Interview with Robin D. Laws


Robin D. Laws has been the author of several novels and role-playing games since the early 1990s. Nowadays is frequently speaker at conventions around the world, having made appearances at Gen Con Australia and Ropecon in Finland. Nowadays, he has a podcast to talk about includes hobby gaming, history, occultism, chrono-travel, food, cinema, narrative, art, politics, food, maps, Cthulhiana, and in fact any matter subject to jocular yet penetrating erudition.

Robin contributed to Over the Edge published by Atlas Games in 1992. He was co-author of Nexus: The Infinity City published by Daedalus Games in 1994. He designed the collectible card game Shadowfist in 1995. Laws designed the role-playing games Feng Shui, using a variant of the Nexus game system that was published by Daedalus Entertainment in 1996. He designed several supplements for Feng Shui. Years later, Daedalus went bankrupt and rights of Feng Shui went to Laws. Feng Shui was published again by Atlas Games in 1999. He designed Pantheon and Other Roleplaying Games for Hogshead Publishing in 2000.

Greg Stafford asked for him to create Hero Wars, a new RPG based on the world of Glorantha, which was published by Issaries in 2000. He wrote the Rune role-playing game, based on the computer game Rune in 2001. Laws’ Glorantha game was republished as HeroQuest in 2003. Laws’ HeroQuest second edition was published in 2009.

He was the senior designer for The Dying Earth Roleplaying Game, based on the Jack Vance stories, for Pelgrane Press in 2000, and wrote a sourcebook for the setting titled White-Walled Kaiin. He designed the GUMSHOE system for Pelgrane Press. Laws’ The Esoterrorists was the first release in 2006, supported by his sourcebook The Esoterror Factbook in 2006. Pelgrane released Laws’ Fear Itself in 2007. He has also contributed supplements to Ken Hite’s Trail of Cthulhu GUMSHOE line, the most commercially successful GUMSHOE line. He also wrote Mutant City Blues in 2009 and Ashen Stars in 2011 for GUMSHOE. His RPG Skulduggery in 2010 treated the intrapersonal conflict, from the Dying Earth setting to a variety of other contexts.

Robin D. Laws was author or contributed of a lot of RPG or supplements like Ashen Stars, Deadlands: Hell on Earth (Monsters, Muties and Misfits), Dungeons & Dragons (Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells and Dungeon Master’s Guide II), Earthdawn, Fear Itself, Firefly Role-Playing Game (Ghosts In the Black), Gaean Reach RPG, GURPS (Fantasy 2: Adventures in the Mad Lands), Pandemonium!: Adventures in Tabloid World (Stranger Than Truth: Further Adventures in Tabloid World), Talislanta (Sub-men Rising), Underground RPG (Ways and Means), Vampire: The Dark Ages (House of Tremere), Vampire: the Masquerade (Blood Magic: Secrets of Thaumaturgy), Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (Heart of Chaos – Doomstones Campaign Volume 3). He writes an irregular advice column for role-players called See Page XX.

He ran a crowdfunding for his game Hillfolk, in 2012, featuring his new Dramasystem. The goal was $3,000, but raised over $93,000, and it went on to win the 2014 Diana Jones award.

As an author he wrote Pierced Heart published in 1996, which was released as an e-book in 2014. He also had stories published in Synister Creative’s pulp magazine, and in the fiction anthology The Book of All Flesh for the All Flesh Must Be Eaten RPG: “The first is a light-hearted adventure, and the other is really, really dark”. Laws wrote Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering in 2002 for Steve Jackson Games. He wrote other novels like The Rough and the Smooth, Sacred Flesh, Liar’s Peak, Freedom Phalanx, Pathfinder Tales: The Worldwound Gambit and Pathfinder Tales: Blood of the City.

Robin is one of the biggest authors in roleplaying games.

