Mount Olympus Presents:

Todd Downing

Hercules: Greetings Todd! Thank you very much for granting this interview and sharing the tale of Pax Gladius and the 1PG Gaming System.

Todd:Thanks, Hercules. I'm always happy to talk shop when it comes to game theory and fiction.

Hercules:What inspired you to create 1PG?

Todd:In 1997, I was a twenty-something husband and father of two kids, working in the video game industry. Like me, a lot of my friends had grown up with tabletop role playing games in the '70s and '80s, but we all had the same issues: lack of leisure time and an RPG industry that was largely made up of giant rule books that required a—if you'll pardon the expression—simply herculean amount of investment in time and money to get into.

I started to mess around with the concept of a “beer & pretzels” RPG, with incredibly simple rules, which required neither of the large investments of time and money. The first prototype was Shriek, which was based on the tropes of teen horror movies. Characters were victims and largely disposable, and since character creation took five or ten minutes max, it was never difficult to step back into the game once a previous character had been brutally chainsawed by the hockey mask-wearing maniac.

Given more thought and development, I decided this template could work for a wider variety of film and television genres. The characters didn't need to be built for a long campaign; they only had to last for a session. The basic rules fit on a single page, as did each adventure scenario (hence the name 1PG). I could gather a few friends and we could be up and playing within ten minutes, finish a session in the time it takes to watch a movie, and not worry about a huge monetary investment in materials. It was well suited for one-shot adventures, but there was nothing preventing players from returning for more. And because the game was downloadable, players could print only the pages they needed—it didn't take up a bookshelf's worth of space.

Keep in mind, this was almost twenty years ago, before modern e-readers and an audience who felt comfortable paying money for downloadable product. We had to have custom code written for our e-commerce platform when we initially launched, and we encountered plenty of resistance in the early days. Much has thankfully changed since then.

Hercules:With which iconic settings did the 1PG System launch?

Todd: When Deep7 (now Deep7 Press) incorporated in 1999, we had Shriek, Star Legion (space opera) and Six Gun (western), followed shortly by Battleforce Bravo (WWII), Bloode Island (pirates), Full Clip (Hong Kong action), and Agent S.E.V.E.N. (espionage). There are now 17 titles in the 1PG line.

Hercules:The game mechanics are very simple, allowing you to immediately jump into an adventure.

Todd: That's the idea. Rules so simple you can play with a beer buzz or a head wound.

Hercules: What inspired Pax Gladius?

Todd: Andrew Kenrick is the primary author, so that's ultimately a question for him, but in general it suits the 1PG model of a lone hero or small party, lots of action and intrigue, and a cinematic flair. I grew up watching Sword & Sandal epics on TV: Ben Hur, Spartacus and the like, so it's a love for the genre mixed with the genre fitting the 1PG mold.

Hercules: How does Pax Gladius differ from other Sword & Sandal RPGs?

Todd: I haven't really played a lot of Sword & Sandal RPGs (at least not commercially available ones—plenty of home-brew games developed by other designers). So I can't really speak to that.

Hercules: How does Adventure Pack #1 expand the world of Pax Gladius?

Todd: I don't know if I would even describe Pax Gladius as a “world” so much as a cinematic Sword & Sandal role playing setting. It is what you want it to be. In that vein, all the 1PG adventure packs are extra adventures and tools to build your setting. To that end, James Stubbs' Heyoka Studios published a series of excellent expansions for various 1PG titles, of which Pax Gladius is one.

Hercules: Are there any other Adventure Packs or expansions planned for Pax Gladius?

Todd: Since Samantha Downing's death in 2005, Deep7 Press has been pretty much a one-man show (with a small army of contractors). 1PG development took a back seat to the premium games after the release of our official Red Dwarf RPG (based on the BBC sci-fi sitcom). Currently our primary efforts are the Airship Daedalusretro pulp line and the Arrowflight epic fantasy line, the latter of which is co-authored by my brother Gavin.

There is, however, a beautiful hardcover 1PG Compendium available, and I've been chatting with Andrew Kenrick about a new 1PG title for a couple years now.

Hercules: Aside from the Sword & Sandal setting of Pax Gladius, what other worlds can you enter through 1PG?

Todd: Agent S.E.V.E.N. is an espionage premise, a la James Bond, Mission Impossible and Jason Bourne.

Battleforce Bravo is a World War Two premise, a la Saving Private Ryan, The Dirty Dozen and Kelly's Heroes.

Bloode Island is a swashbuckling pirate premise, a la Pirates of the Caribbean, The Spanish Main and The Black Swan. There is a premium version of the game called Bloode Island XPG, which bumps up to the more robust XPG system (of Arrowflight, Red Dwarf,and all our premium lines) and describes a more concrete setting.

