A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the website, Life and Time of a Philippine Gamer. It is a comprehensive site for all kinds of tabletop RPGs. While it is told from a uniquely Filipino perspective, the writing isn't beholden to seeing the gaming world from only this viewpoint. I really enjoyed this interview, and hope to do more with Jay in the near future.
Who are you? And how did you get started in tabletop RPGs?
I'm Jay Steven Uy Anyong, published short fiction author, RPG enthusiast, designer of BADASS! and the writer behind Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer. I got started with tabletop RPGs when I ran across a mail order catalog for hobby games back in the early 80's. I'd never heard of roleplaying games before then, but the descriptions hooked me in so badly that I scoured local stores until I found some. My first game was TSR's Star Frontiers.
Do you have a favorite system/game? What are you running right now?
For favorite system or game would have to be a toss-up between Mage: the Awakening and Legend of the Five Rings. That said, I'm trying to get acquainted to as many different games and systems as I can. I"m currently running Exalted, Third Edition and I'm having a blast.
Why have tabletop RPGs appealed to you?
Tabletop RPGs appealed to me by giving me a creative outlet by which I can entertain my friends. I'm nearly always the GM because I find a sense of fulfillment in being able to bring a few friends together and conduct an activity where we all get to forget our worries and just have fun.
How hard has it been to get source books in the PI? Has it been easier with the rise of PDFs and digital publications?
Books are so much easier to get these days as opposed to in the early 90's. The advent of Amazon and ebook stores like DriveThruRPG have made it possible for us to get the books here without having to be at the mercy of local distributors. Sure there's a premium with regards to shipping, but that's better than not being able to buy them at all. In some ways, the availability of PDFs is what spurred a resurgence of interest in RPGs as people are now able to get them at a much more reasonable cost.
How widespread do you think tabletop RPGs are in the PI?
Tabletop RPGs have always been a niche hobby, but thanks to social networking sites like Facebook, individual pockets of gamers are discovering each other. I'm part of a group of volunteer GMs called Gamers & GMs that hold monthly mini-conventions with talks, the occasional panel and one-shots of various gaming systems for people to try.
Do you think there is room or desire for RPGs set in Southeast Asia (SEA) or in particular the Philippines? Most fantasy settings are derivatives of Tolkien and DVD, and I've always wondered about an Asian setting that isn't based on Japan or China.
I think that with the growing awareness and respect for cultural diversity, there's certainly room for RPGs set in SEA and the Philippines in particular. I feel that every culture has something to contribute to worlds of fantasy beyond the "traditional western" tropes, and given our mixed heritage and culture from being colonized or occupied by several other countries, the Philippines might serve as a great gateway to introducing more unique setting elements through a more familiar lens.
Where do you see the tabletop market in the PI in the next few years? I know that there are many stores that feature comics, manga/anime, or video games. Is there room for tabletop specific stores? Or is everything best left to the digital realm?
Right now there's a boom in Boardgame Cafes, which is a hop and a skip away from tabletop RPGs. I've been working with a team of volunteer GMs to run mini-conventions that feature RPGs as events for these cafes in hopes that we can promote awareness and get more players into the hobby. I think that distribution still is a thorny subject as shipping luxury items like RPG books tend to be prohibitively expensive, and that's been hurting our ability to get games into the hands of people.
Majority of existing RPG players here have resorted to buying PDFs because of the lower price point, and while they would love to pay for a book, paying half the cover price for shipping is a major deterrent.
What do you like in a rules system? Do you find more satisfaction with tactical, rules heavy systems or ones that are more role playing and free flowing? Or a little bit of both?
As a fan of systems like the World of Darkness, the HERO system and Legend of the Five Rings, I've learned to like rules systems that have a solid idea of what they want to simulate. It's easy enough to think of a basic resolution system, but it's something else to come up with mechanics that influence the "feel" of a game as to highlight the reality being presented. CoC's madness system was revolutionary in that regard, and L5R's focus on Honor and social interaction was another big deal.
These days though, with a 1 year old kid and more responsibilities at work, I've been drifting towards simpler systems. HERO is too big a time sink for me now, no matter how satisfying it is.
Are there any things you don't like in a particular system?
Needless complexity bores me. I couldn't never wrap my head around games that offer massive lists of options, like GURPS, or many, many cyberpunk games (most notably Shadowrun.) While I like having some subsystems in place, too many makes it difficult to learn with my limited time and so I opt to spend that time playing something else.