Robin D. Laws

Born in: 1964

Personal blog:

Podcast: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff

Favorite book: Fifth Business, Robertson Davies

Favorite role-playing game: Whatever I’m working on at the moment

Juegos y Dados – Welcome Robin, thank you so much for your collaboration. It is an enormous pleasure that you are here with us.

Robin – Glad to be here. Did you happen to bring a bottle of tempranillo with you?

Juegos y Dados – How did you begin in the world of role-playing games and what was the first roleplaying game that you played?

Robin – The first roleplaying game I played was blue box D&D. To make a long story short, I always thought of myself as a writer but didn’t consider roleplaying as a market for my work until I got involved with a zine called Alarums & Excursions, which put me in touch with up and coming game designers and also some existing publishers.


Juegos y Dados – What was the first roleplaying game that you created?

Robin – Feng Shui.

Juegos y Dados – How did you start to work in Atlas Games?

Robin – Through A&E I struck up a correspondence with Jonathan Tweet, just as Ars Magica was becoming a gleam in his and Mark Rein*Hagen’s eyes. Later he wrote me notes on his unpublishable homegrown campaign, which was inspired in part by an article I wrote in the zine about drawing roleplaying inspiration from the works of William S. Burroughs. When John Nephew of Atlas Games heard that Jonathan was doing something unpublishable he took that as a challenge and published it as Over the Edge. Notes I sent Jonathan wound up appearing essentially verbatim in the core book, earning me a “with credit” on OTE. That started the relationship with John and Atlas that continues to this day.


Juegos y Dados – How did you start to work in Hogshead Publishing?

Robin – I got to know James Wallis of Hogshead back in a faraway days when he still attended Gen Con. Through that acquaintance I wound up working on a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay supplement for him as well as one of Hogshead’s New Style line, called Pantheon. Role-playing at the time was even smaller than that it is now and a lot of these “how did you get started with such and such a company” stories are just about making contacts and having people you worked with before recommending you to new clients looking for collaborators.

Juegos y Dados – How did you start to work Pelgrane Press?

Robin – This is a prime example of the above. Simon Rogers was looking for people to work on his initial role-playing game, a dream project of his: The Dying Earth Roleplaying Game, based on the classic fantasy works of Jack Vance.  As a fellow Londoner he knew James, who suggested that I just might be as crazy for Vance as Simon. We been have been collaborating together ever since, now jointly with Cat Tobin, who recently seized the reins of power as Pelgrane publisher and co-owner. I still remember the Gen Con where Simon and I sat semi-forlornly together at a table with our copies of our one product, Dying Earth. And a few years later when we sat there semi-forlornly with our copies of The Esoterrorists, scarcely realizing what a thing GUMSHOE was eventually going to blow up into. Now we’ve hit GUMSHOE’s 10th anniversary and will be celebrating with a vast table of books at Gen Con and then Dragonmeet.


Juegos y Dados – How did you get involved in the world of Glorantha with Greg Stafford?

Robin – I loved Runequest and especially its, Glorantha, from the RQ2 days. I remember looking at the blurb for the game’s high level version, HeroQuest, in the back of that book, thinking how cool that was going to be when it came out. Little did I realize that I would have to wait until I became a professional game designer in order to design and write HeroQuest in order to be able to play it.

Juegos y Dados – We interviewed Greg Stafford weeks ago. It’s a fantastic person. You are working with him a lot of years ago. Could you explain any fun story?

Robin – I met Greg through Rob Heinsoo (D&D 4E, 13th Age) another Alarums and Excursions alumnus. For a while he worked at Chaosium, which meant to bring Glorantha back to its former glory. Through a series of events too circuitous to describe I wound up first working on King of Dragon Pass, the Glorantha computer game, with David Dunham. (Speaking of things coming full circle, I just wrapped many months of writing work on that game’s followup, Six Ages, which I can’t wait for people to see.) After I completed that Greg came up with a precursor to crowdfunding and we were finally able to do what was initially called Hero Wars and in later editions was called, as it was always supposed to be, HeroQuest. Greg is a delight to work with, a pure auteur who creates his world not as an intellectual exercise but by seeing it reveal itself to him in his mind’s eye. There is never a conversation with him that goes by without wanting to jot down some new reference for book that he recommends. He truly is the grand shaman of gaming.