Broadswordis a pulp fantasy sword & sorcery premise like Conan or Kull the Conqueror.

Buggin' is an animated insect premise, like A Bug's Life, Antz and The Ant Bully. It's a great way to introduce younger children to role playing.

Daishois a samurai movie premise, a la Sword of Doom, The Seven Samuraior Throne of Blood.

Dime Heroes is a pulp adventure premise like Indiana Jones movies, Secret of the Incas or King Solomon's Mines. There are a few different expansions for it.

Disaster!is, as the title suggests, a disaster movie premise, like Towering Inferno, Earthquake, San Andreas, Twister, Poseidon Adventure,etc.

Exosuit A-OK is an anime sci-fi premise along the lines of Evangelion, AD Tank Police, Bubblegum Crisis and the like.

Full Clip is a Hong Kong action movie premise like The Killer, Hard Boiled, Project A, etc.

H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds is the only adaptation of a specific literary source and not a general cinematic setting. It was a special project by James Stubbs and Mark Bruno as a memorial for my late wife Samantha.

Hero Force is a silver-age comic book premise, to be played in the vein of classic 1950s and '60s four-color comics (Fantastic Four, Justice League, etc.).

Pax Gladius you already know!

Shriek is the original RPG of teen horror and shameless victim scenarios –Scream, Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc. There is a premium version of this game called Shriek X, which, like its Bloode Island counterpart, has a more robust system and codified setting.

Six Gun is a generic western premise, like Tombstone, The Magnificent Seven, The Professionals, and the like.

Star Legion is a sci-fi/space opera premise in the vein of Star Wars and its many cousins and descendants.

And the 1PG Companion gives you campaign rules for character longevity and basic tactical miniatures rules, as well as more scenarios for all of the 1PGs at the time it was released.

Hercules:That is a wide range indeed! Can PCs transcend their birth-genre and cross over into others?

Todd: With a little tweaking, yes. There is a print version of Shriek & Bloode Island (“Double Feature”) in a flip-over format that includes instructions on how to “kit-bash” the settings to give you pirate horror, or horror with a pirate or voodoo theme. Some fans have merged Star Legion and Six Gun to provide an experience akin to Firefly.

Aside from genre merging, there's no reason why you couldn't take your Roman Centurion to a different planet, or your super spy behind enemy lines in WW2 Germany. As long as it's appropriate for the story the Ref wants to tell, it's all essentially the same system.

Hercules: Which ones would appeal most to Pax Gladius players?

Todd: Bloode Island is a great swashbuckling adventure type of premise, and Daisho does for the samurai genre what Pax Gladius does for the sword & sandals set. Possibly Broadsword, the sword & sorcery pulp fantasy setting... and anyone interested in a somewhat deeper experience can look at our XPG versions and premium games.

Hercules: Are there plans to create an even wider range of settings?

Todd: As I mentioned, Andrew Kenrick and I have been talking for a few years about adding some more titles to the line. I had wanted to do a post-apocalypse premise, like Damnation Alley and Mad Max, but the concept ended up becoming our Heavy Metal-esque RADZ game. I still have plans for Bullet Squad, a 1PG for potboiler police movies like Lethal Weapon and the Dirty Harry films. But my plate is incredibly full for the foreseeable future with other product lines and different projects.

Hercules:I understand that other gaming companies like Precis Intermedia and Heyoka Studios are publishing Adventure Packs for 1PG worlds.

Todd: Precis doesn't actually publish any 1PG material, but James Stubbs' Heyoka Studios and Andrew Kenrick's defunct Steam Power have both published licensed material for various Deep7 Press properties. Heyoka is really where you want to look for the later 1PG expansions and adventure packs.

Hercules:What 1PG products can we expect to see in the near future?

Todd: The next thing that would likely happen would be Bullet Squad or a Mad Max type of post-apocalypse title. But again, that's not currently where the company's focus lies.

Hercules: What is your ultimate vision for 1PG?

Todd: That it would fill a need for inexpensive, downloadable and ultimately disposable role playing content. That it would represent a low barrier to entry for the hobby (time and money), and that we'd have several popular and niche movie and television genres represented in the line. My ultimate vision for the line has been fulfilled, and then some.

Hercules: How can folks best enter the ever-expanding 1PG Universe?

Todd:! Join the mailing list there and keep up to date with everything going on at the company.

Hercules: Thank you very much Todd! I greatly appreciate your granting this interview, and wish both you and 1PG the greatest success.

Todd: You're very welcome! Thank you for the opportunity to connect with a whole new audience!

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