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An Interview with the Creators of Nobis, a New Campaign Setting for v.3.5

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Loki De Carabas's picture

"Imagine a world that has begun to cast off the yoke of monarchy, a world where the old ways are slipping into memory and a new era of enlightenment is dawning. Knowledge spreads like wildfire, commerce and democracy take root. Thousands upon thousands gravitate to massive City-States, towering metropolises that cast long shadows across the face of the earth. Once jealously guarded arcane secrets are now available on every corner, and the very fabric of the universe succumbs to the inevitable march of progress. Imagine the world of Nobis."

While tooling around the internet the other day I ran across a very brief preview of a new DND setting called Nobis. Now it seems as though every troglodyte and his brother has a campaign setting out, and rarely is there any huge mark of distinction readily visible between them. In this case that was not so.

the thing that jumped out at me right of was the big friendly "3.5" on the the image. That's right, two months before Pathfinder's Alpha release and a mere half year or so after the contentious advent of 4th Edition these brave souls are doing a v3.5 setting!

As I looked at the available info on their website I became more intrigued. The copy touted new approaches to fencing, firearms, and reputation. All areas that have been tackled innumerable times within that ruleset, but rarely with any satisfactory result. Being the shy and retiring type I dropped them an email right off the bat asking if I could pick their brains. Within two hours we were making arrangements.

Pantheon Press is the debut foray into game publishing of a group of collegiate friends: Jason, Jason, Rob, and Jay. The two Jasons met at the Univ of Delaware, although they did not start gaming until after college. (Jason K. actually played a good bit while in military service). Rob and Jay joined forces with them later to create the Nobis Team.

I got to spend a bit of time on Skype with the two Jasons to talk about Pantheon and about the Nobis setting.

Loki: So what is your Gaming Background like?

Jason K: I've been gaming since I was 13, so about 20 years.

Jason A: I played a bit as a kid and then stopped for quite awhile. I got back into it during 3rd Edition, about 6 months before 3.5 came out.

Loki: So what made you decide to go with the 3.5 rules?

Jason K: Well, this all started to come together last Oct (2008). 4e had just come out and we had many long discussions about whether to embrace it or go with 3.5.

Jason A: At that point Pathfinder was still in Beta and we did not want to have to wait on the final version of the rules (which arrive this coming August). The 3.5 SRD was the most familiar set of rules and it was also stylistically the best fit for the setting. 3.5 has accessibility and is not going away any time soon.

Jason K: We decided to start with what we like and what we know. We are looking at possibly including Pathfinder conversion info once they release their Core Book. Quite probably as a web enhancement.

Loki: So on to "Fluff." The setting seems to be set in more the "Age of Reason" as opposed to the typical pseudo-medieval style most often associated with DND. One thing in particular stood out that I have rarely run across- the default for the setting's culture is democracy. What was behind that decision?

Jason A: It sprang from my desire to have a printing press in the world. Once we had that as a given everything else followed organically. The democratizing aspects of freedom of information. Besides, being a bibliophile I wanted books to be prevalent.

Jason K: The development of Democracy might seem a leap but there are numerous instances throughout our own history that inspired it.

Loki: I find your choice of period/style for the setting to be interesting. Is there a factor other than your own games that plays into that choice?

Jason K: I wonder whether the generation of gamers was more robust 10-15 yrs ago and younger audiences haven't been exposed as much. The type of setting and the style of play used change and tend to indicate a maturation of the old guard gamers. I know it has certainly been true for us.

Loki: So, Gnolls as a player character race, eh? Why that particular monster?

Jason A:We felt traditional goblinoids are pervasive. They are everywhere else. Gnolls, however, make a great low level menace. They're very underutilized. Another factor was that they are great for being the "mangy scroungers" in the City States.

Loki: Another innovative use of the rules was they way in which you've developed fencing styles. I think its the first really effective attempt I've seen. What made you decide to use the existing feat system and extend it in this way?

Jason K: Well, we wanted to mirror the egalatarian democracy of the city states, by making it free of class anyone can learn to fence and at a variety of skill levels depending on the feats they take. You can run into a wizard who happens to be a fencing master for instance.

Loki: Now for one that I have a particular interest in as a Spelljammer DM, your firearms system. Between making firearms attacks ranged touch and ignoring armor it certainly gives them a unique flavor as weapons. Why did you start from scratch with this rather than, say, adopt the d20 Modern system?

Jason K: We were trying to have a gun in the game really "be a gun." Even at high levels we wanted it to be a big deal if someone pulls out a gun and begins waving it around.

Loki: So What's in the future for Pantheon Press?

Jason A: We have a new Monster Manual style book coming out, the majority of it will be creatures with class levels and such to use as adversaries.

Loki: Sounds more like the old TSR Rogues Gallery to me.

Jason A: Yes, it is. Then we have an upcoming module and after that a fighting supplement that will expand that array of fencing styles available as well as introducing other fighting styles which use the same system.

Nobis certainly seems to be a more thoughtful game, much like Planescape. More focus on Role Playing as opposed to Roll Playing, but with some solidly developed crunch to make it work. I'm looking forward to test driving the rules in the very near future!

So who are these guys at Pantheon Press?

Jason Amsler is a founding member of Pantheon Press, LLC. Jason drives most Pantheon Press business processes and strategy, and he is a contributing author to the Nobis campaign and adventure series. He has spent more than a decade in retail strategy and finance, and has been an avid gamer for almost 20 years. Jason holds a degree in psychology from the University of Maryland and a Six Sigma certification.

Jason Keeley is also a founding member of Pantheon Press, and spends most of his waking hours thinking about games in one way or another. He has been an editor for over ten years, but this is his first foray into the RPG design business. Jason's influences are wide and varied. He hopes to bring these influences to the industry.

Rob Trimarco has played Roleplaying Games since the early 1980's which puts him among the "RPGeezer" category of gamers. Having played almost every mainstream and not-so-mainstream tabletop RPG since he was a young teen, Rob brings a wealth of gaming experience and expertise to Pantheon Press. Rob's goals as one of the directors of Pantheon Press is to bring new ideas to the RPG community, be an advocate for creative interactive gaming, and to one day own a Pantheon Press t-shirt cannon.

Jay Stratton is a professional classical actor living in New York, and the author of numerous roleplaying games (yet to be published). He is a long time gamer and GM, as well as a certified stage combatant. Jay is a deeply closeted geek. Please don't tell his mom.

Pantheon Press can be found online in the following places:

Website: http://www.pantheonpress.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/pantheonpress Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pantheon-Press/93370920670

Planescape, Dungeons & Dragons, their logos, Wizards of the Coast, and the Wizards of the Coast logo are ©2008, Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro Inc. and used with permission.