Saturday, March 23, 2013

7 Questions with Rafael Romo Mulas

"Friendship is born that moment when one person says to another: What! You too?  I thought I was the only one." - C.S. Lewis

For March, I chose to interview Rafael Romo, who goes by @rrockman on Twitter.  Rafael just happened to start following me on Twitter at the end of last year, and enjoyed commenting on my blog posts about Evil Tide, and using aquatic monsters in general.  He's probably the person that I tweet back and forth with the most, simply because we seem to always find that we're interested in the same things (sahuagin, dinosaurs, etc).  

One of my goals when writing these interviews was taking some time to look at D&D fans as players and adventurers, not as authors who worked on various pieces of work.  The every man (and woman) if you will.  Ultimately, players and DM's make the game, and it is from those experiences that the game becomes better.

I'm extremely grateful to have been allowed to interview Rafael, for although we have yet to meet in person, I feel that we have formed quite the friendship, 160 characters at a time.  I'll leave you all with a little emoticon, since Rafael loves them so much. :)

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How did you get into D&D?  How long have you been playing?

Hello, I’m Rafael Romo Mulas, and if you’re a D&D community junkie you may have heard about me under the nickname of Lord Archaon (a very evil character from the Warhammer universe). I’m half-Italian and half-Mexican (and very often Half-Elf too!) and partly due to my origins I tend to be very wordy, as the few readers of my blogs know; so I apologize in advance for the long sentences and paragraphs, but it’s stronger than me! I’ll try to be as concise as possible, I promise… :)

I got into D&D thanks to the (much) older brother of a girl that was my friend during nearly all my childhood. I was 7 years old or 8 when he introduced us to the game, and I remember I played a Halfling, probably using 1st edition rules, since there wasn’t distinction between race and class…
The next thing I asked for my birthday was the mythical Red Box, but it started being always a “theoretical hobby” since I couldn’t find players. This was the start of a trend that continues even now, although not as bad.

I basically lost my interest for years until I picked up Baldur’s Gate, the videogame, when it came out.

After that I decided I wanted to return to tabletop and actually play it for real, and I bought 2nd edition rules to simulate the game, but then  I saw the recently printed 3rd edition ones and they looked too much of an evolution to ignore them, so I brought back 2nd edition and took 3rd instead. Fell in love! I played with two different groups, always as DM, and had quite some fun creating my settings, adventures, monsters, classes, and basically everything.

In 2005-2006 more or less, I started being active in the official community forums with my Lord Archaon persona, and I received some good feedback for my home-brew Classes and Prestige Classes, and then became a judge for the “Official Custom Class Cookie Contest” for quite some time, introducing a sub-contest for Prestige Classes too.

At that point 4th edition was announced and I was very happy because I had already lost my group right because of the increasing prep-time that became the great problem of 3rd edition. I understood very quickly the “feel” of 4th edition and its “lightness” compared to the 3rd, so I easily ignored all the criticism, and I wasn’t at all let down by the edition, if not perhaps because of the continuous errata that came out. Played again with the old group, which recognized the good and the bad of 4th edition, but I must say that the edition was so poorly received nation-wide in Italy (partly due to unwise translations, but I digress), that it became impossible to find new players when my group got disbanded because people couldn’t play anymore for other reasons.

That’s when I started an excellent period of Play-by-Post games in which for nearly the first time, I got to be player, and I went very close to say: “Hey, if it’s so cool I think I won’t DM again!”... :-D
Plus, me and my friend Gonzalo Campoverde (AKA “Veritatis”, in the official community here), which I have to name and link here because through the community he became one my best real-life (although distant) friends of all time, got quite involved in the Zendikar-D&D community project/group (found here) that I kick-started myself (and which now counts more members than the official D&D Italy group! :) ), and we played our Play-by-Post adventures in the wonderful setting that is Zendikar, one of the newest Magic: The Gathering settings. This is perhaps the D&D project I got more fond of in my entire gaming career, so yeah… I had to mention it!

Eventually though even with Play-by-Post and despite the great DM and setting, it became apparent that the extremely long encounters typical of 4th edition were its biggest flaw and diluted the interest of most players and DMs.

