Word Count: 2581
Takes: 4 minutes and 80 seconds to read
Interviewing Graihl, real name Shane, from America. Owner and founder of the action RPG Third Dawn. He also happens to know Dave Canterbury as a friend. A ex. military sniper who is now a Pathfinder and survivalist. Who is co-host of the program Dual Survival on Discovery channel.
1- Max Pen: Your RPG site was on http://www.thirddawn.freeforums.org, but recently you guy’s have got a real domain named: menageripg.com. From where that name, what does it mean?
Shane: The Menagerie is the original name of the first game I ran online – in a forum at any rate. The original Menagerie was one thread on Heroscapers, which is a forum dedicated to the board game Heroscape. They had a thread there named the Tavern with some loose role playing and it seemed that people wanted something a little less chaotic. We soon were asked to move, that one thread was dwarfing all other activity on the site. This reincarnation of the game is ‘The Menagerie: Sellswords.’ The last game we ran on the site was ‘The Third Dawn.’
2- Max Pen: When did you get into role playing games? Which has been your most favorite-addictive one?
Shane: Oh wow, that’s a tough one. You know, I have actually played very little in person role playing games. I’ve messed with some Vampire The Masquerade and a tad bit of this and that but mostly it was something I was interested in with little experience in. I have played a lot of rpg’s on PC and even more on console though. My favorite would be Diablo clones, process addiction is a mother heheh. Those that I really remember though would be FFVII, Dragon Age, Baldur’s Gate 2 on PC, Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance 2 on console and both Champion of Norrath.
3- Max Pen: What has been your history with making own RPG’s, I take it this site hasn’t been your first RPG you created?
Shane: It almost was. When I got married to my first wife she had two kids. I really wanted to do everything with those boys and therefore I invented an tabletop rpg that they could get into. D&D has a steep learning curve and even I was intimidated to be Dungeon Master. The game has simple rules and math, a few classes and so on. I made a HUGE graph that covered the table and was laminated and would draw in the map with whiteboard markers as they progressed. My youngest son then was perhaps 9 and played the best drunk, cursed-to-be-good demon and it made me laugh so hard. A couple of those characters have stuck around too.
4- Max Pen: The foundation of any RPG exists of what? (what must someone need to get done to get a RPG going.)
Shane: That depends on what you’re shooting for. A lot of people like ‘free rp’ which means no rules, make it up as you go. That kind of system depends entirely on modesty and imagination. I have worked very hard to come up with a combat system that works online without making a true computer game and think I finally have it right. Our system has rules and so on but I think that rules and given potential for character growth really makes people want to play hard. All of that aside though, none of it matters without passionate players. That is the foundation of the game, without them you’re one lonely gamer. You can have maps and rules and everything you like but believe me, the players are what bring it all to life.
5- Max Pen: Why are RPG’s so popular this days, can a RPG offer you that much of fun? Better then gaming?
Shane: Well gaming is all the same thing whether you’re playing an MMO or monopoly with your family. It’s a distraction, it allows you to shut out your daily bs and instead, lets you simply have fun. RPGs are always gaining momentum because they do that, but also allow you to be someone else. Heck with being a shiny car on a board, you can act out being an elite elf assassin that shoots fireballs! The ‘grind’ is the big thing though in ALL rpg’s whether you admit it or not as a player. Kill that, level up, get some gear, kill something tougher and repeat. It’s a constant cycle of betterment that gets very addictive.
6- Max Pen: What is The Menagerie RPG about? Are there any evil characters, that got the post power?
Shane: The Menagerie: Sellswords is about a secretive group of mercenaries called the Sellswords. The society had some trouble and ended mostly wiping itself out and becoming outlawed. Now, the formerly retired elders have returned to set things right and are actively looking for members – being out player’s characters. We don’t have any big boss types just yet. They tend to come into play later, a GM will come up with an idea and if it’s a big deal we all discuss where they want to go with it. We don’t have a focus just yet as the idea right now is that everyone is new and learning as they go.
7- Max Pen: Is the RPG structure of weapons,levels,dungeons complicated or quite fast to understand how it all works?
Shane: You know, it can be complex but that depends on how far you let it get away from you. The first Menagerie had endless content that went on for days and I kept making more, thinking the players wanted complete immersion and a myriad of ways to experience the world I had created. It was a complete mess in the end and very confusing. This game is far simpler and we like people to start role playing as soon as they sign up.
We have people assigned to walk new players through combat and skill use and the rest really is just role playing. Levels are uber simple, earn this much exp, gain this level. Dungeons – well we’re sure to have some but that’s not out focus. We have contracts instead, jobs that groups of characters take on and get rewarded for. It could be a hair simpler, but it would sacrifice some of the game’s depth. I feel it’s a perfect balance at present and a very rewarding experience.
8- Max Pen: Your forum has: Total posts 68246 | Total topics 1748 | Total members 80 Are you pleased with the results so far? And why did you delete all the members but not the posts of your previous board?
Shane: The members that were pruned were from way back, I didn’t prune with the Third Dawn. The posts were also deleted with the original Menagerie, we had around 250k at one stage. It got simpler to just archive posts than sort through the mess, some stuff could go and some we wanted to keep. The archives real purpose is to hold onto all that hard work and ideas though and some of it was brought out and recycled for this game.
As far as members go, I think we might have about 20 members who actually really play. That’s always been the case, a core group of players who are responsible for the post count. I have over 10k in posts but this isn’t even my original account! I am super impressed with the dedication of our players – they are true friends and I feel like I know most of them in person.
