evil Hat Productions
Co-Creator of The Dresden Files RPG game
Fred Hicks Interview
Co-Creator of The Dresden Files RPG
In the awesomeness that is Buzzy Multimedia, I was asked to do an interview with none other than Fred Hicks, the madcap genius behind the RPG Spirit Of The Century but he is also the man, myth, and legendary driving force who will bring to all of us The Dresden Files: RPG. As an avid gamer, I could hardly wait to pick his brain about Harry in my favorite medium.
It was impossible o’clock in the morning when I had to report to Buzzy’s main office to use their NASA style computer slash phone system to call Mr. Hicks. Because I am not as computer savvy as say, a potted fern, the first ten minutes of the interview was me asking if he could hear me OK and then apologizing while checking the equipment and crossing my fingers. All that junk was not transcribed for the sake of human decency. The next first few minutes of the interview are me realizing that the interview was not going to be podcasted, but was as good a place to start transcribing as any. And it was kinda funny too.
Other than that, everything else for the next 21 minutes went perfectly! Fred is a super nice guy, snarky and with the patience of Job. He never got tired of my talking over him, but eventually we found a rhythm that worked (i.e.: I shut up). So, here is the interview as it happened, painstakingly transcribed for your reading pleasure by authentic Buzzy Multimedia minions. Do enjoy!
Terry: Hello everyone out there in pod cast land! I am here today with-ta-da!-Fred Hicks. Say hey Fred.
Fred Hicks: I’m doing good, how bout you?
Terry: Alright, excellent. I am very excited because-
Buzzy Astronaut Controlling the NASA-like computer equipment all around me: Umm, we’re not actually live. It isn’t streaming voice live or anything. It’s not radio.
Terry: Well, never mind then, the intro sucked. Hey Fred, How are you?
Buzzy Astronaut Controlling the NASA-like computer equipment all around me:
Fred Hicks: I’m good.
Terry: Good! Good! Good! Um, because this is not streaming folks, it’s not like you can say “hi” and Fred respond, so anyway… Fred, I am here to interview you here today for Buzzy Multimedia, so why don’t you give folks a little bit of background information about you so that they can become increasingly excited as the interview progresses.
Fred Hicks: OK, sure. I am actually a long time friend of Jim Butcher that predates all of this publishing and success stuff. A few years ago Jim was looking for someone to take care of his baby and had heard about some of the, at the time, amateur RPG design that I had done working with a couple friends of mine, Rob Donahue and ect. Jim approached us to see if we were willing to be the guys who would do The Dresden Files the role playing game. We had the completely weird reverse effect of the guy who has the licensing property approaching us. But it was all about me knowing Jim way back in the day and first seeing Storm Front when it was a Semi-Automagic class project and he was writing and printing out on a dot matrix printer. I’ve know the books and I’ve known Jim for a long time.
Terry: Wow! Dot matrix! That’s like, from the 80s!
Fred Hicks: Well, they still had some of them going in the mid 90s actually, but yea, long time.
Terry: That’s very kuel! Now, you currently have an RPG out right now called Spirit of the Century.
Fred Hicks: Yup, I’ve got that and I’ve also got Don’t Rest Your Head. Those are sort of the two [production] lines if you want to call it that Evil Hat does. “Spirit Of The Century” is sort of a wild and wacky pulp zaniness role playing game that is good for action movie type stuff. If you’re looking for a game that will deliver the action of the MUMMY movies, “Spirit of the Century” is very much in that vein. It tries to gather stuff from all over the place. We turned a lot of the dials of the system for crazy pulp action up to eleven. And we are going to be using the same system with the dials turned more to gritty urban fantasy with zany spell things for the Dresden Files RPG.
Terry: Spirit of the Century, which by the way is total bang for your bock as it’s a 400 page book and is all encompassing and if you wanted to get a PDF file of the book you could go to drivethrurpg.com or if your into the dead tree editions like I am you can get it from Indy Press Revolution. Is that still true?
Fred Hicks: Correct, that is also true.
Terry: And you can tell us now about “Don’t Rest your head?”
