Dom : Hi, Phil. Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?
Phil : Sure. I am 46 years old and am employed as a High School Teacher (we don't have separate Junior and Senior schools in Oz, so I teach years 7-12) by the state of New South Wales, and have been for the last 23 years. Currently I teach History/English at Cromer High School on the northern beaches area of Sydney (if you have a decent map, you may find Cromer just a bit north of Dee Why, otherwise, its between Manly and Palm Beach), where I've been for the last nine years.
Educationally I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Sydney (1976) and a Diploma of Education (1977) - my BA includes a double major in History (which is, of course, why I teach mostly English - ah, the wonders of bureaucracy!).
Dom : What are your hobbies besides Rpg’s ?
Phil: Reading Science Fiction/Fantasy books, History books (mainly Ancient/Medieval and World War Two, but I'll read literally anything. And I have!), Military books (i.e. the technical nuts and bolts stuff), playing computer games (mainly strategy/role playing. But not real time strategy, which I loathe), going to the movies (mainly action/adventure/sf, but anything interesting, really) with friends. Surfing the net. Moderating (helping to, anyway) the soc.history.war.world-war-ii newsgroup on USENET (so if you post a message and its rejected - or approved, there's anywhere between a 1:2 and 1:5 chance that it was me who rejected/approved it!)
Dom : How did you discover Rpg’s?
Well, it all started with Analog SF magazine when I was in 4th Form (Year
10, now) at High School in 1970. It had an ad for this magazine called "Strategy
& Tactics" and it offered something called Board Wargames. I was
intrigued, and saved enough money for a subscription which, after some problems,
I eventually got. In the meantime I'd found a local store that sold Avalon Hill
games and bought my first wargame, Panzerblitz.
Eventually, some time in 1975, at the store where I did most of my shopping (Tin Soldier at that time), they got in this strange little white box that contained three digest sized books. first edition Dungeons and Dragons. It looked interesting, so I bought it and was immediately hooked. Soon thereafter I bought Empire of the Petal
Throne and, well, the rest is a long and boring story. Suffice it to say that I have a *lot* of RPGs that I've bought over the years!
Dom : Do you still have the time to play, and what are your favorite games?
Phil: Yeah, I still play. Mostly intermittently in recent years, but I've recently picked up in a friend's Forgotten Realms campaign using DnD3e, which I am moderately impressed with (which isn't hard, since I felt that pretty much everything ever done for AD&D was a crock). I've been having a great deal of fun, especially as we've all been started as 1st level characters and are on an equal footing.
The last time I GM'ed
anything seriously was several years ago, but I hope to start/restart a couple
of campaigns I have. My old established Roman campaign, possibly using C&S
4th Edition (or possibly using my own homebrew system, which is what it was last
run using) and an Armageddon campaign (for my Armageddon background and the
StaRPlay rules system, which are available only as PDF downloads from Hyperbooks).
I've also been toying with the idea of running a Fading Suns and/or a Call of
Cthulhu campaign. But the problem is
that the gaming group I belong to is over-endowed with campaigns and GMs and fitting in new ones is a major pain.
Dom : Can you tell us how you met Scot Bizar?
Phil: Yeah. I was spending part of my summer vacation, 1980/81 IIRC, in Edmonton, with Ed Simbalist, and Scott flew up for a day from New York.
Dom : Coming back to Space Opera. You have been living in Australia, how did you manage to conduct a such project? Which difficulties did you encountered in the process?
Phil: Ed was the one who did all the hard work. I found out he was designing this SF rpg through something he said in the well known FRP APA, "Alarums & Excursions", and since I'd been dissatisfied with the ones that were available (mainly Traveller and Metamorphosis Alpha, IIRC), I'd been working on some technology related stuff and space ship related stuff, so I sent him a copy of what I'd been doing, and he liked it so much that he incorporated it in the finished product.
Ed did all the editing, co-ordinating, and the like, and deserves the lion's share of the praise for the basic rulebooks!
Dom : You are still working with Ed. do you? Have you heard anything about Mark Ratner?
Sort of. Ed is, again, co-ordinating things. I have done the final (well,
actually, I need to make some changes based on newly available information)
draft of the "Imperial Rome" worldbook for C&S4 and Ed was the
original contact and contractor for that and, I guess, will have final editorial
Once the Imperial Rome project is finalized, I need to finish off the "Byzantium" worldbook as well (its about 70% complete at the moment. originally, for Highlander, the project was going to be just one combined worldbook, but Ed and Britannia Games decided they wanted it split and expanded. and who am I to argue with them?!). Dunno, then. Hopefully Ed will have some time to get into high gear with "The SF Project". and I've put in my bid to do (or at least help do) the technology/vehicle/weapon stuff.
Dom : you have created in the past other SFrpg, can you tell us a bit about them? Have they some relationhip with Space Opera?
Phil: Not really. The only complete SF RPG that I have had actively published is Space Opera. I've done supplements for FGU's "Aftermath", which sort of qualifies as SF, I suppose, and I did "Rigger Black Book #1" for FASA, which also sort of qualifies.
I have done a background for my own StaRPlay ("Standard Role Playing") system called "Armageddon", which is SF/Fantasy. Set 25000 years in the future, but where the players will mainly be playing characters marooned in time from the 20th and 21st centuries (some details are available at Terry Austin's "Hyperbooks" site, at www.hyperbooks.com. and there is at least one review by Ed Hogg floating around on the net somewhere). This is based on StaRPLay #2, but StaRPlay #1 had the aforementioned Imperial Rome campaign (originally started with Metagaming's "The Fantasy Trip", then converted to CnS#1, then to CnS#2 before being converted to StaRPlay) and an SF background, tentatively titled, "Wayfarer", but never completed.