So basically, when D&D Next got announced, I got positively psyched again, because again I had recognized the limits of the previous edition and I was quick to recognize the spirit of Next and what it tried to accomplish. I blogged the hell out of my official community profile, and eventually started a new blog too when playtest material actually came out to the public.
I then started being a #dndnext Twitter hashtag animal too, and the rest is history, or better yet the present! :)

2. From all our tweeting back and forth, it is well known that you love aquatic monsters.  Why is this?  Do you play a lot of aquatic themed games with ships?  What should all DM's know about aquatic monsters?  Do you have any amazing game stories from them?

Oh my, it’s not something about aquatic monsters only: I’d ALWAYS play aquatic adventures and settings in D&D! :-D It’s something of a personal taste that goes beyond fantasy and RPGs obviously, but let’s stay on-topic… Speaking of D&D, I always tried to include aquatic encounters in all my adventures as a DM and I must say I always enjoyed the three-dimensional tactical combat, which I nearly always simplified to three basic layers (upper, middle, lower). Plus, most of the time it was a way to add a time-limit suspense to combat: Waterbreathing wasn’t often available! 
Plus, I love to see my seas and aquatic environments a lot as most settings see the Underdark: the place from which all kinds of ancient, alien, and destructive evil come out! I’m a big fan of Lovecraft and in particular the Dagon-related stuff. Dagon is in fact my favorite demon prince and thus favorite monster and personality in the whole D&D universe. It’s basically all an aesthetic fetish that I have! :)


3. Your wrote a blog post detailing your thoughts on the D&DNext Warlord.  Why is the Warlord, as a class, so important to you?  What experiences have you had in D&D (and life) that make it so vital?

The Warlord is extremely important as a concept (more than as a class) to me for basically two reasons. First of all because it represented the first time in the history of the game in which you could play a character that could aid his/her allies using neither spells nor actual combat. So basically because of its “I didn’t know how much I needed this until I saw it” nature.
Then also because it represents the “committed warrior” archetype better than the Fighter ever could. The focus of the Warlord on both knowledge of warfare and actual physical competence in it is what every warrior that would want to be better than a common one should have. And this in my mind rings like “this is was every D&D “warrior” should be”; hence my blog post (here) which tries to prove my point about the Warlord archetype actually including the archetype of the Fighter, and not the other way around.

To better drive home my point here, I will mention the movie I mentioned on my blog too: 300. With 300, the world saw on the big screen perhaps for the first time a good representation of an archaic and a bit fantastic but very cool “ideal warrior”. The Spartans and in particular King Leonidas became the great icons they are today in popular culture, and they proved the difference between “fighting man” and “True Warrior”, with their whole combination of underlying “warrior philosophy”, knowledge of warfare, but also very strong physicality, competence, and “grunt feel”. 


I think D&D began to include this “new and improved” idea of warrior in 4e, but kind of contaminated it with the highly un-orthodox (for D&D standards) AEDU mechanics.
Plus, since Fighter and Warlord were distinct and their roles fixed, it was difficult to build a coherent “True Warrior”, until Hybrid character creation rules came out. At that point, it was mechanically possible, but it felt a bit like mechanical overkill to build what should be a very simple concept, all basically because classes were too restricted in their scope and identity.

D&D Next, with its current proposal of a more warlord-esque Fighter, and the simpler mechanics, has me all psyched because it basically make me think: “Wow: now everyone can finally play a True Warrior, without the hassle of having tens of powers and taking hours to build the character.”

     4. Your tweets about the D&DNext Rogue haven't been as passionate, but you've very concerned with how the Rogue turns out.  Is there a story behind this?  What does the Rogue need in order for it to feel correct for you? 

     Well actually, as of now the Rogue is my FAVORITE class in D&D Next, but the blog in which I expressed my newly-found happiness about it has gone a little unseen for some reason, probably because I put “Terence Hill” in the title..! :-D

My problem with the Rogue is that, call me presumptuous, I always felt like I understood the identity of the class better than the game designers!! And I always felt it more comprehensive and wide, a bit like for the Fighter-Warlord thing.
How can I build my Indiana Jones? How can I build my Terence Hill-like trickster/bruiser character? How can I build my “street boy that causes havoc just by messing around” character? All these archetypes clearly belonged to the Rogue class, but until the latest playtest packet they were absolutely unbuildable. The very fact that the Rogue needed to attack in combat to defeat enemies was off to me. Rogues should differ from Fighters rightly because fighting is not their favorite way of dealing with things. The Warlord taught us that a non-magical character can be useful in combat without actually hitting anything. I wanted the same for the Rogue, and I’m finally getting it with Next, so again I’m super-excited by what the designers are doing!

