Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Interface Zero 2.0 Kickstarter - Interview with Curtis Lyon

 Welcome to Emerson's Bookshelf, within this offering we'll be talking with Curtis Lyon about Interface Zero 2.0's Kickstarter. Not only am I an interviewer here, but I'm also a backer of this kickstarter and, if the interview does it's job, maybe you'll be one, too.


So, Curtis, introduce yourself to folks, if you would? What's your background? How'd you get started, both in general and with Interface Zero?

Hi… I'm Curtis Lyon. I've been a gamer (particularly of RPGs) for a good thirty-five years – ever since I first discovered D&D as a teenager. Being something of an introvert, I loved to create worlds or live vicariously as my character, and I started eating up almost every setting or gaming system that caught my eye. Rather than try to do an exhaustive list, let's just assume I've tried a lot of them.

The Savage Worlds engine is one that caught my eye, when Pinnacle published Pirates of the Spanish Main. Yeah… I've got a thing for pirates. Anyway, the system was easy and clean (even before they made it easier and cleaner). Perhaps more importantly, my wife, Sarah, got it. She always played when we were doing other systems, but she usually drifted along letting the 'experienced' players tell her what she needed to do mechanically. Savage Worlds was different – all of a sudden, she was explaining the rules to me.

About four years ago, Savage Mojo (it was Talisman Studios back then) put out a beta version of their Savage Suzerain setting. Since I'd bought several of their products, I got the email inviting me to download it, so I did.

Sarah and I played around with it. We loved it, and we offered some constructive feedback on it. One thing led to another, and it was a few months later that Miles (Savage Mojo's CEO) offered us a chance to work on one of the first setting books for Savage Suzerain. That would have been Noir Knights. Suffice it to say we took the offer, and have been regular writers and editors for Savage Mojo ever since.

It was about a year after starting up with Savage Mojo that Dave Jarvis (Gun Metal Games) released the Savaged version of Interface Zero. I was impressed with the setting – especially since I'd seen a void in the cyberpunk genre ever since Cyberpunk 2020 went out of print. Some people point to Shadowrun, but that's really more of an urban fantasy setting than classic cyberpunk. Don't get me wrong – I like the urban fantasy motif, but it didn't grab me like cyberpunk. And while there were a few halfhearted attempts to fill that void, none of them quite worked.

Until Interface Zero. When Dave put out a call for any writers interested in doing work for IZ, I crawled to him on my hands and knees and groveled. He must have liked the groveling bit, since he gave us a shot. We've been doing work for him ever since.

If I remember right, you said that your wife, Sarah, offered some encouragement? Also, did you say that the two of you have worked together on projects before?

To say that Sarah offered me some encouragement is something of an understatement. It was more like she dragged me kicking and screaming into freelance writing.

Actually, I've always been introverted and creative, but my family had instilled in me a strong sense of needing to have a 'real' job. So, while I've sold artwork, recorded music and have generally been creating and performing all my life, it always ended up by taking a back seat to a 'real' job.

Well, my last 'real' job was (literally) killing me with the stress, so Sarah told me I needed to quit and start writing (she was already a big fan of my unpublished fiction). When I tried to argue the point – something about money and bills – she told me to put a sock in it and do what she said.

Ironically (we were both working for the same company), when I put in my notice our employer apparently decided I'd somehow duped poor Sarah into letting me quit working so I could sit around while she brought home a paycheck. So she fired Sarah, and then asked me to stay on.

That's more or less how Sarah became my partner in crime.

Almost everything we've done to date has been done as a team, and credited to 'Curtis and Sarah Lyon'. It's led to a little confusion here and there – some people seem to think we're a single entity, and it's hard to look up 'Curtis Lyon' in places like… You can look up 'Sarah Lyon' or just plain 'Curtis', but 'Curtis Lyon' is apparently something of a myth.

Anyway… I tend to be good with the creativity, while she tends to be good with the mechanics. Our typical modus is to brainstorm until we get the kernel of what we want to write, and then Sarah writes an initial bit and passes it to me. I trim, graft, shape and mold until I get something I'm satisfied with. Then I pass it back to Sarah to do an edit of what I've written and to put stats in for any creatures or characters, then she passes it back to me one last time so I can double-check stat blocks and do a final proof.

As a backer of the project, I'm curious as to your thoughts on the current kickstarter for Interface Zero?

I was happy with the original version of Interface Zero, but there were 'clunky' bits in it from the get go. IZ was ported into Savage Worlds from what were essentially various shades of d20 mechanics, so it didn't quite follow the format veteran Savages expected from a product.

As a result, it's been evident from almost the beginning that there would eventually have to be an updated version of IZ that streamlined some of the mechanics and eliminated some of the confusion people had over various parts of the rules – particularly in the area of character building.

Gamers being who they are, there may be a small-scale version of 'edition wars' (since some elements of the mechanics are being entirely reworked), but I, for one, am happy to see a cleaner, updated edition come into being. In fact, I think the Kickstarter speaks for itself in terms of desires and popularity – I was much less surprised at the response than Dave was, but it still made me all warm and fuzzy inside when the initial funding goal was reached in less than twelve hours.

The bottom line is I think you made a good choice in backing IZ 2.0.

What projects within Interface Zero have you worked on before? Where can we find your fingerprints, so to speak?