Juegos y Dados – You was author or co-author in some of the best RPG. What do you think about so people with a copy in their homes?

Robin – That’s very kind of you to say. I’ve been very gratified with the reception my various games have received over the years. One of the great things about roleplaying is that you are essentially collaborating, even if you don’t know about it, with everyone who plays your games. So in a sense designers get credit not only for their own creativity but the creativity that awakens in others.

Juegos y DadosTrail of Cthulhu is an amazing RPG. Do you think that GUMSHOE is a good system to introduce the new RPG gamers?

Robin – I am told that it does absolutely work for that. People in my own group have used it to get a whole bunch of people who are variously geeky but weren’t playing tabletop games into the hobby. They find D&D and Pathfinder too daunting but GUMSHOE is easy to grasp and then gets out of the way.


Juegos y Dados – I suppose that you met some of famous designers of that age. Could you explain any funny story?

Robin – You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Lou Zocchi, dice manufacturer extraordinaire, tell you tales of his experiences as a stage magician, Dixieland jazz player, and soldier.

Juegos y Dados – How often do you play games? Which ones?

Robin – I am on a brief hiatus right now, but generally play once a week, running whatever I’m designing or have to learn to write for. We just wrapped a 36 episode Hillfolk campaign, using the Alma Mater Magica series pitch, in which you play disaffected wizards who saved the world in their teens and now return to join the faculty of the magic school all their glorious adventures occurred at.


Juegos y Dados – Your crowdfunding for Hillfolk, in 2012, was a success. Do you think doing anymore?

Robin – I later had another gratifying result with the Feng Shui Kickstarter campaign. A new big crowdfunded project with Pelgrane is now in the imagining stage.

Juegos y Dados – What do you think the RPG industry nowadays?

Robin – Times have never been better for tabletop gaming. We’re starting to go mainstream, and that’s both exhilarating and a little scary. Things could really go south if we ever get to the point where there’s serious money to be made!


Juegos y Dados – I see that Feng Shui, Page XX and your podcast Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff were nominated for the 2016 The Ennies Awards. Are you nervous, happy o mixed feeling?

Robin – The important thing about awards is that they get more people playing—or in the case of the podcast, listening. The Ennies became a huge deal very quickly due to their deft balance between juried nominations and a public vote. Cleverly, they have kept industry professionals out of the rules-making process, which accounts for much of their credibility. I consider myself very lucky whenever I’m able to bound up onto that stage to thank the folks who support my work.

Juegos y Dados – Do you think writing any new role-playing game in the future? Could give us any details?

Robin – The new game I’m anxious for people to see is GUMSHOE One-2-One, tuned for play with one GM and one player. It fosters quite an intense play experience and required a ground-up rethink of the multiplayer assumptions found in standard GUMSHOE. It will first appear in Cthulhu Confidential, featuring three hardboiled characters in three noir environments, by myself, Chris Spivey, and Ruth Tillman. These settings mix noir and Lovecraftiana. If it gets the reception we think it will based on the interest level in the playtests, we’ll later roll out One-2-One material for Pelgrane’s various other settings, and more.

Robin D. Laws in Gen Con 2011

Juegos y Dados – Do you think writing any new fantastic novels?

Robin – I have been very busy with One-2-One and Six Ages but hope to scratch the fiction itch soon.

Juegos y Dados – Is there anything else you would like to tell fans?

Robin – Thanks for playing my games—and for listening to Ken and I on Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Juegos y Dados – Thank you so much for your time. We are very happy for your collaboration in this interview with Juegos y Dados.


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