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Seven Questions with Teos Abadia

"This bleak wasteland is Athas, and it is my home." 
- The Wanderer's Journal, Dark Sun Campaign Setting

To some, he is the ultimate leader of the Veiled Alliance.  Others say he means to overthrow the Dragon of Tyr.  Still others insist he is the only true master of the Way.  A fourth group's tales say he is the only person to have survived all the dangers of the Sea of Silt.  Myself?  I believe he's all four.  Teos Abadia, known to many as Alphastream in the D&D Community, agreed to answer a few questions for me about his own games and experiences in the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons.

Teos Abadia
I was able to meet Teos at Gen Con 2012 at the Wizards of the Coast Freelance Writer Seminar.  I knew going into the seminar that many different authors and freelancers would be there, and I was excited to finally meet some of the people that I had chatted with on Twitter 160 characters at a time.  When the seminar was starting, various authors (most of whom I didn't recognize) all began taking their seats.  I ended up sitting in a row closer to the wall, leaving some space beside me.  A guy sat down next to me, and, after looking at his name badge, I realized it was Teos.  The whole thing was pretty cool, except he was wearing a Han Solo t-shirt, and I'm the Twitter guy wearing the Boba Fett helmet.  I wasn't sure how much tension that would create.

It turns out that wasn't a big issue, as I was able to chat with him during a small intermission.  From there, he gave me a piece of advice I've tried to keep in mind as I write/share things in the blog and Twitter.  It basically sums up to this: "As long as you're having fun contributing, it doesn't matter how many people are reading your stuff.  Even one person might take something away from it."  Wise words, right there.

For those that don't know, Teos has written a number of articles for Wizards of the Coast.  These can all be found here.  He's also one of the admins for Ashes of Athas, a convention campaign set in the Dark Sun world.  I asked him to share a little more about his accomplishments and what he's proud of.  Here's what he said.

I'm most proud of my work to help other gamers have a great time while being analytical of the game and how we approach it. Because I see organized play touching the lives of thousands (I've been one of them and still am), I've worked hard since 2001 to make organized play better through advocacy, playtesting, and authoring.  Over time I've been fortunate to actually write official stuff, and while that's a dream come true, I am most proud of my efforts at the community level. But, because others also want to reach that golden ring of writing official material, I've written about writing for DDI here: . It is a worthy goal, but I like the goal of helping through organized play more. A single DDI adventure might be read by many, but an organized play adventure can be played by thousands of players and will generally make a bigger impact on gamers.

I tried to keep my questions to a decent number, so I chose seven.  I knew I didn't want to ask things that can be found anywhere, such as "How do I make my Dark Sun game better?" or "How do I get my players more involved?".  In my own interview experience, I wanted to ask the questions that I felt haven't been answered, and to just simply get to know Teos as another fellow DM/player. I wanted to find out what kind of adventures he likes running, and what kind of characters he typically plays.  So with that, let's get the questions rolling!

1. What's the origin of the Alphastream name?  I see it as your Twitter handle and on pretty much every message board comment around.  What's the significance?

In 1998 I ended up on a consulting engagement in Sweden for 8 months. While there I set up a play-by-e-mail Shadowrun game with my friends. Each PC was a super-spy representing a different Shadowrun nation, and they received their missions through an enigmatic NPC decker (hacker) named Alphastream (with the idea that the name signified the decker being at the top of the datastream game). The game stalled and died out, but when I started joining various services I found the name Alphastream was always available, so I kept using it. My AOL IM handle was "yummytoast" after a spell found in an unofficial 2E complete netbook called "Flesh to Toast", so I suppose the community should be thankful I went with Alphastream! 

I'm happy to finally have that question answered, as I could never figure it out myself.  I do think that "yummytoast" would have been a great name to get known buy, as it fits well with all the Flumph related tweets.

2. When did you first get into the Dark Sun campaign setting, and what about it makes it your favorite?

While at Duke undergrad in the early 90's my friends heard about this new setting. I took a look at the back of the box and dismissed it as a munchkin setting and stubbornly ignored my friends' pleas. Being more stubborn, they ended up buying it for me. It wasn't 5 minutes after opening the box that I fell in love with the setting. I loved how it turned normal D&D concepts upside down and how the harsh nature of the world made player experiences so vivid. There are just countless additional reasons to dig it: elemental-worshiping priests, wizards receiving spell power through plant life and needing to consider whether to preserve life or defile it, ruthless sorcerer-kings, no deities, low magic, brutal beast encounters in the wilderness, a Sea of Silt... the list goes on and on

3.  How did you get involved with Ashes of Athas?  I'm not familiar with its entire history.

Dave Christ of Baldman Games is charged with coming up with content for various major conventions. He decided to begin a new organized play campaign to support the new 4E Dark Sun release. He asked me to be a major part of the effort. I was flattered, though very wary - I knew it required a lot of work to be an admin. However, I couldn't say no to Dark Sun! We began to kick around ideas and gather other admins. One of the key early concepts was to release chapters of three linked adventures, and to have a story-rich campaign revolving around major long-term plots. This was a big contrast to the way Living Forgotten Realms began, which had a more fragmented story and many one-shots. One of our goals was to be "the other campaign" to LFR (rather than compete with it), so we deliberately chose to do things differently in various ways. The admin team, composed of Chad Brown, Derek Guder, and myself, are currently working with authors on the final chapter. The campaign ends with a battle interactive at the Winter Fantasy convention (, though it also includes an adventure new players can play so that they too can enjoy the battle interactive. 

