Hello again, friends of Falkenstein! Another Friday and, thus, another blog posting about the Castle Falkenstein line. Work continues on our first book, Curious Creatures, and I am pleased to report I've transcribed almost all the rules provided by Captain Olam.
Putting aside my work, indulge me for a moment while I speak about the man behind the game on this side of the Faerie Veil, Mike Pondsmith.
Mike Pondsmith is something of a legend and if you've been in gaming long enough you have read or played his work even if you don't know his name. Mekton, Teenagers from Outer Space, Dream Park, Castle Falkenstein, and, of course, Cyberpunk 2020. If the last sounds especially familiar it might be because it is the basis of the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 video game from CD Projekt RED, the creators of the Witcher trilogy of games. He has been the president of the GAMA (the Game Manufacturer's Association) and will be the guest of honor at GenCon this year.
Last night, I had the opportunity to speak on the phone with Mr. Pondsmith. I'll admit, I was shaking with excitement. The man is one of my heroes in the gaming industry. I've admired his work as a designer, as a writer, and as a publisher and I was nervous. What would he be like? What would the conversation be like? Would I sound intelligent and capable enough to be in charge of one of his lines? I felt as if I was eighteen and preparing for my first real job interview, all over again.
I'm sure I babbled. I have trouble following social cues at the best of times. When I'm nervous I tend to accidentally speak over people instead of waiting my turn. Yet, Mr. Pondsmith was nothing but gracious and took the time to answer my questions and to give me insight into both the universe of Castle Falkenstein and the production of the line. He listened to my ideas, corrected my mistakes, and did so without once making me feel as if I hadn't a clue.
What struck me most about Mike Pondsmith was his intelligence. It was obvious he possesses a keen mind capable of both storing vast amounts of information and analyzing it. In the time we talked he recalled details about Castle Falkenstein as if he had just begun the line yesterday and not in 1994. Our conversation wandered from game design and his thoughts on Curious Creatures to the status of gay rights in the 1870s to the empires and kingdoms of Africa. We talked about H.G. Wells and the birth of miniature wargaming and the use of Pinewood Derbies and raingutter regattas in live-action roleplay. I did my best to keep up but I admit I was awestruck with what a force he was. Mike Pondsmith is the sort of man who can talk about anime or business or history and firmly convince you, by the end of the conversation, he must have some sort of degree in the subject.
If you are going to GenCon and get a chance to hear him speak, I can't recommend it enough. I know the hour I spent in conversation with him was one of the highlights of my writing career.