Below is my email interview with Anna Krieder and Andrew Medeiros, whose game The Watch started its Kickstarter on Valentine’s Day.
What were your early gaming experiences like? How did they lead you to designing games?
I started gaming when I was nineteen with a great group of innovative people. Not long after that some of us began changing the rules where we needed, writing replacement rules for classes and archetypes we wanted to see, and all that. I suppose since then I’ve always been tinkering with game mechanics and finding it extremely rewarding to see the results of that work in action; moving into writing my own games (both alone and collaboratively) came very organically from there.
Amusingly, I’m one of those women whose significant other got them into gaming, and even then I didn’t seriously get into tabletop until my mid-20s. Prior to that, I’d played some D&D, but it wasn’t until I encountered story games that the roleplaying bug really bit, you know?
I started participating in online communities like The Forge and Story-Games, which is how I got into game design. There was a setting design contest on The Forge, for which I wrote the first version of what eventually became Thou Art But A Warrior. My setting won the contest, and the enthusiasm of everyone who participated was instrumental in getting me to finish the game and publish it. But even then, for several years after that I didn’t consider myself a “real” game designer. It took a long time for me to feel like I had permission to design games, and even longer before I accepted that hacking is how I approach design and there’s no shame in that.
Give me the elevator pitch for The Watch.
The Watch is a low fantasy game Powered By The Apocalypse that is about women and nonbinary femmes fighting to retake their homeland from the Shadow, a nebulous
evil with the power to take over the minds of men and make them into its servants. In The Watch, you play survivors of ten clans, who have had to come together and form a new common fighting force out of those capable of resisting the Shadow. When you play, you’re not playing to find out if you defeat the Shadow – if you complete a campaign the Shadow will be defeated; you’re playing to find out how much it costs you and who you will lose along the way.
Where did you get the idea for this game?
I was watching a documentary about the lack of diversity in the tabletop gaming community and the idea just came to me: I wanted there to be more games exclusively about female protagonists. Over the next couple of days – with Anna’s help – the first stages of The Watch were born. As we began laying the next few foundational pieces into place, we soon adapted the game to also include other people as well: trans women, non-binary folk, and genderqueer heroes.
Does this game have an over-arching message or purpose?
The most important thing The Watch does is get people to play stories about the sorts of characters who don’t usually get to be hero. Fantasy military epics usually focus mainly on men, so telling a story that centers women and nonbinary femmes was something that was very important to me.
Describe the mechanics.
The Watch is Powered by the Apocalypse, which is just a fancy way of saying we borrowed the framework for the rules from another game: Apocalypse World (or AW for short). AW is a fantastic game that gets player into the action as soon as possible by offering a sleek character creation system and light rules that flow easily from everyone. We took those ideas and adapted them into The Watch. Character creation is fun, engaging, and not overly long. The stories we tell in the game are dramatic and punchy, and this system lets us do exactly that.
How long is gameplay?
A complete campaign takes 10-12 four-hour sessions to play, depending on how much stuff you do between missions out in the field.
What do you hope for this game?
I hope people have a blast playing it; that they walk away from each sitting with stories they want to share with other gamers. I also hope they have profound emotional experiences in the game, that they become truly in love with their characters and the soldiers they share the fight with. And of course I hope male gamers like me enjoy our invitation to tell stories about people we don’t often see featured in action epics like The Watch.
What does success look like for you, regarding this game?
Honestly, success for me just looks like lots of people buying, playing, and talking about the game. Beyond the level of meta-gender-commentary baked into the game, really I just want to see lots of people pick it up and enjoy playing it!