9- Max Pen: Did you think long about the choice of starting from nothing or starting from a dead RPG and just archive all posts on it and then start a new RPG on that board?
Shane: No. Mass email is a powerful thing and I think a few players were lurking to see if I’d show up. I was logging in to make sure the board wasn’t shut down of course. I had tried a second rpg on the side named ‘Dusters’ which was a completely different experience but it turns out players wanted just one rpg and some had little time for more than one. Yeah, starting from scratch has to be hard. I have seen a lot of boards fail. I’ve done the numbers a couple of times and your average pvprpg doesn’t last longer than week. Those that actual get to running last no more than 6 months. It makes me very proud to think that we can run a game for this long, but also has made me realize that starting a new game is not a bad thing. It’s normal.
10- Max Pen: From this topic (the story so far) How long it it take you or others to come up with the story of the RPG? Is there any real enemy in the RPG that could destroy the guild (Sellswords) once again?
Shane: Ummmm about as long as it took me to write it heheh. I formulate a system and then come up with the mythos to fit the system, give it purpose. I wanted to have 3 houses, I wanted us to all be mercenaries and work on a contract system and I wanted us to be very secretive. I started with that post I believe, it’s a great place to start building. It just poured out but that’s been the case with all my backgrounds. Some make for fascinating stories I am told. As far as enemies, the game itself will decide that. I don’t have an over-all story arch I wish to follow, big stories encompass everyone and can be quite challenging and even game breaking. We’ll see in time….
11- Max Pen: How do you go up in the ranks? Is it for example: By taking on contracts to assassinate people in a creative and sneaky way?
Shane: People level through experience, as with most other RPGs. At the end of your contract or mission, your GM gives you up to 100 experience points based on many facets of gameplay from staying in character to thinking on your toes. It is initially very easy to level up, 100 experience points can get you from lvl 1 to lvl 7. But later on it’s much tougher, you need to do more missions to experience. That’s the grind in action.
12- Max Pen: Is the RPG still in development or is it complete? How many players are in it now? What happens when you get killed? Do you start from nothing again?
Shane: The RPG is complete, we rolled it out to play at about 98% as we had feats to complete. I don’t intend to complicate it further but it will need monitoring, tweaking of skills and such. That’s normal. Right now we have about 18 or so active players. If you die, someone resurrects you. Forcing players to start over is a quick way to lose friends and players.
13- Max Pen: Did you create this map: (RPG map)? How long did it took you to make it?
Shane: Nope and I won’t ever claim to. That map belongs to the Pathfinder system (as in the rpg Pathfinder) which is a great system somewhat similar to Dungeons & Dragons. You’ll find many people playing in their world by their rules all over the internet. I decided we’d play in their world by our rules – that way we have a defined land so to speak. All three maps are part of their universe, we’re just lucky enough we’re allowed to use it.
14- Max Pen: You got in the last 24 hours, 21 active members. How do you manage to bring such activity to the board? Are it your friends and there friends and so on… Or some people you met before on a other board of yours or a other RPG?
Shane: I would have to say that everyone who has been on in the last 24 hours is just the regulars. The list rarely changes but as we build up momentum and the game really gets going, we’ll see new people trickle in the door. In my experience, only one in three will be a long term player though. Many people lose interest after a time which is fine.
15- Max Pen: Now you are also admin on: The Pathfinder School What is your job, task to do there? Keep all pages up to date? Or do you mean your admin on the forum only?
Shane: I am admin on the forum only, the site is Dave’s baby. In all honesty there’s not much that I do other than be a normal member. The site is filled with great people and I think there’s been maybe two incidents where I had to warn someone about their actions. I was asked to be admin as I knew how to fix a technical problem they had with the board.
16- Max Pen: How did you come to have met Dave and become good friends? Are you both from the same age group (34)?
Shane: Nah, Dave is quite a bit older than me heheh. You know, I think most people who spend time with Dave become friends with him because he’s a very agreeable guy and very generous. I met Dave for the first earlier this year in Ohio where he had a gathering for members of his school. That was one hot week. In September I spent a week up north in no man’s land doing an advanced survival class and got to talking with him on a more personal basis. Everyone there considers him a friend after that experience. I’ll be working with Dave sometime in the future but for now those plans are in the works…
17- Max Pen: Are you looking up to him as getting things done and being known thanks to all his hard work? Does it inspire you to do great things your self in life? Did Dave ever learn or share you some of his experience with you?
Shane: Dave shares everything with you and it fascinates me how self sufficient that man is. His story of how he got to where he is is quite fascinating. He put everything on the line and asked for nothing in return. It’s heartwarming to see someone get what they deserve and in a good way.
I think Dave is a great person to look up to and learn from because he embodies that never-say-quit DIY mentality that many people have forgotten about. It’s much easier to take life for granted. As for me – well I am a hard person to motivate because I am nuts heheh. I procrastinate a lot but once I get started on something I can’t stop in a hurry. It’s not Dave’s job to motivate me, it’s mine and a good thing too – I get in a rut and there’s no changing it unfortunately.
18- Max Pen: Favorite episode of Dual Survival? Will there come a season 2? Did you ever met the other co-host Cody?
Shane: Favorite episode would have to be in the Pacific North West because it’s home right now and miserable. The class I mentioned was in that very same area and whilst the show looks tough, it’s tougher to do it in person. Season 2′s last episode is being shot as we speak and I imagine it should be aired in June or so. I haven’t met Cody but plan on it. Dave and Cody are very close friends, something which the show doesn’t always portray.
Thanks for doing this interview Shane. This is a long detailed and interesting read for sure to most. -Max Pen