VS interviews Zak Sabbath

If you haven't heard about Maze of the Blue Medusa, you're either not interested in OSR/DIY/Indie fantasy roleplaying games or you've been living under a rock.

Maze of the Blue Medusa is a system-agnostic megadungeon that just came out very recently and is already gaining a lot of ground with praise, reviews, and most likely RPG awards.

I asked one of the authors (I'll be asking the other in a few moments) if we could do a little Q&A. Zak Sabbath agreed.


1. Your most recent accomplishment is Maze of the Blue Medusa. I've read that it all started with a painting. What was your inspiration for that painting... were you thinking of dungeons, roleplaying games, and mythic fantasy while you were painting it?

Absolutely--I painted it thinking it would hang on a gallery wall but also be a usable dungeon. The secret doors and locked doors are all actually coded onto the map.

It took about two months and I just kind of tried to make it work as a painting while making sure there were doors and things. I was in Montreal and it was pretty cold and isolating -- but basically I just painted each square or room until it seemed interesting, then I stopped. These things take so long to finish it's hard to exist the whole time under one single influence.

I worked out the code for what the doors mean but that's about it, I knew I could always figure out what it meant later.

2. I assume you like to take your time with a work or piece. Is that true, do you prefer to keep going on a project or, alternatively, perhaps you can't wait to put it to bed?

I like to take my time with the actual creative stuff but when it gets to the copy-editing and that stuff you end up reading the same thing like 5 times and it makes your eyes bleed and you want it all to end.

3. Why art? What is it about creative expression that motivates you?

God did a bad job making the world and I need to fix his mistakes.

4. Why roleplaying games? Obviously, you enjoy them, but what drives you to write and design for RPG community instead of something else, something more popular or lucrative?

Well, porn is popular and fine art is lucrative things, so the fact RPGs are only micropopular and microlucrative is no big deal. Mainly I like it because even though I have a lot of non-RPG projects, the RPG ones are ones that my friends can kind of participate in--if I make a coffee table book of paintings it's like "Hey good for you" if I make a dungeon--well, I can invite everybody over and we can play in it for months. That's kind of awesome. It turns the solitary work of doing creative stuff into a party.

5. How come you don't self-publish your books?

Other people want to publish them and pay me for the privilege. Plus, like, I already have 3 jobs.

6. Where do you see the future of the RPG hobby, industry, movement, or whatever you would call it?

I think eventually some D&D-playing celebrity will probably write a book about it and that'll influence the RPG culture for a few years, and the phone aps will get better and more common, and 3d-printed custom minis and dice will be more of a thing and some games will be built around that kind of technology. Also, hopefully, better platforms for collaboration will come along so things like Maze of the Blue Medusa and Fire on the Velvet Horizon will become more common.

I think we'll see a similar range of approaches and subject to the more experimental we've seen recently but it'll become more common as people realize there's a niche audience of people who will buy the more out-there products and people who will have started gaming with the more DIY sensibility the internet has encouraged in the last 10 years.

Basically what's happened with boardgames and videogame mods will come to tabletop RPGs. And it'll last if WOTC and Paizo and the new White Wolf capitalize on it or a new big company does and it'll kind of be a blip if they don't.

7. As a Game Master, Dungeon Master, or whatever you call yourself, what are the things you look for among players and in a gaming group? For instance, if you had to start a new group because of relocation.

Nah, I just play with my friends.

8. How's the video series going? Is it an accurate depiction of your home game?

Well, after like a several-years hiatus it's back on the air--but without the might of a big videogame website behind it because we quit in protest after they hired a real douchebag columnist.

It's accurate to what our campaign was like 5 years ago because it was our campaign--and because I'm pretty careful about not misrepresenting what our games are like. I don't want people to feel like some of these shows where it seems like you can't play unless everybody is performing for an audience. I want it to feel like our real games feel.

9. What sorts of things do you seek out or work on to improve your gaming experience and those of your players?

I guess all the stuff on my blog? New ideas, tables, ways to help improvise, make the world seem infinitely deep, books to read, little extra mechanics that have unexpected effects. Honestly the blog is mostly a catalogue of things making me go "This might make the game more fun"--so it has everything from game theory to stuff about how crossbows work to analysis of snack choice.

10. After you've gone, what would you want the world to remember about you and what you've created?

I don't care; I'll be dead.

11. Are you still performing or active in the adult film/content industry? If so, what's going on with the state of porn & roleplaying games right now, other than your own group?

I am flying to Croatia to do a porn movie right after Gen Con. What's going on in the porn industry is: everyone is trying to find ways to make money independently with solo sites and camming and stuff now that the industry has been almost pirated to death.


Interview conducted by Venger Satanis


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