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20 Years Of Spiderweb Software
August 16, 2013 | Cord Kruse

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Something Tells Me The Owner Doesn't Like Visitors
Nethergate was the first Spiderweb title I played. The mixture of real world history with familiar RPG fantasy pulled me into the game, and by the time I encountered a community of friendly talking spiders I was hooked. How did you come up with the notion of mixing Romans, Celts, and a bit of magic into an RPG?

JV: I honestly can't remember. It's such an oddball idea that I should be able to recall where the inspiration came from, and I can't. It's easy to see why the idea took hold, though. Those two cultures are so fascinating.

I believe you've said a sequel to Nethergate is unlikely. Would you ever consider creating a similar title, once again drawing from history? Perhaps a tale in an Egyptian or Norse setting?

JV: I did the historical thing, I enjoyed it, and I probably won't do it again. I have settings that are heavily inspired by reality, but I doubt I'll go full history again.

I did briefly consider a sequel to Nethergate, but it would have been in the far future, in space. All of those gods and faeries had to go somewhere.

The Geneforge series might be the most unique of your RPG creations, offering a fantasy take on genetic manipulation and the ethics of creating new life. Again, where did the idea come from?

JV: I was inspired by a lot of little things. The main one I remember was the Eden books, by the late, lamented Harry Harrison. In that world, dinosaurs never suffered a mass extinction. They ruled the earth, and their technology was all creatures they bred. I thought that there was a lot more that could be done with my idea. In my story, it gets taken way, way farther, and the creatures created were complex and indendent enough to decide to rebel. That rebellion is the subject of the whole five game epic.

After five installments and a final battle between Shapers and Rebels, is there a possibility of a return to the Geneforge universe at some point?

JV: I want to rewrite them and bring them to tablets in, say, five years or so. No new games, though. It already almost broke my spirit writing five of them. Originally, I wanted to do six Geneforge games. If I tried to do a sixth one, I would have lost my mind.

Avadon: The Black Fortress marked the beginning of an all new Spiderweb fantasy series, which will soon see a sequel in Avadon 2: The Corruption. After years of fleshing out other worlds, and in turn drawing from that accumulated lore in the development of new titles, how hard was it to start from scratch?

JV: Not at all. It was a blast. Creating this new world and storyline was huge fun. I have pages and pages of hand-written notes about every little thing I could think of in that world.

Ideas are the easy, fun part. It's sitting down and implementing the ideas that's a drag, but that's true for any game.

Avadon was, at least in part, inspired by the opera Bluebeard's Castle. What other kinds of things have sparked game or storyline ideas for you over the years?

JV: Exile/Avernum are influenced in part by the works of Julian May and Robert Silverberg (easily one of the finest SF short story writers ever). Geneforge was touched by Harry Harrison and other, similar science fiction works. Avadon is heavily influenced by reading the news. There's a lot of politics and war stuff in the Avadon trilogy that is definitely affected by current events.

Avadon also has a heavy dark fantasy tinge to it. I had NOT experienced any Game of Thrones before writing it, but it's the same sort of thing in lots of ways. I think Game of Thrones does a lot of things really well (and, more recently, a lot of things not well). I'm not a big reader of fantasy, but the Game of Thrones stuff is pretty interesting.

Will players enter Avadon 2: The Corruption as a new Hand?

JV: Yes.

Will we learn the fate of our PCs from the first game?

JV: No.

It's always tough to decide what in the first game becomes "official canon" in a second game. I tend to just leave the old PCs alone, as the player already decided what happens to them, and I don't want to touch that. I tread lightly and try to undo as few of a player's previous decisions as possible.


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