The Ashes of Athas admins hail from the jungle planet of Kashyyyk, a stark contrast to the harsh world of Athas!

4. Have you played in Athas using D&DNext rules?  What was this experience like?  If you haven't played Dark Sun D&DNext, how has your regular playtesting been going?

I honestly think 4E has a strong chance to end up being the best edition ever for Dark Sun. 4E's concepts of healing surges, powers with strong thematic/heroic elements, themes to bring in backstory, and encounter design all come together to make a really breathtaking Dark Sun experience. For those reasons, I haven't even considered trying Dark Sun with D&D Next. Even if I did, it would require a number of house rules to deal with key concepts such as a lack of divine spellcasting, preserver vs defiling arcane magic, weapons of inferior materials, and so on. Of course, it could really still be excellent in D&D Next, and I really do hope that Wizards will release Dark Sun for D&D Next, but 4E really was the best rules edition we have seen for Dark Sun. (And to be clear, I'm a fan of D&D Next and support it being created and released).

I really enjoyed this response, especially the statement that 4E could very well be the best edition for the setting ever.  I've thought about the idea quite a bit, and the more I think, the more I like it.  Playing Dark Sun 4E in the future to come would keep the edition alive in various play groups, and if Ashes of Athas chose to continue the game as a 4E only campaign, it would definitely give everything a unique feel.  One of main goals of Next is to bring the entire community and player base together, and keeping certain editions in the limelight for various reasons only strengthens the community and breaks down edition wars.  I know I would be all for playing a 2E Greyhawk game simply because of what that rules system evokes and provides players.

5. Who is your favorite D&D character that you have ever played?  What made them special?

Krelor Deepforge, dwarven ranger, played in the Living Greyhawk campaign for 5 years, 18 levels, and many tons of hours. What made him special was that he was a bit different (the only 3E straight-class dwarven ranger to make it to level 12 or higher in the entire campaign) and really brought together my ideals. While I enjoy a dark character, I primarily like playing a PC that is me but much better. Krelor was that, and he had this really cool way of being tough, proud, kind, environmentally conscious, a leader, and really full of character. I also liked that his dwarven ways often helped people at my tables laugh and have a great time. The fake beard I sometimes wore didn't hurt...

I always like asking people these types of questions.  They're always give you a good idea of what kind of player that person is, and if they would fit well at my own gaming table.  Teos, you are welcome at mine any time!  

6. What happened in the best D&D session that you ever ran as a DM?

Wow, that's a tough one. I've had some great players in some great moments. Probably the fondest one was running the Geoff region's Living Greyhawk adventure Rites of Eternal Spring. The adventure brings fairytale concepts into a very epic quest, then lets PCs make really big decisions about the mortality of an NPC that is very important to them. It is my favorite adventure ever, and when I ran it both I and other players cried. It is a beautiful adventure, celebrating youth, life, courage, and love. I still get emotional thinking about some of the lines in that adventure. I'm misty-eyed right now. That adventure has really been influential on two levels. Firstly, it made me want to give other people great experiences through D&D. Secondly, it made me want to write adventures that people wanted to talk about and treasure. It was really cool to work with Erik on an Ashes of Athas adventure. That's a dream come true, even if he is someone I've called friend for a long time. 

7. It is well known that you're the biggest support of the Flumph (he wrote about it here).  We all know why we should care about the Flumph, but what has made it so special to you?  Did you encounter it as a player or perhaps run it as a DM?  I'm interested in your own personal history with the Flumph.

This is really one of those things that began as a joke and made increasingly more sense the more I thought of it. Championing the Flumph is championing the little guy, the misunderstood, and the forgotten. I'm not the first and won't be the last to champion it. And we are legion! Our barbaric yawp of "BRING BACK THE FLUMPH" will sound over the rooftops of the world. 2013 is the year of the Flumph - even Wizards can sense it! 

Bandito Flumph - Teos commissioned this to bring a little Hispanic into the Flumph.  Rock on!
I stumbled across this, and realized how perfect it was for this interview.

This marks the end of my interview with Teos.  I'd just like to say again how thankful I am that he decided to participate.  I hope that he had as much fun answering the questions as I did coming up with them and getting his responses.  Hopefully we'll get that Flumph Dungeon Command set this year! *squirt squirt*

Teos gave me one last thing to think about after our interview was over though....

Thanks for being patient with how long this took. It has been a real pleasure. But, really, it would be great for you to answer the same questions for your readers!

So, next week, I will answer seven questions for my readers, trying to give them a little more background into who I am and my love for the game.  The questions won't be replicated completely, but they'll still with the same sorts of themes

Feel free to leave your comments below!  For those looking to hear more from Teos, you can follow him on Twitter @alphastream.  I'm always @artificeralf


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