FireflyMargaret Weis talks Serenity RPG
Wednesday 11 May 2005, by Webmaster
Interview with Margaret Weis Date: May 9, 2005
By: Wayne Tonjes Wayne Tonjes: Margaret Weis is a staple name in the gaming community. From her work on the Dragonlance line to her current project of Iron and Amber, she has had a steady literary presence tied to high fantasy. In addition to her writing career, Margaret serves as the owner and chief officer of two publishing companies. Sovereign Press, Inc., a game publisher based in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, continues the Dragonlance line of game products, licensed from Wizards of the Coast. Her latest company, Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd., is a brand-new venture which is launching the Serenity Roleplaying Game this summer. Before we start on the game, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Margaret Weis: I was born and raised in Independence, Missouri. I went to college at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where I majored in literature and creative writing with another major in history. I worked for a small publisher back in Independence when I graduated. I was married, had two children, then divorced. I moved to Lake Geneva, WI in 1983 to work for TSR, Inc as a book editor. There I met Tracy Hickman and entered the world of Dragonlance. And what a ride since then!
WT: How did you get started on novelizing the Dragonlance campaign? Were you surprised at how that grew?
MW: I was the book editor assigned to the project. This was the first time novels had ever been done as a tie-in to a game product. I was responsible for developing the characters and the plot to hand over to an author to write. The author TSR chose just didn’t get it! Tracy and I loved the world and the story and we decided that we should be ones to write the novels. TSR agreed and gave us the chance. No one thought the books would do well. After all, who had ever heard of these two authors: Weis and Hickman? Not even Tracy and I were prepared for the tremendous success. When the first book hit the NY Times bestseller list as a "write-in" (almost never happens), I was so stunned I put cat tuna in a casserole for my kids instead of Starkist. Didn’t find out until the next morning when I went for the cat tuna. The kids said it was the best tuna casserole I’d ever made!
WT: Have you seen significant changes in the gaming industry since your start? What would you suggest for folks who would like to get in to the field now?
MW: I think the biggest change is that there are far more women involved in both the industry and RPGs. We see a lot more families than we used to, as well. The best way I know of to break into the industry is to participate in it—write articles for gaming magazines, be a presence on the internet, attend local and national conventions, support your local game store (very important), and fill out job applications!
WT: As mentioned, this summer Margaret Weis Productions is going to be releasing a new role-playing game linked to Serenity, Joss Whedon’s continuation and expansion of his popular sci-fi series, Firefly. What led you to pick up this movie as the premiere title for your newest company?
MW: I’ve been a huge Joss Whedon fan for years and I loved Firefly from the moment I saw a pirated copy of the pilot episode. I was elated when I heard there was going to be a movie. I would have never thought of going after the license, because I assumed some major RPG company would be after it. But my VP, Jamie Chambers, thought we might have a shot at it. He was the one who pushed for it and made it happen. Thanks to Joss Whedon, too, who was apparently in our corner. It’s very exciting!
WT: Who all did you have work on the project?
MW: Jamie and Renae Chambers, who is also the art director, and I are all writing for the project. Tracy Hickman is doing work on it (another Firefly fan), as well as Jim Ward (well-known in the industry) and lots of freelancers from around the country and overseas.
WT: With such a crew of writers, will there be a lot of fictional aspects added to help fill out the ’verse? Any details or hints?
MW: I’d LOVE to write a Serenity novel! I haven’t been invited, yet. But, hey, if any editors from Pocket books are reading this, I’m jumping up and down with my hand in the air!
WT: Well, I meant within the game book itself.
MW: Oh, gotcha! Each chapter begins with a piece of original fiction written by myself and featuring the crew of Serenity, alternating with chapters that have fiction dealing with some new characters that the players can use.
WT: What sort of art will be used? Will it be illustrations, video capture and photographs, or a nearly equal mix? Will they be full color or gray scale?
MW: We will have stills from the movie (as many as we can persuade Universal to give us), plus video capture and original art. Full-color throughout.
WT: The game is going to use a new RPG system. What led to the decision to generate an independent rule set over using one of the established, open license systems? MW: We felt that the D20 system wouldn’t work for our game. We wanted a system that was quick to learn, easy to play, and one that reflected the action-packed, fast-paced nature of the game and the movie. This isn’t exactly a new system. Those who played the original Sovereign Stone RPGs will note that we have used elements from that game system with some modifications.
WT: Since the movie is under separate licensing from Firefly, are you considering pursuing the original series at some point to get the full scope Mal and his crew’s story?
MW: We’re able to incorporate the full story in our RPG. There is emphasis on the movie, but there will also be information on characters that appeared in Firefly. We have no plans at this point to purchase a separate license.
WT: Are there any other comments you would like to make?
MW: It’s gorram shiny!
WT: Well, I thank you for the time and information. I heartily recommend readers interested in more information to check out Margaret Weis Production and the upcoming Serenityrpg.com.