Fred Hicks: Yea, “Don’t Rest Your Head” is a game with an original system that, um, what’s a good pitch for it? “Don’t Rest Your Head” is a game about people who are so tired and so crazy from being so tired that their craziness grants them the ability to se into the true reality called The Mad City where nightmares walk the streets and they [the players] get superpowers but the superpowers might make the nightmares come and eat them.
Terry: That sounds like my life.
Fred Hicks: It has turned out to be a smaller game and it turned out to resonate with a lot of people solely on the basis of that it matches the geek lifestyle. Haha!
Terry: And both of these games are traditional pen and paper RPGs. You use the full spectrum of dice
Fred Hicks: Yes and yup.
Terry: The Dresden Files RPG was based on the game mechanics of the Spirit of the Century. Even thought it is not out yet and you don’t want to say a day cause you want to surprise the world, they can still check it out at DresdenFilesRpg.com
Fred Hicks: Correct, yup, absolutely, we’re doing our best. In the past we had a spotty record, back in the early years when we were still rookies and trying to find our feet with this whole being real and serious publishers. We were spotty in updating the website. But, coming into 2009 we have recommitted to making sure that it is a very live site and that there is new stuff showing up on it every couple of weeks at minimum. Right now we are doing a series of posts coming out bi-weekly which are giving people insight into what types of characters they can play.
Terry: Yea, I was looking at the web site the other day and I have to say that the artwork is absolutely beautiful! Whoever is doing it, total thumbs up to them.
Fred Hicks: We have a really good mix of artists here. When I originally started working on the project sort of one of the rookie mistakes I made, if you want to call it that, was to go out and buy a bunch of art before we actually had the text written. The agenda I had in doing that was to make sure that we didn’t have one single artist look throughout the book because I wanted to recognize that everyone has a different Harry in their head. For people who encountered Harry through the Buzzy Multimedia audio books he probably looks like James Marsters with dark hair.
Terry: Ya know, I think that a lot of girls want Harry to look like James Marsters with dark hair to be honest, and I have to say I myself am included. But in truth, Jim’s vision was the guy who played Xander in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wasn’t it?
Fred Hicks: Yep, it was a mix of that and a few other things. When we were still doing the initial concept stuff, we were sharing among the artists to at least get them in a similar ballpark. We were talking about a mix of Nicolas Brendon, who played Xander and John Cusack, but scruffy-
Terry: YES! Oh my God, John Cusack, I can totally see that.
Fred Hicks: Yea, John had the right height, he’s got the lankiness, and he’s got the ability to play the wise mouth character so I really think that John would be my personal favorite for dream casting. But we also have Paul Blackthorn who, well, on the TV show may be a little bit older than most people’s ideas.
I still think he certainly had the height and carried the pun expressions and all that stuff.
Terry: He had that really great smirk happening. The guy from the TV show had that awesome smirk, but I have to say that he really needed to wax his chest a little bit. Too hairy for Harry. But, I’m a girl, I’m sure you did not notice.
Fred Hicks: That was a lesser issue for me.
Buzzy Astronaut Controlling the NASA-like computer equipment all around me:
Fred Hicks: So we got a bunch of different artists so we could get a bunch of different images of what Harry would look like. This way we are guaranteed that people flipping through the book may see one that doesn’t look like Harry but then go “oh, hell, yea! That looks like Harry!” And also, we’ve taken long enough that the comic book has happened for the Dresden Files, we got to talk with the Dabble Brothers who are publishing that, and they have agreed to let us use some of the art from the comic as well. So you’re gonna get a mix of the comic book. You’re gonna get a mix of original art. We’re not going to be having still photos from the TV show because the licensing predates the television show so that would not be a covered property. And honestly magic worked differently in the show anyway so it would be kind of a huge headache to support both. So we are definitely novel focused in terms of what we are going to be doing.
Fred Hicks: I’ve known Jim for a long time. The fan site I started up for him prior to him being published turned into his official website, JIM-BUTCHER.COM with a hyphen. Jim hyphen Butcher dot com cause some squatter took the other. To shore up the fan community, I brought on a couple of other people to moderate the forums. Three moderators, me, Michael Finn and Pricilla Spencer. We all got invited by Jim to be his thematic consultants for the comic books. We are the uber fans who read through the scripts and looked at the pencils and said “no, no, no, that does not fit the novel.” As well as saying “here is an obscure citation that says in novel four, page seventeen that he stacks his books on a shelf” that sort of thing.
