This interview is the latest installment in my annual series of interviews leading up to the 2015 ENnies. In this interview I speak with James Layton, the producer and host of the Grim Dark Podcast. The Grim Dark Podcast is nominated in the Best Podcast category for the second time since 2014. You can vote for the ENnies here beginning July 4 through July 14, 2015, with the winners announced on July 31 at Gen Con’s ENnies Ceremony.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your gaming experience and your company.
James Layton (JL): We are a fan podcast that follows the Warhammer 40,000 role playing game lines created by Fantasy Flight Games. Both of us are former employees of Games Workshop (the original creators of Warhammer) and have been gaming for a combined total of almost 50 years. We started the podcast in 2013 after having run a monthly live action role playing game based on the setting for the three years previous. Both of us have also been actively involved in running some of Australia’s largest role playing conventions – SYDCON & EYECON.
MT: What sets your product apart from the competition?
JL: Despite being a show devoted to a particular game line, both of us are avid gamers of multiple settings and formats, and we endeavour to make sure that we include content in each episode pertinent to all game settings. Being based in Australia, we are a little further removed from the gaming industry in North America, and particularly the bulk of publishers. It has been a real honour however to put this show together for a global audience, thus making the world feel a little smaller.
MT: What publishers or products will you be rooting for in the ENnies?
JL: We both have our favourite game systems, several of which are represented in the ENnie Nominations list. Call of Cthulhu is one of long time favourites and it would be really nice to see the Horror on the Orient Express product do well in its categories. Syrinscape is another product based out of Australia, so we’ve obviously got to support the home team. Additionally there are a few great sites and tools that have helped us in putting together our show and YouTube such as a Roll20 and Tabletop Audio. Finally, for my own part as one of the Catalyst Demo Agents for my area, I’d always like to see Shadowrun products do well.
MT: There was some controversy over an unlicensed fan product competing in the ENnies. What’s your opinion on fan products?
JL: Being a fan show ourselves, we’re always interested in seeing successful fan products. With that being said, before we recorded our first show, we reached out to the license holders of the material we wanted to cover in order to obtain their permission. I think that fan work that should always be encouraged as it creates a broader and more vibrant base of material for a setting, but we also need to ensure that rights holders are given the appropriate recognition for their hard work.
MT: Licensed products are an interesting challenge that few companies can afford. Are there any licensed products you would like to see as a role-playing game?
JL: Given the recent controversy mentioned above, I have to ironically say that I would love to see an officially licensed RPG in the Mass Effect setting. On top of that I was disappointed that there was never an official game built around the Matrix setting, I think that a lot of interesting and unique things could have been done with that license.
MT: It looks like Kickstarters are finally getting some regulation after the FTC went after “The Doom That Came to Atlantic City” board game. What’s your thoughts on crowdfunding?
JL: I’m really of two minds over crowdfunding. On the positive side, I think that it as a fantastic way to get products to market that may not have otherwise seen release, and it gives developers with more unusual ideas the opportunity to make sure their idea will fly commercially. On the flip side, I get annoyed when I see large companies that would have just previously put a new product out switching to crowdfunding in order to mitigate the risks of an unsuccessful release.
MT: Many publishers have shifted away from crowdfunding to Patreon instead. Do you have a Patreon page or any plans to launch one in the future?
JL: It’s something we’ve looked at, but haven’t currently implemented. I think that it’s a good way of running a smaller operation, but in our case we’re very aware of the fact that our show is based on someone else’s products, and we’re hesitant to take any money for that, even to cover our own costs.
MT: Will you be at any conventions this year?
JL: Assuming you’re talking about the North American conventions, then I will be at GenCon this year, and I’m greatly looking forward to it. Back home, we’ll both be attending the remaining major conventions in Australia including SYDCON and MacquarieCon.
MT: Where can fans find you online?
JL: The best place is either our webpage at www.grimdarkpodcast.com or our Facebook page.
MT: Anything else you’d like to add?
JL: I’d just like to say thank you once again to all of our listeners, and the team over at Fantasy Flight Games who have been major supporters of our show. Having been gamers for several decades, it’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to contribute in some way to the industry. I’d also like to thank Michael for taking the time to reach out to all of the ENnie Nominees and provide them with this exposure, it was a pleasure to respond last year, and it remains so this year.