I met Tre’ Grisby on purpose. I put the word out that I wanted to connect with Black game designers and a friend gave me his name. We chatted on G+ (you are following Black Nerd Problems on G+ aren’t you?). He’s new to my neighborhood, so I volunteered to take him out to coffee. Turns out, not only has dude designed a role-playing game based on The Matrix movies, but he also runs a next-generation online gaming convention. A cool, talented brother from all over the U.S., let me introduce you all to Tre’.
Black Nerd Problems: Give me your nerd origin story. What book/movie/genre pulled you out of mundanity and made you super?
Tre’: I can’t remember any single book/movie/genre pulling me into gaming. I was into fantasy movies as a kid. I remember a lot of movies I saw on HBO and maybe the mash-up of these drew me to the red Basic D&D box set I bought at 10 years old. I remember watching Doctor Who, Monty Python, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Conan, Beastmaster, Neverending Story, Labyrinth and Time Bandits as a kid in the 80s. I am sure all of these movies together drew me into RPG games. The first gaming book I fell in love with was Dragonlance chronicles Dragons of Autumn Twilight. After that series I read a ton of Shadowrun novels.
BNP: Let’s talk about your online gaming convention, Let Us Game Con (LUG Con). How does it work? Is there just one event at one time or?
Tre’: LUG Con is a venue for gamers to game. The idea is to be a space for people to share the games they love. We have been blessed with some awesome folks who were willing to volunteer their time to make LUG Con great. LUG Con is on your own personal schedule. We don’t worry about time blocks. If you can run a game, post the event at a time that works for you and I am sure the internet will provide players that can make it. We do focus on a weekend of gaming. Our next weekend event is in June. Basically LUG Con is an open source RPG convention. If you want to be part of LUG Con all you need to do is join the Google+ community. The community keeps pretty quiet unless we are talking about games. I never know when I will have time to run a LUG Con convention but when the dates are posted we make it happen.
For the big weekend events, I recruit gamemasters about a month out. Then people start signing up two weeks in advance. We focus on games from smaller companies and on indie games direct from the designer/developer. Often the person who invented the game is the gamemaster. It is a great forum for play-testing and for advertising new games.
LUG Con focuses on the “convention like” experience of meeting people and sharing games. Some people go and form new groups, others just fade back into their normal schedules. There are no expectations when the game ends. You do what you need to.
BNP: It seems designed to drag tabletop gaming into the future, using Google Hangouts and other virtual tools to bring people together. Does it seem to be doing that? Are people building friendships through this, or is it a “one and done” kind connection?
Tre’: The virtual pool of gamers that you meet is what you make of it. I have developed some relationships from LUG Con. I am sure some people never really enjoy gaming online and others do. I started this format because I was having a REALLY tough time getting a group of people that were willing to play on my schedule in Real-Space. Then I found online gaming. It is as easy as in-person gaming… with the right tools. The right tools consist of a audio/video connection, a virtual tabletop like Roll 20, and a forum to communicate with players. This is the bare minimum to game online.
BNP: What do you foresee as the future of LUG-Con? More events? Events in Real-Space?
Tre’: My future vision of LUG Con is that it grows, gets a full staff of volunteers, finances, and regular virtual conventions. I don’t envision ever having LUG Con become a Real-Space convention. There are lots of those that are great. This is an experiment in what can be done virtually. LUG Con was always meant to be “Open Source” or “Community Powered”. I would love if the community started to take it off in the direction that makes them happy.
BNP: Switching gears, you’ve developed and marketed your own tabletop RPG system – The Unofficial Matrix Game. How did that idea come to you and how did you go about testing and developing the game?
Tre’: I was inspired after watching the first Matrix movie in 1999. I walked out of the theater with my mind spinning. I love roleplaying games so I looked for Matrix RPG rules online I could play. When I didn’t find anything I decided to do it myself.
The Matrix RPG that I have now is not how it started. Initially I wrote out a bunch of story and rules, mostly based on games I already played like Shadowrun. Then I took that to my local gaming group. The game was fun but unfinished. I put the Matrix down for a decade while life took over. Then I decided to dust off my notes and go at it again.[quote_right]I put the Matrix down for a decade while life took over. Then I decided to dust off my notes and go at it again.[/quote_right] Since the original rules were conceived the Matrix released two more movies. Neither movie was as good as the first, in my opinion, but they still stayed true to the world and its story. When I came up with the final ruleset you can download today I used Google+ to playtest. I found people online that were interested in giving this a try and it was successful. I got input and made revisions that improved gameplay a ton. Currently I am working on an update but that is on hold until I have a space in my life to make it a priority.
I really focused on using the game to tell a story and making the rules for completing a simple task simple. The game scales well from one-night adventures into whole campaigns. It is currently available for free download on my site, TheUnMatrixRPG.com.
BNP: Is the game gaining traction? Why or why not?
Tre’: The Unofficial Matrix RPG is small indie press. The people that play it like it. I seem to get a few downloads a month but nothing over the top where I would think I could make money on it. I don’t hear much feedback from people who download it so I don’t know if there are Matrix RPG gaming groups out there. I would love to hear from people that are playing it and having a good time with it. The Matrix world story is a seldom explored concept in RPG’s. Not many games deal with Sci-Fi in this way, Artificial Intelligence controlling the world. Since I created the game I wonder if it is easier for me to think of scenarios and adversaries for my players. With the updates I plan to add bestiaries and adventure modules.
BNP: What are you working on next and how can we keep up on your progress?
Tre’: Currently I am working on our next LUG Con convention weekend for June 5-7, 2015. April we need to reach out to potential gamemasters so they can get their games ready for June. I will be at GenCon 2015 in Indianapolis talking about online conventions. I will post that information on our LUG Con webpage and in the G+ community.
Also a side project I have cooking is an online RPG event scheduler called Game Covenant. It will be a website that allows for the scheduling and maintenance of games — every size from the individual gamemaster up to virtual conventions. Eventually it’ll be an entire ecosystem for setting up and playing games. I am so busy but I do what I can to keep things moving forward.
BNP: Last question: Give me 4 people you’d love to have around your gaming table. Is it the same people you’d like to share a beverage of your choice with at the end of the world?
Tre’: I will list famous people but I would love to have my friends first.
Langston Hughes (poet),
Plato (philosopher), and
Douglas Adams (author)