Terry: Pris is so good at that sort of thing.
Fred Hicks: Yea, and as a result, we had the opportunity to really back fan fervor and desire. As always, come to Jim-butcher.com and find pretty much any information that you want. Especially on the forums where the fans seem to know everything already.
Terry: Tis true. It’s not like we’re stalking you and Jim, but we just happen to know where are at any given moment throughout the day.
Fred Hicks: At any given moment eh? Yea, well, I had heard something about a GPS tracker but I don’t believe it.
Terry: Whatever. Just do me a favor and go back out of your living room and into the kitchen where I can keep a better eye on you through the window.
Fred Hicks: Oh, yea OK. Not going to happen, I’m staying in my lead lined room.
Terry: Damn, I knew something was up. Reception was spotty. But anything else Fred you want folks to know? Anything new coming up?
Fred Hicks: Specifically in the Buzz and Jim Butcher sphere I am just excited to see the next Dresden Files novel coming out – Turn Coat – coming pretty darn soon. April. We’ve started putting up some sample chapters on the web site for people to take a look at, we gonna release five sample chapters in all. The first five in the book and also Pricilla got a chance to hook up with Jim at con DFW down in Dallas Forth Worth recently and recorded his reading of the first several chapters of Turn Coat. We are also going to be releasing by the author audio companion on the Butch Block Pod Cast. Pricilla is working on catching up all the audio chapters with the sample chapters we have released on the web so far and then they are going to be released in tandem with the remaining chapters.
Terry: And if folks can’t wait they can always run and pick up a copy of the anthology Mean Streets which has a short story in it that takes place between the last book and the current book and its all about the after math of do-do-do, White Night.
Fred Hicks: Exactly, it’s got a story that is very Michael focused and kind of, I think, wraps up nicely several questions that were left lingering in that book. And, I don’t know, “Mean Streets” the story in it is called “The Warrior” and it turned out to be just a really pretty absorbing story for me.
Terry: I have to admit, I cried like a big fat woman after I read it. I truly did. I don’t want to say it changed my life because it didn’t but it really did touch me and I cried. I get to admit it because I’m a girl.
Fred Hicks: Yea, and I will say as I sit here and lie to you and say that I had a stoic and unquivering upper lip.
Terry: Very brave, I love it when men lie.
Terry: Now, I have to ask-amongst all the audio books that have ever been published in all of audio bookum, what to you say is your favorite audio book?
Fred Hicks: This is going to have to be a gimmie. For me it is the Storm Front audio book because this was when, well, I had been with Jim from the beginning in terms of the Dresden Files and I know how the website traffic looked, what the magnitude of Jim’s success was like at various points during it and, first off, the simple news that Buzzy had gotten James Marsters to read the book was kind of that first real moment of “Holly Moly, I think Jim is actually going to make it!” And then for the reading of the book to as good as it was, that’s a testament to both James and the kind of effort and preparation that Buzzy brought to Storm Front. So I know that it sounds that I am being a total sell for the Buzzy girls on the podcast for them, but I was so freaking excited both because of my personal connection and over how good it was.
Terry: Wow. And it is an awesome product and James did do a truly good job and we are just so happy that good things happened to everybody connected to it. Well, Fred I don’t want to take up a whole lot more of your time but I do want to thank you for everything. You have been so awesome to interview you’re so smart and funny.
Fred Hicks: Aww, I got a little bit of practice.
Terry: I love your snark, I have to say, that’s very hot. If you have anything else that you would like to sign off with that’d be super.
Fred Hicks: Please come by the Dresden Files website, we are going to be talking about lycanthropes in just another week or two. And I think we are only a couple or few months away from getting into the really interesting stuff the white court folks and wizards. I can’t wait to see fans come over because we do our best to have a light and lively conversation and answer any questions that people may have.
Terry: Sweet. Fred, I wanna thank you so much.
Fred Hicks: Thank you!
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