I point you to my post about the D&D Next Rogue if you’re interested in reading more about my point of view on the class.
:) Here!

      5. I've noticed that you are multilingual.  How many languages do you speak total, and how does this influence your D&D games?

      Ok if I want to brag a bit, adding my knowledge of Sardinian language (a language spoke in the Italian island of Sardinia), another minor European language that is Catalan, learned from my year studying in Barcelona, and my smatterings of Bulgarian, a country which I visited four times, I would say I speak 6 languages, but of course it would be quite a lie. J I basically only speak correctly Italian, Spanish, and English (although the latter with many external influences in my way of writing as you may or may not notice).
However, in Italy we also have a lot of dialects which I know smatterings of, so adding all these stuff together and relating it to the D&D experience has always been quite fun. Things like “Elves speak French, Dwarves speak German/Russian or Sardinian (because of their character, but you wouldn’t understand…), Gnomes speak “Napoletano” (because it’s got to be the language of the master tricksters! :D ), Halflings speak Gypsy-influenced-Spanish” and so on, are common fun assumptions of my campaigns with Italian friends, which add a bit of pseudo-realism to the acting of characters of different races/cultures.

Actually, the biggest problem with languages and D&D is that to correctly role-play one must not just know a language, but must be very very fluent and quick-witted with it, so for example I had a lot of trouble roleplaying in English, even if my English is considered quite good by most. I guess when I’ll (hopefully) live in an English-speaking country, I’ll catch up enough on the language to be able to play D&D with it well; and will finally find more players too given the higher diffusion of the hobby in English-speaking countries.
      6. What was the best D&D session that you were a part of, either as a player or a DM?

      This is a very difficult question, because as I said my true D&D gaming experiences have been actually quite few and distanced in time…
I must say I really appreciated being a DM to people over their 20s when I was only 15, one summer, when we played in a campaign of my creation set in Chult, in the Forgotten Realms. They were all quite happy with it and we had tons of fun since they were a bunch of crazy people and it was vacation time so we could play at all the hours of the night and sometimes even dawn! Classical good D&D times, and many complaints for all the noise we made at those hours… Let’s say it was the highest example of the social aspect of D&D.

As a player though, I must mention again my favorite DM, Gonzalo Campoverde, and his incredibly well thought and mastered adventures set in Zendikar and played-by-post in the Community page of our Zendikar-D&D group. There the social aspect was technically absent, but as for true gaming and story fun, it was awesome. We also ended up focusing on cooperative story-telling, which I think is a less known aspect of D&D that is incredibly stimulating, and which I hope D&D Next will emphasize a bit more than its predecessors, at least in the Dungeon Master’s Guide or its equivalent, and perhaps also in whatever kind of “Basic Box” we’ll eventually get.

7. What are your D&D goals for the future?  Do you want to write more and continue your blog?  Get a pitch accepted by WotC?  Or are you involved in the community for the sake of involvement and helping other gamers?

      Oh well, let’s see... I certainly would like to continue writing on my blog my usual ramblings, perhaps finishing detailing my custom cosmology as of now called Cthon, or World of Cthon when defined as a full-fledged setting. The whole hobby must be set aside most of the time though, against my will, because I must really invest much more time in more urgent things such as studies and work.

I considered submitting a pitch to WotC for quite some time, but never did, so that’s something I could do sometime in the future when I’ll have more time. And again after I’ll settle my real-life issues a bit more, I will surely look forward to play and/or DM in a live group, as we all love… One thing I plan to continue doing regularly is eagerly reading all the D&D Next news and material we get (again, as we all love), and submitting all the feedback I can to WotC.
Oh, and reading more of Artificer’s Intuition posts, of course..! ;-)

Thanks again for the interview Rafael!  To the readers, be sure to check out his blog, Lord Archaon's Grimoire (here) and follow him on Twitter @rrockman  Leave your comments below, and you can always find me on Twitter @artificeralf

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