Dom : Rpg’s have evolved since D&D was released in '70, how did you intend or imagine, Space Opera would be played, and how would you play it differently today?
Phil: That's a hard one. The obvious answer is that I think the use of Character Classes and the whole idea of discrete "Levels" is outdated, and should have been scrapped in any system that still uses them a *long* time ago. I prefer universal systems, like GURPS, CORPS (and StaRPlay), where the characters are skill-based and where advancement is more incremental.
I think that's the main gaming change that I'd make (or want to see).
That said, as I mentioned above, I think that the new DnD is sufficiently interesting that I am happy to play it, despite the fact that it uses levels and character classes. And I place CnS Lite in that category as well. and, of course, I expect, CnS4 (tho I haven't seen a copy yet). And, as I believe I mentioned, I may be converting my Imperial Rome campaign to the latter system.
The big change for Space Opera, or any contemporary SF system, is, of course, technology. We tried very hard to make SO technology very advanced. Obviously, in many (perhaps most) areas we failed. Technology moved far faster than our imaginations were prepared for.
This is partly an
insoluble problem. especially if you try to define technology too closely. I
think the main failing in this whole area is the Traveller Tech scale that, in
one form or another, every SF game has used since it was invented. It is
arbitrary and makes no sense, and, if you try to force technology into such a
will also be arbitrary and make no sense.
I think the best solution is to have a Tech-level-less system where you define the capabilities of each of the SF cultures in technology and then run with that.
I think you also need to be much less specific in the description of how things work. Being too specific is an invitation to be made obsolete. But don't get me started on this, all my gaming friends would be groaning by now, "Gahh! Not McGregor and Tech Levels *AGAIN*!!!"
Dom : All SO fans have been waiting for a very long time for "Clash of Empires", "The GPR" or "SCS4". Can we still hope to that the ‘missing’ supplements will one day see the light of day ?
Phil: Unfortunately, unless Scott Bizar changes his attitude to the whole matter, no. As I understand it he simply wants a pot of money that would make any further development impossible because we'd have spent all the available money just to get the rights back.
Dom : How could fans have explanations about ForeRunners starculture, "The Final War" and so on explained in the Space Opera Universe?
Well, somewhere around here (I hope) is the original draft manuscript for the
"history" of the Forerunners. If I can dig it up (assuming it hasn't
been lost over the years) and OCR it (not likely, it is a dot-matrix printout),
then it might be possible to appear. There is also a weird sort of adventure for
Space Opera , but an early 21st century "historical" setting, where
characters find Forerunner elements on Terra. But ghu only knows what has
happened to that (I saw it several years ago, when moving things, but I have no
idea where it is at present).
If and when I can find these, and when I have some free time in my moderately busy schedule, I could probably write them up and post them. just don't hold your breath in the mean time (we're probably talking next year, maybe even the year after, even assuming I can find them at all).
: just a question about your SO module: "agents of rebellion".
The stock number is followed by a gap of five numbers that never appeared in
print. Does it mean you planned to issue 5 more scenarios based on the STAR
SECTOR ATLAS 11?
Phil: I wish. There were never any plans to do so, but, if FGU hadn't gone into hibernation, there may have been. But, no, as far as I know that would have been a decision by Scott Bizar for reasons best known to himself.
Dom : What are your professional projects at the moment and for the years to come. Can you imagine, like Ed. Simbalist, writing a new version of Space Opera ? With which rules system?
Phil: At the moment I am doing a rewrite of StaRPlay, version #2.1, new, improved, and expanded (a free generic one, as well as a new version of the system for the specific "Armageddon" background). This has temporarily stopped work on the first campaign supplement for "Armageddon", tentatively entitled "The Finger of the Dying God".
Work on the Imperial Rome sourcebook for CnS4 is mostly complete, only a minor rewrite of one chapter based on information that has recently come to light. Then, sometime towards the end of next year, I need to complete the manuscript for CnS4 supplement "Byzantium".
I've promised myself that I will also do, in no particular order, another campaign supplement for "Armageddon", a SF Background for StaRPlay (perhaps two different ones) and, possibly, a writeup of the Imperial Roman campaign I have run for CnS 4.
Then, of course, there is the possibility of participation in the Skillscape SF game, whenever Ed gets enough free time to work on it.
Dom : What would your position be if people wanted to participate in the creation of a ‘new’ Space Opera? Would you like to have feedback from the fans, and would you take it into account?
Phil: I think Ed would be the co-ordinator, but I know that I would certainly be receptive to the desires of the fans, and I suspect Ed would be as well. I wouldn't necessarily say that their every wish would appear in the finished product, but without feedback, well, how would we do a decent job?
Dom : After all these years, are you surprised by the continuing popularity of Space Opera?
Phil: Moderately so. I suppose, if I'd ever thought about it years ago, I would have thought that we'd have been in 2nd or even 3rd edition by now, but it certainly is a surprise that, as difficult to get a hold of as it is, that it is still moderately popular and moderately well known.
Dom : Do you get a lot of messages from fans around the world, particularly concerning Space Opera?
Phil: Yep. That's why I have the.sig I do, noting I helped write SO, wrote RBB #1 and wrote "Armageddon" for StaRPlay. Get responses from all sorts of unexpected sources.
Dom : Have you seen the web site? What would you like to find there?
Yes, and it looks pretty good. Tho I think that a larger font size would make it
more easily readable.
As to what I would like to find there? Ideas for new adventures. New and updated technology. Pretty much anything, I'd say.
Dom : Finally, what message would you like to give to all the Space Opera fans?
Phil: Keep buying more copies!
Seriously, though? Keep on having a lot of fun with the game!
Dom : Thanks again Phil for having taken the time to answer our questions..
Cromer, Australia, 05/12/00