The first one was Zeeks: Psionics in 2088. Zeeks had been mentioned in the core book, but weren't really given any kind of a treatment. I also had an idea for a psychic mechanic that would take the core of the Savage Worlds rules and expand on it a bit so Zeeks could tire themselves out while doing their thing. I pitched the idea to Dave, who let me run with it. Zeeks was technically the first project Sarah and I did that wasn't handed to us by the publisher.

Then came Boston: Broken Cradle of Liberty. Originally, Boston was going to be part of a larger supplement that was going to give a treatment of something like five cities on the North American continent, but due to both time delays and the fact we were getting so much material on Boston alone that the final book would have been in excess of 300 pages, the decision was made to give each city it's own treatment.

We also did San Francisco: Ruins by the Bay, which hasn't quite made it to print yet, but has been available in PDF format for a while now. San Francisco was also going to be in that original North America book.

The last project I worked on was Road Rage… That one was handed to me by Dave when he wound up with an incomplete set of rules, and he patiently waited for me to fluff and pad it. I've always been keen on the street racing genre, so I had some fun with it as well.

I kind of downplay my role in the IZ 2.0 material, but that's only when compared to work like Zeeks or Boston, where almost the entire text was my writing. The Zeeks mechanics will still be in the new book, for example, and I've written bits to update areas like Boston and San Francisco (since the calender is being moved ahead two years, to 2090).

In terms of new material, I've done a brief bit to expand and clarify the Techno-Shogunate of Japan which will appear in the book and act as a launching point for the supplement Stan! Brown will be writing. I'm also covering South and Central America (outside of New Brasilia), and Sarah is doing a treatment of Las Vegas.

So we'll definitely be present in the New World Order.

What sort of encouragement would you like to offer to potential backers? How about for current backers, what sort of things are there now that they might like to increase their pledges for?

Hmmm… Well, obviously anyone jumping in to back at this point is jumping into a win-win situation. The Kickstarter is already funded (at this moment, it's at something like 481% funded), and Dave has done a great job of providing perks and bonus material for backers, as well as a plethora of options.

In fact, I need to remind Sarah that we have to go back and do some add-on funding ourselves.

Basically, if someone wants to come in and fund at this point, they can pick and choose from a lot of material and how they want it done (one thing Sarah and I want to add on is the digest-sized versions of the printed book). It's almost as good as a Mal*Mart Catalog (which I'd also like to see get funded in the stretch goals)! Custom dice, bennies, cards… In fact, there are goodies that are available to backers from the moment they pledge – like all the original IZ PDFs.

On the other hand, anyone who's already pledged but hasn't bothered to go back in and check out what's going on might want to do it. Adventures, sourcebooks, novels… All sorts of things have been unlocked that can be added on for a few more dollars (and I mean a few, not a lot).

Where would you like to see Interface Zero go? Are there any future projects or ideas that you have in mind?

Wow. You actually kind of caught me by surprise with that one.

I hadn't really thought about it much beyond my current obligations – if we reach the stretch goal, I'll be looking at doing the Mexico City sourcebook.

But what I'd really like to see is more of a treatment on the frontier of space. It's a segment of IZ that was left almost entirely unexplored in the original book other than the brief statement that humankind was exploring and colonizing out in the solar system. There's currently a stretch goal to unlock a book covering that – but I'd like to see it happen regardless.

How about other work out there that you've worked on or are about to work on?

Well… As I mentioned, we've done a lot of work for Savage Mojo. We've got credits for doing a great deal of work on Noir Knights, Shanghai Vampocalypse, Caladon Falls and the Suzerain Adventure Deck. We've also had a hand in Dungeonlands, which was recently funded through Kickstarter. Millennium Knights (a sequel/prequel to Noir Knights) is imminently being released as a single-book supplement (including a Plot Point Campaign), and our next big planned project is Untamed Empires.

We've also done a fair bit of work for Mystical Throne Entertainment, largely in contributing articles to both the regular Savage Insider publications and the premium editions of Savage Insider.  Sarah has also helped with the editing on most of the Ultimate Guides MTE has recently put out.

Our big project with Mystical Throne, though, is Twilight Continuum. It's just started as a Kickstarter, and is designed to be a complete adventure campaign that takes characters from Novice through Legendary Rank. If the project is funded, I'll be writing the first book, and overseeing the creating of the remainder. This one's kind of a pet project, since I first created the Twilight Continuum campaign twelve years ago, when I ran it with the BESM engine.

Lastly, Sarah and my own company, Three Sages Games, is ramping up to create a new setting called Dragons of Avalon – sort of, but not quite, a steampunk-ish fantasy setting – for the Savage Worlds engine.

Lastly, is there anything that you'd like to say in closing or share with folks?

Gaming is all about social interaction and using your mind for entertainment. Have fun with it. If you pick up Interface Zero, or any other setting Sarah or I have been involved with, we'll happily answer questions about what we had in mind, but I encourage everyone to take those settings and make them your own.

If you're curious about what Sarah and I might be up to, we have a fan page on Facebook (Curtis and Sarah Lyon… go figure), as well as a page for Three Sages Games. You can also find blogs and bios by and about is on the Savage Mojo website (

Three Sages Games also has its own website (, as do Gun Metal Games ( and Mystical Throne Entertainment ( They all also have Facebook pages, usually for both their company and individual product lines.

Thanks for putting up with my ramblings… and Great Gaming to everyone!

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